Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2024
Bundling In the 16th and 17th Century there was a, what now seems a strange, custom of unmarried people sleeping the night together while fully clothed. The practice, called bundling, was said to have originated in rural parts of Wales or Scotland although it was most widespread in early America The few modern sources that that mention bundling describe it as a courtship ritual; lovers spent the night together in order to get to know each other. This, it is claimed was to ensure that they got on with each other because at the time divorce was not permitted and so a broken marriage had to be avoided. However, The idea that one night alone fully clothed on a bed was enough to ensure a stable marriage seems fanciful and indeed an early reference to bundling gives a different explanation. Grose in his Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue 1785 gives the following definition Bundling. "A man and a woman lying on the same bed with their clothes on; an expedient practiced in America on a scarcity of beds, where, on such occasions, husbands and parents frequently permitted travelers to bundle with their wives and daughters” (he also notes that “This custom is now abolished”) While it is true that much later Webster in 1864 states that ‘bundle’ is " To sleep on the same bed without undressing; applied to the custom of a man and woman, especially lovers, thus sleeping", it can be seen that bundling was practised in two forms first, between strangers, as a simple domestic make-shift arrangement, often arising from the necessities of rural life and, secondly, as Stiles in 1871 puts it “between lovers, who shared the same couch, with the mutual understanding that innocent endearments should not be exceeded”. Essentially in past times it was, for many reasons, dangerous to travel after dark and so strangers, or visiting lovers, were permitted to share a bed, in a totally non-sexual manner, (one account describes the scandalous behaviour of a young women who removed her outer garments before bundling). Thus it was simple expedience for a young man who had ‘called’ on his girlfriend to sleep in the family house rather than making the, perhaps, long journey home in the dark. It is a shame that modern writers have missed this more innocent form of the custom. For more see this book - Bundling : its origin, progress, and decline in America by Henry Reed Stiles 1871 https://ia801409.us.archive.org/6/items/bundlingitsorigi00stil/bundlingitsorigi00stil.pdf