Tag Archives: medical

4 March 1805. The Polish Dwarf—“a little horror”

Betsey Wynne records a unusual meeting in her diary. She travelled to London with her husband, Captain Thomas Francis Fremantle. Mary Nugent, Marchioness of Buckingham called on her:

Lady Buckingham called to take us to see Count Barlowsky, the little polish dwarf who is only three feet two inches & 69 years of age, he is a little horror, tho’ better proportioned than dwarfs are in general, but his manners & conversation exceedingly done.

The Count’s name is incorrect in the published edition of the Wynne Diaries and it may have that Betsey did not know how to spell his name. Józef Boruwłaski, born in 1739, was a Polish-born dwarf who toured European and Turkish courts, ending his days in Durham, England.joseph_boruwlaski-scaled500

He was never a Count of course. That was a title adopted by a man of great wit and intelligence, a talented dancer and musician, to ease his way through European society. Just 8 inches tall at birth, he grew to 3 feet 3 inches in adulthood. He arrived in Britain in 1782 and retired to Durham in 1791.

In Durham, he was great friends with Stephen Kemble, an actor of Falstaff proportions. They strolled the banks of the River Wear together, the original Little and Large!

For all his lack of height, Boruwłaski did not lack in longevity. He died in Durham in 1837, aged 97.

Betsey of course did not mean “horror” in the way the word is used today. She meant “oddity” rather than “disgraceful” or “terrifying”.

13 May 1820: Medical wisdom

On 13 May 1820, Tom Grenville writes to the Marchioness of Buckingham, Anna Eliza Brydges, with some medical advice. The following extract sums up much wisdom on the medical practices of the day:

I am no great friend as you know to the many-coloured phials which grow out of the grim-gribbler of the learned professors of the black doses; but a sensible man who has passed a long life in watching all the infirmities that our frail frames are subject to is certainly very likely to have a good guess at what spring it is that wants oiling in the clockwork; & tho’ they cannot take their magnifying glass & look at the machinery, as Arnold would examine his Timekeeper, & tho’ they must therefore travel in the dark, yet they become long-sighted by the long habit & experience & when that is found united with good sense & judgement, very important help may be afforded them.

Tom Grenville adds a waspish footnote about the consort of King George IV, Caroline of Brunswick:

At White’s somebody was wondering at the passion for Lady C “with a leg as thick as a post” what then said Copley, tho’ it is a post remember it is “Poste Royale”

The Grenvilles and Buckinghams, though not Anna Eliza, suffered a great deal from gout. James Gillray’s illustration, below, captures the misery perfectly. He must have suffered himself!

the_gout_james_gillray© Trustees of the British Museum