Parker, Mary Ann, c.1765—1848
by Benjamin Colbert
Mary Ann Parker’s background is obscure and most of what is known has been reconstructed from her remarks in Voyage round the World. There she notes that her father was a physician; that she lived in Spain for three years at a very young age; that, with her mother, she had travelled in France, Italy, and Spain; and that she possessed a ‘tolerable knowledge’ of Spanish.
Sometime before 1790, she married John Parker (1749?-1794), a captain in the Royal Navy, who had served at the siege of Gibraltar (1779-1783). In the first two days of January 1791, he took command of the man of war, Gorgon, and was commissioned to sail for New South Wales, to relieve the penal colony at Port Jackson. Mary Anne Parker accepted his invitation to join him on the voyage, and left their two small children, a boy and an infant girl, with her mother. After delays, the Gorgon sailed from Spithead in March 1791, and called at Tenerife and Cape Town before reaching Port Jackson. By June 1792, the Parkers were back in England, a voyage of sixteen months. In the interim their little boy had died, but within days of their arrival in London, Mary Ann Parker was delivered of a second son. Their fourth child, a daughter, was born in 1794, the year in which John Parker died of yellow fever in Martinique (4 August).
At the time of his death, John Parker’s debts outweighed receipts from prize money due for his share in captured ships in the West Indies, as Mary Ann Parker claimed in pre-publication notices in newspapers as well as the introduction to Voyage (see Courier). At the outset, then, Voyages was written and published by subscription to support her family. Despite its success, however, Parker’s finances were not sound, as applications on her behalf to the Royal Literary Fund in 1796 made clear. Nursing her ailing mother and looking after her children more than accounted for her meagre widow’s pension and any income letting rooms in her house at No. 2, Holler Place, Chelsea. In March 1796, the Committee of the Fund voted her five guineas, but further applications in 1798 (again on her behalf), 1799, and 1804 showed that her situation steadily became more precarious. In all, the Committee voted her twenty guineas, but Parker’s acknowledgement for the last disbursement on 25 January 1804 was dated from ‘3d Gallery, Fleet Prison’, where she had been confined for debt, having lost her house, the mainstay of her income.
Little is at present know of her life from this time. She died on 30 August 1848 at Connaught-Terrace, London, the house of her son-in-law, Robert Vincent, aged 82 (Gent. Mag.).
Coleman, Deirdre. 'Parker, Mary Ann (1765/6–1848), traveller'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 3 Jan. 2008. Oxford University Press. Web. 3 Jan. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/45859
Courier and Evening Gazette, no. 944 (Wed., 5 Aug. 1795). Gale Databases: 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 3 Jan. 2018.
Gentleman’s Magazine 30 (Oct. 1848): 441. Print.
Royal Literary Fund. Registered Case No. 39, Vol. 1. Mrs Mary Ann Parker. 1796-98, 1799, 1804. Loan 96 RLF 1/39. British Lib., London.
|A Voyage round the World, in the Gorgon Man of War||1795|