REVIEW of REVIEWS

Says Sea Bathing Modern Sport

Dip in the Briny Once Thought Cure for Hydrophobia—Dieppe was Startled by French Aristocrat’s Ceremonious Ablutions.

EDMUND D’AUVERGNE October 1 1926
REVIEW of REVIEWS

Says Sea Bathing Modern Sport

Dip in the Briny Once Thought Cure for Hydrophobia—Dieppe was Startled by French Aristocrat’s Ceremonious Ablutions.

EDMUND D’AUVERGNE October 1 1926

Says Sea Bathing Modern Sport

REVIEW of REVIEWS

Dip in the Briny Once Thought Cure for Hydrophobia—Dieppe was Startled by French Aristocrat’s Ceremonious Ablutions.

EDMUND D’AUVERGNE.

OUR neighbors to the south are fond of asserting that the United States first taught a dingy world the true

inwardness of the word “bath.” Certain it is that the last century has witnessed an amazing broadening in the conception of what constitutes real cleanliness. An amusing instance of this is furnished by Edmund d’Auvergne, who, in the course of an article in the English Review, tracing the progress of the cult of sea-bathing,

tells us that three ladies of the French court, who indulged in a series of daily baths as a sovereign cure for hydrophobia, were “overwhelmed with shame, because the sea had seen them all naked!” In the seventeenth century, he adds, “no one ever completely undressed.”

He goes on to inform us that the credit for discovering that a dip in the sea might really be enjoyed must be given to the English. By the year 1736 sea bathing

was greatly favored by physicians as a sterling specific for those ailments which were wont to attack such of their patients as were of a full habit of body. The daily dip was not always an occasion of profound enjoyment to the sufferers, however. Thus the demeanor and conversation of a patient exiled to Margate for treatment is both entertaining and picturesque.

In reply to the inquiry, “You don’t bathe, sir?” he delivered himself as follows :—

“Bathe, sir? No, truly, not I; 'tis diversion enough to see others do it. Wet or dry, none will be out of the fashion—I see all the folks here, young and old, take to the water as naturally as the duck; by what one hears at this place, if it were not for broken limbs, all the hospitals might be shut up.”

“You are happy, sir,” said our informant, “to be in no need of the treatment.”

“I beg your pardon of that,” replied my gentleman, presenting me with such an enriched full face as could not have obtained its coloring at small expense, “if I have no demand, sir, my physician has sent me from London for three months on a fool’s errand—and yet he is an honest fellow, too, and I follow his rules, but he prohibits my morning whet, denies me good cause and cayenne pepper with my fish, drenches me with salt water and mutton broth, and obliges me to sit and walk for as many as two hours every morning by the seaside, and as many after dinner to smell the sea mud—and who the devil could persuade one that a bad stomach could be mended by anything that did not go into it through the natural channel of the mouth?”

A glimpse of the famous English watering-place, Brighton, as it was in the days of the Regency, is interesting.

Brighton catered for the more fashionable world and did not bother so much about delicacy. There were no “umbrellas” on the machines there, and bathing from the actual beach, if you please, had only been put a stop to by smart fines. There was such a demand for machines that people used to ride or row out to meet them and fight for admission, the Regency bucks sometimes sending their footmen to reserve their places. Low fellows inspected the bathers “through telescopes, not only as they were arising confusedly from the sea, but as they kicked and sprawled and floundered about its muddy margin, like so many mad naiads in flannel smocks.”

When the beauties of France desired to experience the thrill of delicately entrusting a dainty toe to the rude embrace of the sea waves their ablutions were attended by a ceremony which the plutocratic naiads of modern Newport might think well worth revival.

Thus we learn that it was the adventurous little Duchesse de Berry, the mother of the Comte de Chambord, who really led the fashionable world of France to the seaside. She came to Dieppe in 1S24 and 1825 and bathed every day. And, which seemed very marvellous in those days, she was able to swim. Not, of course, that she dispensed with the services of a “bather,” a valiant and experienced salt named Courseaux. When her Royal Highness went to bathe, she was escorted by the Director of the Baths, an elegant person clad in evening dress and white gloves, who took her by the finger and walked with her into the water!