Works of Annie Fields
LIFE AND LETTERS OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
by Annie Fields
ON the eve of sailing for Brunswick, Mrs. Stowe writes to Mrs. Sykes (Miss May): "I am wearied and worn out with seeing to bedsteads, tables, chairs, mattresses, with thinking about shipping my goods and making out accounts, and I have my trunk yet to pack, as I go on board the Bath steamer this evening. I beg you to look up Brunswick on the map; it is about half a day's ride in the cars from Boston. I expect to reach there by the way of Bath by to-morrow forenoon. There I have a house engaged and kind friends who offer every hospitable assistance. Come, therefore, to see me, and we will have a long talk in the pine woods, and knit up the whole history from the place where we left it."
Before leaving Boston she had written to her husband in Cincinnati: "You are not able just now to bear anything, my dear husband, therefore trust all to me; I never doubt or despair. I am already making arrangements with editors to raise money.
"I have sent some overtures to Wright. If he accepts my pieces and pays you for them, take the money and use it as you see necessary; if not, be sure and bring the pieces back to me. I am strong in spirit, and God who has been with me in so many straits will not forsake me now. I know Him well; He is my Father, and though I may be a blind and erring child, He will help me for all that. My trust through all errors and sins is in Him. He who helped poor timid Jacob through all his fears and apprehensions, who helped Abraham even when he sinned, who was with David in his wanderings, and who held up the too confident Peter when he began to sink, -- He will help us, and his arms are about us, so that we shall not sink, my dear husband."
She writes from Brunswick the last of May: "After a week of most incessant northeast storm, most discouraging and forlorn to the children, the sun has at length come out . . . . There is a fair wind blowing, and every prospect, therefore, that our goods will arrive promptly from Boston, and that we shall be in our own house by next week. Mrs. Upham(1) has done everything for me, giving up time and strength and taking charge of my affairs in a way without which we could not have got along at all in a strange place and in my present helpless condition. 'His family is delightful, there is such a perfect sweetness and quietude in all its movements. Not a harsh word or hasty expression is ever heard. It is a beautiful pattern of a Christian family, a beautiful exemplification of religion." . . .
The events of the first summer in Brunswick are graphically described by Mrs. Stowe in a letter written to her sister in-law, Mrs. George Beecher, in December.
"MY DEAR SISTER, -- Is it really true that snow is on the ground and Christmas coming, and I have not written unto thee, most dear sister? No, I don't believe it! I haven't been so naughty -- it's all a mistake -- yes, written I must have -- and written I have, too -- in the night-watches as I lay on my bed -- such beautiful letters -- I wish you had only received them; but by day it has been hurry, hurry, hurry, and drive, drive, drive! or else the calm of a sick-room, ever since last spring.
"I put off writing when your letter first came, because I meant to write you a long letter, -- a full and complete one; and so days slid by, -- and became weeks, -- and my little Charley came . . . etc. and etc.!!! Sarah, when I look back, I wonder at myself, not that I forget any one thing that I should remember, but that I have remembered anything. From the time that I left Cincinnati with my children to come forth to a country that I knew not of almost to the present time, it has seemed as if I could scarcely breathe, I was so pressed with care. My head dizzy with the whirl of railroads and steamboats; then ten days' sojourn in Boston, and a constant toil and hurry in buying my furniture and equipments; and then landing in Brunswick in the midst of a drizzly, inexorable northeast storm, and beginning the work of getting in order a deserted, dreary, damp old house. All day long running from one thing to another, as, for example, thus: --
"'Mrs. Stowe, how shall I make this lounge, and what shall I cover the back with first?'
"Mrs. Stowe. 'With the coarse cotton in the closet.'
"Woman. 'Mrs. Stowe, there isn't any more soap to clean the windows.'
"Mrs. Stowe. 'Where shall I get soap?'
"'Here, H., run up to the store and get two bars.'
"'There is a man below wants to see Mrs. Stowe about the cistern. Before you go down, Mrs. Stowe, just show me how to cover this round end of the lounge.'
"'There's a man up from the depot, and he says that a box has come for Mrs. Stowe, and it's coming up to the house; will you come down and see about it?'
"'Mrs. Stowe, don't go till you have shown the man how to nail that carpet in the corner. He's nailed it all crooked; what shall he do? The black thread is all used up, and what shall I do about putting gimp on the back of that sofa? Mrs. Stowe, there is a man come with a lot of pails and tinware from Furbish; will you settle the bill now?'
"'Mrs. Stowe, here is a letter just come from Boston inclosing that bill of lading; the man wants to know what he shall do with the goods. If you will tell me what to say, I will answer the letter for you.'
"'Mrs. Stowe, the meat-man is at the door. Hadn't we better get a little beefsteak, or something, for dinner?'
"'Shall Hatty go to Boardman's for some more black thread?'
"'Mrs. Stowe, this cushion is an inch too wide for the frame. What shall we do now?'
"'Mrs. Stowe, where are the screws of the black walnut bedstead?'
"'Here's a man has brought in these bills for freight. Will you settle them now?'
"'Mrs. Stowe, I don't understand using this great needle. I can't make it go through the cushion; it sticks in the cotton.'
"Then comes a letter from my husband, saying he is sick abed, and all but dead; don't ever expect to see his family again; wants to know how I shall manage, in case I am left a widow; knows we shall get in debt and never get out; wonders at my courage; thinks I am very sanguine; warns me to be prudent, as there won't be much to live on in case of his death, etc., etc., etc. I read the letter and poke it into the stove, and proceed . . . .
"Some of my adventures were quite funny; as for example: I had in my kitchen-elect no sink, cistern, or any other water privileges, so I bought at the cotton factory two of the great hogsheads they bring oil in, which here in Brunswick are often used for cisterns, and had them brought up in triumph to my yard, and was congratulating myself on my energy, when to and behold! it was discovered that there was no cellar door except one in the kitchen, which was truly a strait and narrow way, down a long pair of stairs. Hereupon, as saith John Bunyan, I fell into a muse, -- how to get my cisterns into my cellar. In days of chivalry I might have got a knight to make me a breach through the foundation walls, but that was not to be thought of now, and my oil hogsheads, standing disconsolately in the yard, seemed to reflect no great credit on my foresight. In this strait I fell upon a real honest Yankee cooper, whom I besought, for the reputation of his craft and mine, to take my hogsheads to pieces, carry them down in staves, and set them up again, which the worthy man actually accomplished one fair summer forenoon, to the great astonishment of 'us Yankees.' When my man came to put up the pump, he stared very hard to see my hogsheads thus translated and standing as innocent and quiet as could be in the cellar, and then I told him, in a very mild, quiet way, that I got 'em taken to pieces and put together, -- just as if I had been always in the habit of doing such things. Professor Smith came down and looked very hard at them and then said, 'Well, nothing can beat a willful woman.' Then followed divers negotiations with a very clever, but (with reverence) somewhat lazy gentleman of jobs, who occupieth a carpenter's shop opposite to mine. This same John Titcomb, my very good friend, is a character peculiar to Yankeedom. He is part owner and landlord of the house I rent, and connected by birth with all the best families in town; a man of real intelligence, and good education, a great reader, and quite a thinker. Being of an ingenious turn, he does painting, gilding, staining, upholstery jobs, varnishing, all in addition to his primary trade of carpentry. But he is a man studilous of ease, and fully possessed with the idea that man wants but little here below; so he boards himself in his workshop on crackers and herring, washed down with cold water, and spends his time working, musing, reading new publications, and taking his comfort. In his shop you shall see a joiner's bench, hammers, planes, saws, gimlets, varnish, paint, picture frames, fence posts, rare old china, one or two fine portraits of his ancestry, a bookcase full of books, the tooth of a whale, an old spinning-wheel and spindle, a lady's parasol frame, a church lamp to be mended, in short, Henry says Mr. Titcomb's shop is like the ocean; there is no end to the curiosities in it.
"In all my moving and fussing Mr. Titcomb has been my right-hand man. Whenever a screw was loose, a nail to be driven, a lock mended, a pane of glass set, -- and these cases were manifold, -- he was always on hand. But my sink was no fancy job, and I believe nothing but a very particular friendship would have moved him to undertake it. So this same sink lingered in a precarious state for some weeks, and when I had nothing else to do, I used to call and do what I could in the way of enlisting the good man's sympathies in its behalf.
"How many times I have been in and seated myself in one of the old rocking-chairs, and talked first of' the news of the day, the railroad, the last proceedings in Congress, the probabilities about the millennium, and thus brought the conversation by little and little round to my sink! ... because, till the sink was done, the pump could not be put up, and we couldn't have any rain-water. Sometimes my courage would quite fail me to introduce the subject, and I would talk of everything else, turn and get out of the shop, and then turn back as if a thought had just struck my mind, and say: --
"'Oh, Mr. Titcomb! about that sink?'
"'Yes, ma'am, I was thinking about going down street this afternoon to look out stuff for it.'
"'Yes, sir, if you would be good enough to get it done as soon as possible; we are in great need of it.'
"'I think there's no hurry. I believe we are going to have a dry time now, so that you could not catch any water, and you won't need a pump at present.'
"These negotiations extended from the first of June to the first of July, and at last my sink was completed, and so also was a new house spout, concerning which I had had divers communings with Deacon Dunning of the Baptist church. Also during this time good Mrs. Mitchell and myself made two sofas, or lounges, a barrel chair, divers bedspreads, pillow cases, pillows, bolsters, mattresses; we painted rooms; we revarnished furniture; we - what didn't we do?
"Then came on Mr. Stowe; and then came the eighth of July and my little Charley. I was really glad for an excuse to lie in bed, for I was full tired, I can assure you. Well, I was what folks call very comfortable for two weeks, when my nurse had to leave me. . ..
"During this time I have employed my leisure hours in making up my engagements with newspaper editors. I have written more than anybody, or I myself, would have thought. I have taught an hour a day in our school, and I have read two hours every evening to the children. The children study English history in school, and I am reading Scott's historic novels in their order. To-night I finish the 'Abbot;' shall begin 'Kenilworth' next week; yet I am constantly pursued and haunted by the idea that I don't do anything. Since I began this note I have been called off at least a dozen times; once for the fish-man, to buy a codfish; once to see a man who had brought me some barrels of apples; once to see a book-man; then to Mrs. Upham, to see about a drawing I promised to make for her; then to nurse the baby; then into the kitchen to make a chowder for dinner; and now I am at it again, for nothing but deadly determination enables me ever to write; it is rowing against wind and tide.
"I suppose you think now I have begun, I am never going to stop, and, in truth, it looks like it; but the spirit moves now and I must obey.
"Christmas is coming, and our little household is all alive with preparations; every one collecting their little gifts with wonderful mystery and secrecy . . . .
"'To tell the truth, dear, I am getting tired; my neck and back ache, and I must come to a close.
"Your ready kindness to me in the spring I felt very much; and why I did not have the sense to have sent you one line just by way of acknowledgment, I'm sure I don't know; I felt just as if I had, till I awoke, and behold! I had not. But, my dear, if my wits are somewhat wool-gathering and unsettled, my heart is as true as a star. I love you, and have thought of you often.
"This fall I have felt often sad, lonesome, both very unusual feelings with me in these busy days; but the breaking away from my old home, and leaving father and mother, and coming to a strange place affected me naturally. In those sad hours my thoughts have often turned to George; I have thought with encouragement of his blessed state, and hoped that I should soon be there, too. I have many warm and kind friends here, and have been treated with great attention and kindness. Brunswick is a delightful residence, and if you come East next summer, you must come to my new home. George(2) would delight to go a-fishing with the children, and see the ships, and sail in the sailboats, and all that.
"Give Aunt Harriet's love to him, and tell him when he gets to be a painter to send me a picture.
Her spirit was still unsatisfied. In spite of striving and incessant devotion, there was yet a deeper cry in her for humanity, which had not found expression. Few women had suffered more or had enjoyed more than she; her experience was ripe for others, and her joy was large enough to give hope to the down-trodden.
Upon her way to Brunswick she stopped, as we have said, at the house of her brother in Boston, Dr. Edward Beecher. Daniel Webster's seventh of March speech was still ringing in the ears of the people. The hated Compromise had been defended by their idol, and he was cast into the dust. "Ichabod," Whittier cried, "so fallen, so lost! 'When honor dies the man is dead.'"
The hearts of men were aflame at the Fugitive Slave Act, which was then being debated and finally passed by the Congress of that year. The conversation turned upon this topic, and heart-rending scenes were described of families broken up, men frozen by flight in winter through rivers and pathless forests on their way to Canada. After Mrs. Stowe reached Brunswick Mrs. Edward Beecher wrote to her sister: "Hattie, if I could use a pen as you can, I would write something to make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is."
One of Mrs. Stowe's children remembers well the scene in the little parlor in Brunswick when the letter alluded to was received. Mrs. Stowe herself read it aloud to the assembled family, and when she came to the passage, "I would write something that would make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is," Mrs. Stowe rose up from her chair, crushing the letter in her hand, and with an expression on her face that stamped itself on the mind of her child, said: "I will write something. I will if I live."
In December, Mrs. Stowe sent a message to her sister: "Tell Katy I thank her for her letter and will answer it. As long as the baby sleeps with me nights I can't do much at anything, but I will do it at last. I will write that thing if I live.
"What are folks in general saying about the slave law, and the stand taken by Boston ministers universally, except Edward?
"To me it is incredible, amazing, mournful!! I feel as if I should be willing to sink with it, were all this sin and misery to sink in the sea. . . . I wish father would come on to Boston, and preach on the Fugitive Slave Law, as he once preached on the slave-trade, when I was a little girl in Litchfield. I sobbed aloud in one pew and Mrs. Judge Reeves in another. I wish some Martin Luther would arise to set this community right."
She also writes to Professor Stowe at Christmas time and cheers him up by telling him of stories she had been writing for the "Era," and other papers, in which he figures as a farmer, the facts being drawn from life!! But the New Year had not arrived when she records days of terrible cold, which made it almost impossible to hold a pen.
December 29. "We have had terrible weather here. I remember such a storm when I was a child in Litchfield. Father and mother went to Warren, and were almost lost in the snowdrifts.
"Sunday night I rather watched than slept. The wind howled, and the house rocked just as our old Litchfield house used to. The cold has been so intense that the children have kept begging to get up from table at meal-times to warm feet and fingers. Our air-tight stoves warm all but the floor, -- heat your head and keep your feet freezing. If I sit by the open fire in the parlor my back freezes; if I sit in my bedroom and try to write my head aches and my feet are cold. I am projecting a sketch for the 'Era' on the capabilities of liberated blacks to take care of themselves. Can't you find out for me how much Willie Watson has paid for the redemption of his friends, and get any items in figures of that kind that you can pick up in Cincinnati? . . . When I have a headache and feel sick, as I do to-day, there is actually not a place in the house where I can lie down and take a nap without being disturbed. Overhead is the school-room, next door is the dining-room, and the girls practice there two hours a day. If I lock my door and lie down, some one is sure to be rattling the latch before fifteen minutes have passed. . . . There is no doubt in my mind that our expenses this year will come two hundred dollars, if not three, beyond our salary. We shall be able to come through, notwithstanding, but I don't want to feel obliged to work as hard every year as I have this. I can earn four hundred dollars a year by writing, but I don't want to feel that I must, and when weary with teaching the children, and tending the baby, and buying provisions, and mending dresses, and darning stockings, sit down and write a piece for some paper.
