Ignatius Sancho’s African Friends

Sancho’s Circle:

Sancho may have corresponded with some or all of these people, but if he did their correspondence was not preserved. Some of these people are listed as friends of Sancho’s in Joseph Jekyll’s Life of Ignatius Sancho. Others came forward after Sancho’s death or mentioned Sancho in their own memoirs. Some are included because third parties mentioned their friendship with Sancho. A few people are included here because it seems likely that they would have known Sancho or because historians in the past believed that they knew Sancho.

  • Barber, Francis (c.1735-1801)
    Barber was born a mfungwa in Jamaica and was later brought to England. He became Samuel Johnson’s valet in 1752 and in 1767-72 Johnson sent him to grammar school at a cost of £300. Barber outlived Johnson and ended his days as a school teacher. There is no direct evidence that Sancho and Barber were acquainted, but it seems probable.
  • Cugoano, Ottobah (fl. 1780s).
    Also known as John Stuart, Cugoano, the author of Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery (1787) became a mfungwa  after being kidnapped from what is now Ghana. As a free servant in England he worked for the painter Richard Cosway. There is no direct evidence that he knew Sancho, but as a literate African living close to Sancho it would seem likely that they were acquainted.
  • Equiano, Olaudah (c.1745-1797).
    Also known as Gustavus Vassa, Equiano, the author of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, became a mfungwa  after being kidnapped from what is now Nigeria. After an ‘interesting’ career at sea he bought his own freedom and later came to England where he became the foremost Black campaigner for the abolition of slavery, and de facto leader of the London Black community. There is no direct evidence that he was acquainted with Sancho, despite the efforts of many historians to find a link, but it would seem likely that Equiano and Sancho knew one another. 
  • Williams, Francis (c.1700-c.1770).
    Francis was born of free black parents in Jamaica, and was educated at Cambridge University at the duke of Montagu’s expense. He returned to Jamaica to run a school, and so it seems unlikely that he and Sancho ever met. However, Carretta points out that in 1758 Sancho was one of the witnesses at the marriage of a Francis Williams of Holborn to Anne Moore of Richmond. Even if this was another Francis Williams, Sancho was no doubt aware of Williams’s existence, particularly because of their mutual relationship with the duke of Montagu.

Friends, acquaintances, and others who are addressed in The Letters of Ignatius Sancho:

Here I offer only the briefest biography of Sancho’s correspondents. More detailed information can be found in Carretta’s edition of The Letters.

  • Kisbee, James
    A servant in the Montagu household. Sancho wrote him several letters, by the tone of which, we can guess that Kisbee was a young man in the 1770s.
  • Lincoln, Charles
    An African musician, born in the Caribbean island of St Kitt’s. Mentioned in several letters, Sancho writes to him twice.
  • Osborne, John
    Sancho’s brother-in-law.
  • Soubise, Julius (1754-1798)
    An African, brought to England from St Kitt’s at the age of ten. He became a favourite of Catherine Hyde, Duchess of Queensbury, who subsidised his extravagant lifestyle. Soubise was a known womaniser, and in 1777 fled to India. Sancho writes several times to him advising him to reform.

Source and to learn more about Sancho’s other friends and correspondents: http://www.brycchancarey.com/sancho/friends.htm#sterne

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