The Nose by Nicholas Gogol
On the 25th March, 18—, a very strange occurrence
took place in St Petersburg. On the
Ascension Avenue there lived a barber of the
name of Ivan Jakovlevitch. He had lost his
family name, and on his sign-board, on which
was depicted the head of a gentleman with one
cheek soaped, the only inscription to be read
was, “Blood-letting done here.”
On this particular morning he awoke pretty
early. Becoming aware of the smell of fresh-baked
bread, he sat up a little in bed, and saw
his wife, who had a special partiality for coffee,
in the act of taking some fresh-baked bread out
of the oven.
“To-day, Prasskovna Ossipovna,” he said,
“I do not want any coffee; I should like a fresh
loaf with onions.”
“The blockhead may eat bread only as far as
I am concerned,” said his wife to herself; “then
I shall have a chance of getting some coffee.”
And she threw a loaf on the table.
For the sake of propriety, Ivan Jakovlevitch
drew a coat over his shirt, sat down at the table,
shook out some salt for himself, prepared two
onions, assumed a serious expression, and began
to cut the bread. After he had cut the loaf in
two halves, he looked, and to his great astonishment
saw something whitish sticking in it. He
carefully poked round it with his knife, and felt
it with his finger.
“Quite firmly fixed!” he murmured in his
beard. “What can it be?”
He put in his finger, and drew out—a nose!
Ivan Jakovlevitch at first let his hands fall
from sheer astonishment; then he rubbed his
eyes and began to feel it. A nose, an actual
nose; and, moreover, it seemed to be the nose
of an acquaintance! Alarm and terror were
depicted in Ivan's face; but these feelings were
slight in comparison with the disgust which took
possession of his wife.
“Whose nose have you cut off, you
monster?” she screamed, her face red with
anger. “You scoundrel! You tippler! I myself
will report you to the police! Such a
rascal! Many customers have told me that
while you were shaving them, you held them so
tight by the nose that they could hardly sit still.”
But Ivan Jakovlevitch was more dead than
alive; he saw at once that this nose could belong
to no other than to Kovaloff, a member of the
Municipal Committee whom he shaved every
Sunday and Wednesday.
“Stop, Prasskovna Ossipovna! I will wrap
it in a piece of cloth and place it in the corner.
There it may remain for the present; later on I
will take it away.”
“No, not there! Shall I endure an amputated
nose in my room? You understand
nothing except how to strop a razor. You know
nothing of the duties and obligations of a respectable
man. You vagabond! You good-for-nothing!
Am I to undertake all responsibility
for you at the police-office? Ah, you soap-smearer!
You blockhead! Take it away where
you like, but don't let it stay under my
Ivan Jakovlevitch stood there flabbergasted.
He thought and thought, and knew not what he
“The devil knows how that happened!” he
said at last, scratching his head behind his ear.
“Whether I came home drunk last night or not,
I really don't know; but in all probability this
is a quite extraordinary occurrence, for a loaf
is something baked and a nose is something
different. I don't understand the matter at
all.” And Ivan Jakovlevitch was silent. The
thought that the police might find him in unlawful
possession of a nose and arrest him, robbed
him of all presence of mind. Already he began
to have visions of a red collar with silver braid
and of a sword—and he trembled all over.
At last he finished dressing himself, and to the
accompaniment of the emphatic exhortations of
his spouse, he wrapped up the nose in a cloth and
issued into the street.
He intended to lose it somewhere—either at
somebody's door, or in a public square, or in a
narrow alley; but just then, in order to complete
his bad luck, he was met by an acquaintance,
who showered inquiries upon him. “Hullo,
Ivan Jakovlevitch! Whom are you going to
shave so early in the morning?” etc., so that
he could find no suitable opportunity to do what
he wanted. Later on he did let the nose drop,
but a sentry bore down upon him with his
halberd, and said, “Look out! You have let
something drop!” and Ivan Jakovlevitch was
obliged to pick it up and put it in his pocket.
A feeling of despair began to take possession
of him; all the more as the streets became more
thronged and the merchants began to open their
shops. At last he resolved to go to the Isaac
Bridge, where perhaps he might succeed in
throwing it into the Neva.
But my conscience is a little uneasy that I have
not yet given any detailed information about
Ivan Jakovlevitch, an estimable man in many
Like every honest Russian tradesman, Ivan
Jakovlevitch was a terrible drunkard, and
although he shaved other people's faces every
day, his own was always unshaved. His coat
(he never wore an overcoat) was quite mottled,
i.e. it had been black, but become brownish-yellow;
the collar was quite shiny, and instead
of the three buttons, only the threads by which
they had been fastened were to be seen.
Ivan Jakovlevitch was a great cynic, and when
Kovaloff, the member of the Municipal Committee,
said to him, as was his custom while being
shaved, “Your hands always smell, Ivan Jakovlevitch!”
the latter answered, “What do they
smell of?” “I don't know, my friend, but
they smell very strong.” Ivan Jakovlevitch
after taking a pinch of snuff would then, by way
of reprisals, set to work to soap him on the cheek,
the upper lip, behind the ears, on the chin, and
This worthy man now stood on the Isaac
Bridge. At first he looked round him, then he
leant on the railings of the bridge, as though he
wished to look down and see how many fish were
swimming past, and secretly threw the nose,
wrapped in a little piece of cloth, into the
water. He felt as though a ton weight had been
lifted off him, and laughed cheerfully. Instead,
however, of going to shave any officials, he
turned his steps to a building, the sign-board of
which bore the legend “Teas served here,” in
order to have a glass of punch, when suddenly
he perceived at the other end of the bridge a
police inspector of imposing exterior, with long
whiskers, three-cornered hat, and sword hanging
at his side. He nearly fainted; but the police
inspector beckoned to him with his hand and
said, “Come here, my dear sir.”
