Hopkin Hopkins



Hopkin Hopkins of Llantrisant was allegedly the world’s smallest man.

The second son of dwarf Lewis Hopkins, he was baptized on 29 January 1736 and spent most of his life exhibited in carnivals throughout the country.

Lewis Hopkin exerted the greatest influence on the literary life of Glamorgan in that period. He was also the bardic teacher of Edward Evan and Iolo Morganwg admits that Hopkin taught him.

He was a well-read and cultured man; it is claimed that he was well-acquainted with English literature of the 18th cent.; he had Latin and French books in his library. He was buried at Llandyfodwg Church; Iolo Morganwg published an elegy to him in 1772 under the title of Dagrau yr Awen.

Originally from Caercyrlais near Tonyrefail, his son Hopkin Hopkins suffered from Progeria, a childhood disorder characterised by dwarfism and premature senility.

His physical appearance became a source of income for his family. It may seem repugnant to us today, but at the age of 14 he was taken to London by his parents and shown publically for money. Billed as “the wonderful and surprising Little Welchman”, his perceived ‘freakishness’ was a source of entertainment in polite society.

He visited London in 1751, staying for the winter season, and visiting the nobility and gentry. He was introduced to Princess Dowager of Wales and the Prince of Wales who gave him a gold watch, an annual pension and ten guineas for each appearance he made at Court.

In the same year, he was also ‘on display’ in Bristol. This vivid account of the visit is taken from a letter sent by John Browning in September 1751:

"I am just returned from Bristol where I have seen an extraordinary young man, whose case is very surprising; he is shewn publicly for money, and therefore I send you the printed bill, which is given about to bring company… I went myself to view and examine this extraordinary, and surprising but melancholy subject; a lad entering the 15th year of his age, whose stature is no more than 2 feet and 7 inches, and weight 13 pound, labouring under all the miserable and calamities of old age, being weak and emaciated, his eyes dim, his hearing very bad, his countenance fallen, his voice very low and hollow; his head hanging down before, so that his chin touches his breast, consequently his shoulders are raised and his back rounded not unlike a hump-back, he is weak that he cannot stand without support." (Letter from John Browning to Henry Baker, 12 September 1751. Quoted in Sem Phillips, The History of the Borough of Llantrisant, 1866.)

He was exhibited in London and Gentleman's Magazine ran an account of him in 1754. At the time of his death later that year he weighed just 13lbs and was 2ft 7ins tall.