[This is taken from A.K.H. Boyd's Recreations of a Country Parson, published in 1862. The information presented here is presented for historical interest only, and should in no way be considered any form of medical or therapeutic advice.]
All our readers, of course, have heard of the Water Cure; and many of them, we doubt not, have in their own minds ranked it among those eccentric medical systems which now and then spring up. are much talked of for a while, and finally sink into oblivion. The mention of the Water Cure is suggestive of galvanism, homeopathy, mesmerism, the grape cure, the bread cure, the mud-bath cure, and of the views of that gentleman who maintained that almost all the evils, physical and moral, which assail the constitution of man, are the result of the use of salt as an article of food, and may be avoided by ceasing to employ that poisonous and immoral ingredient. Perhaps there is a still more unlucky association with life pills, universal vegetable medicines, and the other appliances of that coarser quackery which yearly brings hundreds of gullible Britons to their graves, and contributes thousands of pounds in the form of stamp-duty to the revenue of this great and enlightened country.
It is a curious phase of life that is presented at a Water Cure establishment. The Water Cure system cannot be carried out satisfactorily except at an establishment prepared for the purpose. An expensive array of baths is necessary; so are well-trained bath servants, and an experienced medical man to watch the process of cure: the mode of life does not suit the arrangements of a family, and the listlessness of mind attendant on the water-system quite unfits a man for any active employment. There must be pure country air to breathe, a plentiful supply of the best water, abundant means of taking exercise—Sir E. B. Lytton goes the length of maintaining that mountains to climb are indispensable;--and to enjoy all these advantages one must go to a hydropathic establishment. It may be supposed that many odd people are to be met at such a place; strong-minded women who have broken through the trammels of the Faculty, and gone to the Water Cure in spite of the warnings of their medical men, and their friends’ kind predictions that they would never live to come back; and hypochondriac men, who have tried all quack remedies in vain, and who have come despairingly to try one which, before trying it, they probably looked to as the most violent and perilous of all. And the change of life is total. You may have finished your bottle of port daily for twenty years, but at the Water Cure you must perforce practice total abstinence. For years you may never have tasted fair water, but here you will get nothing else to drink, and you will have to dispose of your seven or eight tumblers a day. You may have been accustomed to loll in bed of a morning till nine or ten o’clock; but here you must imitate those who would thrive, and ‘rise at five:’ while the exertion is compensated by your having to bundle off to your chamber at 9.30 p. M. You may long at breakfast for your hot tea, and if a Scotchman, for your grouse pie or devilled kidneys; but you will be obliged to make up with the simpler refreshment of bread and milk, with the accompaniment of stewed Normandy pippins. You may have been wont to spend your days in a fever of business, in a breathless hurry and worry of engagements to be met and matters to be seen to; but after a week under the Water Cure, you will find yourself stretched listlessly upon grassy banks in the summer noon, or sauntering all day beneath the horse-chestnuts of Sudbrook, with a mind as free from business cares as if you were numbered among Tennyson’s lotus-eaters, or the denizens of Thomson’s Castle of Indolence. And with God’s blessing upon the pure element He has given us in such abundance, you will shortly (testibus Mr. Lane and Sir E. B. Lytton) experience other changes as complete, and more agreeable. You will find that the appetite which no dainty could tempt, now discovers in the simplest fare a relish unknown since childhood. You will find the broken rest and the troubled dreams which for years have made the midnight watches terrible, exchanged for the long refreshful sleep that makes one mouthful of the night. You will find the gloom and depression and anxiety which were growing your habitual temper, succeeded by a lightness of heart and buoyancy of spirit which you cannot account for, but which you thankfully enjoy. We doubt not that some of our readers, filled with terrible ideas as to the violent and perilous nature of the Water Cure, will give us credit for some strength of mind when we tell them that we have proved for ourselves the entire mode of life; we can assure them that there is nothing so very dreadful about it; and we trust they may not smile at us as harmlessly monomaniacal when we say that, without going the lengths its out-and-out advocates do, we believe that in certain states of health much benefit may really be derived from the system, Sir E. B. Lytton’s eloquent Confessions of a Water-Patient have been before the public for some years. The Hints to the Sick, the Lame, and the Lazy, give us an account of the ailments and recovery of an old military officer, who, after suffering severity from gout, was quite set up by a few weeks at a hydropathic establishment at Marienberg on the Rhine; and who, by occasional recurrence to the same remedy, is kept in such a state of preservation that, though advanced in years, he ‘is able to go eight miles within two hours, and can go up hill with most young fellows.’ The old gentleman’s book, with its odd woodcuts, and a certain freshness and incorrectness of style—we speak grammatically—in keeping with the character of an old soldier, is readable enough. Mr. Lane’s books are far from being well written; the Spirits and Water, especially, is extremely poor stuff. The Month at Malvern is disfigured by similar faults of style; but Mr. Lane has really something to tell us in that work: and there is a good deal of interest at once in knowing how a man who had been reduced to the last degree of debility of body and mind, was so effectually restored, that now for years he has, on occasion, proved himself equal to a forty-miles’ walk among the Welsh mountains on a warm summer day; and also in remarking the boyish exhilaration of spirits in which Mr. Lane writes, which he tells us is quite a characteristic result of ‘initiation into the excitements of the Water Cure.’
