, daughter of Rev. Lyman Beecher, D. D.
, was born in the town of Litchfield
, in the State of Connecticut
, on the 14th day of June, in the year of our Lord 1812.
Her father, than whom no man of his generation is more reverently and affectionately remembered, was one of the sturdiest and grandest men that New England
Among American divines his position as a theologian was one of distinction, and as a pulpit orator he stood full abreast with the most eloquent.
There have been no more powerful preachers in our country than he.
In the year 1799 he married Roxana Foote
, whose father, Eli Foote
, was a genial and cultivated man, and, notwithstanding he was a royalist and churchman, was universally respected and honored.
She was also the grand-daughter of General Ward
, who served under Washington
in the Revolutionary war. This union was blessed with eight children:--Catharine, William, Edward, Mary, George, Harriet
, Henry Ward
, and Charles.
had sworn never to marry a weak woman; nor, in marrying Roxana Foote
, did he forswear himself.
In one of the Mayflower
sketches, in the character of Aunt Mary, and later, in a letter contributed to the “Autobiography of Lyman Beecher
I., page 301), Mrs. Stowe
herself describes her
She was a woman of extraordinary talents, rare culture, fine taste, sweet and gentle temper; full of the Holy Ghost
and of that power which comes not with observation, but whose exercise is alike unconscious and irresistible.
She died when Harriet
was not quite four years old, but “her memory and example had more influence in moulding her family, in deterring from evil and exciting to good, than the living presence of many mothers.”
relates that when, in her eighth year, she lay dangerously ill of scarlet fever, she was awakened one evening just at sunset by the voice of her father praying at her bedside, and heard him speaking of “her blessed mother, who is a saint in heaven!”
The passage in Uncle Tom, where St. Clair
describes his mother's influence, is simply a reproduction of the influence of Mrs. Stowe
's own mother, as it had always been in her family.
All who have read the “Minister's Wooing” must remember the beautiful letter which Mary wrote to the Doctor
That letter is one which, years before, Mrs. Beecher
had written, and was copied by Mrs. Stowe
into the pages of her story.
Immediately after her mother's death, Harriet was taken to live with her mother's sister, in whose well-ordered house the little girl found a happy home, the tenderest care, and the benefits of an unusually wholesome moral discipline and intellectual companionship.
Her mother had been a quiet but devout churchwoman who, at her marriage with Dr. Beecher
, conformed herself to the simpler manners of the Congregational churches
, and bent her steps to the ways in which her husband walked, but not without cherishing an ineradicable love of the better way in which her fathers walked and worshipped.
Something of this feeling Harriet may have inherited.
Having had such a mother, she found herself, in the circle of her mother's relatives, surrounded by those who
believed in the Church
, and walked after its ordinances only, with all their hearts.
Nor is it unlikely that these facts furnish a sufficient explanation of that preference for the mode of divine worship which obtains in the Episcopalian Church
, which, in these later years, Mrs. Stowe
has publicly manifested.
Of her pleasant life in the farm-house at Nutplains; of the good old grandma with bright white hair, who took herthe little motherless — into her arms, and held her close, and wept over her; who read the evening service, after supper, from a great prayer-book, with such impressiveness as touched the child's heart with a feeling of its intrinsic simplicity and beauty which she never outgrew; and who also, in the sincerity of her toryism, often read over, with trembling voice, the old prayers for king, queen
, and royal family, grieving that they should have been omitted in all the churches; of her energetic, precise, smart, orderly Aunt Harriet
, who was one of the women who contrive to bring all their plans to pass and to have their ways perfectly,--a splendid specimen of the best kind of a genuine Yankee woman, believing in the Church
with a faith in which disdain of all Meeting-house
religion was so far mingled that, when on a visit to Litchfield
, she could not bring herself to listen to Dr. Beecher
, of whom she was very proud and fond, but must needs go to Church, where all things were “done decently and in order,” --who did more than encourage little Harriet to “move gently, to speak softly and prettily, to say ‘yes, ma'am’ and ‘no, ma'am,’ ” to keep her clothes clean, and knit and sew at regular hours, to go to Church on Sundays and make all the responses, and come home and be thoroughly drilled in the catechism; of her Uncle George who was a great reader, and full of poetry, and had Burns
at his tongue's end, and whose recitations of Scott
's ballads were the first poems she ever heard; of the house stored with all manner
of family relics, and also with all manner of strange and wonderful things brought by a sea-faring uncle, from the uttermost parts of the earth,--supplied moreover with what were exceedingly rare things in those days, a well-selected library, and a portfolio of fine engravings,--of all these things Mrs. Stowe
tells us in one of her pleasantest letters, and adds, “The little white farm-house under the hill was a Paradise to us, and the sight of its chimneys after a day's ride was like a vision of Eden
Nearly two years passed by, and Harriet, now again in her father's house, wonders at “a beautiful lady, very fair, with bright-blue eyes, and soft auburn hair,” who comes into the nursery where she with her younger brothers are in bed, and kisses them, and tells them she loves them and will be their mother.
This fair stranger was Dr. Beecher
's second wife, Harriet Porter
, of Portland, Maine
; and of little Harriet she writes to her friends very handsomely: “Harriet and Henry . . . . are as lovely children as I ever saw, amiable, affectionate, and very bright.”
She speaks also of “the great familiarity and great respect subsisting between parent and children,” and of the household as “one of great cheerfulness and comfort.”
“Our domestic worship is very delightful.
We sing a good deal, and have reading aloud as much as we can. It seems the highest happiness of the children to have a reading circle.”
These observations afford us glimpses of that inner domestic life amid whose healthful and quickening influences Mrs. Stowe
's child-life developed itself.
Her sister Catharine writes of her when she was five years of age: “Harriet is a very good girl.
She has been to school all this summer, and has learned to read very fluently.
She has committed to memory twenty-seven hymns and two long chapters in the Bible
She has a remarkably retentive memory, and will make a good scholar.”
She very early manifested a great eagerness for books, and “read everything she could lay
Her young mind drank eagerly at every available literary spring, and such was the inspiration of Dr. Beecher
's presence among his children, that they daily lived and breathed in a bracing intellectual atmosphere, and their wits were kept constantly in exercise.
One incident from Mrs. Stowe
's “Early Remembrances” of Litchfield
well illustrates his “inspiring talent,” and not only that, but the unusual degree of intellectual activity which characterized the whole domestic life.
One of the famous occasions in the course of the year was the apple-cutting season, in the autumn, when a barrel of cider applesauce had to be made.
“The work was done in the kitchen,--an immense brass kettle hanging over the deep fireplace, a bright fire blazing and snapping, and all hands, children and servants, employed on the full baskets of apples and quinces which stood around.
I have the image of my father still, as he sat working the apple-peeler.