- - - - -
"Ever since we left Cincinnati to come here the good hand of God has been visibly guiding our way. Through what difficulties have we been brought! Though we knew not where means were to come from, yet means have been furnished every step of the way, and in every time of need. I was just in some discouragement with regard to my writing; thinking that the editor of the 'Era' was overstocked with contributors, and would not want my services another year, and lo! he sends me one hundred dollars, and ever so many good words with it. Our income this year will be seventeen hundred dollars in all, and I hope to bring our expenses within thirteen hundred."
Twenty-five years afterwards Mrs. Stowe wrote to her son Charles of this period of her life: "I well remember the winter you were a baby and I was writing 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' My heart was bursting with the anguish excited by the cruelty and injustice our nation was showing to the slave, and praying God to let me do a little, and to cause my cry for them to be heard. I remember many a night weeping over you as you lay sleeping beside me, and I thought of the slave mothers whose babes were torn from them."
In April the first chapter of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was dispatched to Dr. Gamaliel Bailey, the editor of the "National Era" in Washington. In July, Mrs. Stowe wrote as follows: --
BRUNSWICK, July 9, 1851
FREDERICK DOUGLASS, ESQ.:
Sir, -- You may perhaps have noticed in your editorial readings a series of articles that I am furnishing for the "Era" under the title of "Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life among the Lowly."
In the course of my story the scene will fall upon a cotton plantation. I am very desirous, therefore, to gain information from one who has been an actual laborer on one, and it occurred to me that in the circle of your acquaintance there might be one who would be able to communicate to me some such information as I desire. I have before me an able paper written by a Southern planter, in which the details and modus operandi are given from his point of sight. I am anxious to have something more from another standpoint. I wish to be able to make a picture that shall be graphic and true to nature in its details. Such a person as Henry Bibb, if in the country, might give me just the kind of information I desire. You may possibly know of some other person. I will subjoin to this letter a list of questions, which in that case you will do me a favor by inclosing to the individual, with the request that he will at earliest convenience answer them.
For some few weeks past I have received your paper through the mail, and have read it with great interest, and desire to return my acknowledgments for it. It will be a pleasure to me at some time when less occupied to contribute something to its columns. I have noticed with regret your sentiments on two subjects, -- the church and African colonization, . . . with the more regret because I think you have a considerable share of reason for your feelings on both these subjects; but I would willingly, if I could, modify your views on both points.
In the first place you say the church is "pro-slavery." There is a sense in which this may be true. The American church of all denominations, taken as a body, comprises the best and most conscientious people in the country. I do not say it comprises none but these, or that none such are found out of it, but only if a census were taken of the purest and most high-principled men and women of the country, the majority of them would be found to be professors of religion in some of the various Christian denominations. This fact has given to the church great weight in this country, -- the general and predominant spirit of intelligence and probity and piety of its majority has given it that degree of weight that it has the power to decide the great moral questions of the day. Whatever it unitedly and decidedly sets itself against as moral evil it can put down. In this sense the church is responsible for the sin of slavery. Dr. Barnes has beautifully and briefly expressed this on the last page of his work on slavery, when he says: "Not all the force out of the church could sustain slavery an hour if it were not sustained in it." It then appears that the church has the power to put an end to this evil and does not do it. In this sense she may be said to be pro-slavery. But the church has the same power over intemperance, and Sabbath-breaking, and sin of all kinds. There is not a doubt that if the moral power of the church were brought up to the New Testament standpoint it is sufficient to put an end to all these as well as to slavery. But I would ask you, Would you consider it a fair representation of the Christian church in this country to say that it is pro-intemperance, pro-Sabbath-breaking, and pro everything that it might put down if it were in a higher state of moral feeling? If you should make a list of all the abolitionists of the country, I think that you would find a majority of them in the church, -- certainly some of the most influential and efficient ones are ministers.
I am a minister's daughter, and a minister's wife, and I have had six brothers in the ministry (one is in heaven); I certainly ought to know something of the feelings of ministers on this subject. I was a child in 1820 when the Missouri question was agitated, and one of the strongest and deepest impressions on my mind was that made by my father's sermons and prayers, and the anguish of his soul for the poor slave at that time. I remember his preaching drawing tears down the hardest faces of the old farmers in his congregation.
I well remember his prayers morning and evening in the family for "poor, oppressed, bleeding Africa," that the time of her deliverance might come; prayers offered with strong crying and tears, and which indelibly impressed my heart and made me what I am from my very soul, the enemy of all slavery. Every brother I have has been in his sphere a leading anti-slavery man. One of them was to the last the bosom friend and counselor of Lovejoy. As for myself and husband, we have for the last seventeen years lived on the border of a slave State, and we have never shrunk from the fugitives, and we have helped them with all we had to give. I have received the children of liberated slaves into a family school, and taught them with my own children, and it has been the influence that we found in the church and by the altar that has made us do all this. Gather up all the sermons that have been published on this offensive and unchristian Fugitive Slave Law, and you will find that those against it are numerically more than those in its favor, and yet some of the strongest opponents have not published their sermons. Out of thirteen ministers who meet with my husband weekly for discussion of moral subjects, only three are found who will acknowledge or obey this law in any shape.
After all, my brother, the strength and hope of your oppressed race does lie in the church, -- in hearts united to Him of whom it is said, "He shall spare the souls of the needy, and precious shall their blood be in his sight." Everything is against you, but Jesus Christ is for you, and He has not forgotten his church, misguided and erring though it be. I have looked all the field over with despairing eyes; I see no hope but in Him. This movement must and will become a purely religious one. The light will spread in churches, the tone of feeling will rise, Christians North and South will give up all connection with, and take up their testimony against, slavery, and thus the work will be done.
The great story was at last finished in "The National Era," April, 1852. She had put her life-blood, her prayers, and her tears into the work; yet she had no reason to know that her labors were to find response in the world.
"After sending the last proof-sheet to the office," she says, "I sat alone reading Horace Mann's eloquent plea for the young men and women, then about to be consigned to the slave warehouse of Bruin & Hill in Alexandria, Virginia, -- a plea impassioned, eloquent, but vain, as all other pleas on that side had ever proved in all courts hitherto. It seemed that there was no hope, that nobody would hear, nobody would read, nobody pity; that this frightful system, that had already pursued its victims into the free States, might at last even threaten them in Canada."
She began to reflect if she had done all in her power, and sitting down again at her desk, she wrote letters to Prince Albert, to the Duke of Argyll, to the Earls of Carlisle and Shaftesbury, to Macaulay, Dickens, and others whom she knew to be interested in the cause of anti-slavery. These she ordered to be sent to their several addresses, accompanied by the very earliest copies of her book that should be printed.
Very soon she was assured of the success of her sketches in book form. The whole year's work in "The National Era" brought her only three hundred dollars; but Mr. Jewett, a Boston publisher, having offered to bring it out immediately in one volume, three thousand copies were sold the first day of publication.
She began to reflect how the subject had lain dormant in her mind since she was a child, how she had been led step by step to do her work, and a sense of detachment grew upon her daily.
The modesty of Mrs. Stowe's demeanor throughout the altogether extraordinary experience which came to her after the publication of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is to be understood only by looking upon her life from her own standpoint. She was pursued by the thought that the freedom of the slaves was not yet accomplished, and although the hearts of good men were hot with desire to achieve this end, no one could see how the great result was to be won. She had done something, she said to herself; God had stirred the hearts of men through her, but what more could be done! This was her constant cry, her ever present thought. Letters of congratulation poured in upon her and were gratefully received. The well known men and women, both of Europe and America, responded to her appeal, but she was entirely spent, and could not see the way. Soon after the appearance of her book, she felt the need of change, and left home, going to stop for a while with her brother Henry, where she could rest, and at the same time watch the progress of events. She soon wrote to her husband: --
"The mother of the Edmondson girls [two slave girls formerly, redeemed by the Plymouth Church at the instance of Henry Ward Beecher], now aged and feeble, is in the city. I did not actually know when I wrote 'Uncle Tom' of a living example in which Christianity had reached its fullest development under the crushing wrongs of slavery, but in this woman I see it. I never knew before what I could feel till, with her sorrowful, patient eyes upon me, she told me her history and begged my aid. The expression of her face as she spoke, and the depth of patient sorrow in her eyes, was beyond anything I ever saw.
"'Well,' said I, when she had finished, 'set your heart at rest; you and your children shall be redeemed. If I can't raise the money otherwise, I will pay it myself.' You should have seen the wonderfully sweet, solemn look she gave me as she said, 'The Lord bless you, my child!'
"I have received a sweet note from Jenny Lind, with her name and her husband's with which to head my subscription list. They give a hundred dollars. Another hundred is subscribed by Mr. Bowen in his wife's name, and I have put my own name down for an equal amount. A lady has given me twenty-five dollars, and Mr. Storrs has pledged me fifty dollars. Milly and I are to meet the ladies of Henry's and Dr. Cox's churches to-morrow, and she is to tell them her story. I have written to Drs. Bacon and Dutton in New Haven to secure a similar meeting of ladies there. I mean to have one in Boston, and another in Portland. It will do good to the givers as well as to the receivers.
"But all this time I have been so longing to get your letter from New Haven, for I heard it was there. It is not fame nor praise that contents me. I seem never to have needed love so much as now. I long to hear you say how much you love me. Dear one, if this effort impedes my journey home, and wastes some of my strength, you will not murmur. When I see this Christlike soul standing so patiently bleeding, yet forgiving, I feel a sacred call to be the helper of the helpless, and it is better that my own family do without me for a while longer than that this mother lose all. I must redeem her.
"New Haven, June 2. My old woman's case progresses gloriously. I am to see the ladies of this place to-morrow. Four hundred dollars were contributed by individuals in Brooklyn, and the ladies who took subscription papers at the meeting will undoubtedly raise two hundred dollars more."
Before leaving New York, Mrs. Stowe gave Milly Edmondson her check for the entire sum necessary to purchase her own freedom and that of her children, and sent her home rejoicing. That this sum was made up to her by the generous contributions of those to whom she appealed is shown by a note written to her husband in July. She says: --
"Had a very kind note from A. Lawrence inclosing a twenty dollar gold piece for the Edmondsons. Isabella's ladies gave me twenty-five dollars, so you see our check is more than paid already."
Although during her visit in New York, Mrs. Stowe made many new friends, and was overwhelmed with congratulations and praise of her book, the most pleasing incident of this time seems to have been an epistolatory interview with Jenny Lind (Goldschmidt). In writing of it to her husband she says: --
"Well, we have heard Jenny Lind, and the affair was a bewildering dream of sweetness and beauty. Her face and movements are full of poetry and feeling. She has the artless grace of a little child, the poetic effect of a wood-nymph, is airy, light, and graceful.
"We had first-rate seats, and how do you think we got them? When Mr. Howard went early in the morning for tickets, Mr. Goldschmidt told him it was impossible to get any good ones, as they were all sold. Mr. Howard said he regretted that, on Mrs. Stowe's account, as she was very desirous of hearing Jenny Lind. 'Mrs. Stowe!' exclaimed Mr. Goldschmidt, 'the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin " Indeed, she shall have a seat, whatever happens!' Thereupon he took his hat and went out, returning shortly with tickets for two of the best seats in the house, inclosed in an envelope directed to me in his wife's hand-writing. To-day I sent a note of acknowledgment with a copy of my book. I am most happy to have seen her, for she is a noble creature."
In the "History of the United States" by Mr. J. F. Rhodes there is a brief critical review of Mrs. Stowe's work which may be received as the ultimate view of posterity. The historian says: "There was a correct picture of the essential features of slavery in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' the book which everybody read. The author of it had [']but one purpose, to show the institution of slavery truly just as it existed. While she had not the facts which a critical historian would have collected, -- for the 'Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin' was not compiled until after the novel was written, -- she used with the intuition of genius the materials gained through personal observation, and the result was what she desired." Again he continues: "One of the finest touches in 'Uncle Tom' is his joyful expression when told by his good and indulgent master that he should be set free and sent back to his old home in Kentucky. In attributing the common desire of humanity to the negro, the author was as true as she was effective."
A perfect history of the writing of "Uncle Tom" and of the effect produced by its appearance is given by Mrs. Stowe in the form of an introduction to the illustrated edition published many years later. We cannot do better than to repeat exactly this eloquent story of her success. The account she gives is unvarnished and unexaggerated. We can study in this paper the wonderful change which has taken place in her style when we compare these pages with her early letters.
"The author of 'Uncle Tom' had for many years lived in Ohio on the confines of a slave state, and had thus been made familiar with facts and occurrences in relation to the institution of American slavery. Some of the most harrowing incidents related in the story had from time to time come to her knowledge in conversation with former slaves now free in Ohio. The cruel sale and separation of a married woman from her husband, narrated in Chapter XII., 'Select Incidents of Lawful Trade,' had passed under her own eye while passenger on a steamboat on the Ohio River. Her husband and brother had once been obliged to flee with a fugitive slave woman by night, as described in Chapter IX., and she herself had been called to write the letters for a former slave woman, servant in her own family, to a slave husband in Kentucky, who, trusted with unlimited liberty, free to come and go on business between Kentucky and Ohio, still refused to break his pledge of honor to his master, though that master from year to year deferred the keeping of his promise of freedom to the slave. It was the simple honor and loyalty of this Christian black man, who remained in slavery rather than violate a trust, that first impressed her with the possibility of such a character as, years after, was delineated in Uncle Tom.
"From time to time incidents were brought to her knowledge which deepened her horror of slavery. In her own family she had a private school for her children, and as there was no provision for the education of colored children in her vicinity, she allowed them the privilege of attending. One day she was suddenly surprised by a visit from the mother of one of the brightest and most amusing of these children. It appeared that the child had never been emancipated, and was one of the assets of an estate in Kentucky, and had been seized and carried off by one of the executors, and was to be sold by the sheriff at auction to settle the estate. The sum for the little one's ransom was made up by subscription in the neighborhood, but the incident left a deep mark in Mrs. Stowe's mind as to the practical workings of the institution of slavery.
"But it was not for many years that she felt any call to make use of the materials thus accumulating. In fact, it was a sort of general impression upon her mind, as upon that of many humane people in those days, that the subject was so dark and painful a one, so involved in difficulty and obscurity, so utterly beyond human hope or help, that it was of no use to read, or think, or distress one's self about it. There was a class of professed Abolitionists in Cincinnati and the neighboring regions, but they were unfashionable persons and few in number. Like all asserters of pure abstract right as applied to human affairs, they were regarded as a species of moral monomaniacs, who, in the consideration of one class of interests and wrongs, had lost sight of all proportion and all good judgment. Both in church and in state they were looked upon as those that troubled Israel.'
