Syphilis is a nasty disease, especially when it eats your nose.
I recently watched The Knick (Cinemax), which takes place in 1900. It features a woman with a prosthetic nose who undergoes a surgical procedure in attempt to rebuild the proboscis with flesh from the arm. Shortly after that, I started reading Lindsey Fitzharris’s The Butchering Art, which briefly discusses a No Noses Club in London. So between the two, I decided to take a closer look into all this noselessness.
According to The Secret History of London Clubs from 1709, a “merry Gentleman” who called himself Mr. Crumpton, assembled a group of “flat-faced” people in a club that met once a month.
This benefactor of the no-nose community began the club after observing an “abundance of both Sexes had sacrificed to the God Priapus, & had unluckily fallen into the Fashion of Flat-Faces.“
But rather than see them spread all over town, why not help them congregate in one glorious nose-free location? Surely they’d appreciate each other’s company, and what an amusing scene it would be.
The Gentleman “pleased himself with an opinion, it must prove a comical sight for so many maim’d Leachers, smiffling old Stallions, young unfortunate Whoremasters poor scarify’d Bawds; & salivated Whetstones, to shew their scandalous Vizards in one Nose-less Society; To accomplish which, he made it his business for some time, to strole about the Town, on purpose to pick acquaintance with all such stigmatiz’d Strumpets & Fornicators as he thought might be proper members of the Smiffling Community pretending some thing or other that carry’d a face of Interest to all that he talk’d with, appointing every one apart to meet him at the Dog Tavern in Drury Lane, upon a Certain Day, a little before Dinner-Time, that they might Eat a bit together, & he would then acquaint them with the Secret.”
As they arrived and the crowd grew, they stared at each other in wonder and confusion, “as if every Sinner beheld their own Iniquities in the Faces of their Companions.”
At dinner, the chefs preparing the feast got their creative juices flowing. Keeping with the theme of the evening, they cut the snouts off the pigs being served.
The Gentleman, being offended to see the Pigs Heads so strangely mangl’d, sent for the Cook upstairs to know the Reason of it, who answer’d ‘He had cut off their Snouts to put the Pigs in the Fashion ; for he thought it not fit for two such squeamish Creatures, to run their unmannerly OF THE NO NOSE CLUB. 25 Noses into such good Company that had but one amongst them.’”
Following dinner, the merriment continued with drinks and for once in their lives, it was “as if their Sins were their Pride & their Sufferings their glory.”
Sadly, such festivities came to an end after a year’s time when Mr. Crumpton passed away.
His noseless friends gave the following elegy at his funeral:
“Mourn for the loss of such a generous friend,
Whose lofty Nose no humble snout disdain’d;
But tho’ of Roman height, could stoop so low
As to soothe those who ne’er a Nose could show.
Ah! sure no noseless club could ever find
One single Nose so bountiful and kind.
But now, alas! he’s sunk into the deep,
Where neither kings or slaves a Nose shall keep.
But where proud Beauties, strutting Beaux, and all,
Must soon into the noseless fashion fall,
Thither your friend in complaisance is gone,
To have Nose, like yours, reduced to none.”