Mr. Lane seems to have been in a very bad way. He gives an appalling account of the medical treatment under which he had suffered for nearly thirty years. In spite of it all he found, at the age of forty-five, that his entire system was showing signs of breaking up. He was suffering from neuralgia, which we believe means something like tic-douloureux extending over the whole body; he was threatened with paralysis, which had advanced so far as to have benumbed his right side; his memory was going; his mind was weakened; he was, in his own words, ‘no use to anybody:’ there were deep cracks round the edge of his tongue; his throat was ulcerated; in short, he was in a shocking state, and never likely to be better. Like many people in such sad circumstances, lie had tried all other remedies before thinking of the Water Cure; he had resorted to galvanism, and so forth, but always got worse. At length, on the 13th of May, 1845, Mr. Lane betook himself to Malvern, where Dr. Wilson presides over one of the largest cold-water establishments in the kingdom. In those days there were some seventy patients in residence, but the new-comer was pleased to find that there was nothing repulsive in the appearance of any of his confreres,--a consideration of material importance, inasmuch as the patients breakfast, dine, and sup together. Nothing could have a more depressing effect upon any invalid, than to be constantly surrounded by a crowd of people manifestly dying, or afflicted with visible and disagreeable disease. The fact is, judging from our own experience, that the people who go to the Water Cure are for the most part not suffering from real and tangible ailments, but from maladies of a comparatively fanciful kind,--such as low spirits, shattered nerves, and lassitude, the result of overwork. And our readers may be disposed to think, with ourselves, that the change of air and scene, the return to a simple and natural mode of life, and the breaking off from the cares and engagements of business, have quite as much to do with their restoration as the water-system, properly so called.
The situation of Malvern is well adapted to the successful use of the water system. Sir E. B. Lytton tells us that ‘the air of Malvern is in itself hygeian: the water is immemorially celebrated for its purity: the landscape is a perpetual pleasure to the eye.’ The neighboring hills offer the exercise most suited to the cure:
Priessnitz said ‘One must have mountains:’ and Dr. Wilson told Mr. Lane, in answer to a remark that the Water Cure had failed at Bath and Cheltenham, that ‘no good and difficult cures can be made in low or damp situations, by swampy grounds, or near the beds of rivers.’
The morning after his arrival, Mr. Lane fairly entered upon the Water System: and his diary for the following month shows us that his time was fully occupied by baths of one sort or another, and by the needful exercise before and after these. The patient is gradually brought under the full force of hydropathy: some of the severer appliances—such as the plunge-bath after packing—not being employed till he has been in some degree seasoned and strung up for them. A very short time sufficed to dissipate the notion that there is anything violent or alarming about the Water Cure; and to convince the patient that every part of it is positively enjoyable. There was no shock to the system: there was nothing painful: no nauseous medicines to swallow; no vile bleeding and blistering. Sitz-baths, foot-baths, plunge-baths, douches, and wet-sheet packings, speedily began to do their work upon Mr. Lane; and what with bathing, walking, hill-climbing, eating and drinking, and making up fast friendships with some of his brethren of the Water Cure, he appears to have had a very pleasant time of it. He tells us that he found that—
The palliative and soothing effects of the water treatment are established immediately; and the absence of all irritation begets a lull, as instantaneous in its effects upon the frame as that experienced in shelter from the storm.
A sense of present happiness, of joyous spirits, of confidence in my proceedings, possesses me on this, the third day of my stay. I do nut say that it is reasonable to experience this sudden accession, or that everybody is expected to attribute it to the course of treatment so recently commenced. I only say, so it is; and I look for a confirmation of this happy frame of mind, when supported by renewed strength of body.
To the same effect Sir E. B. Lytton:
Cares and griefs are forgotten: the sense of the present absorbs the past and future: there is a certain freshness and youth which pervade the spirits, and live upon the enjoyment of the actual hour.
And the author of the Hints to the Sick, &c.:
Should my readers find me prosy, I hope that they will pardon an old fellow, who looks back to his Water Cure course as one of the most delightful portions of a tolerably prosperous life.
When shall we find the subjects of the established system of medical treatment growing eloquent on the sudden accession of spirits consequent on a blister applied to the chest; the buoyancy of heart which attends the operation of six dozen leeches; the youthful gaiety which results from the ‘exhibition’ of a dose of castor oil? It is no small recommendation of the water system, that it makes people so jolly while under it.
