Jun 6, 2011

Back from the Dead...

by Emily May

So, it's winter in Regency London, the Thames has frozen over, and you've gone ice-skating. Horror! You fall through the ice and are dragged out apparently dead. How do you think you would be revived?

Well, let's start by saying that Regency methods of reviving drowning victims were very different from modern methods! Tobacco smoke would probably have been involved. If you were lucky it would have been puffed into your lungs; if you were unlucky it would have been puffed into your...er...rectum.

That's right. One method for reviving drowning victims was a tobacco smoke enema. Here is a picture of one of the devices designed for this purpose.

Enough to put you off ice-skating, isn't it?!

Back in the Regency, 'apparent death' was treated by warmth and stimulation, and tobacco smoke, being a 'stimulating vapour', was a popular cure for drowning. (Tobacco was also used to cure many other ailments, including headaches, stomach cramps, intestinal worms, gout, and -- ironically -- cancer.)

In 1774, two London physicians founded the Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned, later renamed the Royal Humane Society. (I much prefer the earlier name!) The society provided a number of tobacco smoke resuscitation kits in strategic locations along the River Thames, for the revival of drowning victims.

So, knowing that if you fell through the ice and drowned, you'd be resuscitated by having tobacco smoke puffed into a place tobacco smoke should never be puffed, do you think you'd have gone ice-skating on the Thames ... or not?

Personally, the tobacco smoke enema is something I would have wanted to avoid -- but the skating looks so much more fun than merely watching from the shore! Would you have risked it, or not?


  1. I'll take the risk!

  2. Emily
    I am glad they don't use the tobacco smoke enema any more LOL

    I used to go ice skating a lot as a teenager (that is where I met my Hubby) but always at an ice rink not on a frozen river or lake but I am guessing in my younger days I would have been on there skating with them

    Have Fun

  3. Very brave, Alyn! We could have figure skated together ... or not ... I'm a dreadful skater!

  4. Yeah, I'm glad too, Helen!

    I love that you met your hubby ice-skating. How fabulous! I envy you your skill on the ice. I took lessons for six months when I lived in Sweden -- and I swear I was no better at the end than I was at the beginning. Guess I don't have the skating gene!

  5. Ice-skating looks so easy... and yet is so hard. And after that story, Emily, I think I'll sit on the bank with a mug of gluhwein, thank you very much!

  6. I don't blame you, Michelle! Gluhwein sounds like a marvellous alternative. I might even join you!

  7. Wow, Emily, what an interesting bit of info.

    Since I have two left feet, I would definitely have been at risk of falling in and need the assistance of the Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned (what a mouthful). And I'm looking at their smoke enemas, and I think I'll give it a miss, thanks. :)

  8. Oh Emily, found this fascinating - wonderful pictures too.

  9. Hmmm...difficult choice. I'm just glad they had a devise to blow the smoke up your -

    I've only donned ice-skates once. Wasn't so good. In fact, I sucked. So given the risks I might have to secure a pretty fluffy muff and content myself with spectating. =)

  10. Hi Eleni -- nice to see you here! Given the two left feet, I think gluhwein with Michelle on the river bank would be the safest option!

  11. Em, what a fun post! I have heard of the "smoke" cure for drowning! Ugh! Imagine someone belting down the bank with a smoke kit to start resuscitation on a victim. Did they do it on the spot or did they take them somewhere private, I wonder? Thank goodness for the brave people who discovered mouth-to-mouth!

    My ice-skating was never up to much so I think I'll stay on the bank with Robyn and Michelle - gluhwien and a lovely fluffy handwarmer sound perfect!

  12. Yeah, I found it fascinating when I stumbled across it, Zana. Fascinating -- and disturbing! Eugh.

  13. I suck at skating too, Robbie! I wish I could glide gracefully across the ice, but in reality I'd be one of the group drinking gluhwein and watching! Of course, I'd be in excellent company, with you and Michelle and Eleni. :-)

  14. Sharon, I SINCERELY hope they performed the resuscitating in a private place -- not in public. Now that's a sight that would scar you for life!

    Welcome to the gluhwein club!

  15. Emily, I think I'll stay on the banks with the other cats and watch someone else have an anal puff of tobacco (thanks for the invite though *g*)

  16. You're welcome, Mel! Looks like the bank is getting rather crowded with non-risk-takers ... but the gluhwein sure tastes nice -- great idea of Michelle's!

  17. I'm joining you all on the bank, and not just because of the tobacco enema. You only get the tobacco treatment if you've fallen through the ice, right? That's going to be FREEZING! Anything that can make people think I'm 'apparently drowned' is not something I'm keen to engage in!

    I'm afraid that Alyn and Helen are much braver than me! I'm on the bank cuddling up with Eleni, Michelle, Robbie and the others!

  18. Where DO you find this stuff, Emily. Hilarious. I guess if you're apparently dead then you probably wouldn't notice or feel an enema of any kind... but how bizarre! I say get out there and have some fun! Just stay away from the thin patches.

    Can you imagine what a time traveller would make of it. Then again, can you imagine what the locals would make of a time traveller giving them a hearty mouth-to-mouth. I'm sure they'd be appalled! heh.

    Love, LOVE the "Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned"and think its ironic it ended up being the Humane Society -- cant really think of anything humane about a smoke enaema.

  19. The bank's a good place to be, Rachel, what with the gluhwein -- and the chance of having a grandstand view of a resuscitation being performed on some poor unfortunate soul!

  20. LOL on the time traveller, Nikki. Imagine how gross and inappropriate mouth-to-mouth would seem to Regency folks!

    I agree. I totally LOVE the "Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned". It's one of the best names of any club I've ever heard of! Shame they changed it!