"It was a general saying among conservative and sagacious people that this subject was a dangerous one to investigate, and that nobody could begin to read and think upon it without becoming practically insane; moreover, that it was a subject of such delicacy that no discussion of it could be held in the free States without impinging upon the sensibilities of the slave States, to whom alone the management of the matter belonged.
"So when Dr. Bailey -- a wise, temperate, and just man, a model of courtesy in speech and writing -- came to Cincinnati and set up an anti-slavery paper, proposing a fair discussion of the subject, there was an immediate excitement. On two occasions a mob led by slaveholders from Kentucky attacked his office, destroyed his printing-press, and threw his types into the Ohio River. The most of the Cincinnati respectability, in church and state, contented themselves on this occasion with reprobating the imprudence of Dr. Bailey in thus 'arousing the passions of our fellow-citizens of Kentucky.' In these mobs and riots the free colored people were threatened, maltreated, abused, and often had to flee for their lives. Even the servants of good families were often chased to the very houses of their employers, who rescued them with difficulty; and the story was current in those days of a brave little woman who defended her black waiter, standing, pistol in hand, on her own doorstep, and telling the mob face to face that they should not enter except over her dead body.
"Professor Stowe's house was more than once a refuge for frightened fugitives on whom the very terrors of death had fallen, and the inmates slept with arms in the house and a large bell ready to call the young men of the adjoining Institution, in case the mob should come up to search the house. Nor was this a vain or improbable suggestion, for the mob in their fury had more than once threatened to go up and set fire to Lane Seminary, where a large body of the students were known to be abolitionists. Only the fact that the Institution was two miles from the city, with a rough and muddy road up a long high hill, proved its salvation. Cincinnati mud, far known for its depth and tenacity, had sometimes its advantages.
"The general policy of the leaders of society, in cases of such disturbances, was after the good old pattern in Judæa, where a higher One had appeared, who disturbed the traders in swine; 'they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.' Dr. Bailey at last was induced to remove his paper to Washington, and to conduct his investigation under the protection of the national Capitol, -- and there for years he demonstrated the fact that the truth may be spoken plainly yet courteously, and with all honorable and Christian fairness, on the most exciting of subjects. In justice to the South it must be said that his honesty, courage, and dignity of character won for him friends even among the most determined slaveholders. Manly men have a sort of friendship for an open, honest opponent, like that of Richard Cśur de Lion for Saladin.
"Far otherwise was the fate of Lovejoy, who essayed an anti-slavery paper at Alton, Illinois. A mob from Missouri besieged the office, set the house on fire, and shot him at the door. It was for some days reported that Dr. Beecher's son, Rev. Edward Beecher, known to have been associated with Lovejoy at this period, had been killed at the same time. Such remembrances show how well grounded were the fears which attended every effort to agitate this subject. People who took the side of justice and humanity in those days had to count the cost and pay the price of their devotion. In those times, when John G. Fee, a young Kentucky student in Lane Seminary, liberated his slaves, and undertook to preach the gospel of emancipation in Kentucky, he was chased from the State, and disinherited by his own father. Berea College, for the education of colored and white, stands to-day a triumphant monument of his persistence in well-doing. Mr. Van Zandt, a Kentucky farmer, set free his slaves and came over and bought a farm in Ohio. Subsequently, from an impulse of humanity, he received and protected fugitive slaves in the manner narrated in Chapter IX. of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' For this he was seized, imprisoned, his property attached, and he was threatened with utter ruin. Salmon P. Chase, then a rising young lawyer in Cincinnati, had the bravery to appear as his lawyer. As he was leaving the court-room, after making his plea, one of the judges remarked, 'There goes a young man who has ruined himself to-day,' and the sentiment was echoed by the general voice of society. The case went against Van Zandt, and Mr. Chase carried it up to the Supreme Court of the United States, which, utterly ignoring argument and justice, decided it against him. But a few years more, and Salmon P. Chase was himself Chief Justice of the United States. It was one of those rare dramatic instances in which courage and justice sometimes bring a reward even in this life.
"After many years' residence in Ohio, Mrs. Stowe returned to make her abode in New England, just in the height of the excitement produced by the Fugitive Slave Law. Settled in Brunswick, Maine, she was in constant communication with friends in Boston, who wrote to her from day to day of the terror and despair which that law had occasioned to industrious, worthy colored people who had from time to time escaped to Boston, and were living in peace and security. She heard of families broken up and fleeing in the dead of winter to the frozen shores of Canada. But what seemed to her more inexplicable, more dreadful, was the apparent apathy of the Christian world of the free North to these proceedings. The pulpits that denounced them were exceptions; the voices raised to remonstrate few and far between.
"In New England, as at the West, professed abolitionists were a small, despised, unfashionable band, whose constant remonstrances from year to year had been disregarded as the voices of impractical fanatics. It seemed now as if the system once confined to the Southern States was rousing itself to new efforts to extend itself all over the North, and to overgrow the institutions of free society.
"With astonishment and distress Mrs. Stowe heard on all sides, from humane and Christian people, that the slavery of the blacks was a guaranteed constitutional right, and that all opposition to it endangered the national Union. With this conviction she saw that even earnest and tender-hearted Christian people seemed to feel it a duty to close their eyes, ears, and hearts to the harrowing details of slavery, to put down all discussion of the subject, and even to assist slave owners to recover fugitives in Northern States. She said to herself, these people cannot know what slavery is; they do not see what they are defending; and hence arose a purpose to write some sketches which should show to the world slavery as she had herself seen it. Pondering this subject, she was one day turning over a little bound volume of an anti-slavery magazine, edited by Mrs. Dr. Bailey, of Washington, and there she read the account of the escape of a woman with her child on the ice of the Ohio River from Kentucky. The incident was given by an eye-witness, one who had helped the woman to the Ohio shore. This formed the first salient point of the story. She began to meditate. The faithful slave husband in Kentucky occurred to her as a pattern of Uncle Tom, and the scenes of the story began gradually to form themselves in her mind.
"The first part of the book ever committed to writing was the death of Uncle Tom. This scene presented itself almost as a tangible vision to her mind while sitting at the communion table in the little church in Brunswick. She was perfectly overcome by it, and could scarcely restrain the convulsion of tears and sobbings that shook her frame. She hastened home and wrote it, and her husband being away she read it to her two sons of ten and twelve years of age. The little fellows broke out into convulsions of weeping, one of them saying, through his sobs, 'Oh! mamma, slavery is the most cursed thing in the world!' From that time the story can less be said to have been composed by her than imposed upon her. Scenes, incidents, conversations rushed upon her with a vividness and importunity that would not be denied. The book insisted upon getting itself into being, and would take no denial. After the two or three first chapters were written, she wrote to Dr. Bailey of the 'National Era' that she was planning a story that might probably run through several numbers of the 'Era.' In reply she received an instant application for it, and began immediately to send off weekly installments. She was then in the midst of heavy domestic cares, with a young infant, with a party of pupils in her family to whom she was imparting daily lessons with her own children, and with untrained servants requiring constant supervision, but the story was so much more intense a reality to her than any other earthly thing that the weekly installment never failed. It was there in her mind day and night waiting to be written, and requiring but a few moments to bring it into visible characters.
"The weekly number was always read to the family circle before it was sent away, and all the household kept up an intense interest in the progress of the story.
"As the narrative appeared in the 'Era,' sympathetic words began to come to her from old workers who had long been struggling in the anti-slavery cause. She visited Boston, went to the Anti-Slavery rooms, and reinforced her répertoire of facts by such documents as Theodore D. Weld's 'Slavery As It Is,' the Lives of Josiah Henson and Lewis Clarke, particulars from both whose lives were inwoven with the story in the characters of Uncle Tom and George Harris.
"In shaping her material the author had but one purpose, to show the institution of slavery truly, just as it existed. She had visited in Kentucky, had formed the acquaintance of people who were just, upright, and generous, and yet slaveholders. She had heard their views and appreciated their situation; she felt that justice required that their difficulties should be recognized and their virtues acknowledged. It was her object to show that the evils of slavery were the inherent evils of a bad system, and not always the fault of those who had become involved in it and were its actual administrators.
"Then she was convinced that the presentation of slavery alone, in its most dreadful forms, would be a picture of such unrelieved horror and darkness as nobody could be induced to look at. Of set purpose, she sought to light up the darkness by humorous and grotesque episodes, and the presentation of the milder and more amusing phases of slavery, for which her recollection of the never-failing wit and drollery of her former colored friends in Ohio gave her abundant material. As the story progressed, a young publisher, J. P. Jewett, of Boston, set his eye upon it, and made overtures for the publication of it in book form, to which she consented. After a while she had a letter from him expressing his fears that she was making the story too long for a one-volume publication. He reminded her that it was an unpopular subject, and that people would not willingly hear much about it; that one short volume might possibly sell, but if it grew to two it might prove a fatal obstacle to its success. Mrs. Stowe replied that she did not make the story, that the story made itself, and that she could not stop it till it was done. The feeling that pursued her increased in intensity to the last, till with the death of Uncle Tom it seemed as if the whole vital force had left her. A feeling of profound discouragement came over her. Would anybody read it? Would anybody listen? Would this appeal, into which she had put heart, soul, mind, and strength, which she had written with her heart's blood, -- would it, too, go for nothing, as so many prayers and groans and entreaties of these poor suffering souls had already gone? There had just been a party of slaves who had been seized and thrown into prison in Washington for a vain effort to escape. They were, many of them, partially educated, cultivated young men and women, to whom slavery was intolerable. When they were retaken and marched through the streets of Washington, followed by a jeering crowd, one of them, named Emily Edmonson, answered one man who cried shame upon her, that she was not ashamed, -- that she was proud that she and all the rest of them had made an effort for liberty! It was the sentiment of a heroine, but she and her sisters were condemned no less to the auction-block.
"'Uncle Tom's Cabin' was published March 20, 1852. The despondency of the author as to the question whether anybody would read or attend to her appeal was soon dispelled. Ten thousand copies were sold in a few days, and over three hundred thousand within a year, and eight power-presses, running day and night, were barely able to keep pace with the demand for it. It was read everywhere, apparently, and by everybody, and she soon began to hear echoes of sympathy all over the land. The indignation, the pity, the distress, that had long weighed upon her soul seemed to pass off from her, and into the readers of the book.
"The following note from a lady, an intimate friend, was a specimen of many which the post daily brought her: --
"'MY DEAR MRS. STOWE, -- I sat up last night until long after one o'clock, reading and finishing "Uncle Tom's Cabin." I could not leave it any more than I could have left a dying child; nor could I restrain an almost hysterical sobbing for an hour after I laid my head upon my pillow. I thought I was a thoroughgoing abolitionist before, but your book has awakened so strong a feeling of indignation and of compassion, that I seem never to have had any feeling on this subject till now. But what can we do? Alas! alas! what can we do? This storm of feeling has been raging, burning like a very fire in my bones all the livelong night, and through all my duties this morning it haunts me, -- I cannot away with it. Gladly would I have gone out in the midnight storm last night, and, like the blessed martyr of old, been stoned to death, if that could have rescued these oppressed and afflicted ones. But that would avail nothing. And now what am I doing? Just the most foolish thing in the world. Writing to you, who need no incitement; to you, who have spun from your very vitals this tissue of agony and truths; for I know, I feel, that there are burning drops of your heart's best blood here concentrated. To you, who need no encouragement or sympathy of mine, and whom I would not insult by praise, -- oh, no, you stand on too high an eminence for praise; but methinks I see the prayers of the poor, the blessings of those who are ready to perish, gathering in clouds about you, and forming a halo round your beloved head. And surely the tears of gentle, sympathizing childhood, that are dropping about many a Christian hearthstone over the wrongs and cruelties depicted by you so touchingly, will water the sod and spring up in bright flowers at your feet. And better still, I know, -- I see, in the flushing cheek, the clenched hand and indignant eye of the young man, as he dashes down the book and paces the room to hide the tears that he is too proud to show, too powerless to restrain, that you are sowing seed which shall yet spring up to the glory of God, to the good of the poor slave, to the enfranchisement of our beloved though guilty country.'
"In one respect, Mrs. Stowe's expectations were strikingly different from fact. She had painted slaveholders as amiable, generous, and just. She had shown examples among them of the noblest and most beautiful traits of character; had admitted fully their temptations, their perplexities, and their difficulties, so that a friend of hers who had many relatives in the South wrote to her in exultation: 'Your book is going to be the great pacificator; it will unite both North and South.' Her expectation was that the professed abolitionists would denounce it as altogether too mild in its dealings with slaveholders. To her astonishment it was the extreme abolitionists who received, and the entire South who rose up against it.
"The most valuable of the letters referred to were from Lord Carlisle, the Rev. Charles Kingsley, the Earl of Shaftesbury, Archbishop Whately, Hon. Arthur Helps, Frederika Bremer, and George Sand. The latter thus introduced 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' to the literary world of France: --
To review a book, the very morrow after its appearance, in the very journal where it has just been published, is doubtless contrary to usage, but in this case it is the most disinterested homage that can be rendered, since the immense success attained by this work at its publication does not need to be set forth.
This book is in all hands and in all journals. It has, and will have, editions in every form; people devour it, they cover it with tears. It is no longer permissible to those who can read not to have read it, and one mourns that there are so many souls condemned never to read it, -- helots of poverty, slaves through ignorance, for whom society has been unable as yet to solve the double problem of uniting the food of the body with the food of the soul.
It is not, then, it cannot be, an officious and needless task to review this book of Mrs. Stowe. We repeat, it is a homage, and never did a generous and pure work merit one more tender and spontaneous. She is far from us; we do not know her who has penetrated our hearts with emotions so sad and yet so sweet. Let us thank her the more. Let the gentle voice of woman, the generous voice of man, with the voices of little children, so adorably glorified in this book, and those of the oppressed of this old world, let them cross the seas and hasten to say to her that she is esteemed and beloved!
If the best eulogy which one can make of the author is to love her, the truest that one can make of the book is to love its very faults. It has faults, -- we need not pass them in silence, we need not evade the discussion of them, -- but you need not be disturbed about them, you who are rallied on the tears you have shed over the fortunes of the poor victims in a narrative so simple and true.
These defects exist only in relation to the conventional rules of art, which never have been and never will be absolute. If its judges, possessed with the love of what they call "artistic work," find unskillful treatment in the book, look well at them to see if their eyes are dry when they are reading this or that chapter.
They will recall to your mind that Ohio senator, who, having sagely demonstrated to his little wife that it is a political duty to refuse asylum and help to the fugitive slave, ends by taking two in his own carriage, in a dark night, over fearful roads, where he must from time to time plunge into mud to his waist to push on the vehicle. This charming episode in "Uncle Tom" (a digression, if you will) paints well the situation of most men placed between their prejudices and established modes of thought and the spontaneous and generous intuitions of their hearts.
It is the history, at the same time affecting and pleasing, of many independent critics. Whatever they may be in the matter of social or literary questions, those who pretend always to judge by strict rules are often vanquished by their own feelings, and sometimes vanquished when unwilling to avow it.
