The Life, And surprising Adventures of Blue-Eyed Patty, The Valiant Female Soldier.
Who was the Daughter of Mr. Samuel Freelove, an eminent Grazier, in Essex; but her Sweetheart being sent to serve in the Botany Bay Rangers, she eloped from her Father’s House, and dressing herself in Man’s Apparel, entered into the same Regiment, and set sail with her Sweetheart, without discovering herself. At Rio de Janeiro she was assasinated by some Portugueze Ruffians, and narrowly escaped with Life; a dreadful Storm arose, and the Ship was near being lost; she fell overboard, and had like to have been devoured by a Shark. At length, after having endured many Hardships, the Ship got to Botany Bay, where in Engagement with the Savages, she was wounded in the Breast with an arrow, which discovered her Sex, and she and her Sweetheart had Leave to Eeturn [sic] to England, where they arrived a few Days ago. Also, an Account of the present Situation of that new established Colony. [s.l. : s.n.: 1791 or 1792]. Duodecimo chapbook (measuring 160 x 100 mm, margins trimmed), pp 8, printed letterpress, illustrated with three woodcut engravings; the first six pages comprise a prose narrative telling the story of Patty Freelove, which concludes with a paragraph containing news from Port Jackson describing events which actually occurred during 1790, including the spearing of Governor Phillip by an Eora warrior; the last two pages are occupied by a ballad, titled A New Song; Tune – The Hardy Tar, which retells Patty’s tale in verse; paper support to spine, a couple of small holes and old paper repairs to the final leaf, but overall very good.
A rare early chapbook relating to Botany Bay and Sydney Cove, being a completely unrecorded variant of a printing made in Wolverhampton, probably in 1792, by J. Hately. The Wolverhampton printing (Ferguson 135), of which only two copies are known (National Library of Australia; British Library), is unillustrated and was hitherto the only recorded version of this chapbook. There are virtually no textual differences between this newly discovered version, which is without imprint, and the Hately printing, with only a few discrepancies in punctuation and one typographical error towards the end of the extended title (“Eeturn” for “Return”) that is not present in the Wolverhampton printing. Both printings misspell the surname of Governor Phillip as “Phillips”. Hately’s active dates are 1792-95, which precludes a 1791 date for his printing. While there is no conclusive evidence that this illustrated version is the earlier of the two, there is no reason to suggest that it was not printed in 1791, as certainly, by 1792, the events described as having just taken place at Sydney Cove would have been regarded as old news.
Although the character of Patty Freelove is fictional, and the story of her adventures apocryphal, both the prose narrative and untitled ballad contained in this chapbook are given a cachet of authenticity by the inclusion of references to real events that had occurred – only a few months prior to printing, we suggest – at Sydney Cove in 1790. The parlous state of the fledgling colony’s food supply is described in some detail, accurately reflecting Governor Phillip’s action in April 1790 of reducing weekly rations at Sydney Cove to 2 1/2lbs flour, 2lbs pork and 2lbs rice “to every person … without distinction”. Perhaps even more significantly – given that it appears to have provided the inspiration for the narrative device through which Patty’s gender is finally discovered and her true identity revealed – the spearing of Governor Phillip in the shoulder by Willemering, an Eora warrior, is described. This event took place at Kai’ymay (Manly Cove) on 7 September, 1790.
The cross-dressing female soldier or sailor is a common trope – if not an entire sub-genre unto itself – in British (and American) folk ballads of the eighteenth century; not without reason, as it was a well-attested phenomenon, the character of Patty Freelove undoubtedly being based on real life heroines of the era.
The tune The Hardy Tar, to which the untitled ballad of Blue-Eyed Patty is to be sung, is known from other broadside ballads from as early as 1790 (for example, The Tender’s Hold or The Soldier).