Thursday, June 7, 2018

Jane Austen and the Seaside

From Regency History:
I originally wrote this post in 2012 after rereading Sanditon, Jane Austen’s last novel, completed by ‘another lady’. The description of Sanditon was of particularly interest to me as I have been researching sea bathing in the Georgian era and this gave me a contemporary, albeit fictional, description of the seaside. The words that Jane Austen put into Mr Parker’s mouth represented the fashionable view of the seaside at the time and she must have been consciously echoing the words of such sea bathing enthusiasts as Dr Crane of Weymouth who wrote Cursory Observations on Sea-bathing.
Mr Parker
held it indeed as certain that no person could be really well, no person (however upheld for the present by fortuitous aids of exercise and spirits in a semblance of health) could be really in a state of secure and permanent health without spending at least six weeks by the sea every year. The sea air and sea bathing together were nearly infallible, one or the other of them being a match for every disorder of the stomach, the lungs or the blood. They were anti-spasmodic, anti-pulmonary, anti-septic, anti-bilious and anti-rheumatic. Nobody could catch cold by the sea; nobody wanted appetite by the sea; nobody wanted spirits; nobody wanted strength. Sea air was healing, softening, relaxing – fortifying and bracing – seemingly just as was wanted – sometimes one, sometimes the other.1
Was Jane Austen really convinced of the infallibility of the seaside as a cure for all ills? I think not! Rather she was laughing at the current fashion by creating the indefatigable Mr Parker who is both likeable and somewhat ridiculous in his extreme enthusiasm for Sanditon. (Read more.)

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