Extract from: Charles Lever, Arthur O’Leary: His Wanderings and Ponderings in Many Lands, London 1844, pp. 265-66

 ‘The little realm of Hesse Humbug might not have attractions of scenery or society; its climate might – like most of those north of the Alps – be nothing to boast of ; its social advantages being a zero, what could it possess as a reason – a good, plausible reason, for drawing travellers to its frontier? Of course, a Spa! Something very nauseous and very foul smelling – as nearly as possible like a warm infusion of rotten eggs, thickened with red clay. Germany happily abounds in these; nature has been kind to her, at least under ground, and you have only to dig two feet in any limestone district to meet with the most sovereign thing on earth for stomachic derangements.

The Spa discovered, a doctor was found to analyze it, and another to write a book upon it. Nothing more were necessary. The work, translated into three or four languages, set forth all the congenial advantages of pumps and promenades, sub-carbonates, table d’hôtes, waltzing, and mineral waters. The pursuit of health no longer presented a grim goddess masquerading in rusty black and a bald forehead, but a lovely nymph, in a Parisian toilette, conversing like a French woman, and dancing like an Austrian. Who would not be ill, I wonder? who would not discover that Hampshire was too high and Essex too low, Devon too close and Cumberland too bracing? who would not give up his village M.D., and all his array of bottles, with their long white cravats, for a ramble to the Rhine, where luxurious living, belles, and balls abounded, and where soit dit en passant, the rouge et noir table afforded‘ the easy resource of supplying all such pleasures, so that you might grow robust and rich at once; and while imbibing iron into your blood, lay up a stock of gold with your banker? Hence the connexion between spas and gambling; hence the fashionable flocking to those healthful spots by thousands who never felt illness; hence the unblushing avowal of having been a month at Baden, by those who would flinch at acknowledging an hour in a hell. […]

The fifteen glasses of abomination demand a walk of half an hour, or an hour in the Cursaal. The Cursaal is a hell! There is no need to mince it. The taste for play is easily imbibed – what bad taste is not ? – and thus, while you are drawing the pump, the grand duke is diving into your pocket. Here, then – I shall not add a word – is the true state of the “Spas of Germany.”’

This site has been conceived in conjunction with the HERA-funded research project The European Spa as a Transnational Public Space and Social Metaphor. Conception: Astrid Köhler, Text © Astrid Köhler and Karen Southworth, Design © Jana Riedel.