Victorian Honeymoons: Journeys to the Conjugal (Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture)

Victorian Honeymoons: Journeys to the Conjugal (Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture)

Helena Michie

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0521123569

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


While Victorian tourism and Victorian sexuality have been the subject of much critical interest, there has been little research on a characteristically nineteenth-century phenomenon relating to both sex and travel: the honeymoon, or wedding journey. Although the term 'honeymoon' was coined in the eighteenth century, the ritual increased in popularity throughout the Victorian period, until by the end of the century it became a familiar accompaniment to the wedding for all but the poorest classes. Using letters and diaries of 61 real-life honeymooning couples, as well as novels from Frankenstein to Middlemarch that feature honeymoon scenarios, Michie explores the cultural meanings of the honeymoon, arguing that, with its emphasis on privacy and displacement, the honeymoon was central to emerging ideals of conjugality and to ideas of the couple as a primary social unit.

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Littlehampton is absorbed smoothly into a narrative of conjugality. On the day before her mother returns home, leaving her daughter with her new husband in Littlehampton, she takes farewell of her mother by talking to her about the joy she takes in being married to Edward: ‘‘Dongan washed my hair. Mama sat with me, and we talked of my unbounded happiness – Indeed – I am most blessed in the love of one, whom I love with the whole strength of my being – and he – dearest love – how truly does he

Chartreuse.’’ The identification of the honeymoon with the production of Matthew Arnold’s poetry highlights one sort of cultural work at the expense of another: even those biographers who linger on more private aspects of the wedding journeys – the extent to which Matthew loved Flu, his general views of women or sexuality, the vexed question of his virginity – tend to read the journeys through the poems and thus unconsciously to see them as productive only of literary and indeed canonical forms

focus on the problem of sexual knowledge for women. Daniel Deronda can be read as a novel of sexual education, not only for its heroine, Gwendolen Harleth, who enters marriage and the marriage plot knowing almost nothing about male sexuality and must learn through her marital experiences about the relation of gender and power, but also for Daniel, who takes the lessons he learns as a child about illegitimacy and applies them in ever widening circles to encompass the largest questions of race,

been sexually involved. The jewels that were to announce her as Mrs. Grandcourt ironically destabilize that name and that position by producing a gothic spectacle of many women identical in their fear and helplessness. While in the charade scene, when the panel flies open, Gwendolen is able through her exquisite and instinctive bodily control to convert her terror into a successful pose, here her body takes over and all control over its display disappears. Grandcourt’s entry into this scene of

our curiosity further back: what happened on the wedding night? On the wedding evening before supper? Did Gwendolen, whom we left ‘‘pallid and shrieking,’’ (re)compose herself, dress herself for dinner? Did she and Grandcourt speak of Lydia? Was the marriage consummated in the usual sense of the term? Although in other places in the novel Eliot makes use of a form of dramatic irony – for example, informing the reader before Gwendolen meets her of Lydia’s existence – the reader has no special

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