Current LiteratureThe Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1214, p. 94.
July 25, 1863
...Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation. By Frances Anne Kemble. (1 vol. Longmans.) There can be no doubt respecting the genuineness of the greater number of events recorded in this book, for they are matters of personal experience, put upon paper by the wife of a planter; and that planter was amongst by no means the smaller slaveowners. Nevertheless, when we reflect that the journal refers to the years 1838-9--that is to say, to a period four or five and twenty years ago--and that four or five and twenty years ago in a fast-growing country like America are equivalent to much more than a quarter of a century in settled civilisations, it would not be fair to conclude that things are now as they were then. At least, some weighty proof should be required that they are. In this place it will be sufficient to say that the writer indorses the thrilling account of Mrs. Beecher Stowe, in her story, "Uncle Tom's Cabin;" nay, further, she observes, "The ideal excellence of her principal character is no argument at all against the general accuracy of her statements with regard to the evils of slavery; everything else in her book is not only possible, but probable; and not only probable, but a very faithful representation of the existing facts; faithful, and not, as you accuse it of being, exaggerated; for, with the exception of the horrible catastrophe, the flogging to death of poor Tom, she has portrayed none of the most revolting instances of cruelty produced by the slave system with which she might have darkened her picture without detracting from its perfect truth." This is an extract from her letter to the Times, but some time, of course, after the date of her personal experiences; and in her Preface she writes--"the record contained in the following pages is a picture of conditions of human existence which I hope and believe have passed away." Now, no Englishman, it may be presumed, would have the front to advocate slavery; but recent events have brought the subject once more prominently forward, and the author has doubtless considered it a favourable opportunity for compelling attention; hence the present publication. The writer appends a letter containing her opinions upon the result of the lamentable conflict now raging beyond the Atlantic; it is impossible to give a summary of all she says, but she concludes:--"Perhaps, however, Mr. Jefferson Davis means to free the negroes. Whenever that consummation is attained the root of bitterness will have perished from the land; and when a few years shall have passed, blunting the hatred which has been excited by this fratricidal strife, the Americans of both the Northern and Southern States will perceive that the selfish policy of other nations would not have so rejoiced over their division had it not seemed, to those who loved them not, the proof of past failure and the prophecy of future weakness. Admonished by its terrible experiences, I believe the nation will reunite itself under one Government, remodel its constitution, and again address itself to fulfil its glorious destiny." Let us make our comment in the words of Homer--τὰ δὲ πάντα θεῶν ὲν γούνασι κεῖται.