Thursday 11 August 2011


The following is from an early nineteenth century comic novel called Headlong Hall by Thomas Love Peacock. The context is that a phrenologist called Dr Cranium is going to give an after-dinner lecture. I trust, dear reader, that you will notice the long words.

"I invite you, when you have sufficiently restored, replenished, refreshed, and exhilarated that osteosarchaematosplanchnochondroneuromuelous, or, to employ a more intelligible term, osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullary, compages, or shell, the body, which at once envelopes and develops that mysterious and inestimable kernel, the desiderative, determinative, ratiocinative, imaginative, inquisitive, appetitive, comparative, reminiscent, congeries of ideas and notions, simple and compound, comprised in the comprehensive denomination of mind, to take a peep, with me, into the mechanical arcana of the anatomico-metaphysical universe. Being not in the least dubitative of your spontaneous compliance, I proceed," added he, suddenly changing his tone, " to get every thing ready in the library."

Both those long words mean roughly made of bone, flesh, blood, organs and marrow.  So both simply mean bodily. Therefore, if you're feeling a little bit under the weather you have an osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullary problem.

Headlong Hall (from which that extract was extracted) is the companion piece to another novella called Nightmare Abbey. It therefore gives me an excuse to quote the greatest description of posture ever committed to paper. I read the following passage when I was an impressionable young man, and have sat thus ever since.

[He] threw himself into his arm-chair, crossed his left foot over his right knee, placed the hollow of his left hand on the interior ankle of his left leg, rested his right elbow on the elbow of the chair, placed the ball of his right thumb against his right temple, curved the forefinger along the upper part of his forehead, rested the point of the middle finger on the bridge of his nose, and the points of the two others on the lower part of the palm, fixed his eyes intently on the veins in the back of his left hand...

Try it, dear reader, you'll look wonderful.

A rough sketch of the Inky Fool

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