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Map of Matrimony

  • Author: BEECHING, George Skaife
  • Date: c1880
  • Dimensions: 12 x 8.3 cms


A scarce separately issued Map of Matrimony, designed and published by London stationer & bookseller George Skaife Beeching, c.1880.

About this piece:

Map of Matrimony

Imprint [L c]: PUBLISHED BY G.S.BEECHING, 9 NEWINGTON CAUSEWAY, S.E / REGISTERED. Printed colour & gold highlighted patterned border. Additional outline hand colour to map. Some slight wear and corner creasing with minor edge tears at upper edge and at top left and right corners. Verso with four lines of Victorian inscription, blacked out & erased. With all a still very presentable and attractive example.

This small colour-printed lithograph map is a charming piece of whimsical cartographic ephemera, a witness to the enduring popularity of these types of matrimonial charts & maps in Britain throughout the Victorian period.

The design itself is characterized by a central Matrimonial island, divided into distinct regions – State of Solemnization, State of Agitation, Land of Kindnesses, Feeland (inhabited by Lawyers), and Province of Jewellers and Milliners, Region of Rejoicing and Country of Compliments. This new land is reached by the would-be groom via a long and circuitous voyage, denoted by a dotted track (Capt. Batchelor’s Course), which starts from the harbour of Dismal Town in the adjacent Country of Single Men, across the narrow straits called the Sea of Introduction. The Country of Single Men includes along its coastlines, the additional settlements of Make up your Mind City, Town of Discontent, and City of Uneasiness. Its principal coastal feature is Point Want Wife.  The long voyage takes Bachelor from Dismal Town, via Lonely Isle, through the Seas of Admiration and Doubt, past Capes Flirtation and Proposal, into Engagement Bay, past the Jealousy Isles, around AcceptationPoint, and into the waters of the Ocean of Felicity. Capt. Batchelor then proceeds via Settlement Bay, Pt.Joy, Ring Town, to reach Parson’s Bay and Church Town in the State of Solemnization. In contrast to the joyousness of the Land of Matrimony, at the top of the map, is to be found the Land of Spinsters, lying justacross the narrow waters of the Sea of Propriety from the Country of Single Men. Its coastlines feature such names as Widow’s Bay, Pt. Parrot and Old Maid’s Coast. Its settlements are the City of Precision, Tea Pot Town and Languish Town.

Publisher George Skaife Beeching [1856-1915] was the son of a prominent early 19th Century London bookseller, James Plumer George Beeching [1821-1907]. James had premises at 45 Upper Baker Street and in his latter years, in retirement, resided at Spring Grove, Isleworth. He had married in March 1855, Harriet Skaife, daughter and co-heir of William Skaife of Braisty Woods, Yorkshire. They had five children, two sons and three daughters, of whom George Skaife was the eldest. Although trained as a bookseller himself, George Skaife Beeching switched to selling stationery and paper goods, and after working at the address shown here, at 9 Newington Causeway in South London, eventually moved to prominent premises at No.174 Strand in Central London in the final years of the 19th Century. He appears in the 1871, 1881, 1891 & 1901 Censuses residing at his father’s former premises at 45 Upper Baker Street.  In 1887 he had married Bertha Agnes [1866-1931], daughter of Charles Page, a veterinary surgeon of Banbury, Oxfordshire. By the time of the 1911 Census, Beeching and his wife and two children, Dorothea (22) and Geoffrey (13) had relocated to a residence in Ealing, West London. Beeching was a prominent Freemason and member of the St.Marylebone Lodge. A 1909 masonic portrait by Leon Sprink, depicting a bespectacled Beeching in army uniform, was offered for sale by Phillips Auctioneers in London in April 1999. The military attire in which he is depicted reflected Beeching’s life-long enthusiasm as an Army volunteer: he served as both quartermaster and honorary major of the St.George’s Rifles and Middlesex Volunteers until just before the outbreak of the Boer War. He was also a long-standing stalwart of the Foreign Bible Society (where he is recorded as a local subscriber & benefactor at the 9 Newington Causeway address (shown on this map) in their 1878 Annual Report) and of the Colonial Institute.  His younger brother was the Very Reverend Henry Charles Beeching [1859-1919], the Dean of Norwich.

We can assign to this map an 1880 publication date as it appears to correspond exactly with a small matrimonial map described in an article in the Era Magazine of August 15th 1880, which begins : Students of our shop windows will no doubt by this time have made acquaintance with a clever little sketch denominated “The Map of Matrimony” and supposed to be illustrative of the journeyings of bachelors old and young from the state of single blessedness to the land of wedded felicity. The topographical details & map locations subsequently mentioned in the article correspond exactly with the delineation of Beeching’s map. The article goes on to describe a “Happy Couple Contest” then being organized by Mr William Holland (popularly known as “The People’s Caterer”) at the North Woolwich Gardens in London, on the model of the annual contest held at Dunmow in Essex.

All 18th & 19th Century “Matrimony” maps of this genre, because of their ephemeral nature, are increasingly hard to find and consequently very rarely offered on the market. This example forms part of probably the finest and most comprehensive collection of such maps offered for sale in recent years.

Refs: A C Fox-Davies: Armorial Families – A Directory of Gentlemen of Coat-Armour [Edinburgh, 1905]: Beeching, p.99; Seventy Fourth Report of the Foreign Bible Society MDCCCLXXVIII, p.xv