It really is a wonderful time with the Internet, twitter and the like lifting us out of ignorance and even causing revolutions. Information is freely available that decades ago was considered shameful and hidden, presumably, to protect our delicate natures. It all ties in with the various liberation movements starting in the 1960’s.
I am thinking of Benjamin Franklin’s scholarly work A Letter to a Royal Academy which later appeared in Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School. Indeed. It reveals that he was not only a Founding Father of the United States, but a Founding Farter of this humorous work.
With copies privately printed by Franklin around 1781, while he was ambassador to France, it was privately circulated to an appreciative audience. The text contains a type of dedication to his close friend and scientist in England, Joseph Priestley, who made his name in the field of gases (of a much different nature). Or, as Franklin characterizes him, “who is apt to give himself Airs.”
The intent of Franklin’s treatise was:
“To discover some Drug wholesome and not disagreeable, to be mixed with our common Food, or Sauces, that shall render the Natural Discharges, of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreeable as Perfumes.”
After Franklin’s death in 1790 it disappeared from his vast collection of published works, letters and manuscripts only to reappear in print two hundred years later in 1990. Of course, it really did not completely disappear, but was privately printed and secretly distributed. Some copies were available under lock and key for “scholarly” research in libraries and institutes.
The topic itself was questionable and the fact that it was penned by Franklin was deeply embarrassing to those who appointed themselves protectors of the ideological triumph of the American Revolution. Besides, he’s on the $100 bill!
Franklin was not alone. In 1880, none other than Mark Twain secretly published 1601. Conversation, as it was the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors. He fessed up to it twenty-five years later, but it also suffered the same fate after his death as Franklin’s work.
The 1601 story revolves around a fart emitted by an unknown guest seated at a dinner table which is headed by Queen Elizabeth with such contemporaneous legends as Sir Walter Raleigh and William Shakespeare (identified with typical Elizabethan misspelling as “Shaxpur”).
It turns out that the fart was fathered by Sir Walter who explained that:
“Most gracious maisty, ’twas I that did it, but indeed it was so poor and frail a note, compared with such as I am wont to furnish, yt in sooth I was ashamed to call the weakling mine in so august a presence. It was nothing–less than nothing, madam–I did it but to clear my nether throat; but had I come prepared, then had I delivered something worthy. Bear with me, please your grace, till I can make amends.”
From this confession pours forth a bawdy discussion of the “cod-piece”, “pricks” and other such sordid and sundry (and humorous) matters.
What is remarkable is that these works were considered pornographic and embarrassing. You will not find Franklin’s work in the extensive online collection of “The Papers of Benjamin Franklin” compiled by Yale University even today, although it can now be encountered everywhere on the Internet.
Twain’s work was privately printed and available to only a few. As in the case of Franklin’s work, copies were secreted away in rare books departments across the country even as late as hundred years later after its initial appearance. The Internet has changed all that. It is replete with sites such as http://www.rotten.com/library/sex. It can be found here along with some other scandalous tales. Check it out. It’s a good place to start where anything goes.