Into the Mouths of Babes: An Anthology of Children's Abolitionist Literature

By Deborah C. De Rosa | Go to book overview

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
(JUNE 14, 1811-JULY 1, 1896)

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852 met unprecedented worldwide response, negative and positive, and prompted Abraham Lincoln to call Stowe the little woman who started the great war. Many Americans read the last chapter of the serialized version of the novel in the April 1, 1852, edition of The National Era ([Bailey] 54). Having gained permission from the newspaper, publisher John P. Jewett embraced his wife’s advice to publish it as Uncle Tom’s Cabin after Phillips, Sampson, 6k Co. considered it too risky a venture. Jewett struck a nerve in the American reading public. He sold an unprecedented 10,000 copies within a few days of the March 1852 issue and 300,000 copies by December 1852 (Shackelford and Wilkie 226; Lenz 345). According to Sidney Howard Gay, Stowe earned royalties of “Ten Thousand Three Hundred Dollars, as her copyright permission on the sale of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ for three months. It is stated that this is the largest sum ever received by any author, either English or American, from the sale of a single work in so short a period” (31). The novel also gained unprecedented popularity in Canada, England, France, Germany, and Italy, among others. The Uncle Tom’s Cabin craze spawned fictional proslavery responses in music,1 theater productions,2 art,’ games and toys,4 and (of course) adaptations for children.

The novel’s popularity quickly led Jewett and others to adapt the novel for juvenile audiences, even though Stowe considered the original appropriate for children. Millicent Lenz reveals that Stowe “read [the original version] to her own children as she wrote it and shared the first Little Eva episode with her class of school children in September 1851” (345). Furthermore, in the final installment in The National Era, Stowe states,

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