I’ve spent the last three years writing about the origins of bodybuilding as a middle-class pursuit. The project has been a pleasure: I’ve been able to splosh about in seas of Victorian ephemera, most of which did not turn out to be immediately germane, but which were still well worth the wade. As we head into what I consider the cruelest month (really, Eliot, winter may have kept us warm, but the fight to stick to new year’s resolutions is fraught with more potential for heartache than wet feet are in April), here’s some advice from the comic song Oh, Mr. Sandow! (Father’s Been Sandowing in his Gown). Lampooning the famous strongman Eugen Sandow, the song warns about the perils of too much exercise:
At last [Father] left off practicing
But that was worst of all,
For quickly though his muscles rose
More quickly did they fall!
And ere a day or two elapsed
The change in dad [sic] was dire,
For all his muscles had collapsed
Just like a punctured tyre!
Oh, Mr. Sandow, you’ve a lot to answer for!
Now none of father’s clothes will fit.
They all want “taking in” a bit!
We all thought father’s cranium
Would soon be turned, so mother burned
His model gymnasium.
Do be careful, and happy new year!