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Title: Sargasso
Uniform Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Added title page title: Sargazo
Sargasse
Abbreviated Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras San Juan P. R.)
Physical Description: v. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: University of Puerto Rico (Ri´o Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Ri´o Piedras P.R
Río Piedras, P.R
Creation Date: 2009
Copyright Date: 1986
Frequency: twice a year[2002-]
two no. a year[ former 1984]
irregular[ former <1987>-2001]
semiannual
regular
 Subjects
Subjects / Keywords: Caribbean literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: review   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
serial   ( sobekcm )
Spatial Coverage: Puerto Rico
 Notes
Additional Physical Form: Also issued online.
Language: Chiefly English, with some French and Spanish.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, no. 1-no. 10 (2000) ; 2001-
Numbering Peculiarities: Volume designation dropped with no. 3; issue for 2001 lacks numbering; issues for 2002- called 2002, 1-
Issuing Body: Edited by the faculty and graduate students of the English Dept., University of Puerto Rico.
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: Some issues have also distinctive titles.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: 2004-05,2.
General Note: Has occasional special issues.
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Resource Identifier: oclc - 12797847
lccn - 85643628
issn - 1060-5533
alephbibnum - 002422411
sobekcm - UF00096005_00031
System ID: UF00096005:00031

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Half Title
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
    Introduction
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
    Poetry
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
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    Essays
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    Research on language
        Page 93
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    Book reviews
        Page 119
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    List of contributors
        Page 136
        Page 137
    Back Cover
        Back Cover
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-r













SARGASSO
S2009-10, I1
















SARGASSO
- 2009-10, I
ANTI/SLAVERY AND
COLONIAL AESTHETICS










SARGASSO 2009-10, I
Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics

Sargasso, a peer-reviewed journal of literature, language, and culture edited at the University of
Puerto Rico, publishes critical essays, interviews, book reviews, and some poems and short stories.
Sargasso particularly welcomes material written by/about the people of the Caribbean region and
its multiple diasporas. Unless otherwise specified, essays and critical studies should conform to
the style of the MLA Handbook. Short stories should be kept to no more than 2,500 words in
length, and poems should be kept to thirty lines. All postal mail should include a S.A.S.E. See
http://humanidades.uprrp.edu/ingles/pubs/sargasso.htm for more information. For inquiries or
electronic submission, write to: sargasso@uprrp.edu.

Postal Address:

SARGASSO
P.O. Box 22831, UPR Station
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-2831

Sally Everson &Josh Albert Brewer, Issue Editors

Don E. Walicek, Editor
Lowell Fiet, Founding Editor
Maria Cristina Rodriguez, Book Review Editor
Aileen Diaz, Administrative Assistant


Editorial Board
Jessica Adams, Independent Scholar
Mary Ann Gosser-Esquilin, Florida Atlantic University
Peter Roberts, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill
Ivette Romero, Marist College
Felipe Smith, Tulane University


Jose de la Torre, President of the University of Puerto Rico
Ana R. Guadeloupe Quifiones, Interim Chancellor, Rio Piedras Campus
Jos6 L. Ramos Escobar, Dean of Humanities

Layout: Marcos Pastrana
Front photo: Masked characters on Avenida Universidad by Angel Antonio Ruiz-Laboy
Back photo: Ocean Park, PR by Angel Antonio Ruiz-Laboy

Visit Sargasso: http://humanidades.uprrp.edu/ingles/pubs/sargasso.htm


Opinions and views expressed in Sargasso are those of the individual authors and are not
necessarily shared by Sargasso's Editorial Board members. All rights return to authors. This journal
is indexed by HAPI, Latindex, MLA, and the Periodical Contents Index. Copies of Sargasso
2009-10, as well as previous issues, are on deposit in the Library of Congress. Filed January
2011. ISSN 1060-5533.








Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION vii

POETRY
Pedro Rios Jones 3
June Take a Breath Whenever You Feel Like or When You
Run Out of Air Which Ever Comes First
Xavier Varcircel 5
Pared de los suspiros

ESSAYS
Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley 9
'Me Hab Me Regan Gown:' Afro-Caribbean Women
Contesting and Transculturating Femininities in
Nineteenth-Century Oral Poetry
Sarah Fulford 25
Post-Colonial Aesthetics: David Dabydeen,
William Hogarth and Anti-Slavery
JoAnne Harris 45
White Creole Domesticity and the Aesthetics of Abolition
Katrina Smith 69
The Body as Testament: The Case of Mary Prince
Ania Spyra 79
Jean Rhys's Voyage in the Dark as a Trans-Atlantic Tragic
Mulatta Narrative
RESEARCH ON LANGUAGE
Hubert Devonish and Karen Carpenter 93
'Out of Many, One Norm Us:' Linguistic and Racial Self
Concept in the National Identity of Jamaican Children


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





TABLE OF CONTENTS


REVIEWS
Violeta Lorenzo 121
Puerto-Rican Nation Building Literature: Impossible Romance
by Zilkia Janer
Javier E. Laureano 124
Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora by
Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes
Dorsia Smith 125
Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip
Aida Vergne 128
Gradual Creolization: Studies CelebratingJacques Arends,
edited by Rachel Selbach, Margot van den Berg,
and Hugo Cardoso
Milagros Rivera 134
The Duppy by Anthony C. Winkler

LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS 136


SARGASSO 2009-10, 1









INTRODUCTION





This volume of Sargasso focuses on the way that new world slavery and
the forms of antislavery which it engendered are constitutive of colonial,
imperial, and Caribbean aesthetics. One of the most important contributions
to the ongoing postcolonial project -a method that is closely associated with
the history of Caribbean thought- is the understanding that margins are
constructed in order that a center may exist, but are not marginal where they
arise. Research on the early-colonial period in the new world informed by
postcolonial studies, and often within an Atlantic studies framework, reveals
ways in which the cultural spheres of slave owners, enslaved, indigenous
people, maroons, and others were imbricated from the very beginning of
contact. Scholars such as Peter Hulme, Mary Louise Pratt, Paul Gilroy, Chris
Bongie, Joseph Roach, Sybille Fischer, and Jos6 Buscaglia-Salgado, among
many others, have illuminated the adhesions and fissures of(anti)colonial and
imperial writing through various waves of conquest, genocide, slavery, and
revolution in the region, emphasizing how racialized social relations -however
disavowed, denied or silenced- are constitutive of the development of modern
aesthetic categories.
Indeed, the conceptualization of this issue has much overlap with a recent
talk by Simon Gikandi called "The Colonial Aesthetic: Slavery and the Culture
ofTaste" at the University ofMinnesota,which is based on his forthcoming 2011
book from Yale University Press. In that presentation, Gikandi provocatively
brings together the "aesthetic" and "slavery," two categories of thought that
have been kept separate in Western European discourses of modernity, as he
points out "in careful, calculated, and conceptual ways."' The essays selected
for this issue, like Gikandi's current project, are interested in "the way in which
the ideals of freedom and aesthetics were to be defined not only through a

SSimon Gikandi. "The Colonial Aesthetic: Slavery and the Culture of Taste." Nolte
Center, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Minnesota (October 15, 2009). The
talk is based on his forthcoming book, The Aura of Blackness: Slavery and the Culture of
Taste (Princeton UP). (http://www.ias.umn.edu/media/SimonGikandi.php) Accessed
May 11, 2010.


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





INTRODUCTION


process of systematic thinking, but also [through] a process of creating these
centers of irrationality that would be aligned with the colonial subject." As
evident in the essays collected here, the construction of the colonial margin,
and thus colonial aesthetics, owes as much to the formal antislavery movement
as it does to the chattel slave system it struggled against. Our cover image, a
photo taken by Angel Antonio Ruiz-Laboy at a 2009 protest against police
brutality and violence against students in San Juan, Puerto Rico, captures
the recreation of an iconic image of slave aesthetics. Though carnival was a
privilege "allowed" slaves to divert and placate them, carnival mas' remains a
vital aesthetic resource, for as Paul Gilroy reminds us, "the expressive cultures
developed in slavery continue to preserve in artistic form needs and desires
which go far beyond the mere satisfaction of material wants."2
This issue opens with poetry by two young Puerto Rican writers, Pedro
Rios Jones and Xavier Valcircel, working in English and Spanish, respectively.
Rios Jones' poem is an idiosyncratic journey through love, longing, and
mourning, while Valcircel's multimedia work performs the ephemerality of
life, poetry, and indeed, aesthetics, in a world designed for clean, smooth,
white surfaces. While Rios Jones' volubility contrasts sharply with Valcarcel's
terseness, both poems convey the zeitgeist of our own Great Recession era.
Once memory is erased, Valcircel's staging of art's digital resurrection in San
Juan's colonial district, reproduced here, will console only those privileged
enough to access either the virtual escape hatch of the Internet or archival
depositories such as this journal.
The second section includes five essays organized around the theme of
anti/slavery, colonialism, and aesthetics. Two of the essays examine "the body,"
specifically the enslaved African woman's body, as a critical site for aesthetic
production and a weapon in the struggle for freedom. This is strikingly
illustrated in the first of the essays, where Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley's
excavation of the reconstructed popular nineteenth-century Jamaican song,
"Quaco Sam," reveals how enslaved African women fashioned their bodies in
resistance and sometimes in accommodation to the violence of enslavement,
and the un-gendering of African women in discourses of racial slavery.
Similarly, Katrina Smith concludes that the body was the primary tool that
Mary Prince used to first secure some autonomy and privilege within slavery,
then later to attain her freedom. On the other hand, Sarah Fulford attends to

2 Paul Gilroy. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge MA:
Harvard UP 1993, p. 57.


SARGASSO 2009-10, 1






INTRODUCTION


the postcolonial implications of the European legacy of visual representations
of Africans, where she wonders about the dangers of aestheticizing racial
terror in David Dabydeen's work. While Dabydeen's postcolonial reworking
of Hogarth's famous painting A Harlot' Progress aims to redirect the object of
the original satire, Fulford finds his approach may raise more questions than
it answers. Next, JoAnne Harris provides a historical reading of the literature
of the Barbadian plantocracy, providing the context for the need to assert a
paternalistic white Creole -or West Indian- cultural identity. Ania Spyra's
essay turns to the twentieth-century White Creole fiction of Jean Rhys in
relation to the "tragic mulatta" tradition that emerged sometime at the end
of eighteenth-century and remained salient through the modernist period of
Rhys's writing.
This issue's next section features research on language from The Jamaican
Language Unit at the University of West Indies at Mona, entitled "'Out of
Many, One Norm Us:' Linguistic and Racial Self Concept in the National
Identity ofJamaican Children." Here, Hubert Devonish and Karen Carpenter
inquire about the way that colonial racial ideology evident in the Jamaican
national motto "Out of Many One" filters down into the consciousness of
Jamaican children to inform their self-concept and linguistic identity. Using
an adaptation of the match-guised technique, Devonish and Carpenter ask
which phenotypes school children between five and ten years old associate
with Standard English and which with Jamaican. They then discover how
the children self-identify in terms of their own phenotype and linguistic
competence and consider whether these patterns correspond with broader
social norms. This study and their findings illustrate the pertinence of
postcolonialism to the Caribbean region in a time when independent nation-
states such as Jamaica endeavor to jettison those remnants of the colonial past
that hinder movement toward a more just and equitable future.
The book reviews offered in this issue are diverse, including two scholarly
works on Puerto Rico, a book of poetry and a novel from the Anglophone
Caribbean, and a collection of creolistics research dedicated to the work of the
late Jacques Arends. This sampling of both academic and creative works that
cut across linguistic and national boundaries reflect Sargasso' longstanding
commitment to providing a broad forum for research and expression by, about,
and for people of the Caribbean and its multiple diasporas.
Finally, we would like to thank Don E. Walicek, the journal's Editor, for
his unstinting support for this project, even when the Issue Editors had little


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics






INTRODUCTION


hope of its publication in the aftermath of a budgetary crisis at the University
of Puerto Rico that has come to be associated with a 48-hour student strike,
an extended administrative closure, and ongoing concerns about the future
of public education. Tension and uncertainty surrounding system-wide
protests, which ran from late April through June 2010, can be linked to the
US economic meltdown that began in 2008 and a local Fiscal and Economic
Recovery Plan instituted in 2009. Subsequent financial cuts disrupted not only
the journal's publication process, but most critically, the journal's operating
base. We are grateful for Don's dedication to Sargasso, and his perseverance
in getting out this issue. We also thank Katherine Miranda, for her editorial
and administrative assistance before, during, and after the crisis. Thanks also
to the poets, writers, artists, and reviewers for their contributions and their
patience in seeing this volume realized.

Sally Everson
Joshua Albert Brewer
Issue Editors










POETRY












June Take a Breath Whenever You Feel Like or

When You Run Out of Air Which Ever Comes First

3:23 mourning in the morning
& endless thought replaying grisly scenes
I pour myself into half empty glass
Examining both data & the stream
The bitter fairy taste of green anis
Sweetness inflamed with honeysuckle dues
Oh June oh thoughts of April roses yet
Conceived Cruel seasons of marriages &
Seed the one who warns the one union
(in)Complete to whom my verse ain't iambic

The mind in wake makes days of night & nights
Of day Sparkly cuernos del Toro
Twins clasped hands & ravenous ruin us
Cancer twinkling the Precession of
The vast abrupt rolls on through time perceived
In ancient arbitrary lines of fate
Oh June oh thoughts of gleaming roses yet
They drip jealous Juno Hera split splat
split! Reflections of the summer of our
Discontenting beyond recall thorns prick

Red dawn grey son volcanic ashes break
The rays of longest luminosity
Masterful melding sensualistic
Clouds form enticing voluptuous mouths
Soft delicious air on lips passionate
Expectant panting of an airport kiss
Oh June oh thoughts of timely roses yet
In bloom Restless longing heart shaped boxes
Rest In Pisces' rule Choice increation -
To think we were so close to life so new


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





PEDRO Rios JONES


Running hounded by a wall of water
Over water between water towards the
Drying light I man in black in wingless
Ocean flight drowned in decent saved by
Angelic might amarant crown & wings
Of gilded light notre union est gris
Oh June oh fuck your thoughts of roses yet
Repeat! Running east running west across
The fiber optic sea of dreams glowing
Dalian sights' infernal plentitude

Waning brumous moon palpable obscure
Green burns to black contemplative laughter
Secure in visions' atemporal blues
Raptured in penal fire ruler of night
Of lesser light the tides they lord my mood
Oh June oh thoughts of broken steams snip snap
Snip!

I remember those times they were good
Times almost reproductive times oh such a time as

Pedro Rios Jones


SARGASSO 2009-10,1








Pared de los suspiros I


March 23, 2010. 11:16 pm
Calle San Justo, Viejo San Juan

Xavier Varcircel


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





XAVIER VARCARCEL


Pared de los suspiros II


March 24, 2010. 4:36 pm
Calle San Justo, Viejo San Juan

Xavier Varcircel


SARGASSO 2009-10, 1










ESSAYS











"Me Hab Me Regan Gown:" Afro-Caribbean Women

Contesting and Transculturating Femininities

in Nineteenth Century Oral Poetry

Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley
University of Minnesota


n 1836, a formerly enslaved domestic apprentice named Duchess attracted
a large, agitated crowd at her Bridgetown, Barbados trial. Her crime:
reappropriating money from her former owners in order to clothe herself-to
clothe the body those owners had acquired and worked as chattel- in elegant,
brightly colored dresses. At her trial, Duchess was publicly humiliated not
merely for her thievery, but for her expensive clothing purchases. Presiding
judge John Colthurst noted with disdain: "She had bought wearing apparel
fine enough for a Princess. Their colours vied with those of the rainbow, first
a flaming bright yellow bonnet, flashy dresses without number, necklaces and
earrings without end, rose colored silk stockings and two pairs of pink satin
shoes" (qtd. in Boa 257). A White Creole woman who was a member of a
philanthropic Ladies' Association for the Relief of the Sick and Indigent Poor
railed: "This is a pretty return, you black wretch, for all the pains I have taken
to make you good... Oh vanity, vanity, vanity" (qtd. in Newton 236). Duchess
was sentenced to six months in jail with hard labor.
Her rainbow-colored dresses evoked outrage, desire, and derision not
merely as contested property, but as a metonym for contested womanness. That
is, they correctly read to onlookers as symbols of the racialized gender struggles
that were exploding throughout the Caribbean during the emancipation
period. Nineteenth-century debates around slavery and its aftermath opened
complex legal, social, and bodily discourses where figures like Duchess, the
judge, and the lady philanthropist put forth contested, shifting imaginations
of what it meant to be Caribbean, Black, and free. In these imaginations of
a particularly Caribbean freedom, gender -indexed here by Duchess' hyper-
feminine, hyper-European apparel- came to play a central symbolic role.
Would demands for bodily freedom include Afro-Caribbeans' right to gender
those bodies -to dress like princesses or princes- in ways that contested the


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





OMISE'EKE NATASHA TINSLEY


racial superiority of European ladies and gentlemen? How would Blacks'
disruption, transculturation, and creolization of European gender, emerging as
part of their claim to full humanity, shift the social landscape of the Caribbean
in ways that simultaneously empowered and disempowered the women that
performed these hybrid femininities?
This essay traces the complexity of these gender-troubling questions in
early nineteenth-century stories of Afro-Caribbean females' dress, undress,
and redress. Working with Black feminist theory, colonial chronicles, and oral
texts, I explore debates on the possible impossibility of Black femininity that
circulated in both racist justifications of slavery and heteropatriarchal calls for
abolition, and how the latter are creatively contested in the imaginations of
the enslaved. While the first part of the essay interrogates imperial represen-
tations of Afro-Caribbean women, the second searches out counter-histories
and counter-imaginations of gender that circulate in oral texts composed and
performed by enslaved Africans themselves. Taking a cue from Duchess, my
readings trace how gender becomes a construction that Caribbeans continu-
ously thief, rip, layer, and refashion to meet their needs: insisting on being
both/and, either/neither, endlessly shifting combinations of European and
African, princesses and property, Black ladies and jamettes, so that Caribbean
gender becomes a strategically unstable composite that, like Duchess' sartorial
splendor, breaks open in colors and textures that colonists never imagined.'

Naked in the Text: the Problems of Black Un-Femininity
Years before Judith Butler's Gender Trouble famously demonstrated why woman
is a heteropatriarchal invention that feminists should no longer unproblemati-
cally organize around (Butler 4), Black feminist scholars powerfully showed
the limits of woman as universal subject. They did so by arguing that slavery
systematically ungendered African females. Not only is no one born a woman,
but as they show, for centuries enslaved Africans were prevented from becom-
ing such in the discursive and material universe of their captors. Here woman
emerges not as a universal signifier for a feminine female, but as the name
given to an exclusive, policed, specifically European gender formation that
enslaved females continually wrestled with, reformed, and refused to release
their claim to.

1 Jamette is a Trinidadian Creole term for a woman whose sexuality contests European
norms of chastity, monogamy, and/or heterosexuality.


SARGASSO 2009-10, 1






"ME HAB ME REGAN GOWN:"AFRO-CARIBBEAN WOMEN CONTESTING...


Caribbean plantations, as Rhoda Reddock details in her groundbreaking
1985 essay "Women and Slavery in the Caribbean: A Feminist Perspective,"
leveled labor distinctions between the sexes more violently than elsewhere in
the hemisphere. Not only were females often employed in cane gangs in equal
or higher numbers than males, but they performed the same tasks as men and
in some places and periods lived up to five years longer. West Indian planters'
strategy of buying rather than breeding -working slaves to death and replacing
them with new kidnapees rather than allowing slowed work for gestation,
birth, or breastfeeding- meant pregnant workers received no differential
treatment. Motherhood as a slave was not a way for females to become women.
Conscripted to cut cane even in the ninth month of pregnancy, more than half
of enslaved females never gave birth at all due to miscarriages, amennoreah,
and abortions (Reddock 66).To justify this treatment of kidnapped Africans as
neuter work units, imperial fictions insisted that ungendering preceded slavery
and, in fact, that no significant markers ever distinguished Black females from
males. The idea was that something in the race's physical makeup made their
animal sexual differences incapable of adding up to femininity. Traveling to
West Africa in 1555, William Towerson proclaimed "men and women go so
alike that one cannot know a man from a woman but by their breasts which
in the most part be very foule and long, hanging down low like the udder of
a goat" (qtd. in Bush 14). Richard Burton saw African females as not only
beasts, but beasts of burden, noting their "masculine physique" matched males'
in "enduring toil, hardships, and privations"- proving the sexes equally fit for
slavery (qtd. in Bush 15).
While this machinery of violent unwomaning was never abandoned, it
became increasingly insufficient to regulate power spirals between capitalism,
labor, sexuality, and reproduction as chattel slavery came under pressure at
the turn of the nineteenth century. Mounting Caribbean slave resistance
-most transformative in Haiti- and the development of European capitalism
dovetailed to render slavery increasingly untenable, and the transition to
nominally "free" labor increasingly compelling for European ruling classes.
In contrast and in reaction to sudden, violent emancipations in Haiti and
(temporarily) Martinique, Britain initiated a relatively managed system of
apprenticeship and emancipation that set out a controlled transition not only in
colonial labor regimes, but also in Caribbean gender systems. As Pamela Scully
and Diana Paton write in their introduction to Gender and Slave Emancipation
in the Atlantic World: "...[T]he ending of slavery in the British Empire was


Anti/Slavery and coloniall Aesthetics





OMISE'EKE NATASHA TINSLEY


explicitly ideological in its approach to gender relations. A central goal of
British imperial emancipation was to transform colonial gender relations. The
enslaved, imperial officials and others believed, had been degendered by their
enslavement. Emancipation, then, should make them properly into men and
women" (12). As Scully and Paton make clear, females this meant that females
should no longer be held in the service of the "wrong" patriarch -that is, the
slave owner who strips them of womanness-but should enter into the service
of the "right" patriarchs: legal husbands and legitimate sons able to redefine
their productive and reproductive labor based on European norms of domestic
femininity (17-18).
This assumption, which undergirded abolitionist discourse from the
seventeenth century onward, is exemplified in Joaquim Nabuco's appeal on
behalf of enslaved males, which pleads their moral right to be made into
properly patriarchal men by making Black females into properly domesticated
women. He writes:

No one competes in suffering with this orphan of Fate, the waif of humankind
who before his birth trembles under the whip which lashes his mother's back,
who has only the remains of milk which a mother employed in suckling other
children can spare for her child... Finally, he dies without any expression of
gratitude from those who worked him so hard, leaving behind his wife, his
children, and his friends, if these he had, in the same endless agony. (qtd. in
Kittleson 110)

Here, witness the return of the charged image of the black breast: now imag-
ined not as naturally defeminized in the African wilds, but unnaturally, violently
drained by slavery on American plantations, its milk extracted for use by plan-
tocrats rather than flowing to nurture Black males. Nabuco's reenvisioned Black
femaleness never leaves any opening to imagine the black breast detached from a
male gaze or mouth, to imagine what the enslaved woman herself might want her
breasts for, or how they look to other women in spaces like the washerwomen's
river, where exposed breasts scandalized European observers. Abolitionist anato-
mies of Black gender focus instead on the tragedy of the male slave's life, which is
that from cradle to grave he will have no breast -neither mother's nor wife's- for
his exclusive reproductive and sexual use. Slaveowning males, Nabuco suggests,
ungendered African female bodies; abolitionists and Black males should be
able to regender them as mothers and wives. But that females of African de-
scent could participate in their own gender reinvention remains unimaginable
in apologies for freedom as well as for slavery.


