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Gymnosophy-2001

Gymnosophy

In England the first signs of organised nudists did not appear until the 1920's.
The Reverend Francis Kilvert had written of his naked bathing at Seaton in Devon during 1873, and there was a good deal of single-sex nude bathing to be found. On the island of Guernsey in the 1880's, Victor Hugo and his mistress, juliette Drouet, discovered that the English were in the habit of mixed naked bathing.
Victor Hugo joined in. "'English customs are opposed to bathers wearing drawers": wrote Mademoiselle Drouet. "Frenchmen having persisted in wearing this brief costume were jeered and almost stoned by men and women": It is peop1e like these early English holidaymakers in Guernsey who have become the bane of the nudist creed: they enjoy nudity without joining a nudist club. Nowadays there are millions who enjoy swimming naked but don't regard themselves as nudists.
Fortunately for the nudist movement there have always been more serious-minded people. In 1891, the Fellowship ofthe Naked Trust was formed in British India, almost certainly triggered by Heinrich Pudor's book, The Cult ofthe Nude, which had just been published in Germany.
The members were very few, all male, and the Fellowship was short-lived. In England the first signs of organised nudists did not appear until the 1920's. The Reverend Francis Kilvert had written of his naked bathing at Seaton in Devon during 1873, and there was a good deal of single-sex nude bathing to be found.
On the island of Guernsey in the 1880's, Victor Hugo and his mistress, juliette Drouet, discovered that the English were in the habit of mixed naked bathing. Victor Hugo joined in. "'English customs are opposed to bathers wearing drawers": wrote Mademoiselle Drouet. "Frenchmen having persisted in wearing this brief costume were jeered and almost stoned by men and women": It is peop1e like these early English holidaymakers in Guernsey who have become the bane of the nudist creed: they enjoy nudity without joining a nudist club.
Nowadays there are millions who enjoy swimming naked but don't regard themselves as nudists. Fortunately for the nudist movement there have always been more serious-minded people. In 1891, the Fellowship ofthe Naked Trust was formed in British India, almost certainly triggered by Heinrich Pudor's book, The Cult ofthe Nude, which had just been published in Germany. The members were very few, all male, and the Fellowship was short-lived. It was not until the long hot summer of 1921 that the philosophers of English nudity really started to be heard.
On September 24, the New Statesman began running a series of artic1es written under the pseudonym 'Lens: promoting the value of exposing the whole body to sun and air. Harold Booth followed up the articles by 'Lens' with one describing his own experiences. He had been inspired to visit Germany after the Great War by Marguerite le Fur's 1912 account of the Freya Bund. On his trip he discovered Freilichtpark. The letters he received in response to his artic1e put him in contact with a score of would-be nudists.
In October of the same year, Health & Efficiency, a magazine at that time devoted to physical culture, printed a 1etter demanding more facilities for men to bathe naked in public swimming baths. The letter was signed with the pseudonym "Purity not Prudery": I t aroused a good deal of interest and the following June, Health & Efficiency ran an editorial calling on all those interested in nude culture to get in touch. In July Mr. H. D. Byngham wrote a letter to the magazine under the heading, "Nude Life Culture": He had already been in touch with Harold Booth through the New Statesman correspondence and he asked other people interested in forming a group to contact him.
He signed his letter with the pen-name 'Elan VitaI: (Outlandish pseudonyms are a hallmark of the early nudists, seeming to over-compensate for the needs of anonymity. As recently as 1950 Rex Wellbye wrote a brief history of the movement under the name 'Ancton Tuqvor' and, as early as 1729, a pamphlet was published called 'Nakedness Consider'd... or reasons for not wearing clothes' whose author signed himself "A Gentleman of Great Parts":.) "Elan Vital": H. D. Byngham, decided that the response was encouraging enough to form the English Gymnosophist Society. Harold Booth was one of the ftrst to join and, in August 1923, announced the existence of the Society in Health & Efficiency.
To begin with the English Gymnosophist Society was only a tinygroup, includingno morethan three or four women members. One o fthem was tenant of a house at Wickford in Essex and she made the garden available for naked air bathing to members of the Society. During the winter months, the English Gymnosophist Society held social gatherings in London.
To one of these Booth invited a Captain H. C. Vincent BA, B.Sc, who wasa forceful protagonistforthe movement. His talk to theSociety did not go down too well: The generaI impression created among the members was not favourable, and there was something like a feeling of 'Save us from our friends' for, as soon became publicly apparent, Capto Vincent was a believer in militancy. His repeated statement in the course of his talk, that ali those in authority who opposed nudism would, if they had their deserts, be 'lined up against a wali and shot' did not evoke much support, while his view that by shock tactics nudists could repeat the successes ofthe sufragettes and break down public resistance seemed to most more likely, if tried out, to lead to drastic suppression of the movement beyond the chance of recovery.
The dramatic suggestion of a nude march through Hyde Park did not find much favourwith the E.G.S. whose members had no hankerings after martyrdom Four years later Captain Vincent was arrested in H yde Park for sunbathing in shorts. How much more lasting his martyrdom would have been had he gone the whole hog. Perhaps he would not have been so conspicuous. At that time hundreds of boys used to swim naked in the Serpentine on hot summer days. Before the end of 1925, the English Gymnosophist Society had to give up the use of its grounds at Wickford.
Whilst looking for a new site, it was re-named the New Gymnosophy Society and it devoted itself to propaganda: Gymnosophy stands for simplicity, temperance and continence in every phase of life. It is useful in the rearing of the young, in the relations between the sexes, and in promoting a democratic and humane organisation of society. Consequently, the implications of gymnosophy extend far beyond the practice of nudity alone, for it connotes a thorough-going change in the outlook upon and mode of life...... next to number 11.

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