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A slave warehouse! Perhaps some of my readers conjure up horrible visions of such a place. They fancy some foul, obscure den, some horrible Tartarus “informis, ingens, cui lumen ademptum.” But no, innocent friend; in these days men have learned the art of sinning expertly and genteelly, so as not to shock the eyes and senses of respectable society. Human property is high in the market, and is therefore well fed, well cleaned, tended, and looked after, that it may come to sale sleek and strong and shining. A slave warehouse in New Orleans is a house externally not much unlike many others, kept with neatness; and where every day you may see arranged, under a sort of shed along the outside, rows of men and women, who stand there as a sign of the property sold within.
Then you shall be courteously entreated to call and examine, and shall find an abundance of husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and young children, to be “sold separately, or in lots to suit the convenience of the purchaser;” and that soul immortal, once bought with blood and anguish by the Son of God, when the earth shook, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened, can be sold, leased, mortgaged, exchanged for groceries or dry goods, to suit the phases of trade or the fancy of the purchaser.
It was a day or two after the conversation between Marie and Miss Ophelia that Tom, Adolph, and about half a dozen others of the St. Clare estate, were turned over to the loving kindness of Mr. Skeggs, the keeper of a depot on —— street, to await the auction next day.
Tom had with him quite a sizable trunk full of clothing, as had most others of them. They were ushered for the night into a long room where many other men, of all ages, sizes, and shades of complexion, were assembled, and from which roars of laughter and unthinking merriment were proceeding.
“Ah, ha! that’s right. Go it, boys—go it!” said Mr. Skeggs, the keeper. “My people are always so merry. Sambo, I see!” he said, speaking approvingly to a burly negro who was performing tricks of low buffoonry which occasioned the shouts which Tom had heard.
As might be imagined, Tom was in no humor to join these proceedings, and therefore setting his trunk as far as possible from the noisy group, he sat down on it and leaned his face against the wall.
The dealers in the human article make scrupulous and systematic efforts to promote noisy mirth among them, as a means of drowning reflection and rendering them insensible to their condition. The whole object of the training to which the negro is put, from the time he is sold in the Northern market, till he arrives South, is systematically directed towards making him callous, unthinking, and brutal. The slave-dealer collects his gang in Virginia or Kentucky, and drives them to some convenient, healthy place—often a watering place—to be fattened. Here they are fed full daily, and because some incline to pine, a fiddle is kept commonly going among them, and they are made to dance daily; and he who refuses to be merry—in whose soul thoughts of wife or child or home are too strong for him to be gay—is marked as sullen and dangerous, and subjected to all the evils which the ill will of an utterly irresponsible and hardened man can inflict upon him. Briskness, alertness, and cheerfulness of appearance, especially before observers, are constantly enforced upon them, both by the hope of thereby getting a good master, and the fear of all that the driver may bring upon them if they prove unsaleable.
“What dat ar nigger doin here?” said Sambo, coming up to Tom, after Mr. Skeggs had left the room. Sambo was a full black, of great size, very lively, voluble, and full of trick and grimace.
“What you doin here?” said Sambo, coming up to Tom, and poking him facetiously in the side. “Meditatin, eh?”
“I am to be sold at the auction to-morrow,” said Tom, quietly.
“Sold at auction—haw! haw! boys, aint this yer fuss? I wish’t I was gwine that ar way—tell ye, wouldn’t I make em laugh? But how is it—dis yer whole lot gwine to-morrow?” said Sambo, laying his hand freely on Adolph’s shoulder.
“Please to let me alone,” said Adolph, fiercely, straightening himself up with extreme disgust.
“Law, now, boys, dis yer’s one o’ yer white niggers—kind o’ cream color, ye know, scented!” said he, coming up to Adolph and snuffing. “Oh, Lor, he’d do for a tobaccer shop; they could keep him to scent snuff! Lor, he’d keep a whole shop agwine—he would!”
“I say, keep off, can’t you?” said Adolph, enraged.
“Lor, now, how touchy we is—we white niggers! Look at us, now!” and Sambo gave a ludicrous imitation of Adolph’s manner; “here’s de airs and graces. We’s been in a good family, I specs.”
