Sea Bathing in Brighton
By Anna Bradley, Author of For The Sake of a Scottish Rake
For fans of Jane Austen, ever since Lydia Bennet absconded with the worthless Wickham, references to Brighton may conjure concerns. But despite the English seaside destination’s questionable reputation during the mid-eighteenth century, when the area emerged as a fashionable getaway, its origins were much more wholesome.
It began as a health resort where the infirmed could “take the waters.” As prescribed by British physician Dr. Richard Russell, who extolled the virtues of sea water, patients might drink it, bathe in it, or apply handfuls of seaweed to their skin. Among these recommended treatments, sea bathing was considered the most enjoyable—especially for the gentlemen, who were given their own private section of the beach.
Sea bathing was, alas, far more complicated for the ladies. Women were obliged to hide themselves in bathing machines, cramped wagons with walls, a roof, and large wheels. These were either rolled or towed by a horse into the water and then situated with the door pointing away from the beach, so a lady might exit without being seen.
If the clumsy bathing machines weren’t off-putting enough, bathing costumes may well have discouraged a lady who wished to take a dip in the sea. These garments, reminiscent of a chemise or shift, were long-sleeved, ankle-length dresses often made of wool or flannel. Dark colors ensured the fabric would not become transparent when wet, and weights sewn into the hems prevented the skirts from billowing about the swimmer like hot air balloons. It sounds refreshing, doesn’t it?
Sea bathing might not have proven to be a miracle cure for everything from gout to madness, as Dr. Russell claimed, but it’s certainly the case that cold water, fresh air, and exercise are healthy pursuits. Bathing machines and dark flannel swimsuits have disappeared, but Brighton remains a popular destination for beach lovers today.
About the Author
Anna Bradley is the author of The Sutherland Scandals, The Sutherland Sisters, and The Somerset Sisters novels. A Maine native, she now lives near Portland, OR, where people are delightful and weird and love to read. She teaches writing and lives with her husband, two children, a variety of spoiled pets, and shelves full of books. Visit her website at AnnaBradley.net and at the social platform below.
About For The Sake of a Scottish Rake
After a sheltered upbringing, Lady Lucinda Sutcliffe is finally embarking on her first season, eager to experience everything she’s missed. When Lucy realizes that her uncle plans to quickly marry her off in exchange for a slice of her fortune, she begs a favor of a new acquaintance, Ciaran Ramsey. If Lucy remains single until she turns twenty-one, she—and her money—will be out of her uncle’s power. All the charming Scot needs to do is woo her for six weeks, and then jilt her . . .
The Ramseys don’t need the scandal of a false engagement attached to their name. But Lucy’s older suitor is both distasteful and dangerous, and Ciaran can’t allow his lovely friend to be forced to marry such a man. And besides, the more time Ciaran spends with his new “betrothed,” the more their ruse begins to feel very much like the real thing. Passion like this is impossible to feign, but how much is a rogue willing to risk for love?
Just love the little tidbits of the novels as I am an avid reader of the period. I love being able to read these and choose my next book! Thanks