This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2, 491) on Friday, October 28, 2022.
My various readings and searches during the last few weeks have included a number of items about the concept of the “Sabbath.” The idea of the Sabbath, whether you consider yourself religious, spiritual, or “none of the above” (a phrase that is a bit silly but popular in the mass media today), is one that is common to us all. We generally refer to it as part of “the weekend,” a time when many of us are able to kick back and relax.
The Sabbath originally comes from Jewish culture and has deep religious significance. It pays homage to the gift of “time,” a gift that was part of God’s original creation. The idea of the Sabbath commanded mankind to stop what they were doing once every few days and to rest.
For other cultures, the idea had been that you kept doing whatever it was you were doing day after day. But when they encountered this ancient Jewish tradition, they realized that just for their own physical and mental health, the Sabbath made sense. Thomas Cahill’s excellent book, The Gifts of the Jews, makes all this abundantly clear.
How many of us really observe the Sabbath, not necessarily in a religious context but in a human context? The idea of “stopping” what we are doing and “resting” is one that we should take very seriously.
Have a great and literate weekend.
Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,595 subscribers and had a 35.6 percent open rate; 13 persons unsubscribed.
Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement, and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.
During his lifetime, Charles Ignatius Sancho was known as the “extraordinary Negro.” Looking at his life now, two-and-a-half centuries later, the term “extraordinary” seems adequate.
Sancho was born sometime around 1729. The date and place of his birth have never been verified with any satisfaction. He might have been born on a slave ship traveling from Africa to the Spanish colony of New Granada. Another story is that he was actually born in Africa itself.
Whatever his origin, his owner carried him to Britain after the death of his parents and presented him as a gift to three sisters living in Greenwich, just outside of London. He was two years old at the time.
He stayed in that household for about 20 years, and he appears to have left when the sisters no longer needed or wanted him. During the years that he was in that household, however, he was extraordinarily fortunate in one important way. The Duke of Montagu was a friend of the sisters and a frequent visitor to their house, and the Duke was struck by Sancho’s intellect and personality. The Duke took pains to teach Sancho to read, and he lent books from his personal library to the young man.
Sancho was a quick study and an avid reader, and when it came time to leave his home in Greenwich, he headed straight for Blackheath, where the Duke lived. There he stayed and worked and eventually became a butler for the Duchess of Montagu.
His position allowed him to take advantage of the Duke’s library and the musical instruments that the Duke had collected. Sancho became interested in music, poetry, reading, and writing. He taught himself to do all of those things with great facility.
When the Duchess died in 1751, she left him an annuity of 30 pounds, which was a substantial income for his day. In 1758 Sancho married Anne Osborne, a West Indian woman, and they produced a family that included seven children.
Sancho continued to work as a valet in the Montagu household, and it was here that he met Thomas Gainsborough, one of the great portrait artists of his day. Gainsborough took an interest in Sancho and eventually painted a portrait of him, one of several portraits that were painted during his lifetime.
It was during this period that a debate about slavery and the slave trade was welling up in political circles in Great Britain. Sancho was becoming well-known as a musician, writer, and man about town in London. In 1766, Sancho wrote a letter to Laurence Sterne, the author of Tristram Shandy, in which he asked the author to lend his voice to the growing abolitionist movement.
That subject, handled in your striking manner, would ease the yoke (perhaps) of many – but if only of one – Gracious God! – what a feast to a benevolent heart!
Sterne replied, and the exchange of letters was published and received much attention.
There is a strange coincidence, Sancho, in the little events (as well as in the great ones) of this world: for I had been writing a tender tale of the sorrows of a friendless poor negro-girl, and my eyes had scarce done smarting with it, when your letter of recommendation in behalf of so many of her brethren and sisters, came to me – but why her brethren? – or your’s, Sancho! any more than mine? It is by the finest tints, and most insensible gradations, that nature descends from the fairest face about St. James’s, to the sootiest complexion in Africa: at which tint of these, is it, that the ties of blood are to cease? and how many shades must we descend lower still in the scale, ’ere mercy is to vanish with them? – but ’tis no uncommon thing, my good Sancho, for one half of the world to use the other half of it like brutes, & then endeavour to make ’em so.
The exchange of letters between Sancho and Sterne did more than simply bring additional fame to Sancho. Sancho’s articulateness and facility with the language demonstrated to readers throughout Great Britain that Africans were indeed human beings capable of intelligent thought and emotion. His letters destroyed any argument that Africans were less than full human beings.
In 1774, Sancho left the Montagu household, unable to perform his duties as valet because of ill health. The Montagu family helped him set up a grocery store in Westminster. As a shopkeeper in central London, Sancho was able to entertain many guests and form friendships with people such as the actor David Garrick and the minister William Dodd, as well as the statesman and abolitionist Charles James Fox. Because Sancho owned property, he was entitled to vote, and he is thought to be the first former slave in Great Britain to do so.