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But at the turn of the nineteenth century females of African descent actively
created homosocial spaces and discourses to express alternative imaginations
of brown and black womanness. Free or economically independent women
of color created ladies' clubs for the uplift of enslaved and apprenticed
sisters, where they insistently promoted European gender norms even while
contesting their racial exclusivity.' Poor and enslaved women created more
inclusive public spaces in which to celebrate, mock, undermine, and explore
complex relationships to the colonial construct woman: dances, birthday
parties, carnival mas, and religious ceremonies became occasions for (among
other things) playing with, acting out against, hybridizing, and exploding
this formation. These acts of regendering are among the most difficult for
contemporary scholars to engage, since, unlike pro-slavery and abolitionist
discourses, they are rarely documented in writing. Black women's perspectives
on racialized gender as (infrequently) transcribed in court documents, song
recordings, and folklore collections undoubtedly misremember much of these
women's own utterances; they also refuse to settle the question of what a black
woman is, yielding no coherent narratives of race, gender, or desire. Yet these
kinds of archival fragments -while providing no illusion of transparent access
to women of color's shifting consciousness- do offer glimpses into the complex
negotiations of womanness that took place among females themselves, leaving
clues about various elements of dominant and resistant femininities that Black
females wrestled with in their day-to-day lives. In the next pages I offer a
reading of one such fragment: the early nineteenth-century Jamaican song
"Quaco Sam," as reconstructed by Barbara Lalla.3 While Lalla has beautifully,
rigorously demonstrated what this song suggests about nineteenth-century
Creole languages, I offer some preliminary considerations about what song,
dance, and other popular texts suggest about Creole genders.

Donning Me Regan Gown: Addressing and Dressing Black Femininities
Unlike Towerson's travelogue or Nabuco's abolitionist tracts, "Quaco Sam" has
no singular or known author. Lalla reconstructs it from sources which include
versions from the private collection of H.P. Jacobs, who had interviewed
elderly informants in Trelawny; a variant printed by Mr. James Chandler in the

2 See, for example, Newton's article on women's philanthropy in Barbados.
3 First reconstructed by Barbara Lalla in 1981, this song is included in the collection
Language in Exile. Three Hundred Years of Jamaican Creole. See Lalla, "Quaco Sam: A
Relic of Archaic Jamaican Speech."


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OMISE'EKE NATASHA TINSLEY


Welfare Reporter (January 1947); scattered fragments such as that reproduced
in Richard Hughes's novel, A High Wind in Jamaica (1949:11); those versions
painted on a series of ornamental dishes commissioned by Mrs. Rebecca
Brandon of Kingston in 1838; together with others recalled by Olive Lewin
(Olwin Cultural Services, Kingston), along with their musical score. (Lalla
and D'Costa 143)
Lalla's "Quaco Sam," then, is an unwieldy hybrid pieced together as a
portrait of Black femininity, an overlap of recollections by nineteenth- and
twentieth-century males and females, Black and White historians, journalists,
novelists, artists, and elders. And while the song's speaker is a Black feminine
subject, this certainly does not mean that its authors or performers always
were such. So the imagination of black womanness that it offers is not the
self-expression of any representative Black woman, but a composite text which
palimpsestically layers the words of Afro-Creole female, Afro-Creole male,
Euro-Creole male, and Euro-Creole female speakers and writers. Rather than
rendering its representation of racialized gender "inauthentic," however, this
composite speaks to the intricate dynamics of how emancipation period Black
womanness was produced: at an intersection of multiple economic, sexual, and
social discourses and power struggles in which Black females emerged as both
subjects and objects, simultaneously and consecutively.
The first stanzas of Lalla's reconstructed version voice this doubled
position in their exchange between a man-dominated chorus and woman-
centered verses:

Howdy, Cousin Cubba, me yerry lilly news,
Me yerry-se yo buy one new pair a-shoes,
Me yerry-se yo buy one dandy hat.
Come tell me, Cousin Cubba, wha yo pay fed at?

Chorus
Wid a ring ding ding and a pam pam pam
Me nebba see a man lak-a Quaco Sam,
Wedda rain or-a breeze or-a storm or-a sun,
Me nebba see a man lak-a Quaco Sam.

Me yerry-se one dance de a Berry Hill,
Unco Jack play de fiddly-an wan hag fe kill,
Come tell me, Cousin Cubba, how ebry ting tan,
Mek me ax Sista Susan, mek me call Sista Ann.


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"ME HAB ME REGAN GOWN:" AFRO-CARIBBEAN WOMEN CONTESTING...

Chorus
Me hab me Regan gown, me hab me gin'am cloak,
Swall-henkychi tie me head, massa-tenky tie me troat.
Da warra mo me wanty? Me hab me junka pan
Fe go a Berry Hill fe go-see Quaco Sam. (Anon.)

By celebrating an exceptional man, the titular Quaco Sam, the chorus
suggests that black feminine speakers find public voice most memorably by
singing the praises of black masculinity. But the interspersed verses -which
neither address nor describe Quaco Sam but instead focus attention on black
women who attend the same dance- remember the coexisting social power of
black female homosocial interactions, which here stand beside the androcentric
chorus but sing a broader range of relationships. "Howdy, Cousin Cubba,"
the song opens, happily hailing a femininely-named addressee. And its first
two verses are all about black female address, about black women speaking
and speaking to each other. The first verse is rhythmed by two phrases: the
sentence-beginning "me yerry," a Creole first person me who not only speaks for
herself, but hears what is said about other black women, demonstrating access
to information that she passes on to her female interlocutor; and the vocative
"Cousin Cubba," a distinctly Afro-Caribbean second person immediately
humanized by her family appellation Cousin, immediately feminized by her fine
dress, and immediately shown to have the economic power to "pay for dat."The
second verse adds to these black feminine first and second persons two third
persons, Sista Susan and Sista Ann, who are called into the conversation about
black womanhood and who, along with Cousin Cubba, tell the speaker "how
ebery ting tan." Even as abolitionist discourse bemoaned that enslaved females
had no "proper" wifely or motherly connections to black males -that they
never married Quaco Sam and bore his sons, never became part of patriarchal
filiation- this song sings the verbal and communal networks of an alternative,
non-heteronormative familial system like that Edouard Glissant calls etendue
or expanse (Glissant 47-62). This expanse comes together address by address,
as a sister-focused network that multiplies voices and perspectives, calling up a
plurality and permeability of friendship/kinship relations based not on biology
or hetero-reproductivity, but on addressing each other as sentient, desiring
human beings who know and want.
What the speaker hears tell of, what she wants to know and acquire more
of, is her interlocutor's fine clothes. And as much as the opening verses are about
addressing black womanness, they are also about dressing black womanness


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OMISE'EKE NATASHA TINSLEY


from toe to head. While pro-slavery and abolitionist discourses exposed black
breasts and bellies, locating the particularities of African femaleness in the
reproductive body, this Black feminine speaker emphasizes that femininity
is not the body itself but what you dress the body in, not biology but a social
construction elevated to an art form. She proudly describes her weekend finery,
whose centerpiece she introduces as an object of possession: "Me hab me Regan
gown" (emphasis mine.) This full-length Regan (regency) gown is, literally
and figuratively, a weighty metonym of womanness for an enslaved subject to
appropriate. Citing women's attire in imperial Rome, the regency gown was
part of the so-called Empire style popularized by French Empress Josephine,
a White Martinican who allegedly convinced Napoleon to reinstitute slavery
in her native land (Barnes). The gown that the speaker brags of as a symbol
of her bodily freedom is also a symbol of her unfreedom, of slavery and
imperialism's ability to recreate themselves, in part, through the ascendancy
of White femininity.4 But, as Sheena Boa notes of the elaborately European
dress styles flaunted by formerly enslaved women at nineteenth-century
dances in St. Vincent (252-253), Blacks' donning of hyper-feminine attire
at celebrations like Berry Hill was not merely critical appropriation; their
spectacular, hyperbolic displays were part of weekend play that (temporarily)
upset weekday masters' dominance, a way of mocking the exclusive imperial
genders such gowns represented. Not necessarily or only a "serious" copy of
Josephine's, this speaker's regency gown reads as the sartorial equivalent of
"cutting english": an exaggerated, high-flown style of language employed
in nineteenth-century Creole texts as a vehicle for satire.5And, the speaker
lets us know, she plans on mix-matching her gown with accessories that at
once amplify its mockery of European norms and turn it into something not
European-looking at all, a creolized, dancing hybrid.
In this song, certainly, accessories make the outfit and remake the racial-
ized gender that the speaker plans to perform. I focus first on one notably Eu-
ropean (potential) accessory for which the speaker expresses desire, fine shoes.
Cubba has bought a new pair and the speaker voices interest in them. Literally
elevating their wearers, shoes -rarely part of slaves' rations, but more often
acquired as status symbols with earnings from selling goods and services- were

4 I thank Matt Richardson for bringing to my attention the relationship between wom-
en's freedom and unfreedom in post-emancipation gender negotiations.
5 Lalla and D'Costa define "cutting english" as "exaggerated, rhetorical use of learned
language for show or for satire" (225).


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particularly contested articles of clothing at the turn of the nineteenth cen-
tury. They marked a model of femininity that colonists coded, in evolution-
ary terms, as above Black females. Charles Day, in his Five Years Residence in
the British West Indies, complained: "Those ladies who aimed at the superior
civilization of shoes and stockings, invariably clothed their pedal extremities
in pink silk stockings and blue, white, or yellow kid shoes, sandaled up their
sturdy legs" (qtd. in Boa 258). In his judgment of Duchess, John Colthurst
fretted that silk shoes looked ridiculous on her Black female "hoofs," and or-
dered her to put on two pairs at her trial to prove this ridiculousness (qtd. in
Boa 257). The pink silk femininity layered on brown legs meant for labor,
these men suggest, represents an excessive imitation of European ladyness,
an excess, that is, of the markers of sexual difference that the Black body was
able to bear. But the song, which begins by celebrating Cubba's new shoes,
announces Black women's shared pleasure in watching each other accumulate,
manipulate, and play with markers of European femininity, showing them off
in loud voices and hues to break open new colors of womanness and mock
its hegemonic whiteness. Cubba's claim to a legitimate right to walk in femi-
ninity, however, comes at an undisclosed price. The speaker immediately ac-
knowledges that she knows Cubba had to "pay for dat;" the question she poses
is how much, as if to see whether it is worth the psychic as well as economic
price to put on this most contested article of the mistress' clothes. What is she
selling to buy those shoes -her sexual labor, voluntary or coerced? And what
is she shod with as she imitates White women in separating her feet from the
ground beneath her?
After the celebration of Cubba's shoes the speaker directs her lyrics
continually upward, finally landing on the swalla-henkychi that ties her own
head in the third verse. A swalla-henkychi, Lalla glosses, is "an elaborate
headdress or head tie; a head kerchief tied with high-flying points, swallowtail
fashion" (Lalla and D'Costa 231). And if shoes are the most European of
the accessories the speaker contemplates, this high-flying headtie -adding a
distinctively Creole twist to her regency gown- stands out as the most African.
Literally crowning Black womanhood, the art of head-covering carries
complex meanings that women of African descent passed among themselves
in the Caribbean. Building on Yoruba and other West African traditions of the
expressive art of headwrapping, elaborate patterns for tying headcloths were
a means both of adornment and communication throughout the nineteenth
century. Steeve Buckridge notes that although the meanings attached to


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OMISE'EKE NATASHA TINSLEY


different styles of Jamaican headwraps have been lost, the prevalence of such
practices in the French Antilles, Suriname, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent strongly
suggests that the various patterns in pre-emancipation Jamaica also carried
coded messages for Black onlookers (Buckridge 92). In particular, carefully
arranged headties often "said" something about sex. They were a means of
inviting or foreclosing flirtation, of letting observers know whether wearers
were single or attached, closed or receptive to new lovers. And more than this,
the language of headwrapping publicized many "high-flying" Black female
desires that opened far outside abolitionists'ideals of heterosexual monogamy.
Buckridge notes that Martinican and Surinamese styles could mean: I'm not
single, but if I'm intrigued enough I might just sleep with you; I'm going to meet
my lover on the corner; I'll conduct my erotic life as I please, talk about me all you
like (Buckridge 89-91). Gloria Wekker, in her groundbreaking work on Black
women's sexuality, reminds us that in Suriname, Afro-Creole women developed
special ways of arranging headties to court other females, too, letting the &tendue
know: I'm in search of a mati (female) lover; are you? (Wekker 16). Headdress
like the swalla-henkychi, then, sometimes communicated a radically different
conceptualization than that familiar to the European. Of concern is not only
what went with a regency gown, but also what could go on under it, what kind
of sexuality was "fitting" for ideal womanhood. Wordlessly communicating
what intentions the Black woman had for her breasts and sexual body, headties
let other Black Caribbean subjects know that those intentions were rarely to
remain the domain of one, or any, man.
At the same time, head coverings worn by women of color signified in
complex ways for white Creoles. If Blacks imitated and aggravated Whites
with their shoes, White women mimicked Black and brown counterparts
in their headwraps. Edward Long laments in his History of Jamaica (1774)
how often he meets "a very fine young woman awkwardly dangling her arms
with the air of a Negroe-servant...her head muffled up with two or three
handkerchiefs, her dress loose, and without stays" (279); Leonora Sansay's
Secret History (1808) similarly depicts White women in Haiti publicly sporting
"a Madras handkerchief on [their] head" (qtd. in Dayan 173). Not just a
matter of regency gowns but of swalla-henkychi, sartorial appropriation works
both ways in the Jamaica where the speaker sings. Even as Black women take
on the mistress' clothes, White ladies also want something -black and brown
femininity as their own. In addition, Long goes on to worry that they may
want all kinds of inappropriate intimacies with the Black servants that lounge


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"ME HAB ME REGAN GOWN:" AFRO-CARIBBEAN WOMEN CONTESTING...


at their feet all day. With "swalla-henkychi tie me head," then, the speaker is
not only flaunting her own desires; she flaunts the article of her clothing, the
piece of her womanness that hegemonic femininity openly desires.

Mi Hoe a Me Shoulda: Everyday Gender Creolization
But after this play with address and dress, the song shifts quickly in the
last verses. Monday morning, experiments with Creole finery as well as
conversations with cousin and sisters are suspended as the speaker returns to
the cane field:

Monday mawning Driba Harry, whan de cock da crow,
Tek him cudjo a him han, knock him whip a Busha do.
Wi mi hoe a me should, wi me bill da me back,
Me da mash putta-putta, me da tink pan Unca Jack.

Chorus
Me tek row a cane-piece side, de naygar-dem all da run
An everyone come behind me, him ketch de fum-fum.
Wi me hoe da me should, chackalata da me pan,
Me da wo'k, me da nyam, me da tink pan Quaco Sam. (Anon.)

Here the hoe on her shoulder and bill on her back replace the gown and cloak
of earlier verses. Females and males become apparently interchangeable in the
"row a cane piece side" where, under cane field violence, all are referred to with
the gender-neutral pronoun him: "ebery one come behind me," everyone who
lags behind the speaker, female or male. Next, "him ketch de fum fum," he/
she catches a beating. In many ways this final verse tells a familiar slavery-era
story of cane field ungendering, echoing earlier-cited narratives crafted by
plantocrats and abolitionists. But the speaker ends her tale with a twist.
The last line sings that even running from the driver, even with her hoe on
her back, work never interrupts her interior focus on the gown-sporting,
all-night dancing of her Sundays: "Me da work, me da nyam, me da tink
pan Quaco Sam."
This revelation of a gender double consciousness -of the simultaneity
of her experience as an ungendered worker and a dressed up, desired Black
woman- says something about the particular kinds of "gender trouble" (that
is, the radical pressuring of the idea that social gender "expresses" an interior
essence of femininity or masculinity) that emerge in the context of African


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OMISE'EKE NATASHA TINSLEY


enslavement and its aftermath.6 The gender trouble of "Quaco Sam" is, I
argue, always already gender creolization; and as historians, linguists, and
theorists forcefully reiterate, creolization is not primarily a product of desired,
night-protected weekend mixings, but of colonialism's everyday, sun-hot
violence. Just before discussing the Creole family system of etendue in Poetics
ofRelation, Glissant urges readers to remember that the marginal spaces (e.g.,
slave quarters, yards, fields, street gatherings) where creolization occurs most
rapidly are often violent, pressured, economically and socially unstable topoi;
his comments indicate that the recognition of their cultural productivity
should not idealize away conflict and tensions (40). Between Berry Hill and
the cane piece of this song, combinations of Euro- and Afro-Caribbean
versions of Black womanhood -of regency gown and swalla-henkychi- take
place in the pleasurable styling of self and the appreciation of other black
women. But, the last verses cannot end without reminding listeners of other
more frequent layerings of dominant and resistant visions of black femaleness.
They bring to mind the ungendered worker and hybridly feminized dancer
and their emergence as responses to oppression that is situated, quite literally,
under the whip.
This last verbalization of gender doubling is an ambivalent one, and,
like the speaker's and Cubba's fancy dress, not easily categorized as either
accommodation or resistance to imperial gender systems. When the speaker's
mind's eye remains trained on her weekend self come Monday morning's hoes
and whips, her internalized femininity serves as a measure of escapism that
allows her to bypass outright hostility to the (almost certainly Black) driver's
imitation of Euro-Creole gender -to his violently patriarchal knocking of
the whip "a Busha [the overseer] do" by continuing to focus on her own
pleasurable, creative gender play. At the same time, her ongoing work at
cultivating an interior femininity even as she works at mashing down field
mud also enables psychic survival that is resistance in its own right. Her
dance vision acts as the kind of "rewiring of the senses" -training to see and
feel one's own humanity even as that humanity is relentlessly denied- that
Jacqui Alexander theorizes as crucial to the personal and social healing of
enslaved Africans and their descendants (328). Discussing similar ambiguity
in Jamaican slaves' carnival play, Buckridge posits:


6 I refer to Butler's concept, as elaborated in Gender Trouble.


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"ME HAB ME REGAN GOWN:" AFRO-CARIBBEAN WOMEN CONTESTING...

Accommodation and resistance were not polar opposites but melded together
and overlapped. In fact, accommodation or the embracing of European
symbols and aesthetics... represented not a desire to be like whites but an
act of escapism that allowed slaves to resist their status as slaves-at least
temporarily... In other words, resistance required accommodation. (106, 140)

Yes, the speaker's desire to wear a Regan gown comes out of an extreme
alienation of productive, reproductive, and imaginative labor that forcefully
attempts to limit her vision of gender as "free" to one model that she is never
supposed to possess -the white ladyness that does, in fact, get to dress up
all week while the enslaved work. Yet the fact that she not only can imagine
another, hybrid version of this hegemonic gender, but can rewire her senses to
make possible the continued performance of her own beautiful womanness even
in the most extreme site of its impossibility -the cane field- reminds Cousin
Cubba and Sisters Susan and Ann that their ongoing wrestling with femininity
is a subversive praxis gracefully masquerading as something else. Indeed, this
speaker demonstrates constant slippage between inside and outside, copy
and challenge, and the remaking and unmaking of hegemonic gender. Her
position contextualizes the Afro-Caribbean womanness that dances all the
way through this song to act as what we might in another language call a
queer gender: one that speaks, dresses, moves, and works radically, explosively
different from how its bearers were ever supposed to be.




Note
I express my deep gratitude to Faith Smith, Matt Richardson, Gayatri
Gopinath, Tania Triana, and Edwin Hill, whose comments on a version of
this paper presented at the Caribbean Studies Association XXXIV Annual
Conference in Kingston, Jamaica, were invaluable in helping me expand this
essay.


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OMISE'EKE NATASHA TINSLEY


Works Cited

Alexander, M. Jacqui. Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual
Politics, Memory, and the Sacred. Durham: Duke UP, 2005. Print.
Anon. "Quaco Sam." Language in Exile: Three Hundred Years ofJamaican
Creole. Ed. Barbara Lalla and Jean D'Costa. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama
P, 1990. 144-145. Print.
Barnes, Natasha. "Prologue: Josephine Beheaded." Cultural Conundrums:
Gender, Race, Nation, and the Making of Caribbean Cultural Politics. U of
Michigan P, 2006. 1-18. Print.
Boa, Sheena. "Young Ladies and Dissolute Women: Conflicting Views of
Culture and Gender in Public Entertainment, Kingstown, St. Vincent,
1838-1888." Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World. Ed.
Pamela Scully and Diana Paton. Durham: Duke UP, 2005. 247-266.
Print.
Buckridge, Steeve. The Language of Dress: Resistance and Accommodation in
Jamaica, 1760-1890. Kingston: U of the West Indies P, 2004. Print.
Bush, Barbara. Slave Women in Caribbean Society. Bloomington: U of Indiana
P, 1990. Print.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge, 1990. Print.
Dayan, Joan. Haiti, History, and the Gods. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995.
Print.
Glissant, Edouard. Poetique de la relation. Paris: Gallimard, 1990. Print.
Kittleson, Roger A. "Women and Notions of Womanhood in Brazilian
Abolitionism." Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World. Ed.
Pamela Scully and Diana Paton. Durham: Duke UP, 2005. 99-120.
Print.
Lalla, Barbara. "Quaco Sam: A Relic of Archaic Jamaican Speech." Jamaica
Journal45 (1981): 20-29. Print.
Lalla, Barbara and Jean D'Costa. Language in Exile: Three Hundred Years of
Jamaican Creole. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1990. Print.
Long, Edward. The History ofJamaica, vol. 2. 1774. New York: Arno P, 1972.
Print.
Mair, Lucille Mathurin. A Historical Study of Women in Jamaica 1655-1844.
Kingston: U of the West Indies P, 2006. Print.


