"Instrument of nature", a euphemism, 1655

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Dec 12 04:14:23 UTC 2010

At 9:26 PM -0500 12/11/10, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>Wee p[re]sent Richard Turtall for laciuiouse carriage toward Ann
>Hudson, the wife of John Hudson, in taking hold of her coate and
>inticing her by words, as alsoe by taking out his instrument of
>nature that hee might prevaile to lye with her in her owne house.
>1655 March 5.
>Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, ed. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff
>(Boston: William White, 1855), vol. 3, p. 97.
>I presume this is OED "instrument" sense 4., "A part of the body
>having a special function; an organ. Obs."  Especially considering
>that the earliest quotation is from the wife of
>Bath:  "c1386  Chaucer Wife of Bath's Prol. 149  In wyfhode I wol vse
>myn Instrument As frely as my makere hath it sent."
Sounds right.  And what better device to make a call of nature with
than an instrument of nature?


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