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William Gilbert and Esoteric RomanticismA Contextual Study and Annotated Edition of 'The Hurricane'$
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Paul Cheshire

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786941206

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786941206.001.0001

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Son of a Saintly Slave Owner

Son of a Saintly Slave Owner

(p.202) Chapter Eight Son of a Saintly Slave Owner
William Gilbert and Esoteric Romanticism

Paul Cheshire

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines Gilbert’s views about Africa and Africans in the context of his background as the son of an Antiguan slave plantation owner. Gilbert expressed publicly his opposition to the slave trade in 1790, but in The Hurricane this opposition is less evident: the evils of the slave trade are just one symptom of a universal cosmic imbalance. Gilbert’s Methodist father, Nathaniel Gilbert, had avowed the evils of slavery and praised the Africans’ higher spiritual capacity, but he nevertheless retained ownership. As John Wesley’s abolitionist views only became public around the time of Nathaniel’s death in 1774, it was possible for Nathaniel, as a benevolent slave-owner, to be considered a good Methodist. Gilbert came of age at a time when these moral values shifted.

Keywords:   Slavery, Methodism, Abolitionism, John Wesley, Nathaniel Gilbert

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