John Lockes Cold Regimen

In Some Thoughts concerning Education (1693) John Locke commented: 'Everyone is now full of the miracles done by cold Baths on decayed and weak constitutions, for the recovery of health and strength; and therefore they cannot be impracticable or intolerable for the improving and hardening the bodies of those who are in better circumstances.'73 It was Locke (1632-1704)

who gave final weight and gravitas to the Cold Regimen, and prepared the ground for its general dispersal. His Essay concerning Human Understanding (1690) was a treatise on the philosophy and psychology of ideas which led not only to a new European physiology of sensation, but to the first stirrings of European ethnography. Locke's early career as a tutor and teacher was summarized in his next book, Some Thoughts concerning Education, which gave the English gentry advice on how to bring up their children in a bracing but humane Roman style. Although the physiological details have often been treated as harmless eccentricities, they were integral to the Lockean project of physically training the senses, in the classic traditions of gymnosophy. Like Erasmus, Locke believed in the concept of the tabula rasa—the clean, innocent, empty page of the child's mind. In Locke's view, the mind was gradually filled with whatever moral ideas society chose to impart; but whatever was first impressed on the human mind stayed for ever;and therefore careful training of the primary and secondary senses was essential. In classical gymnastics strength of mind went with strength of body: Locke liked to quote Juvenal's aphorism 'a healthy mind in a healthy body' (mens sana in corpore sano), calling it 'a short but full description of the most desirable state we are capable of in this life. He who has these two has little more to wish; and he that wants either of them will be but little better for anything else.'74

Many of Locke's ideas would have already been familiar to the humanist-trained, reform-minded, patriotic, late seventeenth-century English reader. His educational programme was designed to turn their sons into Stoic young warriors with 'strong constitutions, able to endure hardships and fatigue'—unlike 'most children [whose] constitutions are either spoiled, or at least harmed, by cockering and tenderness'. The boys should mostly play in the open air, 'and as little as may be by the fire...thus the body may be brought to bear almost anything'.75 The whole plan was set out in a few easily observable rules: 'Plenty of open air, exercise and sleep, plain diet, no wine or strong drink, very little or no physick, not too warm or straight clothing, especially the head and feet kept cold, and the feet often used to cold water, and exposed to wet.'76 The girls, too, were included in this regime: 'The nearer they come to the hardship of their brothers in their education, the greater advantage they will receive from it.' He was particularly disapproving of girls' strait-lacing and stays, stopping the circulation and compressing the stomach: 'That way of making slender wastes, and fine shapes, serves but the more effectually to spoil them.'77

The change in English children's fashion towards looser cotton clothing, for boys and for girls, dates from this period. Boy's clothing should be thin and light, with no cap, and open shoes—'with holes in his shoes so that they leak'—in other words, sandals. The stockings should be changed and the feet washed every day in cold water (a custom that may have led to the invention of boys' ankle socks): 'I fear, I shall have the mistress and maids too, against me... It is recommendable for its cleanliness;but that which I aim at in it, is health.' Locke approvingly quoted Seneca on cold baths in midwinter, on the cold-bathing of infants by the Germans, Irish, and Scots 'of old', and thought learning to swim was essential: 'It is that saves many a man's life, and the Romans thought it so necessary that they ranked it with letters . . . the advantages to health, by often bathing, in cold water during the heat of the summer, are so many, that I think nothing need be said to encourage it.'78 Locke's Roman hardiness, his Greek athleticism, and his Protestant naturalism clearly appealed to large numbers of the English upper classes; it was a fitness regime that many English public schoolboys endured until quite recently, including daily morning plunges into cold water (even the sea), deep winter only excluded.79

There was an obvious transformation in the idea of cleanness in England in the seventeenth century. The association of coolness, cleanness, and innocence appears to have emerged directly from Protestant sectarianism, blended into a formal, neoclassical framework that had reincorporated the Greek regimen of the non-naturals. The more extreme health or hygiene beliefs (whether it was the Sanctorian Sober Diet, the Mean Diet, the Vegetable Diet, or the Cold Bath) were undoubtedly held only by a rather small constituency of ascetic self-experimenters, people of independent thought and means, or invalids who needed to mend their health. But the sheer numbers of references to the actual words 'Cleanliness' or 'Cleanness' had grown extraordinarily and were much more portentous than before, certainly when highlighted (as they so often were) with a capital letter. In the following century Cleanliness was to become far more Rational. Religious mysticism gave way to a strong presumption in favour of its usefulness in disease prevention as many further scientific 'proofs' of the utility of hygiene were presented, confirming the truth of Mead's dictum: 'as Nastiness is a great source of Infection, so Cleanliness is the greatest preservative: which is the true reason, why the Poor are most obnoxious to Disasters of this kind'. The general public in eighteenth-century England were to be targeted yet again by health educationalists, for the general good of an extremely affluent new commonwealth.

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