Thursday, June 18, 2009

Of Milk and Guns: Wedding Preparations and Thoughts:

It is just a scant novena of days until Sheila and John - two of my most dear Chestertonian friends - get married (on June 27), and the day after that will be the 108th anniversary of the marriage of Frances and Gilbert. So I thought I would hunt for just a bit of appropriate history to begin final preparations.

The wedding day drew near and the presents were pouring in. "I feel like the young man in the Gospel," said Gilbert to Annie Firmin, "sorrowful, because I have great possessions." [See Matthew 19:22] Conrad Noel married Gilbert and Frances at Kensington Parish Church on June 28, 1901. As Gilbert knelt down the price ticket on the sole of one of his new shoes became plainly visible. Annie caught Mrs. Chesterton's eye and they began to laugh helplessly. Annie thinks, too, that for once in their lives Gilbert and Cecil did not argue at the Reception. Lucian Oldershaw drove ahead to the station with the heavy luggage, put it on the train and waited feverishly. That train went off (with the luggage), then another, and at last the happy couple appeared. Gilbert had felt it necessary to stop on the way "in order to drink a glass of milk in one shop and to buy a revolver with cartridges in another." [see below] The milk he drank because in childhood his mother used to give him a glass in that shop. The revolver was for the defense of his bride against possible dangers. They followed the luggage by a slow train.

Meeting her [Frances] for the first time I think the main impression was that of the "single eye." She abounded in Gilbert's sense, as my mother commented after an early meeting, and ministered to his genius. Yet she never lost an individual, markedly feminine point of view, which helped him greatly, as anyone can see who will read all he wrote on marriage. He shows an insight almost uncanny in the section called, "The Mistake About Women" in What's Wrong With the World. "Some people," he said in a speech of 1905, "when married gain each other. Some only lose themselves." The Chestertons gained each other. And by the sort of paradox he loved, Frances did so by throwing the stream of her own life unreservedly into the greater river of her husband's.

[Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 151, 167]
In case you are wondering about the gun and the milk, here is the groom's own explanation:
A man does not generally manage to forget his wedding-day; especially such a highly comic wedding-day as mine. For the family remembers against me a number of now familiar legends, about the missing of trains, the losing of luggage, and other things counted yet more eccentric. It is alleged against me, and with perfect truth, that I stopped on the way to drink a glass of milk in one shop and to buy a revolver with cartridges in another. Some have seen these as singular wedding-presents for a bridegroom to give to himself, and if the bride had known less of him, I suppose she might have fancied that he was a suicide or a murderer or, worst of all, a teetotaller. They seemed to me the most natural things in the world. I did not buy the pistol to murder myself - or my wife; I never was really modern. I bought it because it was the great adventure of my youth, with a general notion of protecting her from the pirates doubtless infesting the Norfolk Broads, to which we were bound; where, after all, there are still a suspiciously large number of families with Danish names. I shall not be annoyed if it is called childish; but obviously it was rather a reminiscence of boyhood, and not of childhood. But the ritual consumption of the glass of milk really was a reminiscence of childhood. I stopped at that particular dairy because I had always drunk a glass of milk there when walking with my mother in my infancy. And it seemed to me a fitting ceremonial to unite the two great relations of a man's life. Outside the shop there was the figure of a White Cow as a sort of pendant to the figure of the White Horse; the one standing at the beginning of my new journey and the other at the end. But the point is here that the very fact of these allegories having been acted over again, at the stage of marriage and maturity, does in a sense transform them, and does in some sense veil even while it invokes the original visions of the child.
[GKC Autobiography CW16:43-4]

I must not overlook two things. First, this June 28 would be Frances' 140th birthday - yes, she was almost 5 years older than GKC; she died two years after him.

Second, if there is to be any discussion of feast days in connexion with these two, I would heartily recommend it be on June 28, because it is the date of their wedding. Such things have been done before, as in the case of St. Ambrose, whose feast on December 7 recalls the date he was ordained a bishop. (So much for nolo episcopari right? Hee hee)

May Frances and Gilbert watch over Sheila and John as they prepare for their new life, and intercede for all their needs...

Hey John don't forget the milk and the gun. Sheila be sure he takes that tag off his shoes. Now pardon me while I consult the lexicons for the endings of the dual...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much, Dr. Thursday! I had no idea the Chestertons were married the day after our date. How fitting. :)


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