By J.E. Buckrose
Author of “Down Our Street,” “The Gossip Shop,” “The Tale of Mr. Tubbs,” etc.
Honeymoons are in one respect like human faces—millions of them have existed in the world, and no two were ever absolutely alike.
Mere details have been the same, of course, but there has always been some infinitesimal variation in the combination of those details which created the difference. For instance, numberless bridegrooms must have found themselves stranded beyond the reach of shops without a toothbrush; but the precise manner of the discovery and what happened afterwards must be just a little different in every case.
Also, though brides pack too efficiently for that sort of omission to occur, there must have been a countless host from first to last who have gone away to remote places taking nothing but new shoes with them, and have in consequence found the flowery paths of dalliance through wood and vale less of a rapturous delight than of an obligation to be fulfilled in order to avoid disappointing the new husband. And yet every one of these brides has. performed her act of self-denial with some tiny shade of difference from all the rest.
Afterwards, of course, such incidents often form the foundation of that stock of family jokes without which I think no married life ever was entirely successful; but in the meantime they do not seem funny at all. For at that time other emotions are taking up so much more than their fair share in the mind that something has to go—which something is often a sense of humour.
It really seems as if the Spirit of the Ridiculous must enjoy teasing those who have thus temporarily crowded him out. As in the case of a poor bridegroom, deeply in love but no longer quite young, who had the misfortune to drop his false teeth on the stone floor of the balcony in his palatial hotel dressing-room, at the very identical moment when he was gazing at the moon for a brief space, before joining his beloved on the other side of the highly varnished communicating door.
And this was not comic. Let any bridegroom, past, present, or to come, endeavour to put himself in that unhappy gentleman’s place, and it will be clear enough that the affair was tragic. For there was the newly-married wife waiting for him in a flutter of romance ; and here was he— desperately endeavouring to fit broken pieces of dental workmanship into his mouth, without success. Then a church clock outside warned him of the flight of time, and he appeared suddenly before his wife, looking so very odd, and muttering so strangely: “Tharah! At latht! ” that she fell back in dismay and began to glance round for the bell.
But it proved to be a blessing in disguise after all, because these two people had always been just a little too dull and proper to be really happy in the world, and now they had to start married life with a jest so broad and easily visible that even they couldn’t help seeing it by the time they returned home from the wedding journey.
Honeymoons vary extraordinarily, however, even on the written page—from that immortal one described by Milton which is the most lovely of which man’s imagination is capable, right down to the old story of the mid-Victorian bride who stopped short at Folkestone, because she really felt she could not bring herself to cross the Channel with a gentleman who was no relation except by marriage.
It is after thinking of this last that one comes with a sort of mental jolt upon a clear-eyed modern girl, who openly states her intention with regard to the perpetuation of the human race at the party given to view the wedding presents; and this in no hole and corner sort of fashion, but with the clarion voice of chanticleer heralding the morn.
Still contrasts are stimulating, so it is agreeable to recall, while listening to her, a honeymoon of the period of Nicolas Nickleby, when the bridesmaid often accompanied the happy pair, lest a “delicate female” should be too abruptly thrust into the sole companionship of the coarser male.
But at any rate there was one thing about Victorian courtships which is sometimes lacking in these more enlightened days; the newly wedded couple did start off in an atmosphere of faith and hope, and not of hope only. Everyone felt sure that they were going to live together until one of them died, and that they had every intention of bringing children into the world to fill their places when they were gone. That long month of seclusion might be dull and was almost certainly a. mistake, but they did not begin their married life ignobly.
Still the essentials of the honeymoon must always remain the same, for the god of change, who rules all else, has no power in love. That which Milton wrote of, in the grey stone cottage among the hawthorns and chestnut trees, can never go out of fashion, and the words: “Part of my soul, I seek thee “—express what every bridegroom who truly loves still feels towards his bride. The very carpet of “violet, crocus and hyacinth ” on which Eve trod, and the rose leaves which fell upon those first lovers while they slept, are not only descriptions but symbols—new always to every one who reads them, with an exquisite freshness which seems somehow to hold the morning dew of life.
