19th century slang for laxity or flabbiness
On September 26, 1854, While serving as US consul in England, American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in what would be published as his English Notebooks (1857) these undiplomatic remarks about local women: “The British Scientific Association now in session here, many distinguished strangers were present. What chiefly struck me, however, was the lack of beauty in the women, and the horrible lankness of not a few of them….Who would not abhor such a wife? I really pitied the respectable elderly gentlemen whom I saw walking about with such atrocities hanging on their arms-the grim, red-faced monsters! Surely a man would be justified in … taking a sharp knife and cutting away their mountainous flesh, until he had brought them into reasonable shape, as a sculptor seeks for the beautiful form in a woman in a shapeless block of marble. The husband must feel that something alien has grown over and encrusted the slender creature whom he married, and he is horribly wronged by having all this flabby flesh imposed upon him as his wife.”
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