The New York Times
George W. Lederer
23 May 1897



   I suppose it might be possible to draw curious conclusion from the fact that in the year 1897 "Uncle Tom's Cabin" has been running, simultaneously, in two New York theatres, but really there is no significance in it. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is not a stage classic, and the people do not love it. Indeed, so far as the present generation is concerned, the attitude of the public toward the dramatization of Mrs. Stowe's famous novel with a purpose suggests the mental condition of the strange lady in Mr. Kipling's latest poem. They don't know, they never can know, they don't understand, and they don't want to understand. The faintest echoes of the controversy the book caused when it was published do not reach them. When American slavery died it died forever. Its ghost does not walk.

   Besides that, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was always a very poor play, involved, incoherent, and unlikely. It survives now chiefly as a medium for the exhibition of the Northern darky, descendant of freemen, in his great role of the careless, happy, irresponsible slave, in which his utter lack of dramatic comprehension is noisily manifested. There have been legends of Negro actors. There are memories, even, of Ira Aldrige, who could play Othello without painting his face. But the ordinary darky has no mimetic ability. He sings, after his fashion, often very agreeably, and he has his peculiar way of dancing, and his lack of the sense of humor and superb self-consciousness make him an extraordinary figure in his cakewalks. And it is for this that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" fitfully survives. It ventures into town in the "off season," with its amiable bloodhounds its tinseled drop, and magnesium light for the apotheosis of little Eva, and, sometimes, though rarely, with a few genuine Southern darkies, who have inherited an idea of plantation dance and music, though generally its divertissements are characteristic of the Northern darky. So long as these wholly undramatic and illusion-destroying antics please the people who support the cheap theatres, the title of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" will occasionally appear on the bill boards.