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|Frederick Treves was born in Dorset on February 15th 1853. His father was a furniture dealer and upholsterer making a comfortable amount of money. He was educated under Reverend William Barnes who he looked up to with great regard. Barnes a great writer was acknowledged by both Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Hardy, influencing their poetry.|
Eventually at the age
of 18 Treves was sent to Merchant Taylors School in London by his
father. An undistinguished scholar he excelled only in sports with
a talent for Football. He decided then to follow his elder brother
and study medicine at the London Hospital. Of all the medical schools
of the time the London Hospital was the least desirable to attend.
Treves visited the Freakshow soon after but found it closed. He ask around and found that the owner Mr. Tom Normon was in a local tavern drinking. Eventually Treves arranged a private viewing with Tom Normon and then for the 1st time laid eyes on The Elephant Man. Treves's own account of this meeting is reproduced in his book The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences and although it is well written it is not short on melodrama. The strange thing about the book is that Joseph Merrick is referred to as John throughout. This is put down to Merricks difficulty speaking leading Treves to at first mishear Joseph as John, or to Treves's old age at the time of writing. In any case it is a minor discrepancy of which there are many in the book.
When he finally laid
eyes on Merrick his initial reaction was that Merrick was 'the most
disgusting specimen of humanity, degraded and perverted in its twisted
form'. At the time he was 31 and had seen many horrific injuries and
deformities but the site of Merrick still alarmed. When his medical
instincts kicked in Treves arranged for Merrick to be taken to the
London Hospital for further examination. It was at this moment that
Treves gave Merrick his card so the porterat the hospital would allow
him in without delay. This event may seem insubstantial but it was
this business card that would bring Treves and Merrick back together
under unforeseen circumstances.