The Marriage Song

Ack! I almost missed this very important date! Thanks to Dillon for the tip-off. From

Oct 8, 1937:

Lord Peter Wimsey marries Harriet Vane

Fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey finally marries Harriet Vane, a prickly mystery writer he has pursued through several novels, on this day in 1937 in the novel Busman's Honeymoon. The novel, by Dorothy Sayers, was one of the last featuring the two English sleuths.

I like how we all agree that she's "prickly." And that they're "fictional."

I'm not gonna lie: I love Busman's Honeymoon because it's about sex. I say this not as a "pervert," but as an interested bystander who had to suffer through all of Have His Carcase just to keep the ball rolling. (I kid: of course I skipped around. That book is approximately 10 pages of fun and 10 million pages of boring. Please self-edit anything offensive out of this opinion if you happen for whatever inexplicable, alien reason to actually enjoy "Have His Carcase," then ask yourself, "Really? Do I really enjoy this book, or am I adopting a faintly obstructionist viewpoint in order to seem cool and avant-garde?" Nobody could blame you for that. But I hope most of us can agree that HHC functions on at least some level as a cross to be borne and then tossed aside—I don't know, a crime-solving horse?—and the best I can say's fulsome!)

But back to the point. Seriously, these poor characters waited almost six years to touch each other, and I, the interested, non-perverted bystander, just wanted to know if it was worth it. Short story: it was!

Oh, it's a book about risk and respect and partnership and negotiation and boundaries, blah blah blah, I get that and don't mean to sell it short. It's not about the mystery, it's about the marriage, that's clear from the start; hence DLS's admission that it's a "love story with detective interruptions" and the inclusion of her strangely apologetic letter of introduction, which implies that the story is much more lighthearted than it actually turns out to be. Janice Brown has a long chapter in The Seven Deadly Sins in the Work of Dorothy L. Sayers on the themes of Pride and Humility and "Purity of the spirit" in BH, but she also notes that Chapter 4 ("Household Gods,") "...opens with Harriet and Peter awakening and realizing where they are and what they have become to each other. Peter's joking comment that Harriet, if she has forgotten she is his wife, must 'learn it all over again' has perhaps a deeper significance than he consciously intends. It implies that their sexual union is the soul of the marriage, and it also suggests the progressive nature of the marriage relationship."

Agreed. I also admire the way they accept the lunatics into their home but don't let that stand in the way of the sex. This takes real concentration. Look, here's Mr. Puffett stripping off his many layers in the middle of our sitting room! Here's Miss Twitterton sneaking down our bedroom stairs! Time for more of the vicar's sherry! Yet for the main frame of the action, nothing cracks their focus: it's a honeymoon they're on, after all, and there's business to attend to. The trick is none of this is offered up in a prurient sense—we see it through a lace doily, if you will, and thank god, because there are few things more tedious than a graphic description of the mechanics—but it's there in the way they regard each other, how they sit back and attend to what they're learning about each other as people and as a couple, how they move from playful to solemn and back again, often within the same passage, and all of it reflecting how much they enjoy each other. It's that joy, both physical and metaphysical (I know, yuck), that binds them so completely together—proving as fact Peter's comment in Gaudy Night that "The worst sin—perhaps the only sin—passion can commit, is to be joyless"—and holy cow, when he admits that "she had only to look or speak to make the very bones shake in his body," don't your bones shake a little, too? And this:

"Dear." The word was no more than a whisper, spoken without a movement. "My heart's heart. My own dear lover and husband." The locked hands must have tightened their hold, for the red stone flashed sudden fire. "You are mine, you are mine, all mine."

The head came up at that and his voice caught the triumph and sent it back in a mounting wave:

"Yours. Such as I am, yours. With all my faults, all my follies, yours utterly and for ever. While this poor, passionate, mountebank body has hands to hold you and lips to say, I love you—"

Now I'm no pervert and this is no bodice-ripper, but that, my friends, Romans, and countrymen, is sex.