Sancho, Ignatius

, an extraordinary Negro, was born in 1729, on board a ship in the slave-trade, a few days after it had quitted the coast of Guinea for the Spanish West Indies; and at Carthagena, received baptism from the hand of the bishop, and the name of Ignatius. He lost his parents in his infancy, a disease of the new climate having put an early period to his mother’s existence; while his father defeated the miseries of slavery by an act of suicide. At little more than two years old, his master brought him to England, and gave him to three maiden sisters, resident at Greenwich; who thought, agreeable to prejudices not uncommon at that time, that ignorance was the only security for his obedience, and that to enlarge his mind would go near to emancipate his person. By them he was surnamed Sancho, from a fancied resemblance to the 'Squire of Don Quixote. While in this situation, the duke of Montagu, who lived on Blackheath, accidentally saw, and admired in him a native frankness of manner, as yet unbroken in servitude, and unrefined by education; brought him frequently home to the duchess; indulged his | turn for reading with presents of books, and strongly recommended to his mistresses the duty of cultivating a genius of such apparent fertility. His mistresses, however, were inflexible^ and even threatened on angry occasions to return Sancho to his African slavery. The love of freedom had increased with years, and began to beat high in his bosom. Indignation, and the dread of constant reproach arising from the detection of an amour, finally determined him to abandon the family, and as his noble patron was recently dead, he flew to the duchess for protection, who dismissed him with reproof. She at length, however, consented to admit him into her household, where he remained as butler till her death, when he found himself by her grace’s bequest and his own ceconomy, possessed of seventy pounds in money^ and an annuity of thirty. Freedom, riches, and leisure, naturally led a disposition of African texture into indulgences; and that which dissipated the mind of Ignatius completely drained the purse. Cards had formerly seduced him; but an unsuccessful contest at cribbage with a Jew, who won his clothes, had determined him to abjure the propensity which appears to be innate among his countrymen. Ignatius loved the theatre^ and had been even induced to consider it as a resource in fhe hour of adversity, and his complexion suggested aa offer to the manager of attempting Othello and Oroonoko; but a defective and incorrigible articulation rendered this abortive. He turned his mind once more to service, and was retained a few months by the chaplain at Montaguhouse. That roof had been ever auspicious to him; and the last duke soon placed him about his person, where habitual regularity of life led him to think of a matrimonial connexion, and he formed one accordingly with a very deserving young woman of West India origin. Towards the close of 1773, repeated attacks of the gout and a constitutional corpulence rendered him incapable of farther attendance in the duke’s family. At this crisis, the munificence which had protected him through various vicissitudes did not fail to exert itself; with the result of his own frugality, it enabled him and his wife to settle themselves in a shop of grocery, where mutual and rigid industry decently maintained a numerous family of children, and where a life of domestic virtue engaged private patronage, and merited public imitation. He died Dec. 15, 1780, of a series of complicated disorders. | Mr. Jekyll remarks that, of a negro, a butler, and a grocer, there are but slender anecdotes to animate the page of the biographer, yet it has been held necessary to give some sketch of the very singular man, whose letters, with all their imperfections on their head, have given such general satisfaction to the public*. The display which those writings exhibit of epistolary talent, rapid and just conception, of mild patriotism, and of universal philanthropy, attracted the protection of the great, and the friendship of the learned. A commerce with the Muses was supported amid the trivial and momentary interruptions of a shop; the poets were studied, and even imitated with some success; two pieces were constructed for the stage; the theory of music was discussed, published, and dedicated to the Princess royal; and painting was so much within the circle of Ignatius Sancho’s judgment and criticism, that several artists paid great deference to his opinion.

Such was the man whose species philosophers and anatomists have endeavoured to degrade as a deterioration of the human; and such was the man whom Fuller, with a benevolence and quaintness of phrase peculiarly his own, accounted “God’s image, though cut in ebony.” To the harsh definition of the naturalist, oppressions political and legislative were once added, but the abolition of the slave trade has now swept away every engine of that tyranny. Sancho left a widow, who is, we believe, since dead; and a son, who carried on the business of a bookseller for some years, and died very lately. 1

1 Letters, 1782, 2 volg. 8vo, with a life by Joseph Jekyll, esq.