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- The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe - 40/82 -
them anything in its place.
I have no fear of discussion as to its final results on the Bible; my only regrets are for those human beings whose present and immortal interests I think compromised by this manner of discussion. Discussion of the evidence of the authenticity and inspiration of the Bible and of all theology will come more and more, and I rejoice that they will. But I think they must come, as all successful inquiries into truth must, in a calm, thoughtful, and humble spirit; not with bold assertions, hasty generalizations, or passionate appeals.
I appreciate your good qualities none the less though you differ with me on this point. I believe you to be honest and sincere. In Mr. Parker's works I have found much to increase my respect and esteem for him as a man. He comes to results, it is true, to which it would be death and utter despair for me to arrive at. Did I believe as he does about the Bible and Jesus, I were of all creatures most miserable, because I could not love God. I could find no God to love. I would far rather never have been born.
As to you, my dear friend, you must own that my frankness to you is the best expression of my confidence in your honor and nobleness. Did I not believe that "an excellent spirit" is in you, I would not take the trouble to write all this. If in any points in this note I appear to have misapprehended or done you injustice, I hope you will candidly let me know where and how.
Truly your friend,
H. B. STOWE.
[Illustration: Lyman Beecher]
In addition to these letters the following extracts from a subsequent letter to Mr. Garrison are given to show in what respect their fields of labor differed, and to present an idea of what Mrs. Stowe was doing for the cause of freedom besides writing against slavery:--
ANDOVER, MASS., _February_ 18,1854.
DEAR FRIEND,--I see and sincerely rejoice in the result of your lecture in New York. I am increasingly anxious that all who hate slavery be united, if not in form, at least in fact,--a unity in difference. _Our_ field lies in the church, and as yet I differ from you as to what may be done and hoped there. Brother Edward (Beecher) has written a sermon that goes to the very root of the decline of moral feeling in the church. As soon as it can be got ready for the press I shall have it printed, and shall send a copy to every minister in the country.
Our lectures have been somewhat embarrassed by a pressure of new business brought upon us by the urgency of the Kansas-Nebraska question. Since we began, however, brother Edward has devoted his whole time to visiting, consultation, and efforts the result of which will shortly be given to the public. We are trying to secure a universal arousing of the pulpit.
Dr. Bacon's letter is noble. You must think so. It has been sent to every member of Congress. Dr. Kirk's sermon is an advance, and his congregation warmly seconded it. Now, my good friend, be willing to see that the church is better than you have thought it. Be not unwilling to see some good symptoms, and hope that even those who see not at all at first will gain as they go on. I am acting on the conviction that you love the cause better than self. If anything can be done now advantageously by the aid of money, let me know. God has given me some power in this way, though I am too feeble to do much otherwise.
Yours for the cause,
H. B. STOWE.
Although the demand was very great upon Mrs. Stowe for magazine and newspaper articles, many of which she managed to write in 1854-55, she had in her mind at this time a new book which should be in many respects the complement of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." In preparing her Key to the latter work, she had collected much new material. In 1855, therefore, and during the spring of 1856, she found time to weave these hitherto unused facts into the story of "Dred." In her preface to the English edition of this book she writes:--
"The author's object in this book is to show the general effect of slavery on society; the various social disadvantages which it brings, even to its most favored advocates; the shiftlessness and misery and backward tendency of all the economical arrangements of slave States; the retrograding of good families into poverty; the deterioration of land; the worse demoralization of all classes, from the aristocratic, tyrannical planter to the oppressed and poor white, which is the result of the introduction of slave labor.
"It is also an object to display the corruption of Christianity which arises from the same source; a corruption that has gradually lowered the standard of the church, North and South, and been productive of more infidelity than the works of all the encyclopaedists put together."
The story of "Dred" was suggested by the famous negro insurrection, led by Nat Turner, in Eastern Virginia in 1831. In this affair one of the principal participators was named "Dred." An interesting incident connected with the writing of "Dred" is vividly remembered by Mrs. Stowe's daughters.
One sultry summer night there arose a terrific thunder-storm, with continuous flashes of lightning and incessant rumbling and muttering of thunder, every now and then breaking out into sharp, crashing reports followed by torrents of rain.
The two young girls, trembling with fear, groped their way down-stairs to their mother's room, and on entering found her lying quietly in bed awake, and calmly watching the storm from the windows, the shades being up. She expressed no surprise on seeing them, but said that she had not been herself in the least frightened, though intensely interested in watching the storm. "I have been writing a description of a thunder-storm for my book, and I am watching to see if I need to correct it in any particular." Our readers will be interested to know that she had so well described a storm from memory that even this vivid object-lesson brought with it no new suggestions. This scene is to be found in the twenty-fourth chapter of "Dred,"--"Life in the Swamps."
"The day had been sultry and it was now an hour or two past midnight, when a thunder-storm, which had long been gathering and muttering in the distant sky, began to develop its forces. A low, shivering sigh crept through the woods, and swayed in weird whistlings the tops of the pines; and sharp arrows of lightning came glittering down among the branches, as if sent from the bow of some warlike angel. An army of heavy clouds swept in a moment across the moon; then came a broad, dazzling, blinding sheet of flame."
What particularly impressed Mrs. Stowe's daughters at the time was their mother's perfect calmness, and the minute study of the storm. She was on the alert to detect anything which might lead her to correct her description.
Of this new story Charles Summer wrote from the senate chamber:--
MY DEAR MRS. STOWE,--I am rejoiced to learn, from your excellent sister here, that you are occupied with another tale exposing slavery. I feel that it will act directly upon pending questions, and help us in our struggle for Kansas, and also to overthrow the slave-oligarchy in the coming Presidential election. We need your help at once in our struggle.
Ever sincerely yours,
Having finished this second great story of slavery, in the early summer of 1856 Mrs. Stowe decided to visit Europe again, in search of a much-needed rest. She also found it necessary to do so in order to secure the English right to her book, which she had failed to do on "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Just before sailing she received the following touching letter from her life-long friend, Georgiana May. It is the last one of a series that extended without interruption over a period of thirty years, and as such has been carefully cherished:--
OCEAN HOUSE, GROTON POINT, _July_ 26, 1856.
DEAR HATTIE,--Very likely it is too late for me to come with my modest knock to your study door, and ask to be taken in for a moment, but I do so want to _bless_ you before you go, and I have not been well enough to write until to-day. It seems just as if I _could_ not let you go till I have seen once more your face in the flesh, for great uncertainties hang over my future. One thing, however, is certain: whichever of us two gets first to the farther shore of the great ocean between us and the unseen will be pretty sure to be at hand to welcome the other. It is not poetry, but solemn verity between us that we _shall_ meet again.
But there is nothing _morbid_ or _morbific_ going into these few lines. I have made "Old Tiff's" acquaintance. _He_ is a verity,--will stand up with Uncle Tom and Topsy, pieces of negro property you will be guilty of holding after you are dead. Very likely your children may be selling them.
Hattie, I rejoice over this completed work. Another work for God and your generation. I am glad that you have come out of it alive, that you have pleasure in prospect, that you "walk at liberty" and have done with "fits of languishing." Perhaps some day I shall be set free, but the prospect does not look promising, except as I have full faith that "the Good Man above is looking on, and will bring it all round right." Still "heart and flesh" both "fail me." He will be the "strength of my heart," and I never seem to doubt "my portion forever."
If I never speak to you again, this is the farewell utterance.
Mrs. Stowe was accompanied on this second trip to Europe by her husband, her two eldest daughters, her son Henry, and her sister Mary (Mrs. Perkins). It was a pleasant summer voyage, and was safely accomplished without special incident.
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