Mary Frith

Mary Frith

Birth
Death 26 Jul 1659 (aged 74–75)
Burial Fleet Street, City of London, Greater London, England
Plot churchyard, unmarked
Memorial ID 12085444 · View Source
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Also known as 'Moll Cutpurse',the facts of her life are extremely confused, with many exaggerations and myths attached to her name. The Life of Mrs Mary Frith, a sensationalised biography written in 1662, three years after her death, helped to perpetuate many of these errors. Her supposed mugging of Thomas Fairfax is likely apocryphal and her portrayal as an exemplar of all that is wrong with un-wed women ignores the fact that she was married. Her date of birth is not known being either 1584 or 1589. She first comes to prominence in 1600 when she is indicted in Middlesex for stealing 2s 11d on the 26 August.After several more scrapes with the law, her notoriety was confirmed by the publication of the 1610 play The Madde Pranckes of Mery Mall of the Bankside by John Day the text of which is now lost. Another play about Mary the year later by Thomas Middleton, The Roaring Girl, may even have seen Mary herself appear as a special guest star. Both plays dwelt on her scandalous behaviour of wearing male clothes and it was for being dressed indecently that she was arrested on 25 December 1611. She was accused of being involved in prostitution but after undergoing public penance was released in 1612.She married, on 23 March 1614, Lewknor Markham possibly the son of playwright Gervase Markham but this attempt at respectability did not appear to work. She is recorded some years later as running a business fencing stolen goods and sheltering criminals but she also seems to have been collecting payments for helping to recover stolen goods and reporting pickpockets. Perhaps finding the only way of dealing with her habitual criminality, she is recorded as being released on 21 June 1644 from Bethlem Hospital after being cured of insanity.She died on 26 July 1659 in London, was buried under a marble tomb (destroyed in the Great Fire 1666) and which had an epitaph penned by John Milton:

"Here lies, under this same marble,
Dust, for Time's last sieve to garble;
Dust, to perplex a Sadducee,
Whether it rise a He or She,
Or two in one, a single pair,
Nature's sport, and now her care.
For how she'll clothe it at last day,
Unless she sighs it all away;
Or where she'll place it, none can tell:
Some middle place 'twixt Heaven and Hell
And well 'tis Purgatory's found,
Else she must hide her under ground.
These reliques do deserve the doom,
Of that cheat Mahomet's fine tomb
For no communion she had,
Nor sorted with the good or bad;
That when the world shall be calcin'd,
And the mixd' mass of human kind
Shall sep'rate by that melting fire,
She'll stand alone, and none come nigh her.
Reader, here she lies till then,
When, truly, you'll see her again."


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  • Created by: Mark McManus
  • Added: 17 Oct 2005
  • Find a Grave Memorial 12085444
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Mary Frith (1584–26 Jul 1659), Find a Grave Memorial no. 12085444, citing St Bride Churchyard, Fleet Street, City of London, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Mark McManus (contributor 46593855) .