Dwarf (Sax. dwerg, dweorg), an animal or a plant that does not attain the ordinary size of its species. A degree of dwarfishness may be the general result of natural causes, as of excessive cold, since both plants and animals diminish in stature toward the poles; or it may be produced by artificial means. The Chinese have the art of dwarfing trees by diverting the growth from the foliage to the flowers and fruit. The ancients are said to have produced artificial dwarfs of the human race, who were highly esteemed by the Roman matrons for servants. During the middle ages dwarfs shared with fools the favor of courts and of the nobility, and a salary for the king's dwarf was not abolished in France till the reign of Louis XIV. A race of dwarfs, perhaps the pigmies of the ancients, has been said to exist in the interior of Africa; and Du Chaillu in his "Country of the Dwarfs" gives a curious account of a dwarfish race which he found in equatorial Africa. Symmetrical dwarfs are rare and remarkable phenomena. One of the most noted of those whose history is certain was the Polish gentleman, Count Borowlaski or Boruslawski (1739-1837). At 1 year of age he was 14 inches high; at 6, 17 in.; at 10, 21 in.; at 15, 25 in.; at 20, 28 in.; at 25, 35 in., which was nearly his greatest height.
He early displayed wit and grace, and was taken into the family of the countess Humiecka, with whom he frequented the Prussian court. At the age of 40 he married, became a father, and, after giving concerts in the principal cities of Germany, visited England. In London he published his memoirs (8vo, 1788), and ho afterward lived in elegant retirement in Durham. In contrast with him was the favorite dwarf of the ex-king Stanislas of Poland, commonly called Bebe (1741-'64). He was a native of Lorraine, and at 5 years of age was 22 in. high; at 15, 29 in.; and at his death, 33 in. His diminutive figure was well formed and justly proportioned till after the age of puberty, when his spine curved and he became decrepit. He was once visited by the count Borowlaski, and, having noticed the superiority of the latter in manners and intelligence, watched for an opportunity and attempted to throw his visitor into the fire. The Dutch dwarf, Wybrand Lolkes, born in 1730, possessed mechanical taste and skill, had success as a watchmaker, and when 60 years of age was 27 in. high and weighed 56 lbs. Mme. Teresia, called the Corsican fairy from the place of her birth (1743), was remarkable for physical symmetry and beauty, and mental vivacity.
She spoke several languages, was charming in conversation, and when exhibited in London in 1773 was 34 in. high and weighed 26 lbs. Jeffery Hudson (1619-'82) was the favorite dwarf of Charles I. of England. He was a native of Oakham, and about the age of 7 years, when 18 in. high, was taken into the service of the duke of Buckingham. From the age of 7 to 30 he grew no taller, but afterward shot up to 3 ft. 9 in. He was served up in a pie at a royal entertainment, from which he suddenly sprang forth in full armor. Sir William Davenant wrote a poem called "Jeffreidos" on a battle between him and a turkey cock, when a woman rescued him from his furious antagonist. The courtiers teased him about the story till he challenged a young gentleman, Mr. Crofts, who had affronted him. That gentleman appeared at the rendezvous armed only with a squirt, which so enraged the dwarf that a real duel ensued. The combatants were on horseback, and at the first fire Jeffery shot his antagonist dead. He was afterward taken prisoner by a Turkish rover, and was for a time a slave in Barbary. At the beginning of the civil war he was made captain in the royal army, but he closed his life in prison, into which he had been cast shortly before his death on suspicion of being privy to the popish plot.
Charles I. of England attended the marriage of Richard Gibson and Anne Shepherd, each of whom measured 3 ft. 10 in. Waller wrote a poem on the occasion, and Sir Peter Lely painted the couple at full length. Gibson rose to celebrity as a painter. In 1710 Peter, czar of Russia, celebrated a marriage of dwarfs with great parade. All the dwarf men and women within 200 miles, numbering about 70, were ordered to repair to the capital. He supplied carriages for them, and so managed that one horse should be seen galloping into the city with 12 or more of them. All the furniture and other preparations were on a miniature scale. Gen. Tom Thumb (Charles S. Stratton), the celebrated American dwarf, was born in Bridgeport, Conn., in 1837, and at the age of 5 years was not 2 ft. in height and weighed less than 16 lbs.; and he had grown but very little for three or four years. He had fine talents, and was remarkable for agility and symmetry, while his lively sense of the ludicrous gave him excellent success in performances suited to his character. In 1842 he was exhibited in New York, his age being announced as 11 years. He visited England in 1844, was several times exhibited to the queen and court at Buckingham palace, gave levees, and was invited to parties of the nobility.
In Paris he gained applause as an actor. He returned to the United States in 1847, and was exhibited in the principal cities of the United States and in Havana. He again visited England in 1857. In 1863 he married Lavinia Warren (born at Middleboro', Mass., Oct. 31, 1842), also a dwarf, who had been placed on exhibition in 1862. Since their marriage they have travelled extensively in the United States and Europe.