After Sancho’s death in 1780, Frances Crewe, a poet with whom Sancho had corresponded, gathered together letters that Sancho had written and had them published in two volumes titled The Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African. This book revealed Sancho not only as a voice of the abolitionist movement but also as a keen observer of life in London in the late 18th century. Writer Joseph Jekyll introduced the book with a memoir of Sancho, a biography that scholars have often relied upon. But modern day historians have cast doubt on much of its veracity, and concerted efforts have been made in the last few years to uncover the real facts of his life.
Change your behavior and get happy
Gina Barreca is a professor at the University of Connecticut and is the author of several books including They Used to Call Me Snow White…But I Drifted.
She is determined to change her behavior in ways that will make her happier, a process that she explains in this short article in Psychology Today.
One of my favorite parts of her plan is this one:
No. 3. I will stop collecting old grievances as if they were old perfume bottles or were weirdly distorted Hummel figures. I will get over being indignant and I will shrug off being huffy. Impatience takes too much time, unfunny bitterness ruins the flavor of life, and resentment gives me lines that make my mouth go down at the edges, which is not a good look. I need this bad mojo even less than I need another empty bottle of Evening in Paris.
But that’s not the only one.
You will get a kick out of her article, which takes only a few minutes to read. Enjoy.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
Local Voices follow-up
More than 50 authors from all over East Tennessee gathered under a single roof at the Blount County Public Library last Saturday (I mentioned this in last week’s newsletter), and it can be described with an old cliche: A good time was had by all.
The library provided tables for each of the authors to display their books and other promotional material. Each of the authors was able to wander around the library’s main gallery to meet other authors, discuss their books, and exchange information, ideas, and laughs.
The 50 authors represented a wide range of topics, genres, approaches, and styles. We had mystery writers, romance writers, authors of children’s books, inspirational writers, and humorists. We had memoirists, biographers, and history researchers. We had short story writers, anthologists, and polemicists. Everywhere you turned that morning, there seemed to be a writer who had something new and unique to say.
Possibly the oldest writer there was 82-year-old Sonja DuBois, one of the last remaining Holocaust survivors. Sonja was born in 1940 into a Jewish family in the Netherlands, and her family gave her to a Christian family before they were arrested, deported, and murdered. Sonya’s memoir, Finding Schifrah: The Journey of a Dutch Holocaust Child Survivor, is the story of how she discovered who she was and what happened to her family.
The youngest authors in the group were a set of high school students who had recently published an anthology of their short stories. The group had been working with Karen Davis, herself an author of a novel and several short stories. Karen wrote to me after the event on Saturday:
I wanted to thank you again for your hospitality at the Local Voices event. It was such a pleasure to meet other authors in the area, and it was a wonderful experience for my students who are just getting started. It is always inspiring to be amongst “our people”! We’ll look forward to more events like this at BCPL!
A list of many of the authors who attended the event, along with some of the things that they have written, can be found on this page on JPROF.com.
Photo: Sonja DuBois
Group giveaways for October
And my young adult novel, Point Spread, is part of this young adult book giveaway:
Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.
It helps me a great deal if you use these links to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books. Many thanks.
Jeanne L.: You know, because of health reasons, I did not get to comment about the watercolors. However, I like the bottom left as it reminds me of the courthouse in my father’s hometown of Gainesboro, Jackson County, Tennessee, where I spent many childhood summers and still have much family. Thank you for bringing forth many great memories!
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: Leon
Best quote of the week:
A society which is mobile, which is full of channels for the distribution of a change occurring anywhere, must see to it that its members are educated to personal initiative and adaptability. Otherwise, they will be overwhelmed by the changes in which they are caught and whose significance or connections they do not perceive. John Dewey, philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer (1859-1952)
If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.
If you are interested in reading scripture, either the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both, you might be interested in the videos, commentary, and podcast of the BibleProject.com. The people who work on this site have done some deep and thoughtful reading of the Bible, and the videos they have produced (generally shorter than 10 minutes) are both entertaining and enlightening. They view the Bible as a single entity with a single purpose, and their approach is both delightful and refreshing.
Helping those in need
Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: Celebrating Local Voices, Mary Seacole, and readers respond to the the watercolor collection: newsletter, October 21, 2022
Get a FREE copy of Kill the Quarterback
Get a free digital copy of Jim Stovall's mystery novel, Kill the Quarterback. You will also get Jim's newsletter and advanced notice of publications, free downloads and a variety of information about what he is working on. Jim likes to stay in touch, so sign up today.