LETTER: Steamy hen night in a Turkish bath

From Mr John Bate Sir: How much more decorous than the contemporary hen party described by "Maria" (Dilemmas, 22 December) was the Turkish equivalent witnessed by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in Istanbul in May 1718: "All the she-friends, relations and acquaintance of the two families newly allied meet at the bagnio. Those that were or had been married placed themselves round the room on marble sofas, but the virgins very hastily threw off their clothes and appeared without any ornament or covering than their own long hair braided with pearl or riband. Two of them met the bride at the door, conducted by her mother and another grave relation. She was a beautiful maid of about seventeen, very richly dressed and shining with jewels, but was presently reducedto the state of nature. Two guests filled silver gilt pots with perfume, and a procession began, the leaders singing an Epithalamium, answered by the others in chorus, and in this order they marched through three rooms, the bride's eyes fixed on the ground in a charming affectation of modesty, while she was presented to every matron present."

Yours sincerely, JOHN BATE Oxford 22 December

Comments