Comfortable? Cool. Let me tell you about 'Count' Joseph Boruwlaski, 1739-1837.
He was one of six children – three of which, including him, had #dwarfism.
When the family’s finances became desperate, a local noblewoman, the Starostin de Caorliz, persuaded his mother to let her own/adopt Joseph, who then lived with her for several years.
I can’t help but think a genuinely concerned rich friend would financially support a poor family, instead of taking the child for entertainment.
But whatever, back to Joseph…
She took him to Turkey and Vienna, presenting him to European nobility.
The curiosity around Joseph's #dwarfism meant she had many more visitors than usual. He was an asset for her own benefit.
As a Court #Dwarf, he is constantly subjected to strangers touching him.
He is forever being “caressed”, picked up, put on people’s laps, and fondled.
It’s all a bit gross.
He was not “unconscious of being… only looked upon by others as a doll… only an animated toy”.
The conversation is punctuated by him “weeping bitterly”.
Court Dwarfs were often given infantilising nicknames. Bébé is French for “baby”.
Boruwlaski was called “Joujou”, meaning “Toy”.
The King readily stokes a rivalry between Ferry and Joseph – taunting Ferry, calling him “a little machine”, making him “violently agitated”.
For the King, such conflict between #dwarf people = entertainment.
Boruwlaski then supposedly prevents the King from punishing Ferry, who, we’re told, dies shortly after from “jealousy”.
Actually - tragically - Ferry actually died from a brain tumour, aged just 22.
After all, why would you bury someone you don't consider to have human value?
Count Oginski teaches Joseph music, but then - in a scene strongly reminiscent of the pie and Jeffrey Hudson - uses Joseph as a prop at a banquet, hiding him in a vase to 'surprise' the Count’s guests.
They were exploited for their owners’ whims, indulged to a degree – perhaps they were dressed in posh clothes, attended banquets, or even taught music, dancing or foreign languages.
But they were not *free*.
He's “totally indebted” to her for escaping poverty.
He knows contravening her wishes could mean losing everything. The stress of this "visibly impaired" his health.
I'd love to know more about the bullshit she must’ve endured, at that time, for loving a man with #dwarfism, but, sadly, I couldn't find much about / from her.
She demands he renounces Isalina, or leave.
He describes himself as being "now at large", as if free from a prison.
But he is broke, penniless.
But the success of these concerts is often dependent on whether a generous friend pays his overheads.
Another time, he and an associate stage a complex but ingenious fake fight - using fake blood - to get out of paying the rent!
first, they serve as a sort of sycophantic thank you letter – lavishing gratitude on a dizzying number of Europe’s nobility.
Joseph knew his readers would objectify and fetishize him, and, I think, he plays into this.
After all, his memoirs are a money-making scheme and he needs people to subscribe.
This is when we can get a better understanding of what life as a Court #Dwarf was really like for him – bridging, as he did, the shift from Court Dwarf to Freak Show exhibitions.
Joseph Boruwlaski, 1739-1837