Monday, October 7, 2019

What precisely is a bourdaloue? And why would we need one? Hmm! Secrets of the bedchamber!

Before indoor plumbing, the private matters of personal toilette were carried out in very different ways from today.

In country homes and chateaux, water was primed from a pump and carried into the house in buckets. Heated, if necessary and then carted about inside in same buckets or perhaps pitchers.

Some houses were fitted with cisterns on the roofs to catch rainwater. Make-shift showers could be had by pulling the lever to allow the water to cascade down. But yes, that water was cold.

What then of disposal of bodily wastes?

While a few who were rich, including monarchs and their families, had privy chairs, beneath those open seats were, quite frankly, pots. In country houses and chateaux disposal of waste was much the same as in the growing cities. Waste was carried to the back of the house and dumped in bins for the night soil collector to dispose of. As we see below in one cartoon, urine was often simply thrown into the streets. Open sewers were a source of disease and contamination until the later part of the 19th century.
Until then, removal of waste was done by hand. By the hands of servants or the persons themselves, bodily eliminations were carried out in chamber pots or bourdaloues.

A pot is easy enough to imagine. Here is one with a fellow inside, who presumably, is there to guide one's aim!

But what, pray tell, is a bourdaloue?

A small receptacle usually made of porcelain, these boats, if you will, were specifically made for women to urinate in. Above, at the opening of this articles one and here is another rather lovely example!
But how were they used?

While one can imagine, I thought I spice up your day and show you a few illustrations from the period! Some are paintings, other cartoons! Do enlarge to read the captions. Useful to note that these folks could and did laugh at their inconveniences. One not so hilarious cartoon is the one in which one gentleman, I use the term loosely, is relieving himself in the same room with his dinner partners!

Why do I mention any of this? Because I am finishing up THE BUTLER'S FORBIDDEN FANCY, a short Christmas story in my CHRISTMAS BELLES series, and the hero who is a butler is discussing his duties. They would include ensuring that the guests at his employer's home have sufficient pots and bourdaloues for their conveniences!

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