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Mary Frith, Alias Moll Cutpurse, in Life and Literature.


MARY FRITH'S SEXUAL AND GENDER identities remain elusive for various reasons. For one thing, the source material that has come down to us is fragmentary, male-oriented, and prejudiced; for another, any argument based on the published biography is bound to be fallacious considering that the biographers were committed to adjusting their subject in conformance to the stereotyped criminal of fictional biography. In point of fact, their attempt to explain Mary Frith's seemingly enigmatic sexuality simply amounted to labeling her as a sexual aberration, a prodigy, a monster. Once dehumanized, she was slotted into different sexual categories regardless of the fact that some of them were contradictory. Thus, she is represented as a transvestite usurping male power, as a hermaphrodite transcending the borders of human sexuality, as a virago, as a tomboy, as a prostitute, as a bawd, and even as a chaste woman who remained a spinster.

Moreover, the ongoing debate about the sexual and gender identity of Mary Frith has mainly drawn on her fictional representations as Moll Cutpurse in the criminal biography and as the Roaring Girl in Middleton and Dekker's play.

Thus a crucial problem that the steadily growing Moll Cutpurse studies have failed to address is whether Moll Cutpurse was a historical or a fictional figure. Can the anonymously published biography, The Life and Death of Mrs. Mary Frith. Commonly Called Mal Cutpurse. Exactly Collected and now Published for the Delight and Recreation of all Merry disposed Persons (London: for W. Gilbertson, 1662; Wing L 2005), be acknowledged as the authentic and authoritative biography of Mary Frith or must it be categorized as one of those early factual fictions that appropriated historical figures of the underworld in order to put them through a mythologizing process from which they emerged as mythic figures shorn of their personal histories? Elizabeth Spearing, the modern editor of The Life, although aware of the problem, leaves it unsolved. On the one hand, she owns that the figure of Moll Cutpurse assumed various forms in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but, on the other, she is inclined to believe that the text she has edited "is certainly the only one that gives anything like an account of the actual woman rather than a mythical figure, or that could derive from information given by the original `Moll,' Mary Frith herself."(1)

The editor, I am sure, would have adopted a different stance on the nature of the biography if she had consulted the chapbook version printed in 1662 on behalf of the publisher George Horton: The Womans Champion; or The Strange Wonder Being a true Relation of the mad Pranks, merry Conceits, Politick Figaries, and most unheard of Stratagems of Mrs. Mary Frith, commonly called Mall Cutpurse, living near Fleet-Conduit; even from her Cradle to her Winding-Sheet. Containing several remarkable passages touching the Constable, Counters, and Prisoners, and her last Will and Testament to Squire Dun, as a Legacy for his later days. With her divining Prophesie, concerning wicked Plots, and Hell-bred Conspiracies. Extracted from the Original; Published according to Order (London, printed for G. Horton, living in Fig-Tree Court in Barbican, 1662, Wing W 3323B). In 1651 and 1652, Horton had been instrumental in fashioning the myth of the highwayman James Hind. He was responsible for the publication of at least five Hind biographies, besides a collection of crude dramatic sketches, all of them being part of a concerted scheme to lay hands on Hind in order to pass him off as a defender of royalism.(2) In like manner, the hacks working for George Horton in Barbican and William Gilbertson lay hands on Mary Frith, transmuting her into a royalist and, what is more, into a female highway robber who masterminded the feats and pranks of both the mythic James Hind and Richard Hannam. The author(s), as will be discussed below, consciously transgressed the generic principles of male criminal biography and the order of gender hierarchy.

The text of the fictional memoirs of Moll Cutpurse was made accessible to later generations by the epitome published in captain Alexander Smith's A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Shoplifts, and Cheats of Both Sexes (London, 1719, ii, 137-52). It is Captain Smith, an uninhibited plagiarist and manipulator, who is mainly responsible for misleading modern critics into taking a piece of fiction for the actual record of Mary Frith's career.(3) Smith did not content himself with lifting the abstract from the 1662 Life, but seized the opportunity to tamper with the text, vamping up some further episodes of a sensational character such as Moll's robbery of general Fairfax on Hounslow Heath, which will be commented on in part II. To rely on Smith as purveying historical evidence on metropolitan criminality and on the organization of the female underworld amounts to distorting the known facts.(4)

The purpose of this article is thus an effort to recover at least some of the historical documentation for Moll Frith's life that has been displaced or distorted by her biographer(s). Accordingly, I have appended an addendum, a "Documentary Life," and syntheses of the extant texts (including the contribution made by the visual arts to the mythmaking process). This addendum serves as the documentary basis for the essay that I shall be offering here and that I have organized as follows.

Part II, which follows immediately, addresses the mythmaking process of transmuting the historical figure of Mary Frith into the mythic Moll Cutpurse. It will be shown that the main strategy the author(s) pursued was to integrate scanty historical records into the preexisting parameters of criminal biography as they had been evolved for male criminals and, if need be, to transcend or invert the pattern.(5) As a result of this transmutation, Mary Frith suffered the same fate at the hands of her anonymous pseudobiographers as did Hind and his like. Moll Cutpurse, as she has come down to us in the text published in 1662, is a mythic construct made up of invented facts and conditioned by absences and displacements; or to put it in other terms, the historical figure, who already in her lifetime had gone through a mythologizing process, was reduced to a depersonalized entity. Part III is conceived as a contribution to the ongoing academic debate about the sexual ambiguity of the mythic Moll Cutpurse. It breaks new ground in examining the sexual and gender identities of the historical Mary Frith in the light of her marriage to Lewknor Markham and in analyzing her career as a pickpocket, as a Tarltonesque entertainer and licensed broker. Contemporary studies have invariably focused on the representation of Moll Cutpurse's sexuality and gender and have thereby turned a blind eye to the fact that the real-life Mary Frith was creating, for gain, her own public persona as a cross-dressing performer. Crossdressing was her professional signature. I am arguing that she was a liminal figure striving to carve a niche for herself, however marginal, in the entertainment business of Southwark and the City of London.


It is doubtful that the author(s) charged to produce the criminal biography of Mary Frith had access to the inside information that archival research has brought to light. In any case, the amount and reliability of biographical data at his/their disposal is quite irrelevant if we bear in mind that whatever material he/they drew on was invariably trimmed to conform to the formula of criminal biography. Thus, The Life and Death of Mrs. Mary Frith deconstructs itself as factual fiction by transmuting the historical Mary Frith into the conventional figure of the sinner turned penitent who commits her crimes to paper as a warning to future generations; into the criminal who has espoused the royalist cause; into the highway robber who besides performing her own deeds is glorified as the plotter of Hind's and Hannam's raids on Cromwell's money convoys; and into the popular outcast defending the poor and the oppressed against rapacious lawyers. Worst of all, she is simultaneously represented as a sexual monster.

Before focusing our attention on the reductive process, it is advisable to settle the question of authorship. Elizabeth Spearing has applied to the soi-disant memoirs and confessions of the seventeenth-century lawbreaker a computer test program that has been developed to fathom out the veracity of the confessions of twentieth-century lawbreakers. The result would seem to support the likelihood that three different writers may have been working on the criminal biography. Her findings lend some weight to my view that the publishers William Gilbertson and George Horton engaged a team of male writers to piece together a biography and a chapbook in order to capitalize on the sensational career of a woman who, despite her illiteracy, worked up her way from cutpurse to crossdressed entertainer and to licensed broker, thus breaking into the male-dominated business world of the entertainment industry and early capitalism.

This theory is somewhat strengthened by the fact that the biography falls into three incoherent, uncoordinated, and at times contradictory parts. The first part, the address to the reader (3-5), initiates the process of pruning away the individual features of Mary Frith. Written in the style of mock learning, it stresses the matchlessness of the heroine in presenting her as "the Oracle of Felony," the "Prodigy of those Times she lived in," and "Epicoene Wonder," a "Virago," and a "Bona Roba," that is, a prostitute. The last slur is one of the major contradictions between the three parts. The writer, somehow aware of the biographical reduction and of the incoherence of the three parts, thought fit to add an apology to the Reader, asking him to "Excuse the Abruptnesse and Discontinuance of the Matter, and the severall independencies thereof." He presumed to palm off the responsibility for the lack of narrative coherence to the character of Mary Frith, observing "that it was impossible to make one piece of so various a Subject, as she was both to her self and others, being forced to take her as we found her though at disadvantage" (5). The "we" may be as pluralis majestatis or the slip of a slipshod writer giving away the multiple authorship.

The second part (7-17) is a standarized fictional biography, tracing Mary Frith's family background, her childhood, education, and dislike of domestic chores up to the point when the "Colossus of Female subtlety in the wily Arts and ruses of that Sex" stood "upon her own leggs" (17). The writer assumes the voice of a third-person narrator whose analysis of the heroine's gradual development into a sexual and social outsider betrays a remarkable sense of psychological insight. This writer may well have had some "personal knowledge of the subject," as Elizabeth Spearing argues (xii); but as we will see, he nonetheless committed some "factual blunders" in making up for the lack of authentic biographical material.

The third part (17-73), inscribed as a first-person narrative, pursues the editorial policy of making the reader believe that "Mal Cutpurse's Diary" is an autobiographical confession, a "Defence and Apology," committed to paper by the heroine, in a state of grace, for the edification of the reader? This part falls into two sections, the first running from page 17 to page 49, the second from page 49 to page 73. There is an unmistakable break on page 49, a "Discontinuance of the Matter," to put it in terms of the first writer. It marks the moment when the third biographer, run short of jests and pranks, begins to drift away from his subject and to foreground contemporary history. From now on the autobiography reads like a diatribe against Cromwell, his Protectorate, and "the sanctified Delusions" of the Puritans.

The insousiance with which three putative writers approached their task as well as their indifference to the basic facts of Mary Frith's life is borne out by the inaccurate dates of birth and death. Mary Frith (see addendum) died on 26 July 1659. The second writer, not sure about the date, has brought himself to admit that he failed to "ascertain the Week" and "Moneth of her Nativity" (8), and the writer of her memoirs has her record: "I bid ... Adieu this Threescore and Fourteenth year of my Age" (72). Her age, however, does not square with the date of birth given by the writer of the standardized biography. If she died at the age of seventy-four in 1659, she must have been born in 1585. The text suprisingly reads that she "was Born Anno Domini, 1589, in Barbican, at the upper end of Aldersgate street" (8). The chapbook version makes the same mistake, adding that Mary Frith was born "in the Parish of St. Giles's Cripplegate, near Barbican" (sig. A2r). The place of birth may have been prompted by George Horton's address in Barbican.

Mary Frith's will, dated 6 June 1659, was not accessible to the biographers. But as the formula of criminal biography required a will, the third biographer had no scruples in allowing free rein to his creative imagination. On the one hand, he kept in line with the literary tradition in passing off Mary Frith as a generous patroness throughout her life; on the other, he had the sangfroid to make her say that "I did make no Will at all, because I had had it for so long before to no better purpose" (73). Thus the fictionalized Mary Frith reports at the end of a criminal life that she spent 1,400 [pounds sterling] "in good Gold ... out of my kind heartedness" on "my old Friends, the distressed Cavaliers, to help them in their compositions" (72). She would have "very well liked" to emulate the example set by Edward Alleyn, the actor, in endowing a charitable foundation, a school and "Alines Houses," but she regrets that she has less than 100 [pounds sterling] left "to command." She has, however, given 30 [pounds sterling] to her "Maids" (73). The rest of her "Estate in Money Movables and Household Goods" she leaves to her "Kinsman Frith, a Master of a Ship, dwelling at Redriffe [Radcliff].... as next of Kin" (73). This is a complete departure from what actually happened. The historical Mary Frith left the "remainder" of a "meane estate" to her married niece and executrix Frances Edmonds, 20 [pounds sterling] to ther kinsman Abraham Robinson and 12d. to Abraham's father James Robinson (see addendum).

The three biographers and most modern critics in their wake have ignored the fact that on 23 March 1614 Mary Frith was married to Lewknor Markham, esquire, at St. Mary Overies, Southwark (see Addendum). The second collaborator sacrifices historical evidence to the fictional policy of creating the portrait of a hermaphrodite who chose to remain single. Thus he explains that Mary Frith had sought the company of a shoemaker, but when "she found the fellow made an absolute prey of her Friendship," squandering the money "she with difficulty enough provided," she left him. This negative experience and other swindles "not only took her off from the consideration or thought of Wedlock, but reduced her to some advisement which way she might maintaine her self single" (15).