“Yes,” said Adolph; “I had a master that could have bought you all for old truck!”
“Laws, now, only think,” said Sambo, “the gentlemens that we is!”
“I belonged to the St. Clare family,” said Adolph, proudly.
“Lor, you did! Be hanged if they ar’n’t lucky to get shet of ye. Spects they’s gwine to trade ye off with a lot o’ cracked teapots and sich like!” said Sambo, with a provoking grin.
Adolph, enraged at this taunt, flew furiously at his adversary, swearing and striking on every side of him. The rest laughed and shouted, and the uproar brought the keeper to the door.
“What now, boys? Order—order!” he said, coming in and flourishing a large whip.
All fled in different directions, except Sambo, who, presuming on the favor which the keeper had to him as a licensed wag, stood his ground, ducking his head with a facetious grin whenever the master made a dive at him.
“Lor, mass’r, taint us—we’s reglar stiddy—it’s these yer new hands; they’s real aggravatin—kinder pickin at us all time.”
The keeper at this turned upon Tom and Adolph, and distributing a few kicks and cuffs without much inquiry, and leaving general orders for all to be good boys and go to sleep, left the apartment.
While this scene was going on in the men’s sleeping room, the reader may be curious to take a peep at the corresponding apartment allotted to the women. Stretched out in various attitudes over the floor, he may see numberless sleeping forms of every shade of complexion from the purest ebony to white, and of all years from childhood to old age, lying now asleep. Here is a fine bright girl of ten years, whose mother was sold out yesterday, and who to-night cried herself to sleep when nobody was looking at her. Here a worn old negress, whose thin arms and callous fingers tell of hard toil, waiting to be sold to-morrow, as a cast-off article, for what can be got for her; and some forty or fifty others, with heads variously enveloped in blankets or articles of clothing, lie stretched around them. But in a corner, sitting apart from the rest, are two females of a more interesting appearance than common. One of these is a respectably-dressed mulatto woman between forty and fifty, with soft eyes and a gentle and pleasing physiognomy. She has on her head a high-raised turban, made of a gay red Madras handkerchief of the first quality, and her dress is neatly fitted, and of good material, showing that she has been provided for with a careful hand. By her side, and nestling closely to her, is a young girl of fifteen—her daughter. She is a quadroon, as may be seen from her fairer complexion, though her kindness to her mother is quite discernible. She has the same soft, dark eye, with longer lashes, and her curling hair is of a luxuriant brown. She also is dressed with great neatness, and her white delicate hands betray very little acquaintance with servile toil. These two are to be sold to-morrow in the same lot with the St. Clare servants; and the gentleman to whom they belong, and to whom the money for their sale is to be transmitted, is a member of a Christian church in New York, who will receive the money, and go thereafter to the sacrament of his Lord and theirs, and think no more of it.
These two, whom we shall call Susan and Emmeline, had been the personal attendants of an amiable and pious lady of New Orleans, by whom they had been carefully and piously instructed and trained. They had been taught to read and write, diligently instructed in the truths of religion, and their lot had been as happy an one as it was possible to be. But the only son of their protectress had the management of her property, and by carelessness and extravagance involved it to a large amount, and at last failed. One of the largest creditors was the respectable firm of B. & Co. in New York. B. & Co. wrote to their lawyer in New Orleans, who attached the real estate, (these two articles and a lot of plantation hands formed the most valuable part of it,) and wrote word to that effect to New York. Brother B., being, as we have said, a Christian man, and a resident in a free State, felt some uneasiness on the subject. He didn’t like trading in slaves and souls of men—of course he didn’t; but then there were thirty thousand dollars in the case, and that was rather too much money to be lost for a principle; and so, after much considering and asking advice from those that he knew would advise to suit him, Brother B. wrote to his lawyer to dispose of the business in the way that seemed to him the most suitable, and remit the proceeds.
