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Echoes of the Week

The Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1307, p. 271.

March 25, 1865


...Chang, otherwise Sing-woo-bah, the great Chinese giant, is coming. it is time. We have had rather a surfeit of dwarfs lately; and, by way of a change, it might be as well to try a course of monstrosities running large. When Captain Lemuel Gulliver was tired of Liliput he went to Brobdignag. Sing-woo-bah, is said to have been last seen abroad at Shanghai, on the night of the last full moon, looking over a wall seven feet six inches high. He is to be accompanied by a pianist, and a suite of Chinese servants, from the comprador to the shoe-sole chalker. Chang, alias Sing-woo-bah, will, doubtless, draw. A giant, however, labours under this disadvantage, that, beyond wearing a field marshal's uniform, selling photographs of himself and grinning in an idiotic manner, he is seldom able to do anything. Now a dwarf, as a rule, can be taught to sing, dance, recite, and attitudinise, and is often, as the Yankee showman called his kangaroo, "an amoozin' little cuss," and as full of tricks as a waggonload of monkeys with their tails burnt off. I remember once, in New York, trying very hard to persuade P. T. Barnum to get up an ethnological tea-party and invite to meet the subscriber, the Irish and French giants, the Nova Scotian giantess, the Albino Family, Commodore Nutt, Minnie Warren, and the Wild Man of Tehuantepec, all of whom were at that moment among the attractions of his marvellous museum on Broadway. The great showman did not disapprove of the idea, but he pointed out to me its impracticability. The dwarfs, he explained, were so very irritable, and the giants were such fools.

The which reminds me of a little anecdote of P. T. B., who is one of the dryest humourists I ever met with, and "not half a bad fellow," as fellows go. On board the river-steamers in the States they feed you for a moderate outlay (seventy-five cents a meal) very sumptuously, but the portions supplied are usually of microscopic dimensions. Barnum had taken passage by one of these stately Noah's arks, say, from Albany to New York. He called, at tea-time, for a beefsteak. The negro brought him the usual little, shrivelled mite of broiled flesh, certainly not sufficient for more than two mouthfuls. Barnum poised the morsel on his fork, scanned it critically, as though it were a sample of steak submitted to his inspection, and then returned it to the waiter, saying, "Yes; that's what I mean. Bring me some of it."...

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