Slawkenbergius’s Tale

It was one cool refreshing evening, at the close of a very sultry day, in the latter end of the month of August, when a stranger, mounted upon a dark mule, with a small cloak-bag behind him, containing a few shirts, a pair of shoes, and a crimson-sattin pair of breeches, entered the town of Strasburg.

He told the sentinel, who questioned him as he entered the gates, that he had been at the Promontory of Noses⁠—was going on to Frankfort⁠⸺⁠and should be back again at Strasburg that day month, in his way to the borders of Crim Tartary.

The sentinel looked up into the stranger’s face⁠⸺⁠he never saw such a Nose in his life!

—I have made a very good venture of it, quoth the stranger⁠—so slipping his wrist out of the loop of a black ribbon, to which a short scymetar was hung, he put his hand into his pocket, and with great courtesy touching the fore part of his cap with his left hand, as he extended his right⁠⸺⁠he put a florin into the sentinel’s hand, and passed on.

It grieves me, said the sentinel, speaking to a little dwarfish bandy-legg’d drummer, that so courteous a soul should have lost his scabbard⁠⸻he cannot travel without one to his scymetar, and will not be able to get a scabbard to fit it in all Strasburg.⁠⸺⁠I never had one, replied the stranger, looking back to the sentinel, and putting his hand up to his cap as he spoke⁠⸺⁠I carry it, continued he, thus⁠⸺⁠holding up his naked scymetar, his mule moving on slowly all the time⁠—on purpose to defend my nose.

It is well worth it, gentle stranger, replied the sentinel.

⸺’Tis not worth a single stiver, said the bandy-legg’d drummer⁠⸺’tis a nose of parchment.

As I am a true catholic⁠—except that it is six times as big⁠—’tis a nose, said the sentinel, like my own.

—I heard it crackle, said the drummer.

By dunder, said the sentinel, I saw it bleed.

What a pity, cried the bandy-legg’d drummer, we did not both touch it!

At the very time that this dispute was maintaining by the sentinel and the drummer⁠—was the same point debating betwixt a trumpeter and a trumpeter’s wife, who were just then coming up, and had stopped to see the stranger pass by.

Benedicity!⁠⸻What a nose! ’tis as long, said the trumpeter’s wife, as a trumpet.

And of the same metal, said the trumpeter, as you hear by its sneezing.

’Tis as soft as a flute, said she.

—’Tis brass, said the trumpeter.

—’Tis a pudding’s end, said his wife.

I tell thee again, said the trumpeter, ’tis a brazen nose.

I’ll know the bottom of it, said the trumpeter’s wife, for I will touch it with my finger before I sleep.

The stranger’s mule moved on at so slow a rate, that he heard every word of the dispute, not only betwixt the sentinel and the drummer, but betwixt the trumpeter and trumpeter’s wife.

No! said he, dropping his reins upon his mule’s neck, and laying both his hands upon his breast, the one over the other, in a saintlike position (his mule going on easily all the time) No! said he, looking up⁠—I am not such a debtor to the world⁠⸺⁠slandered and disappointed as I have been⁠—as to give it that conviction⁠⸺⁠no! said he, my nose shall never be touched whilst Heaven gives me strength⁠⸺⁠To do what? said a burgomaster’s wife.

The stranger took no notice of the burgomaster’s wife⁠⸻he was making a vow to Saint Nicolas; which done, having uncrossed his arms with the same solemnity with which he crossed them, he took up the reins of his bridle with his left hand, and putting his right hand into his bosom, with his scymetar hanging loosely to the wrist of it, he rode on, as slowly as one foot of the mule could follow another, thro’ the principal streets of Strasburg, till chance brought him to the great inn in the marketplace over against the church.

The moment the stranger alighted, he ordered his mule to be led into the stable, and his cloak-bag to be brought in; then opening, and taking out of it his crimson-sattin breeches, with a silver-fringed⁠—(appendage to them, which I dare not translate)⁠—he put his breeches, with his fringed codpiece on, and forthwith, with his short scymetar in his hand, walked out on to the grand parade.

The stranger had just taken three turns upon the parade, when he perceived the trumpeter’s wife at the opposite side of it⁠—so turning short, in pain lest his nose should be attempted, he instantly went back to his inn⁠—undressed himself, packed up his crimson-sattin breeches, etc., in his cloak-bag, and called for his mule.

I am going forwards, said the stranger, for Frankfort⁠⸺⁠and shall be back at Strasburg this day month.

I hope, continued the stranger, stroking down the face of his mule with his left hand as he was going to mount it, that you have been kind to this faithful slave of mine⁠—it has carried me and my cloak-bag, continued he, tapping the mule’s back, above six hundred leagues.

⸺’Tis a long journey, Sir, replied the master of the inn⁠⸺⁠unless a man has great business.⁠⸺⁠Tut! tut! said the stranger, I have been at the Promontory of Noses; and have got me one of the goodliest, thank Heaven, that ever fell to a single man’s lot.

