Imágenes de páginas

necticut, her father, Dr. Beecher, one day went to visit the academy. Classes were called up to recite; then compositions were read. One of these was on this subject: "Can the Immortality of the Soul be proved from the Light of Nature?" It was remarkably well written, and Dr. Beecher asked quickly, "Who wrote that?" "Your daughter, sir," was the reply of the teacher. This daughter was then a girl of only twelve; and it is hardly surprising that when she was fourteen she was teaching a class in Butler's Analogy in her sister's school in Hartford. She taught and studied until she was twenty-four. She compiled a small geography, but the idea of writing a novel seems not to have entered her mind.


enty-four Harriet Beecher became Harriet Beecher Stowe by her marriage to Prof. C. E. Stowe. In their Cincinnati home they heard many stories from runaway slaves who had crossed the Ohio River to escape to a free State. After some years her husband was called to Bowdoin College, but the stories lingered in her mind; and in 1852 her Uncle Tom's Cabin Uncle was published in book form. It had received. Cabin, no special attention in coming out as a serial, 1852. but its sale as a book was astounding, — half a million copies in the United States alone within five years. 'The sale in other countries was enormous, and the work has been translated into more than twenty languages.


There were several reasons for this remarkable sale. To be sure, the book was carelessly written and is of unequal excellence; its plot is of small interest Cause of its and is loosely connected. On the other hand, large sale. its humor is irresistible; its pathos is really pathetic; and some of its characters are so vividly painted that the names of two or three have become a part of everyday speech. Moreover, it came straight from the au

thor's heart, for she believed every word that she wrote. Another reason, and the strongest reason, for its large immediate sales, was the condition of affairs in the United States at the time when it was issued. It was only nine years before the opening of the Civil War. The South protested, "This book is an utterly false representation of the life of the Southern States." The North retorted, "We believe that it is true." And meanwhile, every one wanted to read it. The feeling on both sides grew more and more intense. When President Lincoln met Mrs. Stowe, he said, "Is this the little woman who made this great war?"

Mrs. Stowe wrote a number of other books. Her best literary success was in her New England stories, The Minister's Wooing, The Pearl of Orr's Island,

The Minister's Wooing, 1859.

The Pearl of Orr's Island, 1862. Old

and Oldtown Folks. She wrote in the midst of difficulties. One of her friends has given us an amusing account of her dictating a story in the kitchen, with the inkstand on the teakettle, town Folks, the latest baby in the clothes basket, the table loaded with all the paraphernalia of cooking, and an unskilled servant making constant appeals for direction in her work. More than one of Mrs. Stowe's books were written in surroundings much like these. It is no wonder that she left punctuation to the printer.


30. Oratory. It was in great degree the question of slavery that made the New England of this period so rich in orators. Feeling became more and more intense. The printed page could not express it; the man must come face to face with the people whom he was burning to convince. The power to move an audience is eloquence, and eloquence there was in the land in liberal measure. There was William Lloyd Garrison, with his scathing earnestness of conviction; there was Edward

[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Everett, who used words as a painter uses his colors; there was Wendell Phillips, whose magnetism almost won over those who were scorched by his invective; there was Charles Sumner, brilliant, polished, logical, sometimes reaching the sublime; there was Rufus Choate, with his richness of vocabulary, his enchanting splendor of description, his thrilling appeals to the imagination; and there was Daniel Webster, greatest of them all in the impression that he gave of exhaustless power ever lying behind his sonorous phrases. Such was the oratory of New England. Eloquence, however, makes its appeal not only by words, but by voice, gesture, manner, by personality. Its rewards are those of the moment. An hour after the delivery of the most brilliant oration, its glory is but a memory; in a few years it is but a tradition. Literature recognizes no tools but printed words. It often lacks immediate recognition, but whatever there is in it of merit cannot fail to win appreciation sooner or later. Oratory is not necessarily literature; but the orations of Webster lose little of their power when transferred to the printed page; they not only hear well but read well.


Webster was a New Hampshire boy whose later home was Massachusetts. He won early fame Webster, as a lawyer and speaker, but his first great 1782-1852. oratorical success was his oration delivered at Plymouth in 1820. He spoke at the laying of the corner-stone of the Bunker Hill monument, and again at its completion. As a man in public life, as a member of Congress, and as Secretary of State, many of his orations were of a political nature, the greatest of these being his reply to Hayne. His law practice was continued, and even some of his legal speeches have become classics. Perhaps the most noted among them is the

one on the murder of Captain Joseph White, with its thrilling account of the deed of the assassin, of the horror of the possession of the "fatal secret," on to the famous climax, "It must be confessed; it will be confessed; there is no refuge from confession but in suicide, and suicide is confession!"

[ocr errors]

Webster's words, spoken with his sonorous, melodious voice, and strengthened by the impression of power and immeasurable reserved force, might easily sway an audience; but what is it that has made them literature? How is it that while most speeches pale and fade in the reading, and lose the life and glow bestowed by the personality of the orator, Webster's are as mighty in the domain of literature as in that of oratory? It is because his thought is so clear, his argument so irresistible and so logical in arrangement, his style so dignified and vigorous and finished, and above all so perfectly adapted to the subject. When we read his words, we forget speaker, audience, and style, we forget to notice how he has spoken and think only on what he has spoken, — and such writings are literature.


John Greenleaf Whittier.
Harriet Beecher Stowe.


William Lloyd Garrison
Edward Everett

Wendell Phillips


Charles Sumner
Rufus Choate
Daniel Webster.

The anti-slavery movement strongly affected literature. It was aroused by Garrison. Among the many names associated with its literature are those of Whittier and Mrs.

« AnteriorContinuar »