The fictional drive to cook up biographical data and manipulate historical events is most apparent in the third writer's adaptation of Mary Frith's career to the pattern set up by George Fidge, in his 1651/52 campaign, whose aim was to fashion the myth of James Hind as a royalist highwayman. Fidge, a royalist sympathizer, had politicized Hind, appropriating him as an ideological instrument with which to denounce the hated rule of the protectorate;(7) and the anonymous biographer, in accordance with the standardized royalist criminal, encoded Mary Frith as a staunch defender of royalism, tracing the origin of her nickname Mary Thrift to King Charles's entrance into the city of London in 1639. Thus, he has his fictional Mary Frith report that she threw a party in honor of the king's return to London "After that unnatural and detestable Rebellion of the Scots in 1638" (43), which the pacification of Berwick, in 1639, put an end to, to the disadvantage of the king's cause. As she knew that it was "usual with the Roman and modernly with the Italian Courtezans to be very splendid in publique Works, as erecting of Bridges or Aqueducts, Cause-wayes, making of Moles, or cutting Passages," she "resolved to show" her "Loyal and Dutiful Respects to the King" (43) in undertaking "to supply Fleet-street Conduit adjacent to" her "House with Wine, to run continually for that triumphal Day" (44). "And as the King passed by," she grasped his hand, "saying, Welcome Home, CHARLES." This "celebrated Action ... being the Town talk, made people look upon" her "at another rate then formerly. `Twas no more Mal Cutpurse but Mrs. Mary Thrift," her "neighbours using" her thereafter "with new respect and civility" (44). The celebration of the king's entrance, as narrated by the mythic Mary Frith, is cast in the episodic style of the traditional jest-biography. The nickname Mary Thrift (see Addendum) originates from her activity as a dynamic broker and was coined between 1614 and 1620. It has nothing whatever to do with the historical events of 1639.

The royalist code and the anecdotal form of the jest-biographies enabled the writer of the memoirs to embed his mythic Moll Cutpurse into the contemporary historical background. She is represented as a partaker of the civil war and as a witness committed to defending the royalist cause. Thus, she did not only hobnob with King Charles in 1639, but she branded Cromwell as an "ambitious Usurper" (69). She also took John Pym and the parliamentarians to task for their "desperate Fatal conspiracy against the renowned States-man, the Earl of Stratford, Lord Deputy of Ireland" (50). To revenge his execution, which took place on 12 May 1641, she published the pamphlet of "a solemne Bull baiting" in the Bear Garden, in which she called the "Bull that threw off all the Dogs... Strafford" and her own "Dogs that played at him" John Pym and Oliver St. John (50). She also defied Robert Devereux, third Earl of Essex, who in June 1641 had been appointed Lord General and Supreme Commander of the Parliament's forces on land. She changed the headgear of her fighting dogs to orange, the Earl's colors, "and with the usual stile given that Earle by the Cavaliers," she "called the Bull" at the Bear Garden "its Oxcellency" (59).(8)

In weaving the historical Mary Frith into the fictional texture of a criminal biography, the writer of the memoirs displayed some originality. He applied, as mentioned above, the generic formula of the royalist criminal to Mary Frith and in doing so he went to the length of transgressing the formula. George Fidge had elevated the highwayman James Hind to the heights of a royalist hero in 1652 and now, in 1662, the anonymous biographer(s), in like manner, lionized Mary Frith, transmuting her into a female highway robber. This was a daring regendering of the generic principle. Highway robbery, the male crime par excellence, was now hailed as the female crime par excellence.(9) This implied the reversal of the gendered criminal code with the mythic Mary Frith masterminding the mythic exploits of James Hind and Richard Hannam.

It is, of course, extremely improbable that Mary Frith as a metropolitan pickpocket should ever in real life have rubbed shoulders with Hide and Hannam, let alone have hatched and supervised their robberies. Her boast that she set "most of the chief of" Hind's feats as "the Wyer that moved that Engine in all his great prizes" (65-66) is pure fiction. This consideration also applies to the only joint venture in the battlefield: the raid on a money convoy that was on its way "to pay their Souldiers at Oxford and Gloucester" (65). Moll and Hide justified their assault arguing that it was "the Commonwealths Money which those great Thieves at Westminster had Fleeced out of the Publique to pay the[i]r Janizaries, who maintained them in their Tyranny and Usurpation: while the Loyal and the Honest Subject was Ruined and Undone by their Taxes, Plunderies, twentieth part, and Sequestrations of their Estates" (65).

Alexander Smith in his History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen (1719) stretched the heroic formula to preposterous lengths. Prompted by one of the pranks about "Walker a notable Pick-pocket," who, disguised as "a Commander in the Army," stole "a rich Gold Watch set with Diamonds from my Lady Fairfax, the Generals Wife," while she was attending a presbyterian service in St. Martin's Church, Ludgate Hill (62-63), Smith capped the theft with the report of Mary Frith's heroic assault on General Thomas, third Baron Fairfax. He would have the reader believe that Fairfax, the founder of the New Model Army, was held up by Mary Frith on Hounslow Heath, shot through the arm, relieved of two hundred jacobuses, and left with two horses killed on the Heath. For this offense she was committed to Newgate Prison, from where she procured her release by paying Fairfax 2,000 [pounds sterling].(10)

Smith had no second thoughts about casting an urban female criminal, who used London as her haunt, in the role of a highway robber prowling on the fringes of the city and keeping a lookout for the general. As he was catering for a vast readership, Smith had learned how to pander to the tastes and instincts of readers who preferred tales about a single highwayman cavaliering on a heath in the outskirts of a town to tales about crimes committed in towns by well-organized gangs.(11) Smith, making no bones about his antirepublican sentiments, pounced upon any opportunity to discredit the Fairfaxes. Thus, he also concocted the report that Zachary Howard raped Anne Vere, Lady Fairfax, and her daughter Elizabeth.(12)

Another stereotyped feature of the criminal biography was the portrayal of the biographee in the role of criminal-as-sinner. Mary Frith's biographers adhered to this code. Thus, she introduces her memoirs in the guise of the penitent sinner, entreating her readers "with all Fairness and Candor, and the pity of a Sessions House Jury, to hear me in this my Defence and Apology" (17).(13) But contrary to her initial protestation, the memoirs turn out to be a glorification of her pranks and crimes rather than a condemnation of them. Her abrupt repentance when facing death and her confession that she "never lived happy minute" in this world till she "was leaving of it" (72) do not ring true. The ambivalence of her moral attitude derives from the native tradition of the coney-catching pamphlets.(14)

The moral ambivalence also manifests itself in the criminal's stereotyped role as protector of the poor against injustice and social discrimination. Moll Cutpurse shares with other criminal biographees a sharp political awareness and a keen sense of justice. In the fashion of James Hind, who indulges in lecturing on the corrupting power of money,(15) she poses as the defender of the oppressed, the underprivileged, the exploited, laying bare the corruption of the moral guardians of the state, the rapacity of the lawyers and clergymen, and the abuses committed by petty constables and selfish politicians. Thus, she "sympathized" with a coiner who was hanged at the beginning of the civil war for counterfeiting and clipping halfcrowns out of sheer "Necessity," as she puts it; and following a well-established journalistic device, she records his very last words allegedly spoken under the gallows: "That he was adjudged to die but for Counterfeiting of a Half Crown, but those that Vsurped the whole Crown and stole away its Revenue, and had Counterfeited its Seal, were above justice and escaped unpunish'al" (25).(16) She enjoys recounting how she took her revenge on a vainglorious constable who had committed her to the Counter for a "Rat," that is for beng drunk. Her hilarious account reads like one of those freefloating pranks that came to be written down in the vein of the popular jest-biographies (25-30).(17) On Sundays she used to observe the custom "to be charitable... to the Prisoners of Ludgate and Newgate (45) and she spontaneously offered 50 [pounds sterling] to secure the release of the "famous Wrastler" Cheney (64), a friend of her and of Hind's, who is remembered in Hind's epitaph.


Because of the inevitable mythologizing generated by the scarcity of biographical data about Mary Firth, what then is to be claimed or suggested concerning her gender and sexual orientation, questions that have dominated recent study? One approach to this problem is, I think, her marriage to Lewknor Markham, esquire, of Nottingham, possibly an elder son of the author Gervase Markham. The marriage bond was signed on 23 March 1614 in St. Saviour's, Southwark, a stone's throw from the Hope and Globe theatres, the Bear Garden, and the stews. Shakespeare's youngest brother, Edmund, a professional actor, had been buried there on 31 December 1607 to the sound of the great bell.(18)

The heterosexual marriage imparted an air of cultural normalcy to Mary Frith's status as a notorious member of the underworld and to her threatening anomaly as an autonomous woman. Obviously, she was not unmarriageable; she was neither a monster as given out by her biographers, nor did she correspond to Middleton and Dekker's hermaphroditic ideal, as represented in The Roaring Girl, who refuses to marry. The registers of biological and social normalcy do not imply that she must have shared the gender orientation of those Jacobean women who conformed to the role enforced on them by the patriarchal system. She turned out to be a self-fashioning individual who had taken to transvestism as an alternative strategy for economic survival. A close examination of the few extant documents yields the impression that she was a scheming and calculating woman with an ingrained instinct for upward social mobility and determined to exploit to the full the ambiguous legal position of women under common law.

Mary Frith took advantage of her rise in status as a married woman in claiming to be, as the case required, either a feme sole, a single woman, or a feme covert, a married woman under coverture whose legal identity was covered by her husband. As feme sole, she could pose both as a spinster, as Mary Frith, and as a married woman, as Mary Markham, who with respect to property and business was as independent of her husband as if she were unmarried. As feme covert, however, she could not contract and was liable to lose her right for independent action with regard to property and real estate as well as her right to sue and be sued on her own behalf. Thus, in 1624 when Richard Pooke, hatmaker, sued "Mary Frith alias Markham of London, Spinster," for some unpaid beaver hats, the attorney warned Pooke not to sue her as feme sole under the name of Mary Frith, for she had already defeated other complainants by claiming that she was feme covert, married "to one Markham." She did, indeed, resort to this legal double game in defending herself against Pooke's complaint, arguing "that she is Maryed to the same Markham and soe being a feme Covert, she cannot be ympleaded as feme Sole" (see addendum).TM

Even without knowing the terms of Mary Frith's marriage settlement, we can define her status as that of a feme sole merchant. She obviously entered her marriage on condition that she had the right to run a business on her own account. Her union with Lewknor Markham should presumably be seen as a marriage of convenience contracted with a view to avoiding the discrimination and disabilities resulting from coverture and to exploiting the loopholes in the definition of gender boundaries. What arouses suspicion is her deposition made in the 1624 trial. It emerges from there that she did not quite remember how many years she had been married to Lewknor Markham (see addendum). The suspicion is strengthened by Pooke's attorney who stated that Markham had "not lived with her this tenne yeares or thereabouts." This could mean either that the two had never lived physically together as husband and wife or, in legal parlance, that they had not lived together as baron and feme, that is, as one legal person under the law of coverture. Whatever this may mean, Mary Frith was operating a lost property office as feme sole. On the one hand, the former cross-dressed pickpocket had gained the status of a married woman--she had become, as it were, a conformist; on the other, she was still a nonconformist in running a business of her own. This alternative view on marriage does not correspond to the view of Moll Cutpurse expressed in Middleton and Dekker's play.(20)

There is no denying that Mary Frith as feme sole or, to put it in terms of Defoe's Roxana, as "a Masculine in Politick Capacity," had seized an occupation in the dynamic market of stolen goods, a market that was mainly dominated by men. The reputation of her brokery is attested by Henry Killigrew, gentleman, who on being robbed in February 1621 relied on the services of her office. He had "heard howe" by her "meanes many that had had their pursses cutt or goods stolen," had recovered their goods owing to her experience and connections. In the present case, the local authorities collaborated with the broker. The constable of the parish of St. Bride's arrested the alleged pickpocket and took her to Mary Frith's office to be cross-examined there. Richard Dell, the husband of the alleged pickpocket, was so shocked at the news that his wife was being detained in Mary Frith's office that he demanded her immediate release from that company. For him Mary Frith, in 1621, was "a notorious infamous person.., well knowne & acquainted with all theeves & cutpurses." What he did not realize is that she had a commission to examine alleged pickpockets and the right to monitor criminal behavior.

