Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe was the daughter of a famous American divine, Dr. Lyman Beecher, and born of good New England stock, at Litchfield, Conn., on June 14, 1812.

James Russell Lowell, speaking of another of her stories, The Minister’s Wooing, said that no writer of her time had “by birth, breeding, and natural capacity,” the opportunity to know New England so well as she did. This is important, because it was distinctly the moral impulse generated in New England that set going the slave’s liberation movement, of which the most powerful tract was a novel, and that novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Her father’s preaching, and his prayers for the slaves, had a determining influence over Mrs. Stowe as a girl; and then, in 1832, the family moved south to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she was within easy reach of the slave states, and gained her intimate knowledge of the life she was to describe. She married there Professor Stowe, of Lane College, in 1836—an eventful year, when his house was often in danger from its association with the “underground railway” that helped the slaves to escape north. A few years later her husband had become professor at Andover, Mass., and the slave movement had reached a further crisis, when she began the story that was to move every country in Europe and give her international and world-wide fame.

The following summary by Nassau W. Senior sketches its contemporary effect:— “Uncle Tom’s Cabin came out as a sort of feuilleton in the National Era, a Washington paper. The death of Uncle Tom was the first portion published, indeed the first that was written. It appeared in the summer of 1851, and excited so much attention that Mrs. Stowe added a biginning and middle to her end, by composing and printing from week to week the story as we now have it, until it was concluded in March 1852. It was soon after reprinted at Boston in two volumes. By the end of November 1852, 150,000 copies had been sold in America. The first London edition was published in May 1852, and was not large, for the European popularity of a picture of negro life was doubted. But in the following September, the London publishers furnished to one house ten thousand copies per day for some four weeks. We cannot follow it beyond 1852, but at that time more than a million of copies had been sold in England; probably ten times as many as have been sold of any other work, except the Bible and Prayer-book.”

As for France, Uncle Tom fairly covered for a time the shop-windows of the boulevards, and one publisher alone, Eustace Barba, sent out five editions in different forms. Before the end of 1852, indeed, the story had been translated, to quote Senior again, into “Italian, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, Dutch, Flemish, German, Polish, and Magyar. There were two Dutch translations and twelve German ones, and the Italian translation enjoyed the honour of the Pope’s prohibition. It had been dramatised, too, in twenty different forms, and acted in every capital in Europe, and in the free States of America.” We might add also to Senior’s strictly contemporary list—Welsh, Armenian, Illyrian, Finnish, modern Greek, and Portuguese versions. George Sand contributed an appreciation to one of the French versions, in which she said Mrs. Stowe had “genius, not literary, but as humanity needed it— the genius of goodness.”

Mrs. Stowe died on July 1, 1896, at Hartford, Conn.

  By PanEris using Melati.

  Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.