I've been spending some time on the beach this summer. Been spending some time in England in the early 19th century, too. Fictionally speaking. Honestly, I didn't expect the two destinations to overlap, but you know what? Folks back then weren't uptight or anti-fun at all! Although many Georgian-era ladies and gentlemen bathed in the sea for medical reasons, lots of them went to the beach just to kick back and enjoy.
The Bathing was so delightful this morning & Molly so pressing with me to enjoy myself that I believe I staid in rather too long.
-- Jane Austen’s Letters, # 39 (quoted from the Jane Austen Society of Australia)
They made use of bathing machines, tiny covered carriages that horses pulled directly into the ocean. A lady would climb in, strip down, and exit under a privacy hood into the water. When she was done with her dip, she'd climb back into the machine, change into her dry clothes, and get pulled back up to the beach.
In this drawing of a 19th century bathing machine, you can see women wearing special flannel bathing gowns, but the fact is, some did, and some didn't:
Modesty and decorum dictated that the opposite sex should bathe in isolation from each other, for nude bathing for both sexes was common until the Victorian age.
Bikinis? Ha! Didn't need 'em.
Hooray for naked!
~ Coming 1 September 2012 ~
(And for a peek at Sophie's world, feel free to check out the free-read
prequel -- AT HIS LORDSHIP'S BEHEST-- right here on the blog.)