Whilst the stranger was giving this odd account of himself, the master of the inn and his wife kept both their eyes fixed full upon the stranger’s nose⁠⸺⁠By saint Radagunda, said the innkeeper’s wife to herself, there is more of it than in any dozen of the largest noses put together in all Strasburg! is it not, said she, whispering her husband in his ear, is it not a noble nose?

’Tis an imposture, my dear, said the master of the inn⁠⸺’tis a false nose.

’Tis a true nose, said his wife.

’Tis made of fir-tree, said he, I smell the turpentine.⁠⸻

There’s a pimple on it, said she.

’Tis a dead nose, replied the innkeeper.

’Tis a live nose, and if I am alive myself, said the innkeeper’s wife, I will touch it.

I have made a vow to saint Nicolas this day, said the stranger, that my nose shall not be touched till⁠—Here the stranger, suspending his voice, looked up.⁠⸻Till when? said she hastily.

It never shall be touched, said he, clasping his hands and bringing them close to his breast, till that hour⁠—What hour? cried the innkeeper’s wife.⁠—Never!⁠—never! said the stranger, never till I am got⁠—For Heaven’s sake, into what place? said she⁠⸻The stranger rode away without saying a word.

The stranger had not got half a league on his way towards Frankfort before all the city of Strasburg was in an uproar about his nose. The Compline bells were just ringing to call the Strasburgers to their devotions, and shut up the duties of the day in prayer:⁠—no soul in all Strasburg heard ’em⁠—the city was like a swarm of bees⁠⸻men, women, and children (the Compline bells tinkling all the time) flying here and there⁠—in at one door, out at another⁠⸺⁠this way and that way⁠—long ways and cross ways⁠—up one street, down another street⁠⸺⁠in at this alley, out of that⁠⸻did you see it? did you see it? did you see it? O! did you see it?⁠⸻who saw it? who did see it? for mercy’s sake, who saw it?

Alack o’day! I was at vespers!⁠—I was washing, I was starching, I was scouring, I was quilting⁠⸺⁠God help me! I never saw it⁠⸺⁠I never touch’d it!⁠⸺⁠would I had been a sentinel, a bandy-legg’d drummer, a trumpeter, a trumpeter’s wife, was the general cry and lamentation in every street and corner of Strasburg.

Whilst all this confusion and disorder triumphed throughout the great city of Strasburg, was the courteous stranger going on as gently upon his mule in his way to Frankfort, as if he had no concern at all in the affair⁠⸻talking all the way he rode in broken sentences, sometimes to his mule⁠—sometimes to himself⁠—sometimes to his Julia.

O Julia, my lovely Julia!⁠—nay, I cannot stop to let thee bite that thistle⁠⸺⁠that ever the suspected tongue of a rival should have robbed me of enjoyment when I was upon the point of tasting it.⁠⸺⁠

⸺⁠Pugh!⁠—’tis nothing but a thistle⁠—never mind it⁠⸺⁠thou shalt have a better supper at night.

⸺⁠Banish’d from my country⁠⸺⁠my friends⁠⸺⁠from thee.⁠⸺⁠

Poor devil, thou’rt sadly tired with thy journey!⁠⸺⁠come⁠—get on a little faster⁠—there’s nothing in my cloak-bag but two shirts⁠⸺⁠a crimson-sattin pair of breeches, and a fringed⁠⸺⁠Dear Julia.

⸺⁠But why to Frankfort⁠—is it that there is a hand unfelt, which secretly is conducting me through these meanders and unsuspected tracts?

⸺⁠Stumbling! by saint Nicolas! every step⁠—why, at this rate we shall be all night in getting in⁠⸻

⸺⁠To happiness⁠⸺⁠or am I to be the sport of fortune and slander⁠—destined to be driven forth unconvicted⁠⸺⁠unheard⁠⸺⁠untouch’d⁠⸺⁠if so, why did I not stay at Strasburg, where justice⁠—but I had sworn! Come, thou shalt drink⁠—to St. Nicolas⁠—O Julia!⁠⸻What dost thou prick up thy ears at?⁠⸺’tis nothing but a man, etc.

The stranger rode on communing in this manner with his mule and Julia⁠—till he arrived at his inn, where, as soon as he arrived, he alighted⁠⸻saw his mule, as he had promised it, taken good care of⁠⸺⁠took off his cloak-bag, with his crimson-sattin breeches, etc., in it⁠—called for an omelet to his supper, went to his bed about twelve o’clock, and in five minutes fell fast asleep.

It was about the same hour when the tumult in Strasburg being abated for that night,⁠—the Strasburgers had all got quietly into their beds⁠—but not like the stranger, for the rest either of their minds or bodies; queen Mab, like an elf as she was, had taken the stranger’s nose, and without reduction of its bulk, had that night been at the pains of slitting and dividing it into as many noses of different cuts and fashions, as there were heads in Strasburg to hold them. The abbess of Quedlingberg, who with the four great dignitaries of her chapter, the prioress, the deaness, the sub-chantress, and senior canoness, had that week come to Strasburg to consult the university upon a case of conscience relating to their placket-holes⁠⸻was ill all the night.

