A key scholarly debate in late colonial law concerns the interpretation of the ‘reasonable man’. The reasonable man, whose paradigmatic status was itself a contested subject for English law, was all the more problematic for colonial law when the idea of a ‘reasonable native’ was presumed in and of itself to be questionable. Should the ‘native’ be held to the same standard of reasonableness as the Englishman? And if not, what standard of reason was valid? This article examines how popular literature of the period, both fiction and memoir, reflects these concerns. Focusing on accounts of colonial Nigeria, I show how this literature repeatedly complicates the perceived ‘reasonableness’ of both Europeans and colonial subjects. Moreover, I demonstrate that these complications, frequently dramatized through narratives of the uncanny, make visible colonial anxieties about the distinction between native custom and colonial authority.