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
BUNDLE _v.n._ "To sleep together with the clothes
We learn from Woodward's admirable history of that kingdom, the
following facts concerning the domestic habits of its people in the
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"At night a bed of rushes was laid down along one side of the room,
covered with a coarse kind of cloth, made in the country, called
_brychan_; and all the household lay down on this bed in common, without changing their dresses. The fire was kept burning through the night, and the sleepers maintained their warmth by lying closely; and when, by the hardness of their couch, one side was wearied, they would get up and sit by the fire awhile, and then lie down again on the other side. It is to this custom of promiscuous sleeping, that some of the worst habits of the Welsh at the present day may be ascribed; and from the same custom which their forefathers, the ancient Britons, practiced, arose Cśsar's supposition that they were polyandrous polygamists."
These habits, which were a matter of necessity with the ancient Welsh,
have become converted, by the lapse of time, among their descendants of
the present day, into an amatory custom precisely similar to that
practiced formerly in New England.
A tourist through Wales, in the year 1797, thus speaks of the Welsh
_bundling_: "And here, amongst the usages and customs, I must not omit
to inform you that what you have, perhaps, often heard, without
believing, respecting the _mode of courtship_ amongst the Welsh
peasants, is true. The lower order of people do actually carry on their
love affairs in bed, and what would extremely astonish more polished
lovers, they are carried on honorably, it being, at least, as usual for
the Pastoras of the mountains to go from the bed of courtship to the bed of marriage as unpolluted and maidenly as the Chloes of fashion; and yet you are not to conclude that this proceeds from their being less susceptible of the _belle-passion_ than their betters; or that the cold air which they breathe has 'froze the genial current of their souls.' By no means; if they cannot boast the voluptuous languor of an Italian sky, they glow with the bracing spirit of a more invigorating atmosphere. I really took some pains to investigate this curious custom, and after being assured, by many, of its veracity, had an opportunity of attesting ts existence with my own eyes. The servant maid of the family I visited in Caernarvonshire, happened to be the object of a young peasant, who walked eleven long miles every Sunday morning to favor his suit, and regularly returned the same night through all weathers, to be ready for Monday's employment in the fields, being simply a day laborer. He usually arrived in time for morning service, which he constantly attended, after which he escorted his Dulcinea home to the house of her master, by whose permission they as constantly passed the succeeding hour in bed, according to the custom of the country. These tender sabbatical preliminaries continued without interruption near two years, when the treaty of alliance was solemnized, and, so far from any breach of articles happening in the meantime, it is most likely that it was considered by both parties as a matter of course, without exciting any other idea. On speaking to my friend on the subject, he observed that, though it certainly appeared a dangerous mode of making love, he had seen so few _living_ abuses of it, during six and thirty years' residence in that country, where it nevertheless had always, more or less, prevailed, he must conclude it was as innocent as any other. One proof of its being _thought_ so by the parties, is the perfect ease and freedom with which it is done; no awkwardness or confusion appearing on either side; the most well-behaved and decent young woman going into it without a blush, and they are by no means deficient in modesty. What is pure in idea is always so in conduct, since bad actions are the common consequence of bad thoughts; and though the better sort of people treat this ceremony as a barbarism, it is very much to be doubted whether more _faux pas_ have been committed by the Cambrian boors in this _free access_ to the bed chambers of their mistresses, than by more fashionable Strephons and their nymphs in groves and shady bowers. The power of habit is perhaps stronger than the power of passion, or even of the charms which inspire it; and it is sufficient, almost, to say a thing is the _custom of a country_, to clear it from any reproach that would attach to an innovation. Were it the practice of a few only, and to be gratified by stealth, there would, from the strange construction of human nature, be more cause of suspicion; but being ancient, general, and carried on without difficulty, it is probably as little dangerous as a _tÍte a tÍte_ in a drawing-room, or in any other full dress place where young people meet to say soft things to each other."
