16 сент. 2012 г.

Sir Frederick Treves - The Elephant Man And Other Reminiscences

In 1923, Frederick Treves published a volume entitled The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences, in which he detailed what he knew of Merrick's life and their personal interactions. This account is the source of much of what is known about Merrick, but there were several inaccuracies in the book. Merrick never completely confided in Treves about his early life, so these details were consequently sketchy in Treves' Reminiscences. A more mysterious error is that of Merrick's first name. Treves, in his earlier journal articles as well as his book, insisted on calling him John Merrick. The reason for this is unclear; Merrick clearly signed his name as "Joseph" in the examples of his handwriting that remain. In the handwritten manuscript for The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences, Treves began his account by writing "Joseph" and then crossed it out and replaced it with "John". Whatever the reason for the error, it is one that persisted throughout much of the 20th century; later biographers who based their work on Treves' book have continued the error.

Treves' depiction of Tom Norman, the showman who exhibited Merrick, was as a cruel drunk who ruthlessly exploited his charge. In a letter to the World's Fair newspaper, and later in his own memoirs, Norman denied this characterisation and said that he provided his show attractions with a way of earning a living, and that at the London Hospital, Merrick was still on display, but with no control over how or when he was viewed. According to Nadja Durbach, author of The Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture, Norman's view gives an insight into the Victorian freak show's function as a means of survival for poor people with deformities, as well as the attitude of medical professionals of the time. Durbach cautions that both Treves' and Norman's memoirs must be understood as "narrative reconstructions ... that reflect personal and professional prejudices and cater to the demands and expectations of their very different audiences".

In 1971, anthropologist Ashley Montagu published The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity which drew on Treves' book and explored Merrick's character. Montagu reprinted Treves' account alongside various others such as Carr Gomm's letter to the Times and the report on Merrick's inquest. He pointed out inconsistencies between the accounts and sometimes disputed Treves' version of events; he noted, for example, that while Treves claimed Merrick knew nothing of his mother's appearance, Carr Gomm refers to Merrick carrying a painting of his mother with him, and he criticized Treves' assumption that Merrick's mother was "worthless and inhuman". However, Montagu also perpetuated some of the errors in Treves' work, including his use of the name "John" rather than "Joseph".

Between 1979 and 1982, Merrick's life story became the basis of several works of dramatic art; these were based on the accounts of Treves and Montagu. In 1979, a Tony Award-winning play, The Elephant Man, by American playwright Bernard Pomerance was staged. The character based on Merrick was played by Philip Anglim, and later by David Bowie. In 1980 David Lynch released The Elephant Man film, which received eight Academy award nominations. Merrick was played by John Hurt and Frederick Treves by Anthony Hopkins. In 1982, US television network ABC broadcast an adaptation of Pomerance's play, starring Anglim.

In 1980, Michael Howell and Peter Ford published The True History of the Elephant Man, presenting the fruits of their detailed archival research. Howell and Ford brought to light a large amount of new information about Merrick. In addition to proving that his name was Joseph, not John, they were able to describe in more detail his life story. They refuted some of the inaccuracies in Treves' account, showing that Merrick's mother did not abandon him, and that Merrick deliberately chose to exhibit himself to make a living.

  • Sir Frederick Treves - The Elephant Man And Other Reminiscences (1982) - 128 Kbps

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