Uncle Tom's Cabin: Or, Life Among the Lowly

Uncle Tom's Cabin: Or, Life Among the Lowly

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by Harriet Beecher Stowe
     
 

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Easily the most controversial antislavery novel written in antebellum America, and one of the best-selling books of the nineteenth century, Uncle Tom's Cabin is often credited with intensifying the sectional conflict that led to the Civil War. In his introduction, David Bromwich places Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel in its Victorian contexts and reminds us why…  See more details below

Overview

Easily the most controversial antislavery novel written in antebellum America, and one of the best-selling books of the nineteenth century, Uncle Tom's Cabin is often credited with intensifying the sectional conflict that led to the Civil War. In his introduction, David Bromwich places Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel in its Victorian contexts and reminds us why it is an enduring work of literary and moral imagination.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Uncle Tom's Cabin is the most powerful and enduring work of art ever written about American slavery."
—Alfred Kazin

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674034075
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
04/15/2009
Series:
John Harvard Library Series, #107
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
624
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P—, in Kentucky.
There were no servants present, and the gentlemen, with chairs closely approaching, seemed to be discussing some subject with great earnestness.

For convenience sake, we have said, hitherto, two gentlemen. One of the parties,
however, when critically examined, did not seem, strictly speaking, to come under the species. He was a short, thick-set man, with coarse, commonplace features, and that swaggering air of pretension which marks a low man who is trying to elbow his way upward in the world. He was much over-dressed, in a gaudy vest of many colors, a blue neckerchief, bedropped gayly with yellow spots, and arranged with a flaunting tie, quite in keeping with the general air of the man. His hands, large and coarse, were plentifully bedecked with rings; and he wore a heavy gold watch-chain, with a bundle of seals of portentous size, and a great variety of colors,
attached to it,—which, in the ardor of conversation, he was in the habit of flourishing and jingling with evident satisfaction. His conversation was in free and easy defiance of Murray's Grammar, and was garnished at convenient intervals with various profane expressions, which not even the desire to be graphic in our account shall induce us to transcribe.

His companion, Mr. Shelby, had the appearance of a gentleman; and the arrangements of the house, and the general air of the housekeeping, indicated easy,
and even opulent circumstances. As we before stated, the two were in the midst of an earnest conversation.

'That is the way I should arrange the matter,' said Mr. Shelby.

'I can't make trade that way—I positively can't, Mr. Shelby,' said the other, holding up a glass of wine between his eye and the light.

'Why, the fact is, Haley, Tom is an uncommon fellow; he is certainly worth that sum anywhere—steady, honest, capable, manages my whole farm like a clock.'

'You mean honest, as niggers go,' said Haley, helping himself to a glass of brandy.

'No; I mean, really, Tom is a good, steady, sensible, pious fellow. He got religion at a camp-meeting, four years ago; and I believe he really did get it. I've trusted him,
since then, with everything I have,—money, house, horses,—and let him come and go round the country; and I always found him true and square in everything.'

'Some folks don't believe there is pious niggers, Shelby,' said Haley, with a candid flourish of his hand, 'but I do. I had a fellow, now, in this yer last lot I took to
Orleans—'twas as good as a meetin', now, really, to hear that critter pray; and he was quite gentle and quiet like. He fetched me a good sum, too, for I bought him cheap of a man that was 'bliged to sell out; so I realized six hundred on him. Yes, I consider religion a valeyable thing in a nigger, when it's the genuine article, and no mistake.'

'Well, Tom's got the real article, if ever a fellow had,' rejoined the other. 'Why, last fall, I let him go to Cincinnati alone, to do business for me, and bring home five hundred dollars. 'Tom,' says I to him, 'I trust you, because I think you're a
Christian—'I know you wouldn't cheat.' Tom comes back, sure enough; I knew he would. Some low fellows, they say, said to him—'Tom, why don't you make tracks for Canada?' 'Ah, master trusted me, and I couldn't'—they told me about it. I am sorry to part with Tom, I must say. You ought to let him cover the whole balance of the debt; and you would, Haley, if you had any conscience.'

'Well, I've got just as much conscience as any man in business can afford to keep,—just a little, you know, to swear by, as 'twere,' said the trader, jocularly; 'and then, I'm ready to do anything in reason to 'blige friends; but this yer, you see, is a leetle too hard on a fellow—a leetle too hard.' The trader sighed contemplatively, and poured out some more brandy.

'Well, then, Haley, how will you trade?' said Mr. Shelby, after an uneasy interval of silence.

'Well, haven't you a boy or gal that you could throw in with Tom?'

'Hum!—none that I could well spare; to tell the truth, it's only hard necessity makes me willing to sell at all. I don't like parting with any of my hands, that's a fact.'

Here the door opened, and a small quadroon boy, between four and five years of age, entered the room. There was something in his appearance remarkably beautiful and engaging. His black hair, fine as floss silk, hung in glossy curls about his round, dimpled face, while a pair of large dark eyes, full of fire and softness, looked out from beneath the rich, long lashes, as he peered curiously into the apartment. A
gay robe of scarlet and yellow plaid, carefully made and neatly fitted, set off to advantage the dark and rich style of his beauty; and a certain comic air of assurance, blended with bashfulness, showed that he had been not unused to being petted and noticed by his master.

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Meet the Author

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, daughter of the Reverend Lyman Beecher of the local Congregational Church. In 1832, the family moved to Cincinnati, where Harriet married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor at the seminary, in 1836. The border town of Cincinnati was alive with abolitionist conflict and there Mrs. Stowe took an active part in community life. She came into contact with fugitive slaves, and learned from friends and from personal visits what life was like for the Negro in the South. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, and that same year Harriet’s sister-in-law urged the author to put her feelings about the evils of slavery into words. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first published serially during 1851-52 in The National Era, and in book form in 1852. In one year more than 300,000 copies of the novel were sold. Mrs. Stowe continued to write, publishing eleven other novels and numerous articles before her death at the age of eighty-five in Hartford, Connecticut.

Ann Douglas teaches English at Columbia University. Her books include Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s and The Feminization of American Culture.

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
June 14, 1811
Date of Death:
July 1, 1896
Place of Birth:
Litchfield, Connecticut
Place of Death:
Hartford, Connecticut
Education:
Homeschooled

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