Putnam's Monthly Magazine of American Literature, Science and Art
New York: May 1854


  AMERICAN.--Uncle Tom's Cabin will have more to answer for, than the unjust pictures of which our Southern friends complain. It has suggested a number of replies and defences, which are really a greater injury to the cause they espouse, than the original assailant. They are written in such transparent ignorance of the questions at issue, give such false views of life both at the South and North, and advance such unsound arguments, that, in spite of their amiable intentions, they must do good to few only, and injury to many. A novel is not an appropriate vehicle for the exposition of doctrine, at the best; and when it happens to be badly written, is an exceedingly inappropriate one. The object of it should be to represent life and manners as they are, and not to advance the cause of a party or sect, by caricatures of its opponents, or flattering likenesses of its friends; for it then loses its character as a work of art, and sinks to the level of a polemical pamphlet.

  These remarks are suggested to us by Mrs. CAROLINE LEE HENTZ'S recent novel, called "The Planter's Northern Bride," not because they are applicable to it, in their whole extent, but because it is a type of a large class of works which have lately overwhelmed the press. It is a story of an accomplished and wealthy Southerner, who marries the daughter of a New England abolitionist, and who, by means of his own excellence, and the agreeable light in which his relations to his slaves are placed, by actual experience, converts the entire family into good pro-slavery people. The intention is, to do away with the Northern prejudices, which are supposed to exist, and to exhibit society at the South in its true aspects. But we object to the book, apart from our general objection to all novels having a set moral purpose, that it proves too much, and, consequently proves nothing. It paints the South so entirely couleur de rose, that the reader, knowing that there are some and great evils in all societies, suspects it to be untrue. The relation of master and slave is made so agreeable, that the only legitimate inference from it is, that it would be better for the working classes all over the world to be reduced to the same condition. Now, we know that many gross misrepresentations have been given in respect to slavery, and we can easily pardon a little reaction towards a favorable view of it; but a writer, who endeavors to persuade us to such an extreme inference as this, cannot be a reliable teacher. The mind rejects the conclusion, and is inclined to imagine that the whole story is an attempt to deceive. Thus, the very purpose of the book is defeated, and the cause it was meant to serve, unintentionally injured. Mrs. Hentz is a skilful narrator, of excellent sentiments and a fine poetic vein; but we would counsel her, patriotic as her purposes are, to leave the discussion of slavery to other persons, or to undertake it in some other form. As she is a Northern woman, who has lived many years at the South, her personal experiences on the subject would be more authentic and valuable, than the same views essentially presented as fiction.