Crusader in Crinoline

By Forrest Wilson
THE life of Mrs. Stowe, as Mr. Wilson remarks, ‘falls astonishingly into the form of fiction and holds much of the flavor of a novel.’ Its events, seen from the outside as a finished pattern, group themselves naturally about two widely separated foci. The first is Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which not only had an incalculably great effect on the nation’s history, but was also the pivot of the most remarkable success story in the history of literature. The second is the disastrous controversy about Lady Byron Vindicated, pivot of an almost equally remarkable failure story. These two foci, with their preparation and consequences, strikingly reproduce in an individual life the form of classic drama, complete with initial impulse, ascending and descending actions, crisis, and catastrophe. Mr. Wilson, documenting the story from material ol the first importance available to no predecessor, has brilliantly realized its intrinsic excitement. Thorough in his re-creation of the times, the places, and the subordinate characters, — notably that fantastic being, Calvin Stowe, — he is moderate and persuasive in his treatment of controversial points and nothing short of triumphant in his presentation of the main point, which is the personality of Harriet Stowe herself. He has narrated, not only a Life, but also a great chapter of American history. (Incidentally, it includes a crucial passage in the early history of the Atlantic Monthly.') His heroine was the weaver of an irresistible magic, as we see in the response of the children who to this very day turn straight back from the closing page of Uncle ‘tom’s Cabin to begin again at the opening page. In Mr. Wilson’s 640 pages she is, both as woman and as writer, a weaver of the same magic.
W. F.