The day after the letter arrived in New Orleans, Susan and Emmeline were attached, and sent to the depot to await a general auction on the following morning; and as they glimmer faintly upon us in the moonlight which steals through the grated window, we may listen to their conversation. Both are weeping, but each quietly, that the other may not hear.
“Mother, just lay your head on my lap, and see if you can’t sleep a little,” says the girl, trying to appear calm.
“I haven’t any heart to sleep, Em; I can’t; it’s the last night we may be together.”
“Oh, mother, don’t say so; perhaps we shall get sold together—who knows?”
“If ’twas anybody’s else case, I should say so, too, Em,” said the woman; “but I’m so feard of losin you that I don’t see anything but the danger.”
“Why, mother, the man said we were both likely, and would sell well.”
Susan remembered the man’s looks and words. With a deadly sickness at her heart, she remembered how he had looked at Emmeline’s hands, and lifted up her curly hair, and pronounced her a first-rate article. Susan had been trained as a Christian, brought up in the daily reading of the Bible, and had the same horror of her child’s being sold to a life of shame that any other Christian mother might have; but she had no hope—no protection.
“Mother, I think we might do first rate, if you could get a place as cook, and I as chamber-maid or seamstress, in some family. I dare say we shall. Let’s both look as bright and lively as we can, and tell all we can do, and perhaps we shall,” said Emmeline.
“I want you to brush your hair all back straight, to-morrow,” said Susan.
“What for, mother? I don’t look near so well that way.”
“Yes, but you’ll sell better so.”
“I don’t see why,” said the child.
“Respectable families would be more apt to buy you, if they saw you looked plain and decent, as if you wasn’t trying to look handsome. I know their ways better ’n you do,” said Susan.
“Well, mother, then I will.”
“And, Emmeline, if we shouldn’t ever see each other again after to-morrow—if I’m sold way up on a plantation somewhere, and you somewhere else—always remember how you’ve been brought up, and all missis has told you; take your Bible with you, and your hymn-book; and if you’re faithful to the Lord, he’ll be faithful to you.”
So speaks the poor soul, in sore discouragement; for she knows that to-morrow any man, however vile and brutal, however godless and merciless, if he only has money to pay for her, may become owner of her daughter, body and soul; and then, how is the child to be faithful? She thinks of all this, as she holds her daughter in her arms, and wishes that she were not handsome and attractive. It seems almost an aggravation to her to remember how purely and piously—how much above the ordinary lot—she has been brought up. But she has no resort but to pray; and many such prayers to God have gone up from those same trim, neatly-arranged respectable slave prisons—prayers which God has not forgotten, as a coming day shall show; for it is written, “Who causeth one of these little ones to offend, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea.”
The soft, earnest, quiet moonbeam looks in fixedly, marking the bars of the grated windows on the prostrate, sleeping forms. The mother and daughter are singing together a wild and melancholy dirge, common as a funeral hymn among the slaves:
Oh, where is weeping Mary?
Oh, where is weeping Mary?
’Rived in the goodly land.
She is dead and gone to Heaven;
She is dead and gone to Heaven;
’Rived in the goodly land.
These words, sung by voices of a peculiar and melancholy sweetness, in an air which seemed like the sighing of earthly despair, floated through the dark prison rooms with a pathetic cadence, as verse after verse was breathed out:
Oh, where are Paul and Silas?
Oh, where are Paul and Silas?
Gone to the goodly land.
They are dead and gone to Heaven;
They are dead and gone to Heaven;
’Rived in the goodly land.
Sing on, poor souls; the night is short, and the morning will part you forever!
But now it is morning, and everybody is astir, and the worthy Mr. Skeggs is busy and bright, for a lot of goods is to be fitted out for auction. There is a bright look-out on the toilet; injunctions passed around to every one to put on their best face and be spry; and now all are arranged in a circle for a last review, before they are marched up to the Bourse.
Mr. Skeggs, with his palmetto on and his cigar in his mouth, walks around to put farewell touches on his wares.
“How’s this?” he said, stepping in front of Susan and Emmeline, “Where’s your curls, gal?”
The girl looked timidly at her mother, who, with the smooth adroitness common among her class, answers:
“I was telling her last night to put up her hair smooth and neat, and not havin it flying about in curls; looks more respectable so.”
