The National Era
Sara Clarke Lippincott
1851 October 2


NEW BRIGHTON, PA., Sept. 22, 1851.

  DEAR DOCTOR BAILEY; I feel it incumbent on me to make some explanation of my non-appearance in the "Era" for these many weeks past, lest it should be thought that, lightly esteeming my privileges, I am a voluntary absentee. Now, the sad truth of the matter is, I have been on the invalid list, and have almost lost sight of my vocation. In my best estate, I hardly feel equal to the honorable role of a correspondent of the "Era," and I have had too much forbearance to inflict on your readers my wild sick-room fancies, or the languid reveries of convalescence. And thus it is, that week after week, I "come up missing," and the columns that once knew me, know me no more.

  What a wretched feeling is this sense of uselessness—of the utter waste of time—the loss of long, shining, precious spasmodic efforts of the will to drive into deep and direct courses of thought a wandering and purposeless mind; how intolerable the dull, lethargic, lazy beating of the brain. To me these things are far more dreadful than the keenest pain of severe illness—to me there is no suffering so utterly unbearable as a forced idleness of head and hand. But, thank Heaven, I already feel the full waves of hope and strength flowing back, and gently bearing up my stranded life.

  I have lately returned from a visit to Ohio—to the Western Reserve. Not even my illness could destroy, though it sadly marred, the pleasure of that visit. I found myself among a set of true-souled men and women, whose heart-warm kindness and unostentatious hospitality gave me the rest, the assurance, that indescribable home-feeling so peculiarly grateful, so vitally needful to the invalid. More than once came to me those divinely pathetic words, "I was a stranger, and ye took me in—I was sick, and ye ministered unto me."

If your guest, my generous-hearted,
All too mutely from you parted,
Doubt her not—for in her going,
Had her true farewell been spoken,
Must her very soul have broken
Into utterance strange and wild—
Not with praise and blessing glowing,
But a wordless heart o'erflowing,
In the warm tears of a child.

If her brow seemed overcast—
If her smile too quickly passed,
Like the sun of autumn skies,
Like the light of shadowed brooks—
'Twas that she was overshadowed
By the trouble in your eyes,
By the fears, the tender pity
Struggling through your smiling looks.

If her soul seemed heavy-laden,
No weary grief was there—
But as parted lovers lighten
Their breasts of love's sweet care,
And with the precious burden
Weigh down some carrier dove—
So ye weighed down her spirit,
With too much, too much love.

When in years to be, her heart,
From the whirl of life apart,
Counts its treasures o'er and o'er,
Not as one with care and pains
Counteth up his rightful gains,
But rather with the joy and wonder,
Of one who taketh all as given
By gracious almoners of Heaven;
Oh, precious still, amid that store,
Shall seem the love it staggered under,
In going from your door.

  I saw our noble friend, Mr. Giddings, that Ajax of political Anti-Slavery, at his own pleasant home. He was in fine health, and in his usual happy and hopeful sprits. Nothing seems to daunt his large, courageous heart, to weaken its innate love of Freedom and hatred of Oppression. Oh, for a race of such men at the North, with nerve enough to stand up against the lordly ascendancy and the more subtle mesmeric power of the Southern character.

  The women of the Western Reserve would impress you alike by their mental and moral culture, by their individuality and entire independence. You hear them, among themselves, discussing, not the fit of a dress, the fashion of a bonnet, or the latest pattern of a sack, but all the most important, agitating, or novel questions of the time—Anti-Slavery, Woman's Rights, Spiritual Philosophy, the New Costume, &c. Mr. Giddings amused me by telling of a distinguished Judge, thereabouts, who, having a young law student under examination, solemnly put to him the questions, "Do you believe in the Rappings? Do you go the Bloomer dress?"

  I have, as yet, seen no specimen of the new costume which I thought pretty. I think it might be made very picturesque; and provided one had the independence to don it, and feel comfortable in it, nothing could be better for a journey to the Far West, a visit to the Mammoth Cave, a trip to the White Mountains, or for long morning walks in the country.

  As a costume for the parlor, or as a common street dress, I surely could not advocate it. But I do advocate the right of every woman to dress as she pleases—to make herself beautiful or hideous, as suits her fancy—provided no just law of delicacy is violated. The cry of immodesty, raised against the new costume, is, it seems to me, most unfounded and senseless.

  Still more ridiculous is the accusation, that the Bloomers have unlawfully appropriated the sign and symbol of masculine dignity and dominion. If, in truth, they had robbed you of your heavy, ungrateful "bifurcated garments," you ought to be inexpressibly relieved. But at the worst, they have only made free with Moslem privileges, and I doubt not that the gentlemen Mahomedans, more gallant than trans-Atlantic Christians, will have a proper sense of the compliment.

  Wherever I went among the friends of the "Era," I found "Uncle Tom's Cabin " a theme for admiring remark—everywhere I saw it read with pleasant smiles and gushes of irrepressible tears. Mrs. Stowe is winning, not alone "golden opinions," but love and gratitude, and a hearty reverence, by this incomparable story. Its style, its spirit, its construction, scope, and purpose, are alike admirable. Since it has been in course of publication, I have felt that I should not be missed if I stood aside and listened with the rest—like a chorus-singer looking out from the side-scenes, while the Prima Donna stands in front, and with her one surpassing voice reaches and satisfies all hearts.

  Those who, like Mrs. Stowe, consecrate genius to a just, but unpopular cause, seem to offer it up as a sacrifice; yet, "verily they have their reward." It comes in an almost miraculous increase of power—in the deepening of sentiment, and the exaltation of passion—in the concentration, the mastery of thought—and in glorious renewal of the beautiful first enthusiasm of life.

  The votaries of the world see only what is resigned, in reckless disregard of worldly wisdom—they cannot see the more than equal, the munificent exchange.


Printed from Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture
© 2006 the University of Virginia
Stephen Railton; Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities; Electronic Text Center
Charlottesville, Virginia