Moore, Ann (DNB00)

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MOORE, ANN (fl. 1813), 'the fasting-woman of Tutbury,' born on 31 Oct. 1761 at Rosliston, Derbyshire, was the daughter of a day-labourer named Pegg. In 1788 she inveigled into marriage a farm servant, James Moore, who soon deserted her, but while her good looks lasted Ann found no difficulty in obtaining occupation, and became the mother of a large family. About 1800 she made her way to Tutbury, and endeavoured to find honest employment. Reduced to dire poverty, she subsisted on the minimum amount of food necessary to support a human being, and the astonishment created locally by her long fasts doubtless encouraged her to undertake the imposture which made her notorious. It was given out that she had lost all desire for food from November 1806. Six months later the interest taken in her in the neighbourhood was sufficient to warrant her in taking permanently to her bed. On 20 May 1807 it was reported that she attempted to swallow a piece of biscuit, but the effort was followed by great pain and vomiting of blood. 'The last food she ever took was a few black currants, on 17 July 1807,' and in August 'she gradually diminished her liquids.' Details were multiplied in the pamphlets which narrated her case. One learned writer proved that she lived on air, another that the phenomenon was due to disease of the oesophagus, while a third was convinced that her condition was a manifestation of the supernatural power of God. Joanna Southcott declared that the advent of the fasting-woman presaged a three years' famine in France. In the meantime the local doctors had taken the matter up. By two of these, Robert Taylor and John Allen (both of whom made communications on the subject of the case to the 'Medical Journal,' November and December 1808), an investigation was set on foot in September 1808, and a succession of four hours' watches, undertaken by the chief inhabitants of the district, was arranged to cover a period of sixteen days. Bulletins were posted from time to time in Tutbury, to record progress, and a list of the watchers was published. At the commencement of the ordeal Mrs. Moore was described as terribly worn and emaciated, but as it progressed she sensibly improved in health and spirits. The report of the committee was generally held to be conclusive evidence of Ann’s veracity. For the next four years she continued to attract crowds of visitors from all parts of the country, who, in commiseration of her sufferings, or to reward her devoutness, which was attested by the Rev. Mr. Hutchinson, seldom left her without making a substantial offering. In 1812 she deposited 400l in the funds. But in the summer of that year Alexander Henderson (1780–1863) [q. v.], physician to the Westminster General Dispensary, wrote an able ‘Examination’ of the imposture, showing the inconsistencies and absurdities of the woman’s statements, and the curious parallel between the case and that of Anna M. Kinker, a girl of Osnaburg, who practised a similar imposture in Germany in 1800. It was in answer to this publication that, greatly to the fasting-lady’s disgust, a second watch was insisted upon by her supporters. At her own request, none but ministers of the church of England, medical men, and magistrates were eligible, and a committee was formed, under Sir Oswald Mosley, bart. It met on 20 April 1813, and a period of one month was fixed upon. At the end of seven days the public were informed that Ann Moore had taken no food whatever. On the ninth day the watchers were alarmed by her loss of weight and extreme prostration. Two physicians present were of opinion that she could not live two hours. Thereupon, at the earnest request of her daughter, Mary Moore, the watch reluctantly broke up, and a few hours afterwards the woman confessed to her imposture. It is supposed that during the previous watch nourishment was conveyed to her in liquid form by her daughter when she kissed her night and morning. An engraving by Lines represented Mrs. Moore in bed in her garret. Another portrait was drawn by Linsell, and engraved by Carden. Her face is not unpleasing, and her eyes are thoughtful and penetrating. She was evidently a woman of great resolution and cunning. Nothing is known of her subsequent career beyond the fact that she was in Macclesfield and Knutsford gaols for robbing her lodgings.

[Monthly Mag. October 1811; Edinburgh Med. Journal, v. 321; Medical and Physical Journal, xx. 529; Gent. Mag. 1813, i. 479; Chambers’s Book of Days, ii.; Faithful Relation of Ann Moore of Tutbury, who for nearly 4 years has, and still continues to live, without any kind of Food, 4th edit. 1811; The Life of Ann Moore, with Observations and Reflections, by Edward Anderson, n.d.; An Account of the extraordinary Abstinence of Ann Moor of Tutbury, Uttoxeter, 1809, numerous editions; An Examination of the Imposture of Ann Moore, the Fasting-woman of Tutbury, 1813; A full Exposure of Ann Moore, the pretended Fasting woman of Tutbury, 3rd edit. 1813; Leisure Hour, 1869, 1870, passim; Mosley's Hist. of Tutbury; Medical Observer, v. 163; Simm's Staffordshire Bibl. p. 3l4.]

T. S.