The Literary World
New York: 24 April 1852

“Colored” Views

  ILIUM FUIT—the deed is done, and the South done for. Uncle Neds generally may lay down hoe and shovel, and taking up the violin, go to fiddling, or embark in the oyster-opening profession, or the "brush" trade—the three metiers our free and independent gentlemen of color most affect. Mrs. Stowe, abandoning her husband's hose, has seized upon that of the abolition engine and is playing away a full stream upon Southern people and Southern institutions generally. How to treat her book is our difficulty at present, for as a lengthy abolition tract, we desire no acquaintance with it, as a political affair, it is entirely out of our province, its descriptions of the white and colored races as they exist below "Mason's and Dixon's" are too nearly antipodical to reality to entitle it to much usefulness as an ethnological essay, and finally when warm weather is coming rapidly in, a novel, with heroes and heroines exclusively African, and winding up by the introduction of a colored lady whom a white gentleman of birth, respectability, and wealth has taken to wife, thereby setting an example to a rising generation of amalgamationists, is rather too potent and decidely odorous for our—perhaps fastidious—taste.

  We must regard the work as a whole, and rather an odd one, being neither fish nor flesh, nor yet good red herring.

  With anti-slavery almanacs, Garrisonian reports, "Liberty" speeches for Buncombe, and the ravings of Abby Kelly, Mrs. Stowe has constructed a most frightful scarecrow, and calling upon her Dickon—the printer's imp—to light its pipe, sends it forth into the world, thinking to pass it off for a true man of blood and bone and muscle, and that the South will own and endorse the fright. We think, however, that as in the case of Hawthorne's man, a little reflection will do its business.

  The book, despite its subject and the mode of handling it, has many good points, and we are disposed to do full justice to them; but unlike the fair author,—being somewhat indisposed to all amalgamation,—we will not serve up the ludicrous and the revolting together. As is the fashion with some hosts, let us have the good wine first, the bad after, or rather the pudding pour commencer to be succeeded by the sauce.

  Mrs. Stowe is evidently intended by nature for an humorous writer, and an occasional dash of wit and fun prove that her forte is rather farce than comedy and tragedy or political economy. As for instance—


   "Well, now, I hopes you're done," said Aunt Chloe, who had been busy in pulling out a rude box of a trundle-bed; "and now, you Mose and you Pete, get into thar; for we's goin' to have the meetin'."

  "O mother, we don't wanter. We wants to sit up to meetin', — meetin's is so curis. We likes 'em."

  "La, Aunt Chloe, shove it under, and let 'em sit up," said Mas'r George, decisively, giving a push to the rude machine.

  Aunt Chloe, having thus saved appearances, seemed highly delighted to push the thing under, saying, as she did so, "Well, mebbe 't will do 'em some good."

  The house now resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to consider the accommodations and arrangements for the meeting.

  "What we's to do for cheers, now, I declar I don't know," said Aunt Chloe. As the meeting had been held at Uncle Tom's weekly, for an indefinite length of time, without any more "cheers," there seemed some encouragement to hope that a way would be discovered at present.

  "Old Uncle Peter sung both de legs out of dat oldest cheer, last week," suggested Mose.

  "You go long! I'll boun' you pulled 'em out; some o' your shines," said Aunt Chloe.

  "Well, it'll stand, if it only keeps jam up agin de wall!" said Mose.

  "Den Uncle Peter mus'n't sit in it, cause he al'ays hitches when he gets a singing. He hitched pretty nigh across de room, t' other night," said Pete.

  "Good Lor! get him in it, then," said Mose, "and den he'd begin, 'Come saints — and sinners, hear me tell,' and den down he'd go," — and Mose imitated precisely the nasal tones of the old man, tumbling on the floor, to illustrate the supposed catastrophe.

  "Come now, be decent, can't ye?" said Aunt Chloe; "an't yer shamed?"

  Mas'r George, however, joined the offender in the laugh, and declared decidedly that Mose was a "buster." So the maternal admonition seemed rather to fail of effect.

  "Well, ole man," said Aunt Chloe, "you'll have to tote in them ar bar'ls."

  "Mother's bar'ls is like dat ar widder's, Mas'r George was reading 'bout, in de good book, — dey never fails," said Mose, aside to Peter.

  "I'm sure one on 'em caved in last week," said Pete, "and let 'em all down in de middle of de singin'; dat ar was failin', warnt it?"

  Now, although very amusing indeed, there is nothing negro about all this. The remarks of the boys belong to the pert Yankee order, and the language is a mixture of Tappan-Zee Dutch, the true Bowery, or "Mose" lingo, and the Ohio boatman's slang. Other specimens prove that the author has devoted no little time to the acquisition of Dow Junior's peculiar style, as


  "Dis yer matter 'bout persistence, feller-niggers," said Sam, with the air of one entering into an abstruse subject, "dis yer 'sistency 's a thing what an't seed into very clar, by most anybody. Now, yer see, when a feller stands up for a thing one day and night, de contrar de next, folks ses (and nat'rally enough dey ses), why he an't persistent, — hand me dat ar bit o' corn- cake, Andy. But let's look inter it. I hope the gen'lmen and der fair sex will scuse my usin' an or'nary sort o' 'parison. Here! I'm a trying to get top o' der hay. Wal, I puts up my larder dis yer side; 'tan't no go; — den, cause I don't try dere no more, but puts my larder right de contrar side, an't I persistent? I'm persistent in wantin' to get up which ary side my larder is; don't you see, all on yer?"