This great poem, however, contains not only wonder but a sort of divine common sense, so we are soon made aware of the dangers which encounter those who have been rapt into such a state of bliss. It is very difficult indeed to come down to the ordinary give and take of man and wife after a period during which each has believed themselves as perfect in the other’s eyes as Adam and Eve before the fall, even when both try to live up to this idea. A desire for less exacting society will begin to creep in, and may ruin their happiness almost before married life has begun. For it is during the second part of the honeymoon, when couples begin to settle down, that the actual test comes. No living woman, however wise, will ever fail to feel surprised and hurt that her husband can be sharp about the breakfast bacon after such a. period of adoration. And no husband will ever feel pleased when the pliant creature who seemed but a rib taken from his side at the sea-side hotel, suddenly proves to have a will of her own.
But there is one hard fact which must be faced by the most romantic, if they want to be happy, and it is this: that glamour, in the nature of things, cannot stay. Everything that really matters, remains. But that most beautiful thing has to go. It is like the little angels on old ceilings—all bright eyes and hair and flashing wings and there is no use in expecting that to sit down cosily by the domestic hearth, which simply has not the accommodation.
Of course the element of strangeness during the first days of the honeymoon affects some natures quite differently from others. To some it is an excitement and a stimulus. But there are couples who feel it so acutely that the love and pleasure which they ought to enjoy are altogether spoiled, and they will own later that many succeeding holidays have proved more agreeable. But glamour was there, all the same, though they did not recognise it.
This is particularly so with the young man and woman who would defy it most, and who go forth wearing all their oldest clothes to spend what may be called the hidden honeymoon. For they are simply filled with a glorious sense of adventure, finding it splendid sport to make people believe that they have been married for years, and enjoying their greatest triumph when some mild old lady asks innocently how many children they have left at home. Though they flatter themselves that they have dispensed with glamour, it is just as visible to the intelligent observer as if they were wearing obvious trousseaux and occupying the bridal suite.
But: I think it is the couple no longer exactly young, whom nobody has wanted much before they found each other, that are the most delightful honeymooners to meet, for they have just come out into a world so new to them that the commonest daisy is a wonder. This bride—while the majority of women were gathering the blooms of ordinary love-making all along the road—will never have heard any man say her eyes are beautiful, or her hand the dearest to hold in the world, until her husband told her so.
And he—if he is the sort I mean—will begin to lift up his head and put a little flesh on his spare bones even before the end of the honeymoon, because he is able at last to rest his anxious, nervous soul in an atmosphere of uncritical appreciation…
And—having kept the best to the last—I come now to the perfect honeymoon. The happy couple have left the flowery white wedding behind them, taking only a confused memory of coloured light streaming through a church window—of friends all smiling and wishing them well—of a lump in the bride’s throat as she kisses her mother—of a great shower of confetti— of people waving and shouting good luck. At last they are alone together in the car, the quiet hedgerows rushing past them, and it is towards evening when they reach the country inn where they are to spend the night. Then there is the first meal together as husband and wife, and afterwards the inn garden all fragrant in the twilight —with the white flowers advancing from the rich gloom as they do at this hour, while the coloured ones that have been so gorgeous in the day, recede.
Glamour is now surrounding bride and bridegroom like a silver cloud. But though that must go, the love which—as old Sir Thomas à Kempis says—”makes all bitter things sweet and pleasant,” will be left with them to the end, if they continue true lovers.
Good Housekeeping, Vol. 2, February 1922: p. 21, 88-89
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil joins the entire Empire in wishing the newly-wed Duke and Duchess of Sussex the most perfect of honeymoons and happiest of marriages.
For a honeymoons where all did not run smoothly, see Shuffling Off to Buffalo.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.