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Lambert, Danielfree

(1770–1809)
  • Thomas Seccombe
  • , revised by E. L. O'Brien

Daniel Lambert (1770–1809)

by Benjamin Marshall, exh. RA 1807

Leicestershire Museums and Art Galleries / Bridgeman Art Library

Lambert, Daniel (1770–1809), the most corpulent man of his time in England, was the elder of two sons of a Daniel Lambert who had been huntsman to the earl of Stamford. He was born in Blue Boar Lane, Leicester, on 13 March 1770 and was apprenticed to Benjamin Patrick of Messrs Taylor & Co., an engraving and die-sinking firm in Birmingham; but in 1788 he returned to live with his father, who was keeper of the bridewell in Leicester. The elder Lambert resigned in 1791, and the son succeeded to his post. It was at this time that Lambert began to amass the bulk for which he was later to achieve fame. By 1793 he weighed 32 stone, despite his athletic enthusiasm for activities such as walking, swimming, and hunting. Moreover, he drank only water, and slept less than eight hours a day. The prison closed in 1805 and Lambert was granted an annuity of £50.

The next year Lambert decided to profit from his previously merely annoying corpulence. He had a special carriage constructed and went to London, where in April 1806 he began ‘receiving company’ from midday until 5 in the afternoon at 53 Piccadilly. Lambert's exhibition of himself aroused curiosity, leading to the publication of descriptions of him. '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 possessed a quick wit. He was a well-known breeder of fighting cocks and was famous for his greyhounds. He revisited London in 1807, when he exhibited himself at 4 Leicester Square, before making a series of visits in the provinces. He was at Cambridge in June 1809, and proceeded to Huntingdon and Stamford, where, according to a newspaper, he 'attained the acme of mortal hugeness'. He died at the Waggon and Horses inn, 47 High Street, Stamford, on 21 June 1809. His coffin was built on two axles and four wheels and required 112 square feet of elm wood for its construction. 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., 11.355).

Lambert's sudden death was probably caused by the stress placed on his heart by his immense proportions. At his death he was 5 feet 11 inches in height, and weighed 52¾ stone (336 kg). His waistcoat had a girth of 102 inches (with his other clothes, it is preserved in Stamford Museum). This weight greatly exceeded that of the two men hitherto especially famed for their corpulence, John Love (d. 1793) of Weymouth (26 stone) and Edward Bright (d. 1750) of Malden (42 stone). An American contemporary, Miles Darden, outweighed Lambert at 71 stone. For a time after Lambert's death his name became a synonym for hugeness; George Meredith, in One of our Conquerors, describes London as the 'Daniel Lambert of cities' and Herbert Spencer, in his Study of Sociology (1873), refers to a 'Daniel Lambert of learning'. There are several portraits of Lambert; the best is an oil by Benjamin Marshall in Leicester Museum and Art Gallery. Lambert's portrait also appeared on a large number of public house signs in London and the eastern midlands.

Sources

  • Stamford Mercury (23 June 1809)
  • Stamford Mercury (30 June 1809)
  • D. T. D. Clark, Daniel Lambert (1981)
  • H. Lemoine and J. Caulfield, The eccentric magazine, or, Lives and portraits of remarkable persons, 2 (1813), 241–8
  • Morning Post (5 Sept 1812)
  • N&Q, 6th ser., 8 (1883), 346
  • G. Smeeton, Biographia curiosa, or, Memoirs of remarkable characters in the reign of George the Third (1822)
  • H. Wilson, Wonderful characters, 1 (1821)

Archives

  • Stamford Museum
  • CUL, Add. MS 7721

Likenesses

  • B. Marshall, oils, exh. RA 1807, Leicester Museum and Art Gallery [see illus.]
  • engravings (after B. Marshall), BM, NPG
  • etching, BM
  • line engraving, BM
Notes and Queries