Category Archives: flatulence

Diagnosed with flatulent portentousness

Flatulent, and humour's worst enemy

Black swan: he suffered from (occasional, but not the less embarrassing for all that) flatulence, and was humour’s worst enemy

Unfortunately Charles Morgan succumbs to this unpleasing condition more than occasionally, according to his critics, from whom Dalrymple says he cannot

entirely demur.

Here is a representative Morgan passage (from ‘La Douceur de Vivre’ in the 1944 essay collection Reflections in a Mirror):

In the imprisonment of routine, in the midst of great labours, in spite of the temporary inconvenience of revolutions, men have always known how to let the instant rest like a petal on the stream of their lives; they have loved and painted and written verses and taken a hand at piquet; and at café tables or beside a river they have meditated on these things.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 07.29.03Such moments of reflective ease,

while the petal floats by, are not for Rembrandt or Milton or the giants, assuredly not for Hugo; for what is in question is la douceur de vivre, and that is by no means the private property of Titans; it is in Tissot and in Fragonard, in the small lanes of history as well as on the great carriage routes; it is a flower as humble as the willow-herb which is springing up from nowhere in all the bomb craters of London, and has never been reserved to the good and great.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 22.26.07Dalrymple points to another Morgan passage that he describes as Maugham minus

the irony or easy elegance.

It is the opening to Morgan’s 1941 novel The Empty Room:

On the last Saturday in November, the third month of the war, Richard Cannock performed, on a woman’s eye, a bold and subtle operation that gave him the satisfaction a writer may have in a flawless paragraph.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 22.37.03Morgan is, writes Dalrymple,

that rara avis, a writer who not only had no sense of humour, but was opposed to humour.

All the same, Dalrymple notes a pleasantly civilised scene in The Empty Room in which the surgeon character lunches at the Garrick, where

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 07.36.45the wine steward brought his pint of claret.

This bird, it seems, was more wine and partridge than cakes and ale.

Rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cycno

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 23.12.03

Ses femmes

 

The scourge of nocturnal anorexia

Dalrymple discusses the cure

Dalrymple on the perils of night-starvation. Among the ‘other automatic actions’ referred to are, of course, the wretched David’s uncontrollable stomach-rumbling, gurgling and loud farting. The nocturnal borborygms and flatulence are very often unconscious, of course, though they are no less potentially embarrassing for all that. No wonder David wakes thoroughly fagged out

Of clysters and leeches

Dalrymple quotes, more or less at random, from Select Observations on English Bodies, or Cures Both Empericall and Historicall Performed upon Very Eminent Persons in Desperate Diseases by Shakespeare‘s son-in-law John Hall (from 5:40 in the video below, of a 2005 talk):

Mr Kempson, aged 60, oppressed with melancholy and a fever with extraordinary heat, very sleepy, so that he had no sense of his sickness, was cured as followeth. Leaves and mallows, beets, violets, mercury, hops, borage, epithymum, pennyroyal, wormroot, camomile, seeds of anis, caraway, cumin, fennel, nettles, bayberries, polypod, senna, bark of black hellebore. Boil them all in whey until half be wasted. Of this strain take an ounce. Confect, salt and mix them, and make a clyster.

This brought away two stools of a great deal of wind. It was given in the morning, and again at night. And after these were applied to the soles of his feet, radishes sliced, besprinkled with vinegar and salt, renewed every third hour. This hindered the recourse of vapours and drew them back, and so he slept far more quietly without starting and fear.

The following was prepared for his ordinary drink. Spring water, syrup of lemons, julep of roses, burnt and powdered finely, spirit of vitriol. After, the leeches being applied to the anus, there was drawn eight ounces of blood, after which was exhibited this: lapis bezoar, tincture of coral, mixed, given in drink. After this, the urine was very frothy, with a great sediment, and he was much better.

The clyster, drink and powder were repeated, with desired event. To remove sleepiness, he used to sneeze only with tobacco, and then he was given the restorative, and that was used.

But yet his stomach being very ill, I gave him this: emetic infusion, violets, oxymel of squirrels. This gave four vomits and nine stools, after which he was well for five days, and then relapsing into a shaking ague, a clyster being injected, he became well, bidding farewell to physick, and so was cured beyond all expectation and lived many years.