Thursday, June 2, 2011
Matrimonials had a bad reputation. All the critics thought it was only gold-diggers and scalawags, or people who were totally desperate, who would ever use such a crass and horrible means of trying to find a spouse. Now I argue, quite convincingly (if I do say so myself), that in reality many of the people who used these ads were normal men and women who just couldn't meet anyone any other way for whatever reason. While there were certainly scoundrels and desperate people and gold-diggers who used matrimonials (and some things never change), I think the majority had good intentions.
All that being said, I come across an ad like this, and I think, no wonder these ads got a lot of heat! But, as my title says, at least he's not beating around the bush.
A noble Frenchman, of title, connected with highest families in France, but without means, wishes to marry lady or widow with means; correspondence strictly confidential. Address C. 580 Herald Uptown office.!!!!
You know, there's a part of me that thinks this might just be for real. I feel like if he was lying about being noble and connected to titled families, he would try to be all romantic and say he was in exile or couldn't meet the girl of his dreams in France so he came to the land of opportunity...or whatever. Then, theoretically, he could sweep some naive girl off her feet and then abscond with all her money. But he's not appealing to anyone's romantic side. He is making a business deal. You support me with your money, and I will make you a marchioness or a comptess (is that the feminine form of compte?). There's no talk of love here.
On the other hand, however, the barefaced mercenary tone might convince some women that he's being honest for the same reasons I think so, while in reality he's just got an accent and still plans to run away with her money. Clever!
Did people really do this? It certainly shows up in novels all the time. Both sides benefit, if they're willing to sacrifice marital happiness (but who knows, maybe they could be happy!). I suppose a woman whose family was nouveau-riche, and therefore snubbed by the old-money crowd, might consider this a way to get revenge. "You treat me like dirt? How are you going to feel when you have to call me Duchess?" Besides, even sympathetic characters in Jane Austen novels openly admitted to this kind of thing (I'm looking at you, Colonel Fitzwilliam), so it's not like this was unheard of or even entirely frowned upon.
So...I'm on the fence. I'd tentatively buy this...but maybe not.
©2011 Pam Epstein