But it was not merely present cheerfulness that Mr. Lane experienced:
day by day his ailments were melting away. When he reached Malvern he limped painfully, and found it impossible to straighten his right leg, from a strain in the knee. In a week he ‘did not know that he had a knee.’ We are not going to follow the detail of his symptoms: suffice it to say that the distressing circumstances already mentioned gradually disappeared; every day he felt stronger and better; the half-paralyzed side got all right again; mind and body alike recovered their tone: the ‘month at Malvern’ was followed up by a course of hydropathic treatment at home, such as the exigencies of home-life will permit; and the upshot of the whole was, that from being a wretched invalid, incapable of the least exertion, mental or physical, Mr. Lane was permanently brought to a state of health and strength, activity and cheerfulness. All this improvement he has not the least hesitation in ascribing to the virtue of the Water Cure; and after eight or ten years’ experience of the system and its results, his faith in it is stronger than ever.
In quitting Malvern, the following is his review of the sensations of the past month:--
I look back with astonishment at the temper of mind which has prevailed over the great anxieties that, heavier than my illness, had been bearing their weight upon me. Weakness of body had been chiefly oppressive, because by it I was deprived of the power of alleviating those anxieties; and now, with all that accumulation of mental pressure, with my burden in full cry, and even gaining upon me during the space thus occupied, I have to reflect upon time passed in merriment, and attended by never-failing joyous spirits.
To the distress of mind occasioned by gathering ailments, was added the pain of banishment from home; and yet I have been translated to a life of careless ease. Any one whose knowledge of the solid weight that I carried to this place would qualify him to estimate the state of mind in which I left my home, might well be at a loss to appreciate the influences which had suddenly soothed and exhilarated my whole nature, until alacrity of mind and healthful gaiety became expansive, and the buoyant spirit on the surface was stretched to unbecoming mirth and lightness of heart.
So much for Mr. Lane’s experience of the Water Cure. As to its power in acute disease we shall speak hereafter; but its great recommendations in all cases where the system has been broken down by overwork, are (if we are to credit its advocates) two: first, it braces up body and mind, and restores their healthy tone, in a way that nothing else can; and next, the entire operation by which all this is accomplished, is a course of physical and mental enjoyment.
But by this time we can imagine our readers asking with some impatience, what is the Water Cure? What is the precise nature of all those oddly-named appliances by which it produces its results? Now this is just what we are going to explain; but we have artfully and deeply sought to set out the benefits ascribed to the system before doing so, in the hope that that large portion of the human race which reads Fraser may feel the greater interest in the details which follow, when each of the individuals who compose it remembers, that these sitzes are not merely the things which set up Sir E. B. Lytton, Mr. Lane, and our old military friend, but are the things which may some day be called on to revive his own sinking strength and his own drooping spirits. And as the treatment to which all water patients are subjected appears to be much the same, we shall best explain the nature of the various baths by describing them as we ourselves found them.
Our story is a very simple one. Some years since, after many terms of hard College work, we found our strength completely break down. We were languid and dispirited; everything was an effort: we felt that whether study in our case had ‘made the mind’ or not, it had certainly accomplished the other result which Festus ascribes to it, and ‘unmade the body.’ We tried sea-bathing, cod-liver oil, and everything else that medical men prescribe to people done up by over study; but nothing did much good. Finally, we determined to throw physic to the dogs, and to try a couple of months at the Water Cure. It does cost an effort to make up one’s mind to go there, not only because the inexperienced in the matter fancy the water system a very perilous one, but also because one’s steady-going friends, on hearing of our purpose, are apt to shake their heads,--perhaps even to tap their foreheads,--to speak doubtfully of our common sense, and express a kind hope—behind our backs, especially—that we are not growing fanciful and hypochondriac, and that we may not end in writing testimonials in favor of Professor Holloway. We have already said that to have the full benefit of the Water Cure, one must go to a hydropathic establishment. There are numbers of these in Germany, and all along the Rhine; and there are several in England, which are conducted in a way more accordant with our English ideas. At Malvern we believe there are two; there is a large one at Ben Rhydding, in Yorkshire; one at Sudbrook Park, between Richmond and Ham; and another at Moor Park, near Farnham. Its vicinity to London led us to prefer the one at Sudbrook; and on a beautiful evening in the middle of May we found our way down through that garden-like country, so green and rich to our eyes, long accustomed to the colder landscapes of the north. Sudbrook Park is a noble place. The grounds stretch for a mile or more along Richmond Park, from which they are separated only by a wire fence; the trees are magnificent, the growth of centuries, and among them are enormous hickories, acacias, and tulip-trees; while horse-chestnuts without number make a very blaze of floral illumination through the leafy month of June. Richmond-hill, with its unrivalled views, rises from Sudbrook Park; and that eerie-looking Ham House, the very ideal of the old English manor-house, with its noble avenues which make twilight walks all the summer day, is within a quarter of a mile. As for the house itself, it is situated at the foot of the slope on whose summit Lord John Russell’s house stands; it is of great extent, and can accommodate a host of patients, though when we were there, the number of inmates was less than twenty. It is very imposing externally; but the only striking feature of its interior is the dining-room, a noble hall of forty feet in length, breadth, and height. It is wainscoted