Degeneration and devolution

The Historical Eye

MA work

'The streets were filled with a new and different race of people, short of stature and of wretched and beer-sodden appearance'

Degeneration and devolution

 

Below follows a sort of ‘lost chapter’ written while researching my MA dissertation and soon jettisoned due to time and word-count constraints. I had become intrigued by late-Victorian and early-Edwardian binaries relating to poverty/degeneration and malnutrition/mutation and how these were enmeshed with wider views on the Twilight City. As part of this, I researched details about freak and novelty shows, identifying them as a transitional zone with the Bright Light City. An important case study, discussed in some detail below, was the life and death of Joseph Merrick, the so-called ‘Elephant Man’. Time and again, I was struck by how his story had been co-opted into the conceptualisation of the Twilight City and how this influenced today’s historiography and popular imagination of London ay night 1885-1905.

 

I had identified several further resources for examination, but placed most of these on the back burner along with the chapter itself. For example, there was no opportunity to explore ‘phossy jaw’ that afflicted match girls and how this was viewed and debated. Phossy jaw was name given to the wasting away of the mouth and jaw bones because of the match phosphorous used, with brain damage and even early death relatively common result with advanced cases. I also wanted to explore H G Wells’ The Time Machine to a much greater extent. This science-fiction novel houses several rich veins of late Victorian thought on the extremes and fears surrounding degeneration and devolution.

 

Much of what is presented is speculative as the work was still in the ‘sketchpad’ stage for noting concepts and ideas that I wanted to then back with primary and secondary sources, or remove if no solid material on which to form an argument could be found. My opening gambit certainly needs a major overhaul, the middle part jumps from a more generalist discussion on degeneration to freak shows rather abruptly, while there is a lack of conclusion simply because the work was not even one-quarter complete. So why upload this? Because I think there are kernels of information here that other students might find useful in informing their own research.

 

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The stunted city

Commentators exploring London’s Twilight City of the late-Victorian and early-Edwardian period offer a myriad of differing opinions when discussing the era’s connections between poverty, decay and bodily and moral corruption. Oftentimes, it was considered an end-product of capitalism within what were perceived as hot-house devolutionary conditions. For example, Jack London was adamant the exploitative working conditions lay at the root of the poor’s degeneration and the sub-human, semi-productive troglodytes he described were end products of this miserable world. ‘The streets were filled with a new and different race of people, short of stature and of wretched and beer-sodden appearance… Here and there lurched a drunken man or woman, and in the air was obscene with sounds of jangling and squabbling.’ These were the people of the ‘Abyss’, the ‘feeble, besotted and imbecile.’

 

Jack London’s account of his night walk along Commercial Street from Whitechapel to Spitalfields comprises one of his most powerful passages. ‘I saw a nightmare,’ he wrote, ‘a fearful slime that quickened the pavement with life, a mess of unmentionable obscenity that put into eclipse the “nightly horror” of Piccadilly and the Strand. It was a menagerie of garmented bipeds that looked something like humans and more like beasts.’ However, not all in the Twilight City were weak as squat, bestial men prowled the streets looking for quarry – the unwary or those who had simply gone astray. When they attack, London wrote, ‘they spring upon their human prey [and] are known even to bend the victim backward and double its body till the back is broken.’

 

These monsters of the Twilight City fed off their brethren, mutilating and eviscerating them again and again, as though there were thousands of Jack the Rippers prowling the back streets. ‘[They] are a new species, a breed of city savages… the slum is their jungle, and they live and prey in the jungle.’ Continuing his taxonomy of degeneration and brutalisation, Jack London then describes simian half-men, walking like zombies and dressed in ‘fantastic rags… their faces in a perpetual writhe of pain, grinning idiotically, shambling like apes, dying with every step they took.’

 

It was provocative and powerful, and tapped into well-worn concepts about the Twilight City, although perhaps pushing them further than most mainstream authors had yet dared. It also fed into fears about ‘darkest’ England for middle- and upper-class readers on both sides of the Atlantic. But for American readers it was doubly disturbing; with the USA rapidly urbanising and becoming an economic colossus, the shambling half-creatures and beasts of London might soon be replicated in the Twilight districts of New York, Chicago, Detroit or a host of other American cities.