‘Come, George,’ he said, ‘I'll tell you what we'll do to make the evening go off. You and I'll take turns, and see who'll tell the most out of Scott
And so they took them, novel by novel, reciting scenes and incidents, which kept the eyes of the children wide open, and made the work go on without flagging.”
was very fond, too, of setting all manner of discussions on foot, into which he would draw the children, arguing with them, correcting them in their logical slips, and so not only putting them in the way of acquiring new knowledge, but what was far better, arousing their minds, sharpening their wits, and teaching them how to think and reason.
Allusion has been made to Harriet's eagerness to read.
But the light literature which, in our days, is to be found in such abundance even in parsonages, to say nothing of Sunday-school libraries, was wanting in her father's library, and she was hardly ready to satisfy her hunger as one young lady of our acquaintance once attempted to do, by
beginning at one end of the library and reading it through, book by book.
She had found, and for a while had revelled in, a copy of the “Arabian nights;” and afterward, in her desperate search among sermons, tracts, treatises, and essays, she turned up a dissertation or commentary an Solomon's Song, which she read with avidity, “because it told about the same sort of things she had read of in the Arabian nights
She was again rewarded for her several hours' toil in what she calls “a weltering ocean of pamphlets,” by bringing to light a fragment of “Don Quixote
,” which seemed to her like an “enchanted island rising out of an ocean of mud” !
This was the time when the names of Scott
, and Irving
were comparatively new, and yet not so new as not to be in the mouths of all intelligent people.
The Salmagundi papers were recent publications.
had not quite finished his course.
had written his best poems, and the “Lay of the last Minstrel,” and “Marmion,” were familiar to people of intelligence, the world over; but the “Tales of my landlord,” and “Ivanhoe,” had just made their appearance.
Now the novel, in those days, was regarded, by all pious people at least, as an unclean thing.
It was not tolerated, and, indeed, it had become really unclean and intolerable in the hands of the previous generation of writers of fiction.
Great was the joy in that household when an exception was made to the prohibitory law under which all works of fiction were excluded from well-ordered households, as only so much trash and abomination, and Dr. Beecher
said, “George, you may read Scott
I have always disapproved of novels as trash, but in these are real genius and real culture, and you may read them” ! This generous license was improved, for in one summer Harriet and George “went through ‘Ivanhoe’ seven times,” so that they could recite several of the scenes from beginning to end!
In the next house to the one in which Dr. Beecher
lived, and but a few
steps distant, dwelt “Aunt Esther,” --a woman of strong mind, ready wit, and large information, to whose keen criticism Dr. Beecher
frequently submitted his sermons and articles, and whose geniality and inexhaustible fund of entertaining information made her room a favorite resort of the children.
From her hands Harriet one day received a volume of Byron
's poems containing the “Corsair.”
This she read with wonder and delight, and thenceforth listened eagerly to whatever was said in the house concerning Byron
Not long after, she heard her father say sorrowfully, “Byron
” “I remember,” she says, “taking my basket for strawberries that afternoon, and going over to a strawberry field on Chestnut Hill
But I was too dispirited to do anything; so I lay down among the daisies, and looked up into the blue sky, and thought of that great eternity into which Byron
had entered, and wondered how it might be with his soul” ! Harriet was then eleven years old, but was sufficiently precocious to appreciate the genius that was exhibited in Byron
's passionate poetry, and to share in the enthusiasm which that genius has everywhere created.
Not only in her father's house, and in the family circle, but in the society and schools of Litchfield
as well, was her mind enriched and stimulated to independent thought.
The town of Litchfield
was celebrated in those days for the unusual number of cultivated, scholarly, and professional men who resided there, and for the high literary character of its society.
“A delightful village, on a fruitful hill, richly endowed with schools both professional and scientific, with its venerable governors and judges, with its learned lawyers, and senators, and representatives both in the national and state departments, and with a population enlightened and respectable, Litchfield
,” says Mrs. Stowe
, “was now in its glory.”
The high reputation of Miss Pierce's school for young ladies brought a goodly number of fair women into the town,
while the excellent law-school of Judge Reeve
attracted thither brave young men from all quarters.
Miss Catharine Beecher
relates that when Mrs. Stowe
was at Paris
, she was repeatedly visited by an aged French gentleman of distinction, who in youth had spent some years in Litchfield
as a student at the law school, and, in his conversations with Mrs. Stowe
, he frequently referred to, and dwelt with enthusiasm upon, the society of Litchfield
, which he declared was the most charming in the world.
In such a home, and in such a society, Harriet Beecher
passed the first twelve years of her life.
She was a pupil in the school taught by Miss Pierce
and Mr. Brace
Of Mr. Brace
, Mrs. Stowe
speaks in terms of the highest praise, as a gentleman of wide information, well-read in the English
classics, of singular conversational powers, and a most “stimulating and inspiring instructor.”
Her own simpler lessons were neglected and forgotten as she sat listening intently, hour after hour, to the recitations of the older classes, and to the conversations of Mr. Brace
with them, in moral philosophy, rhetoric, and history.
In this school particular attention was given to the writing of compositions.
An ambition was kindled in the minds of the scholars to excel in this exercise.
Harriet was but nine years old, when, roused by Mr. Brace
's inspiration, she volunteered to write a composition every week.
The theme for the first week was sufficiently formidable,--The Difference between the Natural and the Moral Sublime
But so great was the interest which the preparatory discussions had awakened in her mind, that she found herself in labor with the subject, felt sure that she had some clear distinctions in mind, and, although she could hardly write legibly or spell correctly, brought forth her first composition upon that question.
Persevering in her efforts, she was soon publicly commended for her progress, and two
years later received the honor of an appointment to be one of the writers at the annual exhibition of the school.
On that distinguished occasion she argued the negative of the following question: Can the Immortality of the Soul be proved by the Light of Nature?
We may smile at the idea of an argument on such a topic by a girl in her twelfth year, but she shall describe the scene of her first public triumph :--
I remember the scene at that exhibition,--to me so eventful.
The hall was crowded with the literati of Litchfield.
Before them all our compositions were read aloud.
When mine was read, I noticed that father, who was sitting on high by Mr. Brace, brightened and looked interested; and, at the close, I heard him say, “Who wrote that composition?”
“ Your daughter, sir!”
was the answer.
It was the proudest moment of my life.
The conditions and circumstances of Mrs. Stowe
's early life, the scenes and surroundings of her childhood, and the nature of that domestic and social life in which her own life was rooted, and from which some, at least, of its peculiar qualities must have been derived, deserve a much more careful and complete representation than the limits of this sketch will allow; for they reveal where and how the solid foundations of her future fame were laid, and by what subtile but potent influences her intellectual powers were quickened, her character moulded, and her whole history happily predetermined in its course of development.
At about twelve years of age, Harriet went to Hartford
, where her sister Catharine had opened a school for young ladies.
She was one of a brilliant class which numbered among its members several ladies whose names are well and widely known.
She was known as an absent-minded, introspective, reticent, and somewhat moody young lady, odd in
her manners and habits, but a fine scholar, a great reader, and exceedingly clever in her compositions, whether of poetry or of prose.