I have always been charmed by the anecdote of Voltaire, ridiculing and despising the fables of La Fontaine, seizing the book and saying, "Look here, now, you will see in the very first one" -- he reads one. "Well, that is passable, but see how stupid this is!" -- he reads a second, and finds after all that it is quite pretty; a third disarms him again, and at last he throws down the volume, saying, with ingenuous spite, "It's nothing but a collection of masterpieces." Great souls may be bilious and vindictive, but it is impossible for them to remain unjust and insensible.
It, however, should be said to people of culture, who profess to be able to give correct judgments, that if their culture is of the truest kind it will never resist a just and right emotion. Therefore it is that this book, defective according to the rules of the modern French romance, intensely interests everybody and triumphs over all criticisms in the discussions it causes in domestic circles.
For this book is essentially domestic and of the family, -- this book, with its long discussions, its minute details, its portraits carefully studied. Mothers of families, young girls, little children, servants even, can read and understand them, and men themselves, even the most superior, cannot disdain them. We do not say that the success of the book is because its great merits redeem its faults; we say its success is because of these very alleged faults.
For a long time we have striven in France against the prolix explanations of Walter Scott. We have cried out against those of Balzac, but on consideration have perceived that the painter of manners and character has never done too much, that every stroke of the pencil was needed for the general effect. Let us learn then to appreciate all kinds of treatment, when the effect is good, and when they bear the seal of a master hand.
Mrs. Stowe is all instinct; it is the very reason that she appears to some not to have talent. Has she not talent? What is talent? Nothing, doubtless, compared to genius; but has she genius? I cannot say that she has talent as one understands it in the world of letters, but she has genius, as humanity feels the need of genius, -- the genius of goodness, not that of the man of letters, but of the saint. Yes, -- a saint! Thrice holy the soul which thus loves, blesses, and consoles the martyrs. Pure, penetrating, and profound the spirit which thus fathoms the recesses of the human soul. Noble, generous, and great the heart which embraces in her pity, in her love, an entire race, trodden down in blood and mire under the whip of ruffians and the maledictions of the impious.
Thus should it be, thus should we value things ourselves. We should feel that genius is heart, that power is faith, that talent is sincerity, and, finally, success is sympathy, since this book overcomes us, since it penetrates the breast, pervades the spirit, and fills us with a strange sentiment of mingled tenderness and admiration for a poor negro lacerated by blows, prostrate in the dust, there gasping on a miserable pallet, his last sigh exhaled towards God.
In matters of art there is but one rule, to paint and to move. And where shall we find creations more complete, types more vivid, situations more touching, more original, than in "Uncle Tom," -- those beautiful relations of the slave with the child of his master, indicating a state of things unknown among us; the protest of the master himself against slavery during that innocent part of life when his soul belongs to God alone? Afterwards, when society takes him, the law chases away God, and interest deposes conscience. In coming to mature years the infant ceases to be man and becomes master. God dies in his soul.
What hand has ever drawn a type more fascinating and admirable than St. Clair, -- this exceptional nature, noble, generous, and loving, but too soft and too nonchalant to be really great? Is it not man himself, human nature itself, with its innate virtues, its good aspirations, and its deplorable failures? -- this charming master who loves and is beloved, who thinks and reasons, but concludes nothing and does nothing! He spends in his day treasures of indulgence, of consideration, of goodness; he dies without having accomplished anything. The story of his precious life is all told in a word, -- "to aspire and to regret." He has never learned to will. Alas! is there not something of this even among the bravest and best of men?
The life and death of a little child and of a negro slave! -- that is the whole book! This negro and this child are two saints of heaven! The affection that unites them, the respect of these two perfect ones for each other, is the only love-story, the only passion of the drama. I know not what other genius but that of sanctity itself could shed over this affection and this situation a charm so powerful and so sustained. The child reading the Bible on the knees of the slave, dreaming over its mysteries and enjoying them in her exceptional maturity; now covering him with flowers like a doll, and now looking to him as something sacred, passing from tender playfulness to tender veneration, and then fading away through a mysterious malady which seems to be nothing but the wearing of pity in a nature too pure, too divine, to accept earthly law; dying finally in the arms of the slave, and calling him after her to the bosom of God, -- all this is so new, so beautiful, that one asks one's self in thinking of it whether the success which has attended the work is after all equal to the height of the conception.
Children are the true heroes of Mrs. Stowe's works. Her soul, the most motherly that could be, has conceived of these little creatures in a halo of grace. George Shelby, the little Harry, the cousin of Eva, the regretted babe of the little wife of the Senator, and Topsy, the poor, diabolic, excellent Topsy, -- all the children that one sees, and even those that one does not see in this romance, but of whom one has only a few words from their desolate mothers, seem to us a world of little angels, white and black, where any mother may recognize some darling of her own, source of her joys and tears. In taking form in the spirit of Mrs. Stowe, these children, without ceasing to be children, assume ideal graces, and come at last to interest us more than the personages of an ordinary love-story.
Women, too, are here judged and painted with a master hand; not merely mothers who are sublime, but women who are not mothers either in heart or in fact, and whose infirmities are treated with indulgence or with rigor. By the side of the methodical Miss Ophelia, who ends by learning that duty is good for nothing without love, Marie St. Clair is a frightfully truthful portrait. One shudders in thinking that she exists, that she is everywhere, that each of us has met her and seen her, perhaps, not far from us, for it is only necessary that this charming creature should have slaves to torture, and we should see her revealed complete through her vapors and her nervous complaints.
The saints also have their claw! it is that of the lion. She buries it deep in the conscience, and a little of burning indignation and of terrible sarcasm does not, after all, misbecome this Harriet Stowe, this woman so gentle, so humane, so religious, and full of evangelical unction. Ah! yes, she is a very good woman, but not what we derisively call "goody good." Hers is a heart strong and courageous, which in blessing the unhappy and applauding the faithful, tending the feeble and succoring the irresolute, does not hesitate to bind to the pillory the hardened tyrant, to show to the world his deformity.
She is, in the true spirit of the word, consecrated. Her fervent Christianity sings the praise of the martyr, but permits no man the right to perpetuate the wrong. She denounces that strange perversion of Scripture which tolerates the iniquity of the oppressor because it gives opportunity for the virtues of the victims. She calls on God himself, and threatens in his name; she shows us human law on one side, and God on the other!
Let no one say that, because she exhorts to patient endurance of wrong, she justifies those who do the wrong. Read the beautiful page where George Harris, the white slave, embraces for the first time the shores of a free territory, and presses to his heart wife and child, who at last are his own. What a beautiful picture, that! What a large heart-throb! what a triumphant protest of the eternal and inalienable right of man to liberty!
Honor and respect to you, Mrs. Stowe! Some day your recompense, which is already recorded in heaven, will come also in this world.
NOHANT, December 17, 1852.
"Madame L. S. Belloc, also a well-known and distinguished writer, the translator of Miss Edgeworth's and of other English works into French, says: --
"'When the first translation of "Uncle Tom" was published in Paris there was a general hallelujah for the author and for the cause. A few weeks after, M. Charpentier, one of our best publishers, called on me to ask a new translation. I objected that there were already so many it might prove a failure. He insisted, saying, "Il n'y aura jamais assez de lecteurs pour un tel livre," and he particularly desired a special translation for his own collection, "Bibliothèque Charpentier," where it is catalogued, and where it continues now to sell daily. "La Case de l'Oncle Tom" was the fifth, if I recollect rightly, and a sixth illustrated edition appeared some months after. It was read by high and low, by grown persons and children. A great enthusiasm for the anti-slavery cause was the result. The popularity of the work in France was immense, and no doubt influenced the public mind in favor of the North during the war of secession.'
"The next step in the history of 'Uncle Tom' was a meeting at Stafford House, when Lord Shaftesbury recommended to the women of England the sending of an 'affectionate and Christian address to the women of America.'
"This address, composed by Lord Shaftesbury, was taken in hand for signatures by energetic canvassers in all parts of England, and also among resident English on the Continent. The demand for signatures went as far forth as the city of Jerusalem. When all the signatures were collected, the document was forwarded to the care of Mrs. Stowe in America, with a letter from Lord Carlisle, recommending it to her, to be presented to the ladies of America in such way as she should see fit.
"It was exhibited first at the Boston anti-slavery fair, and now remains in its solid oak case, a lasting monument of the feeling called forth by 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.'
"It is in twenty-six thick folio volumes, solidly bound in morocco, with the American eagle on the back of each. On the first page of the first volume is the address beautifully illuminated on vellum, and following are the subscribers' names, filling the volumes. There are 562,448 names of women of every rank of life, from the nearest in rank to the throne of England to the wives and daughters of the humblest artisan and laborer. Among all who signed it is fair to presume there was not one who had not read the book, and did not, at the time of signing, feel a sympathy for the cause of the oppressed people whose wrongs formed its subject. The address, with its many signatures, was simply a relief to that impulsive desire to do something for the cause of the slave, which the reading of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' appeared to inspire.
"Of the wisdom of this step there have been many opinions. Nobody, however, can doubt that Lord Shaftesbury, who had spent a long life in labors to lift burdens from the working-classes of England, and who had redeemed from slavery and degradation English women and children in its mines and collieries, had thereby acquired a certain right to plead for the cause of oppressed working-classes in all countries.
"The address was received as a welcome word of cheer and encouragement by that small band of faithful workers who for years had stood in an unfashionable minority; but so far as the feeling expressed in it was one of real Christian kindliness and humility, it was like a flower thrown into the white heat of a furnace. It added intensity, if that were possible, to that terrific conflict of forces which was destined never to cease till slavery was finally abolished.
"It was a year after the publication of 'Uncle Tom' that Mrs. Stowe visited England, and was received at Stafford House, there meeting all the best known and best worth knowing of the higher circles of England.
- - - - -
"A series of addresses presented to Mrs. Stowe at this time by public meetings in different towns of England, Scotland, and Ireland, still remain among the literary curiosities relating to this book. The titles of these are somewhat curious: 'Address from the Inhabitants of Berwick-upon-Tweed;' 'Address from the Inhabitants of Dalkeith;' 'Address from the Committee of the Glasgow Female Anti-Slavery Society;' 'Address from the Glasgow University Abstainers' Society;' 'Address from a Public Meeting in Belfast, Ireland;' 'Address from the Committee of the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society, Edinburgh;' 'Address from the City of Leeds.'
"All these public meetings, addresses, and demonstrations of sympathy were, in their time and way, doubtless of perfect sincerity. But when the United States went into a state of civil war, these demonstrations ceased.
"But it is due to the brave true working-classes of England to say that in this conflict, whenever they thought the war was one of justice to the slave, they gave it their sympathy, and even when it brought hardship and want to their very doors, refused to lend themselves to any popular movement which would go to crush the oppressed in America.
"It is but justice also to the Duchess of Sutherland to say that although by the time our war was initiated she had retired from her place as leader of society to the chamber of the invalid, yet her sympathies expressed in private letters ever remained true to the cause of freedom.
"Her son-in-law, the Duke of Argyll, stood almost alone in the House of Lords in defending the cause of the Northern States. It is, moreover, a significant fact that the Queen of England, in concurrence with Prince Albert, steadily resisted every attempt to enlist the warlike power of England against the Northern States.
"But Almighty God had decreed the liberation of the African race, and though Presidents, Senators, and Representatives united in declaring that such were not their intentions, yet by great signs and mighty wonders was this nation compelled to listen to the voice that spoke from heaven, -- 'Let my people go.'
"'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' in the fervor which conceived it, in the feeling which it inspired through the world, was only one of a line of ripples marking the commencement of mighty rapids, moving by forces which no human power could stay to an irresistible termination, -- towards human freedom.
"Now the war is over, slavery is a thing of the past; slave-pens, blood-hounds, slave-whips, and slave-coffles are only bad dreams of the night; and now the humane reader can afford to read 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' without an expenditure of torture and tears."
Nothing need be added to this story respecting the growth, development, and reception of "Uncle Tom."
It only remains for us to follow her, now suddenly launched upon an ocean of new experiences; experiences such as are known in this world to the few men and women whose sympathies have led them to give their lives indeed for others. We look back upon the dreaming child, we follow the eager girl, unconscious of incessant labor, conscious only of aspiration and endeavor; we watch the tender mother; and then we see her, forever the same, a tiny figure standing forgetful of herself against the dark vast background of her country's life.
1. Wife of Professor Upham, Bowdoin College. [ Back ]
2. Her brother George's only child. [ Back ]
Editor's note: brackets indicate an apparent error in the text.
KEY TO UNCLE TOM’S CABIN AND FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND
IN the autumn of the same year that "Uncle Tom" was published, Mrs. Stowe returned to Brooklyn, where she cemented her friendship with her brother’s parishioner, Mrs. John T. Howard. Mr. Howard was one of the earliest promoters of Plymouth Church, and from their first acquaintance to the end of his life Mr. and Mrs. Howard and their children were Mr. Beecher’s unwavering supporters and faithful friends. By this time Mrs. Stowe’s foreign correspondence had increased. The letters exchanged across the water were the beginning of some of her most valued friendships. Her brother Henry said, many years after leaving Indianapolis for Brooklyn: "I have no opportunity to tell my friends there how dearly I love them, but pearls and diamonds do not change when laid away in a bag, neither do such friendships." It was the same with Mrs. Stowe. Her genius for friendship was only another phase of her intimate life which the world could not see. Her love once given was not subject to any "wind of doctrine." Days, weeks, and months could pass without communication, but her heart was always remembering and alive.
Mrs. Howard has written a delightful account of the beginning of her lifelong intimacy with Mrs. Stowe.
"The newspapers were then filled with accounts of the wonderful success of the book at home and abroad," writes Mrs. Howard. "When ready to return to her home in Andover, she urged my going with her, an invitation that I gladly accepted. To lessen the fatigue of the long railroad journey, we spent one night in Hartford with Mrs. Stowe’s sister, Mrs. Perkins. After a pleasant evening with the family, we retired, sharing the same room at Mrs. Stowe’s request. I soon disrobed and lay upon the bed, looking at her little childish figure gathered in a heap upon the floor as she sat brushing out her long curls with a thoughtful look upon her face, which I did not disturb by words.
"At last she spoke, and said, ‘I have just received a letter from my brother Edward from Galesburg, Illinois. He is greatly disturbed lest all this praise and notoriety should induce pride and vanity, and work harm to my Christian character.’ She dropped her brush from her hand and exclaimed with earnestness, ‘Dear soul, he need not be troubled. He doesn’t know that I did not write that book.’ ‘What!’ said I, ‘you did not write "Uncle Tom"?’ ‘No,’ she said, ‘I only put down what I saw.’ ‘But you have never been at the South, have you?’ I asked. ‘No,’ she said, ‘but it all came before me in visions, one after another, and I put them down in words.’ But being still skeptical, I said, ‘Still you must have arranged the events.’ ‘No,’ said she, ‘your Annie reproached me for letting Eva die. Why! I could not help it. I felt as badly as any one could! It was like a death in my own family, and it affected me so deeply that I could not write a word for two weeks after her death.’ ‘And did you know,’ I asked, ‘that Uncle Tom would die?’ ‘Oh yes,’ she answered, ‘I knew that he must die from the first, but I did not know how. When I got to that part of the story, I saw no more for some time. I was physically exhausted, too. Mr. Stowe had then accepted a call to Andover, and had to go there to find a house for the family.
