Beds: With Many Noteworthy Instances of Lying On, Under and About Them

by Reginald Reynolds

Rating: ★★★★

The imaginary ending to the (entirely hallucinated by myself) trilogy of Reynoldsian serendipetition that is Bogs, Beards and Beds. I have already hungrily consumed (one might say wolfed down) the first two volumes on these most secondary of second-literary topics, and so this collection of edifying rambling makes for an appropriate resting-place for my stringing-together of dead Quakers' works into fantastical serials.

What to say? I am avowedly a fanatic for Reynolds' output, which by some alchemy of style fuses irrelevance with irreverence while still taunting you sometimes with a glimmer of a point. His information density and variety is delightful, switching on the same page from personal recollections to citations from medieval manuscripts, from cuttings of Newsweek to determined critical anthropology to Groucho Marx. There is, it must be admitted, surprisingly little about beds themselves in this volume, but you will learn much more than you expected about a host of topics: men taking to their beds after the labour of childbirth, the giant Og, bedbugs, bedaboos, bundling and bedpans.

The best test is simply quotation. Selection would be too much effort, so my method is simply to open the book at random and quote the first lines I find that do not require much context. From page 94:

Cubicular teratology, an expression first used by Reynolds,² has been defined as the science, philosophy, study, hobby or pursuit of large, monstrous, horrible or sinister beds.³ Though scientific study of this subject is still in its infancy, it is hoped that a bed will soon be endowed at one of the older universities to further what may prove to be a very fruitful line of research. ² Beds (London, 1952) ³ op. cit., p. 94.

From page 162:

Sleep, says the author [of The Gull's Hornbook], till you hear your belly grumble. Never rise till you hear it ring noon at least. This custom he found venerable and princely, though the physicians damned it lest it brought too much health to mankind and an end to the trade of medicine.

From page 63:

I can even feel sympathy with that Spanish physician---said to have lived in Galicia during the latter half of the nineteenth century---who became so weary of visiting the bed-sides of his patients that (out of envy or malice) he retired between the sheets himself and there remained. In 1891 El Imparcial reported that he had kept snug for sixteen years and that his patients, no longer able to summon him to their beds, had perforce to reverse the normal procedure. His practice and his reputation had, in fact, profited equally from his behaviour, which conserved his energy and absolved him from any necessity of affecting a bed-side manner by placing the onus on the other party.