Charles Lyell, A Second Visit to the United States of North America, Vol. I (London, 1849), 361.



Charles Lyell, A Second Visit to the United States of North America, Vol. I (London, 1849), 361.

Includes music itself or text of song


Identity of singers; solo/group







minstrel song

Geographical location

Williamsburg, Georgia?

Notable adjectives

"singing with much spirit"


In the hope of elevating the character of some of his negroes, and giving them more self-dependence, Mr. Couper, by way of experiment, set apart a field for the benefit of twenty-five picked men, and gave up to them half their Saturday's labor to till it. In order that they might know its value, they were compelled to work on it for the first year, and the product amounting to 1500 dollars, was divided equally among them. But when, at length, they were left to themselves, they did nothing, and at the end of two years the field was uncultivated. But there appears to me nothing disheartening in its failure, which may have been chiefly owing to their holding the property in common, a scheme which was found not to answer even with the Pilgrim Fathers when they first colonized Plymouth-men whom certainly none will accuse of indolence or a disposition to shrink from the continuous labor. The "dolce far niente" is doubtless the negro's paradise and I once heard one of them singing with much spirit at Williamsburg to an appropiate song: "Old Virginia never tire; eat hog and hominy, and lie by the fire;" and it is quite enough that a small minority should be of this mind, to make all the others idle and unwilling to toil hard for the benefit of the sluggards.


In this passage, Lyell is describing experimental work that the planter, Mr. Couper gave 25 enslaved African Americans on his plantation, which involved tilling a field. According to Lyell, at the end of those two years, nothing was accomplished. He then goes on to describe the enslaved Americans as lazy, and that they enjoy "dolce far niente". To justify his thoughts he mentions that he previously heard someone singing the minstrel song "Clare de Kitchen".

Bias of author

After reading through other non-music related passages, Lyell has a clear, negative opinion about what he believes enslaved African Americans are like. He often describes them as "inferior" to white Americans.

Item sets