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TALBOT, MARY ANNE (1778–1808), the ‘British Amazon,’ was born at [62] Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, on 2 Feb. 1778. She alleged that she was the youngest of sixteen children of a lady who for many years maintained a secret correspondence with William Talbot, first earl Talbot [see under Talbot, Charles, lord chancellor]. Her mother died at her birth, and her reputed father four years later, at the age of seventy-one. She was informed of the circumstances of her origin by an elder sister who died in 1791, after which she was removed from a school at Chester to the house of a so-called guardian in Shropshire. He connived at her elopement with a scoundrel named Captain Bowen whom she subsequently accompanied to St. Domingo in the capacity of a footboy, assuming the name of John Taylor. In the same company she proceeded in the autumn of 1792 to Flanders, being enrolled as a drummer-boy, and took part in the capture of Valenciennes (28 July 1793), where her protector was slain. She now deserted the regiment, and begged her way through Luxembourg to the Rhine, until, compelled by destitution, she engaged as cabin-boy with the skipper of a French lugger, named Le Sage (September 1793). The lugger, according to her story, was captured by Lord Howe in the Queen Charlotte, and ‘Taylor’ was assigned to the Brunswick, 74, Captain John Harvey (1740–1794) [q. v.], as a powder-monkey, in which capacity she bore a part in the great victory of 1 June 1794, receiving a grape-shot wound in the ankle. After four months in Haslar Hospital, Gosport, she went to sea once more. Having been captured on board the Vesuvius bomb, she was imprisoned in a French gaol for eighteen months, not being released until November 1796. Her subsequent seizure by a press-gang in Wapping led to the disclosure of her sex. For some time after this she haunted the navy pay office, and various subscriptions were raised on her behalf. But she was intemperate, and spent money recklessly. The Duke and Duchess of York and Duchess of Devonshire interested themselves, it is said, on her behalf. After a series of strange vicissitudes, including an appearance at a small theatre in the Tottenham Court Road in the ‘Babes in the Wood,’ and a sojourn in Newgate, whence she was rescued by the ‘Society for the Relief of Persons confined for small Debts,’ her misfortunes compelled her to find a refuge as domestic servant in the house in St. Paul's Churchyard of the publisher Robert S. Kirby, who embodied her adventures in the second volume of his ‘Wonderful Museum’ (1804). After three years' service a general decline, induced partly by the wounds and hardships which she had undergone, rendered her incapable of regular work, and she was removed at the close of 1807 to the house of an acquaintance in Shropshire. There she lingered a few weeks, dying on 4 Feb. 1808, aged 30. She had been in receipt of a small pension in consideration of the wound she had received in action. The nucleus of her tale, which finds parallels in the lives of Hannah Snell [q. v.] and Christian Davies [q. v.], is probably true.

An attractive portrait of Mary Anne Talbot, engraved by G. Scott after James Green, is in Kirby's ‘Wonderful Museum’ (ii. 160). Another portrait, stated to be a striking likeness, was engraved for Kirby's ‘Life and Surprising Adventures of Mary Ann Talbot,’ 1809, 8vo (reprinted in ‘Women Adventurers,’ 1893).

[European Magazine, 1808, i. 234; Chambers's Journal, 30 May 1863; Wilson's Wonderful Characters; Granger's Wonderful Museum; authorities cited.]

T. S.