Even then she displayed something of that fondness and aptitude for delineating the peculiarities of New England
manners and character, for which, in later years, both she and her brother Henry Ward
have been distinguished.
Children of New England
, born and reared under its clearest skies, and amid its loveliest scenes, perfectly familiar with every phase of its social life, full of its native spirit of independence,--whose home, also, and family relations were such as were sufficient to inspire them with an ardent enthusiasm for the land of their fathers, they have revelled in charming reminiscences and descriptions of it; and have never written more graphically, and as if under a genuine inspiration, than in those pages of the “Mayflower,” of “The minister's Wooing,” of “The Pearl
of Orr's Island
,” and of “Norwood
,” where they have led their readers to and fro over its peaceful hills, and among its peculiar people of long ago.
For a season Harriet was an associate teacher in the Hartford Seminary
; but, on the failure of Miss Beecher
's health, both she and her sister sought rest in their father's house, which, since the year 1832, had been located in the environs of Cincinnati
Here, also, after a brief respite, they opened a school, of which-and particularly of the religious influence of which, and of a Bible class in Old Testament history which Harriet Beecher
conducted — we have heard one of the pupils speak in terms of high praise.
at length gave herself up to the organization of larger educational enterprises,--to the furtherance of which her whole life has been nobly devoted.
And on the 5th day of January, in the year 1836, Harriet married Professor Calvin E. Stowe
, a man of learning and distinction, and, at
that time, Professor
of Biblical Literature in Lane Theological Seminary.
For several years previous to her marriage, however, Mrs. Stowe
had occasionally made her appearance, both in private circles and in the periodical literature of the day, as a writer of no little promise.
Some of her productions of that period have not yet passed out of public notice.
It now becomes necessary to refer to certain literary associations into which Mrs. Stowe
was happily drawn, and which had no little influence in awakening in her a consciousness of her powers, and furnished her with opportunities, motives, and encouragements to make trial of those powers.
Out of the good fellowship which prevailed among many of the literary men and women of that vicinity,--a fellowship which was fostered by the hospitality of several gentlemen of culture and property,--a remarkable series of social and literary reunions were established under the name of the “Semicolon club.”
At the meetings of the club, which were under just enough of regulation to prevent confusion and dissipation of time, without hindering perfect freedom of discussion and intercourse, essays, sketches, reviews, stories, and poems were read, discussions and conversations were carried on, and music came in to enliven and diversify the exercises.
Many of those who were accustomed to participate in these reunions have since distinguished themselves in their respective vocations.
Among these we may mention Judge Hall
, editor of the “Western monthly Magazine,” and a critic of no little reputation; Miss Catharine Beecher
, and her sister Harriet; Prof. Hentz
and his wife, Caroline Lee Hentz
, a novelist of popularity, and a woman of distinguished grace; E. P. Cranch
, whose exquisite humor flowed from either pen or pencil with equal facility; James H. Perkins
, a man of extraordinary talents; Col. E. D. Mansfield
Prof. J. W. Ward
; Charles W. Elliot
, the New England
historian; Daniel Drake
, a medical professor and author of celebrity; William Greene
; three Misses Blackwell
, two of whom have gained distinction as physicians; Prof. C. E. Stowe
, widely known, both in Europe
, as a scholar an i author; and Professor
, and subsequently Major-General
0. M. Mitchell
, whom the nation remembers as one of its most accomplished scientific men, and mourns as one of its noblest martyrs in the cause of liberty.
In this brilliant circle Mrs. Stowe
's genius soon began to shine conspicuously.
Some of her contributions to these reunions were received with unaffected wonder and delight.
The portraiture of old Father Mills
, of Torringford, Conn., which appears in the “Mayflower” under the title of “Father Morris
,” was greeted with uproarious applause.
But her “Uncle Tim,” written in 1834 for the “Semicolon club,” and read at one of its sessions, made the deepest impression.
And this same sketch, which is still one of the most charming and characteristic productions of her pen, published first in Judge Hall
's Magazine, and afterward in the “Mayflower,” first attracted public attention to her as a writer of great versatility and promise.
In this “Semicolon club” the woman of genius seems to have first become really conscious of her powers; in it she received also recognition, sympathy, and an impulse, and by it found a way for herself out beyond the circle of private fellowships into the wider circles of the great world.
Meanwhile she was an occasional contributor to the Western Magazine
, to Godey
's Magazine, and perchance to other periodicals.
And not long after her marriage the “Mayflower” was published, which contained, beside some of the best of her “Semicolon” papers, several new sketches of New England
life and character.
Thenceforward her life flowed on in purely domestic channels for several years, without
putting forth any decided signs of its future fruitfulness.
And now we are brought to the threshold of that great arena on which her mightiest works were done, and her great triumph was achieved, while the whole world looked on and applauded.
Uneventful as the next few years of her life seemed then to be, they were years of peculiar trial and discipline, wherein God himself was secretly preparing and furnishing her for the fulfilment of his great purposes.
She had always felt a deep interest in the slaves, and, whenever opportunities occurred, had always manifested a practical benevolence towards them.
By journeys into the adjoining State of Kentucky
, by visits at the homes of her pupils from that State, she had made herself perfectly familiar with the different aspects of plantation life.
For years she had enjoyed and improved excellent opportunities of studying the negro character, and also the operations of the slavery system.
Fearful examples of the evils and miseries, of the unspeakable wrongs and crimes and shames of slavery, were ever and anon laid at her very door.
She was at the very point where the great anti-slavery conflict raged most fiercely,--in the midst of the border warfare of abolitionism.
Fugitive slaves were frequently concealed in her house.
Children of fugitives were harbored and instructed there.
Hard by was the Walnut Hills
under-ground railroad, of which her husband had the credit of being an active director.
One day her two little children were going to the barn to play.
The elder, to frighten his sister into some submission, cried, “The black man will catch you!”
whereupon four burly fugitives, who were resting and hiding in the hay till nightfall, thinking themselves discovered, started up and ran away, to the infinite terror of both children.
Sometimes quite a family would be secreted in the house, and the great difficulty, says Prof. Stowe
, “was to keep the little pickaninnies from sticking
their heads out of the windows, and so betraying their retreat.”
Often at dead of night the rattle of wagons bearing escaped slaves onward to the land of promise, and afterwards the ominous tramp of hard-ridden horses were heard, telling of rapid flight and hot pursuit.
The actual spiriting away from her pursuers of a poor colored girl by Mrs. Stowe
's husband and her brother Charles, who, trusting first to God, and secondly to a sagacious old black horse, carried the fugitive away under cover of a starless night and over a perilous road to a place of safety in honest old Van Zandt
's cabin, needed only a little disguising in the description to fit it for the pages of “Uncle Tom.”
Amid all the anti-slavery discussions and tumults,amid all the excitements and outrages and sufferings of which she had personal knowledge, and when mob-violence threatened the safety of the roof that sheltered her, Mrs. Stowe
manifested no unusual intensity of feeling on the subject.
