Tuesday, 21 June 2016

28 August 1880 - 'Baths at Home and Baths by the Sea' by Medicus

The morning bath, or tub, as it is often called, is eminently suited  for the constitution of everyone, young or old, unless exceedingly delicate. If you have not been in the habit of indulging in this luxury I do not advise you to commence the habit of matutinal cold water bathing all at once. The tepid soap bath will, in nine cases out of ten, suit young girls better, and they will not have taken a dozen morning baths of this kind before they become sensible of an increase in the appetite, in strength, and in good spirits, and in the capability of enjoying life and everything of good that is in this life. By the use of the soap bath, too, the complexion gradually becomes more clear and delicate, the roseate hues of health begin to bloom on the cheeks, and the skin is rendered as soft and pliant as that of a little child. This bath, too, causes the eye to become beautifully clear, and I know of nothing else that will do this.

Now, what is it you require in order to render this bath of mine quite a luxury, as well as an invigorator of both mind and body? Why, the soap bath is simple in the extreme. In your dressing-room you have cold soft water and a sponge, probably placed there over night, so that it is, in the morning, of the same temperature as the air; then you have a nice soft Turkish washing glove, and a piece of plain yellow or primrose soap - not scented, that were dangerous to health; then standing before a basin of hot water, the whole body is quickly lathered and rubbed thoroughly. This ought to occupy not more than say three minutes, and after this comes the cold sponge bath, which need not take more than a minute and a half. A moderately coarse towel should be used, and the skin should be thoroughly dried. Remember that the towel must not be rough enough to irritate the skin, but only to produce a pleasant glow; remember, too, that there must be no dawdling over the bath - dawdle as much as you please over the dressing, but bathe with judicious celerity; and remember, thirdly, that you must never neglect to wet the head with cold water, else disagreeable sensations may be the result.

The bath is to be taken on an empty stomach, and immediately after getting out of bed. The slight shock caused by the cold water will be succeeded by feelings very delightful indeed, feelings which I might describe if I chose but will not, as I want you to experience them.

There are sponge baths, and plunge baths, and shower baths, all of which may be taken at home, but of all forms of household bathing commend me to the one I have just tried to describe. In cold weather, I may tell you, great advantage will be found from drying and dressing in front of a fire. Having dressed and had breakfast, eaten I trust leisurely, half an hour's brisk walking will do you all the good in the world.

This walk greatly aids the effect of the bath, and tends to raise the spirits and cause everything to appear couleur de rose during the rest of the day.

I said take the bath in your dressing-room, because the air of the bed-room is generally more or less vitiated, but if the convenience of the former is not to be had, better have it in the room in which you sleep rather than not at all. The air of a bed-room, however, has no right to be impure, if people would only take my advice and sleep with a little bit at the top of the window open; the most delicate maiden can do this with impunity almost, if not quite, all the year round.

The soap bath renders those who take it regularly hardy and happy. They come in time to have the keenest relish for life-existence, the appetite is increased, and indigestion kept at bay; and if ever they do catch cold, which is unlikely, the complaint lasts but a very short time indeed, and is seldom painful or dangerous. Of course, during a cold, the bath must be foregone for a few days. You may commence the use of the soap bath at any age, or at any time of the year.

Just one or two additional remarks, and I have done with the morning bath at home, and will then take you off to the seaside.

1. Then you must consult your own feelings as to whether or not you ought to continue the bath through the livelong winter. I should say "Try to do so."

2. Let the first sponge, full of cold water, be applied to the head and shoulders and down the spine.

3. If you feel too much exhausted in the morning for a cold bath, from having been up late, raise the temperature of the cold bath several degrees.

4. Be guided by your own feelings as to the temperature of the hot and cold water. You ought to have a small bath thermometer, price about 1s, in order to regulate the temperature; from 32 to 60 degrees would be right  for the cold bath, and about90 degrees  for the water in the basin.

5. A cold bath may be taken with advantage when the body is heated, from whatever cause, so long as there is no exhaustion or fatigue; but never go into the water if there be the slightest feeling of chilliness, nor after a full meal.

And now for a word by the sad sea wave. A course of sea-bathing, even if it only lasts for a week or a fortnight, and if taken judiciously, is extremely invigorating. The first thing that most young girls do when they first go to the seaside is to "go wild." You will pardon me the expression, I am sure; it is meant for your good, and to warn you against that over-excitement which the very sight of the ocean hardly ever fails to induce in the young. This ought to be kept within bounds; pleasure to be obtained at the seaside, if it is to be beneficial, ought to be more of the quiet and dreamy kind. While feeling thus you are laying up a store of health and vigour which will do you excellent service when you get back to town or to your own inland home.

I do not advise any girl to begin bathing the very first day of her arrival at the seaside. Better she should spend this day loitering on the sands or among the rocks, where, if she has any taste  for the beautiful, she will find a thousand and one objects to interest her. Indeed, at the seaside one cannot be too much out of doors, and as for children they may with benefit paddle about among the wavelets, or build sand castles all day long. Avoid parties and concerts while on your maritime holiday. Your pleasures ought to be of the very quietest nature possible.

Take plenty of exercise, but do not fatigue yourself, and beware of a too hot sun. Go to bed early and be up before the mists of morning have quite gathered themselves off the sea. Do not forget that the evenings are often chilly; it is well, therefore, if you mean to enjoy a walk after nightfall, to change your dress for it, putting on thicker boots, and flannels ought always to be worn,  for the changes of temperature are often very trying even to the robust.

While at the seaside you ought to enjoy yourself all you can. I only want to warn you against excitement and fatigue.

Now as to actual sea-bathing. If you are really strong and hardy you may have a dip in the ocean before breakfast; in most cases, however, it is far better to wait until the day is more advanced - about three hours after the morning meal would therefore be the best time. DO not hurry down to the seaside, but walk at a moderately brisk rate, so that you may be neither very hot nor too cold. Nothing is more dangerous than going into the water either fatigued or cold.

If you can swim by all means do so; if not, there is nothing more easy than to learn; it is a very nice accomplishment even for a lady, and if you once gain confidence it is one that is easy of acquisition and impossible to forget.

I advise the use of a bathing cap in order to prevent the hair from being injured with the salt water. When you go first into the sea lave the face well, and afterwards get the whole body under water as speedily as possible.

Never stop very long in the water - three minutes will be long enough  for the first day, and ten minutes will be found long enough for any young girl.

As soon as you come out rub the body instantly with a roughish towel, and finish drying with a smoother one; then dress leisurely, and if you should feel at all faint or sick lie down for a short time, it will soon pass off.

After dressing is just the time for a nice brisk walk, and it is the time for something else which you ought not to feel ashamed to carry in your pocket - I mean a light biscuit.

Great benefit while at the seaside will be got from having the usual soap bath in the morning before going down to breakfast, followed by a sponge bath of salt instead of fresh water.

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