Tom Kittle’s Wake – A West Indian Classic 1877

Henry Garland Murray’s TOM KITTLE’s WAKE: Manners and Customs of the Country a Generation Ago. was published by E, Jordan in Kingston, Jamaica in 1877. (28 jpeg download)

It has not been republished, but was mentioned by Hugo Schuchardt in his wonderful bibliographic introduction to Die Sprache der Saramakkaneger in Surinam of 1914 as an excellent source.

Errol Hill includes the following note and an excerpt from the Jamaica Gleaner of 1876 in his The Jamaican Stage (1992):
Henry G. Murray, a black man,
There are few if any biographical notes about him other than this and the words in the Jamaica Gleaner:
“We beg to call attention to Mr. Murray’s lecture this evening at the Collegiate School Room, After a great deal of trouble, Mr. Murray has at last got a place for the delivery of his Lecture. We hope he will be supported liberally.
His case has been a hard one. We refer particularly to the refusal to grant him the use of one of Woolmer’s rooms, while it has been granted for a public meeting this evening of the Co-operative society.”

One can imagine the difficulties of a Black raconteur and entertainer with claims to scholarship and seriousness in the Jamaican world of the 1860’s. He was apparently well known and recognized.
Between 1876 and 1877 Murray published three books in Jamaica:
1. Tom Kittle’s Wake:Manners and Customs of the Country a Generation Ago. . . Tom Kittle’s Wake E.Jordan, Kingston, Jamaica. 1877
2. Married Hab Teet’, or Brown Sammy finds a Wife and finds Trouble 1876, Kinsgston, Jamaica
3. Feedin’ ‘Perrit: A Lecture Illustrative of Jamaica Mythology, De Cordova, Kingston, Jamaica. 1877.

In many ways Murray’s books are some of the best and most sensitively presented records of ordinary Jamaican speech and humor and story culture that have been made. And still much fun to read.

Thanks to Roger Abrahams I have a rough photocopy of a 28 page version of Tom Kittle’s Wake (I have seen a library citation that indicates many more pages). Since I have not seen it available elsewhere on the Net, I offer it through this page.
It is also significant as a source James Joyce used in Finnegans Wake, and was clearly known to him as was Schuchardt’s bibliographical introduction (in the years Joyce lived in Trieste Schuchardt taught in Graz, not far away by the Austrian railroads, although there is no record of the two having met.
The echoes he inserts capture its flavor and phrasing.

The combination of the rough photocopy and the fact thatmuch of it is in Murray’s rendition of Jamaican Creole makes it next to impossible to make any kind of optical character recognition of the letters, so short of typing it by hand, I am reduced to offering 28 Jpeg files of the pages.
They can be accessed by clicking on the link at the top of the page or here below
TOM KITTLE’S WAKE: Manners and Customs of the Country a Generation Ago.
which is at

If you actually download the pages they can be better read by using the program Irfan View – which is available free, and under View choose
Display Options and and set them to “Fit Window to Image”.

Karl Reisman

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