The courteous stranger’s nose had got perched upon the top of the pineal gland of her brain, and made such rousing work in the fancies of the four great dignitaries of her chapter, they could not get a wink of sleep the whole night thro’ for it⁠⸺⁠there was no keeping a limb still amongst them⁠⸺⁠in short, they got up like so many ghosts.

The penitentiaries of the third order of saint Francis⁠⸺⁠the nuns of mount Calvary⁠⸺⁠the Præmonstratenses⁠⸺⁠the Clunienses10⁠⸺⁠the Carthusians, and all the severer orders of nuns who lay that night in blankets or haircloth, were still in a worse condition than the abbess of Quedlingberg⁠—by tumbling and tossing, and tossing and tumbling from one side of their beds to the other the whole night long⁠⸺⁠the several sisterhoods had scratch’d and maul’d themselves all to death⁠⸺⁠they got out of their beds almost flay’d alive⁠—everybody thought saint Antony had visited them for probation with his fire⁠⸺⁠they had never once, in short, shut their eyes the whole night long from vespers to matins.

The nuns of saint Ursula acted the wisest⁠—they never attempted to go to bed at all.

The dean of Strasburg, the prebendaries, the capitulars and domiciliars (capitularly assembled in the morning to consider the case of butter’d buns) all wished they had followed the nuns of saint Ursula’s example.⁠⸻

In the hurry and confusion everything had been in the night before, the bakers had all forgot to lay their leaven⁠—there were no butter’d buns to be had for breakfast in all Strasburg⁠—the whole close of the cathedral was in one eternal commotion⁠⸺⁠such a cause of restlessness and disquietude, and such a zealous inquiry into the cause of that restlessness, had never happened in Strasburg, since Martin Luther, with his doctrines, had turned the city upside down.

If the stranger’s nose took this liberty of thrusting himself thus into the dishes11 of religious orders, etc., what a carnival did his nose make of it, in those of the laity!⁠—’tis more than my pen, worn to the stump as it is, has power to describe; though I acknowledge, (cries Slawkenbergius, with more gaiety of thought than I could have expected from him) that there is many a good simile now subsisting in the world which might give my countrymen some idea of it; but at the close of such a folio as this, wrote for their sakes, and in which I have spent the greatest part of my life⁠⸺⁠though I own to them the simile is in being, yet would it not be unreasonable in them to expect I should have either time or inclination to search for it? Let it suffice to say, that the riot and disorder it occasioned in the Strasburgers’ fantasies was so general⁠—such an overpowering mastership had it got of all the faculties of the Strasburgers’ minds⁠—so many strange things, with equal confidence on all sides, and with equal eloquence in all places, were spoken and sworn to concerning it, that turned the whole stream of all discourse and wonder towards it⁠—every soul, good and bad⁠—rich and poor⁠—learned and unlearned⁠⸺⁠doctor and student⁠⸺⁠mistress and maid⁠⸺⁠gentle and simple⁠⸺⁠nun’s flesh and woman’s flesh, in Strasburg spent their time in hearing tidings about it⁠—every eye in Strasburg languished to see it⁠⸺⁠every finger⁠⸺⁠every thumb in Strasburg burned to touch it.

Now what might add, if anything may be thought necessary to add, to so vehement a desire⁠—was this, that the sentinel, the bandy-legg’d drummer, the trumpeter, the trumpeter’s wife, the burgomaster’s widow, the master of the inn, and the master of the inn’s wife, how widely soever they all differed every one from another in their testimonies and description of the stranger’s nose⁠—they all agreed together in two points⁠—namely, that he was gone to Frankfort, and would not return to Strasburg till that day month; and secondly, whether his nose was true or false, that the stranger himself was one of the most perfect paragons of beauty⁠—the finest-made man⁠—the most genteel!⁠—the most generous of his purse⁠—the most courteous in his carriage that had ever entered the gates of Strasburg⁠—that as he rode, with scymetar slung loosely to his wrist, thro’ the streets⁠—and walked with his crimson-sattin breeches across the parade⁠—’twas with so sweet an air of careless modesty, and so manly withal⁠⸺⁠as would have put the heart in jeopardy (had his nose not stood in his way) of every virgin who had cast her eyes upon him.

I call not upon that heart which is a stranger to the throbs and yearnings of curiosity, so excited, to justify the abbess of Quedlingberg, the prioress, the deaness, and sub-chantress, for sending at noonday for the trumpeter’s wife: she went through the streets of Strasburg with her husband’s trumpet in her hand,⁠⸺⁠the best apparatus the straitness of the time would allow her, for the illustration of her theory⁠—she stayed no longer than three days.

The sentinel and bandy-legg’d drummer!⁠⸺⁠nothing on this side of old Athens could equal them! they read their lectures under the city-gates to comers and goers, with all the pomp of a Chrysippus and a Crantor in their porticos.

