Beryl Gilroy’s “Inkle and Yarico”

inkle.833984As a follow-up to a previous post Yarico and Inkle operetta back on London stage, I agree with Dr. Elizabeth Wilson [thanks, Betty!] that our readers may be interested in other iterations of the tragic story, especially the incisive reinterpretation by Guyanese writer Beryl Gilroy in her 1996 novel Inkle and Yarico (Peepal Tree Press.)

In 1787, George Colman, Jr.’s play Inkle and Yarico was first produced at the Haymarket Theater. The popular story of Inkle and Yarico first appeared in Richard Ligon’s True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (1657), was revived by Richard Steele’s Spectator in 1711, and was retold many times thereafter.

As Nandini Bhattacharya points out, the composite story of these many versions of Inkle and Yarico is that of a young English merchant named Inkle who voyages to the new world in search of fortune, and is shipwrecked on American shores. Rescued by a woman named Yarico in the American wilderness, he escapes the fury of the other natives and lives concealed by her in a cave. In return for her protection and love, Inkle promises to take Yarico with him to England, but when rescued by a European vessel, he brings her to Barbados and sells her there with her unborn child.

A more recent version of the story is Beryl Gilroy’s interpretation in her novel Inkle and Yarico (1996). Loosely based on a popular narrative in the 17th and 18th centuries, this version of the tale’s mythic dimensions are reinterpreted from both a female and a black perspective, engaging the reader in the psychological truths of the characters’ experiences while laying the past bare as a text for the present.

Beryl Gilroy came to London over fifty years ago from Guyana. She wrote six novels, two autobiographical books and was a pioneering teacher and psychotherapist. Her works include Frangipani House, Boy Sandwich, Stedman and Joanna: A Love in BondageEchoes and Voices, Sunlight and Sweet Water, Gather the FacesIn Praise of Love and Children, Inkle and Yarico, and the posthumously published novel The Green Grass Tango. She died in 2000 at the age of 76.

For full academic article by Nandini Bhattacharya, see

Also see

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