Some Confessions of a Novel-Writer
FEW of the present generation of readers will remember the fugitive slave cases that agitated the country about the middle of the century, one of which, that of Anthony Burns, shook the conservative town of Boston as by a moral earthquake. To this affair especially, and to two or three similar cases, I owed, in a large measure, the powerful impulse that urged me to the writing of an anti-slavery novel. How I was influenced by them ; how, almost in spite of myself, and against my own literary taste and judgment, I was led to construct a story with the one tabooed and abominated subject craftily concealed (as was charged at the time) in the very heart of it, a surprise to be exploded like a bombshell in the face of unsuspecting readers, — how I came to commit this atrocity, if it was one, I shall endeavor to show in this chapter of reminiscences.
I early imbibed a prejudice against any agitation of the slavery question. In the small community in western New York where I was brought up, I knew, in my boyhood, only two outspoken abolitionists. One of these was our good Presbyterian minister, Mr. Sedgwick, a worthy man with an unfortunate hobby, as it was deemed, and as perhaps it was. His hearers were all good Whigs and Democrats, who paid him for preaching sound doctrinal discourses, and did not care to be reminded, Sunday after Sunday, that, as members of the two great political parties of the day, they were wickedly winking at a wrong committed in States some hundreds of miles off. Whatever the subject of his sermon, he was apt to introduce his delenda est Carthago somewhere in the course of it ; and he was particularly vehement in his arguments against those who endeavored to prove by the Bible that slavery was right. The other abolitionist was a somewhat eccentric young man, who taught our district school two or three winters, and taught it very well. But as he was known to entertain erratic ideas on various subjects, and had been heard to declare that “ even if the Bible said slavery was right, that would n’t make it so,” his advocacy was not of a kind to help an unpopular cause. In short, he did n’t count ; and Mr. Sedgwick stood bravely alone, our sole, persistent, in-season and out-of-season, rabid abolitionist.
I never was a good listener to sermons of any sort, unless they happened to be interesting ; and when imprisoned in the bare old meeting-house, I was usually thinking so intently of other things that I would hardly be aware of the unwelcome topic being hammered on the ministerial anvil, until I saw my father begin to fidget in his seat, and the frown to gather on his brow. Often the cloud would remain until dispelled by the genial influence of the late Sunday dinner. Once when I had been left at home, and went to open the dooryard gate for the one-horse family wagon as it drove up, I noticed the ominous scowl on my father’s face, and said, loud enough to be heard, —
“ I guess Sedgwick has been pounding slavery on his pulpit cushion again today.”
“ Another of his everlasting abolition harangues ! ” exclaimed my father, as he got down from the wagon at the door. ” I wish I had some sort of patent, long-action, quick-pressure gag to spring on him the instant he speaks the word ‘ slavery.’ ”
And yet he was a hater of all kinds of oppression, and one of the most scrupulously just men I ever knew.
“ Wrong? ” he would say. “ Of course it ’s wrong ; nothing under heaven can make it right for one human being to own another. But what’s the use of fighting it here at the North ? Leave it where it is, and it will die of itself. Any serious attempt to abolish it will bring on civil war and break up the Union.”
He often made use of these stereotyped words ; but he would add, “I ’m opposed to the spread of it ; we ’ve a right to take that stand.” — little dreaming that in less than twenty years a determined “ stand,” taken by the North against the extension of slavery, would bring on attempted disunion and the civil war he dreaded.
So the subject of abolition became to me a disagreeable one, and continued so after I went to Boston in 1848, then in my twenty-first year. I did not find it popular in that highly conservative city. The followers of Garrison and Phillips were few ; society looked upon them as dangerous fanatics, and the very name of abolitionist was covered with an opprobrium that clung to it long after the course of political events had justified their moral convictions. The slave power itself was fast doing more than its most relentless enemies could accomplish towards awakening not Boston only, but all the North, to the insatiableness of its greed and the danger of its aggressions. Its reign was a reign of terror. Good people who, like my father, quieted their consciences with the cry, “ Let it alone ! leave it where it is ! don’t agitate the subject ! ” found that it would not be let alone, that it would not rest where it was, that it was itself the great agitator, which would not cease its menaces until it could flaunt its black flag over the whole abject Union.