“Bother!” said the man, peremptorily, turning to the girl, “you go right along, and curl your reef! real smart!” He added, giving a crack to a rattan he held in his hand, “And be back in quick time, too!”
“You go and help her,” he added, to the mother. “Them curls may make a hundred dollars difference in the sale of her.”
Beneath a splendid dome were men of all nations, moving to and fro over the marble pave. On every side of the circular area were little tribunes, or stations, for the use of speakers and auctioneers. Two of these, on opposite sides of the area, were now occupied by brilliant and talented gentlemen, enthusiastically forcing up, in English and French commingled, the bids of connoisseurs in their various wares. A third one, on the other side, still unoccupied, was surrounded by a group, waiting the moment of sale to begin. And here we may recognise the St. Clare servants—Tom, Adolph, and others; and there, too, Susan and Emmeline—awaiting their turn with anxious and dejected faces. Various spectators, intending to purchase, or not intending, as the case might be, gathered around the group, handling, examining, and commenting on their various points and faces with the same freedom that a set of jockeys discuss the merits of a horse.
“Well, I was wanting a valet, and I heard that St. Clare’s lot was going. I thought I’d just look at his”——
“Catch me ever buying any of St. Clare’s people. Spoilt niggers, every one.”
“Impudent as the devil,” said the other.
“Never fear that!” said the first. “If I get ’em, I’ll soon have their airs out of them; they’ll soon find that they’ve another kind of master to deal with than Monsieur St. Clare. ’Pon my word, I’ll buy that fellow. I like the shape of him.”
“You’ll find it’ll take all you’ve got to keep him. He’s decidedly extravagant.”
“Yes, but my lord will find that he can’t be extravagant with me. Just let him be sent to the calaboose a few times, and thoroughly dressed down. I’ll tell you if it don’t bring him to a sense of his ways! Oh, I’ll reform him, up hill and down—you’ll see. I buy him, that’s flat.”
Tom had been standing wistfully examining the multitude of faces thronging around him, for one whom he would wish to call master. And if you should ever be under the necessity, sir, of selecting, out of two hundred men, one who was to become your absolute owner and disposer, you would perhaps realize, just as Tom did, how few there were that you would feel at all comfortable in being made over to. Tom saw abundance of men—great, burly, gruff men; little, chirping, dried men; long-favored, lank, hard men; and every variety of stubbed-looking, commonplace men, who pick up other men as one picks up chips, putting them into the fire or a basket with equal unconcern, according to their convenience; but he saw no St. Clare. A little before the sale commenced, a short, broad, muscular man, in a checked shirt considerably open at the bosom, and pantaloons much the worse for dirt and wear, elbows his way through the crowd, like one who is going actively into a business, and, coming up to the group, begun to examine them systematically. From the moment that Tom saw him approaching, he felt an immediate and revolting horror at him, that increased as he came near. He was evidently, though short, of gigantic strength. His round, bullet head; large, light-gray eyes, with their shaggy, sandy eye-brows, and stiff, wiry, sun-burned hair, were rather unprepossessing items, it is to be confessed; his large, coarse mouth, was distended with tobacco, the juice of which, from time to time, he ejected from him with great decision and explosive force; his hands were immensely large, hairy, sun-burned, freckled, and very dirty, and garnished with long nails, in a very foul condition. This man proceeded to a very free personal examination of the lot. He seized Tom by the jaw, and pulled open his mouth to inspect his teeth; made him strip up his sleeve to show his muscle; turned him round; made him jump and spring, to show his paces.
“Where was you raised?” he added, briefly, to these investigations.
“In Kintuck, mass’r,” said Tom, looking about, as if for deliverance.
“What have you done?”
“Had care of mass’rs farm,” said Tom.
“Likely story,” said the other, shortly, as he passed on. He paused a moment before Dolph, then spitting a discharge of tobacco juice on his well-blacked boots, and giving a contemptuous umph, he walked on. Again he stopped before Susan and Emmeline. He put out his heavy, dirty hand, and drew the girl towards him, passed it over her neck and bust, felt her arms, looked at her teeth, and then pushed her back against her mother, whose patient face showed the suffering she had been going through at every motion of the hideous stranger.