 

Other authors mulled the effects of degeneration, particularly through utopian tracts or science-fiction novels. For example, William Morris in News from Nowhere (1890) used degeneration as a foil for his vision of workers living healthy lives in a future London that had developed into in a kind of neo-medieval golden age. By comparison, the poor of the late Victorian era are ‘bent… thin and spindly’. H G Wells’ science fiction The Time Machine (1895) inferred the poor have evolved over thousands of years to become, in the words of Jerome Hamilton Buckley, the ‘grim moronic Morlocks of the underground’. The wealthy and idle have become the pleasure-loving and docile Eloi, their world made possible by the toiling Morlocks. However, the Morlocks devour the Eloi for food, completing a symbiotic/parasitical relationship that would have both resonated and unsettled Wells’ audience.

 

Others believed the poor of the Twilight City did not need thousands of years to devolve: they were already becoming savages. For example, Walter Besant recalled in 1903 a conversation he had with Professor Thomas Huxley, aka ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’.* Huxley told him: ‘“I have seen the Polynesian savage in his primitive condition… with all his savagery, he was not half so savage, so unclean, so irreclaimable, as the tenant of a tenement in an East End Slum.”’ Besant was using the quote to show the ignorance of those peddling ideas of degeneration, but inadvertently displayed how intractable and provocative many of the arguments had become. Somewhat ironically, both progressive/reformist and Social Darwinist camps were each groping towards state intervention to improve conditions, albeit for differing reasons.

*So called for his staunch advocacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Coincidentally, H G Wells was one of his biology students.

 

Removal men

William Booth of the Salvation Army was a high-profile reformer, although he was also driven by an evangelical desire to ‘save’ on a spiritual plain as well. He believed degeneration could be counteracted by overhauling living conditions and working practices. The lack of affordable foodstuffs reaching the poor was also highlighted, particularly when it came to getting fresh milk to babies and children. However, temperance arguments were at play too; it was argued the poor would abstain from alcohol if better conditions existed. This would increase a family’s disposable income and boost its well-being, creating a virtuous cycle that would see millions transformed from undeserving to deserving.

 

If that failed, the poor should be dragooned from category into the other. This could include the poor’s removal from London, with Booth proposing the development of rural co-operatives that would teach farming or other healthy forms of employment. It would also equip the poor for their next task: to become colonists for other parts of the British Empire. It was hoped that the effects of ill health and degeneration could be reversed or, at least, dissipated within these strictures. Removal of the underemployed, undeserving ‘residuum’ – or excess population – from the cities into the country would also reduce overcrowding and help the remaining workers earn a slightly better living as labour became scarcer and commanded a higher price.

 

Another noted evangelical philanthropist of the age, Thomas Barnardo, had more specific target in mind. He wanted to help orphans, and sometimes families, enabling them to live better lives in Britain and the Dominions.* He argued pauper children could be turned into members of the deserving working classes, perhaps even the middle class, through hard work and Christian salvation. But Barnardo, Booth and others like them often took agency out of the poor’s hands, which explained why they not universally liked and, in some quarters, were even loathed.+ In addition, many of the children sent abroad were farmed out to inappropriate and sometimes exploitative foster families who treated them little better than servants or slaves.

*Many were not actually orphans, only designated as such by Barnardo. He faced charges of kidnapping on several occasions, although his high profile and charisma meant avoiding judicial wrath.

+Salvation Army personnel were often assaulted, verbally and sometimes physically. A counter group that called itself the ‘Skeleton Army’ also opposed Salvation Army rallies and activities, although it had strong ties to publicans and brewers fearful of the temperance movement.

 

The notions of deserving and undeserving poor, while no longer clear cut by our chosen era, still influenced mainstream and progressive thought. The debates about of Social Darwinism, including the influential works in this field by the polymath Francis Galton, determined the poor owed their position to a form of societal evolution. The degeneration of communal health was due to city conditions, which unlocked and then accelerated an inherent devolutionary process that had always lurked within those at the bottom of society. The poor were blamed for the filth and vermin that surrounded them; their large families – suggestive of uncontrolled sexual appetites – also meant there were limited resources available. Feckless behaviour required stern intervention and regulations in order to be halted and reversed, otherwise the undeserving poor would let their problems fester and multiply.

