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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyWed 01 Apr 2020, 10:41

Thank you MM for this history of soap.

MM wrote:
"and remember hair only gets greasy in response to regular washing with detergents, if left along and just brushed regularly it generally sorts itself out"

That is an argument that I will use in response to the partner's nearly each four days request to wash my hair...being alone and master of oneself has its advantages...but I have to agree also "some" disadvantages...

And one learns here everyday on RH: a Samuel Pepys drinking Castle soap snippets in his milk for gallstones (I suppose: "galstenen")...and washing the hair with "soapwort"?
https://www.thespruce.com/herb-soapwort-4107277

Kind regards from Paul.
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Green George
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyWed 01 Apr 2020, 12:09

@Meles meles wrote:


Samuel Pepys mentions another use of soap when for 12 February 1662/3 he wrote:

Then came an old man from Mr. Povy, to give me some advice about his experience in the stone, which I [am] beholden to him for, and was well pleased with it, his chief remedy being Castle [Castile] soap in a posset.
Then in the evening to the office, late writing letters and my Journall since Saturday, and so home to supper and to bed.


So he drank some shavings of soap in his night-time posset (milk curdled with wine or ale) as a medicine to aid his gallstones.
I think he actually had a bladder stone, reputedly "the size of a billiard ball". This was the
"stone" cutting for which was not to be done by those taking the commonest form of the Hippocratic oath iirc.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyWed 01 Apr 2020, 12:11

Pepys's diary is a great source for this kind of thing, and there's even another rather telling little reference in his diaries to soap.

On Tuesday 31st January 1660 he dropped into his mentor Edward Montagu's London "lodgings" (a rather modest name for what was a substantial town house in its own grounds on Little Queen Street), and among other duties there " ... set out a barrel of soap to be carried to Mrs. Ann." Ann was a senior member of Montagu's domestic staff and one of her roles would have been as supervisor over the laundry - not a discreet little room with a tub and a washerwoman, but a small business in its own right with a group of women employed from the area who not only did the laundry for the household but who also would have operated as a neighbourhood "laundromat" in the Holborn district. And we can tell this was true of Montagu's house from Pepys's seemingly casual mention of a barrel.

As bona fide businesses these laundries were liable to regular inspection by officials (still "commonwealth" rather than "crown" in January 1660), not so much to check hygiene standards but to ensure that they did not use non-regulatory materials or methods, one of which was the prescribed "barrel of soap" for which taxes were liable, even though the contents would have been manufactured from the contents of the household's own kitchens and fireplaces. In a large household the manufacture of soap normally fell to the kitchen staff, the kitchen being a natural assembly point for the materials required, notarised there for distribution to the laundry if the scale of production merited it from which smaller households tended to buy either service or materials, which is why they had to be notarised as items for re-sale. Modestly sized households, such as Pepys's own might have a washerwoman who would have made the soap herself, though only for use in that household and therefore rarely anything comparable in amount as to a "barrel". And this level of legality about the whole business brought with it quite a bit of regulation.

Pepys's "setting out" a barrel was part of his general duties as unofficial chamberlain in the house (he also doubled as Montagu's legal secretary in certain matters) and meant that he was responsible for making sure everything was above board (washboard?). First he had to certify that the proportions of tallow to lye were correct, and then that the barrel had a capacity of 36 "ale gallons" and itself weighed no more than 26 pounds when empty. This rule had been in operation since 1531 (said to have been a law drawn up by Anne Boleyn herself). Then he had to certify that it was intended solely for use in a designated laundry business. He might also have supervised production of half-barrels (13 pounds) and firkins (6.5 pounds), governed by the same law and which could be legally sold on to individuals for more modest private use. So what his little throw-away line actually conveyed to a 17th century reader would have been that 1) Montagu's London house was bloody big, 2) that Pepys was in with Montagu to the extent that he was trusted with notarising duties, and 3) that "Mrs Ann" used full barrels of soap, indicating a thriving laundry business operating out of Montagu's property.

Pepys' diary is riddled with such vainglorious little hints at his own importance, though I reckon that many (as with the soap barrel) now go over most readers' heads with a whoosh.


