THE desire of bishops to promote their sons-in-law has long been notorious and praiseworthy. A bishop may educate his son and leave his promotion to others, for too many dignitaries of the bishop's own surname, holding his appointments, would cause a scandal; but a son-in-law bears a different family name, so his advancement is a much easier matter. For this reason the clerical candidates for the hand of a right reverend lord's daughter are always numerous and eager.
It does not follow that a bishop's daughter always cares to marry a clergyman. Bishops are of many sorts - the wordly-minded, the scholarly, the pious, and the ascetical. The two first categories generally take their families to town during the parliamentary session; the last two leave them in their dioceses and go to London alone, lodging en garçon under the hospitable roof of Lambeth Palace, where three sets of rooms are reserved in Lollard's Tower for prelates in their case. Now a girl whose episcopal father belongs to a noble family, and obtained his mitre solely owing to his connections, is rather disposed to wed a landowner or a soldier than a priest; again, the daughter of an ex-college don or public school head-master has hankerings after a life different from that which she has led among cloisters or collegiate closes. Her father's promotion is sure to have elated her ambition a little. She thinks a man is seen at his best in a scarlet coat. She wonders what a military messroom can be like. She has read in novels that officers are gallant cheerful fellows, who make their spouses lead merry lives; and all that she has seen of them herself - their startling clothes when out of uniform, their moustaches and eyeglasses, nay, the odour of the choice cigars they smoke - has a tantalising effect upon her senses. There were no cigars smoked in her father's household, and she had indeed learned to connect the use of tobacco with a precocious depravity of morals; for her right reverend parent, when he was head-master of Whippingham Grammar School, used to birch, with merciless severity, boys who were caught polluting themselves with smoke in secret corners.
The don-bishop's daughter, if she be pretty, seldom abandons herself to excessive devotion. Her father (whom much scholarship has converted at heart into a semi-pagan) rather discourages that kind of thing, as tending to trouble and social indignity. Whilst he was a schoolmaster he inculcated attendance at chapel as a duty; likewise the reading of pious books on Sundays, because they conduced to learning as well as edification. Religion and lessons were so inseparably connected in the girl's mind that the mere sight of a 'Paley' or 'Butler' recalled tedious Sunday tasks; while the reading of a collect in church stirred memories of bygone Sabbaths, when these pithy prayers had to be learned by rote and recited to a governess before breakfast under pain of bad marks.
A don's daughter (if pretty as above said) is seldom a lover of books, pedagogic ways, or academical or ecclesiastical architecture. A tender remembrance and liking for these things may come back to her in after-life, when she has long lived apart from them; but while growing in her teens she can imagine nothing more dull than to vegetate all one's days in an atmosphere of ink and schoolroom stuffiness. She envies the boys or undergraduates when they go away for the vacations; and if she can get acquainted with some of them whom her parents occasionally invite to tea, she prefers the society of those who can talk with her about scenes having nothing to do with rectories or scholastic institutions. She looks down upon clergymen's sons; and herein takes after her parents, who show much more favour to the boys whose fathers own broad acres or prosperous banks.
The compensation which a don's daughter obtains for her otherwise tiring life is the having plenty of young male eyes to admire her. She gets her first schooling in vanity from marking how the fifth-form boys stare at her and nudge each other as she walks into chapel with her mother. If her beauty have shone forth very early, doubtless one of the young cubs, bolder than the rest, takes to ogling her, and finds an opportunity for sending her some anonymous doggerel. He also shows off his prowess for her in the cricket-field or on the river, getting bowled out by a full-pitch or catching crabs in the gallant attempt to overdo himself. These things may cause the don's daughter to smile, but they afford her early practice in flirting; so that by-and-by, when her father is promoted to the pomp of lawn-sleeves, she is ready to try her proficiency in the wider arena of fashionable life.
Hazard, which plays many pranks, may not unlikely throw in her way the identical young gentleman who made such good use of his bat in her honour; and if he turn out to have property or prospects, and to be as pleasant and enterprising as in his days of puppyhood, missy may possibly close her career as a Flirt by taking him for better or worse. Pedagogue bishops often catch as sons-in-law adults whom they have whipped in youth, and would sometimes like to whip again.
Matters are different with the daughters of bishops of the pious or ascetic sort. By these are meant prelates of rigidly Low-Church views or highly developed Ritualists, but in both cases earnestly religious bishops, not pedagogues or men of the world. Such men have usually been rectors of large parishes, or preaching canons noted for controversy. Their zeal has spread to their families. Wife, sons, daughters, have all enrolled themselves under the banner of the Church Militant; and the daughters especially desire nothing better than to continue in ecclesiastical harness all their lives, by being paired off with clergymen of congenial zeal, snugly beneficed.
Clerical fervour is so apt to impart primness to young ladies, that the daughter of a religious bishop is generally a demure puss, of starched ways and great inner slyness. She wears her hair smoothed down in bands, affects black dresses with plain collars and cuffs, and descants gravely upon the sin of worldliness to her class at the Sunday-school. For all this she has a knowledge of the temptations of the flesh and the ways of the devil, such as is not to be matched by any individual amongst her father's clergy; whilst on points of doctrine she could out-argue a refractory archdeacon. Her mode of flirting consists in propounding to young clergymen questions to test their orthodoxy; and the compliments she best relishes are those implied in an unreserved surrender to the law, which she lays down with far greater promptitude and decision than the Court of Arches. If her proclivities be towards High Church, she adorns her album with photographs of Messrs. Mackonochie, Purchas, Bennett, and Tooth, and can recapitulate volubly, in tones of muffled indignation, all the counts upon which these just men were unjustly condemned at law. If she be of Evangelical bias, she deplores the relapses towards the errors of Rome, and cherishes a scheme for bringing Baptists, Shakers, Quakers, and Jumpers all within the Anglican communion.
