Lambert, Daniel (DNB00)

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LAMBERT, DANIEL (1770–1809), the most corpulent man of whom authentic record exists, elder of two sons of a Daniel Lambert who had been huntsman to the Earl of Stamford, was born in the parish of St. Margaret, Leicester, on 13 March 1770. He was apprenticed to the engraved button trade in Birmingham, but in 1788 returned to live with his father, who was at that time keeper of Leicester gaol. The elder Lambert resigned in 1791, and the son succeeded to his post. It was shortly after this period that Daniel's size and weight enormously increased. In his youth he had been greatly addicted to field-sports, was strong and active, a great walker and swimmer, hut although his habits were still active Lambert weighed thirty-two stone in 1793. He only drank water, and slept lees than eight hours a day. In 1805 he resigned his post at the prison on an annuity of 60l., and in the following year began to turn to profit the fame for corpulence which had hitherto brought him merely annoyance. He had a special carriage constructed, went to London, and in April 1806 commenced 'receiving company' from twelve to five at No. 53 Piccadilly. Great curiosity was excited, and many descriptions of Lambert were published. 'When sitting' (according to one account) 'he appears to be a stupendous mass of flesh, for his thighs are so covered by his belly that nothing but his knees are to be seen, while the flesh of his legs, which resemble pillows, projects in such a manner as to nearly bury his feet.' Lambert's limbs, however, were well proportioned; his face was 'manly and intelligent,' and he was ready in repartee. He revisited London in 1807, when he exhibited at 4 Leicester Square, and then made a series of visits in the provinces. He was at Cambridge in June 1809, and went thence by Huntingdon to Stamford, where, according to the local paper, he 'attained the acme of mortal hugeness.' He died there at the Waggon and Horses inn on 21 July 1809. His coffin, which contained 112 superficial feet of elm, was built upon two axle-trees and four wheels, upon which his body was rolled down a gradual incline from the inn to the burial-ground of St. Martin's, Stamford Baron (for Lambert's epitaph see Notes and Queries, 4th ser. xi. 355.).

Lambert's sudden death was owing doubtless to fatty degeneration of the heart. At that time he was five feet eleven inches in height, and weighed 739 lbs., or 52¾ stone. He thus greatly exceeded in size the two men who had hitherto been most famous for their corpulence, John Love, the Weymouth bookseller, who died in October 1793, weighing 26 stone 4 lbs., and Edward Bright of Maiden, who died 10 Nov. 1750, weighing 44 stone. Since his death he has become a synonym for hugeness. Mr. George Meredith, in 'One of our Conquerors,' describes London as the 'Daniel Lambert of cities,' Mr. Herbert Spencer, in his 'Study of Sociology,' speaks of a 'Daniel Lambert of learning,' and Mr. Donisthorpe, in his 'Individualism,' of a 'Daniel Lambert view of the salus populi.'

A suit of Lambert's clothes is preserved at Stamford, and in the King's Lynn Museum is a waistcoat of his with a girth of 102 inches. There are several portraits of Lambert; the best is a large mezzotint in Lysons's 'Collectanea' in the British Museum Library, where are also a number of coloured prints, bills, and newspaper-cuttings relating to him. Lambert's portrait also figures on a large number of tavern signs in London and the eastern midlands.

[The Book of Wonderful Characters; Kirby's "Wonderful Museum, ii. 408; Smeeton's Biographia Curiosa; Granger's New Wonderful Museum; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. viii. 346; Eccentric Mag. ii. 241-8; Miss Bankes's Collection of Broadsides, Brit. Mus.; Morning Post, 5 Sept. 1812.]

T. S.