Author’s tough and turbulent life

THIS WEEK IN 1993: Ballet shoes put on show in museum

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One this day in 1735 Elizabeth Marsh was christened at St Thomas’s Church, Old Portsmouth, having been conceived in Jamaica, possibly of slave descent.

Her father, Milbourne Marsh, was a ship’s carpenter who did well in life, so much so that Elizabeth described herself as ‘the daughter of a gentleman’.

At various times she lived in London, Gibraltar and Menorca, and visited South Africa and Rio de Janeiro.

She enjoyed a scandalous 18-month tour of eastern and southern India accompanied by a dashing, unmarried British officer.

She endured many ordeals in her full and turbulent life, including being captured by Barbary pirates when she was 20, being jailed in a Moroccan harem and undergoing a mastectomy without anaesthetic in Calcutta.

She was also involved in land speculation in Florida and in international smuggling.

Her one published book, a travel memoir called The Female Captive was the first on Morocco by an Englishwoman – John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.