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EDITORIAL COMMENT AND NOTES 1
THE KEENAN REPORT, 1869 PART I
Shirley C. Gordon .. 3
A WEST INDIAN STUDENT IN ENGLAND
Mervyn Morris .. .. 17
SALT FISH AND ACKEE
J. H. Parry .. 30
SOCIOLOGY, SOCIAL ADMINISTRATION AND SOCIAL WORK
T. S. Simey .. .. .. 37
THE SHORTAGE OF SCIENCE TEACHERS IN UNDER-
G. D. Bishop .. 42
ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE CARIBBEAN
W. I. Carr & J. E. Ingledew .. 45
POEM Peter Rudder 64
"The Middle Passage" .. .. 65
"In a Green Night" .. 67
SELECTED BOOK LIST 70
1 3 *
VOL. 8, NO. 4
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Vol. V, No. 3
An Anthology of West Indian Verse
Price: $1.00 (B.W.I. or U.S.) or 4/2 U.K. per issue.
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Dorothy Payne--a Newcomer to Sculpture ... ... M. Sandmann
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Vegetation in the Caribbean Area .. ... ... C. F. Asprey
The Couronians and the West Indies-The First
Settlements ... ... ... .. ... Edgar Anderson
Willian. Dampier (1652-1715)- Writer and Buccaneer
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Dark Puritan, Part III ... ... ... ... M. G. Smith
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Queen Anne's Government and the Slave Trade
Oeorge Charles Falconer
British Representation in Venezuela in 1826 ...
A trip to Nassau, 1882
A Royal Birthday in Haiti
Cultural Relations within the Caribbean ...
Vol. VI, Nos. 2 and 3
Canada's Federal Experience
Australia Background to Federation
The Constitution of Australia
Early Constitutional History of Jamaica
The Road Back-Jamaica After 1866
The Temporary Federal Mace
Constitutional History of Trintdad and Tobago
Constitutional History of the Windwards
Constitutional History of the Leewards
Federalism in the l\'est Indies
Summary of Constitutional Advances-
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D. A. G. Waddell
William M. Armstrong
Samuel Proctor (Ed.)
F. W. Mahler
S. S. Ramphal
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H. 0. B. Wooding
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West Indian Poetry ... ... ... ... R. J. Owens
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Du Tertre and Labat on 17th Century Slave Life in the
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A House for Mr. Biswas
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EDITORIAL COMMENT AND NOTES
1. THE VICE-CHANCELLOR
We record with the greatest regret that Dr. W. A. Lewis, the first
Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, leaves the Uni-
versity in 1963. He has accepted an appointment with Princeton
University as Professor of Political Economy and International Af-
fairs. He leaves the University of the West Indies after three years -
first as Principal, then as Vice-Chancellor.
This Journal will not speculate on the reasons which have led
Dr. Lewis to decide to leave the West Indies at this time. Knowing his
deep interest in the University and the West Indies, it is fair however,
to assume that these reasons must have been grave indeed.
We should like to record our gratitude to him for the work which he
has done as leader of the University of the West Indies in the post
1959 period. He has revolutionised the concept of University Education
in the area. lie has repeatedly pointed out that the West Indies cannot
afford not to have a University of the highest standard of scholarship
and research, and neither can the area afford not to provide facilities
for University education whether by day study, part-time study,
evening study or full time residential study for all capable of taking
a University Course, and who will be going into society as teachers,
administrators, local government officers, businessmen, and so on. In
the post 1959 period, attendance figures have doubled, there are noA
two U.W I. campuses, one atMona and one at St. Augustine. Faculties of
Agriculture, Engineering and Social Studies have been created; plans
are well ahead for a Faculty of Education which would include an
Institute of Education. Evening study facilities for degrees are planned
for Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad. Dr. Lewis has been an energetic
fund-raiser, and a number of projects including new buildings give evi
dence of his success. But perhaps Dr. Lewis' most significant con-
tribution has been the handling of the negotiations and the arrange-
(a) the achievement of University status by the U.C.W.I.
(b) the agreement by the Caribbean territories (except British Guiana)
that the University should continue as the one Regional West
Indies University at least until 1973.
Dr. Lewis has given inspiration to and has shown the most sympa-
thetic interest in the development of the Department of Extra-Mural
Studies, and its work in Adult Education.
Finally, while regretting his departure from the University of the
West Indies, we must congratulate him on his appointment to Princeton
University. We should like to think that, although he will be leaving us,
his services will always be available in an advisory capacity to this area.
2. THIS ISSUE
(a) We welcome the following who are contributing to Caribbean
Quarterly for the first time:
(i) MR. MERVYN MORRIS, a 1958 Rhodes Scholar from Jamaica,
who has been Assistant Registrar since 1961.
(ii) PROFESSOR T. S. SIMEY of Liverpool University, who was
in the West Indies in the 1940's, and whose book on Social
Planning has been standard work for Sociologists in the area.
(iii) DR. D. C. BISHOP of the, Department of Education, University
of the West Indies who has already conducted a number of
courses for Science Teachers in the Caribbean.
(iv) MR. JOHN HEARNE, who reviews Naipaul's book "The Middle
Passage", is an Acting Tutor in the Department of Extra-
Mural Studies and is himself a well-known novelist.
(v) MR. J. H. INGLEDEW, lecturer in English, University of the
(b) The following have already contributed before to Caribbean
(i) Miss SHIRLEY GORDON, Senior Lecturer in the Department
of Education, University of the West Indies.
(ii) MR. W. I. CARR, lecturer in English, University of the West
(iii) PROFESSOR JOHN FIGUEROA, Professor of Education, Universi-
ty of the West Indies.
(iv) MR. PETER RUDDER, an Undergraduate at University of the
(c) We have included that most interesting article by Dr. J. H.
Parry (at present Principal of the University College of Swansea) en-
titled "SaItfish and Ackee". This historical sketch first appeared in
Volume 2 No. 4,, when Dr. Parry was head of the History Department at
the University of the West Indies.
THE KEENAN REPORT, 1869
SHIRLEY C. GORDAN
Part I: The Elementary School System in Trinidad
Patrick Joseph Keenan, Chief of Inspection of the Board of
National Education in Ireland, was sent by the British Government
in 1869 to investigate the state of education in Trinidad and to
make recommendations for its improvement. He was in the island
from 6 February to 8 April and visited seventy-six schools, in
which he examined over three thousand pupils.
The system which Keenan was asked to advise upon had been
established in 1851 under Governor Lord Harris. It was intended
to meet the problems set by a multi-racial society with a variety
of religions, the majority being Catholic. The answer to the prob-
lems as then seen by the administrators was to establish thirty
schools provided and financed by the wards, the new local govern-
ment units. These were supplemented by two model schools and
a normal school in Port-of-Spain to train teachers for the system.
At none of these schools was religious instruction given, but a
day was left free in each week for the children to go to their own
ministers of religion for denominational teaching. Schools main-
tained by the religious bodies were non-endowed. Schooling was
free at the secular ward schools and the whole was supervised
by a Board of Education and an Inspector of Schools appointed
for the purpose.
Keenan systematically criticised the buildings, the teaching, the
poor attendance and the very low attainments of the pupils of the
ward schools. lie attributed most of the defects he described to lack
of local supervision and to very poor training in the normal school.
To increase local supervision effectively Keenan recommended
that each ward school should now come under the management of
the clergyman of the religion of the majority of the pupils of that
school, and that religious education should be introduced, with a
conscience clause permitting parents to wishiraw children from
any denominational instruction to which they objected. This was
a reversal of policy mainly argued by Keenan on the grounds that
ministers of religion were the group most consistently interested
in the education of children in their locality. The secularists,
knowing Keenan himself to be a Catholic, complained that he was
in fact making a proposal which would promote the hitherto non-
endowed Catholic schools.
Keenan recommended the abolition of the normal school and
the initiation of a system of paid monitorships, leading through
teachers' examinations to qualification and classification in the
teaching profession. Also he urged that the system of payment
by results should be introduced. The teachers should be paid a
third of their salaries according to the defined results of children
at an annual examination by a visiting inspector, a third according
to the manager's report of the standard of their work and a third
according to their classification by the teachers' examinations.
Keenan in his long report also advised a variety of other
measures. These included the production of a set of books suited
to Trinidadian children and dealing with their own environment,
the introduction of workshops and gardens for boys and of school-
mistresses to teach needlework to girls, the need to extend educa-
tional opportunities to the increasing population of East Indian
immigrants, and, finally, the appointment of a new Board of Educa-
tion to consist of six Catholic and six Protestant members.
Extracts from the Report
1. THE BUILDINGS
(a) The prevalence of hired buildings and the deplorable condition of
nearly all of them is accounted for by lack of local interest.
Considering that eighteen years have elapsed since the Board of
Education was established, one cannot avoid being struck with the fact -
evidencing as it does, great apathy in the working of the system that
only thirteen of the school houses of the colony are the property of the
There were 17 of the ward school-houses (6 the property of the wards,
and 11 hired buildings) which would bring discredit upon any country
that recognizes civilization as a principle of government. Life is posi-
tively in danger in such a school as Oropouche, where the wood under
your feet is rotten, where decay has seized the walls, where the atmos-
phere is pestilential and the odours are sickening and intolerable. The
source of this sad condition of things lies, in every case, in the absence
of a vigilant eye on the spot. With the exception of the Governor, the
Inspector is the only person who takes any genuine interest in the con-
dition of the schools. But the Inspector's visits are necessarily few.
If there were a local manager, defects could at once be remedied. The
duties of the warden in the matter are very dubious. My researches into
the early operations of the system incline me to believe that the warden
was endowed with a local responsibility as to the management of the
school. Living authorities, however, have assured me that such was not
the case, that the school was virtually derelict nobody's child. The
stinginess occasioned by the plan of local taxation for the maintenance
of the school is, no doubt, another cause of the neglected condition
of the school-houses.
(1) Keenan reveals conditions further by his objection to teachers'
houses in close proximity to the schools.
Nearly all the Ward school-houses have dwellings attached to them,
which the teachers enjdy rent free. The dwelling is usually a part of
the block of wooden buildings of which the school-room forms another
part. Internal communication between the school-room and the residence
is not uncommon. In most cases the accommodation is confined, incon-
venient, and uncomfortable. I have, however, formed a very decided
opinion that it is a mistaken indulgence to establish the teacher's quar-
ters close to the school. In tropical climates the "hammock" is a most
seductive temptation to the indolent. I am afraid that teachers occa-
sionally retreat to it during the school hours. If the residence were a
quarter of a mile from the school, the temptation would be comparatively
weak and resistible. The proximity of the teacher's quarters to the school-
room leads to various other inconveniences. For instance, the children
of the teacher's family are constantly running in and out and interrupting
the school business; whilst the teacher himself, in looking after his
domestic affairs, is oftendistracted from his school duties. At Chaguanas
the crying of a baby in the teacher's apartment very seriously impeded
my examination of the pupils.
2. THE TEACHERS
(a) Age, marital status and payment of the teachers
The following are the ages of the elementary teachers:
3 are from 20 to 25 years of age.
7 ,, 26 to 30 ,
8 ,, ,, 31 to 35 .
8 ,, ,, 36 to 40 ,
3 ,, 41 to 45 ,, ,, ,,
2 ,, ,, 46 to 50 ,
1 is from 51 to 55 ,, ,..
and 2 are from 56 to 60 ,, ,, ,,
An examination of this table would lead one to conclude that the staff
is composed of experienced and matured persons more than two-thirds
of them being upwards of thirty years of age. But they possess neither
the solidity nor the influence of character which English teachers of
corresponding ages could be credited with. -
Of the thirty-four principal teachers of primary schools, twenty-
seven are married.
Trinidad is an expensive place to live in. Wages run high, and the
pay of teachers is commensurately high. The master of the model school
has 300 a year; the mistress of the model school, 250 a year; one of
the Borough school teachers, 200 a year; another 150 a year, and
another 125 a year. Of the Ward school teachers -
1 has 125 a year (for teaching two schools.)
6 have 100 a ,,
1 has 95 a ,,
8 have 90 a,,
2 ,, 85 a ,,
6 ,, 80 a ,,
1 has 75a,,
2 have 70 a,,
2 have 60 a,,
The average salary of the teachers of the Ward schools is 87.
I could discover no principle having reference to average attend-
ance, to the qualification of the teacher, or to the results produced, upon
which the rate of salary is determined.
(b) The placing of teachers according to their denomination is criticised.
Where the people and the teacher are of the same religion there
exists a spirit between them which is mutually advantageous even
although the teacher, in submission to a prohibitory regulation, may have
nothing to say on the religious instruction of the children. The teacher
whose religion is identical with that of the people about him acquires
an influence which he can legitimately exert in persuading parents to
attend to the education of their children, and which he can very fre-
quently use in gaining the co-operation of the clergy in the interest of
his school. One would think that no axiom could be more convincing
than this. Yet I find that this principle was utterly disregarded in the
adjustment of the recent changes of teachers. Mr. Purcell, a Wesleyan,
was brought from the Protestant district of St. Madeleine to that of Mara-
val, where the only Protestants are the family of the police constable.
Mr. Fitzwilliam, a Roman Catholic, was removed from the Catholic
district of Maraval, where he had won the commendation of the Catholic
Priest, to lere Village, one of the head-quarters of the Protestants of the
colony. Mr. Daniel, who is a member of the Church of England, was
transferred from lere Village to San Juan, a school in which, on the
day of my visit, there were 99 pupils on the roll, and notone of them
(c) The teachers are grossly lacking in organization and system; the inspector's
supervision is inadequate and there is no local management.
The art of efficiently handling, with a limited teaching power, a large
number of scholars is unknown to the masters of the Trinidad schools. .
Each teacher, however, follows his own bent hits upon his own plans,
which, if intelligently pursued and conscientiously adhered to, would go
far to make up for a want of acquaintance with approved systems of organi-
zation. Conceding to the arrangement and the working of those plans the
designation "organization", I can name only 7 schools in which, even in
this restricted sense, the organization was good. In 10 schools it was
tolerably fair, whilst in 18 others itwas decidedly bad. It would be simply
a tedious enumeration if I were to specify in detail all the defects which
I witnessed in the organization. . Not a single teacher in the colony
furnished me with a journal of the proceedings, or with any evidence that
the business of his school is a development or sequence of lessons al-
ready learned, or of work already performed. The conclusion I have ar-
rived at is, that the teaching from day to day is conducted on a mere
haphazard principle. There were "time-tables" in most of the schools. I
cannot, however, speak as to the observance of those time-tables, there
being no local managers to pay the schools occasional visits, and testify
to the fact. One of the inconveniences of the present system of exclusive-
ly official management is that there can be no practical supervision of the
teachers, as to their attendance, or their dutifulness, or their pursuance
of well defined routine, because the watchfulness of the Inspector, who
is separated from some of the schools by intervening forests and roadless
tracts, is in these respects a mere delusion. When he visits the schools,
he simply examines them. He has seldom time to set out the routine of a
day. A local manager could do so without incurring any serious imposi-
tion upon his leisure or his convenience.
(d) Keenan describes "bad schoolmastership"
I saw little or no attempt on the part of the teachers to supply tablet
rails; to improvise "instruction galleries"; to keep up an adequate supply
of requisites; to suppress noise; to discountenance prompting and guess-
ing; to find constant employment during the school-hours, for themselves
and their pupils; to improve the occasion by making the recreation a
lesson for the cultivation of morals and manners; to evince design in
their instruction; to make an effective classification of the pupils, to
teach arithmetic intellectually, or writing skillfully, or geography attrac-
tively, or any subject judiciously. The old maxim "repetitio est mater
studiorum" is all but quite disregarded. In fact there is little or nothing
to repeat. Children a year or two in a particular book . might be found
perusing a lesson in the beginning of the book, not because it was a
repetition, but simply because in nine cases out of ten the determination
of the lesson was a mere haphazard performance of the teacher.
3. THE RECOMMENDATION FOR TEXTBOOKS "RACY OF
The books which I found in use were chiefly the publications of the
Irish National Board. For elegance of style; for correctness of informa-
tion; for acquaintance with the best prose and poetical compositions
of the English language; for a general course of useful and interesting
knowledge; for the high, manly, and moral tone of the selections; and
for the didactic skill exhibited in the arrangement of the lessons, no set
of primary school-books ever previously published in the English lan-
guage could surpass, or even equal them. But notwithstanding their
recognized excellence and reputation, I should desire to see them super-
seded by a set of books whose lessons would be racy of the colony -
descriptive of its history, of its resources, of its trade, of its natural
phenomena, of its trees, plants, flowers, fruits, birds, fishes, etc. The
pitch lake and the mud volcanoes, for instance, would supply materials
for an attractive series of lessons. So would the growth, manufacture,
value, and uses of sugar. And so too would the cacao, the bois immortelle,
the cocoa-nut, the coffee plant, the cotton tree, the cannon-ball tree, the
more, the pineapple, the mango, the star-apple, the orange, the shaddock,
the cashew, the guava, the plantain, the different ferns and palms etc. -
objects all familiar to the Creole. Interspersed amongst a number of such
chapters there might be selections from the prose and poetical extracts
from the Irish National school books local matter forming, say, one-
half, and general literature, the other half, of each volume of the new
series. The books would then possess the same general characteristics
as the revised editions of the Irish series. As the Irish element pre-
ponderates in the Irish books, so the Trinidad element ought to prepon-
derate in the Trinidad books, which would then be as popular with the
Trinidadians as the Irish books are with the people of Ireland.
4. THE PUPILS AND THEIR WORK
(a) Actual attendance out of the 182 days that the Ward Schools are open each
Actual number of Percentage of Pupils who
Number of pupils who had made had made the different
Attendance the different Degrees Degrees of Attendance
180 days or more 4 0.1
160 .. .. 70 1.88
140 .. .. 245 6.62
120 .. .. 569 15.39
100 .. .. 979 26.49
90 .. .. 1,496 32.36
80 .. .. 1,399 37.85
70 .. .. 1,617 43.75
60 .. .. 1,861 50.35
50 .. .. 2,108 57.04
40 .. .. 2,389 64.65
30 .. .. 2,711 73.37
20 .. .. 3,110 84.17
Less than 20 days 582 15.76
It would be scarcely possible to contemplate a more disheartening
return of attendance than the preceding. It speaks for itself. Barely more
than a fourth of the pupils attended not less than 100 days in the year;
and only a shade more than one-half attended not less than 50 days in
the year. The usual excuses for non-attendance and irregularity are
pleaded such as the greedy disposition of parents, especially of the
agricultural class, to realize gain from the labour of their children; the
exactions of the planting and harvesting seasons; the distance of the
schools from the residences of some of the pupils, etc.
(b) Lack of punctuality andpoor attendance canonly be countered by local super-
A shorter season of labour has rarely been imposed upon primary
teachers, a lighter measure of schooling has seldom been allotted to
pupils. The school hours are nominally from 9 to 12, and from 1 to 4
o'clock; but the children rarely assemble for an hour after the appointed
time. I found school-rooms quite empty at 9 o'clock in the morning and
the masters appeared amazed that the circumstance should be noticed.
The want of punctuality in the attendance, and indeed all other defects
the teachers dispose of like fatalists. "These are the facts; they can't
be helped." They speak of difficulties as they would of nightmares -
as if there were no resisting them. Whilst making every allowance for
their quasi-fatalism, their consequent inertness, and the usual disturbing
elements which affect attendance, I am firmly convinced that one or all
of these causes would avail but little, if there existed any recognized
local influence to operate upon the teachers in inspiring them with a
genuine sense of their duty, and upon the parents and children in stimu-
lating them to entertain an earnest desire for education. In this, as in
many other phases of the working of a public school system, it is simply
irrational to hope for the slightest success without the co-operation of
(c) Keenan criticises the sole use of English as the medium of instruction in a
polyglot community and again claims that the meaningless teaching that fol-
lows from the practice would not have persisted if there had been local
managers to witness it.
