It’s lovely to imagine oneself living in the 18th century. It would not be lovely to actually live in it. Number one reason? Sanitation comes to mind, but what about the convenience of daily living? The rights of man? The freedom for females to move without fainting? Hell, what about fresh, exotic fruit? Fish that doesn’t knock you out with one whiff?
On that note, I am thankful for all the beautiful technologies we modern gals have yet to romanticize. Here’s my top 5.
1. The water closet–what we now know as the flush toilet–was first used in 26th century b.c. in the Indus Valley Civilization. For 18th century purposes though, we’ll credit J.F. Brondel, whose ingenious 1738 valve-type flush invention would eventually catapult the western world past the chamber pot (used in most households until the 19th century. yikes!).
Illustration by David G. Eveleigh; Bogs, Baths and Basins: The Story of Domestic Sanitation.
2. A life without fitness would be a life without living. I cannot imagine being unable to sprint, fully bend, let alone breathe in like a yogi. What the corset did to the female anatomy was frightening, sort of like being pregnant where the baby drives the mother’s organs upward. Yet, in 18th century ladies, the corset drove the organs inward. Ouch!
Source: Costumer’s Manifesto
3. Ever been to India? I have. I’m sure it’s like any other 3rd world country in terms of filth, but regarding the delicate western stomach, it’s a sty. Don’t get me wrong. I love India. It’s beautiful–culturally, architecturally, botanically, spiritually–but if you want to walk through streets dirtier than the worst carnie fest, go there. Or the 18th century.
4. Laundry! I can barely manage tossing my whites in the machine and pulling them out before they get smelly or wrinkled. If I had to work them down a washing board, use lard, and rub, forget clean clothes. And forget whites. Prisitine whites were for the privileged and even then, the lawnshirts and chemises had to be newish.
The Last Shift, Carrington Bowles, London
Empress Maria Theresa and family, Meytens, 1751
I hope everyone can find something to be happy for today!