Amid the earnest voices that argued and described and denounced the iniquities of slavery her voice was not heard.
She was a silent but close observer of passing events.
Materials for her future work were unconsciously accumulating as she watched, and waited, and hoped, and prayed.
The seminary in which her husband was a prominent instructor became at length the scene of a painful and disastrous struggle between the two great forces of the age. Conservatism triumphed, but in its blind zeal pulled down some of the strongest columns on which the institution rested.
The seminary was seriously crippled, and, after protracted labors to restore its prosperity, finding his health failing, Prof. Stowe
retired to accept a professorship in Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine
, and in the year 1850 he entered upon his duties there.
Just at this time the fugitive slave law was passed, and Mrs. Stowe
was one of those whose souls were
kindled with indignation at this infamous piece of legislation.
In the light of that political act which converted the people of a great and free nation into so many compulsory negro-catchers, she saw clearly that the policy of inaction was no longer right nor safe, and that slavery was an insatiable monster that threatened not simply the dishonor, but the utter ruin, of the country.
One single, definite purpose arose out of her deep convictions, and took possession of her mind.
The whole system of slavery must be shown up as it really was!
This simple and all-controlling conviction was the cornerstone of “Uncle Tom's cabin” I
herself says :--
For many years the author avoided.
all reading upon, and all allusion to, the subject of slavery, considering it too painful to be inquired into, and one which advancing light and civilization would certainly live down.
But since the act of 1850, when she heard with consternation Christian and humane people actually recommending the remanding escaped fugitives into slavery, as a duty binding on all good citizens; when she heard, on all sides, from kind, compassionate, and estimable people, in the free States of the North, deliberations and discussions as to what Christian duty could be on this head, she could only think, these men and Christians do not know what slavery is; and from that arose a desire to exhibit it in a living, dramatic reality!
had, then, a perfectly clear idea of what was necessary to be done, and also a just appreciation of the most effective literary instruments and the best artistic methods for the accomplishment of the work.
But as yet there was no definite plan of proceeding.
Indeed, “Uncle Tom's cabin” was not so much put together and built up, like a house, according to a complete,
pre-existent design, as developed, like a tree, from one high, holy, and controlling idea.
solution of the problem of her own personal existence is the most satisfactory explanation of the production of this story.
While as yet the form and plan of the work lay undeveloped in her mind, she made a beginning.
which, instead of a beginning, was a stroke at the very heart of her whole story.
One day, on entering his wife's room in Brunswick
, Prof. Stowe
saw several sheets of paper lying loosely here and there, which were covered with her handwriting.
He took them up in curiosity and read them.
The death of Uncle Tom
was what he read.
That was first written, and it was all that had then been written.
“You can make something out of this,” said he. “I mean to do so,” was the reply.
Soon after, Mr. Bailey
, who was then publishing an antislavery paper in Washington
, solicited Mrs. Stowe
to write a series of articles for its columns.
The way was open, and she was ready, and, being called of God, by faith she went forth, not knowing whither she went!
Her Uncle Tom
should have a history, of which his death-scene should be the logical consequence and culmination.
As she mused the fire burned.
The true starting-point was readily found, and gradually a most felicitous story-form was conceived, in which a picture of slavery as it is might be exhibited,--a web was laid, into which she might weave, with threads of gold
and purple, her brave designs.
“Uncle Tom” began to be published in the “National era,” as a serial, in the summer of 1851, and was continued from week to week until its conclusion in March, 1852.
It was not a product of leisure hours.
Wrought with a sad sincerity,
and under most grievous burdens and disadvantages.
health was delicate.
Her cares were great.
In charge of a large family, and compelled by the sternest of all necessities to make the most of very little and poor help in her household labors, much of this wonderful book was actually written by Mrs. Stowe
, as she sat, with her portfolio upon her knee, by the kitchen fire, in moments snatched from her domestic cares.
We may be pardoned for saying that if the cuisine
was half as well managed as the composition, those who sat at Mrs. Stowe
's table, as well as those other innumerable ones who have feasted upon the fruits of her literary toil, were fortunate indeed.
“The book,” as Prof. Stowe
finely says, “was written in sorrow, in sadness, and obscurity, with no expectation of reward save in the prayers of the poor, and with a heart almost broken in view of the sufferings which it described, and the still greater sufferings which it dared not describe.”
Our older readers need not to be told with what avidity the weekly instalments of this serial were caught up and devoured by the readers of the “National era.”
The writer of this article was then a little boy in one of the remoter villages of Maine
, but remembers how “Uncle Tom's cabin” was the theme of universal discussion, and how those in his own home, and all through the village too, who, had never before bowed down to any idols of fiction, nor served them, were so completely demoralized by this novel, that they not only read it, but read it to their children; and how the papers which contained it, after being nearly worn out in going through so many hands in so many different homes, were as carefully folded up and laid away as if the tear-stains on them were sacred, as indeed they were.
We were all, from the baby upward, converted into the most earnest kind of abolitionists.
Strangely enough, however, when, after its publication in the “Era,” Mrs. Stowe
proposed its republication in book-form to Messrs. Phillips
, the proposition was
That, she thought, was the end of it. A woman's shrewdness had something to do with securing its publication.
The wife of Mr. Jewett
, of Boston
, had read the story, and advised her husband to publish it, if possible.
It was offered to him, and he remarked to Prof. Stowe
that it would bring his wife “something handsome!”
On returning home, his success and the remark of Mr. Jewett
were reported to Mrs. Stowe
, who, with an eye-twinkle, and a tone in which a little hope, more joy, and still more incredulity were expressed, replied, that she hoped it would bring her enough to purchase what she had not possessed for a long time,--a new silk dress
She was not obliged to wait long for that very desirable article, nor to limit herself very rigidly in the gratification of so legitimate a desire; for only a few months after its republication, Mr. Jewett
made his first settlement with Prof. Stowe
, and placed the sum of ten thousand dollars in his hands;--“More money,” says the professor, “than I had ever seen in my life!”
Large as were these first fruits, and enormous as was the sale of the book, for some reasons which do not require to be set forth here, the enterprise was far more remunerative to the publishers than to the author, and Mrs. Stowe
was not made rich by her story.
The popularity of the book was unbounded, and its circulation was unprecedented.
No work of fiction in the English
language was ever so widely sold.
Within six months, over one hundred and fifty thousand copies were sold in America
, and within a few years it reached a sale of nearly five hundred thousand copies.
The first London
edition was published in May, 1852.
The next September, the publishers furnished to one house alone, ten thousand copies each day for four weeks; making a sale of two hundred and forty thousand copies in one month.
Before the end of the year 1852, the book had been translated into the Spanish
, Flemish, German
, Polish, and Magyar languages.
Ere long it was translated into every European
language, and also into Arabic and Armenian.
There is a bookcase in the British Museum, filled with its various translations, editions, and versions.
