Here’s a gem of weirdness that I somehow missed, courtesy of Providentia:
Towards the end of the year 1726, a rather astounding revelation involving a 25-year old maidservant named Mary Tofts came out. Contemporary sources described her as having “a healthy, strong constitution, small size, fair complexion, a very stupid and sullen temper, and unable to read and write”. According to Mary, she was weeding in a field when a rabbit sprang up near her and caused her to run away. This left her with a craving for rabbit. . . The resulting craving for rabbit meat supposedly influenced the remainder of her pregnancy and caused her to give birth to rabbits. . . She was so skillful in her pretense that she was able to convince her midwife, John Howard, that, over the course of a month, that she had given birth to nearly twenty rabbits (all dead).
Mary, without recourse to modern conveniences such as reality shows, was dedicated and inventive in her pursuit of celebrity (and a hoped-for royal pension). But she took her rabbit trick a little too far, embarrassing a number of prominent physicians, and was imprisoned for fraud:
A Prosecution is ordered to be carried on in the Court of King’s Bench, next Hillary Term, against Mary Toft of Godalmin, for an infamous Cheat and Imposture, in pretending to have brought forth 17 præter-natural Rabbits (source).
She was eventually discharged without prosecution – perhaps everyone just wanted to pretend the whole mess hadn’t happened.
I kind of do, too. Euw.
Mary Toft – the Rabbit Breeder (Medical History, 1961); includes a larger reproduction of the Hogarth engraving above
Bibliodyssey also mentioned Mary Toft a few weeks ago, in a collection of portraits of “Remarkable Persons.”