Not all matches are made in heaven.
Some are made in Hartfield, by Jane Austen’s Emma.
This first installment of The Art of Matchmaking explores the best traits when taking “so active a part in bringing any two people together.” A portion of these qualities is exemplified by the meddlesome heroine. But, of course, not all. . .
In order to tug heartstrings, one first must have strings to pull. Clout, if you will.
Emma’s title as lady of Hartfield provides her with just that. Among Highbury society she is much beloved. Her visits with Miss Bates keep her well informed. Parties and picnics introduce a myriad of new acquaintances.
Such is the beginning of her friendship with Miss Harriet Smith, a young woman who she determines to find a husband for.
Before any hearts become invested, question the pairing you have in mind.
A trait Emma surely lacked in nudging Harriet, “the natural daughter of nobody knows whom,” toward Vicar Mr. Elton. Had our heroine reflected upon the inequality, her friend would have been spared a great heartbreak.
What you must know is. . . The matchmaker must also use her charms.
Ever-agreeable, Emma’s spirit endeared her to both Harriet and Mr Elton. They quickly came to trust her opinion. And as we well know, the heart wants what the heart is told it wants.
A matchmaker deals with all matters of the heart, not only love.
Courtship brings about a myriad of emotions. Parties are anxious, elated, frustrated, doubtful, and hopeful. Some, like Harriet Smith, delight in infatuation then suffer the depression of heartbreak.
Emma, of course, celebrates and above all, comforts. There is a particularly charming scene in the novel where Emma insists on visiting her dear friend despite Harriet’s illness. This is a true testament to her compassion.
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It matters not whether love comes in the first moment or waits years. It pays no mind to when, only to who.
From chapter one, matchmaking is depicted as a lengthy campaign. The first scene finds Mr. Woodhouse, Mr. Knightley, and Emma discussing the Westons. To which the lady remarks, “Ever since the day (about four years ago) . . . I planned the match from that hour; and when such success has blessed me in this instance, dear papa, you cannot think that I shall leave off match-making.”
Time played a vital role in the relationships of not only the Westons but Robert Martin and Harriet Smith; Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax; and Mr. Knightley and Emma herself.
E L I E Z E R // A servant of Abraham (by the name of Eliezer) traveled a great distance, to find his master’s son a wife. He asked God for a sign in order to determine a bride. The strange sign proved successful — as did the marriage to follow.
T H E W E S L E Y B R O T H E R S // Evangelical revivalists John and Charles Wesley relied heavily on the other’s approval when finding a mate.
L E O P O L D I O F B E L G I U M // Recognized for his diplomacy, the royal was particularly successful in brokering the marriage of his niece, Queen Victoria.
Uncle Leopold groomed Prince Albert to be the ideal husband, dictating his studies. Meanwhile, his correspondence with Victoria encouraged her toward the young Prince. His persistence and insistence led to their first visit. . . a friendship, and eventually love.
L A D Y P A G E T // Originally Minnie Stevens, the American heiress was wed to a heavily-debted but titled Englishman. Later, she matched another Dollar Princess, Consuelo Vanderbilt, to the Duke of Marlborough.
C H A R L E S W. S A V I D G E // A wealthy rancher offered an exchange. If Savidge found him a spouse, James Snell would finance a matchmaking agency for Savidge in return. Savidge declined.
Such an interesting proposal turned heads — including The New York Times. Once publicized, it became a sensation. Hundreds of letters poured in, addressing Savidge for romantic help.
He reconsidered Snells offer and said of his matchmaking, “I just simply bring the man who wants a wife and the woman who wants a husband together. God and nature do the rest.”
Q U E E N V I C T O R I A & P R I N C E A L B E R T // Their eldest daughter was but ten years old when Victoria and Albert began matchmaking. Their choice suitor for her, Prince Frederick of Prussia, twenty.
He and his family were invited to the Great Exhibition. There, the princess was designated his guide.
The arrangement proved most effective.
Since Princess Vicky was bilingual, Fredrick was made comfortable speaking in his native tongue rather than stammering English. And her youth actually allowed them to spend time together alone and without pressure. Had Princess Vicky been older, they would not have been permitted unchaperoned visits.
Though many years would pass before romance, it is certain a fondness was fostered from Frederick’s first stay.
Later in life, the monarch again thought to pair a couple. This time Indian Princess Gowramma with her friend Duleep Singh. It was not a match inspired by romance but evangelism.
As both were Christians, Queen Victoria hoped they would spread their faith in India. Alas, her efforts never came to fruition.
Have you yourself ever match-made? Or been matched? Do share!
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