Ivan Jakovlevitch, knowing how a gentleman
should behave, took his hat off quickly, went
towards the police inspector and said, “I hope
you are in the best of health.”
“Never mind my health. Tell me, my
friend, why you were standing on the bridge.”
“By heaven, gracious sir, I was on the way
to my customers, and only looked down to see if
the river was flowing quickly.”
“That is a lie! You won't get out of it like
that. Confess the truth.”
“I am willing to shave Your Grace two or
even three times a week gratis,” answered Ivan
“No, my friend, don't put yourself out!
Three barbers are busy with me already, and
reckon it a high honour that I let them show me
their skill. Now then, out with it! What were
you doing there?”
Ivan Jakovlevitch grew pale. But here the
strange episode vanishes in mist, and what
further happened is not known.
Kovaloff, the member of the Municipal Committee,
awoke fairly early that morning, and
made a droning noise—“Brr! Brr!”—through
his lips, as he always did, though he could not
say why. He stretched himself, and told his
valet to give him a little mirror which was on the
table. He wished to look at the heat-boil which
had appeared on his nose the previous evening;
but to his great astonishment, he saw that instead
of his nose he had a perfectly smooth vacancy in
his face. Thoroughly alarmed, he ordered some
water to be brought, and rubbed his eyes with a
towel. Sure enough, he had no longer a nose!
Then he sprang out of bed, and shook himself
violently! No, no nose any more! He dressed
himself and went at once to the police superintendent.
But before proceeding further, we must certainly
give the reader some information about
Kovaloff, so that he may know what sort of a man
this member of the Municipal Committee really
was. These committee-men, who obtain that
title by means of certificates of learning, must
not be compared with the committee-men appointed
for the Caucasus district, who are of
quite a different kind. The learned committee-man—but
Russia is such a wonderful country
that when one committee-man is spoken of all
the others from Riga to Kamschatka refer it to
themselves. The same is also true of all other
titled officials. Kovaloff had been a Caucasian
committee-man two years previously, and could
not forget that he had occupied that position;
but in order to enhance his own importance,
he never called himself “committee-man” but
“Listen, my dear,” he used to say when he
met an old woman in the street who sold shirt-fronts;
“go to my house in Sadovaia Street and
ask ‘Does Major Kovaloff live here?’ Any
child can tell you where it is.”
Accordingly we will call him for the future
Major Kovaloff. It was his custom to take a daily
walk on the Neffsky Avenue. The collar of his
shirt was always remarkably clean and stiff. He
wore the same style of whiskers as those that are
worn by governors of districts, architects, and
regimental doctors; in short, all those who have
full red cheeks and play a good game of whist.
These whiskers grow straight across the cheek
towards the nose.
Major Kovaloff wore a number of seals, on
some of which were engraved armorial bearings,
and others the names of the days of the week.
He had come to St Petersburg with the view of
obtaining some position corresponding to his
rank, if possible that of vice-governor of a
province; but he was prepared to be content with
that of a bailiff in some department or other.
He was, moreover, not disinclined to marry, but
only such a lady who could bring with her a
dowry of two hundred thousand roubles. Accordingly,
the reader can judge for himself what
his sensations were when he found in his face,
instead of a fairly symmetrical nose, a broad,
To increase his misfortune, not a single
droshky was to be seen in the street, and so he
was obliged to proceed on foot. He wrapped
himself up in his cloak, and held his handkerchief
to his face as though his nose bled. “But
perhaps it is all only my imagination; it is impossible
that a nose should drop off in such a
silly way,” he thought, and stepped into a
confectioner's shop in order to look into the
Fortunately no customer was in the shop; only
small shop-boys were cleaning it out, and putting
chairs and tables straight. Others with sleepy
faces were carrying fresh cakes on trays, and
yesterday's newspapers stained with coffee were
still lying about. “Thank God no one is
here!” he said to himself. “Now I can look
at myself leisurely.”
He stepped gingerly up to a mirror and looked.
“What an infernal face!” he exclaimed, and
spat with disgust. “If there were only something
there instead of the nose, but there is
He bit his lips with vexation, left the confectioner's,
and resolved, quite contrary to his habit,
neither to look nor smile at anyone on the street.
Suddenly he halted as if rooted to the spot before
a door, where something extraordinary happened.
A carriage drew up at the entrance; the
carriage door was opened, and a gentleman in
uniform came out and hurried up the steps.
How great was Kovaloff's terror and astonishment
when he saw that it was his own nose!
At this extraordinary sight, everything seemed
to turn round with him. He felt as though he
could hardly keep upright on his legs; but,
though trembling all over as though with fever,
he resolved to wait till the nose should return
to the carriage. After about two minutes the
nose actually came out again. It wore a gold-embroidered
uniform with a stiff, high collar,
trousers of chamois leather, and a sword hung
at its side. The hat, adorned with a plume,
showed that it held the rank of a state-councillor.
It was obvious that it was paying “duty-calls.”
It looked round on both sides, called to the
coachman “Drive on,” and got into the carriage,
which drove away.