with black oak, which some vile wretch of a water doctor painted white, on the ground that it darkened the room. As for the remainder of the house, it is divided into commonplace bed-rooms and sitting-rooms, and provided with bathing appliances of every conceivable kind. On arriving at a water establishment, the patient is carefully examined, chiefly to discover if anything be wrong about the heart, as certain baths would have a most injurious effect should that be so. The doctor gives his directions to the bath attendant as to the treatment to be followed, which, however, is much the same with almost all patients. The newcomer finds a long table in the dining-hall, covered with bread and milk, between six and seven in the evening; and here he makes his evening meal with some wry faces. At half-past nine p. m. he is conducted to his chamber, a bare little apartment, very plainly furnished. The bed is a narrow little thing, with no curtains of any kind. One sleeps on a mattress, which feels pretty hard at first. The jolly and contented looks of the patients had tended somewhat to reassure us; still, we had a nervous feeling that we were fairly in for it, and could not divest ourselves of some alarm as to the ordeal before us; so we heard the nightingale sing for many hours before we closed our eyes on that first night at Sudbrook Park.
It did not seem a minute since we had fallen asleep, when we were awakened by some one entering our room, and by a voice which said, ‘I hef come tu pack yew.’ It was the bath-man, William, to whose charge we had been given, and whom we soon came to like exceedingly; a most good-tempered, active, and attentive little German. We were very sleepy, and inquired as to the hour; it was five a.m. There was no help for it, so we scrambled out of bed and sat on a chair, wrapped in the bed-clothes, watching William with sleepy eyes. He spread upon our little bed a very thick and coarse double blanket; he then produced from a tub what looked like a thick twisted cable, which he proceeded to unroll. It was a sheet of coarse linen, wrung out of the coldest water. And so here was the terrible wet sheet of which we had heard so much. We shuddered with terror. William saw our trepidation, and said, benevolently, ‘Yew vill soon like him mosh.’ He spread out the wet sheet upon the thick blanket, and told us to strip and lie down upon it. Oh! it was cold as ice! William speedily wrapped it around us. Awfully comfortless was the first sensation. We tried to touch the cold damp thing at as few points as possible. It would not do. William relentlessly drew the blanket tight round us; every inch of our superficies felt the chill of the sheet. Then he placed above us a feather bed, cut out to fit about the head, and stretched no end of blankets over all. ‘How long are we to be here?’ was our inquiry. ‘Fifty minutes,’ said William, and disappeared. So there we were, packed in the wet sheet, stretched on our back, our hands pinioned by our sides, as incapable of moving as an Egyptian mummy in its swathes. ‘What on earth shall we do,’ we remember thinking, ‘if a fire breaks out?’ Had a robber entered and walked off with our watch and money, we must have lain and looked at him, for we could not move a finger. By the time we had thought all this, the chilly, comfortless feeling was gone; in ten minutes or less, a sensation of delicious languor stole over us: in a little longer we were fast asleep. We have had many a pack since, and we may say that the feeling is most agreeable when one keeps awake; body and mind are soothed into an indescribable tranquility; the sensation is one of calm, solid enjoyment. In fifty minutes William returned. He removed the blankets and bed which covered us, but left us enveloped in the sheet and coarse blanket. By this time the patient is generally in a profuse perspiration. William turned us round, and made us slip out of bed upon our feet; then slightly loosing the lower part of our cerements so that we could walk with difficulty, he took us by the shoulders and guided our unsteady steps out of our chamber, along a little passage, into an apartment containing a plunge bath. The bath was about twelve feet square; its floor and sides covered with white encaustic tiles; the water, clear as crystal against that light background, was five feet deep. In a trice we were denuded of our remaining apparel, and desired to plunge into the bath, head first. The whole thing was done in less time than it has taken to describe it: no caloric had escaped: we were steaming like a coach horse that has done its ten miles within the hour on a summer-day; and it certainly struck us that the Water Cure had some rather violent measures in its repertory. We went a step or two down the ladder, and then plunged in overhead. ‘One plunge more and out,’ exclaimed the faithful William; and we obeyed. We were so thoroughly heated beforehand, that we never felt the bath to be cold. On coming out, a coarse linen sheet was thrown over us, large enough to have covered half-a-dozen men, and the bath-man rubbed us, ourselves aiding in the operation, till we were all in a glow of warmth. We then dressed as fast as possible, postponing for the present the operation of shaving, drank two tumblers of cold water, and took a rapid walk round the wilderness (an expanse of shrubbery near the house is so called), in the crisp, fresh morning air. The sunshine was of the brightest; the dew was on the grass; everybody was early there; fresh-looking patients were walking in all directions at the rate of five miles an hour; the gardeners were astir; we heard the cheerful sound of the mower whetting his scythe; the air was filled with the freshness of the newly-cut grass, and with the fragrance of lilac and hawthorn blossom; and all this by half-past six a.m.! How we pitied the dullards that were lagging a-bed on that bright summer morning! One turn round the wilderness occupies ten minutes: we then drank two more tumblers of water, and took a second turn of ten minutes. Two tumblers more, and another turn; and then, in a glow of health and good humor, into our chamber to dress for the day. The main supply of water is drunk before breakfast; we took six tumblers daily at that time, and did not take more than two or three additional in the remainder of the day. By eight o’clock breakfast was on the table in the large hall, where it remained till half-past nine. Bread, milk, water, and stewed pippins (cold), formed the morning meal. And didn’t we polish it off! The accession of appetite is immediate.
