• 9th August 1818

    Mrs Page began talking about my getting married. Told me I had a good figure, good complexion, held myself well & was, she thought, good-tempered. That I should be good-looking if I dressed my hair with bows, as they do now, and with curls, etc. She is a vulgar, good sort of woman, fond of giving her opinions and advice. I took it all well, was amused, led her on & praised her &, I daresay, came off with flying colours.

Christmas in Paris with Anne Lister

The Christmas of 1824 finds Anne, along with her maid Elizabeth Wilkes Cordingley, in Paris. They were staying at a modest guest house or pension at 24, Place Vendome. The proprietors were a M. & Mme de Boyve. Anne’s journal entry for Christmas day illustrates the difficulties of something which we all take for granted–that of taking a bath.

Public bathhouses were the norm for many people of that era–at least for those who took baths at all! Anne, while in Paris, frequented the Bains Chinois, so-called because of its style of architecture, in the Boulevard des Italiens. However, on Christmas day, having left it too late to book a time for her bath there, she decided to take a bath in her own room at the guest house.

How problematic was that! She first had to ask permission of Mme de Boyve, who then had to recruit her maid and menservants to undertake the physical tasks necessary to accommodate Anne’s decision to bathe at home, including no doubt, the lugging of many pails of hot water up a number of flights of stairs. Anne’s room was 187 steps up from the ground floor!

Anne writes: ‘Madame de Boyve sent her maid to order me a bath here at 6 … The bath being ready in Mrs Barlow’s room (the men had tried in vain to get it into mine–the doorway too narrow), got into it at 6½, staid [sic] in just an hour and in 20 minutes had returned to my room & got into bed & had my dinner–my soup & a little fish-pâte & a little French plum-pudding having been kept warm for me on my hearth.’ [Journal entry 25.12.1824]

What’s been the most uncomfortable /inconvenient bath you have experienced?

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