BUNDLING


by Henry Reed Stiles
BUNDLING "A man and a woman lying on the same bed with their clothes on; an expedient practiced in America on a scarcity of beds, where, on such occasions, husbands and parents frequently permitted travellers to _bundle_ with their wives and daughters."--_Grose, Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue_.

BUNDLE _v.i._ "To sleep on the same bed without undressing; applied to the custom of a man and woman, especially lovers, thus sleeping."--_Webster, 1864_.

BUNDLE _v.n._ "To sleep together with the clothes on."--_Worcester, 1864_.      Bundling, as may be seen from the above quoted definitions, was practiced in two forms: first, between _strangers_, as a simple domestic make-shift arrangement, often arising from the necessities of a new country, and by no means peculiar to America; and, secondly, between _lovers_, who shared the same couch, with the mutual understanding that innocent endearments should not be exceeded. It was, however, in either case, a custom of convenience.
     We may notice, in this connection, that it is very common, even at the present day, in New England, to speak of one as having "bundled in with his clothes on," if he goes to bed without undressing; as, for instance, if he came home drunk, or feeling slightly ill, lay down in the daytime, or in a cold night found the blankets too scanty. The point which first claims our attention in the discussion of this custom, is its probable _origin_, and its _antiquity_ in


*Origins*

THE BRITISH ISLES

     

For, though British travelers have uniformly endeavored to fix the odium of this custom upon us their transatlantic cousins, as being peculiarly "An American institution," it is, nevertheless, an indisputable fact that bundling has for centuries flourished within their own kingdom.
     For what else, in fact, was that universal custom of promiscuous sleeping together which prevailed among the ancient Britons at the time of the Roman conquest, and which led Cśsar to consider them as polyandrous polygamists, and other ancient writers to give them an unenviable character for morality?[1] Bundling, of course! in its rudest aboriginal form.
     As to its moral aspects, being more charitably inclined towards our British friends than they oftentimes are to us, we are willing to accept Logan's defense of their ancestors. "The custom," he says, "which continued until lately in some parts, and yet exists among a few of the rudest, who sleep altogether on straw or rushes, according to the general ancient practice, there is reason to believe, led to the aspersion cast on the British and Irish tribes.
     How natural it must have been for a casual observer to suppose, from seeing men and women reposing in the same place, that the marriage rites were not in force.
      To judge of the ancient inhabitants by the rudest of the present Highlanders and Irish, who often sleep in the same apartment, and are sometimes exposed to each other in a state of semi-nudity, we should not come to a conclusion unfavorable to their morality,[2] for this mode of life is not productive of that conjugal infidelity which St. Jerome and others insinuate as prevalent among the old Scots. * * * Nations that are even in a savage state are sometimes found more sensitive on that point of honor than nations more advanced in civilization; and all, perhaps, that can be admitted is, that certain formalities may have been practiced by the Britons, from which the _bundling_ of the Welsh, and the _hand-fasting_ in some parts of Scotland, are derived.
     The conversation which took place between the Empress Julia and the wife of a Caledonian chief, as related by Xiphilin, certainly evinces a grossness and indelicacy in the amours of the British ladies, if true; but it appears to be a reply where wit and reproof were more aimed at than truth. The case of the Empress Cartismandua shows the nice feeling of the Britons as to the propriety of female conduct. The respect of the Germans for their females, and the severity with which they visited a deviation from virtue, have been described; and the further testimony of Tacitus may be adduced, who says that but very few of the greatest dignity chose to have more than one wife, and when they did it was merely for the honor of alliance. It may be here stated that the GaŽls have no word to express cuckold, and that prostitutes were, by Scots' law, like that of the ancient Germans, thrown into deep wells; and a woman was not permitted to complain of an assault if she allowed more than one night to elapse before the accusation."--_Logan's Scottish GaŽl_, 5th Am. edition, p. 472.[5]
     Indeed, whatever may have been the real state of morality among the ancient Scotch and Irish--and it is quite probable that it has been unfairly depicted by casual and prejudiced observers--the ancient custom of bundling, which has been handed down from earliest times, has not greatly contaminated their descendants of the present day. For, whatever their national vices, the Scotch and Irish of our day maintain a character for chastity superior to that of many of their more fortunate and more civilized neighbors. Bundling, as now practiced in these kingdoms, is merely a matter arising from the ignorance, or the poverty of the inhabitants; and, while not salutary in its moral or physical influence, is, at all events, less abused than we might reasonably expect.


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