Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 47

[+] | [-] | reset
 

This sally raised the laugh against Micklewhimmen, who began to look grave; when my uncle, in order to change the discourse, observed, that instinct had been very kind to him in another respect; for it had restored to him the use of his limbs, which, in his exit, he had moved with surprising agility. — He replied, that it was the nature of fear to brace up the nerves; and mentioned some surprising feats of strength and activity performed by persons under the impulse of terror; but he complained that in his own particular, the effects had ceased when the cause was taken away — The 'squire said, he would lay a tea-drinking on his head, that he should dance a Scotch measure, without making a false step; and the advocate grinning, called for the piper — A fidler being at hand, this original started up, with his bloody napkin over his black tye-periwig, and acquitted himself in such a manner as excited the mirth of the whole company; but he could not regain the good graces of Mrs Tabby, who did not understand the principle of instinct; and the lawyer did not think it worth his while to proceed to further demonstration.

From Harrigate, we came hither, by the way of York, and here we shall tarry some days, as my uncle and Tabitha are both resolved to make use of the waters. Scarborough, though a paltry town, is romantic from its situation along a cliff that over-hangs the sea. The harbour is formed by a small elbow of land that runs out as a natural mole, directly opposite to the town; and on that side is the castle, which stands very high, of considerable extent, and, before the invention of gun-powder, was counted impregnable. At the other end of Scarborough are two public rooms for the use of the company, who resort to this place in the summer to drink the waters and bathe in the sea; and the diversions are pretty much on the same footing here as at Bath. The Spa is a little way beyond the town, on this side, under a cliff, within a few paces of the sea, and thither the drinkers go every morning in dishabille; but the descent is by a great number of steps, which invalids find very inconvenient. Betwixt the well and the harbour, the bathing machines are ranged along the beach, with all their proper utensils and attendants. You have never seen one of these machines — Image to yourself a small, snug, wooden chamber, fixed upon a wheel-carriage, having a door at each end, and on each side a little window above, a bench below — The bather, ascending into this apartment by wooden steps, shuts himself in, and begins to undress, while the attendant yokes a horse to the end next the sea, and draws the carriage forwards, till the surface of the water is on a level with the floor of the dressing-room, then he moves and fixes the horse to the other end — The person within being stripped, opens the door to the sea-ward, where he finds the guide ready, and plunges headlong into the water — After having bathed, he re-ascends into the apartment, by the steps which had been shifted for that purpose, and puts on his clothes at his leisure, while the carriage is drawn back again upon the dry land; so that he has nothing further to do, but to open the door, and come down as he went up — Should he be so weak or ill as to require a servant to put off and on his clothes, there is room enough in the apartment for half a dozen people. The guides who attend the ladies in the water, are of their own sex, and they and the female bathers have a dress of flannel for the sea; nay, they are provided with other conveniences for the support of decorum. A certain number of the machines are fitted with tilts, that project from the sea-ward ends of them, so as to screen the bathers from the view of all persons whatsoever — The beach is admirably adapted for this practice, the descent being gently gradual, and the sand soft as velvet; but then the machines can be used only at a certain time of the tide, which varies every day; so that sometimes the bathers are obliged to rise very early in the morning — For my part, I love swimming as an exercise, and can enjoy it at all times of the tide, without the formality of an apparatus — You and I have often plunged together into the Isis; but the sea is a much more noble bath, for health as well as pleasure. You cannot conceive what a flow of spirits it gives, and how it braces every sinew of the human frame. Were I to enumerate half the diseases which are every day cured by sea-bathing, you might justly say you had received a treatise, instead of a letter, from

Your affectionate friend
and servant,
J. MELFORD
SCARBOROUGH, July 1.