The row over the moral qualifications and professional competence of Mary Frith is quite comprehensible. Both wranglers were right; Richard Dell in denouncing Mary Frith as being a broker who owed her unchallenged position to her ties with the underworld; and Mary Frith in asserting that she was empowered by a royal or rather local license to interrogate petty lawbreakers. As a female broker, she was straddling the elusive border between the legal and illegal world obviously in connivance with the civic authorities, which had a vested interest in collaborating with a woman who was "acquainted with all theeves & cutpurses" in London. Given the fact that there was neither an effective statute against receiving stolen goods nor a professional police force, the local authorities, in the interest of crime control, welcomed women as paralegal intermediaries in the return and custody of stolen goods. Mary Frith was by no means the only female broker, but she was the most dynamic and best organized, whose dual role as collaborator with the underworld and the authorities guaranteed a steady supply of stolen goods for the brokerage.(21)

For a lifetime Mary Frith was scheming to outwit the guardians of law and order. When they first laid hands on her in 1600 and 1602, she was heading for a long period of trials and tribulations as a pickpocket (see addendum). The tenor of the prosecution leaves no doubt about the criminal offenses she had committed: in 1600 she was prosecuted on suspicion of having stolen the purse of an unknown man and in 1602 the purse of Richard Ingles. It is important to note that the indictments of 1600 and 1602 do not mention that she was prosecuted for having committed a gender transgression as a woman dressed up in male attire.

Mary Frith's deviant behavior as a transvestite dates from about 1608. Her cross-dressing coincides with her intrusion into the male dominated organization of the Bankside entertainment industry. Bearing in mind her later intrusion into the dubious trade of brokerage, it does not seem hazardous to speculate that her transvestism was a commercially and professionally motivated ploy to increase her income. It would definitely be dangerous to diagnose the case of Mary Frith as that of a lower-class woman in quest of her sexuality; hers is far more likely to be the case of a pickpocket turned transvestite for gain. The strategy she hatched up by 1608 was well thought out. To put it in terms of John Chamberlain, she "used to go in mans apparell," conspicuously flaunting her crossdressing, and thereby "challenged the fetid of" the town fops. It stands to reason that the "gallants" displaying their sartorial excesses would gather to watch her pageantry and cheer or jeer her only to be fleeced by a pack of pickpockets working hand in glove with the showwoman. Her unconventional lifestyle required a good store of apparel to keep it up and a heavy purse.

The examination conducted by the Bishop of London in January 1612 bears out that her new career as a public figure dressed up in male attire was designed as a commercial joint venture between herself and a gang of footpads. Thus, she "confessed" to having "vsually associated her selfe with Ruffinly swaggering & lewd company as namely with cut purses, blasphemous drunkards & others of bad note & of most dissolute behaviour." The examination also confirms that while mounting her street and floor shows she was deftly practising her light-fingered art: she "confesseth" to the Consistory of London that "she is commonly termed Ma[ll] Cutpurse of her cutting of purses."(22)

Mary Frith's cross-dressing expertise confirms that there was a relationship between transvestism and crime. Most women who cross-dressed publicly in London, as Marjorie Garber has noted, were simply aping a fashion that affected all classes well into the 1620s, but the transvestite movement was also misused as a stratagem to commit theft. Women on the Continent fared no better. The European paradigm of the criminal female transvestite that emerges from Rudolf M. Dekker and Lotte C. van de Pol's study of over one hundred female cross-dressers, who, between 1550 and 1839, were active in the Netherlands also applies to Mary Frith: to wit, a young unmarried woman of the lower classes living on the edge of poverty resorts to male disguise and associates herself with accomplices.(23)

Within two or three years Mary Frith became a Bankside personality whose showmanship caught the attention of four playwrights: John Day (1610), Thomas Middleton, Thomas Dekker (1611), and Nathan Field (1611). Day's jest-biography, "A Booke called the Madde Prancks of Merry Moll of Bankside, with her walks in Man's Apparel and to what Purpose" has been lost, but its title and Moll's alleged ride or progress through the City of London on Banks's famous "dancing horse" Morocco may give us an inkling of what her street performances must have been like (see The Life, 36-37). If the title of Day's jest-biography advertises Mary Frith as an outdoor prankster performing her feats and tricks on the thoroughfares of Bankside and London, it emerges from the examination conducted by the Bishop of London that she must also have been a shrewd indoor entertainer. It is on record that she "voluntarily confessed that she had long frequented all or most of the disorderly & licentious places in this Cittie as namely she hath vsually in the habite of a man resorted to alehowses, Tavernes, Tobacco shops and also play howses there to see plaies & pryses." Needless to say that these haunts, the theaters included, were an ideal hunting ground for a criminally minded pack of thieves waiting for Mary Frith's beck and call. What better "pryses," that is, presses, crowds, to relieve of their purses than guests in taverns, befuddled by drink and dazzled by Moll playing on her lute and singing a bawdy song and most likely performing a jig, or guests in a tobacco shop mesmerized by Moll smoking a pipe. As Robert Greene alleged, pickpockets thrived under the screen cast by the music of popular entertainers (see Addendum).

The climax of Mary Frith's career as an entertainer was her stage appearance at the Fortune Theatre in an afterpiece to a performance of Middleton and Dekker's play The Roaring Girl sometime in April 1611. Her appearance was orchestrated as a highlight and duly announced by the dramatists in the epilogue:
 The Roaring Girl herself, some few days hence,
 Shall on this stage give larger recompense.

Mary Frith's performance proved both a highlight and a turning point, for the subsequent measures taken by the authorities against her were so stern that within two years she abandoned her career as a cross-dressed entertainer to begin a new one as a broker. She was apprehended and detained in Bridewell where like all the inmates she was put through the grueling ordeal of corporal chastisement. In compliance with the rules of the governors, she had to account to them, in their weekly routine sessions, for her misbehavior and immorality. The examinations were thorough and ex

aminations are still untapped.(24) Unfortunately, in the present case the Bridewell Court Books for 1611 have been destroyed. However, we do know what happened at the Fortune Theatre because Mary Frith, relapsing into her old style of life, was again committed to Bridewell in December 1611 and eventually indicted in the palace of the Bishop of London in January 1612. There before John King, Bishop of London, Dr. Thomas Edwardes and Robert Christian, notary public, she confessed that she was "at a play about 3 quarters of a yeare since at the FFortune in mans apparell & in her bootes & with a sworde by her syde. ... And also sat there vppon the stage in the publique viewe of all the people there presente in mans apparell."

Mary Frith was fully aware of the crucial importance of her solo performance in one of the leading commercial theaters. Endowed with an inborn talent for playing up to street and tavern audiences, she performed with great aplomb. She seized the opportunity to bring home to the audience that her self-fashioned cultural identity as a public persona, that is, as a female entertainer in male disguise, was not identical with her private self. Thus, she let it be known in unmistakable words that she was not a transvestite, nor a hermaphrodite, nor a sexually ambiguous character of any kind. She addressed the audience of the Fortune Theatre, some 2,340 spectators, telling them unashamedly and disarmingly "that she thought that many of them were of opinion that she was a man, but if any of them would come to her lodging, they should finde that she is a woman." This declaration was classified by the ecclesiastical judges as "immodest & lascivious speaches" that she "also vsed at that time." There was, however, nothing lascivious about the reaffirmation of her womanhood. Her disclosure may also have been meant as a rejection of Middleton and Dekker's fictional representation of her as a hermaphroditic ideal.(25)

Mary Frith's message, then, was that the crossing of gender boundaries was not transgressive and disruptive, nor immoral and reprehensible, and hence was not punishable. The guardians of public morality disagreed. They looked upon a cross-dressed woman as a deliquent arrogating the sexually active role of man and consequently stigmatized her as a whore.(26) The Bishop of London, therefore, suspected Mary Frith of being a prostitute. He "pressed" her "to declare whether she had not byn dishonest of her body & hath not drawne also other women to lewdnes by her perswasions & by carrying her selfe lyke a bawde." Whereupon Mary Frith "absolutly denied that she was chargeable with eyther of these imputacions." Almost all modern critics, misled by the criminal biography, have sided with the Bishop of London in identifying Mary Frith as a prostitute and bawd. It is true, as has been recently argued, that cross-dressing and prostitution were alternative social strategies that women pursued for social, economic, and security reasons.(27) Yet there is no evidence available to prove that Mary Frith was a cross-dressed prostitute.

Mary Frith's interactive address to a live audience was quite in line with the popular traditions as observed by the comedians. The spectators flocked to the theater in expectation of being entertained by one of those afterpieces that the Fortune was famous for and that were to cause the Middlesex magistrates in October 1612 to issue an order banning the performance of all afterpieces in England. The order ruled that all "Jigges, Rymes and Daunces after their playes" must be abolished because "by reason of certayne lewde Jigges, songes, and daunces vsed and accustomed at the play-house called the Fortune in Goulding-lane divers curt-purses and other lewde and ill-disposed persons in greate multitudes doe resorte thither at th' end of euerye playe, many tymes causinge tumultes and outrages, wherebye His Majesties peace is often broke and much mischiefe like to ensue thereby."(28)

There is good reason to believe that it was not so much the fact that a woman in male dress entertained an audience in a public theater--after all the authorities had been tolerating her dress violations, outdoor pranks, and unlicensed entertainments in Southwark and the city of London for some years without intervening--as the uncontrollable concourse of the additional spectators wanting to see the afterpiece and the throng of cutpurses in league with Mary Frith that alarmed the authorities and led them to arrest her in April 1611 in order to prevent a repetition of her solo performance. It was apparently less for her deviancy and breach of the sumptuary laws than for her threat to peace that the authorities clamped down on Mary Frith, committing her to a house of correction where she could be broken in and reformed. She offered some resistance in 1611, but by 1614 she gave in, turning over a new leaf as a broker. Thus a potential actress was disciplined and what looked like an initial step toward a professional career with Prince Henry's company of actors was thwarted, nipped in the bud by the authorities. Ironically, she retaliated as a broker by keeping in touch with the underworld. Whether her husband played a decisive role in her transition remains unknown.(29)

Mary Frith's single (or perhaps repeated) appearance at the Fortune was hardly an extempore performance. It was, no doubt, a cooperative theatrical enterprise undertaken for the profit of all the parties involved. It can be inferred from the epilogue to The Roaring Girl that Mary Frith mounted the boards of the Fortune Theatre with the consent of the two authors and that, after the scripted play was over, the company of players conceded to her the freedom of the stage for her nonscripted performance. It would also seem logical for her to take the advice and assistance of John Shank, the company's leading comedian, who was renowned for his jigs.(30) She remained silent on all the preparations that must have gone into her performance, but she confessed to the Bishop of London that "there vppon the stage in publique viewe of all the people there presente in mans apparrell," she "playd vppon her lute & sange a songe" and made "some other immodest & lascivious speaches," for let us say about half an hour, the average length of an afterpiece.

Mary Frith's stage performance as a lutenist and singer in the afterpiece of The Roaring Girl must also be placed in the performing tradition set by Richard Tarlton. There are some astonishing parallels between the two entertainers. Both were upstarts with lower-class backgrounds and links with the underworld. They developed their skills as solo entertainers in the subculture of the London taverns. Tarlton, a tavern owner, obviously sharpened his performance skills as a tableside jester before becoming a professional comedian, a national celebrity renowned for his indecorous jigs.(31) In like manner, Mary Frith practiced her art both in the streets, as we know from the title of Day's jest-biography, and in haunting the taverns and tobacco shops, as she confessed to the Consistory Court. She "had long frequented all or most of the disorderly & licentious places" in London, resorting "to alehowses, Tavernes, Tobacco shops." The taverns and alehouses were ideal places of low-life community gathering where she could learn how to establish a relation of interactive fellowship with the public and how to capture the communal spirit of indoor entertainment. There she conceivably had opportunity to develop her skill as a cross-dressed instrumentalist and singer of bawdy and burlesque songs.(32) Presumably she was less adept than Tarlton at extemporizing, at exploring the subversive and irreverent oral culture of the alehouses, "the new-founde phrases of the taverne," but she was his equal in acquiring a reputation as a heavy drinker.(33) Finally, what marks her out as a Tarltonesque entertainer, who after Tarlton's example took over the stage at the end, is the fact that, despite the low art form she was practising as an unlicensed amateur performer, she appealed to the lower classes, the groundlings of the Fortune Theatre, and also drew the middle-class audiences, the gallants she used to challenge in their own field.

