The Mercersburg Review
Lancaster: July 1852


  UNCLE TOM'S CABIN; or Life among the Lowly. By HARRIET BEECHER STOWE. Boston and Cleveland: Jewett & Co. 2 vols. 12 mo. pp. 634.

  THE writer of fiction may have two objects in view: first, to produce a story which shall carry with it attraction and power as a work of art; second, to inculcate certain principles or doctrines. The first is accomplished by working up the materials which lie, in fancy or fact, at the bottom of the story into a life-like and attractive form. This requires thorough knowledge of human nature, great skill in the grouping of facts and incidents, and the power of easy narrative and vivid portrayal. The second object is accomplished by giving such a tinge to the narration of events or the portrayal of character, as will steadily and almost irresistibly lead the mind of the reader to the point of view desired by the writer; or by direct reflections of a moral or practical character upon facts related; or by certain expressive soliloquizings upon a denouement which has been effected. Of the book before us we may say that the authoress has attained the former of these objects, and evidently aims at the latter. That slavery as it exists in our country, by the diversity of treatment afforded to the slave, and the consequent attachments and aversions formed; by its development of reckless character in the person of the slave trader; by its merciless sundering of families and old ties; its attendent mixture of races, by which singular and gifted characters are often developed; its thrilling flights and bloody captures; furnishes the materials for a dramatic story of a high order, cannot be doubted by one at all familiar with the pathos, romance and heroism involved. These elements Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe has studied thoroughly and feelingly; and has wrought them into the tale of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" with great artistic skill. Every part of the story seems to bear the touches of a hand, guided by an acute understanding of human nature,—and especially colored nature. Of its absorbing power we have had regretful experience when we ventured to sit down to it, with an engagement awaiting the next hour. Its great peculiarity is its intensity. It seems to be written under the pressure of deep emotion,—and written as a woman only could write. It carries you along whether your judgement assents or not. With regard to the teachings which the story is meant to carry, we cannot class them justly with those of the ultra abolitionists. The better side of slavery is exhibited in a strong light. Full account is made of the legal difficulties under which conscientious slave owners labour. Eminent types of Christian character are developed both in master—or rather mistress—and slave. We observed nothing of the "Down with the government," "Down with the church," spirit. Nevertheless there is an uncompromising war waged with the system of slavery itself, and the late fugitive slave bill; and odium cast upon all their apologists. There is the frequent verdict of the emotions without consulting the judgement, so natural in a woman; the frequent puzzling appeal ad hominem, a species of sophistry so easy upon all great questions of the kind; and an occasional contemptuous fling at ministers and law-makers; which we are sorry to see, and which indicate a state of mind not exactly conservative. The influence of the book will be different upon different minds, according to the point of view. But if you wish to intersperse your reading with alternate laughing and weeping; if you wish to rise spent, and with a headache, to find that hours have sped unconscously as you turned its pages; and if you wish to study some of the most lovely types of Christian character which fiction has ever drawn; we advise you to take a peep into "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

  Chambersburg, Pa