Friday, June 27, 2014

Baths & Bathing

Hi all,
I thought this a rather interesting tidbit regarding baths and bathing taken from "A Cyclopaedia of Six Thousand Practical Receipts" ©1851

BATHS, BATHING. General Remarks. The practice of bathing is not only an act of cleanliness, but is eminently conducive to health. The delicate pores of the skin soon become choked by the solid matter of the perspiration and the accumulation of dirt, and require frequent ablution with water, to preserve their natural functions in a state of activity. The mere wearing of flannel and washing the more exposed parts of the body, and the daily use of clean linen, is but an imperfect attempt at cleanliness, without being accompanied by entire submersion of the body in water. The phlegmatic Englishman, unlike his liveiy French neighbor, seems perfectly incredulous on this point, and would sooner spend his sixpence or his shilling in a glass of grog, or a ride to Greenwich, than in the healthy recreation of the bath.

Bathing is not only conducive to cleanliness, but to both the physical and mental health. The body cannot be in a state of lively health, while the proper offices of the skin are interfered with, any more than would be the case with either of the other excretory organs, placed in a like condi tion. Nor can the mind, dependent as it is on the organization of the body, escape unharmed, when the animal functions are imperfectly performed. Intellectual and moral vigor are universally promoted by the imperceptible yet controlling influence of the physical system, and he who would increase the former, cannot go on a safer method than that which tends to preserve or improve the health.

"On the continent, 'Maisons des Bains' or bathing-houses, are almost as numerous as the chemists and druggists are in this country. The inferenco necessarily is, that bathing in France is as much patronized as physic is in England. The French need the latter less, because they live more temperately, are less ground down to think and work; and because they pertorm general personal ablution (to the benefit of one of the mos* important functions of life, namely, free perspiration) with as much zeal as though it were a religious duty. The inducement to such frequent use of the warm bath among our neighbors, may be fancied to be the low charges for bathing, and the little value the Messieurs attach to their own time. The first notion is a fallacy. Warm bathing on the continent is not cheaper in comparison with all the other necessaries or luxuries of life, viewed in connection with a foreigner's resources, than it is in England. With regard to the apparently little importance they attach to their own time, they are wise enough to discover, that life is not one jot sweeter by passing sixteen hours a day behind the desk or counter, to the exclusion of all recreation, except recreation be to count the gains of such exilement; or to indulge the hope of amassing a sufficiency to do the ' important' at the close of a wearied life, when and which the infirmities of age forbid to enjoy. A Frenchman lives, works, and enjoys himself to the last. Prince Talleyrand died in armor; his life was a bouquet in which all but the sweetest flowers were excluded. A Frenchman takes the bath for the mental and bodily gratification it affords; he can appreciate the luxury of it, while at the same time he is sensible of its healthfulness. An Englishman is such a stiffnecked fellow, that in most things, he will only do that which pleases him best, and his standard of pleasure is estimated by that which adds most to his hoard, and which gives the greatest amount of satisfaction to the inward man. Advise him to take a warm bath; the answer is, he cannot spare the time, and he hates the bother of uncravating, &c. The waste of the one and the trouble of the other add not to his income, whatever they may to his health. The roast beef, the brandied wines, and the London-brewed are his stomach's deities, the minor godships being blue pills and black draughts. The latter are indispensable attendants upon the former, to temper down Mr. Bull, lest he become a giant in noses and carbuncles. A Frenchman knows no ill but what pleasure denies; he rarely has dyspepsia, gout, rheumatism, or fevers. Half his life is spent in Elysium,—half ours in Purgatory. Indigestion, headaches, restless nights—the blues when awake, and the terribles when asleep—fall to the lot of the mind-absorbed and grossly-fed Londoner, while our lively Parisian, with his light meal and still more lightsome body, finds trouble only in broken limbs, or positive starvation."

The warm bath, especially, is one of the most valuable, but most neglected remedies which we possess. It is generally imagined by Englishmen, that bathing is but little fitted for their country, owing to the changefulness of the climate, and that to attempt to place a sick man in a bath in any other than the mildest weather, would be to subject him to all the horrors of " sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and relapse." But that such results of bathing have no existence beyond the minds of the fearful, ignorant, and prejudiced, must be acknowledged by every candid person. Even the cold bath, as in the treatment termed "hydropathy," is beneficial when applied with judgment; and it is only when common discretion is not exercised, that bathing under any shape ever proves injurious.

Some persons are very susceptible of taking cold, and are themselves "living barometers;"
but even to them warm bathing would prove ad. vantageous. One half of the rheumatic twinges, swollen limbs, and cramped joints that occur in such persons, would give way before proper perseverance and confidence in this remedy.
Whenever in delicate persons the cold bath is deemed proper, the warm, tepid, and cool bath may be used as a preparative, and when the former is at length adopted, it should be at first only for one or two minutes at a time, gradually increased to a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes; care being taken never to remain immersed sufficiently long to induce a sensation of cold on coming out. A healthy reaction should follow the bath, and a pleasing glow of warmth should diffuse itself over the surface of the body. If this be not the case, the bath has either been indulged in too long, or been injudiciously taken. When any symptoms appear that contra-indicate the use of the cold bath, the tepid, warm, or vapor bath may be substituted, according to circumstances.

In conclusion, I may remark, that bathing, especially in water at a temperature nearly similar to that of our bodies, (tepid bath,) is at once lie of the most cleanly and health-preserving luxuries, or, I should say, necessaries of life. The following short notice of each description of bath, is all the space that can be spared for this subject.

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