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Bognor Marriage

Dreamed 1825 by Thomas Hood

It occurred when I was on the eve of marriage, a season when, if lovers sleep sparingly, they dream profusely. A brief slumber sufficed to carry me in the night coach to Bognor. It had been concerted between Honoria and myself that we should pass the honeymoon at some place along the coast.

T'he purpose of my solitary journey was to procure an appropriate dwelling, which, we had agreed upon, should be a little pleasant house, with an indispensable lookout upon the sea. I chose one accordingly, a pretty villa, with bow-windows, and a prospect delightfully marine. The ocean murmur sounded incessantly upon the beach.

A decent elderly body, in decayed sables, undertook on her part to promote the comfort of the occupants by every suitable attention, and, as she assured me, at a very reasonable rate.

So far the nocturnal faculty had served me truly. A day-dream could not have proceeded more orderly. But, alas! just here, when the dwelling was selected, the sea view was secured, the rent agreed upon, when everything was plausible, consistent and rational, the incoherent fancy crept in and confounded all -- by marrying me to the old woman of the house!

--from Thomas Hood's Whims and Oddities (1826), as quoted in The Oxford Book of Dreams (1983, ed. Stephen Brook)--


Hood judges (not interprets) his dream by how well it achieves daytime logic. He doesn't ask what the dream might be saying he's married to! Humdrum business? Bargains? Haggling? Real estate? Respectability? The sea?

But Hood's professed naïveté about dreams is a joke. He knows better; dreamers for centuries before Freud knew better. Still, a revealing joke. After all, 1825 could just as well be called the Pre-Media Age as the Pre-Freudian. Entertainment in any form was scarce. Dreams were the movies of the age--for many, the only entertainment available. Hood is whimsical, but within a tradition--one seeing dreams as dramas to be judged by entertainment value, not explored for uncomfortable insights. Discomfort was everywhere, entertainment rare; and what's rare is valued.

And after all, how often do we question what messages hide beneath the shining skin of our own era's electronic dreams, or do we too prefer to just ride the current, be entertained, and lose ourselves?

--Chris Wayan


After I had written the above, based on the brief excerpt in The Oxford Book of Dreams, I stumbled on the full text of Whims and Oddities online. Hood had more to say, both on dreamwork as entertainment, and his own dream-style:

I have heard it affirmed, indeed, by a gentleman, an especial advocate of early rising, that he could procure whatever dream he wished ; but I disbelieve it, or he would pass far more hours than he does in bed. If it were possible, by any process, to bespeak the night's entertainment, the theatres, for me, might close their uninviting doors. Who would care to sit at the miserable stage-parodies of "Lear," "Hamlet," and "Othello," to say nothing of the "Tempest," or the "Midsummer Night's Phantasy," that could command the representation of either of those noble dramas, with all the sublime personations, the magnificent scenery, and awful reality, of a dream?

Another writer, in recording his horrible dreams, describes himself to have been sometimes an animal pursued by hounds ; sometimes a bird torn in pieces by eagles. They are flat contradictions of my Theory of Dreams. Such Ovidian Metamorphoses never yet entered into my experience. I never translate myself. I must know the taste of rape and hempseed, and have cleansed my gizzard with small gravel, before even Fancy can turn me into a bird. I must have another head upon my shoulders, ere I can feel a longing for "a bottle of chopt hay, or your good dried oats." My own habits and prejudices, all the symptoms of my identity, cling to me in my dreams. It never happened to me to fancy myself a child or a woman, dwarf or giant, stone-blind, or deprived of any sense.

Hood is plausible. Hood is wrong.

LISTS AND LINKS: dream humor - weird weddings - math and logic in dreams - Freud - dreamwork in general - I'm Just Not Myself Tonight! - oops! dreams of mistakes - more Thomas Hood: Drama is Hell! - a dream-sequel to The Tempest: Caliban in England!

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