The Letters of Margaret Mann, an elegant publication produced in Trinidad and Tobago under the auspices of the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago, is now one of the valuable historical records of colonial life in the West Indies at the Bodleian Library, part of Oxford University, the UK’s oldest institution of high learning, Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday reports.
Speaking in London recently, Dr Samuel Fanous, head of Communications and Publishing at the Bodleian, said it was an important international resource for historians and was now to form part of the library’s collection available for research.
He explained that official histories are valuable but the rarity of the female, domestic perspective, give the letters their particular value. He also praised the publication for its accessibility and enjoyment for a general reader.
The letters had been written by a young, British woman, Margaret Mann, in the period 1847-1851, to her family back in the Channel Islands. Margaret Mann joins only two other women whose experiences of life in 19th century West Indies colonies have been published. Lady Maria Nugent whose journal, simply called, Lady Maria Nugent’s Journal, was written during her stay in Jamaica from 1801-1807. Mrs Carmichael authored two works depicting life in the West Indies: Domestic Manners and Social Condition of the White, Coloured, and Negro Population of the West Indies (1833); and a novel, Tales of a Grandmother (1841).
When Trinidadian publisher and editor, Danielle Delon, discovered the existence of a unique collection of Victorian letters written in Trinidad at the Boldeian Library in the UK, she immediately recognised their importance to the history of Trinidad and Tobago. But, she did not know how to access them since the unpublished material was only accessible to members and scholars. She hired a researcher to transcribe the letters and obtained permission to have them published and made available to all.
Victorian reflections appear in The Letters of Margaret Mann together with paintings done while she was a student of Trinidad’s most revered watercolourist, Michel-Jean Cazabon. These, like her letters, had gone unnoticed for about 160 years until they were acquired by the National Museum of Trinidad and Tobago a few years ago and incorporated into the national Cazabon collection. The paintings and the letters now constitute one of the country’s important historical documents published in Trinidad and Tobago in recent years. As part of the UN International Year of the People of African Descent, NALIS, in collaboration with the National Museum and Art Gallery and Danielle Delon, is hosting a special presentation of the Victorian attitudes in relation to race and culture as presented in the Letters of Margaret Mann. The event takes place at 6.30 pm on Thursday 11th August in the Old Fire Station, Hart/Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain.
For the original report go to http://www.newsday.co.tt/features/0,144757.html