Skip to content

Beware of bed buggs!

A short post to remind us of one of the delights of warm weather in the Eighteenth Century – especially when staying at roadside inns – bed bugs!

No vacuum cleaners, no weekly washday where the bed linen gets washed at sixty degrees, no concept of hygiene and personal cleanliness – the result must have been itchingly apparent to all, high or low!

I came across this print on the Library of Congress site here. It is entitled “Summer Amusements – bugg hunting”. It dates from 1782 and is by Isaac Cruikshank.

Bugg Hunting LoCThe gentleman on his hands and knees seems engrossed in  picking up the little blighters between finger and thumb with a view to dropping them into the chamber pot. I am not sure what his ‘charming, gorgeous, wife’  is up to – presumably brushing the perishers off the bed drapes. It makes me want to scratch just looking at it! On the other hand, being a sexist male chauvinist I think I would prefer sharing  a bed with the bugs than with the wife …

P.S. On a slightly similar topic I came across a Rowlandson sketch with the title “Is this your Louse?” It appears amongst prints for sale on the site of the late Graham Saville here. It also features in colour on the Royal Collection site, where the description states that it is the King (George III) who is showing the louse to the cook, looking suitably aghast. The Queen and other members of the Royal family look on, with some concern. I love the look on the faces of the two servants as they slink away, unable to turn the heads away from the offending louse.  Somehow, it makes you feel itchy, doesn’t it?!


6 thoughts on “Beware of bed buggs!”

  1. The unattractive wife (and her husband’s no looker!) appears to be impaling the bugs on a two-tined fork – rather disturbing, given the setting of the second image!

    1. I have decided that I would rather believe that the man, being a gentleman, is ridding Her Ladyship’s bed of unwanted visitors and that he is then intending to return to his own bedroom at the other end of the corridor. To consider that they might have been cohabiting is too awful a prospect to consider…

  2. My first thought on seeing the lady with the implement in her hand, was that she had a pair of those scissor-handled pincher-tweezer type things and was picking up the bugs with them…
    And yes, I am now itchy! 🙂

  3. Pingback: History A'la Carte 6-19-14 - Random Bits of Fascination

Leave a Reply