Excerpts from
The Life of Captain Cipriani
The following selections
from The Life of Captain Cipriani: An Ac-
count of British Government in the West Indies present key elements
from James's first sustained nonfiction writing of any kind, and his
first exposition of anti-colonialist Caribbean nationalism. Published by a
small firm in Nelson, Lancashire in 1932-presumably at the expense of
James's friend and noted cricketer, Learie Constantine-The Life of Cap-
tain Cipriani was drastically reduced (and the following sections among
those eliminated) in The Case for West Indian Self-Government, pub-
lished by Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press the following year.
The political insurgent Cipriani knew of James as a cricket reporter
and a sympathetic schoolteacher. James obviously admired Cipriani (ac-
cording to his own account, James was asked by a colonial official what
would happen if Cipriani were arrested, and warned the official that the
island would go up in rebellion-Cipriani was not arrested). But recog-
nizing the vulnerability of his public position, James spoke publicly for
Cipriani only once, and did not write for Trinidad Workingmen's Asso-
ciation newspaper, The Labour Leader, except a few essays on sports.
Gaining Cipriani's eager approval for writing this pamphlet, James fin-
ished it before he left Trinidad in 1932. Significantly, he only published
it abroad. Through that act he had more than made up for his earlier lack
of public solidarity. He had become Cipriani's biographer.
As a literary document, Captain Cipriani is a curious mixture of legis-
lative excerpts, military race-relations history, almost incidental island
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