The Beauty Secrets Of A 19th Century Lady Of Distinction


The secret of preserving beauty lies in three things:—Temperance, Exercise, Cleanliness. [...] Temperance includes moderation at table, and in the enjoyment of what the world calls pleasures. A young beauty, were she fair as Hebe, and elegant as the Goddess of Love herself, would soon lose these charms by a course of inordinate eating, drinking, and late hours.

I guess that my delicate young readers will start at this last sentence, and wonder how it can be that any well-bred woman should think it possible that pretty ladies could be guilty of either of the two first-mentioned excesses. But, when I speak of inordinate eating, &c. I do not mean feasting like a glutton, or drinking to intoxication. My objection is not more against the quantity than the quality of the dishes which constitute the usual repasts of women of fashion. Their breakfasts not only set forth tea and coffee, but chocolate and hot bread and butter. Both of these latter articles, when taken constantly, are hostile to health and female delicacy.

The heated grease, which is their principal ingredient, deranges the stomach; and, by creating or increasing bilious disorders, gradually overspreads the before fair skin with a wan or yellow hue. After this meal, a long and exhausting fast not unfrequently succeeds, from ten in the morning till six or seven in the evening, when dinner is served up; and the half-famished beauty sits down to sate a keen appetite with Cayenne soups, fish, French patees steaming with garlic, roast and boiled meat, game, tarts, sweetmeats, ices, fruit, &c. &c. &c. How must the constitution sutler under the digestion of this melange! How does the heated complexion bear witness to the combustion within!

And, when we consider that the beverage she takes to dilute this mass of food, and to assuage the consequent fever in her stomach, is not merely water from the spring, but Champagne, Madeira, and other wines, foreign and domestic, you cannot wonder that I should warn the inexperienced creature against intemperance. The superabundance of aliment which she takes in at this time is not only destructive of beauty, but the period of such repletion is full of other dangers. Long fasting wastes the powers of digestion, and weakens the springs of life. [...]

Indeed, I am fully persuaded that long fasting, late dining, and the excessive repletion then taken into the exhausted stomach, with the tight pressure of steel and whalebone on the most susceptible parts of the frame then called into action; and the midnight, nay, morning hours, of lingering pleasure,—are the positive causes of colds taken, bilious fevers, consumptions, and atrophies. By the means enumerated, the firm texture of the constitution is broken; and the principles of health, being in a manner decomposed, the finest parts fly off, and the dregs maintain the poor survivor of herself, in a sad kind of artificial existence. Delicate proportion gives place either to miserable leanness or shapeless fat. The oncefair skin assumes a pallid rigidity or a bloated redness, which the vain possessor would still regard as the roses of health and beauty. [...]

My next specific, is that of gentle and daily Exercise in the open air. This may be almost always obtained, either on horseback or on foot, in fine weather; and when that is denied, in a carriage. Country air in the fields, or in gardens, when breathed at proper hours, is the finest bracer of the nerves, and the surest brightener of the complexion.— But these hours are neither under the midday sun in summer, when its beams scorch the skin and set the blood in a boil nor beneath the dews of evening, when the imperceptible damps, saturating the thinly-clad limbs, sends the wanderer home infected with the disease that is to lay her, ere a returning spring, in the silent tomb!—Both these periods are pregnant with danger to delicacy and carelessness.

The morning, about two or three hours after sun-rise, is the most salubrious time for a vigorous walk. But, as the day advances, if you chuse to prolong the sweet enjoyment of the open air, then the thick wood or shady lane will afford refreshing shelter from the too-intense heat of the sun.—In short, the morning and evening dew, and the unrepealed blaze of a summer noon, must alike be ever avoided as the enemies of health and beauty.

Cleanliness, my next recipe, (and which is, like the others, applicable to all ages,) is of most powerful efficacy. It maintains the limbs- in their pliancy; the skin in its softness; the complexion in its lustre; the eyes in their brightness; the teeth in their purity; and the constitution in its fairest vigour.

The frequent use of tepid baths is not more grateful to the sense than it is salutary to the health, and to beauty. By such ablution, all accidental corporeal impurities are thrown off; cutaneous obstructions removed; and while the surface of the body is preserved in its original brightness, many threatening disorders are put to the rout.

Further reading:
The Mirror Of The Graces by A Lady Of Distinction