Winter Garden. Uncle Tom's Cabin.
The novel which has been printed and read more than any other in the English language, without counting numerous translations, from French to modern Greek, is Uncle Tom's Cabin. It appeared at a time when, as a nation, we appeared to have sunken hopelessly in the slough of Slavery; when the people of the North, to use the words of Josiah Quincey, were debased more than the overseers of the South, in being turned into slave-catchers, under the infamous and atheistic Compromise Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. The healing process of such teaching as Uncle Tom's Cabin, conveyed through the medium of a story of the profoundest interest, was felt; for hundreds of thousands perused it who would not care to study the drier statistics or arguments against slavery. It penetrated everywhere: from the great city mansion to the humblest village home. Its effects were seen prominently in the fact that a dramatization of negro character as contained in it—not the wretched caricature at which fools had always laughed—but presenting it under the aspect of human capabilities, aspirations and rights, became possible in our theatres, and not only possible but popular. The men who were thitherto ready to mob, burn, and destroy every thing that bore the name of Abolition, or that had no hope for the slave better than the scourge and blood hound, began to find in the theatrical version of Uncle Tom's Cabin, new ideas. They discovered that the slave was a man. They applauded him in his declamation respecting liberty; they sympathized with him in his efforts to obtain it; they gloried in his escape in the scene, from his white pursuers. They learned that the black man was oppressed. That our boastings about liberty were hypocrisy; and that under the downward course of the slave aristocracy we were becoming a nation of pirates, and placing ourselves without the pale of the respect or sympathies of the civilized world. All these influences were spread by the novel and the drama of Uncle Tom ably assisting the whole impassioned scope of Anti-Slavery feeling, whether the technical organization, or that of the Republican party.
At the Chatham Street Theatre Uncle Tom's Cabin was played for a whole year six nights a week without intermission—a brilliant career without we believe precedent in dramatic history. And so through many cities and towns. This was about six years ago. Since then the drama has lain dormant. But there are people still who have never seen it, and numbers too young to understand it then, can enjoy it now.
Under these circumstances we think it judicious for the direction of the Winter Garden to put it on the stage again. Last night it was produced with an interesting cast. Mr. C. Walcot, a rising young actor, did the immortal Uncle himself. Mr. Davidge the Kentucky Quaker with great unction. Miss Fanny Browne as Topsy especially distinguished herself: she was very clear. Mrs. Walcot as Aunt Ophelia did not seek to caricature and snivel out the New-England cousin's character. The representation of Little Eva deserves to be mentioned with commendatory emphasis; Miss Josephine Myers is almost the only child or very young person we have heard on the stage who had not been crammed with artificial teaching in voice and manner. She is simply natural: speaks as a child would; does not attitudinize, play "the phenomenon" or fool seriously. She made a success.
The piece has been carefully put on the stage, and went for a first representation very well. The auditorium could be much improved by more light. The theatre is too fine a one to put on a poor, short allowance of gas.
Uncle Tom will be repeated to-night, followed by dancing of Madame Cubas.