Edgar Allan Poe – Lionizing
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“The first action of my life was the taking hold of my nose with both hands. My mother saw this and called me a genius. My father wept for joy, and bought me a treatise on Nosology…”
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“Lionizing” is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe. It was first published as “Lion-izing. A Tale” in May 1835 by The Columbian Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine.
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Edgar Allan Poe
“—————— all people went
Upon their ten toes in wild wonderment.”
–Bishop Hall’s Satires.
I am — that is to say, I was, a great man. But I am neither the author of Junius, nor the man in the mask — for my name is Thomas Smith, and I was born somewhere in the city of Fum-Fudge. The first action of my life was the taking hold of my nose with both hands. My mother saw this and called me a genius. My father wept for joy, and bought me a treatise on Nosology. Before I was breached I had not only mastered the treatise, but had collected into a common-place book all that is said on the subject, by Pliny, Aristotle, Alexander Ross, Minutius Felix, Hermanus Pictorius, Del Rio, Villarêt, Bartholinus, and Sir Thomas Browne.
I now began to feel my way in the science, and soon came to understand, that, provided a man had a nose sufficiently big, he might, by merely following it, arrive at a Lionship. But my attention was not confined to theories alone. Every morning I took a dram or two, and gave my proboscis a couple of pulls. When I came of age my father sent for me to his study.
‘My son’ — said he — ‘what is the chief end of your existence?’
‘Father’ — I said — ‘it is the study of Nosology.’
‘And what, Thomas’ — he continued — ‘is Nosology?’
‘Sir’ — I replied — ‘it is the Science of Noses.’
‘And can you tell me’ — he asked — ‘what is the meaning of a nose?’
‘A nose, my father’ — said I — ‘has been variously defined, by about a thousand different authors. It is now noon, or thereabouts. We shall therefore have time enough to get through with them all by midnight. To commence: — The nose, according to Bartholinus, is that protuberance, that bump, that excrescence, that ———’
‘That will do, Thomas’ — said my father. ‘I am positively thunderstruck at the extent of your information — I am, upon my soul. Come here! (and he took me by the arm.) Your education may be considered as finished, and it is high time you should scuffle for yourself — so — so — so (here he kicked me down stairs and out of the door,) so get out of my house, and God bless you!’
As I felt within me the divine afflatus, I considered this accident rather fortunate than otherwise, and determined to follow my nose. So I gave it a pull or two, and wrote a pamphlet on Nosology. All Fum-Fudge was in an uproar.
‘Wonderful genius!’ — said the Quarterly.
‘Superb physiologist!’ — said the New Monthly.
‘Fine writer!’ — said the Edinburgh.
‘Great man!’ — said Blackwood.
‘Who can he be?’ — said Mrs. Bas-Bleu.
‘What can he be?’ — said big Miss Bas-Bleu.
‘Where can he be?’ — said little Miss Bas-Bleu.
But I paid them no manner of attention, and walked into the shop of an artist.
The Duchess of Bless-my-soul was sitting for her portrait. The Marchioness of So-and-so was holding the Duchess’s poodle. The Earl of This-and-that was flirting with her salts, and His Royal Highness of Touch-me-not was standing behind her chair. I merely walked towards the artist, and held up my proboscis.
‘O beautiful!’ — sighed the Duchess of Bless-my-soul.
‘O pretty!’ — lisped the Marchioness of So-and-so.
‘Horrible!’ — groaned the Earl of This-and-that.
‘Abominable!’ — growled his Highness of Touch-me-not.
‘What will you take for it?’ — said the artist.
‘A thousand pounds’ — said I, sitting down.
‘A thousand pounds?’ — he inquired, turning the nose to the light.
‘Precisely’ — said I.
‘Beautiful!’ — said he, looking at the nose.
‘A thousand pounds’ — said I, twisting it to one side.
‘Admirable!’ — said he.
‘A thousand pounds’ — said I.
‘You shall have them’ — said he — ‘what a piece of Virtû!’ So he paid me the money, and made a sketch of my nose. I took rooms in Jermyn street, sent his Majesty the ninety-ninth edition of the Nosology with a portrait of the author, and his Royal Highness of Touch-me-not invited me to dinner.
We were all Lions and Recherchés.
There was a Grand Turk from Stamboul. He said that the angels were horses, cocks, and bulls — that somebody in the sixth heaven had seventy thousand heads and seventy thousand tongues — and that the earth was held up by a sky-blue cow with four hundred horns.
There was Sir Positive Paradox. He said that all fools were philosophers, and all philosophers were fools.
