Snippets 127. Today’s quote is taken from Voyages to the East Indies, by Dutch explorer John Splinter Stavorinus (1798):
The king, who was addressed by the title of Touang Sultan, or My Lord the King, appeared to me to be a man of between forty-five and fifty years of age…
The king frequently broke wind upwards during his meal, and his example was assiduously followed by all the gentlemen in company, which afforded matter of no little surprise to me. But I afterwards was informed, that this custom, so contrary to European notions of decency, was an etiquette of the court of Bantam , and was affected, in order to show that one’s appetite was good, and the victuals tasteful, which was very pleasing to the king…
In the meantime, some large china bowls with boiled rice, and some dishes, of fish, which came from our table, were set before the nobles, who were at the end of the hall, and who speedily emptied them, with continual eructations, which echoed through the hall.
As this quote illustrates, passing wind has not been universally thought of in a negative manner throughout history. Another example is Saint Augustine’s The City of God, which has the following tidbit of information:
We know, too, that some men are differently constituted from others, and have some rare and remarkable faculty of doing with their body what other men can by no effort do, and, indeed, scarcely believe when they hear of others doing… Some have such command of their bowels, that they can break wind continuously at pleasure, so as to produce the effect of singing. I myself have known a man who was accustomed to sweat whenever he wished.
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