DRED: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp. By Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." In two volumes. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, & Co. 1856.
"Author of Uncle Tom's Cabin." These words point to a severe ordeal for any book. A comparison, such as that which this volume must undergo, is one from which its gifted writer might well shrink. She would not, of course, venture upon it without surveying her ground, and marking out thoroughly the outlines. Many misgivings, no doubt, must have crossed her mind as she went on. In this respect, we regard her both at advantage and in disadvantage. The idea was calculated to nerve her to effort, and at the same time, in a measure to discourage. "Have you read Dred?" is in every one's mouth. "What do you think of it?" "Do you regard it as equal to Uncle Tom?" are the questions constantly passing, even amid the political excitements which swallow up almost everything else. We see it stated in some of the Boston papers that 3,000 copies of the two volumes are given to the public in a day, from the press where is it published in this country, while it is pouring forth with a similar tide upon the reading public of Great Britain. This is proof of the eager expectation with which it has been hailed, and the avidity with which its contents are devoured. We are glad of its success, and we think, too, it deserves it. Critically considered, it falls short, in some respects of Uncle Tom. Artistically, as to its plan and finish, it is superior to that work, which was dashed off in successive chapters, with scarcely, perhaps, any definite arrangements, as a whole in the mind of its author, leaving one incident or train of thought after another to control and shape its progress. There is no one character that runs through the whole book, like Uncle Tom. Dred, the runaway slave of the Dismal Swamp, does not make his appearance till almost at the close of the first volume. Yet, the portraiture drawn of him is powerfully wrought out. Portions of the work show a great mastery of her subject. The characters of Nina, Clayton, Harry, Milly, Tiff, and Tomtit, and indeed of all the personages that figure with any prominence; are sustained with care; and the author has, no doubt, real characters in her mind, from which many of them are drawn. The Negro language is just such as we recollect to have heard when placed in circumstances to listen to the expressions of their minds without constraint. Old Tiff is a rare exhibition of the pride of the servant identified with the honor of an old family of name, and his remarks and expedients, to sustain the dignity of its fallen fortunes, are most amusing. The condition of the poor whites, too, of the South, as well as of slaveholders, is set forth impressively. As but a few of our readers, probably, will not themselves read and judge of the contents of these two volumes, and three chapters have been published by us as specimens, we need not dwell upon them. We question if, on the whole, the book will be as much admired, or make as strong an impression on the public mind as Uncle Tom. That, however, it cannot detract from Mrs. Stowe's fame, if viewed in the circumstances in which it comes forth, following that most celebrated work, we entirely believe, and we doubt not that there will be enough of approbation to authorize still further attempts to do a great and good service in the same way, whenever our authoress has leisure of inclinations to undertake the task.