Mary Frith, a seasoned entertainer in her twenties, must have been at the peak of her creative ability when she boarded the stage of the Curtain. She had made a name for herself as a street and tavern performer, as a light-fingered instrumentalist and dancer of jigs, who apparently sensed that the time was ripe to confide to her audiences that her cross-dressing had nothing to do with her sexual identity and should be taken for what it was: a simple trick of the trade consisting in a costume change. In her promotion of this view, her male dress or playing apparel had become, as it were, her signature as a popular entertainer.(34) A graphic demonstration of the costume change is afforded by the unauthorized woodcut of the original edition of The Roaring Girl. It shows the image of a woman dressed up in male clothes, brandishing a sword, smoking a pipe, but not playing the lute. The caption, printed lengthwise on the left-hand margin, reads: "My case is alter'd, I must worke for my liuing." The wording sealed the demystification of Mary Frith's sexual and gender ambiguity, signaling her desire to legitimate her profession and to earn her livelihood as a cross-dressed entertainer. The subversive woodcut was censored and replaced by an alternative one (see Portraits, below).

Besides the tavern and the street, the tobacco shop was the third of Mary Frith's venues, where she built up her image as a female smoker. Her stage portrait on the 1611 title page of The Roaring Girl shows her smoking a pipe, and the fictional biography dishes up an absurdly crude anecdote about an "unlucky knave, at a Grocers shop," who gave her a "Pipe full of Gunpowder, covered at Top with Tobacco" (23). The tobacco shops offered her not only the possibility of indulging in the latest fashion of smoking, but also in practising her self-taught art as a music entertainer and, what must be taken into account, in pursuing her profession as a pickpocket. Support for this interpretation comes from the contemporary dramatists who established a correlation between tobacco, music, and lecherousness. Thus, it became a stage convention about 1599 to poke fun at the gallants who affected smoking tobacco and playing the bass viol da gamba to ensnare women. The foppish Fastidius Brisk in Ben Jonson's Every Man Out of His Humour (1599) plays on the viol while smoking and courting Saviolina.(35) Gregory Gudgeon, the city lecher in Thomas Middleton's The Family of Love (1602), keeps "a viol da gambo and good tobacco."(36)

Mary Frith was not the first female devotee of tobacco in England, but presumably the first to resort to the tobacco shops, which were the exclusive haunts of men.(37) We have it on Thomas Hariot's authority that by 1589 "men & women of great calling as else, and some learned Phisitians also" were indulging in the new custom of smoking or "drinking" earthern or silver pipes. Paul Hentzner and Thomas Platter attest in their travel accounts that smoking in England became a national recreation in the late 1590s, and Edmund Howes in his sequel of John Stowe's The Annales or Generall Chronicle of England confirms that by 1615 smoking was "commonly used by most men & many women."(38)

The civic and ecclesiastical authorities obviously found fault with the example set by Mary Frith as a smoker. In the first place, a woman frequenting the tobacco shops, which were reserved for men, meant to them an infringement of gender boundaries and, second, an arrogation of class privileges. The authorities considered smoking as becoming the upper classes but as unbecoming to the lower orders. King James in his proclamation issued on 17 October 1604 levied a heavy custom on the weed and distinguished between "the better sort" of people who "have and will use the same with Moderation to preserve their Health," and "a number of riotous and disordered Persons of mean and base Condition, who, contrary to the use which Persons of good Calling and Quality make thereof, do spend most of their time in that idle vanity."(39) Mary Frith inevitably fell under the category of "disordered Persons" and of prostitutes, such as Joan Woodshore, who in 1611 was also charged with selling tobacco.(40) She was, therefore, bound to be reprehended by the Bishop of London for addicting herself to the wanton pleasure of smoking and of making music in public, both thought to be inventions of the devil made to inflame the passions of the addicts and of the listeners and to entice them to fall into debauchery.


Knowledge of Mary Frith's life remains fragmentary. There is much work that remains to social historians specializing in criminal history to save the record of Mary Frith's life from oblivion. I have, however, attempted to make up for the present lack of interest in Mary Frith as a historical figure, for without some reliable biographical data there is no way of assessing her public persona, nor of finding out to what extent the printed biography of 1662 departs from historical records in accommodating the protagonist to the formula of criminal biography. The following biographical survey is indebted to the researches of other critics, in particular to Mark Eccles, who has unearthed biographical records that have passed unnoticed in Moll Cutpurse studies, but it also contains hitherto unpublished documents.

Documentary Life

[Ca. 1584-85] The date of birth given in the biography is 1589 (see Spearing, Counterfeit Ladies, 8). The reasons why it does not make sense have been given above.

1600 Mary Frith began her career as a purse snatcher about 1600. She, Jane Hill, and Jane Styles, were all three spinsters dwelling in the City of London, indicted by the Justices of Middlesex for having snatched, on 26 August 1600, "bursam cordi ad valorem ijs et vndecem soldi in pecuniis numeratis ... de bonis Cattalis et denariis," that is, a purse kept in a breast pocket and containing 2s and 11d in cash, from an unknown man at Clerkenwell. The endorsement of the record reads "Billa vera," true bill, "Mary Ffrythe confesseth at Examinacion of Jane Styles & Jane Hill." See Greater London Record Office, Middlesex Sessions Rolls, MJ/SR/384/41. Mark Eccles in "Mary Frith, the Roaring Girl," Notes and Queries 32 (1985): 65-66, gives a very short abstract without mentioning the two accomplices and surprisingly adding that the trial jury found her not guilty.

The indictment contradicts Moll Cutpurse's statement made in the fictional autobiography that she "never Actually or Instrumentally cut any Mans Purse, though I have often restored it" (quotations are taken from Spearing's edition, 71). It also disproves Spearing's opinion that Mary in her teens was not so much drifting "into a criminal life-style" (xx). The origin of Mary Frith's nickname, Moll Cutpurse, has to be sought in her early status as a lower-class woman groomed as a cutpurse.

The petty crime that led to the arrest of the fifteen-year-old Mary Frith reveals that in her formative years as a delinquent she was plying her craft with two female partners. She was obviously working in a small female gang to reduce the risk of detection. Partnership with two women is likely to have been less combative than a partnership with men as regards dividing the loot into equal shares. Their efficiency, however, must have been rather poor when compared to the nimbleness of hand of their colleagues who at the Oxford commencement celebrations of October 1602 relieved Sir Thomas Bodley of his cloak and Sir Richard Lea of two jewels to the value of 200 marks. See letter of John Chamberlain to (Sir) Dudley Carleton in Paris dated 2 October 1602, Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, Elizabeth, 1601-1603, with Addenda, 1547-1605, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London 1870). For the types of gangs operating in England see A. L. Beier, Masterless Men: The Vagrancy Problem in England 1560-1640 (London: Methuen, 1985), 128-31.

Potential pickpockets used to drift into delinquency at an early age. Thus all the members of a gang of nineteen "cutpurses" whom Simon Forman, in 1598, "had in Examination abought" the theft of his "purse" were between fifteen and twenty years old. The youngest, Jeames Harborte (James Herbert?), was fifteen, that is, Mary's age, Roger Goth was sixteen, and the oldest, Jhon Tucke and Robarte Frenche, were twenty years old. See Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 195, fol. 196v. There were academies specializing in introducing boys into the art of stealing. Such a "schole howse" for pickpockets was denounced to Lord Burghley in 1585. It had been "sett upp" by one Wotton, gentleman and former merchant at Smart's Quay near Billingsgate, "to learne younge boyes to cutt purses." See J. A. Sharpe, Crime in Early Modern England 1550-1750 (London: Longman, 1984), 114.

Contrary to what these instances and to what the rogue and coney-catching pamphlets make us believe, London was not in the grips of a highly structured fraternity of pickpockets. Ian W. Archer in his groundbreaking study The Pursuit of Stability: Social Relations in Elizabethan London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), chap. 6, makes clear that as far as thieving is concerned, there is little to suggest the professionalism and network described in Greene's pamphlets.

1602 On 18 March 1602, the cordwainer Thomas Dobson and the silktwister William Simons, both dwelling in the parish of St. Giles outside Cripplegate, gave bonds to Nicholas Collyn, justice of Middlesex, that "Marya FFrithe" should appear at the next session of gaol delivery on suspicion of having taken "a purse with XXVs of Richard Ingles." See Greater London Record Office, Middlesex Sessions Rolls, MJ/SR/400/121. A brief abstract is given by Eccles in Notes and Queries.

As early as 1602 Mary Frith was apparently doing business in the neighborhood of the Fortune theatre where in the spring of 1611 she was to give her public stage debut. As no associates were implicated, Mary may have been operating on her own. In any case alignments among pickpockets, as Archer has shown, were impermanent and rapidly shifting (209-10).

1608 On 13 May 1608, "Maria Feith de Southworke," spinster, and John Clementes, servant to Edward Carrell, of Hastings, Sussex, both men being soldiers, gave bond to justice Nicholas Collyn to prosecute and give evidence against Edward Welles and Gilbert Dadson on suspicion of felony. See Greater London Record Office, Middlesex Sessions Rolls, MJ/SR/462/ 60. A brief abstract omitting information on Mary Frith's partners is given by Eccles, Notes and Queries.

This record is valuable for more than one of reason. First, it proves that by 1608 Mary Frith had made up her mind to settle in Southwark, the entertainment district notorious for its theaters, brothels, and the Bear Garden. Second, it suggests that her lifelong myth of mannishness may be traced back to her early acquaintance with soldiers. This partnership with soldiers, possibly disbanded soldiers, is bound to have cast a shadow on her reputation.

1609 On 8 September 1609, "Maria ffrythe," living in the parish of St Olave, Southwark, "Spinster," burgled ["intrauit"] the house of Alice Bayly in St Olave by night ["tempore nocturno"] and stole 7 [pounds sterling] 7s in money ["septem libris et septem solides ... in pecunijs"], "twoe angells of gold," "one twentie shillinge peece of gold," "twoe half crownes of gold," a gold ring ["annulum aureum"] rated at 6s, and "twoe cristall stones sett in seluer" valued at 20d. Public Record Office, ASSI 35/52/6/m. 18. There is an abstract in Jane Baston, "Rehabilitating Moll's Subversion in The Roaring Girl," Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 37 (1997): 317-35, taken from J.S. Cockburn, ed., Calendar of Assize Records: Surrey Indictments, James I (London, 1982).

At the bottom of the record, an addition in a different hand reads that Mary Frith, in March 1610, was found not guilty. I think this does not necessarily mean that she did not break into the house. She may have arranged with Alice Bayly, who was present at the hearing, to return part of the stolen goods. Deals with victims were popular, as J.G. Bellamy has shown in The Criminal Trial in Later Medieval England (Toronto, 1998), because the stolen goods, in the event of a conviction, would be confiscated by the crown. The formula "tempore nocturno," as noted by Bellamy, does not imply that an offense was committed in the darkness (84-85).

1610 On 7 August 1610, John Day, playwright and collaborator with Thomas Dekker in a number of plays, entered in the Stationers' Register a jest-biography, "A Booke called the Madde Prancks of Merry Moll of the Bankside, with her walks in Man's Apparel and to what Purpose." No copy has been preserved. It is certainly not a play as suggested in the Dictionary of National Biography under Day. For Paul A. Mulholland, the editor of Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker's The Roaring Girl. The Revels Plays (Manchester, Eng.: Manchester University Press, 1987), the entry in the Stationers' Register was likely "the earliest dependable reference to the real Moll" (13). All the above quotations of The Roaring Girl are taken from the Mulholland edition.

The title confirms that Mary Frith was plying her trade in Southwark, where by 1608 she had obviously emerged as a roaring girl. Endowed as she was with a theatrical talent, she had chosen the neighborhood of the Bankside theatres in the parish of St. Saviour's to mount her street performances and indoor floorshows in male dress. She can claim the status of a marginal entertainer who evaded the licensing system. She was, however, no innovator. She simply joined the transvestite movement, which after its eruption in the 1570s and 1580s had subsided in the 1590s to flare up again about 1605 and that was to reach its peak in the 1620s. See chapter 6 in Linda Woodbridge, Woman and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of Womanhood, 1540-1620 (Urbana: Illinois University Press, 1984).

Mary Frith was also a lutenist. Her unlicensed playing in taverns and streets went against the 1606 regulations issued by the company of musicians in the interest of public order. Offenders were fined 3s. 4d. for each infringement to the regulations. See Walter L. Woodfill, Musicians in English Society from Elizabeth to Charles I (Princeton, 1953; rpt New York: Da Capo Press, 1969), 14. For music performances, which according to Robert Greene in 1592, were misused as cloaks for larceny, see A. L. Beier, 97-98.

1611 On 27 January 1612, Mary Frith was summoned by the bishop's court of London to answer charges of public immorality. The text of the interrogation, preserved in the Consistory of London Correction Book, has been published by Mulholland in his edition of The Roaring Girl, Appendix E; and by Spearing, Counterfeit Ladies, xiv-xv. I am, however, quoting the text of the examination from Mulholland's paper "The Date of The Roaring Girl," Review of English Studies 28 (1977): 18-31, for being the most reliable (see note 22). I have modernized the punctuation of the quotations.