Poor Kovaloff nearly lost his reason. He did
not know what to think of this extraordinary
procedure. And indeed how was it possible
that the nose, which only yesterday he had on
his face, and which could neither walk nor drive,
should wear a uniform. He ran after the carriage,
which fortunately had stopped a short way
off before the Grand Bazar of Moscow. He
hurried towards it and pressed through a crowd
of beggar-women with their faces bound up,
leaving only two openings for the eyes, over
whom he had formerly so often made merry.
There were only a few people in front of the
Bazar. Kovaloff was so agitated that he could
decide on nothing, and looked for the nose
everywhere. At last he saw it standing before
a shop. It seemed half buried in its stiff collar,
and was attentively inspecting the wares displayed.
“How can I get at it?” thought Kovaloff.
“Everything—the uniform, the hat, and so on—show
that it is a state-councillor. How the
deuce has that happened?”
He began to cough discreetly near it, but the
nose paid him not the least attention.
“Honourable sir,” said Kovaloff at last,
plucking up courage, “honourable sir.”
“What do you want?” asked the nose, and
“It seems to me strange, most respected sir—you
should know where you belong—and I find
you all of a sudden—where? Judge yourself.”
“Pardon me, I do not understand what you
are talking about. Explain yourself more distinctly.”
“How shall I make my meaning plainer to
him?” Then plucking up fresh courage, he
continued, “Naturally—besides I am a Major.
You must admit it is not befitting that I should
go about without a nose. An old apple-woman
on the Ascension Bridge may carry on her business
without one, but since I am on the look out
for a post; besides in many houses I am acquainted
with ladies of high position—Madame
Tchektyriev, wife of a state-councillor, and
many others. So you see—I do not know,
honourable sir, what you——” (here the Major
shrugged his shoulders). “Pardon me; if one
regards the matter from the point of view of
duty and honour—you will yourself understand——”
“I understand nothing,” answered the nose.
“I repeat, please explain yourself more distinctly.”
“Honourable sir,” said Kovaloff with
dignity, “I do not know how I am to understand
your words. It seems to me the matter is as
clear as possible. Or do you wish—but you are
after all my own nose!”
The nose looked at the Major and wrinkled its
forehead. “There you are wrong, respected
sir; I am myself. Besides, there can be no close
relations between us. To judge by the buttons
of your uniform, you must be in quite a different
department to mine.” So saying, the nose
Kovaloff was completely puzzled; he did not
know what to do, and still less what to think.
At this moment he heard the pleasant rustling of
a lady's dress, and there approached an elderly
lady wearing a quantity of lace, and by her side
her graceful daughter in a white dress which set
off her slender figure to advantage, and wearing
a light straw hat. Behind the ladies marched a
tall lackey with long whiskers.
Kovaloff advanced a few steps, adjusted his
cambric collar, arranged his seals which hung
by a little gold chain, and with smiling face fixed
his eyes on the graceful lady, who bowed lightly
like a spring flower, and raised to her brow
her little white hand with transparent fingers.
He smiled still more when he spied under the
brim of her hat her little round chin, and part
of her cheek faintly tinted with rose-colour.
But suddenly he sprang back as though he had
been scorched. He remembered that he had
nothing but an absolute blank in place of a nose,
and tears started to his eyes. He turned round
in order to tell the gentleman in uniform that he
was only a state-councillor in appearance, but
really a scoundrel and a rascal, and nothing else
but his own nose; but the nose was no longer
there. He had had time to go, doubtless in
order to continue his visits.
His disappearance plunged Kovaloff into
despair. He went back and stood for a moment
under a colonnade, looking round him on all
sides in hope of perceiving the nose somewhere.
He remembered very well that it wore a hat with
a plume in it and a gold-embroidered uniform;
but he had not noticed the shape of the cloak,
nor the colour of the carriages and the horses,
nor even whether a lackey stood behind it, and,
if so, what sort of livery he wore. Moreover,
so many carriages were passing that it would
have been difficult to recognise one, and even if
he had done so, there would have been no means
of stopping it.
The day was fine and sunny. An immense
crowd was passing to and fro in the Neffsky
Avenue; a variegated stream of ladies flowed
along the pavement. There was his acquaintance,
the Privy Councillor, whom he was accustomed
to style “General,” especially when
strangers were present. There was Iarygin, his
intimate friend who always lost in the evenings
at whist; and there another Major, who had
obtained the rank of committee-man in the
Caucasus, beckoned to him.
“Go to the deuce!” said Kovaloff sotto voce.
“Hi! coachman, drive me straight to the superintendent
of police.” So saying, he got into a
droshky and continued to shout all the time to
the coachman “Drive hard!”
“Is the police superintendent at home?” he
asked on entering the front hall.
“No, sir,” answered the porter, “he has just
“Ah, just as I thought!”
“Yes,” continued the porter, “he has only
just gone out; if you had been a moment
earlier you would perhaps have caught
Kovaloff, still holding his handkerchief to his
face, re-entered the droshky and cried in a
despairing voice “Drive on!”
“Where?” asked the coachman.
“But how? There are cross-roads here.
Shall I go to the right or the left?”
