Sunday 19 November 2017

Theodore Dalrymple: Furore over giant ignores skeletons in the cupboard

Theodore Dalrymple

Professor Marta Korbonits with the skeleton of the 'Irish Giant' Charles Byrne, and Brendan Holland, who has the same gene that gives rise to gigantism.

As every schoolboy knows -- or at any rate used to think he knew -- the Victorians were a prudish lot. They covered their piano legs with leggings to act as a prophylactic against lewd thoughts; women wore clothes of many layers for the same reason.

There is, however, a law of the conservation of prudery, in Britain anyway. If we're not prudish about one thing, we're prudish about another. The Victorians did not conceal their prurience about what they did not hesitate to call freaks; they exhibited them in circuses and fairs (from which they derived an income, sometimes a large income); after their death, they pickled them, or parts of them, in bottles, or boiled them down for their skeletons.

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