The personal voice of Mary Frith has left an indelible impression in the court proceedings. Her confessions reveal what John Day meant by "her walks in Mans Apparel" across London's entertainment district. They also disclose that she extended her operations to the underworld of the city of London. She must have embarked upon her new career as a cross-dressed roaring girl some time after 1602. She was an experienced theater-goer when, in about April 1611, she made her stage debut at the Fortune playhouse "in mans apparell & in her bootes & with a sword by her syde." E. K. Chambers is right in observing that her stage appearance had been carefully orchestrated by the playwrights and Prince Henry's company of actors. See his Elizabethan Stage (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923), iii, 297, and my discussion in part III.

Mary Frith also confessed to being still "associated ... with cut purses" and to frequenting the "lewd company" of "blasphemous drunkardes & others of bad note & most dissolute behaviour." Her confession casts new light on her relations with the organized underworld of thieves. Although she had entered a new phase in her career after 1602, she had not severed her ties with her old companions. Her connections with them, as a matter of fact, remained a lifelong commitment and stood her in good stead as an entertainer, theatergoer, and broker.

Mary Frith's defense before the bishop's court makes evident that she had already been punished for her "misdemeanors," particularly for her sensational transgression perpetrated at the Fortune playhouse. She had been committed to Bridewell, where, like all the inmates, she must have undergone the regular punitive regime of reform consisting of corporal punishment and hard work, a process that used to last two or three months for nonrecalcitrant inmates. There she shared her lot with many other cross-dressed women, among them Joanna Goodman, who in 1569 was whipped for dressing as a male servant, and Mary Wakeley, who in 1601 was detained for her misconduct as a transvestite. See Jean E. Howard, "Cross-dressing, The Theatre and Gender Struggle in Early Modern England," Shakespeare Quarterly 39 (1988): 418-40.

Katherine Cuffe suffered the same fate, in February 1599, for cross-dressing as a boy and "for her wicked lyfe and great offence" committed within the boundaries of the Inner Temple. She confessed to the court which met in Bridewell on 13 February 1599 that Ambrose Jasper, the cook of the Inner Temple, had asked her "to come in boyes apparrell" to his room "for that he would not haue her come in her owne apparrell least that she should be espyed." In compliance with her lover's cunning strategem, she turned up in male disguise, flouting the rules of an all-male academic institution. She "laye" with Jasper "allnight" and he "had th'vse and carnall knowledge of her bodye a little before Christmas last." Thomas Webster, the porter, "dwelling at the Temple gate," was also examined and confirmed the defendant's account. So was Thomas Lucey, Jasper's servant, who gave witness that Katherine Cuffe "came once in boyes apparrell hauing a doblett and hose and a cloke and a hatt." As Jasper refused to appear, a warrant was issued for his arrest; and the court meeting on 5 November 1599 ruled that he was to be arraigned (Bridewell Court Books, IV, f. 61-62v, 67r, 105r, 120v; there are further entries on this case).

The routine correction of the inmates dressed in blue garments was beating hemp and flax; and to believe Thomas Dekker, a close observer of Mary Frith's career, she was indeed subjected to beating hemp. In the last scene of his play If It Be Not Good, the Devil Is in I! (1611/12), the devils report to Pluto that Moll Cutpurse has not yet come to the underworld, for "Shee has bin too late a sore-tormented soule" and "was beating hemp in bridewell to choke theeues." See The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Fredson Bowers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), 3:5.4.105-12.

In Mary Frith's case the reformatory policy failed. After her release she was caught again trespassing against public morality "vpon Christmas day" 1611 "at night." She was arrested "in Powles Church," obviously St. Paul's Walk, "with her peticoate tucked vp about her in the fashion of a man with a mans cloake on her to the great scandall of diuers persons who vnderstood the same & to the disgrace of all womanhood." The constable who apprehended her sent her back to Bridewell, where she spent the Christmas season in confinement, waiting to be summoned by the Consistory of London on 27 January 1612.

The bishop of London, it seems, could not make up his mind to withdraw all the charges brought against Mary Frith. When he "pressed" her "to declare whether she had not byn" sexually incontinent as a prostitute and "bawde," she "absolutly denied that she was chargeable with eyther of these imputacions." The bishop, nonetheless, "thought fit to remand her to Bridewell ... vntill he might further examine the truth of the misdemeanors inforced against her without laying as yet any further censure vppon her." There are bound to have been many more interrogations conducted by the governors of Bridewell. Unfortunately, the volume of the Bridewell Court Books covering the years 1611 to 1616 was destroyed by fire.

1612 John Chamberlain, the learned observer of town and court life, helps to bridge the gap in the Bridewell Court Books. In a letter, addressed to Sir Dudley Carleton and dated 12 February 1612, he reported that "last Sonday Mall Cut-purse a notorious bagage (that used to go in mans apparell and challenged the feild of divers gallants)," was taken back to St. Paul's Cross to do penance in public. The bitter tears she shed in penance, I think, can be interpreted as a well-rehearsed act of histrionics performed to entertain the public; for Mary Frith, as Chamberlain noted, was later suspected of having been "maudelin druncke." In any case, her dramatic talents saved her from a prolonged detention in Bridewell. For Chamberlain's letter see Norman Egbert McClure, ed., The Letters of John Chamberlain (Philadelphia, 1939), 1:332-35; and Spearing, Counterfeit Ladies, xvi.

Mary Frith's efforts at self-definition as a cross-dressed entertainer were played out as much in outdoor as in indoor venues. As Chamberlain put it, she used "to go in mans apparell," walking the streets of London and Southwark disguised as a man. It was during these urban perigrinations that she pursued her sartorial rivalry with the gallants of London and Southwark and that she must have hatched out her policy to take advantage of her male disguise as her signature of a cross-dressed entertainer. Parading as a gallant, as an object of wonder, simply involved a change of costume; in public she performed the part of a man in order to eke out a living. Thus her own signature style contributed to the perpetuation of her myth as a mannish woman.

1614 On 23 March 1614, Lewknor Markham and Mary Frith were married at St. Saviour's (St. Mary Overbury), Southwark. They paid 4d. for the wedding ceremony and 4d. for the license granted by the bishop of Winchester. Only three out of thirteen couples that were married at St. Saviour's in March 1614 had a marriage license. See Greater London Record Office, Registers of Marriages, Parish Registers of St. Saviour's, P 92/ SAV/376. The microfilm of the Parish Registers, X 097/284, does not record the fee paid. The Registers have been published by John V. L. Pruyn, "Weddings at St. Saviour's, Southwark, from A.D. 1606 to 1625," The Genealogist, n.s. (1890), 6:145 fi; the Markham/Frith marriage is listed in vol. 7 (1891), 96, without the fee. Mark Eccles for his note consulted The Genealogist. The marriage license has not been preserved in the Greater London Record Office nor in the Hampshire Record Office.

Marriage and ownership conveyed status and respectability. Mary Frith's marriage to an esquire of Nottingham (see 1624 entry) provides a key to approaching the mystery of her sexual and gender identity as well as to explaining her new career as a broker. Her scheme to open up a fencing business is likely to have matured while she was frequenting the London alehouses; for brokerage was originally a sideline of the innkeepers. For the innkeepers' double role see George Daniel Ramsay, The City of London in International Politics at the Accession of Elizabeth Tudor (Manchester, Eng.: Machester University Press, 1975); and Salgado, 131.

The identity of Lewknor Markham has remained elusive despite my searches in printed sources and the extensive searches made by a record agent in several archives. Lewknor was in some way connected to Gervase Markham, the writer, possibly one of his elder sons. He must have been christened Lewknor after a godparent (X. Lewknor) or a close relative.

1621 It appears from a Star Chamber bill, edited by Margaret Dowling in "A Note on Moll Cutpurse--`The Roaring Girl,'" Review of English Studies 10 (1934): 67-71, that by 1621 Mary Markham, alias Mary Frith, alias Mary Thrift, alias Mal/Moll Cutpurse, was running a licensed fencing business or lost property office in the city of London, which she had been building up after 1612 with the help of her close ties with the underworld. She had made her way from pickpocket to street entertainer, walking the streets in conspicuous male disguise and thereby issuing, as John Chamberlain put it, a sartorial challenge to "divers gallants" or fops. She had now achieved notoriety as the receiver of stolen goods, that is as the entrepreneur of a metropolitan-based brokerage. By the time the transvestite controversy reached its height, she had given up the status of a criminal and had succeeded in arrogating the position of a paralegal intermediary to herself, which enabled her to mediate between the victims and the pickpockets, between authorities and the underworld. The events mentioned in the bill are here given in chronological order; the punctuation of the bill has been modernized.

The victim was Henry Killigrew, gentleman, son of Sir Henry Killigrew and nephew of Sir William Killigrew.(41) He was robbed one Saturday night in February 1621 and on Sunday repaired to the office of Mary Frith to seek help. The circumstances of the robbery, as told by Mary Frith in her defense made before the Court on 4 June 1621, do not appear to be framed. She testified that when Killigrew was walking down Blackhorse Alley, he was accosted by a nightwalker asking for some wine. He offered her instead "some kindnesse," which she understood as a signal to take him to a "place" of assignation rather than to a tavern. It then happened, as Mary Frith put it in a euphemism for carnal knowledge, that "whilst he was in priuate familarity with" that prostitute, she "priuilie tooke forth of his pockett certen peeces of gold and some seales and other thinges." The moment Killigrew "was trussinge" the "pointes," that is the buttons of his trousers, "she was gone."

The following day, as Mary Frith certified, Killigrew came to see her "and desired her to doe her endeauour to try if she could by any meanes fynd out the pickpockett or helpe him to his monie," for he had "heard howe" by her "meanes many that had had theire pursses cutt or goodes stollen, had beene helped to theire goodes againe and diuers of the offenders taken or discouered." She did prove helpful. The nightwalker had made the mistake to point out to Killigrew the window of her husband's flat, and thus it happened that when Killigrew took Mary Frith to have a look at the house, she identified Richard Dell, gentleman, and Margaret Dell, his wife, as the tenants of the flat. The constable of the parish of St. Bride's in Fleet Street then arrested Margaret Dell on suspicion of being the pickpocket and took her to Mary Frith's house for Killigrew to verify if she was the woman who had relieved him of eight pieces of gold and seven silver seals. When he saw her face to face, he "confidently affirmed," according to Mary Frith, "that he thought her to be the woman." On this evidence, Margaret Dell, on 23 February 1621, was taken before Sir Thomas Bennett, who committed her to the Counter prison.

On 2 May 1621, Richard Dell and his wife, Margaret, lodged a complaint about wrongful imprisonment in the Court of Star Chamber against Giles Allen, goldsmith, the constable of the parish of St. Bride's, Francis Goddard, haberdasher, Henry Killigrew, gentleman, Edward Thacker, Edward Florie,42 and Mary Markham, alias Mary Frith, alias Mary Thrift, alias Mai Cutpurse. It emerges from their bill that Richard Dell, outraged that his wife was being questioned in Mary Markham's house, demanded that his wife be removed from her company, for, as he said, Mary Markham was "a notorious infamous person, and such a one as was well knowne & acquainted with all theeves & cutpurses." She refused Dell's accusation, asserting that she had a royal commission to examine all such persons. She therefore advised Dell to leave her house before he would be beaten by Killigrew and Florie. In her defense of 4 June, she threatened that if the Dells "gaue" her "any ill wordes or language, she ... might and did giue them some reply in some tart or angry manner agayne."

Mary Frith's reputation as a dubious broker lasted unabated until her death. Some hitherto unknown allusions in ephemeral publications, which spawned from the printing presses of the Commonwealth, attest her unbroken notoriety. Merlinus Anonymus ... for the year 1653, a mock almanac by the royalist Samuel Sheppard, has the following calendar entry for 11 March: "Mrs. Frith tax'd for conivance and acquitted by a Jury of pick pockets, 1645.TM Quite pregnant is the twenty-third query in Endlesse Queries: or An End to Queries, Laid down in 36 Merry Mad Queries for the People's Information (1659), a copy of which was acquired by the publisher George Thomason on 13 June 1659, a week after Mary Frith had signed her will. The query reads: "Whether Mrs. Mary Frith commonly called by some Mall Cut-purse, having formerly done so good service at the Bear Garden, and many other things for the good of the Nation, being now aged and having no children of her own body lawfully begotten, as ever I heard of, might not do a pious Act to appoint one to succeed her to help the people to their purses again when she is gone?" A satirical coupling of the contested faculties of William Lilly, the astrologer of the Parliament, and of Mary Frith, the retriever of stolen goods, occurs in Sir John Berkenhead's Paul's Churchyard. Libri Theologici, Politici, Historici, Nundinis Paulinis (una cum Templo) prostant venales ... Done into English for the Assembly of Divines (1651/52, Wing B 2970). A copy of this catalogue of vendible books, written by the supervisor of the royalist propaganda machine, was acquired by George Thomason on 6 July 1659, the very day Mary Frith died. Berkenhead listed a joint book venture of Lilly and Frith as item twelve under the title "Pancirolla Medela. A way to find out things lost and Stoln; by the said William Lilly. With a Claris to his book, or the Art of his Art. By Mistris Mary Frith." Berkenhead poked fun at the dubiosity of their divining professions, clinching his mordant satire with a bawdy double entendre on the book's key and on the impotence of Mary Frith to beget children though dressed as a man.