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Newton, Melanie. "Philanthropy, Gender, and the Production of Public Life
in Barbados, ca. 1790-ca. 1850." Gender and Slave Emancipation in the
Atlantic World. Ed. Pamela Scully and Diana Paton. Durham: Duke UP,
2005. 225-246. Print.
Reddock, Rhoda. "Women and Slavery in the Caribbean: A Feminist
Perspective." Latin American Perspectives 12.1 (1985): 63-80. Print.
Scully, Pamela and Diana Paton. "Introduction: Gender and Slave Emancipation
in Comparative Perspective." Gender and Slave Emancipation in the
Atlantic World. Ed. Pamela Scully and Diana Paton. Durham: Duke UP,
2005. 1-34. Print.
Wekker, Gloria. "Mati-ism and Black Lesbianism: Two Ideal Typical
Expressions of Female Homosexuality in Black Communities of the
Diaspora." Classics in Lesbian Studies. Ed. Esther D. Rothblum. London:
Haworth P, 1996. 11-23. Print.


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Post-Colonial Aesthetics: David Dabydeen,
William Hogarth and Anti-Slavery

Sarah Fulford
Artchive UK, Centre for Postcolonial Art


Figure 1: William Hogarth, Harlot's Progress, Plate 2, April 1733. Courtesy Andrew
Edmunds, London.


making up Edward Said's famous imperative to explore the relationship
between culture and imperialism, David Dabydeen demonstrates a
keen interest in art history and the representation of Blacks in British art
(Said 1993). Part of a younger generation of Caribbean British writers who


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





SARAH FULFORD


live permanently in England, Dabydeen's academic work, novels, and poetry
have renewed interest in the British slave trade evident in the British mainstream
media's attention to Whitbread prize winner, Andrea Levy for her recent novel
The Long Song (2010). Dabydeen's writing is suspicious of the ideological context
of European aesthetics through which otherness has been formulated, and his
work is important as it examines and critiques a colonial tradition of slavery. For
example, his thesis, Hogarthi Blacks. Images of Blacks in Eighteenth-century Art,1
was published as a monograph in 1985. This was followed by his Turner poems,
written from 1993 onwards, which came into print in 1995 along with a novel
based on a series of engravings by Hogarth, entitled A Harlot's Progress2 and
published in 1999. What these texts share is the project of questioning the
troubled relation among European aesthetics, the post-colonial artist, and
cultural capital, explicit areas of his work that this essay will explore in detail.
The focus of this essay can be summarised in the following questions: What
difficulties does Dabydeen as a post-colonial artist encounter in his rewriting
of Hogarth's satire, and how much political agency does he achieve? By way
of answering these questions, this essay will investigate how both Dabydeen
and Hogarth exploit moments when the text or visual narrative implicitly
communicate what they do not say explicitly, so as to provide not only satire, but
also a more critical and complex perspective of the slave trade.
In a 1989 interview, Dabydeen made a more personal statement about his
quest to examine European art in relation to the post-colonial artist:

We grew up in the Caribbean without a visual memory. In Guyana I could
never remember seeing any African image apart from the bodies of the
people. There was nothing like African painting in the house, there was
nothing like Indian art in the house. The closest you could get to Indian
images were the pictures of deities. One's visual field was dominated by
Christian, Western images, either by the copies of Constables or the pictures
ofJesus. I decided to have a closer look at these images that in a superficial
way had dominated my childhood. It led me to a deeper inquiry into the
nature of British art [...] The first book was called Hogarth' Blacks. It was
an attempt to highlight those marginal black figures in Hogarth's canvases,
to take them out of the canvases, to examine why they were there, how
they were meshed in with the total narrative, what Hogarth was saying
about the black presence. It was an attempt to show that English art has a
dimension of blackness to it. (Binder 163-4)

1 Hogarth's Blacks will be abbreviated HB for all page references.
2 A Harlot's Progress will be abbreviated AHP for all page references.


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Dabydeen's early childhood was influenced by European art, literature and
a colonial education whereby indigenous cultural forms were either absent
or consigned to a position of marginality. It is important that Dabydeen
recognizes how these were "superficial" images that "dominated" his childhood,
but once he scratches the surface, he discovers hidden depths of tyranny.
Dabydeen trains his eye upon what is seemingly unimportant within colonial
representation, such as the occasional moment when a black face appears on
the canvas of a European master, turning to Hogarth as one of the few British
artists who was painting Blacks in such a way as to provide not only a degree
of representation, but also a form of social criticism.
Dabydeen's novel, A Harlot's Progress, focuses on Hogarth's engravings
of 1732, and bears the same ironic title whereby the so-called progress of
commercial culture is presented as moral and physical decay. The story centres
on Moll Hackabout, a Yorkshire country virgin who arrives in the city in search
of work only to be seduced by its commercialism as she is transformed into a
diseased prostitute and eventually destroyed. In Hogarth' Blacks, Dabydeen
draws an explicit parallel between Moll's role as a prostitute and her position
as a slave. He refers to Plate 1 of Hogarth's sequence when Moll arrives
in town to be greeted by the historical figures Mother Needham, a leading
brothel-keeper, and Colonel Charteris and his pimp John Gourlay (Charteris
10). Dabydeen is fascinated by "popular pamphlets on Charteris' life and
deeds" and the "system of organising pimps to procure innocent country
virgins for his consumption" since he views these transactions of humanity
"in terms of the trade in African slaves." Astutely he notes how "the pimps
are like 'factors' employed by the slave merchant, they are 'Procurators and
Purveyors for Flesh'" (HB 101).
Seventeen ninety-two is also the year that a Royal Charter was granted
for the settlement of Georgia and with this in mind, Dabydeen argues that the
colonial dimension of Hogarth's Harlot's Progress is essential to understanding
his engravings (Gundara 49). These engravings were created at a time of
growing imperial expansion and immigration, which lead to an increased
presence of West Africans in the city of London, who were at the time referred
to somewhat loosely as "Moors." 3 But rather than keep Moll at the centre of his

3 In 1710 a German visitor observed that "there are, in fact, such a quantity of Moors of
both sexes in England that I have not seen before," a statement cited in the introduction
to Hogarth's Blacks (18), and in Katharine E. Gilbert and Helmut Kuhn, A History of
Esthetics (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood P, 1972) p. 266.


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SARAH FULFORD


own narrative account of Hogarth's prints, Dabydeen focuses on the marginal
figure of the Black boy dressed up as a European page who is situated, like the
monkey, in the foreground and at the edge of Plate 2 (Fig. 1 above), and who
is given central status, as in the illustration for the title page of 'Part I' of his
novel (AHP 9). In doing this, Dabydeen rereads Hogarth in such a way that
the focus of the original satire becomes redirected to shift the emphasis and
the object of critique: the black servant, forced into a life of colonial mimicry,
is made the protagonist and narrator of the novel (Bhabha 85). The role of
this narrator (whose name is subject to revision as he is named differently by
each owner respectively as Mungo, Noah, and Perseus) is to tell his story to
the abolitionist, Mr. Pringle (204). But can this marginalised African boy
really have a voice?
At the beginning of Mungo's story we learn that Mungo, a former slave, is
presented as "master of the situation" (1), meaning that he thinks his position
as narrator gives him some control over the story that the abolitionist notates.
Of course, Mr. Pringle can be connected with the Secretary of the Anti-Slavery
Movement,Thomas Pringle, who employed Mary Prince, a Bermudian woman
born into slavery, to provide the first account of a Black woman published in
England in The History ofMary Prince (1831), which served to galvanise the
abolitionist's argument for the emancipation of all slaves. However, Mary
Prince's narrative was copied down by Susanna Strickland, not Pringle,
although he was involved in publishing the text. Interestingly, in Dabydeen's
text, the righteous abolitionist Pringle is regarded with some suspicion.
For instance, with some bravado, Mungo asserts that memoryoy don't
bother me, that's why I don't tell Mr Pringle anything. I can change memory,
like I can change my posture [...]" (2). Our narrator is unreliable and since
he cannot trust the white man, Pringle, to reliably represent his story, he will
tell him only what he wants to hear. In this way, any notion of an accurate ac-
count or authentic written history is undercut from the start when Dabydeen
describes Mungo as "a ruined archive" who must be restored by Pringle, whose
role is to transform his insufficient narrative and smooth his ungrammatical
speech into "eloquence." Clearly, Dabydeen has little faith in European "elo-
quence," the reliability of memory and the usefulness of a white man writing
a slave's oral history. The book purports to be "a record in the Negro's own
words" since "the book Mr Pringle intends to write will be Mungo's portrait
in the first person narrative" (3). But this portrait cannot be truly represented
because before it even reaches a larger audience, Mungo's perspective must


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be mediated and rewritten by Pringle. Through the dynamic of Mungo's
so-called "first person narrative," Dabydeen highlights the difficulties of the
subaltern speech manifesting in colonial representation in a way that is com-
parable with Hogarth's silent representations of Africans that, nevertheless,
speak volumes.
Throughout the novel, Dabydeen chooses to purposefully slide between a
first-person narrator and a third-person narrator who may sometimes be the
protagonist himself, so as to question the assumption that the Black slave can
possess an authentic voice within the colonial narrative. In a self-referential
move, Dabydeen aligns his position as the teller of Mungo's story with the
position of Pringle, whose only real

[...] source of information is Hogarth's portrait of Mungo as a boy-slave to
the harlot Moll Hackabout. Some thirty years have elapsed since Hogarth's
celebrated print, and Mungo has disappeared from memory. Only by the
most dedicated effort of the Abolition Committee, in compiling a census
of London's blacks, has Mungo been unveiled. Mr Pringle's resolve is to
make him visible again [...] (6)

As a well-known Black British writer working within a university context,
Dabydeen is self-conscious not only of his historical distance from Mungo,
but also his economic and cultural differences as a literate professor in the
pay of the educational establishment. However, as Dabydeen implies, there
may be similarities between himself as a writer and Pringle as an Abolitionist
scribe, his very self-consciousness provides him with a critical distance which
he can draw on throughout the narrative.
Referring to Plate 2 of Hogarth's sequence, the third-person narrator
situates his novel in the 1760s and he fearfully suggests that as he tells the
story behind Mungo's portrait, he is involved in an act of making him visible,
which may also make him invisible again. Worse still, is the narrator's anxiety
that he, like Pringle, is closer to the slave traders than he imagines, as he may
share the desire simply for finding a savage to transform within the narrative,
to "wash the Aethiop white," purge him of his colour, or make him a blank (6).
This is clearly not what motivates Dabydeen, but he rehearses these anxieties
at the beginning of his novel, perhaps to alert the reader to the complexities
of writing a story claiming to be taken from an oral testimony so as to make
readers more aware of the critical choices they make as they interpret it.
Paradoxically, by articulating these fears from the start, Dabydeen clears the


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SARAH FULFORD


ground for readers to trust the critical weight of his intentions later; he makes
himself a more reliable writer by probing his role as a novelist. Moreover, as
he criticises the colonial presumption that the African's oral history can easily
be written down by the White abolitionist, Dabydeen endeavours to make us
listen or read more intently, just as Hogarth forces us to look more carefully at
what exactly is being represented or occluded.
At the end of the novel, the narration is put under more critical pressure
by the dead slave Ellar who, resurfacing as a rebellious spirit of an African
past, questions Perseus' (or Mungo's) move to whitewash her story so as to
provide something that is aesthetically pleasing for his readers. She asks:

"But how can you say that my lips and face and body are gorgeous from all
the blows I took? Are you wanting to excuse what they did to us, and excuse
yourself too?"
"I was praising you, I was saying that in spite of all you remained beautiful
within."
"But I didn't," Ellar persists. "Outside I was covered in my own shit and
inside too. I couldn't take the lash any more, I just gave up and died. And still
the sailor continued to do it to me, can you believe? What are these people
made of, that they sleep with the dead?"
Perseus is stilled by her outrage but he knows he cannot write it, for fear
of alienating his readers. (256)

Although Ellar's story is written here, the possibility of any book to represent
what has been misrepresented and what is so horrific it is beyond representation
is undermined. Moreover, the last thing on Perseus' mind is the emancipation
of his brethren; unlike Mr. Pringle, he is not "foolish enough to believe that a
single book will alter the course of history" (256). Here, the text must appeal to
its readership, albeit as a broken commodity, something bought and sold, since
culture is no less subject to the demands of capitalism than any other industry.
As Elizabeth Wallace observes, this is suggested even in the design of the first
edition whereby the "paperback cover is unevenly laminated to imitate broken
glass, but so convincingly that the book looks damaged" (239). Hence, from
the start, the aesthetic product is presented as damaged goods that are brought
into being for profit as a commodity within the culture industry. Perseus is
quick to realise that readers "can refuse to buy my book, and I'll starve" (256).
In another self-referential move, Dabydeen reminds readers that Mungo is
singing for his supper and his song must please the ears of his audience. In
view of the politics and economics of representation, Dabydeen implicitly asks


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how it is possible for the Black British writer to sabotage the master text, but
by deliberately presenting his work as damaged goods he begins to answer this
question before the reader even opens the cover page.
In Hogarth' Blacks Dabydeen's role as art critic allows him to effectively
undermine colonial representation as he attends to the dynamics of European
aesthetics. Drawing our attention to the proliferation of images of Blacks in
the modern metropolis, Dabydeen refers to "one of the commonest motifs,"
the signboard bearing tobacco advertisements depicting the "Blackamoor's
Head" as in "Marshall's Tobacco Tradecard," to argue that "London in the
eighteenth-century was visually black in this respect" (18). Participating in
White society, Black people appear in hundreds of paintings as "English ladies
posed for their portraits with either their pet lamb, their pet lap dog and their
pet black" (23). Particularly interesting is his discussion of Bartholomew
Dandridge's (c.1751) Young Girl with Dog and Negro Boy (n.d.) where the
"black and the dog are mirror images of one another" (26). This picture is
haunting as a "hierarchy of power relationships is being revealed: the superior
white (superior in social and human terms) is surrounded by inferior creatures,
the black and the dog, which share more or less the same status." (26). Both
dog and Black servant are situated below the White child in positions of
subservience. The Black servant's features are almost indistinguishable, and
are used to set off the Whiteness of the blonde child who is dressed in pale and
delicate fabrics. Positioned as inferior subhuman beings, the paintings reflect
the dominant ideology of the day whereby "the moral justification of the slave
trade rested largely on the refusal to classify the black as a human being" (30).
In this picture, the slave trade and growing imperial acquisition have an acute
impact on the politics of representation.
Moreover, Dabydeen draws our attention to the differences between
the British context of the Dandridge painting in the eighteenth-century
and an earlier tradition of European religious art where "the black Magus
is a dignified, regal figure, splendidly apparelled and bearing rich gifts" (HB
36). He observes how the magus stand "proudly and upright before or beside
Mary" (HB 36). Surprised by the stark contrast between medieval and post-
medieval European art, Dabydeen quite rightly draws our attention to the
representation of the Magus:

In some paintings he dominates the scene, his energy and upright stance
contrasting sharply with the elderly, feeble and kneeling white Magi. He is of
equal human status with his fellow white, and he confronts Mary, the white


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SARAH FULFORD


woman, on a basis of equality. By the era of the slave trade this image has been
debased, with the black reduced to feeble impotence. (HB 36)

For example, in A Harlot's Progress, when Perseus meets a much celebrated
Black page, imagined to be a famous subject from a portrait by Sir Joshua
Reynolds (1723-92) of the Cardew family, he is "serving chocolate to the
gathering" (219). As Bernadette Fort has noticed, this moment mirrors
events in an engraving called "The Toilette" which is scene four of Hogarth's
Marriage A-La-Mode (1745), where a Black page is shown serving chocolate
to debauched Whites who are surrounded by expensive objets d'art. pictures
of mythical rape, exotic items acquired at auction, Chinese dolls, and a screen
depicting a Turkish masquerade (Fort 3, 30-7). Perseus describes this moment
in A Harlots Progress: "Lady Cardew had him attired in true finery for the
occasion and made him put on his most dignified face as he served, to show
the quality of his devotion to them" (219). His movements of "quiet dignity"
convey a "perfect stillness" so that it is as if Perseus is "at a dumb show, or
witnessing some pageant of ghosts. He begins to doubt their existence as he
begins to doubt his own" (219). The page may be present in the painting, but
in such a mannered and static way that it is as if he has no life. At best he is
merely a symbol of social status for the Whites who have their portraits painted
with him as they are shown enjoying chocolate, a commodity imported from
the colonies, served by another colonial commodity, the Black servant they
have bought at auction. Reynolds's painting is another stage in this process of
commodification whereby aesthetic tastes (from the chocolate to the done-up
Black boy) are governed by colonialism. In view of this, it is not surprising that
Mungo (aka Noah and Perseus) is taken "like a dutiful pup" to Johnson's Coffee
House to be auctioned-off(158). The interior of the coffee-house is described
metaphorically "as infernal as the slaveship's hold" (163). Mungo is bought
along with a painting by Lord Montague, an art dealer whose character in
the novel is based upon the historical Duke Montagu's purchasing of Ignatius
Sancho. Pleased with his purchases, Montague tucks his work of art and his
new servant into his coach and heads home (174). Markman Ellis discusses
how Sancho was painted by Gainsborough in 1768 and Sancho's face was
used to advertise his very own brand of tobacco, "Sancho's Own" (Ellis 80).
As "print shops in Cheapside are emblazoned with images" (Dabydeen 34) of
slavery, high and low art forms alike are mimetically marked by the burgeoning
slave trade, and the paintings and slaves are sold under the same roof.


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Montague's home is crammed full with foreign artefacts as we see when
Mungo (now renamed Perseus by his imperial master) returns to his new home
as an artefactt" who is as "distant as an African mask or carving." Montague,
who tends to prefer "the delicacy of things Chinese," worries whether his
impulsive African buy is a mistake (200). Perseus tells of Montague's role as
a discriminating collector:

He was always out of England in places with names that sound like Lizbon
and Kallay and Florence, for the King send him all over the world to sign
treaty or sue for peace. And that's how his house full ofJesu paintings and
Greek stone and Chinee porcelain for he collect from wherever he go, so that
if you walk in, whether you be Turk or Christian gentlemen you feel straight
away at home. (181)

As an imperial collector, Montague's civilised lifestyle is based upon slavery.
The Montagues are described as Roman in their behaviour: on special Roman
Nights they throw parties where their servants are attired in Roman costume
and everything is cooked in clay pots. The house of Montague is the typical
stately home:

His house, adorned with the finest Old Masters from Europe and treasures
from the East, was a display of England's universality. He could expiate on
the virtues of Chinese Opera with the same breadth of learning as he could
discuss the brushstroke of an Italian artist. Civilised men from whatever part
of the world could find an excellent example of culture in his household, and
therefore be reassured that he was a man of true catholic taste [...] (187)

Mimicking the rhetoric of Montague's discourse about civilisation,
Perseus chooses his words carefully to describe "universality" and Catholicc"
tastes, which become euphemisms for imperial plunder. These words echo
David Hume's essay "Of the Standard of Taste" (1757) where he refers to a
Catholicc and universal beauty" in his discourse on aesthetics to argue that the
"same Homer that pleased at Athens and Rome two thousand years ago, is still
admired at Paris and London" (232). Imperial civilisation, whether Roman,
Greek or British, bears standards of taste that are based upon barbarism. As
Allan Ramsay commented in 1762, the eighteenth-century revival of Classical
or Roman architecture is financed by colonial wealth (HB 90).4 In mocking
the sentimental "civility" of the Montagues, Dabydeen is aiming at the real

4 Dabydeen provides no primary citation for this reference in Hogarth's Blacks.


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SARAH FULFORD


Montagues, a family of abolitionists and friends of Wilberforce who employed
Africans as servants rather than slaves, but in so doing fell into the usual
White liberal trap of hypocrisy (Ellis 49-86). In the new British Empire,
the eighteenth-century man of taste has a house filled with treasures but he is
ethically bankrupt. Rather than create anything of his own, he is filled with
the capitalist desire only to acquire. Art is used as a form of cultural capital
and as Pierre Bourdieu has taught us, taste is a form of social recognition or
distinction (2).
Perseus' reflection on Lady Montague's piano music is equally telling as he
describes sheet music, depicting

[...] bubbles trapped between lines, some black, some clear, and later when I
come to know whitepeople ways better I learn that each bubble is a sound on
its own, padlocked to it own line. And that is why I accept my slavery, for only
when you are padlocked and meeting death do you sing as I do now for Mr
Pringle, look how he heed my breath, straining to note everything I say, full
of worry if he think he miss a remark, a crotchet or breve. He write down my
bubbles on his page and make of me a memorable song [...] (183)

The Black notes on the stave or musical staff are captured like slaves padlocked
into the hold of a slave ship. The neat bars of classical music contrasts with
the desperate cries of the imprisoned slaves' songs aboard ship, but this is
also a song of the dead, an imperial civilisation in decline making "the quiet-
quiet music of their own dying" (183). Rather like Edward Said in Culture
and Imperialism, Dabydeen is keen to emphasise how whether the art form is
painting or music, European aesthetics are shown to be steeped in subjection
as culture and colonialism are entwined (Said 1993).
Dabydeen takes this further in his portrayal of the new English merchant
classes and their trips abroad as they desire greater and greater exoticism;
bitten by capitalist acquisition, their thirst for more and more fulfilment
is heightened. Yet their increased consumption reduces their ability to be
touched by experience, as is the case with Lady Montague:

He strove for more and more exotic things to amuse her. A gorgeous parrot,
bought at a Spanish port, kept her company for many years, until it lost its
tongue and succumbed to age; then she had a monkey from North Africa,
its teeth filed, its claws softened in honey and a silver collar embellishing its
neck. It too died, and another amusement was needed to mark the beginning
of their third decade of marriage. He had long resisted the idea of a pet Negro
[...] (188)


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The silver collar worn by Medusa, the pet monkey who is carefully tamed, is
secured firmly to Mungo's neck as he too is put under padlock and faces the
silence endured by the parrot.
When Montague first sees the "advertisement for Mungo" it is

[...] juxtaposed with one of the sale ofMantegna's Pieti? Was it the description
of Mungo as 'unblemished' and of 'uncommon dignity', in spite of the 'scars'
and the act of being 'blooded'? Like the exact image of Christ, His beauty
barely surviving torture at the hands of men? Lord Montague had a fleeting
sense of the Crucifixion as no more than a sale, the death of Christ not a deed
of the most enormous and permanent consequence but a strategy for making
quick money for a cabal of tradesmen, like the Bubble schemes hatched daily
in the City. Could everything be so stripped of sacredness and made subject
to barter and exchange? (189-90)

If the South Sea Bubble can be punctured, then maybe "the Christian
order that informed England's civilization" (190) could also collapse. This
civilisation is shown explicitly to be based upon an aesthetics of violence and
sadism whereby the body of Christ is simultaneously a symbol of culture and
a fetishised image of beauty as suffering:

And all over the walls ofmansions and palaces, pictures ofJesus with a bloody brow;
Jesus dripping from a Cross;Jesus staining his winding cloth. Like England obsessed
with blood or what? And yet little of it you actually see in the households ofproper
folk! It' all in thepaintings and the words. (ital. in original 205)

As blood runs overseas but not at home, Dabydeen explicitly notices a
connection that can be made between European art, Christianity, colonialism
and slavery as they create a Yeatsian "terrible beauty" whereby aesthetics are
inextricably tied to suffering (15-16).
It is precisely this formulation of beauty within European aesthetics
that Dabydeen via Hogarth hopes to challenge. Writing the manuscripts
for his Analysis of Beauty from the 1750s onwards, Hogarth challenged the
ideological basis of aesthetics. He suggested that "the fair young girl, the
brown old man, and the negro; nay, all mankind, have the same appearance,
and are alike disagreeable to the eye, when the upper skin is taken away" (114
qtd. in Bindman 268). Dabydeen's Hogarth' Blacks is particularly interested
in Hogarth's argument that judgements about beauty depend upon "custom,
Fashion, perswasion and delusion":


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SARAH FULFORD


[...] the most remarkable instance, that is given in support of this is, that the
Negro who finds great beauty in the black Females of his own country, may
find as much deformity in the european Beauty as we see in theirs. (Hogarth
189 qtd. in HB 41).

