Ignatius Sancho: Britain's First African Man of Letters
When: Fri 8 Nov 2013, 18.45-20.15
Where: Conference Centre, British Library
Price: £5 / £3 concessions
Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780) rose from slavery to become the most celebrated African Briton in the Georgian period. His correspondence, published in 1782, reveals a man of sensitivity, intellect, and charm, an extraordinary chronicler of his times. This lecture by Vin Carretta marks the recent acquisition by the British Library of the only surviving collection of Sancho's manuscripts.
- Ignatius Sancho (1729?-1780) was so celebrated in the last quarter of the eighteenth century that he was the only writer of African descent whose work Thomas Jefferson took seriously enough to discuss at length, and the only one Jefferson had anything positive to say about in print, albeit very begrudgingly. Sancho rose from the most unpromising beginning to become the most renowned African Briton in the Georgian period. Said to have been born on a slave ship during the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas, Sancho was taken as a child to England, where he emancipated himself by fleeing from his owners to the protection of a noble household. Sancho’s positions as butler and later valet in the Montagu house introduced him to his network of correspondents ranging from fellow servants to actors, artists, bankers, booksellers, country squires, dukes, and duchesses. Sancho gained renown as a composer and literary critic, as well as by initiating a correspondence with the novelist Laurence Sterne on the subject of slavery. Sancho’s collected correspondence, published in 1782, reveals a man of sensitivity, intellect, and charm, an extraordinary chronicler of his times. Sancho’s most perceptive eighteenth-century critics acknowledged him to be “a man of letters.” The recent acquisition by the British Library of the only surviving collection of Sancho's manuscripts confirms the status Ignatius Sancho achieved in his own time.
- Vin Carretta, Professor of English at the University of Maryland, specializes in eighteenth-century transatlantic historical and literary studies. He has recently held fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the John Carter Brown Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the University of London, the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University, and the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton. In addition to more than one hundred articles and reviews on a range of eighteenth-century subjects, Professor Carretta has published two books on verbal and visual Anglophone political satire between 1660 and 1820, as well as authoritative editions of the works of Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, Phillis Wheatley, and other eighteenth-century transatlantic authors of African descent. Professor Carretta’s most recent books are Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (2005), The Life and Letters of Philip Quaque The First African Anglican Missionary (2010), co-edited with Ty M. Reese, and Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (2011). Professor Carretta is currently working on a new edition of Ignatius Sancho’s writings, which will include his manuscripts recently acquired by the British Library.
Location: Bronte Room, Conference Centre
Full price: £5
Over 60s: £4