This question made Kovaloff reflect. In his
situation it was necessary to have recourse to the
police; not because the affair had anything to do
with them directly but because they acted more
promptly than other authorities. As for demanding
any explanation from the department
to which the nose claimed to belong, it would,
he felt, be useless, for the answers of that
gentleman showed that he regarded nothing as
sacred, and he might just as likely have lied in
this matter as in saying that he had never seen
But just as he was about to order the coachman
to drive to the police-station, the idea
occurred to him that this rascally scoundrel who,
at their first meeting, had behaved so disloyally
towards him, might, profiting by the delay, quit
the city secretly; and then all his searching would
be in vain, or might last over a whole month.
Finally, as though visited with a heavenly inspiration,
he resolved to go directly to an advertisement
office, and to advertise the loss of his
nose, giving all its distinctive characteristics in
detail, so that anyone who found it might bring
it at once to him, or at any rate inform him
where it lived. Having decided on this course,
he ordered the coachman to drive to the advertisement
office, and all the way he continued to
punch him in the back—“Quick, scoundrel!
“Yes, sir!” answered the coachman, lashing
his shaggy horse with the reins.
At last they arrived, and Kovaloff, out of
breath, rushed into a little room where a grey-haired
official, in an old coat and with spectacles
on his nose, sat at a table holding his pen
between his teeth, counting a heap of copper
“Who takes in the advertisements here?”
“At your service, sir,” answered the grey-haired
functionary, looking up and then fastening
his eyes again on the heap of coins before
“I wish to place an advertisement in your
“Have the kindness to wait a minute,”
answered the official, putting down figures on
paper with one hand, and with the other moving
two balls on his calculating-frame.
A lackey, whose silver-laced coat showed that
he served in one of the houses of the nobility,
was standing by the table with a note in his hand,
and speaking in a lively tone, by way of showing
himself sociable. “Would you believe it, sir,
this little dog is really not worth twenty-four
kopecks, and for my own part I would not give a
farthing for it; but the countess is quite gone
upon it, and offers a hundred roubles' reward to
anyone who finds it. To tell you the truth, the
tastes of these people are very different from
ours; they don't mind giving five hundred or a
thousand roubles for a poodle or a pointer,
provided it be a good one.”
The official listened with a serious air while
counting the number of letters contained in the
note. At either side of the table stood a number
of housekeepers, clerks and porters, carrying
notes. The writer of one wished to sell a
barouche, which had been brought from Paris
in 1814 and had been very little used; others
wanted to dispose of a strong droshky which
wanted one spring, a spirited horse seventeen
years old, and so on. The room where these
people were collected was very small, and the air
was very close; but Kovaloff was not affected by
it, for he had covered his face with a handkerchief,
and because his nose itself was heaven
“Sir, allow me to ask you—I am in a great
hurry,” he said at last impatiently.
“In a moment! In a moment! Two roubles,
twenty-four kopecks—one minute! One rouble,
sixty-four kopecks!” said the grey-haired
official, throwing their notes back to the housekeepers
and porters. “What do you wish?” he
said, turning to Kovaloff.
“I wish—” answered the latter, “I have just
been swindled and cheated, and I cannot get hold
of the perpetrator. I only want you to insert
an advertisement to say that whoever brings this
scoundrel to me will be well rewarded.”
“What is your name, please?”
“Why do you want my name? I have many
lady friends—Madame Tchektyriev, wife of a
state-councillor, Madame Podtotchina, wife of a
Colonel. Heaven forbid that they should get to
hear of it. You can simply write ‘committee-man,’
or, better, ‘Major.’”
“And the man who has run away is your
“Serf! If he was, it would not be such a
great swindle! It is the nose which has
“H'm! What a strange name. And this
Mr Nose has stolen from you a considerable
“Mr Nose! Ah, you don't understand me!
It is my own nose which has gone, I don't know
where. The devil has played a trick on me.”
“How has it disappeared? I don't understand.”
“I can't tell you how, but the important point
is that now it walks about the city itself a state-councillor.
That is why I want you to advertise
that whoever gets hold of it should bring it as
soon as possible to me. Consider; how can I
live without such a prominent part of my body?
It is not as if it were merely a little toe; I would
only have to put my foot in my boot and no one
would notice its absence. Every Thursday I
call on the wife of M. Tchektyriev, the state-councillor;
Madame Podtotchina, a Colonel's
wife who has a very pretty daughter, is one of
my acquaintances; and what am I to do now?
I cannot appear before them like this.”
The official compressed his lips and reflected.
“No, I cannot insert an advertisement like
that,” he said after a long pause.
“What! Why not?”
“Because it might compromise the paper.
Suppose everyone could advertise that his nose
was lost. People already say that all sorts of
nonsense and lies are inserted.”
“But this is not nonsense! There is nothing
of that sort in my case.”
“You think so? Listen a minute. Last
week there was a case very like it. An official
came, just as you have done, bringing an advertisement
for the insertion of which he paid two
roubles, sixty-three kopecks; and this advertisement
simply announced the loss of a black-haired
poodle. There did not seem to be anything out
of the way in it, but it was really a satire; by the
poodle was meant the cashier of some establishment
“But I am not talking of a poodle, but my
own nose; i.e. almost myself.”
“No, I cannot insert your advertisement.”
“But my nose really has disappeared!”
“That is a matter for a doctor. There are
said to be people who can provide you with any
kind of nose you like. But I see that you are a
witty man, and like to have your little joke.”
“But I swear to you on my word of honour.
Look at my face yourself.”
“Why put yourself out?” continued the
official, taking a pinch of snuff. “All the same,
if you don't mind,” he added with a touch of
curiosity, “I should like to have a look at it.”