The master of the inn, with his ostler on his left-hand, read his also in the same stile⁠—under the portico or gateway of his stable-yard⁠—his wife, hers more privately in a back room: all flocked to their lectures; not promiscuously⁠—but to this or that, as is ever the way, as faith and credulity marshal’d them⁠⸺⁠in a word, each Strasburger came crouding for intelligence⁠⸺⁠and every Strasburger had the intelligence he wanted.

’Tis worth remarking, for the benefit of all demonstrators in natural philosophy, etc., that as soon as the trumpeter’s wife had finished the abbess of Quedlingberg’s private lecture, and had begun to read in public, which she did upon a stool in the middle of the great parade,⁠⸺⁠she incommoded the other demonstrators mainly, by gaining incontinently the most fashionable part of the city of Strasburg for her auditory⁠⸺⁠But when a demonstrator in philosophy (cries Slawkenbergius) has a trumpet for an apparatus, pray what rival in science can pretend to be heard besides him?

Whilst the unlearned, thro’ these conduits of intelligence, were all busied in getting down to the bottom of the well, where Truth keeps her little court⁠⸻were the learned in their way as busy in pumping her up thro’ the conduits of dialect induction⁠⸺⁠they concerned themselves not with facts⁠⸻they reasoned⁠⸻

Not one profession had thrown more light upon this subject than the Faculty⁠—had not all their disputes about it run into the affair of Wens and œdematous swellings, they could not keep clear of them for their bloods and souls⁠⸻the stranger’s nose had nothing to do either with wens or œdematous swellings.

It was demonstrated however very satisfactorily, that such a ponderous mass of heterogeneous matter could not be congested and conglomerated to the nose, whilst the infant was in Utero, without destroying the statical balance of the fœtus, and throwing it plump upon its head nine months before the time.⁠⸻

⸺⁠The opponents granted the theory⁠⸺⁠they denied the consequences.

And if a suitable provision of veins, arteries, etc., said they, was not laid in, for the due nourishment of such a nose, in the very first stamina and rudiments of its formation, before it came into the world (bating the case of Wens) it could not regularly grow and be sustained afterwards.

This was all answered by a dissertation upon nutriment, and the effect which nutriment had in extending the vessels, and in the increase and prolongation of the muscular parts of the greatest growth and expansion imaginable⁠—In the triumph of which theory, they went so far as to affirm, that there was no cause in nature, why a nose might not grow to the size of the man himself.

The respondents satisfied the world this event could never happen to them so long as a man had but one stomach and one pair of lungs⁠⸺⁠For the stomach, said they, being the only organ destined for the reception of food, and turning it into chyle⁠—and the lungs the only engine of sanguification⁠—it could possibly work off no more, than what the appetite brought it: or admitting the possibility of a man’s overloading his stomach, nature had set bounds however to his lungs⁠—the engine was of a determined size and strength, and could elaborate but a certain quantity in a given time⁠⸻that is, it could produce just as much blood as was sufficient for one single man, and no more; so that, if there was as much nose as man⁠⸺⁠they proved a mortification must necessarily ensue; and forasmuch as there could not be a support for both, that the nose must either fall off from the man, or the man inevitably fall off from his nose.

Nature accommodates herself to these emergencies, cried the opponents⁠—else what do you say to the case of a whole stomach⁠—a whole pair of lungs, and but half a man, when both his legs have been unfortunately shot off?

He dies of a plethora, said they⁠—or must spit blood, and in a fortnight or three weeks go off in a consumption.⁠⸻

⸺⁠It happens otherwise⁠—replied the opponents.⁠⸺⁠

It ought not, said they.

The more curious and intimate inquirers after nature and her doings, though they went hand in hand a good way together, yet they all divided about the nose at last, almost as much as the Faculty itself.

They amicably laid it down, that there was a just and geometrical arrangement and proportion of the several parts of the human frame to its several destinations, offices, and functions which could not be transgressed but within certain limits⁠—that nature, though she sported⁠⸺⁠she sported within a certain circle;⁠—and they could not agree about the diameter of it.

The logicians stuck much closer to the point before them than any of the classes of the literati;⁠⸻they began and ended with the word Nose; and had it not been for a petitio principii, which one of the ablest of them ran his head against in the beginning of the combat, the whole controversy had been settled at once.

A nose, argued the logician, cannot bleed without blood⁠—and not only blood⁠—but blood circulating in it to supply the phænomenon with a succession of drops⁠—(a stream being but a quicker succession of drops, that is included, said he).⁠⸺⁠Now death, continued the logician, being nothing but the stagnation of the blood⁠⸺⁠

I deny the definition⁠⸺⁠Death is the separation of the soul from the body, said his antagonist⁠⸺⁠Then we don’t agree about our weapons, said the logician⁠—Then there is an end of the dispute, replied the antagonist.

The civilians were still more concise: what they offered being more in the nature of a decree⁠⸺⁠than a dispute.

Such a monstrous nose, said they, had it been a true nose, could not possibly have been suffered in civil society⁠⸺⁠and if false⁠—to impose upon society with such false signs and tokens, was a still greater violation of its rights, and must have had still less mercy shown it.

