The above portrait by Fairburn, from 1815, shows an Irish lady of striking appearance and unidentified antecedents, described by a contemporary in the following terms:-
“[a] most extraordinary female about twenty years of age.. born in Ireland and of high family and fortune… her body and limbs are of the most perfect and beautiful shape but her head and face resembles that of a pig… She eats her victuals out of a silver trough, in the same manner that pigs do, and when spoken to by any of her relatives or her companion, she can only answer by a grunt. ”
Alas, the only clue to the identity of this mysterious lady is to be found in somewhat vague words scrawled on the back of a more mature portrait, by Morland, which describe her as a Mrs Atkinson, worth £20,000, born in Ireland and married to an Irishman. Perhaps not a very nice Irishman, however, as the writing also goes on to note that he was in the habit of calling her to her meals by the words ‘pig pig pig’.
There aren’t too many Atkinsons in Ireland; perhaps he was one of the Antrim ones. The couple don’t seem to have had any descendants, or at least none similarly afflicted, hardly surprising in the circumstances. Mrs Atkinson may have resembled a pig but her husband was certainly a boor and addressing a wife – particularly one with a good figure – in such a churlish way is unlikely to encourage the granting of conjugal privileges.