Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Privy Counsel Pin-Up - Colin Firth

  Our recent dry, scholarly raid into monastic plumbing has given us an itch to contemplate something slightly more frivolous. Luckily, we had the happy notion of posting a Privy Counsel Pin-Up!

  A vicious and annoying cold has occasioned us to spend a disproportionately large amount of time on the Privy Counsel sofa, enjoying Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy, played by Colin Firth, displays an energetic passion for hygiene. The wet shirt scene is, of course, famous, but we happen to also quite enjoy the scene where Mr Darcy has a bath!

Mr Darcy is, it would seem, laudably hygienic. (Image from Austenprose.)

  From what we can conclude from a brief Google trawl, there is a lot to be said on the subject of Georgian hygiene. One woman, foraying into the world of Regency reality dating shows, "washes her hair with a sticky concoction of rum, eggs, and rose water. She brushes her teeth with an ineffective paste that tastes like chalk dust. She unsuccessfully fights body odor with lemon juice. And when it’s time to take a bath, everyone subservient to the highest ranking person in the house has to use cold, dirty bathwater".

  We gather some more information from the Cookit blog:

The Georgians did not have very good personal hygiene.
People started to wash more often by the Regency period. By this time cotton had also become a popular fabric, as it washed more easily than others. However, for most of the period, both rich and poor were much smellier than today, many had rotting teeth and unsanitary habits.

  There were few flushable indoor toilets. After a long dinner, at the point where the ladies withdrew, both sexes would make use of chamber pots, the gentlemen behind a screen in the dining room itself and the ladies behind a screen in the drawing room.  Hygiene was not a great priority for any of the social classes and ladies’ fans were not only to keep them cool. They were also to disperse the odours of their less than fragrant menfolk. George III introduced sea bathing to the gentry as a healthy and pleasurable diversion, but only for the men; it was not deemed suitable for women. Some men took to having a daily dip in a cold plunge pool. This was thought a healthy, rather than hygienic, activity.

  Mrs Bennet, it must be said, attempts to persuade her husband to take the family to Brighton, so that she can go sea-bathing - a most admirable notion. "A little sea-bathing," she tells Mr Bennet, "would set me up forever". He, however, proves unimpressed with the idea, retorting, "And yet, I am unmoved". We believe we can safely say, without giving away the plot, that they don't go to Brighton, and that nobody goes sea-bathing.

Related Reading
Lucy Worsley and Jane Austen: Historical  Toilet Etiquette 
Pride and Prejudice and Plumbing
Privy Counsel Pin-Up: Ablutions with Toby
It Is Tolerable, We Suppose: A Privy Counsel Pick-Me-Up

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...