To do this sort of ecclesiastical maiden justice, she seldom dallies long with the divine whom she makes up her mind to choose; and what is more, she is very prone to select a curate who has little else but the clothes in which he stands, superadded to the physical or moral qualities which have rendered him lovable. There is in this much calculation, mixed up with love and a modicum of Christian charity, for Miss Prim knows the advantage of becoming wife to a friendless divine, who has no power of himself to help himself. She is far too shining a light to be hidden under a marital bushel. She must be mistress - not only in her new home which is her incontestable right - but in her future husband's parish, which might not seem so much a matter of right if the said husband derived that parish from other hands than hers. Trust her for taking care that her bridegroom gets the fattest benefice in her father's gift at the time of her engagement, with a promise of transfer to other and fatter ones as fast as they become vacant; and depend upon it, she feels no manner of scruple for the unstinted use which she makes of my lord's patronage on behalf of the consort whom she is pleased to regard as a 'chosen vessel.'
Unfortunately bishops are not lords temporal but lords temporary, and the good things which they can dispense when alive are not to be bequeathed at their deaths. Prelates' daughters have sometimes found that this drawback operates very much to their eventual humiliation and misery. Clerical husbands who have been uxorially driven by wives who wielded their fathers' croziers, so to say, have been known to jib - nay, to kick - out when their right reverend fathers-in-law had been laid in the cathedral vaults, where no more loaves and fishes could be got out of them. But such cases are really so painful that one had better not pursue the matter further.
We come now to the Ecclesiastical Flirt who is the daughter of a plain parson, never destined to attain episcopal honours. The position of girls whose fathers are clergymen in straitened circumstances has at all times been difficult, for the children of a gentleman aspire to marry persons of gentle rank, whereof the supply is not always equal to the demand in lonely parishes. Doubtless, when it comes to the hard pass of marrying a tradesman or remaining single, the country clergyman's daughter generally decides not to bide a virgin; but years must have ripened her face and judgment pretty considerably before she acknowledges that she is reduced to the stiff alternative. Commonly her early prime is wasted in the waiting for the wooer of suitable fortune and station whom she imagines to be always coming, and who so seldom does come. Thus it is that the country parson's daughter flirts with every eligible man within reach.
She has the curate (it was she who first discovered that dear papa wanted some assistance); she has the parish doctor, whom she makes every excuse for consulting, not on her own behalf, for her plan is to be always counted as healthy, but on account of dear papa or of some pet parishioners; and again, the parish doctor's assistant, or his medical friend, the young Sawbones fresh from Guy's, who comes and stays with him for a week. Then the squire's son takes lessons from the rector at uncertain intervals, and calls frequently with trout or hothouse flowers, for which the rector's daughter thanks him gushingly; and with so much ecstatic phrasing on her love for flowers, that the young hobbledehoy ends by wishing he had let the flowers be.
It is upon the bachelor vicar of the neighbourhood that the rectory Flirt has all the while set her heart. She delicately hints he must feel very strange, all alone in that queer old house.
Asks who helps him in visiting the women? Who looks to the efficiency of the schoolmistress? Is he not afraid of getting into eccentric bachelor habits, like dear old Mr. A., who is never fully dressed till 2 P.M.; or that good Mr. B., who has not dined out for seven years, except on Easter Monday? If he should be ill, will he be sure and let her know? She can nurse; she nursed poor aunt Jane in her last illness.
The unmarried vicar listens to all this half-sheepishly, but he has to hear a good deal more. He is really a fish so well worth netting that his colleague's gushing child leaves him no peace. Her father, she says, is the last of the old yeomen; her great-grand-father was knighted; her mother is the daughter of a rural dean. She the gushing child wants occupation. She cleans the church, and decorates it at Christmas and Easter. She will decorate his if he likes. She always reads the Parish Magazine, the Penny Post, and the Record (or Church Times, as the case may be). Will he help her to keep up her French? Might she offer to teach him music? Mamma cannot go out much; will he take their house on his rounds? He will always find some one at home (a slight simper and twinkle in the eye give emphasis to the words 'some one'), and she will be so happy if he will come more often and take a quiet cup of tea!
Here the child becomes pensive, and strikes a pathetic vein. She has had some thoughts, she says, of becoming a 'sister.' Does her friend advise her to take that course? She feels so lonely sometimes, having no one to care for, and be understood by, that she thinks it would be a relief to her to don the nun's habit and spend her life in doing good. He must not talk of leaving the parish - what would the poor do without him? Of course he has enemies, every truly good man has; but some of whom he little dreams are taking his part in everything. She could not bear to think that if he went away she should never see him again.
There is something wondrous pitiful in these struggles which the smaller sort of Ecclesiastical Flirt has to make in the hunt after a husband and an establishment; and it is dismal to relate that so much finessing is mostly wasted. Bachelor vicars have a partiality for brides who can bring them a little money, and who, besides, entertain towards the clergy that soothing reverence which is not often felt by parsons' daughters who have lived among 'the cloth' all their lives. However, a man who marries a parson's daughter seldom makes a very bad bargain. These young ladies turn out better than their brothers are proverbially supposed to do, although it certainly is a fact that if a parson's daughter, through disappointment in legitimate flirting, branches off on the down-road to the pit of destruction, she mostly takes a clean header off the brink, and goes to the very bottom of that pit at one jump.
|About Flirts||Flirt's Power||Season Flirt||Example And Precept|
|Plain Sisters||Ecclesiastical Flirt||Home Regimental Flirts||Foreign Regimental Flirt|
|Seaside Flirt||Tourist Flirt||Country-Town-House Flirts||Sentimental Flirt|
|Taken from original text, as written. May contain OCR errors.|