The polyglot character of the people is at present nearly as remark-
able as when Lord Harris founded the education system. . The
Catholic children almost universally learn their prayers and their cate-
chism in French or Spanish. There are 8 sworn interpreters of French,
9 of Spanish, 1 of German, and 1 of Hindustani, all officially recognized
by the Government, for the purposes of law and commerce. The Coolie
element in the population has increased to nearly 20,000. In point of
fact, the place is quite a Babel. The operation of the Ward schools has,
no doubt, extended the use of English to districts where English has
been previously unknown. But the diffusion of the English language has
been accomplished by the most irrational process that could possibly
be conceived. French and Spanish-speaking children have been set to
learn English alphabets, English spelling, and English reading, without
the slightest reference whatever, in the explanation of a word or the
translation of a phrase, to the only language, French or Spanish, which
they could speak or understand. . In some of the schools the reading
is a mere mechanical repetition of words, suggestive of no meaning, no
idea, no sign of intelligence or pleasure. After years of schooling the
mind of a child under the circumstances is still a tabula rasa. If there
were local managers, this brain-sick system of instruction could not
survive long. No intelligent person could pay an occasional visit to a
school, and without an effort towards its correction, witness a routine
which produces only vexation and torpidity of intellect. The desire of
every lover of the colony must be to see that all the inhabitants speak
English. But a language cannot be infused into the human mind by the
power of a battering-ram. Rational measures must be employed. And my
firm conviction is that if the French and Spanish-speaking children were
first taught to read their vernacular language, and then taught English
through its medium, they would acquire a facile use of English with
(d) There are comparatively few girls in the Ward Schools and the ab-
sence of schoolmistresses accounts for the lack of practical in-
struction to attract them.
In the government schools, only 651 of the 1,786 pupils whom I
examined were girls. Various causes combine to produce this great
inequality. To one of these I now have occasion to refer the entire
absence of industrial instruction. In the Ward schools there is only one
solitary case in which the girls are exercised in the use of the needle.
The exceptional case is that of Diego Martin, where the wife of the
schoolmaster was in the habit of giving a little needlework to a few of
the girls. In the Girls' Model School only may it be said that, practically,
any attempt is made at systematic instruction in needlework. Operating
upon a singularly constituted community, whose wants are the result of
an imperfect civilization, and whose defects are the incidence of a pre-
dominant indolence, the system of education in Trinidad ought to be,
in a conspicuous degree, one of an industrial character.
But the Ward schools were organised on a principle which excluded
females from any participation in the instruction of the children. . .
I am convinced that, in the wide world, there could not be found a system
of public education in which industrial instruction has been so entirely
neglected. For the instruction of the girls, schoolmistresses should be
appointed who are competent to teach needlework and other industrial
(e) "Industrial education" must also be arranged for boys; this is a
further argument for local management.
Attached to every boys' school, it would be easy to have a little
workshop and a garden. In the workshop the boys could be taught how
to handle tools, and do sundry jobs in the way of repairs, etc.; and in
the garden they could be taught how to cultivate vegetables, etc. But,
above all, they should be taught, from their earliest days, to take kindly
to labour, to persevere in it, to be proud of it. Once for all, it must be
laid down that education, in its thoroughly practical sense, is to take
the place of mere book instruction. To use the words of one well ac-
quainted with the Colony, the population must obtain "some notion of
the value of time and money; some faint ideas of comfort and decency;
some glimmering perception that work is not dishonourable, and that
truth and morality are not badges of degradation."
But without local management nothing of this kind can be effectively
done. For reform in every branch of education, I have to turn to this
5. THE NORMAL SCHOOL
(a) The students are the paid staff of the model school for four days in the week.
The paid students act as assistant masters in the model school;
as such, they are paid salaries varying from 10 to 35 a year.
The following are the paid students at present in the normal school:
1. A. R. Innis; Baptist age 23; salary 35 a year.
2. P. C. Pierre; R. C. ,, 36; ,, 35 ,, t
3. F. N. Monsigne; ,, 23; ,, 25 to
4. R. Lawrence; ,, ,, 21; ,, 20 ,, .
5. E. J. Cox; ,, ,, 25; ,, 15 ,, ,,
6. P. S. Barry; ,, 36; ,, 15 .
7. Francis Guy; ,, 18; ,, 10 .
There are no unpaid students at present in the school.
On Monday, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, the normal students
are exclusively engaged as assistants in the model school. On Wednes-
days only are they students proper the superintendent being their
instructor and trainer. On Saturdays they are free.
(b) They are badly selected and poor in quality.
Not one of them had ever been a paid monitor or pupil-teacher. Nearly
all had been at some other occupation, and doubtless failed at it, or got
tired of its labours, or disappointed with its rewards, before betaking
themselves, as a dernier resort, or as an easy way of earning a com-
fortable livelihood, to the profession of teaching. Mr. Innis had been
an overseer on a sugar estate; Mr. Pierre, a tailor; Mr. Monsigne, an
overseer on a sugar estate; Mr. Lawrence, a teacher of a private school;
Mr. Cox, an overseer on a sugar estate; Mr. Barry, an overseer on a
sugar estate, and for six months a teacher of a private school, and Mr.
Guy, a shoemaker. Such antecedents are not peculiar to the present
batch of students.
The preceding statement prepares your lordship for the fact that
upon the entrance of the students into the Normal school, their qualifi-
cations are of the humblest character. One of the students recently ad-
mitted was unable to perform for me an easy sum in simple division;
although, according to the rules, the qualifications requisite upon en-
trance are to be able to read, spell, write from dictation, and work
sums in the four simple rules of arithmetic. This is a very low standard,
but anything higher would be above the level and capacities of persons
whose antecedents have been such as I have described.
(c) The Teaching is haphazard and pedagogy is neglected.
In the course of instruction pursued by the Superintendent there is
neither sequence nor development. There is no fixed routine. Now one
subject is taught, then another haphazard. For instance, when I in-
quired whether algebra had been taught, the reply was "I have not taken
it up yet". It was the same with regard toother subjects.
Pedagogy, the distinguishing study of a normal school, is practically
ignored. Not only is there no systematic teaching of science of method,
of school organisation, of discipline, of the cultivation of the human
character, or of the development of the moral sentiments, but there is
no regular series of expositions given of the mere mechanical details
and the common operations of schoolmastership. Even the rules of the
system under which the students are to teach are not explained. In my
report on the Icacos school will be found an account of a teacher who
was twice trained in this normal school, and who not only was unac-
quainted with, but positively denied, the existence of the fundamental
rule of the system as to the issue of certificates of attendance at religious
(d) There is no religious teaching, and this is reflected in the work of the ward
schoolmasters who neglect to check on the children's attendance at the re-
quired denominational instruction.
The Normal students receive no religious instruction in the institu-
tion, nor is there any arrangement in force by which they are to receive
it elsewhere. In point of fact, the spirit of the Normal school training is
to keep religion entirely our of view, to ask no questions, and to be
ostentatiously unconcerned about it. In evidence of this extraordinary
fact, I have only to refer to my reports on the thirty Ward schools,the
masters of which, with one exception only, have all been trained, and
in which, it will be seen there has not been, in a single instance, an
observance of the twentieth rule, which provides that every pupil in a
Government school shall produce a certificate quarterly from his clergy-
man, showing whether the child had attended, and if so, with what degree
of regularity, for religious instruction during the quarter.
(e) The poor contribution of the Normal school to the profession.
From August, 1861, to January, 1869, a period of 7Y2 years, 23 stu-
dents left the Normal school. Of that number only 12 are now in the Ward
schools and only one other (Mr. Farrell, of the Tacarigua schoolfor
Indian orphans) in any other public school. Of those who are not now in
the service, some were dismissed and some left of their own accord.
6. KEENAN'S RECOMMENDATIONS
(a) The abolition of the Normal school and the introduction of a system of
I have no hesitation in recommending the abolition of this so-called
Normal school. Its operation is a most serious reflection upon the ad-
ministration of primary schools. The training of candidates must be
accomplished by other means.
Every good school may serve the purpose of a normal school. The
institution of monitors is the foundation of all efficient training. The
monitor is the future teacher. He is in training at twelve or fourteen
years of age. His vocation is fixed. He is not given to teaching by lazi-
ness, by disappointment, or by failure in other callings. . Every good
school, having an attendance of 40 pupils, and conducted by a well quali-
fied teacher, may have the services of a monitor. The Inspector should
determine the schools in which paid monitors may be employed. The
manager and the teacher should then put forward a number of candidates
of the required age, say twelve years, in good health, of good character,
and possessing a taste for teaching. By a competitive examination, the
Inspector should then adjudge the monitorships to the best of the candi-
dates. The period of training might be five years. A programme of the
course of study of pedagogy, as well as in literature and science, should
be laid down by the Board of Education, and an examination of all the
monitors should be held annually by the Inspector. The salary of the
monitor might range from 4 in his first year to 10 in him fifth year, the
payment of each year's salary to be contingent on his passing his exam-
ination creditably and discharging his duty throughout the year.
(b) Terms on which religious education could be introduced into the public
The great, indeed the only, rule that I would insist upon is that no
child should on account of class, creed, or colour, be refused admittance
to a school aided by the State and that no child should be exposed,
directly or indirectly, to the danger of proselytism. Consistently with
this principle, which, from opinions that I have heard his Grace the
Archbishop of Port-of-Spain express, would, I think, be acceptable to
the Catholics and which I have no reason to believe would be objected
to by the Protestants, I would allow every manager of a public school
free scope as to the course of religious instruction he might choose to
adopt, and as to the employment of the person, whether the teacher or
anybody else, by whom such instruction should be imparted.
It is, of course, the inalienable right of the parent to determine the
religion of his child. This should be done by a formal act of registration
in the school records. The parish clergyman of the same religion as the
child should then have the right, even if he happened not to be the mana-
ger, to visit his co-religionists in the school, and undertake religious
instruction at some convenient hour to be arranged for the purpose.
(c) Denominational schools willing to accept a similar arrangement should be
aided by the Government and put on the same footing as the Ward Schools.
If the patrons of these schools were prepared to submit to . the
provision of a Conscience Clause, . their connexion with the Board
of Education should be welcomed, and their teachers recognized as
entitled to the same advantages as the masters of the Ward Schools.
(d) The establishment of local managers, preferably the clergy of the religion
of the majority of the children.
I propose that the plan now in force of exclusive management on the
part of the State shall be abolished, and that in future all schools shall
be placed under the care of responsible persons having local relation
or connexion with the places in which the schools are situated. The
person who, in the first instance, applies to establish a school in con-
nexion with the Board of Education, should be recognized as the local
manager. If the applicant be a clergyman, so much the better; because
the duties and opportunities of a clergyman peculiarly qualify him for
the government of schools. If the applicant be a layman, he should be
a person of station or property.
(a) The managers should have the power of appointing the teachers,
subject, as to character and professional qualifications, to the approval
of the Education Board.
(b) When there is but one school in a locality, the teachers should
be of the same religion as the majority of the people of the locality.
(c) The manager, on his own authority, should have the power of
dismissing the-teacher without notice, provided he state in writing, to
the Board of Education, the grounds of dismissal, and that the Board
approve of soextreme a step being taken.
(d) The manager should, however, have the power of dismissing
the teacher upon a three months' notice without being required to state
to the Board of Education his reasons for the dismissal.
(e) He should have entire control over the use of the schoolhouse
and have the right to employ it for any lawful purpose, before and after
(f) He should have the determination of the religious instruction
of the pupils subject only to the provisions I have already laid down
on the subject.
(g) He should have the right of selecting the books to be used
by the pupils.
(h) He should have the right of fixing the rate of school fees to
be paid by the pupils, provided the Board of Education be satisfied that
the fees are not fixed at so high a rate as practically to exclude the
poor from advantages of the school.
(i) He should have the right of appointing the subjects of instruc-
tion, and of managing the general details of the school business, pro-
vided the Board of Education be satisfied that due attention is paid to
the cultivation of the essential subjects reading, writing, arithmetic,
and industrial instruction.
(j) He should have the right to give holidays, vacation, etc. to
the masters and pupils, provided the school be kept open for a certain
minimum number of days in the year say 200.
I now come to a point of considerable importance the allocation
of the existing schools to local managers. The principle upon which I
propose that this shall be accomplished is both simple and fair. I propose
that the management of each Ward school shall be vested in the clergy-
man of the same religion as the majority of the pupils such arrange-
ments, however, not to operate to the prejudice of any other person -
clergyman or layman, who, commanding a sufficient attendance of
pupils, and a suitable schoolhouse,may choose to establish a school under
his own management. Cases of the latter class would be very rare. They
would be limited to those places where the minorities are pretty strong.
(e) A scheme of payment by results is recommended to remedy some of the de-
ficiencies of the schools..
The disparity between one school and anotheras to the cost of a child's
education is very remarkable. . Taking into account these extra-
ordinary disparities as the cost of education, considering the fact that
the irregularity in the attendance of the pupils is probably without a
parallel in the school systems of the world; viewing the lamentable
conditions -even as to secular knowledge -in which I found the schools;
and remembering that the teacher's salary is at present determined irre-
spectively of the extent of the attendance and of the quality of the
results, I have come to the conclusion that a radical change in the
system of remunerating teachers is indispensable. I strongly recommend
that the great principle of paying for ascertained results shall be applied
to the Trinidad teachers, I do not propose the English system pure and
simple. I propose that one-third of the teacher's income shall be de-
pendent upon the results, as ascertained by the Inspector at his annual
examination; and that another third shall be dependent upon a quarterly
report of the manager; and that the remaining third shall arise from a
"classification" or "certificate" salary. In addition to the income de-
rivable from the Board, the teacher should be authorised to charge
moderate school fees.
(f) A scheme for calculating results' payments is offered in five sections, or
standards, of attainment.
Reading Writing and
and and Industrial Total
Spelling Dictation Instruction
Section 1 1V dollars 1V dollars 2 dollars 5 dollars
,, 2 1i ,, 1' ,, 2'/ ,, 5% ,,
,, 3 2 ,, 1% ,, 2% ,, 6
4 2 ,, 1Y ,, 3 ,, 6 ,,
,, 5 2% ,, 1 ,, Y 3; ,, 7/ ,,
The minimum number of attendances yearly to qualify a child for the
results' examination should be fixed at 100.
(g) The education of their children would raise the standards of East Indian
The adult Coolie is by no means free from serious moral defects.
It must be observed, however, that the State leaves himself and his
family uninfluenced by any humanising agency except the mere adminis-
tration of the law. But were the Coolie children undergoing an efficient
course of training at school, there might come into play, even upon the
parents, a series of reflective influences inculcating a respect for truth
and other virtues which are at present wanting in the Coolie character.
. I therefore strongly urge the propriety of extending to the Coolies
an opportunity of participating in the advantages of the public system
(h) The Board of Education should be re-organised to win public confidence
by the appointment of an equal number of Catholics and Protestants selected
frvm nominees of the church leaders.
I accordingly recommend that, at the very fountain of the system,
public confidence be secured by the establishment of a Board consisting
of an equal number of Catholics and Protestants. It is clear, from what
I have already said, that the Protestant section of the community could
have no ground of complaint with this arrangement; and from observations
in the Archbishop of Port-of-Spain's Petition to His Excellency the
Governor on the subject of Education, I conclude that the Catholics
would be entirely satisfied with it.
I would further desire to see each member a representative man -
an interpreter of the views, and an exponent of the principles, of the
Church to which he belongs. I would therefore invite the Archbishop of
Port-of-Spain tosubmit to the Government a number of names for selection
-say twice as many as the number of Catholic seats to be filled at the
Board; and, similarly, I would invite the Bishop of Barbados or the
Archdeacon of Trinidad, on the part of the Protestants, to submit a corres-
ponding list of names.
From such lists the Government should select the members of the
The two major proposals made by Keenan were adopted in
the Education Ordinance of 1870. A dual system was introduced
by which the Government would provide some schools and the
religious bodies would be assisted in the provision of others. Two
visitors were to be appointed by the Warden for each Ward School
and ministers of religion were henceforth to be admitted for the
denominational instruction of their children in school. The secular
system was abandoned. The executive committee of the Board of
Education was to consist of four Catholics and four Protestants
elected by their co-religionists on the full Board.
The system of payment by results was the second major inno-
vation for Trinidad. Keenan's pattern was adopted, except that
attendance determined one-third of the teacher's salary instead
of a visitor's report of competence as he had suggested.
The Normal School such as it was, was superseded rather than
abolished by a system of teachers' examinations which were in-
tended to create in time.a qualified profession.
These measures ineffect brought Trinidad into line with policy
in the other British West Indian colonies. Keenan's proposals for
strong local supervision were much modified because they would
not have been consistent with the practices of colonial adminis-
tration at the time; these favoured authorised control by English
The secular system was not abandoned without opposition.
There were many to criticise a scheme which could aggravate the
separation between the different races and religions of a very
mixed community. The powers of the Inspector of Schools, which
were much increased by the system of payment by results, were
also constantly challenged. As an English civil servant he was
a target for the strong anti-colonial elements in Trinidad society.
These and other considerations caused friction between those
concerned with, or merely interested in, educational administration
even more in Trinidad than elsewhere in the British West Indies.
A WEST INDIAN STUDENT IN ENGLAND
(A Personal Reaction)
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Morris Is a Secondary School Teacher at Munro
College, Jamaica. He retwued from Oxford University in 1961 and was appointed
Assistant Registrar (Publications) at the University of the West ladies Mona,
until August 1962.
At Oxford in 1961 two sociologists decided to investigate the experience
of non-Englishmen in Oxford. So they sent out questionnaires to foreign students
and chose (from those who bothered to answer) a certain number whom they
asked to undergo special psychological tests and more searching examination.
Then they asked some of us to write them articles. What follows is the article
I sent them, slightly adapted for a Vest Indian rather than a primarily British
I have been asked to write about my difficulties in Britain, about
anything that seem connected with my reaction, as a West Indian student,
to Britain. As there are many books which can give anyone who cares
to read them a scientific view of the racial situation in Britain, I have
interpreted this undefined request as an invitation to be personal, though
I shall try to be honest and, so far as possible, objective. When I have
finished, itshouldbe fairly clear how at least one foreign student reacted
to Britain. What may seem contradictions I hope will be regarded as com-
plexities and ambiguities of which I have sometimes been aware.
I found on arriving in England that to the English I was primarily
a foreigner distinguishable by my skin. There are thousands of blacks
born in Britain, but (accurately enough) everyone assumed I was a for-
eigner. Some of the men in my college seemed surprised that I was
familiar with their social usages. I met the spontaneous friendliness
for which St. Edmund Hall has a well deserved reputation; here and there,
perhaps, I recognized an element of patronage or special concern to
speak to the black man, but this was usually mingled with elements more
acceptable, such as honest curiosity. It was not an easy time for any
white Englishman to speak naturally to a black, as the Notting Hill riots,
a few months before my arrival in England, had been followed by public
discussion of race and racial problems which, though necessary and
helpful, produced selfconsciousness in any racial situation.
Some of the ignorance Iencountered I had been led to expect. Through-
out England, and even in Oxford, I was told "You speak English very
well!" and had to explain that English happened tobe my native language.
(A West Indian friend of mine once told a hyper-sophisticated cocktail-
woman rather brusquely, "You don't speak it so badly yourself!") I
myself have never seriously been asked whether in the West Indies we
live in trees, but I have been asked, in all solemnity, how many wives
I had at home. The occasion was an interesting one in that there was
no offence meant and none taken; the questioner genuinely wanted in-
I do not mind curiosity when it is genuine; for curiosity leads to
enquiry, an] enquiry to information, and information to understanding.
Patronage, however, assumes information which proves the need to
patronize; patronage is curious only to find those facts which seem to
support the assumed position of superiority.
Children in homes I visited were often curious; the questions they
asked were usually fundamental and innocent. Why was one side of my
hand dark and the other light? They wanted to touch my hair. Why was
my hair different from theirs?
Questions, and remarks, vary greatly in effect according to context.
I was not often offended to hear friends use without thinking phrases
harking back to slavery, such as "working like a black" and "nigger in
the woodpile." It was often interesting to note which ones were sensitive
enough to realize what they had said, and how they then reacted. What
mattered most tome usually was what seemed the intention of a remark,
not the surface of the remark itself. It is possible to be more offensive
asking with apparent politeness, "How do you like it in England?" than
asking frankly, "How many wives do you have at home?"
Objective criteria on this sort of offensiveness are very difficult,
probably impossible, to arrive at. It is like this with most prejudice in
England, I gather, from my own experience, from my friends and from
what I have read. Ruth Glass in The Newcomers, which seems to me
very accurate about the attitudes of West Indians in England, talks a
great deal about the treacherous ambiguity of the racial situation. As
George Mikes put it, "An Englishman does not lie, but he would never
dream of telling you the truth".' So much happens below the surface;
the English have cultivated the art, and the virtue, of surface politeness;
it is often very distressing to find contempt, distrust or dislike lurking
However, it is not only because of the English that objective criteria
are difficult to establish; it is also because of the West Indians and the
nature of the society from which they have come. In spite of the great
emphasis the average West Indian (so far as he exists) places on open
friendliness and a certain gay frankness that softens unpalatable truths
or untruths, he can be as inward as any Englishman.
