|Thomas Hobbes - from Wikipedia|
- well not quite a skinny-dipping. In 1636, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote a Latin poem called De Mirabilibus Pecci described as : Being the Wonders of the Peak in Darby-Shire, Commonly Called The Devil's Arse of Peak. Hobbes had strong Derbyshire connections through being tutor to William, son of William Cavendish. Here is Hobbes' account of a visit to Buxton where he took the waters of St Ann's Well, one of those seven wonders. The inn attached to St Ann's Well was what is now the Old Hall Hotel, visited a number of times by Mary Queen of Scots while under the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury.
Buxton we reach renowned for her tepid waves, where is the famous fountain sacred to St. Anne. The ministering earth mingles there her waters, both hot and cold, and pours forth healing virtues from sulphurous veins. These strengthen the weakened limbs of tottering age, and refresh the stiffened joints of those who bathe within the stream. Hither come the lame, guiding with a staff their trembling steps, and depart with staff thrown thanklessly aside. Hither comes the unfruitful dame, whose longing is to be a mother, and leaves fruitful, methinks, even though her husband stays at home.
As it rises, the sparkling wave is caught in its square fountain, and, five feet in depth, supports the swimmer. A wall screens it from the eyes of the curious: as roof protects it from the rain. A joint wall with open doors connects this delightful bath with our inn, and so, while dinner is being cooked at a fire of turf, we are minded to refresh our tired limbs in the tepid waters. Stripped to the skin, we glide along the gleaming waves and veil our naked bodies in the transparent stream. Now face downwards we swim; now on our back we snuff the waters and drink them too - for we cannot all do all things. Then having spent a full hour in disporting ourselves thus, we emerge dripping and wrap dry towels round us; nor is it long before each is clad in his own clothes again and dinner awaits us on a well-laden board.
Meanwhile black night flies out from all her caves at once and enfolds the whole scene in dark, irresistable shadows. Lamps are lit and the meal is brought in. Now there is set before us, according to our order, not whole baths, but just a small portion of mutton broth, with the meat itself withdrawn and set apart. Then comes a loin of the self-same sheep smoking from the spit, a chicken that had but lately burst its shell, and many a good spoonful of buttered peas. After vainly calling for rich cups of wine, we drain black flagons of smiling beer, and then, our meal completed, woo sleep with draughts of tobacco smoke. And, ere yet Aurora, heralding the triumph of Phoebus, has driven from the sky the common herd of stars, we rouse ourselves from slumber, plunge yet again into the waves, and let the healing waters permeate us through and through. Then, twice-dipped, we bear back to our couches our dripping bodies and rise from sleep at nine o'clock.
Translated from the Latin by J B Firth