Tom Thumb on Kisses


An American as I am -- a free citizen of the smartest nation in creation, 't isn't for me to find fault with the gala of free Columbia. Neverthe­less, truth is mighty, and with fair play will whip her weight in wild-cats. Therefore, I cannot say much for the kissing of America. Governor Barnum tells me that I oughtn't to give any 'pinion of the matter till I get back again, with all my snuff-boxes and tooth-picks, and pencil-cases of crowned heads about me; when the kisses will be a different matter, as the royalty of Europe will be saluted through me. But this I must say; the kissing of America, of my own countrywomen, was terrible cautious; nothing more than what you might call respect with the chill off. But, then, Barnum says, I was nobody; and gals don't kiss no bodies like somebodies. For all that, I'm a little riled when I think of it. For I remember, how at New York they used to look at me, and mince round and round me, and put their hands under my chin, as if I warn't a human cretur, but a goose-berry bush, and they were afraid of their fingers. And then the boldest on 'em kissed me short and not at all satisfactory; for all the world as if they thought they was doing me a service, and not themselves an honor. They'll find me rayther different when I get back, I calculate; so they'd better practise a little afore I come among 'em.
 
Now in England kissing is mighty hearty. The gals arn't a hit ashamed on it. I shall say no more here about the maids-of-honor as kissed me a million times in the palace, but speak of the 'Gyptian Hall, where I was kissed four thousand times a day, which is only allowing eight kisses a piece for every female: some on 'em took more -- some less, but I'm striking the averages. I had when I first showed there, tarnation pretty dimples; and in a month, my cheeks was as smooth as an apple. The dimples was kissed out; run away with by the lips of the ladies. I often said to Barnum, "Governor, this is by no means the Cheshire. I feel my face is wasting away with so much kissing; melting slick like a sugar-plum in a baby's mouth. Tell you what it is; if I'm to lose my cheeks, I ought to make something by 'em. Therefore, its my opinion you should alter the price, in this way. 'Them as only looks, a shilling; them as kisses, eighteenpence.'" Once or twice -- for to be kissed eight different ways by five hundred females is nation hard work -- once or twice, I thought I'd have a notice writ, and hung about my neck; sich a one as I seed at a flower show, with these words -- "Admire, but touch not." I confess it: now and then I used to be riled; used to say to myself, "Have you nobody at home to kiss; that you will put on your bonnets and pattens to come and kiss a little gentleman in public?" But as I said afore; take the people altogether, English kissing is mighty pleasant.

In Scotland I was only kissed only at private parties. Of that, as a man of honor, I say nothing. In public, the ladies used to blow kisses at me through their fingers.
 
Was kissed tarnation in France. Rayther disagreeable in one particular, as the ladies so very often left the paint upon my nose.
 
Talking of France, it's a wonder I'm a single man. For when the king of the French heard from Barnum that I had got the fortin I have, I'm darned if he did n't say he must have me for one of the princesses. Now, being a true republican, that didn't suit my book at all. "No, no," says I to Barnum; "don't mind the princesses kissing me now and then, when I'm in a good temper, but I'd as soon run upon a snag as upon the marriage service. Seen too much of life, and been kissed a little too much round the world for that." So I escaped -- cut stick from the Tuileries -- going off in Barnum's hat-box.
 
Well, I did think that I should give a whole account of all the kissing I've gone through, but on second thoughts it can't he done here, no how. The subject is so full -- as Barnum says -- that I can't do it justice in a little book, so I intend to make it a big history, by itself, with picturs of the ladies, with their lips made up jest as they attacked me; made up now peaking like rose-buds, and now as if I was a cake at a pastry-cook's, made for nothing but to be eaten. It's wonderful to a man with my experience of lips to know what mouths can be made on 'em. Nobody would believe it, but they will when they see my book. And so to get back to Queen Victoria's palace.

When the maids-of-honor had done kissing me, and stood -- like flustered birds of Paradise -- a taking breath, the lord-in-waiting comes in agin, and says, "General, her majesty the Queen will be very happy to see you." All the maids-of-honor fell back, and I following the lord, and -- Barnum following me -- walks into the presence of the queen of the British Isles. I'd made my mind up to show my independence, to go in whistling "Yankee Doodle," or "Star of Columbia," but somehow I found my voice had departed -- gone slick, and not even left its ghost behind -- and Barnum, too, I should n't ha' known him; he shook all over, and his face looked as if it had been dabbed with a powder-puff. I thought to myself, the British lion must be somewhere, under some sofa p'raps, in the 'partment, and the governor sees him, and shakes, and is pale accordin'.

I walks up to the queen, who was a sittin' by the tea-things. "I'm very happy, general," said her majesty, "to see you here. Genius, though ever so small -- if it is genius, general -- is welcome to this fire-place."
 
Upon this, I bowed, as any gentleman would do to any lady.

"General," said gracious majesty, "allow me to introduce my husband." Whereupon Prince Albert said in the most affable manner --
 
"I hope to improve the acquaintance of the general, when we go a gunning together," and then royal highness went on with his tea.
 
"Do you take sugar, general?" said gracious majesty with tongs in her hand.
 
"I do, madam," said I; for I found my voice a coming hack agin.

"Which do you prefer?" -- said gracious majesty, with a smile that seemed to turn me into a lump of honey -- "which sugar do you prefer, white or brown?"
 
"Either," said I, "but if it isn't slave-grown, I'm a true republican, and won't touch a tarnation morsel." -- Punch.
 


Tom Thumb On Kisses - January 2, 1847 - Littell's Living Age - Disability History Museum, www.disabilitymuseum.org  (March 04, 2009)

 

 

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