In an antiquarian tour by the Rev. W. Bingley, in 1804, we also find
the following description of this custom: "The peasantry of part of
Caernarvonshire, Anglesea, and Merionethshire, adopt a mode of
_courtship_ which, till within the last few years, was scarcely even
heard of in England. It is the same that is common in many parts of
America, and termed by the inhabitants of that country, _bundling_. The
lover steals, under the shadow of the night, to the bed of the fair one, into which (retaining an essential part of his dress) he is admitted without any shyness or reserve. Saturday or Sunday nights are the principal times when this courtship takes place, and on these nights the men sometimes walk from a distance of ten miles or more to visit their favorite damsels. This strange custom seems to have originated in the scarcity of fuel, and in the unpleasantness of sitting together in the colder part of the year without a fire. Much has been said of the innocence with which these meetings are conducted, but it is a very common thing for the consequence of the interview to make its appearance in the world within two or three months after the marriage ceremony has taken place. The subject excites no particular attention among the neighbors, provided the marriage be made good before the living witness is brought to light. Since this custom is entirely confined to the laboring classes of the community, it is not so pregnant with danger as, on a first supposition, it might seem. Both parties are so poor that they are necessarily constrained to render their issue legitimate, in order to secure their reputation, and with a mode of obtaining a livelihood."
Another traveller also mentions "a singular custom that is said to
prevail in Wales, relating to their mode of courtship, which is declared to be carried on in bed; and, what is more extraordinary, it is averred that the moving tale of love is agitated in that situation without endangering a breach in the preliminaries." Referring to Mr. Pratt's account of the custom, before quoted, he proceeds to remark: "Our companion, like every one else that we spoke with in Wales on the
subject, at once denied the existence of this custom: that maids in many instances admitted male bed-fellows, he did not doubt; but that the procedure was sanctioned by _tolerated custom_ he considered a gross misrepresentation. Yet in Anglesea and some parts of North Wales, where the original simplicity of manners and high sense of chastity of the natives is retained, he admitted _something of the kind_ might appear.
In those thinly inhabited districts a peasant often has several miles to walk after the hours of labor, to visit his mistress; those who have
reciprocally entertained the _belle passion_ will easily imagine that
before the lovers grow tired of each other's company the night will be
far enough advanced; nor is it surprising that a tender-hearted damsel
should be disinclined to turn her lover out over bogs and mountains
until the dawn of day. The fact is, that under such circumstances she
admits a _consors lecti_, but not in _nudatum corpus_. In a lonely Welsh hut this bedding has not the alarm of ceremony; from sitting, or perhaps lying, on the hearth, they have only to shift their quarters to a heap of straw or fern covered with two or three blankets in a neighboring corner. The practice only takes place with _this view of
Still another glimpse of this favorite Welsh custom is presented by a
tourist in 1807. He says:
"One evening, at an inn where we halted, we heard a considerable bustle
in the kitchen, and, upon enquiry, I was let into a secret worth
knowing. The landlord had been scolding one of his maids, a very pretty, plump little girl, for not having done her work; and the reason which she alleged for her idleness was, that her master having locked the street door at night, had prevented her lover enjoying the rights and delights of _bundling_, an amatory indulgence which, considering that it is sanctioned by custom, may be regarded as somewhat singular, although it is not exclusively of Welsh growth. The process is very simple; the gay Lothario, when all is silent, steals to the chamber of his mistress, who receives him in bed, but with the modest precaution of wearing her under petticoat, which is always fastened at the bottom--not unfrequently, I am told, by a sliding knot. It may astonish a London gallant to be told that this extraordinary experiment often ends in downright wedlock--the knot which cannot slide. A gentleman of
respectability also assured me that he was obliged to indulge his female servants in these nocturnal interviews, and that too at all hours of the night, otherwise his whole family would be thrown into disorder by their neglect; the carpet would not be dusted, nor would the kettle boil. I think this custom should share the fate of the northern Welsh goats.
* * * * Habit has so reconciled the mind to the comforts of _bundling_,
that a young lady who entered the coach soon after we left Shrewsbury,
about eighteen years of age, with a serene and modest countenance,
displayed considerable historical knowledge of the custom, without one
touch of bashfulness."
Thus much for Wales, where the custom seems to have been entirely
confined to the lower classes of society, and where we have reason to
think it still prevails to some extent to this day.
The same author whom we last quoted also speaks of a "courtship similar
to _bundling_, carried on in the islands of Vlie and Wieringen,
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