Tuesday, November 19, 2013


A Shock to the Nerves

Tobias Smollett (1721-1771), The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (Matthew Bramble to Dr. Lewis; Bath, May 8):
I know not how other people's nerves are constructed; but one would imagine they must be made of very coarse materials to stand the shock of such a horrid assault. It was, indeed, a compound of villanous smells, in which the most violent stinks, and the most powerful perfumes, contended for the mastery. Imagine to yourself a high exalted essence of mingled odours, arising from putrid gums, imposthumated lungs, sour flatulencies, rank arm-pits, sweating feet, running sores and issues; plasters, ointments, and embrocations, hungary-water, spirit of lavender, assa foetida drops, musk, hartshorn, and sal volatile; besides a thousand frowzy steams, which I could not analyse. Such, O Dick! is the fragrant aether we breathe in the polite assemblies of Bath—Such is the atmosphere I have exchanged for the pure, elastic, animating air of the Welsh mountains—O Rus, quando te aspiciam!—I wonder what the devil possessed me—

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