This post wraps up the story of Daniel Lambert, who, during his lifetime, was the largest human being known to have ever lived. At the top of this page on the left, he is shown in a magazine article along with the second fattest Englishman of the time, Edward Bright.
Of course neither the cinema nor television existed, or even photography, so we only know Lambert’s appearance thanks to artists whose depictions of him would turn up two centuries later in the “Human Curiosities” collection of an archive. Back in the day, however, he was a widely respected folk hero and a legit celebrity. Acting as his own manager and promoter, he controlled his career, so it was nothing like the “fatsploitation” that has proven so detrimental in the current era. There were even copycats. This describes one:
Lambert’s popularity inspired an imitator in “Master Wybrants, Mr. Lambert in miniature…” A handbill described […] “Master Wybrants the Modern Hercules, who at the age of 4 Months weighed 39 pounds, measured 2 feet round the Body 15 Inches round the thigh and 8 Inches round the Arm…
Next to the exaggerated portrayal of mother and giant baby is another comedic drawing, obviously inspired by it, where the artist imagined Daniel Lambert in the company of a very thin lady.
Despite his protestations to the contrary, some contemporary doctors were certain that Daniel Lambert’s weight continued to increase through a combination of too much food and not enough exercise. The Medical and Physical Journal published an article about him, confirming that his height was only one inch short of six feet, and that he weighed 700 pounds:
A thorough medical examination found that his bodily functions worked correctly, and that he breathed freely. Lambert was described as active and mentally alert, well-read, and with an excellent memory. He was fond of singing, and had a normal speaking voice which showed no signs of pressure on the lungs. He slept regularly for no more than eight hours per night, always with his window open, and was never heard to snore…
Eventually he returned, a wealthy man, to live in the countryside, occasionally touring to restock the bank account. One day in 1809, at the young age of 39, and weighing 739 pounds, he died suddenly. According to TheReaderWiki.com,
While many sources say that he died of a fatty degeneration of the heart or of stress on his heart caused by his bulk, his behaviour in the period leading to his death does not match that of someone suffering from cardiac insufficiency; witnesses agree that on the morning of his death he appeared well, before he became short of breath and collapsed.
Friends who paid for Daniel Lambert’s burial had the measurements of his waist and leg circumferences carved on the tombstone, along with testimonials to his character, intelligence, and personality. The coffin had to be constructed around him. As sometimes happens, it was necessary to demolish a wall to remove his remains from the building where he died. At St. Martin’s Church, a sloping ramp was dug so that the coffin could be slid, rather than lowered, into the grave. Still, it took nearly half an hour for 20 men to maneuver the box into its final resting place.
There was of course no autopsy, but modern experts guess that a sudden pulmonary embolism caused Daniel Lambert’s demise.
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