A Tolerable Stench Only You Can Love

As mentioned in the lecture notes that bathing was a very rare occurrence until viewed as an increase to good health and quality of life in this Georgian Era.

J. Melford’s letter to Phillips, states, “He observed, that the exhalations arising from such a nuisance, could not be prejudicial to the weak lungs of many consumptive patients, who came to drink the water. The Doctor overhearing this remark, made up to him, and assured him he was mistaken. He said, people in general were so misled by vulgar prejudices, that philosophy was hardly sufficient to undeceive them. Then humming thrice, he assumed a most ridiculous solemnity of aspect, and entered into a learned investigation of the nature of stink. He observed, that stink, or stench, meant no more than a strong impression on the olfactory nerves; and might be applied to substances of the most agreeable perfume, as well as the most fetid odour, as appears in Van Vloudel’s translation of Horace…..in their opinions of smells, which, indeed, was altogether as arbitrary as the opinion of beauty; that the French were pleased with the putried effluvia of animal food; and so were the Hottentots in Africa, and the Savages in Greenland; and that the Negroes on the coast of Senegal would not touch fish till it was rotten; strong presumptions in flavour of what is generally called stink, as those nations are in a state of nature, undebauched by luxury, unseduced by whim and caprice: that he had reason to believe that (dung and feces) flavor, condemned by prejudice as a stink, was, in fact, most agreeable to the organs of smelling; for every person who pretended to nauseate the smell of another’s excretions, snuffed up his own with particular complacency…..found particular satisfaction in breathing their own atmosphere…”
Humphry Clinker, Tobias Smollett P.16

Here we discover that this doctor is speaking on the philosophy of mental sensibility when it comes to health and smells of the century. There is a kinship of scent and smells more than welcome and embraced. Relating this to the discussion on “fecal matter” the body as a whole has a fondness that has been created with the movement of being a vital substance of life as mentioned in lecture.

The connection of consumerism is taking in as much as humanly possible, having a certain level or greed gave wind of your riches. Fat and plump as you might be gave the idea of your status. Kings and Queens alike. The distain we would have currently for someone who smells of their own fecal matter is strong, hard to preserve the scatology views. To smell of excretion is to suggest you are homeless and no barings of yourself.

The body functions as a commodity. Every person eats to stay alive and must excrete waste from the consumption to stay alive as well. Universally this is a common humanistic trait of life that surpasses all distinctions of status, class, genders and age. This humanly function to digest nutrients and release its waste only makes you healthy and human.


One thought on “A Tolerable Stench Only You Can Love

  1. You mention that the body functions as a commodity and then link this to eating. I see your point with regard to how the body functions to consume (eating/excreting), but might you expand a bit more on how it is a commodity?
    Also, this quotation you mention seems very pertinent to our semester. What do you make of Melford’s emphasis on the particularity of pleasantness and stink when reflecting on cultures? Great post!

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