Busha’s Mistress: A Stirring Romance from the Days of Slavery in Jamaica

This is one of the earliest Caribbean novels written in English. The novel tells the story of Catherine, the slave concubine of a cruel white overseer on Greenside Estate, near Falmouth, whose ruins today attest to the tensions of a colonial society that are described so memorably in the novel. Catherine flees the overseer, finding refuge with sympathetic friends who take her to England.

The descriptions of myal, obeah, and Maroon resistance are poignant revelations of the reality of slave life in Jamaica in the years before emancipation in 1834. Although published in an obscure Jamaican newspaper in 1911, this hitherto forgotten novel has been reconstructed from manuscript sources and the newspaper version housed in the Spanish Town Archives and the National Library in Kingston.

This book is important not only as an early Jamaican novel, but also because it provides an eyewitness perspective on Jamaica’s slave system, in particular on the roles of color, gender, and racism in the exploitation of enslaved women. Paul E. Lovejoy, David Trotman, and Verene A. Shepherd rediscovered the manuscript and provide commentary and illustrations to place the text in its historical context.


Cyrus Francis Perkins, born in Falmouth, Jamaica, in 1813, was the son of a military doctor who had previously served on the Gold Coast in West Africa.

Paul E. Lovejoy, editor (York University) is the author of Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, co-editor of The Biography of Baquaqua, and editor of Slavery on the Frontiers of Islam and The History of a Slave.

Verene Shepherd, editor, is from the University of the West Indies.

David Trotman, editor (York University) is the author of Crime in Trinidad: Conflict and Control in a Plantation Society, 1838-1900.