Monday, August 16, 2010
This can't possibly end well:
Matrimonial - A young widow lady, with an unlimited estate, all in her own right, wishes to make a matrimonial engagement with a gentleman, to manage her affairs, both spiritual and temporal, as she has no restraint and is under age. Address Florence Aster, Union square Post office, for two weeks.
I hope this is a prank - someone trying to catch fortune-hunters by luring them in with the Most Tempting Matrimonial Ever. Because if it's not a prank, this girl is just asking for trouble. Let's recap: she's got an "unlimited estate" (i.e., very rich), "all in her own right" (i.e., no trustees, no executors, no father-in-laws doling out an allowance - just hers to do with what she pleases), and she has "no restraint" (could mean many things: probably not "no will power," though that's where my mind went first; more likely she means no restrictions) and is "under age." I can't possibly imagine how that might go horribly wrong.
Oh wait, yes I can. Since women's fortunes automatically went under the control of her husband the moment she married via coverture, he's already going to get a lot of say where her money goes, and it's almost literally unprotected. Add to that she's "under age," whatever that means (I assume not under the age of consent, which was 13 - yes, I said 13 - at the time) though I don't know what age that would be - if she's a widow, how young can she possibly be? Regardless, if she's "under age," she has even fewer legal rights than women already did, which weren't many.
I find it almost impossible to believe this is real; it's like someone went through every single possible circumstance that would attract a fortune-hunter and put it in the ad. Alone in the world (widowed)? Check. Extremely wealthy? Check. Young and innocent? Check. No restrictions on her fortune? Check! It's like a thief's dream come true.
Actually it makes me think of The Portrait of a Lady. Different circumstances (the main character wasn't a widow), but similar outcome. Very sad.
Much more pleasant to imagine this was a practical joke. Bounders replied, the advertiser struck up correspondences with them and pretended to be the lady, and then somehow humiliated them, or swindled them out of gifts. That would be a better ending.
©2010 Pam Epstein