1624 In 1624, Richard Pooke, hatmaker, sued "Marye Frith alias Markham of London, Spinster," in the Court of Requests for the unpaid bill for some beaver hats that she had bought about 1616. She had made a down payment of [pounds sterling]3 when the Sheriff's court ordered her arrest, but now in 1624 he asked for the rest of the bill to be paid. Pooke was warned by his attorney not to sue the defendant under the name of Mary Frith, for she had already "overthrowne two or three severall" complainants "in their accions brought against her there by reason she was Maryed to one Markham who hath not lived with her this tenne yeares or thereabouts." She was now putting forward, Pooke complained, the same argument in her defense, saying "that she is Maryed to the same Markham and soe being a feme Covert, she cannot be ympleaded as a feme Sole." In fact, she stated on 24 November 1624 that she had paid for the hats and confessed that "shee was marryed unto one Lewknor Markham in the County of Nottingham, Esquire, about some Seaven yeares sithence at the parish Church of Saint Mary Overies in Southwarke." See Eccles, Notes and Queries.

Mary Markham, a woman of the lower class, committed a double breach of the sumptuary laws in flaunting beaver hats and wearing male dress; it was a violation of both class and gender boundaries. Beaver hats were notoriously expensive. They were priced at up to 40s. in 1583 as Philip Stubbes records in The Anatomie of Abuses. Her sartorial extravagance can be traced back to the days when she used to challenge the beaver gallants who indulged in lavish apparel. For beaver hats see Marjorie Garber, "The Logic of the Transvestite. The Roaring Girl (1608)," in Staging the Renaissance: Reinterpretations of Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama, ed. David Scott Kastan and Peter Stallybrass (New York: Routledge, 1991), 221-34.

1644 It is on record in the Bridewell Court Books that the governors who sat on Friday, 21 June 1644, "thought fitt & ordered ... that Gilbert Stopford, Katherine Killingham alias Killigrew, Anne Parrett, Mary Frith, Margery Houghton, Robert Crockett and Mary Thornton shal bee delivered & discharged out of the Hospital of Bethlem, London, being recouered of their former sences & may bee kept & provided for in any other place as well as in the hospitall of Bethlem. And that they bee every of them respectively sent to the severall Parishes from whence they came." See Bridewell Court Books, vol. 9/129.

I have found no further references to Mary Frith in volume 9, which covers entries from 14 October 1642 to 7 July 1658, but there are some more to the other inmates mentioned above in the Court Books. Katherine Killigrew was detained more than once. She had been discharged before by the court which sat on 24 March 1642 and sent back to the parish of St. Botolph outside Bishopsgate to be looked after by the church wardens and overseers of the poor. Anne Parrett was again detained in 1644. The court meeting of 23 November 1644 ruled that she should be released and sent back to her parish of St. James Garlickhithe (Bridewell Court Books, 9/ 161).

Why Mary Frith was declared insane and hospitalized in Bethlehem Hospital, which is described as a filthy rundown place, remains a matter of speculation. The inhuman maintenance of the inmates was subsidized by the parishes. The administration, the running of the asylum, and the atrocious therapy, which consisted in beating and punishing the inmates, rested with the governors of Bridewell. Considering that Mary Frith had a natural gift for impersonating, she may have been shamming madness in order to avoid the political turmoils of the first civil war (1642-45) and the pressure that was put on all the citizens of London, women of all classes and children included, to do statute labor for the fortification of the city in 1642-43.

Her detention in Bethlehem Hospital did not prove harmful to her public image as a woman of masculine spirit. She may have sided with the four hundred distressed women, "Tradesmens wives and Widdowes" who in January-February 1642 delivered a petition to Parliament and who on 8 August 1643 mounted a demonstration and a blockade of Parliament's entrances. Such an incident obviously inspired Henry Neville, the author of the satirical pamphlet The Parliament of Ladies, or Divers remarkable passages of Ladies in Spring-Garden, in Parliament assembled (1647), a copy of which was acquired by George Thomason in May 1647, to discredit Mary Frith. The "Forces of the City," the pamphleteer facetiously noted, "under the command of Mall Cutpurse, and Mall Sebran, two very able members, were appointed to guard the House" on Friday, 8 April 1647. The two female soldiers, veritable spitfires, "being there placed with pipes in both their mouthes, with fire and smoake in a very short time, had almost choaked both the passage and the Passangers" (13, 14). On 16 August 1647, the House of Commons ordered its guards "to observantly keep all the passages, and with all to clear them from those clamorous women, which were wont to hang in clusters on the staires, and before the doores of the Parliament."

James Allen was harping on the very same string. He was one of the many university wits contributing commendatory prose and verse in several languages to James Strong's satirical poem Joanereidos: or, Feminine Valour: Eminently discovered in Westerne Women (1645), a copy of which George Thomason bought on 9 June 1645. In terms lifted from the beginning of Virgil's Aeneid, he facetiously commiserated with Moll Cutpurse and the female petitioners of the London mob who used to be dismissed disparagingly as fishwives from Billingsgate (as prostitutes) in antiroyalist tracts:
 Armes and the man I sing, whose lines rehearse
 The Westerne wenches doughty deeds in verse
 More high then (earst) the acts of Guy of Warwicke,
 Southamptons Beavoys or the Knight of Barwicke,
 Assist Mol Cut-purse and the warlike bands
 That march towards Bellings gate with eager hands.

(sig. A2v; punctuation modernized)

For Bethlehem Hospital see G. Salgado, chap. 10; for female labor in 1642/43 see Norman G. Brett James, The Growth of Stuart London (London: Allen and Unwin, 1935), 268-77; for the female petitioners see Patricia Higgins, "The Reaction of Women, with Special Reference to Women Petitioners," in Politics, Religion and the English Civil War, ed. Brian Manning (London: Arnold, 1973), 177-222; for female demonstrations see Ann Marie McEntee," `The [Un]Civill-Sisterhood of Oranges and Lemons': Female Petitioners and Demonstrators, 1642-53," Prose Studies 14 (1991): 92-111.

1659 An early transcript of Mary Markham's will and testament, dated 6 June 1659 and proved on 24 July 1660, is kept in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills and Administration (Public Record Office, The Family Records Centre, PROB 11/299/106-107). Here follows the text I have transcribed from the seventeenth-century transcript:

In the name of God Amen.

I Mary Markham, alias, FFrith, of the parish of St Bride, alias Bridgett, in FFleetstreete, London, Widdow, being aged and sicke and weake in body, but of good mind and memorie and understanding, for all which I doe most humbly thanke my most gracious and mercifull Creator ffor the quieting of my mind and the settling of the small part and remainder of that meane estate which it hath pleased God of his greate mercie and goodnesse to lend[?] to mee in this world of Sorrowes, doe make this my last Will and Testament in manner and fforme ffollowing. (That is to say,) FFirst, I doe glue and bequeath my soule into the handes of my most gracious Creator, who by his onely power breathes the breath of life into mee, hopeing and confidently beleiuing that all my manifould and grevious sinnes are and shall be freely pardoned and washed away in, by and through the sheding and powering and of the most precious bloud and the bitter Sufferinges and passion of my most blessed Redeemer and Saviour Jesus Christ and that after this transitorie and mortall life is ended, my soule and body shalbe reunited and enjoy everlasting blisse and felicity with him in his heavenly Kingdome for ever and ever, Amen; my body I leaue vnto the Earth, whence it came, to bee decently buried in Christian buriall within the parish Church or Church yarde of St Brides aforesaid in such sort and manner as my Executrix hereafter named in her discretion shall thinke most fitting.

Item I giue vnto my Kinsman Abraham Robinson twenty poundes of Lawfull mony of England. And I giue vnto James Robinson, father of the said Abraham, twelue pence. All the rest and remainder of all my personall estate whatsoever, my iust debts by mee oweing and my legacies in this my will giuen and bequeathed, being first paid and discharged, I fully and wholly giue and bequeath the same vnto my neece and kinswoman Frances Edmonds, wife of George Edmondes, with my will and desires that they shalbee and remaine vnto her owne sole vse, benefitt and behoofe soe longe as she liveth. And I doe make the said FFrances Edmondes sole Executrix of this my last Will & Testament.

In witnesse whereof I the said Mary Markham, alias FFrith, haue herevnto sett my hand and Seale the sixth day of June in the yeare of our Lord God one thousand six hundred ffifty Nine. The marke of MaryMarkham, alias FFrith, Subscribed, sealed and published by her the said Mary Markham, alias FFrith, as and flor her last Will and Testament in the presence of vs Richard Hulet, Ralph Warfeild, Abraham Robinson.

This will was proued att London before the Right Worshipfull William Metcalf[?], Doctor of Laws, Master Keeper or Comissary of the Prerogatiue Court of Canterbury lawfully constituted the foure and twentieth day of July in the yeare of our Lord God according to the computacion of the Church of England one thousand six hundred and sixty. By the oath of Frances Edmondes, the sole Executrix named in the said Will, to whome Admon. of all and singular the goods, chattells and debts of the said deceased was graunted and committed, she being ffirst sworne truely to administer the same[?] according to the tenor and effect of the said Will.

The original will kept at the PRO in Kew, PROB 10/930, as Suranganee Perera has been so kind as to inform me, has either been misfiled or, more likely, has not survived. This is the case of about 20 percent of original wills. There is, therefore, no way of finding out what the testator's "marke" may have been like. One can only speculate that the "marke" may have been a cross or that, if Mary Frith, like many of her female contemporaries, was semiliterate with reading but with no writing skills, she may have set down her initials as did Mary Arden, Shakespeare's mother, in 1579. What Mary Arden's "marke" and seal looked like, see Park Honan, Shakespeare: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pl. 7 and pp. 14-15. Critics, however, have allowed their imagination free rein. Thus, Arthur Freeman's Elizabeth's Misfits. Brief Lives of English Eccentrics, Exploiters, Rogues, and Failures, 1580-1660 (New York: Garland, 1978), contains a chapter on "The Roaring Girl" that mainly draws on the stereotyped biography. Freeman seems to have known the transcript of the will, taking it for the original and inventing the story that it was signed with a "spidery" X, "which extreme illness may account for" (214-14). The "spidery" cross has become a "shaky" one in Spearing's Introduction to Counterfeit Ladies (xiii). Freeman, moreover, misquotes his brief extracts taken from the will. He says that Mary Frith bequeathed her body "to the cart, whenever it come." The will, however, sticks to the formula that she left her body "vnto the Earth, whence it came." He also states that Abraham Robinson received [pounds sterling]12; in fact he got 12p.

The formulaic phrasing of the will follows the standard pattern. The will was obviously written down by a clerk of the prerogative court. Originally, it must have been made up of three probate documents: the will, the inventory, and the account of the "personall estate" or movable goods, which used to provide a reliable insight into the value of the testator's property. Unfortunately, only a fair copy of the will has survived; the other two documents must have been destroyed owing to the chaotic state of probate administration during the Commonwealth. For probate documents and wills see Amy Louise Erickson, Women and Property in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1993), 15, 34, 35.

The will proves that Mary Markham, nee Mary Frith, died a wealthy woman. She left a legacy of [pounds sterling]20 to her kinsman Abraham Robinson and enough money for the sole executrix, her niece Frances Edmonds, to pay an extra fee for the funeral and burial rites. Frances Edmonds complied with her aunt's request to be "decently buried in Christian buriall within the parish Church" of St. Bridget's in Fleet Street, a privilege confined to those of greater wealth and higher standing. For death and burial practices see Clare Gittings, Death, Burial and the Individual in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1984).