The girl was frightened, and began to cry.
“Stop that, you minx!” said the salesman, “no whimpering here—the sale going to begin.” And accordingly the sale begun.
Adolph was knocked off at a good sum to the young gentleman who had previously stated his intention of buying him; and the other servants of the St. Clare lot went to various bidders.
“Now, up with you, boy! d’ye hear?” said the auctioneer to Tom.
Tom stepped upon the block, gave a few anxious looks round; all seemed mingled in a common indistinct noise—the clatter of the salesman crying off his qualifications in French and English, the quick fire of French and English bids—and almost in a moment came the final thump of the hammer, and the clear ring on the last syllable of the word “dollars,” as the auctioneer announced his price, and Tom was made over—he had a master.
He was pushed from the block—the short, bullet-headed man seizing him roughly by the shoulder, pushed him to one side, saying, in a harsh voice, “Stand there, you!”
Tom hardly realized anything; but still the bidding went on—rattling, clattering, now French, now English—down goes the hammer again—Susan is sold. She goes down from the block, stops, looks wistfully back—her daughter stretches her hands towards her. She looks with agony in the face of the man who has bought her—a respectable middle-aged man of benevolent countenance.
“Oh, mass’r, please do buy my daughter!”
“I’d like to, but I’m afraid I can’t afford it,” said the gentleman, looking with painful interest as the young girl mounted the block, and looked around her with a frightened and timid glance.
The blood flushes painfully in her otherwise colorless cheek—her eye has a feverish fire—and her mother groans to see that she looks more beautiful than she ever saw her before. The auctioneer sees his advantage, and expatiates volubly in mingled French and English, and bids rise in rapid succession.
“I’ll do anything in reason,” said the benevolent-looking gentleman, pressing in and joining with the bids. In a few moments they have run beyond his purse. He is silent; the auctioneer grows warmer, but bids gradually drop off. It lies now between an aristocratic old citizen and our bullet-headed acquaintance. The citizen bids for a few turns, contemptuously measuring his opponent; but the bullet-head has the advantage over him, both in obstinacy and concealed length of purse, and the controversy lasts but a moment; the hammer falls—he has got the girl, body and soul, unless God help her!
Her master is Mr. Legree, who owns a cotton plantation on the Red river; she is pushed along into the same lot with Tom and two other men, and goes off, weeping as she goes.
The benevolent gentleman is sorry, but then the thing happens every day! One sees girls and mothers crying at these sales, always! it can’t be helped, &c., and he walks off with his acquisition in another direction.
Two days after, the lawyer of the Christian firm of B. & Co., New York, sent on their money to them. On the reverse of that draft, so obtained, let them write these words of the great Paymaster, to whom they shall make up their account in a future day—“When he maketh inquisition for blood, he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.”
This Stowe Center edition reproduces the National Era serial text of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The wording of the newspaper in many cases differs from publisher John P. Jewett’s first edition. At the conclusion of each installment, notes are provided on a small selection of textual variants, those which have the greatest interpretive significance. The model for these notes is editor John Bryant’s concept of fluid-text editing, which foregrounds the interpretation of textual variants as an act of critical reading. Readers who hold alternate interpretations are encouraged to submit comments to the blog. For general comments on the text and the bibliography, see the Note on the Text.
of low buffoonry which occasioned | Era pg. 11
of low buffoonery, which occasioned | Jewett (1852) vol. 2, pg. 155
The Era has two obvious errors, “buffoonry,” which is corrected to “buffoonery” in Jewett’s first edition, and “frightended,” which is corrected to “frightened.” The Era also has two errors which are less visible until the text is compared to the Jewett edition. Below, the overseer Sambo asks, “boys, aint this yer fuss?” In the Jewett edition, he asks, “aint this yer fun?” a question more in keeping with his role of encouraging “noisy mirth” among the slaves to be sold at auction. Furthermore, in the scriptural quotation from Matthew 18:6, both the Era and the first printing of the Jewett edition have “Who causeth one…” which is corrected to “Whoso causeth one…” in later printings of the Jewett first edition.