The only objection to this was, that if it proved anything, it proved the stranger’s nose was neither true nor false.

This left room for the controversy to go on. It was maintained by the advocates of the ecclesiastic court, that there was nothing to inhibit a decree, since the stranger ex mero motu had confessed he had been at the Promontory of Noses, and had got one of the goodliest, etc. etc.⁠⸻To this it was answered, it was impossible there should be such a place as the Promontory of Noses, and the learned be ignorant where it lay. The commissary of the bishop of Strasburg undertook the advocates, explained this matter in a treatise upon proverbial phrases, showing them, that the Promontory of Noses was a mere allegorick expression, importing no more than that nature had given him a long nose: in proof of which, with great learning, he cited the underwritten authorities,12 which had decided the point incontestably, had it not appeared that a dispute about some franchises of dean and chapter-lands had been determined by it nineteen years before.

It happened⁠⸺⁠I must not say unluckily for Truth, because they were giving her a lift another way in so doing; that the two universities of Strasburg⁠⸺⁠the Lutheran, founded in the year 1538 by Jacobus Surmis, counsellor of the senate,⁠⸺⁠and the Popish, founded by Leopold, archduke of Austria, were, during all this time, employing the whole depth of their knowledge (except just what the affair of the abbess of Quedlingberg’s placket-holes required)⁠⸺⁠in determining the point of Martin Luther’s damnation.

The Popish doctors had undertaken to demonstrate à priori, that from the necessary influence of the planets on the twenty-second day of October 1483⁠⸻when the moon was in the twelfth house, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus in the third, the Sun, Saturn, and Mercury, all got together in the fourth⁠—that he must in course, and unavoidably, be a damn’d man⁠—and that his doctrines, by a direct corollary, must be damn’d doctrines too.

By inspection into his horoscope, where five planets were in coition all at once with Scorpio13 (in reading this my father would always shake his head) in the ninth house, which the Arabians allotted to religion⁠—it appeared that Martin Luther did not care one stiver about the matter⁠⸻and that from the horoscope directed to the conjunction of Mars⁠—they made it plain likewise he must die cursing and blaspheming⁠⸺⁠with the blast of which his soul (being steep’d in guilt) sailed before the wind, in the lake of hellfire.

The little objection of the Lutheran doctors to this, was, that it must certainly be the soul of another man, born Oct. 22, 83, which was forced to sail down before the wind in that manner⁠—inasmuch as it appeared from the register of Islaben in the county of Mansfelt, that Luther was not born in the year 1483, but in 84; and not on the 22nd day of October, but on the 10th of November, the eve of Martinmas day, from whence he had the name of Martin.

[⁠⸺⁠I must break off my translation for a moment; for if I did not, I know I should no more be able to shut my eyes in bed, than the abbess of Quedlingberg⁠⸺⁠It is to tell the reader, that my father never read this passage of Slawkenbergius to my uncle Toby, but with triumph⁠⸻not over my uncle Toby, for he never opposed him in it⁠⸺⁠but over the whole world.

—Now you see, brother Toby, he would say, looking up, “that christian names are not such indifferent things;”⁠⸻had Luther here been called by any other name but Martin, he would have been damn’d to all eternity⁠⸻Not that I look upon Martin, he would add, as a good name⁠⸺⁠far from it⁠⸺’tis something better than a neutral, and but a little⁠⸺⁠yet little as it is, you see it was of some service to him.

My father knew the weakness of this prop to his hypothesis, as well as the best logician could show him⁠⸺⁠yet so strange is the weakness of man at the same time, as it fell in his way, he could not for his life but make use of it; and it was certainly for this reason, that though there are many stories in Hafen Slawkenbergius’s Decads full as entertaining as this I am translating, yet there is not one amongst them which my father read over with half the delight⁠⸻it flattered two of his strangest hypotheses together⁠⸺⁠his Names and his Noses.⁠⸺⁠I will be bold to say, he might have read all the books in the Alexandrian Library, had not fate taken other care of them, and not have met with a book or passage in one, which hit two such nails as these upon the head at one stroke.]

The two universities of Strasburg were hard tugging at this affair of Luther’s navigation. The Protestant doctors had demonstrated, that he had not sailed right before the wind, as the Popish doctors had pretended; and as everyone knew there was no sailing full in the teeth of it⁠—they were going to settle, in case he had sailed, how many points he was off; whether Martin had doubled the cape, or had fallen upon a lee-shore; and no doubt, as it was an enquiry of much edification, at least to those who understood this sort of navigation, they had gone on with it in spite of the size of the stranger’s nose, had not the size of the stranger’s nose drawn off the attention of the world from what they were about⁠⸺⁠it was their business to follow.

The abbess of Quedlingberg and her four dignitaries was no stop; for the enormity of the stranger’s nose running full as much in their fancies as their case of conscience⁠⸺⁠the affair of their placket-holes kept cold⁠—in a word, the printers were ordered to distribute their types⁠⸺⁠all controversies dropp’d.

