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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870)

Chapter Touching the Olfactory Organ

From “The Snowball”

HAS it ever occurred to you, dear reader, how admirable an organ the nose is?

The nose; yes, the nose.

And how useful an article this very nose is to every creature which, as Ovid says, lifts its face to heaven?

Well, strange as it may seem, monstrous ingratitude that it is, no poet has yet thought of addressing an ode to the nose!

So it has been left to me, who am not a poet, or who, at least, claim to rank only after our greatest poets, to conceive such an idea.

Truly, the nose is unfortunate.

So many things have been invented for the eyes:

Songs and compliments and kaleidoscopes, pictures and scenery and spectacles.

And for the ears:

Ear-rings, of course, and Robert the Devil, William Tell, and Fra Diavolo, Stradivarius violins and Érard pianos and Sax trumpets.

And for the mouth:

Lent, plain cooking, The Gastronomists’ Calendar, The Gormand’s Dictionary. Soups of every kind have they made for it, from Russian broth to French cabbage-soup; dishes for it are connected with the reputations of the greatest men, from Soubise cutlets to Richelieu puddings; its lips have been compared to coral, its teeth to pearls, its breath to perfume. Before it have been set plumed peacocks and undrawn snipes; and, for the future, it has been promised whole roast larks.

But what has been invented for the nose?

Attar of roses and snuff.

You have not done well, oh, my masters the philanthropists; oh, my brothers the poets!

And yet how faithfully this limb——

“It is not a limb!” cry the scientists.

I beg your pardon, gentlemen, and retract. This appendage— Ah, yes, I was saying with what touching fidelity this appendage has done service for you.

The eyes sleep, the mouth closes, the ears are deaf.

The nose is always on duty.

It watches over your repose and contributes to your health. Feet, hands, all other parts of the body are stupid. The hands are often caught in foolish acts; the feet stumble, and in their clumsiness allow the body to fall. And when they do, they get off free, and the poor nose is punished for their misdeeds.

How often do you not hear it said:

“Mr. So-and-So has broken his nose.”

There have been a great many broken noses since the creation of the world.

Can any one give a single instance of a nose broken through any fault of its own?

No; but, nevertheless, the poor nose is always being scolded.

Well, it endures it all with angelic patience. True, it sometimes has the impertinence to snore. But where and when did you ever hear it complain?…

But let us forget for a moment the utility of the nose, and regard it only from the esthetic point of view.

A cedar of Lebanon, it tramples underfoot the hyssop of the mustache; a central column, it provides a support for the double arch of the eyebrows. On its capital perches the eagle of thought. It is enwreathed with smiles. With what boldness did the nose of Ajax confront the storm when he said, “I will escape in spite of the gods.” With what courage did the nose of the great Condé—whose greatness really derived from his nose—with what courage did the nose of the great Condé enter before all others, before the great Condé himself, the entrenchments of the Spanish at Lens and Rocroy, where their conqueror boldly flourished the staff of command? With what assurance was Dugazon’s nose thrust before the public, that nose which knew how to wriggle in forty-two different ways, and each way funnier than the last?

No, I do not believe that the nose should be permitted to remain in the obscurity into which man’s ingratitude has hitherto forced it.

I suggest as one reason why the nose has submitted to this injustice the fact that Occidental noses are so small.

But the deuce is to pay if the noses of the West are the only noses.

There are the Oriental noses, which are very handsome noses.

Do you question the superiority of these noses to your own, gentlemen of Paris, of Vienna, of St. Petersburg?

In that case, my Viennese friends, go by the Danube; you Parisians, take the steamer; Petersburgers, the sledge; and say these simple words:

“To Georgia.”

But I forewarn you of deep humiliation. Should you bring to Georgia one of the largest noses in Europe, at the gate of Tiflis they would gaze at you in astonishment and exclaim:

“What a pity that this gentleman has lost his nose on the way.”…

Ah, sweet Heaven! those beautiful Georgian noses! Robust noses, magnificent noses!

They are all shapes:

Round, fat, long, large.

There is every color:

White, pink, crimson, violet.

Some are set with rubies, others with pearls. I saw one set with turquoises.

In Georgia, Vakhtang IV abolished the fathom, the meter, and the yard, keeping only the nose.

Goods are measured off by the nose.

They say, “I bought seventeen noses of flannel for a dressing-gown, seven noses of cloth for a pair of breeches, a nose and a half of satin for a cravat.”

Let us add, finally, that the Georgian ladies find this more convenient than European measures.