Again, and Yet Again, Uncle Tom.
From Our English Correspondent.
The following is not the least interesting of the multiplied notices of Uncle Tom with which the press abounds:—
"THE WORKING CLASSES AND MRS. STOWE.—On Monday evening, Nov. 29, a lecture to the working classes, in connection with the Christian Instruction Society, was delivered at Hawkstone Hall, by the Rev. Thomas Davies, of York-road Chapel, Lambeth. The subject was, 'Uncle Tom, an illustration of Christianity.' The Hall was densely crowded, and hundreds of persons went away unable to effect an entrance. At the close of the meeting the lecturer, in acknowledging a vote of thanks which had been presented to him, remarked that he thought that Mrs. Stowe, the gifted and amiable authoress of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' was far better entitled to their thanks than himself, and suggested that a handsome Bible should be sent from the meeting to that lady as an expression of gratitude for her delightful book, and of sympathy with her noble effort for the abolition of slavery. The suggestion was warmly and unanimously adopted, contributions were received in hats as the people went out, and a sufficient sum, consisting of nearly four hundred coins, was collected, which will forthwith be expended in the purchase of a handsome Bible, with a suitable inscription, and sent out under the direction of the chairman of the meeting, the lecturer and the secretary of the Christian Instruction Society. The crowded assembly gave evident signs of being deeply interested in, and highly delighted by, the proceedings of the evening."
So obtuse are Christian instructors and their disciples in England, that no Christian Observer was found to note and explain that Uncle Tom was really both "Anti-Ministerial and anti-Christian!"
Our Continental neighbors would seem to equal the Britishers in stupidity, for a Belgian critic finds in Uncle Tom the true character of Christianity, personal and as organized; for L'Echo de Bruxelles, the most widely diffused of all the Belgian newspapers, in publishing in its literary department a translation of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," appends to that part where Mrs. Shelby alludes to having "joined the church," the following note by the translator:—"This expression—'joining the church'—must appear obscure to those who are not aware, that in the United States the system of separation between Church and State prevails—a system explained and defended in the Presse by M. Emile de Girardin. There you are not born a member of any church or religious society, you become so. When any one is instructed in the religious belief of any particular church, he asks to be admitted into it. Some very respectable gentlemen blush not to say that they do not as yet belong to any church. 'To join a church,' to 'compose part of it,' are expressions which mean, to make a public profession of some positive religious faith. The system of separation between Church and State is not favorable to powerful ecclesiastical organizations, but it is very favorable to the practice of sincerity."
At Paris, not fewer than three of the principal daily newspapers, the Presse, the Siecle, and the Pays, are giving literal translations of it in their feuilletons: most of the other journals have elaborately reviewed and quoted from it: and five or six complete translations of it have been bought by publishers. It is, besides, to be prepared for the stage. It has also been translated into Italian, and is to be produced in Spanish at Madrid. In Germany several translations are preparing.
Then the less intellectual, those who would be amused and taught through the eye and the ear by embodied forms, are demanding their part in Uncle Tom, and dramatic pieces are multiplying and becoming highly popular. A theatrical critic has a lengthened notice of a cleverly adapted version, produced this week at the Adelphi Theatre, London.
P.S.—The noblest tribute I have seen to Mrs. Stowe reached me to-day. Item. Reprint of articles by Lord Denman, the grand old Lord Chief-Justice—and an article by Sir George Stephen—formerly "King" at the Colonial Office (as Under-Secretary), now Professor of History at Cambridge; and author of the Lectures of French History you have recently heard of. Lord Denman has dealt with the Times and with Dickens in masterly style, keen yet dignified. Sir George, out of his treasures, has produced a series of facts outdoing, in each class, the horrors of Uncle Tom. Earl of Carlisle, too, writes a preface to an edition of the Cabin; well done; and the reproof of a gentleman to honored Mrs. Stowe, for appearing to countenance the fallacy implied in a comparison of our working people with the slave.
I saw a pleasant sight the other day. A poor man; two large baskets: he had been hawking cakes, &c., in the villages. His arms sustained the baskets; his hands held Uncle Tom's Cabin before him, and as he walked he read: that was a poor, industrious man, returning home to his wife and children, to break the bread he had earned; none daring to make him afraid, or desiring to do so. He looked quiet and intelligent; but I would not have been the man to tell him he was little better than an American slave; for there was a deep and muddy ditch close at hand!