The committee-man removed the handkerchief
from before his face.
“It certainly does look odd,” said the official.
“It is perfectly flat like a freshly fried pancake.
It is hardly credible.”
“Very well. Are you going to hesitate
any more? You see it is impossible to refuse
to advertise my loss. I shall be particularly
obliged to you, and I shall be glad that this
incident has procured me the pleasure of making
your acquaintance.” The Major, we see, did
not even shrink from a slight humiliation.
“It certainly is not difficult to advertise it,”
replied the official; “but I don't see what good
it would do you. However, if you lay so much
stress on it, you should apply to someone who
has a skilful pen, so that he may describe it as a
curious, natural freak, and publish the article in
the Northern Bee” (here he took another pinch)
“for the benefit of youthful readers” (he wiped
his nose), “or simply as a matter worthy of
arousing public curiosity.”
The committee-man felt completely discouraged.
He let his eyes fall absent-mindedly on
a daily paper in which theatrical performances
were advertised. Reading there the name of
an actress whom he knew to be pretty, he involuntarily
smiled, and his hand sought his pocket
to see if he had a blue ticket—for in Kovaloff's
opinion superior officers like himself should not
take a lesser-priced seat; but the thought of his
lost nose suddenly spoilt everything.
The official himself seemed touched at his
difficult position. Desiring to console him, he
tried to express his sympathy by a few polite
words. “I much regret,” he said, “your
extraordinary mishap. Will you not try a
pinch of snuff? It clears the head, banishes
depression, and is a good preventive against
So saying, he reached his snuff-box out to
Kovaloff, skilfully concealing at the same time
the cover, which was adorned with the portrait of
some lady or other.
This act, quite innocent in itself, exasperated
Kovaloff. “I don't understand what you find to
joke about in the matter,” he exclaimed angrily.
“Don't you see that I lack precisely the essential
feature for taking snuff? The devil take
your snuff-box. I don't want to look at snuff
now, not even the best, certainly not your vile
So saying, he left the advertisement office in
a state of profound irritation, and went to the
commissary of police. He arrived just as this
dignitary was reclining on his couch, and saying
to himself with a sigh of satisfaction, “Yes, I
shall make a nice little sum out of that.”
It might be expected, therefore, that the
committee-man's visit would be quite inopportune.
This police commissary was a great patron of
all the arts and industries; but what he liked
above everything else was a cheque. “It is a
thing,” he used to say, “to which it is not easy
to find an equivalent; it requires no food, it does
not take up much room, it stays in one's pocket,
and if it falls, it is not broken.”
The commissary accorded Kovaloff a fairly
frigid reception, saying that the afternoon was
not the best time to come with a case, that nature
required one to rest a little after eating (this
showed the committee-man that the commissary
was acquainted with the aphorisms of the ancient
sages), and that respectable people did not have
their noses stolen.
The last allusion was too direct. We must
remember that Kovaloff was a very sensitive
man. He did not mind anything said against
him as an individual, but he could not endure
any reflection on his rank or social position. He
even believed that in comedies one might allow
attacks on junior officers, but never on their
The commissary's reception of him hurt his
feelings so much that he raised his head proudly,
and said with dignity, “After such insulting
expressions on your part, I have nothing more
to say.” And he left the place.
He reached his house quite wearied out. It
was already growing dark. After all his fruitless
search, his room seemed to him melancholy
and even ugly. In the vestibule he saw his
valet Ivan stretched on the leather couch and
amusing himself by spitting at the ceiling, which
he did very cleverly, hitting every time the same
spot. His servant's equanimity enraged him;
he struck him on the forehead with his hat, and
said, “You good-for-nothing, you are always
playing the fool!”
Ivan rose quickly and hastened to take off his
Once in his room, the Major, tired and depressed,
threw himself in an armchair and, after
sighing a while, began to soliloquise:
“In heaven's name, why should such a misfortune
befall me? If I had lost an arm or a
leg, it would be less insupportable; but a man
without a nose! Devil take it!—what is he good
for? He is only fit to be thrown out of the
window. If it had been taken from me in war or
in a duel, or if I had lost it by my own fault!
But it has disappeared inexplicably. But no! it
is impossible,” he continued after reflecting a few
moments, “it is incredible that a nose can disappear
like that—quite incredible. I must be
dreaming, or suffering from some hallucination;
perhaps I swallowed, by mistake instead of
water, the brandy with which I rub my chin after
being shaved. That fool of an Ivan must have
forgotten to take it away, and I must have
In order to find out whether he were really
drunk, the Major pinched himself so hard that
he unvoluntarily uttered a cry. The pain convinced
him that he was quite wide awake. He
walked slowly to the looking-glass and at first
closed his eyes, hoping to see his nose suddenly
in its proper place; but on opening them, he
started back. “What a hideous sight!” he
It was really incomprehensible. One might
easily lose a button, a silver spoon, a watch, or
something similar; but a loss like this, and in
one's own dwelling!
After considering all the circumstances, Major
Kovaloff felt inclined to suppose that the cause
of all his trouble should be laid at the door of
Madame Podtotchina, the Colonel's wife, who
wished him to marry her daughter. He himself
paid her court readily, but always avoided
coming to the point. And when the lady one
day told him point-blank that she wished him
to marry her daughter, he gently drew back,
declaring that he was still too young, and that he
had to serve five years more before he would be
forty-two. This must be the reason why the
lady, in revenge, had resolved to bring him into
disgrace, and had hired two sorceresses for that
object. One thing was certain—his nose had
not been cut off; no one had entered his room,
and as for Ivan Jakovlevitch—he had been
shaved by him on Wednesday, and during that
day and the whole of Thursday his nose had
been there, as he knew and well remembered.