If beauty is "dependent on national considerations" (41), then it is possible
that the assumptions of European aesthetics can be undermined or shown to
be affected by politics rather than a universal ideal.
The lure of national culture in the appreciation of art is satirised by Dabydeen
in A HarlotI Progress. Captain Thistlewood is "a keeper of paintings" (67) but
they are of an inferior quality and their main function is to remind him of home.
Depicting the landscape of a lost Albion, these paintings are nothing to Mungo
who declares "all they are, dreams of blue" (69), meaning perhaps that Thistle-
wood worships what is insubstantial and unreal or, if we are to take a political
reading of the colour blue, that Thistlewood sees England entirely through a Tory
lens. Thistlewood's collection of "cheap art" moves him "to tears," but they leave
Mungo cold as he looks at them whilst being abused by Thistlewood, the
paedophile with an aesthetic sensibility. There is something childish and sen-
timental about Thistlewood, the misty-eyed torturer. Within Mungo's nar-
rative, Thistlewood's violent perversion becomes inextricably linked with the
aesthetic as he views the abused slave boys as though they are paintings, which
is perhaps comparable with Lord Montague in the coffee house:

He was deeply affected by the loss of his creatures, and could barely bring
himself to countenance the bodies warped with fever; warped canvases slipped
from their frames; fevers having melted their surfaces and depths so that the
deck swam in the blue oil of a ruptured liver, the vermilion of a ruptured
spleen. (50)

Thistelwood's perverse brutality is not in contradiction with his aesthetic
sensibility, but a part of it (Wallace 245). Aesthetic value is inextricably linked
with the brutality of a society grown fat on slavery.
Throughout Dabydeen's novel, what is taken to be the most civilised is
shown to be the most savage. In Hogarth' Blacks, he draws our attention
to how, for the English, "it was a frequent practice to compare London to
an African jungle to 'a land of barbarians, a colony of hottentots'" (64).5 The

5 Dabydeen source is Gentleman's Magazine, April 1742, cited by James Clifford in "Some
Aspects of London Life in the Mid-Eighteenth-century," City and Society in the Eight-
eenth-century, ed., P. Fritz and D. Williams (Toronto: University Press, 1973), p. 34.


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multiculturalism of London is viewed as a chaotic and exotic threat by landed
gentry from the quieter provinces. This view of London is parodied and
inverted in A Harlot's Progress when Betty takes Mungo to be auctioned; his
"first tour of London" introduces him to people who look "as if recovering
from famine" who may or may not be eating "stewed Negro." For Mungo,
it is the English who are savages and cannibals. Mungo presents himself as
far more learned than all of them put together as his knowledge has come to
him in Africa via the Greeks. Dabydeen's draws on John Winstanley who
notoriously published in 1732 a "paean" celebrating primitivism in the face of a
corrupt civilisation (113). This is the same year that Hogarth's Harlot' Progress
appeared. As in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), Hogarth criticises
the assumption that the English are more civil than the so-called savages.
In A Harlot' Progress, forms of European "high" culture are shown to be as
primitive as they are refined. The eighteenth-century equation between taste,
beauty, sensibility, civilisation and universality is rendered at best ideological.
The tensions expressed by David Hume and Immanuel Kant's arguments on
aesthetics are put under pressure as the appearance of beauty for the delicate
and cultivated person (and here we should read "man") of taste is shown to be
anything but disinterested as it is founded upon and against difference.
Throughout Dabydeen's novel the "craving for sensual experience" is
connected with aesthetic pleasure and shown to be heightened "in a world
of commodified human experience," suggesting that an aesthetic sensibility
can be driven by perverted pleasures of the flesh which are in turn fuelled
by capitalism or trade (Wallace 247). In Hogarth' Blacks, Dabydeen asks
why so many White women were "fond of possessing little black boys what
psychological and sexual politics and neuroses were at play in the English
boudoir or bedroom?" (39). Referring to Hogarth's etching Taste in High Life
(1746), he shows how the artist mocks the standards of taste held by eighteenth-
century men and women to indicate the "savagery of the aristocracy" (80).
This painting raises questions about "the lady's seductive gesture to the little
black boy" as she cups his chin in her hand while he is perched practically on
her lap. Following this theme of colonial desire, Dabydeen's AHarlot Progress
shows how Lady Montague's feelings for Perseus slip between the maternal
and the sexual:

Lady Montague is aware of a mistiness in the boy's stare, and is discomforted
by it; the same discomfiture that women of her rank avoided by handing over
their babies to be suckled on hired breasts. She makes a wrong stitch, and in


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SARAH FULFORD


attempting to unpick it, pricks her finger. She takes up her lace handkerchief
and dabs the blood. (203-4)

The motherless Perseus has the potential to be a surrogate son or a new
lover as he causes her to soil the handkerchief her husband gave her as a token
of his love. Unused to discomfort, Lady Montague thinks of Perseus and is
inexplicably penetrated, blood is drawn and so a symbol of her marriage is
feebly used to mop up the mess. Lady Montague's desire for Perseus grows
more uncontrollable and so she tries to "control herself, by schooling him in
the ways of the civilised": "But at nights, he will visit her in dreams of such
adventure that she will not recognize herself in them, her trespassing beyond
the bounds of permitted aspirations" (223). Schooling him in Latin odes
and music lessons, he learns "the arts of civilisation." Ironically, these arts are
taught to Perseus to quell Lady Montague's misplaced desire for the boy, and
so once again aesthetics are understood in terms of a perverted sexuality.
As the slaves are used as objects of aesthetic and sexual pleasure, Dabydeen
recalls Wilson Harris's remark about "the pornography of empire," "meaning
the perverse eroticism of black labor and the fantasy of domination, bondage
and sadomasochism." He cites the Thistlewood Diaries, written by a historical
figure bearing the same name as his slaver, Thomas Thistlewood, "a small
landowner in Jamaica during the eighteenth-century," to argue that the British
Empire "was as much a pornographic as an economic project" (Dabydeen in
Ricks 13). As Robert Young concludes in his book ColonialDesire:

[...] it is clear that the forms of sexual exchange brought about by colonialism
were themselves both mirrors and consequences of the modes of economic
exchange that constituted the basis of colonial relations [...] The history of the
meanings of the word "commerce" includes the exchange both of merchandise
and of bodies in sexual intercourse [...] Perhaps this begins to explain why
our own forms of racism remain so intimately bound up with sexuality and
desire. (181-82)

In A Harlot' Progress, Mungo confuses the infliction of pain with love
and mistakes punishment for kindness. Thistlewood's language mixes the
aestheticised violence of Christianity with sadomasochism:

Only Ican save you, he say, slap my face and draw blood, pin me to the bed and with
a cry and thrust fix me to his lap where I writhe like a drawn eel. He draws sin like
eels from the mud and deep of me. (ital. in original 56)


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POST-COLONIAL AESTHETICS


This is a discourse that dwells on sin, punishment and salvation as the biblical
becomes sexual. Later in the novel, the younger slaves are shown to have in-
ternalised the sadomasochism taught to them by their colonial masters which
begs the horrible question of whether readers are at risk ofinternalising it, too.
One of the slaves, Baju, declares: "'I miss the whippings most,"' thus "return-
ing them to obscenity" (140). Elsewhere, the Hegelian dialectic of master and
slave is reversed as Mungo imagines that he is in control of his abuser:

He beat me manfully but only to resist his growing love for me, his
collapsing heart, which, as each day passed, weakened him to the condition
of a woman. I came to possess him, even as I yielded to him [...] (112)

Here, the homoeroticism of Mungo's description inverts neat gender distinc-
tions and so the "master" is feminised by his "manful" beatings. Dabydeen's
reversal of the power dynamics would seem liberating, except if we push this
metaphor to its logical conclusion to suggest the child possesses the adult even
as he submits to him. This is a reading of paedophilia that does not in anyway
work and has perhaps more to do with Mungo's brave refusal to be seen as a
victim than any reality.
The depravity Dabydeen describes leaves readers looking desperately for
an antidote, but no cure is provided and this is worrying. If we are to believe
Ancient Greek tragedians who supposed that dramatically airing the most
depraved aspects of human behaviour could somehow be cathartic, Dabydeen
may have achieved his aim of bearing witness to the darkest energies of
colonialism within the "saved" space of culture. But any notion of culture
being "saved," "pure," or "higher" is rendered obsolete by Dabydeen's stringent
investigation of European aesthetics. At best we are left with the broken
commodity presented on the front page of Dabydeen's novel; a culture that
is flawed from start to finish. Nevertheless, a critic's role is to intellectualise
or rationalise these atrocities, but for the first time in my critical career, I find
myself shrinking from quoting in full certain passages from Dabydeen's text,
and wondering whether literary debate can be an adequate response to such
brutality. Is discussion better than silence? If the Ancient Greeks believed that
culture can provide a purgative form of therapy, then this provokes a question
that must surely haunt the psychotherapist: Does retelling stories of abuse
provide healing or more pain for the abused, and is there the danger that the
retelling might in some way satisfy the morbid curiosity of the witness and so


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





SARAH FULFORD


bring about a ghastly form of voyeurism?
The reader's role as a voyeur and consumer of Dabydeen's own aesthetic
is an extremely uncomfortable one that raises the question of whether his
appallingly explicit texts are teaching readers to love or hate torture. One
would hope that it is the latter. The overriding implication of Dabydeen's
literary voyeurism is that colonial violence is transformed into an aesthetic
product, which is consumed by the onlooker or reader who is rendered
complicit with the sensationalism by her/his positioning as a voyeur. But
whether the viewer is complicit with the "pornography of Empire" depends on
whether s/he is able to challenge it. As Elizabeth Wallace suggests, "Mungo
knows that Pringle wants him to tell the tale of the slave ship's horrors, thereby
allowing him a vicarious, sadistic pleasure in the scene of suffering" (248).
Readers are told Mungo's story, but they are also unwillingly put into the
position of the vicarious Pringle, whilst being encouraged to self-consciously
question the sadism involved in representing this subject matter. We can only
hope that the latter critical aim wins although, as with any torture scene that
is stylised, it seems a risky business for any author to engage in. In this way,
Dabydeen is both complicit with and critical of the pornography of empire.
But taking this risk, Dabydeen raises important questions about the role of art
within European culture and undermines the value of aesthetic taste as a basis
for civilisation since the aesthetic is shown to be commodified by the capitalist
forces of desire that fuel the slave trade.
A Harlots Progress does not let Hogarth off the hook either, as Mungo asks
how guilty the painter is of creating colonial pornography. In representing
slavery, does Hogarth reaffirm it or criticise it? As Hogarth's image of Mungo
becomes famous, pirate copies appear that sensationalise him and Moll: "They
showed us in a tavern stinking of sweat and tallow, a picture of moral ruin"
(274). While otherhr prints didn't bother to give their contents a playful
turn. They appealed directly to the pornographic eye" (275). It is therefore
not surprising when we learn in Hogarth's Blacks that the slave-owner, William
Beckford, bought Hogarth's engravings of Harlot's Progress; this suggests his
misunderstanding of Hogarth's satirical purpose in using Black figures, but
also hints at the burden of representation, as Dabydeen asks whether Hogarth
resisted or reinforced racism (131).
At the end of the novel, Mungo begins to doubt Hogarth's prints: "Yet for
all the seeming realism of his art, he lied" (AHP 272). When Hogarth visits
Mungo and Moll for the first time, he "promised to represent us in the best light,


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POST-COLONIAL AESTHETICS


to immortalize us by his art" (AHP 271-72). But Mungo feels that the artist
has let them both down and so undermines any notion of a true or authentic
mode of representation. If Mungo is a literary mask for the real man Ignatius
Sancho, then the implication is that his life presented in art and published by
British printers may be immortalised, but it is inevitably warped. Perhaps this
is what lies behind Moll's instinct to disfigure art as she cheerfully vandalises
the artefacts in Montague's stately home (267). If the subaltern cannot be
positively represented, then why not become an iconoclast? Considering the
sickening hell lurking within and around the colonial aesthetic product, Moll
and other onlookers may be tempted to destroy what the artist has created.
However, it is not only the artist's subject who struggles for emancipation,
since neither is the artist free as s/he produces the artefact for various patrons.
In fact, a number of Hogarth's wealthy sitters were connected to the Royal
African Company. An example of this is found in Hogarth's 1729 painting
of Captain Woodes Rogers and Family, which depicts the man who discovered
Alexander Selkrik on the South Pacific island ofJuan Fernandez near Chile in
1708 and who became Governor of the Bahamas. Captain Woodes Rogers is
depicted beside a globe in the foreground with what could well be a slave ship
in the background. In the 1730s, Hogarth's patrons included the Webster,
Ashley and Popple families who had connections with slave trading. As David
Bindman concludes: "Hogarth then must have mixed in circles in which
plantation slavery was discussed as a trade like any other" (263). Whereas
Bindman assumes that Hogarth must have wholeheartedly internalised the
ideologies of racism that are integral to eighteenth-century culture, Dabydeen
allows for the possibilities of both Hogarth's complicity with colonialism and
his resistance against ideological interpellation. This is one of the few hopeful
possibilities offered to Dabydeen's nauseated readers.
In Hogarth's Blacks, Dabydeen recalls how Hogarth

[...] uses the metaphor of slavery in describing his own condition as an
artist. He describes the way artists are "oppress'd by the Tyranny of the Rich,"
meaning the wealthy businesses who dominated the print selling trade. Artists
are "kept Day and Night at Work at miserable Prices whilst the overgrown
Shopkeeper has the main Profit of their Labour." Various means are employed
"to suppress any Rebellion against the Monopoly of the Rich," and the artist
is never "suffered to Thrive, or grow Rich, lest he should grow out of their
Power." The situation amounts to a "Scene of Slavery in a Country that boasts
of the Liberty of even the meanest of its Inhabitants."6 (132)


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics






SARAH FULFORD


The questions raised by Hogarth's assertions are important ones: Can the
artist ever be free from the grip of capitalist ideology? Can the artist, unlike
Moll Hackabout, resist becoming a prostitute to his patrons? Can culture be
understood apart from imperialism? As we have seen, the resounding answer
to these questions that is provided in Hogarth's prints and Dabydeen's novel
can only be made in the negative. Yet their very critique of the culture before
them provide a faint, albeit compromised, trace of optimism not only for
their disillusioned characters Moll and Mungo, but also for their respective
audiences.

































6 Dabydeeen refers to The Case ofDesigners, Engravers, Etchers, etc., Stated in an Letter to
a Member ofParliament (1734/5).


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POST-COLONIAL AESTHETICS


Works Cited

Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction:A Social Critique ofthe Judgement ofTaste. Trans.
Richard Nice. London: Routledge, 1979. Print.
Bhabha, Homi. "Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial
Discourse." The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. 85-92.
Print.
Binder, Wolfgang. "Interview with David Dabydeen, 1989" The Art ofDavid
Dabydeen. Ed. Kevin Grant Leeds. Leeds: Peepal Tree, 1997: 159-76.
Print.
Bindman, David, "'A Voluptuous Alliance between Africa and Europe:
Hogarth's Africans." Fort and Rosenthal. 260-269. Print.
Charteris, Colonel. Some Authentic Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Charteris.
London: N.p., 1730. Print.
Chancellor, E. Beresford, Colonel Charteris and the Duke of Wharton. Vol. 3.
The Lives ofRakes. London: Philip Allan & Co., 1925. Print.
Clifford, James. "Some Aspects of London Life in the Mid-Eighteenth-
century." City and Society in the Eighteenth-century. Eds. Fritz and D.
Williams. Toronto: University of Toronto P, 1973. 30-45. Print.
Dabydeen, David, Hogarth' Blacks: Images ofBlacks in Eighteenth-century Art.
Kingston-upon-Thames: Dangaroo, 1985. Print.
---. "Hogarth and the South Sea Bubble." Hogarth, Walpole and Commercial
Britain. Hertford: Hansib Publishing, 1987. 73-159. Print.
--. "On Not Being Milton: Nigger Talk in England Today." The State of
Language. Eds. Christopher Ricks and Leonard Michaels. London:
Faber, 1990. 3-14. Print.
--. "Black People in Hogarth's Criticism of English Culture." Essays on the
History of Blacks in Britain. Eds. Jagdish S. Gundara and Ian Duffield.
Aldershot: Ashgate, 1992. 30-57. Print.
-. A Harlots Progress. London: Cape, 1999. Print.
---.Turner: New and Selected Poems. Leeds: Peepal Tree, 2002. Print.
Dandridge, Bartholomew. Young Girl with Dog and Negro Boy. N.d., active
1711-1751. Oil on canvas. Yale Centre for British Art.
Ellis, Markman. "The House of Bondage: Sentimentalism and the Problem
of Slavery." The Politics of Sensibility: Race, Gender and Commerce in the
SentimentalNovel. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. 49-86. Print.


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Fort, Bernadette. "The analysis of difference." Fort and Rosenthal. 3-13.
Print.
Fort, Bernadette, and Rosenthal, Angela. The Other Hogarth: Aesthetics of
Difference. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001. Print.
Gentleman' Magazine, April 1742. Print.
Gilbert, Katharine E. and Helmut Kuhn. A History of Esthetics. Westport,
Connecticut: Greenwood P, 1972. Print.
Hogarth, William. Captain Rogers and his Family. 1729. Oil on canvas.
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK.
---. Harlots Progress. 1732. Engravings. British Museum, London. 1858-4-
17-541. Paulson Catalogue, No. 121. Print.
--. Marriage-A-La-Mode. 1743. Oil on canvas. National Gallery, London.
--. Marriage-A-La-Mode. 1745. Engravings. Invented and painted by the
artist. Engraved by various hands.
-Taste in High Life. 1746. Etching. The Victoria and Albert Museum,
London.
--.The Analysis of Beauty. Ed. Joseph Burke. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1955.
Print.
Hume, David. Essays Moral, Political, and Literary. Ed. Eugene F. Miller.
Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1985. Print.
--. A Treatise of Human Nature. Ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge. Oxford: Oxford UP,
1978. Print.
Kant, Immanuel. Critique ofJudgement. [1790.] Trans.J. C. Meredith. Oxford:
Clarendon, 1928. Print.
Levy, Andrea. The Long Song. London: Headline Review, 2010. Print.
Ricks, Christopher and Leonard Michaels, eds. The State ofLanguage. London:
Faber, 1990. Print.
Said, Edward. Culture andImperialism. London: Vintage, 1993. Print.
Wallace, Elizabeth Kowaleski. "Telling Untold Stories: Philippa Gregory's
A Respectable Trade and David Dabydeen's A Harlot' Progress." Novel
(Spring 2000): 235-52. Print.
Yeats, William Butler. "Easter 1916." The CollectedPoems ofW.B. Yeats. London:
Macmillan, 1933, repr. 1971. 202-5. Print.
Young, Robert. ColonialDesire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race. London:
Routledge, 1995. Print.








White Creole Domesticity and the

Aesthetics of Abolition

JoAnne Harris
Georgia Institute of Technology


Nations, like narratives, lose their origins in the myths
of time and only fully realize their horizon in the mind's eye.
-Homi Bhabha, Nation and Narration

Prior to the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade and emancipation,
planters in Barbados had "creolized"' English law in order to control
both the legal system and the plantation economy from within the island. The
impact of these laws and how the British Parliament responded to intransigent
planters became the subject of many commentaries, which were published in
Samuel Keimer's Barbados Gazette (1732-1738) the island's first newspaper,
and the first bi-weekly newspaper in the British West Indies. By 1741, these
commentaries included essays, poems, and satirical narratives compiled into
a two-volume work, Caribbeana (1741), arguably the first English language
anthology written and published by West Indian Creoles.2 This anthology
of poems, dissertations, and essays, projected a colonial cultural identity that,
while distinctly reflecting an island or West Indian mindset, also defiantly
argued for recognition of Creoles as equally "English." Within this context,

1 I chose the word "creolized" in order to emphasize the fact that in Barbados the ap-
plication of English law reflected the particular ideologies of a local White elite who
controlled the Barbados General Assembly. In 1721, the General Assembly amended
the law to specify that only free "White" men were eligible to fully participate in the civil
and legal system in Barbados. Both Jerome Handler and David Lambert explain that
this also excluded women and non-Whites, (e.g. the enslaved, free Blacks, Jews, Asians,
indigenous) from bequeathing or inheriting property, or testifying in a court of law.
2 During this period, the term "Creole" in Barbados was applied to those of White,
European descent, either born in the West Indies or who were long time residents. It
was not until later in the eighteenth century or early nineteenth century that the term
"Creole" could be used to identify a racial admixture.


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





JoANNE HARRIS


being "English" became a metonym for being White. Hence, in the taxonomy
of Barbados society, West Indian non-Whites (those of mixed African and
English or other ancestry) were not only not English, they were also not
Creoles- or, expanding on Jerome Handler's term for free Blacks, they were
an unappropriated3 people occupying a liminal social space in Barbados.
As eighteenth-century West Indian colonial elites gradually and
reluctantly accepted the inevitability of legislation to abolish the slave trade,
their focus shifted to race, class, and power as transformational agents; both
White Creoles and what is now considered Afro-Caribbean Creole culture
became re-represented as 'something else' in the various literary artifacts.4
By the early nineteenth century, West Indian writing had become marked by
racially colored Creole representations designed to re-write and re-represent
the plantation-based society within a fossilized English social hierarchy.
In this essay, I show how Barbados planters developed a sophisticated
economic and social architecture to assert their autonomy and control Black
labor in order to maintain White hegemony and reassert their autonomy
within the British Empire. This frequently clashed with Parliament's attempts
to implement imperial policies on the islands. Hence, faced with the abolition
of slavery and emancipation, the White elite justified their oppressive actions
in literary narratives by re-writing both their relationships with enslaved
Africans, and their role in the slavery project by representing themselves as a
White protectorate supporting a Black proletariat pre-destined to servitude
(Lambert 65-67).
I also examine the Barbadian planters' response to the abolition of the
Atlantic Slave Trade and Emancipation Acts, contrasting it with Isaac W.
Orderson's dramatic literary representation of White/Black characters in The
Fair Barbadian and Faithful Black, a comedy in three acts, written in 1832 and
performed in Barbados in 1835. Unlike Keimer, who had used Caribbeana
and The Barbados Gazette to reinforce the island's image as culturally English,

3 "Appropriated" is a legal term to denote those who are fully vested in the English legal
system. Barbados Governor Seaforth first used the term in an 1802 speech responding
to the latest 'petition' (Handler 207). Handler has applied the term unappropriatedd"
to free Blacks, who although free were not invested with full civil rights because of their
race. Here, I expand on this usage to include all non-Whites as socially 'unappropri-
ated.'
4 See David Lambert's discussion of these representations in "Liminal Figures: Poor
Whites, Freedmen, and Racial Reinscription in Colonial Barbados." Environment &
Planning D: Society & Space 19.3/4 (June 2001): 335-42.


