Anthony Trollope's "Miss Sarah Jack of Spanish Town, Jamaica"

Written 1859 (1 September - 29 October), inbetween writing Castle Richmond
Serialized 1860 (Novembr 3 & 10), Cassell's Illustrated Family Paper
Published in a book 1861 (November), Tales of All Countries: First Series , Chapman and Hall

Although "set" by Robert Wright at the same time as "The Two Generals", possibly because both stories include a strong racial element, I can find no postings whatsoever about this story either in my files or Michael Powe's archives. I can only find the following brief comment by myself:

October 25, 1995

Re: Trollope and Race: "Miss Sarah Jack of Spanish Town, Jamaica"

For anyone wanting to discuss the various permutations of Trollope's attitude towards races other than white European, his travel literature is a treasure-mine, though the treasures are not pretty. One could make a similar statement about "The Unprotected Female" and "A Ride Across Palestine" (his attitude towards Arabs), "John Bull of the Guadalquivir" (his attitude towards the Spanish which however blessedly mocked through the narrator's comeuppance); his attitude towards Irisha and the Middle East, not to omit homosexuality ("The Turkish Bath") and stories like "Miss Sarah Jack of Spanish Town, Jamaica". The characterisations of African slaves in this story and use of the "n" word makes me chary of ever setting it for my students. "George Walker at Suez" is simply the most obnoxious fiction Trollope ever wrote. On Trollope's behalf, he does not only make fun of himself as John Bull and shows how Bull himself is degraded in his degradation of someone else (though this someone else is Spanish not non-white) and he also criticizes the English tourists for not looking upon the non-English as not quite human (in "Tee Man Who Left His Money in a Box" where the "other" is Italian, regarded as somehow non-white), and his fascination with foreign places and peoples. In two of his travel books, The West Indies and the Spanish Main and South Africa, he argues that the native peoples must be allowed to govern themsleve. Yet he never is able to see non-white non-Europeans as they might see themselves. He can see the world out of the eyes of a convict ("Aaron Trowe"), but not out of the young black boy who lead the men to the convict (I won't quote his harsh remark about this boy). "The Two Generals" has a strong abolitionist undercurrent, but does not use slavery as an important issue. He argues firmly for Irish people, identifies with them, writes 5 novels about their issues, and yet they are "not quite" English, treated as lesser. Although Father John in The Macdemots is one of the most generous positive portraits of a religious man Trollope ever created, Trollope would never have dared openly to say Lily Dale lost her virginity; he does for Feemy Macdermot and Kate O'Hara.

Perhaps someone would like to disagree.

Ellen Moody

At the time I told Ms Thompson's list about my idea of assigning Trollope's short stories to junior-level college students and worried over how race was presented in them, I got the following reply relevant to "Miss Sarah Jack":

To: From:


I've been interested in your thoughts on the short stories. I wonder about putting them in the context of other Victorian short fiction, rather than the modern ones. I often forget that I am a fan of short stories until I remember the Victorian ones that I have read with delight. I haven't read the whole Trollope collection, but I wonder what you think of any of it in comparison to Dickens' short fiction, or the pieces in Scenes from a Clerical Life, or any of Gaskell's short stories ( or Cranford, for that matter, which many have argued for as a collection of short pieces, rather than a novella), or Thackeray, or Collins. . . .. It seems to me that Trollope might fair well with his contemporaries. At least I suspect we might find that we have mroe to say about him in that context then we do if, as you say, we read him thinking of The Dubliners.

By the way, where were the short stories originally published?

I've also been meaning to respond for days to your questions about unflattering representations of racial others in the short stories. It does seem like a crucial point to consider, especially when one is teaching the stories to students learning to write in the humanities. How do we as critics respond when the authors we love write something we find less-than-loveable? I'm not exactly sure what you think your students' response will be, but you might find it helpful to bring into class discussion some other bits of the Victorian discussion of race, and to bring up Trollope's treatment of racial or ethnic difference that isn't determined by skin color (I'm thinking, of course, of his Irish characters). Punch printed loads of offensive cartoons playing on race, and many of them are widely available in in reprint. I don't have at my fingertips any references to the very good critical discussions of Victorian discourse on race that are aout there right now, but I'll post some when I get to my notes, unless someone else beats me to it!

I do look forward to hearing about how your students take the short stories!

Cheri L. Lars Berkeley

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