Dr. Philip Sherlock, in a broadcast, said:
"The glory of being West Indians is that we have exploded the myth
of racial superiority. The most significant thing about being West Indians
is that our harmony of races does not come from tolerance, for there is
nothing to be tolerated; nor from acceptance for there is nothing to be
accepted; rather it springs out of natural human feeling, affection, re-
spect, and this means all the more because it is we who have achieved
this, we who know in our bodies and in the bodies of ourfathers the mean-
ing of discrimination, deprivations, agonies. ."
1. George Mikes How To Be An Alien Andre Deutmch.
2. West Indies Federal Review October 1961. Page 16.
Discrimination, deprivations, agonies, are a very real part of the
West Indian situation, true though it is that we have much to teach the
world. I found I sometimes presented two separate pictures of the West
Indies in my conversations with friends; when we talked about the racial
situation in the world the West Indies was an area of hope; when we
talked about the West Indies in isolation it was a hotbed of racial
In The Colour Problem (a Penguin book), Anthony Richmond 'ias
an excellent chapter on "The Aftermath of Slavery in the West Indits"
which contains these sentences:
"While the colour conflict elsewhere takes the form of a struggle
for power between the white man and the black, the conflict in the West
Indies is the struggle going on within the personality of the Negro him-
self. Here more than anywhere, the legacy of slavery is to be observed.
. Legal emancipation was not social or economic emancipation, still
less was it psychological emancipation. . ."
Most West Indians I have met in Britain suffer from neuroses about
colour. Partly they brought them to Britain, partly they found them there.
In talking about colour, as about anything important in human ex-
perience, complexity and ambiguity make clear statement which is also
honest and fairly compl-te very difficult indeed. I have often been un-
certain about whether my hyper-sensitivity to situations involving colour
that is, to just about ever) situation I found myself in in Britain -
had not distorted facts more than I knew.
I am hopeful, however. To set against most of my adverse judgements
there was always an observation of what seemed more acceptable, there
was a standard to judge by. If for example, I say with any validity that
some of my friends (subconsciously, perhaps even consciously) never
managed to treat me as a person equal and basically similar, but always
as a black man, theoretically equal but necessarily strange and alien,
it is because I can say with certainty that some of my friends had more
On the subject of colour there was one white friend who was frequent-
ly helpful. Perhaps this was partly because he was from JXenya and was
to some extent familiar with racial problems, though ones quite different
from my own; perhaps partly because as a Jew he understood prejudice.
His emotional honesty may, however, have had nothing todo with either
of these facts.
Of my two other closest white friends, who were English, one was
so free from colour that I rarely felt like imposing my neurotic worries on
him; also, though he was often acute and often sympathetic he made such
a virtue of strength that my colour-complexes may have seemed to him
rather effete. The other, fine man he was, never really forgot that I was
black. He didn't mind that I was black, at least not consciously; butI
thought that he now and again felt good that he had gone deep enough to
see beyond my blackness, blackness which always seemed very near the
surface of his mind. Perhaps, too, it was too often near the surface of mine.
1. Anthony Richmond The Colour Problem (Penguin) page 22.
I was once making distinctions in this sort of way to my Kenyan
friend when he found it necessary to tell me: "But you are black?'!
I had overdone the sensitivity; or his accusation was fair. He thought
he detected some desire to be other than black, a wish to deny the physi-
cal fact. But what I had meant to talk about was not a physical fact
but an emotional attitude to that fact. For himself, my Kenyan friend
attached no more significance to the fact that I was black than to the
fact that his girl-friend had brown hair or the fact that his father was
This man sometimes understood me better than I liked. I remember
one New Year's Eve finding myself at a loss for what to do in Oxford.
I had been to see a film, and the girl I had taken was going to a small
party to which I had not been invited. I decided to look up this friend
of mine who lived not far from the theatre. It turned out there was to
be a party in his building. He knew the host and was sure he wouldn't
mind an extra guest. I was reluctant to go and my friend knew why,
perhaps more deeply than I myself knew at first. In a similar situation
at -home I would undoubtedly have gone to the party; the real reason for
my reluctance was fear of rejection (nothing violent of course, just tacit
disapproval) by a white host I had not met. I wanted my friend to check
if it was alright to invite me to the party. In fact, I wanted him to ask
because I was black and they were white; but I didn't expect him or want
him to make an issue of my colour; in so far as my colour was an issue
it must be kept discreet. If after the host had granted permission he
was surprised or disappointed to find me black, so much the worse for
him. But my friend, for all his intuitions, blundered this time. He told
the host that I was black and more or less implied that he was asking
him only to reassure himself that the host was not prejudiced. Naturally
the host was furious, as few people are prejudiced when youput any ques-
tion like that.
There is a third, perhaps the greatest, difficulty in establishing
criteria. Even when certain that some remark or act had distinguished
me as other, I was often very unsure indeed whether this was because
I was not English, because I was visibly not English, because I was not
white, or because I was both not-English and not-white.
The English are notorious for xenophobia. I believe the notoriety to
be well earned. Even when, as often there is no deep- seated objection
to a particular foreigner, there remains, I think, the tendency to dismiss
all foreigners. Sometimes, indeed often, this was done in the form of a
rather weak joke.
It is necessary to distinguish between jokes; but to understand what
I mean you need to know something about the cycle of my integration
into the small society of Oxford.
Sensibly, I think, when I arrived at Oxford I was determined not at
first to spend much time with West Indians. For one thing, there were
none living in my college except me. For another, I felt I already had
a large number of West Indian friends and should take advantage of the
chance to meet more non-West Indians. More important, however, was
my awareness that the centre of Oxford life is the college and that I must
become integrated in the college community;to go seekingout West Indian
friends every time something troubled me would be foolish. So, though
I was thankful for the friendship of more senior West Indians in Oxford,
I did not at first seek them out. I accepted their invitations and invited
them to tea or sherry (so quickly I learnt that very English reciprocity!)
but I rarely called on them uninvited.
The process of integrating was slower than I had expected. I had
come from the University College of the West Indies where students were
nearly all West Indian. We made friends quickly in that society; this
had its disadvantages, of course: mainly an almost complete lack of
privacy. I learnt very soon how important to most Englishmen is the idea
of privacy and the right to keep one's business to one's self. I learnt
too how much more slowly friendship came in Oxford than at U.C. W. I.
At first I seemed to be progressing very rapidly; those I invited for
coffee seemed to find me at least as interesting as I found them. Then
I noticed that no one came uninvited; and I remembered that U.C.W.I. was
very different. In my first term, except for those on specific business, only
two men ever came to my room uninvited; and neither was English. I won-
dered whether I had been too friendly for the English: it was as though I
had done something like taking Hoffnung's ironic advice to visitors to
Britain, "On entering a railway carriage, make sure to shake hands with
all the passengers." Englishmen seemed not to understand that when I
said "Drop in any time" I meant it, that I did not mean the sort of vague
invitation well-mannered Englishmen offer only during awkward pauses.
In this matter, as in so many others, there was an irony. Things
improved in the second term and by the third term I knew who my friends
were. I mentioned my first term worry to one of them. He pointed out to
me that he had issued several open invitations I had not taken up. My
reticence had been of the same quality as theirs. Not entirely, I think.
Their worry was fear of intruding; mine, fear of rejection.
1 was not, however, rejected. The mass of men in my college treated
me as another individual, didn't really care where I came from, but knew
instead that I read English, spoke badly at the Debating Society, was
often listening at the Union, played keen hockey and was an asset to
the College at tennis. By the middle of the third term of my first year I
felt well integrated. There was no difficulty about loyalties because the
loyalties were too small to conflict with my fundamental loyalty to the
West Indies; I could be loyal to my college, as I was, without being any
less loyal to my country. I could even, if I wished, (and, except during
Varsity matches, I did not wish) be loyal to my university; though as
I had come from U.C.W.I thatwas more complicated.
So, integrated into Oxford society I was. I found I had a few firm
friends and the certainty of them made it easy to have many more casual
friends who made no demands on me and on whom I made no demands.
The integration had not been achieved at the expense of my West
Indianness. However, my West Indianness had, I felt, been somewhat
in abeyance in my first year; I was West Indian but probably it was to
many people more important that I read English and I lived in St. Edmund Hall.
I believe the process of my development was a process towards a
more assertive West Indianness. Paradoxically, the more integrated I
became, the more aware I was of not belonging. Possibly because the
more integrated I became the more people expected me to share not just
their small loyalties but their bigger loyalties and their unpalatable
assumptions. Also, once the basic point had been made that as a West
Indian I was very familiar with English and British culture, had in fact
been nursed on it, it became more and more necessary to establish that
in spite of this I was different. Partly, the pressure came from within.
One detected an assumption one did not share which one was thought to
share. Also, probably my closest friends were Conservative in their
politics and my instincts were very anti-Conservative; the Conservatives
always seemed to me I still think they are very like the worst ofa
complacent, bloated West Indian middle-class; though, I confess,more
intelligent. However, their intelligence seemed often directed to justi-
fying theories of class superiority which my own nature and my best
friends at U.C.W.I. had taught me to despise. There was a need then
to speak out and assert my differentness. And if I was to assert my
differentness, why not my identity? And what was my identity?
I am a West Indian, more fervent than the facts of our culture may
support. But I believe that the difference between us and the British
from whom much of our present culture derives, or the Africans or the
Indians or the Chinese or the Portuguese or the French, is enough to
justify an awareness of separate identity. Somehow, in spite of my internal
dialogue about colour conflicts and colonial complexes, it does not em-
barass me to like many facets of English culture. I can enjoy poets as
English as William Cowper and John Betjeman. It does not embarass
me to read and to use English. (One of Lamming's finest observations,
is, for me, that English is a West Indian language).
The West Indies has a complex about things English, as though Eng-
land were the only place from which we have borrowed. It does not worry
anybody that our Anancy stories in Jamaica are from Africa, because
the mass of us are of African origin and some of us wish to remember only
our African roots, to exclude all the other forces that have shaped our
To return to jokes. There are jokes that include and jokes that ex-
clude; it may be the same joke that does either, at different times.
Soon after I arrived in England, to make a joke about my difference -
my non-Englishness or my colour was to include me, because it made
me the focus of a social activity, laughter among friends; provided, of
course that the intention was not plainly derisive. To make that same
joke two years later was to exclude me, because I and others had come to
take my belonging for granted and to focus on my difference was to point
out that in many ways I did not really belong. One friend in particular
was often guilty of excluding me in this way. Although he accepted me
as a friend, he always regarded me as other, and pretending to be so
completely liberated that he could poise himself on the precipice of bad
taste, he often made jokes about my colour. He was right, of course,
that to make easy jokes about colour is to show that one is not a slave
to it. But the jokes must be easy and it is best that they be funny. To
make a poor joke now and again is quite normal, but to make even good
jokes constantly about any one subject is to suggest not liberation but
sub-conscious enslavement seeking to prove itself freedom on a conscious
The trouble, too, with most of the jokes was that they did not focus
on me as West Indian which I was always proud to avow, but on me as
black; and I was not normally particularly proud of being black, though
not, I hope, ashamed either.
Sometimes, too, the jokes assumed that I was African. I am not Afri-
can and my reaction to many Africans worries me. The Africans I like
are, frankly, the ones I would have mistaken for West Indian students;
they are coloured and have an ease with English manners which seems
inherited. I think I could like, too, the militant African, preoccupied with
injustice, fiercely preaching the equality of all men. But I met in Eng-
land one or two Africans who embarrassed me; they tried to accept
Englishness but failed badly. I once had the excruciating experience of
listening to an African say thanks to a Rotary Club in Wales for an
evening's entertainment (in fact, for two cups of coffee, sandwiches
and cakes) and pledge his undying gratitude to them for their great kind-
ness. Although I am well aware, on an intellectual level, that there is
no such simple thing, culturally, as "an African", that you need (at
the very least) to place him on the continent, and that, further, when you
had placed him, this African would only be an African not proto-anything,
I am trying to be honest about my emotional revulsion to many of the
Africans I met. Of the two I liked most, one had a West Indian girl-friend
and could easily be thought West Indian himself, the other had an Oxford
blue and a charming reserve which marked him out as different from many
others I had met,
Lamming makes a good comment on this matter. He quotes Naipaul
only to destroy him. Naipaul wrote: 'It is not fully realized how com-
pletely the West Indian Negro identifies himself with England. . Africa
had been forgotten; films about African tribesmen excite derisive West
Indian laughter." Lamming comments justly: "It is precisely because
Africa has not been forgotten that the West Indian embarrassment takes
the form of derisive laughter".
I think there was something similar in my reaction to Africans. Those
I did not like seemed to be letting the side down if they were not smooth
enough for my English-biased taste. For whenever there was another
black around I was, and knew I was, a black. Very few Englishmen
distinguished between us. The need was, therefore, for some proving
of myself, some acuteness, some witticism, some easy friendliness,
some international sophistication.
Now and again in England I was positively proud of being black.
When I saw Raisin In The Sun, the play, which the critics had banned,
I was proud of being able to understand what they had failed to under-
stand. The central accuracy of that play is that its conflicts are mainly
1. The Pleasures of Exile (Michael Joseph 1960) Page 224.
internal ("the struggle going on within the personality of the Negro him-
self"). It was moving to see his search for identity (which always seems
to lead to a flirtation with an African past), his search for integrity (which
he can find only in his treatment of a particularsituation,and not as Negro
but as man). I was proud, too, when I saw the Senegal dancers at the New
Theatre in Oxford. So much of the programme seemed to relate, in spite
of my differentiations, to what I had seen in the West Indies, and I saw
then the distinctive beauty of black bodies which somehow had not
previously struck me. The programme reminded me that rhythmical black
bodies are a thing of which I am part.
Here and there a play reminded me that I was a West Indian, not just
a black.l had read Errol John's Moon On A Rainbow Shawl and was con-
sequently appalled, when I saw it on the stage, to be given two non-
Trinidadian principals, one of whom was American,in fact. For the great
virtue of John's play is its fidelity to Trinidadian speech: I missed the
television production, which friends told me was much better, with Errol
John himself taking one of the leads. Barry Reckord's play, You in Your
Small Corner, I enjoyed very much too. It really has little to dowith misce-
genation and much more to do with class prejudice; only our colour con-
ditioning makes it seem odd that middle-class blacks should look down
on working class whites. One of the reviews, an obtuse and wilful one
by Darlington in the Telegraph, reminded me that I was black as well as
West Indian. The critic had an aversion to miscegenation which he made
no attempt to channel through relevant comment on the play. Alan Brien
writing in the Spectator on another play touching on miscegenation, Hot
Summer Night by Ted Willis, had the intelligence to see that the sensible
response to "My daughter wants to marry a West Indian" must always be,
"Which West Indian?"
In inter-racial matters, as in all human relations, nothing should
replace the personal. Too often, one accepts a generalization that does
not accord with personal experience. Where this is a well-documented
statement by an expert, this is alright; but too often it is something less
I found I learnt only very slowly to be cautious about generalizing.
I was always meeting exceptions. If I agreed that public-school men
are reserved I was likely to become friendly with one who soon told me
his life story. If I said that Northerners are frank I was likely todiscover
from closer friendship that the Northerners I knew were as careful as
anybody else what they said to whom. It is bad enough when one general-
ises and is wrong; when one makes uncharitable generalizations denied
by one's experience, this is far worse.
It is not easy to avoid this. I was always falling into it, confusing
the Imperialist Colonialist Rulers with the man in the street. For a long
time I found that although I had many English friends whenever I spoke
about "The English" my comment was unfriendly. A Jamaican friend
of mine said to me: "I am an Anglophile, but I don't like English men."
Her attitude was far clearer than mine, as it could be taken to be a dis-
tinction between English ways and English people; mine was a tendency
to generalize from other people's observations. But I can be defended.
For another difficulty in establishing the objective criteria I keep ex-
plaining that I cannot establish is that the people I met or the people
I got to know were necessarily those with less prejudice rather than more
prejudice. Life could seem fairly rosy if I concentrated only on Oxford
and the people I stayed with outside it.
I know, however, from reading and from talking to other West Indians,
that London can be very difficult. In Oxford when I neededaccommodation
I was lucky enough to know a West Indian moving out of suitable digs,
and so I took them when he had left. Our landlady was pleasant and un-
prejudiced, and the rent was reasonable. But I have friends who have
scoured London for flats and found time after time that landladies who
on the telephone seemed eager enough for a new tenant found that the
flat had been taken in the twenty minutes it had taken to get to it from
The concrete, and, so to speak, certifiable instances of prejudice I
encountered were three only; though, as I have hinted, there were many
others which are arguable.
The first occurred during my first Michaelmas vacation, when I was
in London. This was the year of Notting Hill and so possibly there was
still a good deal of tension. I was on my way by tube to the West End
and I had to wait on a platform to change trains. There were some Teddy
Boys nearby; they seemed very noisy, singing and laughing. I looked
at them. I have no idea whether my glance was contemptuous; it was not
meant to be. It seemed that one of the group, a flimsy lad (I thought),
disliked my looking at them. When we got on the crowded train he stared
at me and I stared back at him. This seemed to have been too much for
him. He attempted to move in my direction, muttering, I thought, "Black
bastard!" As the train was crowded there was no question of his getting
to me. However, a larger, apparently better-adjusted lad, restrained
him, commenting, "He's the same colour as Louis Armstrong, man."
The simple reasoning appeared to satisfy the aggressive one. I thought
it significant that the peacemaker should have chosen to make peace in
this way, through the inter-racial symbol of a jazz hero.
The second incident connects with Oxford, but not intimately. I was
at the Folkestone Hockey Festival with the St. Edmund Hall team. Most
of us decided to go to a Jazz Club, and we duly became members (to
ensure admittance). I danced with one or two girls there, not entirely
without tenseness, and then I approached a girl who had her back half-
turned to me. More or less over her shoulder I said, "May I?" She
turned with her arms in the ready position for dancing and then saw I was
black. Her confusion was lamentable. She muttered something that must
have been an apology, and fled.
In the relations between West Indians and women in Britain I think
I have some vestiges of colonialism. It was very common during and
1 5 25
just after the war for servicemen to bring home to Jamaica white English
wives. Some of these marriages were true marriages based on love and
friendship and they have survived in our multiracial society. However,
some of these marriages were attempts by white-biased Negroes toraise
their status in a shade-conscious society. Many of these have ended
in disaster. I do not think the tendency to marry whites for the wrong
reasons is as strong as it was, but it seems tome to have been replaced
in some university towns by sexual colour-discrimination. Comparatively
speaking, the argument seems to run, West Indian women may be treated
with respect, but the English, Scottish and Irish women who date coloured
West Indians want only to test the mythical negro virility and should be
given at the earliest opportunity the chance to do so. The slave seduces
the master. A West Indian can hardly be blamed for despising a woman
who deep down regards him not as a man but as a foreign phallus. Some
West Indian-English sexual relationships, let me hasten to add, have,
of course, none or little of this debasing quality; I do not wish to be
thought to say more than I have said. I do not dislike mixed marriages,
nor would I advise against them. The big difficulty in black-white man-
woman relationships in Britain seemed to be that British women know
that because of common prejudice there are social dangers in dating a
black man, and so only the emotionally involved, the mentally liberated
or the sexually abandoned think it worth the risk? I doubt that very
many of the mentally liberated failed to fall into either of the other cate-
gories. It seemed rare to find a close inter-sex relationship which was
simply a friendship, not a love affair or a bed-arrangement.
The third certifiable incident of prejudice had to do with tennis. I
had played lawn tennis for Oxford in 1959 and was playing again in 1960.
Every two years Oxford and Cambridge combined play Harvard and Yale,
alternately in the United States and in Britain. I was competing for a
place on the team to America, and sowas an Indian from Cambridge whose
position was even more certain. Imagine our surprise, then, when, in
mid- season, our captains told us that the Lawn Tennis Association had
decided that only Englishmen should be considered for the combined team,
as the tour was in the interest of English tennis and Anglo- American
relations. It was embarrassing for the captains who were both, I think,
above colour-discrimination. I was not entirely fair to the Oxford captain:
I did not tell him that my keenness tocompete for the trip had been large-
ly due to the encouragement of a West Indian tennis player who had cap-
tained Cambridge only a few years earlier and had gone to America on
the tour. He had been, however, white. White,too, had been the Jamaican
who had gone on the tour before. I accepted the decision easily, as it is
always easy to accept facts which your friends deplore and treatment
which they acknowledge as unjust. As it happened, the captains must
have argued the matter further, for the L.T.A. reversed their decision.