Moreover, if his nose had been cut off he
would naturally have felt pain, and doubtless
the wound would not have healed so quickly,
nor would the surface have been as flat as a
All kinds of plans passed through his head:
should he bring a legal action against the wife
of a superior officer, or should he go to her and
charge her openly with her treachery?
His reflections were interrupted by a sudden
light, which shone through all the chinks of the
door, showing that Ivan had lit the wax-candles
in the vestibule. Soon Ivan himself came in
with the lights. Kovaloff quickly seized a handkerchief
and covered the place where his nose
had been the evening before, so that his blockhead
of a servant might not gape with his mouth
wide open when he saw his master's extraordinary
Scarcely had Ivan returned to the vestibule
than a stranger's voice was heard there.
“Does Major Kovaloff live here?” it asked.
“Come in!” said the Major, rising rapidly
and opening the door.
He saw a police official of pleasant appearance,
with grey whiskers and fairly full cheeks—the
same who at the commencement of this story was
standing at the end of the Isaac Bridge. “You
have lost your nose?” he asked.
“It has just been found.”
“What—do you say?” stammered Major
Joy had suddenly paralysed his tongue. He
stared at the police commissary on whose cheeks
and full lips fell the flickering light of the candle.
“How was it?” he asked at last.
“By a very singular chance. It has been
arrested just as it was getting into a carriage for
Riga. Its passport had been made out some
time ago in the name of an official; and what is
still more strange, I myself took it at first for a
gentleman. Fortunately I had my glasses with
me, and then I saw at once that it was a nose.
I am shortsighted, you know, and as you stand
before me I cannot distinguish your nose, your
beard, or anything else. My mother-in-law can
hardly see at all.”
Kovaloff was beside himself with excitement.
“Where is it? Where? I will hasten there at
“Don't put yourself out. Knowing that you
need it, I have brought it with me. Another
singular thing is that the principal culprit in the
matter is a scoundrel of a barber living in the
Ascension Avenue, who is now safely locked up.
I had long suspected him of drunkenness and
theft; only the day before yesterday he stole
some buttons in a shop. Your nose is quite
uninjured.” So saying, the police commissary
put his hand in his pocket and brought out the
nose wrapped up in paper.
“Yes, yes, that is it!” exclaimed Kovaloff.
“Will you not stay and drink a cup of tea with
“I should like to very much, but I cannot.
I must go at once to the House of Correction.
The cost of living is very high nowadays. My
mother-in-law lives with me, and there are
several children; the eldest is very hopeful and
intelligent, but I have no means for their
After the commissary's departure, Kovaloff
remained for some time plunged in a kind of
vague reverie, and did not recover full consciousness
for several moments, so great was the
effect of this unexpected good news. He placed
the recovered nose carefully in the palm of his
hand, and examined it again with the greatest
“Yes, this is it!” he said to himself. “Here
is the heat-boil on the left side, which came out
yesterday.” And he nearly laughed aloud with
But nothing is permanent in this world. Joy
in the second moment of its arrival is already
less keen than in the first, is still fainter in the
third, and finishes by coalescing with our normal
mental state, just as the circles which the fall of
a pebble forms on the surface of water, gradually
die away. Kovaloff began to meditate, and saw
that his difficulties were not yet over; his nose
had been recovered, but it had to be joined on
again in its proper place.
And suppose it could not? As he put this
question to himself, Kovaloff grew pale. With
a feeling of indescribable dread, he rushed
towards his dressing-table, and stood before the
mirror in order that he might not place his nose
crookedly. His hands trembled.
Very carefully he placed it where it had been
before. Horror! It did not remain there.
He held it to his mouth and warmed it a little
with his breath, and then placed it there again;
but it would not hold.
“Hold on, you stupid!” he said.
But the nose seemed to be made of wood, and
fell back on the table with a strange noise, as
though it had been a cork. The Major's face
began to twitch feverishly. “Is it possible that
it won't stick?” he asked himself, full of alarm.
But however often he tried, all his efforts were
He called Ivan, and sent him to fetch the
doctor who occupied the finest flat in the
mansion. This doctor was a man of imposing
appearance, who had magnificent black whiskers
and a healthy wife. He ate fresh apples every
morning, and cleaned his teeth with extreme
care, using five different tooth-brushes for three-quarters
of an hour daily.
The doctor came immediately. After having
asked the Major when this misfortune had happened,
he raised his chin and gave him a fillip
with his finger just where the nose had been, in
such a way that the Major suddenly threw back
his head and struck the wall with it. The doctor
said that did not matter; then, making him turn
his face to the right, he felt the vacant place and
said “H'm!” then he made him turn it to the
left and did the same; finally he again gave him
a fillip with his finger, so that the Major started
like a horse whose teeth are being examined.
After this experiment, the doctor shook his head
and said, “No, it cannot be done. Rather
remain as you are, lest something worse happen.
Certainly one could replace it at once, but I
assure you the remedy would be worse than the
“All very fine, but how am I to go on without
a nose?” answered Kovaloff. “There is
nothing worse than that. How can I show
myself with such a villainous appearance? I go
into good society, and this evening I am invited
to two parties. I know several ladies, Madame
Tchektyriev, the wife of a state-councillor,
Madame Podtotchina—although after what she
has done, I don't want to have anything to do
with her except through the agency of the police.
