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tofore, at any hour till four in the afternoon. And that it may be the better known, there is a porch at the door like a country church porch."* Keith issued from his prison a manifesto against the Act to prevent clandestine marriages, to which we shall presently advert, in which he gravely puts forth the following recommendation of his summary process with reference to the lower classes :-"Another inconveniency which will arise from this Act will be, that the expense of being married will be so great that few of the lower class of people can afford ; for I have often heard a Fleet parson say that many have come to be married when they have had but half-a-crown in their pockets, and sixpence to buy a pot of beer, and for which they have pawned some of their clothes."'t
But exclusive fashion did not care to be exclusive in these practices. Sometimes a petticoat without a hoop was to be led by a bag-wig and sword to the May Fair altar, after other solicitations had been tried in vain. The virtue of the community was wonderfully supported by these easy arrangements, as Walpole tells us, in his best style: “You must know, then--but did you know a young fellow that was called Handsome Tracy? He was walking in the Park with some of his acquaintance, and overtook three girls ; one was very pretty: they followed them; but the girls ran away, and the company grew tired of pursuing
Daily Post, July 20, 1744 ; quoted in Mr. Burn's valuable work on • The Fleet Registers,
them, all but Tracy. He followed to Whitehall Gate, where he gave a porter a crown to dog them: the porter hunted them-he the porter. The girls ran all round Westminster, and back to the Haymarket, where the porter came up with them. He told the pretty one she must go with him, and kept her talking till Tracy arrived, quite out of breath, and exceedingly in love. He insisted on knowing where she lived, which she refused to tell him ; and, after much disputing, went to the house of one of her companions, and Tracy with them. He there made her discover her family, a butterwoman in Craven Street, and engaged her to meet him the next morning in the Park; but before night he wrote her four love-letters, and in the last offered two hundred pounds a-year to her, and a hundred a-year to Signora la Madre. Griselda made a confidence to a staymaker's wife, who told her that the swain was certainly in love enough to marry her, if she could determine to be virtuous and refuse his offers. “Ay,' says she, “but if I should, and should lose him by it. However, the measures of the cabinet council were decided for virtue; and when she met Tracy the next morning in the Park, she was convoyed by her sister and brother-in-law, and stuck close to the letter of her reputation. She would do nothing; she would go nowhere. At last, as an instance of prodigious compliance, she told him, that if he would accept such a dinner as a butterwoman's daughter could give him, he should be welcome. Away they walked to Craven Street: the mother borrowed some silver to buy a leg of mutton, and kept the eager lover drinking till twelve at night, when a chosen committee waited on the faithful pair to the minister of May Fair. The doctor was in bed, and swore he would not get up to marry the king; but that he had a brother over the way who perhaps would, and who did."*
But “the butterwoman's daughter” had no lack of high example to teach her how to make a short step into the matrimonial “ship of fools.” The Fleet Registers, and those of May Fair, are rich in the names of Honourables and even of Peers. For example : “February 14, 1752, James Duke of Hamilton and Elizabeth Gunning.” Walpole has a pleasant comment upon this entry. “The event that has made most noise since my last, is the extempore wedding of the youngest of the two Gunnings, who have made so vehement a noise. .... About a fortnight since, at an immense assembly at my Lord Chesterfield's, made to show the house, which is really most magnificent, Duke Hamilton made violent love at one end of the room, while he was playing at faro at the other end ; that is, he saw neither the bank nor his own cards, which were of three hundred pounds each ; he soon lost a thousand. .... Two nights afterwards, he found himself so impatient, that he sent for a parson. The doctor refused to perform the ceremony without license or ring : the Duke swore he would send for the Archbishop. At last they were married with
* Horace Walpole to Montagu, Sept. 3, 1748. VOL. II.
a ring of the bed-curtain, at half-an-hour after twelve at night, at May Fair chapel.”*
The people of rank at last grew frightened at their own practices. The Act. against Clandestine Marriages came into operation on the 26th of March, 1754. On the 25th there were two hundred and seventeen marriages at the Fleet entered in one register; and on the same day sixty-one ceremonies of the like agreeable nature took place at May Fair. After the Act was passed in 1753 there was to be an interval of some inonths before its enactments were to be law. Walpole says, “The Duchess of Argyle harangues against the Marriage Bill not taking place immediately, and is persuaded that all the girls will go off before next Lady Day.”+
* Horace Walpole to Mann, Feb. 27, 1752 + Horace Walpole to Montagu, July 17, 1753.
HORACE WALPOLE'S WORLD OF LETTERS.
LET us seat ourselves with Horace Walpole in his library at Strawberry Hill, and see the relation which the clever man of fashion bears to literature, and to the men of letters his contemporaries. There he sits, as he was painted by the poor artist Muntz, whom he patronised and despised, lounging in a luxurious arm-chair, soft and bright in its silk and embroidery, the window open, through which he occasionally looks on the green meadows and the shining river, in which he feels a half-poetical delight. He turns to his elegant room, where “the books are ranged within Gothic arches of pierced work, taken from a side door-case to the choir in Dugdale's St. Paul's.” The books themselves are a valuable collection, some for use and some for show; and it is easy to perceive that for the most part they have not been brought together as the mere furniture of the bookcases, but have been selected pretty much with reference to their possessor's tastes and acquirements. He is a man, then, of fortune, chiefly derived from sinecures bestowed upon him by his father; of literary acquirements far beyond the fashionable people of his day; with abundance of wit and shrewd observation; early in his career heartily tired of political