Such is the process entitled the Pack and Plunge. It was the beginning of the day’s proceedings during the two months we spent at Sudbrook. We believe it forms the morning treatment of almost every patient; a shallow bath after packing being substituted for the plunge in the case of the more nervous. With whatever apprehension people may have looked forward to being packed before having experienced the process, they generally take to it kindly after a single trial. The pack is perhaps the most popular part of the entire cold water treatment.
Mr. Lane says of it:--
What occurred during a full hour after this operation (being packed) I am not in a condition to depose, beyond the fact that the sound, sweet, soothing sleep which I enjoyed, was a matter of surprise and delight. I was detected by Mr. Bardon, who came to awake me, smiling, like a great fool, at nothing; if not at the fancies which had played about my slumbers. Of the heat in which I found myself, I must remark, that it is as distinct from perspiration, as from the parched and throbbing glow of fever. The pores are open, and the warmth of the body is soon communicated to the sheet; until—as in this my first experience of the luxury—a breathing, steaming heat is engendered, which fills the whole of the wrappers, and is plentifully shown in the smoking state which they exhibit as they are removed. I shall never forget the luxurious ease in which I awoke on this morning, and looked forward with pleasure to the daily repetition of what had been quoted to me by the uninitiated with disgust and shuddering.
Sir E. B. Lytton says of the pack:--
Of all the curatives adopted by hydropathists, it is unquestionably the safest—the one that can be applied without danger to the greatest variety of cases; and which, I do not hesitate to aver, can rarely, if ever, be misapplied in any case where the pulse is hard and high, and the skin dry and burning. Its theory is that of warmth and moisture, those friendliest agents to inflammatory disorders.
I have been told, or have read (says Mr. Lane), put a man into the wet sheet who had contemplated suicide, and it would turn him from his purpose. At least I will say, let me get hold of a man who has a pet enmity, who cherishes a vindictive feeling, and let me introduce him to the soothing process. I believe that his bad passion would not linger in its old quarters three days, and that after a week his leading desire would be to hold out the hand to his late enemy.
Of the sensation in the pack, Sir E. B. Lytton tells us:--
The momentary chill is promptly succeeded by a gradual and vivifying warmth, perfectly free from the irritation of dry heat; a delicious sense of ease is usually followed by a sleep more agreeable than anodynes ever produced. It seems a positive cruelty to be relieved from this magic girdle, in which pain is lulled, and fever cooled, and watchfulness lapped in slumber.
The hydropathic breakfast at Sudbrook being over, at nine o’clock we had a foot-bath. This is a very simple matter. The feet are placed in a tub of cold water, and rubbed for four or five minutes by the bath-man. The philosophy of this bath is thus explained:--
The soles of the feet and the palms of the hands are extremely sensitive, having abundance of nerves, as we find if we tickle them. If the feet are put often into hot water, they will become habitually cold, and make one more or less delicate and nervous. On the other hand, by rubbing the feet often in cold water, they will become permanently warm. A cold foot-bath will stop a violent fit of hysterics. Cold feet show defective circulation.