, the “powers that be” published an edition in which all allusions to Christ
were changed to the Virgin Mary
,a piece of craftiness that argues better for the book than for its mutilators.
But remarkable as was the literary popularity of the book, its political and moral influence was hardly less so. Said Lord Palmerston to one from whose lips the remark was taken as it here stands, “I have not read a novel for thirty years; but I have read that book three times, not only for the story, but for the statesmanship of it
Lord Cockburn said, “She has done more for humanity than was ever before accomplished by any single book of fiction.”
No political pamphlet or discussion directed against the Fugitive Slave Law
could have dealt that sacred iniquity so deadly a blow as did this book.
Not only the reading, but the acting of “Uncle Tom,” --and particularly the thrilling scene of Eliza's
passage of the Ohio River
,--in New York, for one hundred and fifty successful nights, operated mightily to awaken popular sympathy for the fugitive, and to make negro-hunting contemptible.
The friends of slavery instinctively felt the danger, and arose in all their wrath and cunning to hinder the operation of the power that was going forth in that book among all people.
They ridiculed its pretensions, denied its statements, abused the author as a malevolent caricaturist and wilful disturber of the peace; and, reinforced by time-servers from the North
, among whom many Doctors
of Divinity were not ashamed to be seen, they went forth, a great multitude, terrible with banners and eager for the labor, armed and equipped also with brooms, and mops, and sundry other such suitable implements, to sweep back from all our
coasts the rising tide of abolitionism, to which Mrs. Stowe
's book had given such an irresistible impulse.
Everywhere there was heard the noise of endless splashings, and an infinite confusion, but the tide had its way,--the same tide, which, a few years later, broke over all barriers, swept over the whole country, and washed it clean of its old defilement and curse.
“Uncle Tom's cabin” was the honored instrument of that new and noble impulse which was given to public opinion and feeling throughout all Christendom against the infamous slavery system.
It was an indirect but most powerful cause of the great political revolution which soon after culminated in the organization of the great anti-slavery party of the country, at whose triumph, slavery, in the recklessness of its wrath, and in the haughtiness of its pride, rose up in rebellion, only to be utterly cast down and destroyed.
was violently assailed as the author of an anti-Christian book, and as herself an infidel disorganizer and agitator; and even religious newspapers joined in the assault.
True, her gospel brought not peace but a sword, because it was the old Gospel of Jesus Christ
! She was an agitator, as are the great winds that blow all abroad, and give us a pure atmosphere to breathe;--as every power is, whether it be of earth or of heaven.
But she was an agitator, not like the woman of heathen fable, who flung the apple of discord down into an harmonious company, so wantonly provoking strife; but like that other woman of Christian parable, who took a little leaven and hid it in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened.
Aside from its political influence, “Uncle Tom” was a mighty power in ;he world as a witness for Christ
, and was no less a contribution to the cause of Christianity than to the cause of emancipation and to American literature.
One peculiarity of it is, that the inevitable pair of lovers, the history of whose crooked love-courses forms the staple of most novel writing, are hardly to be found in it. It is a picture of social life, in
which the development of individual fortunes and the history of personal relations are included, but subordinated.
Again, it confuted the oft-repeated calumny, that none but infidels, and lawless, godless people, were abolitionists.
On every page of “Uncle Tom,” there are the breathing of a tender, earnest piety, and the manifestations of an ardent loyalty to the Christian
What wonderful use of the Scriptures is made in it!
's quiver is full of arrows, drawn from the word of God, not one of which fails her. Not only with the facility of perfect acquaintance, but with equal felicity and legitimacy, she quotes and applies the Scriptures to prove, or illustrate, or emphasize her positions.
, the reading of “Uncle Tom” created a great demand among the people for Bibles; and purchasers eagerly inquired if they were buying the real Bible--Uncle Tom's Bible
! The same result was produced in Belgium
, and elsewhere.
Could the most eloquent preacher do better than this?
What more triumphant vindication of its Christian character and influence could the book have than these facts furnish?
It was a perfectly natural, thoroughly honest, truly religious story, with nothing unwholesome in its marvellous fascinations, but contrariwise, fairly throbbing in every part with a genuine Christian feeling.
No wonder that ministers, and deacons, and quiet Quakers too, and all the godly folk who had always been accustomed to frown with holy horror upon novels, did unbend themselves to read, and diligently to circulate the words of this woman whom the Lord
had so evidently anointed to “preach deliverance unto the captives, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord
To search out the causes of this remarkable literary success would take us too far, in several directions, from the main road in which this sketch must travel.
To meet a great popular necessity, to serve the cause f truth and humanity in a
time when good men's minds were darkened, and when the powers of evil were coming in upon the nation like a flood, a story was written.
The writer thoroughly understood her subject; was perfect master of the literary instruments she employed; was a Christian woman of genius, and not only brought all the powers of a splendid intellect to the task, but poured out her whole heart in the work.
This book was written, as we have said, “in sorrow, in sadness, in obscurity, and with the heart almost broken
in view of the sufferings it describes!”
Here, surely, is one secret of its power.
David long ago revealed it. “He that goeth forth, weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless return again with songs, bringing his sheaves with him.”
So she went forth, and so returned.
said, “A noble book with a noble purpose
In “Uncle Tom” we have a charming story, and an unanswerable argument.
And the artistic idea, and the moral purpose are coordinately developed and finally fulfilled in perfect harmony.
With no other theme, even had it been treated with equal ability, would Mrs. Stowe
have attained equal success.
On the other hand, the subject of slavery could never have commanded the attention of the world as this book has done, had it been treated in some undramatic method and with less artistic skill.
There is a tremendous movement
(argument is too cold a word) in the book which, to one who only suffers himself to be once caught in it, is perfectly fascinating and irresistible.
And such is the consummate art by which this movement is set on foot, and guided, and led on, that all the while one is being swept along by it, whether or no, his keenest interest is awakened in every change of scene and circumstance, and in every one of the many persons with whom he is made acquainted.
Great statesmen like Mr. Seward
and Mr. Sumner
had argued the question of slavery.
Able divines had given the testimony of the Scriptures upon it. Eloquent platform orators, and vigorous writers had discussed all its aspects and relations.
And still a mist of romance, and an atmosphere of sanctity, or at least of privilege, enveloped and concealed its real features.
treated the subject, not as a question of law, or of logic, or of political economy, or of biblical interpretation, but as a simple question of humanity; not as an “abstract theory of social relations, but as a concrete reality of human life.”
She does not tell
, but shows
us what it is. She does not analyze, or demonstrate, or describe, but, by a skilful manner of indirection, takes us over the plantation, into the master's house, into the slave's cabin, into the fields,through the whole Southern country in fact,--and shows us not only the worst but the best phases of the slavery system, and allows us to see it as it really is. And all the while the power of her own intense sympathy for the oppressed millions whose cause she pleads, is felt throbbing in every line of the narrative.
In the year 1852, Mrs. Stowe
took up her residence in Andover, Massachusetts
, her husband having already accepted a call to the Professorship of Sacred Literature in the Theological Seminary there located.
