A healthy diet
Then there was the matter of diet. The Wellcome Library has a tiny, cheap-looking pamphlet, dated 1798, by one Dr Squirrell. He advises extreme caution about the whole thing, but for anyone hell-bent on taking to the sea, he recommends “a proper dose of Tonic Powders”. By coincidence, at the back of the booklet, there’s an advertisement for just such Tonic Powders – prepared by Dr Squirrell himself.
Another doctor criticised those fellow professionals who encouraged patients to starve themselves before bathing. He recommends a “good nourishing diet” of meat. Fruit and vegetables, obviously, are dangerous and should be eaten sparingly. One of his female patients, he says, “was thrown into the most violent pain, and spasmodic convulsions of the stomach” by nibbling fruit.
Alcohol, on the other hand, is clearly beneficial. “We may venture to lay it down as a rule, without exception,” he writes, that “the moderate use of strong liquors … necessarily make a part of the regimen to be observed throughout the cure” – “beer, spirits diluted with water, or wine cannot do harm”.