Last edited by nordmann on Wed 01 Apr 2020, 13:39; edited 1 time in total
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyWed 01 Apr 2020, 13:36

@nordmann wrote:
Pepys's diary is a great source for this kind of thing ...

While we are talking about soap and washing: from his diary entries it is clear that Pepys prided himself on his appearance and hated slovenliness and dirt, but from another throw away remark he clearly thought his wife's standards of personal hygiene were somewhat lower than his own (ignoring the fact that just the night before he'd visited a prostitute):

Tuesday 21 February 1664/65
Up, and to the office (having a mighty pain in my forefinger of my left hand, from a strain that it received last night) in struggling ‘avec la femme que je’ mentioned yesterday*, where busy till noon, and then my wife being busy in going with her woman to a hot-house [ie the public baths] to bathe herself, after her long being within doors in the dirt, so that she now pretends to a resolution of being hereafter very clean. How long it will hold I can guess.

* 20 February
... and by and by did go down by water to Deptford, and then down further, and so landed at the lower end of the town, and it being dark ‘entrer en la maison de la femme de Bagwell’, and there had ‘sa compagnie’, though with a great deal of difficulty, ‘neanmoins en fin j’avais ma volont d’elle’, and being sated therewith, I walked home to Redriffe, it being now near nine o’clock, and there I did drink some strong waters and eat some bread and cheese, and so home.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyWed 01 Apr 2020, 13:58

It depends of course on which "hot-house" Mrs Pepys and "her woman" were frequenting. If they had ventured the short distance from their house to Southwark in the 1660s then their destination might well have been one of the many "bagnios" that had survived Cromwell's puritanical reforms (some said even thrived because of them). The term, derived from the Italian for "bath house", had come to replace the older "stews" for the area's many such establishments, namely because they offered not only the means to get down and dirty but to then come up all clean and pure again in that they offered the client a chance to bathe in some comfort, along with some even more exotic purgatory services such as steam closets and (for the very thorough) perfumed enemas.

One such establishment, still operating under the "Ordinance of the Bishop of Winchester" (about the best imprimatur a Restoration brothel could advertise), was called simply the "Bow House" and was situated on Bankside, its unique sales pitch being that it catered almost exclusively to ladies. For this purpose its "employees" included some men, but quite a few more women (who according to the "Bishop's Rules" could neither be married nor ex-nuns), which in itself casts an interesting light on what its female clientele expected by way of sexual gratification outside of the marital bed. The Bow House also had a considerable reputation for some of the finest baths in the city catering for women, or at least that's what the ladies told their husbands afterwards.

This interesting painting by Beuckelaer depicts a "Bishop's House" in Southwark exactly a century before Mrs Pepys might have visited. Something has obviously gone terribly wrong in the acrobatics department for one of the customers, so I can see why baths became a necessary feature of these premises!

 Soap - Page 2 Beuckelaer-Brothel
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyWed 01 Apr 2020, 14:14

That acrobatic "customer" is sporting a prominent codpiece, so I rather take it he's one of the "staff", although it still begs the question, what exactly is the service he's providing.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyWed 01 Apr 2020, 14:23

In truth they're all rather over-dressed for the occasion, both customers and staff.

I'm guessing he's a customer who, after expressing a fear that he may have contracted something iffy from his visit, had been told by an employee who had forgotten they were all still back in the 16th century that he had better take some "salts" before he left.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyThu 02 Apr 2020, 10:28

There was a question earlier regarding just when people began using soap, and how they came up with seemingly obscure methods for manufacturing it. In that light I have been trying to trace semantic consistency through language use and see how far back soap brought me, and thanks to one humble weed the answer is a surprisingly long way indeed.

Soap - Page 2 320px-Microbotryum_saponariae_on_Common_Soapwort_-_Saponaria_officinalis_%2845500203152%29

In English this little flowering plant is called Soapwort, and it is an ubiquitous little thing - presumed to have originated in temperate areas of the Middle East and now thriving in almost every temperate region of the globe. It fares best in semi-saturated soil next to streams, which in itself is probably the most relevant aspect to the plant, its known chemical properties, and its incredibly consistent semantic properties that extend through all extant languages and dialects, back through all known ancient forms of language, and right back to its Proto-Indo-European linguistic roots, all of which refer to its soap-like character in its name.

