Thursday, 4 August 2022

The Young Catechist


I had not previously been aware that the painting The Young Catechist by Henry Hoppner Mayer, now owned by Bristol Art Gallery

was actually an illustration to verses by Charles Lamb. Holding her Book of Common Prayer the white girl is instructing the African in the responses to the Anglican catechism, which will lead to his baptism.

In fact, now I look more closely, Lamb's lines were in fact a literary illustration to the painting.

both are lamentable productions, even if their aims were laudable,

However, both are useful examples of the racist aspect to Abolitionist sentiments and campaigns in the 19th century.

Here's The Young Catechist poem

While this tawny Ethiop prayeth,
Painter, who is she that stayeth
By, with skin of whitest lustre,
Sunny locks, a shining cluster,
Saint-like seeming to direct him
To the Power that must protect him?
Is she of the Heaven-born Three,
Meek Hope, strong Faith, sweet Charity
Or some Cherub? —

They you mention
Far transcend my weak invention.
'Tis a simple Christian child,
Missionary young and mild,
From her stock of Scriptural knowledge,
Bible-taught without a college,
Which by reading she could gather,
Teaches him to say Our FATHER
To the common Parent, who
Colour not respects, nor hue.
White and black in him have part,
Who looks not to the skin, but heart

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