 

Often overlooked by many reformers and Social Darwinists were the types of work undertaken by the poor, which contributed to pain, disability and stunted growth. This was because the machinery of production in the late-19th Century and early Edwardian period often required a great deal of physical labour as the goal was to save time and increase production first and foremost. The ease of a machine’s operation was a secondary concern to management. Indeed, manufacturing equipment in this period was often heavy, cumbersome and dangerous, and those who suffered workplace injuries received meagre compensation or were simply considered unlucky and often dismissed. On other occasions, using cheap labour to perform the repetitive and sometimes backbreaking tasks of mass assembly made more sense than paying for machines.

 

For all the debates about degeneration, poverty and health, the problem of disease and malnutrition refused to fade, with many so-called deserving families – including many in lower-middle classes – haunted by medical issues that were argued about but poorly understood at the scientific level. For example, the understanding of pathology and contagion, immunity and sanitation was still in its infancy and diseases almost consigned to history today – polio, tuberculosis or diphtheria – remained horrific killers could strike rich and poor, deserving and undeserving alike. Still, it was known that healthy diets were vital for better immunity and healthier bodies; the question of how the poor and lower-middle classes could feed themselves while increasing productivity.

 

It was certainly worrying from the capitalist/competitive perspective as the USA, Germany and other nations continued to erode Britain’s market supremacy. Winston Churchill’s comments after reading Seebohm Rowntree’s work Poverty: a study in town life (1900)* explicitly connected poverty with competitiveness. Writing to a friend in 1901, he noted Seebohm had computed the American worker was more competitive because he was stronger, better fed and physically taller than his British counterpart. ‘This is surely a fact which our unbridled Imperialists, who have no thought but to pile up armaments, taxation and territory, should not lose sight of,’ Churchill wrote. ‘For my own part, I see little glory in an Empire which can rule the waves and is unable to flush its sewers.’

*An assessment of poverty in the town of York.

 

But the imperialists were worried too; if the urban population was sickly how could Britain fight against a nation with vast conscript armies like the German Empire’s? The issue was brought into stark relief during the Second Boer (1899-1902) when thousands of volunteers from London and other British cities were turned away on the grounds of poor health. This rang alarm bells among many who had previously rejected state intervention on the grounds of progressive or reformist concerns. They now viewed intervention through the prism of national defence, focussing on feeding and educating all children, and widening the cadet programmes. In addition, the scouting movement being developed under the auspices of Robert Baden-Powell at the end of our era was greatly encouraged.

 

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Roll up! Roll up!

Those suffering from the most extreme forms of deformation or genetic disadvantage could earn a comparatively good living in the late Victorian and early Edwardian freak or novelty show. Long damned by many as a place of extortion and crude exploitation, the reality was often very different. For a start, these were often the only places where an independent living was possible away from the workhouse or the intrusive gaze of the medical community. It was also a place where, behind the scenes, normative behaviour and rules of social engagement were determined by the performers, management and stage hands and not the mainstream.

 

That being said, the travelling show was usually in a race to stay one step ahead of the law and creditors, and usually operated on the Twilight City’s periphery. Its goal was to cater to and profit from the display of disfigured or mutated bodies to the general population, predominately the working classes. This was done in a manner that was purposefully garish, salacious or unsettling. However, pushing the boundaries of taste too far would invite legal intervention by the local authorities who considered themselves guardians of mainstream taste and decency. The magistrate Montague Williams was disgusted at a waxwork display of early Ripper murders in 1888* while he was investigating a freak and novelty show in Whitechapel.

*The show was held while the serial killer continued stalking the streets.

 

Williams had the waxworks closed. Interestingly, it appears the site was the same premises where Joseph Merrick had set himself up as the Elephant Man attraction. Merrick’s manager, Tom Norman, recalled the location was well known for its waxwork displays and was owned and ran by a man named Cotton. The Whitechapel murders waxworks also seem to have been run under his auspices and Williams was not the only one who felt disgusted by it. The Pall Mall Gazette informed its readership: ‘There is at present almost opposite the London Hospital a ghastly display of the unfortunate women murdered.’

 

If shock value was one element of the sideshow, then so too was the thrill of being revolted. In many ways, the freak and novelty shows performed a similar task to the so-called ‘reality’ television programmes of today – where disgusting jungle food is eaten or medical conditions detailed and displayed as though the sufferers were somehow abnormal.* The late Victorian and early Edwardian shows were most popular in the evening times, particularly when the week’s work was drawing to a close and people had received their wages. Williams declared: ‘The principal time for the performances, it appeared, was from eight in the evening until half-past eleven though, in the case of some fat women and performing Zulus, the entertainment was open during the day as well.’

