To Mr. M-.
February 8, 1777.
Zounds! if alive-what ails you? if dead-why did you not fend me word?
-from "Letter XLII"
Ignatius Sancho was born aboard a slave ship in 1729; by the time he died in 1780, he was not only a free man but a respected member of British society. He entertained the cream of literary and artistic London, served as a butler for the Duchess of Montague, and was the first black man to vote in a British election.
This collection of his letters, first published in book form in 1782 to enormous popular acclaim, documents his extraordinary life with wit and insight, and features correspondence with many famous names of the day, including the actor Garrick, the Montague family, the sculptor Nollekins, and the writer Laurence Sterne.
As a London celebrity, Sancho was a rallying point for British abolitionists, and his writings continue to provide an invaluable and unusual first-person perspective on the experience of free blacks during the slave trade.