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Maritime Art, British, Melancholy Ship Wreck, Canada, Antique Print, London, 1827


The Melancholy Ship Wreck of the Frances Mary from St. Johns, J. Kendall, Master
Edward Fisher, London: October 1, 1827
Aquatint, printed in colors, finished by hand
17.25 x 23 inches, overall

Dramatic maritime print depicting the shipwreck and rescue of the Frances Mary (sometimes spelled Francis Mary) in the middle of the North Atlantic carrying a cargo of timber from New Brunswick, Canada, to Liverpool, England. The event had occurred the year before the print was published, and the horrific nature of the disaster became a sensationalistic news story because the survivors, while adrift for 32 days, had resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. Moreover it was not a man but a woman who got them through the crisis by taking on the unpleasant task of preparing the bodies for eating. In the print, the desperate survivors are shown aboard their drifting disabled boat in rough seas, waving frantically at the approaching HMS Blonde, commanded by Lord George Byron, which finally was able to rescue them after attempts by other vessels to reach them in rough seas had failed. The turbulent sea water and threatening sky are handsomely printed in various tones of blue, grey and white, accentuated by the sophisticated aquatint printing technique.

Product description continues below.


Historian Doug Ford describes the event in an article for Jersey Heritage, a UK historical society:

In the spring of 1826 the drawing rooms of the English residents of St Helier would have been a-buzz with the gossip surrounding the latest news reported in the pages of the Island’s English language newspaper, The Jersey Loyalist, concerning the wreck of the 398-ton ship, Frances Mary. On 20 March the Loyalist included the tantalising line: … “For 22 days the survivors supported their wretched existence by actually feeding on the dead bodies of those who died in the wreck.’ The whole story came out in the edition printed two weeks later on 3 April, and what made it even more salacious was that two of the survivors were women, one of whom, Ann Saunders, had played an important role in the survival.

The Francis Mary had been on passage carrying a cargo of timber from New Brunswick in Canada to Liverpool. She cleared St Johns, Newfoundland, on 18 January 1826, and by 1 February she had encountered strong gales … Five days later she lost the long boat, her rudder, two bower anchors and the foremast. At this stage, as a precautionary measure 50lbs of bread and a 5lb cheese were stowed in the main top and Mrs Kendall, the captain’s wife, and a female passenger, Ann Saunders, were sent aloft. … By 11 February the food ran out and still the storm blew.

Continuing this account, Ford detailed that ten days later one of the seamen died, followed by 11 more over the next two weeks, including Ann Saunders’ fiancé. Saunders was not much older than 18 and was brought along as a servant and companion by Mary Kendall, who was 25 years old. In accounts published by Captain Kendall in 1826 and by Saunders herself the following year, it was Saunders who played a critical role in the survival of the six passengers who ultimately were rescued, by her performing the unpleasant job of cutting up and cleaning the dead bodies for the survivors to eat; in her written account, she attributed her fortitude to her faith in God.

Although Captain Kendall lived long enough after the event to publish his account, the print’s dedication refers to Mary Kendall as “Relict” and “only survivor” of “the late Captain Kendall,” so apparently he died sometime before the publication date of October 1, 1827.

Edward Fisher was listed in London business directories at the address listed on this print as a carver and gilder until at least 1843.

Full title and dedication, lower margin: “The Melancholy Ship Wreck of the Frances Mary from St. Johns, J. Kendall, Master & the timely & humane assistance afforded to the unfortunate Sufferers 6 in number eleven having died being thirty two days on the Wreck by the appearance on the 7th March 1826 of his Majesty’s Frigate the Blonde under the command of the Right Hon’ble Capt’n Lord Byron is most respctfully [sic] dedicated to his Lordship by his most Obd’t. & grateful Servant, Mary Kendall, Relict of the late Cap’n. Kendall & only Survivor.”

Full publication information: London: Published October 1st, 1827, by E. Fisher Golden Key 36, Leadenhall Street

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling. Few minor abrasions professionally restored.


Ford, Doug. “Eating Flesh: Cannibalism at Sea on board Jersey ships.” Jersey Heritage. (3 August 2020).

“London Street Directory in 1843.” London Wiki. 11 November 2019. (11 August 2020).

Mitchell-Cook, Amy “To Honor their Worth, Beauty and Accomplishments: Women in Early American-Anglo Shipwreck Account.” Coriolis Vol. 2, Number 1, 2011, pp. 26-29, 30, 32-33. (3 August 2020).


Additional information


19th Century