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- The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe - 30/82 -
that very reason it is that the contest with slavery there grows every year more terrible.
The stream of human progress, widening, deepening, strengthening from the confluent forces of all nations, meets this barrier, behind which is concentrated all the ignorance, cruelty, and oppression of the dark ages, and it roars and foams and shakes the barrier, and anon it must bear it down.
In its commencement slavery overspread every State in the Union: the progress of society has now emancipated the North from its yoke. In Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and Maryland, at different times, strong movements have been made for emancipation,--movements enforced by a comparison of the progressive march of the adjoining free States with the poverty and sterility and ignorance produced by a system which in a few years wastes and exhausts all the resources of the soil without the power of renewal.
The time cannot be distant when these States will emancipate for self- preservation; and if no new slave territory be added, the increase of slave population in the remainder will enforce measures of emancipation.
Here, then, is the point of the battle. Unless more slave territory is gained, slavery dies; if it is gained, it lives. Around this point political parties fight and manoeuvre, and every year the battle wages hotter.
The internal struggles of no other nation in the world are so interesting to Europeans as those of America; for America is fast filling up from Europe, and every European has almost immediately his vote in her councils.
If, therefore, the oppressed of other nations desire to find in America an asylum of permanent freedom, let them come prepared, heart and hand, and vote against the institution of slavery; for they who enslave man cannot themselves remain free.
True are the great words of Kossuth: "No nation can remain free with whom freedom is a _privilege_ and not a principle."
This preface was more or less widely copied in the twenty translations of the book that quickly followed its first appearance. These, arranged in the alphabetical order of their languages, are as follows: Armenian, Bohemian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, French, German, Hungarian, Illyrian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romaic or modern Greek, Russian, Servian, Spanish, Wallachian, and Welsh.
In Germany it received the following flattering notice from one of the leading literary journals: "The abolitionists in the United States should vote the author of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' a civic crown, for a more powerful ally than Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe and her romance they could not have. We confess that in the whole modern romance literature of Germany, England, and France, we know of no novel to be called equal to this. In comparison with its glowing eloquence that never fails of its purpose, its wonderful truth to nature, the largeness of its ideas, and the artistic faultlessness of the machinery in this book, George Sand, with her Spiridon and Claudie, appears to us untrue and artificial; Dickens, with his but too faithful pictures from the popular life of London, petty; Bulwer, hectic and self-conscious. It is like a sign of warning from the New World to the Old."
Madame George Sand reviewed the book, and spoke of Mrs. Stowe herself in words at once appreciative and discriminating: "Mrs. Stowe is all instinct; it is the very reason she appears to some not to have talent. Has she not talent? What is talent? Nothing, doubtless, compared to genius; but has she genius? She has genius as humanity feels the need of genius,--the genius of goodness, not that of the man of letters, but that of the saint."
Charles Sumner wrote from the senate chamber at Washington to Professor Stowe: "All that I hear and read bears testimony to the good Mrs. Stowe has done. The article of George Sand is a most remarkable tribute, such as was hardly ever offered by such a genius to any living mortal. Should Mrs. Stowe conclude to visit Europe she will have a triumph."
From Eversley parsonage Charles Kingsley wrote to Mrs. Stowe:--
A thousand thanks for your delightful letter. As for your progress and ovation here in England, I have no fear for you. You will be flattered and worshiped. You deserve it and you must bear it. I am sure that you have seen and suffered too much and too long to be injured by the foolish yet honest and heartfelt lionizing which you must go through.
I have many a story to tell you when we meet about the effects of the great book upon the most unexpected people.
Yours ever faithfully,
March 28, 1853, Professor Stowe sent the following communication to the Committee of Examination of the Theological Seminary at Andover: "As I shall not be present at the examinations this term, I think it proper to make to you a statement of the reasons of my absence. During the last winter I have not enjoyed my usual health. Mrs. Stowe also became sick and very much exhausted. At this time we had the offer of a voyage to Great Britain and back free of expense."
This offer, coming as it did from the friends of the cause of emancipation in the United Kingdom, was gladly accepted by Mr. and Mrs. Stowe, and they sailed immediately.
The preceding month Mrs. Stowe had received a letter from Mrs. Follen in London, asking for information with regard to herself, her family, and the circumstances of her writing "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
In reply Mrs. Stowe sent the following very characteristic letter, which may be safely given at the risk of some repetition:--
ANDOVER, _February_ 16, 1853.
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 house-keeping, 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
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