In-depth blog about former slave and boxing legend Bill Richmond (1763-1829); subject of Luke G. Williams' biography, published by Amberley in August 2015.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

UPDATED! Richmond Unchained cover and title musings

The wonderful folk at Amberley Publishing have produced the draft cover for Richmond Unchained and I hope you all agree that it's rather spiffing!

The cover features Bill in a typically combative pose, as rendered by Robert Dighton in a pencil and ink print owned by the Royal Collection (this, incidentally, is a much clearer, more defined and generally superior piece of work by Dighton compared to the mass produced etching of Richmond held in the National Portrait Gallery and many other institutions).

In the background of the cover are a series of ornate columns and arches - a classical backdrop which I think lends the cover quite an air of gravitas. It was common during the height of Regency 'boximania' for the day's leading pugilistic heroes to be painted within such classical contexts as a means of glorifying their physical perfection and glorious bravery, and linking their exploits to the great mythical and classical figures from the past.

Bill Richmond was - unjustly in my view - never afforded a portrait with such classical trappings though - an oversight that hopefully this cover goes some way to correcting! I can't think of a more appropriate backdrop for a man of dignity, respectability and style such as Bill.

The title of my book - for which Amberley have utilised a particularly striking font - is, of course, a deliberate echo of Quentin Tarantino's 2012 'western' (or, as he argued, 'southern') Django Unchained.

The wording of the title is partly a commercial decision, of course, but there's also a couple of other reasons for choosing it.

Firstly, on a fairly literal level, I think 'Richmond Unchained' neatly represents the way that Bill Richmond overcame his birth as a slave to become a free man.

More importantly, though, the word 'unchained' is symbolic of Bill's mentality. He wasn't only free 'physically', but free in terms of his capacity to aim high and dream big.

Throughout his life, Bill Richmond refused to be shackled by any chains - be they the chains of slavery, or the metaphorical chains which often - at this time - doomed people of Bill's ethnic background to a life of either poverty or humiliation.

Not only that, but Bill ignored the chains of convention by - for example - marrying a white woman at a time when 'intermarriage' (to use the hateful term of the day) was surprisingly commonplace, but viewed by many bigots as unnatural.

In summation, Bill Richmond refused to be contained or constrained by anyone or anything.

He was truly a man whose mind, imagination and life were 'unchained'.

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