Everything you need to know about crapping at the opera before 1830

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In case you were wondering how people evacuated their bowels at the London theater in the 19th century, Dr. Michael Burden of the University of Oxford has you covered with his new paper, "Pots, privies and WCs; crapping at the opera in London before 1830." In this edifying study of sanitation in a more fragrant era, Burden lays out all the details you'll require should you someday need to relieve yourself at the opera during the Industrial Revolution:

This article sets out to document as far as possible the developments in plumbing in the London theatres, moving from the chamber pot to the privy to the installation of the first water-closets, addressing questions of the audience's general behaviour, the beginnings in London of a ‘listening' audience, and the performance of music between the acts. It concludes that the bills were performed without intervals, and that in an evening that frequently ran to four hours in length, audience members moved around the auditorium, and came and went much as they pleased (to the pot, privy or WC), demonstrating that singers would have had to contend throughout their performances with a large quantity of low-level noise.

The passages on the proper historical juxtaposition of chamber pots within the theater is enough to make your nose fall off à la a gecko's tail:

Apart from the (in today's terms) cramped conditions, once the pots had been used, their contents would have made the auditoria stink. The theatres already smelled: at a performance of Rossini's Otello at the Opera House, it was noted that ‘not withstanding the liberal use of perfume by the ladies … the house retained some of the disagreeable odour left by the filthy mob that filled it on the previous night'. The auditoria were also considered health hazards; Thomas Arne, in advertising his performance at the Haymarket on 12 March 1770, announced as an audience draw card that the theatre had been ‘thoroughly aired a week before the performance [...]


Via Improbable Research. Top image: ‘The Pit Door, La Porte du Parterre' (with vomiting figure). Carington Bowles, after Robert Dighton the Elder, 1784.