Cold Water

According to one early eighteenth-century cold bather, John Hancocke, it was Sydenham and Richard Mead together 'who, so far as I know, broke the Ice, as to the cool Regimen'.68 Cold Water joined naturally with cool beds, cool vegetables, and cool air, and rounded off the total commitment to 'cold' hygiene. Hancocke's own mentor was Sir John Floyer, the highly influential author of An Enquiry into the Right Use and Abuse of Hot, Cold, and Temperate Baths in England (1697) who had made it his mission to exhort 'The Present Age' to 'leave off the imprudent use of Hot Baths, and to regain their ancient natural vigour, strength, and hardiness by a frequent Use of Cold Bathing'. A stern mechanist and Sanctorian, he demonstrated how Cold Baths beneficially 'stopped the pores', compressed 'the juices and the internal rarefy'd Vapours', and gave a pleasurable afterglow—'a great warmth all over'—with the body becoming 'much more nimble, and [the] Joints more pliant'. The stimulating Cold Bath was excellent for the jaded appetite, and physical weakness, whereas hot baths made 'the body weaker, the Spirits exhausted'.69

The indications are that hardy cold bathing was already on the increase as Floyer wrote, partly owing to the increased European interest in river-swimming. In England, William Pearcy's The Compleat Swimmer, or, The Arte of Swimming appeared in 1658; and Melchisedech Thevenot's The Art of Swimming ...Done out of French, in 1699. The Cambridge natural philosophers were keen swimmers in the 1680s. The rectangular stone-lined sunken pool in the Fellows' garden at Christ's College (adorned with busts of John Milton and the famous Platonist Master, Ralph Cudworth) was the first swimming pool in Cambridge; there was a swimming pool of similar date at Emmanuel College. As well as using the river 'backs', the students frequented a stone bath built at the Moor Barns cold spring a mile from the town.70 In his next book,

The History of Cold Bathing: Both Ancient and Modern (1706), Floyer gave the classical antecedents—'I publish no new doctrine, but only design to revive the Ancient practice of Physick in using Cold Baths'—and reported that the swimming pool building craze was well under way:

There are a great many Cold Baths lately erected in England, and next to Mr Baynard's, is that at Bathessen. 'Tis in the grounds of Dr Parton, and by him built... The Honourable Charles Stanley Esq, brother to the present Earl of Derby, has made a Noble Cold Bath in Gripping Wood, near Ormskirk in Lancashire. I am told he had made it a very compleat Bath, with all the usual conveniences.71

The cooling doctrine in English physiology spread steadily through the wider public from its first beginnings in the fever literature. When Richard Mead published his Short Discourse concerning Pestilential Contagion in 1720, advising a reversal of the policy of confining people (and their air) during the plague, it rushed through five editions in one year, bought by a grateful public.72 Tryon's bed campaign was also successful. During the eighteenth century the free-standing bed, with a straw or horsehair mattress, a padded quilt, and without curtains, began to come into general use. But the Stoic regime of physical 'hardiness' from cold bathing and cold air would not have progressed quite so far in the next two centuries, had it not been for the philosophy of John Locke.

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