*i.e. British television’s I’m a celebrity get me out of here and Embarrassing bodies.

 

Inversion of gender was also a popular entertainment. Williams witnessed the novelty act of ‘Miss Juanita’ who lifted weights and boxes, leaving him feeling disturbed by the display of feminine muscularity. The transgression of gender boundaries by women being manly, or men being feminine, was a frequent ploy by freak and novelty shows, inverting norms and adding an air of exotic inversion to proceedings. Female boxing was a popular means of doing this, as well as more racy acts. One investigating policeman informed Williams that he gone to the show earlier and seen ‘a women “mit nodings on” swimming in a tank.’

 

Williams saw nothing of this sort when he visited, describing a more mundane boxing match between ‘Daniel the Dutchman’ and the ‘Welshman’. The magistrate then listed the other attractions he saw. ‘Besides fat women, dwarfs, “living Skeletons” and giants,’ he wrote, ‘they contained a number of monstrosities, including “a man with no neck”, and a creature that purported to be a five-legged pig. One attraction, which was alleged to have been brought to this country by Buffalo Bill, was described as “half gorilla and half human being”, and was certainly a most disgusting-looking object.’ The underworld also circled this ersatz Bright Light space, attracting the likes of pickpockets and other small-scale criminals. ‘I was informed by the police’, wrote Williams ‘that the pavement outside these places was a favourite spot with the Whitechapel pickpockets.’

 

Williams believed the pickpockets worked in cahoots with the proprietors of the shops, jointly fencing the stolen goods. The magistrate cross-examined some performers in his court and fined them forty shillings each* ‘for each performance and as that meant in aggregate, a good deal of money, they left the court in a prison van.’ Other shows were brought to court and faced similar fines and punishments. ‘This wholesale correction,’ wrote Williams, ‘had the desired effect and the proprietors of other establishments of a similar character, [who] finding the law too strong for them, shut up shop and decamped.’ With some pride Williams states: ‘These horrible dens, at any rate so far as the Whitechapel Road is concerned, have become things of the past.’

*A large fine indeed, equating to several weeks’ worth of work for most.

 

But who were the managers that Williams was combatting? Tom Norman offers a useful template as some of his opinions were recorded for posterity. Mildly successful, he employed acts that were varied and strange to attract customers, matching their expectations. At one time he displayed an act of fleas in harnesses, some fat ladies, giant babies, tall men and short men. The short men – likely to be dwarves – were interesting in that Norman had them dress up as a ‘family’. However, the ‘mother’ was a notorious drunkard who refused to stop smoking and drinking in front of the punters. He eventually left the show, fed up with dressing up as a woman.

 

It is easy for us to pass judgement on the late Victorian and early Edwardian freak and novelty show. With our privileged position of life filled instant communication and cheap flights, millions have an understanding of the world and its diversity in ways that would have been impossible for late Victorian and early Edwardian urban poor, or even other classes. At one show, sailors were recorded as blacking up and pretending to be Zulus, speaking a strange language that was merely gibberish. The audience probably knew it was cheap simulacra and form of mascaraed; yet it appealed to notions of the unusual and foreign. Beneath it all, it possibly also allowed the urban poor to believe that even they, the downtrodden, had it better than so-called ‘savages’ on the fringes of Empire.

 

Caging the ‘Elephant Man’

Perhaps the most melancholic and emblematic vision of disfigurement and mutation in the Twilight City was ‘unveiled’ just before the start of our era in November 1884, when Joseph Merrick, better known to the public as the ‘Elephant Man’, came to the attention of the medical world. It is not within the remit of this work to analyse the complex moral maze of reactions to Merrick’s deformity and its subsequent place in medical history. However, we shall consider the inextricably linking of his body to the popular conceptualisation of London at night from 1885-1905 and sometimes to the horror of the Whitechapel murders.

 

Even careful historians like Peter Graham and Fritz Oehlschlaegar in their work Articulating the Elephant Man placed Merrick’s life within the context of the Ripper. They wrote: ‘In the dark streets of Whitechapel, Jack the Ripper was pursuing his murderous course and in the safe haven of the London Hospital, Joseph Merrick, the so-called Elephant Man and perhaps the most celebrated sufferer of the of the deforming disorder that has come to be known as the Proteus syndrome, was nearing the end of his life.’ The authors add: ‘The Elephant Man’s existence was more thoroughly documented than Jack the Ripper’s, but ultimately just as mysterious – his presence has proven equally fascinating to popular, creative, and scholarly minds alike.’

