Hygiene in Keats's Day

Discussion of other topics not necessarily Keats or poetry-related, i.e. other authors, literature, film, music, the arts etc.

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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby Cath » Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:46 pm

There's an interesting-looking book on this which I really want to (find the time to) read:

"Clean: An Unsanitised History of Washing" by Katherine Ashenburg
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/4 ... AA300_.jpg

Virginia Smith has also written a book on hygiene through the ages called "Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity". And Keats House in Hampstead has some information on washing and washer women when you walk around; one of the guide sheets talks of how early washer women had to get up on washing day (which only happened about once a month while Keats was an adult, apparently) to boil all the water.

So funny that someone mentioned Ringo Starr not having a bathroom! When I went on a tour of Paul McCartney's childhood home (which I would totally recommend, along with Lennon's Mendips...), you could still see the old outside toilets in the garden that were there before the McCartneys moved in.
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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby Saturn » Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:20 pm

That was very common for working class families in Britain even up until the 1960s and 1970s when a lot of the tenement and slum terraces were pulled down. My own father and his family had an outside toilet, four or five to a bedroom as kids etc. I think here in the U.K. we have a very close feeling for how it was in Keats' time as only two or three generations seperate us from relatives or ancestors who lived in very similar conditions.
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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby BrokenLyre » Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:48 am

Remarkable. Here in the states my very middle class family had inside bathrooms for the past 4-5 generations (my great, great grandfather). Very common in the 1890s to have indoor bathrooms for homes in the average cities. I am not sure why though - industrial revolution + american ideals of cleanliness? Who knows?

But my grandfather said in the 1920's he remembers swimming in the canal behind the house and pushing raw sewage away.... oww. So it wasn't all that clean.
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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby Raphael » Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:39 am

Cath wrote:There's an interesting-looking book on this which I really want to (find the time to) read:

"Clean: An Unsanitised History of Washing" by Katherine Ashenburg
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/4 ... AA300_.jpg

Virginia Smith has also written a book on hygiene through the ages called "Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity". And Keats House in Hampstead has some information on washing and washer women when you walk around; one of the guide sheets talks of how early washer women had to get up on washing day (which only happened about once a month while Keats was an adult, apparently) to boil all the water.

So funny that someone mentioned Ringo Starr not having a bathroom! When I went on a tour of Paul McCartney's childhood home (which I would totally recommend, along with Lennon's Mendips...), you could still see the old outside toilets in the garden that were there before the McCartneys moved in.


Sounds an interesting book- one of my geeky interests that. :lol:
Cath I have walked past Ringo's old house many times (well he lived in two houses- both in the same community of streets- the first one is now boarded up) and even been in it ( his second one and the one he still lived in when he became a Beatle) a couple of times- met the old lady who lives there. But that was a while back, maybe she is no longer there- she remembered Ringo very well. The house is of course now modernised and has a bathroom and an extended kitchen. I also used to volunteer in Paul's old house. In fact his house was very similar to the council house I grew up in in the 1970's. We didn't have an outside loo tho.
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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby Raphael » Thu Dec 22, 2011 12:45 am

Saturn wrote:That was very common for working class families in Britain even up until the 1960s and 1970s when a lot of the tenement and slum terraces were pulled down. My own father and his family had an outside toilet, four or five to a bedroom as kids etc. I think here in the U.K. we have a very close feeling for how it was in Keats' time as only two or three generations seperate us from relatives or ancestors who lived in very similar conditions.


Yes all true Saturn. My Mum told me recently that some of those slums will still standing in Liverpool in the 1950s and 1960s- and I was shocked. I knew some were still present in the 1930's but though they were all gone by the late 1940's at the latest.
Surely not?! I said to my Mum, but I couldn't doubt her word...and then I saw the photos!

http://www.mersey-gateway.org/pastliver ... ge/k58.jpg

The above is 1964!!!!! :shock:

http://www.mersey-gateway.org/pastliver ... slums3.htm

My family came from outside Liverpool on the border of Lancs (some having come from Wales and Ireland) and were middle class so none of my ancestors lived in those slums yet I feel such a sympathy for those poor people.
Oh and just to say Ringo's house was never a slum- the terraced houses were solid and although small each had their own outside loo and they had a tin bath in the kitchen to bathe in- tough by our standards but a real slum was a court:


http://streetsofliverpool.co.uk/tag/courts/

Below you can see plenty of deplorable slums- how did they stand living in such conditions?

http://inacityliving.piczo.com/?g=44922707&cr=7


Ringo's house is Edwardian and would have been lived in by tradespeople- upper working class.

