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|Kathy, may I use this question as a "test case"?
Written by Caroline
(3/2/2003 10:22 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, swimming, penned by kathy taylor
It arises directly from Jane Austen's "works"- the movies count as her "works". (a one-degree connection). It asks about it's possible applicability to another Austen character, Georgiana (a two-degree connection.) It also asks about its applicability to English society in general (a three degree connection that is absolutely fine, because 1&2 are there.) In short, it's a great question, and I'm glad you asked it.
Here's an answer- over and above Kathleen's.
People did "bathe", i.e. jump into lakes, streams, and the sea, on occasion. Wordsworth did it as a boy, Shelley drowned whilst performing a marathon swim, etc. etc. However, I don't think learning to really swim was particularly a routine thing- not everyone would do it. It's an accepted fact that not every sailor could swim (aargh!), for example.And I don't know of any records of women doing the front crawl for miles....
Some of the great houses had summer bathing housees- tents or wooden shacks for modesty, where people could take a dip on ahot summer day. Also, there were bathing machines at the seaside where people could dunk themselves in the cold, salty water for the sake of their health. Both these things were done by both men and women..but they could hardly be described as real swimming.(Lots of info, pics and links in the archives on seabathing)
So yes, some people swam. And it was probably a guy thing, really. Georgiana? Somehow I doubt it....but someone else could convince me....
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