Dottyg: I'm very glad to meet another admirer of J.C. Merrick, and I'm glad you got to see the ending of The Elephant Man (very moving, wasn't it?) and would definitely recommend you watch the whole movie when you get a chance.
I've known about Mr. Merrick's life since I was 17 years old and have always wished I could meet him. By all accounts he was a very kind, gentle, and refined person (I always think that with his good manners he'd make everyone on this site proud!) and as you say he was extremely well-read (his afffliction was not mental but physical); he was literate when most people of his social class were not. In short, he was a real English gentleman in spite of his rather grotesque appearance (which, by the way, has never horrified me as much as it seems to horrify some people).
I'd recommend the website devoted to his memory, which serves mainly as a virtual gravesite and is very educational too. The best way to reach it is to link to it from the Wikipedia entry on Joseph Merrick.