Special Theatre Edition Illustrations

  George Cruikshank was one of the most famous book illustrators in Victorian England. The twelve "original illustrations" in this turn-of-the-century edition were originally drawn in 1852, for one of the many pirated British editions of Stowe's novel. At that time they were even more influential than the pictures Billings drew for Jewett's editions in shaping the way readers around the world "saw" the novel's characters and events.

  There's no indication in the edition what "Special Theatre" is meant to refer to, though "Tom Shows" were still very popular, and in 1901 Wm. A. Brady's "spectacular $25,000 revival" of Uncle Tom's Cabin was attracting a lot of renewed attention to them. This volume may have been sold as a souvenir at dramatic presentations, but if so, Oglivie could have used theatrical images to illustrate it, as Fenno's 1904 THEATRICALLY "EMBELLISHED" EDITION did.

  Oglivie's 26-chapter abridgement of the novel makes very careless use of Cruikshank's drawings. His depiction of the girl in Haley's story in Chapter 8 is re-captioned "Eliza on Her Way to Freedom," and so Stowe's gentle Eliza is made to pull a knife on her captors. "Topsy" is called "Topsey" in a second drawing. The pictures invert the order of the story, so that "Tom Saves Little Eva" near the end rather than at the start of their relationship. And so on. But this set of illustrations also re-presents the cruelty of slavery with an emphasis you don't see in the contemporary "Tom Shows" or most other illustrated editions from this era.
Special Theatre Edition: Uncle Tom's Cabin. By Harriet Beecher Stowe. With Original Illustrations by George Cruikshank, the Famous English Artist. 246 pages. (New York: J. S. Oglivie Publishing Company, n.d. [c.1900])
Click on any image at left to see enlargement.

Courtesy the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
Hartford CT.