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  • Published: 6 May 1982
  • ISBN: 9780940450011
  • Imprint: Library of America
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 1477
Categories:

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Three Novels (LOA #4)



In this Library of America volume are the best and most enduring works of Harriet Beecher Stowe, “the little woman,” as Abraham Lincoln said when he met her in 1861, “who wrote the book that made this great war.” He was referring, with rueful exaggeration, to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which during its first year had sold over 300,000 copies. Contemporary readers can still appreciate the powerful effects of its melodramatic characterizations and its unapologetic sentimentality. They can also recognize in its treatment of racial violence some of the brooding imagination and realism that anticipates Faulkner’s rendering of the same theme. Stowe was charged with exaggerating the evils of slavery, but her stay in Cincinnati, Ohio, where her father (the formidable Lyman Beecher, head of the Lane Theological Seminary) gave her a close look at the miseries of the slave communities across the Ohio River. People in her circle of friends were continually harboring slaves who escaped across the river from Kentucky on the way, they hoped, to Canada.

Two other novels, along with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, show the range and variety of her literary accomplishment. The Minister’s Wooing (1859) is set in Newport, Rhode Island, after the Revolution. It is a romance based in part on the life of Stowe’s sister, and it traces to a happy ending the conflicts in a young woman between adherence to Calvinistic rigor and her expression of preference in the choice of a marital partner. The third novel, Oldtown Folks (1869), confirms Stowe’s genius for the realistic rendering of ordinary experience, her talent for social portraiture with a keen satiric edge, and her subtlety in exploring a wide group of themes, from child-rearing practices and religious controversy to romantic seduction and betrayal. But finally, it is the old town and a way of life that no longer exists that is the true subject of this elegiac novel.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

  • Published: 6 May 1982
  • ISBN: 9780940450011
  • Imprint: Library of America
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 1477
Categories:

About the author

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in 1811, one of ten children of famous minister Lyman Beecher. She moved to Ohio in 1832 and was introduced to the slavery debates, marrying the professor and staunch abolitionist Calvin Stowe with whom she had seven children. In 1850 the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, punishing anyone who offered runaway slaves food or shelter – she drew on her anger from this to write UNCLE TOM’S CABIN, which first appeared in an abolitionist newspaper and was then published in book form. It was an immediate bestseller, selling ten thousand copies in its first week of publication and going on to become the second biggest bestseller of the nineteenth century after the Bible. It was hugely influential in the abolition debate, and catapulted Stowe into the spotlight. When President Abraham Lincolm met her he is reported to have described her as ‘the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War’. Over the course of her long career she wrote over thirty books and essays, poems and articles. She died in 1896.

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