In the earlier part of this century, there was a kind of publication in vogue, somewhat resembling the more ancient broadside. . . . One of those, published by Fairburn in 1815 . . . gives a portrait of the pig-faced lady, her silver trough placed on a table beside her. In the accompanying letter-press, we ore informed that she was then twenty years of age, lived in Manchester Square, had been born in Ireland, of a high and wealthy family, and on her life and issue by marriage a very large property depended. ‘This prodigy of nature,’ says the author, ‘is the general topic of conversation in the metropolis. In almost every company you join, the pig-faced lady is introduced, and her existence is firmly believed in by thousands, particularly those in the west end of the town. Her person is most delicately formed, and of the greatest symmetry; her hands and arms are delicately modelled in the happiest mould of nature; and the carriage of her body indicative of superior birth. Her manners are, in general, simple and unoffending; but when she is in want of food, she articulates, certainly, something like the sound of pigs when eating, and which, to those who are not acquainted with her, may perhaps be a little disagreeable.’
Throughout London in 1815, the urban legend of the pig-faced gentlewoman spread quickly. The story went that any gentleman who could bear to marry her would become obscenely wealthy, and newspapers' classified sections ran advertisements from men hoping to court "her sowship." Growing sick of the rumor, the editors of the (London) Times ran an article stating:
We, ourselves, unwittingly put in an advertisement from a young woman offering to be her companion, and yesterday morning, a fellow transmitted to us another advertisement, attended by a one-pound note, offering himself to be her husband. We have put his offer in the fire, and shall send his money to some charity.
In Social England under the Regency, John Ashton tracked down two advertisements addressed to the pig-faced woman, including the first one referred to by the Times editors.
1815 was not even the first time the rumor of a pig-faced lady had cropped up in England. In 1618, a book was printed titled, A Certaine Relation of the Hog-faced Gentlewoman called Mistris Tannakin Skinker. Tannakin Skinner was also the subject of several ballads during the seventeenth century. Generally, these were variations of the loathly lady story, similar to "The Wife of Bath's Tale" from Canterbury Tales, where a gentleman marries the pig-faced woman only to have her miraculously turn into a beautiful maiden in their marriage bed. Another story told about a Christian man who had converted to Judaism, and then had a pig-faced daughter as divine punishment.