THE ANTI-SLAVERY NOVELS.
The wise man who long ago said, that if he could make the ballads of a nation, he cared little who made its laws, would in our day certainly have so far modified his paradox as to have substituted novels for ballads. The influence of ballads has passed away—[illegible] among reading nations. The potent influence they once exercised on the feelings and opinions of the masses has been superseded by the stronger and subtler excitement of prose fiction. The popular taste requires a stimulant more complex and refined, more spicy, than the ballad. That stimulant is supplied by the Novel—the most varied and comprehensive and effective form of literature that has yet been devised.
The intense interest with which the skilful novelist invests his work, its adaptation to the tastes and understanding of all classes of society, and of almost every grade of intellect, thus giving it a vast, and in the most successful instances a universal circulation, renders it a truly potent engine for moving the feelings or moulding the opinions of the people. The thoughtful observer can detect traces of the influence of novels in almost every phase of society. Emerson remarks that 'the prominence given to intellectual power in Bulwer's romances has proved a main stimulus to mental culture in thousands of young men in England and America.
Cervantes, by the publication of Don Quixote, is said to have 'smiled Spain's chivalry away,' and though the expression be stronger than the facts will warrant, inasmuch as the decline of Spanish chivalry had already taken place from other causes, it is certain that Don Quixote had a great effect on the manners and sentiments of the Spanish people, as well as upon their literature.
The influence of Pilgrim's Progress has long been felt and acknowledged by the religious world, and in a hundred languages, and in all quarters of the globe, it continues to edify devout and simple hearts.
In our own day, Eugene Sue's novel, the Wandering Jew, has helped largely to swell that tide in opposition to Popery, and especially to the Jesuits, which is sweeping through the Protestant nations, and is now so strongly manifested in the United States. On a less extensive scale, the novels of Charles Dickens have contributed to the reform of like abuses in England.
In the literature of America, three novels have already appeared, which have exerted, and undoubtedly will yet exert, a prodigious influence upon the solution of the great problem of slavery—the White Slave, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Ida May.
The White Slave, under its former title of the Memors of Archy More, was published in the earliest period of the Anti-Slavery movement. Its effect was speedily felt, and there is scarcely an anti-slavery man of more than ten years' standing, who does not look back to the perusal of the book as adding fresh fuel to his zeal, and giving additional force and clearness to his convictions. In its new and enlarged form it has a larger sale than ever, and certainly has lost none of its power as an anti-slavery argument.
Of Uncle Tom's Cabin it is needless to speak in detail. Its universal circulation in Europe has excited all Christendom against American slavery to a degree of intensity, the effects of which are already beginning to manifest themselves strongly on this side of the water.
Ida May has only begun its work; yet, though published but little more than a month, it ranks in circulation second only to Mrs. Stowe's great work. Inferior, undoubtedly, to Uncle Tom's Cabin as a work of art, it is, we think, fully equal to is as an argument against slavery—and that is the point of view in which we are now considering it. Every one who has at hear the redemption of the republic from its greatest curse, cannot better lend his aid to the good work than by promoting the circulation of these books, every copy of which in circulation deserves to be considered as an eloquent lecturer perpetually on the stump.