’Twas a square cap with a silver tassel upon the crown of it⁠—to a nutshell⁠—to have guessed on which side of the nose the two universities would split.

’Tis above reason, cried the doctors on one side.

’Tis below reason, cried the others.

’Tis faith, cried one.

’Tis a fiddlestick, said the other.

’Tis possible, cried the one.

’Tis impossible, said the other.

God’s power is infinite, cried the Nosarians, he can do anything.

He can do nothing, replied the Antinosarians, which implies contradictions.

He can make matter think, said the Nosarians.

As certainly as you can make a velvet cap out of a sow’s ear, replied the Antinosarians.

He cannot make two and two five, replied the Popish doctors.⁠⸺’Tis false, said their other opponents.⁠⸺⁠

Infinite power is infinite power, said the doctors who maintained the reality of the nose.⁠—It extends only to all possible things, replied the Lutherans.

By God in heaven, cried the Popish doctors, he can make a nose, if he thinks fit, as big as the steeple of Strasburg.

Now the steeple of Strasburg being the biggest and the tallest church-steeple to be seen in the whole world, the Antinosarians denied that a nose of 575 geometrical feet in length could be worn, at least by a middle-siz’d man⁠⸺⁠The Popish doctors swore it could⁠—The Lutheran doctors said No;⁠—it could not.

This at once started a new dispute, which they pursued a great way, upon the extent and limitation of the moral and natural attributes of God⁠—That controversy led them naturally into Thomas Aquinas, and Thomas Aquinas to the devil.

The stranger’s nose was no more heard of in the dispute⁠—it just served as a frigate to launch them into the gulf of school-divinity⁠⸺⁠and then they all sailed before the wind.

Heat is in proportion to the want of true knowledge.

The controversy about the attributes, etc., instead of cooling, on the contrary had inflamed the Strasburgers’ imaginations to a most inordinate degree⁠⸺⁠The less they understood of the matter, the greater was their wonder about it⁠—they were left in all the distresses of desire unsatisfied⁠⸺⁠saw their doctors, the Parchmentarians, the Brassarians, the Turpentarians, on one side⁠—the Popish doctors on the other, like Pantagruel and his companions in quest of the oracle of the bottle, all embarked out of sight.

⸺⁠The poor Strasburgers left upon the beach!

⸺⁠What was to be done?⁠—No delay⁠—the uproar increased⁠⸺⁠everyone in disorder⁠⸺⁠the city gates set open.⁠⸺⁠

Unfortunate Strasburgers! was there in the storehouse of nature⁠⸻was there in the lumber-rooms of learning⁠⸻was there in the great arsenal of chance, one single engine left undrawn forth to torture your curiosities, and stretch your desires, which was not pointed by the hand of Fate to play upon your hearts?⁠⸺⁠I dip not my pen into my ink to excuse the surrender of yourselves⁠—’tis to write your panegyrick. Show me a city so macerated with expectation⁠⸺⁠who neither eat, or drank, or slept, or prayed, or hearkened to the calls either of religion or nature for seven-and-twenty days together, who could have held out one day longer.

On the twenty-eighth the courteous stranger had promised to return to Strasburg.

Seven thousand coaches (Slawkenbergius must certainly have made some mistake in his numerical characters) 7,000 coaches⁠⸺⁠15,000 single-horse chairs⁠—20,000 wagons, crowded as full as they could all hold with senators, counsellors, syndicks⁠—beguines, widows, wives, virgins, canons, concubines, all in their coaches⁠—The abbess of Quedlingberg, with the prioress, the deaness and sub-chantress, leading the procession in one coach, and the dean of Strasburg, with the four great dignitaries of his chapter, on her left-hand⁠—the rest following higglety-pigglety as they could; some on horseback⁠⸺⁠some on foot⁠⸺⁠some led⁠⸺⁠some driven⁠⸺⁠some down the Rhine⁠⸺⁠some this way⁠⸺⁠some that⁠⸺⁠all set out at sunrise to meet the courteous stranger on the road.

Haste we now towards the catastrophe of my tale⁠⸻I say Catastrophe (cries Slawkenbergius) inasmuch as a tale, with parts rightly disposed, not only rejoiceth (gaudet) in the Catastrophe and Peripetia of a Drama, but rejoiceth moreover in all the essential and integrant parts of it⁠⸺⁠it has its Protasis, Epitasis, Catastasis, its Catastrophe or Peripetia growing one out of the other in it, in the order Aristotle first planted them⁠⸺⁠without which a tale had better never be told at all, says Slawkenbergius, but be kept to a man’s self.

In all my ten tales, in all my ten decads, have I Slawkenbergius tied down every tale of them as tightly to this rule, as I have done this of the stranger and his nose.

⸺⁠From his first parley with the sentinel, to his leaving the city of Strasburg, after pulling off his crimson-sattin pair of breeches, is the Protasis or first entrance⁠⸺⁠where the characters of the Personæ Dramatis are just touched in, and the subject slightly begun.

