Notes of an Invalid, 1837

Transcribed by Mark Fleszar, Georgia State University, 2007.

From: Christian Register and Boston Observer, September 30, 1837

For the Register and Observer. Notes of an Invalid. - No. 9.

The Rich Mr. K. with His Black Consort and Offspring

…The following morning, the sailing party were early upon the water, and soon met in their way a Mr. Kingsley, taking a short cruise in a neat plantation yacht. He was very polite, and as Mr. P. was a favorite friend, he insisted upon a visit, and urged that the party should at least take a breakfast with him. The invalid had heard much, to excite his curiosity about this Mr. K. and was at once inclined to accept the invitation. Mr. P. accordingly consented. “Now,” said Mr. P. to the invalid, “now you have a chance of seeing something new under the sun. The plantation of this old fellow in the yacht is on Fort George’s island a few miles off; and as we work our way to his landing, I will tell you a little about him. I think in his youth he was a yankee captain; but he very early engaged in the Slave Trade, and continued it several years. At last, having accumulated sufficient means and reserved perhaps 200 slaves for himself, he relinquished the trade—came to Florida—bought several plantations—and selected the one we are now approaching which was then a perfect garden, laid out in parks, arbors, and flower beds, for his own residence. But, to crown it all, what do you think he chose for a wife?—Why, one of the blackest wenches that you ever saw. But perhaps you will think stranger, that he has been faithful to her for more than twenty years. He has a grown mulatto son by her, and two mulatto daughters, and they all live together in concord as blissful as the best. The son superintends the plantation, and the girls are accomplished candidates for the Hymeneal altar. Tutors have attended them from infancy, and the girls have been taught music and dancing, the modern languages and polite literature: How much they know of these branches I cannot tell, as they are very modest, and always avoid white strangers. The old man likes very much to have civil white persons call upon him, and he will be very polite; but you will laugh, I know, to hear him descant upon the superior charms of the African beauties. But we are close to the landing now: Just yonder where you see a ship on the stocks is the place. You will soon be there to see and judge for yourself.” It proved to be just as Mr. P. had described. The sooty spouse was indeed as black as jet—as strongly scented as a musk-rat—and, to prejudiced eyes, as ugly as pictures of the king of sinners. The offspring were not so ugly, but, surprised in their pastimes, they took flight at once when the strangers approached. The son left his violin—one girl ran for the piano, and the other, from a waltz with a large dog held erect, followed her mother to the loom and spindle in an adjoining room. After breakfast, the host showed his guests about the house, and displayed the many curiosities he had brought from Africa; but most of all he seems to prize the pictures of African beauties which were painted from originals by a French artist, and then adorned his parlor. One of the originals he had himself seen, and before her picture he pointed out his rhapsodies to his guests on her personal charms. “Ah!” said he “the elegance, the enbonpoint, the elasticity of the figure was unequalled. I know, prejudiced white people do not like the African style of beauty; but to see the original of this picture would I am sure disarm all prejudice. Then there is no complexion like the African for setting off with jewelry with effect”—Thus he proceeded in most eloquent strains, which perhaps in poetry might run thus:

‘That ebon skin, with crimson seen beneath,
Those killing eyes, and charming snow white teeth
Such rich, soft lips, that princely beauty had,
She might, I’m sure, make any man run red.’

The old man, however, did not think so favorably of black men, but wished very much to obtain white husbands for his daughters. He has indeed offered $20,000 worth of property, and thirty or forty negroes, to any decent white man who will marry either of his daughters, and treat her well. But none have seemed to appreciate the tripple prize, and the old man still remains the only white man on the ground. What could have turned the mind of Mr. K. to such tastes and associates, the wise ones may surmise; yet true it is—though a white human being—with many white relations—and rich withal—he lives just as has been described, from choice. Surely there is no accounting for taste.—Notes of a traveler in Florida

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