The Glass Man

“The Glass Man came in a variety of forms. He might be a urinal, an oil lamp or other glass receptacle, or else he might himself be trapped within a glass bottle… [There is] a sudden plethora of literary Glass Men. One of these is Cervantes’ Glass Licentiate, Tomàs Rodaja. Obsessed with the idea that he is made of glass, and traumatized by any physical contact, he refuses to wear shoes or any restrictive clothing. He eats only fruit offered to him in a urinal-pouch (vasera de orinal) on the end of a stick, and drinks fresh water with his hands. He sleeps outdoors or huddled in some hayloft, takes refuge in the country during a storm, and walks in the middle of the street to avoid injury from falling roof tiles.”

From An odd kind of melancholy: reflections on the glass delusion in Europe (1440-1680) by Gill Speak

The invaluable Fed By Birds provides a link to the article, which is Mr Key’s  recommended reading for today. I left a comment on the post saying that I was sure there was a quotation buried in the 2003-2006 Hooting Yard Archives about a delusionist who believed his legs were made of glass. And voila!, here it is:

“The other case, as related by Van Swieten, in his commentaries upon Boerhaave, is that of a learned man, who had studied, till be fancied his legs to be of glass: in consequence of which he durst not attempt to stir, but was constantly under anxiety about them. His maid bringing one day some wood to the fire, threw it carelessly down; and was severely reprimanded by her master, who was terrified not a little for his legs of glass. The surly wench, out of all patience with his megrims, as she called them, gave him a blow with a log upon the parts affected; which so enraged him, that he instantly rose up, and from that moment recovered the use of his legs.” – Anon (“An Oxonian”), Thaumaturgia, Or Elucidations Of The Marvellous (1835).

2 thoughts on “The Glass Man

  1. Dear Mr Key,

    The mention of ‘legs of glass’ in this piece reminded me of the splendid movie ‘The saddest music in the world’, where the heroin (Isabella Rossellini) has legs made of actual glass. They are hollow and can be detached to serve as beerpints. In Winnipeg, naturally.

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