The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

Letters and Reviews


To Mr. O’Brien, Carrickfergus,
(Per favour of Mr. Gustavus Vassa.)

Belfast, December 25, 1791.

Dear Sir,

The bearer of this, Mr. Gustavus Vassa, an enlightened African, of good sense, agreeable manners, and of an excellent character, and who comes wll recommended to this place, and noticed by the first people here, goes to-morrow for your town, for the purpose of vending some books, written by himself, which is a Narrative of his own Life and Sufferings, with some account of his native country and its inhabitants. He was torn from his relatives and country (by the more savage white men of England) at an early period in life; and during his residence in England, at which time I have seen him, during my agency for the American prisoners, with Sir William Dolben, Mr. Granville Sharp, Mr. Wilkes, and many other distinguished characters; he supported an irreproachable character, and was a principal instrument in bringing about the motion for a repeal of the Slave-Act. I beg leave to introduce him to your notice and civility; and if you can spare the time, your introduction of him personally to your neighbours may be of essential benefit to him.

I am,

Your obedient servant,

Thos. Digges.
To Rowland Webster, Esq. Stockton.
(Per favour of Mr. Gustavus Vassa.)

Dear Sir,

I take the liberty to introduce to your knowledge Mr. Gustavus Vassa, an African of distinguished merit. He has recommendations to Stockton, and I am happy in adding to the number. To the principal supporters of the Bill for the Abolition of the Slave Trade he is well known; and he has, himself, been very instrumental in promoting a plan so truly conducive to the interests of religion and humanity. Mr. Vassa has published a Narrative which clearly delineates the iniquity of that unnatural and destructive commerce; and I am able to assert, from my own experience, that he has not exaggerated in a single particular. This work has been mention in very favourable terms by the Reviewers, and fully demonstrate that genius and worth are not limited to country or complexion. He has with him some copies for sale, and if you can conveniently assist him in the disposal thereof, you will greatly oblige,

Dear Sir,
Your friend and servant,

William Eddis.

Durham, October 25, 1792.

Hull, November 12, 1972.

The bearer hereof, Mr. Gustavus Vassa, an African, is recommended to us by the Rev. Dr. Peckard, Dean of Peterborough, and by many other respectable characters, as an intelligent and upright man; and as we have no doubt but the accounts we have received are grounded on the best authority, we recommend him to the assistance of the friends of humanity in this town, in promoting subscriptions to an interesting Narrative of his Life.

John Sykes, Mayor,
Thomas Clarke, Vicar,
William Hornby, Esq. of Gainsborough.
R. A. Harrison, Esq.
Jos. R. Pease, Esq.

To William Hughes, Esq. Devizes.

Dear Sir,

Whether you will consider my introducing to your acquaintance the bearer of this letter, Olaudah Equiano, the enlightened African, (or Gustavus Vassa as a liberty or favour, I shall not anticipate.

He came recommended to me by men of distinguished talents and exemplary virtue, as an honest and benevolent man; and his conversation and manners as well as his book do more than justice to the recommendation.

The active part he took in bringing about the motion for the repeal of the Slave Act, has given him much celebrity as a public man; and, in all the varied scenes of chequered life, through which he has passed, his private character and conduct have been irreproachable.

His business in your part of the world is to promote the sale of his book, and is a part of my business, as a friend to the cause of humanity, to do all the little service that is in my poor power to a man who is engaged in so noble a cause as the freedom and salvation of his enslaved and unenlightened countrymen.

The simplicity that runs through his Narrative is singularly beautiful, and that beauty is heightened by the idea that it is true; this is all I shall say about this book, save only that I am sure those who buy it will not regret that they have laid out the price of it in the purchase.

Your notice, civility, and personal introduction of this fair minded black man, to your friends in Devizes, will be gratifying to your own feelings, and laying a considerable weight of obligation on,

Dear Sir,
Your most obedient and obliged servant,

William Langworthy.

Bath, October 10, 1793.


We entertain no doubt of the general authenticity of this very intelligent African’s story; though it is not impossible that some English writer has assisted him in the compilement, or, at least, the correction of his book. The Narrative wears an honest face; and we have conveived a good opinion of the man from the artless manner in which he has detailed the variety of adventures and vicissitudes which have fallen to his lot. His publication appears very seasonable, at a time when negro-slavery is the subject of public investigation; and it seems calculated to increase the odium that has been excited against the West-India planters, on account of the cruelties that some are said to have exercised on their slaves, many instances of which are here detailed.

The sable author of this volume appears to be a very sensible man; and he is, surely, not the less worthy of credit from being a convert to Christianity. He is a Methodist, and has filled many pages towards the end of his work, with the accounts of his dreams, visions, and divine influences; but all this, supposing him to have been under any delusive influence, only serves to convince us that he is guided by principle, and that he is not one of those poor converts, who, having undergone the ceremony of baptism, have remained content with that portion only of the christian religion; instances of which are said to be almost innumerable in America and the West Indies.

Gustavus Vassa appears to possess a very different character; and, therefore, we heartily wish success to his publication, which we are glad to see has been encouraged by a very respectable subscription.

The General Magazine and Impartial Review for July 1789, characterizes this Work in the following Terms:
‘This is “a round unvarnished tale” of the chequered adventures of an African, who early in life, was torn from his native country, by those savage dealers in a traffic disgraceful to humanity, and which has fixed a stain on the legislature of Britain. The Narrative appears to be written with much truth and simplicity. The Author’s account of the manners of the natives of his own province (Eboe) is interesting and pleasing; and the reader, unless, perchance he is either a West-India planter or Liverpool merchant, will find his humanity often severely wounded by the shameless barbarity practised towards the author’s hapless countrymen in all our colonies: if he feel, as he ought, the oppressed and the oppressors will equally excite his pity and indignation. That so unjust, so iniquitous a commerce may be abolished, is our ardent wish; and we heartily join in our author’s prayer, “That the God of Heaven may inspire the hearts of our Representatives in Parliament, with peculiar benevolence on that important day when so interesting a question is to be discussed; when thousands, in consequence of their determination, are to look for happiness or misery!”

N. B. These letters, and the Reviewers’ remarks would not have appeared in the Narrative, were it not on the account of the false assertions of my enemies to prevent its circulation.

The kind reception which this work has met with from many hundred persons, of all denominations, demand the Author’s most sincere thanks to his numerous friends; and he most respectfully solicits the favour and encouragement of the candid and unprejudiced friends of the Africans.


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