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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 118

with her memories of her old home set down with an exile’s affection. In 1850 she returned to New England, for her husband, Calvin E. Stowe, had accepted a professorship in Bowdoin College. There, deeply stirred by the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law, which was challenge and alarm and martial signal to all conscientious Northerners, she began Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, which on its appearance in 1852 met with a popular reception never before or since accorded to a novel. Its sales went to the millions. Over five hundred thousand Englishwomen signed an address of thanks to the author; Scotland raised a thousand pounds by a penny offering among its poorest people to help free the slaves; in France and Germany the book was everywhere read and discussed; while there were Russians who emancipated their serfs out of the pity which the tale aroused. In the United States, thanks in part to the stage, which produced a version as early as September, 1852, the piece belongs not only to literature but to folk-lore.
  That Uncle Tom’s Cabin stands higher in the history of reform than in the history of the art of fiction no one needs to say again. Dickens, Kingsley, and Mrs. Gaskell had already set the novel to humanitarian tunes, and Mrs. Stowe did not have to invent a type. She had, however, no particular foreign master, not even Scott, all of whose historical romances she had been reading just before she began Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Instead, she adhered to the established native tradition, as old as Charlotte Temple and as new as The Wide Wide World, the tradition of sentimental, pious, instructive narratives written by women chiefly for women and very largely about women. Leave



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