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Marriage Impediments

January 22, 2012

Let me begin by making a complaint regarding end notes. There are way too many of them in Penguin’s edition of Edwin Drood. Quite a number of them pertain to what I see as a great lack in biblical literacy (or at least a perceived lack, that I also perceive to exist), but I will admit that this mainly a gripe of my own. Then a number of them merely served to give away plot points concerning Edwin’s fate. Granted, some of these points were probably never realized due to Dickens’ untimely death. But these notes could have gone in an Appendix. Conversely, the Oxford World’s Classic edition of Our Mutual Friend contains rather scant notes.

In the chapter “A Marriage Contract”, Twemlow finds himself to be the best man to a fellow he does not know (or hardly knows). One of the poor fellow’s duties is “surveying the ground” of the church in which the marriage will occur. As Dickens’ desrcibes: “He has already been to the church, and taken note of the various impediments in the aisle under the auspices of an extremely dreary widow who opens the pews” (117). Naturally, an impediment exists that fails to be addressed, much like the potential end note.

In “The Form of the Solemnization of Matrimony” found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, we find an article addressed to the bride and groom: “if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it” (300) (This is of course also referenced in the opening lines of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 116”).

As we know, no one bothered to confess to the bride the impediment of the groom’s having “no antecedents, no established character, no cultivation, no ideas, no manners”; instead, he is all “Shares” (114). This may not be a “lawful” impediment but it is certainly a societal impediment. A societal impediment the Veneering’s have once again chosen to overlook.

The failure in making this known is foreseen to be trouble in its not coming to light when Twemlow was dealing with the other “impediments”. But how could he know? He is just another fool caught in the rush of this nuevo riche farce.

Dickens, Charles. Our Mutual Friend. Oxford: World’s Classics, 2008.
The Book of Common Prayer. 1928 edition.


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  1. There is a sense of justice to the fate of these two money-grubbers. Each married the other based on information from Mr. Veneering rather than on a lasting affection or even tolerance for one another. Seems they have gotten what was coming to them.

  2. I was amused about the line referring to the groom that he had “no antecedents, no established character, etc, …instead he is all shares.” I had to do a double take, but then it seemed in character after all.

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