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Ask Mamma By R. S. Surtees Characters: 5341

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

MONEY and matrimony! what a fine taking title! If that does not attract readers, we don't know what will. Money and matrimony! how different, yet how essentially combined, how intimately blended! "No money, no matrimony," might almost be written above some doors. Certainly money is an essential, but not so absorbing an essential as some people make it. Beyond the expenditure necessary for a certain establishment, a woman is seldom much the better for her husband's inordinate wealth. We have seen the wife of a reputed millionaire no better done by than that of a country squire.

Mr. Prospero Plutus may gild his coach and his harness, and his horses too, if he likes, but all the lacker in the world will not advance him a step in society; therefore, what can he do with his surplus cash but carry it to the "reserve fund," as some Joint-Stock Bankers pretend to do. Still there is a money-worship among us, that is not even confined to the opposite sex, but breaks out in veneration among men, just as if one man having half a million or a million pieces of gold could be of any advantage to another man, who only knows the rich man to say "How d'ye do?" to. A clever foreigner, who came to this country some years ago for the honestly avowed purpose of marrying an heiress, used to exclaim, when any one told him that another man had so many thousands a year, "Vell, my good friend, vot for that to me? I cannot go for be marry to him!" and we never hear a man recommended to another man for his wealth alone, without thinking of our foreign friend. What earthly good can Plutus's money do us? We can safely say, we never knew a rich man who was not uncommonly well able to take care of his cash. It is your poor men who are easy about money. To tell a young lady that a young gentleman has so many thousands a year is very different; and this observation leads us to say, that people who think they do a young man a kindness by exaggerating his means or expectations, are greatly mistaken. On the contrary, they do him an injury; for, sooner or later, the lawyers know everything, and disappointment and vexation is the result.

Since our friend Warren wrote his admirable novel, "Ten Thousand a Year," that sum has become the fashionable income for exaggerators. Nobody that has anything a year has less, though we all know how difficult a sum it is to realise, and how impossible it is to extract a five-pound note, or even a sovereign, from the pockets of people who talk of it as a mere bagatelle. This money mania has increased amazingly within the last few years, aided, no doubt, by the gigantic sums the Joint-Stock Banks have enabled penniless peop

le to "go" for.

When Wainwright, the first of the assurance office defrauders by poison, was in prison, he said to a person who called upon him, "You see with what respect they treat me. They don't set me to make my bed, or sweep the yard, like those fellows," pointing to his brother prisoners; "no, they treat me like a gentleman. They think I'm in for ten thousand pounds." Ten thousand pounds! What would ten thousand pounds be nowadays, when men speculate to the extent of a quarter or may be half a million of money? Why Wainwright would have had to clean out the whole prison on the present scale of money delinquency. A hundred thousand pounder is quite a common fellow, hardly worth speaking of. There was a time when the greediest man was contented with his plum. Now the cry is "More! more!" until some fine morning the crier is "no more" himself.

This money-craving and boasting is all bad. It deceives young men, and drives those of moderate income into the London clubs, instead of their marrying and settling quietly as their fathers did before them. They hear of nothing but thousands and tens of thousands until they almost believe in the reality, and are ashamed to encounter the confessional stool of the lawyers, albeit they may have as much as with prudence and management would make married life comfortable. Boasting and exaggeration also greatly misleads and disappoints anxious "Mammas," all ready to believe whatever they like, causing very likely promising speculations to be abandoned in favour of what turn out great deal worse ventures. Only let a young man be disengaged, professionally and bodily, and some one or other will be sure to invest him with a fortune, or with surprising expectations from an uncle, an aunt, or other near relation. It is surprising how fond people are of fanning the flame of a match, and how they will talk about what they really know nothing, until an unfortunate youth almost appears to participate in their exaggerations. Could some of these Leviathans of fortune know the fabulous £ s. d. colours under which they have sailed, they would be wonderfully astonished at the extent of their innocent imposture. Yet they were not to blame because people said they had ten thousand a year, were richest commoners in fact. Many would then understand much unexplained politeness, and appreciate its disinterestedness at its true value. Captain Quaver would see why Mrs. Sunnybrow was to anxious that he should hear Matilda sing; Mr. Grist why Mrs. Snubwell manoeuvred to get him next Bridget at dinner; and perhaps our "Richest Commoner" why Mrs. Yammerton was so glad to see him back at the Grange.

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