At half-past ten in the forenoon we were subjected to by far the most trying agent in the water system—the often-mentioned douche. No patient is allowed to have the douche till he has been acclimated by at least a fortnight’s treatment. Our readers will understand that from this hour onward we are describing not our first Sudbrook day, but a representative day, such as our days were when we had got into the full play of the system. The douche consists of a stream of water, as thick as one’s arm, falling from a height of twenty-four feet. A pipe, narrowing to the end, conducts the stream for the first six feet of its fall, and gives it a somewhat slanting direction. The water falls, we need hardly say, with a tremendous rush, and is beaten to foam on the open wooden floor. There were two douches at Sudbrook: one, of a somewhat milder nature, being intended for the lady patients. Every one is a little nervous at first taking this bath. One cannot be too warm before having it: we always took a rapid walk of half an hour, and came up to the ordeal glowing like a furnace. The faithful William was waiting our arrival, and ushered us into a little dressing-room, where we disrobed. William then pulled a cord, which let loose the formidable torrent, and we hastened to place ourselves under it. The course is to back gradually till it falls upon the shoulders, then to sway about till every part of the back and limbs has been played upon: but great care must be taken not to let the stream fall upon the head, where its force would probably be dangerous. The patient takes this bath at first for one-minute; the time is lengthened daily till it reaches four minutes, and there it stops. The sensation is that of a violent continuous force assailing one; we are persuaded that were a man blindfolded, and so deaf as not to hear the splash of the falling stream, he could not for his life tell what was the cause of the terrible shock he was enduring. It is not in the least like the result of water: indeed it is unlike any sensation we ever experienced elsewhere. At the end of our four minutes the current ceases; we enter the dressing-room, and are rubbed as after the plunge-bath. The reaction is instantaneous: the blood is at once called to the surface. ‘Red as a rose were we:’ we were more than warm; we were absolutely hot.
Mr. Lane records some proofs of the force with which the douche falls:--
In a corner of one dressing-room is a broken chair. What does it mean? A stout lady, being alarmed at the fall from the cistern, to reduce the height, carefully placed what was a chair, and stood upon it. Down came the column of water—smash went the chair to bits—and down fell the poor lady prostrate. She did not douche again for a fortnight.
Last winter a man was being douched, when an icicle that had been formed in the night was dislodged by the first rush of water, and fell on his back. Bardon, seeing the bleeding, stopped the douche, but the douchee had not felt the blow as anything unusual. He had been douched daily, and calculated on such a force as he experienced.
Although most patients come to like the douche, it is always to be taken with caution. That it is dangerous in certain conditions of the body, there is no doubt. Sir E. B. Lytton speaks strongly on this point:--
Never let the eulogies which many will pass upon the douche tempt you to take it on the sly, unknown to your adviser. The douche is dangerous when the body is unprepared—when the heart is affected—when apoplexy may be feared.
After having douched, which process was over by eleven, we had till one o’clock without further treatment. We soon came to feel that indisposition to active employment which is characteristic of the system; and these two hours were given to sauntering, generally alone, in the green avenues and country lanes about Ham and Twickenham; but as we have already said something of the charming and thoroughly English scenes which surround Sudbrook, we shall add nothing further upon that subject now—though the blossoming horse chestnuts and the somber cedars of Richmond Park, the bright stretches of the Thames, and the quaint gateways and terraces of Ham House, the startled deer and the gorse-covered common, all picture themselves before our mind at the mention of those walks, and tempt us sorely.
At one o’clock we returned to our chamber, and had a head-bath. We lay upon the ground for six minutes, if we remember rightly, with the back of our head in a shallow vessel of water.
Half-past one was the dinner hour. All the patients were punctually present; those who had been longest in the house occupying the seats next those of Dr. and Mrs. Ellis, who presided at either end of the table. The dinners were plain, but abundant; and the guests brought with them noble appetites, so that it was agreed on all hands that there never was such beef or mutton as that of Sudbrook. Soup was seldom permitted: plain joints were the order of the day, and the abundant use of fresh vegetables was encouraged. Plain puddings, such as lice and sago, followed; there was plenty of water to drink. A number of men-servants waited, among whom we recognized our friend William, disguised in a white stock. The entertainment did not last long. In half an hour the ladies withdrew to their drawing-room, and the gentlemen dispersed themselves about the place once more.
Of the Malvern dinners, Mr. Lane writes as follows:--
At the head of the table, where the doctor presides, was the leg of mutton, which, I believe, is even’ day’s head dish. I forget what Mr. Wilson dispensed, but it was something savory of fish. I saw veal cutlets with bacon, and a companion dish; macaroni with gravy, potatoes plain boiled, or mashed and browned, spinach, and other green vegetables. Then followed rich pudding, tapioca, and some other farinaceous ditto, rhubarb tarts, &c. So much for what I have heard of the miserable diet of water patients.
Dinner being dispatched, there came the same listless sauntering about till four o’clock, when the pack and plunge of the morning were repeated. At half-past six we had another head-bath. Immediately after it there was supper, which was a facsimile of breakfast. Then, more sauntering in the fading twilight, and at half-past Bine we paced the long corridor leading to our chamber, and speedily were sound asleep. No midnight tossings, no troubled dreams; one long deep slumber till William appeared next morning at five, to begin the round again.