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WHITE CREOLE DOMESTICITY AND THE AESTHETICS OF ABOLITION


Orderson writes in the preface to his later novel, Creoleana (1842) that both the
play and the novel are examples of "West Indian Literature" with a "view of the
customs, manners, and habits of [a] Creolean [sic] society" (21). Orderson's
"Creolean society" reflects a binary White/Black composition based on White
hegemony. Those relationships that produce racial hybridity end badly, with
the mixed-race children dying. Thus, I argue that Orderson's representation of
Creole society in Barbados and his use of the term "West Indian" is intended
to reinforce a strictly White Creole culture in which non-Whites are both
cultural and literary shadows.
This widening gap between colony and metropole evolved during the
first half of the nineteenth century as an increasingly proto-nationalist view
of Barbados shaped the planters' response to imperial policies. In "Literature-
Nationalism's Other? The Case for Revision," Simon During echoes William
Hazlitt's sentiments that the love of country is also a love of liberty, indepen-
dence, and happiness, with the suggestion that, "cultural nationalism -was
in fact developed against imperialism" (138-139). Although both Hazlitt and
During, like Homi Bhabha, view nationalism in terms of colonized people
struggling to regain their cultural origins, a close reading of the essays and
dissertations published by Keimer in the Barbados Gazette reveals a style and
rhetoric that while very English, conveys a message contesting Britain's uni-
lateral control of their resources. My argument is that this literary output
reflects conflicting representations that were repeated throughout the eigh-
teenth century, and well into the early nineteenth century, when at various
times free Blacks, colonial administrators, and local White merchants joined
forces to oppose any British trade policy that limited or threatened the island's
autonomy.
In the case of Barbados, I argue that a close reading of Orderson's
writing reveals that, despite their status as 'English,' an emerging embryonic
cultural sense of nationalism among the locally-born planters set the island
apart from England. Under tremendous pressure from abolitionists, the
planters constituted a separate White resistance movement in response to
two events: the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in 1807 and the
Emancipation Bill of 1834. These two events were essential to the shaping
of early nineteenth-century West Indian ideologies of home and family
reflecting an unacknowledged European-African hybridism that contrasted
and clashed with metropolitan middle class norms that became hegemonic
in the Victorian era. Within this new imperial imaginary the sexual tyranny


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





JoANNE HARRIS


and open co-habitation tacitly accepted by colonial society during the slavery
era of the eighteenth century became socially unacceptable after abolition.
Abolitionist propaganda was successful in its representation of slave owners
as insatiable and greedy sexual monsters who methodically used female slaves
as breeders to increase the enslaved population. In response, colonial writing
from the post emancipation period normalized the reality of West Indian
domestic arrangements by ignoring or minimizing the use of African women
as concubines by White Creole males; while still practiced, concubinage
became unthinkable discursively. Consequently, island literature written during
the early nineteenth-century periods framed by abolition and emancipation
focused on binary representations of Black women as either the objects of
prosaic miscegenation or romantic imagination; only passing mention was
given to marriage-type relationships between male masters and female slaves.
In a study of hybrid domestic arrangements and how women were represented
in early Victorian literature from the West Indies, Deborah Wyrick writes
of the after effects, "While cohabitation and even 'bush marriages' with
slaves were common colonial practices, intermarriage after emancipation is
depicted as a crime against nature. Furthermore, blackness becomes absolute,
uninflected by admixtures of white blood and white virtue" (46).
This new vision of Creole domesticity necessitated re-representing and
re-writing the plantation societies in order to rectify "racial antagonism,
transgressive creolizations, and unruly colonial desire [that] disrupt the
narratives" (Wyrick 46). As a consequence, White West Indian writers began
to portray White women as idealized models of femininity in plantation
families charged with implementing English modes of civilized domesticity.
This contrasts sharply with the stereotypes of enslaved Black women who
were objectified as vessels of sexual desire in earlier anti-slavery novels and
sensationalist portrayals of Africans in novels such as Dorothy Kilmer's The
Rotchford' (1786), England; Dr. John Moore's Zeluco (1786), Cuba; and The
Adventures ofJonathan Corncob (1787), a novel set in Barbados, but published
anonymously in London. This latter novel became popular as part of the
American anti-slavery propaganda and despite its portrayal of Barbados, there
is no evidence that the author was West Indian (Sypher 276-7). Each of
these early novels approaches the subject of plantation cohabitation as raw
sex and sensationalism that became normalized and expected on a plantation.
Their sensationalist depictions of plantation life are also problematic as
representations of Creole living arrangements since they conflated the issues


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WHITE CREOLE DOMESTICITY AND THE AESTHETICS OF ABOLITION


of slavery and sexual sensationalism as anti-slavery propaganda which did little
to promote an egalitarian image of Black men or women as rational humans
whose notions of family and marriage could be similar to that of the English.
This problematic and creolized version of domestic arrangements is
approached from an idealized perspective in Orderson's Creoleana (1842),
recognized as the first novel written in Barbados and possibly the earliest
novel in English written by a locally born West Indian. According to John
Gilmore, who edited the 2002 reprint, there were several earlier novels in
English, but none written by a native of the West Indies. Orderson, whose
grandfather was living in Barbados at the time of the 1715 census, was born
in Barbados on May 28, 1767 and died there in 1847. His family also owned
The Barbados Mercury, a newspaper published during the last half of the
eighteenth century, where Orderson worked as editor for several years. In
addition to Creoleana and The Fair Barbadian and Faithful Black (1832), he
published numerous pamphlets on various local issues, such as Directions to
young planters for their care and management of a sugar plantation in Barbadoes
in 1800. Despite the author's obvious sympathy for planters and pro-slavery
sentiment, he also advocated better treatment for slaves (Handler GSM 59).
In an 1816 treatise related to the Slave Registry Bill, Orderson denied that
Barbados was importing slaves illegally and in general felt that slaves were
better treated than England's working class. In part, this planter myth stems
from Sir Joshua Steele's project of the 1780s to establish a copyhold system5 in
Barbados that would convert plantation slaves into paid tenants.
As Lambert explains in White Creole Culture: Politics and identity in theAge
ofAbolition, Steele's project of "improving" slavery met with violent planter
opposition during his lifetime, and then was ridiculed as a failure after his death
in 1796 when in the 1810s Steele's plan for ameliorating living conditions
for enslaved workers was praised by Thomas Clarkson. Nevertheless, in
subsequent years as the emancipationist faction gained traction, the planters
would articulate their own version of amelioration as a counter argument
to objections to the violence and cruelty of slavery, where proprietors were
presented as benevolent masters, analogous to the English landowners who
"took care of" the tenants on large estates. Hence, African slavery in the West

5 A medieval form of land tenure in England, a copyhold was a parcel of land granted
to a peasant by the lord of the manor in return for agricultural services. See Lambert's
White Creole Culture for a fuller discussion of Steele's plan for amelioration in chapter
two (41-72).


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JoANNE HARRIS


Indies was implicitly justified as a natural co-dependency between plantation
owner and enslaved 'tenant,' which Lambert shows was promoted in this
period as a distinctively West Indian planter ideal (White Creole Culture 63-
68). Orderson's text on the subject of amelioration is not available, thus the
following excerpt from 1817 is quoted from Handler's Guide to Source Materials
for the Study of Barbados History:

I am not inimical to a liberal extension of the rights and privileges of the free
coloured people . also ... I have feelings of consideration and humanity
to those of the most boastful philanthropist ... it being a persuasion in my
mind, that the only evils ever likely to result from the general emancipation
of the slaves are those consequent upon the precipitancy of the measure, and
an indiscreet interference of the Imperial Parliament between the master and
the slave... (68)6

These words echo the anti-Parliament sentiments of planters in Barbados
and reappear in The Fair Barbadian and Faithful Black where Hampshire, the
Judge's elderly house slave, is portrayed in much the same light as a beloved
and faithful English butler.
Published ten years earlier than Creoleana, an 1835 advertisement for
The Fair Barbadian and Faithful Black offers Orderson's play as a memorial
"to the ordeal of the British public;" a reference to the long and contentious
struggle over abolition and emancipation. He follows this with the note that
he is recording "(through some incidents of fiction and others of fact) the real
existing relations between Master and Slave, previous to the new principle of
connection just established between them" (159). He continues this statement
with an argument that minimizes the violent and coercive practices of slavery
by claiming that, "Without exaggeration ... the former [master] acting under
the combined influence of climate and disease, excited to momentary acts
of tyranny that instantly yield to a more amicable nature; while in the latter
[slave], a true delineation is given of unshaken fidelity and forbearance, which
is of fair promise of the confidence that may henceforth be mutually reposed
by each in the other" (159). In other words, according to Orderson, the master

6 Handler's 1991 Supplementary Guide to Source Materials in Barbados also updates his
comments on the play provided in the original 1971 Guide to Source Materials in Bar-
bados. In the 1991 SGSM, Handler writes, "Whatever the value of this play as a literary
piece, it is an interesting reflection of the ideology held by liberal white Barbadians dur-
ing the twilight of slavery" (41).


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WHITE CREOLE DOMESTICITY AND THE AESTHETICS OF ABOLITION


and slave operated in a symbiotic relationship as partners and any transgression
was unintentional and transitory. As illogical as this concept was then and is
today, Orderson verbalizes the planters' justification of slavery as a natural
partnership necessary to guarantee the survival of the plantation system, while
at the same time rectifying the image of White West Indians from that of
corrupted versions of the metropolitan English to one of colonial West Indian
partner. In order to separate the reality from the imaginary and compare the
characters in Orderson's play with their English counterparts, the following
sections provide factual details that highlight the legal context and summarize
the planters' response to three main events: the abolition of the African Slave
Trade, the emancipation of the enslaved in the British West Indies, and the
tenancy system that kept the freed Blacks, or, Freedmen,7 oppressed for over a
century after emancipation.

Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
If the enslaved and Freedmen populations had expected improved conditions
for themselves after abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1807 and
emancipation in 1834, the outcome was bitterly disappointing. Instead of
the much promised and touted "freedom" promised by the abolitionists, the
enslaved were either forced to endure a long apprenticeship period during
which conditions were as bad or worse as under slavery, or in some instances
'freed' and forced out of the plantation and left to fend for themselves. Hilary
Beckles has written extensively on these conditions and describes the many
ways that for the enslaved in Barbados, as well as in the other British West
Indian colonies, 'freedom' would exist in name only. As British subjects, the
planters had been forced to accept Parliament's declaration of an end to the
slave trade and the subsequent proclamation of emancipation for the enslaved,
but as White Creoles whose power rested on claims to both Englishness and
White superiority, they resented these metropolitan intrusions and openly
resisted the implementation of parliamentary legislation of the anti-slavery
laws. In defiance, the Barbados Assembly and Council countered what they
considered England's interference by passing local legislation that legalized
elaborate schemes designed to circumvent the anti-slavery laws and keep both

7 See earlier note on use of 'appropriated' and its use in the legal system. In Barbados,
women, Jews, and all non-Whites would also be unappropriatedd,' people who were not
included in the Freedmen's petitions for civil rights and thus shared a subaltern status
that for many lasted until the twentieth-century.


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JoANNE HARRIS


the Freedmen and the enslaved from enjoying their newly acquired legal and
civil rights.
In contrast to other islands, while the planters in Barbados were opposed
to emancipation, they were not actively against abolition of the Atlantic Slave
Trade, since they had a surplus of slaves. Their acceptance of abolition was
not for humanitarian reasons. In A History of Barbados, Beckles writes that
Barbados had a surplus of locally born enslaved Africans and many local
planters voiced support for the elimination of the trade for purely economic
reasons. With a stable population and growth of the population of enslaved
Africans, Barbados had no need for imported African slaves and even viewed
the rebellious and intractable Africans as an undesirable influence on the
island-born enslaved Blacks (Beckles 106). Consequently, the Barbadian
planters welcomed the Abolition Act, and almost immediately implemented
a profitable system to supply other colonies' needs by selling off their surplus
domestic slaves. Eventually, Barbados became a major exporter of slaves
within the region, and the planters expanded their economic interests to other
islands. Circumventing the Abolition Act, Barbados planters took advantage
of their surplus labor supply by purchasing cheap land in Trinidad, Demerara,
and Guiana and exporting Barbadian slaves to work their new plantations.
Hence, amelioration efforts, in place since Sir Joshua Steele's work projects in
the 1780s and 90s, profited by control of the enslaved women's fertility and the
natural increase of the enslaved as human capital. Control over the reproductive
process of enslaved women that, dating from the 1780s enslaved women
in Barbados received monetary incentives for producing healthy offspring
along with reduced workloads that gave them more time to nurse infants.
Consequently, the enslaved infant mortality decreased despite suspicions that
some women were deliberately avoiding pregnancy; however, for the most part
the numbers of island-born slaves increased prior to 1807 (107).
Viewed in the context of exporting surplus slaves, it seems plausible to
speculate that planters may have feared the outcome of extending civil rights to
former slaves, referred to at the time as Freedmen, and opposed any expansion
of rights for economic reasons. The Freedmen's struggle for civil rights prior to
emancipation would reduce the number of enslaved workers if the Freedmen
manumitted their enslaved friends and relatives, not to mention the threat
a free Black population -entitled to inherit and bequeath property, testify
against Whites in court, and become voting members of the Barbados General
Assembly- posed to minority White Creole power. In the short term at least,


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WHITE CREOLE DOMESTICITY AND THE AESTHETICS OF ABOLITION


Freedman's rights would deplete the natural supply of docile enslaved labor
that was rapidly becoming a profitable domestic resource for planters. With
enough domestic-born enslaved workers to supply other islands, Barbados
had become a hub for the transfer of enslaved workers in the region and the
local planters reaped enormous profits as slave brokers.
However, the inter-island sale of domestic slaves ultimately proved
problematic because they were often mixed with Africans imported illegally.
In an attempt to mitigate the situation, Parliament finally proposed a slave
registry bill in 1814 that would register all legally-owned slaves to make it
easier to detect the illegal entry of African slaves into the islands. Fearing that
this would jeopardize their inter-island slave trade, the legislature in Barbados
rejected the bill and refused to adopt any type of formal registration. This
eventually led to the violent slave revolt in 1816 known as Bussa' Rebellion. 8
In order to end the violence, Freedmen and planters joined forces to quell the
revolt. In quidpro quo response, the Barbados legislature passed a law in 1817
granting free Blacks the right to testify in court.
As might be imagined, such a profitable trade in domestic slaves increased
the possibilities for corruption. It was not unusual for free Blacks to be plucked
off the street and sold as slaves, or for enslaved children to be torn from their
mothers and sent to plantations in Trinidad or Guiana. Therefore, in 1828,
Parliament enacted legislation to outlaw completely the internal slave trade
and limit transport of slaves between islands to domestic slaves traveling
with their owners. Again, the planters in Barbados circumvented the law and
the situation culminated in 1829 when a planter in Barbados was accused
of transporting fourteen slave children illegally to Trinidad. Predictably, the
grand jury in Barbados acquitted the planter. As Beckles discusses in his
History, in the ensuing years, the plantocracy and the British Colonial Office
were constantly at odds on the issue of transporting slaves among the islands.

The Emancipation Bill and Emancipation Proclamation
Perhaps one of the greatest myths of the nineteenth century is that the
Emancipation Act of 1834 freed all slaves in the British West Indies. In
reality, it only completely freed enslaved children under the age of six years.
Children over six and the adult enslaved population were required to serve a

8 See Lambert's discussion of this event in "Producing/Contesting Whiteness: Rebellion,
Anti-Slavery and Enslavement in Barbados, 1816."


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JoANNE HARRIS


twelve-year apprenticeship. Promoted as a transition stage necessary for the
enslaved to adapt to freedom, the apprenticeship program thus became a de
facto extension of slavery.
The voluminous studies on slavery, abolition and emancipation stand as
evidence of the violence and coercion forced on enslaved peoples; therefore,
I limit my discussion in this essay to issues that created specific tensions in
Barbados and influenced the plots in Orderson's literary works. In particular,
with emancipation forthcoming, Beckles' History of Barbados details the
concessions taken by the Barbados Assembly as part of a Consolidated Slave
Law passed in 1825 in order "to 'consolidate' and 'improve' the ancient legal
machinery under which blacks had been governed" (118). In exchange for the
right to own property, give evidence in courts, and a reduction in manumission
fees, slave owners in Barbados were granted three assurances:

(i.) Any white person who killed an enslaved person in revolt should be
immune from prosecution.
(ii.) Any enslaved person who threatened the life of a white person would
be put to death.
(iii.) Any black 'without proper proof of the right to be free' should be
presumed enslaved.
(Beckles 118)

Lord Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonies, vehemently rejected
the law as a political ploy and returned the act to Governor Wade and the
Barbados legislature.Their response was equally vehement; an objection sent in
the form of a memorial to the Colonial Office criticizing Bathurst as "fanatical,
prejudicial, and unjust" (118). Combined with tensions from the slave revolt of
1816, and the Demerara Rebellion of 1823, this resulted in intense arguments
within the Barbados legislature. Finally, in 1826, with the enslaved population
increasingly frustrated about their status and Barbados under pressure from
Parliament to amend the Slave Law, the legislature removed the provision that
protected Whites from prosecution for killing insurrectionistss," substituting
the right to imprison the enslaved for unlimited periods and prohibit their
gatherings after dark without a legal permit. However, the recalcitrant
legislature insisted on maintaining the legal right to flog the enslaved.
By 1832, Parliament openly advocated the abolition of slavery and ap-
pointed a new governor to Barbados, Sir Lionel Smith, in hopes of convincing
Barbadian planters to emancipate. His mission was to reassure owners that


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emancipation would not worsen economic conditions and at the same time
reassure the enslaved that emancipation was imminent. During this same pe-
riod, the Freedmen continued to present memorials and petitions9 to both
the local governor and Parliament, lobbying for full civil rights. This action,
along with the emergence of a newspaper written by the Freedmen, supports
the notion that a literate free Black coalition was quietly coordinating efforts
with the enslaved, many of whom were literate as well. While there are no
documents to this effect, according to Beckles "it was clear to both the local
and imperial governments that the enslaved considered themselves as prin-
cipal emancipation lobbyists" (119). In this sense, the enslaved followed the
Freedmen's example and found that political pressure and appeals to the impe-
rial government through sympathetic intermediaries were more effective than
violent insurrection.
After much negotiation, Parliament promised Barbadian planters, as in
the other West Indian colonies, "fair" compensation for each enslaved person
liberated. In its application, this amounted to a total of 1,719,980 for the
83,150 registered enslaved persons, or an average compensation of 20 per
slave to the planters (128). This was significantly lower than the 50-51 per
slave paid to planters in Trinidad and Guiana, thus the Barbadian slave owners
were unhappy with these numbers, asserting their autonomy over domestic af-
fairs and refusing to implement Parliament's policy. Eventually, the Barbadian
legislature relented and in April of 1834 passed the Barbados Act legalizing
the Apprenticeship System effective August 1, 1834. This abolished slavery,
but did not immediately relieve the enslaved from the planters' control since it
also established an intricate police and stipendiary magistrate system to con-
trol the Black population and oversee apprenticeship (127-130).
As expected, apprenticeship worked in favor of planters and to the
detriment of the theoretically 'freed' slaves, since the very young, the weak,
the sick, and the infirm among enslaved persons were left to fend for them-
selves. The planters were responsible only for those apprentices employed.


9 The Freedmen's first petition for collective civil rights became part of an unprec-
edented act of collective bargaining undertaken by fifty-eight Barbados Freedmen.
They read their first petition for the right to testify in court before the Barbados
Council on October 15, 1799 (Freedmen, 5). Throughout the period leading up to
Emancipation, the Freedmen repeatedly submitted memorials and petitions to the
Barbados General Assembly, the Governor and Parliament requesting full civil rights.
The full text of these documents is only available at the British Archives in London.


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JoANNE HARRIS


In addition, the apprentices were not paid wages; they depended on the plant-
er for housing, food, health care, clothing, and other essential needs. Although
apprentices could purchase full freedom, it is not surprising that with no wag-
es few acquired enough money to do so. Those that did achieve full freedom
usually received it from sympathetic planters who voluntarily gave them their
freedom. Not surprisingly, during the apprenticeship years infant mortality
rose, the number of indigent Blacks rose, and planters complained of erratic
sugar production. Some planters also resorted to illegal child labor and as
the formerly enslaved struggled to restructure their lives, child abandonment
became an issue. Finally, under pressure from the British Colonial Office and
agitation by the apprenticed, the Barbados legislature issued an Emancipa-
tion Proclamation in 1838, ending the apprenticeship period and making all
enslaved persons legally free.

The Master Servant Act of 1838
Immediately after the Emancipation Act of1834, the legislature in Barbados
implemented laws aimed at preventing the newly freed population from
receiving wages for their work or acquiring property. Beckles writes that,
undaunted by the Emancipation Proclamation, "sugar planters immediately
began the task of reconstructing the machinery of labor domination and the
formulation of new policies of social control" (138). As owners of 99% of the
agricultural land in Barbados, the sugar planters comprised a small percentage
of the population and operated as a cabal that controlled the legislature. In
The Unappropriated People, Jerome Handler provides statistics for 1829
substantiating that Whites formed approximately 10% of the population in
Barbados (18-20). Beckles gives precise statistics that indicate there were
"83,150 liberated persons, 12,000 coloureds, and 15,000 whites" in 1838 (139).
If we factor in the number of large plantation owners, reported by Beckles as
297 (only one was a non-White), we discover that 99% of the agricultural
production in a total population of approximately 110,150, was controlled by
.0027% or less than one half of one percent of the island's inhabitants. This
makes the 1838 Masters and Servants Act, later called just the Contract Law,10
even more appalling, since eligibility to the Barbados legislature hinged on


10 Other islands passed similar legislation in attempts to maintain legal control over freed
Blacks. The Barbados law was worded using a similar law passed in Antigua in 1834
(Beckles 148).


