PBS's Sanditon, the television series based on an unfinished novel by Jane Austen, comes to KQED Sunday, Jan. 12. Since it's set in the Regency-era equivalent of a coastal spa, we asked Bay Area Austen expert Bianca Hernandez of the Drunk Austen podcast to give us a primer.
Self-care is no modern invention. The upcoming PBS Masterpiece adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sanditon highlights the Regency-era craze around being health-conscious. And though some of the advice from the early 1800s doesn’t hold up (we frown on drinking lead nowadays), it does include some tips that can make nice additions to your routine.
Read on to get in the mood for a trip to a Regency seaside resort.
Get to the sea
“The sea air and sea bathing together were neatly infallible, one or the other of them being a match for every disorder, of the stomach, the lungs or the blood.”—‘Sanditon’
Though some of the advice from the era doesn’t age well, taking a vacation is a timeless, tried-and-true way to clear one’s mind. During the Regency era, places like Bath and Brighton were a must for those suffering from ailments like gout and leprosy.
Sea air was thought to be rejuvenating, and sea-bathing, as seen in Sanditon, was a real option for those in search of wellness. Though Sanditon itself is a fictional seaside resort, Brighton and Lyme were real seaside getaways during Austen’s time.
“Depend upon it my dear, it is exactly a case for the sea. Saline air and immersion will be the very thing.” - Mr. Parker, ‘Sanditon’
But our Regency heroines wouldn’t bring a beach towel and flip-flops to the water—a bathing machine (yes, that was a real thing) would be rented. On the beach, a lady would board the small covered wagon-like contraption, and once the machine traveled deep enough into the water, the lady would emerge wearing a bathing outfit that covered everything from the neck down. Some sea-weathered assistants would then help the lady down a small ladder or set of stairs and safely into the sea.
While boarding a wagon to take you into the ocean may sound a little like ordering an Uber to go around the corner, taking an invigorating dip is always a nice option to make you feel alive.
If bathing isn’t your speed, you can set the mood by drinking some Bath water. And by that I mean water from the other famous Regency place of healing, Bath. (Did you think I meant water from a bathtub?)
The natural hot water that bubbles out from under the city has been heralded for its healing powers since the Romans were there nearly 2,000 years ago. You can still take a walk around the Roman baths should you visit the city today, and can drink the sulfurous water from their springs (though you won’t want to swim in them, since we now know their lead pipes work against the whole “healing” idea). Thankfully, safe mineral water can also be readily found on store shelves today.