Friday, June 3, 2011

Mightier than the Sword

Mightier than the Sword sounds like a worthy book and I'm tipping you off to it before I even read it.
by Charlie Leck

Here’s advance notification on a book that is due out any day now. I think it will be a good one and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it. Biographer David Reynolds takes a look at the history of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1851 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and explains how it awoke and galvanized an entire nation.

Reynolds, David: Mightier than the Sword [W.W. Norton, June 2011]

Stowe’s book is often listed as one of the causes of the tragic Civil War. It was first published in serial form – one chapter at a time – in a publication called National Era. Stowe’s family, living in the border state of Ohio, helped slaves escape to freedom in the North. Stowe was able to witness slavery just south of her Cincinnati home, where her father was the President of Lane Theological Seminary. In 1836 she married Calvin E. Stone, a distinguished professor, and continued living in Cincinnati and coming into contact with fugitive slaves.

When Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1851, Stowe was propelled into incredible and international fame. She was also provided a platform from which she could speak out against slavery.

On the shores of our free states are emerging the poor, shattered, broken remnants of families,--men and women, escaped, by miraculous providences, from the surges of slavery,--feeble in knowledge, and, in many cases, infirm in moral constitution, from a system which confounds and confuses every principle of Christianity and morality. They come to seek a refuge among you; they come to seek education, knowledge, Christianity. What do you owe to these poor, unfortunates, O Christians? Does not every American Christian owe to the African race some effort at reparation for the wrongs that the American nation has brought upon them? Shall the doors of churches and school-houses be shut down upon them? Shall states arise and shake them out? Shall the Church of Christ hear in silence the taunt that is thrown at them, and shrink away from the helpless hand that they stretch out, and shrink away from the courage the cruelty that would chase them from our borders? If it must be so, it will be a mournful spectacle. If it must be so, the country will have reason to tremble, when it remembers that fate of nations is in the hand of the One who is very pitiful, and of tender compassion.” [from the final chapter of Uncle Tom’s Cabin]

Debby Applegate, author of The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, gave Reynold’s book high marks in her review.

“With his masterful biographies of John Brown and Walt Whitman, David Reynolds joined the ranks of the great historians of nineteenth-century America—but with Mightier than the Sword Reynolds has written his best book yet. Deeply researched and compulsively readable, Mightier the Sword is both the definitive account of the strange but true career of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and a sweeping two-hundred year history of race in America. Compact, clear, and packed with astonishing facts and provocative insights, this book will fascinate everyone from the general reader to the professional historian.”

My order for a copy is in. I’ll review it for you soon.


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