WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Tea Voider

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Tea Voider

I’m not sure which prospect is less appealing: traveling in the 21st century and chancing a bathroom stop at a gas station, fast food restaurant, or rest area…or traveling in the 19th century and having to transport your (used) potty in your carriage.

When I was still in the schoolroom, my family nicknamed me “Iron Kidney” for my ability to go the bathroom before we left the hotel and skip the roadside privies in favor of waiting until our new hotel room that night. I truly didn’t risk my health by avoiding voiding; I honestly didn’t need to use the facilities, and the fact that they were disappointingly maintained only fortified my magical kidney powers.

But I digress.

For Regency ladies without my urological strength, how did they go when on the go?

Tea Voider

A chamber pot.

For the Regency lady, with all her wardrobe layers and contraptions, travel was already a daunting affair. It’s one thing to glide gracefully around a room, or perch daintily on a settee when swathed in a chemise, stays, petticoat(s), skirt(s), and stockings tied at the knee. It’s quite another to ride on a bench seat down rutted roads in a carriage, well-sprung or no. Eventually, when nature called, the answer was the bourdaloue.

That’s no gravy boat! Bourdaloue by Minton in Staffordshire, ca. 1830.

The bourdaloue was designed specifically for females to allow urination from a standing or squatting position. The unique oblong shape with a lip at one end and handle at the other helped ladies navigate their business while (hopefully) preventing any toilet mishaps. The added benefit was the ability to drop one’s skirts around said business. I can only imagine this was a learning process, mastering the physics of aim, angle, and skirt arrangement. Potty training 2.0.

La Toilette Intime (Une Femme Qui Pisse) by François Boucher, 1760s, location unknown.

It’s likely completely anecdotal, but the name ‘bourdaloue’ supposedly derived from the (in)famous French Catholic priest, Louis Bourdaloue (1632 – 1704), whose sermons lasted so long that aristocratic females had their maids bring pots in discreetly under their dresses so that they could urinate without having to leave. There are other attendant factors involved in urination that make me think this is pure myth, but some sermonizing can be lengthy, so….

I’m looking at you, Mr. Collins.

Of course, ladies could always avail themselves of the necessary at coaching inns, or the woods when stopping at a wide spot in the road for a snack, but the bourdaloue and its singular feminine appointments just seem like the natural choice for travel. And they truly are beautiful works of art.

Bourdaloue at Coughton Court, Warwickshire.

Bourdaloue by Chantilly Porcelain Manufactory, France, 1740, courtesy Getty Museum.

Bourdaloue by Sèvres, 1801-1850, Château Attique de Petit Trianon.

Rare Meissen Bourdaloue with Figures of the Commedia dell’Arte after Lancret, painted by Johann George Heintze, 1741, courtesy 1stdibs Oneline Trade.

Meissen Bourdalous with decorated with Schneeballen, ca. 1740.

Rare Meissen Bourdaloue, ca. 1724, from the Marouf Collection, valued £ 50,000 – 60,000.

Inside bowl shot of Rare Meissen Bourdaloue, ca. 1724, from the Marouf Collection, valued £ 50,000 – 60,000.

If you have an hour to spare, take a trip back in time with historian extraordinaire, Lucy Worsley, as she explores the history of the bathroom. (This is episode two of a four part series)

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jockum Gage

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jockum Gage

So last week we looked at examples of pretty potties. Beautiful, even. So dainty that I imagine more than a few chamber pots have been passed down through the generations until their former use was forgotten, having been replaced by new-fangled indoor plumbing, so the potties just became pots. To display in china cabinets. Or for use as soup tureens or casserole dishes.

Or is that just in my family?

Jockum Gage

A chamber-pot, jordan, looking-glass, or member-mug. CANT.

National Conveniences by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, 1796, British Museum.

The romance novelist in me wishes beautiful, somehow always-pristine potties. were placed underneath beds or in designated closets, their use understood but unseen. Alas, the historian in me pokes around books and the interwebs and knows that not to be so. One of my favorite, laugh-out-loud lines comes from Vicky Dreiling’s novel What a Wicked Earl Wants. Said wicked Earl is appalled his friends think to drink, smoke, and urinate simultaneously, as if a jockum gage came after the fifth course in his dining room: “I do not piss where I eat,” Bellingham scolds.

Unfortunately, most did.

Après le dîner, the women separated from the men, moving to a fresh room for conversation, cards, or music. The gentlemen remained at the dining table for port, tobacco, and boast-filled chinwags. After all that wine with dinner, and with the anticipation of more alcohol to come, it was also time to pull out the handy pot in the corner.

It was possible to disguise the location of a jockum gage when located in a public room, such as the dining area, salon, or even study. Commodes were large pieces of furniture basically built around a small chamber pot for the purposes of tasteful concealment. Thieves’ cant used the word ‘commode’ to mean a women’s headdress, because who knew what that giant bonnet or head-swathing turban concealed. Likewise, who knew that innocent-looking bureau in the corner contained a remedy critch?

Antique George III commode with moulded top over four figured dummy drawers and brass swan neck handles, circa 1970, auctioned by Thakeham Furniture Company.

Some wealthy homes did have primitive versions of toilets, in a separate room and with flushing water. History and Soon relates that even wealthier families had portable flushing toilets. How posh! The portable privies were called ‘thunderboxes.’ How decidedly un-posh. 19th century potty humor.

Flush Thunderbox from Brodsworth Hall, Yorkshire.

However, the technology to flush smells was not around yet, so the area might be private, but the odors were not. According to Uncommon Courtesy, later versions of privies, called “earth closets,” used a fine dirt to help improve air quality. That name sounded much more wholesome and organic than ‘wooden seat atop dirt-filled bucket.’ And those lucky maids found it their job to ladle peat over the waste to promote decomposition and help with the smell.

Earth Closet

Bird’s eye view of the Earth Closet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern, better-smelling waste disposal was still in its infancy, but it was moving in the right direction. That is to say, out of the house via a sealed containment system.

Next week, how to go when you were on the go.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Member Mug

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Member Mug

When you’ve got to go…how did you go?

So glad you asked.

Member Mug

A chamber pot. Also, looking-glass and remedy critch.

What better way to start off a new year than with a series of posts on Regency era waste disposal systems? I plan to wade in slowly; this week we’ll just admire the general beauty of ye olde potty.

Some families and homes of wealth had primitive water closets, and some had outdoor privies, but all had pots stored under the beds for when nature called. It was one of the many duties of the chamber maid to empty the chamber pots. Those lucky girls.

Some even had member mugs in the corner of the drawing room. For those times when you just had to go, but didn’t want to go too far.

The pots ranged in beauty from utilitarian to quite stunning. Some fooled future generations into serving food out of them, thinking they were tureens. True story.

What follows is a selection of Regency era chamber pots. Most remaining member mugs hail from the Victorian era, but there are a few lingering from Georgian privies. Contemporaneous use for dispensing soup, optional.

Chamber pot and bowl, Staffordshire, 1800-1810, Pearlware elaborately in the Chinese style, via Chipstone.

Overhead view of chamber pot with design copied from bone china plate of Miles Mason of Lane End, circa 1805, via Chipstone.

Chamber pot, Staffordshire, 1810-1820, featuring blue transfer print of Nuneham Court, Oxfordshire, via Chipstone.

Chamber pot, Staffordshire, 1825, with chinoiserie pattern and gilded handle.

Base of chamber pot with Hanoverian crown and inscription Royal Stone China from R.S. & W. manufacturer, believed to be Stevenson and Williams.

Chamber pot with Napoleon’s head and Latin inscription PEREAT (let him perish) produced in England circa 1805.