The Epitasis, wherein the action is more fully entered upon and heightened, till it arrives at its state or height called the Catastasis, and which usually takes up the 2nd and 3rd act, is included within that busy period of my tale, betwixt the first night’s uproar about the nose, to the conclusion of the trumpeter’s wife’s lectures upon it in the middle of the grand parade: and from the first embarking of the learned in the dispute⁠—to the doctors finally sailing away, and leaving the Strasburgers upon the beach in distress, is the Catastasis or the ripening of the incidents and passions for their bursting forth in the fifth act.

This commences with the setting out of the Strasburgers in the Frankfort road, and terminates in unwinding the labyrinth and bringing the hero out of a state of agitation (as Aristotle calls it) to a state of rest and quietness.

This, says Hafen Slawkenbergius, constitutes the Catastrophe or Peripetia of my tale⁠—and that is the part of it I am going to relate.

We left the stranger behind the curtain asleep⁠⸺⁠he enters now upon the stage.

—What dost thou prick up thy ears at?⁠—’tis nothing but a man upon a horse⁠⸺⁠was the last word the stranger uttered to his mule. It was not proper then to tell the reader, that the mule took his master’s word for it; and without any more ifs or ands, let the traveller and his horse pass by.

The traveller was hastening with all diligence to get to Strasburg that night. What a fool am I, said the traveller to himself, when he had rode about a league farther, to think of getting into Strasburg this night.⁠—Strasburg!⁠⸺⁠the great Strasburg!⁠⸺⁠Strasburg, the capital of all Alsatia! Strasburg, an imperial city! Strasburg, a sovereign state! Strasburg, garrisoned with five thousand of the best troops in all the world!⁠—Alas! if I was at the gates of Strasburg this moment, I could not gain admittance into it for a ducat⁠—nay a ducat and half⁠—’tis too much⁠⸺⁠better go back to the last inn I have passed⁠⸺⁠than lie I know not where⁠⸺⁠or give I know not what. The traveller, as he made these reflections in his mind, turned his horse’s head about, and three minutes after the stranger had been conducted into his chamber, he arrived at the same inn.

⸻We have bacon in the house, said the host, and bread⁠⸻and till eleven o’clock this night had three eggs in it⁠⸺⁠but a stranger, who arrived an hour ago, has had them dressed into an omelet, and we have nothing.⁠⸻

Alas! said the traveller, harassed as I am, I want nothing but a bed.⁠⸻I have one as soft as is in Alsatia, said the host.

⸺⁠The stranger, continued he, should have slept in it, for ’tis my best bed, but upon the score of his nose.⁠⸺⸺⁠He has got a defluxion, said the traveller.⁠⸺⁠Not that I know, cried the host.⁠⸺⁠But ’tis a camp-bed, and Jacinta, said he, looking towards the maid, imagined there was not room in it to turn his nose in.⁠⸻Why so? cried the traveller, starting back.⁠—It is so long a nose, replied the host.⁠⸺⁠The traveller fixed his eyes upon Jacinta, then upon the ground⁠—kneeled upon his right knee⁠—had just got his hand laid upon his breast⁠⸻Trifle not with my anxiety, said he, rising up again.⁠⸺’Tis no trifle, said Jacinta, ’tis the most glorious nose!⁠⸺⁠The traveller fell upon his knee again⁠—laid his hand upon his breast⁠—then, said he, looking up to heaven, thou hast conducted me to the end of my pilgrimage.⁠—’Tis Diego.

The traveller was the brother of the Julia, so often invoked that night by the stranger as he rode from Strasburg upon his mule; and was come, on her part, in quest of him. He had accompanied his sister from Valadolid across the Pyrenean mountains through France, and had many an entangled skein to wind off in pursuit of him through the many meanders and abrupt turnings of a lover’s thorny tracks.

⸺⁠Julia had sunk under it⁠⸻and had not been able to go a step farther than to Lyons, where, with the many disquietudes of a tender heart, which all talk of⁠⸺⁠but few feel⁠—she sicken’d, but had just strength to write a letter to Diego; and having conjured her brother never to see her face till he had found him out, and put the letter into his hands, Julia took to her bed.

Fernandez (for that was her brother’s name)⁠⸺⁠though the camp-bed was as soft as any one in Alsace, yet he could not shut his eyes in it.⁠⸺⁠As soon as it was day he rose, and hearing Diego was risen too, he entered his chamber, and discharged his sister’s commission.

The letter was as follows:

Seig. Diego,

“Whether my suspicions of your nose were justly excited or not⁠⸻’tis not now to inquire⁠—it is enough I have not had firmness to put them to farther tryal.

“How could I know so little of myself, when I sent my Duenna to forbid your coming more under my lattice? or how could I know so little of you, Diego, as to imagine you would not have stayed one day in Valadolid to have given ease to my doubts?⁠—Was I to be abandoned, Diego, because I was deceived? or was it kind to take me at my word, whether my suspicions were just or no, and leave me, as you did, a prey to much uncertainty and sorrow?

