A Tale of a Trumpet
Poetry, Drollery; Afterword, Extract, Spoof
Disability, Antiseptics, Statistics, Political Economy, Class, Medical Treatment, Instruments, Medical Practitioners, Surgery, Quackery, Pharmaceuticals, Physiology
The poem recounts that Dame Eleanor Spearing was exceptionally deaf. She was deaf as 'Pharaoh's mother's mother's mummy; / Whose organs, for fear of our modern sceptics, / were plugg'd with gums and antiseptics' (252). She consequently missed out on village gossip, a great privation, since 'she had much of the spirit that lies / Perdu in a notable set of Paul Prys, / By courtesy called Statistical Fellows— / A prying, spying, inquisitive clan, / Who have gone upon much of the self-same plan, / Jotting the Labouring Class's riches' (254). She had tried numerous treatments, but all remedies failed 'though some it was clear / (Like the brandy and salt / We now exalt) / Had made a noise in the public ear' (255). She is visited by a pedlar who tries to sell her an ear trumpet at a high price having made exaggerated claims: 'The last New Patent—and nothing comes nigh it / For affording the Deaf, at little expense, / The sense of hearing, and the hearing of sense!' (257). He contrasts its advantages with the disadvantages of aural surgery, and disputes the effectiveness of such surgery. He recounts the instance of a Welshman who 'came from Glamorgan / On purpose to try a surgical spell', and paid a guinea only to have an 'acoustical drug' administered instead, which deafened him further: 'That's the way with your surgical gentry'. (263) The pedlar reflects on the difficulty of persuading the public to 'purchase a blessing' whether 'the Soothing American Syrup', 'Infallible Pills for the human frame, / Or Rowland's O-don't-o (an ominous name)' (265).
An endnote gives a putative extract from an apparently fictitious work: '"Quid Pro Quo; or, A Theory of Compensations. By P. S." (perhaps Peter Shard), folio edition'. The extract, in archaic language, cites the occurrence of tinnitus in many deaf people as an instance of 'Mother' nature's tender kindness in making amends for any grievances. It gives a physiological explanation of the phenomenon in terms of the 'general Relaxing of the delicate and subtile Fibres of the Human Nerves, and mainly such as belong and propinque to the Auricular Organ' (284).
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