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Thread: Couples in bed

  1. #1
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Couples in bed

    I just wanted to write something about this, because I find it ever such a nice touch by Trollope. It's something I haven't come across (so far) in classic literature. Most authors seem to limit themselves to the 'proper' places, even for married couples, and forego the only really private room they have. Most of them therefore don't go further than private moments on strolls or in drawing rooms.

    The well-known couple-together-in-bed scene in comedies (think of Onslow and Daisy in Keeping up Appearances) and drama (various couples in Downton Abbey) is a peak into a couple's really private sphere. The bedroom is a rare private place, particularly in the world of 19th-century high society, where no-one, not even a couple's family, can see or hear them, so characters drop the masks they (are compelled to) wear day in day out and they can say really what they think (of each other and of the rest of the world).

    It started in The Warden with the Archdeacon ranting about Hiram's hospital to his wife, but the Honorable George de Courcy and his kind of slightly clueless though wealthy wife were another lovely touch.

    Shows you these scenes have a long tradition indeed... And Laurel and Hardy were not at all the first to sit in bed together for comic effect.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

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    Fascinating, kiki.

    Going to bed used to be an important ritual in the upper class world of the Caroline and and Jacobin eras, a time in Britain where the dynasties were viying for power. There was much ritual around this, like the casting off of the left stocking (or was it the right stocking?) and bedding was witnessed by several key onlookers, so it was not at all private.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I am glad you raised the topic because I have been slightly puzzled about sleeping arrangements in several books I have read recently. In Hard Times, it is apparent that Mr Bounderby is not sleeping with his much younger wife, Louisa, even though he has only recently married her. Odd, but then he might not actually be heterosexual. It is possible he only wanted an heir. However, I read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier several months ago, and it seemed Max de Winter and his unnamed narrator bride had their separate bedrooms. Max de Winter is very rich. The narrator talks about having children. There is nothing to suggest they are not having sex. In The Whirlpool by George Gissing, it appeared Harvey Rolfe slept in a different bedroom to his wife, Alma. Nevertheless they had sex enough for Alma to become pregnant three times. The Rolfes are not extremely rich, but much wealthier than most people of that time. I wondered whether upper middle class couples tended to sleep in different rooms in those days, even when their marriages were happy.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Iain Sparrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post
    I just wanted to write something about this, because I find it ever such a nice touch by Trollope. It's something I haven't come across (so far) in classic literature. Most authors seem to limit themselves to the 'proper' places, even for married couples, and forego the only really private room they have. Most of them therefore don't go further than private moments on strolls or in drawing rooms.

    The well-known couple-together-in-bed scene in comedies (think of Onslow and Daisy in Keeping up Appearances) and drama (various couples in Downton Abbey) is a peak into a couple's really private sphere. The bedroom is a rare private place, particularly in the world of 19th-century high society, where no-one, not even a couple's family, can see or hear them, so characters drop the masks they (are compelled to) wear day in day out and they can say really what they think (of each other and of the rest of the world).

    It started in The Warden with the Archdeacon ranting about Hiram's hospital to his wife, but the Honorable George de Courcy and his kind of slightly clueless though wealthy wife were another lovely touch.

    Shows you these scenes have a long tradition indeed... And Laurel and Hardy were not at all the first to sit in bed together for comic effect.
    ... but that's just how couples are portrayed in the literature of the times, which was hardly reality.
    Here's an article about a rather interesting study, one that fell through the cracks and *oddly* never published...
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...ex-survey.html

    We are not quite as modern as we like to think we are... my dad was 35 when he met my mom on a train... my mom being 17 and still in secondary school... they were married within the year. At the start of the nineteenth century in England, it was legal to have sex with a 10 year-old girl.
    The times change, people... not so much.

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    Sex by the elderly has its downsides especially among the very elderly and those in which one of the partners has had surgery that reduces their ability to enjoy sex. It is also the case that the elderly sleep more lightly and so couples can much more easily be disturbed by each other if they share the same bed than when they were younger. I would think this happens more among the over 80s and over 90s.