 

That the Merrick was nearing the end of his life in 1888 in the London Hospital did not stop the makers of the movie From Hell briefly link Merrick and the Ripper. In a ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ moment, an extra in clothes similar to those Merrick wore is seen shambling along the street. That would have been a remarkable feat in 1888, especially when we consider the 1923 memoirs by Sir Frederick Treves, who was famed for ‘discovering’ Merrick. He records Merrick had great difficulty walking in his final years. Treves wrote: ‘His greatest adventure was on one moonless evening when he walked alone as far as the hospital garden and back again.’ A more serious and dedicated effort in exploring Merrick’s life was the 1979 film The Elephant Man directed by David Lynch. While atmospheric, it is flawed throughout because of its heavy reliance on Treves’ account, an autobiographical bid by the doctor to portray his actions in the best possible light.

 

The film is also rife with late-twentieth century condemnation of the era, with Merrick portrayed as a perpetual victim saved from the squalid and Ripper-ravaged streets through Treves’ kindness, a character portrayed by Anthony Hopkins as akin to a kindly general practitioner. Yet Merrick, if we can trust his one-time manager Tom Norman’s account, was far from happy with Treves at the start. The doctor paid him to be the centre of a lecture – putting the Elephant Man back on stage, albeit for the eyes of medical professionals rather than the general public. Merrick was horrified when commanded to undress, an indignity not suffered before. He apparently told Norman afterwards that he ‘felt like an animal in a cattle market’.

 

Lynch’s depiction of Whitechapel at night is one of near-constant darkness that plays on preconceptions of the Twilight City. Graham and Oehlschlaegar write: ‘In Lynch’s grainy black and white film, the foggy menace of 1880s Whitechapel and the grim realities of late nineteenth century hospitals become almost palatable.’ Treves comes across Merrick on a grim night, the inky blackness a threatening and claustrophobic force. In reality, the meeting took place on a cold but sunny November afternoon at the back of the shop where Merrick’s show was being held.

 

John Bland-Sutton, who had just started his fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1884, had tipped Treves off about the Elephant Man show. Bland-Sutton had a habit of walking to East London to the Mile End Road ‘especially on Saturday nights,’ he wrote, ‘to see dwarfs, giants, fat women and monstrosities at freak shows. There was a freak museum at a public house – the Bell and Mackerel near the London Hospital. It was on one of these visits in 1884 [that] I saw “on show” opposite the London Hospital the repulsive human being known as the Elephant Man. The poor fellow John [sic] Merrick – was deformed in body, face, head and limbs.’

 

Bland-Sutton’s conversation intrigued Treves who determined to visit the shop and its show. ‘In the Mile End Road, opposite to the London Hospital,’ he recalled, ‘there was (and possibly still is) a line of small shops. Among them was a vacant greengrocer’s which was to be let. The whole front of the shop, with the exception of the door, was hidden by hanging sheet on which was the announcement that the Elephant Man was to be seen within and that the price of admission was twopence.’ Treves account persists in calling Joseph Merrick ‘John’ and makes several other basic errors that the historians Michael Howell and Peter Ford highlight. ‘There are obvious errors [with Treves’ account]: the London Hospital does not, for instance, stand in the Mile End Road as he states in the opening sentence.’

 

The show was no longer running when Treves arrived and the doctor had to pay 5 shillings for a private appointment, about a day’s wages for the average worker. He first saw Merrick warming himself next to a brick heated by a gas burner, the memory of which he used to highlight the austere conditions, forgetting that thousands of others in the East End would have considered any form of basic heating a luxury. In the Lynch movie, Treves enters the shop – depicted more like a hovel – to find Merrick slumped under rags as a drunken Tom Norman is depicted alternatively shouting at him and coming to an ‘understanding’ with doctor. Treves’ own account also has Norman bellowing at the Elephant Man, as though he were a beast.

 

Stung at Treves’ accusations and what he believed were other inaccuracies, Norman wrote his own recollections. He painted himself in a much better light, of course, although the account nonetheless deserves attention given the paucity of other sources. Norman argued he had been loath team up with Merrick, whose disabilities he believed too advanced; he worried that any show would be deemed exploitative and offensive. But Merrick persisted, stressing he had a contract with Norman and that failure to put on a show would mean the manager was in breach of the agreement. Later on, Norman discovered why Merrick was so keen to press on: he had spent a large amount of time in his hometown of Leicester’s workhouse and feared being sent to a similar institute.