Soon after she published the “Key to Uncle Tom's cabin,” wherein the accuracy of the statements, and the substantial truth of the representations she had made in her recent story, were fully vindicated.
For a long while her health had been delicate, but now it was very seriously impaired.
Her severe toil and the great excitement under which her labor had been performed had exhausted her strength, and she was almost prostrated.
This fact determined her to accept the very urgent and flattering invitations she had received, from various parts of England
, to cross the sea and visit the mother country;
and, accordingly, she embarked with her husband, bet brother, and one or two personal friends, and arrived in Liverpool
on the 11th day of April.
She was everywhere welcomed with surprising enthusiasm and cordiality.
Great assemblies gathered about her, at almost every step in her journey, to do her honor.
One and the same feeling was everywhere expressed.
The same enthusiasm pervaded all ranks of society.
On the third day after her arrival in England
, at a public meeting in Liverpool
, the chairman, in the name of the associated ladies of Liverpool
, presented Mrs. Stowe
with a most signal testimonial of the esteem in which she was universally held, both as a woman of genius who had written a story of world-wide renown, and as an instrument in the hands of God of arousing the slumbering sympathies of England
in behalf of the suffering slave.
Great public meetings were held in Glasgow
, in Edinburgh
, in Aberdeen
, and in Dundee
; there were receptions, and dinners, and addresses, and scarcely an end to the public manifestations of affectionate enthusiasm towards her.
Perhaps the general feeling that prompted and found expression in all these outward demonstrations may be most satisfactorily described by a few extracts from an address which was presented to Mrs. Stowe
at a public meeting in Dundee
, by Mr. Gilfillan
, in behalf of the Ladies
' Anti-Slavery Association:--
We beg permission to lay before you the expressions of a gratitude and an enthusiasm in some measure commensurate with your transcendent literary merit and moral worth.
We congratulate you on the success of the chef-d'oeuvre of your genius,--a success altogether unparalleled in the his. tory of literature.
We congratulate you in having, in that tale, supported with matchless eloquence and pathos the cause of the crushed, the forgotten, and the injured.
recognize, too, with delight, the spirit of enlightened and evangelical piety which breathes through your work, and serves to confute the calumny that none but infidels are interested in the cause of abolition.
These three points were made and emphasized in almost every speech or address that was offered in her honor.
She had given the world a most charming and wonderful work of fiction.
She had shot, with her own tender hand, the arrow that had pierced the joints of the armor wherewith the system of slavery was clad, and had given the monstrous evil a mortal wound.
She had furnished, in her “Uncle Tom,” “one of the most beautiful embodiments of the Christian
religion that was ever presented to the world.”
And if these last words, which were uttered by no other than the well-known Rev. John Angell James
, seem extravagant praise, we have only to remind the reader that the celebrated critic, Heinrich Heine
, whom no one can suspect of partiality in such a matter, after describing his gropings and flounderings amid the uncertain and unsatisfactory speculations of German philosophy, tells us how at length he came to quit Hegel
, and to quote the Bible
with Uncle Tom,--came
, too, to see that there was a higher wisdom in the poor slave's simple faith than in the great philosopher's dialectics, and found peace and satisfaction in “kneeling with his praying brother,” Uncle Tom
After various excursions, to Paris
, to Switzerland
, to Germany
, Mrs. Stowe
returned to England
and re-embarked for America
on the 7th of September.
In the following year she published an account of these European
experiences, in the form of letters written to friends at home, under the title of “Sunny memories of foreign lands,” to which her husband contributed an introduction, in which some account is given of the public meetings which were held in her honor
during the tour through England
About this time a new and enlarged edition of the “Mayflower” was also published.
Established in her home once more, and restored in health, Mrs. Stowe
's literary labors were resumed; and in the year 1856, shortly after another foreign tour, her second antislavery novel was published, under the title of “Dred; a tale of the Dismal Swamp
In the preface, the author declares her great purpose to be the same as that of her previous story.
Once more she endeavors to do something towards revealing to the people the true character of the system of slavery.
The book inevitably comes into comparison with its predecessor; and whatever may be truly said in its praise, it cannot be questioned that, both as a work of art and as an effective revelation of slavery, it falls far below “Uncle Tom.”
The chief defects of the book, and those which hindered the completest fulfilment of its noble purpose, are its lack of unity, and ever and anon a departure from the simplicity of a narrative or representation, into the disenchantments of discussion and argument, by which the reader is disturbed in his pleasant dream and vision, and the reality of the scenes that move before him is explained away.
The panorama does not move on without an interruption and in silence, as in the case of “Uncle Tom,” interpreting itself, and silently but powerfully unfolding its purpose or moral, but stops now and then to give place to the voice of the delineator in explanations or vindications.
In writing “Uncle Tom,” the author seems never to have thought that her representations would be called in question, and accordingly she did not so much as think of fortifying herself as she advanced, or of throwing in justifications and arguments, or of going aside for facts to substantiate her narrative, but kept faithfully to the simplicity of her purpose to exhibit slavery as she had seen and known it. But, in
writing “Dred,” she seems to have labored under the embarrassment of feeling that her exhibitions needed to be explained, or justified and substantiated here and there; and as often as the artist ceased painting, and began declaiming or defining; or, in other words, by as much as Mrs. Stowe
attempted to give us, with “Dred,” a “Key” to it also, she violated the most fundamental artistic conditions of success.
Thus, also, the whole exposition of slavery was more positive, and formal, and dogmatic than in “Uncle Tom.”
The story did not grow like “Uncle Tom,” but was put together, and is rather a series of sketches than one, organic, indivisible story.
himself, if not imperfectly conceived, is a conception so difficult of realization, and, in fact, so imperfectly created, that he fails to excite our sympathies.
He is an unreal presence,--a dark, gloomy, ghostly being, at whose apparitions we wonder, at whose sufferings we are not very much moved, and over whose fate it is impossible to fetch a tear, -hardly a sigh, and that of relief.
The fact that in a recent edition of this story the title is changed from “Dred” to “Nina Gordon
,” is suggestive.
But there are unsurpassable passages and characters in “Dred.”
Tiff, Aunt Milly, Nina Gordon, Jekyl
, and Aunt Nesbit
are personages that demonstrate Mrs. Stowe
's matchless power in delineating and differentiating individual characters.
, so perfectly devoted to “dese y'er chil'en,” so noble and simple of heart, and yet so irresistibly droll in his manners; who wants to be “ordered round 'fore folks,” to maintain the family dignity; who, when his fire goes out immediately after it was kindled, exclaims, “Bress de Lord
, got all de wood left
” who sits by the bed of his dying mistress, with his big spectacles on his upturned nose, and a red handkerchief pinned about his shoulders, comforting the sick, darning a stocking, rocking the cradle, singing to himself, and talking to the
baby, all at once,--is a character in which the earnestness of Uncle Tom
and the jollity of Mark Tapley
That scene at the bedside of his mistress, and his dialogue with Fanny
, wherein revival preaching is so finely criticised, and his famous lecture to the young ladies on their manners, are passages in which the relationship of pathos and humor is made manifest in the happiest possible manner.
