Victorian London - People - Chang and Eng, Siamese Twins

Nearly forty years ago the Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng, visited this country and remained on exhibition some considerable time. They were then mere boys; they are now grey-haired men, fathers of families, and in the decline of life. Human phenomena have always raised the curiosity of the English people, and the passion for strange exhibitions is now, perhaps, greater than ever. Trinculo, that Shakespearian worthy, has his sneer at this infatuation of the bold Britons, and his observation "when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian," was curiously verified when Julia Pastrana, embalmed and made beautiful for ever, was on view in a room not far from the Egyptian Hall, now partly occupied by the Twins. Chang and Eng were born in the year 1811 at Meklong, a town near the Gulf of Siam, and are two of a family of nine. Strange to say they are both married, and more remarkable still, they have each nine children. One brother has six sons and three daughters, and the other six daughters and three sons. Eng is younger in appearance than his brother, and is decidedly the better looking man of the two. They are supposed to be as perfectly attached in spirit and fraternal affection as they are in the flesh, and we may thus hope to be forgiven for having ventured to make a comparison between them in the matter of personal appearance. The ligament which the learned doctors of France and England are afraid to sever seems to be more than a mere physical bond of brotherhood, for Chang and Eng have never been known to quarrel. They breathe simultaneously, and sleep and awake at the same moment, yet a blow, or a mere touch on the body of the one is not felt by the other. When Chang is ill, Eng also suffers, but from their birth they have both enjoyed remarkably good health. They read and write, play draughts and chess, are good shots, are fond of angling, and are able to drive. The expression of their faces is sad and weary, but when anything facetious is said this gives place to an entirely opposite cast of countenance. The Siamese Twins can thoroughly appreciate a joke, and are evidently endowed with a grim kind of humour peculiarly their own. They are both short men, though noe is about an inch taller than his brother. One arm of each encircles the others shoulders, and though their freedom of action is necessarily impeded, they walk without much apparent difficulty. They are able to stand face to face, and thus can manage to dress without assistance. The bar or ligament which joins the two bodies commences under the breast bone of each. It is imagined to be tubular. The length is five inches on the upper and four on the lower side; the width is three inches, and the thickness two. Chang and Eng have been, for many years, married to two sisters of American birth. They had settled as planters in North Carolina, but the great civil war was the cause of their ruin, and to secure a competence in their old age they are compelled to enter once more upon public life. In the present European tour they are accompanied by two of their daughters, a "Circassian lady," and the American gentleman who favours the audience with a short biography of these wonderful twins. The brothers enter readily into conversation with the public, shake hands with any of their visitors who may desire it, and answer any questions put to them. They very rarely speak to each other, a circumstance not very surprising at all. In manner they are dignified and polite, and there is a strong resemblance in features between them. The Chinese type is at once detected, but in a softened form. Chang and Eng are both quiet and gentlemanly in their address, and appear tolerably strong and robust. At one period of the reception the Siamese and their children stand side by side, and likeness of each daughter to her father is striking to a degree. The young women are evidently very intelligent, and are modest and unaffected in manner. They mingle with the visitors, and converse freely. The Circassian, Zobeide Luti by name, was rescued at four years of age, from a slave dealer, and was educated by her preserver, an Austrian nobleman. Such is the account given of this lady, who is very handsome, and has a profusion of strong and vigorous brown hair, not in long tresses, but standing out in a mass from her head. The "Circassian" speaks five languages, and any one is at liberty to test her skills as a linguist. She is dressed in a robe of  brown satin, and wears Turkish unmentionables of the same material. Zobeide Luti is dark in complexion, and her receipts from selling her portrait must be something considerable. The question whether an attempt to separate the Siamese Twins may or may not be made is not yet decided. The brothers themselves prefer to remain as they have lived for fifty-eight years; but in deference to their friends' wishes they have, we believe, consented to undergo the operation, if it can be safely attempted. On the occasion of our visit the room (once occupied by Albert Smith) was well filled.

The Era, February 14th, 1869