Dolly Pentreath

Contributed by Cornwall Museums

THIS OBJECT IS PART OF THE PROJECT 'A HISTORY OF CORNWALL IN 100 OBJECTS'.

ST MICHAEL'S MOUNT. This portrait shows the grand old dame of the Cornish language, Dolly Pentreath of Mousehole. Dolly was a Cornish fishwife who tramped her fishy wares around Penwith and Penzance. At the latter place she gained the reputation of being the last native Cornish speaker, though she may not have been. Opinion is also divided about how much Cornish she could actually speak - though everyone agreed she could swear in Cornish.

Painted by John Opie of St Agnes (see Opie's paint-box) in the 1770s for the St Aubyns of St Michael's Mount. Opie was then painting the family and their servants and Dolly Pentreath was the most famous local character. She had been visited by the antiquarian Daines Barrington in 1768 and died in 1777. In 1860 Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte, cousin of the French emperor and a keen linguist, unveiled a granite memorial to Dolly at Paul church.

Photograph: Vince Bevan, VCH Cornwall.

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Location

St Michael's Mount

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Period

1770s

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