Does anyone know the meaning behind the phrase, "for the romance of the thing"?

Standing in the middle of the room, they renewed their bowing, and passing from side to side, with a gravity and tediousness almost ludicrous, till he finished the ceremony by approaching and lifting her veil from her head. We were told that till then he had never seen her! She blushed, and sat without raising her eyes; but, alas for the romance of the thing--she was ugly! (Travels in South-Eastern Asia, embracing Hindustan, Malaya, Siam, and China, H. Malcolm)

Hmm here's another sentence

At this time, I was a fore-mast hand aboard the Amazon, having joined her in Valparaiso, for the romance of the thing--to learn how to catch whales and eat blubber; and my curiosity was in a fair way of being satisfied, for we were bound for the Pacific South Cruising-ground, where whales can be had for the catching... (The Knickerbocker: Or, New York Monthly Magazine, Volume 4, C. F. Hoffman Et al.)

  • 1
    It means the author and the groom can find no romance in an ugly bride. The "thing" refers to the wedding event itself.
    – Robusto
    Nov 14, 2019 at 14:03
  • I think that "alas" should be highlighted too, as this is a key part of this particular sentence fragment. Nov 14, 2019 at 14:04
  • 1
    @Robusto no it doesn't it means despite how romantic the whole wedding was, the bride was ugly
    – WendyG
    Nov 14, 2019 at 14:08
  • 1
    The sailor had joined a whaling ship because he thought the idea of a whaling voyage was romantic (which I doubt that it was!). Nov 14, 2019 at 14:24
  • @WendyG: I responded before the edit with respect to the bare first passage. With the additional context I would have to agree with you.
    – Robusto
    Nov 14, 2019 at 15:34

1 Answer 1


'the thing' here means 'the event' or events.

'the romance' means something like 'the excitement' or 'the challenge'.

From the Cambridge English Dictionary definitions of Romance:

the feeling of excitement or mystery that you have from a particular experience or event

a story of exciting events, especially one written or set in the past

  • Can you please cite a source for those definitions of "romance"? Nov 14, 2019 at 16:06
  • 2
    Done. Thanks for the suggestion.
    – Jay Moore
    Nov 14, 2019 at 16:31
  • The OP is presumably already familiar with the separate dictionary definitions of these words; the question is about how the separate meanings of these words combine to give the meaning to the phrase.
    – jsw29
    Nov 15, 2019 at 6:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.