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The Fortunes of Francis BarberThe True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson's Heir$
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Michael Bundock

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300207101

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300207101.001.0001

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Servant or Slave?

Servant or Slave?

(p.54) 5. Servant or Slave?
The Fortunes of Francis Barber

Michael Bundock

Yale University Press

This chapter focuses on Francis Barber’s life under the care of Samuel Johnson. Barber was one of many thousands of people, including blacks, who worked in domestic service in mid eighteenth-century England. During the period, there were some 50,000 servants in London—about a thirteenth of the city’s population. Barber was just one of a number of permanent or semipermanent residents who would be part of Johnson’s various households over the years. The two residents who lived with Johnson for the longest period of time (in each case, over twenty-five years), and with whom Barber had most to do, were Robert Levett and Anna Williams. Johnson, an opponent of slavery, did not believe that Barber was a slave. This chapter examines how Johnson and Barber understood the nature of their relationship by considering the notion of the pater familias.

Keywords:   servants, Francis Barber, Samuel Johnson, blacks, England, London, Robert Levett, Anna Williams, slavery, pater familias

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