The enactment, in 1850, of the Fugitive Slave Law, turning all the North into a hunting-ground for escaping human chattels, roused a spirit of resistance in thousands who had hitherto remained indifferent, or timidly submissive, to the encroachments of the monster. It made an “ anti-slavery fanatic ” of me. How dangerous I was I did not myself suspect, until Mr. Ben : Perley Poore, then publishing his Sentinel in Boston, went off to Washington, and left me in charge of the paper. He had been gone a week or two, when something on the subject of Northern abolitionism in one of our Southern exchanges provoked me to reply. I meant my article to be dispassionate and judicial ; and when it was written and carefully revised, I could n’t see anything in it that should give offense to right-thinking readers. So I printed it. Then the deluge ! I hardly knew what I had done, when my good friend Poore came hurrying back from Washington, and walked most unexpectedly into the Sentinel office one morning, where he found me seated at the desk, unconscious as a cherub of any wrong-doing. When I expressed surprise at seeing him so soon, he said he thought it was time for him to come and look after his editor. Always genial and kind, he yet made me feel extremely uncomfortable when he added, —
“ Good heavens, Trowbridge ! what were you thinking of, to turn the Sentinel into an abolition paper ? ”
“ Is that the way yon look at it ?” asked the cherub.
“ That ’s the way subscribers will look at it.” he replied.
A good deal nettled, I said, “ Then perhaps you would like me to leave the paper ? ”
“ Leave the paper ? ” he echoed, with about the bitterest laugh I ever heard from his lips. “ Print another such article, and the paper will leave us ! ”
He went on to give a grimly humorous account of the sensation my poor little screed created in Washington, where he had many friends and subscribers, all of pro-slavery sentiments, and of his sudden haste to leave that city.
“Of course,” he added, “I laid it all to the boy I had left in the office.”
“ Well,” I said, “ what was there about the boy’s article that they could reasonably object to ? ”
He was generous enough to reply, “ Nothing, in my opinion. Every word of it is true enough. And you may think it strange that a man can’t print in his own paper what he thinks on a great public question like slavery ; but that is a fact. We shall see.”
And we did see. Angry protestations from subscribers were already lying unopened on his desk. More came in, from North and South alike ; and one of our South Carolina exchanges did me the honor to answer my article with an insolent threat of secession, — an old threat from that State, even in those days, and not altogether an idle one, as was so long believed.
Mr. Poore was too good a friend to discharge me for an act of indiscretion already committed. But he was right in his prognostication. The paper soon after left us ; that, too, without the help of another anti-slavery leader. How many subscriptions my imprudence lost it I never knew. It never had too many.
I shared the intense interest awakened in Boston by its famous fugitive slave cases of 1850 and 1851, — the romantic escape of Ellen and William Craft, and the more notorious and dramatic episodes of Shadrach and Thomas Simms. Yet I hardly realized what inflammable anti-slavery stuff was in me, until the capture of Anthony Burns occurred, in May, 1854.
I was living in bachelor lodgings in Seaver Place, engaged in writing the novel Martin Merrivale, when the terrible realities of that event put my poor, fictitious characters to ignominious flight, and kindled in me a desire to write a novel on a wholly different subject.
It was not easy, at that time, to take a runaway slave out of Boston ; secrecy and subterfuge had to be used, without much regard to the forms of law. Burns was arrested on a false pretext, and hurried before United States Commissioner Edward G. Loring, before it was known that kidnappers were again in the city. It had been hoped that the rescue of Shadrach and the tremendous difficulties encountered in the rendition of Simms would sufficiently discourage similar attempts, as indeed they did for a time. Burns had really been seized, not for any petty offense, as was pretended, but as a fugitive from the service of Charles F. Suttle, a Virginia slaveholder. The truth became quickly known, despite the precautions taken to conceal it ; and the report, which was made a rallying cry to the friends of the oppressed, “ Another man kidnapped!” ran with electric swiftness through the city.
Commissioner Loring was also judge of probate, and a man of eminent respectability. In his private life he was, no doubt, just and humane. I was present, and watched his face with painful interest, when he rendered his decision in the case. In vain had Mr. Richard H. Dana made his eloquent plea for the prisoner, warning the commissioner that what he was about to do would take its place in history, and praying that it might be in accord with a large interpretation of the law, with the higher conscience, and with mercy. The commissioner had evidently determined to perform what he deemed his duty, without any betrayal of emotion. His face was slightly flushed, but firm. My pity was not all for the slave ; some of it was for such a man in such a place. On a bench before him sat Theodore Parker and Wendell Phillips, the great preacher and the brilliant orator, whose certain and terrible denunciations of what he was about to do might well have made him pause. Perhaps, as a commissioner acting under the Fugitive Slave Law, and ignoring the laws of Massachusetts, he could not have rendered a different judgment. But he might have resigned his commission, and washed his hands of the whole black business in that way. Without a tremor of lip or of voice, he coldly reviewed the evidence and the law in the case, and remanded Anthony Barns to slavery. Then Parker and Phillips arose, and walked arm in arm out of the court-room, conversing in low tones, with bowed heads and lowering brows.
