Thursday, February 07, 2013

Regency Cross-dressing Female Swindler!

Have you ever read an historical romance where the heroine dresses as a boy - and were you dubious about whether she could ever have got away with it in real life?
Well, here's an example as reported in The Statesman Newspaper for August 1808 and what is incredible is that the woman in question managed it not just for a day or two but for long periods. Is it genuine or a Regency myth, a good story for the newspaper?

The lady appeared at Amabrie, Perthshire, Scotland, an area known for excellent shooting and fishing, dressed as a man and calling herself Captain Watson.. "He" put up at the inn and, with beds short, shared with the inn keeper's two sons. During the course of the summer Captain Watson proved very popular. "In horsemanship, in angling, in shooting, in jumping, in walking, in singing, and in dancing, the accomplished Watson excelled; but he never could be prevailed upon to show dexterity in swimming." The Captain was invited to balls and parties and credit was extended until he had run up debts of £300 - plus £100 advanced by his doting landlady to allow him to travel to Liverpool where, he explained, he would pass the winter with his guardians. He said that he was a Ward of Chancery, with large expectations but, for some reason, a promised bank draft had not reached him.
Watson visited the next summer, and the next - by which time there was growing disquiet about the amount he owed. Watson charmed the doubtors and was invited to a grand ball at Perth. But, "As Watson was walking the day after the ball with two gentlemen in the High-street, a physician of eminence, accompanied by another Gentleman, following at a little distance, said to his friend, 'that person,' pointing to Captain Watson, 'is not a man but a woman.' The hint took wing; and in less than an hour after no Captain Watson was to be seen.... Report adds that, after playing the same game in the county of Inverness next summer, under the name of Dodsworth, wth some little success, she was apprehended, tried and convicted...'
The article goes on to saythat she was sentenced to seven years transportation, but the sentence was never carried out. 'What is become of this wonderful character is unknown.'

What do you think? Fact or a newspaper 'silly season' story?