Imoinda’s Shade: Marriage and the African Woman in Eighteenth-Century British Literature, 1759–1808

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom, Women on 2012-08-20 21:08Z by Steven

Imoinda’s Shade: Marriage and the African Woman in Eighteenth-Century British Literature, 1759–1808

Ohio State University Press
May 2012
289 paes
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8142-1185-4
CD-ROM ISBN: 978-0-8142-9286-0

Lyndon J. Dominique, Assistant Professor of English
Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

As the eighteenth century is entirely bereft of narratives written by African women, one might assume that these women had little to no impact on British literature and the national psyche of the period. Yet these kinds of assumptions are belied by the influence of one prominent African woman featured in the period’s literary texts.

Imoinda’s Shade examines the ways in which British writers utilize the most popular African female figure in eighteenth-century fiction and drama to foreground the African woman’s concerns and interests as well as those of a British nation grappling with the problems of slavery and abolition. Imoinda, the fictional phenomenon initially conceived by Aphra Behn and subsequently popularized by Thomas Southerne, has an influence that extends well beyond the Oroonoko novella and drama that established her as a formidable presence during the late Restoration period. This influence is palpably discerned in the characterizations of African women drawn up in novels and dramas written by late-eighteenth-century British writers. Through its examinations of the textual instances from 1759–1808 when Imoinda and her involvement in the Oroonoko marriage plot are being transformed and embellished for politicized ends, Imoinda’s Shade demonstrates how this period’s fictional African women were deliberately constructed by progressive eighteenth-century writers to popularize issues of rape, gynecological rebellion, and miscegenation. Moreover, it shows how these specific African female concerns influence British antislavery, abolitionist, and post-slavery discourse in heretofore unheralded, unusual, and sometimes radical ways.


  • Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Indroduction: Imoinda, Marriage, Slavery
  • Part One. Imoinda’s Original Shades: African Women in British Antislavery Literature
    • Chapter 1. Altering Oroonoko and Imoinda in Mid-Eighteenth-Century British Drama
    • Chapter 2. Amelioration, African Women, and The Soft, Strategic Voice of Paternal Tyranny in The Grateful Negro
    • Chapter 3. “Between the saints and the rebels”: Imoinda and the Resurrection of the Black African Heroine
  • Part Two. Imoinda’s Shade Extends: Abolition and Interracial Marriage in England
    • Chapter 4. Creoles, Closure, and Cubba’s Comedy of Pain: Abolition and the Politics of Homecoming in Eighteenth-Century British Farce
    • Chapter 5. “‘What!’ cried the delighted mulatto, ‘are we going to prosecu massa?’”: Adeline Mowbray’s Distinguished Complexion of Abolition
    • Chapter 6. “An unportioned girl of my complexion can . . . be a dangerous object.” Abolition and the Mulatto Heiress in England
  • Afterword
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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The Woman of Colour

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Novels, Slavery, United Kingdom, Women on 2009-10-30 19:12Z by Steven

The Woman of Colour

Broadview Press
268 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781551111766 / 1551111764

Written by: Anonymous

Edited by:

Lyndon J. Dominique, Assistant Professor of English
Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

The Woman of Colour is a unique literary account of a black heiress’ life immediately after the abolition of the British slave trade. Olivia Fairfield, the biracial heroine and orphaned daughter of a slaveholder, must travel from Jamaica to England, and as a condition of her father’s will either marry her Caucasian first cousin or become dependent on his mercenary elder brother and sister-in-law. As Olivia decides between these two conflicting possibilities, her letters recount her impressions of Britain and its inhabitants as only a black woman could record them. She gives scathing descriptions of London, Bristol, and the British, as well as progressive critiques of race, racism, and slavery. The narrative follows her life from the heights of her arranged marriage to its swift descent into annulment and destitution, only to culminate in her resurrection as a self-proclaimed “widow” who flouts the conventional marriage plot.

The appendices, which include contemporary reviews of the novel, historical documents on race and inheritance in Jamaica, and examples of other women of colour in early British prose fiction, will further inspire readers to rethink issues of race, gender, class, and empire from an African woman’s perspective.

Table of Contents:



A Chronology of Women of Color in Drama and Long Prose Fiction

A Note on the Text

The Woman of Colour, A Tale

Appendix A: Lucy Peacock, “The Creole” (1786)

Appendix B: Anonymous Poem “written by a Mulatto Woman” (1794)

Appendix C: Minor Heiresses of Color in British Long Prose Fiction

  1. From Agnes Musgrave, Solemn Injunction (1798)
  2. From Jane Austen, Fragment of a Novel (1817)
  3. From Edmund Marshall, Edmund and Eleonora: or Memoirs of the Houses of Summerfield and Gretton (1797)
  4. From Robert Bissett, Douglas; or, The Highlander (1800)
  5. From Mrs. Charles Mathews, Memoirs of a Scots Heiress (1791)

Appendix D: Historical and Social Accounts of People of Color in Jamaica

  1. From Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies (1799)
  2. From Edward Long, The History of Jamaica (1774)
  3. From J.B. Moreton, West India Customs and Manners (1793)

Appendix E: People of Color in British Epistolary Narratives

  1. From Richard Griffith, The Gordian Knot (1769)
  2. From Hester Thrale, “Letter to Mrs. Pennington” (1802)
  3. From Clara Reeve, Plans of Education (1792)
  4. John Wesley, “Letter to William Wilberforce” (1791)

Appendix F: The Woman of Colour: Contemporary Reviews

  1. The British Critic (March 1810)
  2. The Critical Review (May 1810)
  3. The Monthly Review (June 1810)

Appendix G: Jamaican Petitions, Votes of the Assembly, and an Englishman’s Will

  1. From Votes of the Honourable House of Assembly of Jamaica (1792)
  2. From Andrew Wright’s “Last Will and Testament” (1806)
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