Saturday, 18 February 2012

February 15th,: It's Frederick Treves' Birthday, by Ann Li Oz

It's Sir Frederick Treves birthday today!(15 Feb 1853)
Actually though, I'm not completely certain on my feelings about him - while of course if it were not for him I'm sure Joseph wouldn't have lasted long after he arrived back in England, having been ''rescued'' by Treves at the station...My feelings are coloured because of how upset I am at what was done to Joseph after he died....and another instance in where he never allowed Norman to visit Joseph at the Hospital - for example. I feel sometimes that Treves wanted Joseph '' for himself'' in a way. I don't know. It's all very complicated - Treves is definately a complex and enigmatic character...

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Could I Create Myself Anew...

...I would not fail in pleasing you." That line comes from a poem by Isaac Watts called "False Greatness." Joseph often quoted from part of it to sign his letters, perhaps as an assertion of who he felt himself to be. The lines he used run as follows:

"Tis true my form is something odd
But blaming me is blaming God.
Could I create myself anew
I would not fail in pleasing you.

Were I to reach from pole to pole
Or grasp the ocean with a span
I would be measured by the soul
The mind's the standard of the man.

On Youtube, a graphic artist has posted an extraordinary forensic reconstruction of how Joseph might have looked sans Proteus deformities. Go to Youtube and type in "Reviving the Elephant Man." It's a stunning animation that slowly strips away the excess skin and bone from a familiar clinical photo of Joseph and reveals a slim, Elvis-like young man, dark and handsome with a contemplative gaze. Not only are the tumors and lesions excised before our eyes, the painful scoliosis of the spine is gradually straightened, the right arm becomes a slender, lean counterpart to the left, with a small taut hand that matches the left. The abdomen becomes muscular and tight, the envy of any young bodybuilder.
The skin is smoothed out, the brow lowered, the giant skull slowly reduced to normal proportions, and the distorted lips become a gentle mouth. What would his first words to us be?