The Spotted Negro Boy
The Cabinet of Curiosities
George Alexander Gratton, the
Spotted Negro Boy, whose portrait embellishes our present
number, was well known to the inhabitants of the metropolis
and its vicinity, about twelve years ago, at which time he
was exhibited at the fairs, by Richardson, a famous purveyor
of objects of entertainment at those places of popular
Both the parents of George Alexander were black, and natives
of Africa. He was born in the island of St. Vincent, on the
plantation of Mr. Alexander, of which one Gratton was
overseer, about the month of June, 1801; and the curiosity
of his appearance was such, that he was shewn, in the
capital of his native island, at the price of a dollar each
person. It is added, the superstitions prejudices of the
negroes placed his life in some danger, and that he was, on
that account, shipped for England. Probably the prospect of
a profitable disposal of him, in this country, was an
equally powerful motive for his removal.
The child was only fifteen months old, when, in September,
1809, being brought to Bristol, in the ship called the
Friends of Emma, Mr. Richardson, the proprietor, as before
intimated, of a travelling theatre, was applies to, and an
engagement entered upon, by which he was consigned to Mr.
Richardson's care for three years.
His skin and hair were every where party-coloured,
transparent brown and white. On the crown of his head,
several triangles, one within the other, were formed by
alternations of the colours of his hair. In figure and
countenance he might truly be called a beautiful child. His
limbs were well proportioned, his features regular and
pleasing, his eyes bright and intelligent, and the whole
expression of his face both mild and lively. His voice was
soft and melodious; and, as his mind began to develop
itself, much quickness and penetration were betrayed.
When nearly five years of
age, he was unfortunately attacked with a swelling in the
jaw, and died on the 3d of February, 1813. Mr. Richardson,
who had always treated him with a parental kindness while
alive, was sincerely afflicted at his death. Soon after he
had been placed with him, he had caused him to be baptized
at the parish church of Newington, in the county of Surrey,
and, on his death, he was buried at Great Marlow, in
Buckinghamshire, in a brick vault, which Mr. Richardson
caused to be purposely constructed. Mr. Richardson, fearful
that the body might be stolen, had previously kept it
unburied for the space of three months.
In the vestry of the church
of Great Marlow hangs a fine painting of this extraordinary
natural phenomenon, executed from the life, by Coventry; and
presented to the corporation of Buckingham by Mr.
Richardson' who finally closed his displays of affectionate
regard for a child, which was not originally ore recommended
to his attention by his curiosity, than he was afterward
endeared to him by disposition and manners, by erecting a
monument to his memory at Great Marlow, and placing upon it
the following inscription and epitaph:-
TO THE MEMORY
GEORGE ALEXANDER GRATTON,
THE SPOTTED NEGRO
From the Carribee
Islands, in the West
Indies, died February 3d, 1813, aged
four years and three quarters.
This Tomb, erected by his only Friend and
Guardian, Mr. John Richardson, of
Should this plain simple
tomb attract thine eyes,
Stranger, as thoughtfully
thou passest by,
Know that there lies beneath this humble stone,
A child of colour, haply not thine own.
His parents born of Afric's sun-burnt race,
Tho' black and white were blended in his face,
To Britain brought, which made his parents free,
And shew'd the world great Natur's prodigy.
Depriv'd of kindred that to him were dear,
He found a friendly Guardian's fost'ring care,
But, scarce had bloom'd, the fragrant flower fades,
And the lov'd infant finds an early grave,
To bury him his lov'd
And drop't choice flowers, and lis'd his early fame;
And some that lov'd him most, as if unblest,
Bedwe'd with tears the whice wreath on his breast.
But he is gone, and dwells in the abode,
Where some of every clime must joy in God!
Portrait of George Alexander
George Alexander's surname, Gratton, was the name of the
owner of the plantation where he was born. It was common
practice for slaves to be named by and after their owners,
rather than their parents - another way in which their
identities were shaped by others.
From - All Saints' Church,