Wealthy Georgians desperate to have a child in 1780 would have heard about Dr James Graham’s Grand Celestial bed with curiosity and hope. (Lord Cranston’s parents tried it without success.) Dr Graham rented a house in Pall Mall and constructed this contraption that he advertised as an aid to fertility. Patrons paid £50 a night for a chance to use it. In modern money given the fluctuating state of inflation one night would have cost over 4000£ (that’s about $7000 US dollars) for the privilege of spending one night in a bed, but this was no ordinary bed! Dr Graham (a real doctor who became known as the Doctor of Love) designed this bed himself as an aid to procreation. It was based on his previous experiments with electrocution and magnetism (and I assume his own fertile adventures).
His “wonder-working edifice” was twelve foot by nine foot, and canopied by a dome covered in musical automata, fresh flowers and a pair of live turtle doves. Stimulating oriental fragrances and “aethereal” gases were released from a reservoir inside the dome. A tilting inner frame put couples in the best position to conceive, and their movements set off music from organ pipes which breathed out “celestial sounds”, whose intensity increased with the ardour of the bed’s occupants. The electrified, magnetic creation was insulated by 40 cut glass pillars. At the head of the bed, above a moving clockwork tableau celebrating Hymen, the god of marriage, and sparkling with electricity, were the words: “Be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth!”
If you think about it, it sort of makes sense; at least the clouds of incense make sense. If the husband stank like the weasel on his coat of arms what woman would be keen to let him near? Conversley, if the wife stank like an unwashed body what man with a nose would want to get near? Next to the smell of death the smell of unwashed bodies must be the most disgusting. It makes me heave. If you had the misfortune to pass a Stench-punk in the 90’s you’d know what I was talking about. That cloud of incense would have been celstial indeed!
Dr Graham was well known for his lectures and pamphlets on how to improve fertile-health. I suspect his patrons recieved a short personal lecture before being shown to the bed. If they did, his lecture probably included his advice to men to daily bathe the family jewels in ice water or as Dr Graham himself put it, “…certain parts which next morning after a laborious night would be relaxed, lank and pendulous, like the two eyes of a dead sheep dangling in a wet empty calf’s bladder by the frequent and judicious use of the icy cold water, would be like a couple of steel balls, of a pound apiece, inclosed in a firm purse of uncut Manchester velvet!” At least the man would smell better if nothing else and who knows…maybe all that tipping and music did the trick for a few desperate folk. For that price, I hope so!
The rest of the story is even more bizarre…of course…Dr Graham was bankrupted by his bed. He went back to Scotland where he (as Vic Gatrell writes) “…turned religious fanatic and manic advocate of mud baths, seeking longevity by starving himself for a fortnight while wearing around his naked body a suit of earthen turfs.” Needless to say, the Doctor of Love spent time in an asylum before he died. Perhaps he ran out of volunteers who’d submit to mild electric shocks while bathing and decided to be his own guinea pig? Did the Doctor of Love ever know love? I hope so.
If Dr Graham interest you Lydia Syson has written a book on the man called Doctor of Love! If you read her comment she answers some of my questions mentioned above! I hadn’t mentioned it before because I haven’t read it yet, but I definately want to read more!