"‘He urged my going with him for the change, and I went. No available home could be found, and the Faculty gave us permission to occupy a large stone building which had been built for a gymnasium. I had always longed to plan a house for myself, and we entered into the work with great interest. We consulted an architect, and had been with him arranging the plan for rooms, pantries, and other household conveniences, all the morning.
"‘I was very tired when we returned to our boarding-house to the early midday dinner. After dinner we went to our room for rest. Mr. Stowe threw himself upon the bed; I was to use the lounge; but suddenly arose before me the death scene of Uncle Tom with what led to it -- and George’s visit to him. I sat down at the table and wrote nine pages of foolscap paper without pausing, except long enough to dip my pen into the inkstand. Just as I had finished, Mr. Stowe awoke. "Wife," said he, "have not you lain down yet?" "No," I answered. "I have been writing, and I want you to listen to this, and see if it will do." I read aloud to him with the tears flowing fast. He wept, too, and before I had finished, his sobs shook the bed upon which he was lying. He sprang up, saying, "Do! I should think it would do!" and folding the sheets he immediately directed and sent them to the publisher, without one word of correction or revision of any kind. I have often thought,’ she continued, ‘that if anything had happened to that package in going, it would not have been possible for me to have reproduced it.’
"As I lay there and listened to this wonderful account, how could I help believing that God inspires his children, and that mighty works do still show forth themselves in those who are prepared to be his mediums. If I had only possessed the limner’s power, how gladly would I have put upon canvas that face, lit with a light divine, as though remembering those angel visits, and still saying, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be unto me as Thou wilt.’
"Many years after this occurrence," continues Mrs. Howard, "a new edition of ‘Uncle Tom’ was brought out by her publishers. In the preface was a paper by Mrs. Stowe, giving an account of the writing of the book. In this account she speaks of having many years before written a sketch of the death of an old slave, and of her reading it to her children, who were very much affected by it, this being the original idea (in part) of ‘Uncle Tom.’ The next time I saw her I spoke of it, and reminded her of what she had told me just after ‘Uncle Tom’ was published. There seemed to me a serious inconsistency between the two accounts. ‘No,’ said she, ‘both are true, for I had entirely forgotten that I had ever written that sketch, and I suppose that I had unconsciously woven it in with the other.’”
There is still another discrepancy in this narration. Professor Stowe did not accept the appointment to Andover until after the publication of "Uncle Tom." A letter from his wife in Boston, while he is still in Brunswick at his post, considers the subject of acceptance, and puts before him what Professor Park has to say on the subject. They did not go to the boarding-house, it appears, until the summer, when "Uncle Tom" had been published three or four months. There is a letter from the Committee of Trustees written in June of this year suggesting the "old stone house’’ as a possible resort if they feel inclined to fit it up. Therefore the subject had not been considered before "Uncle Tom" was printed, and Mrs. Stowe must have written the chapter as described after a busy day either in Brunswick or in Boston. It is true that neither of these slips disturbs in the least the true value of the story. The work which she was to do lay upon her heart, and the first available instant, even one which seemed necessary for repose, was seized upon and dedicated to this service. The almost incredible swiftness of the writing proves the rapt condition of her mind. Surely it is not wonderful that some of the details of the occasion were forgotten.
Mrs. Howard was a generous intermediary between Henry Ward Beecher and his sister. Harriet was always anxious to know how it was with her brother, and he found little time for correspondence. His daring in those exciting days laid him open to the attacks of the enemy.
"Has the pressure really affected Henry’s health?" Mrs. Stowe writes. "I have been so sheltered and hemmed in in my retirement that I have not read the articles in the ‘Observer.’ . . . I am reminded of one of Aunt Esther’s stories. A man, when very drunk, had the habit of using very abusive language to his wife, to which she paid no attention, but went about her affairs as usual. At last he fell to praying about her, saying all manner of horrid things against her in his prayers. Still she gave no heed.
"‘Why, do you hear,’ said a neighbor, ‘how that man goes on?’
"‘Oh, poh!‘ said his wife, ‘he’ll get over it by and by.’
"‘But do just hear him praying.’
"‘Oh, let him pray, nobody minds his prayers.’
"So it has struck me that both the secular and the pious abuse of the ‘Observer’ are equally unworthy of attention. All we have to do is to live on."
The year following the publication of "Uncle Tom" was a very hard one. Mrs. Stowe was necessarily much away from home. Her visits at Brooklyn, which were a necessity after her writing was done, were followed by the news that Professor Stowe had accepted the call received from the Andover Theological Seminary to become Professor of Sacred Literature there. She was disinclined to leave Brunswick, where she found herself surrounded with loving friends from the moment of her arrival, but she wrote: "For my part, if I must leave Brunswick I would rather leave at once. I can tear away with a sudden pull more easily than to linger there knowing that I am to leave at last. I shall never find people whom I shall like better than those of Brunswick."
Again Professor Stowe was called away to Cincinnati, and again his wife set herself to the task of making a new home. The house decided upon for their abode in Andover was known at this time as the old stone work-shop, but it was soon transformed by her care and ingenuity into a pleasant residence, and called "The Stone Cabin." I can well remember the cosy aspect of the house in winter, the windows full of flowering plants, and a general air of comfort pervading it. Here many interesting persons, drawn by her great fame, came to visit her, and here she continued her public and private labors. During the first summer, before the house was ready, she wrote to her husband: --
"What a beautiful place it is! There is everything here that there is at Brunswick except the sea, -- a great exception. Yesterday I was out all the forenoon sketching elms. There is no end to the beauty of these trees. I shall fill my book with them before I get through. We had a levee at Professor Park’s last week, -- quite a brilliant affair. To-day there is to be a fishing party to go to Salem beach and have a chowder.
"It seems almost too good to be true that we are going to have such a house in such a beautiful place, and to live here among all these agreeable people, where everybody seems to love you so much and to think so much of you. I am almost afraid to accept it, and should not, did I not see the Hand that gives it all and know that it is both firm and true. He knows if it is best for us, and his blessing addeth no sorrow therewith. I cannot describe to you the constant undercurrent of love and joy and peace ever flowing through my soul. I am so happy -- so blessed!"
And again: --
"I seem to have so much to fill my time, and yet there is my Maine story waiting. However, I am composing it every day, only I greatly need living studies for the filling in of my sketches. There is ‘old Jonas,’ my ‘fish father,’ a sturdy, independent fisherman farmer, who in his youth sailed all over the world and made up his mind about everything. In his old age he attends prayer-meetings and reads the ‘ Missionary Herald.’ He also has plenty of money in an old brown sea-chest. He is a great heart with an inflexible will and iron muscles. I must go to Orr’s Island and see him again. I am now writing an article for the ‘Era‘ on Maine and its scenery, which I think is even better than the ‘Independent’ letter. In it I took up Longfellow. Next I shall write one on Hawthorne and his surroundings.
"To-day Mr. Jewett sent out a most solemnly savage attack upon me from the ‘Alabama Planter.’ Among other things it says: ‘The plan for assaulting the best institutions in the world may be made just as rational as it is by the wicked (perhaps unconsciously so) authoress of this book. The woman who wrote it must be either a very bad or a very fanatical person. For her own domestic peace we trust no enemy will ever penetrate into her household to pervert the scenes he may find there with as little logic or kindness as she has used in her "Uncle Tom’s Cabin."‘ There’s for you!"
Her absence from home and children for the long time required to go to Andover and start things afresh there filled her mind with cares and anxieties.
She wrote to her husband: --
"A day or two ago, my mind lay clear as glass, and I thought I had no will but God’s, and could have none. Lo! his hand touches a spring, and I see what poor trash I am. But I am his chosen one for all that, and I shall reign with Him when all the stars have done blossoming, and if I am so poor I am betrothed to One who is Heir of all things. I read Chaucer a great deal yesterday, and am charmed at the reverential Christian spirit in which he viewed all things. He thought of marriage as ‘a most dread sacrament,’ just as I do; and surely, if our catechism says truly, a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace."
Professor Stowe was often greatly agitated by the difficulties which surrounded them. At such times, no matter what her occupation was, she would drop everything to write and try to soothe him. The large square sheets of old-fashioned paper covered with her fine script would make many a book beside those which belong to the public. In one of these letters, she says: --
"I grieve to see how much you suffer; but God, I am persuaded, has better things in store for you. I trust you will be of good cheer."
One would hardly guess that it was she who was bearing the burden of the family to such an extent if she did not occasionally recount the details, in order, as it appears, to divert his mind from the painful channels of his own despair. The attacks made upon his wife after the publication of "Uncle Tom" oppressed him. "For myself," she said, "I have not an anxiety, but am only vulnerable through you. That you should be exposed to this annoyance on my account is the real and only trouble I have had. For me, what harm can -- or anybody else do to me? ‘Who is he that can harm you if ye be followers of that which is good?’ In this belief I have tried to keep near to Him who only is good . . . . Let me recommend to you what my good mother Edmondson says has been her relief: ’Oh, many a time,’ she says, ‘my heart has been so heavy -- and I’ve been to the throne of Grace and when I’ve poured out my sorrows to the Lord, I’ve come away and felt that I can live a little longer.’
"So God lays on you a heavy burden in the internal structure of your mind; but how blessed is this baptism of sorrow. Would you part with what you have gained by your peculiar suffering? I can see that you have acquired by it much that gives you power over other minds. There is not one sorrow that I have had that I would part with, -- nay, I bear with joy all that falls on my heart from day to day. I say ‘Welcome, cross of Christ!’"
Mr. J. R. Howard says that his father was making a brief visit to Mrs. Stowe at this period, when "one afternoon she told him that she often arose in the morning at half past four and went out to enjoy the birds and the dawn, and she challenged him to join her. The next morning they went out, and in that rare, sweet atmosphere they talked, and were silent, together. And she read to him some verses which she had written at such an hour. Since then they have been read and sung by many, to whom they have brought the very peace of Christ." I give the first stanza of the well-known beautiful hymn: --
‘Still, still with Thee when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than the daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with thee!"
Even in the heat and hurry of that time the "central peace" of which Wordsworth speaks was ever at her heart.
The Maine story to which Mrs. Stowe has already referred was begun before she left Brunswick, but she was obliged to lay it aside on account of the numberless attacks made upon "Uncle Tom," which must finally be answered. Unhappily the beautiful beginning of "The Pearl of Orr’s Island," one of her best pieces of writing, was never followed out in the same vein.
Mrs. Stowe had scarcely set herself to the task of writing what she calls "A key to unlock ‘Uncle Ton’s Cabin,’" when she discovered it to be a far greater labor than she anticipated. She had spoken, in writing to Mrs. Howard, of an additional twenty-five pages which she was to add to the next edition of "Uncle Tom," but she soon found herself launched upon a work which was to occupy her for many months and make an entirely new book.
Late in the winter, she wrote to her husband: --
"I am now very much driven. I am preparing a Key to unlock ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ It will contain all the original facts, anecdotes, and documents on which the story is founded, with some very interesting and affecting stories parallel to those told of Uncle Tom. Now I want you to write for me just what you heard that slave-buyer say, exactly as he said it, that people may compare it with what I have written. My Key will be stronger than the Cabin."
In regard to this "Key" Mrs. Stowe also wrote to the Duchess of Sutherland upon hearing that she had headed an address from the women of England to those of America: --
It is made up of the facts, the documents, the things which my own eyes have looked upon and my hands have handled, that attest this awful indictment upon my country. I write it in the anguish of my soul, with tears and prayer, with sleepless nights and weary days. I bear my testimony with a heavy heart, as one who in court is forced by an awful oath to disclose the sins of those dearest.
So I am called to draw up this fearful witness against my country and send it into all countries, that the general voice of humanity may quicken our paralyzed vitality, that all Christians may pray for us, and that shame, honor, love of country, and love of Christ may be roused to give us strength to cast out this mighty evil. Yours for the oppressed,
H. B. STOWE
She continued the exhausting labor of preparing this book until the spring, when an invitation came from the friends of emancipation in England urging her to come over to them. It was a great opportunity which Professor Stowe and his wife accepted gladly. Meanwhile a letter had been received from Mrs. Follen, who was then in London, asking for information about the writer of "Uncle Tom." Mrs. Stowe replied: --
ANDOVER, February 16.
MY DEAR MADAM, -- I hasten to reply to your letter, to me the more interesting that I have long been acquainted with you, and during all the nursery part of my life made daily use of your poems for children.
I used to think sometimes in those days that I would write to you, and tell you how much I was obliged to you for the pleasure which they gave us all.
So you want to know something about what sort of a woman I am! Well, if this is any object, you shall have statistics free of charge. To begin, then, I am a little bit of a woman, -- somewhat more than forty, about as thin and dry as a pinch of snuff; never very much to look at in my best days, and looking like a used-up article now.
I was married when I was twenty-five years old to a man rich in Greek and Hebrew, Latin and Arabic, and, alas! rich in nothing else. When I went to housekeeping, my entire stock of china for parlor and kitchen was bought for eleven dollars. That lasted very well for two years, till my brother was married and brought his bride to visit me. I then found, on review, that I had neither plates nor teacups to set a table for my father’s family; wherefore I thought it best to reinforce the establishment by getting me a tea-set that cost ten dollars more, and this, I believe, formed my whole stock in trade for some years.
But then I was abundantly enriched with wealth of another sort.
I had two little curly-headed twin daughters to begin with, and my stock in this line has gradually increased, till I have been the mother of seven children, the most beautiful and the most loved of whom lies buried near my Cincinnati residence. It was at his dying bed and at his grave that I learned what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her. In those depths of sorrow which seemed to me immeasurable, it was my only prayer to God that such anguish might not be suffered in vain. There were circumstances about his death of such peculiar bitterness, of what seemed almost cruel suffering, that I felt that I could never be consoled for it unless this crushing of my own heart might enable me to work out some great good to others. . ..
I allude to this here because I have often felt that much that is in that book ("Uncle Tom") had its root in the awful scenes and bitter sorrows of that summer. It has left now, I trust, no trace on my mind except a deep compassion for the sorrowful, especially for mothers who are separated from their children.
During long years of struggling with poverty and sickness, and a hot, debilitating climate, my children grew up around me. The nursery and the kitchen were my principal fields of labor. Some of my friends, pitying my trials, copied and sent a number of little sketches from my pen to certain liberally paying "Annuals" with my name. With the first money that I earned in this way I bought a feather-bed! for as I had married into poverty and without a dowry, and as my husband had only a large library of books and a great deal of learning, the bed and pillows were thought the most profitable investment. After this I thought that I had discovered the philosopher’s stone. So when a new carpet or mattress was going to be needed, or when, at the close of the year, it began to be evident that my family accounts, like poor Dora’s, "wouldn’t add up," then I used to say to my faithful friend and factotum Anna, who shared all my joys and sorrows, "Now, if you will keep the babies and attend to the things in the house for one day, I’ll write a piece, and then we shall be out of the scrape." So I became an author, -- very modest at first, I do assure you, and remonstrating very seriously with the friends who had thought it best to put my name to the pieces by way of getting up a reputation; and if you ever see a woodcut of me, with an immoderately long nose, on the cover of all the U. S. Almanacs, I wish you to take notice that I have been forced into it contrary to my natural modesty by the imperative solicitations of my dear five thousand friends and the public generally. One thing I must say with regard to my life at the West, which you will understand better than many English women could.
