"Mansion House - Before the Lord Mayor

Female Sailor

Yesterday Marianne Rebecca Johnson, alias William Johnson, was brought before the Chief Magistrate, 

in consequence of being found, on the preceding evening, wandering in the vicinity of Bishopsgate

Street, in a forlorn and distressed situation; she was attired as a sailor, in a shabby jacket and

trowsers, and wore her own black hair cropped. The circumstances which led to the discovery of her

sex, as well as the singular circumstances of her family fortunes, were as follows :-

A Master Bricklayer, who was employed about some buildings in Dunnings-lane, Bishopsgate-street, on

Tuesday evening, saw, as he thought, a sailor boy sitting on the threshold of a door, near the Black

Bull public house, drenched with rain, shivering with cold, and weeping bitterly. Attracted by the

appearance of the lad, he questioned him as to his situation, and found that the sailor belonged to a

northern coal-ship now in the Pool, and had run away from the vessel on board which he had sailed

four years as an apprentice, and said he would rather be hanged than return on board. The man asked

the boy into the Bull's Head, and offered him some refreshment; but he had scarcely entered the house

ere he fainted away; and on loosening his neck handkerchief and opening his bosom to aid his revival,

the real sex of the poor truant was discovered. The woman of the house immediately paid the poor girl

every humane attention, and obtained from her the following narrative:-

She declared herself to be a native of Whitby, in Yorkshire, and the daughter of a seaman who was

killed in the service of his country early in the last war. After her father's death, her mother married

another man, and lived with him for some years at Whitby. She herself had been at service in that town,

from the time she was able to work until she was thirteen years old, and was last employed in attending

a female of that town in her lying-in. Her father-in-law came for her there, took her away, and made her

put on sailor's clothes, with threats that if ever she disclosed her sex he would murder her. He had often

treated her barbarously, and she exhibited the mark of a blow he had given her, with a poker, under her

left ear. He, in a few days after, bound her apprentice on board a coal-ship, the Mayflower, of Sunderland,

at present lying off Woolwich, and on board of which she had now served four years, without her sex being

discovered. On Monday morning she was ill, and in a very delicate situation, unable to turn-out to her

usual duties on deck, in consequence of which, the mate, supposing her disinclination to work arose from

laziness, flogged her severely: this determined her to run away from the ship, which she effected on

Tuesday morning.

The poor girl also stated that her step father had disposed of her mother in the same manner he had served

her, three years before, and forced her on board a ship of war, in seaman's clothes, after having for

several years treated her most cruelly. Nobody ever knew what became of her, until after the late taking

of Copenhagen, when she was mortally wounded in action; and a letter written immediately before her death,

to a friend at Whitby, explained the circumstances of her fate. She had served seven years on board

different ships of war, never disclosing her sex and preferred the hardships of her situation to returning

to her friends, at the risk of meeting her unnatural husband. The girl is not eighteen years old, and of a

person, aspect and

demeanour, by no means uninteresting; nor have the hard drudgeries of a seaman's life in any degree

impaired the natural softness and submissive modesty of her sex.

An incident not inappropriate to this extraordinary denouement is, that the humane hostess of the Black

Bull public house (who felt and marked all the sensations of a true daughter of John Bull for the female

orphan of a British seaman, in much singular adversity) was, herself, for some years, Cook to the

immortal NELSON, at his residence at Merton, and was now the means of bringing the poor girl before

the Lord Mayor, in order to her disposal in some way more appropriate to her sex."

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