Social Position - The Continental System roadly speaking, and in the generally accepted meaning of the term, a matchmaking mother is an abomination. One mentally pictures the woman of maternal aspect who is invariably to be found at any of the fashionable resorts abroad, or at hotels and hydropathic establishments trailing in her wake three or four daughters of marriageable age. Anyone can recognise the type and young men flee before it.
There is something vulgar about ostensible matchmaking which is repellent to any sensitive mind, and yet they say that every woman is at heart a matchmaker, only the truth is there are ways and ways of doing it.
We are all so prone to condemn our fellow-creatures, and we so seldom put ourselves to the trouble of trying to discover the reasons for the actions we condemn. Nearly everybody detests the matchmaking mother, whose methods are so crude, and whose little tricks and manoeuvres so transparent, and yet in the majority of cases the poor harassed woman is more deserving of sympathy than of censure ; after all, she is only doing her duty according to her lights, and if her intelligence is outstripped by her desires, surely she is a subject for pity, not condemnation.
She looks into the future, and sees that if she cannot get her girls married and suitably provided for there will be nothing for them but hopeless poverty, or, to her, the equally distressing alternative of working for their own living, therefore she strains every nerve to accomplish the end in view, and generally by so doing, manages to defeat her own object.
Young men who are often attracted by the daughter are hopelessly scared by the parent, the fear of whom nips the incipient attachment in the bud.
Yet there is no doubt about it that it is the distinct duty of every mother to see that her daughters should have the opportunity of meeting young men with whom they might form suitable alliances. Many charming women, who might have made happy wives and mothers, have remained single all their lives, because during their impressionable and marriageable years they were never brought into contact with any man whom they might suitably have married.
Of course, in the majority of cases such opportunities occur naturally. Two young people meet and are mutually attracted, and the little god of circumstance, who looks after such matters, can manage the rest; but, on the other hand, there are very often cases in which these opportunities do not naturally occur, nor does there seem any likelihood of their so doing, and under these conditions surely it is a parent's duty to see that they are made; but this must be done so tactfully as to be entirely un-noticeable, or the probabilities are that the opportunities so manufactured will be less than useless.
To be a successful, yet undiscovered, matchmaker requires much tact and a great deal of discretion ; there are many cases in which the happiest marriages have taken place that have been privately pre-arranged by matchmaking friends who contrived opportunities for meetings. Surely there is nothing but kindness in such actions as these. And there is a certainty in the fact that in the making of marriage, propinquity plays an important part.
I believe there are few women who have never had the opportunity of becoming wives, but, none the less, their opportunities of finding, among the men of their own small circle, really eligible husbands are very, very small.
Take the provincial solicitor or doctor, or the clergyman of a poor parish - admirable though each might be as a husband, his limited income makes it almost impossible for him to perform adequately his duties as a father.
Now, in the majority of small provincial towns or villages, the eligible young man is something of a rara avis; the small proportion of male society is probably composed of a few ineligible youths, so if a mother does not take some means of giving her daughters a wider field for making their acquaintance the chances are that they will remain spinsters, and so lose the principal crowns of a woman's life, the crown of wifehood and of motherhood.
It is a hopeless plan, and one repugnant to any woman of nice feeling, to take her girls about to the places where eligible young men are supposed to congregate, for, after a little while, a tiny whisper will go round that they are "husband-hunting," and that little whisper will sound the death-knell of all their chances. No, the mother who has the true interests of her daughters at heart will be much more far-seeing than that.
A Wise Mother
I know of a case which will serve to exemplify my meaning.
A very charming but impecunious family were compelled, owing to the occupation of the father, to live in a little poky town in which there was hardly any society at all, certainly none of their own class, and the mother realised that when her girls grew up, be they never so charming, there was little or no possibility of their finding husbands in their own environment, so while they were still young girls, she scraped and saved till she could send them to a good boarding-school, trusting to their making friendships which would stand them in good stead in after years. Her forethought was rewarded; both her girls met the men they afterwards married while on visits to their old schoolfellows. The mother paved the way for the opportunities which otherwise would never have occurred. Can anyone blame her ?
On the contrary, the mother who fails to take these things into consideration is neglecting part of her duty towards her daughters.
Of course, marriage is not of such paramount importance nowadays as it was to the girl of some years back, but there is no doubt about it that every mother would rather see her daughter happily married, and mistress of a comfortable home, than working for her own living in the toil and stress of the world, and to attain this end the majority of them would like to give their daughters the chance of meeting the men who would be likely to make good husbands.
There is a very great deal to be said in favour of the Continental system of arranged marriages (see page 1214, Vol.2). There the matter is settled openly; no one is ashamed of it; and if the young people do not feel inclined to ratify the proposal the matter is dropped, while, if they are mutually attracted, it is concluded to the satisfaction of everyone,
In England, however, the arrangements are made covertly and secretly, hidden most stringently from the two people most concerned. If a young man thinks he is being sought after as a husband for anybody's daughter, he sheers off at once in a state of alarm, while a girl determines that nothing will ever induce her to like anyone someone else has selected for her. On the other hand, of course, if they know nothing about it, if they think they have met by chance, and are "courting" in secret, it is more than likely that they will be engaged and be married before many moons have waned. .