“In what manner Julia has resented this⁠⸺⁠my brother, when he puts this letter into your hands, will tell you; He will tell you in how few moments she repented of the rash message she had sent you⁠⸺⁠in what frantic haste she flew to her lattice, and how many days and nights together she leaned immoveably upon her elbow, looking through it towards the way which Diego was wont to come.

“He will tell you, when she heard of your departure⁠—how her spirits deserted her⁠⸺⁠how her heart sicken’d⁠⸺⁠how piteously she mourned⁠⸺⁠how low she hung her head. O Diego! how many weary steps has my brother’s pity led me by the hand languishing to trace out yours; how far has desire carried me beyond strength⁠⸺⁠and how oft have I fainted by the way, and sunk into his arms, with only power to cry out⁠—O my Diego!

“If the gentleness of your carriage has not belied your heart, you will fly to me, almost as fast as you fled from me⁠—haste as you will⁠⸺⁠you will arrive but to see me expire.⁠⸻’Tis a bitter draught, Diego, but oh! ’tis embitter’d still more by dying un⁠⸺⸺”

She could proceed no farther.

Slawkenbergius supposes the word intended was unconvinced, but her strength would not enable her to finish her letter.

The heart of the courteous Diego overflowed as he read the letter⁠⸻he ordered his mule forthwith and Fernandez’s horse to be saddled; and as no vent in prose is equal to that of poetry in such conflicts⁠⸺⁠chance, which as often directs us to remedies as to diseases, having thrown a piece of charcoal into the window⁠⸺⁠Diego availed himself of it, and whilst the hostler was getting ready his mule, he eased his mind against the wall as follows.


Harsh and untuneful are the notes of love,
Unless my Julia strikes the key,
Her hand alone can touch the part,
Whose dulcet move-
ment charms the heart,
And governs all the man with sympathetick sway.


O Julia!

The lines were very natural⁠⸺⁠for they were nothing at all to the purpose, says Slawkenbergius, and ’tis a pity there were no more of them; but whether it was that Seig. Diego was slow in composing verses⁠—or the hostler quick in saddling mules⁠⸺⁠is not averred; certain it was, that Diego’s mule and Fernandez’s horse were ready at the door of the inn, before Diego was ready for his second stanza; so without staying to finish his ode, they both mounted, sallied forth, passed the Rhine, traversed Alsace, shaped their course towards Lyons, and before the Strasburgers and the abbess of Quedlingberg had set out on their cavalcade, had Fernandez, Diego, and his Julia, crossed the Pyrenean mountains, and got safe to Valadolid.

’Tis needless to inform the geographical reader, that when Diego was in Spain, it was not possible to meet the courteous stranger in the Frankfort road; it is enough to say, that of all restless desires, curiosity being the strongest⁠⸺⁠the Strasburgers felt the full force of it; and that for three days and nights they were tossed to and fro in the Frankfort road, with the tempestuous fury of this passion, before they could submit to return home.⁠⸺⁠When alas! an event was prepared for them, of all other, the most grievous that could befall a free people.

As this revolution of the Strasburgers’ affairs is often spoken of, and little understood, I will, in ten words, says Slawkenbergius, give the world an explanation of it, and with it put an end to my tale.

Every body knows of the grand system of Universal Monarchy, wrote by order of Mons. Colbert, and put in manuscript into the hands of Lewis the fourteenth, in the year 1664.

’Tis as well known, that one branch out of many of that system, was the getting possession of Strasburg, to favour an entrance at all times into Suabia, in order to disturb the quiet of Germany⁠⸺⁠and that in consequence of this plan, Strasburg unhappily fell at length into their hands.

It is the lot of a few to trace out the true springs of this and suchlike revolutions⁠—The vulgar look too high for them⁠—Statesmen look too low⁠⸺⁠Truth (for once) lies in the middle.

What a fatal thing is the popular pride of a free city! cries one historian⁠—The Strasburgers deemed it a diminution of their freedom to receive an imperial garrison⁠⸺⁠so fell a prey to a French one.

The fate, says another, of the Strasburgers, may be a warning to all free people to save their money.⁠⸻They anticipated their revenues⁠⸺⁠brought themselves under taxes, exhausted their strength, and in the end became so weak a people, they had not strength to keep their gates shut, and so the French pushed them open.

Alas! alas! cries Slawkenbergius, ’twas not the French,⁠⸺’twas curiosity pushed them open⁠⸻The French indeed, who are ever upon the catch, when they saw the Strasburgers, men, women, and children, all marched out to follow the stranger’s nose⁠⸺⁠each man followed his own, and marched in.

Trade and manufactures have decayed and gradually grown down ever since⁠—but not from any cause which commercial heads have assigned; for it is owing to this only, that Noses have ever so run in their heads, that the Strasburgers could not follow their business.

Alas! alas! cries Slawkenbergius, making an exclamation⁠—it is not the first⁠⸺⁠and I fear will not be the last fortress that has been either won⁠⸺⁠or lost by Noses.

The end of
Slawkenbergius’s Tale