Though the first two errors are obvious in the sense of recognizably faulty, a reprint of this chapter of the serial text in an April 1852 issue of London’s Monthly Christian Spectator repeats the error in Sambo’s query and the scriptural quotation. The London periodical, identifiable as an Era reprint by its variants, offers reasonable evidence that the errors in Scriptural quotation and Sambo’s speech are not easily recognized as faulty. Many modern editions of the Jewett text, in reprints for the university classroom, also repeat the uncorrected quotation from Matthew. In the Stowe Center text, “frightended” is corrected silently, but the probable “errors” in Sambo’s speech and the scriptural quotation are retained without marking. [Back]
though her kindness to her | Era pg. 11
though her likeness to her | Jewett (1852) vol. 2, pg. 158
In the Era, Emmeline’s “kindness,” presumably her attentive fondness, permits the reader to identify her as Susan’s daughter. In the Jewett edition, Emmeline’s “likeness,” her appearance, permits the reader to identify her family resemblance. Though “kind” in reference to persons or actions, in the adjectival sense of “affectionate, loving, fond, on intemate terms” is now rare, it was present in Stowe’s day and recorded by the OED in citations from Alexander Pope and Joseph Addison. By analogy, one can extend the meaning to “kindness” in sense of kinship and natural affection, though that usage was no longer attested after the seventeenth century. If Stowe in the serial initially intended “kindness” in the then rare sense of resemblance in appearance and thus kinship, she presumably altered to “likeness” to make the emphasis on appearance more prominent in the Jewett edition. As Susan is within the same line revealed as Emmeline’s mother, kindness in the older sense is redundant and hardly perceptible given its more usual sense of generousness. [Back]
one as [omit] it was | Era pg. 11
one as in their condition it was | Jewett (1852) vol. 2, pg. 159
In the Era, the happiness of Susan and Emmeline is not qualified. In the Jewett edition, the happiness available to them is limited to that which is possible within slavery, “in their condition.” [Back]
of earthly despair, floated through | Era pg. 11
of earthly despair after heavenly hope, floated through | Jewett (1852) vol. 2, pg. 161
In the Era, the hymn by analogy “seemed like the sighing of earthly despair.” In the Jewett edition, the hymn’s identification as an analogy to earthly despair is by contrast to “heavenly hope.” The revised form, which is presumably authorial, highlights the contrast between Susan and Emmeline’s present in a slave warehouse versus the Christian hopes that marked their former earthly life, as comparatively indulged slaves in a Christian household. [Back]
is a bright look-out on | Era pg. 11
is a brisk look-out on | Jewett (1852) vol. 2, pg. 162
In the previous line, Mr. Skeggs is described as “busy and bright.” In this presumably authorial revision, Stowe changed “bright” in the Era to “brisk” in the Jewett edition to avoid repetition of the same word. [Back]
and curl your reef! real smart!” | Era pg. 11
and curl yourself real smart!” | Jewett (1852) vol. 2, pg. 162
In the Era, Mr. Skeggs instructs Emmeline to “curl your reef! real smart!” In the Jewett edition, he instructs her to “curl yourself real smart!” The Era form is probably an error, but it may invoke an unusual dialect form to refer to hair, which promotes the idea of hair as the source of value in Emmeline’s sale. According to the OED, “reef” was employed as a mid-nineteenth century mining term to refer to “a lode or vein of quarts, esp. one which yields gold.” Though the usage was chiefly Australian, it is possible that Mr. Skeggs, who seeks to transform Emmeline’s hair, her curls, into a hundred dollars, may refer to them as a reef, like miners who seek to extract gold from the remains of ancient beds of coral. [Back]
look at his”—— ¶ “Catch me | Era pg. 11
look at his—” ¶ “Catch me | Jewett (1852) vol. 2, pg. 163
