In his speech on the pleasure of taking a crap (‘En faveur de la felicité chiatique’), the early seventeenth-century comedian known as Bruscambille (see previous posts), compares the delight of defecation with the joy of sex:
‘When men, while night has its black nightcap on, imitate carpenters and amuse themselves pegging the mortise while their wives, like good housekeepers, hang four hams from a peg, and get busy with a Cyclops in their furnace, who more often than not works so hard that he seems enraged, given how much he spits, I would concede that then they receive the greatest contentment you can have here on earth…’
Pendre quatre jambons en une cheville
© Dominic Hills
One of the remarkable images in this extraordinary speech has inspired Dominic Hills’s latest print, ‘Pendre quatre jambons en une cheville’ (‘Hang four hams from a peg’), which takes its cue not only from metaphors involving pork products, but also from Jean-Édouard Vuillard.
Incidentally, Bruscambille argues that while you can live for many years without ever hanging hams from a peg or indeed shaking the feminine tree to get the fruit, if you are deprived of faecal felicity for even a few days, you will surely leave this vale of tears behind. The delight of defecation is more vital than that of ham-hanging. QED.
On a recent trip to the British Library, I took an idle look at Ben Jonson’s copy of Rabelais’s complete works, in which he made copious notes, in the hope that he would have tried to decipher the nonsensical ‘Antidoted Fanfreluches’, which contain the giant Gargantua’s genealogy and that were discovered in an ancient tomb, in a ‘big, fat, great, gray, pretty, small, mouldy, little pamphlet, smelling stronger, but no better than roses’. While Jonson had dutifully glossed the opening chapters to the book, the ‘Antidoted Fanfreluches’ were understandably left untouched by his hand.
I did however identify some of Jonson’s notes that other scholars had not spotted before, especially to Rabelais’s catalogue of the Library of Saint-Victor, which contains such learned tomes as The Codpiece of Law and the Art of Farting Politely in Public. Jonson’s marginalia include ‘churnd bollock’, actually a mistranslation of La Couille barine des preux [The Elephantine Penis of the Valiant], and ‘bridle champer’, the latter meaning a lawyer, ‘from his mule, which attending while her master is in court, hath leisure enough to champ on the bridle’ (this from Randle Cotgrave’s Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611), which Jonson clearly had by his side as he took his notes).
Other gems can be consulted in a note on Jonson’s notes:
Previously Unnoticed Annotations to Jonson’s Copy of Rabelais