Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The Lost Art of Bundling

"The idea was that they spend the entire night chatting and getting to know each other to decide if they wanted to get married. I see bundling as a really important step in the journey towards marriage becoming a marriage of personal choice, rather than something you're just forced into by your parents for economic reasons. Because you don't have to marry the man or woman after the night of bundling."
—While discussing her new book 'If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home,' the delightful historian Lucy Worsley touches on the practice of bundling, in which 17th-century parents would "allow their daughter to sleep in the same bed as the young man courting her — but both the woman and man were tied down with heavy rope." Sexy? Itchy? Bladder-y? The whole interview is worth a read — there's fishbone tooth powder and the beckonable toilet of Queen Elizabeth I, too. Plus vinegar, and closets. (And for more Lucy Worsley, there's Lucy Worsley.com, and Twitter. She's great!)

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It didn't always involve rope! At least in the US. Sometimes parents bound the daughters' legs together like a mummy. Sometimes they did this to the dude. Often they just put a "bundling board" between them. In the bed. YOU CAN JUST MOVE A BOARD.

Also, before 1790, it is estimated that more than 30% of births were conceived outside of marriage. People sort of assumed you were sleeping with your fiance, right up through the 1800s.

I may or may not have done a lot of research on (American) Puritan sexuality.

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

@SarahP Did the boards have a little screen like in confessionals, or did they have to shout over the top? How are you supposed to whisper sweet nothings that way??

eta: Ok, so I did an image search. They're not very big at all!


@SarahP I thought the boards were typically used in one-room houses so the couple could talk more-or-less privately with the rest of the family still present rather than sleepovers?

@Bus Driver Stu Benedict They cut a notch in the headward end so the couple could see each other and talk but not touch.


@wharrgarbl Could be that too! The use of bundling boards changed over time; I'm really only researched in pre-1800s New England, but it sounds like they took on different meanings in different times/communities.


Thanks for posting this.@y


Did anyone else watch Deadwood? When Bullock builds the house for Mrs. Bullock and she finally arrives and is like, "I saw you put in a bundling board. I hope you don't mind that I removed it." Which was fancy Old West talk for "I will indeed have sex with you."



It would be so nice to hear someone say "I will indeed have sex with you."

I think the line would sound best in a crisp, no-nonsense Mary Poppins voice, thanks.

raised amongst catalogs

@katerrific If I got to sleep in bed with Timothy Olyphant/Seth Bullock, I would burn all of the bundling boards.


@vanillawaif "I saw you put in a bundling board. I hope you don't mind that it somehow was reduced to ash"

raised amongst catalogs

@MilesofMountains Yes!

Nicole Cliffe

@vanillawaif ROWR SETH BULLOCK 4-EVA.

raised amongst catalogs

@Nicole Cliffe "It was a turn of events."


Thomas Crapper = Best Aptonym Ever





Love this all but for her enthusiasm for the monarchy. Just because they are a living representation of history, doesn't mean that they aren't also tax-money-hogging annoyances.


@feartie Yes, this! I heard the interview this afternoon and something else that bothered me was that she was all, "Well, there were some things that were better in olden times, like all that awesome noblesse oblige that the upper classes had, they really looked out for the poors" and I was all, "WHAT?" (Paraphrased, of course.)

Nicole Cliffe

@feartie Oh, God, my embarrassing love for the monarchy forces me to point out that they bring in so much more money in tourism dollars than they receive in tax breaks. This is humiliating.


@Nicole Cliffe My whole dislike stems from the idea of the monarchy itself - the fact that people can be born into a position of power, so freighted with old ideas of 'chosen by God'. I just find it a repellent idea. There is no such thing as true merit in a country where that happens.

There was also that bit when someone suggested (a tory mp, I think?) that her madge needs a multi-million pound yacht to celebrate her jubilee and in order that her big event does not get eclipsed by the Olympics. This in the midst of a terrible recession.

Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against them personally - I even went to university with Prince William (same year, but not classes, though I saw him around a lot). Well, there are exceptions - Prince Philip is a vile racist xenophobe. I would just like to see what Sue Townsend suggested in her comedy book 'The Queen and I', and have them kindly but firmly packed off to council housing.


What? The UK has some closets. One person in a shared house gets one, then everyone else covets it even though the room is objectively horrible.

...that was not really the take away from the interview was it?


How sad is it that I read this headline and thought the article was going to be about campaign finance?


@WaityKatie I think that's awesome. (That you thought that, not that you were disappointed in your expectation.)


@WaityKatie Me too.


It probably got at least one person hot and bothered, sorry Puritans.
Also, most strangers who wanted to just banged each other in alleys since forever, true facts. The concept of privacy in the home and public vs private space is a relatively new one.


@Megan Patterson@facebook In the early centuries of the US, it was in barns and even in each other's living rooms! Most of the court cases were held charging people for fornicating (having sex when not married) saw them spotted in barns and in living rooms after hours. While the idea of privacy at home is pretty new, most early Americans had a living room (slash kitchen slash whatever) that was separate from where most of the family slept.


Bundling! I once read this YA novel about this Amish dude who was on rumspringa who entered into a flirtation with a heathen "English" girl. Anyways, the girl's mother was out of town and Amish dude slept over, and she was all "Do you want to sex me?" and then the dude was all "We shall BUNDLE instead, and have a deep spiritual connection because we Amish are not as frigid as we seem" and then the mother came home and saw them bundled together and was all like "DID SEX HAPPEN" and our Amish homeboy said "Forsooth, I have preserved your daughter's virtue."

God, I read some random shit as a 12 year old.


@Interrobanged I once read a YA novel where a boy and girl share a bed, and she's all like, is this actually okay? And he puts his violin in between them, because he'd read somewhere knights would do that with swords if they had to share close quarters with chicks in the Age of Chivalry.

I remember being worried about the violin.


@SarahP I am sure there is some comparison I could make between a Sword in the Bed and a Sword in the Pants, but I shall refrain.

fondue with cheddar

@SarahP He really knew how to pull her strings.

Sydney C



@Sydney C Google is failing me, ALAS. However, there is apparently a huge market for Amish romance fiction? WHO KNEW.


@Interrobanged OH MY GOD, I remember going to Amish Country on a family vacation (aged 13) and a gift store had a whole turning shelf devoted to a series of Amish children's stories (like Dear America only not!), and ALL the "girls'" stories ended up with them meeting some cute lad named Jacob and getting married before 18... I think all the boys in the boys' stories got to go on adventures? Or toil on the farm.


The Patriot!!!


@beeline96 Oh man, I rushed down to post my Patriot memories too. My love of Heath Ledger was exploding at that point, and my 13-year-old self would have done just about anything to be sewed into a bed with him and that flowing blond hair.


Oh, can I tell you how much I love this thread? I'm definitely reposting the article on my blog.

Cat Rocketship@twitter



Oh, we Protestants do that all the time now, too. It's just that the rope is made out of the unbearable weight of guilt.

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