Turkish baths in fiction:
notes on some of the baths that are imaginary,
and on some of the ones that are real

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline
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Adams, Nene - The Madonna of the Sorrows     Saki - The Chronicles of Clovis
Bartlett, Neil - Mr Clive and Mr Page     Thorne, Guy - When it was dark
Galsworthy, John - In Chancery     Waugh, Alec - Kept
Ibbotson, Eva - Morning gift     Wentworth-James, G - A Mental marriage
Moore, George - Esther Waters     Wilson, AN - Daughters of Albion
You are here    
Doyle, Arthur Conan - Sherlock Holmes     Trollope, Anthony - The Turkish bath
Hornung, EW - The chest of silver     Woodhouse, PG - Psmith in the City
Joyce, James - Ulysses    



The Mystery of a Turkish bath  

The Mystery of a Turkish bathRita, the pseudonym of Eliza Margaret J Humphreys, was a prolific writer of light fiction. Her book The Mystery of a Turkish bath was published in 1888. The story is set in a speculative Hampshire Hotel Spa which is not living up to its financial promise.

One is tempted to identify the hotel with the Mont Dore in Bournemouth (at that time in Hampshire) and which had opened shortly beforehand in 1886. But this theory won't wash as Charles Bartholomew was only called in to install Turkish baths there in 1889, three years after the hotel opened, and a year after the book was written.

However, as Alastair Durie has pointed out, there was certainly no shortage of underperforming hydropathic establishments to serve as a model for the author.

To this establishment come,

besides several ladies who meet to talk in one of the hot rooms, a Russian Princess with a love of 'occult science' and a mysterious past, and a Colonel with a pretty gift of mesmerism. A séance is arranged—with results that are disastrous, not only to the Princess and the Colonel, but probably also to the speculators and their winter resort.

The first three chapters of the mystery are called: The first room; The second room; and, The cooling-room. Only minimal descriptions are given, although a temperature of 110°F is mentioned for the first room. It is remarked that few go into the hottest room and that white robes were worn to bring all classes to the same level.

This seems to imply that the hotel (again like the Mont Dore) was also open to the general public. But the phrase 'all classes' must here be interpreted in the spirit of the times.

The Mystery of a Turkish bath 'Rita' (White, 1888)

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