E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Heroine of Donizettis opera La Figlia del Reggimento. She first appears as a vivandière or French sutler-girl, for Sulpizio (the sergeant of the 11th regiment of Napoleons Grand Army) had found her after a battle, and the regiment adopted her as their daughter. Tonio, a Tyrolese, saved her life and fell in love with her, and the regiment agreed to his marriage provided he joined the regiment. Just at this juncture the marchioness of Berkenfield claims Maria as her daughter; the claim is allowed, and the vivandiere is obliged to leave the regiment for the castle of the marchioness. After a time the French regiment takes possession of Berkenfield Castle, and Tonio has risen to the rank of field officer. He claims Maria as his bride, but is told that her mother has promised her hand to the son of a duchess. Maria promises to obey her mother, the marchioness relents, and Tonio becomes the accepted suitor.
Maria. A fair, quick-witted, amiable maiden, whose banns were forbidden by the curate who published them; in consequence of which she lost her reason, and used to sit by the roadside near Moulines, playing vesper hymns to the Virgin all day long. She led by a ribbon a little dog named Silvio, of which she was very jealous, for she had first made a goat her favourite, but the goat had forsaken her. (Sterne: Sentimental Journey.)