This letter is noted by
Bombay, Jany 1, 1794.
In a conversation that I had some time ago with Captain Irvine of this presidency who had come to Bombay on some business from Poona where he is stationed, my curiosity was much raised by the account he gave me of a practice that is not uncommon among the Gentoos of putting new noses on people who have had them out cut. He told me that he first came to the
knowledge of this from a sepoy who had his nose cut off by Tippoo during the last War. In consequence of it he had become an invalid in the Company’s pay which he received every month from Captain Irvine.
One day he came to Captain Irvine and begged his permission to go for a certain time to some distance that he might get a new nose, for he said that his wife could not bring herself to like him in his present situation. Captain Irvine thought at first that he wished to impose on him, but the man assured him that he was speaking only the truth and that he would shew him one of his friends who some time before had received a new nose. He accordingly brought him and Captain Irvine had reason to believe the story for he saw a nose which altho’ not actually so perfect as if it had been formed by nature was yet sufficiently agreeable to the eye.
Captain Irvine learned at the same time from Mr. Findlay the Company’s surgeon with the Resident that the sepoy had some time before been with him to beg to have a new nose put on but Mr. Findlay had assured him that such a practice was not known among the Europeans. Captain Irvine gave the sepoy leave of absence and in some weeks afterwards he came back to Poonah with a pretty good nose. It was somewhat too round and uniform but such as would not be taken notice of for being disagreeable. All the gentlemen in the Company’s service at Poona were witnesses of this change.
When Captain Irvine came to Bombay which was soon after the operation, the sepoy still wore plugs, I believe of cotton, in his new nose. There was a discharge from some slight ulceration within it, nor had the part acquired entirely the natural heat of the body. It appeared otherwise to be well joined and healthy and the man had acquired great security in his late acquisition.
Captain Irvine was informed that the operator cut a part from the skin of the forehead above the nose after he had beaten it for some time so as to make it swell and become insensible. In order to take away the skin of a proper form and no more than was necessary he first applied a piece of paper along the cuatrice of the patiant’s nose and having cut it into the form of a nose according to his taste, he applied the paper on the forehead and from thence cut out just as much skin as it covered. He then put the skin in a proper situation on the old nose and secured it there by a paste. I suppose he cut off a little from the edge of the cuatrice of the old nose before fixing the skin on it but of this Captain Irvine could give me no information.
As I wished much to be further acquained with this curious subject I wrote to my friend Mr Findlay concerning it and I cannot do better than send you a copy of his own words in answer.
“On the second instant I was favoured with your last letter wherein you express a strong desire of having some facts collected respecting the custom in this country of putting noses on those who have lost them. It affords me pleasure to inform you that we have ascertained in the most satisfactory manner that individuals or rather families of a certain cast of people in
Hindostan have from time immemorial been acquainted with and practise the art of putting on noses, and I have ample grounds to believe that the operation is in general successful. I have at this moment before me two Mahrattas pensioners of the Bombay Government, whom I saw on their arrival here from Syringaputtam in may or june 1792 without noses. These two men have now their faces decorated with noses of a natural size and tolerable shape which are firmly united and receive nourishment from the stumps of their original noses. These two facts which have fallen under the observation of all the gentlemen of this Residency as well as my own
afford sufficient testimony on this subject; but the following proof may be deemed still more satisfactory.
“Through Sir Charles Mallet’s obliging influence Mr Cruso and I were permitted to see the operation performed on the 26 ultimo by a man of the Koomar cast ( a class of Hindoos chiefly employed in making the common earthenware of this country) who, with an old razor borrowed on the occasion, dissected with much composure a portion of the frontal
integuments from the pericranium of the patient and grafted it, a new operation to us in surgery, on the stump of the original nose. He there retained it, by a cement without the aid of stitches sticking plaster, or bandages. The patient is at present in good health and high spirits.
An adhesion has taken place seemingly in every part; when it is perfected and cuatrized I shall give you a particular history of the operation and subsequent treatment”. (Poona 12 December 1793.)
The above is all the information that I have yet procured concerning the restoration of noses. It must be understood only of the soft and not the bony part of the nose; so much of it I suppose as a knife can readily remove; for this has been a common punishment with the despots by whom this country has been ruled. The cement, by which the old and new parts are kept together till they unite, appears to be a desideratum in our surgery. I cannot discover wherefore the skin is not taken from a more ignoble and a less conspicuous part than the forehead. I should suppose that a piece of skin would but ill supply the place of the septum and the other cautilages of the nose, its muscles, membrane & c ; but so far as appearance is concerned, and this must be acknowledged to be a consideration of great moment, it makes an excellent substitute.
Altho’ this operation of the Gentoos is supported by the analogy of some well known facts there are people I doubt not who will call in question the truth of this relation. I beg leave to repeat that two of the Company’s surgeons Mr Findlay and Mr Cruso both men of eminence in their profession have actually seen the operation performed and the sepoys who are mentioned above are known to all the gentlemen of the Residency at Poona. You are very welcome Sir to make use of my name in any way you may chuse to mention this singular operation for I am perfectly assured of the unquestionable honour as well as of the good sense of those from
whom I have received the accounts.