Sophie Vasset
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Pumping and pouring
Watering places and the money business
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‘Pumping and pouring: watering places and the money business’ looks at the representation of investment, speculation and the circulation of money at private and public levels. The first section focuses on the discourse on gambling in watering places. Before casinos existed, games rooms were open and gambling was one of the attractions of spas available to the sick and bored – games like pharo, quadrille and hazzard were at the heart of many a cautionary poem. The metaphor of gambling extended to the ambitious investors in the development of spas. Their hubris was exposed in narratives of failure or corruption such as Austen’s unfinished Sanditon. Further examples of urban speculation are exposed in a second section. At the other end of the spectrum, lack of money was a lurking phenomenon in spa literature. In the major spas, medical doctors published propositions for monitoring the poor, regulating and financing their access to the baths or the wells. In medium-sized spas, the discrepancy between advertising tracts and the scarcity of lodgings was often acute. In all cases, social promiscuity was an object of constant worry, and fortune-hunting was represented as a favourite sport.

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Murky waters

British spas in eighteenth-century medicine and literature


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