In the end the Indian went and I did not; I was disappointed, but had
no reason to believe that I had been unfairly treated; our three members
were our two best players and our captain who led the combined side.
What is most interesting about this incident is the early obtuseness of
the L.T.A. officials in imagining that anybody intelligent enough to
get into Oxford or Cambridge could swallow so ridiculous a reason or
the callousness with which they dared to send us a reason they knew
we would recognize as dishonest. Such no doubt are the ways of English
officialdom. No doubt they said they were not prejudiced themselves
but that their neighbours the Americans mightnot like to entertain coloured
players. There is a brilliant little quotation in Ruth Glass's The Newcomers
from a novel byA. G. Bennett:
"Since I come 'ere I never met a single English person who
'ad any colour prejudice. Once, I walked the whole length
of a street looking for a room, and everyone told me that he or
she 'ad no prejudice against coloured people. It was the neigh-
bour who was stupid. . Neighbours are the worst people to
live beside in this country."'
There were several organizations which seemed devoted to helping
foreigners to be happy in England. It was through the finest of the ones
I had anything to do with, the Dominions Fellowship Trust, now unfor-
tunately defunct, that I came to meet some of the families whose friend-
ship I still value. The excellence of the D.F.T. was its personal nature.
The ladies who ran it made a point of meeting singly,or in small parties,
the students or visitors to Britain whom they hoped to help; in fact, I am
not sure that they helped people they had not managed to meet. They
tried to find out what sort of person you were and what were your interests,
so that they could get you invited to a home you would fit into. Their
accuracy was uncanny. While it may be valuable, as other organizations
and, indeed, the D.F.T. from time to time did, to herd people to-
gether for large tea or cocktail parties or to run them around the country
in busloads, these arrangements often seem more like charity than friend-
ship because they are necessarily impersonal; one does not like to be
one unit deployed with a lot of other units. Large teas and large cocktail
parties are not the ideal circumstances for meeting foreign students:
some of them are uncomfortable in those surroundings and may be a little
suspicious of charitable advances; others who seem to relax have prob-
ably learnt not to take people seriously at cocktail parties. Also, many
of the people at these parties work too hard at being friendly to the
foreigners; this sets up reactions which make real contact impossible.
The British Council was usually better than the amateur organiza-
tions. Though some of its personnel were not exactly loveable, most of
them managed to be helpful without being archly friendly. The British
Council gave us the chance to do so many of the things we wanted to
do and to visit many of the places we wanted to visit. Taking up one
of those offers, and having to pay modestly for some wonderful opportunity
- perhaps a course at Stratford which gave you good seats to all the
season's productions, or well chosen tickets for the Edinburgh Festival-
you felt no discomfort because you were not often aware of patronage.
1. The Newcomers Page 108.
I am not sure whether the British Council has changed its hostel
policy. I know that some organizations have seen that it is inadvisable
to have hostels for foreign students only, as these hostels are isolated
from the British community. I know, from staying in one of them, that
the effect on the students can be very serious indeed; especially, I
suppose, in a large city like London. At a British Council hostel I
stayed at, there seemed to be many foreigners, mostly black, who had
never really met an Englishman, and certainly had no English friends
(except, here and there, a sleeping partner). They talked about the cold-
ness of the English, about the hypocrisy of the English, almost entirely
from encounters with prospective landladies, with the hostel staff and
with their classmates who never invited them home.
Friends invited me to spend time in their homes. I have been happy
ji most and uncomfortable in none. Families were often less selfconscious
than the friends themselves. Friends were sometimes uneasy about
whether I and their families would get on together; but this worry usually
had nothing to do with my being either foreign or black, facts no doubt
well appreciated when the invitation was made.
I have been luckier than many Englishmen in the range of my social
contacts. As a foreigner I could move through all classes (where particu-
lar persons would have me) for I belonged to none. I have friends who
would, I think, be uncomfortable in each others' homes. People were at
a loss to know where to place me in the class gradation.
I think I have noticed everywhere a tendency towards contempt for
other classes and groups and a quickness with dismissive judgements.
There was a man in our college from Latin America; he had the sort
of swarthy skin that would tan easily, his hair was thick and long and
seemed greasy; he often wore tight jeans and a sweater. One day he was
crossing the quad: I remarked to a public school friend of mine that this
man was Latin American. "Oh," he said, "I shall have to revise my
opinion of him completely." He had never actually spoken to the man.
Strangely, his attitude was not entirely unreasonable; for if the Latin
American had been an Englishman then his dressing as he did would
almost certainly have meant he was not the sort of person with whom my
Conservative friend would normally wish to associate.
No matter what you dislike, it is clear that three years in England
cannot leave you unaffected. I think I have changed in some ways. Not
in simple ways such as tending to let my hair grow longer before I cut
it (as was necessary, since English barbers still don't know how to cut
negro hair and my West Indian barber lived in London). I have, I suspect,
become a little more reserved; I dislike more the constant prying of a
small society, the sort of claustrophobia the small society can impose;
I have developed my sense of irony more, and am more capable of civilized
nastiness than I was; I think I understand my own identity a bit better.
Perhaps, too, I learnt the fundamental lesson of nationalism. I learnt
this half an hour away from England, approaching the cliffs of Dover.
There was excitement among the English on board; I looked, but the
cliffs seemed very ordinary to me. And then I realized that of course
the cliffs are not cliffs: to the Englishmen they are a symbol of something
greater, of the return from a land of strangers, of the return home. Nothing
is more important in nationalism than the feeling of ownership. The
definitions may be of intellectual interest but they cannot hold a nation
together. The important thing about the West Indies, or Jamaica, is that
it is ours. We need now to persuade all our people that this is really so.
1 *r *
SALT FISH AND ACKEE
J. H. PARRY
AN HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE INTRODUCTION OF FOOD
CROPS INTO JAMAICA
The History of the West Indies often assumes, for the West Indian
reader, an air of unreality, because it is a story told from someone else's
point of view. The development of the island communities was determined
to a great extent, by decisions made elsewhere. The political history
of the West Indies has been until recently a projection of the political
history of half-a-dozen different European centres, and has been so
written and studied. The study, from a West Indian point of view, of the
development of West Indian communities, has hardly been attempted.
The economic history of the region, similarly, has been written chiefly
in terms of commodities which were of interest or value in Europe.
Throughout much of their history the West Indian colonies were run
as estates from which a profit was to be drawn: and they were run with
the short-sightedness usually associated with purely economic motives.
The proprietors and settlers concerned themselves with producing tropi-
cal crops which commanded a ready sale in Europe or later in North
America. After experiments with tobacco, indigo and cacao, they fixed
upon sugar as the most profitable crop, and sugar became the characteris-
tic West Indian product.
Sugar was most economically grown on fairly large plantations and
its production demanded a large force of field labourers. Indented servants,
convicted felons and slaves were brought in in great numbers. All these
people had to be fed, in countries where sugar monopolised the most
productive land. The problems of food production in the West Indies have
never been satisfactorily solved, nor has the history of the attempted
solutions been adequately studied. The story of crops grown in the West
Indies for export to Europe has been told many times. The story of crops
grown to feed West Indians has still to be written.
It is time that a connected study were made. There is abundant mate-
rial, both in the field and in published and unpublished writings. For
Jamaica alone there is a whole series of full and careful accounts of
animals and plants, wild and domestic. The earliest and most famous was
written by that indefatigable naturalist and collector, Sir Hans Sloane,
towards the end of the seventeenth century, and published in two volumes
in 1707 and 1725. Barham's Hortus Jamaicensis was published (in Kingston)
in 1794, but written much earlier; the author was in Jamaica from 1731
to 1740. Patrick Browne a medical man like Sloane published his
Civil and Natural History of Jamaica in London in 1756.
This is a work of some originality and merit, though it does not com-
pare with Sloane's splendid folios either in the wealth of detail or beauty
of production and illustration. As befits a contemporary of Linnaeus,
Browne's treatn'nt is more systematic than that of his predecessors;
indeed Linnaeus is said to have accept-d, in general, Hlrowne's classifi-
cations. Next in chronological order, in 1774, came Edward Long's History
of amaica, the third volume of which contains a description of the flora
and fauna of the island. Long was no botanist, and was more interested
in the uses of plants than in systematic descriptions; but he was a
shrewd, observant, and very entertaining writer, and his book is of great
interest to the historian of agriculture.
Bryan Edwards' famous History, published twentyv ears later, adds
little to Long in this respect. In 181- appeared another work by a local
planter John Lunan's flortus Iamaicensis, which enjoyed the unusual
distinction of publication at Spanish Tno n, by the Government Printer.
It is a full but undistinguished compilation from earlier sources, and has
the merit of acknowledging its literary debts. It repeats a large number
of old wives' tales about the medicinal value of plants, which had been
collected and retailed, sometimes rather sceptically, by Sloane. In more
modern times a work of a very different type Fawcett and Hendle's
great Flora of Jamaica is being published, volume by volume, by the
British Museum. The first volume appeared in 1910. Finally, mention
should be made of the Bulletins of the Department of Agriculture which
preserve much material of general historical interest, and an article in
the Handbook of Jamaic3 for 1881 on "Public Gardens and Plantations"
describes an important feature of the story. The information contained
in all these writings forms a revealing commentary on the social, and
even the political development of the island.
The most striking fact about the food plants of Jamaica is that -
like the people and the domestic animals they are nearly all exotics.
They were introduced by man to serve his oun needs. Prehistoric Jamaica
was remarkably deficient in local food plants. The native \rawaks were
gatherers of she;l-fish, roots and berries. Their only bread-stuff was
cassava; the discovery of a method of leaching out the poisonous juice
of this root must have been, for so primitive a people, an economic event
of the first importance. Cassava will flourish where little else will grow.
It was probably introduced into Jamaica by the Arawaks themselves, in
their migrations from the mainland. It has spread from the Americas to
parts of the Old World, in particular to West Africa, but has never com-
mended itself greatly to European taste. Today, in remote and arid parts
of Jamaica, "cassava without salt, coffee without sugar" is proverbial
diet in times of drought and hardship.
Possibly the Arawaks had maize. Their neighbours tbe Tainos of
Hispaniola used maize, according to the early settlers there, but the
absence of grinding stones from their village sites suggests that they
knew only a soft variety. Hard types of maize from which bread flour
could be made formed the staple food of many settled peoples of the
mainland, and this hard maize was taken to the Old World by Spaniards
and Portuguese. Probably it was the Spaniards who brought it to Jamaica,
and probably its introduction was indirect, via Europe or West Africa.
The Spanish settlers in Jamaica, poor for the most part and never
numerous, devoted themselves, like most Spaniards in the New World,
to pastoral rather than agricultural pursuits. Their pigs and horned cattle
were kept on the open savannahs, and many ran wild. Sloane says that
in his day wild cattle, though much reduced in number, were still hunted
on the north side of the island. Wild pigs are hunted still today in the
remote mountain forests. Having no silver to export, the Jamaican
Spaniards sold bacon, hides and tallow to passing ships, and imported
from Spain the wheaten flour, oil and wine which European taste con-
tinued to demand, even in those parts of the new World where native
food was abundant.
Imported European food however, must always have been a rather
expensive luxury, as indeed it still is; and the Spaniards did not neglect
the other possible method of increasing their food supply, by the intro-
duction of new food plants. Spaniards have always been lovers of orchards,
skilled in the management of fruit trees one of the gracious characteris-
tics, perhaps, which they acquired from the Moors who ruled and civilized
so much of mediaeval Spain. Few missions and few large Spanish houses
in colonial America lacked the dignity of a walled orchard.All the familiar
varieties of citrus, except grapefruit, were brought from Spain and grown
in the West Indies in the sixteenth century.
To the Spaniards, also, the West Indies owe the banana and the
plantain, brought from the Canary Islands to Hispaniola (according to
Oviedo) about 1516. A wild plantain also grows in the West Indies, which
had an economic use in the days of sailing ships; forits succulent stems,
cut into junks and stowed in great bundles below the mizzen chains,
served as fodder for the animals upon which ships depended for f--sh
meat at sea. This wild plantain, however, is not the parent of the familiar
cultivated varieties. Another very important economic plant, which Oviedo
describes as common in Central America in his day, is the coconut. The
origins of the coconut are mysterious. It does not occur wild anywhere
in the world today. Oviedo implies that it may havebeen native to Central
America, but, like most sixteenth-centurv writers, he gives it its old-
world name nut of India; most probably it came to the Caribbean from
the Portuguese East, via the Iberian peninsula. Both Sloane and Long
wrote admiringly of its many uses; but the large scale commercial pro-
duction of coconuts in Jamaica is a comparatively recent development.
The Spaniards had grown sugar cane in Jamaica, grinding it in horse
driven mills; but the small quantity of sugar produced was consumed
locally. It was only towards the end of the seventeenth century, after
the capture of the island by the English, that Jamaica began to produce
sugar in considerable quantities for export, and that the problem of
labour and food to support that labour became serious. The English, in
pursuing this development, possessed advantagesdenied to the Spaniards.
Through the Royal Africa Company they had direct access to the main
source of slave labour: and in North America they possessed colonies
which were already producing an exportable surplus of food.
Under English rule Jamaica became a land of large plantations worked
by slaves, producing sugar, indigo and the like for export to England or
North America. From North America it imported two vital articles of food:
wheat flour, chiefly for the use of the European settlers, and salt fish,
which was the principal relish and the main source of protein in the diet
of the slaves. Jamaica was more fortunate than the other British islands
in possessing a far greater area of virgin land. From its wide savannahs
it could produce as it still does its own beef and pork; and the intro-
duction of guinea grass in 1745 was an important event for the cattle
industry. Jamaica in consequence was much less dependent than (for
instance) Barbados upon imported Irish beef.
More important still, the slaves upon the Jamaican plantations could
grow for themselves most of the vegetable food they needed upon provi-
sion grounds plots set aside for the purpose in outlying parts of es-
tates, usually in the foothills bordering the coastal plains. Except for
the one vital item salt fish the slave population of Jamaica could,
to a considerable extent, do without imported food. In this respect also
Jamaica differed from Barbados orSt. Kitts. In the course of the eighteenth
century however, more and more of the best land came under sugar; more
and more slaves were brought in; and the provision grounds crept higher
into the hills, further and further away from the slaves' place of work.
The problems of the economical raising of food became more difficult,
and the search for plants yielding larger quantities of bulky food became
The eighteenth century saw a great increase in the variety of ground
provisions produced by slaves. Of the many varieties of yam now grown
in the West Indies, all or almost all are introductions from Africa or the
East. There are three species of wild yam in Jamaica. "Bitter Bessie,"
Dioscorea polygonoides, is quite unfit for human food, though it is some-
times planted round the edges of cultivation to confuse or discourage
praedial thieves. The rare Amedo yam of the John Crow Mountains is
also uneatable. The Himber yam, Rajania cordata, which grows in the
fertile hidden valleys of the Cockpit Country, can be eaten and is some-
times gathered in lean seasons today. In earlier times it was probably
a stand-by for the Maroons and other runaways; but its thin, deep-set
roots offer a poor reward for the labour of digging it.
None of these wild plants can have been the parent of any of the
cultivated varieties. Among cultivated yams, Dioscorea sativa the so-
called negro-yam, may have been indigenous, for it also sometimes grows
wild; but more probably the wild specimens were originally escapes from
cultivation. If they were introduced, these coarse yellow yams must have
come in the seventeenth century at the latest, for Sloane mentions two
varieties. He says nothing of wild yams. The large floury white yams widely
grown today were mostly eighteenth-century introductions, and are des-
cribed at length by the eighteenth-century writers. Barham calls the yam
"one of our principal bread-kinds in Jamaica" and lists four cultivated
kinds and one wild. Long merely repeats Sloane; but Lunan, writing
during Napoleon's war, describes six varieties in great detail.
Other roots introduced from the East or from the Pacific islands -
eddos or cocos and the like were less important than yams, though
six distinct varieties were known by Lunan's day. The sweet potato,
indigenous to America, must have been cultivated from an early date in
Jamaica. Barham called it "one of the chief bread-kind. . food for black
and white," and Lunan echoes his description. The so-called "Irish"
potato properly a Peruvian potato first appears in Browne, who calls
it "Irish" and says that it was imported in large quantities from northern
England, and was beginning to be grown, without much success, in the
hills of Jamaica. Lunan makes no mention of imports, and agrees that
the potatoes grown in Jamaica were of poor quality. That stricture is
no longer true today; but Irish potatoes are still a somewhat expensive
luxury, and have never been of great economic importance in the West
All these root crops have the advantage of being more or less un-
affected by storms, which so easily destroy bananas or maize. On the
other hand, their production is laborious, and several eighteenth-century
writers, Bryan Edwards among them, complained of the laziness and
improvidence of the Jamaican slaves in neglecting ground provisions
and relving upon the more vulnerable crops which required less labour.
That criticism also cannot be applied to the Jamaican peasant of our day,
who relies heavily for food on root crops.
Jamaica, though more fortunate than the smaller islands, never eman-
cipated itself from dependence upon imported food, and always had
difficulty in paying for its food. The North American colonists showed
a growing tendency in the eighteenth century to buy sugar illegally
and in defiance of the unenforceable Molasses Act from the French
islands, because it was cheaper there. Provisions imported into the
British West Indies from North America had therefore to be paid for largely
The problem of paying for dollar imports is nothing new in West Indian
history. The West Indians, whose media of exchange were either a purely
local currency, or else sugar itself, were always short of specie. They
were mostly in debt to their English correspondents, and got little from
that source. %lost of the silver which circulated in the West Indies came
from Spanish America. The incessant smuggling to the Spanish mainland;
the illicit export of slaves; the persistent attempts to develop the logwood
trade from Belize and other places on the coast of Central America -
all these enterprises were in large part Jamaican attempts to obtain
specie with which to pay for imported food and timber. They were quite
inadequate remedies. The attempts of the home government, in the Sugar
Act of 1764, to protect the British West Indies by stopping trade between
the French islands and North America also failed of its effect; and
within twelve years from the passing of the Act the North American
colonies were in open revolt.
The war of American Independence was a major disaster for the is-
lands. The West Indies found themselves on the losing side in a great
international war, their plantations exposed to destructive raids, their
export trade hampered, their supply of imported food cut off. In Jamaica
alone in 1780, 15,000 slaves died of famine. Naturally the search for
additional food crops acquired a new and desperate urgency. Two new
plants of great economic importance were introduced during the course
of the war. The ackee tree came to Jamaica from West Africa in 1778.
The famous gastronomic marriage which gave Jamaica its most characteristic
dish and this article its title dates from that time. As had so often
happened in the past, the ships which brought slaves to the West Indies
brought also the plants with which they were to be fed. The first ackee
slips were purchased by Dr. Clarke, the first Island Botanist, from the
captain of a slaver.
More important still was the mango, an Asiatic tree which now grows
all round the world within the Tropics. The mango has had a long associa-
tion with the slave trade. To this day in some parts of Central Africa,
lines of mango trees planted by Arab slavers mark the routes down which
slave caravans were driven to the coast. The first plants to reach the
West Indies were part of a collection dispatched to the French islands
from Mauritius, at the command of the French government, in 1782. The
ship carrying the collection was taken in prize by an English frigate,
H.M.S. Flora, Captain Marshall. The Admiral commanding on the station
- the great Rodney himself recognizing at once the potential value
of the capture, sent the plants to Jamaica, where they were propagated
in Mr. East's garden at Gordon Town. Like the ackee, the mango flourished
spontaneously and has spread throughout the West Indies. Many improved
varieties have since been introduced; and possibly no single plant is
now more important in feeding the very poor during the summer months.
After the war, in 1783, the West Indian representatives in London
petitioned for a resumption of trade with North America on the old terms.
The petition not unnaturally in the circumstances was refused. The
United States were now a foreign power, outside the system of Imperial
preferential trade. Rum, molasses and sugar could no longer be sent to
the States, except by paying high duties or by smuggling. Salt fish, grain
and timber had now to come from Canada, in much smaller quantities
and for a time at least at a far higher price, or else from England
itself; but England had less and less to spare, and soon the threat of
another and more serious French war was once again to disorganise
Atlantic shipping. Yet still the great armies of slaves on the plantations
had somehow to be fed.