The will seems to corroborate that Mary Frith's marriage to Lewknor Markham must have been a marriage of convenience. On the one hand, Mary Markham

acknowledges her status of widowhood and the assumption of her husband's name; on the other, she expresses no desire to be buried next to her husband who had the titled status of an esquire. It is likewise surprising that a woman who was renowned for her mannishness should have appointed her niece as sole executrix and not her kinsman Abraham Robinson. She thus conformed to the practice observed by widows in appointing female relatives as executrices or life had taught her to confide more in women than in men.

Mary Frith died on 26 July 1659 and was buried in the church of St. Bridget's in Fleet Street on 10 August. Frances Edmonds saw to it that her aunt was not buried in the churchyard. For the date see Sir John Ellis, ed., "The Obituary of Richard Smyth ... being a Catalogue of all such persons as he knew in their life," Camden Society Publications 44 (1949): 51; see also A. H. Bullen's entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.


All the portraits of Moll Cutpurse that have come down to us conform to pictorial stereotypes that bear no resemblance to the likeness of the real-life Mary Frith.(44) The three-quarter length portrait that had been bound into the British Library copy of the criminal biography (shelfmark C. 127.a.25) takes up the defamation of Mary Frith as a pickpocket and sexual aberrant. It represents Moll Cutpurse as president of the metropolitan thieves the moment she is delivering an academy lecture on the art of stealing. She wears male garments fashionable in the 1640s; the lower end of her doublet is provocatively unbuttoned; the hilt of her sword, obviously a phallic symbol, is just visible on her left side; her sleeves are slashed and her right arm akimbo; her hair is cut in male fashion; her broad-brimmed hat, perched atop her head, is cocked backwards over her head, which protrudes from her neck at an unnatural angle. With her left arm raised in the posture of a lecturer, she is addressing an audience of docile disciples. The caption, some couplets printed below the portrait, identify her as a female monster:
 See here the Presidesse o'th pilfring Trade,
 Mercuryes second, Venus's onely Mayd.
 Doublet and breeches in a Un'form dresse,
 The female Humurrist, a Kickshaw messe.
 Heres no attraction that your fancy greets,
 But if her FEATURES please not, read her FEATS.(45)

The only visible listeners are an eagle on a perch protruding from the left at the level of the speaker's face, a lion reclining on a desk in the left front row and an ape squatting on another desk in the right front row. The lion and ape are poorly done. The king of animals is reduced to the size of a decrepit midget or dog and the ape is scratching its anus. The emblematic meaning of the animal iconography may be decoded as follows. The eagle, a symbol of royal authority, signals the message that Moll Cutpurse is the uncrowned queen of pickpockets endowed with an exceptionally sharp eye for her victims. The lion, emaciated and exhausted, a mere shadow and inversion of its reputed majesty, seems to remind the beholder that Moll, despite her male dress, cannot assume man's part in generation. The figure of the ape may have been inspired by a passage in the fictional biography, according to which the aged Moll "played with ... several sorts of Creatures of pleasure and imitation; such as ... Baboons, Apes, Squirrels, and Parrots" (61). But the unknown engraver seems rather to have been prompted by Christian iconography and to have used the ape either as a symbol of female vanity, wantonness, frivolity, and ruse or as a figura diaboli If so, the ape's obscene gesture invokes the evil picture of Moll as a monster in human shape.(46) The emblematic animals and the portrait, as Judith Petterson Clark argues, place the engraving in the tradition popularized by the Jan Berra engravings of the "Five Senses."(47)

A seventeenth-century woodcut of a similar image has been identified as the prototype of all other versions. This shows a support to the eagle's perch, which makes that part of the composition somewhat more convincing.(48) There is, therefore, some justifiable doubt as to whether the print was really published with the criminal biograpy. It looks as if it was added to the printed biography some decades after its publication in 1662. Four copies of this print and two different versions are known to me.(49) A print was bound into the British Library copy, but it was removed some years ago when the book was rebound presumably because it was taken for a later addition. A clipped print is pasted onto the flyleaf of Alexander Dyce's copy of The Roaring Girl, which is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The print reproduced by A. H. Bullen as frontispiece in the fourth volume of The Works of Thomas Middleton (Boston, 1885) differs from the print bound into the Folger Shakespeare Library copy of Nathan Field's Amends for Ladies (1639). The Folger print was published by W. Richardson, an eighteenth-century publisher and print seller and is of better quality than the print reproduced by Bullen. There are also textual variants. The Folger print adds the caption "Moll Cut-Purse" and the last but one line reads "Here no attraction that your fancy greets" whereas the Bullen copy has "Heres no attraction that your fancy greets." (50)

The plain woodcut in the Bodleian Library copy of the chapbook version The Womans Champion (1662) displays the stylized side view of Moll Cutpurse as a highway robber galoping across a bleak countryside on a black horse. She blows a trumpet and holds a message in her right hand. This print obviously underscores the myth propagated by the biography and chapbook that Mary Frith was a highway robber.

A quite different print shows the half-length portrait of a young woman smartly clad in Caroline fashion, sitting on a stool and checking her dressing-up clothes. She wears a long flowing robe, a conical ruff, a broad-brimmed hat, and her hair is cut short in male fashion. In her right hand she holds a mirror and in her left a spy glass. An eagle is perched on her left shoulder The caption reads:
 Visu pervincit summi iovis aies acuto.
 Not soe quick sighted is the Eagle for her pray
 As I new fashions spie to make me gay.

The copy of the print in the National Portrait Gallery lacks the Latin line. It is pasted onto an illustrated edition of James Granger's A Biographical History of England (1769), which formerly belonged to the first director of the National Portrait Gallery, George Scharf. It has some lines of verse inscribed on the back in what appears to be a seventeenth-century hand:
 Fain would I tell thy merry pranks
 And all thy varyous Arts rehearse
 But MALL thy deedes throughout all
 Shine'bryghter than in prose or verse.(51)

There are some doubts as to the portrait's likeness. A. M. Hind has identified the print as representing "Seeing," one of a series of engravings of the "Five Senses" that is attributed to the Dutch engraver Jan Barra who settled in London about 1623.(52) What speaks against identifying the portrait as Mary Frith's is the sitter's representation as a fashion-conscious courtesan in her early twenties on the lookout for upper-class clientele. When Barra came to England, Mary Frith was in her late thirties or early forties. W. A. Thorpe is mistaken in identifying this print as the model for a series of frescoes at Park Farm, Huntingdonshire, which he takes to be portraits of Moll Cutpurse.(53)

The woodcut printed by Nicholas Okes on the title page of Middleton and Dekker's The Roaring Girl is the best known portrait of Moll Cutpurse.(54) At first sight, the full-length portrait does look like an authentic visual representation of Mary Frith's advertised stage appearance at the Fortune "in mans apparell & in her bootes & with a sword at her syde," and it has the backing of Andrew Gurr's authority that it is an accurate rendering of her solo performance.(55) On careful examination, however, it becomes evident that the woodcut portrays the boy actor who performed the stage Moll. He/she wears a hat, adorned with a brooch in the shape of a flower, and ruffled shoes; a doublet and full-knee breeches, their sides tied below the knees; a cloak slung over his/her left shoulder. He/she provocatively wields a sword in his/her left hand and holds a lit pipe in his/her right hand. The woodcut cannot claim to be an authentic rendering of Mary Frith's stage appearance because he/she is portrayed without a lute but with a pipe. Mary Frith, as she confessed to the Bishop of London, "playd vppon her lute & sange a songe" on the stage of the Fortune. She did not mention that she smoked a pipe on the stage. The woodcut is rather a stereotyped version of how the man/woman, the Hic Mulier, was defined in the contemporary pamphlets.(56)

A strikingly different variant of this title-page woodcut is kept in the National Portrait Gallery and the British Library. In this alternative woodcut, Moll Cutpurse wears her hat askew; her head is turned to the left; her collar is open; she holds an unsheathed sword in her right hand and her pipe in her left; her cloak is evenly spread over her shoulders; her shoes are not ruffled. Her face and body shape are unmistakably a woman's. It stands to reason that what has come to be considered a variant or alternative must be the original woodcut advertising the sensational appearance of Mary Frith at the Fortune Theatre. This is borne out by the following irregularities. The first edition of The Roaring Girl came out in 1611 without a license of the Stationers. The first entry in the Stationers' Register is dated about 18 February 1612 and is matched by a fine of 7d. to be paid by its publisher Thomas Archer. The subversive portrait of a potential female actress on the title page of the authorized edition was unthinkable. It fell a victim to censorship. Nicholas Okes, therefore, was constrained in 1611 to issue the title page with a new woodcut. If the original woodcut was meant to convey the likeness of the real-life protagonist, then Mary Frith was not a mannish woman.(57) The caption of the woodcut reads: "My case is alter'd, I must worke for my liuing." It is obviously borrowed from Ben Jonson's comedy The Case Is Altered (acted 1597/98, printed 1609) and alludes to the various revelations of identity in its final scene.

The portrait of Moll Cutpurse allegedly painted by Sir Peter Lely is a literary hoax dished up by Daniel Defoe to peddle the Moll Cutpurse mania. Mrs. Bridges, one of the garrulous Old Maids in Defoe's "Satire of Censorious old Maids," which appeared in John Applebees Original Weekly Journal, 6 April 1723, gives free rein to her wagging tongue in qualifying a young girl as "a very Indifferent Creature, she'll be as far from Beauty, as Moll Cut-Purse was from Handsome." Nelly, the youngest of the old maids, provoked by Mrs. Bridges, retorts that "you wrong Moll Cut-Purse, I assure you I have seen her Picture, an Original of Sir Peter Lely's, and I can Vouch she was a very comely Jade." There are good grounds for disbelieving Nelly's statement. As Defoe's contribution to the Journal was conceived as a satire, the argument between the two censorious maids must be read as a joke made at the expense of loquacious women.(58) The same argument about Moll Cutpurse's physical attraction is put forward in Defoe's Moll Flanders (1722).


(1.) Janet Todd and Elizabeth Spearing, eds., Counterfeit Ladies: The Life and Death of Mal Cutpurse, The Case of Mary Carleton (London: William Pickering, 1994), x. I have not been able to consult Randall S. Nakayama's edition of The Life and Death of Mrs. Mary Frith Called Moll Cutpurse (New York: Garland, 1993). Spearing has edited the text of the British Library copy, shelfmark C. 127.a.25; a second copy from the library of Robert George Windsor-Clive, first Earl of Plymouth, was sold at Christie's on 30 May 1986. See Judith Petterson Clark's unpublished dissertation, The Life and Death of Mrs. Mary Frith, Commonly Called Mal Cutpurse (1662): An Annotated Facsimile Reprint (Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 1989). The present owner of the Plymouth copy is known to Clark. Her scholarship outdoes Spearing's.

(2.) Lincoln B. Failer, Turned to Account: The Forms and Functions of Criminal Biography in Late Seventeenth- and Early Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 8-13.

(3.) Alexander Smith has been exposed as a manipulator of criminal records in John J. Richetti's Popular Fiction Before Richardson: Narrative Patterns 1700-1739 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 45-48; and in Faller's Turned to Account, 167-73.

(4.) On this ground, objection must be raised against the Moll Cutpurse materialin, for instance, Gamini Salgado's The Elizabethan Underworld (London: Dent and Sons, Ltd., 1977), 42-44; John L. McMullan's The Canting Crew. London's Criminal Underworld 1550-1700 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1984), chaps. 6 and 8. McMullan's study, despite its reliance on fictional material, is one of the best studies of London crime up to 1700. A. H. Bullen's entry in the Dictionary of National Biography is an amalgam of the factual and the fictional. The same considerations apply to J. L. Rayner and G. T. Crook, The Complete Newgate Calendar (London, 1926), i, 169-79; Pearl Hogrefe, Tudor Women: Commoners and Queens (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1975), 89-90; Antonia Fraser, The Weaker Vessel: Woman's Lot in Seventeenth-Century England (London: Methuen, 1985), 171-72.

(5.) For the typology of criminal biography see Faller, Turned to Account, part 1.

(6.) Sara Heller Mendelson points out that no example has survived of a female diary written by a woman of the lower class. See her paper "Stuart Women's Diaries and Occasional Memoirs" in Women in English Society 1500-1800, ed. Mary Prior (London: Methuen, 1985), 183.

(7.) For genre, such as the criminal biography, as a political code see Lois Potter, Secret Rites and Secret Writing: Royalist Literature, 1641-1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), chap. 3; for the royalism of the mythic Hind, see Faller, Turned to Account, chap. 1.

