This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.
The lively article is written in imitation of the fantasies of early Dickens, as can be seen from the reference to Mr Serjeant Buzfuz, counsel for the plaintiff in Bardell v. Pickwick in Dickens's Pickwick Papers (1836-37). (See also 10th August 1889, ‘Samuel on the Weather, the Drought, and Thirst.’) The cockney ‘phiz’ (i.e physiognomy) for face is a glance at Dickens’s illustrator, ‘Phiz’ (Hablôt K. Browne), who depicted Buzfuz in the steel engraving The Trialfor Chapter 34 to Pickwick Papers(March 1837). The familiar name, ‘Cod’, of Samuel’s friend, Robert Codlington, is slang for ‘friend’ and ‘hoax’. The ‘Wellington’ is of course named after the Duke of Wellington, who was known to the London crowd as ‘Nosy’, especially during the period of his greatest unpopularity when he opposed parliamentary reform. — David Skilton
I am a man of many and varied experiences, as perhaps you, sir, may not be disinclined to admit. It has fallen to my lot to be present at various curious assemblies from time to time, which it has been my privilege to dilate upon for the delectation of a yearning and enlightened public.
A friend of mine (of the name of Codlington, sir; Robert Cod[.]lington, known to his intimates as Bob Cod: please as a favour to me print his name in full. Believe me I have special reasons for asking you) was kind enough to invite me to view this unique collection. He gave me a printed hand bill, from which I shall ask your permission to make a few quotations, believing that as I found them interesting and amusing to myself, an odd extract or two from it might prove nonetheless entertaining to your readers. The placard in question – for it was almost a placard in point of size – set forth in large letters the fact that at a certain house of entertainment, which we will call the Brussen Tub Hotel, situated in a hamlet not remote from the offices from which this journal is published, there would on a certain future day be held ‘A GREAT NOSE SHOW, OPEN TO ALL ENGLAND AND WALES, when,’ the announcement continued, ‘handsome prizes would be given in certain classes.’ Appended is an abbreviated list of the classes, with rules and other particulars: –
- 1. Reds with the brightest tinge.
- 2. Deep Reds, with white grounds (none but professed abstainers allowed to compete in this class).
- 3. Purples (Novice Class).
- 4. Deep Purples, or Fly Destructors (for old stagers with best variety of grog blooms).
- 5. Blues, with best litter of young ones. S[i]ze and greatest number of sprouts to be taken together.
- 6. Best Perforated or Indented Nose, with largest number of holes in it.
- 7. Nose nearest imitation to a Tomato in Colour and shape.
- 8. Pugs[i] with the most artistic turns.
- 9. Wellingtons[ii] with the greatest hump and length.
- 10. Flukes or Flats, covering most ground.
- 11. Best Nose for taking Snuff.
A splendid snuff Box for the Best Coloured Cabman’s Nose.
ENTRANCE Is. EACH CLASS. Staging 6d extra, to be returned in Refreshments. Admission to the Show, FREE.
1. All entries to be made on the night previous to the show at the above house. No entry received without fee.
2. Dusting, painting, or in any way tampering with the colour by artificial means in classes l to 5 will subject the owner to disqualification.
3. Competitors in class 2 will be required to produce a temperance pledge if requested by the judge.
4. In judging classes 3, 4, and 5, consideration will be given to the length of time the exhibit has been in training, but in no case will allowance be made as to cost of producing the same.
5. Artificial noses are strictly prohibited.
6. A competent judge will be appointed, who will be empowered to pull exhibits to detect forgeries. He shall also compel exhibitors (if necessary) to blow the same, to ascertain their soundness. His decision shall be final. If there is not sufficient merit in any class, he shall be empowered to withhold the prizes.
7. Staging to commence at eight o'clock in the evening. Winning blooms to be returned to the owners.
Mr Codlington has pointed out to me that it was his idea that this extraordinary exhibition might well provide material for a comic article of superior merit, and I readily acquiesced in this opinion, and at once undertook to be present when the display commenced. I may add that I promised to go with more alacrity when Codlington added that what he was pleased to call my ‘facile pen’ would do so promising a theme better justice than might be expected at the hands of a less gifted writer. I took Codlington at his word in this matter. It seemed only reasonable. And so we went together.
The Brussen Tub is not a very large hotel where large ones come; but it is a fair-sized and well-accustomed house enough. On the night when we attended, every room was filled with customers in a more or less mildly hilarious condition, and we speedily began to enjoy ourselves. I had been given to understand by my friend, who took occasion to warn me on this point before we arrived at our destination, that it was a point of etiquette strictly observed on such occasions that the ‘specimens’ were not to be spoken to regarding their noses, and any offender in regard to this would be promptly expelled the house. Of course, I readily promised to observe so obviously desirable an arrangement, and I did not fail to remark that the company generally studiously avoided breaking the courteous regulation.
It was indeed a curious sight. Here, there, and everywhere some extraordinary proboscis or other loomed out through the tobacco smoke, and made itself manifest to the observant gazer. There were mighty glowing ones, aflame with colour; there were great cutwater[iii] specimens, generally attached to youthful faces with vacuous expressions and receding chins; and there were assertive pugs perched at the top of upper-lips of phenomenal and appalling length, and there were crooked noses, slanting over flat ‘phizogs,’[iv] or big spreading ones which seemed to cover the entire countenance they adorned. Altogether, your faithful scribe never saw such a gathering of strange, distorted, or brilliantly-coloured noses in all his life, and, sir, if he can help it, never will again.
How the judging was done I don't pretend to understand, but it was done somehow, I suppose, for I was in confidence, introduced to a gentleman who I was told acted as judge, and who seemed very glad to make my acquaintance, and did not fail to ask me to partake of a something. In fact, I was made a good deal of by everybody; they all made considerable fuss of me, and requested the pleasure of paying for drink for me, all of which, be assured, I declined, while it gratified me not a little.
At last the evening drew to a close and we rose to depart. I had ‘spotted’ (in a figurative sense only, understand – as a rule they were spotted enough already) several noses which I had deemed deserving of prizes in sundry departments, but they did not seem to have been accorded any rewards. Ever so many gentlemen took away with them parcels, and so forth, evidently prizes, but they all wore noses of ordinary size and shape. I mentioned this circumstance to Codlington, and he informed me that it was not ‘the thing’ for ‘the specimens’ to carry the prizes away themselves; their friends attended to that, he said.
Codlington bore away with him a hare of splendid proportions. He informed me that he had got it for a ‘specimen’ he had himself exhibited, and for which he had been awarded the first prize in ‘class one,’ and had had added to it, as a special prize, a snuff box for ‘the best coloured cabman's nose.’
You may not believe it, but I have it on excellent authority that that same ‘specimen’ which had secured for his fortunate exhibitor this dual award was – Your own devoted Samuel!
Sir, I look upon nose shows as a disgrace and a degradation to our common humanity.
Last modified 27 January 2022