The reaction of Government, both in Jamaica and in England, was
vigorous and constructive. In 1791 the Jamaica Assembly resolved that
"Every encouragement is to be given to the cultivation of Yams, Cocos,
Maize, Plantains and such products as the Breadfruit, Nutmeg, Cloves,
Cinnamon . and coffee; it being believed that the cultivation of such
exotics would, without doubt, in the course of a few years, lessen the
dependence of the sugar islands on North America for food and necessaries,
and not only supply subsistence for future generations, but, probably,
furnish fresh incitements to Industry, new improvements in the Arts, and
new subjects of Commerce." Coconuts, coffee and nutmeg did indeed
become valuable crops, taking their places beside the native cacao and
pimento; though none of them ever rivalled sugar. Meanwhile the English
Government was sufficiently impressed with the urgency of the problem
to send warships cruising round the East Indies and Pacific to collect
plants for introduction into the West Indies. Cook's voyages had revealed
a wealth of plant life hitherto unknown to Europeans.
The breadfruit tree, found and described by Cook at Tahiti, especially
caught the public imagination, and in 1787, H.M.S. Bounty was ordered to
Tahiti to collect breadfruit and other plants. She was commanded by
William Bligh, who had been Cook's lieutenant. The mutiny of part of the
ship's company prevented Bligh from accomplishing his task; but in 1793
he was despatched upon a similar errand in the even more appropriately
named Providence brig, and this time returned with a cargo of manna which
included young breadfruit trees. Bligh received handsome recognition
of his services from the Jamaica Assembly. His trees were planted in
the Government Botanical Gardens at Bath in St. Thomas, and from there
distributed all over the island. Incidentally the foundation of a number
of botanical gardens in various parts of the West Indies at this time was
evidence of the importance attached to the problem of introducing new
forms of cheap starch for feeding field labourers, as well as of a general
interest in botany for its own sake.
The food habits of the West Indies were generally fixed by the end
of the eighteenth century. Since then there have been improvements in
quality and productivity, but relatively few fresh introductions. The
immigration of indented East Indian labour in the nineteenth century,
it is true, brought rice into new prominence and made it a familiar article
of West Indian diet. From 1873 the Government made strenuous attempts
to encourage the cultivation of rice, by experiments carried out at Hope,
and by the distribution of information and seed. But rice had been intro-
duced from the East in the seventeenth century. Sloane says that it was
grown in his day in suitably swampy areas in St. Catherine, St Elizabeth
and Westmorland, but that most planters neglected it because of the
difficulty of husking. The re-introduction of rice growing in the nine-
teenth century merely carried out recommendations made by Sloane and
others long before.
The importance of this long and tenacious struggle to make Jamaica
grow other kinds of food than sugar is obvious. The story has an im-
portance and an interest more than merely botanical or merely economic;
it is an essential part of the social history of the island. Without the
institution of slave provision grounds, without the constant search for
crops to stock those grounds, emancipation, in the form which it took in
Jamaica, would have been economically and socially very difficult, per-
haps impossible. It was the presence of a great variety of productive
and easily cultivated food plants which enabled unskilled praedial slaves
to become the sturdy independent peasantry who inhabit the hills of
SOCIOLOGY, SOCIAL ADMINISTRATION,
AND SOCIAL WORK
PROFESSOR T. S. SIMEY
Professor of Social Science, Liverpool University
NOTE: This article was based on a lecture given by Professor Simey at
the University of the West Indies, in August 1962.
At the end of World War II, it appeared probable that the social ser-
vices could make a valuable contribution to the practice of social ad-
ministration and social work, without undue difficulty. Much had been
done in the course of the war to add to the war effort by relying on the
social services, as for instance in the utilization of manpower, and in
particular by removing potential psychiatric casualties from combat units,
in officer selection, in the organization of the labour force in munitions
industries, and in other ways. Over the years, moreover, the work of
social scientists had had an important influence on the shaping of social
policy. The surveys carried out by Booth, Rowntree and others had
demonstrated that poverty was the outcome, not only of the moral failings
of individuals, but and this was much more important from social
causes such as old age and illness, and defects in the industrial struc-
ture such as unemployment and employment at low wages in the 'sweated'
trades. Out of this grew the social services and the legislation which
has created the so-called 'welfare state'.
In particular, the old-age pensions service, largely the creation of
Booth who produced the arguments which showed the necessity for it
in his survey, marked a turning point in British social policy. This, and
other similar services, was based on the principle that a transfer of
wealth from rich to poor was required as a common incident of citizenship
rather than as an act of charity, when it could be shown that adequate
opportunities for good living, and the maintenance of an adequate mini-
mum of economic and social life, could only be obtained by common
or co-operative action rather than individual self-reliance and initiative.
It was the task of the social sciences to show that this situation had
arisen in a number of instances, and to point the way towards the re-
shaping of our society, by the creation of social services available to
the many rather than to the few, and to produce with some degree of pre-
cision the planning whereby this could be done.
Moreover, the social services had made important contributions to
social policy in more indirect ways. The intelligence testing that was
developed before the first World War showed that individual differences
in performance were less wide than had been expected. This line of
research was applied twenty years later to differences between the so-
called 'races' in the United States, with the result that it was shown
that though on the average 'whites' did better than 'Negroes', Negroes
in the towns did much better than Negroes in the country, and the same
happened as between Negroes in the North and the South. As the same
phenomenon occurred with the whites, a large overlap was shown to
exist between the performance of Negroes and Whites, and this could
only be attributed to social rather than genetic causes. This has a pro-
found effect on public opinion, since it came to be accepted that a belief
in the superiority of Whites was due to ignorance; this, as Gunnar Myrdal
pointed out in his great survey, The American Dilemma, led toepoch-making
changes in policy, the origin of which was to be found in the researches
of the social psychologists.
Some seventeen years ago, then, we were in an optimistic mood,
expecting that we were on the eve of great advances that would result
from the application of the social services to social administration and
social work. But the task proved to be very much more difficult than we
had expected. Opposition was encountered from two unexpected quarters,
and, like a bad general, I found myself fighting on two fronts at once.
First of all a so-called 'scientific'school of thought developed and had
to be dealt with; this denied that social scientists were entitled (still
less obliged) to make value judgments in their work. An inordinate amount
of importance was attached to statistical operations, and it was assumed
that the work of the researcher could be carried to a successful conclu-
sion by a process of statistical analysis of data, which might relate to
anything under the sun. This attitude of mind was clearly related to the
neo-positivist position, and it has led ultimately into the same blind
alley as positivism itself.
Secondly, there were the social workers, who quite properly attached
the greatest importance to the making of constructive relations between
the individual worker and her client. These relationships became in-
fluenced by Freudian theories, however, and an intellectual muddle
developed which has undermined the efficiency of the work that has been
carried out. I may refer here to Mr. T. W. Marshall's lecture on 'The
Natural and Social Sciences', published in Volume 8, No. 1 of The Carib-
bean Quarterly. What is lacking in the work of the so-called 'scientists'
is the formulation of really significant hypotheses such as those dis-
cussed in this article. Where the social workers went wrong, as Mr.
Marshall pointed out, was in accepting an explanation of their functions
which was 'positively opposed to the intrusion of science'. The 'Scien-
tists' thought that theories would emerge from blind analysis of data;
the social workers thought that a priori theory would explain everything,
and that empirical research was superfluous.
What has been lacking in this kind of work is, then, an awareness
that research must incorporate a synthesis of fact and value if an under-
standing is to be arrived at of any aspect of man's behaviour; for man,
as we know him and as we ourselves are,is both rational and responsible.
We have attempted to develop our own work in Liverpool along these
lines; we call our researches 'problem centred', and weregard our study
as lying within the field of 'empirical sociology'. The phrase 'problem
centred' is intended to imply that we select subjects for research which
are recognized am embodying problems of substantial importance from the
point of view both of public policy and of scientific theory; 'empirical
sociology' is interpreted by us as covering researches which are 'scien-
tific' in Mr. Marshall's sense, in so far as they are so designed as to
test hypotheses in the light of the relevant evidence. Studies of this
kind, of interest to West Indians as they deal with issues or situations
of common concern, have included Dr. John May's 'Growing up in the
City', 'On the Threshold of Delinquency', and 'Education and the Urban
Child'. The underlying theory is also discussed in the joint work of my
wife and myself, Charles Booth, Social Scientist.
In general, the next phase in the development of empirical sociology
requires a frontal attack on the problem of social change. Our own works
relate to this, directly or indirectly, but nearly everything still remains
to be done to develop adequate hypotheses to explain the ways in which
change occurs, and to test them. Sociology as it has grown up in the past,
has attempted in the main to describe and explain the organization of
static or unchanging societies. The chief characteristic of the societies
of the modern world, however, is that of rapid change, and this is more
and more of the kind that is deliberately introduced so as to attain ends
of social or public policy. For instance, at a recent inter-American
seminar conducted under the auspices of the Social Sciences Research
Council, on 'The Social Sciences: Parochial or Cosmopolitan', a general
impression appeared to prevail that North American sociologists' 'seemed
to think that a society which is changing is destroying itself'. Was it
necessary, it was asked, for the latter to disengage themselves from
efforts to improve social welfare or to promote social or economic changes
in order to preserve their objectivity and the scientific character of their
work and to avoid compromising their students? It was, indeed, asserted
at this seminar that what is now called for is a new kind of sociology,
'associated with planning for development, as distinct from, and broader
than, economic development'. The main obstacle to be overcome was
'the absence of systematic theories of social change'.
There are, obviously, unlimited opportunities for carrying out re-
searches of this kind in the West Indies. Not only is the fact of change
so obvious as to override any other features of the social scene, but the
problems of individual change have assumed critical importance in this
region. Nobody is contented with things as they are; all Governments,
Departments and Administrative agencies, both public and voluntary -
not forgetting the churches all are striving might and main to carry out
radical improvements in social welfare and economic organization. I
have, however, encountered only one study of the process of change
which gives a really penetrating account of the factors involved in it.
This is Dr. David Edwards' Economic Study of Small Farming in Jamaica.
This research has been carried out in a wide framework of reference,
and throws much light on both the economic and the social aspects of
the life and work of small farmers. Many useful lessons can be drawn
from it by those who are responsible for the formulation of agricultural
policy and the operation of the extension services, and by all who have
interests of the country people of Jamaica at heart. It points the way,
moreover, to the carrying out of related studies in the social life of the
country people,and into specific problems such as housing, communications
between Government and people, (and vice versa), and problems of pub-
lic health and sanitation.
May I give two examples of what might be done in this way. First
of all, there is I believe an urgent need for the carrying out of inquiries
into the reasons for the relative ineffectiveness of the literacy campaign.
This would be of the greatest importance to the social sciences, as the
campaign itself is nothing more nor less than an attempt to change the
attitudes and behaviour of a substantial proportion of the population.
Issues both of value and of fact (or techniques and their success or
failure) are involved. A successful research in this field might make
a significant contribution to the theory of social change, the absence
of which has been commented on above. Its importance in regard to
public policy is obvious, and need not be explained. I believe, indeed,
that research of this kind is a necessary prerequisite for the successful
administration of the social services in the West Indies, as further ad-
vances will be virtually impossible without detailed and accurate know-
ledge of the situations with which they are confronted. Moreover, I
believe that studies of this kind might often, as has been the case with
a substantial proportion of the empirical researches carried out in my
own Department, lead of themselves to changes in the situation that is
the subject of investigation, of a constructive kind. Accurate knowledge
of the facts, and of the factors which make them what they are, is often
a sufficient motivating force to require changes in behaviour, and ulti-
mately leads to changes in the facts themselves.
Secondly, I feel convinced that further advances in administration
require reliable information as to the way in which the social services
are operating. What, I would like to ask, is their impact on the ordinary
citizen? How many people benefit from them, in what degree? To what
extent are the objectives of the services being achieved, or are they
misfiring in the sense that what is being recommended is often misunder-
stood, or fails to make any impact at all? Conversely, I would like to
know how far the services are efficiently planned so as to relate to the
real needs of the people, and to give opportunities for the expression
of the point of view of the ordinary man, and to stimulate and make use
of his energies.
All this might be accomplished in a series of detailed studies of
typical districts, along the same lines and using much the same methods
as were employed by Dr. Edwards. Investigations of this kind might
take the often-repeated remark that Jamaica, for instance, is a 'labora-
tory of peaceful change' seriously, and use it as such. There will, I
feel sure be general agreement with the view that everything should be
done to ensure the success of the political and social experiments now
being carried out in the West Indies. The possibilities of failure are
only too serious and too obvious. If social research carried out by ex-
isting agencies can reduce these possibilities to only a small degree,
then there is an unanswerable case for carrying it out with the least
possible delay, and with all the resources which can be assembled for
the purpose. Finally, the very important consideration must not be for-
gotten that successful research of this kind will bring the West Indies
still further into the intellectual and political community of nations.
Social research does not require the expenditure of large sums of money
or the use of expensive apparatus: clear vision, intellectual courage,
a due sense of responsibility and a willingness to devote one's life to
the task are all that is required, and these are moral and social qualities
rather than material. The opportunities to undertake research are there-
fore open to West Indian scholars, and if ways and means of associating
them with their colleagues in other parts of the world in this task can
be found, then so much the better for everybody.
THE SHORTAGE OF SCIENCE TEACHERS
IN UNDERDEVELOPED TERRITORIES
How the Problem can be Solved
DR. G. D. BISHOP
Department of Education, University of the Wlest Indies, Kingston.
EDITOR'S NOTE: ID addition to the Jamaica Course, Dr. Bishop has con-
ducted a Course in St. Kitts in September, and also a Course for Secondary
School Teachers in the Caribbean held in Trinidad In August.
"Science is modem life itself in one of its most fundamental aspects,
and therefore an essential basis of a modem education for everybody`"
(Fir. F. Clarke: "Education and Social Change")
Today one does not need to argue whether or not science should be
taught in Schools. The question, rather, is: How can we train sufficient
teachers of science? In under-developed countries the problem of science
teaching is aggravated by
(i) lack of adequately trained teachers of science
(ii) lack of laboratory facilities
(iii) lack of apparatus and equipment.
This article indicates how the problem is being tackled in Jamaica.
The few training colleges that exist are, of course, giving some
training in the teaching of science to their students. But the numberof
trained science teachers emerging from these colleges will not even
remotely meet the large number needed by the nation's schools. The
University of the West Indies will, in the near future, be turning out some
one or two dozen trained graduate science teachers annually. This trickle
will hardly meet the ever-increasing needs of the secondary and high
To overcome the shortage of trained science teachers the Ministry
of Education and the Department of Education of the University collabo-
rated and finally evolved this solution.
It was felt that the situation was too urgent merely to wait some years
for the first trickles of trained science teachers to emerge from the
training colleges and the University. It was decided to meet the lack
of trained personnel by turning to the teachers already in the schools.
Many of the teachers, despite their own lack of a sound knowledge of
science and despite lack of adequate facilities, were makingbrave efforts
to teach the subject. But, as one would expect from having staff untrained
in the special techniques of science teaching, the results were, on the
whole, unsatisfactory. There were many teachers, too, who, it was felt,
would like the opportunity of being trained to teach science, even though
they had never taught the subject or had never been taught the subject
Having decided to concentrate our efforts on existing teachers, further
problems arose. Many of the schools are already inadequately staffed.
To remove teachers from the schools for the purpose of attending courses
on the teaching of science would aggravate the staff problems in the
schools even more. However, it was felt that Head Teachers would not
mind losing a member of staff for only a term or even six weeks, since
they would benefit in the long run by receiving back to the school a more
proficient teacher. Whilst a course extending over one term was con-
sidered the minimum, the first pilot course was restricted to six weeks.
During this six weeks the Ministry of Education continued to pay teachers
their salaries, and so any financial complications were thus avoided.
The pilot course was restricted to twenty-five teachers. Many of these
teachers had little or no knowledge of science themselves. Some had
done a little biology, but most were ignorant of any physics or chemistry.
The criticism was made that it was impossible to teach people how to
teach a subject about which they knew little or nothing. Admittedly a
teacher of any subject should have a sound basis in that subject. But
if we postponed our first course until we waited for teachers who were
well grounded in science we would never begin, because where would
these persons have got their grounding without having science teachers
in the first place. The vicious circle has to be broken, and the sooner
The dilemma of training teachers to teach a subject about which they
knew very little was overcome by this device. The teachers were to be
taught science and the techniques of teaching it at the same time. Again
ridicule: how much science can you teach in six weeks? Not very much,
but certainly something, and, what is more, the teachers can be given
that inspiration which will lead them to learn more on their own momentum.
The method of teaching adopted in the course was a modified heurism.
Instead of the teachers being told, say, the principles of electro-magne-
tism, of mechanics, of germination, etc. etc. the students were made to
conduct their own experiments and 'discover' these principles for them-
selves as a result of their own findings. Of course, help and guidance were
given where absolutely necessary: life is too short to adopt a purely
heuristic approach. Students were issued with sheets which gave in-
structions as to how the experiments were to be carried out and how the
necessary apparatus for the experiments was to be improvised. But the
answers and principles were to be thought out by the students. The directors
of this course believe that science should be taught in the schools in
the same way viz, employing a modified heurism. With this end in view
a special textbook has been compiled, embracing a five year course
starting at age about eleven, and employing a modified heuristic technique.1
Of course, it would have been quite impossible to take the students
through a five year science course in a matter of six weeks. So a selec-
tion of experiments was necessary. By taking the students through this
selection, not only did they gain a knowledge of some of the fundamental
1. Modem Experimental Science. Vols. 1. II. [11, (with Teachers' Handbook) By Dr. G.
Bishop. To be published by Collins.
principles of science themselves, but they also acquainted themselves
with the techniques of science teaching which they would carry back
to their schools. And, back in their schools, the teachers would continue
to learn with their pupils and no teacher worth his salt would ever be
ashamed of that as they worked steadily through the textbooks. (Of
course, in addition to this experimental work, the students on the course
were given lectures on related topics e.g. class and laboratory organi-
sation and management, the science syllabus, methodology, testing,
first aid etc.)
A feature of the course was the emphasis on the experimental ap-
proach, using improvised apparatus. None of the teachers came from
schools that possessed laboratories, and most possessed none or very
little equipment and apparatus. It was precisely for this reason that
the course was given in an ordinary classroom, not in a well-equipped
laboratory. That was the only way to convince the teachers that a magnifi-
cent laboratory is not essential for the good teaching of science. All
the apparatus used was improvised from cotton reels, jam jars, tin cans,
pieces of wood, etc. etc. No school could ever complain that it could
not procure tin cans etc. A remarkable feature cf this course was the
quite unexpected enthusiasm shown by the teachers for making impro-
vised apparatus. It was almost impossible to get some of the teachers
to go home at the end of the day's work!
Without any doubt this pilot course was an unqualified success. The
pattern has been set as to how to cope with the problem of the grave
shortage of science teachers. In conclusion, it might be mentioned,
that if the future science teachers of any nation are to be first-rate then
the persons selected to train these teachers must themselves be first-rate
teachers with experience of the conditions met with in the schools,
teachers fired with an almost missionary zeal to see that the newdevelop-
ing nations will be adequately supplied with inspiring teachers who, in
turn, will bring forth educated citizens, acquainted with the broad out-
lines of science and capable of becoming the specialists and the tech-
nologists that any progressive nation will need. If the persons chosen
to give these courses to teachers are merely going to hand out the dry
bones of academic courses they themselves took, we will hardly be better
off than when there were no science teachers.
ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE CARIBBEAN
An Analysis Based on Results of the U.W.I.
Examination in English Literature, 1962
V. I. CARR a J. E. INGLEDEV.
Department of English, V. W.I., September 1962
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. W. I. Carr and Mr. J. E. Ingledew, both Lecturers in
the Department of English were the examiners in English Literature for the
U.W.I. Scholarship held in February, 1962.
Their views and comments should be of great interest to Schools and persons
involved in the teaching of English Literature.
The Examination paper is printed at the beginning of the article.
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF THE WEST INDIES
Scholarship Examination -1962
(i) THREE HOURS is the time allowed for this paper.
(ii) Answer ONE question from Section A and THREE
Questions from Section B.
EITHER (a) attempt a critical comparison of the two following
(i) Miss Tox's dress, though perfectly genteel and good, had
a certain character of angularity and scantiness. She was
accustomed to wear odd weedy little flowers in her bonnets
and caps. Strange grasses were sometimes perceived in
her hair; and it was observed by the curious, of all her
collars, frills, tuckers, wristbands, and other gossamer
articles indeed of everything she wore which had two
ends to it intended to unite that the two ends were
never on good terms, and wouldn't quite meet without a
struggle. She had furry articles for winter wear, as tippets,
boas, and muffs, which stood up on end in a rampant man-
ner, and were not at all neat. She was much given to the
carrying about of small bags with snaps to them, that went
off like little pistols when they were shut up; and when
full-dressed she wore around her neck the barrenest of
lockets, representing a fishy old eye, with no approach
to speculation in it. These and other appearances of a
similar nature, had served to propagate the opinion, that
Miss Tox was a lady of what is called a limited indepen-
dence, which she turned to the best account. Possible
her mincing gait encouraged the belief, and suggested
that her clipping a step of ordinary compass into two or
three, originated in her habit of making the most of everything.
