I am looking at public toilets in Tunbridge Wells, which rather begs the question, what did one do before public sanitary conveniences?
This image of a bourdaloue might be somewhat confusing to the uninitiated. Could this small and elegant vessel be a gravy boat? Or a blood-letting container?
This image by Francois Boucher says it all. A fully dressed lady is relieving herself into an object called the bourdaloue or bourdalou, careful not to soil her skirts. Her maid, no doubt, stands nearby, waiting to receive the small chamber pot in order to empty it. The lady (or woman of ill repute) is in a public place – a theatre or tavern, perhaps – but certainly not a church. Wherever she is, the place has no public toilet. And so she must relieve herself standing up, taking care not to soil her skirt and petticoats.
According to legend, the name of this porta potty comes from Louis Bourdaloue (1632-1704), one of Louis XIVs Jesuit priests…
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