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property ownership. Therefore, the prospects for any economic improvement
for the newly free population were incredibly bleak with little chance to change
the laws or ameliorate their social or economic status.
Under the Contract Law, there were a number of oppressive restrictions.
For instance, if a worker worked five consecutive days, she or he was legally
obligated to work for one year. Although the worker received housing and wages,
and either party could terminate the contract with a month's notice, once the
contract was terminated the worker had to leave the plantation and could no
longer occupy the housing provided. In addition, one of the provisions in the
law allowed each plantation to have private police. Eventually, under pressure
from the Colonial Office, the one-year contract stipulation was reduced to one
month; however, workers were required to pay rent for their lodging and any
land they used for a personal garden. This rent, which was one-sixth of their
wages, was deducted automatically and was not negotiable. Hence, the role
of the paid worker was transformed into one of plantation tenant. Controlled
by an unwritten policy where White plantation owners held a monopoly on
landownership, the White planters refused to sell land to Blacks, while both
the imperial and local governments were committed to policies that operated
to convert former slaves into a landless proletariat (Beckles 153). Incredibly,
this Contract Law was not repealed until 1937.
None of these domination schemes in Barbados were significantly different
from those in the other British colonies throughout the Caribbean. What
was different and particularly interesting in Barbados was the ironic way that
White Creoles portrayed their island as a "Little England." In order to validate
the analogy, they not only manipulated the legal system, but also attempted to
manipulate their social image and camouflage the underlying ethical problems
inherent in a slave-based economy. As explained in the section below, one of
the few examples of theater plays written in Barbados, Orderson's The Fair
Barbadian, contrasts the sad reality of Black slavery with this self-delusional
'civility' of the White Creoles.

The Fair Barbadian and the Faithful Black
First performed in Barbados in 1832, Orderson's three-act comedy should
be read from a perspective that juxtaposes White myth with Black reality.
Throughout the period leading up to the Emancipation Act, the local legislature
was actively resisting Parliament's efforts to free the enslaved population. With
a new governor on the island, Orderson's characterizations were important to


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JoANNE HARRIS


reassure a White audience that, despite a space shared with enslaved Blacks,
mulattoes and other non-Whites, White Creoles as a class were still racially
and culturally superior to both free and enslaved non-Whites. This seems
to explain why Orderson's racially determined melodrama is played out in a
style reminiscent of the anti-slavery dramas popular in England during the
1790s, as the author juxtaposes discussions of sexual coercion with some of the
main arguments of anti-slavery discourse. However, Orderson's message was
not anti-slavery, but fundamentally pro-slavery, since his treatment of slaves
depicted them as incapable of functioning on their own, underscoring the
need for Blacks to remain subservient even after emancipation.
The plot in The Fair Barbadian and Faithful Black; or a Cure for the Gout
centers on Judge Errington, a wealthy planter who suffers constantly from
gout, and a triangular relationship among his daughter Emily, Tom -her
fiance who is also her cousin- and Captain Carlove, who traveled with Emily
from England prior to the opening of the play and is secretly in love with
her. The character Hampshire, listed in Orderson's dramatic personae as the
Judge's "confidential black servant" (160),1 is blamed for every problem in the
household. He is beaten frequently and unfairly, but constantly reiterates his
faithfulness to the Judge. Except for the frequent lashes Hampshire receives
from the Judge and his use of Black dialect, his character functions as an
amalgam of African slave and English servant. Emily's Aunt Alice serves as a
monitor of everyone's behavior and feeds the characters their anti-slavery lines.
In contrast with anti-slavery plays featuring sensationalist sexual encounters,
Orderson's play echoes Restoration domestic comedy and attempts to recreate
a civilized White Creole family modeled on upper class English family
structure.
Emily, however, is typical of the young Creole White woman sent to
England to study and learn proper 'manners.' After her mother's death, the
Judge sends her to England to be schooled, where she receives a classical
English education. Ironically, her years in England make Emily a cultural
misfit once back on the island. This brings her into constant conflict with
her Aunt Alice who complains, "She's at the piano .. she might as well have
remained in England! When the girl might be working me a frill, or making
me a cap, or so, the rest of the day is wasted in drawing or studying, as she calls


" This interesting description may be interpreted either as an accidental misrepresenta-
tion, or as Orderson's overt attempt to sanitize their enslaved status.


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WHITE CREOLE DOMESTICITY AND THE AESTHETICS OF ABOLITION


it. In truth I don't know what's the good of your English education..." (I. 1).
Alice constantly chastises Emily for her interests in drawing and music. She
wishes that Emily had learned more about managing a household and worries
constantly about her ability to be a proper wife to Tom. Though neither Tom
nor Emily is happy with their engagement, Orderson writes their true feelings
only as asides and soliloquies. In one scene, for example, Tom echoes Alice's
sentiments when Emily refuses to show affection and whines:

I should have been better pleased, if when the old folks had been making up
a match betwixt us, they had been contented to keep the girl in her native
country, and taught her to mend stockings and hem cravats... All this comes
of immuring a girl in an English boarding-school for eight or ten years, where
her head has been filled with nothing but romantic sentiments and supercilious
airs... to send a mere child to be kept in England only to forget the customs and
manners of her own country! (1.2.167)

Tom's anxiety is understandable since Emily is the Judge's only child and
heir to Hickford Plantation, one of the largest estates. Her marriage to her
cousin, Tom was arranged when they were children, before she was sent to
England. As a single woman, Emily's property would become Tom's once
they were married. This type of intermarrying in families was typical of large
estate owners whose primary concern was not their children's happiness, but
to keep the plantation in the family. Since the main purpose of a wife was to
produce an heir for the plantation and manage the household, in Tom's eyes
her English education had no value and her independence was a liability.
Marriage between cousins was also one of the many methods planters
used to maintain their monopoly on land and control the legislature.12 Beckles
argues that since 100% of the agricultural land in Barbados was privately
owned, this worked to keep Blacks from purchasing land (153). Underlying
the problem of Emily's relationship with Tom is that each of them is involved
with someone else. Emily and Captain Carlove have a mutual unspoken
infatuation and Tom is in relentless sexual pursuit of Hampshire's daughter.


12 In November 2007, while carrying out research at the Barbados Museum and Histori-
cal Society Library (BMHS), I met with a local scholar and member of the board of the
BMHS, who traces his family back to these White Creoles. He confirmed that this was
a very common practice during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and added that
only recently have many of the larger estates been sold and desegregated to build hotels
and resort communities (6 Nov. 2008).


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JoANNE HARRIS


Only Alice is aware of Tom's relationship with the young Black slave girl, and
reminds him that his shameful conduct "will bring your vices even into the
very house.., and before the young woman [he] is to marry" (I: 2. 169). In this
instance, Alice appears to be concerned for Hampshire's daughter and scolds
Tom for his "rude conduct to that innocent Black girl, poor Hampshire's
daughter!" (I: 2. 169). However, Alice does nothing to help the girl or inform
the Judge about Tom's lascivious behavior.
At this point, Hampshire enters into the conversation and begs Tom not
to "trouble me child" (I: 2. 169). Tom's response is strong denial followed by
an arrogant interrogation of Hampshire: "What have I to do with your frizzle-
head child"? (I: 2. 169) At this, Hampshire reminds Tom that his daughter
has been a faithful servant to Alice and Emily and cries "I no want my child
for bring Mulatto! Oh Mass Tom, Mass Tom! You bruck poor Hampshire's
heart" (I: 2. 169).
The situation becomes more complicated at the end of the first act when
Captain Carlove visits and the Judge offers him a tour of the plantation the
next day. At this point Alice and Emily enter with Hampshire and the Judge
brings up slavery:

Judge: Aye, you military men are under as much subordination as our negroes;
and yet you rail at slavery as if there was any difference in authority whether
exercised over a red coat or a Black skin.
Carlove: But surely, sir, you can draw no analogy between the necessary discipline
of an army of free men engaged in a loyal defence of their king and country,
and the compulsory labour of the African, forced into slavery.
Judge: There now! 'Tis that cursed word which raises every prejudice against us;
for while by your military law you may give the soldier a thousand lashes
it is but discipline; if we inflict at the most thirty-nine on the slave it is
cruelty and oppression.
Emily: But is there not, my dear father, an otherwise too great power usurped
over the slave that too often counteracts the natural benevolence of our
hearts?
Alice: It is not very becoming of you, Miss Errington, to take part against your
father! and I wonder how you'd get the plantation cultivated, if the manager
hadn't authority over the Negroes? (I. 2.173)

They continue the discussion with the Judge and Carlove debating the
roles of power and control versus social obligations and moral values. The
Judge then proposes that Carlove visit the plantation and judge for himself
how the system operates:


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Judge: If you will examine into the whole system of our management, you
will find throughout, that though the slave may sometimes suffer from
a wicked, or even, a passionate master -la, damn this gout!- he is by no
means habitually ill used or systematically oppressed; but by his labour is
rather a copartner with his owner in the product of the soil, than a debased
bondsman.
Carlove: We should, however, consider them, sir, as our humble partners in
creation! and born, as the natural consequence of slavery, to an inheritance
of labour, their morals should be founded in industry; for human wants are
the first, and with the slave the only stimulants to exertion.
Emily: Industry will no doubt, with them, be a powerful incentive to virtue;
but unless we persevere in disseminating true principles of religion among
them, I fear their morality will be but a selfish feeling.
Judge: Yes, but progressive amendment is all that we can at present aim at;
therefore, the first lesson that should be given them is that disgrace is
not in the punishment but in the commission of crime. This, however, I
fear will now become more difficult to teach, since they have lately seen
successful crime and daring profligacy favoured and flattered by the under
exercise of a false philanthropy! (I: 2.174)

The scene shifts back to the military camp where Carlove discusses his
love for Emily with his friend Chider. It ends with Carlove stating that "the
Judge is a true personification of West India hospitality and you will find his
heart, like the doors of his mansion, ever open to receive a guest!" (1:3.177).
However, the Judge's definition of the enslaved worker as copartnerr" seems
not only ironic, but delusional, given the incessant verbal and physical and
sexual abuse heaped upon Hampshire and his daughter as a result of the power
discrepancies between White master and Black slave. Neither the Judge, nor
Carlove view the morality of this abuse or slavery as an issue, but as the "natural
consequence of slavery," which in the Lockean philosophy is justified as the
consequence of war. This in turn begs the question of whether Hampshire
and the other enslaved copartnerss" have equal access to the rich food and
sedentary lifestyle responsible for the Judge's gout? Why, if as Carlove argues
the enslaved are "partners in creation" would they "agree" to perpetual hardship
and punishment? Although Orderson circumvents these issues and never makes
a direct criticism of the slaves' treatment or the abuse of cruel masters, the
irony of the Judge's chronic gout, relieved only by Hampshire's ministrations,
converts the play into a satirical commentary on the interdependence of master
and slave domestic relationships. The irony of the Judge's dependence on a
house slave (one who probably survived on leftovers and subsistence foods) to


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JoANNE HARRIS


relieve the pain of a condition caused by over indulgence of wine and red meat
would have been quickly apparent to Orderson's pro-abolition readers while
not overtly critical or offensive to his pro-slavery readers. This type of literary
'rope dancing,' however, problematizes what Orderson originally stated in his
"Advertisement" for the play: "The Author of the following Dramatic attempt
... aspires [to] that of recording ... the real existing relations between Master
and Slave, previous to the new principle of connection just established between
them" (159). The interpretation of the 'real' relationship between masters and
slaves is ultimately left to the reader.
These scenes cleverly bring up the subject of slavery by depicting the
master-slave relationship as one of a partnership that absolves the planter of
any guilt. The Judge's analogy transforms the owner/overseer into an officer
in command of troops; the flogging of slaves then becomes vindicated as
'discipline.' On the other hand, Carlove falls short of advocating manumission
for the slaves and in viewing them as the natural product of slavery reiterates
the original Lockean rationale that slavery is the perfect state of war.
Act II opens with a picturesque view of the sugar estate and the "Negro
cottages" in the background. Orderson's scene description indicates, "Negroes
pass to and fro with animation and cheerfulness, on the back of the stage,"
while all of the main characters are front stage. The slaves then circle the
group and chant:

Then together: God bless Mass! Huzza! God bless nyung Massa. Huzza! Good
crops and good prices, that Massa may live as well as his Negroes! Huzza!
Hampshire (Advancing): God bless Mass Captain and he Major! (all)
Huzza!
[the judge speaks to Hampshire who then moves to the front]
Massa Judge Mass Judge! You very good to me!
Tiddle dum, diddle dum, middle dee! (chorus by all)
Miss Emily Miss Emily, we all of we lub dee!
Tiddle dum, & etc.
And we wish, and we wish you happy married be!
Tiddle dum, & etc. (exeunt Negroes) (11.1.180).

Somewhat shocked by this display of love and happiness, Chider who,
fresh from England, views slaves for the first time, asks to see the working
chain gangs. The Judge is shocked and responds that chain gangs only "exist in
the malevolence, falsehood and spleen of anti-slavery societies, and fanatical
Quakers" (11.1.180). Carlove then interjects and explains that Chider has


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a false image of slavery brought from England and is only now seeing the
"reality of that happiness he has everywhere witnessed among them, since
his arrival" (180). Alice jumps into the conversation and the scene continues
with the Judge insisting that Chider "determine whether West India slaves
do not possess more actual comfort and personal liberty than the unhappy,
gagged, maimed, and deformed White children of the factory mills of Leeds
and Manchester; or the inhumed miners of Cumberland and Cornwall!"
(11.2.181).
Chider, impressed by all he has seen, listens to their arguments and then
tells Alice:

I, like thousands of others, so deceived by the artifices and false philanthropy
of Aldermanbury, as to be brought to believe that I should only see in West
India slavery a race of half-starved, ill clothed, miserable-looking, lacerated
and degraded Africans.
Alice: Whoever this Alderman Bury is, tell him that our Negroes want none of
his turtle or venison . and to keep [his] tears and sympathy for ... the
miserable poor of Ireland, and the wretched objects at their own doors;
and not to meddle with a people four thousand miles off, who would be
contented and happy but for the mischief and false notions put into their
heads!
Judge: You must, Major, forgive the warmth of my sister's feelings. She's a true
West Indian, and can never repress her indignation when speaking of the
falsehoods and calumny heaped upon us by the enemies of the colonies!
(II.2.181-182).

These last lines are probably the most important lines in the play, since
the Judge and Alice have rhetorically stigmatized England and the English as
"them," while the enslaved are "our Negroes."This rhetorical device emphasizes
that Barbados is not only four thousand miles from England geographically,
but also that Barbadians are ideologically different from the English; hence,
it should be no wonder that the English condemned the characters as "the
enemies of the colonies!" (II.1.181) This "them" vs. "us" perception of the
English Parliament and the Anti-slavery Society collides with the pastoral
opening of the scene, while at the same time verbalizing the nationalistic
stance of the pro-slavery planters.
The arguments convince Chider that he is wrong and he declares himself
"a convert to your cause" (II.2.182). At this point Orderson's comedy seems

13 Aldermanbury was the location of the Anti-slavery Society in London.


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics






JOANNE HARRIS


more like a tragedy. Only Emily seems to be disturbed by the discussion and
voices a different opinion.

Emily. But yet, our persecutors at home should bear in mind that it implies a
very different state in different countries.
Judge. And that here, in the West Indies where it is confined to one particular
race of people, it scarcely bears the name of vassalage; while in England,
though the very name of slavery is held in detestation, its effects predominate
through a system of manufacturing competition that debases a large portion
of the population into brute animals, or mere machines. (II: 2. 182)

This widens the breach between England and the West Indies, since any
comparison of the enslaved Blacks is now justified by race, while the abysmal
working conditions of the poor Whites in England are blamed on a system of
manufacturing. Since Marx lived in England during this period, it is possible
that Orderson was familiar with his theories and was intentionally making
the distinction between slavery based on race and the conditions of oppressed
workers. However, reading this into the scene is problematic, since Marx, like
Locke in the previous century, never included or located slavery within his
early pre-Emancipation theories; although in 1847 he echoed Locke when he
recognized slavery as a category that, while exploitive, had always existed in
some form.14
The remainder of the play focuses on the relationship between Tom and
Emily and their impending marriage. Eventually, Tom's sexual attacks on
Hampshire's daughter are revealed. Unrepentant, Tom is dismissed from the
family, Emily and Carlove receive the Judge's blessing, and the final scene has
the Judge giving Hampshire his manumission.

Judge. This Hampshire is your manumission! To reward your fidelity and long
services, I have given you freedom!
Hampshire: (starts strikes his breast) Gee me free! Wha I want with free?
If Massa lub Hampshire, he no trow he way upon the world! You gee me
free -who gee me money? where I get house for live in -who take care of
Hampshire when he sick? -who bury poor Hampshire when he dead Oh!
Massa -Massa! if you will part wid Hampshire, gee he to Miss Emily! -gee
he to Mass Captain! -No gee he free! (greatly agitate.) (III.3.200)


14 See his discussion on American slavery and capitalism in: Karl Marx, The Poverty ofPhi-
losophy: A Reply to M. Proudhon's Philosophy of Poverty, New York, International Publishers,
n.d., pages 94-5.


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WHITE CREOLE DOMESTICITY AND THE AESTHETICS OF ABOLITION


The Judge and Hampshire continue with the Judge assuring Hampshire
that he will continue to work, but as a hired servant with all the rights and
privileges of a British subject. A very surprised Hampshire then brings up the
subject of race.

Hampshire: (With amazement, examining his hands and opening his bosom)
Hey! -I like you? Massa, you making you fun! -I tan like you? Ha, ha! (with
surprise and half-gratified feelings.)
Judge: No. Hampshire! -no human laws can counteract nature!- your condition
in society is changed, but not your complexion; and though free and having
rights and privileges conferred on you, you yet have duties to perform!
By obedience to the laws, and conforming your mind to the principles
of Christianity, you will learn how to fulfil [sic] the one, and value the
other; for you must ever bear in mind that no society can exist without
subordination, or its members be happy without religion! (III.3.201)

The play ends with Emily and Carlove engaged, the Judge vowing
to be "bound by the ties of nature to the land of my birth," and "while the
curtain drops, Hampshire dances about the stage in great glee, sings 'Rights and
Privileges'&c.&c.&c." (III.3.210). In this scene, Hampshire's manumission
and his reaction are aimed at an audience faced with the possible emancipation
of their slaves, where his reaction serves to reassure the White Creoles that
once free, the freed Blacks will continue to be faithful and easily controlled.
In that respect, Orderson's play may be studied as a panegyric of Barbadian
society written to counteract and correct their image as corrupted versions
of the metropolitan English, while at the same time attempting to at least
partially accept the inevitably of emancipation and offer a vision of proper
domestic relations between Whites and Blacks.
By 1842, when Orderson published his novel, all slaves were free and
the controversial apprentice system had ended. White Creoles in Barbados
were no longer ostracized as degraded 'English' slave masters struggling to
maintain their metropolitan English ethnicity, but viewed themselves as West
Indian marked by a distinct "Other" culture composed of White paternalistic
landowners and subservient Black peasants. The amalgam of slave owners,
slaves, and Freedmen reflected in both Creoleana and The Fair Barbadian and
Faithful Black, though speaking with distinct voices that compete and collide,
are presented as sharing a common purpose in challenging British imperialism.
The unity of purpose captured in both works may then be argued to assert an
emerging sense of 'West Indianness,' an emerging sense of 'otherness' that
disturbed conventional notions of "Englishness."


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JoANNE HARRIS


So, while problematic in terms of advocating the subordination of
Blacks, Orderson's writings share a literary DNA that I argue is the genetic
foundation of what today is known as West Indian literature, nuanced in each
of his literary works in response to imperial interventions in the colonial slave
system. However, while The Fair Barbadian and Faithful Black emphasizes the
tensions of a West Indian plantation culture in opposition to specific English
anti-slavery agendas, ten years later Creoleana represents a society whose
identity was still different from the metropole, but one vindicated through
emancipation. This distinction is important, since for Orderson, Barbados
no longer operated in opposition to the British Empire, but as a partner
within the imperial economic scheme. As an emerging nation-state within
the Empire, Barbados was no longer viewed as an extension of England, and
White Creoles were no longer 'subjects' of metropolitan disdain, but seem
to have come to terms with their different culture, now operating as trade
partners supporting the imperial project from their West Indian base.
Although Orderson's Creoles, for the most part, function harmoniously
within their hybridized society, the vignettes of domestic life in his later nov-
elette, Creoleana romanticize the tensions portrayed in The Fair Barbadian and
Faithful Black by idealizing the class, gender, and racial categories in plantation
colonies. True to the full title, Creoleana: or social and domestic scenes and incidents
in Barbados in days ofyore, it provides only a cursory mention of slavery and the
arguments stated in The Fair Barbadian. Instead, his focus is on domestic life
of White Creoles and the hierarchical structure of local society, centering on
a romance between the children of two prominent planters. This approach to
Creole society raises the question of why Orderson chose to set his novel in the
1790s when slavery and abolition were the main issues of the day, and family
relationships reflected a history of forced miscegenation. Was Orderson nos-
talgic for a bygone era; was he trying to rewrite a social history of Barbados; or
could he have been attempting to absolve or minimize the White Creoles' role
in slavery? Was his statement about West Indian Literature in the preface an at-
tempt to place Barbados on equal footing within the hegemonic literary canon
of the British Empire, or the ramblings of an old man? Editor John Gilmore
speculates that Orderson may have simply chosen to write about a time prior
to emancipation in order to avoid the lingering tensions of a post-emancipation
society and to show that "the whole of his work is an assertion that Barbadians
and their concerns are a fit subject for literary endeavour" (8). While there is
no conclusive evidence to support any of these theories, in an 1841 letter to the


SARGASSO 2009-10,1






WHITE CREOLE DOMESTICITY AND THE AESTHETICS OF ABOLITION


Colonial Secretary, Lord Stanley, Orderson provides a partial answer; "Influ-
enced by an earnest desire of testifying my profound respect for your Lordship, I
have presumed, unauthorized, to avail myself of the auspices of your Lordship's
distinguished name, to place before the British Public the following political
incidents and domestic anecdotes of my native country" (20). His use of the
adjective "native" supports the notion that Barbadian planters were developing
their own proto-national identity and changing its relationship with Britain.
Regardless of the reason he wrote, the result is that today we have a unique story
that, in its telling, reveals early White Creole life from a participant perspec-
tive as evidenced by Orderson's own statement that:

He [Orderson] does not profess to give any extended view of the customs,
manners, and habits of Creolean society; yet, in the progress of his tale, there
will be found many little apertures ... through which a discerning eye may catch
a glimpse of each, as they existed in times of yore, rather than as they exist at
present. The improvements which in later times have taken place in social order,
in domestic life, in religion, and in education, have all tended to produce high
influences, which, it may be hoped, will ultimately advance the happiness of the
people. (21)

Although the idealized romantic relationships depicted in the novel lack
the tensions between Hampshire and his daughter on the one hand, and Tom
on the other, Black and White relations in both works are still tenuous. Unlike
Hampshire, who plays the comic Negro, patiently and loyally catering to the
whims of the Judge, Orderson's portrayal of Black and colored characters
in Creoleana convey a limited degree of agency. This technique circumvents
the eroticized or victimized roles recurrent in anti-slavery novels and allows
for a suspension of disbelief for the purpose of understanding the author's
retrospective view of life in the 1790s, which conveniently ignores the tensions
of slavery. Thus, while it may be tempting to dismiss Orderson's texts as
'hyperbolic' representations of a hypertrophied plantocracy, I maintain that
a close examination of the texts is invaluable in understanding hegemonic
domestic policies, in particular how a White elite formulated strategies for the
oppressive structures codified by unjust laws. With this in mind, regardless
of their literary or historical weaknesses Creoleana and The Fair Barbadian
and Faithful Black succeed in providing glimpses into how racialized "customs,
manners, and habits of Creolean society" responded to metropolitan
representations and foregrounded the rise and development of Anglophone
Caribbean literature.


