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The course of true love

The course of true love

I’m not much of a one for Valentine’s Day in the ordinary run of things, but I feel like making a special effort this year. So here are one or two whimsical ‘maps of matrimony’ - a popular nineteenth century genre which seems to have fallen by the wayside. You can make up your own mind as to whether that’s a good thing or not. Here’s a hand-drawn example:

The ragged coastline bears a passing resemblance to south western England and Wales - perhaps the ghost of a geography lesson (copying out maps was quite common in the schoolroom). At the top (north?) of the map we come first to the ‘Quicksands of Censure’ the ‘Isles of Temerity’ and the ‘United States of Agitation’ before passing through the ‘Province of Jewellers & Milliners’ and the ‘Mountains of Delay, inhabited by Lawyers’. Heading south we finally reach the ‘Port of Hymen’ which is located in the ‘Electorate of Bridesmaids’ (is it just me, or is that highly suspicious?) rather than the ‘Region of Rejoicing’. Crossing the Gulf of Matrimony and the River of Congratulation we reach … Petticoat Government. Here’s a popular postcard on the same lines, c. 1900:

The principal tributaries of the Truelove River, the rivers Edwin and Angelina, have their sources in (respectively) Indifference Hill and Fancy Free Plateau. Once joined, they pass through Evasion Rapids, Sentimental Meadow, Separation Deep, Misery Marsh etc before emerging into Altar Bay and Honeymoon Island. Angrysire sounds best avoided … If all this is getting a bit sugary for you, here’s French caricaturist Paul Hadol’s take on the state of love and marriage in France in 1869:

In map circles Hadol is probably best remembered for the satirical map of Europe he created on the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, but as this map prepared for weekly magazine L’Eclipse shows, it wasn’t the only time he toyed with cartographic imagery. His imaginary island is laid out in the traditional heart-shape, but on closer inspection the inhabitants prove terribly worldy. The island is split into three provinces by the rivers Absinthe, Gold Mine and Reconnaissance, which rather sets the tone.

'Tenderness' is a woman hurling a (full) soup tureen at her husband, and only if one can navigate La Mer Dangereuse, past the suicide rocks, can one hope to reach ‘the unknown country of the Good Woman’ … I do hope someone bought M. Hadol a giant plush teddy bear that year. Here’s another detail:

Only because I thought it would be more fun to leave you all with Billets doux and Grand Esprit

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