(it) She was a little old lady, with an enormous head; that
was the first thing Hansom noticed the vast, fair, pro-
tuberant, candid, angarnished brow, surmounting a pair
of weak, kind, tired-looking eyes, and ineffectually
balanced in the rear by a cap which had the air of falling
backward, and which Miss Birdseye suddenly felt for while
she talked, with unsuccessful irrelevant movements. She
had a sad, soft, pale face, which (and it was the effect
of her whole head) looked as if it had been soaked,
blurred, and made vague by exposure to some slow dis-
solvent. The long practice of philanthropy had not given
accent to her features; it had rubbed out their transitions,
their meanings. The waves of sympathy, of enthusiasm,
had wrought upon them in the same way in which the
waves of time finally modify the surface of old marble
busts, gradually washing away their sharpness, their
details. In her large countenance her dim little smile
scarcely showed. It was a mere sketch of a smile, a
kind of instalment, or pavmcnt on account; it seemed to
say that she would smile more if she had time, but that
you could see, without this, that she was gentle and easy
OR (b) write a critical appreciation of the following poem:
Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners' ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
Wert thou my enemy, 0 thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leaved how thick! laced they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build but not I build; no, but strain,
Time's eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, 0 thou lord of life, send my roots rain.
1. 'Criticism' really means no more than reading with the
fullest attention and reporting on your findings. It isn't
the enemy of 'enjoyment' but rather a necessary prelude
to it." Do you agree?
2. "The prose play is necessarily a limited achievement. For
you are confined there strictly to the language of everyday
life and what on earth can you do with that?" Discuss.
3. "then you describe a work of lileratureas'tragic'you should
realise that you are evaluating it, saying how good you
think it is, and not merely describing the incidents which
take place in it." How far do you agree with this formu-
4. How would you account for the fact that 'Hamlet' is the
most popular, the most widely known, of Shakespeare's
5. Write a short essay on ONE of the following subjects:
irony; biography versus fiction; satiric poetry; 'character'
in the novel; science fiction; West Indian drama.
6. Take the work of ONE West Indian novelist whom you
admire and offer an account of the reasons for your ad-
7. "The novel simply can't be taken seriously. Poetry is the
only really serious literature." Discuss.
8. How would you define a major poet?
9. "Shakespeare isn't a writer of closet drama. He is a great
-master of the theatre." Discuss. You may confine your ans-
wer to one play or you may illustrate your answer by at-
tention to selected scenes from different plays.
10. To what extent, if at all, do you think a writer must be
conscious of his public alert, in his writings, to its
demands and expectations?
11. "Indignation and sympathy are not enough. What West Indian
literature requires is a satirist." Discuss.
12. Write an essay defending the study of literature.
13. Write an essay on ONE of the following:
(a) the bible as literature.
(b) the Book of Job as a tragedy.
(c) St. Matthew's account of the Passion and the Cruci-
Of the 134 candidates who sat the English Literature Paper in the
last U.C.W.I. Scholarship Examination 98 failed to reach the pass markof
34 out of 100, a result almost equally disturbing to examiners, teachers
and candidates. It has seemed to us, the examiners, a desirable prelim-
inary to future remedial action, to analyse the scripts with a view to
focussing some of the reasons for this result.
We hope there is no need to offer any defence or detailed explanation
for the investigation. The general relevance of our findings is, we trust,
obvious. If it were simply a matter of the English Department itself trying
to come to terms with the unfortunate consequences of the examination,
then we would not have attempted anything resembling a public enquiry.
But we feel that the incapacities which the results comprehensively
reveal have an immediate bearing upon educational problems as a whole
within the area. We should like our work to be seen as a contribution to
a discussion of ways and means to be continued by teachers whose
discipline is not English Literature. We would regret any suggestion
that the work constitutes simply an audible monologue on the part of one
Arts department. All education is dependent upon language indeed, all
living is dependent upon language. And so the errors and mistaken pro-
cedures which we have analysed in the following pages add up to much
more than the limitations of imperfectly trained candidates for a University
English scholarship paper. They indicate, rather, radical weaknesses
of thought and perception which must concern more than teachers of Eng-
lish. A number of the candidates, for instance, were not undertaking to
read English as a University subject, but were seeking entry to other
disciplines. It is impossible not to feel that there is an important con-
nection between many of the weaknesses revealed below and the quality
of intelligence which might be brought to bear on other subjects. Errors
involving simple ignorance of the subject did not particularly concern us.
Much more important were those errors suggesting a total incapacity to
see what words can do and to use words in the making of elementary
points. We did not expect a high degree of professional competence, but
the orders of confusion we encountered indicate something of much wider
educational interest than failure within a relatively specialised discipline.
As Ezra Pound once put it:
"(Literature). . has to do with the clarity of 'any and every' thought and opinion.
It has to do with the maintaining the very cleanliness of the tools, the health
of the very matter of thought itself. Save the rare and very limited instances of
invention in the plastic arts, or in mathematics, the individual cannot think or
communicate his thought, the legislator and the governor cannot act effectively
or frame his laws, without words, and the solidity and validity of these words
is in the care of the damned and despised literati. When their work goes rotten
- by that I do not mean when they express indecorous thoughts but when their
very medium, the very essence of their work, the application of word to thing
goes rotten i.e. becomes slushy and inexact,or excessive or bloated, the whole
machinery of social and individual thought and order goes to pot."
It ought not to strike anyone as odd, the recognition there that a language
can become debased. Any one of us could easily make an anthology of
words and expressions we simply cannot use without a frisson of em-
barrassment. The quality of much published journalism hardly deserves
comment, and one has merely to listen to the exaltations of politics. In
the West Indies the problem is complicated by the presence of local dia-
lects -but it is worth making the point that dialect usually has a vitality,
a verbal energy, that formal English in the area too often lacks. Con-
temptuous inhibitions about dialect would seem to entail a large-scale
incapacity to use the texture of formal English. Discussion of this in the
area is usually fogged by assumptions that the process works the other
Literature is about human experience. This is a simple enough formu-
lation but one that does not command prompt general assent. To begin
with it implies difficulties which are vital to the study of the subjects It
does not involve the teacher, whether at school or University, in any
mere fruitless collision of opinion (How many critics of an English
course suppose that criticism is just that!) but it does commit him to
teaching experience quite unlike that consistently offered by any other
subject. For sooner or later the continual exposure of a student to the
finest consciousnesses of different generations, continual imaginative
exposure, is bound to provoke questions of personal maturity, of lived
(and radically contrasted) experience. This is finally inseparable from
responsible attention to the subject. It does not mean that literature is a
substitute for religion, or an explicit guide to private conduct. It means
that critical engagement with literature commits one to a continual testing
of one's experience as a person, a continual enquiry into one's sources
of value. An elementary instance may be cited. One of the present writers
has heard a student describe Shakespeare's Juliet as immoral, and another
describe "Antony and Cleopatra" as distasteful. In dissenting from
these judgments one had no intention of putting the students in their
place. Disagreement had to be tactful or it would be worthless. But it
is the teacher's entitlement to observe to himself that the students' ex-
perience was not mature enough or generous enough (the two are, in
fact, inseparable) to accept what Shakespeare's art offered. The evidence
for the testing of experience is enormous. We shall limit our attention to
a couple of texts that a student taking a General Degree might be invited
to study a student that is, who is not engaged in the fulltime study
of the subject.
One text might be Chaucer's "The Wife of Bath's Prologue". Now,
certainly there are more ways than one of dealing with comedy as rich as
Chaucer's. We take away, for example, a concrete sense of the life of
a particular medieval community. We can learn to distinguish and draw
out implicit irony at the expense of the church, humane registering, by
Chaucer, of the kind of duplicity its function could encourage. But the
real challenge lies in what we make of the Wife herself. A student can
quite soon recognize the satire at the expense of her different husbands:
the predatory old man who finds himself outsmarted,the young intellectual
who thinks his reading supplies all he needs to know about life. But it
requires much more of oneself to recognize the kind of judgment which is
surely made upon the Wife not that she is a woman of abundant sexual
appetite (which inclines towards the sentimental view) but that she is a
woman who uses her sex at the behest of a domineering will. She bears
out much of D. H. Lawrence's diagnosis of 'sex in the head', sex em-
ployed to undermine the possibilities of a genuine relationship. Far from
being seen as a symbol of richness and vitality she ought to emerge
for the reader as the symbol of an energy which ismerely negative. Now
there is nothing solemn or pedantic about Chaucer's judgment. The art
makes the Wife so memorable a figure that the judgment is implicit in the
depth of Chaucer's insight into her. It is something we are invited to
experience and not simply extrapolate from the text. We do not stipulate
that this is the only way the Prologue may be read. Our concern is simply
to suggest the important human issues the comedy raises and to suggest
that work on the Prologue implies a genuine personal commitment. It is
hard to think of anything less resembling a remote academic text.
To take a more challenging instance, the set Shakespeare play might
be "Henry IV Part I". Relevant to an understanding of the play, of
course, will be its historical and social context the Elizabethan dread
of anarchy, the careful, dramatic definition of the functions of the mon-
archy, the concept of honour, and so on. But it should soon become an
axiom to the student that the Shakespearean treatment of public themes,
of the quality of public life, grows from a finer wisdom, and altogether
more complex understanding, than the public themes could themselves
embody. We are thinking of the contrast (implicit in the total action and
not a simple matter of preferences) between Falstaff and Prince Henry.
Clearly, a properly regulated society can have no place for Falstaff
("The laws of England are at my command, and woe to my Lord Chief
Justice",) And yet the Prince a Harry though he is and not an Amurath
-can hardly strike us as a wholly sympathetic, or wholly admirable
human being. Falstaff does represent a humanity, a vivid generosityof
living which the Prince's function, and the quality of his loyalty to it,
deny him. Putting it this way does not commit us to an uncritical, jovial
acceptance of Falstaff. Rather, the subtleties of Shakespeare's imagina-
tive account embody the need for rational utilities and yet do not forfeit
their hold on the human. Shakespeare never has the sententious deference
to politics and government which lesser minds tend toarrive at always
he sees the human weakness, the human limitation, the human sacrifice.
He has what all artists to greater or lesser degree have, the vision of
diverse possibilities of living and behaviour simultaneously experienced,
so that discrimination and judgment are present in the art and not ex-
We could go on from text to text, but we will assume that the point
is beginning to make itself. What we have shown may seem so subjective
as hardly to constitute a valid discipline. And yet the centre of an Eng-
lish course is trained attention to the possibilities of language, of lan-
guage as a medium of profound imaginative communication. The novel, the
poem, these are present to the imagination as achieved things. The role
of the teacher is, in large measure, to elicit and develop the innerprompt-
ings the reading encourages, to deepen the student's confidence, to help
him in discriminating the sincere and the relevant from the contrived and
the meretricious. In other words, it is his task to promote an order of
sensitive, independent intelligence practised in the making of judgments
of quality about works of the imagination an activity which commits
teacher and student to much more than the works themselves. At the same
time the student is taught to relate the writer and the work to the par-
ticular culture within which the writer experienced and out of which the
Now, it is not to be supposed that all this can be done in the schools
especially in an area with a radical want of specialist teachers. We
as examiners therefore are looking for the kind of student whom we think
might benefit from the kind of activity we have described above. In setting
a Scholarship paper in English Literature we are looking for the student
of exceptional, or above average ability, who displays qualities of judg-
ment, perception, imagination and positive enjoyment of literature, who
can contribute something to a University discipline in English and take
a great d-al away from it. It follows that the question paper has to be
designed -o as to distinguish gradations of ability and knowledge more
finely than is possible with the Advanced Level Examination. This means
that the mugging up "f nine or ten Advanced Level texts is an altogether
inadequate preparation for the scholarship examination. O.r emphasis
is less upon knowledge (though this is important enough), (f)r the kind
of knowledge required for Advanced Level need go no further than an
assiduous regurgitationof teacher's notes,) than on evidence of a per-
sonal response to literature, of attitudes towards it, of a capacity to think
and write in a formulated way about literature, of an ability to look at
words on the page, see what an author is trying to do, and how well he is
doing it, of signs that the candidate has read outside his texts, and has
done some thinking about such general literary matters as the nature of
tragedy and comedy, the function of criticism, the poetic process and
so on. In short it will be necessary for the candidate to do some thinking
in the examination room itself, and some concession for the time demanded
by this is made in that only four answers are required compared to the
five required at Advanced Level. It may well be argued that on the basis
of the recent results the paper is not achieving its purpose. We would
be the first to agree and this is partly why we have undertaken the present
work. But the point is that we are not even in the fortunate position of
being able to extend candidates a helping hand by offering a paper based
upon set texts. To be fair to all territories, who sit between them the
examinations of three separate Examining Boards, we would have to set
questions based upon upwards of seventy texts. Such a paper would be
hopelessly unwieldly and we can visualise possible built-in injustices.
Even then the paper would not allow for the significant number of candi-
dates who do not have Advanced Level at all and are attempting the
paper on the basis of General Certificate set texts, studied perhaps a
couple of years before entry is considered.
Our general conclusions will be set forth at the end of the article,
but a couple of points require mention. Ue have not attempted a statisti-
cal survey or any numerical division of candidates into categories. Ae
have proceeded through particular instance and comment in order to con-
vey personal impressions, in the hope that the implications will better
sink into the reader's mind. A host of figures and categories would tend
merely to confuse and perhaps to deflect attention along irrelevant chan-
nels. One small piece of statistical information, however, is useful.
The average candidate wrote 2,300 words, with 270 words to the foolscap
page and a total of eight and a half pages: that is, an average of just over
two sides per question. The more fluent and speedy writers covered up
to twelve sides, or up to three sides to each question. As was to be ex-
pected there was a marked correlation between the higher marks and the
longer scripts (less evident in the practical criticism question where
there is no necessary relation between length and genuine perception).
This is not to say that longer scripts necessarily mean higher marks,
for reasons that will be plain later. But it is true that respectable marks
are very rarely earned by answers of less than twosides a sobering re-
flection when one observes that of the 150 essay type answers of 50
random scripts, 26 were less than a page, and 80 more were less than
twosides in length. In almost all these cases the paucity was due, not to
lack of time, but to lack of knowledge, ideas and linguistic fluency.
Within a University course the kind of enterprise this question in-
vites is usually known as "practical criticism" or "critical analysis".
The terms are rather forbidding so we may as well make it clear what we
expect. Certainly, nothing is required along the lines of "Murdering to
dissect", or of simply dismantling the poem or the passage of prose. On
the other hand we do not expect a student to count feet, juggle with
dactyls and spondees, or note the frequency of noun clauses and the
recurrence of adverbs. Practical criticism is an imaginative exercise.
This is vague enough, surely, but it supposes a personal reaction to the
poem or whatever, which the student can articulate. It supposes, in some
measure, the recreation of the poem, as, by quotation and demonstration
the student tries to show how the poem lived for him, how it appealed to
him in the way it did. At an elementary level simple comparisons are
attempted with a view to giving the student some basic standards of dis-
crimination something more valuable for him than a simple majority
vote (criticism is profoundly undemocratic) or a blunt assertion of in-
stinctive opinion. But at its most important the exercise involves so
much more than discovering that (a) is better than (b). It involves the
imaginative realisation of what the poem is, of what is there to be as-
certained and discussed after careful reading and it has the advantage,
too, of helping the student towards closely attentive reading of the full-
scale work, the novel or the play. There is nothing overtly scientific
about it, nothing in the way of systematic proof, nothing in the way of
final solutions. There is an evident degree of truth, for instance, in
suggesting that a work of literature exists as a result of constellation
of stated personal reactions towards it. And relevance, in this context,
means that the particular work constitutes the centre of evidence, and
allows us to suppose that we are offering a positive training in thought.
Too many people suppose that "I don't agree" promptly brings all fruit-
ful discussion to a close. But in fact if your agreement or disagreement
is not verified by experience of the work it is worth nothing.
The poem we chose .i a most impressive and representative Hopkins
sonnet. And it should be obvious, even to the layman, that talk about
Miltonic inversions, iambic pentameters and so on, is of no help at all.
Equally, it is perverse to talk, as many candidates did, about Hopkins'
lack of humility,. Hopkins' selfpity, Hopkins' envy and malice. This
suggests nothing more than an incapacity forreceivinga new experience.
The concession so willingly and emphatically made in the first line
indicates neither self assertion nor patronage. A poet who can employ
this sort of forceful address ought immediately to seize our imaginations
and involve us in his passion. To anyone prepared to let him speak and
not merely sit in judgment on him, Hopkins does this. As a devout
Christian he states the essential premise of his experience and then
goes on to give passionate and specific expression to its informing irony
the conviction of the justice of God and the paralysing frustrations
of his own inner life. The tone of outraged defending counsel in the
first two or three lines of the poem suggests, not arrogance, but an
original way of endeavouring to give his experience a logical, almost
legalistic structure. The attempt fails and Hopkins is honest enough
to let us see this by the tensions and shifts of syntax which focus the
tension of the inward response. He perceives a vitality, a growth, in
which he has no share birds build but not I build and the poignantly
placed "Look". The complex figure of the last two and a half lines de-
pends upon the perception that the lord is not an arbitrary lawgiver,
but rather the source of all enduring vitality. And in this Hopkins finds
a degree of comfort even in that most moving plea of his Mine, 0 thou
lord of life, send my roots rain. -. The glimpse of fuller possibilities
than mere reward gives that last line its pregnant urgency. Certainly,
more could be said, and, certainly, there was no insistence at all that
students should produce an account identical with the above. What re-
sponse, in fact, was met with?
All that is cited below is to be regarded as representative. It con-
stitutes the norm, not deviations from it. Errors may be divided into three
categories:(1) irrelevant moralising at the expense of the poet (2) counting
of feet and purely metrical analysis (3) attempts to explain the poem in
terms of something read elsewhere. There were one or two examples of
irrelevance so eccentric that they hardly merit discussion even in this
context. One example will suffice a candidate actually thought the poem
was addressed to a farmer called Lord and was in effect a plea for water
for his crops. Perhaps, on reflection, it is as well to establish another
category of error; (4) false notions of the poetic.
(1) Discussion of poetry dependent simply upon the counting of feet
is a hangover from the period when a classical education predominated
and English metrical forms were closely aligned with Latin ones. In
fact, it is an exercise of no utility whatever unless it is related to par-
ticular literary effects. The terms we use most frequently 'movement'
and 'rhythm' have nothing in common with assessments of the number
of iambic pentameters,and indeed.academic endeavour of this order merely
serves toinhibit profitable discussion of effects of rhythm. Pretty clearly,
most candidates had, so to speak, not felt the poem in the mouth, not
really followed its rhythmic development. The reading of verse aloud has,
of course, virtually died out in more areas than the West Indies. But it is
necessary to insist that this is a loss, and that a poem cannot merely
be read with the eye. The eye is merely a conduit to the area within which
the poem takes place the auditory imagination, the ability to feel and
hear a poem even in complete silence. We got the following answers,
each dash marking a separate answer:
rather poetic sounding words and phrases / it is written in
iambic pentameters / it has decasyllabic lines / it is written
in blank verse / the language is mundane / the sonnet is
written in the style of the epic poem / the poem is written
in the grand style / For so grave a poem the treatment of the
subject is very apt / This poem is certainly not aimed at
pleasing the ear or delighting the imagination. There is in it
very little imagery . There is a little alliteration / the
dicti6n is to some extent very archaic / there are no great
poetical phrases / the punctuation is not very good / it is
good as far as emotion is concerned, but the great use of
punctuation marks and the broken up sentences spoil the
effect of the poem / there is wise use of alliteration / the
poem has what can be classed as euphony / there are few
instances of figurative language / the poet uses the ugliest
It may be as well to stop there. What has been chosen are the punch lines
from different answers, the lines where the candidate commits himself to
an expression of opinion. What have the answers in common? Well, no
realisation at all of the individuality of the writing of a poem, the fact
that in writing, a poet just does not try and conform to a norm but attempts
an original statement of his own experience. Thus, Hopkins was con-
tinually being castigated at the behest of limited notions of rhythm and
movement that could not possibly help to an understanding of what he was
about. The supposition was prevalent that a poet has at his disposal a
limited number of tools, common to all poets, and that he can employ them
in a limited number of elementary combinations. Originality was deeply
suspect, and there was no recognition that 'movement' is in fact a pro-
foundly personal idiom. Any poet can copy another poet's metre, but he
cannot possibly imitate another poet's movement -which might be loosely
described as the physical feel of the poem when read.
