Extract from the Primrose League Gazette 21st January 1888

At a recent dinner in connection with the Horley Habitation [Sussex No. 1496] at the Chequers Assembly Room, there was a very large attendance of members, including several ladies; and Sir Trevor Lawrence, M.P., having, in felicitous terms, proposed “The Health of the Ladies”, and informed the company that the toast, somewhat unusually, was coupled with the name of a lady, – MISS MARRYAT, who was enthusiastically applauded, rose and said:

“Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-Chairman, and gentlemen, as none of the senior Dames of the League have risen to reply to this toast, I trust you will not consider me very presumptuous in rising to return thanks on behalf of my sex for the many nice things Sir Trevor Lawrence has said in his speech about us. [Cheers] I believe it is rather unusual for a lady to respond to this toast, but I fancy the custom has arisen somewhat in this way. It is not uncommon, I am told in London and other cities, for some 200 or 300 gentlemen to get together and have grand banquets all to themselves, while the ladies are banished to a gallery to look at them through the railings, feeding [laughter] just like you see the animals fed at the Zoological Gardens. [Much laughter.]

Well, having thus wilfully banished the fairer sex from their society, of course they go through the hollow farce of drinking the health of the banished ladies, they have put to some unhappy man to reply [laughter], but really on these occasions, when the noble beasts – I beg your pardon, the nobler sex [laughter] – unbend so much as to let us feed with them, I think the least we can do is relieve some unhappy man of the task and reply for ourselves. [Loud cheers and laughter] If, too, you will consider for a moment, you will see what an absurdity it is for a man – a bachelor too, I believe generally – attempting to reply to a toast on the subject of which he needs must be woefully ignorant. [laughter] For, if he is an old bachelor, his life has evidently been passed uncheered by the sunshine of a woman. If a young bachelor, he is probably too much taken up with admiration for himself to have had time to study the opposite sex. A married man, now, might know something about us, but I suppose they are never allowed to reply, because I imagine you gentlemen have the vulgar and erroneous notion that if were to dilate on our charms – as he undoubtedly would do – he would have a rough time of it when he got home. [Cheers and laughter]

I will only remark, in conclusion, that whatever may be in store for our sex in future – whether you admit us to many branches of science, arts and honours, or even give us women’s suffrage, and many other things from which we are now excluded – you may depend upon it that the higher the scale of duties and responsibilities to which you raise your women – and you will find us fit for them when the time comes – the higher you will raise yourselves in the scale of civilisation, and the greatest number of perfect English women you will produce. [Loud and prolonged cheering!]