Persephone Reading week continues today with Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Stachey. Originally published in 1932, the back cover describes the story as sardonic. Virginia Woolf thought it was astonishingly good and published it under her and her husband’s Hogarth Press, that’s enough to peak my curiosity. So off I went.
We meet Dolly Thatchmen who is to be married to the Hon. Owen Bigham in just a few hours. Everyone is getting ready for the big day. The servants are preparing lunch for the guests, bridesmaids are checking and fussing over their attire, young boys argue about green socks, the mother dashes about checking for and verifying the cheerful weather, adjusting pillows, greeting guests, and giving conflicting orders. She is at once forgetful and agitated, but does not seem to realize that she provokes many of the things that agitate her. This of course seems like a typical day, typical wedding preparations, a typical family. We have perhaps experienced a similar situation.
Stachey creates for us a complicated and dense few moments in the lives of this family, her work is extremely observant and comical although in a dark way. We see these perfectly groomed people in a way that they would most likely be mortified to present in public. They may in fact not even be aware of the behavior. What’s even more, as the day passes and everyone whisks about, no one seems to notice the gloom in Dolly’s face or Joseph, the young man in the next room who refuses to engage his hosts in conversation and mopes about waiting for a glimpse of the bride. Things have been left unsaid between these two. What is unfortunate is that they both realize this and long for a chance to settle it. Ultimately, the pair is unable to share their true feelings and so their unhappiness continues.
Where is the comedy in all of this you ask? How about the bride and her bridesmaid guzzling rum just before they go down to the ceremony or her engrossing concentration to hide the bottle away in the folds of her lovely dress and running into a stand holding black ink. Or that poor broken hearted Joseph is the only one around to help Dolly hide the offending stain. Or maybe my favorite, the cheerful weather is described for us:
“…in the furious March gale, everyone felt as though they were being beaten on the back of the head and on the nose with heavy carpets, and having cold steel knives thrust up inside their nostrils, and when they opened their mouths to avoid the pain of this, big wads of iced cotton-wool seemed to be forced against the insides of their throats immediately, so that they choked, and could not draw any breath in.”
Picture: Cheerful Weather poses in front of my Persephone shelf (really this is my nightstand as I’ve run out of proper bookshelf space). The original dove greys are lined up on the right and the classics are stacked to the left.
As further celebration of the week you can read my previous posts on three Persephone titles. You will find Mariana by Monica Dickens here and Making Conversation by Christine Longford here and Consequences by EM Delafield here.