November 20, 1851

 

Transcription of Chapters 22 and 23

Chapter XXII.—Henrique.

About this time, St. Clare’s brother Alfred, with his eldest son, a boy of twelve, spent a day or two with the family at the lake.

No sight could be more singular and beautiful than that of these twin brothers. Nature, instead of instituting resemblances between them, had made them opposites on every point; yet a mysterious tie seemed to unite them in a closer friendship than ordinary.

They used to saunter, arm in arm, up and down the allies and walks of the garden. Augustine, with his blue eyes and golden hair, his ethereally flexible form and vivacious features; and Alfred, dark-eyed, with haughty Roman profile, firmly-knit limbs, and decided bearing. They were always abusing each other’s opinions and practices, and yet never a whit the less absorbed in each other’s society; in fact, the very contrariety seemed to unite them, like the attraction between opposite poles of the magnet.

Henrique, the eldest son of Alfred, was a noble, dark-eyed, princely boy, full of vivacity and spirit; and, from the first moment of introduction, seemed to be perfectly fascinated by the spirituelle graces of his cousin Evangeline.

Eva had a little pet pony of a snowy whiteness. It was easy as a cradle, and as gentle as its little mistress; and this pony was now brought up to the back verandah by Tom, while a little mulatto boy of about thirteen led along a small black Arabian, which had just been imported, at a great expense, for Henrique.

Henrique had a boy’s pride in his new possession, and as he advanced and took the reins out of the hands of his little groom, he looked carefully over him, and his brow darkened.

“What’s this, Dodo, you little lazy dog; you haven’t rubbed my horse down this morning.”

“Yes, mass’r,” said Dodo, submissively; “he got that dust on his own self.”

“You rascal, shut your mouth!” said Henrique, violently raising his riding whip. “How dare you speak?”

The boy was a handsome, bright-eyed mulatto, of just Henrique’s size, and his curling hair hung round a high, bold forehead. He had white blood in his veins, as could be seen by the quick flush in his cheek and the sparkle of his eye as he eagerly tried to speak.

“Mass’r Henrique!” he began.

Henrique struck him across the face with his riding whip, and, seizing one of his arms, forced him on to his knees, and beat him till he was out of breath.

“There, you impudent dog! Now will you learn not to answer back when I speak to you? Take the horse back and clean him properly. I’ll teach you your place.”

[Continue reading the full text of chapters 22 and 23, here.]

Commentary by Judie Newman

Professor of American Studies, University of Nottingham

Henrique’s visit to the Saint Clare household is absolutely central to the novel, as its position close to the centre of all the instalments emphasises. It marks the turning point for Eva, whose death is appreciably hastened if not actually caused by the visit. Yet neither Henrique nor his slave Dodo ever reappears in the story. Augustine (clearly hoping to promote a match between the cousins) makes one reference to a planned reciprocal visit to his brother’s plantation, but by that time it is too late and Eva is dying. Uncle Tom tells Ophelia that he will be watching at Eva’s door, for “the bridegroom cometh” (Matthew 25:6), but it is death which comes in Henrique’s place. In this chapter Stowe emphasises the erotic potential of the meeting of the two cousins, in fairly obvious symbolism. Pure, unsullied Eva, on a white pony, returns from her ride with her cousin (on a black pony which has recently rolled in dirt), flushed, panting and breathing hard, declaring that she quite forgot to be careful because she was enjoying herself so much. Throughout the ages, the horse has been a conventional symbol of the passions, with control of the horse a code for self-control and the ability to master baser desires. Henrique, tempestuous and with no self-control, wielding his whip mercilessly against his slave Dodo at his very first appearance, features as a future demon bridegroom. Two days later Eva has begun to fail rapidly, over stimulated by Henrique’s visit.

While the modern reader may wonder if Stowe simply kills Eva off, like many angelic Victorian heroines, to save her from “a fate worse than death” – carnal knowledge – things are rather more complicated. The focus of the chapter is on Eva’s womanhood in relation to slavery. Is a woman, once married, also a slave? If Henrique and Eva had married could she have protected his slaves? The law would have given her no power to save them from abuse. Even here, she does not intervene as Dodo is beaten and her arguments fall on decidedly deaf ears until the close of the chapter, when Henrique (flushed and clearly smitten by her charms) does appear to be converted, if only temporarily, to the need for Christian love. In Henrique’s forename, however, Stowe evokes a more ominous future, together with a grim past. The name, hardly a common one for the offspring of a planter with Northern origins, is Portuguese, reminding the reader of the long history of Atlantic slavery, which effectively began when  Henrique the Navigator (1394-1460) brought the first slaves from Africa to be sold in the market in Lagos in Portugal, in 1444.

In addition it strongly suggests parallels with one of the first antislavery novels. Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda’s Sab (1841), opens as Enrique arrives at a Cuban plantation to court Carlota, the daughter of its proprietor Don Carlos. Horses loom large in the novel, in which the parallel between slave and horse is emphasised. The slave hero, Sab, a coachman, remarks that only his horse is not ashamed to love him, both of them having been born to servitude. Enrique has poor control of his horse; he has to be saved from a near fatal fall by Sab who (like Uncle Tom, also employed as a coachman in the Saint Clare household) has an affinity for horses and exercises control over them. Sab takes one look at Enrique and immediately wonders what Carlota’s fate will be once married. Enrique, ruthlessly materialistic, is contrasted with Don Carlos, an overindulgent father who permits Carlota to marry only because when he opposes the match she becomes dangerously ill. His brother, Agustín, promptly disinherits her. Unlike the Cuban Agustín, Stowe’s Augustine is more akin to Don Carlos, described as “one of those peaceful and indolent men who do not know how to do evil, nor to go to great lengths to do good.” (p. 41) 1 When Don Carlos suffers financial losses, Enrique is about to jilt Carlota until Sab (who has won a lottery) provides the money for her dowry, thus effectively enabling her to sell herself to Enrique. In essence Carlota becomes an object of exchange, bought and sold like a slave. As Sab reflects in a letter, a slave may change masters or become free, but a woman is a slave forever. Just as Eva gave away locks of her hair, Carlota makes a present of a bracelet of her hair, an apt symbol of her manacled, female status. Like Eva, Carlota appears as an angelic vision, pure and full of love, but she is also depicted as far too innocent. She resolves that when she marries Enrique “no unhappy soul around will breathe the poisonous air of slavery. We will give all our blacks their freedom. “(p. 57). But once they are married no such event occurs, just as Eva’s requests to her father to set his slaves free, remain unanswered. Indeed when Enrique gets hold of her father’s entire legacy, he refuses to hear her pleas on behalf of her disinherited sisters, and treats her as a child who understands nothing of the laws of commerce. Carlota becomes a wretchedly unhappy wife, while Enrique devotes himself entirely to business.

Notes

1. All page references are to Sab and Autobiography by Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Artega. Translated and edited by Nina M. Scott (Austin : University of Texas Press, 1993). A good Spanish edition (with English introduction) is Sab by Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda. Edited by Catherine Davies (Manchester : Manchester University Press, 2001.) I can find no hard evidence that Stowe had read this novel, but the internal parallels strongly suggest  that she drew upon it, or a secondhand  account of it, for the characterisation of Eva, Tom and Augustine.

[Continue reading the full text of  Judie Newman’s commentary here.]

How did Stowe connect this chapter to real-life stories? Find out here!

Check out the top news stories, this week in 1851, here!

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