Ignatius Sancho


Sancho was employed in the household of the Duke of Montagu for most of his adult life, before opening up a grocery business in Mayfair in the early 1770s. He moved in literary and artistic circles, gaining a reputation as a connoisseur of the arts and establishing friendships with the writer Laurence Sterne (author of Tristram Shandy) and actor/manager David Garrick.

The Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho were first published in 1782 and ran to a number of later editions. This engraving made in 1802, after a portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, was probably taken from the frontispiece of one of them. As well as correspondence concerning slavery and the slave trade, Sancho’s letters contain comments on contemporary British life and are full of references to his circle of friends and his love of music, the theatre and his family. About his wife, in one letter he engagingly writes:

‘Dame Sancho would be better if she cared less. - I am her barometer - If a sigh escapes me, it is answered by a tear in her eye. - I oft assume a gaiety to illume her dear sensibility with a smile - which twenty years ago almost bewitched me: - and MARK! - after twenty year enjoyment constitutes my highest pleasure!’


National Portrait Gallery D3581 (1802)
By courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

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