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MATRIMONIAL ADVERTISEMENTS AND AGENCIES.
IT will not be at all out of the way to assume that as long as the world has been populated it has possessed people anxious to get married. Marriage is the correct condition of life; indeed we have the best authority for regarding it as one of the principal reasons of our being, and so there is no need for wonder that many of the best-known customs of the ancients bear upon marital rites and festivities. Marriage comes in due course to the majority, male and female; but there are, naturally, those who have no desire for it, and again those who have to make effort to obtain it. There are various ways of exhibiting one's wares and attractions, and chief among them comes the object of our attention— advertising. Of late years there seems, in addition to the ordinary courses open to advertisers, to have been special arrangements made on behalf of the unmatched, who are allowed to express their desires and recommendations free, gratis, for nothing, in the columns of certain cheap periodicals—the described being all beauty or virtue, or both, when not possessed of capital. Would-be lovers are not generally deficient in either particular when the circulating medium is thrown into the balance as well. So that by means of the weekly publications referred to, marriage seems a much better commercial arrangement than that mentioned by a modern author, who, speaking of the Babylonians, says that "Herodotus records one of their customs, which, whether in jest or earnest, he declares to be the wisest he ever heard of. This was their wife-auction, by which they managed to find husbands for all their young women. The greatest beauty was put up first, and knocked down to the highest bidder; then the next in the order of comeliness— and so on to the damsel who was equidistant between beauty and plainness, who was given away gratis. Then the least plain was put up, and knocked down to the gallant who would marry her for the smallest consideration,—and so on till even the plainest was got rid of to some cynical worthy who decidedly preferred lucre to looks. By transferring to the scale of the ill-favoured the prices paid for the fair, beauty was made to endow ugliness, and the rich man's taste was the poor man's gain."
But in the representations of the wistful lovers who confide their secrets to certain editors, ugliness has no existence among the ladies, vice or laziness is unknown to the gentlemen, and, money seems plentiful with both, so that it remains quite a mystery how any of the intending suitors have managed to evade Hymen for any length of time, so superior are they to the commonplace people whom we are in the habit of seeing settled down in sober domesticity. A writer in a miscellany a few years back catalogued a lot of the claimants for matrimony, first in the list being Sincere Polly, who describes herself as dark, high-spirited, and handsome; next is Evangelina, eighteen, handsome and accomplished, who will have ^300 a year when of age; Fanny declares herself to be a sweet-tempered and pretty girl, just seventeen; Annie Everard endeavours to attract by her modesty in saying that she is eighteen, and not beautiful, only pretty; and Viola offers inducement in describing herself as seventeen, and Irish, merry, lively, and inclined to be stout. These ask for the carte-de-visite of a Captain Compass who advertised previously. Following these young and lovely females comes Blanche, who describes herself as a slight, graceful girl of eighteen, with dreamy violet eyes and golden rippling hair, shading a face of rare and delicate loveliness. She is a great admirer of soldiers, a lover of the chase, and all field sports. This enchanting creature is very anxious for Albert's carte-de-visite. Who is Albert, and what has he done, that he of all men should be singled out to carry off this flower of creation ?" But," says the writer to whom we have referred, who seems quite unable to swallow the description, in which he is very different from ourselves, as we would never contradict a lady, " the morbid curiosity of the human mind goes a step farther, and seeks to picture Blanche—not the Blanche of Blanche's vivid imagination, but Blanche herself. Two alternatives present themselves. She may be a stout little milliner in a Camden-town shop; or—horribile dictu /—a waggish cook, with a turned-up nose, underdone arms and cheeks to match. The ideal Blanche fades away as we contemplate these possibilities. We pity Albert. We hope he will not waste his hardly-earned money in the vanities of photography, and cordially wish him a comfortable married state with a more earthly maiden, now that this too celestial vision dies back into dream-land. There is but one young person who approaches the ideal Blanche; and she calls herself ' Sparkling with Gems.' She - is (on her own authority, be it always understood) a young, pretty, and accomplished Irish girl, with blue eyes, pearly teeth, and a wealth of golden ringlets, who is considered very stylish and graceful-looking, is of a loving disposition, and will have an income in her own right, and she wishes for the carte-de-visite of a young gentleman, who must be tall, dark, and handsome, of good family and position, and either of the military or medical profession. 