Friday, April 5, 2013

Julia Pastrana : “The Ape Woman” ... (3)

In 1857 when Julia toured London in one of the monster shows popular at that time, she attracted journalists, doctors, and scientific minds. Julia was very popular. It cost 3 shillings to see her in the Regent Gallery, compared to the 6 shillings that a Victorian labourer might earn in a week. Promoted by her new manager Mr. Theodore Lent, Julia was now billed as “The Nondescript” ~ suggesting that she was a unique species, perhaps “the missing link” between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. Debate raged in the newspapers as to her origins and her appearance was described at length. In these articles, Julia is described as being very civilized and domestic.In addition to her native language, she also spoke Spanish and English quite well. She loved to travel, cook and sew.She willing gave herself to medical examination and was said to have an eager thirst for knowledge. These articles also seemed to emphasize that she was both happy and content with her situation and she did not covet wealth, though her ‘handler’ Mr. Lent surely did. During her performances in London, Julia sang romances in both Spanish and English and danced what are described as ‘fancy dances’ – likely traditional Spanish numbers.

After London Mr. Lent secured a tour of Berlin and in Leipzig, Julia played the leading role in a play called “Der curierte Meyer”. Following the play, the weekly magazine ‘Gartenlaube’ published an extensive interview with Julia an article published with a fantastic life sketch by the artist H. Konig (pictured below).

The article consisted of Julia speaking on her tours of America and London and of the numerous marriage proposals she had received. She claimed to have turned down over 20 admirers because ‘they were not rich enough’. That was a response that the reporter suspected Mr. Lent had coached in the hopes of attracting a rich suitor.

That notion was short lived and Mr. Lent, worrying of losing his investment in Julia to rivals, married her in 1857. Julia was infatuated with her husband but as per evidence Mr. Lent was not a kind man. By the time they got to Vienna, she wasn't allowed out in the daylight, because Lent was embarrassed to be seen with her. As their tour continues through Poland and to Moscow, Mr lent became more and more aggressive.

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