Such was our life at the Water Cure: a contrast as complete as might be to the life which preceded and followed it. Speaking for ourselves, we should say that there is a great deal of exaggeration in the accounts we have sometimes read of the restorative influence of the system. It wrought no miracle in our case. A couple of months at the sea-side would probably have produced much the same effect. We did not experience that extreme exhilaration of spirits which Mr. Lane speaks of. Perhaps the soft summer climate of Surrey, in a district rather over-wooded, wanted something of the bracing quality which dwells in the keener air of the Malvern hills. Yet the system strung us up wonderfully, and sent us home with much improved strength and heart. And since that time, few mornings have dawned on which we have not tumbled into the cold bath on first rising, and, following the process by a vigorous rubbing with towels of extreme roughness, experienced the bracing influence of cold water alike on the body and the mind.
We must give some account of certain other baths, which have not come within our course latterly, though we have at different times tried them all. We have mentioned the sitz-bath; here is its nature:--
It is not disagreeable, but very odd: and exhibits the patient in by no means an elegant or dignified attitude. For this bath it is not necessary to undress, the coat only being taken off, and the shirt gathered under the waistcoat, which is buttoned upon it; and when seated in the water, which rises to the waist, a blanket is drawn round and over the shoulders. Having remained ten minutes in this condition, we dried and rubbed ourselves with coarse towels, and after tea minutes’ walk, proceeded to supper with a good appetite.
The soothing and tranquillizing effect of the sitz is described as extraordinary:--
In sultry weather, when indolence seems the only resource, a sitz of ten minutes at noon will suffice to protect against the enervating effect of heat, and to rouse from listlessness and inactivity.
If two or three hours have been occupied by anxious conversation, by many visitors, or by any of the perplexities of daily occurrence, a sitz will effectually relieve the throbbing head, and fit one for a return (if it must be so) to the turmoil and bustle.
If an anxious letter is to be mentally weighed, or an important letter to be answered, the matter and the manner can he under no circumstances so adequately pondered as in the sitz. How this quickening of the faculties is engendered, and by what immediate action it is produced, I cannot explain, and invite others to test it by practice.
I have in my own experience proved the sitz to be cogitatory, consolatory, quiescent, refrigeratory, revivificatory, or all these together.
Thus far Mr. Lane. The Brause-bad is thus described by our old military friend:--
At eleven o’clock I went to the Brause-bad. This is too delightful:
it requires a day or two of practice to enable the patient to enjoy it thoroughly. The water at Marienberg is all very cold, and one must never stand still for above a few seconds at a time, and must be ever employed in rubbing the parts of the body which are exposed to the silvery element. The bath is a square room, eight feet by six. The shower above consists of a treble row of holes, drilled in a metal vessel, about one foot long, and at an elevation of eight feet from the floor. There is, besides, a lateral gush of water, in bulk about equal to three ordinary pumps, which bathes the middle man. When I entered the bath, I held my hands over my head, to break the force of the water; and having thus seasoned my knowledge-box, I allowed the water to fall on my back and breast alternately, rubbing most vigorously with both hands: the allotted time for this aquatic sport is four minutes, but I frequently begged the bademeister to allow me a minute or two more. At my sortie, the bademeister threw over me the dry sheet, and he and his assistants rubbed me dry to the bone, and left me in full scarlet uniform. After this bath I took at least three glasses of water, and a most vigorous walk.
One of the least agreeable processes in the water system is being sweated. Mr. Lane describes his sensations as follows:--
At five o’clock in walked the executioner who was to initiate me into the sweating process. There was nothing awful in the commencement. Two dry blankets were spread upon the mattress, and I was enveloped in them as in the wet sheet, being well and closely tucked in round the neck, and the head raised on two pillows. Then came my old friend the down bed, and a counterpane.
At first I felt very comfortable, but in ten minutes the irritation of the blanket was disagreeable, and endurance was my only resource; thought upon other subjects out of the question. In half-an-hour I wondered when it would begin to act. At six, in came Bardon to give me water to drink. Another hour, and I was getting into a state. I had for ten minutes followed Bardon’s directions by slightly moving my hands and legs, and the profuse perspiration was a relief; besides, I knew that I should be soon fit to be bathed, and what a tenfold treat! He gave me more water; and in a quarter of an hour he returned, when. I stepped, in a precious condition, into the cold bath, Bardon using more water on my head and shoulders than usual, more rubbing and sponging, and afterwards more vigorous dry rubbing. I was more than pink, and hastened to get out and compare notes with Sterling.
By the sweating process, the twenty-eight miles of tubing which exist in the pores of the skin are effectually relieved; and—in Dr. Wilson’s words—‘you lose a little water, and put yourself in a state to make flesh.’ The sweating process is known at water establishments as the ‘blanket-pack.’
We believe we have mentioned every hydropathic appliance that is in common use, with the exception of what is called the ‘rub in a wet sheet.’ This consists in having a sheet, dripping wet, thrown round one, and in being vehemently rubbed by the bath-man, the patient assisting. The effect is very bracing and exhilarating on a sultry summer day; and this treatment has the recommendation that it is applied and done with in the course of a few minutes; nor does it need any preliminary process. It is just the thing to get the bath-man to administer to a friend who has come down to visit one, as a slight taste of the quality of the Water Cure.
