Memoirs of Count Jozef Boruslawski

 Jozef Boruslawski was born to a family of impoverished Polish gentry in 1739. From an early age it was clear that he was going to be a dwarf, and as such a grim future as a dependant or a circus freak could well have been his fate. Fortunately a local noblewoman, the Starostin de Caorlix, took him into her household and gave him an education, which included dancing and playing the violin and guitar. When she married, another noblewoman, the Countess Humiecka, took him under her protection and presented him at court to the King of Poland, and later, to the Empress Maria Theresa and to the King of France. It was fashionable for noblemen and royalty to have court dwarfs, but often enough they were dull and ignorant folk. Jozef, by contrast, was polished and elegant, able to hold an intelligent conversation, and an accomplished singer, violinist, and dancer. It was no wonder that he was a great hit with the European nobility, and for ten years or more he frequented the courts of the great. The King of Poland gave him a title and an annual income. He married a fully grown woman, and they had three children.

 Instead of settling quietly in Poland, however, he continued to tour around Europe, giving concerts and visiting the houses of the great. His wanderings took him to Siberia, the Persian gulf, and the west of Ireland. The King of Poland withdrew his allowance, and he was often short of money and forced to exhibit himself as a freak -- a great humiliation for a man who had once sat in the lap of an Empress. However, he soldiered on, publishing three editions of his memoirs, and finally coming to rest in Durham in the North-East of England. There he lived on a small annuity in a cottage near the river, and there he died, on September 5, 1837, at the age of 97. He is remembered there by a statue and small exhibition in the Town Hall, and a collection of his papers in the library of Durham University.

 This Ex-Classics edition of his memoirs is taken from the third (1820) edition. The introduction, by Dr. Armand Leroi, is taken from his remarkable book Mutants (Harper Collins, London, 2002). His generosity in allowing us to use his work is gratefully acknowledged.

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