Dialect in British Fiction: 1800-1836Funded by The Arts and Humanities Research CouncilSupported by The University of Sheffield
Full record including Speech Extracts
Marly; or, A Planter's Life in Jamaica
Author Details
Author Name:Unknown
Gender:Unknown
Anonymous:Yes
Publication Details
Publisher:Richard Griffin & Co. and Hunt and Clarke, London.
Place:Glasgow
Date:1828
Novel Details
Genre:Anecdotal; biography; courtship; inheritance/identify; political
Setting:Jamaica
Period:Contemporary
Plot
Although the author purports in the introduction to offer a balanced view of slavery, the novel in essence constitutes a paternalist apology for the practice (which was abolished in the colonies five years after the book was published). The larger part of the novel comprises vignettes about the day-to-day lives of the slaves and the colonists, as well as long discursive sections on the arguments for and against slavery, which are expressed either in the narrator's voice or through dialogues between Marly (the protagonist) and his fellow slave-drivers. It also features a sub-plot involving the attempt of the hero to reclaim the inheritance of his grandfather, who had once settled in Jamaica, and to marry the daughter of the man who had wrongly claimed that inheritance.
While the novel expresses some sympathy for the slaves who suffer under especially tyrannical overseers, it is deeply marked with racial hatred, not only towards Black people but also towards Jewish people. The narrator's comments on p.254 are characteristic: '[those who have] through the motives of humanity, taken the side of the blacks [...] are not aware, it is to be presumed, of their real character, otherwise they would never have once thought that it could be expedient with safety to loosen their bondage.'
Overview of the Dialect
The novel features much representation of the creole speech of the slaves. In the main, this is limited to brief one or two-sentence utterances (that are often repeated). A notable exception to this occurs on pages 135-138, when a slave named Tom Paine narrates, uninterruptedly, what might be described as a slave-centric version of Genesis and Exodus in dialect. The name of this character might be intended to associate him with demagoguery.
There is also an interesting passage in p.209 in which Marly dances with a creole partner, who involuntarily commits a 'lapsus linguae' which reveals her 'island education'. In addition to this, the novel features a brief sentence of Scots representation on p.299 and a section in the first chapter where Marly is refused a job because he cannot speak Gaelic (p.8).

Unexpectedly nondialectal characters: Marly is a native of Scotland and speaks Standard English in all but one occasion, when he speaks 'Scotch dialect' to a slave. In context, it is part of a comical section in which a slave is baffled first by his excessively grandiloquent overseer and then by Marly, when he asks him to translate the former.
Displaying 13 characters from this novel    |    Highlight dialect features in each extract    |    Do not highlight dialect features in each extract
Speaker #1:Tom Paine - Slave
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:Tom Paine
Gender:Male
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Minor
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Slave
Social Role Category:Slave
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Jamaica
Place of Origin Category:Jamaica, Caribbean
Extract #1 dialect features:
Speakers: All , Tom Paine
Extract #2 dialect features:
Speakers: All , Tom Paine
Extract #3 dialect features:
Speakers: All , Tom Paine
Speaker #2:Trajan - Slave
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:Trajan
Gender:Male
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Central
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Slave
Social Role Category:Slave
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Jamaica
Place of Origin Category:Jamaica, Caribbean
Speaker #3:Black Doctor - Doctor (for the slaves)
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:Black Doctor
Gender:Male
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Peripheral
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Doctor (for the slaves)
Social Role Category:Professional
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Jamaica
Place of Origin Category:Jamaica, Caribbean
Speaker #4:Dolly - Slave
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:Dolly
Gender:Female
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Peripheral
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Slave
Social Role Category:Slave
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Jamaica
Place of Origin Category:Jamaica, Caribbean
Speaker #5:Quashie - Slave
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:Quashie
Gender:Male
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Peripheral
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Slave
Social Role Category:Slave
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Jamaica
Place of Origin Category:Jamaica, Caribbean
Speaker #6:George Marly - Book-keeper
Individual or Group:Group
Primary Identity:Marly
Gender:Male
Age:Adult - young
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Central
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Book-keeper
Social Role Category:Professional
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Edinburgh, Scotland.
Place of Origin Category:Edinburgh, Scotland
Extract #1 dialect features:
Extract #2 dialect features:
Speaker #7:Quaco - Slave
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:Quaco
Gender:Male
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Peripheral
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Slave
Social Role Category:Slave
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Jamaica
Place of Origin Category:Jamaica, Caribbean
Speaker #8:The negro - Slave
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:The negro
Gender:Male
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Peripheral
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Slave
Social Role Category:Slave
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Jamaica
Place of Origin Category:Jamaica, Caribbean
Speaker #9:Cambridge - Slave
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:Cambridge
Gender:Male
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Peripheral
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Slave
Social Role Category:Slave
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Jamaica
Place of Origin Category:Jamaica, Caribbean
Speaker #10:The Blacks - Unspecified
Individual or Group:Group
Primary Identity:The Blacks
Gender:Unknown
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Peripheral
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Unspecified
Social Role Category:Unspecified
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Unspecified
Place of Origin Category:Unspecified
Speaker #11:The negroes - Slaves
Individual or Group:Group
Primary Identity:The negroes
Gender:Unknown
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Peripheral
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Slaves
Social Role Category:Slave
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Jamaica
Place of Origin Category:Jamaica, Caribbean
Speaker #12:Graceson - Merchant
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:Graceson
Gender:Male
Age:Adult - unspecified age
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Peripheral
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Merchant
Social Role Category:Trade or craft
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Unspecified. Presumably English .
Place of Origin Category:England
Extract #1 dialect features:
Speakers: All , Graceson
Extract #2 dialect features:
Speaker #13:My partner - Unspecified
Individual or Group:Individual
Primary Identity:My partner
Gender:Female
Age:Adult - young
Narrative Voice:3rd person
Role:Peripheral
Dialect Features:

Social Role
Social Role Description:Unspecified
Social Role Category:Unspecified
Speaker's Origin
Place of Origin Description:Jamaica. The narrator describes her as a 'creole'.
Place of Origin Category:Jamaica, Caribbean
Displaying 13 characters from this novel    |    Highlight dialect features in each extract    |    Do not highlight dialect features in each extract
Version 1.1 (December 2015)Background image reproduced from the Database of Mid Victorian Illustration (DMVI)