Comic Annual,  10 (1839), 107–22.

Ali Ben Nous. A Fable

[Thomas Hood]


Fable, Spoof

Relevant illustrations:

wdct. [3]


J Scott / T Hood


Naturalists, Medical Practitioners, Expertise, Government, Societies, Prognostication, Scientific Practitioners, Menageries, Pharmaceuticals, Animal Behaviour, Utilitarianism

    Ali Ben Nous is presented as a character from the 'Arabian Nights'—a 'Philosopher of the sect of Diogenes' who decided to 'travel in search of some happy country, where he could keep his originality to himself' (108). On travelling to the city of Yad, his evasion of the 'Great Serpent' by a simple expedient was greeted with acclaim: 'A mere bottle of oil! And we who have Magistrates, and Wise Men, and Conjurors! And Naturalists, and Zoologists, and Projectors, and a Faculty of Doctors, and a Committee of Public Safety, and a Society of Snake Charmers—and yet they never thought of a bottle of oil!' (111). The illustration captioned 'Fancy Portraits—Professor Silliman' (facing 111) depicts a man with somewhat simian features—a low forehead, protuberant eyebrows and nose, a receding chin—and a dull look in his eye. On travelling to the city of Guz, his evasion of the 'Rok' by another simple expedient was greeted with similar acclaim: '"Holy Prophet!" cried the people, "and yet we have Councillors, and Elders, and Tacticians, and Ornithologists, and Bird-catchers, and Prognosticators of Rain, and nobody ever though of an umbrella!"' (114). On travelling to the city of Jug, his evasion of a tornado by a further simple expedient was once again greeted with acclaim: 'We that have a May'r and a Corporation, and Learned Bodies, and Scientifics, and a Company of Wax Chandlers, and Mechanics' Institutions, and Utilitarians, and nobody ever hit upon the waxen cushion!' (117). The illustration captioned 'A Day after the Fair' (facing 119) depicts utterly exhausted animals, including a cheetah, two lions, a polar bear, and a monkey, asleep inside their cages; the showman and his dog are also asleep. Weary of being imitated, Nous at last resolved to commit suicide. He repaired to a solitary spot near a wood 'with a large phial, or rather family bottle, of mortal poison in his pocket', and took a fatal dose, only to have the remainder of it snatched from him by an orang-utan, who aped his suicidal action. The illustration captioned 'Off by Mutual Consent' (facing 121) depicts a captive monkey in the act of having his head blown off by a canon which he has ignited with a long taper.

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