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Journal of a West India Proprietor [Paperback]

Matthew Gregory Lewis
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Nov 2008
English novelist MATTHEW GREGORY LEWIS (1775–1818) earned the nickname "Monk" Lewis after the success of his novel The Monk. But here, in this nonfiction work, he dramatizes, often in humorous and insightful fashion, his two year-long stays on the island of Jamaica, in 1815–6 and in 1817. Lewis died at sea the next year returning from the West Indies, which hardly seems surprising when one reads his descriptions of the dangerous Atlantic crossing, when wicked weather and dying livestock meant to serve as food threatened all aboard. But his joy in the beauty of his estates in Jamaica and his enjoyment of the people—both native and colonial—he encountered there is palpable. As a journal of plantation life during slavery, too, it serves as a potent firsthand document of significant historical import. Readers of fiction, history, and personal diaries will delight in this often overlooked work of early-19th-century literature.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Cosimo Classics (1 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605202878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605202877
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 21.3 x 13.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 397,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

Although best known as a playwright and novelist, Matthew 'Monk' Lewis (1775–1818) was also a Member of Parliament and had inherited estates in Jamaica. This posthumously published Journal is the record of his visits there, and of his attempts to improve the welfare of slaves. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Judith Terry is Senior Instructor in the English Department at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Matthew Lewis is a good writer. This account of his travels to the West Indies and his management of his plantations there is therefore worth reading for its own sake as a fascinating piece of literature. For anyone interested in writings about slavery it is also an invaluable document. Lewis was keen to behave well to his slaves, but his attitude towards them is too clearly constrained and conditioned by the prejudices of his time. I would encourage anyone intending to read this journal to read something like Olaudah Equiano's or Mary Prince's accounts of the life of a slave. Such writings put into perspective Lewis's attempts to justify the owning of slaves, as well as pointing out the absences in his text which elide and obscure the reality of the harsh and exhausting conditions which even the best-treated slaves were too often forced to endure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Morality versus Self Interest 14 April 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Matthew Lewis inherited slave plantations in Jamaica and visited them quite extensively in the early nineteenth century. He supported the abolition of the slave trade but his racism and self-interest made it impossible for him to imagine how his slaves could survive without benevolent proprietors like him, so he opposed their emancipation. Large parts of the journal are really quite contemptible, being devoted to explanations of how noble and paternal he is, and how amusing or tiresome are the ways that his slaves behave. It is however an interesting and salutory read, and I think you should read it, lest you forget how limited were the aims of much of the middle and upper classes with regard to slavery: they simply deplored the brutality, but equality and freedom were issues they could no more contemplate for blacks in the West Indies than they could for the labourers on their farms and in their mills in Britain. There are lessons here that have an echo today- PETER SANDERS
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Cosimo Classics Edition of a wonderful nonfiction book 26 Jan 2013
By Ms Ellie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are two parts to this review: the book itself and the edition I have, one of half a dozen offered by amazon.

The author is novelist Matthew Lewis, who is famous for his Gothic novel "The Monk." His family owned property in Jamaica, and this is his story of how he went there to manage that property. He has a graceful, engaging style, and the subject matter is one that interests me.
The journal covers November 8, 1815, when Lewis boarded the "Sir Godfrey Webster" bound for the West Indies, and through May 2, 1818, when he is about to leave Jamaica. Sadly, he had already contracted yellow fever and died on the way back to England. His journal was not published until 1834, which places it at the time of the abolition of slavery.

Various editions are available and I bought the Cosimo Classics one, published in 2008. The plusses are trade paperback size, durable paper, and large print. The minusses are no introduction and no footnotes explaining the author's many literary and historical references, including quotes in Greek and Latin.
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