Edward Maltby p1

Edward Maltby’s memoir, Secrets of a Solicitor, published 1929, brings Edwardian society to life. He writes tales of the wastrels, society rogues and adventuresses he encountered in the course of his practice. He also passes on inside gossip he’d heard from other lawyers he knew. There are some bizarre characters and situations, although people probably aren’t that different now. One story is the tale of a Mayfair lounger.

Mr Maltby writes: Give a young man a season or two in London and you train him to believe that life really consists of one intensive round of pleasure, dining and dancing and flirting, days consisting mostly of nights — a very pleasant world of unreality into which nothing serious is allowed to enter… As long as the financial supplies last he can hold his own, but once they are withdrawn he flounders and as often as not goes under.

Mr Maltby related how a manufacturer in Manchester sent his son to Eton and Oxford, in order to increase the family’s stature. But after graduating from Oxford, instead of heading back to the family business in Manchester, the son was allowed to rent a flat in Clarges Street, Mayfair, London. This is still a wealthy part of London, full of Georgian townhouses and flash cars. He started living a life of partying, reluctantly sponsored by his wealthy father. While in a night club, the son was introduced to a middle aged gentlemen, the nephew of a peer. The young man didn’t realise it, but the gentleman was a social secretary, an exclusive profession.

The social secretary was employed by hostesses who wanted eligible young men to attend their dinners and dances. His job was to prepare a list of the wealthy young men of Mayfair, for marrying off to their wealthy daughters.

After the meeting at the London night club, the young man started receiving invitations.

Then his father’s fortune crumbled, and he wasn’t so eligible. His father advised him to move back to Manchester or find a job in London.  Mr Maltby writes: “…but work was almost as terrifying as death to one who had known nothing but pleasure and to whom pleasure had become as necessary as life. There and then he resolved to restore the family fortunes by marrying an heiress.”

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