Meanwhile Boston was in a turmoil of excitement. Public meetings were held, an immense one in Faneuil Hall on the evening preceding the removal of the fugitive ; and that night there was a gallant attack upon the Court House in which he was confined. A stick of timber was used as a battering-ram against one of the western doors, which was broken in; there was a mêlée of axes, bludgeons, and firearms, and one of the marshal’s guard was killed. But the assailants, led by that ardent young reformer, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, of whom, later, the world was to hear considerably more, and by a colored man, Lewis Hayden, were unsupported, and were driven back.
Reports of the Faneuil Hall meeting and of the assault on the Court House rallied an immense crowd to Court Square and the adjacent streets the next morning, to witness the final act of the drama. It was a black day for Boston, that 27th of May, 1854 ; the passions of men were stirred to their depths, and often friends were divided against friends. I remember meeting in the crowd one with whom I had been on intimate terms not long before. He had been an officer in the Mexican war, and was as much of a Roman as to his nose and character as any man I ever knew. But that day the Roman in him was enlisted in a bad cause. Drawing me aside in the crowd, and opening his vest, he grimly called my attention to a revolver thrust into an inside pocket.
“What ’s that for, Ned ?” I asked, in the old familiar way.
“ I am one of the marshal’s private deputies,” he answered, with brutal frankness. “ There are over a hundred of us in the Court House there and in this crowd. At the first sign of an attempt to rescue that damned nigger, we are going in for a bloody fight. I hope there ’ll be a row, for it ’s the top-round of my ambition to shoot an abolitionist.”
“ Well, Ned,” I replied, “ you may possibly have an opportunity to shoot me ; for if I see a chance to help that ‘damned nigger,’ as you call him, I’m afraid I shall take a hand.”
Any attempt of the kind at that time was out of the question. But for a misunderstanding a rescue might have been effected when the Court House door was battered in the night before. That failure had rendered subsequent success impossible ; and it is a curious circumstance that the fiery Wendell Phillips himself was largely responsible for it. While, like most of the speakers at the Faneuil Hall meeting, he was in favor of a forcible deliverance of Burns, — declaring, “ If that man leaves Boston, Massachusetts is a conquered State! ” — he yet opposed those who would have hurled his host of hearers, excited and irresistible, against the Court House that night. “ The zeal that will not hold out till morning,” he said, “ will never free a slave.” 1
But the morning was too late. The broken door was barricaded ; the Court House was a fortress. Besides his hundred deputies, — men recruited for the most part from the brutal and vicious classes of society, frequenters of grogshops and gaming-saloons, — besides this posse of desperadoes, disposed as his special guard and distributed through the crowd they were to watch and thwart, the marshal had the police force of Boston and a large body of militia, ostensibly to keep the peace, but practically to aid him in his ignoble task. The Court House was encircled by bayonets, and Court Street and State Street were lined on both sides with files of troops, keeping a lane open all the way to Long Wharf for the expected procession.
At last it set forth, led by a vanguard of armed police. “ There he is ! ” went up a half-stifled cry from the multitude ; and there indeed he was, that one poor, hunted, black bondman, whom a derisive fate had that day made the most-talked-of and important figure in all New England. What must he have thought of the great concourse of citizens, the swords and clubs and muskets, that met his bewildered gaze as he walked forth from his prison ? — all there for him, the wretched and baffled runaway from Virginia ! I remember well his scared black face, as he rolled his eyes about for a moment before he was hurried away ; not so very black, either, — a complexion rather of bronze than of iron, — with a gleam of excitement in it which was almost a smile. He had heard the blows that thundered against the Court House door the night before ; he knew what they meant ; he knew how Shadrach had been rescued ; but if he still cherished a hope of his own deliverance, it must have abandoned him at that moment. All was over. The free land to which he had escaped through difficulties and dangers was no free land for such as he. Back he must go to bondage and the lash.