I lived two miles from the city of Cincinnati, in the country, and domestic service, not always you know to be found in the city, is next to an impossibility to obtain in the country, even by those who are willing to give the highest wages; so what was to be expected for poor me, who had very little of this world’s goods to offer?
Had it not been for my inseparable friend Anna, a noble-hearted English girl, who landed on our shores in destitution and sorrow, and clave to me as Ruth to Naomi, I had never lived through all the trials which this uncertainty and want of domestic service imposed on both; you may imagine, therefore, how glad I was when, our seminary property being divided out into small lots which were rented at a low price, a number of poor families settled in our vicinity, from whom we could occasionally obtain domestic service. About a dozen families of liberated slaves were among the number, and they became my favorite resort in cases of emergency. If anybody wishes to have a black face look handsome, let them be left, as I have been, in feeble health in oppressive hot weather, with a sick baby in arms, and two or three other little ones in the nursery, and not a servant in the whole house to do a single turn. Then, if they could see my good old Aunt Frankie coming with her honest, bluff, black face, her long, strong arms, her chest as big and stout as a barrel, and her hilarious, hearty laugh, perfectly delighted to take one’s washing and do it at a fair price, they would appreciate the beauty of black people.
My cook, poor Eliza Buck, -- how she would stare to think of her name going to England! -- was a regular epitome of slave life in herself; fat, gentle, easy, loving and lovable, always calling my very modest house and dooryard "The Place," as if it had been a plantation with seven hundred hands on it. She had lived through the whole sad story of a Virginia-raised slave’s life. In her youth she must have been a very handsome mulatto girl. Her voice was sweet, and her manners refined and agreeable. She was raised in a good family as a nurse and seamstress. When the family became embarrassed, she was suddenly sold on to a plantation in Louisiana. She has often told me how, without any warning, she was suddenly forced into a carriage, and saw her little mistress screaming and stretching her arms from the window towards her as she was driven away. She has told me of scenes on the Louisiana plantation, and she has often been out at night by stealth ministering to poor slaves who had been mangled and lacerated by the lash. Hence she was sold into Kentucky, and her last master was the father of all her children. On this point she ever maintained a delicacy and reserve that always appeared to me remarkable. She always called him her husband; and it was not till after she had lived with me some years that I discovered the real nature of the connection. I shall never forget how sorry I felt for her, nor my feelings at her humble apology, "You know, Mrs. Stowe, slave women cannot help themselves." She had two very pretty quadroon daughters, with her beautiful hair and eyes, interesting children, whom I had instructed in the family school with my children. Time would fail to tell you all that I learned incidentally of the slave system in the history of various slaves who came into my family, and of the underground railroad which, I may say, ran through our house. But the letter is already too long.
You ask with regard to the remuneration which I have received for my work here in America. Having been poor all my life and expecting to be poor the rest of it, the idea of making money by a book which I wrote just because I could not help it never occurred to me. It was therefore an agreeable surprise to receive ten thousand dollars as the first-fruits of three months’ sale. I presume as much more is now due. Mr. Bosworth in England, the firm of Clarke & Co., and Mr. Bentley, have all offered me an interest in the sales of their editions in London. I am very glad of it, both on account of the value of what they offer, and the value of the example they set in this matter, wherein I think that justice has been too little regarded.
I have been invited to visit Scotland, and shall probably spend the summer there and in England.
I have very much at heart a design to erect in some of the Northern States a normal school for the education of colored teachers in the United States and in Canada. I have very much wished that some permanent memorial of good to the colored race might be created out of the proceeds of a work which promises to have so unprecedented a sale. My own share of the profits will be less than that of the publishers, either English or American; but I am willing to give largely for this purpose, and I have no doubt that the publishers, both American and English, will unite with me; for nothing tends more immediately to the emancipation of the slave than the education and elevation of the free.
I am now writing a work which will contain, perhaps, an equal amount of matter with “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” It will contain all the facts and documents on which that story was founded, and an immense body of facts, reports of trials, legal documents, and testimony of people now living South, which will more than confirm every statement in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
I must confess that till I began the examination of facts in order to write this book, much as I thought I knew before, I had not begun to measure the depth of the abyss. The law records of courts and judicial proceedings are so incredible as to fill me with amazement whenever I think of them. It seems to me that the book cannot but be felt, and, coming upon the sensibility awaked by the other, do something.
I suffer exquisitely in writing these things. It may be truly said that I write with my heart’s blood. Many times in writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” I thought my health would fail utterly; but I prayed earnestly that God would help me till I got through, and still I am pressed beyond measure and above strength.
This horror, this nightmare abomination! can it be in my country! It lies like lead on my heart, it shadows my life with sorrow; the more so that I feel, as for my own brothers, for the South, and am pained by every horror I am obliged to write, as one who is forced by some awful oath to disclose in court some family disgrace. Many times I have thought that I must die, and yet I pray God that I may live to see something done. I shall in all probability be in London in May: shall I see you?
It seems to me so odd and dream-like that so many persons desire to see me, and now I cannot help thinking that they will think, when they do, that God hath chosen "the weak things of this world."
If I live till spring I shall hope to see Shakespeare’s grave, and Milton’s mulberry-tree, and the good land of my fathers, -- old, old England! May that day come!
H. B. STOWE.
A sequel to the statements in this letter regarding the profits received from the sales of "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" is given by Charles Dudley Warner in an admirable history of the book published in "The Atlantic Monthly." Mr. Warner says: --
"The story was dramatized in the United States in August, 1852, without the consent or knowledge of the author, and was played most successfully in the leading cities, and subsequently was acted in every capital in Europe. Mrs. Stowe had neglected to secure the dramatic rights, and she derived no benefit from the great popularity of a drama which still holds the stage. From the phenomenal sale of a book which was literally read by the whole world, the author received only the ten per cent. on the American editions, and by the laws of her own country her copyright expired before her death."
Professor and Mrs. Stowe sailed from New York in April for Liverpool to see Europe for the first time. In spite of all the delightful recognition she had received from England, through letters, she could not fail to be surprised at the universal respect and affection which followed her footsteps everywhere.
Mrs. Stowe not only wrote long letters home to her children and family describing the almost unspeakable pleasures of this summer tour, but before another year two volumes of "Sunny Memories" were given to the public. Her industry never slackened. On arriving at Liverpool, she tells her children that they were considering the subject of which hotel they should find most convenient, "when we found the son of Mr. Cropper, of Dingle Bank, waiting in the cabin to take us with him to their hospitable abode. In a few moments after the baggage had been examined, we all bade adieu to the old ship, and went on board the little steam tender which carries passengers up to the city.
- - - - -
"I had an early opportunity of making acquaintance with my English brethren; for, much to my astonishment, I found quite a crowd on the wharf, and we walked up to our carriage through a long lane of people, bowing, and looking very glad to see us.
"When I came to get into the hack it was surrounded by more faces than I could count. They stood very quietly, and looked very kindly, though evidently very much determined to look. Something prevented the hack from moving on; so the interview was prolonged for some time.
"Our carriage at last drove on, taking us through Liverpool and a mile or two out, and at length wound its way along the gravel paths of a beautiful little retreat, on the banks of the Mersey, called the ‘Dingle.’ It opened to my eyes like a paradise, all wearied as I was with the tossing of the sea.
"The next morning we slept late and hurried to dress, remembering our engagement to breakfast with the brother of our host, whose cottage stands on the same ground, within a few steps of our own. I had not the slightest idea of what the English mean by a breakfast, and therefore went in all innocence, supposing I should see nobody but the family circle of my acquaintances. Quite to my astonishment, I found a party of between thirty and forty people; ladies sitting with their bonnets on, as in a morning call. It was impossible, however, to feel more than a momentary embarrassment in the friendly warmth and cordiality of the circle by whom we were surrounded.
"In the evening I went into Liverpool to attend a party of friends of the anti-slavery cause. When I was going away, the lady of the house said that the servants were anxious to see me; so I came into the dressing-room to give them an opportunity.
"The next day was appointed to leave Liverpool. A great number of friends accompanied us to the cars, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers was sent with a very affecting message from a sick gentleman, who, from the retirement of his chamber, felt a desire to testify his sympathy. We left Liverpool with hearts a little tremulous and excited by the vibration of an atmosphere of universal sympathy and kindness, and found ourselves, at length, shut from the warm adieu of our friends, in a snug compartment of the railroad car.
"Well, we are in Scotland at last," she continues, "and now our pulse rises as the sun declines in the west. We catch glimpses of Solway Frith and talk about Redgauntlet. The sun went down and night drew on; still we were in Scotland. Scotch ballads, Scotch tunes, and Scotch literature were in the ascendant. We sang ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ ‘Scots wha hae,’ and ‘Bonnie Doon,’ and then, changing the key, sang ‘Dundee,’ ‘Elgin,’ and ‘Martyr.’
"‘Take care,’ said Mr. Stowe; ‘don’t get too much excited.’
"‘Ah,’ said I, ‘this is a thing that comes only once in a lifetime; do let us have the comfort of it. We shall never come into Scotland for the first time again.’
"While we were thus at the fusion point of enthusiasm, the cars stopped at Lockerbie, where the real Old Mortality is buried. All was dim and dark outside, but we soon became conscious that there was quite a number of people collected, peering into the window; and with a strange kind of thrill, I heard my name inquired for in the Scottish accent. I went to the window; there were men, women, and children gathered, and hand after hand was presented, with the words, ‘Ye‘re welcome to Scotland!’
"Then they inquired for and shook hands with all the party, having in some mysterious manner got the knowledge of who they were, even down to little G., whom they took to be my son. Was it not pleasant, when I had a heart so warm for this old country? I shall never forget the thrill of those words, ‘Ye ‘re welcome to Scotland,’ nor the ‘Gude-night.’
"After that we found similar welcomes in many succeeding stopping-places; and though I did wave a towel out of the window, instead of a pocket-handkerchief, and commit other awkwardnesses, from not knowing how to play my part, yet I fancied, after all, that Scotland and we were coming on well together. Who the good souls were that were thus watching for us through the night, I am sure I do not know; but that they were of the ‘one blood’ which unites all the families of the earth, I felt.
"At Glasgow, friends were waiting in the station-house. Earnest, eager, friendly faces, ever so many. Warm greetings, kindly words. A crowd parting in the middle, through which we were conducted into a carriage, and loud cheers of welcome sent a throb, as the voice of living Scotland.
"I looked out of the carriage, as we drove on, and saw, by the light of a lantern, Argyll Street. It was past twelve o’clock when I found myself in a warm, cosy parlor, with friends whom I have ever since been glad to remember. In a little time we were all safely housed in our hospitable apartments, and sleep fell on me for the first time in Scotland.
"The next morning I awoke worn and weary, and scarce could the charms of the social Scotch breakfast restore me.
- - - - -
“All this day is a confused dream to me of a dizzy and overwhelming kind. So many letters that it took brother Charles from nine in the morning till two in the afternoon to read and answer them in the shortest manner; letters from all classes of people, high and low, rich and poor, in all shades and styles of composition, poetry and prose; some mere outbursts of feeling; some invitations; some advice and suggestions; some requests and inquiries; some presenting books, or flowers, or fruit.
"Then came, in their turn, deputations from Paisley, Greenock, Dundee, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Belfast in Ireland; calls of friendship, invitations of all descriptions to go everywhere, and to see everything, and to stay in so many places. One kind, venerable minister, with his lovely daughter, offered me a retreat in his quiet manse on the beautiful shores of the Clyde.
"For all these kindnesses, what could I give in return? There was scarce time for even a grateful thought on each. People have often said to me that it must have been an exceeding bore. For my part, I could not think of regarding it so. It only oppressed me with an unutterable sadness.
"In the afternoon I rode out with the lord provost to see the cathedral. The lord provost answers to the lord mayor in England. His title and office in both countries continue only a year, except in case of re-election.
"As I saw the way to the cathedral blocked up by a throng of people who had come out to see me, I could not help saying, ‘What went ye out for to see? a reed shaken with the wind?’ In fact, I was so worn out that I could hardly walk through the building. The next morning I was so ill as to need a physician, unable to see any one that called, or to hear any of the letters. I passed most of the day in bed, but in the evening I had to get up, as I had engaged to drink tea with two thousand people."
Speaking of one of the gatherings of the working people which she especially enjoyed in Glasgow at this time, she says: "I was struck this night with the resemblance between the Scotchman and the New Englander. One sees the distinctive nationality of a country more in the middle and laboring classes than in the higher, and accordingly at this meeting there was more nationality, I thought, than at the other."
Writing from Scotland to her Aunt Esther, Mrs. Stowe says: "The views of Scotland, which lay on my mother’s table, even while I was a little child, and in poring over which I spent so many happy dreamy hours, -- the Scotch ballads which were the delight of our evening fireside, and which seemed almost to melt the soul out of me, before I was old enough to understand their words, -- the songs of Burns, which had been a household treasure among us, -- the enchantments of Scott, -- all these dimly returned upon me. It was the result of them all which I felt in nerve and brain.
"And that reminds me how much of our pleasure in literature results from its reflection on us from other minds.
"So in coming to Scotland I seem to feel not only my own individuality, but all that my friends would have felt, had they been with me. For sometimes we seem to be encompassed, as by a cloud, with a sense of the sympathy of the absent and the dead."
She continues to their children: --
"Somewhere near Roseneath I was presented, by his own request, to a broad-shouldered Scotch farmer, who stood some six feet two, and who paid me the compliment to say that he had read my book, and that he would walk six miles to see me any day. Such a flattering evidence of discriminating taste, of course, disposed my heart towards him; but when I went up and put my hand into his great prairie of a palm, I was as a grasshopper in my own eyes. I inquired who he was and was told he was one of the Duke of Argyll’s farmers. I thought to myself if all the duke’s farmers were of this pattern, that he might be able to speak to the enemy in the gates to some purpose.
"It was concluded after we left Roseneath that, instead of returning by the boat, we should take carriage and ride home along the banks of the river. In our carriage were Mr. S. and myself, Dr. Robson, and Lady Anderson. About this time I commenced my first essay towards giving titles, and made, as you may suppose, rather an odd piece of work of it, generally saying ‘Mrs.’ first, and ‘Lady‘ afterwards, and then begging pardon. Lady Anderson laughed and said she would give me a general absolution. She is a truly genial, hearty Scotchwoman, and seemed to enter happily into the spirit of the hour.
"As we rode on, we found that the news of our coming had spread through the village. People came and stood in their doors, beckoning, bowing, smiling, and waving their handkerchiefs, and the carriage was several times stopped by persons who came to offer flowers. I remember, in particular, a group of young girls bringing to the carriage two of the most beautiful children I ever saw, whose little hands literally deluged us with flowers.
