n Journal of the African Literature Association - Philip Quaque’s letters to London, 1765–1811, Adélékè Adéẹ̀kọ́ - book review

Volume 13 Number 3
  • ISSN : 2167-4744
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Adeleke Adeeko’s Philip Quaque’s Letters to London: 1765–1811 joins a growing, if still quite modest, body of scholarship on the life and work of Philip Quaque (c. 1754–1811), the first African Anglican chaplain. Even though Adeeko’s edition of the letters covers similar ground to that provided in Vincent Carretta and Ty M. Reese’s The Life and Letters of Caretta and Reese (2011) his is different in modernizing the writing conventions of the eighteenth century script, thus making for a much smoother experience for the modern reader. He also has synoptic summaries placed at the start to each of Quaque’s letters, thus providing a handy system reference. There are not as many references and notes as one might have wished for, suggesting that Addeko’s edition was not being pitched as the definitive scholarly edition, which was itself something only partially fulfilled by Caretta and Reese. Clearly there is much more work to be done in this area. But perhaps the most distinctive aspect in Adeeko’s offering is that as a literary critic he pays close attention in his Introduction to the various rhetorical devices that Quaque deployed and from which might be gathered the different ways in which he saw his relationship to his social and epistolary interlocutors. Quaque’s main interlocutors during his lifetime were the various governors and trading-company workers at the Castle along with the many African Cape Coasters amongst whom he sought to proselytize. Critical too to understanding Quaque was the relationship he had with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) in London, to whom he was obliged to write biannual reports outlining his progress in addition to whatever he thought worthwhile of bringing to their notice. Commentators on Quaque conventionally agree that he was a failure with respect to the primary reason he was at Cape Coast, which was to convert as many Africans as possible to Christianity. What Adeeko does beautifully is to give us a lively portrait of the difficult conditions in which Quaque’s exerted himself and also to delve into the mind of Quaque in as far as this was possible from paying close attention to the historical cues and rhetorical devices contained within the letters. His book will be a boon to missiologists, Africanists, and postcolonial critics alike.

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