(2) This hardly requires much discussion or much representation, and
at times it resulted not from moral complacency or moral shock but simple
insensitivity to tone:
his. . thoughts seem to be full of remorse and disillusion-
ment / (The use of seem is an infuriating habit. One either
has reaction or one does not. There can never be any
question of 'seeming' to have one.) The poet is a plaintive
Christian / (But, sir, so what I plead is just. Is that plain-
tive?) mild anguish / the second half of the poem is emotion-
al / sentimental / He has a most penitent yet pedantic manner
. all this is done in envy and malice / self-pity makes
him sarcastic and cynical of everything around him / Its
p aintive theme is skilfully handled / a plaintive and melan-
choly moan for mercy / This . is not a commendable atti-
tude, for apparently the writer is selfish / The composer of
the poem must have been in close quarters vith the feelings
expressed / one cannot but feel that the speaker is inclined
to be very hypocritical.
Again, we had better close the account. What we record here is manifest
impercipience an inability or a reluctance to accept what is proffered,
and a marked haziness as to what is in fact there. Certainly, there can
be contrasted views of the poem, but none of those cited above has any
kind of relevance.
(3) Attempts toexplain the poem in terms of something read elsewhere
- this is perhaps a slightly specialised error, and quotation will not help
much. Briefly, it means that far too many of the candidates could do
nothing with the poem, until they had said it was Shakespearean/Miltonic
biblical/Metaphysical or whatever. Actually, it is none of these things.
Prompt citing of irrelevant information established a candidate's confi-
dence, but did nothing to deepen what the question required perception
and relevant comment on what Hopkins offers.
(4) False notion of the poetic. This is the kind of confusion which
is perhaps of most general interest. By false notions we mean two things
- a limited technical concern and the adoption of an elementary view of
Romantic poetry as a norm of judgment.
no devices such as onomatopeia or alliteration to suffuse
the atmosphere -of the poem with the sounds and pleasures
of life /lines with some very pleasant sounds / poetic in
conception / semi-grammatical / style suggests Romantic
era / the punctuation is not very good / alliteration lends
beauty to the poem / some lines conta-in a greater number
of feet than others / The poet has gone through many lines
of poetry which could have been omitted, and has finally
come to his main point / (This is a reference to the last line)
the poet starts with a psychological approach/the poet uses
figures of speech like Inversion and Personification / a suc-
cessful imitation of the Petrarchan form tinged with the
poet's originality / the blank verse of the classic writers /
the lines are weak and never concise and compact.
Many of these observations reflect current sensibility in thearea,a feeling
that poetry is not poetry unless it is "beautiful" and unless it employs
a stock of conventional devices. The kind of misconception we find here
is reflected in much West Indian poetry and perhaps helps to explain why
the poetry is a long way behind the achievement of prose fiction.
However, there is no need to prolong the account. Our reaction is
one of real dismay, and we take the opportunity to point out that the first
year in an English course is largely directed at dislodging students from
the bad habits they have acquired. Ahat the errors here indicate is a taste
for poetry of a kind that virtually disappeared in England about fifty years
ago and had even then only a limited vogue. The whole question of what
is 'relevant' in English studies in the area needs radical redefinition.
Where the prose passages are concerned it is harder to classify the
kinds of error. Critical discussion of prose has problems of its own.
We can use terms like imagery, rhythm and so on in talking about poetry
and these can be seen to be intrinsic qualities of expression. There is
not the same opportunity in talking about prose and candidates either
floundered helplessly or simply parsed sentences. The second passage
(by Henry James) was continually being dismissed as having too many
adjectives. All that was hoped for was that the candidates would report
on what struck them as the differences, the imaginative differences, be-
tween the two. The first passage (from Dickens' 'Dombey and Son') is a
characteristic success. The vivid accumulation of eccentric detail and
the rather caustic comedy give us a fullblown grotesque. And that is the
point, a grotesque brought before us through external detail, not a person.
The passage from "The Bostonians", however, manifests a subtlety, a
delicacy of charitable insight into a human being. Quite without animus
the wit establishes the impoverished experience of Miss Birdseye and
suggests the standards by which she may be judged. The irony depends
upon the fact that her generous giving of herself has resulted in the
virtual extinction of herself, so that the old woman has no firm hold on
life at all. The quiet rhythms and qualifications of James' prose set her
completely and sympathetically before us. Some such recognition was
hoped for on the part of candidates. And it was also hoped that the pas-
sages would be found amusing. Perhaps ten candidates found them so.
Yet laughter, after all, is a human reaction and has as much to do with
literature as anything else. This was the kind of thing we met with:
Miss Birdseye was thwarted in her efforts to- get married by
her over-sized head / Miss Tox seems to pay too much at-
tention to the attributes of her beauty / The topic is Miss
Birdseye's head and yet the size and appearance of her head
is not given any real significance / we think of her only as
a kind, philanthropic, little old lady / the style (in the first
passage) is not very modern but quite effective / the style
in the passages seems alike / no real picture of Miss Birds-
eye's inner self can be conjectured from the author's des-
cription / passage two shows one of the great faults found
in many writers, namely the use of long and involved
sentences / of the first passage are nearer to the end and are
well distributed over the passage / "like little pistols"
give us the feeling that Miss Tox guarded her bag with her
life / Miss Birdseye does not try to be sophisticated like
Miss Tox /It is established that Miss Tox is an old person
when the writer refers to her fishy old eye / Miss Tox is a
picture of disturbance -a lovely topic for the modern artist /
And so on. The answers reveal a disturbing incapacity to see what words
are doing. The effort of concentration clearly exhausted many candidates,
and yet we do not think that either of the passages can be claimed as
difficult. The language expert has his place here, in that many of the
comments on style and language suggest some very odd language teaching.
A prose passage must have a topic, sentences must be short, adjectives
must be used sparingly etc. And yet the vocabulary and sense of con-
struction many candidates possessed (the general Paper bears out the
same conclusion) is extraordinarily archaic and pedantic. One final con-
sistent error that may be mentioned is the feeling (many candidates
revealed it) that Miss Tox and Miss Birdseye actually existed and that
Dickens and James were simply describing what they saw. Consequently
both passages were often assessed in terms of what the two women might
actually have been like. There was not much recognition that the two
women are there because of the art of Dickens and James.
Clearly, sensitivity to the use of words cannot be taught you either
have it or you do not (though many more people have it than is usually
supposed what often happens is that they are taught by teachers who
do not have it.) But it is perfectly possible for a schoolboy (even a young
one) to be shown that there are altogether more profitable and exciting
ways of talking about poetry and prose than counting feet and analysing
sentences. Procedures like this kill the imagination and kill what it
should nourish itself on. Practical criticism is an imaginative adventure-
and we need to point out that an impoverished imagination is as much a
social as a personal handicap.
We did not regard knowledge here as all-important, since limited
knowledge is inevitable at this level. Though such misinformation as that
"Chaucer lived five centuries after David", that "All Shakespeare's plays
are based on Aristotle (who also wrote plays)", and that "Jane Austen
and Henry James showed seventeenth century prose at its best" still had
power to startle if only by the confidence with which it was-asserted.
And of course there is little point in answering a question on Shakespeare
and closet drama if you do not know what closet drama is (19 out of 24
candidates did not), or a question on criticism if you have never read and
been stimulated by critical studies. It is however, important that the
restricted knowledge should really be knowledge. The preponderant
choice of the Romantic poets, particularly Wordsworth, for study at Ad-
vanced Level is surely questionable, for a WestIndian student's response
to a mountain, if he has ever seen one, is quite different from that of
a Lakeside man, and he usually knows nothing of spring or the vernal
impulses inspiring the English nature poets. A choice of texts less re-
mote from West Indian experience and interests is available.
Disturbing, because it was so widespread, and because it must have
repercussions on every other branch of study, was semi-literacy of the
The tactics which Shakespeare excise (sic) in the mastering of the theatrical
(sic) world can be defined in two groups. The first is based on originality (sic).
By this he gives his play a background of the past. He does not base his play
on fiction. The second way is by the scenes. In Shakespeare plays his scenery
are so superb that all come to a common conclusion with regard to the acting.
Clearly, the unfortunate candidate ought nevertohave taken this examina-
tion. About a fifth of the scripts were as bad, or worse. But there is
no need to dwell on this category. It is justan accident that they selected
to sit the English literature paper, and had they chosen any other paper
involving language an equally feeble result must have followed.
A more important group, whom it is worthwhile talking about, is formed
by those who have a reasonable command of the language and at least
average intelligence, who have suffered from bad teaching,have not read
or written enough, have never learned to think for themselves, and whose
whole attitude to literature is malformed. In answer toQ. 2, one candidate
Literature has magic in its touch andl th study of literature presents no drudgery
or strenuous work.
This major heresy was voiced by so many in their different ways as to
be alarming. There was no attempt to conceal the attitude, because of no
awareness that there was anything wrong with it. Literature was what-
ever you picked up by way of entertainment at the end of a wearying day,
studying it meant no more than reading it. In fact, of course, strenuous
work, and even drudgery, are as necessary in the discipline of letters
as in any other, and the trite platitudes and vague generalisations (about
criticism being healthy, the Bible being great literature, writers serving
their society and so on) unsupported by qualification, illustration orampli-
fication are unacceptable as substitutes for thought. A mere handful had
devoted any thinking to, say, the function of criticism, the nature of
tragedy or comedy, or of poetic creation, the relation of the writer to
society, or even why literature should be studied at all. The deficiencies
revealed by the following extracts, chosen because they are representa-
tive, each from a different candidate, in answer to the question 'How
would you define a major poet?' help to illustrate and define the nature
of the problem, and suggest ways of approach in overcoming it:
(a) "Chaucer has presented us with an everlasting picture of medieval life.
This is a desirable characteristic in a major poet".
One sees what he is trying to say, but is it true of other major poets?
And is it the reason why Chaucer is a great poet? To what extent
should literary works be treated as social documents?
(b) "The language of poetry should be simple, resembling that of everyday
Why? This would exclude Shakespeare and Milton, whom he cites as
great poets. And what does he mean when he says, as many did, that
the "major poet" must be a master of language"?
(c) "An artist who appeals to a limited circle is not an artist of real value."
Without qualification this is a dangerous statement full of implications
of which he is apparently unaware.
(d) "A major poet is one whose works are filled with pithy epigrams."
This thins out the field handsomely if indiscriminately. He empties it
when he adds, "He must have a knowledge of Greek mythology."Many
others shared this inflexibility and obliviousness of the multiplicity
of kinds of poetry in which genius can express itself.
(e) "A great poet must contribute something to humanity."
An unexceptionable and high-sounding sentiment, but unhelpful unless
aptly illustrated. Its emptiness is revealed here when he cites Polo-
nius' platitudes to the departing Laertes as an example of what Hamlet
has to offer humanity.
(f) "A major poet is perhaps that poet who succeeds in elevating the banal
to a higher level, weaving round it poetic language that has some depth
of meaning involved in it."
Poetry is envisaged here as some kind of parlour trick by which poetic
language transforms banality into profundity. This pathetic confusion
of mind about what poetry is and h6w it is created is seen even more
sharply in the following extract.
(g) "A clarity of thought and expression is essential, along with the various
figures of speech as similes and metaphors for smooth and enjoyable
reading. A major poet must write the things as "they come to him al-
ways thinking of the public and the critics in order to keep his work
up to a certain level. Once he has attained that standard he can endow
his poetry with that richness of imagery which every poet feels pulsing
The treatment of Hopkins, then, comes as no surprise.
(h) "The major poet must write tosuit the needs of the people".
Surely a begging of the question. Shakespeare is too often invoked as
a good instance in a bad argument.
(i) "A major poet must be highly intellectual."
This postulate could have usefully introduced a consideration of the
place of imagination, emotion and sensibility in poetry.
(j) "A major poet does not use circumlocutions, he says the moon if he
This no-nonsense tone loses its force when we find Keats, whose faci-
lity for calling a spade an agricultural implement was greater than most,
included among this candidate's major poets. This raises the question
of metaphor, among other things.
(k) "A major poet must have a complete understanding of human nature,
originality, extraordinary powers of imagination, complete command
of language, very acute sensibilities. He must be completely sincere
and confident, and have a certain amount of knowledge of the classics.
He must be highly intelligent and sensitive to criticism."
Not surprisingly, no examples of such a paragon were produced. This
illustrates neatly the dangers of the prevailing habit of abstraction.
Had he given a moment's thought to the poets and poems he knew he
would have seen the irrelevance of his counsels of perfection.
(1) "A major poet is one who represents the spirit of his age."
Without any extension this is not very meaningful, and faith is blasted
when he nominates Joseph Conrad and Alfred Noyes as examples. But
serious issues are involved and this statement could be a useful base
(m) "It is quite a difficult task to define a major poet."
This promising start ( so few confessed to difficulty anywhere) soon
"We should see whether he ends his poem with rhyming couplets. If he
uses verses we must see whether he uses the decasyllabic or octosyl-
labic verse or whether he uses four line verses of abab, aabb, or abbba
(sic). If his diction and metre is such that it does nor present any diffi-
culty to the reader then he can be defined as a major poet."
Another half page of this sort of thing follows, illustrating the pitfalls
of a little half-comprehended knowledge of the technical aspects of poetry,
where technique has been divorced from substance, another common form
of abstraction. Can he really believe that a final couplet is the touch-
stone of greatness? And does anything he says exclude the writer of
nursery rhymes and limericks from his Parnassus?
A different kind of abstraction and irrelevance was found in the ans-
wers to Q.4, as to why Haamlet remains the most popular and widely known
of Shakespeare's plays. The bulk of the answers did little more than
attempt a plot synopsis. Those with the intelligence to see that this was
not enough suffered from a lack of familiarity with this kind of question
and an ignorance of how to set about answering it. Their timidity be-
trayed itself in cautious phrases like "It is considered that", "many
critics think that", and "perhaps", apparently designed to cover them in
case the examiner did not agree. It seemed clear either that the play had
made virtually no impact, judging by the absence of reference to its
powers to amuse, move, excite, or disgust, or that whatever impact it
had made was being submerged in deference to out-of-date textbooks,
teachers' notes, or whatever the examiner was assumed to want to hear.
Here are four similar expressions which could be multiplied many times:
(i) "All the audience's sympathy is directed at Hamlet, in whom they can
see themselves, and in whose actions they can read theirown if placed
in similar circumstances."
(ii) "Man enjoys watching himself. Hamlet is such a play. The central
figure is a man who is faced with a circumstance any of the audience
can be faced with "
(iii) "The problems facing Hlamlet could face anyone."
(iv) "Hamlet deals wlth life as most people experience it"
The soft underbelly of the romantic interpretation. But did candidates
really believe this? Do we come away from Hamlet murmuring "There but
for the grace of God go I", and do we believe that but for a twist or two
of fortune we might have been faced with Hlamlet's predicament, and that
if we had been we would have acted as he did? To ask the question is to
answer it. The situations of most Greek, Roman and Elizabethan tragedy,
to go no further, are so remote from our experience that the basis of their
appeal clearly lies elsewhere. It might be a useful starting point to the
study of tragedy to take a look at Aristotle's Poetics, not, as is often
done, as a self-contained stage in the history of literary criticism, but
to see just how relevant his theorising is to our experience of tragedy
today. -Certainly, nothing useful can emerge from the simulation of re-
sponses and attitudes which are not felt. Literature is apprehended as
though the laws of truth, logic and probability which govern the real
world are inapplicable to it. It is not seen as an illumination, intensifica-
tion or extension of life itself. Macbeth, says one candidate,
. is a popular play for the theatregoer because of its blood and thunder as-
pect. For the scholar its only interest rests in the fact that it is a neat contrast
with Hamlet and at the same time a transition in Shakespeare's development.
Here we are confronted, not with a lack of intelligence or command of
language, but with the creation of a fantasy world of non-existent 'schol-
ars with such frigidly academic responses that they cannot possibly
be classed as theatregoers when they look at Macbeth. This is one of the
side-effects of regarding literature as existing in some kind of vacuum,
or as the centre of a spineless brand of 'enijoyment'. If this is how an
intelligent candidate conceives a student of literature, we need not be
surprised that Q.12, which asks for a defence of the study of literature,
should have produced such uncompelling and disembodied answers.
Another persistent irrelevance was the evaluation of a literary work
by the number and quality of the lessons that could be extracted from it.
Polonius' precepts, as we have said, were wildly quoted as evidence of
Hamlet's respectability. "From Hamlet we can learn that to think is not
all, but that having arrived at a decision, action is required". Even if
this were a lesson taught by the play (surely Hamlet's actions are al-
most all totally deplorable?) it is difficult to see how such a tame squib
could contribute to the play's popularity. And why are we not all wild
about Gorboduc if this is the basis of value?
Repeatedly we could watch a sensible idea swallowed up in clouds
of fantasy as candidates allowed themselves to stop thinking in terms
of the real world. One for example, began sensibly by observing the
breadth of appeal of Hamlet. He then pursued the idea to such lengths of
unreality that he could seriously hold that the play was popular because
gravediggers and murderers were attracted by professional interest,
soldiers by the fencing scene, and parents and children by the relationship
between Gertrude and Hamlet. Another who reasonably remarked the appeal
of the enigmatic in the play followed the idea to spiral him into meaning-
But there is an atmosphere in Hamlet, psychological which forces one to search
oneself and then search the text, and again oneself, for Reason. And the search
seems never-ending, and so the search goes on, because we cannot find reason
in ourselves, because we do not know ourselves and so it will continue and
Hamlet will be read until Man has solved the problem. Probably when we have
solved the problem we shall find our beloved Shakespeare.
This proliferation of words through mental indiscipline has recently been
characterized, with some justice, by Evelyn Waugh as the twentieth cen-
tury version of Sloth, the seventh Deadly Sin. The rhetorical barrage is
often compounded of elements of the sermon, the Victorian text book, and
demogogy. It should be possible, without making students over-conscious
of style, or looking on it as some sort of accomplishment separable from
content, to get them to see, for example that "These poets revealed in
their various ways pieces of finished work that their grips upon the tricks
of art were fast" is an imprecise and longwinded way of saying "Their
poems revealed artistry." This blindness to the demands and possibili-
ties of language ties up with the difficulty candidates found in detecting
distinctive qualities in Dickens, James and Hopkins in Section A.
Varieties of tone, such as irony, humour and anguish went unmarked. It
was alsoreflected in an inability to define terms, or a hazy understanding
of what is meant by 'satire', criticism, or 'novel'. The terms, 'poem'
'play', 'book' were used synonymously. Brathwaite's To Sir iith Love and
Lamming's The Pleasures of Exile were cited as West Indian novels, and
Banana Boy figured prominently in the discussion of West Indian drama -
surely an instance of premature optimism, when one thinks of the work
of Derek Walcott.
As the pile of marked scripts mounted so the impression hardened
that reading literature had for most been a pretty joyless experience,
not a creative activity, nor an imaginative venture, in which, as Newman
put it "the whole man moves". Nor was it perceived that the finer the
writing the more rewarding are concentrated and repeated reading. There
were the handful of exceptions whose scripts were a pleasure to read.
Our point is that this group could be much larger.
