Honeymoons: Journeys from the Altar


Honeymoons: Journeys from the Altar


At times tender, at others acerbic or humourous, this collection of honeymoon travels looks at the trials and tribulations of that first taste of married life. Extracts from celebrated novels alternate with less well-known passages, and descriptions of public marriages contrast with the private lives and emotions they evoke. From sexless wedding nights to honeymoon gothic, from unexpected revelations to shattered illusions and from journeys into the heart, or into the heart of darkness, the newlyweds find themselves exposed for the first time to their partners. It’s a fascinating study of the complexities of human relationships, and of the courage of those who hitch their wagons together for the journey from the altar.

Including: Paul Bowles, Dorothy Sayers, D. H. Lawrence, Byron, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Dorothy Parker, A. N. Wilson, Thackeray, Trollope, Dickens, Ruskin, Maupassant, Martha Gellhorn, Graham Greene. 

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Honeymoons: Journeys from the Altar
Edited by: Roger Hudson and Rose Baring
ISBN: 978-0907871-59-0
Format: 360/229 x 152mm hb

Extract from Introduction

Feel the pulse of a Jamaican beach on a Saturday evening – the sun goes down through a blood-orange sky and there’s a throbbing background bass of reggae. Local couples, their skin hot and fragrant from a day of sunshine, stand waist-deep in the purple water, swaying, kissing, laughing and gyrating. There’s a lazy, sensual feel, product of the heat, the ganja, the music and the weekend.

I’m marvelling at the scene, sitting under a tree with a can of Red Stripe. In the foreground my husband of a few days is busy with a group of children, constructing an imaginary universe from palm fronds and sand. Smoke and the smell of frying fish issue from a beached wooden boat nearby, and suddenly I can see the future: the delicious fresh meal we will eat with our fingers in the next hour or so, the night of dancing and velvet darkness, and beyond it the children we will have and the fun they will have on the beaches of our life. It’s a moment of intense certainty and pleasure, a moment that could only happen at that turning point in my life, my honeymoon.

A honeymoon these days is rarely the first holiday a couple takes together but it is still a significant way-post on the journey that is their life together. You’ve shed the build-up to the day itself, made a public declaration of your love, said goodbye to the mother-in-law in her preposterous hat and you are finally alone again, with the future laid out before you. It is yours to decide, yours to mould into shape. And that is why writers have been so drawn to the subject. As


HoneymoonsTextCurrent 3/4/09 09:58 Page 11two paths converge to make one, how will the new, shared future be negotiated? For many of the people in this book, the honeymoon is the first holiday they have ever been on together, and the first time they have shared a bed. Here, before us, are their early, tremulous attempts to define that future.

Over the years, writers have explored the dramatic possibilities from every angle. There are bawdy 17th-century ballads, gleefully exploiting the difference between the naivety of the wife and the experience of her husband. There are the innocently erotic possibilities of the first ‘legal’ coupling, the out-and-out bliss of a long-anticipated physical union. There are explorations of Italy focussing on the pleasures of wine and food after life in post-war, austerity Britain, and unusual honeymoons where bride and groom speak for the first time on their wedding night, or where the union is a secret and life goes on as before with only stolen moments of passion. The range of writing, from John Donne to Ernest Hemingway, from Leo Tolstoy to Ted Hughes, from Dorothy Parker to Sophie Kinsella, all speak of the enduring fascination of this pivotal moment.

Just as my own honeymoon dipped from that sandy high to moments of uncertainty and bewilderment, within these covers all is not a bed of roses. There are moments of heartbreaking disappointment, even cruelty, and skeletons which swing out unbeckoned from cupboards. But there are also misunderstandings overcome and tender moments when the new couple marvels at the possibilities ahead of them. Last word goes to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, honeymooning in Pisa with her poet husband, Robert:

We have been married two months, and every hour has bound me to him more and more; if the beginning was well, still better it is now—that is what he says to me, and I say back again day by day.

Rose Baring