Napoleon's Penis

May 17, 2007 by susan
Classic Napoleon portrait

A Bone Apart
by Susan
I cannot let this moment go by. From time to time I have berated my husband Jimfest, the impresario of poetry, for his odd collecting habits. I'm not talking about the 22 antique typewriters or the ancient maps or the stuffed coyotes. I am talking about the bones, tails, feathers and dead birds picked up off roadsides and thoroughly dessicated after being forgotten for five years in a Lunds silver ice cream bag in the freezer. "A new technique!" says the happy scavenger.

Before he discovered this "technique," back when he wanted to learn real taxidermy, our basement looked like Ed Gein's garage. Basements in old houses are rarely the setting for children's birthday party bean-bag tosses or teenage twister parties, but ours was off limits for -- obvious reasons. Most of the stuff was fake -- the glass eyes, rubber tongues, perky ear inserts -- but try telling it to the wide-eyed six year olds lined up to play pin the tail on the donkey.

But now, I get it. It's in his blood, a zig-zag line running through his father -- who limited himself to funny hats and walking sticks -- and, I've just discovered, also through his dad's cousin, John Kingsley Lattimer.

Lattimer, a noted urologist, died last week, and while he got an impressive obit in the NYTimes for his medical chops, he got far more attention for his collecting chops, including an op-ed in today's Times.

According to the op-ed, Lattimer also collected "military (and some macabre) relics, [such as} Lincoln’s blood-stained collar and Hermann Göring’s cyanide ampoule."

But the piece-de-resistance in his collection of curios is Napoleon's penis, which supposedly had been severed by a priest who administered last rites to Napoleon and "overstepped clerical boundaries." According to those who've seen the missing member, it looks "like a maltreated shoelace, or a shriveled eel."

Well, there you have it. Needless to say, Lattimer was somewhat of a "missing member" in our family as well. I often heard my father-in-law speak glowingly of his cousin's urological triumphs, but about the bloody collars and preserved penises, not so much.

So now when I see those little shrunken ice cream bags in the freezer, I just dig deeper for the Dulce de Leche, and think about what could have been.

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Comments

arejay (not verified) | May 17, 2007 - 5:54pm

ordinarily, one wouldn't bother to congratulate someone
for getting a leg up in the lightweight department, but
it's nothing short of uplifting to find susan so amused, indeed
upbeat, about her family gene discovery. you made
me smile. Huzzah!

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Perhansa (not verified) | May 17, 2007 - 8:07pm

A bright spot in a dreary world--what a hoot!! A bone apart, ha. Great going Susan. Wedgie George better watch out in that flight deck jump suit (to say nothing of Bill Clinton).

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Anonymous (not verified) | May 13, 2009 - 4:50am

George better watch out in that flight deck jump suit (to say nothing of Bill Clinton). online associate degree

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Anonymous (not verified) | May 13, 2009 - 6:08am

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Poet (not verified) | May 17, 2007 - 10:41pm

Well there are pack rats and then there are pack rats! Your distant relative and hubby sound like they have the eccentric gene which gives interesting variety to otherwise conventional human existence!

I have also heard that the classic champaigne glass (not the tulip shaped fluted one that is the real chanpaigne glass but the one that is wider at the top than the base and pictured in all those New Years party commericials) was modeled after Marie Antoinette's breast. Viva La France!

My favorite Hagen Dasz flavor is rum raisin!

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Anonymous (not verified) | May 14, 2009 - 1:13am

pictured in all those New Years party commericials) was modeled after Marie Antoinette's breast. Viva La France! Home schooling diploma

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