There was no pause. The marshal and his special guard inclosed Burns in a compact phalanx, following the vanguard, and another body of armed police brought up the rear. The march was rapid, amid groans and hisses, and now and then a cheer, from the ranks of spectators. From Court Square into Court Street, gazed at from hundreds of windows, some of which were draped in black in token of the city’s humiliation ; past the old State House, and over the very ground where the first blood was shed preluding the Revolutionary struggle, some of it the blood of a black man, — scene of the Boston Massacre ; and so on, down State Street, moved the strange procession, between the two rows of bayoneted guns, to Long Wharf, where, by the President’s orders, a revenue cutter was in waiting, to receive on board the kidnappers and their prey.
It was a long time before I could sit down again quietly to the fiction on which I was engaged. I felt a burning desire to pour out in some channel the feelings which, long suppressed, had been roused to a high pitch of excitement by this last outrage. Still, something of the old repugnance to the subject, of slavery remained ; I shrank from the thought of making a black man my hero ; the enormous popularity of Uncle Tom, instead of inciting me to try my hand at an antislavery novel, served rather to deter me from entering the field which Mrs. Stowe had occupied with such splendid courage and success.
More than once, before the Anthony Burns affair, before Uncle Tom even, the fugitive slave as a subject for a novel had come up in my mind, and I had put it resolutely aside ; but now it presented itself again, and persistently haunted me. “ Why a black man ? ” I said to myself. “ All slaves are not black. And why a man at all ? ” as I thought of Ellen Craft. “ Sympathy will be more easily enlisted for a woman, white, with native refinement and sweetness of character, and yet born a slave, with all the power and prejudice of legal ownership and cruel caste conspiring to defeat her happiness.” And I fell to thinking of that worst form of slavery which condemned to a degrading bondage not those of African blood alone, but so many of the descendants of the proud white master race.
Though I was hardly conscious of it, the thing was taking shape in my mind when I went to spend the summer — of 1854 — in the bosom of the Green Mountains. In the broad and beautiful valley of Otter Creek I found, in an old farmhouse, a quiet place to live, and think, and write. I gave four or five hours a day to Martin Merrivale, which was then appearing in monthly numbers from the press of Phillips, Sampson & Co., and had ample leisure, in the long summer afternoons, to bathe in the streams, wander in the woods, climb the mountains, and in the course of my rambles make extensive acquaintance with the country and the people.
One day, while exploring the interval about the confluence of Otter Creek and Mad River, — which became Huntersford Creek and Wild River in the novel, the scene of the fishing adventure of Mr. Jackwood and Bim ; lost, like them, amid the tortuous windings of the two streams, still further lost in my own imaginings, — I suddenly saw rise up before me out of the tall grass the form of an old hag. And it was not an old hag at all, but a beautiful girl in disguise ; nor yet a girl, but really a creature of my own imagination, which appeared as vividly to my mind’s eye as if it had been either or both.
“ Both it shall be,” I said ; “ a forlorn maiden in the guise of an old woman, lost here in this wilderness of alders and long grass and labyrinthine streams ! — a mystery to be accounted for.” And the phantom-like projection of my fancy took its place at once in the plan of the story, giving it life and form from that hour.
I was impatient to get “ Martin ” off my hands, and to begin the new novel, of which I wrote the first chapters in the old Vermont farmhouse, in the midst of the scenes described. It was then thrown aside, to be taken up later, under very different circumstances. I carried the manuscript to Europe with me in the spring of 1855 ; and having settled down in Passy, just outside the walls of Paris (now a part of Paris itself), I resumed work upon it, writing a chapter, or a part of a chapter, every morning, and joining my friends in excursions in and about the gay capital in the afternoon.
I had one friend there who, by his sympathetic and suggestive criticisms, assisted me greatly in my work. He read the manuscript almost as fast as it was written, and was always eager to talk with me about the incidents and characters, and their development ; thus keeping up my interest in them when it might otherwise have flagged, amid the diversions of a life so strangely in contrast with the life I was depicting. Often we walked together to the Bois de Boulogne of an evening, sat down on a bench by one of the lakes, and discussed the Jackwood family, Enos Crumlett and Tildy, Hector and Charlotte, and the slave-catchers, until these became more real to us than the phantasmal beings, in carriages or on foot, moving before our eyes in the lighted park. This friend was Lewis Baxter Monroe, afterwards well known as Professor Monroe of the Boston School of Oratory, which he established and made famous.
The story finished, I had great trouble in naming it. I suppose a score of titles were considered, only to be rejected. At last I settled down upon “ Jackwood,” but felt the need of joining to that name some characteristic phrase or epithet. Thus I was led to think of this Scriptural motto for the title-page : "A certain woman went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves.” Which suggested the question, “ Who was neighbor unto this woman ? ” and the answer, “ Neighbor Jackwood.” And I had my title.
