Punch, July 29, 1903


[The British Medical Journal says that men of genius are never happy in their married lives.]

I thought, dear Doris, we should be
 Extremely happy if we married;
I deemed that you were made for me,
 But oh! I’m thankful now we tarried.
Had we been wedded last July
 (I caught the measles, so we waited)
We’d now be wretched, you and I;
 A genius always is ill-fated.

We might have lived without a hitch
 Till one or both of us were “taken,”
And even won the Dunmow flitch
 Of appetising breakfast bacon;
We might have passed our married life
 In quite a Joan and Darby fashion,
Free from the slightest taint of strife,—
 Had I not written “Songs of Passion.”

Ah me, that book! The truth will out;
 Genius is rampant in each sonnet;
Consult, if you’re inclined to doubt,
 The verdict of the Press upon it.
The Pigbury Patriot calls them “staves
 Which we feel justified in praising;”
The Mudford Daily Argus raves;
 The Sloshly Clarion says “Amazing!”

So, Doris, it can never be:
 I trust the tidings won’t upset you;
Reluctantly I set you free,
 Though ne’er, I vow, will I forget you.
Some other man your hand may win;
 I’ll strive to bear it with composure;
Your letters you will find within;
 Yours truly,
               Edwin Jones.     (Enclosure)




Unsigned verse as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 125 of Punch.




“Men of genius are proverbially unhappy on their marriages, a fact [some] seek to explain by calling genius a neurosis akin to and often associated with epilepsy. We need not, however, grope in the depths of pathology for an explanation which lies on the surface. Marriage is a condition in which happiness is to be found only in a perfect blending of wills, aims, and efforts, of hopes and sympathies, a process necessarily involving a large sacrifice of self in both parties. Of such sacrifice genius is too often incapable; it is self-centered. . . . This self-absorption and aloofness of genius render impossible that union of souls which lifts marriage into something higher than a natural arrangement for continuation of the species. . . . Of this general truth a striking example is furnished by the sad story of the married life of Thomas Carlyle.” (The American Physician, July 1903)


John Dawson    


The Dunmow flitch of bacon is a traditional English award to married couples who can attest that during the past year and a day, neither has wished to be unmarried. See Wikipedia for more on this. Joan and Darby are names often used in poetry for a long-married, contentedly devoted couple.


Neil Midkiff