And what more powerful chapter has Mrs. Stowe
ever written than that in which Aunt Milly
tells to Nina Gordon
the tragic, the terrible story of her life?
Not long after the publication of “Dred,” Mrs. Stowe
began to write another story, which was published as a serial in the columns of the “Atlantic monthly,” in the year 1859.
The “Minister's Wooing,” a tale of New England
life in the latter part of the eighteenth century, has not unfrequently been pronounced by literary men to be the ablest of all the books which Mrs. Stowe
This opinion was expressed by so competent a critic as the Rev. Henry Alford, D. D.
In it the author quits the subject of her previous stories, and returns again to that New England
life, of which she has so genuine an appreciation, and is so fond and admirable an interpreter.
But while this story was universally acknowledged to be one of great ability, and one in which the author gained new reputation, it was somewhat bitterly criticised on several grounds.
Many very proper people professed the utmost disgust at the treatment which the celebrated Dr. Hopkins
received at the hands of the author.
It was declared to be an unpardonable sin to have brought so dignified, august, and venerable a divine down to the common level of lovers in a love story.
, or any other orthodox and exemplary doctor of divinity, should unquestionably have been far above any such worldliness and weakness as falling in love, especially with a young and pretty woman.
He certainly should have
chosen some elderly, thin, angular, solemn, uncomfortable Calvinistic spinster, and so manifested his willingness to be damned for the glory of God.
But, unfortunately, in a moment of inexplicable weakness, Dr. Hopkins
did allow his affections to fix upon and twine about a young and beautiful maiden, and with him as he was, and not as he undoubtedly ought to have been, Mrs. Stowe
dealt,--not without causing the great divine to appear somewhat diviner, to carnal eyes, at least, by her revelation of human feelings (frailties, if you please) that still remained uncrucified in his bosom.
Indeed, after having read his ponderous treatises, and also an exhaustive biography of him, written by able hands, we had regarded him somewhat as we might have regarded a statue, by Michael Angelo
, of the ideal theologian.
That he had “parts” seemed probable; but that he had “passions” we hardly dreamed.
told us that this cold, hard, colossal theological image was, after all, a great, simple-minded, honest, powerful, tender-hearted man, clad in Calvinism as in a cumbrous coat of mail, and armed therewith as with a weaver's beam, but loving and lovable withal as a little child.
We felt grateful to the image-breaker, and thanked her for showing us the man underneath the theologian,--the Christian
underneath and more glorious than the Calvinist; but as between those who were gratified and those who were horrified, who could judge, save the great reading public; and has not their judgment been rendered?
Moreover the book was supposed by many watchmen or the walls of Zion
to be heterodox in its tendencies, and to be well adapted, if not expressly designed, to bring what is called New England
theology into contempt.
That a woman of strong will, and of quick and ardent temperament, who had put her convictions under the rigid theology of that age and region,--on receiving the news of the sudden death at sea of the son of her love, who had never given evidence of
the effectual calling of God, and was therefore to be given over as among the lost,--should rise up, in the intensity of her anguish, in a momentary rebellion against the God of her creed, and utter wild and even wicked cries, and show herself intractable to the common arts, and insensible to the ordinary platitudes of consolation, and be quite beside herself in fact, seemed strange to these suspicious watchmen.
Had they never read of Job, or of Peter?
Is it then an easy thing for a mother to give up her only God, or her only son?
And is it not quite enough to drive an earnest soul into temporary madness to be shut up to such a dreadful alternative?
It seemed strange also to these watchmen that poor old Candace
, an ignorant but Christian colored woman, should have been brought forward, rather than Dr. Hopkins
, to soothe and quiet and comfort nd d bring back to reason this distracted mother.
had tact, and a woman's instinctive comprehension of the case in hand, neither of which the theologian possessed.
Did they never read that “God hath chosen the weak things of this world to confound the things that are mighty, and base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen . . to bring to naught things that are; that no flesh should glory in his presence” ?
The critical watchmen took it very hardly that Miss Prissy
should free her mind in such a shockingly latitudinarian manner.
That estimable but garrulous young lady ventured to say, “We don't ever know what God's grace has done for folks;” and that she hoped that the Lord
one of the elect;” and proceeded to quote what a certain woman once said to a certain other woman whose wild son had fallen from the mast-head of a vessel, to the effect that “from the mast-head to the deck was time enough for divine grace to do its work.”
But Miss Prissy
is certainly a very pure and consistent Calvinist in all she says.
Taking into account the doctrines of an unconditional and absolute personal
election, and together with it that of an instantaneous regeneration by a divine power that descends irresistibly upon each elect individual at the predestinated moment, it seems as though Miss Prissy
was simply making a practical application of the Hopkinsian theology, and giving poor Jim
the benefit of it.
The twenty-third chapter, entitled “Views of divine government,” is the heart of the book.
Her description of New England
, at the date of her story, “as one vast sea, surging from depths to heights with thought and discussion on the most insoluble of mysteries;” her noble characterization of the early ministry of New England
; her representation of the preaching of that time, and of the current views both of human existence and of religious doctrines; her vivid statement of the fearful issues which the theological systems presented to the mind, and of the different effects produced thereby, so that “while strong spirits walked, palm-crowned, with victorious hymns, along these sublime paths, feebler and more sensitive ones lay along the track, bleeding away in lifelong despair,” --all this is set forth with great clearness and power.
, whose probably unregenerate son had been lost at sea, as was reported, was bound up in the logical consequences of her rigorous creed.
Her brave, beautiful boy was lost!
She broke out in a strain of wild despair to Mary
. She could not be reconciled, simply because, according to her theology, there was nothing in God or in his government to attract or comfort.
The poor woman was well-nigh crazy, and no wonder, with nothing but the sharp points of her unsuspected conceptions of divine sovereignty to fall back upon.
“I am a lost spirit,” she cried; “leave me alone!”
At that moment poor old Candace
, who had never been able to understand theology at all, but knew the God and the
Saviour of the gospel, having anxiously overhead the dreadful monologue, burst into the room.
“Come, ye poor little lamb,” she said, walking straight up to Mrs. Marvyn
, “come to old Candace!” --and with that she gathered the pale form to her bosom, and sat down and began rocking her, as if she had been a babe.
“Honey, darlina, ye a'n't right,--dar's a dreadful mistake somewhat.
Why, de Lord
a'nat like what ye tink.-He loves
why, jes' feel how I loves ye,--poor ole black Candace
,ana I a'n't better'n Him as made me!
Who was it wore de crown oa thorns, lamb?-who was it sweat great drops oa blood?-who was it said, Father forgive dema?
Say, honey, wasn't it de Lord
dat made ye?