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





JoANNE HARRIS


Works Cited


Beckles, Hilary. A History of Barbados. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006.
Print.
Bhabha, Homi K. "Nation and Narration." Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi
K. Bhabha. London: Routledge, 1990. 1-7. Print.
During, Simon. "Literature Nationalism's Other? The Case for Revision."
Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi K. Bhabha. London: Routledge, 1990.
138-52. Print.
Handler, Jerome. A Guide to Source Materials for the Study ofBarbados History
1627-1834. New Castle: Oak Knoll P, 2002. Print.
-. The Unappropriated People: Freedmen in the Slave Society of Barbados.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1974. Print.
Lambert, David. "Liminal Figures: Poor Whites, Freedmen, and Racial
Reinscription in Colonial Barbados." Environment &Planning D: Society
& Space 19.3/4 (June 2001): 335-42. Print.
-"Producing/Contesting Whiteness: Rebellion, Anti-Slavery and
Enslavement in Barbados, 1816." Geoforum 36.2005 9 September 2003:
29-43. Science Direct. 9 June 2005 .
-- White Creole Culture, Politics and Identity During the Age of Abolition.
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. Print.
Orderson, Isaac W. Creoleana. London: Saunders and Otley, 1842. Print.
-. Creoleana. 1842. Ed. John Gilmore. Oxford: Macmillan, 2002. 264.
Print.
---. The Fair Barbadian and Faithful Black: Or A Cure for the Gout. Liverpool:
Ross and Nightingale, 1835. Print.
Sypher, Wylie. Guinea' Captive Kings: British Anti-Slavery Literature of the
Eighteenth Century. New York: Octagon, 1969. Print.
Wyrick, Deborah. "The Madwoman in the Hut: Scandals of Hybrid
Domesticity in Early Victorian Literature from the West Indies." Pacific
Coast Philology 33.1 (1998): 44-57. Print.


SARGASSO 2009-10, I








The Body As Testament: The Case of Mary Prince

Katrina Smith
University of Miami


Oh the horrors of slavery! -How the thought of it pains my heart! But
the truth ought to be told of it; and what my eyes have seen I think it
is my duty to relate; for few people in England know what slavery is.
I have been a slave I have felt what a slave feels, and I know what a
slave knows; and I would have all the good people in England to know
it too, that they may break our chains, and set us free.
-Mary Prince, The History ofMary Prince


For much of her adult life, Mary Prince's main objective was to gain her
freedom. She was willing to use any means necessary, from sleeping with
a White man who she thought would purchase her freedom, to fleeing from
her owner's house in England in order to ensure that she would not spend her
entire life in bondage. At a time when Black women, both in North America
and the Caribbean, had no tangible power, Prince used the one commodity that
she had, her body, to gain agency and thus guarantee her freedom. This theme
of using one's body to gain freedom is one that was replayed over and over both
in real life and in fiction during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This
essay discusses the ways Prince used her body as a tool to gain her freedom
and argues that for many enslaved women, their bodies provided the only
means through which they could obtain manumission. During the period of
slavery, enslaved women's sexual relationships with their masters often became
a tool for their survival. By becoming a mistress, voluntarily or otherwise,
Black women gained some measure of control over their circumstances. In
many cases, these Black mistresses served as substitute wives, taking care of
the household, the children, and their "husbands." Additionally, some of these
women no longer had to work outside in the fields. Upon the death of their
masters, some mistresses were manumitted. This essay seeks to look at the
ways that an enslaved woman in the Caribbean, Mary Prince, used her body
to gain agency, to manipulate the dominant culture's expectations of African
women, and ultimately, to ensure her freedom.


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KATRINA SMITH


When examining the sexual relationships between masters and their Black/
coloured mistresses, it is tempting to limit our reading of Black women to see
them as victims of White male patriarchal domination. No one can dispute
that White plantation owners used their slaves for sexual as well as economic
purposes, yet scholars often overlook one of the most obvious sources of power
for enslaved women in the Caribbean.' It is important to note that in this essay
"power" is a relative term that I use to imply having some measure of control
over one's life. Through the sexual power that they wielded over their masters,
many Black mistresses became pseudo-wives, fulfilling many of the productive
as well as reproductive functions of the household. Within these relationships,
enslaved Black women were able to acquire money, in some cases enough
to buy their freedom.2 Prior to the rise of British abolitionism in the early-
nineteenth century, non-fictional narratives of the Caribbean often portrayed
the relationships between White men and Black women as committed and
sometimes as serious as legally recognized marriages. Many of the narratives
illustrate positive benefits of these relationships for the enslaved women,
including relief from normal working duties, not having to worry about having
one's children sold to another plantation, and ultimately, manumission.
It is well-known that many Black women served as concubines or
"housekeepers" for White men in the Caribbean, gaining what Orlando
Patterson refers to as the much-valued "partial freedom" within slavery, though
not necessarily outside of "the material delights of the great house" (175). In
her literary archaeology, Ghosts of Slavery, Jenny Sharpe expands Patterson's
insight into tactics enslaved people used to make their condition more livable

1 Editor's note: Many scholars address the practice of concubinage in the Caribbean
and its impact on enslaved women's lives, in addition to Orlando Patterson and Jen-
ny Sharpe, who are cited in this article. See for example, Barbara Bush's work, such as
"White 'ladies,' coloured 'favourites' and black 'wenches;' some considerations on sex,
race and class factors in social relations in white Creole Society in the British Carib-
bean" (Slavery & Abolition, 2.3 [December 1981]: 245 262), and "'Sable venus,' 'she
devil' or 'drudge'? British slavery and the 'fabulous fiction' of black women's identities, c.
1650-1838," (Women's History Review 9: 4 [2000]: 761-789); and Hilary McD. Beckles'
work, such as "Female Enslavement and Gender Ideologies in the Caribbean" (in Identity
in the Shadow of Slavery, Paul E. Lovejoy, ed. [London: Continuum, 2009]: 163-181).
Researchers such as Doris Garraway have addressed the practice of concubinage in the
French West Indies; see her The Libertine Colony Creolization in the Early French Carib-
bean (Durham: Duke UP, 2005).
2 See Beckles, Hilary. "Property Rights in Pleasure: The Marketing of Enslaved Women's
Sexuality."


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THE BODY As TESTAMENT: THE CASE OF MARY PRINCE


by discussing the benefits Black and Colored women secured through their
relationships with White men beyond mere material gains. Sharpe contends
that the autonomy Black women gained from these relationships "was, of
course, contradictory, for it was acquired through a dependency on White
men, and a woman was often placed at greater risk of physical violence,
particularly if her keeper (as they were known) was a jealous man" (44). Sharpe
goes on to argue, however, that "the existence of sexual exploitation does not
diminish the mobility Black and racially mixed women were able to acquire
for themselves within the coercive relations of slavery;" because of their role as
a White man's wife, concubines gained access to privileges that were normally
not granted to slaves, especially slave women (Ghosts 44). Partial freedom "is
in fact what slave women were able to achieve through a manipulation of their
sexual exploitation" (44). Through building sexual relationships with White
men who were not their masters, some of those favored enslaved women
who were also concubines were able to leave the households to which they
belonged (45). These were just some of the many reasons black and racially
mixed women decided to become a White man's concubine. Both enslaved
men and women had limited opportunities to acquire money, but usually only
women were able to turn their sexual exploitation to their advantage. Also, the
woman herself was not the only one who benefited from these relationships.
In some cases, her entire family could benefit from the money, gifts, and
prestige she received (58-59). During the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth
century, many proslavery advocates (Edward Long, Janet Schaw, and Maria
Nugent, for example) looked on these interracial relationships as the result of
Black women actively pursuing and taking advantage of White colonial men.
Many contemporary scholars, however, paint a picture of the Black woman as
brutally exploited at the hands of these White men. What Sharpe argues in
her text is that there is a third way of explaining sexual relationships between
master and slave rather than limiting the analysis to either seduction or rape.
Sharpe contends that this third option is that these relationships were battles
for power waged over an extended period of time (64). This essay analyzes one
such battle for power, one waged by Mary Prince.
Throughout history, women of all races and economic backgrounds have
used their sexuality to gain power. In terms of English literature, women have
been represented as using their sexuality to gain power as far back as Geoffrey
Chaucer, whose Wife of Bath in The Canterbury Tales appears aware of male
defined stereotypes of women's sexuality, manipulating them to gain agency.


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KATRINA SMITH


What is significant about Black women in the British Caribbean using such
strategies to gain agency is that it was widespread, and not an isolated practice.
Additionally, the stakes for not using sex to gain power in the Caribbean were
high, where life/death of oneself, children, or loved ones were at risk. Slavery
in the Caribbean was brutal, so it was important that Black women in the
Caribbean find a way to mitigate that brutality. More significantly for this
essay, however, is the fact that other women, such as the Wife of Bath, who
used their sexuality to gain agency were not depicted as universally lascivious,
deceitful, and promiscuous as Black women in the Caribbean were. This essay
stems from a desire to reconsider some of those negative depictions of Black
women in the Caribbean.
In 1831, The History of Mary Prince became the first narrative of a Black
woman published in Great Britain. What most people know of Prince is what
is found in her narrative. This essay, however, focuses on what is not found
in Prince's published History, primarily information about her sex life. Like
many other Black women, Mary Prince initially tried to use her sexuality to
gain her freedom. She engaged in a sexual relationship with a White man
named Captain Abbot in the hopes of earning enough money to buy her
freedom. She also entered into a sexual relationship with a free man who
promised to purchase her freedom. When neither of these relationships led to
emancipation, Prince decided to find another way to use her body to gain her
freedom. In England, she showed the scars on her back to the White women
she was hoping would help her escape from her owner, Mr. Woods. This is
one of the acts that ultimately enabled her to gain enough support to leave
Mr. Woods and start out on a life of her own. Although Prince's attempts to
use her sexuality to gain her freedom were unsuccessful, she was ultimately
able to use her body in a different way to achieve that objective. In the end,
she uses the scars on her back to convince the women in London that she has
indeed been abused. In other words, when the credibility of her words cannot
be proven, the scars on her back serve as a testament to the abuse she has
suffered, eliciting the necessary sympathy of British abolitionists who helped
her maintain her freedom in England.
Jenny Sharpe, in her article "Something Akin to Freedom: The Case of
Mary Prince," argues that "slave women used their relationships with free men
to challenge their masters' rights of ownership" (2). Sharpe, however, is quick
to point out that the evidence to back up this claim cannot be found in Prince's
narrative. Indeed, Prince's narrative, except for the implicit description of her


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THE BODY As TESTAMENT: THE CASE OF MARY PRINCE


bathing her master, is completely void of sexual relationships, consensual or
otherwise. Therefore, in order to find evidence to prove her claim, Sharpe uses
Prince's court testimony to prove her point. After the publication of Prince's
narrative, her former owner sued Thomas Pringle, her editor, for libel. Prince
was called to testify at the trial. It is Prince's court testimony as described by
Sharpe that I wish to examine and compare to Mary Prince's narrative to shed
light on her struggle to gain some power within chattel slavery.
The first gentleman that Prince attempts to use to secure her humanity
is Captain Abbot. Abbot is only mentioned fleetingly in Prince's narrative
when she writes: "A gentleman also lent me some [money] to help to buy
my freedom but when I could not get free he got it back again. His name
was Captain Abbot" (History of Mary Prince 27). From this brief mention, it
does not seem as if Prince's and Abbot's relationship was intimate. Instead,
her presentation within the narrative insinuates that he was a philanthropist
and that Prince would pay Abbot back the money he loaned her. In her court
testimony, however, Prince admits that her relationship with Abbot was sexual.
In one of her appendixes, Sara Salih, editor of a 2000 reprint of The History
of Mary Prince, writes that Prince "had lived seven years before with Captain
Abbot. She did not live in the house with him, but slept with him sometimes
in another hut which she had, in addition to her room in the plaintiff's yard"
(102). Sharpe argues that Prince did not borrow money from Abbot but that
she served as his concubine in order to raise money to purchase her freedom.
According to Sharpe,"Prince's purchase price was $300 (equivalent to [pounds]
67.10s sterling), a sum not easy for her to raise. It is likely that she made an
arrangement with Abbot to serve as his housekeeper -which was a term used
for concubines- in exchange for her purchase price" ("Something Akin" 9).
Between the publication of her narrative and the trial, Abbot morphs from a
money lender to a lover.
Scholars such as Moira Ferguson and Sandra Pouchet Paquet argue that
Thomas Pringle, Prince's editor, erased this event from Prince's narrative for
abolitionist purposes, but Sharpe offers a different and interesting interpreta-
tion. Sharpe suggests that Pringle erased this incident from Prince's narrative
because he did not want to suggest that prostitution was a legitimate means
to manumission ("Something Akin" 9). This claim suggests that Pringle knew
that some Black women were using their bodies to gain their freedom. There
were so many women acting as concubines to White men that it would have
been nearly impossible for Prince to be unaware of the potential benefits of


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KATRINA SMITH


these relationships. Interracial sexual activity was so prevalent in Antigua
that Joseph Phillips, an Antiguan solicited by Pringle to give his opinion on
Prince's morality, wrote in his letter to Thomas Pringle that: "at any rate, such
connexions [sic] are so common, I might almost say universal, in our slave
colonies, that except by the missionaries and a few serious persons, they are
considered, if faults at all, so very venial as scarcely to deserve the name of im-
morality" (qtd. in Pringle 51). Pringle would not have feared promoting the
activity if he did not already believe that it was going on.
The historian Hilary Beckles writes extensively on Black women's sexuality
during the era of slavery. In "Property Rights in Pleasure: The Marketing of
Enslaved Women's Sexuality," he discusses the issue of Black prostitution and
concubinage during the pre-Emancipation period in the British West Indies.
According to Beckles, some slave women were able to achieve emancipation
through prostitution and concubinage, reporting that the number of Black
women gaining their freedom through prostitution was so great that legislators
sought to raise the price of manumission. Beckles notes that "In 1739, the
manumission fee had been legally set at 50 plus an annuity of 4 local
currency" (699). He goes on to say:

In 1774, a bill was introduced into the [Barbadian] Assembly aimed at
curtailing the number of females being manumitted. It was designed to raise
the manumission fee to 100, but was rejected on the grounds that slave owners
should not be deprived of the right to assist the "most deserving part" of their
slaves 'the females who have generally recommended themselves to our
'kindest notice.' (699)

This passage is extremely provocative. First, it implies that legislators
believed concubines had earned the right to buy their freedom based on their
years of service to their lovers. Additionally, it implies that concubines are
more deserving of manumission than any other group of slaves. Second, the
term "recommended themselves" suggests that these women had an active say-
so in whether they entered into these relationships. Third, the phrase "kindest
notice" implies that the planters believed they were doing the women a favor by
engaging in these relationships. This attempt to raise the cost of manumission
is one way that legislators sought to deter White men from freeing their Black
mistresses and prostitutes. Other legislators, however, recognized the inherent
right of slave owners to "reward" their mistresses with manumission; therefore,
the motion to raise the price of manumission failed. Beckles explains that later


SARGASSO 2009-10, 1






THE BODY As TESTAMENT: THE CASE OF MARY PRINCE


Govenor Seaforth was able to push a limit on manumission of female slaves,
raising the fee to 300 in 1801, until it was repealed in 1816 after Bussa's
Rebellion.
As already mentioned, Prince's desire for manumission caused her to
attach herself to another free man when her relationship with Abbott did
not have the desired effect. Sharpe mentions that Prince "knew a free man of
the name of Oyskman, who made a fool of her by telling her he would make
her free. She lived with him for some time, but afterwards discharged him"
("Something Akin" 11). This is another case of Prince attempting to use her
sexuality to gain her freedom. Prince's ability to discharge Oyskman makes it
clear that she was in a position of power. Had she been in the relationship on
terms other than her own, she would not have been in the position to end the
relationship when she saw fit.
Prince's relationship with a White man did not lead to her freedom, as it did
for some Black /Colored women in the Caribbean. She was, however, able to use
her body as a legal text to achieve the same goal. In London, Prince fought hard to
gain her freedom claiming that she wanted to be able to return to Antigua to her
husband which no doubt bolstered her respectability in the eyes of abolitionists.
In order to garner support for her cause, Prince told the story of her captivity to
several abolitionists. As a Black woman, though, her testimony was questioned
and several of her owner's associates questioned the validity of Prince's claims.
It was at this time that she used her body as a testament to the abuse she had
suffered. In a letter dated March 28, 1831, Mrs. Pringle details the scars she
had seen on Prince's back. Three other women who "read" the scars on
Prince's back also signed the letter. Mrs. Pringle writes:

The whole of the back part of her body is distinctly scarred, and, as it were,
chequered, with the vestiges of severe floggings. Besides this, there are many large
scars on other parts of her person, exhibiting an appearance as if the flesh had
been deeply cut, or lacerated with gashes, by some instrument wielded by most
unmerciful hands. (qtd. in Salih 64)

In this way, Prince's body serves as the evidence of her abuse. Where her
verbal claims to abuse could be dismissed by the authorities because of her race
and supposed promiscuity, the scars on her back cannot be as easily dismissed.
As Barbara Baumgartner explains:

The letter [quoted above] from the four women affirming the battered
state of Prince's physique does not demonstrate similar uncertainty [about


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KATRINA SMITH


Prince's truthfulness]. Their report on Prince's physical condition results in a
confirmation and affirmation of her story. While their action has an element
of invasion in which the black female body is seen as a spectacle, an object to
be inspected and dissected, it also serves to situate Prince's story as truthful
and her body as supporting evidence. (264)

In this way, Prince's body, rather than her words, is her key to emancipation. It
is through the physical evidence her body provides that she is able to validate
her story and gain the support needed to make leaving the Woods a feasible
option. Baumgartner further elaborates on the way that "Prince's body and
text are still being subjected to manipulation and interpretation [that] expose
interesting revelations about current operations of power" (268), suggesting
the continuing difficulty in making sense of Black slave women's experiences.
Though Prince's sexual relationships with White men did not lead to her
freedom, she did not give up on her quest to be free. When her words were
questioned, she used her body to make her case. Prince used her body as
currency in much the same way as many other enslaved Black/colored women.
Though using her scars to gain her freedom was not sexual, providing access
to her physical body attained a use valuable for her.
There is much still to learn about enslaved Black women in the Caribbean;
since there are so few narratives written by enslaved women, it is almost
impossible to know what their lives were like, what they felt, who they loved, or
what the motives were for those women who entered into sexual relationships
with White men. In his recent history, The British Army in the West Indies,
Roger Norman Buckley discusses what he calls the "housekeeper syndrome."
Buckley notes that

One of the great tragedies of West Indian slavery was the sexual exploitation
of Black and colored women by white men. The sexual licentiousness of white
men ranged from relatively stable unions with mistresses or concubines to
highly transitory, debauched, even sadistic, encounters with the most vulnerable
women and girls in the slave and freed populations. (342)

Buckley is clearly correct in his assertion that the level of sexual exploitation
going on in the Caribbean was astounding. Though this essay does not focus
on the negative aspects of these interracial relationships, I am not ignoring
the fact that not all interracial relationships were consensual nor am I arguing
that these relationships were not also problematic and included substantial


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THE BODY As TESTAMENT: THE CASE OF MARY PRINCE


levels of coercion and violence. What I have done, however, is show that not
all instances of sexual relationships between master and slave were rape and
that some enslaved Black women, when faced with two evils, chose the lesser
of the two and entered into these relationships strategically. Most likely they
felt about this choice as the escaped U.S. American slave, Harriet Jacobs did
when she found herself in a similar predicament as Mary Prince, that "there
is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you,
except that which he gains by kindness and attachment" (qtd. by Sharpe,
"'Something Akin' 244). This was truly the case for Mary Prince in her quest
for freedom.


Anti/Slavery and Colonial Aesthetics





KATRINA SMITH


Works Cited

Baumgartner, Barbara. "The Body as Evidence: Resistance, Collaboration, and
Appropriation in 'The History of Mary Prince.'" Callaloo 24.1 (Winter
2001) 253-75. Print.
Beckles, Hilary. "Property Rights in Pleasure: The Marketing of Enslaved
Women's Sexuality." Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World. Eds. Verene
Shepherd and Hilary Beckles. Jamaica: Ian Randle, 2000. 692-701.
Print.
Buckley, Roger Norman. The British Army in The West Indies: Society and the
Military in the Revolutionary Age. Gainesville: UP Florida, 1998. Print.
Ferguson, Moira. "Introduction to Revised Edition." The History of Mary
Prince: a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself Mary Prince. Ed. and intro.
Moira Ferguson. Ann Arbor: U Michigan P, 1997. Print.
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in The Life of a Slave Girl. Classic African American
Women's Narratives. Ed. William L. Andrews. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003.
Print.
Paquet, Sandra Pouchet. "The Heartbeat of a West Indian Slave: The History
of Mary Prince." African American Review, 26.1, Women Writers Issue
(Spring, 1992): 131-146. Print.
Patterson, Orlando. Slavery and SocialDeath:A Comparative Study. Cambridge
MA: Harvard UP, 1982. Print.
Prince, Mary. The History of Mary Prince. Ed. Sara Salih. London: Penguin,
2000. Print.
Pringle, Thomas. "Supplement." The History of Mary Prince. Mary Prince.
London: Penguin, 2000.39-63. Print.
Salih, Sara. "Appendix." The History of Mary Prince. Mary Prince. London:
Penguin, 2000. 64-65. Print.
-"Introduction." The History ofMary Prince. Mary Prince. London: Penguin,
2000. vii-xxxiv. Print.
Sharpe, Jenny. Ghosts of Slavery: A Literary Archaeology of Black Women's Lives.
Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 2003. Print.
--. "Something Akin to Freedom:' The Case of Mary Prince." Differences:A
Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 8.1 (Spring 1996) 31-56. Print.


