hidden europe 11

From small beginnings

by Nicky Gardner


A London museum, devoted to children abandoned in infancy, inspires us to investigate a few famous foundlings.

What do Édith Piaf, Moses and Heathcliff (ie. he who figures so prominently in the novel Wuthering Heights) have in common? Unless we have somehow misread the biographical details of any of the three, it seems that all started life as foundlings - that is, as infants abandoned by their parents.

In Emily Brontë's novel, Mr Earnshaw returns to Wuthering Heights from Liverpool bringing six year old Heathcliff with him. Édith Piaf had an unpromising start to life on a doorstep on Paris' rue de Belleville, but overcame that to become Europe's favourite chanteuse. A bed of bull rushes by the river Nile was possibly not the most propitious beginning for Moses, but the Bible's most famous foundling certainly made good in the end. Actually, starting life as a foundling seems to be no barrier to future greatness.

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