Matthew Lewis on ‘the highest object of the brown females of Jamaica’

08 February 1816

DURING an overnight stop in Rio Bueno en route to his estate in Cornwall, Lewis falls into conversation with his landlady – “a very pretty brown girl.” She tells Lewis she is the wife of an English merchant in Kingston who has provided her with a house. Lewis comments: “This kind of establishment is the highest object of the brown females of Jamaica; they seldom marry men of their own colour, but lay themselves out to captivate some white person who takes them for mistresses, under the appellation of housekeepers.” Lewis ends his dairy entry with a patronising jingle about these ambitions. His observations about mulatto women clearly reflect prevailing beliefs about the sexual appetites of women of colour and they also underline the way in which European prejudices based on race, colour and caste had become internalised at every level of Jamaican society.

Read more

Pin It on Pinterest