December 11, 1851

Click on the image for a larger/readable version of the National Era

Image and link courtesy of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center-Hartford, CT

Transcription of Chapter 26

Chapter XXVI.

This is the last of Earth.”—John Q. Adams.

The statuettes and pictures in Eva’s room were shrouded in white napkins, and only hushed breathings and muffled foot-falls were heard there, and the light stole in solemnly through windows partially darkened by closed blinds.

The bed was draped in white, and there, beneath the drooping angel, lay a little sleeping form—sleeping never to waken!

There she lay, robed in one of the simple white dresses she had been wont to wear when living—the rose-colored light through the curtains, cast over the icy coldness of death a warm glow. The heavy eyelashes drooped softly on the pure cheek—the head was turned a little to one side, as if in natural sleep, but there was diffused over every lineament of the face that high celestial expression—that mingling of rapture and repose, which showed it was no earthly or temporary sleep, but the long, sacred rest which “He giveth to his beloved.”

There is no death to such as thou, dear Eva! neither darkness nor shadow of death—only such a bright fading as when the morning star fades in the golden dawn. Thine is the victory without the battle—the crown without the conflict.

[Continue reading the full text of chapter 26, here.]

Commentary by Josephine Donovan

Emerita Professor of English at the University of Maine and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Evil, Affliction, and Redemptive Love (1991)

”Felt Him in my soul, mass’r; feel Him now” is a touchstone sentence, one of the most important in the novel.  Here Tom succinctly expresses the religion of the heart endorsed in the Great Awakening (1740-43), a religious transformation and revival movement that swept American culture of the day, rearticulated in the Second Great Awakening (1797-1831), in which Harriet Beecher Stowe’s father, Lyman Beecher, was a prominent figure.  Under this doctrine one’s inner emotional state is the key to one’s salvation.  The elect are those who experience God directly, deeply, and emotionally.  Intellectual knowledge counts for little, what matters is to “feel Him in [one’s] soul,” as Tom does—and as Eva, the other avatar of Edwardsean Calvinism in the novel, does as well.

The theological discussion between Tom and St. Clare in this chapter is an interesting example of Stowe’s use of dialectical argument.  Indeed, it is striking how many theological discussions occur in the work and how many of the dialogs between people are constructed as antitheses—one position counterposed in opposition to another.  (Stowe received early training in dialectical thinking and in fact taught rhetoric for several years at Hartford Female Seminary, so she was well versed in conventional rhetorical devices such as antithesis, according to which much of the narrative structure of the novel is arranged.)

In this discussion Tom expresses the doctrines of Edwardsean Calvinism whereas St. Clare takes the opposite view, that of the agnostic or even at times atheist.  Tom exudes an emotional faith, “a love of Christ that passeth knowledge.”  It is a wisdom “hid from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes,” which enables him, uneducated and unsophisticated, to see and feel what St. Clare cannot.  This despite—or because of—the fact that Tom is largely illiterate.  St. Clare has to read scripture to him as Eva had (though Tom is seen learning to write and read elsewhere in the novel).

[Continue reading the full text of  Josephine Donovan’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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