The Servant

A Master had a Colored Servant. Thinking the skin was dirty from his former master’s abuse, Master subjected the servant to constant washing. No change.
Some things you cannot change.

A master purchased a colored servant under the impression his skin was dirty from his former master’s abuse. The master subjected the servant to constant washing, to the point where the servant became ill. But, the servant’s skin never changed color.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection (The Blackamoor)

A certain Man who had bought a Blackamoor, said it was all nonsense about black being the natural colour of his skin. “He has been dirty in his habits,” said he, “and neglected by his former masters. Bring me some hot water, soap, and scrubbing-brushes, and a little sand, and we shall soon sec what his colour is.” So he scrubbed, and his servants scrubbed, till they were all tired. They made no difference in the colour of the Blackamoor; but the end of it all was, that the poor fcllow caught cold and died.

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall (The Blackamoor)

Croxall - BlackamoorA CERTAIN man having bought a Blackamoor, was so simple as to think, that the colour of his skin was only dirt and filth, which he had contracted for want of due care, under his former master. This fault he fancied might easily be removed. So he ordered the poor Black to be put into a tub, and was at a considerable charge in providing ashes, soap, and scrubbing-brushes for the operation. To work they went, rubbing and scouring his skin all over, but to no manner of purpose: for when they had repeated their washings several times, and were grown quite weary, all they got by it was, that the wretched Blackamoor caught cold and died.


Many people attempt impossibilities for want of considering the nature of things aright. For, as palpable a blunder as this man in the fable committed, there are those who are guilty of as great mistakes; especially when they endeavour, by fruitless cultivations, to raise graces from the mind or body, of which neither is capable. When any one went to meddle with arts and sciences, for which his genius was not well and properly adapted, the Greeks had a proverb to turn it into ridicule, by saying, He was no more fit for the business, than an Ass to play upon the harp. In short, when people learn to dance without shape and mien, to sing, or play on music without a voice or an ear, painting or poetry without a genius, it is attempting to wash the Blackamoor white. They can never attain their end, but at the same time expose themselves to the jocose humours of those that behold them. Instead of a grace, they acquire a deformity; as some boys at school, whom the master, by endeavouring to whip into a memory and bright parts, confirms stupid and invincible blockheads for ever.

Townsend VersionTownsend version (The Aethiop)

The purchaser of a black servant was persuaded that the color of his skin arose from dirt contracted through the neglect of his former masters. On bringing him home he resorted to every means of cleaning, and subjected the man to incessant scrubbings. The servant caught a severe cold, but he never changed his color or complexion.


What’s bred in the bone will stick to the flesh.

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange verson (The Washing of A Blackmore)

A man gave mony for a black, upon an opinion that his swarthy colour was rather flattery then nature; and the fault of his last master, in a great measure, that he kept him no cleaner: he took him home with him, and try’d all manner of washes to bring him to a better complexion: but there was no good to be done upon him; beside, that the very tampering cast him into a disease.


Natural inclinations may be moulded and wrought upon by good councell and discipline; but there are certain specifick properties and impressions, that are never to be alter’d or defac’d.

1001Servus Aethiops et Dominus Eius

Aethiopem emit aliquis, persuasus colorem ex negligentia eius qui prius habuerat contractum esse. Cum vero domum duxisset, omnia quidem ei adhibuit purgamenta omnimodisque lotionibus conatus est ad pristinum, ut putabat, nitorem reducere. Sed cum colorem transmutare non posset, morbum novo labore attulit.

Perry #393