Have you heard of Kitty Wilkinson Saturn?

I went to the Thackeray Medical History Museum in Leeds (which I posted a link to on this forum) in the summer and they have a large slum street reconstruction, complete with models of people, dirty beds, smells and piped sounds of life in the slums. A model of a woman is dying of Consumption as a vicar prays over her ( they have held nothing back- blood stains, sounds of coughing etc...) and it feels and looks quite real- it is the best slum reconstruction I've ever seen. I went back in after the crowds had gone and stood there on my own- it was eerie and somewhat disturbing - for a fleeting moment I felt like I was standing in a real 1850's slum and almost legged it out of there. I got a sense of the hopelessness one would feel living in such filth and depravation of health, cleanliness and light.
And there is a whole section on TB with a section on John Keats. :(
John....you did not live to see-
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what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby Raphael » Thu Dec 22, 2011 12:50 am

BrokenLyre wrote:Remarkable. Here in the states my very middle class family had inside bathrooms for the past 4-5 generations (my great, great grandfather). Very common in the 1890s to have indoor bathrooms for homes in the average cities. I am not sure why though - industrial revolution + american ideals of cleanliness? Who knows?

But my grandfather said in the 1920's he remembers swimming in the canal behind the house and pushing raw sewage away.... oww. So it wasn't all that clean.


The middle and upper classes in Britain had indoor bathrooms from the middle Victorian era roughly. As for sewage I had the misfortune to be paddling in the shore as a child and went into the sewage- I went past the bouy thing and my Mum was waving at me. As I was short sighted and nobody back at that time (myself included) had known how bad my eyesight was I didn't realise my Mum was waving me to come back, so she had to come after me. She was not best pleased. :lol:
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby Cath » Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:54 pm

I love geeky books, too! In a fusty, chaotic second-hand bookshop in North London I came across another one, which is relevant to how the relationship to hygiene evolved, it's called Laundry Bygones by Pamela Sambrook:

Image

It's supposed to show how washing, mangling and ironing techniques developed during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to deal with the vast quantities of personal and household linen required by the increasing middle classes...
"Why should we be owls, when we can be Eagles?" (Keats to Reynolds, 3 February 1818)
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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby Raphael » Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:51 pm

God bless the automatic washing machine! :lol:
Did you buy the book then?
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby Cath » Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:11 pm

Nope, I see so many I want to buy in these old second-hand bookshops but I can't cram them all into my luggage when I fly back. I got a local history book and a bio of Kerouac as well as a new book on the English singer Sandy Denny instead. Sounds interesting though!
"Why should we be owls, when we can be Eagles?" (Keats to Reynolds, 3 February 1818)
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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby Raphael » Wed Jan 04, 2012 7:52 pm

For some reason I thought you were from London Cath! I love second hand bookshops too- we have got a great one in Liverpool city and a smaller one up the road from me complete with a consumptive ghost so the owners tell me. The ghost has a liking of children's books, Beatrice Potter if I remember rightly- they have come in the shop to find them all laid out in a circle! The shop about 100 years ago used to be a ladies' hat shop.The city store claims to have a ghost as well. Both buildings are over 100 years old with old windy stair cases. So much more atmospheric than Waterstone's!
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: Hygiene in Keats's Day

Postby Raphael » Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:30 am

For those interested in c.19th medicine and hygiene, I highly rate the 1990s tv series Bramwell which you can find on you tube. It is about a female doctor in the 1890s who has a free hospital in a slum district and it is very very riveting, realistic and moving. Not for the faint hearted as we see amputations, cholera outbreaks, blood..... the slum street is amazingly gritty and realistic- the producers have not sanitised the filth and despair. It is interesting as we see the doctors struggling with the new X Ray machines, the early anaesthesias, blood transfusions, trying to understand bacterias etc. Type in Bramwell series 1 episode 1 and you will be hooked! I'm watching it every night.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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