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Britain's Black Past$
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Gretchen H. Gerzina

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789621600

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789621600.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 28 January 2022

The Slave and the Lawyers: Francis Barber, James Boswell and John Hawkins

The Slave and the Lawyers: Francis Barber, James Boswell and John Hawkins

(p.27) Chapter Two The Slave and the Lawyers: Francis Barber, James Boswell and John Hawkins
Britain's Black Past

Michael Bundock

Liverpool University Press

This chapter, written by Michael Bundock, describes competing portrayals of Francis Barber, the Jamaican manservant and friend of writer Samuel Johnson who worked in his household for the better part of three decades and became his heir. The incompatible depictions are found in separate biographies of Johnson written by lawyers John Hawkins and James Boswell as well as in other writings and letters. Hawkins’ biography, published first, is openly hostile to Barber. His disdain for Barber’s interracial marriage and criticism of Johnson’s indulgent financial and emotional support of Barber is tinged with racism. Bundock supposes that Boswell’s own biography of Johnson was, in part, a response and rebuke to Hawkins’—especially so in his favourable characterization of Barber, his wife and their closeness with Johnson. Comparing these rival biographies, Bundock attempts to evaluate the authors’ motivations as well as their attitudes to race.

Keywords:   Francis Barber, Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, John Hawkins, black domestic servants, interracial marriage, Life of Johnson

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