Studying to be Singular


by Landeg White

Studying to be Singular is a double biography. First of John Gabriel Stedman, 1744 – 1797, the idiosyncratic artist and soldier. Secondly of the book he wrote about his five years’ campaigning in Suriname – at once a travelogue, a history, a military record, a naturalist’s diary, an anthropological classic, and one of the great love stories of the late 18C, reflected in a series of plays, poems, novels, and pamphlets that constitute the book’s afterlife.

Within the book are dozens of illustrations, including the engravings by William Blake – based on Stedman’s sketchings of scenes from the Suriname planter-slave society, which were used by the abolitionist movement in their campaign against slavery. Also included are several original watercolours by John Gabriel Stedman, published for the first time.


“Landeg White’s handsome and vivid account of Stedman, Studying to be Singular: John Gabriel Stedman, 1744-1797, itself delightfully illustrated, is a felt and eloquent tribute by one of our most versatile men of letters, poet, novelist, translator, connoisseur of empire, and warrior for justice.”

Claude Rawson