The Christian Observer
"X. W."
New York: 2 October 1852

For the Christian Observer


  A war of words about—"Uncle Tom's Cabin"! Who would have thought it? Truth is more strange than fiction.—It is even so. But what of the Cabin fight?

  A writer in London, looking across the Atlantic, has discovered some of the dark spots on the disc of this luminary in the world of romance, and spoken of them rather ungallantly in the London Times. Another writer in the New York Evangelist has gallantly volunteered as a true knight of the heroine, and drawn his sword in her defence.—The conflict thus far, is bloodless, though in one respect formidable.

  The London writer sees that the story is an excellent thing to "keep ill blood at boiling point." The New York knight has heard no explosion, and hopes there will be none. The London man regards it as a "vehement argument" for the authoress' creed. The New York man thinks it is a considerable "fair picture of the lights and shades of negro life at the South." The Times condemns the picture as partial and extravagant—and the Evangelist, forgetful of duty to the heroine, confesses "that in respect to extravagance, there is some ground for the criticism. Some of the characters are undoubtedly overdrawn!" After thus admitting that the book ought to be condemned as a caricature, our knight turns again to the London assailant, declaring that if the writer in the Times had " studied more thoroughly the entire plot of the book"—it is doubtful whether he would have written the following sentence:—

"An error, almost as fatal as the one adverted to, is committed by our authoress in the pains she takes to paint her negroes, mulattoes, and quadroons, in the very whitest white, while she is equally careful to disfigure her whites with the very blackest black."

  And if the Evangelist had studied the character of all classes of people at the South, he would not demur to this criticism. He would no doubt know that there are no such negroes as Sambo, and Quimbey and Topsy, on this continent—save in the imagination of the fair authoress—and that the Yankee phrases that occur in their spirited dialogues, are never heard from the lips of negroes south of Mason and Dixon's line. Some of the other actors have rather more resemblances to men and women. It is indeed a work of some dramatic power. It contains, as the Evangelist says, "a spicy variety," but surely the New York knight must be dealing in irony, when he tells us "that it will doubtless feel its way to many a conscience!!"—A romance—founded on such stories as fugitives tell for facts, to enlist the sympathies of abolition philanthropists—and the moving tales in abolition papers—it is a singular argument for the conscience!

  As an excitable novel to catch the attention of readers who know little or nothing about the South; or as a book made for profit, it answers its purpose admirably. It ministers largely to the passion for detraction and slander, which predominates extensively in society. It may also make its readers feel as if they were a great deal better than their Souther neighbors—a very comfortable kind of feeling.—But the marvellously popular book will no doubt soon be numbered among the things that were. It will be remembered—if not forgotten—as one of the "humbugs" of 1852.

X. W.