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    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    My mother had a Victorian book called "What every young husband ought to know" that went on in great length about the dangers of sharing a bed with your bride;- Lust, moral decline, guilt, injurous diseases, low self esteem, alcoholism, constant childbirth and ruin. Whereas having separate rooms ( though on the same landing ,) led to domestic bliss and true love. I don't suppose that was the majority view, but abstinence was the only reliable birth control.


    For couples in bed together comedy moments, Tristram Shandy is a fine early example when at the critical moment of his conception his Mother asks his Father if he has forgotten to wind up the clock, - the first bawdy double-entendre in Literature.
    Last edited by prendrelemick; 10-13-2015 at 07:52 AM.
    ay up

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    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dreamwoven View Post
    Going to bed used to be an important ritual in the upper class world of the Caroline and and Jacobin eras, a time in Britain where the dynasties were viying for power. There was much ritual around this, like the casting off of the left stocking (or was it the right stocking?) and bedding was witnessed by several key onlookers, so it was not at all private.
    Yes, but that was in the 1600s and 1700s. By the middle fo the 19th century, the levée ceremony (started by the king and then extended to other people of very high birth) had largely gone out of fashion. During the later years, the levée was no longer a real levée (as in the subject awakes and is dressed and we all look on), but an enacted ceremony in a different bed to the bed the subject of the ceremony really slept in.

    Quote Originally Posted by prendrelemick View Post
    My mother had a Victorian book called "What every young husband ought to know" that went on in great length about the dangers of sharing a bed with your bride;- Lust, moral decline, guilt, injurous diseases, low self esteem, alcoholism, constant childbirth and ruin. Whereas having separate rooms lead to domestic bliss and true love. I don't suppose that was the majority view, but abstinence was the only reliable birth control.
    Haha, really?

    I recall that documentary by Lucy Worsely about the rooms in the house. I think it was implied at some point that the lower middle classes slept together while the higher classes slept apart, as there were more marriages of convenience and also more social engagements. Also getting too many children wasn't a very good thing. An heir and a spare was good enough. An additional point, logically IMO, is that the bigger your house, the less of a problem it is to have separate bedrooms.

    Gentlemen apparently had a 'closet' where they could sleep if it had got too late or had a sofa for that purpose in their dressing room.

    From the other side, I can imagine it really depended on the nature of the marriage itself. Although the De Courcys have at least 7 children, they must sleep in separate bedrooms surely? While Lord Dumbello and his wife (I won't say who not to spoil it) I suspect of sleeping separate as well. On the other hand, I can't imagine Frank Gresham and Lord Lufton sleeping separate from their wives, unless when compelled to by circumstances (late night drinking or in town for business, for instance). From the other side the Grantlys also sleep together, although archdeacon Grantly comes across as a bit of a reserved man, but you never know what's behind the façade. I don't suppose Trollope meant anything by it than mere comedic effect to allow characters to interact with each other in a situation where they don't have to care about anyone else and to make the reader aware of certain thoughts that would otherwise remain unknown (unless they were conveyed through a long-winded description, but dialogue is always better). The interview between the De Courcys in Lord De Courcy's private sitting room is also quite enlightening at that. Another place where we see what's behind the honorable façade.

    It's funny but my parents used to talk before they went to sleep (in the same bed), just like the Grantlys and the Honorable George.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

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    This, from a book by James Hunter, A Dance Called America: the Scottish Highlands the United States and Canada has many descriptions of the hardships facing crofters taking ship to Nova Scotia in the 1700s and 1800s. This passage describes the problems of sleeping in bunks in the troopships, though it was often worse on the emigrant ships, and the journey would take 4 to 8 weeks. The death rate on troopships was between 8 and 10 per 100.

    "Half a dozen soldiers were habitually allocated to a single bunk designed for four. There they slept "spoon-fashion" the head of the one beside the feet of the other. When they tired on one side the man on the right would call About Face and the whole file would turn over at once. When they were tired again, the man on the left would give the same order, and they would turn back to the first side".

  9. #9
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prendrelemick View Post
    For couples in bed together comedy moments, Tristram Shandy is a fine early example when at the critical moment of his conception his Mother asks his Father if he has forgotten to wind up the clock, - the first bawdy double-entendre in Literature.
    I need to read that!
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

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