Monday, September 17, 2018

Back in Time to the untidy Eighteenth Century

If I had a Time Machine, I'd travel back to the later eighteenth century, the part of history I mostly write about. I'd view the details of daily life for myself. I'd also pack a suitcase of deodorant, shampoo and conditioner. Women washed their hair with shaved soap flakes, but it left a sticky residue, so don't believe those movies that show the women of this time with silky, ravishing locks.

People didn't bathe (in full immersion in a tub) often, fearing it would destroy the natural oils of the body, leaving you open to disease. I'd miss my hot showers.

I'd travel through England and visit quant villages where the average people toil, but of course I wouldn't have the freedoms I enjoy in the modern world. Women in this era were controlled by men, fathers, brothers, then husbands, and it was seen as the norm. They had few rights of their own.

An outspoken woman could be punished, put in the pillory, or even sold in the market place by her husband. She could be beaten, but fortunately by this time, not legally killed  by a disgruntled husband.

A lucky woman found a happy marriage to sustain her, since her husband became her master. A good husband would treat his wife as an equal. A widow had more freedom to start a business, or continue her husband's. Thank goodness for something for the females.

Marriage a la Mode: The Tête à Tête by William Hogarth. The couple are already disinterested in each other.

And though I'd love to view the details of daily life to get my research right, I wouldn't care for the unsanitary conditions. Fleas in the bed, lice on the body. Though those situations do happen now, we have better ways to deal with them. Having to use a chamber pot or close stool is also a turn-off.

Clothing was another restriction of the time, especially for women. Strapped into 'stays' (corsets), encumbered with layers of clothing, they must have suffocated in hotter weather. The women who didn't have a houseful of servants suffered in hard work: hauling water, milking the cow, scrubbing floors, plus caring for a brood of children.

I'd only visit for a short time in my Time Machine, because I know with my big mouth, I'd be in the pillory in no time.

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Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.


  1. The pillory would not be fun. Love the photo of Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, one of the prettiest cobbled streets in the UK.

  2. Great post. I feel the same. Need proper cleaning tools and a toilet before romping back to those days via time machine.

  3. I totally agree, it's romantic to look back on history but I think time travel would result in a major reality check! :)