Such semantic consistency is actually very much the exception in etymology, and especially etymology that can be traced right back to PIE. When it occurs therefore there is very much that can be construed from this quality, including not only a blatancy to the original word as a descriptor that time could not eradicate, but also by extension an application of this descriptor associated with a very ancient practise that time has not altered.

Many plants, if used in the process of hand-washing, assist the process by acting as extra agitants in the removal of grease and grime from skin. For anyone washing their hands in a stream to remove noxious or unsightly blemish, plucking a decent clump of adjacent foliage and rubbing this against the skin will inevitably speed up the procedure while removing stains more thoroughly than just rubbing one's hands together with water as the sole cleansing agent. It cannot have taken much time therefore before individuals happened upon this stream-dwelling plant and immediately noticed that it far superseded all others in this respect. Its petals especially, when crushed against wet skin, immediately raise a lather and the unguent residue smeared on the skin visibly lifts and removes even the most stubborn stains.

It cannot therefore have been long either before this plant was collected and carried around, and even cultivated, for this property. And once under such scrutiny then its other components must also have been soon examined for potential benefits. Its leaves, for example, when heated in water, produced an effective emulsifier that allowed the preparation of many staple foods combining ingredients that otherwise yielded little by way of nutrient in edible form. Even today that staple of the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, halvah, a sort of "fudge bread", uses soapwort as the emulsifier of choice in its baking. Its roots, when boiled, were very early in history discovered to produce an even more effective soap than its petals in that it could be rendered simply through open-air drying into a cake form and on that basis became probably the world's earliest form of solid soap in widespread use.

Its most important contribution therefore was probably in establishing, way back in prehistory, a sort of template for how soap should look and feel, as well as the minimum properties by which it could be called soap at all. This would have been of immense help to others who then noticed similar properties derived from other natural sources and who wished, through refining relevant processes, to emulate these qualities using these other ingredients.

I must admit that I was unaware of the etymology of soap before now, and have now fallen down something of a linguistic rabbit hole (though a rather enjoyable one) in finding out the potential extent to which the term has insinuated itself into so much seemingly unrelated nomenclature, from ancient people's "tribal" names, to place names, and even the names of other "things" that might share only a fleeting connection with soap itself - "sap" and "juice" being just two of almost equal antiquity to soap itself.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyThu 02 Apr 2020, 11:58

Thanks for the survey, nordmann, I learned from it.

Yes thanks to MM's story I learned yesterday for the first time of my life about "soapwort" and now from you a lot more.

For sheer interest I will plant it once in the garden and will check how it effectively works, when the Corona virus is a bit away...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyThu 02 Apr 2020, 12:34

I'd be wary of introducing it to your garden, Paul, as I think it's quite invasive, especially in moist rich soil, a bit like mint or nettles. Or as John Gerard's Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes (first published in 1597) says, "The roots are thick, long, creeping aslope, having certain strings hanging out of them like to the roots of Black Hellebore: and if they have once taken good and sure rooting in any ground it is impossible to destroy them."

He goes on to say, "It is planted in gardens for the flowers' sake, to the decking up of houses, for the which purpose it chiefly serveth. It groweth wild of itself near to rivers and running brooks in sunny places. ... It is commonly called Saponaria, of the great scouring quality that the leaves have: for they yield out of themselves a certain juice when they are bruised, which scoureth almost as well as soap: although Ruellius describe a certain other Soapwort. Of some it is called Alisma, or Damasonium: of others, Saponaria gentiana, whereof doubtless it is a kind: in English it is called Soapwort, and of some Bruisewort."
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyThu 02 Apr 2020, 12:53

Meles meles is correct! For a plant that chooses to be happiest alongside streams, rills, and prefers other such faster running water habitats, it actually thrives very well in rockeries and during its flowering season has a lovely scent, especially in the evening, so is a popular choice where the garden is little more than a rockery surrounded by concrete. However it's a self-pollinator and therefore delivers ready-made baby bombs to visiting insects (with which it is a very popular port of call). So if you're the type who likes a little variety in your garden (or wishes to keep on friendly terms with neighbours who also have gardens) then heed John Gerard's warning well!
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyThu 02 Apr 2020, 15:21

MM and nordmann, thank you both for this valuable information.

Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyFri 03 Apr 2020, 08:45

Why  -   are you planning a rockery, Paul?   Smile

Pears seem to have an unfortunate history thanks to their enthusiastic subscription to the "white man's burden" view of those who - they reckoned - unfortunately weren't quite white enough.

This "humorous" advertisement shows how one indigenous native of the sub-continent (an interesting confusion of cultural tropes, combining the Hindi "airavata" with South-East Asian veneration of the albino pachyderm) uses their product to improve an elephant and elevate it to sacred status, with a little hint that he might even think to extend its use to himself:

Soap - Page 2 101117-10-Racism-White-Elephant-War
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyFri 03 Apr 2020, 11:36

@nordmann wrote:
Why  -   are you planning a rockery, Paul?   Smile

nordmann of course I thanked you for your information, valuable for me to avoid the invasion in my garden of such a "creeping" plant.
But I am nearly sure you knew it, you naughty boy...

PS. I was hesitating to use "creeping" as it was too obvious the same as my word "kruipend" I had to translate...because of the word that I knew: "creepy"...and after check I see indeed: creep in Dutch: kruipen...

Perhaps for Comic Monster interesting too, if he is still there...how unpredictable the English language is... Wink
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/creepy

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyFri 03 Apr 2020, 11:55

If you want to try and grow soapwort, just do like I do with mint (another notoriously rampant plant that spreads via hidden but nigh indestructible roots) and grow it in a big pot or tub from which the roots cannot get out. Let it flower for the blooms, the smell and to benefit the bees, but then remove the seed pods so it doesn't propagate. My culinary spearmint plant has lasted for years treated like that.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyFri 03 Apr 2020, 14:20

@Meles meles wrote:
If you want to try and grow soapwort, just do like I do with mint (another notoriously rampant plant that spreads via hidden but nigh indestructible roots) and grow it in a big pot or tub from which the roots cannot get out. Let it flower for the blooms, the smell and to benefit the bees, but then remove the seed pods so it doesn't propagate. My culinary spearmint plant has lasted for years treated like that.

MM, that's an interesting idea. As I have a border of nearly 0.6 m, where I plant all kind of things, from shrubs, to bushes. And I tried also gardenherbs as chives, mint and thyme in that "band?" of garden, but as I am afraid of contamination, while I, although I "wied" (weed?) every three months,  nevertheless distribute by sowing, some grains, destroying the growth of all what I weed each three months...

So your idea of yours to put it in pots, is of course excellent. So I can take a knife, every moment  I need for instance some chives...

Thanks for the idea, MM and kind regards.
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptySun 05 Apr 2020, 16:06

@Priscilla wrote:
In the East one can still get LIfebuoy.

That always reminds me of the shower block at school where it was standard issue. The red colour of the bars of soap seemed to suggest a serious degree of potency in the product and, therefore, just the thing for cleaning muddy and sweaty teenage boys after a rugby match:

Soap - Page 2 81cce13c9f584635ad57874a9f887819

P.S. Do youngsters still use the term 'B.O.' these days?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Soap   Soap - Page 2 EmptyMon 06 Apr 2020, 08:24

Soap - Page 2 S-l1600

This was the stuff the "Sisters of Charity" [sic] opted for back when I was a wee one in their "infants school" [sic]. Irish nuns, presumably drawing on the privileges obtained from being brides of a polygamist christ and Irish to boot, made up their own political rules, but instinctively sided with the big guns.

PS: Vizzer, Osmidrosis may sound like a minor character from the Iliad flattened by Ajax in chapter two, but I believe is also currently the trending term for what we used to call B.O. I am not sure if the modern version is also best treated with an application of Ajax, but then I'm not quite in the yoof-loop these days.
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