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I In 1810 the first church of Litchfield, Conn., called as pastor Lyman Beecher, the founder of a family which has probably exerted more influence over American thought than any other. There were eight boys, all of them Congregational clergymen, and five daughters, of whom two became famous, Catharine as a teacher and advocate of the higher education of women, and Harriet as the most successful woman author America has produced.
II Lyman Beecher remained at Litchfield until 1826, had charge of the Hanover Street church, Boston until 1832, and from that time until 1851 was pastor of the second church at Cincinnati, Ohio, and president of Lane theological seminary. During that period there was no preacher in America better known or of greater influence. In one of the presidential campaigns the democrats published an edition of 40,000 copies of his sermon on duelling, and a sermon of his on temperance resulted in the establishment of the Massachusetts temperance association, and founded a reform movement which still grows. In the contest with the Unitarians he was selected to stand against Dr. Channing as the champion of trinitarian views; and the crisis of his life came from 1836 to 1838, when he founded and defended the new school of presbyterianism.
“He was brusque, independent, unconventional, forceful, arousing attention, and compelling admiration.”
III Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was born June 14, 1812. She taught for a time in her sister's school at Hartford, and in 1836 married Calvin Ellis Stowe, then professor of biblical literature in Lane theological seminary. In 1850 her husband became professor of natural and revealed religion in Bowdoin colBiography
187 lege, and in 1852 professor of sacred litera
ture in Andover seminary. Here he remained until 1864, when he retired. Mr. Stowe subsequently lived in Hartford, with a winter home in
Mandarin, Fla. CALVIN ELLIS STOWE, 1802-1886
After her husband's death in 1886 her mind was not strong, and she died July 1, 1896.
IV Her first book appeared in 1849, “The Mayflower, or Sketches of the Descendents of the Pilgrims", a book of tales and sketches of New England life. In 1851 she was asked to furnish a story to the National Era, an anti-slavery journal printed in Washington. She called the tale “Uncle Tom's Cabin”, and expected to complete it in four or five numbers ; but it grew as she wrote, and extended in the weekly issues of the paper from Jan. 5, 1851, to April 1, 1852. It excited considerable interest during its serial publication, and when published in book form made an unparallelled sensation. In this country 150,000 copies were sold within six months, and 313,000 copies within four years; in England 240,000 copies were sold within a month, and more than a million copies within a year. It was translated into 40 different languages. It was dramatized, and is not only still played in the United States (it is appearing at the time we write at two of the large - New York city theatres), but has been given in all the capitals of Europe.
The editor of the BULLETIN has recorded his seeing it acted in Spanish in Madrid(xiv:89). We have already (xxiii:100) quoted from Longfellow's diary of Feb. 24,
1853, his envy that HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW at one step
had reached the top of the staircase which other authors climbed on their knees year after year.
Uncle Tom's Cabin
The success of the book was due largely to its timeliness. She had been brought up in an anti-slavery atmosphere. Her house in Cincinnati was one of the recognized stations of the underground railroad by which slaves from the South reached Canada and freedom. She made a trip into Kentucky and observed slavery for herself, gathering a great fund of testimony. She wrote the book page after page as she was at work over her stove and about her housework. It was a dramatic expression of facts that just then the world was hungry to know and quick to believe.
VI Gerald Stanley Lee has recently said1 : The success of Uncle Tom was based upon the moments in which she was a genius and an artist both. The moments of intense conception, of identification with her scenes, which all recognize as coming and going in her work, are to be accounted for in the fundamental preaching instinct of the family to which she belonged. She was not an artist, she was a Beecher. Whenever a Beecher is very indignant about something, or very much 1 The Critic, April 24, 1897.