I read the proofs of the novel in the spring of 1856, after my return to America ; but it was not published until the following winter, for a special reason, which found considerably less favor with the author than with the publishers. Mr. Phillips was afraid the work might be lost sight of in the dust raised by Mrs. Stowe’s Dred, which he was to issue about the time my humbler venture was ready. I was repaid for this tax upon my patience when, after the book had been out a few days, and the press notices were beginning to come in. Mr. Phillips greeted me one morning with his peculiarly stately bow and a serene smile, and remarked significantly, “ Our friend Jackwood need n’t have been afraid of anybody’s dust.”
It had the advantage of a fresh and unhackneyed theme, and was the first serious attempt to depict those phases of country life amid which the narrative moves, and to render the speech of the people with due regard to its humorous flavor, yet absolutely without exaggeration. Although it was written “ with a purpose,” that purpose was inclosed, as far as possible, in the larger aim of telling a strong and interesting story. Of course the anti-slavery element in it was liberally denounced, and the bombshell of surprise, before mentioned, caused a shock to the prejudices of many worthy people. They were horrified by the mere suggestion of a union between the hero and heroine. I had been careful to offset the cloud of heredity resting upon her by one more terrible lowering upon his family and threatening him ; but those so quick to take offense at the one gave no heed to the other.
The success of the novel led to its dramatization by the author for the Boston Museum stage, then managed by the veteran actor W. H. Smith, who took the title rôle of Neighbor Jackwood. The part of Enos Crumlett was expanded to the proportions of William Warren, a comic actor of rare powers, for many years a prime favorite with Boston audiences, who never wearied of his broad yet delicate and genial humor. I engaged all the players to read the book while studying their parts, and thus secured unusually good personations of the characters from a mediocre company. We had a bright young girl, Rose Skerritt, to personate Bim. Mrs. Thompson, who was never a noticeably bright star in anything else, blazed out conspicuously as Grandmother Rigglesty, into which character she threw energies she was not before supposed to possess, — so conscientious in her presentation of it that, as Dr. Holmes remarked, she “ took out her teeth.”
The first night of the piece was memorable to at least one person in the audience. I went early to the theatre, and ensconced myself, with a friend, in an obscure corner, where I could carefully watch the performance, to see where it dragged, and note whatever changes should be made in the inevitable “ cutting ” process to take place the next day. All went prosperously, until suddenly there was a hiss, and a storm of howls and hisses immediately followed. A crisis in the plot had been reached which roused the opposition of the pro-slavery part of the audience, — a very large part, as it seemed for a while. A counter-storm of cheers and clappings set in, and there was a prolonged uproar that threatened to end the performance. If the tempest of opposition was overcome for a few moments, it would burst forth again as soon as the applause subsided ; and the same battle had to be fought over again. Victory at last remained with the friends of the piece, and the performance proceeded.
“ You will cut out those objectionable speeches ? ” my friend whispered in my ear.
“ No,” I replied ; “ I will strengthen them.”
An amusing incident occurred when we were on our way to the theatre that first, night, Monday, March 16, 1857. Being just then personally interested in playbills, I turned aside to see what a man was pasting over one which I had regarded with especial satisfaction, whenever I passed it that day and the preceding Sunday. It was the bill of the next day’s performance of Jackwood ; and on it was announced, in the showy bead-lines then in vogue, the astonishing success of the first performance, which we were then on our way to witness !
TREMENDOUS HIT ! !
RECEIVED WITH THUNDERS OF APPLAUSE ! ! !
“ All right, only the man is a little too previous.” observed my friend, as we went on, laughing. “ But we ’ll take it as a good omen,”
Having allayed the excitement which impelled me to write one anti-slavery novel, I did not entertain the possibility of ever being moved to write another. Political events rushed rapidly to a crisis, which came with the election of Lincoln, and brought to exultant souls the certainty that the encroachments of the slave power had at last reached a barrier forever impossible for it to overpass. The war of secession was a war of emancipation from the start. It could not be otherwise, whether the actors engaged in it wished it so or not ; campaigns and acts of Congress, battles and proclamations, victories and defeats, were not so much causes or hindrances as eddies of the stream, in whose mighty movement they were formed and swept along.