SARGASSO 2009-10,1








Jean Rhys's Voyage in the Dark as a Trans-Atlantic

Tragic Mulatta Narrative

Ania Spyra
Butler University


"A pretty useful mask that white one."
-Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark


mages of masks and masking surface repeatedly in Jean Rhys's 1934 novel
Voyage in the Dark; they describe the faces and artificial smiles of English
people that Anna Morgan, the narrator and main character, meets when she
immigrates to London from the West Indies after her father dies, and they act
as an image of a loss of identity.1 Most importantly, however, they refer to the
white or "crude pink" masks worn by Blacks during the Caribbean carnival
in Anna's native Dominica, which resurface in her memory at the end of the
novel when she hallucinates in a delirium after a mishandled abortion. The
carnival masks always include a slit through which the tongue can emerge
and taunt the outraged white onlookers. But Anna does not feel taunted; she
asserts she "knew why the masks were laughing" (186). Such an assertion of
an intimate knowledge in the usually timid Anna suggests that she holds a
particular insight into this "Black skin, White masks" situation: that her pale
face might only be a mask covering her own racial mixture, or, in the least, it
suggests Anna's own uncertainty about her genealogy.
My reading is complicated and aided by the original ending of the novel
found and published six years after Rhys' death by Nancy Hemond Brown.
The entirety of part IV of the novel originally counted almost two and an half
thousand words more than the ending readers of Rhys's published works know
(Hemond 41). Since all interpretation of the novel depends on the specific
contexts of Anna's jumbled reminiscences and thoughts -what Mikhail
Bakhtin would call framing- the original, longer text sometimes complicates

'Future references to this text are given in parentheses.


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ANIA SPYRA


and sometimes helps to disambiguate statements made in the novel, framing
them to suggest different meanings.2 For example, it is Anna's father, rather
than herself, who pronounces the words about the usefulness of white masks
I opened with. Being closer to the family history, the father can speak even
more authoritatively about the issue of racial relations in the family. On the
other hand, it is still Anna who asserts the knowledge of why the masks are
laughing. This time, additional context refigures her statement, "I knew why
they were laughing they were laughing at the idea that anybody black would
want to be white" (52), pointing once again to Anna's racial confusion and the
centrality of racial masquerade as a theme in the novel.
But what interests me most here is that when Rhys was asked to re-write the
original ending because of how grim and potentially unpopular with readers it
was, she consented but continued to affirm that the original version was rendered
"meaningless" because it provided "the only possible ending" (Letters 25). While
in the revised ending, Anna, after some hallucinations, is supposed to be "ready to
start all over again in no time" (187), in the original version, she bleeds to death
after an abortion. Additionally, it was Rhys's initial intention to depict Anna's
death as replicating both her father's and her mother's premature deaths, since
Anna remembers her mother's servant, Meta, saying "she was too young to die"
(Hemond 44). Why would Rhys see this vicious circle of tragic deaths as the
most meaningful, or indeed the only possible, ending for Voyage in the Dark? My
argument here is that the early and tragic death of the protagonist, especially when
following that of her mother and father, places the novel firmly in the tradition of
the "tragic mulatta" narrative, which -transplanted to the British context- calls for
a more complex understanding of transatlantic reverberations of the plantation
economy and the racial hierarchies and categories it left in its wake. While I do not
mean to replicate an assumption of Anna's racial difference, I see the comparative
context of the "tragic mulatto" narratives as productive in teasing out the critique
of racial ideologies of the plantation system that Voyage in the Dark presents.
Although interracial characters inhabited literature since antiquity, the
"tragic mulatto" trope derives more specifically from the context of sentimental
antislavery narratives in the U.S. In Neither Black Nor White Yet Both: Thematic

2 In Discourse in the Novel Bakhtin describes "framing" as particularly important to the
construction of meaning in a text: "[T]he speech of another, once enclosed in a context, is
-no matter how accurately transmitted- always subject to certain semantic changes. The
context embracing another's word is responsible for its dialogizing background, whose
influence might be very great" (782).


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JEAN RHYS'S VOYAGE IN THE DARK...


Explorations oflnterracialLiterature, Werner Sollors traces the representational
matrices of mixed race figures across several languages and genres starting
with Greek myths and Biblical parables. He notes an increase in interracial
themes since the late eighteenth century, but carefully distinguishes between
the cliche representation of a mulatto's tragic end -which he notices already in
the various adaptations and rewritings ofJoanna from John Gabriel Stedman's
Narrative of Five Years Expedition in Suriname (1796)- and the actual "tragic
mulatto" trope. The essential difference lies for him in that the early interracial
characters' tragic plotlines follow from their status as slaves and thus property,
while the tragic mulatto's drama derives from their indeterminate race and
being identified as non-white even though they lead lives of free white people
(Sollors 207). Sollors's definition of the "tragic mulatto" trope emphasizes
that even if far away in time and space from the plantation, the characters
who -like Rhys's Anna- may also seem entirely white still have to deal with
echoes of the racial ideologies of the plantation system. Many scholars of the
Caribbean -Edouard Glissant, C.L.R. James, Sidney Mintz, Philip Curtin,
and David Scott to mention a few- have postulated the plantation system
as an essential template for understanding modernity.3 I turn to Glissant in
particular here, because as his postulation of the concept of Relation that
connects Africa, Europe and the Caribbean (that for him includes southern
US as well) into a web of filiations, he helps me theorize Rhys' trans-Atlantic
"tragic mulatta." Because the Relation itself is difficult to define, Michael
Dash translates it in a variety of idiomatic ways: creolization, cultural contact,
cross-cultural relationships. Glissant writes, "Rhizomatic thought is the
principle behind what I call the Poetics of Relation, in which each and every
identity is extended through a relationship with the Other" (11). Opposed
to a totalitarian rootedness, with its connotation of unique origins, Glissant
seeks for an alternative in Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's rhizome with
its "enmeshed root system, a network spreading either in the ground or in the
air" (11) to assert an existence of connections and influences that grow out of
the plantation system. The imagery of rhizomatic connections and tangled
webs of influence help me theorize both the distant geographical contexts
that Voyage in the Dark engages and its fragmented form. Relation, with its
confluence of time and space, helps elucidate also what Rhys saw as her main

3 I thank Mary Lou Emery for comments and for sharing the draft of her keynote ad-
dress "The Poetics of Labour in Jean Rhys's Caribbean Modernism," which influenced
my argument.


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ANIA SPYRA


intention in the novel -described in a letter to Evelyn Scott- to explore the
idea that "the past exists side by side with the present, not behind it; that what
was is" (Letters 24).
Unlike characters of Rhys's other European novels, Anna holds on to her
Caribbean background despite her exile and lives as it were in two places
and two time frames. Rather than feeling rooted, however, she maintains a
rhizomatic relationship with the Caribbean, her identity extended through
the relationship to her family and servants. Although -as many Rhys critics
have noted- the Caribbean often acts in the novel as the site of idealized
memories of warmth and color, Anna's thoughts also return to the inequities
and exploitation that enabled her comfortable childhood on the plantation.
Because of her conflicted attitude about the Caribbean, Anna frequently does
not reveal her background. Only in a conversation with Walter Jeffries, her
older English lover, does Anna repeat that she is a "real West Indian... the fifth
generation on [her] mother's side" (55), as if in an attempt to assert her pure
landowning roots. The claim, however, as Urmila Seshagiri noted, "describes
an identity that history has robbed of meaning" (489) because through the
vicissitudes of history it may connote many identities: Spanish, French, and
English, African, indigenous, or a hybrid mixture of all of them. Most of the
time -since her foreignness is perceptible in her speech rather than phenotype-
Anna remains silent to mask the fact she comes from the West Indies because
once she reveals her background, Britons immediately assume that as a Creole,
she ought to be racially impure. Despite her White appearance, fellow music
hall chorus girls in her troupe call her "the Hottentot," a contemporary slur for
blackness that marks her as "generically and genetically hot-blooded" and thus
Black despite her visual whiteness (Berry 22, Murdoch 260).
While Kenneth Ramchand refers to Voyage in the Dark as "our first Negri-
tude novel" (qtd. in Emery 12), seeing its racial dynamic as clearly polarized,
the clues about Anna's possible racial difference remain tacit. Mainly, it is
the very fact of her coming from the colonies that marks her as impure and
morally degenerate: degraded by contacts with the colonized and the insalu-
brious climate. Contemporary science and popular understanding considered
Creoles to be a different type of human being even without racial mixing. In
"Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise," Michelle Cliff quotes
a definition of Creole from the eleventh edition of Encyclopedia Britannica
published in 1911: "the difference in type between the creoles and the Euro-
pean races from which they have sprung, a difference often considerable, is


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JEAN RHYS'S VOYAGE IN THE DARK...


due principally to changed environment especially to the tropical or semi-
tropical climate of the lands they inhabit" (Cliff 42). The evolutionary logic
of social Darwinism employed here points to the environment as the reason
for the degeneration of the pure European stock, regardless of whether racial
mixture contributed to it.
Such prejudice was institutionalized by science. In a study of mixed-
blood races contemporaneous with the setting of the novel, Edward Byron
Reuter treats analogous hearsay as scientific information and asserts that,
"exceptionally light skinned girls [...] are occasionally able to secure white
husbands from the immigrants to the island, whom they have deluded into
believing that they are really white" (69). The assertion of racial impurity
derives in his study from the perception that colonies are sexually incontinent.
Reuter quotes examples of Black people of both Haiti and Jamaica to claim
that, "their sex relations are of frankly natural sort" (63) with "well over half of
the births being illegitimate" (67). In the novel, Anna's English stepmother
Hester repeats the prejudices formed on the basis of contemporary science.
She talks about Anna's father as "buried alive" in the colony, "cheated into
buying" an estate and probably also into marrying a colored woman (62).
Hester's disgust at any racial mixing transpires also in her harangues against
Anna's uncle Ramsey who actually admits to his children, "all colours of the
rainbow" (63). She goes on to pity Anna's "unfortunate propensities, [which
she] probably can't help" (65), clearly implying that Anna's slow descent into
prostitution derives not from her deprived economic situation, but from her
childhood and the island's insalubrious climate and behaviors.
Hester's statement about Anna's unfortunate propensities derives from her
belief in a possibility of miscegenation in any Creole family. When Anna asks
for clarification she hears: "you know exactly what I mean, so don't pretend"
(65), which once again implies racial masquerade, pretending not to be what
she is. However, when Anna understands that Hester is trying to "make out
that her mother was colored" (65), she fervently denies it and thus reasserts the
racial ideologies that she has internalized. Anna remains ambivalent towards
race, because despite her denial here she often asserts that she "always wanted
to be black" (31) and idealizes the lives of people of African descent on her
island: "being black is warm and gay, being white is cold and sad" (31). She
also seems repelled by whiteness and compares the color of white faces to
woodlicee" (54). Thus, on the one hand, as Sue Thomas has observed, Anna's
attitudes to race mirror the essentialism of negritude that "does not escape the


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ANIA SPYRA


Manichean logic of racial stereotype" because it reverses rather than dismantles
binary structures of prejudice that it depends on (Thomas 101). On the other
hand, however, it is clear that the novel questions the idea of purity when in
the context of Anna's conversation with Hester surfaces an advertisement for
cocoa, "What is purity? For Thirty-five Years the Answer has been Bourne's
Cocoa" (58). Defined through an essentially brown product of the plantation
economy, one that is grown in the colonies, processed in the metropolis to
be exported all over the empire, purity becomes a tangled web of influences,
commodified in a way analogous to Anna herself.
To give some substance to Hester's assumptions of impurity in Anna's
bloodline, Voyage in the Dark hints at the possibility of Anna's maternal
grandfather having sexual relations with a mulatta servant. As a teenager,
Anna reads the slave-list at Constance Estate -her mother's family property-
and her attention is caught with the name of"Mailotte Boyd, aged 18, mulatto,
house servant" (53). Although she is unable to explain why, she never forgets
this name. It is the immediate framing of this recollection with Hester's
comment -"the sins of the fathers [...] are visited on the third and fourth
generation"- that suggests reading Mailotte as the grandfather's lover. In the
dialogic context of Anna's memory, her father responds to Hester with "don't
talk such nonsense to the child [...] a myth don't get tangled up in myths"
(53) in an attempt to save Anna from believing in the possibility of having the
'stain' of blackness in her lineage, which could get her entangled in the myth
of "tragic mulatto." The metaphor of entanglement resonates with Glissant's
assertion that the "multiracial tangle" of the Plantation "created inextricable
knots within the web of filiations" (71).
The main issue here is not whether Anna is indeed not-White, whether
she is of "mixed blood" in the essentialist understandings of the day, but rather
that her colonial status -if it continues being read in terms of the standards of
racial purity of the plantation economy- makes her vulnerable to the sort of
a tragic ending imagined as the only prospect for the antebellum American
mulattas. In The "Tragic Mulatta"Revisited, Eve Allegra Raimon suggests that
while often known in its masculine form as "tragic mulatto," it is the feminine
form of the trope that evokes its complete reverberations. By the very fact of
her gender, the "tragic mulatta" illustrates most fully the noxious influence of
slavery on the possibility of survival of people of mixed race, which in turn
epitomizes fears about the future of the national body as an interracial one.
Raimon concludes that in the antebellum U.S. context sentimental writers


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JEAN RHYS'S VOYAGE IN THE DARK...


used the trope of the "tragic mulatta" to critique slavery because, as Sollors
noted, it turned "what should be tender ties into marketable commodities"
(203). If the "tragic mulatto" narratives aim at critiquing slavery and its sexual
implications, Rhys's trans-Atlantic tragic mulatta critiques not only the sexual
exploitation of poverty-stricken, disinherited women, but also colonialism at
large because it contributed to women's dispossession and commodification in
ways similar to Anna's.
Although it is now read rather as a critique of slavery (Raimon 2004,
Sollors 1997), initially the myth of the "tragic mulatto" helped to establish
the stereotype of biracialism as a tragedy in any society exposed to potential
crossing of race boundaries. It depended on an essentialist view of Blackness
as coming from even a "drop" of Black "blood" and acted as a warning because,
as Paul Gilroy comments ironically in Against Race, "when national identities
are represented and projected as pure, exposure to difference threatens them
with dilution and compromises their prized purities with the ever present
possibility of contamination. Crossing as mixture and movement must be
guarded against" (105). He also adds that, "the hatreds turned towards the
greater menace of the half-different and the partially familiar" outweigh the
hatreds directed at those who are purely different because, "To have mixed
is to have been party to a great betrayal" (106). The blood "mixture" is then
a reminder not only of the original rape, but also of the initial betrayal of
the alleged purity of the race. Although Gilroy's comments pertain to the
Hutu-Tutsi conflict of late twentieth century, hatred towards difference that
escapes location and categorization was obviously even more pronounced at
the beginning of that century.
In his early study of The Negro in American Fiction published in 1937,
Sterling Brown observes that because of the "single drop of midnight in her
veins" the mixed-race figure must "go down to a tragic end" (5). But a tragic
ending is not the only characteristic that makes Voyage in the Dark conform
to the literary tradition of the classic "tragic mulatto" narrative; rather, the
whole plot fits well its conventions. Raimon gives a longer description of such
a typical plot, which

regardless of the racial ancestry of the author ... involves a story of an
educated light-skinned heroine whose white benefactor and paramour
(sometimes also the young woman's father) dies, leaving her to the auction
block and/or the sexual designs of a malevolent creditor. The protagonist,
sheltered from the outside world, is driven to desperation by her predicament
and perhaps to early death. (Raimon 7)


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ANIA SPYRA


While obviously translated into a different time period and place, Anna's story
of a benevolent West Indian father whose inheritance falls into the hands of
his second wife, a malicious Englishwoman Hester, making Anna vulnerable
to the sexual advances of older, upper class men in England, bears a striking
resemblance to the generic plot.
Another classic study of the genre, Judith Berzon's Neither White Nor
Black: The Mulatto Character in American Fiction, portrays the trope of "tragic
mulatto" as "an outcast, a wanderer, one alone. He is the fictional symbol
of marginality" (in Raimon 5) and so is Anna. Read at times in criticism as
an example of a female flaneur (Joseph 1992), Anna wanders through the
cold streets of England as an analogous lonely outcast, drifting into fragile
relationships and places inimical to her. Elizabeth Abel has interpreted Anna's
isolation and depression as signs of deeper mental disorders, which actually
again inscribes her in the "tragic mulatto" conventions. As Michele Birnbaum
points out in her article on racial hysteria in the early novels of passing, mental
illness -especially neurasthenia and hysteria- have been traditionally seen as
examples of familial diseases, inherited through the "tainted" line. Interestingly,
madness in Voyage in the Dark is often discussed in terms of fractions. Ethel, a
landlady who hopes to profit from Anna's youth, calls her "a half-potty bastard"
when she lets her down, and intimates that this condition is visible, "Anybody
just got to look at you to see that" (145). Later, Anna talks about having to
be "three quarters mad" if she wanted to actually attempt to communicate
with Walter's friend and envoy Vincent (172). The mathematical vocabulary
of fractions reflects the contemporary descriptions of blood mixtures. While
the very term "mulatto" typically referred to an offspring of a White and a
Black parent, in the "tragic mulatto" narratives the protagonist was usually
imagined as a Quadroon or Octoroon,4 because the idea that the trace of
difference -that single drop- remains hidden and the person can potentially
pass for White is constructed as the very essence of the misfortune of a "tragic
mulatto" (Brown 6). Thus, like in the generic form of the traditional narrative,
Anna is not alleged to come directly from a White and a Black parent, but
remains more removed from the trace of an alleged African genealogy.

4 "Quadroon" and "Octoroon," were terms for categorizing people of mixed African and
European descent based on what Sollors calls a "calculus of color" in which the "percent-
age" of African ancestry was marked; the former term meant a person had one-quarter
African ancestry, while the latter indicated one-eighth African ancestry, and was thus
barely "visible" (see Sollors, Neither Black Nor White, Yet Both, pp. 112-139).


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JEAN RHYS'S VOYAGE IN THE DARK...


That the novel casts Anna's relationships with men in terms of rape
matches other descriptions of the classic conventions of a tragic mulatta
narrative. In an article that reads Michelle Cliff's writing as reformulating
the genre, Suzanne Bost focuses on the motif of the clash of cultures which
racial mixing is supposed to engender and which parallels Anna's inability to
assimilate to life in Britain: "Despite her attempts to assimilate into the white
society that is part of her heritage, [her] tragic racial admixture leads to a
clash of cultures, which often results in her death" (675). When Bost writes,
"Mixed blood is a curse for the tragic mulatto in that it acts as a reminder
of an original rape and of the imbalance of power that led to coerced sexual
relations between white men and black women" (Bost 675), she comes back
to the idea of the "original treason" raised already by Gilroy. The original rape
Bost mentions here finds its reflection in Anna's relationship with Walter, and
later in the liaisons that lead to her unwanted pregnancy.
Significantly, it is while in bed with Walter that Anna thinks again of
Mailotte Boyd, only to see their experiences in Relation: both of them are
eighteen and caught up in relationships based on an imbalance of power.
Although Anna tries to convince herself that she accepts her situation and
likes[] it like this... [doesn't] want it any other way but this" (56), she is con-
scious that -much as Mailotte had no way of escaping the relationship with
Anna's grandfather- there is no other possibility but rape or prostitution for
the relationship between her and Walter. Though in significantly dissimilar
circumstances that cannot be conflated, both women lose their ability to
decide about and protect their bodies. Anna's pregnancy appears to be an
outcome of a rape as well. Anna keeps remembering herself asking "stop
please stop" and the response of a man who does not stop, "I knew you'd
say that" (184); Anna fixates on his white face, which she coolly describes
in the original version of the ending as "very white and his nostrils going
in and out" (Hamond 49). The mask-like quality of this face -in both ver-
sions the face is framed with a mention of carnival masks- and its function
as a metonymy for a White male suggest an even stronger mirroring be-
tween Anna and Mailotte's situations. While Elaine Savory has critiqued
Anna's fleeting identification with Mailotte Boyd as an appropriation that
is "troubling, suggesting how deep and problematic Anna's fantasies run"
(60), such Relation of the past and present -as Rhys's succinctly phrased
it, "what was is" (Letters 24)- and the uncanny similarity of the mu-
latto servant to the disinherited granddaughter several generations later,


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ANIA SPYRA


emphasize the persistence of sexual and racial stereotypes that have been
imported from the colonies to the metropolis.
This conflation of the past and present becomes most pronounced in the
last part of the novel, when Anna hallucinates in the delirium of lost blood.
The mantra Anna repeats in the original, longer version of the ending, "I'm not
here I am there I'm not here I am there." It suggests that she sees her death as
related to the continuing reverberations of slavery and colonialism. The elision
among the different referents of"it ought to be stopped"-Anna's bleeding, her
prostitution, the carnival, the grating sound of the kerosene-tins during it, and
slavery itself- bring together the various strings of entangled critique that the
novel performs. Here, the Caribbean carnival masks play a major role, Anna's
parents and uncles discussing their views of slavery through their commentary
on the carnival. Anna's understanding of the past seems greater; she knows
what the women in masks were singing: "they were singing defiance" (51); she
also explains that they are laughing "at the idea that anybody black would want
to be white" (52). Black people exhibit more power here and more defiance.
Their defiance is also clearer in the more detailed development of the character
of Meta, who appears in the published version only once, sticking her tongue
out at Anna through the slit in the mask (178). In the original ending, Meta
and Anna actually engage in a physical struggle when Meta reacts to Anna's
calling her "black devil" by shaking her until her teeth, hair, and flesh shook
(Hemmond 47). No wonder such a corporeal memory of her own racism and
the resistance it met makes Anna seem much more aware of the inequities at
the heart of the plantation economy.
Since the original ending provides a much clearer resolution to many of the
novel's preoccupations, the only way to explain why Rhys finally embraced the
shorter, more hopeful ending -which she could have changed in subsequent
editions- is that the revised, hopeful end of the novel problematizes its
inclusion among the tragic mulatta narratives. Although many critics seem to
agree that "death would perhaps be a preferable alternative to [Anna's] death-
in-life existence" (Dearlove 28) and most of them deny Anna any possibility
of a good life after she has become a prostitute, Rhys hints at the possibility
of at least a psychically healthy life for her character. In a burst of optimism
unparalleled in the novel, in its last scene, Anna fantasizes about being "new
and fresh. And about mornings, misty days, when anything might happen"
(188). Maybe this ending -unwanted and implausible as it was for Rhys-
signifies more in its attempt to defy the myth of the "tragic mulatta" in which


SARGASSO 2009-10,1