There has been no question at all of our conducting an autopsy our
concern is with the teaching of the subject, not its pathology. And we
began our work by describing it as "a contribution to a discussion of
ways and means to be continued by teachers whose discipline is not
English." We would not wish teachers in the schools to feel that their
work was being rebuked, and their efforts open tomerely critical inspec-
tion. But there are one or two concluding comments we would like to
make. We have already noted the virtual impossibility of setting a Scholar-
ship Examination designed to allow the candidate to utilise his set text
knowledge. But there is another important side effect. Teachers are
handicapped by having to conform rigidly to examinations which are set
and marked outside the area. It means that there is no opportunity at all
to prepare a student for the Examination which the U.W.I. offers each
year, and no time in class for much general literary work. This is not an
inference. Rather it emerged as a fact after discussions we have had with
qualified teachers of the subject. We hear of the founding of an Institute
of Education which will, among other things, co-ordinate the teaching
in primary and secondary schools. This is clearly a great need one
would not like to calculate the number of educational casualties at primary
school level. But it is surely at least as important to co-ordinate secondary
school and University teaching. One obvious step in this direction would
be the creation of a West Indian Board offering General and Advanced
Level Examinations which are set and marked in the area. On the basis
of our findings the frequent insistence that the setting and marking of
examinations in England means higher standards is unmeaning. We feel,
rather, that standards would improve, or at least that talk about standards
would have some realistic content, if the University here and the teachers
of the different subjects were able to work together. For, after all, Uni-
versity lecturers and school teachers are co-workers in a common enter-
prise whether University lecturers like to think so or not. Where the
Department of English is concerned our results are likely to be what we
have shown them to be if nothing is done. Yet the function of an English
Department is primarily to afford opportunities for the study of English
literature as a living discipline. It cannot transform itself into an en-
semble of journalists bestowing laurels on amateur poets. In any case,
it is an axiom that a literature best flourishes in a responsible critical
climate as enough simple literary history makes plain. The roots of the
problem lie in the schools. To begin with, the qualified teaching of the
subject starts too late, and an initial preliminary appetite is either ig-
nored or starved on inadequate text books. One obvious need, for instance,
for work at an early age, are anthologies of English, American and West
Indian prose and verse, sensitively and carefully chosen, and designed
for particular age groups. The primary and early secondary school teach-
ing of English is at least as important as what goes on in the sixth form
and requires just as expert abilities. Time and opportunity should be made
for this even if it pays no immediate dividends in examination results.
The training of sensibility justifies itself and does not require tobe shored
up by factitious and often educationally null references to the 'needs
of the area'. Imagination is one of those needs, on any humane and re-
sponsible accounting of what constitutes a need.
We select for particular stress West Indian prose and verse for it
in our experience that in the schools attention to West Indian writing is
positively discouraged. What hope, then, for Englisn studies if the best
sensibility of the area is neglected (or bailed with political cliche)? And
what hope for that sensibility?Our experience (as the present workserves
to focus it) permits us to suggest that the responsibility for academic
irrelevance lies in the schools and not, as is too easily supposed, with
the University. English literature is a growth from experience shaped
by particular factors. As an imaginative projection of the movement of
English civilisation (to estimate its value no higher than that) it is of
immediate relevance particularly in a society not long entered upon
the complex and difficult process of finding itself, of arrivingat an under-
standing and generous consciousness of its own identity. To deny the
relevance of the subject is simply to deny one's humanity, and talk about
'irrelevance' will, in the long run, do the area a grave disservice. Both
of the present writers have taught in schools and training colleges in the
area and have discussed problems and exchanged views with teachers.
It is pleasant to be able to report that there is a growing awareness that
things are not as they might be. Both the Department here and the schools
are handicapped by a situation for which neither is directly responsible,
but a situation which, if improved, would destroy the sinister nonsense
about 'irrelevance' and give the fogged discussion of standards a rational
basis. There is little point in talking about standards when schools and
University are going off on tangents of their own. When one is teaching
in schools one tends to be met with an amount of gratitude which is
nearly disabling. And this surely suggests the extent to which schools
and University have failed to meet eachother and understand each other's
problems. The Olympian University man is no use at all; what is needed
is a recognition, a mutual recognition, that schools and University are
tackling essentially the same problems. A priority among the needs of
the area is awareness of this kind. Obviously, vital needs are well-
stocked libraries and many more specialist teachers -but more is lacking
at the moment thanvolumes and numbers can remedy.
Finally, an examination room is not the best place for eliciting posi-
tive intelligence, but at least it need not be an abattoir. We look forward
to the day when the demands which shaped the conduct of the present
work no longer exist.
I am all things,
Insane, blasphemous, conceited at least
They call me, and yet
It's true I tell you, I know . .
I feel it to be so.
Rockets, Wars, Planets, mere reality . .
I outflank them, engulf
With a single glancing thought . .
A part of me they are . not I
A teeming world am I, full
Not the Sun, nor yet
The outer constellations, but all . .
And Venus I insist has her
Corner, no more.
I am a consciousness and all
I am conscious of.
THE MIDDLE PASSAGE
V. S. NAIPAUL (Andre Deutsch 24/-)
Reviewed by John Hearne, Resident Tutor in Department of Extra Mural Studies
If one calls The Middle Passage by
Vidia Naipaul a flawed, unattractive,
often superficial book, it is not to deny
the author a glittering intelligence and
an enviable talent. Nor does this general
assessment question that his record of
a seven months' unsentimental journey
through the slave lands contains whole
pages of the acutest observation, the
most entertaining description, the nicest
impalement of West Indian attitudes. His
brightly lit, adhesive mind still attracts
all the comic and ridiculous minutiae of
Caribbean manners: his awareness of all
that is pathetic, and so often contempti-
ble, in our society remains undiminished.
Very little that is artificial or tawdry or
unsuccessfully imitative in what we are
pleased to call our culture is not exposed
to his surgeon's lamp. But he is a sur-
geon who has surrendered to despair.
Faced with the irremediable organic cor-
ruption of the patient, he delivers a
brusque lecture to the appalled students
and vanishes, brooding on the havoc
that filthy habits can play with an ideal
The surgical analogy is not, in the
context of Mr. Naipaul's study, an unfair
one. His attempt to detach himself clini-
cally from the society he is exploring -
a society of which, like it or not, he is
a part alternately fascinates and irri-
tates. It is not, ultimately, objective but
compulsive, and in the end, the curious
reader begins to be nagged by a stubborn
question. Is this really the dispassionate
surgeon operating on a rotten lump, or is
he a solitary castaway excising his own
hurt, without anaesthetic, sustained only
by the calculated self-deception that
the decaying flesh under the knife is some-
how separate and other?
Early in the book, Mr. Naipaul sup-
plies a partof the answer to this question.
He describes the vow he made, as an
adolescent, to leave Trinidad "within
five years" and the subsequent night-
mares in England, fallen asleep over
the electric fire, that he was "back in
That this vow and this nightmare are
common to almost every sensitive young
colonial, whetherWest Indian, Australian,
Canadian or Rhodesian, seems to have
escaped him. It is a stage of develop-
ment which no youthful and worthwhile
imagination from England's dependent
cultures ever quite escaped. It inspired
our creative protest, our determination
to adventure our talents; and eventually
any young cock with feathers to its tail
came to London to crow. Still does. Mr.
Naipaul's personal tragedy is that he
believes his panic to be unique, or rather
that the society from which he Red in
panic is uniquely and horribly worthless.
And even now his panic is unlaid. A con-
trapuntal theme of barely contained
hysteria runs through this book, and
occasionally dominates it, until the
author recovers his skills of satiric
Again the extra-literary analogy is
chosen with care. There is one level at
which The Middle Passage is not the record
of a real country, but some black fairy-
land of the mind, inhabited by hobgoblins
who must be made manageable by cari-
We become aware of this as The Middle
Passage opens and the book's recurrent
fear symbol is for the first time evoked.
This symbol occurs in many guises but
never loses its essential shape: that
of a grotesque, garish and misshapen
Negro. In the first case, he is a fellow
passenger on the boat train, but he is to
occur repeatedly, and each time his ap-
pearance completely disturbs Mr. Nai-
paul's equilibrium and sense of security.
To him, the Negro is hardly a man capable
of some sort of reciprocal encounter, but
rather a portent, an image from the dark
caves of the psyche, all the more terrible
because, in the Caribbean, he is not
anchored to an older civilisation as
is the European, the East Indian and the
Chinese. "Malevolent" "exotic" "alien",
these terms are all Mr. Naipaul's and
they are all applied to Negroes. The vast
and vivid South American interior is
suddenly made disquieting by the casual
appearance of an old, silver-haired black
man. The crocodilian gastric juices of
the novelist can digest every experience
except Africa's offspring in the New
This is not to accuse Mr. Naipaul
of anything so odious as racial prejudice.
Whatever it is that produces the deep
convulsion of his soul when faced with
Negroes is something far more complex.
Yet with this stated, it cannot be denied
that his obsession with the Negro as a
portent, an image and an incomprehensi-
ble life form is the hole through which
the book has drained shallow. For the
areas he-deals with are, after all, any-
thing from mostly to half Negro, and the
ambivalent squeamishness with which
Mr. Naipaul attempts to grasp the Negro
inhibits that study in depth which we
had a right to expect from the author
of 4 House for Mr. Biswas.
But one may go further than this
when fixing what is the fundamental
weakness of The Middle Passage: the
fact that people embarrass Mr. Naipaul.
Caribbean people, that is. The mostrigid
and severe of moralists the aesthetic
Puritan he finds man under this sky
to be raw, untidy, vulgar and as yet
only a pass degree student in the great
examinations set by Europe, Asia and
Africa. Such a man is to be doubly chas-
tised because Mr. Naipaul is too intelli-
gent not to recognize how many of these
limitations he shares with his fellow
west Indians. He is, for instance, never
so parochial, and never so typical, as
in his use of the parenthetical "sic"
From time to time in the course of his
narrative, he interpolates quotations from
the newspapers of the area. Almost every
quotation is punctuated by a "sic" as
Mr. Naipaul's infallible eye picks up
some syntactical or grammatical error.
That, in most cases, these errors are
plainly the work of poorly educated
typesetters, or the result of badly under-
staff sub-editorial desks is never in-
dicated. He relishes them with all the
morbid self-contempt of which only a
West Indian snob is capable.
But Mr. Naipaal is a great deal more
than just another West Indian scholar-
ship winner, bitterly ashamed of his
origins. And The Middle Passage should
have been a great deal more than the
lively Upper Second essay that it is.
The tissue of half-portraits, facile, pub-
lisher's party observations and week-end
review epigrams that make up most of
this book are deeply disappointing. It is
significant, also, how the quality of
writing deepens the further and emptier
the landscape becomes: his description
of the Brazil-Guiana hinterland except
for that "alien" and "exotic" Negro -
is quite superb. On the other hand, his
virtuoso piece on Trinidad a society
of which I know something, but not enough
taught me nothing I had not learned for
myself in a fortnight. His disciss;on of
the British Guianese coast carefully
skirts every problem that bedevils that
sad, meaningful strip; while his section
on Jamaica is plain fraud no reader,
I mean, should be asked to pay money for
a paraphrase of the University's report
on Has Tafari and a confession about
a masochistic holiday spent at one of the
more improbably luxurious North Coast
Mr. Naipaul's problem, ic this cri de
coeur that is only by definition a travel
book, is the problem that faces every
West Indian artist and particularly the
West Indian writer, the only artist who
has achieved equality of status with
the West Indian cricketer. The problem
is: How do we live with our distressing
relatives? Or, to put it anotherway: How
do we introduce our foreign college chums
to mother squatting over a coal pot and
father uttering pious Victorian platitudes.
This is the problem Mr. Naipaul has
attempted to answer and it is a tribute
to his good taste that his distress at
not finding an answer is only )ccasional-
Perhaps, though, the answer was
given, to Mr. Naipsal, by the Spanish
steward of the emigrant sh p, who, after
innumerable trips during which he looked
after loads of confused, exploited and
utterly unprepared West Indian peasants,
could still say: 'Son buena gene' They
are good folk.
IN A GREEN NIGHT
DEREK WALCOTT (Jonathan Cape, London, 1962. Price 12/6.)
Reviewed by Professor John J. Figueroa, Professor of Education, U.I .1.
Mona, Kingston, 7.
This collection of poems by the well
known St. Lucian author is dedicated
to his mother, Alix Walcott, and has an
intriguing and suggestive title. Much of
Mr. Walcott's writing has had the over-
tones of the "darker side" lone, for
instance, and many of the lyrics in which
the poet seems to be struggling, melo-
diously and in rich imagery, but none-
theless struggling through a profuse
growth of troubles, whether they have
been brought about and symbolised by
a disastrous fire "I asked why . ."
or the "wrong" shade of skin, or the
young heart torn alive by love and loss
"He hangs in shades the orange bright
Like golden lamps in a green night."
On reading these poems for friends in
New York recently, I heard expressed
what is likely to be a common reaction.
It was said that the poet seemed to find
his "true voice" in the sonnet sequence
in "Tales of the Islands" and was there
superb, but was ordinary and not quite
himself when he wrote in a more standard
version of English. Of course, this re-
action is quite mistaken. It is based on
the deeply human conviction that the
grass is always greener in some one
else's garden "it's pretty brown and
horrid where I stand, so if it isn't greener
in the West Indies. or Africa or somewhere
then I am going to have to give up my
belief in green!" The metropolitan city-
bound people are tired of certain aspects
of their life and create myths for them-
selves that in other places, especially
in "the islands", life is somehow more
"lifey", speech more powerful, accents
more interesting. It's the old "noble
savage" myth; and the irony of it is that
non-metropolitan people, West Indians
among them especially the bright
nationalist intelligentsia "culture
lovers" are busy selling themselves
this myth. 'Each generation has itsangst,
but we has none' is brilliantly put by Mr.
Walcott into the mouth of a West Indian
who is "one of them Oxbridge guys".
A human being who is not disturbed is
not alive and certainly Mr. Walcott
and his poetry are highly alive. Moreover
it is the rich heritage of one so born
and reared and educated as Mr. Walcott
to be in a position to write both
"Poopa.de' was fetel I mean it had
Free rum free whisky and some fellare beating
Pan from one of them band in Trinidad
And everywhere you turn waspeople eating
And drinking and don't name me but I think
They catch his wife with two teats up
"It seems that the original crops were limes
Grown in the silt thatclogs the river's skirt;
The imperious rakes are gone, their bright
The river flows, obliterating hurt."
It is to Mr. Ualcott's glory and advan-
tage, that he has drawn on all the strands
of his heritage and used the opportunities
which it affords so fruitfully. He shows
himself at home with Donne and Horace
and Virgil and Melville and 'le loupgaron'
All in compassion ends
So differently from what the heartarranged:
'as well as if a manor of thy friend's . .' "
"We 'write on water' if our souls are drowned
Within the origin cf all life, the sea.
Yet queequeg's coffin rose and Ismael found
Those prows a cotcrase to eternity".
"Man, I suck me tooth when I hear
How dem croptime fiddlers lie,
And de wailing, kises-mearse flutes
That bring water to me eye I"
But perhaps to say that
is "at home" with anything
an overstatement. He uses
of the heritage well and po
he seems, even when at the
his form, to be rather mor
turned, to be essentially dis
not at home:
"Yet in this cah of energy, the
Where is the soul of my lost 1
Where, in such wasee must me
"I ask him what La Guaira mea
Says it means nothing.
So the next morning, nothing
Nothina her mouth, my east ai
Nothing our restlese, separate
Nothing is bitter aod is very d
"Two honest women, Christ, wI
Out of that wonder, what do I
The darkness closing round a
The sound of water gnawing a
He obviously struggles -
heritage, with death, with w
who does not? But not often
find the resolution of his
Great House". More often tI
question is raised and seare
and we are left with a disturb
than a resolution:
Between this Africa and the E
Betray them boty, or give bac
How can I face such slaughter
How can I turn from Africa anc
"All that I have and want are w
To Biag my griefs about, .. .
- is rather
very top of
'e than dis-
"I walk with her into the brightemil street;
Stores rattling shut, as brief dusk Alls the
Only the gulls, hunting the water's edge
Wheel like our lives, seeking something
spaced and (Page 44.)
Mention has been made of the many-
foam, sided heritage of a West Indian writer
helmsman such as Mr. Walcott. The very diversity
of the heritage presents problems -
n find his problems of choice, when one cannot
be quite sure whether the basis for the
choice is purely irrational; problems of
(Page 40) overrating and underrating certain strands
ns, he grin., in the tradition the calypso over the
mento, and nowadays any form (especially
in the dance) which can be called
s greenwater, "African" over anything else; problems
d crimson of language, particularly, for the poet,
d cimen problems or sorting out the stress pat-
d ep; tern, the tune of the language in which
ed p; he wishes to write. An educated St.
Lucian will speak at least two languages.
(Page 21) and when he writes in English he, like
Sa Jamaicans and Trinidadiaas, will have
here are they problems with the verse, particularly with
most recall? the stress pattern.
Asherman's While not presuming to question the
ear of a poet of Mr.. Walcott's achieve-
t bright ment, I did wonder, in connection with
briht the problems of stress pattern and lan-
guage tune, about the following lines:
(Page 56.) "And walking under the trees today I saw
with the The canoes that are marked with comic
oman and names."
en does he (Compare where "canoes" falls in
'Ruins of a that line with its unambiguous stress
he torturing in this:
d upon us,
lance rather "Yonr gaze eofull of adoness,
Contained the emptiness of long canoes,")
"How choose And:
uglish tongue "And the secure from thinking may climb safe
k whet they Gearing small rumoure of paddlers drowned
de 'cool? The last line, particularly, seems
unfelicitous in its 'tune'.
(Page 18.) But in "Tales of the Islands". the
ords resolution of the tension between the
S English sonnet form and the special
West Indian "English" is well nigh
(Page 25.) perfect:
Poop., da' was a fte I I mean it had
Free ram free whisky sad some fellser
Pan from of them hand in Triidaed . .
As a matter of fact "Chapter VI" is
a masterful achievement incorporating
as it does many different island voices
and embodying one of the real tensions
of the tradition, that between fete and
"oangss" between "pan beating" and a
deep depression and discontent divine
or otherwise. The "Tales of the Islands"
manages to illustrate the difficult paradox
that the universal is only known in what
is truly particular, but even more that
the particular ias hardly knowable except
in relation to the universal: Shelley, nus.,
Oxbridge, 'the Lion's claws', beating
pan', 'practitioners of native art'. dry
bamboo, all come together in a moving
and meaningful, structured world.
The other notable resolution in this
collection is to be found in "Ruins of a
Great House". Here the resolution, how-
ever, is on the levelmore of thought and
feeling than of language and Image:
"The imperious rakes are one. thair bright
Some ilave is reattil I this memorial lake
All Is compaseion ends."
Here in this poem is a real battle
won so much more impressive than
the easy ('though admittedly not "serious"):
"Mow every alternoon
When tennis soothes our hates.
Mr. Harris and his some.
Drive pest the C.C. gatoe."
The poem which, in a way, disap-
points is the title poem, "In a Green
Night". (P. 73). After "each golden asn"
which "bums in a comfortable creed",
and after the imagery of the "cyclic
chemistry that dooms and glories her at
once" the penultimate stanza, appearing
before the repetition of the first (and last)
stanza, does not seem to come off. The
assertion is not convincing; we find it
difficult to accept
"N6o the fierce noon or samples. night
Can quael the comprehending heart."
Marvell tells us, concerning his
"Song" from which Mr. Walcott has taken
"Thus *ung they in the English boat
A holy and a cheerful note:"
They too were emigrants, safe at
last, they thought, from the storms and
prelate's rage I
Is it that "holy" and "cheerful"
have changed their significance and
overtones in the times between Marvell
and Mr. Walcott? ("What should we do
but sing His praise . .") or it is that
the individual sage has become more
taxing, more overpowering We would
Have spoiled such places too. We would, we
would . .
because it has come to be almost entirely
an individual saga?
The Emigrants in Bermuda apparent-
ly sang together. Especially in the West
Indies. where we are likely to explain
the human condition by history, rather
than vice versa, we forget that they
too were voyagers, we forget the old
image of all human beings as pilgrims
beset on all sides. Mr. Walcott comes
back to this kind of realisation notably
in "Ruins of a Great House" and in
"Two Poems on the Passing of an
But it is quite clear that like the rest
of us he comes from a world that is often
bitterly disappointed because it has not
examined far enough what it really ex-
pects the world to be and on what grounds.
We too often forget that there are two
quite different sets of consequences
from believing, in the words of a favorite
poet of Mr. Walcott's, "omnes eodem
SELECTED BOOKLIST VOLUME 8, NO. 4
*D. A. G. Waddell .. British Honduras A Historical and Contemporary
Oxford University Press IS/.
Slyvia Wynter .. The Hills of Hebron.
Jonathan Cape IS/-
Independence Anthology of Jamaican Literature.
The Arts Celebration Committee of Minis-
try of Development and Welfare 10/.
(Sangsters Boohroom, Jamaica).
R. B. LePage (ed) .. Proceedings of the Conference on Creole Language
Macmillan & Co. Ltd. 30/.
*F. Cassidy .. .. Jamaica Talk
Macmillan & Co. Ltd. 30/-
E. H. Cousins .. Civics for Caribbean Schools
Evans Brothers Ltd. 4/9d.
Pierre Gourou .. The Tropical World Its Social and Economic
Conditions and its Future Status.
Longmans., Green & Co. Ltd. 21/-
Eric Williams .. History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago
PNM Publishing Co. Ltd.
Trinidad S2. 00 W.I.
*Reviewed In Caribbean Quartedy.