Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Love in the Eighteenth Century?

He'd be here soon, demanding his conjugal rights. A quick toss, then off to his club, while she fretted over bursting with another baby. She'd sneak a drink of wormwood or pennyroyal, hopefully to discourage any breeding.
She peeled off her mouseskin eyebrows; removed her bodice, then her skirt, the underskirt, and oh, the petticoats, dropped them in a pile on the floor. Garters untied, stockings rolled down. No drawers in freezing England; rumor has it they may wear them in France and Spain. Stays unlaced, easier with a maid. The silly girl never attended to her duties. Panniers untied, discarded. Shift slipped off--so stiff with perspiration, the garment could stand on its own. She scratched at her skin, bedbugs from the bed last night.
The wig! She tugged at the fake hair entwined with her own. A wooden ship fell on the floor with a few silk flowers. Where was that maid? She grabbed the hook and stuck it through the wig to scratch her itchy scalp. To preserve the style, she slept upright too many nights...she yawned.
Should she bathe? Soap was expensive. Water had to be lugged up two flights of stairs. She soaked in her shift, so how clean could she get? One rarely bathed. She should at least sprinkle rosemary over her body.
He'd swagger up the stairs any moment, sweaty from riding, clothes filthy, breath foul. She'd avoid kissing him.
**Researching my novel, The False Light, I found many interesting details about the eighteenth century. I like to write the gritty truth about life in another era, not the cleaned-up, idealized version.**
Diane Scott Lewis


Jen Black said...

Neither of them sounds an entrancing prospect, Diane! I'm sure it's accurate, but I'd rather have a version where the odourous realities are not mentioned!

Margaret West said...

Euwww, be they were stinky and we won't even touch on the subject of personal hygene!!!lol

Debra E. Marvin said...

Imagine the enticement of a freshly bathed man!

Maggie Dove said...

Lol, Diane! Thank the Lord for their diminished sense of smell. It is like perfume. After wearing it for a while, you can't smell it anymore!


Unknown said...

Ah...just like in the television soap operas where hero and heroines never brush their teeth before those delving kisses in the new light of the morning, nor do they use the toilet...even when stranded for days on end in small rooms or cells without facilities.

Recently, one soap star was stranded for days on a lonely West Virginia mountain, after her plane crashed. She wore the same clothes, and although the pristine white eventually became soiled, amazingly enough, her make-up remained pretty much flawless. Talk about staying power! Amazing, isn't it?

At least your post is based on historical facts, and although repulsing to think of sitting upright to preserve my hair style, wearing something for so long it could stand on its own accord,and scratching at bedbug bites, the truth does dampen the romance a bit. :) Great post. Loved it.

Diane Scott Lewis said...

Thanks, I thought it was funny too, the reality vs. the romance of movies and some books.
I was always amazed that those soap stars woke up every morning with perfect make-up, and yes, the long kiss....Ugh!

Historical Writer/Editor said...

Great post. Do you suppose that it's grosser from our 21st century-bathe-every-day perspective? Maybe they didn't see it the way we would if we traveled back in time.

Maggi Andersen said...

Not a pretty picture is it? It didn't change until Regency times when Beau Brummel convinced people that cleanliness was essential, and they bathed more regularly. George 'Beau'Brummel greatly influenced men's fashion preferring the more sombre and simple style of black and white. This gained popularity during

Deborah Swift said...

Great post Diane.Just imagine their faces if they could see the deodorant spray, toothpaste and floss, electic razors, not to mention hair gel, highlights and botox. I'm just researching cosmetics in the 17th century, but plastering them over the unwashed body was pretty revolting!

Freda Lightfoot said...

I loved it. It managed to be sexy as well as descriptive, because she was going to have him, bugs or not, with or without kisses. Delightful.