Ignatius Sancho Criticism - Essay

Joseph Jekyll (essay date 1782)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Jekyll, Joseph. “The Life of Ignatius Sancho.” 1782. Reprinted in The Letters of Ignatius Sancho, edited by Paul Edwards and Polly Rewt, pp. 22-9. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994.

[In the following essay, the original editor of Sancho's letters provides a brief biography of the author and discusses European opinions on the intellectual equality and humanity of Africans.]

‘Quamvis ille niger, quamvis tu candidus esses.’


The extraordinary Negro, whose Life I am about to write, was born a. d. 1729, on board a ship in the Slave-trade, a few days after it had quitted...

(The entire section is 3372 words.)

Lloyd Brown (essay date 1970)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Brown, Lloyd. Review of Letters of the late Ignatius Sancho, An African, to which are prefixed Memoirs of His Life by Joseph Jekyll. Eighteenth-Century Studies3 (spring 1970): 415-19.

[In the following review of Paul Edwards' 1968 reprint edition of Sancho's Letters, Brown claims that Sancho's assimilation into European culture was not as complete as Edwards indicates and that the writer was aware of his status as an outsider and alien despite the fact that his background and frame of reference were essentially European.]

In his biographical essay on Ignatius Sancho, Jekyll is at some pains to depreciate his own undertaking: “Of a Negro, a...

(The entire section is 2229 words.)

Markman Ellis (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Ellis, Markman. “Sancho's Letters and the Sentimental Novel.” In The Politics of Sensibility: Race, Gender and Commerce in the Sentimental Novel, pp. 79-86. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

[In the following essay, Ellis offers a reading of Sancho in the context of the sentimental novel and his correspondence with the novelist Laurence Sterne.]

Although the book called the Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, An African has mostly been considered a historical document since its first posthumous publication in 1782, the text is also a literary production. In this way the letters mentioned in the title refer not so much to a...

(The entire section is 3327 words.)

Reyahn King (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: King, Reyahn, “Ignatius Sancho and Portraits of the Black Elite.” In Ignatius Sancho: An African Man of Letters, edited by Reyahn King and others, pp. 15-43. London: National Portrait Gallery, 1997.

[In the following excerpt, King considers Sancho's role as a man of letters in London's artistic circles, discusses the portrait done of him by the artist Thomas Gainsborough, looks at the lives of other members of Britain's Black elite, and examines the most important surviving eighteenth-century portraits of Africans in Britain.]

Sancho may be styled—what is very uncommon for men of his complexion, A Man of Letters.


(The entire section is 8059 words.)

Sukhdev Sandhu (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Sandhu, Sukhdev. “Ignatius Sancho: An African Man of Letters.” In Ignatius Sancho: An African Man of Letters, edited by Reyahn King and others, pp. 45-73. London: National Portrait Gallery, 1997.

[In the following essay, Sandhu situates Sancho's letters in the context of writing by and about Black people in eighteenth-century England, analyzes the style and content of the letters in detail, considers Sancho's relationship to and supposed emulation of Laurence Sterne, examines Sancho's fluctuating reputation since the eighteenth century, and discusses the style of the Letters in relation to Sancho's purpose, personality, and experiences.]


(The entire section is 9111 words.)

James Walvin (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Walvin, James. “Ignatius Sancho: The Man and His Times.” In Ignatius Sancho: An African Man of Letters, edited by Reyahn King and others, pp. 93-113. London: National Portrait Gallery, 1997.

[In the following essay, Walvin provides the contemporary economic and legal context of slavery and its effects on Sancho, analyzes Sancho's contribution to what would later become the abolitionist movement, and contends that Sancho's writings take readers to the heart of the Black experience at the height of the enslaved African diaspora.]

Ignatius Sancho was born a slave in 1729, to a slave mother (who died shortly afterwards) on board an Atlantic slave ship heading...

(The entire section is 6459 words.)

Jane Girdham (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Girdham, Jane. “Black Musicians in England: Ignatius Sancho and His Contemporaries.” In Ignatius Sancho: An African Man of Letters, edited by Reyahn King and others, pp. 115-26. London: National Portrait Gallery, 1997.

[In the following essay, Girdham offers an account of a number of little-known eighteenth-century Black musicians, many of whom were friends of Sancho's, and goes on to discuss Sancho's music and explain the social significance of his compositions.]

Music-making was one of the most popular leisure activities in 18th-century Britain. Gentlemen made sure their daughters learnt to sing and play the harpsichord, and no sophisticated evening's...

(The entire section is 3454 words.)

Vincent Carretta (essay date 1998)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Carretta, Vincent. Introduction to Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, An African, edited by Vincent Carretta, pp. ix-xxxii. London: Penguin Books, 1998.

[In the following essay, Carretta provides a biography of Sancho, situates his work against the social background of eighteenth-century Britain, comments on his attitudes toward race and the slave trade, and finds him to be a master of epistolary art.]

One of only two people of African descent (the other is the poet Phillis Wheatley) whose works elicited Thomas Jefferson's literary criticism, Charles Ignatius Sancho, better known simply as Ignatius Sancho, is also the only eighteenth-century Afro-Briton...

(The entire section is 7702 words.)

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina (essay date 1998)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Gerzina, Gretchen Holbrook. “Ignatius Sancho: A Renaissance Black Man in Eighteenth-Century England.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 21 (autumn 1998): 106-07.

[In the following essay, Gerzina presents a brief account of Sancho's life, reputation, and unique social position in eighteenth-century Britain.]

Unknown to most Americans and even to most British, eighteenth-century England was the home of approximately 14,000 black people. Most of these residents were servants, slaves and former slaves, brought to England by the owners of West Indian and American plantations. Many other blacks in England, however, were sailors, musicians, or students....

(The entire section is 954 words.)

S. S. Sandhu (essay date 1998)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Sandhu, S. S. “Ignatius Sancho and Laurence Sterne.” Research in African Literature 29, no. 4 (winter 1998): 88-105.

[In the following essay, Sandhu takes issue with the view that Sancho was “obsequious,” “assimilated” to English culture, a traitor to his race, and a slavish parrot of the novelist Laurence Sterne.]

The last fifteen years have seen a huge upsurge in the number and variety of books dealing with the black presence in eighteenth-century England. New histories have been written by James Walvin, Peter Fryer, Ron Ramdin, Gretchen Gerzina, and Norma Myers. New editions of slave autobiographies and other black literary texts have been...

(The entire section is 8981 words.)

Felicity A. Nussbaum (essay date 2001)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Nussbaum, Felicity A. “Being a Man: Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho.” In Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic, edited by Vincent Carretta and Philip Gould, pp. 54-71. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

[In the following essay, Nussbaum considers how Sancho and another eighteenth-century Black writer, Olaudah Equiano, engaged and revised prevailing gendered stereotypes of male Blackness.]

I offer here the history of neither a saint, a hero, nor a tyrant.

Olaudah Equiano

Aphra Behn's description of Oroonoko's partially classical, partially African...

(The entire section is 9231 words.)

Markman Ellis (essay date 2001)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Ellis, Markman. “Ignatius Sancho's Letters: Sentimental Libertinism and the Politics of Form.” In Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic, edited by Vincent Carretta and Philip Gould, pp. 199-217. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

[In the following essay, Ellis reviews the debate among critics regarding Sancho's “assimilation” into white English culture and his “mimicry” of his famous correspondent, Laurence Sterne, and shows that Sancho reworked conventions of spontaneity, sincerity, and naturalness to argue for the Black capacity for enlightened manners.]

Over nearly two years between July 1766 and March...

(The entire section is 9281 words.)