The National Era
Unsigned Article
Washington, D.C.: 16 November 1854



IDA MAY; or a Story of Things Actual and Possible. By Mary Langdon. Boston: Phillips, Sampson & Co. For sale as above.

  This book is another terrible blow at Slavery. The father of Ida May, living near an interior town in Pennsylvania has lately lost his wife. Ida, who has scarcely seen eight summers, is his only earthly solace—the light and the hope of his bereaved home. Rambling one pleasant day near the roadside, she is kidnapped, carried to a den of slave traders in one of the border States, whipped and frightened till she is so severely injured that she swoons, and when she recovers, has lost for a time, the recollection of the past. She is then prepared for the Southern market, put on a slave gang with a number of colored children, and driven southwardly. Growing more and more ill from the effects of the mal-treatment, the trader sells her on the way to a slaveholder in North Carolina, who hands her over to a slave named Venus, to raise if she can. Venus is gentle and kind; the poor little girl gradually recovers, and begins to grow up tall, graceful and pretty, utterly unlike a slave, in speech, look, and manners. One day, near a branch whither she had wandered, she is seen by Walter Varian, a young South Carolina collegian, on his return from the North. He has stopped at the branch to allow his horse to drink. Charmed with the grace of the little girl, he asks her many questions, but cannot believe that she is a slave. On leaving her, he tells her what his name is, and where she must get her friends to write, should she ever be in trouble. Times passes. Her master has more slaves and less money than is convenient; his wife persuades him to sell, and rendered jealous by experience, urges him to sell Ida and Venus with several others. They are marched off through South Carolina, where, having camped out, Ida goes to seek water for Venus, (who is suffering from the journey,) and is unexpectedly rescued from a wild hog by Walter Varian and his uncle Charles Maynard. The result is, she and Venus are purchased and carried to the house of Mr. Wynn, the brother-in-law of Maynard, and uncle of Varian, a wealthy planter of high respectability, but an absolute despot in his household and on his plantation. The discovery is soon made that Ida was kidnapped, and letters are written to persons in her native town, to ascertain whether any of her friends are living. Mr. May, after fruitless efforts to find his daughter, had converted his property into money, and set out to devote his life to her recovery. He had visited every Southern State, gone to New Orleans, embarked for Cuba, and then for France, thinking he had found a trace of her. The vessel in which he sailed was wrecked in a hurricane and all aboard perished. Thus ran the report.

  So Ida grew up in the family of Mr. Wynn, and was adopted as a daughter by Mr. Maynard.

  Of the events that subsequently befell her, we say nothing, for we would forestall the interest of our readers in the book. It is sufficient to know that, out of such materials, the writer has produced an anti-slavery novel, second in power only to Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is more artificial than that—deals more with extraordinary, but still possible, events—contains more unusual surprises and coincidences; still it keeps within the ordinary limits of verisimilitude. It does not follow in the track of Mrs. Stowe. Its characters are its own, its incidents original, it brings into view aspects and working of the slave system not touched upon in Uncle Tom's Cabin; and in one respect, it must acknowledge relationship with the ordinary class of novels—it does not ignore the tender passion. From beginning to end, the destinies of Ida and Walter are linked by bonds that cannot be broken.

  This work will have, and ought to have, a large circulation. It may tend to open the eyes of many Southern people whose hearts are deadened by custom to the evils of Slavery, and will certainly quicken and augment the anti-slavery sentiment of the free States.