In the Era, Alf, the man who intends to buy Augustine St. Clare’s valet Adolph, says something, but the text does not record it. Because what is not said is marked by a dash two ems in length, perhaps what he says is omitted because his plan for Adolph violates a linguistic propriety that Stowe as author would retain. In the Jewett edition, the same may be true: the man’s plan for Adolph is not recorded in the text. But there is an alternative, that the subsequent speaker cuts off Alf before he finishes his statement. Based on the Illustrated edition (1853), Stowe considered the two-em dash significant. In that edition, the two-em version of the dash is restored to this passage, and it precedes the closing quotation. Therefore, we may surmise that Stowe’s preference was for the longer em dash to signal an omitted word or phrase. See Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, illustrated ed. (Boston: John P. Jewett; Cleveland: Jewett, Proctor, and Worthington, 1853), 416. Michael Borgstrom, though he only considers the Jewett first edition, suggests that this unspeakable reference to Adolph, Augustine St. Clare’s effeminate double, may suggest homoerotic desire (“Passing Over: Setting the Record Straight in Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” PMLA 118 (2003): 1295, 1299, 1300; http://www.jstor.org/stable/1261465.) [Back]
niggers, every one.” ¶ “Impudent as the | Era pg. 11
niggers, every one. Impudent as the | Jewett (1852) vol. 2, pg. 163
In the Era, the initial speaker Alf, who is considering the purchase of Adolph, concurs with the second speaker that St. Clare’s servant is “Impudent as the devil.” Because in the following paragraph the next speaker is identified as the “first,” the Era paragraph break was presumably an error. When the paragraph break to indicate a switch in speakers is marked, as in the Jewett edition, it is clear that only two speakers are present, Alf and the man who declares St. Clare’s servants impudent. The Era paragraph break is minimally distracting, as one can read the lines as joking banter or can infer the presence of a third speaker. [Back]
pick up other men as one | Era pg. 11
pick up their fellow-men as one | Jewett (1852) vol. 2, pg. 164
In the Era, those who buy slaves purchase what the narrator identifies as “other men.” In the Jewett edition, those who purchase slaves acquire what the narrator identifies as “their fellow-men.” In both, the narrator asserts the humanity of slaves, but the revision of the Jewett edition highlights the irony that the men purchased as property are the fellows of those who make the purchase. [Back]
the group, begun to examine | Era pg. 11
the group, began to examine | Jewett (1852) vol. 2, pg. 164
The Era form “begun,” which typically requires an auxiliary for present perfect or past perfect, “has begun” or “had begun,” appears to be incorrect. The man Simon Legree is identified here only by his physical qualities rather than by name, “a short, broad, muscular man.” In the Jewett edition, Simon Legree “began” to examine his potential purchases. Because he undertook the action before the auction commenced, the reader expects the simple past of the Jewett edition.
However, Stowe’s line resembles another grammatical oddity in this chapter. After the salesman seeks to stifle Emmeline’s whimpering (see below), Stowe in the narrator’s words also uses the past participle form “begun”—the auxiliary is omitted—when a reader expects the simple past: “ ‘no whimpering here—the sale going to begin.’ And accordingly the sale begun.” Stowe’s unusual verbal tenses rather than the expected simple past eventually drew the attention of compositors or proofreaders. In the Jewett edition, the salesman uses the present progressive: “the sale is going to begin,” but the narrator persists in the past participle form but with the auxiliary omitted: “accordingly the sale begun.” The “Million” edition follows the two-volume edition. In the illustrated edition (1853), however, both verb tenses and participles reflect corrected usage. Stowe may employ as a narrative conceit in the Era serial that she reports a journalistic present. For example, see the first variant noted in the 5 June 1851 installment. Stowe by her unusual verb forms may be employing a technique she uses elsewhere, to allow the narrator’s language to be infected by the dialect speech of the characters. She might in the serial by that technique intimate that slave auctions are part not of a past but an ongoing present. [Back]
Copyright 2011. For introduction and annotation, all rights reserved. The text is distributed under a Creative Commons License. Uncle Tom’s Cabin: National Era by Harriet Beecher Stowe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Copyright Commons License.