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Turkish baths in fiction:

notes on some of the baths that are imaginary,
and on some of the ones that are real

Adams, Nene - The Madonna of the sorrows     Saki - The Recessional
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
You are here     Wilson, A N - Daughters of Albion
Rita - The mystery of a Turkish bath    
Doyle, Arthur Conan - Sherlock Holmes     Trollope, Anthony - The Turkish bath
Hornung, EW - The chest of silver     Woodhouse, PG - Psmith in the CityJoyce, James - Ulysses    

Esther Waters  You can print this page -- Click for printer-friendly version

Esther WatersGeorge Moore's youth spent 'in a world centred on racing supplied rich material for the horsy elements in Esther Waters (1894)'.5 It confirmed the cynicism with which many, at that time, had treated the exaggerated claims made for the benefits to be derived from the use of the Turkish bath in the training of racehorses. Two characters in a pub, Stack and Journeyman, are discussing the racehorse Ben Jonson. Stack asks:

Do you think if they brought him to the post as fit and well as he was the day he won the Ebor that he'd win?

What, fit and well as he was when he won the Great Ebor, and with six-seven on his back? He'd walk away with it.

You don't think any of the three-year-olds would have a chance with him? A Derby winner with seven stone on his back might beat him.

Yes, but nothing short of that. Even then old Ben would make a race of it. A nailing good horse once. A little brown horse about fifteen two, as compact as a leg of Welsh mutton.... But there's no use in thinking of him. They've been trying for years to train him. Didn't they used to get the flesh off him in a Turkish bath? That was Fulton's notion. He used to say that it didn't matter 'ow you got the flesh off so long as you got it off. Every pound of flesh off the lungs is so much wind, he used to say. But the Turkish bath trained horses came to the post limp as old rags. If a 'orse 'asn't the legs you can't train him. Every pound of flesh yer take off must put a pound 'o 'ealth on. They'll do no good with old Ben, unless they've found out a way of growing on him a pair of new forelegs. The old ones won't do for my money.

Esther Waters: an English story George Moore (Walter Scott, 1894)

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