Dar, dar, now ye'r cryina! --cry away, and ease yer poor little heart.
He died for Mass
'r Jim,--loved him and died
for him,--jes' give up his sweet, precious body and soul for him on de cross!
Laws, jes' leave
him in Jesus' hands!
Why, honey, dar's do very print oa de nails in his hands now!”
The flood-gates were rent; and healing sobs and tears shook the frail form, as a faded lily shakes under the soft rains of summer.
All in the room wept together.
“Now, honey,” said Candace
, “I know our Doctor
's a mighty good man, ana lamed,--ana in fair weather I ha'nat no 'bjection to yer hearina all about dese yer great an' mighty tings he's got to say. But, honey, dey won't do for yer now. Sick folks mus'n't hab strong meat; an' times like dese, dar jes' a'nat but one ting to come to, an' dat ar's Jesus.
Look right at Jesus
/ Tell ye, honey, ye can't live no other way now. Don't ye 'member how He looked on his mother, when she stood faintina an' tremblina under de cross, jes' like you?
He knows all about mothers' hearts.
He-won't break yours.
It was jes' cause He know'd we'd come into straits like dis yer, dat He went through all dese tings,--Him, de Lord
Is dis Him you was a-talkina about?
Him you can't love?
Look at Him, an' see if you can't! Look an' see what He is!--don't ask no questions, an' don't go to no reasonin's,--jes' look at Him
, hangina dar, so sweet and patient on de cross!
All dey could do couldn't stop his lovina 'em; he prayed for 'em wid all de breath he had. Dar's a God you can love, a'nat dar?
loves Him,--poor, old, foolish, black, wicked Candace
,--and she knows He loves her.”
And here Candace
broke down into torrents of weeping.
“They laid the mother, faint and weary, on her bed, and beneath the shadow of that suffering cross came down a healing sleep on those weary eyelids.”
Could anything be more beautiful than the irrepressible outburst of this simple woman's Christian sympathy and love, as she took her mistress into her arms, and offered her up to God on the altar of her own heart, and bore her griefs and carried her sorrows, and drew her gently away from her theories of the divine purposes and government, and laid her tenderly down beneath the cross, in the shelter of the central fact of Christianity, where she might feel
the love of God, and weep her madness away, and find comfort and peace?
It is perfectly clear that Mrs. Stowe
is no blind believer in the old New England
She believes in the theology of the feelings as well as in that of the intellect.
Poor old Candace
, with her tender, sympathetic representations of the love of Jesus, is needed quite as much as the strong divine with his theory of underived virtue and his metaphysical subtleties concerning it. And while The minister's Wooing
is precisely what its name indicates, a love-story, and both a
charming and powerful one, it contains also a free and bold handling of the traditional orthodoxy of New England
, and a masterly exhibition of both its strong and its weak points, its wholesome and its pernicious effects.
We are led to think of it somewhat as James Marvyn
thought of Dr. Hopkins
himself: “He is a great, grand, large pattern of a man,a man who isn't afraid to think, and to speak anything he does think; but then I do believe, if he would take a voyage round the world in the forecastle of a whaler, he would know more about what to say to people than he does now; it would certainly give him several new points to be considered!”
It is not unlikely that many of the systems and bodies of divinity that have been compacted and elaborated with wonderful skill in the secluded work-shops of our great theologians, might have been modified in some of their parts, and on the whole greatly improved by such a voyage as young Marvyn
“The minister's Wooing,” apart from the mere story which is told in it, was rightly regarded as a subtle and masterly piece of theological criticism.
As such it was no less warmly welcomed than bitterly assailed.
But whatever may be thought of its soundness and merit, there can be no doubt of its great influence.
Few books that have been published within the last twenty years have done more to confirm the popular suspicion that the most perfectly compacted dogmatic systems of theology are of all things the most imperfect, inadequate, and unsatisfactory, and to strengthen what may be called the liberal evangelical party of New England
Immediately after the publication of “The minister's Wooing” in book-form, Mrs. Stowe
again, sojourning for the most part in Italy
, where she wrote her next story, “Agnes of Sorrento
,” which also appeared as a serial in the “Atlantic monthly,” during the year 1862.
For many years Mrs. Stowe
had been an occasional contributor
to the “New York independent,” --a religious newspaper of great reputation and large circulation throughout the country.
In the year 1862 she began to write for its columns “The Pearl
of Orr's Island
,” --a pleasant story, whose scene is laid on the beautiful coast of Maine
, at Harpswell, not far from Brunswick
, where she formerly resided, and whose plan turns upon certain traditions of that seaside community.
Summer tourists still visit Orr's Island
, and inspect the shell of a house in which the pretty Pearl
For many years Mrs. Stowe
has been one of the able corps of writers whose articles have enriched the columns of the “Atlantic monthly,” and no one of them has done more to give that magazine its large circulation and high reputation than she. “Little Foxes” and Chimney corner papers were written for it, and both these series of piquant essays have had a large sale at home and abroad.
The “Queer little people,” whom Mrs. Stowe
described to the readers of “Our young folks,” were people of so much interest that her papers concerning them were gathered into a volume and scattered through the land to the delight of thousands of people both big and little.
Throughout her literary career Mrs. Stowe
has been known by her friends, and in later years has become known to the public, as a poet whose songs, in certain tender and plaintive keys, have a peculiar charm and power.
Within a few years a goodly number and a judicious selection of her poems have been published.
They are chiefly of a religious character, and are the rhythmical breathings of a deep and almost mystic piety.
Their music is like the sounds that come up out of the heart of the sea in peaceful summer days when one is by himself on the shore,--sadly sweet and sweetly sad. One of the most beautiful of all these poems is the following which has found a place in many of the hymnologies of our churches, and has gone out, indeed, through all the world:--
When winds are raging o'er the upper ocean,
And billows wild contend with angry roar,
'Tis said, far down beneath its wild commotion,
That peaceful stillness reigneth evermore.
Far, far beneath, the noise of tempests dieth.
And silver waves chime ever peacefully,
And no rude storm, how fierce soe'er it flieth,
Disturbs the Sabbath of that deeper sea.
So, to the heart that knows thy love, O Purest,
There is a temple, sacred evermore,
And all the babble of life's angry voices
Dies in hushed stillness at its peaceful door.
Far, far away the roar of passion dieth,
And loving thoughts rise calm and peacefully,
And no rude storm how fierce soe'er it flieth,
Disturbs the soul that dwells, O Lord, in thee.
O rest of rest O peace, serene, eternal
Thou ever livest, and thou changest never;
And in the secret of thy presence dwelleth
Fulness of joy, forever and forever.
In the year 1864 Mrs. Stowe
built a beautiful house in the city of Hartford
, where she has since resided, surrounded by a large circle of family friends, and both admired and loved by all who enjoy the honor of her acquaintance.
In the midst of whatever can minister to comfort, or invite to leisure and repose, her years are still years of literary labors, and also of rich fruits in their season.
Late may she rest from those labors!