england: putrid gums, imposthumated lungs, sour flatulencies


When you think of a high-society dance in the England of the 1770s, for example, this passage in Tobias Smollett’s 1771 novel, “The Expedition of Humphry Clinker,” probably isn’t what you have in mind: “Imagine to yourself a high exalted essence of mingled odours, arising from putrid gums, imposthumated lungs, sour flatulencies, rank armpits, sweating feet, running sores and issues…besides a thousand frowzy streams, which I could not analyse.” Though the description is lightly fictionalized, Cockayne says, odor-wise it’s dead-on.

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