One pleasing result of the treatment is, that the skin is made beautifully soft and white. Another less pleasing circumstance is, that when there is any impurity lurking in the constitution, a fortnight’s treatment brings on what is called a crisis, in which the evil is driven off in the form of an eruption all over the body. This result never follows unless where the patient has been in a most unhealthy state. People who merely need a little bracing up need not have the least fear of it. Our own two months of water never produced the faintest appearance of such a thing.
Let us sum up the characteristics of the entire system. In the words of Sir E. B. Lytton:--
The first point which impressed me was the extreme and utter innocence of the water-cure in skilful hands—in any hands, indeed, not thoroughly new to the system.
The next thing that struck me was the extraordinary ease with which, under this system, good habits are acquired and bad habits are relinquished.
That which, thirdly, impressed me, was no less contrary to all my preconceived opinions. I had fancied that, whether good or bad, the system must be one of great hardship, extremely repugnant and disagreeable. I wondered at myself to find how soon it became so associated with pleasurable and grateful feelings as to dwell upon the mind as one of the happiest passages of existence.
We have left ourselves no space to say anything of the effect of the Water Cure in acute disease. It is said to work wonders in the case of gout, and all rheumatic complaints: the severe suffering occasioned by the former vexatious malady is immediately subdued, and the necessity of colchicum and other deleterious drugs is obviated. Fever and inflammation, too, are drawn off by constant packing, without being allowed to run their usual course. Our readers may find remarkable cures of heart arid other diseases recorded at pages 24, 72, 114, and 172, of the Month at Malvern. We quote the account of one case:--
I was introduced to a lady, that I might receive her own report of her cure. She had been for nine years paralyzed, from the waist downwards; pale and emaciated; and coming to Malvern, she had no idea of recovering the use of her limbs, but merely bodily health. In five months she became ruddy, and then her perseverance in being packed twice every day was rewarded. The returning muscular power was advanced to perfect recovery of the free use of her limits. She grew stout and strong, and now walks ten miles daily.
We confess we should like to have this story confirmed by some competent authority. It appears to verge on the impossible: unless, indeed, the fact was that the lady was some nervous, fanciful person, who took up a hypochondriac idea that she was paralyzed, and got rid of the notion by having her constitution braced up.
We have already said a good deal of the enjoyable nature of the water system; we make a final quotation from our military friend:--
I have given some account of my daily baths, and on reading over what I have written, I feel quite ashamed of the coldness of the recital of all my delight, the recollection of which makes my mouth water. The reader will observe that I am a Scotchman (proverbially a matter-of-fact race), an old fellow, my enemy would say a slow coach. I might enlarge on my ecstatic delight in my baths, my healthy glow, my light-heartedness, my feelings of elasticity, which made me fancy I could trip along the sward like a patent Vestris. I might go much farther, I might indulge in poetic rapture—most unbecoming my mature age—and after all, fall far short of the reality. The reader will do well to allow a large percentage of omitted ecstatic delineation in consequence of want of ardor on the part of the writer. This is in fact due to justice.
See how old patients describe the Water Cure! This is, at all events, a different strain from that of people who have been victimized by ordinary quacks and quack medicines, and who bestow their imprecations on the credulity which has at once ruined their constitutions and emptied their pockets.
We trust we have succeeded in persuading those who have glanced over these pages, that the Water Cure is by no means the violent thing which they have in all probability been accustomed to consider it. There is no need for being nervous about going to it. There is nothing about it that is half such a shock to the system as are blue pill and mercury, purgatives and drastics, leeches and the lancet. Almost every appliance within its range is a source of positive enjoyment; the time spent under it is a cheerful holiday to body and mind. We take it to be quackery and absurdity to maintain that all possible diseases can be cured by the cold water system; but, from our own experience, we believe that the system and its concomitants do tend powerfully to brace and re-invigorate, when mental exertion has told upon the system, and even threatened to break it down. But really it is no new discovery that fresh air and water, simple food and abundant exercise, change of scene and intermission of toil and excitement, tend to brace the nerves and give fresh vigor to the limbs. In the only respect in which we have any confidence in the Water Cure, it is truly no new system at all. We did not need Priessnitz to tell us that the fair element which, in a hundred forms, makes so great a part of Creation’s beauty—trembling, crystal-clear, upon the rosebud; gleaming in the sunset river; spreading, as we see it to-day, in the bright blue summer sea; fleecy-white in the silent clouds, and gay in the evening rainbow,--is the true elixir of health and life, the most exhilarating draught, the most soothing anodyne; the secret of physical enjoyment, and mental buoyancy and vigor.
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