Saturday, October 10, 2009

Annals of Bathing 5: Tepid bath

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Loretta reports:

From The New Female Instructor or Young Woman’s Guide to Domestic Happiness (first published in the 1830s):

"Hence tepid* baths are of eminent service where the body has been overheated, from whatever cause, whether after fatigue from travelling, or severe bodily exercise, or after violent exertion and perturbation of mind; as they allay the tempestuous and irregular movements of the body, and frequently, in the strictest sense, invigorate the system. By their softening, moistening, and tumefying power, they greatly contribute to the formation and growth of the bodies of young persons; and are of a singular benefit to those in whom we perceive a tendency to arrive too early at the consistence of a settled age; so that the warm bath is particularly adapted to prolong the state of youth, and retard for some time the approach of full manhood. This effect the tepid baths produce in a manner exactly alike, in the coldest as well as in the hottest climates."

* “about the temperature of the blood, between 96 and 98° of Fahrenheit”

This book review Susan found offers a nice summary of the complex subject we've tackled this week.

Above is a detail fromThomas Eakins's The Swimming Hole.


Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Nice choice of illustration, Loretta: Eakin's skinny-dippers (ever so modestly posed) beside "The New Female Instructor." Love it! *g*

Vanessa Kelly said...

That quote almost reads as if it's in some kind of code!

I have to say the juxtaposition of the quote with the picture threw me for a few seconds. I thought, my! Those women have very sinewy bodies!

Loretta Chase said...

Susan, I wondered what temperature the water was & whether it retarded their manhood. Vanessa, a lot of the writing from the 19th century is even more difficult to penetrate. It is a code of sorts: their model of how the human body worked, of health and sickness, is so completely different from our own that it's like reading a foreign language. It does make me wonder what people will think of our theories about health and sickness a hundred years hence!

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Loretta, I know you're not the same low-minded devotee of old "Seinfeld" reruns that I am -- but this calls to mind a very funny episode with beleaguered George caught sans trunks after swimming in a cold ocean by a woman he wished to impress. She wasn't. She laughed, leaving poor George wailing about the perils of "shrinkage." *g*

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