This Earle of Oxford, making of his low obeisance to Queen Elizabeth, happened to let a Fart, at which he was so abashed and ashamed that he went to Travell, 7 yeares. On his returne the Queen welcomed him home, and sayd, My Lord, I had forgott the Fart.
~ John Aubrey, Brief Lives (Edward de Vere)
In Richard Burton’s translation of The Arabian Nights we find the brief tale of “How Abu Hasan Brake Wind,” in which something similar happens. A rich and powerful merchant, Abu Hasan decides to marry and throws an opulent wedding feast. Finally, summoned to the bridal chamber, “he rose slowly and with dignity from his divan; but in so doing, for that he was over full of meat and drink, lo and behold! he let fly a fart, great and terrible.” The wedding guests pretend not to have heard anything, each of them “fearing for his life.” But Abu Hasan flees, like Edward de Vere, and travels the world for ten long years. When he finally comes home, hoping all has been forgotten, he discovers instead that people high and low now date certain events by whether they occurred before or after “the night when Abu Hasan farted.” The moral of the story, I suppose, is that there’s no starting over again once you’ve put yourself in bad odor with the neighbors.