There was a writer on Ethics. He talked of Fire, Unity, and Atoms — Bi-part, and Pre-existent soul — Affinity and Discord — Primitive Intelligence and Homoomeria.
There was Theologos Theology. He talked of Eusebius and Arianus — Heresy and the Council of Nice — Consubstantialism, Homousios, and Homouioisios.
There was Fricassée from the Rocher de Cancale. He mentioned Latour, Markbrunnen and Mareschino — Muriton of red tongue, and Cauliflowers with Velouté sauce — veal à la St. Menehoult, Marinade à la St. Florentin, and orange jellies en mosaiques.
There was Signor Tintontintino from Florence. He spoke of Cimabue, Arpino, Carpaccio, and Argostino — the gloom of Caravaggio — the amenity of Albano — the golden glories of Titian — the frows of Rubens, and the waggeries of Jan Steen.
There was the great Geologist Feltzpar. He talked of Hornblende Mica-slate, Quartz, Schist, Schorl, and Pudding-stone.
There was the President of the Fum-Fudge University. He said that the moon was called Bendis in Thrace, Bubastis in Egypt, Dian in Rome, and Artemis in Greece.
There was Delphinus Polyglot. He told us what had become of the eighty-three lost tragedies of Æschylus — of the fifty-four orations of Isæus — of the three hundred and ninety-one speeches of Lysias — of the hundred and eighty treatises of Theophrastus — of the eighth book of the Conic Sections of Apollonius — of Pindar’s Hymns and Dithyrambics, and the five and forty Tragedies of Homer Junior.
There was a modern Platonist. He quoted Porphyry, Iamblichus, Plotinus, Proclus, Hierocles, Mamimus Tyrius, and Syrianus.
There was a human-perfectibility man. He quoted Turgot, Price, Priestley, Condorcet, De Staël, and the “Ambitious Student in rather ill health.”
There was myself. I talked of Pictorius, Del Rio, Alexander Ross, Minutius Felix, Bartholinus, Sir Thos. Browne, and the Science of Noses.
‘Marvellous clever man!’ — said his Highness.
‘Superb!’ — said the guests: and the next morning her Grace of Bless-my-soul paid me a visit.
‘Will you go to Almacks, pretty creature?’ she said.
‘Certainly’ — said I. ‘Nose and all?’ — she asked.
‘Positively’ — I replied.
‘Here then is a card’ — she said — ‘shall I say you will be there?’
‘Dear Duchess! with all my heart.’
‘Pshaw! no — but with all your nose?’
‘Every bit of it, my life,’ — said I. So I gave it a pull or two, and found myself at Almacks. The rooms were crowded to suffocation.
‘He is coming!’ — said somebody on the stair case.
‘He is coming!’ — said somebody farther up.
‘He is coming!’ — said somebody farther still.
‘He is come’ — said the Duchess — ‘he is come, the little love!’ And she caught me by both hands, and looked me in the nose.
‘Ah joli!’ — said Mademoiselle Pas Seul.
‘Dios guarda!’ — said Don Stiletto.
‘Diavolo!’ — said Count Capricornuto.’
‘Tousand Teufel!’ — said Baron Bludenuff.
‘Tweedle-dee —— tweedle-dee —— tweedle-dum!’ said the orchestra.
‘Ah joli! — Dios guarda! — Diavolo! — and Tousand Teufel!’ repeated Mademoiselle Pas Seul, Don Stiletto, Count Capricornuto, and Baron Bludenuff. It was too bad — it was not to be borne. I grew angry.
‘Sir!’ — said I to the Baron — ‘you are a baboon.’
‘Sir!’ — replied he, after a pause, ——— ‘Donner and Blitzen!’
This was sufficient. The next morning I shot off his nose at six o’clock, and then called upon my friends.
‘Bête!’ — said the first.
‘Fool!’ — said the second.
‘Ninny!’ — said the third.
‘Dolt!’ — said the fourth.
‘Noodle!’ — said the fifth.
‘Ass!’ — said the sixth.
‘Be off!’ — said the seventh.
At all this I felt mortified, and called upon my father.
‘Father’ — I said — ‘what is the chief end of my existence!’
‘My son’ — he replied — ‘it is still the study of Nosology. But in hitting the Baron’s nose you have overshot your mark. You have a fine nose it is true, but then Bludenuff has none. You are d——d, and he has become the Lion of the day. In Fum-Fudge great is a Lion with a proboscis, but greater by far is a Lion with no proboscis at all.’