I beg you,” continued Kovaloff in a supplicating
tone, “find some way or other of replacing it;
even if it is not quite firm, as long as it holds at
all; I can keep it in place sometimes with my
hand, whenever there is any risk. Besides, I
do not even dance, so that it is not likely to be
injured by any sudden movement. As to your
fee, be in no anxiety about that; I can well
“Believe me,” answered the doctor in a voice
which was neither too high nor too low, but soft
and almost magnetic, “I do not treat patients
from love of gain. That would be contrary to
my principles and to my art. It is true that I
accept fees, but that is only not to hurt my
patients' feelings by refusing them. I could
certainly replace your nose, but I assure you on
my word of honour, it would only make matters
worse. Rather let Nature do her own work.
Wash the place often with cold water, and I
assure you that even without a nose, you will be
just as well as if you had one. As to the nose
itself, I advise you to have it preserved in a
bottle of spirits, or, still better, of warm vinegar
mixed with two spoonfuls of brandy, and then
you can sell it at a good price. I would be
willing to take it myself, provided you do not
ask too much.”
“No, no, I shall not sell it at any price. I
would rather it were lost again.”
“Excuse me,” said the doctor, taking his
leave. “I hoped to be useful to you, but I can
do nothing more; you are at any rate convinced
of my good-will.” So saying, the doctor left
the room with a dignified air.
Kovaloff did not even notice his departure.
Absorbed in a profound reverie, he only saw the
edge of his snow-white cuffs emerging from the
sleeves of his black coat.
The next day he resolved, before bringing a
formal action, to write to the Colonel's wife and
see whether she would not return to him, without
further dispute, that of which she had deprived
The letter ran as follows:
“To Madame Alexandra Podtotchina,
“I hardly understand your method of action.
Be sure that by adopting such a course you will
gain nothing, and will certainly not succeed in
making me marry your daughter. Believe me,
the story of my nose has become well known; it
is you and no one else who have taken the principal
part in it. Its unexpected separation from
the place which it occupied, its flight and its
appearances sometimes in the disguise of an
official, sometimes in proper person, are nothing
but the consequence of unholy spells employed
by you or by persons who, like you, are addicted
to such honourable pursuits. On my part, I wish
to inform you, that if the above-mentioned nose
is not restored to-day to its proper place, I shall
be obliged to have recourse to legal procedure.
“For the rest, with all respect, I have the
honour to be your humble servant,
The reply was not long in coming, and was as
“Major Platon Kovaloff,—
“Your letter has profoundly astonished me.
I must confess that I had not expected such
unjust reproaches on your part. I assure you
that the official of whom you speak has not been
at my house, either disguised or in his proper
person. It is true that Philippe Ivanovitch
Potantchikoff has paid visits at my house, and
though he has actually asked for my daughter's
hand, and was a man of good breeding, respectable
and intelligent, I never gave him any hope.
“Again, you say something about a nose.
If you intend to imply by that that I wished to
snub you, i.e. to meet you with a refusal, I am
very astonished because, as you well know, I was
quite of the opposite mind. If after this you
wish to ask for my daughter's hand, I should be
glad to gratify you, for such has also been the
object of my most fervent desire, in the hope of
the accomplishment of which, I remain, yours
“No,” said Kovaloff, after having reperused
the letter, “she is certainly not guilty. It is
impossible. Such a letter could not be written
by a criminal.” The committee-man was experienced
in such matters, for he had been often
officially deputed to conduct criminal investigations
while in the Caucasus. “But then how
and by what trick of fate has the thing happened?”
he said to himself with a gesture of
discouragement. “The devil must be at the
bottom of it.”
Meanwhile the rumour of this extraordinary
event had spread all over the city, and, as is
generally the case, not without numerous additions.
At that period there was a general disposition
to believe in the miraculous; the public
had recently been impressed by experiments in
magnetism. The story of the floating chairs in
Koniouchennaia Street was still quite recent,
and there was nothing astonishing in hearing
soon afterwards that Major Kovaloff's nose was
to be seen walking every day at three o'clock
on the Neffsky Avenue. The crowd of curious
spectators which gathered there daily was enormous.
On one occasion someone spread a report
that the nose was in Junker's stores and immediately
the place was besieged by such a crowd
that the police had to interfere and establish
order. A certain speculator with a grave, whiskered
face, who sold cakes at a theatre door,
had some strong wooden benches made which
he placed before the window of the stores, and
obligingly invited the public to stand on them
and look in, at the modest charge of twenty-four
kopecks. A veteran colonel, leaving his house
earlier than usual expressly for the purpose, had
the greatest difficulty in elbowing his way through
the crowd, but to his great indignation he saw
nothing in the store window but an ordinary
flannel waistcoat and a coloured lithograph
representing a young girl darning a stocking,
while an elegant youth in a waistcoat with large
lappels watched her from behind a tree. The
picture had hung in the same place for more
than ten years. The colonel went off, growling
savagely to himself, “How can the fools let
themselves be excited by such idiotic stories?”
Then another rumour got abroad, to the effect
that the nose of Major Kovaloff was in the habit
of walking not on the Neffsky Avenue but in the
Tauris Gardens. Some students of the Academy
of Surgery went there on purpose to see it. A
high-born lady wrote to the keeper of the gardens
asking him to show her children this rare phenomenon,
and to give them some suitable instruction
on the occasion.
