As bombs rained down on England, two matchmakers arranged marriages for would-be lovers. Caroline Moorehead reviews ‘The Marriage Bureau’ by Penrose Halson.
Markets are all about bringing people together and entrepreneurs always seem to find clever and new ways to do this, even in tough circumstances. Excerpts:
"In 1938 ... Audrey Parsons [with her partner Heather Jenner, opened], an agency bringing together bored and lonely spinsters trapped at home with the equally lonely bachelor planters, soldiers and civil servants serving in distant outposts of the Empire."What were the men and women of that time looking for? Good business owners need to know the tastes and preferences of their customers.
"the two set up shop as the Marriage Bureau, charging a small sum for initial introductions and a larger one in the event of a successful pairing."
"Before long, there were queues up the stairs. Young ladies languishing in the home counties made the visit, and men on leave from the colonies. But so did milliners and shop assistants, shorthand typists and musicians, aristocratic widows and divorced actresses, along with rat catchers, clerks, clergymen and baronets. There was a blip after war was declared, but soon came growing numbers of soldiers, wishing to find love before leaving, and women not wanting to be left on the shelf."
"Women looked for men with dark or wavy hair, tender hearts and accepting natures but objected to false teeth, bigotry, pub crawling or too great a passion for golf. Men seemed to want “average, plumpish” women who liked poultry farming. One man had no objection to “painted finger nails or a dowry”; another requested a “good cook, able to make jam, dress poultry and rabbits.” Many declared that they would not tolerate bossiness, sarcasm or sulkiness."
"Over the years, Heather and Audrey secured thousands of marriages. But whether the male client requesting “no hysteria, no gold diggers” and a taste for mountaineering, or the woman asking for a member of the “Metropolitan police force” interested in literature, philosophy and psychology, ever found a mate is not recorded."