(8.) Moll Cutpurse has been associated with bull baiting in The Witch of Edmonton (1621), written by Thomas Dekker in collaboration with William Rowley and John Ford. Cuddy Banks, the clown, proposes teasingly to Dog, the metamorphosed devil about to quit the service of Elizabeth Sawyer, the witch, that if he has "a mind to the Game, either at Bull or Bear, I think I could prefer you to MaiCutpurse." What the clown actually means is that he would prefer the devil to Moll Cutpurse in the shape of a dog in order to bait the bulls or the bears. See The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Fredson Bowers, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), 3:5.1.160-61.

(9.) For the highwayman's special status in the hierarchy of criminals, see Faller, Turned to Account, chap. 8; and Jennifer Kermode and Garthine Walker, eds., introduction to Women, Crime, and the Courts in Early Modern England (London: University College London Press, 1994), 5-6.

(10.) John Wilson, Fairfax. A Life of Thomas, Lord Fairfax, Captain-General of All the Parliament's Forces in the English War, Creator and Commander of the NewModel Army (London: J. Murray, 1985), dismisses the incident as gossip (122, 202). Clements Robert Markham and Mildred A. Gibb, in their biographies of Fairfax, the former published in 1870, the latter in 1938, did not even think the spurious incident worth mentioning. Cyrus Hoy in his "Introductions, Notes, and Commentaries to Texts" in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Fredson Bowers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 3:13-14, takes the alleged exploits Mary Frith accomplished on Hounslow Heath at face value.

(11.) See Faller, Turned to Account, 178-81.

(12.) Faller notes that the Fairfaxes had no daughter called Elizabeth, 171, 270 n. 68.

(13.) For the penitent criminal in rogue biography see Faller, Turned to Account, chaps. 5 and 6.

(14.) For the ambivalence of the moral frame of the rogue biography see Paul Salzman, English Prose Fiction 1558-1700: A Critical History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 206,217-18.

(15.) For Hind see Faller, Turned to Account, 187.

(16.) Tampering with the coinage out of economic self-interest was a capital crime, which for men was punishable by hanging and quartering. See Alan Macfarlane, The Justice and the Mare's Ale (Oxford: Blackwell, 1981), chap. 3.

(17.) "Rat" is one of the numerous antedatings in this biography, most of them taken from thieves' cant. "Rat" in the sense of "a drunken man or woman arrested by the watch and taken by the constable of the Counter" was already current in 1635. See Eric Patridge, A Dictionary of the Underworld (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968). The first entry in the cED dates from 1700.

(18.) S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare. A Compact Documentary Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), 29. I wish to record my thanks to the Nottinghamshire Archives and Nottinghamshire County Library for examining various printed sources, which yielded no information about Lewknor Markham. What is of prime importance to the present argument is the likelihood that Lewknor was an elder son of the poet and dramatist Gervase Markham, who also came from Nottinghamshire. If this were the case, the reasons for Mary Frith's appearance at the Fortune Theatre would assume a new dimension.

(19.) For the legal position of women see Kermode and Walker, Women, Crime, and the Courts, 6. For a comprehensive analysis of the patriarchal doctrine of coverture see Amy Louise Erickson, Women and Property in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1993). Her research has brought to light that women of the lower class also used to make arrangements at marriage to circumvent legal discrimination due to coverture.

(20.) For Moll's conservative view on marriage see Jo E. Miller, "Women and the Market in The Roaring Girl," Renaissance and Reformation 26 (1990): 11-23.

(21.) For women and the market of stolen goods in Cheshire see Garthine Walker, "Women, Theft, and the World of Stolen Goods," Women, Crime, and the Courts, ed. Kermode and Walker, 81-105. Kay E. Lacey has shown that Englishwomen operating as brokers in the Middle Ages were accepted as citizens in their economic capacity provided they declared themselves sole. See her paper "Women and Work in 14th and 15th Century London," in Women and Work in Pre-Industrial England, ed. Lindsey Charles and Loma Duffin (London: Croom Helm, 1985), 24-82. Jodi Mikalachki in "Gender, Cant, and Cross-talking in The Roaring Girl," Renaissance Drama 25 (1994): 119-43, has focused his attention on the paralegal activities of the stage Moll.

(22.) Surprisingly, the crucial confession that she has come to be called Mall Cutpurse is missing in the document as published by Mulholland in Appendix E and by Spearing in the introduction to Counterfeit Ladies (xv); I am therefore quoting from the text edited by Mulholland in "The Date of The Roaring Girl," Review of English Studies 28 (1977): 31.

(23.) See Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety (London: Routledge, 1992), 30; Rudolf M. Dekker and Lotte C. van de Pol, The Tradition of Female Transvestism in Early Modern Europe (London: Macmillan, 1989).

(24.) The scandal mounted by the four lessees and Mary Newborough in converting Bridewell into a brothel in 1602 will be dealt with in a forthcoming paper.

(25.) Susan E. Krantz in "The Sexual Identities of Moll Cutpurse in Dekker and Middleton's The Roaring Girl and in London," Renaissance and Reformation 31 (1995): 5-20, notes that the real Moll Cutpurse rejected "her fictional rehabilitation as ... a non-threatening androgynous ideal" (17).

(26.) This point is made by Stephen Orgel in "The Subtext of The Roaring Girl" in Erotic Politics: Desire on the Renaissance Stage, ed. Susan Zimmerman (London: Routledge, 1992), 12-26.

(27.) Jean Howard, "Cross-dressing, the Theatre, and Gender Struggle in Early Modern England," Shakespeare Quarterly 39 (1988), 418-40. Roman courtesans took to dressing up in male attire. Some of them were fined for their cross-dressing: Imperia (1570), Doralice de Sigillo (1581), Anastasia Spagnola (1582), Leonora Magna da Parma (1582), Laura (1583). See Monica Kurzel-Runtscheiner, Tochter der Venus. Die Kurtisanen Roms im 16. Jahrhundert (Munchen: C. H. Beck, 1995), 77 and 291, nn. 137, 138.

(28.) Quoted from Charles Read Baskervill, The Elizabethan Jig and Related Song Drama (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1929; rpt. New York: Dover Publications, 1965), 116.

(29.) The point I am making about Mary Frith's breach of the sumptuary laws is corroborated by Stephen Orgel, who in Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) argues that the sumptuary laws said nothing about what were sexually inappropriate garments. Women dressing in male attire committed no legal offense (96-98, 107). For Orgel's reading of the case history of Mary Frith see pages 139-53.

(30.) For Shank's career as comedian and author see Baskervill, The Elizabethan Jig, 114, 118-19, 301.

(31.) For Tarlton's career and art see David Wiles, Shakespeare's Clown. Actor and Text in the Elizabethan Playhouse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987, 1990), chap. 2.

(32.) Cross-dressed women are recorded as being "in service" to various London tavern-keepers. See Howard, "Cross-dressing," 421.

(33.) Gabriel Harvey found fault with the newfangled tavern phrases that Thomas Nashe coined in imitation of Tarlton's style. The quotation is taken from Robert Weimann, Shakespeare und die Tradition des Volkstheaters: Soziologie, Dramaturgie, Gestaltung (Berlin: Henschelverlag, 1967), 209, 305. The Roaring Girl in Middleton and Dekker's play sings two drinking songs (5.1.214ff and 256ff) and a bawdy song (4.1.102-23).

(34.) A perceptive analysis of costume change is given by Jean MacIntyre and Garrett P. J. Epp, "`Clothes worth all the rest': Costumes and Properties," in A New History of Early English Drama, ed. John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 269-85.

(35.) C. H. Herford and P. Simpson, Ben Jonson (Oxford, 1927, rpt. 1966), 3:526, 3.9.78ff.

(36.) A.H. Bullen, ed., The Dramatic Works of Thomas Middleton (Boston, 1885), 3:2.3.91-92.

(37.) Craig Rustici, in "The Smoking Girl: Tobacco and the Representation of Mary Frith," Studies in Philology 96 (1999), 159-79, has addressed the gender and dramatic issues of Moll Cutpurse as a smoker in The Roaring Girl.

(38.) There is no reference to Mary Frith as a smoker in Sarah Augusta Dickson, Panacea or Precious Bane: Tobacco in 16th Century Literature. Arents Tobacco Collection Publication 5 (New York: New York Public Library, 1954), nor is there in Jerome E. Brooks, ed., Tobacco: Its History Illustrated by the Books, Manuscripts, and Engravings in the Library of George Arents, Jr. (New York: Rosenbach, 1937-52), 5 vols.

(39.) Quoted from Jeffrey Knapp, "Elizabethan Tobacco," in New World Encounters, ed. Stephen Greenblatt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 273-312. Andor Gomme in his introduction to The Roaring Girl, The New Mermaids series (London: E. Benn, 1976), notes that Mary Frith is said to be the first woman to vindicate "for her sex the right of smoking" (xiv).

(40.) E. J. Burford and Joy Wotton, Private Vices--Public Virtues: Bawdry in London from Elizabethan Times to the Regence (London: Robert Hale, 1995), 23.

(41.) Henry Killigrew was a major in the king's army when he was killed at Bridgewater in 1644 while defending a magazine of provisions against an attack by the Parliamentary troops. His uncle William was a groom of the Privy Chamber to James I. See Walter H. Tregellas, Cornish Worthies: Sketches of Some Eminent Cornish Men and Families (London: Elliot Stock, 1884), ii, 153.

(42.) Obviously, he was Edward Florio, son of John Florio, the eminent lexicographer, grammarian, author of language manuals, and translator. Edward was christened on 19 June 1588. See Frances Yates, John Florio: The Life of an Italian in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1934), 68.

(43.) For more information on Sheppard's mock almanacs see Bernard Capp, English Almanacs 1500-1800: Astrology and the Popular Press (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979).

(44.) Appendix 2, pp. 323-67, in Judith Petterson Clark's dissertation offers a meticulously researched acount of the portraits and eighteen reproductions, among them Jan Barra's "Five Senses." I have pursued a different line of investigation and interpretation.

(45.) The three couplets are also given in James Granger's A Biographical History of England from Egbert the Great to the Revolution, vol. 1, pt. 2 (London, 1769), 658-59. I quote the text from the print in A. H. Bullen's edition of The Works of Thomas Middleton, vol. 4 (Boston, 1885), modernizing the punctuation. The term "Presidesse," which has gone unnoticed in modern lexicography, was obviously prompted by James Hind's status as "president" in George Fidge's Hind's Ramble (1651).

(46.) For the emblematic use of the ape as sinner and devil see Horst Waldemar Janson, Apes and Ape Lore in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (London, 1952), 109.

(47.) Judith Petterson Clark, Ph.D. dissertation, 328.

(48.) I owe this information to Catharine MacLeod, Curator of Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

(49.) Clark notes that the early owner of the Plymouth copy of the criminal biography had the text bound together with five different versions of the "Presidesse" portrait. See Clark, 328.

(50.) The Folger print has been reprinted by Spearing in her modern edition of the biography. A poor reproduction of the "Presidesse" portrait without the caption and with a feminized face, obviously a recent photomontage, is displayed in Sara Mendelson and Patricia Crawford, Women in Early Modern England 1550-1720 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), fig. 3.

(51.) The text and information has been supplied by Catharine MacLeod, to whom I am heavily indebted for her collaboration.

(52.) A. M. Hind, Engraving in England in the.Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, part 3. The Reign of Charles I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964), 95-99.

(53.) W. A. Thorpe, "Portrait of a Roaring Girl," Country Life, vol. C (6 December 1946), 1070-72.

(54.) It has been reproduced in Mulholland's edition of the play and in Rustici's article on smoking.

(55.) Andrew Gurr, Playgoing in Shakespeare's London (Cambridge, 1987), 63; the woodcut is reproduced on p. 62.

(56.) For the man/woman debate see Barbara J. Baines, ed., Three Pamphlets on the Jacobean Antifeminist Controversy, Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints (New York. Delmar, 1978).

(57.) The original woodcut representing the cross-dressed Mary Frith has been reproduced in Rustici's article (fig. 1) and in Clark's diss. (fig. 12, p. 361).

(58.) For the "Satire on Censorious Old Maids," see William Lee, Daniel Defoe: His Life, and Recently Discovered Writings Extending from 1716 to 1729 (London: John Camden Hotten, 1869), iii, 125-27. No portrait of Mary Frith is listed in C. H. Collins Baker's Lely and the Stuart Portrait Painters (London, 1912); none is registered in the Courtauld Institute of Art or in the National Portrait Gallery.

GUSTAV UNGERER, Professor of English Literature at the University of Berne, retired, is currently completing papers on London prostitution in the 1590s, on Mary and George Newborough, and on the sexual transgressions of the four Brookes. He is also doing research into the Mediterranean background of The Merchant of Venice, as well as the first black and Moorish servants in English households and in soap factories in Seville (1520).
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