"At the village of Helensburgh we stopped a little while to call upon Mrs. Bell, the wife of Mr. Bell, the inventor of the steamboat. His invention in this country was at about the same time as that of Fulton in America. Mrs. Bell came to the carriage to speak to us. She is a venerable woman, far advanced in years. They had prepared a lunch for us, and quite a number of people had come together to meet us, but our friends said there was not time for us to stop.
"We rode through several villages after this, and met everywhere a warm welcome. What pleased me was, that it was not mainly from the literary, nor the rich, nor the great, but the plain, common people. The butcher came out of his stall and the baker from his shop, the miller dusty with flour, the blooming, comely young mother, with her baby in her arms, all smiling and bowing, with that hearty, intelligent, friendly look, as if they knew we should be glad to see them.
"Once, while we stopped to change horses, I, for the sake of seeing something more of the country, walked on. It seems the honest landlord and his wife were greatly disappointed at this; however, they got into the carriage and rode on to see me, and I shook hands with them with a right good will.
"We saw several of the clergymen, who came out to meet us; and I remember stopping just to be introduced, one by one, to a most delightful family, a gray-headed father and mother, with comely brothers and fair sisters, all looking so kindly and homelike that I should have been glad to accept the invitation they gave me to their dwelling.
"This day has been a strange phenomenon to me. In the first place, I have seen in all these villages how universally the people read. I have seen how capable they are of a generous excitement and enthusiasm, and how much may be done by a work of fiction so written as to enlist those sympathies which are common to all classes. Certainly a great deal may be effected in this way, if God gives to any one the power, as I hope He will to many. The power of fictitious writing, for good as well as evil, is a thing which ought most seriously to be reflected on. No one can fail to see that in our day it is becoming a very great agency.
"We came home quite tired, as you may well suppose. You will not be surprised that the next day I found myself more disposed to keep my bed than go out.
"Two days later: We bade farewell to Glasgow, overwhelmed with kindness to the last, and only oppressed by the thought of how little that was satisfactory we were able to give in return. Again we were in the railroad car on our way to Edinburgh. A pleasant two hours’ trip is this from Glasgow to Edinburgh. When the cars stopped at Linlithgow station, the name started us as out of a dream. Here was born that woman whose beauty and whose name are set in the strong rough Scotch heart, as a diamond in granite!
"In Edinburgh the cars stopped amid a crowd of people who had assembled to meet us. The lord provost met us at the door of the car, and presented us to the magistracy of the city and the committees of the Edinburgh Anti-Slavery Societies. The drab dresses and pure white bonnets of many Friends were conspicuous among the dense moving crowd, as white doves seen against a dark cloud. Mr. S. and myself, and our future hostess, Mrs. Wigham, entered the carriage with the lord provost, and away we drove, the crowd following with their shouts and cheers. I was inexpressibly touched and affected by this. While we were passing the monument of Scott, I felt an oppressive melancholy. What a moment life seems in the presence of the noble dead! What a momentary thing is art, in all its beauty! Where are all those great souls that have created such an atmosphere of light about Edinburgh? and how little a space was given them to live and enjoy!
"We drove all over Edinburgh, up to the castle, to the university, to Holyrood, to the hospitals, and through many of the principal streets, amid shouts, and smiles, and greetings. Some boys amused me very much by their pertinacious attempts to keep up with the carriage.
"‘Heck,’ says one of them, ‘that ‘s her; see the courls!’
"The various engravers who have amused themselves by diversifying my face for the public, having all, with great unanimity, agreed in giving prominence to this point, I suppose the urchins thought they were on safe ground there. I certainly think I answered one good purpose that day, and that is of giving the much-oppressed and calumniated class called boys an opportunity to develop all the noise that was in them, -- a thing for which I think they must bless me in their remembrances.
"At last the carriage drove into a deep-graveled yard, and we alighted at a porch covered with green ivy, and found ourselves once more at home.
"You may spare your anxieties about me, for I do assure you that if I were an old Sévres china jar I could not have more careful handling than I do. Everybody is considerate; a great deal to say when there appears to be so much excitement. Everybody seems to understand how good-for-nothing I am; and yet, with all this consideration, I have been obliged to keep my room and bed for a good part of the time. Of the multitudes who have called, I have seen scarcely any.
"To-morrow evening is to be the great tea-party here. How in the world I am ever to live through it I don’t know.
"April 26. Last night came off the soirée. The hall was handsomely decorated with flags in front. We went with the lord provost in his carriage. We went up as before into a dressing-room, where I was presented to many gentlemen and ladies. When we go in, the cheering, clapping, and stamping at first strike one with a strange sensation; but then everybody looks so heartily pleased and delighted, and there is such an all-pervading atmosphere of geniality and sympathy, as makes me in a few moments feel quite at home. After all, I consider that these cheers and applauses are Scotland’s voiceto America, a recognition of the brotherhood of the countries.
"The national penny offering, consisting of a thousand golden sovereigns on a magnificent silver salver, stood conspicuously in view of the audience. It has been an unsolicited offering, given in the smallest sums, often from the extreme poverty of the giver. The committee who collected it in Edinburgh and Glasgow bore witness to the willingness with which the very poorest contributed the offering of their sympathy. In one cottage they found a blind woman, and said, ‘Here, at least, is one who will feel no interest, as she cannot have read the book.’
"‘Indeed,’ said the old lady, ‘if I cannot read, my son has read it to me, and I’ve got my penny saved to give.’
"It is to my mind extremely touching to see how the poor, in their poverty, can be moved to a generosity surpassing that of the rich. Nor do I mourn that they took it from their slender store, because I know that a penny given from a kindly impulse is a greater comfort and blessing to the poorest giver than even a penny received.
"As in the case of the other meeting, we came out long before the speeches were ended. Well, of course I did not sleep all night, and the next day I felt quite miserable.
"As to all engagements, however, I am in a state of happy acquiescence, having resigned myself, as a very tame lion, into the hands of my keepers. Whenever the time comes for me to do anything, I try to behave as well as I can, which, as Dr. Young says, is all that an angel could do in the same circumstances.
"As to the letters I receive, many of them are mere outbursts of feeling; yet they are interesting as showing the state of the public mind. Many of them are on kindred topics of moral reform, in which they seem to have an intuitive sense that we should be interested. I am not, of course, able to answer them all, but brother Charles does, and it takes a good part of every day. One was from a shoemaker’s wife in one of the islands, with a copy of very fair verses. Many have come accompanying little keepsakes and gifts. It seems to me rather touching and sad, that people should want to give me things when I am not able to give an interview or even a note in return. Charles wrote from six to twelve o’clock, steadily, answering letters.
"The meeting in Dundee was in a large church, densely crowded, and conducted much as the others had been. When they came to sing the closing hymn, I hoped they would sing Dundee; but they did not, and I fear in Scotland, as elsewhere, the characteristic national melodies are giving way before more modern ones."
It is very interesting in following Mrs. Stowe’s footsteps through Scotland to see how her minute knowledge of the history and literature of the country made every spot alive with spirits of the past or figures of the fancy. As they passed Glamis Castle she says: "We could see but a glimpse of it from the road, but the very sound of the name was enough to stimulate our imagination. Scott says in his ‘Demonology’ that he never came anywhere near to being overcome with a superstitious feeling, except twice in his life, and one was on the night he slept in Glamis Castle . . . . Scarcely ever a man had so much relish for the supernatural and so little faith in it.
"I enjoyed my ride to Aberdeen more than anything we had seen, the country is so wild and singular . . . . The architecture of the cathedrals of Glasgow and Aberdeen reminds me of what Walter Scott says of the Scotch people, whom he compares to the native sycamore of their hills, ‘which scorns to be biased in its mode of growth, even by the influence of the prevailing wind, but, shooting its branches with equal boldness in every direction, shows no weather side to the storm, and may be broken, but can never be bended.’
"We lingered a long time about Aberdeen Cathedral, and could scarcely tear ourselves away. We paced up and down under the old trees, looking off on the waters of the Don, listening to the waving branches, and, falling into a dreamy state of mind, thought what if it were six hundred years ago, and we were pious, simple-hearted old abbots! What a fine place that would be to walk up and down at eventide or on a Sabbath morning, reciting penitential psalms or reading St. Augustine.
"I cannot get over the feeling that the souls of the dead do somehow connect themselves with the places of their former habitation, and that the hush and thrill of spirit which we feel in them may be owing to the overshadowing presence of the invisible."
Of Abbotsford she says: "I observe that it is quite customary to speak as if it were a pity he ever undertook it; but viewed as a development of his inner life, as a working out in wood and stone of favorite fancies and cherished ideas, the building has to me a deep interest . . . . Wrought out in this way it has grown up like a bank of coral; . . . we should look at it as the poet’s endeavor to render outward and visible the dreamland of his thoughts, and to create for himself a refuge from the cold dull realities of life in an architectural romance."
Nothing escaped her eye that was connected with the memory of Scott. She notes that the porch was copied from one at Linlithgow Palace; that the black and white marbles were from the Hebrides; the carved oak for one room from Dunfermline Abbey; the ceiling of another copied from Roslin; and a fireplace copied from a niche at Melrose. There also she marked the ancient pulpit of Erskine, wrought into a wall, the old door of Tolbooth prison, and many other delightful things which Scott appropriated to make his home unique and interesting to readers and scholars, if not to the eye of the ordinary tourist. Her account of Melrose, too, is as fresh as if a large half-century of devotees of Scott had not walked through it, -- and her devotion at Dryburgh that of a friend to Scott as well as a lover of his genius.
"It was a rainy, misty morning," she continued, "when I left my kind retreat and friends in Edinburgh. Considerate as everybody had been about imposing on my time or strength, still you may well believe that I was much exhausted. We left Edinburgh, therefore, with the determination to plunge at once into some hidden and unknown spot, where we might spend two or three days quietly by ourselves; remembering your Sunday at Stratford-on-Avon, I proposed that we should go there. As Stratford, however, is off the railroad line, we determined to accept the invitation, which was lying by us, from our friend, Joseph Sturge, of Birmingham, and take sanctuary with him. So we wrote on, intrusting him with the secret, and charging him on no account to let any one know of our arrival."
Of course the secret could not be kept.
"As we were drinking tea that evening, Elihu Burritt came in. It was the first time I had ever seen him, though I had heard a great deal of him from our friends in Edinburgh. He is a man in middle life, tall and slender, with fair complexion, blue eyes, an air of delicacy and refinement, and manners of great gentleness. My ideas of the ‘learned blacksmith’ had been of something altogether more ponderous and peremptory. Elihu has been for some years operating, in England and on the Continent, in a movement which many in our half-Christianized times regard with as much incredulity as the grim old warlike barons did the suspicious imbecilities of reading and writing. The sword now, as then, seems so much more direct a way to terminate controversies, that many Christian men, even, cannot conceive how the world is to get along without it.
"Before we left, we had agreed to meet a circle of friends from Birmingham, consisting of the Abolition Society there, which is of long standing, extending back in its memories to the very commencement of the agitation under Clarkson and Wilberforce. The windows of the parlor were opened to the ground; and the company invited filled not only the room, but stood in a crowd on the grass around the window. Among the peaceable company present was an admiral in the navy, a fine, cheerful old gentleman, who entered with hearty interest into the scene.
"A throng of friends accompanied us to the depot, while from Birmingham we had the pleasure of the company of Elihu Burritt, and enjoyed a delightful run to London, where we arrived towards evening."
The evening of her arrival in London, she, went to a dinner at the lord mayor’s, where she saw many distinguished persons.
"A very dignified gentleman, dressed in black velvet, with a fine head, made his way through the throng, and sat down by me, introducing himself as Lord Chief Baron Pollock. He told me he had just been reading the legal part of the ‘Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ and remarked especially on the opinion of Judge Ruffin, in the case of State v. Mann, as having made a deep impression on his mind.
"Dinner was announced between nine and ten o’clock, and we were conducted into a splendid hall, where the tables were laid.
"Directly opposite me was Mr. Dickens, whom I now beheld for the first time, and was surprised to see looking so young. Mr. Justice Talfourd, known as the author of ‘Ion,’ was also there with his lady. She had a beautiful, antique cast of head. The lord mayor was simply dressed in black, without any other adornment than a massive gold chain. We rose from table between eleven and twelve o’clock -- that is, we ladies -- and went into the drawing room, where I was presented to Mrs. Dickens and several other ladies. Mrs. Dickens is a good specimen of a truly English woman; tall, large, and well developed, with fine, healthy color, and an air of frankness, cheerfulness, and reliability. A friend whispered to me that she was as observing and fond of humor as her husband.
"After a while the gentlemen came back to the drawing-room, and I had a few moments of very pleasant, friendly conversation with Mr. Dickens. They are both people that one could not know a little of without desiring to know more."
The following day the American party dined with Lord Carlisle, of whom Mrs. Stowe says: --
"Lord Carlisle is a great friend to America, and so is his sister, the Duchess of Sutherland. He is the only English traveler who ever wrote notes on our country in a real spirit of appreciation.
"We went about seven o’clock, the dinner hour being here somewhere between eight and nine. We were shown into an ante-room adjoining the entrance hall, and from that into an adjacent apartment, where we met Lord Carlisle. The room had a pleasant, social air, warmed and enlivened by the blaze of a coal fire and wax candles.
"We had never, any of us, met Lord Carlisle before; but the considerateness and cordiality of our reception obviated whatever embarrassment there might have been in this circumstance. In a few moments after we were all seated, a servant announced the Duchess of Sutherland, and Lord Carlisle presented me. She is tall and stately, with a most noble bearing. Her fair complexion, blonde hair, and full lips speak of Saxon blood.
"The only person present not of the family connection was my quondam correspondent in America, Arthur Helps. Somehow or other I had formed the impression from his writings that he was a venerable sage of very advanced years, who contemplated life as an aged hermit from the door of his cell. Conceive my surprise to find a genial young gentleman of about twenty-five, who looked as if he might enjoy a joke as well as another man.
"After the ladies left the table, the conversation turned on the Maine law, which seems to be considered over here as a phenomenon in legislation, and many of the gentlemen present inquired about it with great curiosity.
"After the gentlemen rejoined us, the Duke and Duchess of Argyll came in, and Lord and Lady Blantyre. These ladies are the daughters of the Duchess of Sutherland. The Duchess of Argyll is of slight and fairy-like figure, with flaxen hair and blue eyes, answering well enough to the description of Annot Lyle in the ‘Legend of Montrose.’ Lady Blantyre was somewhat taller, of fuller figure, with a very brilliant bloom. Lord Blantyre is of the Stuart blood, a tall and slender young man with very graceful manners.
"As to the Duke of Argyll, we found that the picture drawn of him by his countrymen in Scotland was in every way correct. Though slight of figure, with fair complexion and blue eyes, his whole appearance is indicative of energy and vivacity. His talents and efficiency have made him a member of the British Cabinet at a much earlier age than is usual; and he has distinguished himself not only in political life, but as a writer, having given to the world a work on Presbyterianism, embracing an analysis of the ecclesiastical history of Scotland since the Reformation, which is spoken of as written with great ability, and in a most liberal spirit. He made many inquiries about our distinguished men, particularly of Emerson, Longfellow, and Hawthorne; also of Prescott, who appears to be a general favorite here. I felt at the moment that we never value our own literary men so much as when we are placed in a circle of intelligent foreigners."
