Ida May; a Story of Things Actual and Possible. By MARY LANGDON. "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." Boston: Phillips, Sampson, & Co. 1854. 12mo. pp. 478.
IT was written, say some, by the same pen that gave Uncle Tom's Cabin to all the world. However this may be, Mrs. Stowe is in
some sense the author of all the books, that, since the appearance of "Uncle Tom," have sought to engage sympathy for the
slave and picture forth the lights and shadows of Southern life in the United States. Mary Langdon (we can employ no prefix,
not knowing whether she is matron or maid) claims to write from personal observation, and to have endeavored to keep the middle
way between extreme cases. Ida May, the suffering and triumphant heroine of the story, is brought to our notice, first, as
the beautiful, delicately organized, gifted, and only child of doting parents, one of whom is soon removed by death, leaving
the little daughter as the only earthly solace of a bereaved husband. This little child, in all the radiance of her beauty
and tenderness of her youth, is stolen away by kidnappers to be sold into slavery. The fearful, heart-rending tale of the
seizure and flight is told with great power, only it is so sad that one is almost tempted to lay down the book and go no further;
but the child draws us after her, and we sympathize with her in all her sufferings from the brutal treatment of her
captors, and are somewhat relieved at last when she is bought by a kind-hearted planter and placed in charge of Aunt Venus, an old colored woman, whom sorrows have been as efficacious in Christianizing as, they have been efficacious in diabolifying Aunt Chloe, a kind of ogress who keeps guard over the children that are collected from time to time by the kidnappers. Poor little Ida has met with such cruel treatment that for a time the remembrance of the past is mercifully obscured, and happily she falls into kind hands, and under a good Providence, through a succession of adventures, which, we suppose, the novel-reader will not reckon improbable, is established upon a pleasant plantation in one of the more Southern States, under the patronage of friends who soon discovered her real name and mournful history. Not to dwell upon the plot, we must hasten to say that the father, who has grown gray in his agonizing search after his lost child, is at last united to her again, and that the whole ends most satisfactorily in the marriage of Ida with a noble young man, her patron and defender in her misfortunes. We may add, that many of the scenes and incidents of the narrative are placed in the residence of a planter of culture and honor, in whom the author intends to give us a picture of a large class at the South, who, although they mean to be just, are yet so warped and blinded by the disastrous influences of their position that they lose sight of the claims of mercy, and in doing what they will with what they call their own, sometimes become cruel tyrants.
The book, though not equal in power to "Uncle Tom," and suffering undoubtedly from coming after that striking production,
is nevertheless the work of no unskilful hand. The author gives proof of deep and pure sensibility, united with excellent
judgment and no small measure of artistic power. She is keenly alive to the beauties of nature and the sanctities of human
life. We are almost ready to swear that she is a genuine lover of children, and we are satisfied that she ought to be a mother
if she is not one. At her word pity or indignation overmasters the reader, and yet her book is far from being a mere play
upon the emotions or the passions, for the writer reasons calmly and well, and recognizes the obstacles in the path whilst
she steadily keeps before our eyes the grand aim. It will be easy to criticize the book, and say that its instances, besides
being extreme, exceptional, and the like, may be paralleled amongst the degraded and unfortunate in communities where slavery
is illegal and unknown. But the reply is just as near at hand, that the evils and sorrows delineated may be more general than
we suppose, and are incidental not merely to inevitable social appointments, under Providence, but to arbitrary human arrangements
which may be gradually reformed, and should not, in any case, be extended over any new ground. A word, too, as to the alleged
tendency of such works to irritate our fellow-citizens at the South. We would do everything consistent with a pre-eminent regard for Christianity to avoid any effect of this kind; we should be ready to leave our Southern brethren to deal with this fearful subject in their own way, if they, on their part, would discharge us, with our conscience upon the subject, from affording them any aid or comfort in the matter of slavery, or from being in any way a party to its extension. If we think it wrong to hold slaves who have never thought of escaping from slavery, how can we, without degrading ourselves, be parties any longer to a covenant which binds us to restore slaves who have been moved to peril their lives for liberty? Our brethren at the South ought not to press against us so fearful a contract, and one made obsolete by the world's moral progress in seventy years, after we have sought an honorable discharge. Moreover, in the book before us, the worst sins against freedom are committed, not by Southerners, but, for anything that appears to the contrary, by men of the North, and surely we have a right to plead with these; such pleading cannot be stigmatized as meddlesome.
We are satisfied that, as in the case of "Uncle Tom," documentary evidence might be produced to authenticate the materiel of Ida May. We confidently anticipate for our heroine a speedy and wide introduction to the great world of readers, and we are sure that the book will profit as well as delight, and especially will serve to check the reaction in favor of slavery, which, according to some, threatens New England. We can only say, Read, mark, and digest the book, and whilst you mourn over the evils inseparable from slavery, remember also the dangerous and wretched classes thus far inseparable even from the civilization of free states.