Are you smarter than this Weymouth three-year-old?

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Dorchester reporter

A FAMILY history researcher has stumbled across the revelation of a three-year-old child prodigy who lived in Weymouth more than 230 years ago.

Heather Carbis, of Easton, Portland, was searching for background to her own family tree when she came across the story of Charlotte Catherine Babb in a London newspaper.

The piece in the General Evening Post from October 1770 claimed the youngster could name constellations, read and write in Italian and read a lecture on the map of Europe at the age of three.

Shop assistant Mrs Carbis, 52, has been tracing the history of her family tree for the last 12 years.

She said: “I have got access to a lot of different sites and I have always had a lot of interest in history.

“I was doing general searches for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, hoping to find something about my family, and I found this thing about this young girl.

“It just struck me, all that this little child could do.”

The article says: “Charlotte Catherine Babb, of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in the county of Dorset, when she was just three and three quarters old, could read a lecture on the map of Europe, up and down as well as foreright; describe the situation of more than one hundred and fifty places on the map of Europe; shew the North Star, the Great and Little Bear.”

It adds that she could also identify the six ‘primary planets’ and give mariners directions for sailing from the Black to the White Sea, including what islands and ports they would pass on the way.

Young Miss Babb could also name the nine holy orders of the angels, the 12 apostles, the 12 signs of the Zodiac, the seven wonders of the world and ‘the nine electors who choose an Emperor of Germany’.

The piece goes on: “She can read any history book or newspaper, in Roman, Italian or Old English print; all sorts of handwriting (the law hands not excepted); she writes a strong round hand, and Italian extremely fine, very few women that can perform better; and spell most words from two to fifteen syllables; lastly, add up a bill of cash to the amount of several hundred pounds.”

The story concludes: “In general she is called the most surprising child, one of ten thousand of her age, and to some, the eighth wonder of the world.”

Mrs Carbis said what became of the young sensation is something of a mystery.

She said: “I found no more mention of her, what she went on to do or anything.

“In those days she may well have just grown up and been expected to marry.”

Mrs Carbis's research into her own family history has revealed her great-great-great-grandfather became one of the first ever police constables in Weymouth in the 19th Century.

Comments (3)

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3:18pm Sat 20 Dec 08

Red Cockade says...

To read or write "Italian" did not refer to the Italian language, but to a style of writing used in England for several hundred years - think of today's "italic" atyle of calligraphy.
Nevertheless a very talented little girl!
To read or write "Italian" did not refer to the Italian language, but to a style of writing used in England for several hundred years - think of today's "italic" atyle of calligraphy. Nevertheless a very talented little girl! Red Cockade
  • Score: 0

4:21pm Sat 20 Dec 08

I Don't Like The New Echo Website says...

No
No I Don't Like The New Echo Website
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5:52pm Sat 20 Dec 08

quietmouse says...

Charlotte was 6 rather than 3 as this entry from the Baptism Register of St Mary's Church shows:
13 May 1764; Charlotte Catherina BABB or BOLT dau of James & Ann Babb or Bolt
Transcription taken from Dorset Online Parish Clerks web page www.opcdorset.com
Charlotte was 6 rather than 3 as this entry from the Baptism Register of St Mary's Church shows: 13 May 1764; Charlotte Catherina BABB or BOLT dau of James & Ann Babb or Bolt Transcription taken from Dorset Online Parish Clerks web page www.opcdorset.com quietmouse
  • Score: 0
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