Johnny Newcome in love in the West Indies.

This etching was published in London in 1808 by William Holland. In telling the story of ‘Johnny Newcome’ it includes racist representations and caricatures of women of African heritage. ‘Johnny Newcome’ also featured in other cartoons, most famously Johnny Newcome in the Island of Jamaica, in which the newly arrived planter quickly gets sick and dies. In this one Johnny Newcome falls in love with a grotesque black woman and seeks the help of an ‘Oby man’ to secure her affection, before leaving her with nine mixed-race children. The ‘Oby man’ is represented standing next to a large pot labelled ‘feathers, grave dirt, egg shells, &c’, some of the items commonly attributed to Obeah practice and mentioned in Caribbean legislation against Obeah. The cartoon is notable for presenting obeah as ludicrous and funny, rather than threatening, even while it was a crime that could lead to the death penalty. Nevertheless there is a hint of recognition of the possibility of enslaved people’s rebellion: in a reference to the Haitian revolution, one of the children is said to ‘promise fair to be the Toussaint of his country’.

Johnny Newcome in love in the West Indies. 1808 The British Museum © The Trustees of the British Museum

Johnny Newcome in love in the West Indies. 1808 The British Museum © The Trustees of the British Museum

The text to the six panels reads: [1] Smitten with the charms of Mimbo Wampo a sable Venus, daughter of Wampo Wampo, King of the Silver Sand Hills in Congo. [2] Delicately declaring his Love to the aimable Mimbo Wampo, while she is picking his Cheqoes. “You lub me Massa” eh! eh!? [3] Consulting Old Mumbo Jumbo the Oby Man, how to get possession of the charming Mimbo Wampo. “Lets me alone for dat Massa.” [4] Mr Newcome happy,—Mimbo made Queen of the Harem. [5] Mr Newcome taking leave of his Ladies & Pickaneenees, previous to his departure from Frying Pan Island to graze a little in his Native land. [6] A few of the Hopeful young Newcomes.

Running beneath the six panels are these words: 1. J. Lucretia Diana Newcome, a delicate Girl very much like her Mother; only that she has a great antipathy to a pipe, and cannot bear the smell of Rum.—2 Penelope Mimbo Newcome. 3 Quaco Dash Newcome prodigiously like his father.—4 Cuffy Cato Newcome. 5. Caesar Cudjoe Newcome.—6 Helena Quashebah Newcome— 7 Aristides Juba Newcome.—8 Hector Sammy Newcome, a child of great spirit, can already Damnme Liberty and Equality and promises fair to be the Toussaint of his country.—9 Hannibal Pompey Wampo Newcome.

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