Thursday, 11 August 2016

LETTERS OF NOTE: The Elephant Man

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Today's Letter of Note concerns one of the most heartbreaking human stories in Victorian medicine - the story of Joseph Merrick, also known as The Elephant Man, whose life was later immortalised by David Lynch in the 1980 film of the same name.

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Merrick was born in Leicester in 1862 and soon began to develop abnormally. By the time he was a teenager, he was exhibiting enlarged limbs, impaired speech and lumpy skin, all of which baffled the brightest medical minds of the day. After a short-lived career as a living exhibit in London, he traveled to the continent, where he was beaten, robbed and generally abused. He returned to London in late-1886 and was promptly admitted to London Hospital, in ill health and without a penny to his name.
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In December of that year, Francis Carr-Gomm, the chairman of London Hospital, wrote a letter to The Times appealing to the public for help in supporting Merrick. The resulting influx of donations, whether in the form of money, gifts or just kind letters, meant that the hospital was able to accommodate Merrick in reasonable comfort until his death in 1890. Following this, Carr-Gomm wrote to The Times again to thank the public for their outpouring of generosity.
 
You can read Mr Carr-Gomm's letters in full here. You can read my review of Lynch's film here, and if you're hungry for more Lynch after that, you can check out my review of the utterly mesmerising Mulholland Drive or the weird and wandering Wild at Heart. My review of Hard Candy will be along shortly - thanks for bearing with me!

Daniel

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