"The Tale of the Tub" (from the late1600) is the title of a social satire by Jonathan Swift, mostly known for his books about Gulliver's travels. His satire mirrors his society in a rather bleak looking glass. What he portrays is ignorance and affectations. In his world mankind cloaks its malevolent inner self with fancy clothes. Clothes and textiles were in Swift's day very useful as symbols and metaphors: "is not religion a cloak, honesty a pair of shoes worn out in the dirt, self-love a surtout, vanity a shirt, and conscience a pair of breeches, which, though a cover for lewdness as well as nastiness, is easily slipped down for the service of both." Swift is a cynic and a misogynist. All is a sham!
“In most corporeal beings which have fallen under my cognisance, the outside hath been infinitely preferable to the in, whereof I have been further convinced from some late experiments. Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse. Yesterday I ordered the carcass of a beau to be stripped in my presence, when we were all amazed to find so many unsuspected faults under one suit of clothes."
I read his book because I want to examine one the inspirational sources for Laurence Sternes merrier "The Life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, gentlemen" published more or less a century after Swifts book. Sternes novel is very different from Swifts satire, but both books are highly recommendable and can be downloaded for free in many different formats. My interest in tubs are just coincidental. Swifts tub have in his book two different symbolic meanings, but the phrase "a tale of a tub" also refers to a tall tale, a cock and bull story, A dictionary says it is synonymous with a "flimflam, for idle discourse, a tale of a roasted horse." What a wonderful language English is. Filmflam can also refer to nonsense. Another nice phrase is whim wham, a fancy, a whim. My tub-whim-whams, or tub-whim-shams go to back some years to to DA member Frank B. Jones (cycamores and ceders sycamores-and-cedars.deviantar…
) fascination with the Swedish swimming-practice called "torr sim" (dryswim), the land drill. I have now created "The Tub Swim for mr Jones." I am hope he will enjoy my little folly.
In the first picture we see a lightly clad woman sort of "floating" in a tub. On the wall there hangs a painting: "The Nightmare" by Henry Fuseli from 1781. The little imp/monkey that sits on the tub is not exactly the same as in the painting, it is taken from another version of the same scene. A bad omen?
In the second picture the tub is used as vessel, a boat, where the dreaming woman from Fuselis painting is alone at sea. Maybe an escape from the imp and the horse in the original painting. The third pict portrays three small boys equally adrift, but this time in a coffin. What it means, you tell me!
The fifth picture is of a tub put to use as a shrine for Virgin Mary. The shrine is guarded by blindfolded female guards while three eggs are floating close to the beach. The symbolic meaning once again is above my apprehension.
The last picture is quite different. A client (?) is visiting a painter. On his canvas you can see a woman paddling a tub. Nearby another tub have capsized. What does it all mean, I have my ideas but I won't tell you.