  Perhaps one of the best hits in the book is a sketch of a Kentucky tavern, with its free and easy guests and a supply of tobacco ad libitum. Nothing in Mr. Genin's treatise can beat the


   "In fact, everybody in the room bore on his head this characteristic emblem of man's sovereignty; whether it were felt hat, palm-leaf, greasy beaver, or fine new chapeau, there it reposed with true republican independence. In truth, it appeared to be the characteristic mark of every individual. Some wore them tipped rakishly to one side — these were your men of humor, jolly, free-and-easy dogs; some had them jammed independently down over their noses — these were your hard characters, thorough men, who, when they wore their hats, wanted to wear them, and to wear them just as they had a mind to; there were those who had them set far over back — wide-awake men, who wanted a clear prospect; while careless men, who did not know, or care, how their hats sat, had them shaking about in all directions. The various hats, in fact, were quite a Shakespearean study."

  The episode of Eva St. Clare is truly beautiful and affecting—nay, for humor and pathos, a gem—and causes us the more to regret that such scenes should be introduced but to gild a pill of abolition gun-cotton, and to persuade innocent women and ignorant men to swallow it as good, honest medicine. The negro dialogue has been very generally commended, and we are willing to confess that the author knows quite as much about it as she does of slaves and slavery, but unfortunately very little of either. Where, in north or south, or in any other spot of earth, except, perhaps, upon the stage in the conventional "pert chambermaid" and "smart valet" scenes, could anything be found to resemble the following specimen of


   "Pray, Miss Benoir, may I be allowed to ask if those drops are for the ball, to-morrow night? They are certainly bewitching!"

   "I wonder, now, Mr. St. Clare, what the impudence of you men will come to!" said Jane, tossing her pretty head til the ear-drops twinkled again. "I shan't dance with you for a whole evening, if you go to asking me any more questions."

   "O, you couldn't be so cruel, now! I was just dying to know whether you would appear in your pink tarletane," said Adolph.

   "What is it?" said Rosa, a bright, piquant little quadroon who came skipping down stairs at this moment.

   "Why, Mr. St. Clare's so impudent!"

   "On my honor," said Adolph, "I'll leave it to Miss Rosa now."

   "I know he's always a saucy creature," said Rosa, poising herself on one of her little feet, and looking maliciously at Adolph. "He's always getting me so angry with him."

  With the incidents of the book, always excepting the episode of Eva, we have small wish to meddle. They are revolting and unjust, inasmuch as atrocities that may have been committed by some depraved wretch devoid of human feeling, are here set down and pictured forth, as if such things were of common and daily occurrence.

  We can assure Mrs. Stowe that Planters are neither in the habit of severing families, selling infants, or whipping their best hands to death.

  Such things have happened, as similar horrors occur at the north, and the wretches meet the same detestation, and generally a more speedy retribution than with us.

  A horrible punishment inflicted by a French woman of New Orleans upon her slave, resulted in the most serious riot that city has yet known. The woman escaped from the State, but every vestige of her property was destroyed by the indignant citizens, and she would have been hung could they but have laid hands upon her. It is the interest of planters to make their servants contented, to keep their families together, and


they make great personal sacrifices to avoid selling a slave. No one disputes that at times they are sold, generally for crime, which here would condemn them to prison, and sometimes—as with us—misfortune steps in, and with rude hand sunders all family ties. It is in the most northern of the slave States that the majority of the sales are made, and for this the unfortunate beings have the abolitionists alone to thank.

  We believe Mrs. Stowe to be a native of Massachusetts. If so, would she deem it just or honest were a Southern lady to write a book of the Old Bay State, and, by a parity of reasoning, take the recent Webster and Parkman horror, and hold it up as a common, every-day transaction? We cannot but regret the gusto with which our authoress describes all the incidents concerning the running off of the various negroes, first feigning a series of horrible persecutions in order to enlist the reader's feelings in their escape, and their accustoming us to scenes of violence, shooting down of persuers, &c., in the very spirit of the late Pennsylvania massacre.

  Slavery is bad enough, but for Heaven's sake, Mrs. Stowe! wife of one clergyman, daughter of another, and sister to half a dozen, respect the cloud of black cloth with which you are surrounded, and if you will write of such matters, give us plain unvarnished truth, and strive to advise us in our trouble—not to preach up bloodshed and massacre, for, by our present "Manual for Runaways," you but rivet the chains of those whom we firmly believe you honestly and truly desire to serve.

  We are told that northern men will take the book for a caricature, but the author appeals to the South to prove its truth. She also hopes she has done justice to "that nobility, generosity, and humanity, which, in many cases, characterize individuals at the South," and then proceeds to add that they are not common anywhere.

  On the eve of closing a book capable of producing infinite mischief—for it lacks neither wit nor talent, only truth—she very naturally appeals again to "the generous, noble-minded men and women of the South," you whose virtue, and purity, and magnanimity of character, &c., &c.

  Modesty! thy name is Beecher.