Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Intriguing Item

Whilst doing research on tooth powder for last week’s entry, I ran across a fascinating item in the March 1, 1807 Monthly Compendium of Literary, Fashionable, and Domestic Advertisements from La Belle Assemblee. The ad reads as follows (see it at right, second item on the left):

The delicate and restrained condition which custom imposes on females, subjects them to great disadvantage,—Mrs. Morris offers to remove them. Ladies or Gentlemen who have formed predilections may be assisted in obtaining the objects of their affection; and those who are unengaged may be immediately introduced to suitable persons; but she cannot assist applicants in any marriage if their characters are not irreproachable, and their fortunes considerable and independent. She will not admit any others.

Apply or address (post paid) at the Bow-window, next door to Margaret Chapel, Margaret-street, Cavendish-square. Ladies who require it, may be waited upon at their own houses.

Well! Talk about intriguing! I'm going to investigate this further, because it inspires dozens of questions: did anyone take advantage of this lady's services? Who were they, and what situation might have led them to seek her help? How much did she charge, and when did she get paid--for making a successful introduction, or just attempting to? How did she operate--did she have a network of friends who helped her track people down so that she could effect introductions for her clients?

Can you picture it? A young girl driving in Hyde Park espies a handsome young man in a Hussar's uniform strolling absent-mindedly down the footpath. No, her friend driving with her has no idea who he is...but she asks her brother, who is slightly acquainted with a few fellows in that regiment, and gets a name...does our smitten young lady sneak a note off to Mrs. Morris in Margaret-street seeking her help?

I'll let you know what I find the meanwhile, what situations can you dream up where the mysterious Mrs. Morris might ply her trade?


Regina Scott said...

Klingon officers in Her Majesty's Regiment? Sorry, couldn't resist!

Seriously, perhaps a young lady from the country with few connections in town?

Gillian Layne said...

Oh my gosh. I can imagine whole books--but not with the people she wants. I think it's funny.

"but she cannot assist applicants in any marriage if their characters are not irreproachable, and their fortunes considerable and independent. She will not admit any others."

Um, if they are "irreproachable" and have "fortunes considerable and independent", they probably wont' need Mrs. Morris. :) But all those other ladies...what fun could you have with this bit of information.

When were the patronesses of Almacks operating? I'd think they would have been horrified by the thought of a young lady answering such an ad.

Meg said...

I want a novel about this SO BADLY. I don't know why I never thought about matchmakers/personal ads pre-1900 before.

Regina Scott said...

Gillian, the patronesses were definitely around in 1807, so, yes, you would have to watch what exactly Mrs. Morris said about you in select circles! I have a feeling, though, that perhaps Mrs. Morris plied her trade among the rising middle class rather than the select society of Almack's.

Dara said...

That sounds like it could be a great novel idea! Don't you just love when you find little tidbits like this that inspire all sorts of ideas?

Marissa Doyle said...

Sorry not to have replied--we took a long weekend in NYC, as my daughters had never been. Much fun!!

Of course, Regina! I should have thought of that. :)

Agreed that this might be a service for people without connections--as Regina said, someone who rarely comes to London and hasn't made any connections...or for the newly wealthy Cits who were perfectly "irreproachable" and certainly wealthy but lacked introductions to the higher society that they longed to marry into.

I wonder what Mrs. Morris charged?