Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The groom's gift to the bride: Dorothy L Sayers

the book:

Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers

Published 1937   From the Prothalamion (anyone else would call it the prologue, but DLS used an obscure term for a song celebrating a wedding)




[Extract from the diary of the Dowager Duchess of Denver, the mother of the groom in the forthcoming wedding of supersleuth Lord Peter Wimsey to detective story writer Harriet Vane.]
"...5 October   Worth has made magnificent effort and delivered dress. Few select friends invited to see trousseau – including Miss Climpson, miraculously reduced to speechlessness by Peter’s gift [to Harriet, bride-to-be] of mink coat – 950 guineas admittedly perhaps a trifle extravagant, but his sole contribution, and he looked as scared and guilty when he presented it as he did when he was a small boy and his father caught him with his pocked full of rabbits after a night out with that rascally old poacher Merryweather he took such a fancy to – and how that man’s cottage did smell! But it is a lovely cloak, and H. hadn’t the heart to say more than ‘Oh Mr Rochester!’ – in fun, and meaning Jane Eyre, who I always think behaved so ungraciously to that poor man – so gloomy to have your bride, however bigamous, insisting on grey alpaca or merino or whatever it was, and damping to a lover’s feelings..."

observations:
There seems a lot of wish fulfilment in Sayers’ description of the wedding of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. For a sophisticated Bohemian with academic pretensions, she certainly had an eye for a lord, a fairy-tale wedding, and – above all – a wonderful man who sees the inner glory of a plain poor girl. A man who could have anyone, but chooses an older lady with whom he can have an intellectual conversation. Even though DLS is at slightly embarrassing pains to point out that both Peter and Harriet are very sexy. And even though Lord Peter does not seem that wonderful to anyone else over the age of about 22. The word ‘insufferable’ comes to mind. The bride's gift to the groom, by the way, is a very valuable letter about love, hand-written by the poet John Donne.  A sister-in-law is reported as thinking  "a gold cigarette lighter  would be much more suitable", and after too much of the wedding preparations, one can start to agree with her, and long for a bit of honest flashy showing off. And what does the lovely bride wear in the end? Gold lame. Not so much in a position to criticize Jane Eyre. 
All this is, of course, without prejudice to Clothes in Books great love for the entire oeuvre of Dorothy L Sayers.
See tomorrow's entry for more on Jane Eyre.

Photo is from the Florida State archives, featured on Flickr.

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