| This novel has two title pages, one right after the other; they are
identical except that the second adds Mr. Frank to the title The
Underground Mail-Agent. There is no explanation of this--nor is it known
who "Vidi" was, and no obvious indication from the text whether he is
northern or southern ("he" rather than "he or she," because the narrator is overtly
sarcastic toward "lady readers"). The focus of the novel is on the abolitionist movement as
both hysterical and hypocritical, and much more dangerous to the happiness of
slaves than slave owners. Even the slaves here know this: in Chapter 15 they stop dancing
long enough to hold a meeting at which they enact a resolution condemning the
evils of the north generally, and of the anti-slavery party in particular. According to
Vidi, the motive that leads people to become abolitionists in the first place is often
the desire to become (underground) slave owners. As Mr. Frank, a good but naive northerner,
learns from his experience as a "mail-agent" or recruiter for the underground railroad,
slavery is theoretically wrong, but the slaves themselves are happy (until they runaway to
the "free" North).
We can at least indentify "Vidi"'s literary sources. Just as Henry Fielding wrote Shamela to debunk the emotionalism of Richardson's Pamela, this Fieldingesque novel uses its version of wit, satire and rationality to chastize the sentimentalism which with Stowe describes "life among the lowly."
Mr. Frank, The Underground Mail-Agent, by Vidi
Wright American Fiction Project, Indiana University Library.
Clifton Waller Barrett Collection
Clifton Waller Barrett Collection
IN WHICH THE READER IS INTRODUCED TO A PATRIOT, WHOSE SERVICES TO HIS COUNTRY HAVE HITHERTO NEVER BEEN PROPERLY APPRECIATED, AND WHOSE MEMORY THE AUTHOR NOBLY RESCUES FROM THE ALL-DEVOURING JAWS OF OBLIVION.
IN WHICH IS RECORDED A SMALL PORTION OF THE SAYINGS AND DOINGS OF THE CELEBRATED LIBERTY ANTI-SLAVERY CONVENTION.
SHOWING THAT CHARITY DOES NOT ALWAYS BEGIN AT HOME, NOTWITHSTANDING THE HGH AUTHORITY IN ITS FAVOR.
SHOWING THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY TO PERSONS NOT PREPARED TO ENJOY THEM; AND, ALSO, HOW A CELEBRATED PHILANTHROPIST "TOOK FUGITIVES IN," IN A DOUBLE SENSE, AND THEN TURNED THEM OUT AGAIN.
ILLUSTRATION OF THE FACT THAT PERSONS MAY HAVE A VERY NICE SET OF SENTIMENTS FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES, AND MAKE USE OF QUITE A DIFFERENT SET IN PRIVATE PRACTICE.
FURTHER ILLUSTRATING THE OPERATION OF THEORY VERSUS PRACTICE.
IN WHCH DIXEY AVAILS HIMSELF OF HIS KNOWLEDGE OF ROMANTIC HISTORY, TO GET UP A SMALL LOVE ADVENTURE ON HIS OWN ACCOUNT; IN WHICH, CONTRARY TO HIS EXPECTATIONS, HE COMES OUT AT THE SMALL END.
IN WHICH DOCTOR MANLY MADE THE REMARKABLE DISCOVERY THAT HE WAS IN LOVE, LONG AFTER EVERYBODY ELSE HAD DISCOVERED IT.
WHICH IS ALL ABOUT LOVE, AND ANOTHER KIND OF SLAVERY, AND IS INTENDED ESPECIALLY FOR OUR LADY READERS.
CONTAINING SOME OF JIMMY'S SENTIMENTS IN REGARD TO A NATION'S DUTY TOWARDS ITS OWN SUBJECTS, AND THE SUBJECTS OF OTHER COUNTRIES; TOGETHER WITH AN INCIDENT, PROVING THAT THOSE GOOD-HEARTED PEOPLE, WHO ARE CONSTANTLY "OVERFLOWING WITH THE MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS," CAN ALWAYS FIND PLENTY OF DESERVING OBJECTS OF CHARITY NEAR AT HOME, WITHOUT PURSUING AN
IGNIS FATUUS RACE,
UNCLASSICALLY TERMED "A WILD-GOOSE CHASE," AFTER THEM.
SLIGHTLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF SOME OF THE BEAUTIES OF NORTHERN SLAVERY; A SUBJECT HITHERTO ENTIRELY OVERLOOKED BY KIND-HEARTED PHILANTHROPISTS--BECAUSE IT DON'T PAY.
IN WHICH SHOWING HOW A CERTAIN GENTLEMAN, WHO REJOICED IN THE TITLE OF M. C. AND EIGHT DOLLARS A DAY, STARTED OUT WITH A PROPOSITION TO PROVE SLAVERY A SOCIAL, MORAL, AND POLITICAL BLESSING; BUT STOPPED SHORT OF IT, FOR REASONS HEREINAFTER MADE KNOWN.
IN WHICH MR. FRANK AND JIMMY CROSS THE RUBICON, VULGARLY TERMED MASON AND DIXON'S LINE, AND ENTER INTO THE CONFINES OF OLD VIRGINIA, AND THE HORRORS OF SLAVERY.
PROVING THAT 'ACTION AND REACTION ARE MUTUAL,' IS AS TRUE OF MENTAL PHILOSOPHY AS IT IS OF ORDINARY DYNAMICS.
TREATING OF A NEGRO BALL, FOLLOWED BY AN INDIGNATION MEETING IN THE OLD DOMINION STATE; AND SHOWING THAT SUCH THINGS ARE CONDUCTED THERE VERY MUCH AS THEY ARE CONDUCTED EVERYWHERE ELSE.
IN WHICH MR. FRANK LAYS DOWN THE FIRST PLANK IN HIS IMMEDIATE EMANCIPATION PLATFORM, AND MR. DIXEY ARRANGES THE IMPORTANT PRELIMNARY STEPS OF A GRETNA GREEN JOURNEY; THE SUCCESS OF BOTH OF WHICH WILL BE MADE KNOWN IN DUE TIME.
DESCRIBING HOW MR. FRANK AND JIMMY PICKED UP THE WRONG PASSENGER; AND HOW THEY ENTERTAINED EACH OTHER ON THE WAY. ALSO, SHOWING HOW THEY FINALLY NARROWED THE ACTIVE SPHERE OF THEIR LABORS, AND RETIRED INTO PRIVATE LIFE, AT THE EXPENSE OF THE COMMONWEALTH.
PROVING MOST CLEARLY THE MANNER IN WHICH A DARK NIGHT THREW MR. DIXEY INTO DARK SOCIETY; AND HOW HE ONLY BECAME ENLIGHTENED WHEN IT WAS TOO LATE TO REPAIR HIS ERROR.
SHOWING HOW MR. FRANK WENT OUT OF PRIVATE LIFE, AND HOW MR. DIXEY WENT INTO IT, TOGETHER WITH MANY OTHER MATTERS, ONLY TO BE LEARNED BY READING THS CHAPTER.
IN WHICH THE READER DISCOVERS THAT IN TRAVELLING THROUGH THIS LITTLE WORK, HE HAS BEEN CONSTANTLY TREADING UPON
MINED GROUND, WHICH EXPLODES VERY
SUDDENLY, WITHOUT DOING ANY HARM.
IN WHICH THE DOCTOR AND EMMA GET MARRIED, AND SINK AT ONCE INTO INSIGNIFICANT, DULL, MATTER-OF-FACT PEOPLE; IN CONSEQUENCE OF WHICH, THEY ARE IMMEDIATELY ABANDONED TO THEIR FATE BY THE AUTHOR.
WHICH ENDS OUR BOOK TO OUR OWN SATISFACTION, AND, WE HOPE, TO THE SATISFACTION OF EVERYBODY ELSE.