I was eager to bear my own humble part in the momentous conflict, and took up again the only weapon I had any skill to use. I wrote a patriotic story, The Drummer Boy ; not especially designed as an attack upon slavery, more than any word uttered or blow struck for the Union was a word or blow aimed at the enemy striving to destroy it. But the old heat was fevering me, and no sooner was The Drummer Boy hurried on his mission than I flung myself upon the writing of as fiery an anti-slavery fiction as I was capable of compassing. The country had been but slowly awakening to a consciousness of the truth that the slave was not only to be freed ; he was also to cease to be a merely passive occasion of the contest, and to become our active ally. Too many calling themselves patriots still opposed emancipation and the arming of the blacks, and clung tremblingly to the delusion that the Union and slavery might both be preserved. The idol-house of the old prejudice was shattered, but not demolished. I was impatient to hurl my firebrand into the breach.
In this case I had a title for my novel before a page of it was written. Wishing to bring into it some incidents of guerrilla warfare and of the persecutions of Union men in the border slave States, I cast about for some central fact to give unity to the action, and form at the same time a picturesque feature of the narrative. The idea of a cave somehow suggested itself, and I chose for the scene a region where such things exist. As no especial economy was required in its construction, I thought I might as well have a cavern of some magnificence ; or rather, I thought little about it, — the whole thing flashed upon me like a vision, as I lay awake one night, with my imagination aflame, lighting up that strange world under the eyelids so vivid amid the surrounding dark. The cave, the burning forest, and the firelit waterfall, with much of the plan of the drama, all came to me, as I recall, in those two or three hours of intensely concentrated thought. I adopted “ Cave ” at once as part of my title, but felt that it was necessary to make some felicitous addition. I was some time, indeed many nights and days, in finding a fit name for my runaway slave, who was to inhabit the cavern and help me out with my title. “ Cudjo “ was finally decided upon for him, and “Cudjo’s Cave ” for the book. But the hero of it was not Cudjo, although I no longer shrank from giving a black man that rôle. Neither was it the young Quaker, turned fighter ; Penn Hapgood was only the ostensible hero. The real hero, if the story had one, was the proud and powerful, full-blooded African, Pomp, whom I afterwards carried forward into the third and last of my war stories, The Three Scouts.
Cudjo’s Cave was a partisan book, frankly designed to fire the Northern heart. This was, perhaps, the chief of its many faults. It contained scenes of violence such as I should never, under other circumstances, have selected as subjects for my pen. I adapted, but did not invent them ; the most sensational incidents had their counterparts in the reign of wrath and wrong I was endeavoring to hold up to the abhorrence of all lovers of the Union and haters of slavery and secession. The art of the book suffered also from the disadvantage I labored under of never having visited the region I described, or studied the dialect of the people. The result was something quite different from what discriminating readers have noticed in Neighbor Jackwood, where, almost unconsciously to the author, the dialect became so much a part of the characters that no two of them, not even members of the same family, are made to talk just alike, but each has his or her own persistent peculiarities of speech. The fault I speak of lay deeper, however, than the dialect. The characters of the later novel were portrayed more from without ; those of the earlier one, more from within. But though lacking in true emotional depth, the inferior work had an external life and an impetuous movement which gave it vogue, and enabled it to carry something of the political influence it was intended to convey.
It was written with great rapidity in the summer of 1863, and published in December of that year. It was issued by a young and enterprising firm that displayed considerable ingenuity and no little audacity in advertising it. Pictures of the cave were on envelopes and posters, and I remember a bookseller’s window on Washington Street rendered attractive by a pile of the freshly bound volumes erected in the similitude of a cave. A private letter to the author from Secretary Chase, then at the zenith of his fame as a national financier, was made to do service in ways he could hardly have anticipated any more than I did when the publishers obtained permission of him to use it. It was printed, and extensively copied by the press, and the interior of every horse-car in Boston was placarded with a signed extract from it, outstaring the patient public week after week in a manner that would have made the great secretary wince, could he have seen it, as it did me.
The publishers’ methods combined with the circumstances of the time to secure immediate popularity for the book, — a popularity it still continues in a measure to enjoy, having long outlived the occasion that called it forth, and the existence of the firm that launched it so successfully.
At the close of the war I paid a visit to East Tennessee, and was pleased to find that I had not gone far wrong in my descriptions of the region where the scenes of the story are laid. But I failed to get any authentic news of the actors in it, or to discover the precise locality of the cave. I have lately been told that there is somewhere in Kentucky a cave which guides and hotel-keepers claim as the original and only Cudjo’s. I have never seen it.
J. T. Trowbridge.
- Quoted by Hon. Henry Wilson in his exceedingly interesting and valuable History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America.↩