 

This issue of a contract was more important than many historians realise: to be held in contempt by the ‘artists’ was a sure-fire way of destroying a career in management. Norman claimed he made sure Merrick was as comfortable as the funds permitted, while the Whitechapel shop was kept clean by Norman’s 12-year-old assistant, Jimmy. There were two beds where Norman and Merrick slept, with Merrick’s bed surrounded by curtains to give him extra privacy. There was also the gas ring that was surrounded by bricks in order to conserve warmth.

 

Howell notes: ‘Tom Norman was adamant that at no time did he treat Joseph Merrick as a “wild animal” as Treves implied. He pointed out that is would have been neither in his nature nor his interests to do so.’ On the other hand, Treves started by viewing Merrick as an unusual case study for display. Such was his discomfort and outrage with the first viewing that he refused to attend another medical display. According to Norman, Treves was exasperated and returned to the shop demanding Merrick’s reappearance. He met with refusal once more and stormed off. The authorities arrived the next day and closed the show, with Norman arguing this was probably linked to Treves’ anger at not getting his specimen for a second time.

 

Even if we give Norman’s account a large pinch of salt – for example, if Merrick was so upset with Treves, then why did he go back to the London Hospital? – the account clearly shows Merrick not a passive victim. Indeed, Graham and Oehlschlaegar wrote that he was ‘the first mover in the process of creating the Elephant Man, an individual who bravely endured and, when he had to, successfully exploited his outrageously intractable bodily disorder.’

 

More problematic for our purposes is the failure of many historians to move away from the portrayal of Merrick as a dweller of the Twilight City’s oubliette. For example, Michael Harrison’s London by Gaslight: 1861-1911 lists, almost point by point, every populist notion surrounding Merrick as a fact. According to Harrison, Treves arrived at the shop ‘one night, as the icy fog curled around him.’ He reads the garish canvas adverts by ‘the dim light of a gas-lamp’ and, as if drawn by a grim supernatural force, he enters the shop.

 

Harrison, who gives the then 31-year-old Treves a premature knighthood, continued: ‘Impelled by he knew not what impulse, Sir Frederick pulled back the stained canvas flaps, and walked into the darkness: a darkness relieved only by the faintest glimmer of light in the innermost recesses of the “hole in the wall” – a roofed space between two buildings.’ Treves saw the misshapen body of Merrick and then waited for ‘the return of the Elephant Man’s keeper – to buy the Elephant Man for five pounds, and take him back to the Mile End Infirmary.’* More egregiously, Harrison wrote the medical experts ‘did not even know to which sex they should assign the Elephant Man’.

*Actually the sum agreed between Treves, Merrick and Norman for the medical show and nothing at all to do with buying Merrick out of slavery, while the Mile End Hospital is the wrong name for the London Hospital.

 

At best, Harrison’s account was confused. At worse, it peddled false preconceptions about the Twilight City and Merrick as fact. This last point neatly highlights a problem for even careful historians: the reliance on slender resources and the temptation to pad out the text or purposefully entwine a narrative that both condemns but also appropriates the language and arguments surrounding degeneration and mutation made by late Victorian and early Edwardian commentators and arguments. Through this prism, Merrick becomes a totemic, misshapen figure of the Twilight City – and a ghoul who is condemned to remain the Elephant Man in perpetuity.

 

That being said, it would be wrong to assert Merrick had no connection with the Twilight City; he was a product of it and defined, in part, by his participation in the world of carnival, freak and sideshow. If we believe Norman’s account, Joseph Merrick had agency and set his own parameters for earning a livelihood. But as his disease progressed, it started pushing him beyond the normative values of even this inverted world, making it less likely he could remain within its safe confines. The rest and peace Merrick secured towards the end with Treves was not afforded him in death; his bones were preserved for scientific study and continue to be assessed and debated. Merrick might have died in 1890, but the Elephant Man show continues…

Creed of the Assassins

 

Cathedrals of consumption

 

William Morris and the Thames

 

New York Saloons 1845-1895

 

TheTwilight City

 

© 2016 Simon Rees. All rights reserved