Blogging from A to Z: M is for Merrick, Joseph

AtoZ2019tenthAnnAt London Hospital, in Whitechapel, Dr. Treves deposited me at what I presumed was his surgery office door.

“I’m wanted in the operating theatre, Madame LeMaître. Please make yourself at home,” he said. He bowed to me and left me alone.

I let myself into the suite, but saw no one. From a back room came a muffled “I shall be with you in a moment. Please have a seat.”

“Thank you, I shall,” I responded.

“Oh, my goodness. A lady caller? I wish I had known. I would have rung for tea.” From out of the back room came the man to whom the muffled voice belonged. The reason for his tone was immediately obvious: his mouth and head were grossly malformed, as was one side of his body. However, the hand he extended to me was as beautiful and graceful as a woman’s.

“Madame, please allow me to introduce myself. I am Joseph Merrick. Sir Frederick isn’t here just now. May I have the sisters bring you tea?” — Excerpt from In The Eye of The Beholder


 

joseph_merrick_carte_de_visite_photo2c_c-_1889
Joseph Merrick’s carte de visite photo, via Wikimedia commons

Joseph Carey Merrick lived in England during the Victorian era.  He suffered from what we now understand as Proteus syndrome, where parts of the body grow at different rates.

Merrick spent part of his life as a sideshow freak until he was taken in by Dr. Sir Frederick Treves.  Treves arranged a home for Merrick at the hospital where he worked and took care of him until his death at the age of 27.  Merrick was literate, and a devout Christian.  He often told visitors that his favorite book was the Bible.

I won’t go into Merrick’s entire biography in this brief post;  additional information is available here. He was also the subject of a play and film, both entitled The Elephant Man.

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