A bachelor's paradise: Guernsey ladies, October 1825
An extract from an article published in the Star of October 18, 1825. 'The observations that follow have been copied from The Morning Herald. They will tend to show what views some strangers are apt to form of our local peculiarities; if, indeed, they can be taken as the real views of the writer, which, from the incorrectness of his statements, and the exaggerated description he has given of advantages and disadvantages, beauties and defects, we more than doubt.' The young lady in the portrait is Anne Priaulx.1
[....] Once, however, you come to the top [of Town], you are more than recompensed for the toil. You find yourself in an outlet of the town, in which the wealth and aristocracy of the island has settled. Perhaps this is one of the prettiest suburbs in Europe. In my scanty travels I have seen nothing like it. The climate is so mild that oranges come to perfection in the open air, and myrtles grow in luxuriant wildness. The hydrangea also attains an extraordinary size, and the Guernsey lily, one of the choicest treasures of the garden, bestows its loveliness in abundance. The proprietors of the villas I speak of, have surrounded their houses with these fragrant delights, and a thousand other flowers of which I know not the names. The houses are built with a good taste worthy of their situation. Imagine the beauty of a Grecian villa in the centre of a garden such as I have described, now almost in full bloom, with orchards with a little space, the trees loaded with fruit glowing in a variety of colours, green fields and Arcadian sheep not far removed, and the ocean in the distance. Do you want a wife, gentle reader? Imagine a Guernsey lady of twenty-five, mistress of this villa. I tell you again, this is a bachelor's paradise. If my wife, Mrs W., were dead! [....]
Having recommended a wife, it is fair I should tell you what kind you are to expect. Believe me then, the Guernsey ladies are truly handsome. To none can the palm of perfect beauty be assigned; but they all have sweetly-turned features, fine complexions, fair skin, and blue eyes; figures slight, but graceful, and the most sparkling pretty ankles in the world. It is not the fashion to be French, and they adopt as much as possible the English dress and manners. But they destroy the natural grace of their shapes by an affectation of small waists; such bracing and tightening; an hourglass is an old but very apt comparison in this case.
There is a public promenade through rows of fine venerable trees, where the dear creatures display their tempting insteps in fine weather; should it blow a little, they are not afraid. There are seats for the critics. Lest you should mistake them for French, they all speak English, but with a lisp which makes their discourse the more interesting. The idiom is decidedly French; one is delighted by the flow of easy and unaffected English conversation, marked by the graces and courtesy of a Parisian dialogue. They are to strangers invariably polite and condescending; but the curse of the island, the pride of birth, destroys all free society with each other. We have the grand caste, in which these families only are included, and divisions and subdivisions descending to the butcher's daughters, bounded by impassable barriers, which neither wealth nor intermarriage can affect. Therefore it is that your half-pay officers of good families always marry so well in this island. Captain O'Carrolo, with a Munster pedigree, might command thousands for his farthings. The fathers of the lower grades, excluded from a better class, have no temptation to spend their money, and they have gone on accumulating profits every year. An old fellow, with a saffron wig, living by the roadside, has just put up £15,000 each for his three daughters. Sunday, after Church, is the grand review day. Then blaze forth the congregated charms of the whole island, and you may feast your eyes on those sweet knots of animated Guernsey lilies, studded, as our florist has told you, with a thousand little diamonds. Then it is that your Lieutenant on half-pay twirls his luxuriant mustachios, and bows and simpers, pays duty to mamma, while you see the calculating glance from the corner of the rogue's eye on the respective weight and attraction of each part of the rich banquet before him.
All you young maidens that have 'forestalled sweet Valentine,' and forgot the church in your haste to be happy, come to Guernsey with the true men of your hearts. This is the place to be made an honest woman; no matter if you have a dozen chubby rogues, we can legitimise them all. Stare as you please, it is very true; on my soul it is.
Well then, I'll tell you how it is. There are two sorts of marriage here. The one your regular old-fashioned concern, with father and mother, and all the family present; the other for naughty people, who in their silly days joined hearts without the parson's blessings. The gentleman and lady appear before the Magistrate, the children are placed between them; the marriage ceremony is gone through in the usual form; and not only are the parties admitted into society without the slightest stain on their characters, but the children are legitimate from thenceforth, and share property in descent.
There is equal facility given to the separation of husbands and wives who have out-lived their liking; but this privilege is seldom made use of but by the common people. They have only to appear before the Authorities and sign a mutual consent to part, and a divorce is pronounced and registered, by which both parties are left as free as air. I don't know what becomes of the bairns in this case.
And on the same theme: A letter to his aunt, 1834, and:
From the Gazette de Guernesey, 27th January 1827.
Un gentilhomme anglais désire s'unir avec une Demoiselle native de Guernesey, qui serait âgée de 30 à 40 ans, qui aurait une petite fortune; qui serait d'une bonne fortune, et affable dans ses manières. Celles qui ne dedaigneront point cet offre, peuvent adresser une lettre à Mr. ——T. P. Z. à l'imprimerie de cette feuille avec leur veritable signature: elles peuvent s'adresser avec confiance, et s'assurer qu'on gardera le plus grand secret.
An English gentleman seeks to marry a Guernsey lady, aged around 30-40, with a small fortune; she must have money, and be pleasant. Those who are not averse to this offer can write to Mr T P Z at the printers' of this newspaper, using their real names; they may be assured that their secret willl be treated with the strictest confidence.
1 We have very few portraits of young Guernsey ladies from the period in the Library collection, and there is no evidence whatsoever that this young lady frequented the New Ground in search of a husband. In fact, Anne Priaulx (1800-1856) married her neighbour, Nicholas (1799-1874), the son of Robert Walters, a surgeon; his mother was Susanna Maingay. He was born in Guernsey and attended Winchester school. After leaving Cambridge he became a deacon at Winchester and then a curate at All Saints', Stamford, in 1828, shortly after marrying Anne. She lost a baby son; Julia Métivier, nee Priaulx, writes a sad account of it in a letter, Island Archives AQ 24/28, transcribed in Lenfestey, G, George Métivier, Substantive references, in the Library Collection. The letter is undated; the suggested date of 1843 would make Anne a new mother aged 42. She was the cousin of Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx; her father Thomas (1762-1844) was the brother of Osmond's father Anthony Priaulx (whose reminiscences are featured in Edith Carey's Scrapbooks in the Library). Anthony, who was first married to Osmond's mother, Martha Gore, remarried after her death Catherine Lihou; she was the sister of Anne Priaulx's mother, Anne Lihou (1772-1851). The relationship between Anne Priaulx and Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx was therefore doubly close. [The third daughter of Anne and Nicholas, Louise D'Arcy, married General George de Sausmarez, Seigneur of Sausmarez; died Sausmarez Manor 24.12.1915.]