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Smethwick TwinsThe Smethwick Twins     oil on canvas     42×36″

 

b. Smethwick 1836        d. Cannock 1860

Lewis and Robert Hyde were condemned by fate to walk in the shadow of the ’Siamese Twins’. They displayed the same physical characteristics as Chang and Eng, and were eclipsed throughout their lives by their more famous predecessors. Born twenty-five years later in 1836, and in the West Midlands rather than Bangkok, their credentials lacked the exoticism which had ignited the imagination of a western public hungry for physiological deformity masquerading as entertainment. Yet their personal story [or stories] is [are], if anything, even more poignant than those of the Bunker ‘brothers’ .

Like Chang and Eng, the Hyde’s were possessed of widely different personalities. Lewis pursued an interest in theology and aspired to holy orders. Robert showed a talent for writing.  The boys’ only shared enthusiasm had been for sports, fired by their unbeaten run of success in the local Chance School three-legged races. This competitive urge developed into a passion for rugby. Here they were incorporated into a pack modified to accommodate them in the scrum unit. However, they were constantly thwarted by opposition teams; considered as two players rather than one, they were hampered by the forward pass rule, invoked at any time they swapped the ball from left to right hand. Disillusioned, they prematurely left the playing fields of England before the end of their teenage years.

While Chang and Eng each married and fathered children, the Hyde’s were unsuccessful in their relationships. Lewis prepared for a life of celibacy in the service of God and sabotaged any social interactions which Robert might have engaged in. Relations between the siblings deteriorated once the church made clear that it could not accept into its ranks a human specimen which so obviously had not been made in God’s [assumed] image. Lewis sank into depression and Robert, deprived of any social intercourse became progressively introverted.

Events ran to their tragic conclusion in June 1860. On the fifth, While Robert slept, Lewis took a lethal dose of aconitine. An editorial in ‘the Times’ accused Lewis of the murder of his brother. A rejoining letter from Bishop Williamson of the diocese of Shrewsbury suggested that the offence of suicide should take legal precedence over fratricide. The church rejected Lewis a second time; the Twins were therefore laid to rest in unconsecrated ground, which has since been covered by the North-Westbound M6 toll route.

Paintings will be on show as part of

“The Manifestation Of Dreams”

with Clare Ferguson-Walker and Adam White

11th July to the 22nd

at the POWERHOUSE  Landysul  SA44 4AH

Opening times: 10am to 4pm every day except Sundays

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