In Miserable Slavery, edited by Douglas Hall, Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2011


978-976-640-066-8
US$24 (s)

To the great benefit of posterity, expatriate English overseer Thomas Thistlewood kept a meticulous record of his life on Jamaican sugar estates in the mid-18th century. He first mentions Phibbah, later his slave mistress, when he discovered her involvement in a plot to murder him and whipped her severely. Historian Douglas Hall's superb edition of Thistlewood's journal includes graphic detail of their 33-year affair. Sex is described in Latin abbreviation: sup. lect. (on the bed); illa habet menses (she is menstruating). The encounters are rated bene or, when gonorrhea intervened, no bene. Sometimes, angry at his compulsive cheating, Phibbah "did not speak to me all day," Thistlewood writes. More often the couple shared experiences, nursed and advised each other, and reared a beloved son. Their anguish after Phibbah's owner refused Thistlewood's pleas to buy her—"Phibbah grieves very much, and last night I could not sleep, but vastly uneasy"—prompted the epiphany that titles this journal: "Poor girl, I pity her, she is in miserable slavery."

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