All these incidents were eagerly collected by
the town wits, who just then were very short
of anecdotes adapted to amuse ladies. On the
other hand, the minority of solid, sober people
were very much displeased. One gentleman
asserted with great indignation that he could not
understand how in our enlightened age such
absurdities could spread abroad, and he was
astonished that the Government did not direct
their attention to the matter. This gentleman
evidently belonged to the category of those
people who wish the Government to interfere in
everything, even in their daily quarrels with their
But here the course of events is again obscured
by a veil.
Strange events happen in this world, events
which are sometimes entirely improbable. The
same nose which had masqueraded as a state-councillor,
and caused so much sensation in the
town, was found one morning in its proper place,
i.e. between the cheeks of Major Kovaloff, as if
nothing had happened.
This occurred on 7th April. On awaking, the
Major looked by chance into a mirror and
a nose. He quickly put his hand to it; it
was there beyond a doubt!
“Oh!” exclaimed Kovaloff. For sheer joy
he was on the point of performing a dance barefooted
across his room, but the entrance of Ivan
prevented him. He told him to bring water,
and after washing himself, he looked again in
the glass. The nose was there! Then he dried
his face with a towel and looked again. Yes,
there was no mistake about it!
“Look here, Ivan, it seems to me that I have
a heat-boil on my nose,” he said to his valet.
And he thought to himself at the same time,
“That will be a nice business if Ivan says to
me ‘No, sir, not only is there no boil, but your
nose itself is not there!’”
But Ivan answered, “There is nothing, sir;
I can see no boil on your nose.”
“Good! Good!” exclaimed the Major, and
snapped his fingers with delight.
At this moment the barber, Ivan Jakovlevitch,
put his head in at the door, but as timidly as a
cat which has just been beaten for stealing lard.
“Tell me first, are your hands clean?” asked
Kovaloff when he saw him.
“I swear they are perfectly clean, sir.”
“Very well; then come here.”
Kovaloff seated himself. Jakovlevitch tied a
napkin under his chin, and in the twinkling of an
eye covered his beard and part of his cheeks with
a copious creamy lather.
“There it is!” said the barber to himself, as
he glanced at the nose. Then he bent his head
a little and examined it from one side. “Yes,
it actually is the nose—really, when one
thinks——” he continued, pursuing his mental
soliloquy and still looking at it. Then quite
gently, with infinite precaution, he raised two
fingers in the air in order to take hold of it by
the extremity, as he was accustomed to do.
“Now then, take care!” Kovaloff exclaimed.
Ivan Jakovlevitch let his arm fall and felt more
embarrassed than he had ever done in his life.
At last he began to pass the razor very lightly
over the Major's chin, and although it was very
difficult to shave him without using the olfactory
organ as a point of support, he succeeded, however,
by placing his wrinkled thumb against the
Major's lower jaw and cheek, thus overcoming
all obstacles and bringing his task to a safe
When the barber had finished, Kovaloff hastened
to dress himself, took a droshky, and drove
straight to the confectioner's. As he entered it,
he ordered a cup of chocolate. He then stepped
straight to the mirror; the nose was there!
He returned joyfully, and regarded with a
satirical expression two officers who were in the
shop, one of whom possessed a nose not much
larger than a waistcoat button.
After that he went to the office of the department
where he had applied for the post of vice-governor
of a province or Government bailiff.
As he passed through the hall of reception, he
cast a glance at the mirror; the nose was there!
Then he went to pay a visit to another committee-man,
a very sarcastic personage, to whom he was
accustomed to say in answer to his raillery,
“Yes, I know, you are the funniest fellow in
On the way he said to himself, “If the Major
does not burst into laughter at the sight of me,
that is a most certain sign that everything is in
its accustomed place.”
But the Major said nothing. “Very good!”
As he returned, he met Madame Podtotchina
with her daughter. He accosted them, and they
responded very graciously. The conversation
lasted a long time, during which he took more
than one pinch of snuff, saying to himself, “No,
you haven't caught me yet, coquettes that you
are! And as to the daughter, I shan't marry
her at all.”
After that, the Major resumed his walks on
the Neffsky Avenue and his visits to the theatre
as if nothing had happened. His nose also
remained in its place as if it had never quitted it.
From that time he was always to be seen smiling,
in a good humour, and paying attentions to pretty
Such was the occurrence which took place in
the northern capital of our vast empire. On
considering the account carefully we see that
there is a good deal which looks improbable about
it. Not to speak of the strange disappearance of
the nose, and its appearance in different places
under the disguise of a councillor of state, how
was it that Kovaloff did not understand that one
cannot decently advertise for a lost nose? I do
not mean to say that he would have had to pay
too much for the advertisement—that is a mere
trifle, and I am not one of those who attach too
much importance to money; but to advertise in
such a case is not proper nor befitting.
Another difficulty is—how was the nose found
in the baked loaf, and how did Ivan Jakovlevitch
himself—no, I don't understand it at all!
But the most incomprehensible thing of all is,
how authors can choose such subjects for their
stories. That really surpasses my understanding.
In the first place, no advantage results
from it for the country; and in the second place,
no harm results either.
All the same, when one reflects well, there
really is something in the matter. Whatever
may be said to the contrary, such cases do occur—rarely,
it is true, but now and then actually.