On Baths and Bathtubs

On Baths and Bathtubs

I have spent a fruit­less few hours try­ing to find a quote by Churchill about bathing. I inter­pret his remark, “why stand when you can sit down?” as sug­gest­ing that he pre­ferred baths to show­ers, but recall that when he vis­it­ed Rus­sia, he said a bath there was “like lying in one’s own dirt.” Did he say that? The rea­son for my inter­est is that I want to give up baths for a month and would like to enlist the “help” of some­one like WSC. —P.P., UK

Illustrierter1941-25a
Churchill's habits were well known to the Nazis, who lam­pooned him in this June 1941 car­toon in ILLUSTRIERTER BEOBACHTER. WSC is say­ing: "Take this down: In my cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, I fear Ger­man U-boats even less than before." (From Ran­dall Bytwerk, "Churchill in Nazi Car­toon Pro­pa­gan­da," FINEST HOUR 143.)

Sor­ry, but I can­not find any­thing like “lying in one’s own dirt” in my dig­i­tal scans of the canon. While this is not dis­pos­i­tive, I doubt he ever changed his mind about baths and would not approve of your plan. I trust you are not giv­ing up showers!

Churchill was a famous bather—twice a day when he had time—although those Russ­ian tubs were pret­ty filthy. He had his clothes fumi­gat­ed after return­ing from Yal­ta, cer­tain that they had picked up unwant­ed guests….

Your ques­tion puts me in mind of two quo­ta­tions in Churchill by Him­self, nei­ther of which sup­port your pro­pos­al. From the chap­ter on Amer­i­ca, p 115:

Eng­land and Amer­i­ca are divid­ed by a great ocean of salt water, but unit­ed by an eter­nal bath­tub of soap and water.

—Press Club, New York City, 8 Decem­ber 1900

Hugh Gaitskell, Min­is­ter of Fuel and Pow­er in the post­war Labour Gov­ern­ment, was urg­ing ener­gy con­ser­va­tion when he said: “Per­son­al­ly, I have nev­er had a great many baths myself, and I can assure those who are in the habit of hav­ing a great many that it does not make a great dif­fer­ence to their health if they have less.” This was too much for Churchill, the renowned bather:

When Min­is­ters of the Crown speak like this on behalf of His Majesty’s Gov­ern­ment, the Prime Min­is­ter and his friends have no need to won­der why they are get­ting increas­ing­ly into bad odour. I had even asked myself, when med­i­tat­ing upon these points whether you, Mr. Speak­er, would admit the word “lousy” as a Par­lia­men­tary expres­sion in refer­ring to the Admin­is­tra­tion, pro­vid­ed, of course, it was not intend­ed in a con­temp­tu­ous sense but pure­ly as one of fac­tu­al narration.

—House of Com­mons, 28 Octo­ber 1947


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