Anonymous - "The Woman of Colour, A Tale" - 1808
Though Olivia thus literally embodies English fears about creole moral turpitude, she also performs morality better than the English she meets, who either disdain or try to use her Insofar as the text has a didactic moral aim – insofar as it seeks to inflame English abolitionist sympathies – Olivia’s emphasis of her lack “of equality by the English planters” (Anonymous 53) in Jamaica plays at ironic odds with the racism she encounters in supposedly virtuous England. Olivia thus embodies a certain set of stereotypical metropolitan anxieties but functions as a mechanism by which to inspire new, more politically efficacious disquiet by way of her virtuous racialization and its class interventions.
Meanwhile, however, the text also prefigures themes that would become recurrent in nineteenth-century Caribbean literature. From the moment Olivia writes that she is "not afraid to acknowledge my affinity with the swarthiest negro" (53) to the moment she has the wherewithal to refer to her Jamaican slave-based plantation as filled with "that placid happiness, that calm tranquility, which surrounded me" (88) to the conclusion of the text when she vows to work "in mending the morals of our poor blacks" (188), Olivia's access to class and privilege and the remove at which that places her from her Jamaican slaves foreground the class- and color-based divides between the middle-class and the folk in two generations of Caribbean writing.
Anonymous. The Woman of Colour, A Tale. 1808. Broadview, 2008
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