Measured by Soul: The Life of Joseph Carey Merrick (also known as 'The Elephant Man') (Anglais) Broché – 20 août 2015
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It was the 1980 movie The Elephant Man that ignited my wonder and passion for Joseph. So much so that I wrote a letter to Percy Nunn, the "curator" of Josephs remains at the London Hospital Museum. To my utter surprise he called me and invited me to come and see him. That visit changed me. Being able to see that he did actually exist and to be so close to him was an almost religious experience.
This book is now part of my collection with other memorabilia that I have, including a part of the brick mortar just outside the door he used to live behind in Bedstead Square that fell off the wall as I was sitting there on the steps...I wept and smiled at the same time.
Sitton and Stroshane have done the unthinkable with this book. They have actually found out more. Over one hundred and twenty years after his death they have found stories that were unpublished, to my knowledge. I didn't think there was any more to find.
These new anecdotes embellish the elusive and distant story of this man whose example of serene acceptance, courage and forgiveness is still very important. Tales of him standing under the clock tower in Leicester with a tray of wares strung rather inconveniently around his neck, sitting writing letters in the woods, a cardboard model made by him taking pride of place on a friend's mantelpiece... all make charming images. A grandmother chiding her children for thinking they are unlucky to have bread and jam for dinner when she knew "the elephant man" when she was sixteen. These beguiling stories appear as Sitton and Stroshane squeeze out all the information they can, and show rare photographs.
They illustrate his interests well. One of my favourite photographs in the book is of a gentleman's dressing case probably very like the one he owned. We also not only see a photograph of a model church he made but are given a virtual tutorial in how he built it, with pictures of all the parts, a modern reproduction and commentary from master model builder Reverend Thomas Clay. This will especially please fans of the film in which Joseph's dressing case and model church feature prominently.
The environment in which he grew up- as the son of a Victorian haberdasher in Leicester- is vividly brought to life. We could almost say there is a photographic essay that runs through the book featuring images which, although they can't be of him, as no new photographs of him have been discovered, evoke what was around him. We see Thurmaston Parish Church where his parents were married, a view of his workplace Haymarket Square, and an interior shot of his school. We see the sideshow where he performed, the door and window of his home, the garden where he walked, and the church he probably visited while on holiday. All this brings us closer to Joseph. However there are none of the nude photographs of him which are so easily available on the internet. The pictures of Joseph which do appear (a sketch and two photographs) are tasteful and inserted carefully through the volume, with the only photograph that shows deformities on his body being the last to appear.
Fortunately the book includes a section on modern-day sufferers of Proteus Syndrome, which is the disorder which most of the medical world believe Joseph suffered from. Those affected by Joseph's anguished story usually feel the need to do something about the passion it instills in them. Since he is gone now, a good way to do that is to turn one's focus to these people. Those who have disfiguring conditions today still have the problems that Joseph did. The basic human tendency to shrink away from the maimed has not changed.
A labour of love and a great feat of research where there must have seemed to be very meagre pickings, this is a must-have for fans of Joseph. And like all good books on Joseph should, it includes a copy of the birth certificate of Joseph Carey Merrick. Not John, folks! :)
The reader will also get to know corageous people who live with the Proteus Syndrome and read about their lives.
Written flawlessy, heartfelt and containing rare photographs, this book is a truly MUST HAVE.