Of another entertainment she writes: --
"Before the evening was through I was talked out and worn out; there was hardly a chip of me left. To-morrow at eleven o’clock comes the meeting at Stafford House. What it will amount to I do not know; but I take no thought for the morrow."
MY DEAR C., -- In fulfillment of my agreement I will tell you, as nearly as I can remember, all the details of the meeting at Stafford House. At about eleven o’clock we drove under the arched carriage-way of a mansion externally not very showy in appearance.
When the duchess appeared, I thought she looked handsomer by daylight than in the evening. She received us with the same warm and simple kindness which she had shown before. We were presented to the Duke of Sutherland. He is a tall, slender man, with rather a thin face, light-brown hair, and a mild blue eye, with an air of gentleness and dignity.
Among the first that entered were the members of the family, the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, Lord and Lady Blantyre, the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford, and Lady Emma Campbell. Then followed Lord Shaftesbury with his beautiful lady, and her father and mother, Lord and Lady Palmerston. Lord Palmerston is of middle height, with a keen dark eye and black hair streaked with gray. There is something peculiarly alert and vivacious about all his movements; in short, his appearance perfectly answers to what we know of him from his public life. One has a strange, mythological feeling about the existence of people of whom one hears for many years without ever seeing them. While talking with Lord Palmerston I could but remember how often I had heard father and Mr. S. exulting over his foreign dispatches by our own fireside. There were present, also, Lord John Russell, Mr. Gladstone, and Lord Granville. The latter we all thought very strikingly resembled in his appearance the poet Longfellow.
After lunch the whole party ascended to the picture-gallery, passing on our way the grand staircase and hall, said to be the most magnificent in Europe. The company now began to assemble and throng the gallery, and very soon the vast room was crowded. Among the throng I remember many presentations, but of course must have forgotten many more. Archbishop Whately was there, with Mrs. and Miss Whately; Macaulay, with two of his sisters; Milman, the poet and historian; the Bishop of Oxford, Chevalier Bunsen and lady, and many more.
When all the company were together, Lord Shaftesbury read a very short, kind, and considerate address in behalf of the ladies of England, expressive of their cordial welcome.
This Stafford House meeting, in any view of it, is a most remarkable fact. Kind and gratifying as its arrangements have been to me, I am far from appropriating it to myself individually as a personal honor. I rather regard it as the most public expression possible of the feelings of the women of England on one of the most important questions of our day, that of individual liberty considered in its religious bearings.
On this occasion the Duchess of Sutherland presented Mrs. Stowe with a superb gold bracelet, made in the form of a slave’s shackle, bearing the inscription: "We trust it is a memorial of a chain that is soon to be broken." On two of the links were inscribed the dates of the abolition of the slave-trade and of slavery in English territory. Years after its presentation to her, Mrs. Stowe was able to have engraved on the clasp of this bracelet, "Constitutional Amendment (forever abolishing slavery in the United States)."
Of a breakfast at Sir Charles Trevelyan’s, she tells her daughter: --
"We were set down at Westbourne Terrace, somewhere, I believe, about eleven o’clock, and found quite a number already in the drawing-room. I had met Macaulay before, but being seated between him and Dean Milman, I must confess I was a little embarrassed at times, because I wanted to hear what they were both saying at the same time. However, by the use of the faculty by which you play a piano with both hands, I got on very comfortably.
"There were several other persons of note present at this breakfast, whose conversation I had not an opportunity of hearing, as they sat at a distance from me. There was Lord Glenelg, brother of Sir Robert Grant, governor of Bombay, whose beautiful hymns have rendered him familiar in America. The favorite one, commencing
‘When gathering clouds around I view,”
was from his pen.
"The historian Hallam was also present, and I think it very likely there may have been other celebrities whom I did not know. I am always finding out, a day or two after, that I have been with somebody very remarkable and did not know it at the time."
She continues to her sister: --
"Like Miss Edgeworth’s philosophic little Frank, we are obliged to make out a list of what man must want and of what he may want; and in our list of the former we set down, in large and decisive characters, one quiet day for the exploration and enjoyment of Windsor.
- - - - -
"One of the first objects that attracted my attention upon entering the vestibule was a baby’s wicker wagon, standing in one corner. It was much such a carriage as all mothers are familiar with; such as figures largely in the history of almost every family. It had neat curtains and cushions of green merino, and was not royal, only maternal. I mused over the little thing with a good deal of interest.
"We went for our dinner to the White Hart, the very inn which Shakespeare celebrates in his ‘Merry Wives,’ and had a most overflowing merry time of it. After dinner we had a beautiful drive.
"We were bent upon looking up the church which gave rise to Gray’s ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard,’ intending when we got there to have a little scene over it; Mr. S., in all the conscious importance of having been there before, assuring us that he knew exactly where it was. So, after some difficulty with our coachman, and being stopped at one church which would not answer our purpose in any respect, we were at last set down by one which looked authentic; embowered in mossy elms, with a most ancient and goblin yew-tree, an ivy-mantled tower, all perfect as could be. Here, leaning on the old fence, we repeated the Elegy, which certainly applies here as beautifully as language could apply.
"Imagine our chagrin, on returning to London, at being informed that we had not been to the genuine churchyard after all. The gentleman who wept over the scenes of his early days on the wrong doorstep was not more grievously disappointed. However, he and we could both console ourselves with the reflection that the emotion was admirable, and wanted only the right place to make it the most appropriate in the world.
"The evening after our return from Windsor was spent with our kind friends, Mr. and Mrs. Gurney. After breakfast the next day, Mr. S., C., and I drove out to call upon Kossuth. We found him in an obscure lodging on the outskirts of London. I would that some of the editors in America, who have thrown out insinuations about his living in luxury, could have seen the utter bareness and plainness of the reception room, which had nothing in it beyond the simplest necessaries. He entered into conversation with us with cheerfulness, speaking English well, though with the idioms of foreign languages. When we parted he took my hand kindly and said, ‘God bless you, my child!’
"I have been quite amused with something which has happened lately. This week the ‘Times’ has informed the United Kingdom that Mrs. Stowe is getting a new dress made! It wants to know if Mrs. Stowe is aware what sort of a place her dress is being made in; and there is a letter from a dressmaker’s apprentice stating that it is being made up piecemeal, in the most shockingly distressed dens of London, by poor, miserable white slaves, worse treated than the plantation slaves of America!
"Now Mrs. Stowe did not know anything of this, but simply gave the silk into the hands of a friend, and was in due time waited on in her own apartment by a very respectable-appearing woman, who offered to make the dress, and lo, this is the result! Since the publication of this piece, I have received earnest missives, from various parts of the country, begging me to interfere, hoping that I was not going to patronize the white slavery of England, and that I would employ my talents equally against oppression in every form. Could these people only know in what sweet simplicity I had been living in the State of Maine, where the only dressmaker of our circle was an intelligent, refined, well-educated woman who was considered as the equal of us all, and whose spring and fall ministrations to our wardrobe were regarded a double pleasure, -- a friendly visit as well as a domestic assistance, -- I say, could they know all this, they would see how guiltless I was in the matter. I verily never thought but that the nice, pleasant person who came to measure me for my silk dress was going to take it home and make it herself; it never occurred to me that she was the head of an establishment."
May 22, she writes to her husband, whose duties had obliged him to return to America: "To-day we went to hear a sermon in behalf of the ragged schools by the Archbishop of Canterbury. My thoughts have been much saddened by the news which I received of the death of Mary Edmondson."
"May 30. The next day from my last letter came off Miss Greenfield’s concert, of which I send a card. You see in what company they have put your poor little wife. Funny! -- isn’t it? Well, the Hons. and Right Hons. all were there. I sat by Lord Carlisle.
"After the concert the duchess asked Lady Hatherton and me to come round to Stafford House and take tea, which was not a thing to be despised, either on account of the tea or the duchess. A lovelier time we never had, -- present, the Duchess of Argyll, Lady Caroline Campbell, Lady Hatherton, and myself. We had the nicest cup of tea, with such cream, and grapes and apricots, with some Italian bread, etc.
"When we were going the duchess got me, on some pretext, into another room, and came up and put her arms round me, with her noble face all full of feeling.
"‘Oh, Mrs. Stowe, I have been reading that last chapter in the "Key;" Argyll read it aloud to us. Oh, surely, surely, you will succeed, -- God surely will bless you!‘
"I said then that I thanked her for all her love and feeling for us, told her how earnestly all the women of England sympathized with her, and many in America. She looked really radiant and inspired. Had those who hang back from our cause seen her face, it might have put a soul into them as she said again, ‘It will be done -- it will be done -- oh, I trust and pray it may!’
"So we kissed each other, and vowed friendship and fidelity -- so I came away.
"To-day I am going with Lord Shaftesbury to St. Paul’s to see the charity children, after which lunch with Dean Milman.
"May 31. We went to lunch with Miss R. at Oxford Terrace, where, among a number of distinguished guests, was Lady Byron, with whom I had a few moments of deeply interesting conversation. No engravings that ever have been circulated in America do any justice to her appearance. She is of slight figure, formed with exceeding delicacy, and her whole form, face, dress, and air unite to make an impression of a character singularly dignified, gentle, pure, and yet strong. No words addressed to me in any conversation hitherto have made their way to my inner soul with such force as a few remarks dropped by her on the present religious aspect of England, -- remarks of such quality as one seldom hears.
"We have borne in mind your advice to hasten away to the Continent. Charles wrote, a day or two since, to Mrs. C. at Paris to secure very private lodgings, and by no means let any one know that we were coming. She has replied, urging us to come to her house, and promising entire seclusion and rest. So, since you departed, we have been passing with a kind of comprehensive skip and jump over remaining engagements. And just the evening after you left came off the presentation of the inkstand by the ladies of Surrey Chapel.
"It is a beautiful specimen of silver-work, eighteen inches long, with a group of silver figures on it representing Religion, with the Bible in her hand, giving liberty to the slave. The slave is a masterly piece of work. He stands with his hands clasped, looking up to Heaven, while a white man is knocking the shackles from his feet. But the prettiest part of the scene was the presentation of a gold pen by a band of beautiful children, one of whom made a very pretty speech. I called the little things to come and stand around me, and talked with them a few minutes, and this was all the speaking that fell to my share.
"To-morrow we go -- go to quiet, to obscurity, to peace -- to Paris, to Switzerland; there we shall find the loveliest glen, and, as the Bible says, ‘fall on sleep.’"
"Monday, June 13. We went this morning to the studio of M. Belloc, who is to paint my portrait. The first question which he proposed, with a genuine French air, was the question of ‘pose‘ or position. It was concluded that, as other pictures had taken me looking at the spectator, this should take me looking away. M. Belloc remarked that M. Charpentier said I appeared always with the air of an observer, -- was always looking around on everything. Hence M. Belloc would take me ‘en observatrice, mais pas en curieuse.’
"Saturday, June 25. Lyons to Genève. As this was our first experience in the diligence line, we noticed particularly every peculiarity. I had had the idea that a diligence was a rickety, slow-moulded, antediluvian nondescript, toiling patiently along over impassable roads at a snail’s pace. Judge of my astonishment at finding it a full-blooded, vigorous monster, of unscrupulous railway momentum and imperturbable equipose of mind. Down the macadamized slopes we thundered at a prodigious pace; up the hills we trotted, with six horses, three abreast; madly through the little towns we burst, like a whirlwind, crashing across the pebbled streets, and out upon the broad, smooth road again. Before we had well considered the fact that we were out of Lyons we stopped to change horses. Done in a jiffy; and whoop, crick, crack, whack, rumble, bump, whir, whisk, away we blazed, till, ere we knew it, another change and another.
"As evening drew on, a wind sprang up and a storm seemed gathering on the Jura. The rain dashed against the panes of the berlin as we rode past the grim-faced monarch of the ‘misty shroud.’ It was night as we drove into Geneva and stopped at the Messagerie. I heard with joy a voice demanding if this were Madame Besshare. I replied, not without some scruples of conscience, ‘Oui, Monsieur, c’est moi,’ though the name did not sound exactly like the one to which I had been wont to respond. In half an hour we were at home in the mansion of Monsieur Fazy."
Of their Swiss retreat her brother says: --
"The people of the neighborhood, having discovered who Harriet was, were very kind, and full of delight at seeing her. It was Scotland over again. We have had to be unflinching to prevent her being overwhelmed, both in Paris and Geneva, by the same demonstrations of regard. To this we were driven, as a matter of life and death. It was touching to listen to the talk of these secluded mountaineers. The good hostess, even the servant-maids, hung about Harriet, expressing such tender interest for the slave. All had read ‘Uncle Tom;’ and it had apparently been an era in their life’s monotony, for they said, ‘Oh, madame, do write another! Remember, our winter nights here are very long!’
"Here, then, I am, writing these notes in the salle à manger of the inn, where other voyagers are eating and drinking, and there is H. feeding on the green moonshine of an emerald ice cave. One would almost think her incapable of fatigue. How she skips up and down high places and steep places, to the manifest perplexity of the honest guide Kienholz père, who tries to take care of her, but does not exactly know how! She gets on a pyramid of débris, which the edge of the glacier is ploughing and grinding up, sits down, and falls -- not asleep exactly, but into a trance. W. and I are ready to go on: we shout; our voice is lost in the roar of the torrent. We send the guide. He goes down, and stands doubtfully. He does not know exactly what to do. She hears him, and starts to her feet, pointing with one hand to yonder peak, and with the other to that knife-like edge that seems cleaving heaven with its keen and glistening scimitar of snow, reminding one of Isaiah’s sublime imagery, ‘For my sword is bathed in heaven.’ She points at the grisly rocks, with their jags and spear-points. Evidently she is beside herself, and thinks she can remember the names of those monsters, born of earthquake and storm, which cannot be named nor known but by sight, and then are known at once perfectly and forever."
In the month of September Mrs. Stowe returned to America; "almost sadly," she writes, "as a child might leave its home, I left the shores of kind, strong old England -- the mother of us all." She hastened to throw herself with renewed energy into work for the slaves. She had brought with her from England a good deal of money which had been given her for the purpose of pressing the anti-slavery cause. "She supported anti-slavery lectures wherever they were most needed, aided in establishing and maintaining anti-slavery publications, founded and assisted in supporting schools in which colored people might be taught how to avail themselves of the blessings of freedom. She arranged public meetings, and prepared many of the addresses that should be delivered at them. She carried on such an extensive correspondence with persons of all shades of opinion in all parts of the world, that the letters received and answered by her between 1853 and 1856 would fill volumes. With all these multifarious interests, her children received a full share of her attention, nor were her literary activities relaxed." In addition to the volumes commemorating her enjoyment during the summer in England, she revised and enlarged her first book called "The May-Flower" in the following winter.
Works of Annie Fields