We’ve had magicians and Civil War figures, but as it turns out, perhaps the richest source of portraiture in our collections is the images of members of the book trades in the Daniel Berkeley Updike Collection. So today we begin a new Wednesday series of portraits, starting with the bookseller John Love, holder of some less-than-ideal superlatives:
John Love, casting a fond glance at his sandwich
Mr. Love, “The Fattest and Heaviest Man Ever Known in England.”
One of our copies of the portrait is accompanied by the following clipping (compare The New Wonderful Museum, and Extraordinary Magazine, London: Alex Hogg, 1805–page 1574ff.):
An Account of Mr. JOHN LOVE, late Bookseller of Weymouth, the most remarkable Man in all England for his Weight and Corpulence.
MR . John Love in the early part of his life lived with Mr. Ryland an engraver On account of the unfortunate exit of this Man Love went home to his relations. About this time he was remarkably thin, and became at last so lean and puny that his friends dreaded a consumption. According to the advice of his physicians he had every kind of delicious nutriment, which gave him such a habit of ease and indulgence, that Mr. Love gave himself up entirely to wine and dainties.
When he became a bookseller in Weymouth, he gave full scope to his desires; through over eating and drinking he now grew as remarkably heavy and corpulent as he was before light and thin—his weight and bulk were the astonishment of all beholders; he was obliged (as our print, which is a striking likeness, shows) to have the waistband of his breeches nearly up to his chin, in order to prevent their failing off; he was seldom seen in a coat at home as he could not bear the confinement of sleeves ; he would frequently eat and drink in his night gown. At last, suffocated by fat, he paid the general debt of nature in the forty first year of his age, and was buried at Weymouth, October, 1793. When living he weighed 26 stone, or 368 pounds. The coffin and corpse is supposed to have weighed about a tun altogether. He was obliged to be put out of the window, and conveyed down by ropes on two pieces of timber.
This extraordinary man too plainly corroborates a general opinion, that what is intended as a cure for one disorder is too often the occasion of another. Temperance and a competence of exercise are highly essential for the preservation of life. In some cases indeed nature is to be indulged; but when that indulgence is continued, the antidote becomes a poison: thus what cured Mr. Love of a consumption was doubtless the cause of his death. It may be said, that his life, short as it was, was notwithstanding prolonged. But surely dissolution was more desirable than life to become a proverb and a MARK for “boys to point at.” Mr. Love being a man of great weight must certainly have felt his consequence, and have been as great a burthen to himself as he was to his coffin bearers.
Love and his portrait have also been discussed on the Bibliophemera Blog, which is worth a visit anyway.