The Voyage of Matrimony, from the Volcano of Passions to Misery Town (1826)

And lo, you find yourself embarking upon your first love affair. Egads!, I hear you cry, how am I to navigate this unknown terrain, such uncontrollable bliss, such exquisite ecstasy? Never fear, gentle reader, you merely have to consult this late-Georgian map. Your mindless optimism will be shot in no time.


This ‘Study for Youth’ charts the voyage from Baby Land to the Icebergs of Death, and gives fair warning of all the strife and silliness in between. From the moment that the adventurer reaches Point Pretty Face, the topography is shaped by his romantic affairs… and the dangers certainly appear to dominate. Courtship itself (represented by the Ship Perseverance, with its cargo of love letters) is something of a chore, but no doubt encouraged by the impressive backdrop of the Mountains of Admiration (or perhaps simply the Coast of Convenience). [click images to enlarge]


Whatever his motivations, our hero makes his rather jagged journey past Pt Proposal, and finally into the “feebly defended” City of Marriage. As soon as this Line of Love is crossed things start to change – and whether the couple continue their journey on land by sea, the outlook is bleak.

Those on land might progress down Flattery River, or head towards the Forest of Affection (unfortunately, by the time they reach it, it has been destroyed by Storms of Adversity). From there, almost every road – navigating Flirtation, Jealousy, Gaming, Dissipation – leads to Elopement Town.


Those continuing their journey from the City of Marriage by sea don’t fare much better, being immediately threatened by Dispute Rocks and then a Whirlpool of Vice. The ship is carried along by the currents of neglect and scandal, and is now no longer laden with charming love letters, but secrets and “clandestine correspondence”. The ship appears to bob around in the ocean a while,  before landing at Remorse Island and crashing into the Icebergs. And all of this within tantalising sight of the Country of Domestic Happiness – “unexplored or little known.”


So there we have it. A little c19th Valentines lesson for you. Nothing good will come of it!

Images: Detail from ‘The Voyage of Matrimony, or a Study for Youth’ (1826)

This brilliant print is held at the Lewis Walpole Library and can be explored in further detail here.

5 thoughts on “The Voyage of Matrimony, from the Volcano of Passions to Misery Town (1826)

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    1. Hi Keith – not a bit! Hymen was actually the Greek god of marriage, so I imagine that is the primary reference here rather than our modern – more anatomical – usage. Georgian caricature was notoriously explicit and even though the taste for sexual humour was on the wane by the time of this print, this double meaning would have seemed pretty tame in any case! Hope that helps… E

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