Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"At Home" II

What follows is all too interesting not to share.

Bryson has moved on to the bathroom.  Talking about cleanliness and how the Brits hated water until 1702, he remarks that, "The ancient Greeks were devoted bathers.  They loved to get naked - gymnasium means "the naked place."   Which came as news to this writer.

Noted diarist, Samuel Pepys remarked about sea bathing at Bath or Buxted, "Methinks it cannot be clean to go so many bodies together in the same water."

By the time Europeans began to visit what would become America, the resident Indians marveled at how badly they smelled!

An enterprising Philadelphian installed a shower in his garden, but his wife refused to try it for nearly a year.  Her excuse?  Never having been wet all over at once for 28 years.

Queen Anne finally turned the tide of the public's fear of water after she claimed that a visit to Bath's waters had helped her gout.  Bryson indicates that it wasn't gout, but her glutinous appetite.

Benjamin Franklin practiced "air baths" wherein he basked, stark naked in front of an open window.  It didn't seem to harm him although he was just as dirty after as before.  Imagine what the neighbors said?

People bathed naked at the sea.  Only the modest covered themselves in robes or blankets which did nothing to improve their swimming skills and many drowned.  The Prince of Wales disliked having his subjects see him naked in the sea, so he had built for him a private bath, filled with sea water. 

But people were slow to accept the idea of "being clean."  In 1861, an English doctor published a book entitled "Baths and How To Take Them." 

Bryson believes that the Victorians had a penchant for self-punishment.  An early version of a shower was so powerful that users had to don protective head gear "lest they be beaten senseless by their own plumbing."  Bryson is a masterfully-phrased writer.

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