'Kill or cure' is this young lady's principle in choosing a husband; but we should say that so attractive a bride, with a wealth of golden ringlets, an income in her own right, and what not, ought certainly to fall into the hands (or arms) of a dashing young officer, whose want of an income in his own right is generally the chief drawback from the amenities of his
profession." Constance is already possessed~of Jcs00 a year, and limits her hopes to a husband with £200 of income. But he must be fair, of the middle height, and nice-looking. Eunice has no money at all; but she has very dark hair and eyes, rosy complexion, and is domestic. Here again our cynic shows his scepticism : "Had the indefinite article been placed before the last word in her catalogue of qualities, the description would probably have been complete." Poor Jane says: "Why should I become a nun against my wish, merely because my father wishes it? I suppose he wishes to get married again, and I am in his way. I can say without flattery that I am near twenty, have a very graceful figure, very handsome, and between the medium height, a first-class pianist, and capable of making any gentleman a good wife. I possess no money. I am a lady, very domestic, and am quite certain that I am worthy of a good husband." Poor Jane! her notions of the descriptive are rather vague, and so are her ideas of what is a lady. But as we once knew a writer of stories for the periodical in which her description appears who considered it beneath the dignity of a gentleman to spell properly, Jane is, perhaps, quite right in her estimate of herself according to the code under which she was instructed.
Some of the gentlemen in this same catalogue deserve attention. As a rule, they seem to consider " proputty" the best qualification, though if other advantages are thrown in they will not be objected to. Let us pick out from the herd Gauntlet, who says that he is a gentleman of good standing in society, a widower, forty, but looks much younger, of middle height, highly respected in his own neighbourhood, and is possessed of upwards of ^8000 at command; he wishes to meet with a lady younger than himself, and with means equal to his own. Then there is R. S., who has £100 a year, is of like opinion as to the proportion of money his bride ought to bring, and would • like to become acquainted with a young lady of similar income, or one who has a talent for elocution or singing. Our author, after exhausting his list, admits that the young gentlemen who advertise in the penny journals are far less mercenary than the young ladies. "The latter betray quite a rapacity with regard to a good income, are very explicit about it, and put down in plain figures the precise sum which they think their charms are worth. By what means the acquaintanceship begun in these advertising columns is continued and completed we are unable to say. As a preliminary the editor kindly undertakes the charge of photographs; but of the steps by which the contracting parties advance to the goal of their wishes we know nothing. We should think that the proprietors of the journal ought to keep an attorney on the premises, to see that the gentlemen who offer ^8000 are acting in good faith." Had further inspection been given to the page in which these requisitions appear, the critic would have learned that, when second steps are taken, communication is made through a newspaper belonging to the same proprietary as the penny journal, and would have seen that "all advertisements must be prepaid." But we are beginning at the wrong end, and must retrace our steps for the purpose of renewing acquaintance with our old friend Houghton, the father of English advertising, who, in his Collection of July 19, 1695, says:—
*»* I have undertaken to advertize all sorts of Things that are honourable, and what follows is not otherwise, and I am well paid for it:
83° A dBentleman about 30 Years of Age, that says he has a ©erg <2#tatt, would willingly JlKtateb Himself to some gouno ©tntletooman that has a Fortune of ^3000 or thereabout, And he will make Settlement to content.
When it shall appear that I am candid and no otherwise concerned than in bringing two Elderly Persons to a Treaty; and the nine Days Wonder and Laughter (usually attending new Things) arC over, and that Nobody shall know Anything of the Matter, but where I shall reasonably believe they are in good earnest; then 'tis probable such Advertisements may prove very useful.
A Boung JiMtan about 25 Years of Age, in a very good Trade, and