I’m reading the Modern Library Classic version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (nope, no volumes) and in the back, there are commentaries from Stowe’s contemporaries. The first is a letter from Charles Dickens to Mrs. Stowe.
I hope she was totally geeked when she got the letter. I would have been, dear mother, had I received a letter from this master of social satire.
Imagine what it would have been like as she sat there with her seven children- strike that – she wouldn’t be sitting, not with seven children, no, there would be a lot of hurryscurryation. She probably sent the middlest child out to get the mail, who then got so excited about the introductory Lincoln Log pamphlet that arrived that he left the rest of the mail on the front porch chair, and it wasn’t until one of the twins accidentally pushed his way out the screen door that she saw the abandoned pile of envelopes lying there, only to adeptly scoop them into into the pocket of her apron. It wouldn’t have been until later that evening, after the final bits of laundry were folded, the last fork had been washed and dried, and all fourteen eyes were closed in sleep, that Harriet dared to untie her apron strings. I’m sure that at first the appearance of the stack of unopened mail left her sighing with the knowledge that there was yet one more task to do, but as soon as the foreign postage caught her eye her interest was surely rejuvenated. I bet she tore that letter open, squealed with delight, read it aloud eight times to her husband, and then flew to her writing desk to send a quick message to her sister and best writing friends.
Sorry, sometimes I get a little caught up in thinking about how this simple Christian mother made such a huge difference in our society with the simple use of powerful words, and it gets my romantic expectations all piqued.
Anyway, back to Charles Dickens. This is a portion of what he wrote to my new BFF Harriet:
I have read [Uncle Tom’s Cabin} with the deepest interest and sympathy, and admire, more than I can express to you, both the generous feeling which inspired it, and the admirable power with which it is executed.
If I might suggest a fault in what has so charmed me, it would be that you . . .
Okay, this is the part I’m going to skip, folks, because if Harri (can I call her that?) is anything like me, this is the part that kept her awake at night, and possibly brought her to tears, and left her husband saying things like, “Honey, remember that part where he talks about how much he admires your book? Really, he used the word ‘inspired.’ I think he likes you.” Let’s just say that Dickens thought she went overboard with her kindness of slaves. Your husband is right, Har, his criticism is actually a compliment. Okay, back to the letter:
Your book is worthy of any head and any heart that ever inspired a book. I am much your debtor, and I thank you most fervently and sincerely.
Forget the squealing, I might have just fainted right over. Charles Dickens thought she was cool. So cool. But I believe it, because I saw the similarities between the two. But that, my friends, will have to wait until tomorrow, because I’m still a little swooney from reading that letter from Chuck. I always did like that guy.