[Home] [Book] [Expand] [Collapse] [Help]

Clear Search Expand Search


    CHAPTER XXI.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XXIII.

Brown, Josephine
Biography of an American Bondman

- CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXII



"Fling out the anti-slavery flag,
And let it not be furled,
Till like a planet of the skies,
It sweeps around the world!"

Mr.Brown's name being often brought before the public through the reviews of his new book, and different sketches of his life having been published in the London Biographical Magazine, Public Good, True Briton, and other periodicals, he was invited to lecture before literary associations in London and the provincial towns. This induced him to get up a course of lectures on America and her great men, St. Domingo, &&;c. Thus, during the lecturing season, he was busily engaged, either before institutions, or speaking on American Slavery.

In the spring of 1853, the fugitive brought out his work," Clotel, or the President's Daughter,"--a book of near three hundred pages, being a narrative of slave life in the Southern States. This work called forth new criticisms on the "Negro Author" and his literary efforts. The London Daily News pronounced it a book that would make a deep impression; while the Leader, edited by the son of Leigh Hunt, thought many parts of it "equal to any thing which has appeared on the slavery question."

raster
90

Thus the fugitive slave slowly worked his way up into English literary society. After delivering a lecture before the London Metropolitan Athenĉum, the Managing Committee instructed the Secretary to thank Mr. Brown, which he did in the following note:--

"Metropolitan Athenĉum ,
189 Strand, June 21st.

" My Dear Sir ,--I have much pleasure in conveying to you the best thanks of the Managing Committee of this institution for the excellent lecture you gave here last evening, and also in presenting you, in their names, with an honorary membership of the Club. It is hoped that you will often avail yourself of its privileges by coming amongst us. You will then see, by the cordial welcome of the members, that they protest against the odious distinctions made between man and man, and the abominable traffic of which you have been a victim. For my own part, I shall be happy to be serviceable to you in any way, and at all times be glad to place the advantages of the institution at your disposal.

"I am, my dear sir, yours, truly,
"WILLIAM STRUDWICKE,
Secretary .

"Mr. W. Wells Brown."

Through Mr. Brown's influence and exertions, an Anti-Slavery meeting was held on the First of August during the three last years of his residence in London.

raster
91

The Morning Advertiser describes one of these occasions in the following terms:--

"It was on the First of August, that a number of men, fugitives from that boasted land of freedom, assembled at the Hall of Commerce, in the city of London, for the purpose of laying their wrongs before the British nation, and, at the same time, to give thanks to the God of freedom for the liberation of their West India brethren, on the First of August, 1834. At the hour of half past seven, for which the meeting had been called, the spacious hall was well filled, and the fugitives, followed by some of the most noted English Abolitionists, entered the hall, amid deafening applause, and took their seats on the platform. The appearance of the great hall at this juncture was most splendid. Besides the committee of fugitives, on the platform there were a number of the oldest and most devoted of the slave's friends. On the left of the Chair sat George Thompson, Esq., M.P., Sir J. Walmsley, M. P., Joseph Hume, Esq., M.P., and many other equally noted public men. Not far from the platform sat Sir Francis Knowles, Bart; still further back was Samuel Bowley, Esq., while near the door were to be seen the greatest critic of the age, and England's best living poet. Macaulay had laid down his pen, entered the hall, and was standing near the central door, while not far from the historian stood the newly-appointed Poet Laureate. The author of 'In Memoriam' had been swept in by the crowd, and was standing with his arms folded, and beholding for the first time, and probably the last, so large a number of colored men in one room.

raster
92
The chair was most appropriately filled by Wm. Wells Brown, the distinguished fugitive slave from America. The Chairman first addressed the meeting in an eloquent and feeling manner, after which, speeches were made by Mr. George Thompson and others. The gathering was the most spirited one of the kind held in London for many years, and a good impression was made upon the assembled multitude."

No American visiting Great Britain ever had better opportunity of becoming acquainted with the condition of all classes of society than Mr. Brown. He saw every phase of life in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. He partook of the hospitality of the lord in his magnificent country-seat, and the peasant in his lowly cottage. A fashionable dinner is thus described by the fugitive in his "Sketches of Places and People Abroad":--

"It was on a pleasant afternoon in September that I had gone into Surrey to dine with Lord C--, and found myself one of a party of nine, seated at a table loaded with every thing that heart could wish. Four men-servants, in livery, with white gloves, waited upon the company. After the different courses had been changed, the wine occupied the most conspicuous place on the table, and all seemed to drink with a relish unappreciated except by those who move in the higher walks of life. My glass was the only one on the table into which the juice of the grape had not been poured. It takes more nerve than most men possess to enable one to decline taking a glass of wine with a lady; and in English society, they do not appear to

raster
93
understand how human beings can live and enjoy health without taking at least a little wine. By my continued refusal to drink, with first one and then another of the company, I had become rather an object of pity than otherwise. A lady of the party, and in company with whom I had dined on a previous occasion, and who knew me to be an abstainer, resolved to relieve me from the awkward position in which my principles had placed me, and therefore caused a decanter of raspberry vinegar to be adulterated and brought on the table. A note in pencil from the lady informed me of the contents of the new bottle. I am partial to this kind of beverage, and felt glad when it made its appearance. No one of the party, except the lady, knew of the fraud, and I was able, during the remainder of the time, to drink with any of the company. The waiters, as a matter of course, were in the secret, for they had to make the change while passing the wine from me to the person with whom I drank. After a while, as is usual, the ladies all rose and left the room. The retiring of the fair sex left the gentlemen in a more free and easy position, and consequently, the topics of conversation were materially changed, but not for the better. The presence of ladies is always a restraint in the right direction. An hour after the ladies had gone, the gentlemen were requested to retire to the drawing-room, where we found tea ready to be served up. I was glad when the time came to leave for the drawing-room, for I felt it a great bore to be compelled to remain at the table three hours . Tea over, the wine was again brought on, and the company took
raster
94
a stroll through the grounds at the back of the villa. It was a bright moonlight night, the stars were out, and the air came laden with the perfume of sweet flowers, and there was no sound to be heard except the musical splashing of the little cascade at the end of the garden, and the song of the nightingale, that seemed to be in one more of the trees near by. How pleasant everything looked, with the flowers creeping about the summer-house, and the windows opening into the velvet lawn, with its modest front, neat trellis-work, and meandering vines! The small, smooth fish pond, and the life-like statues, standing or kneeling in different parts of the ground, gave it the appearance of a very Paradise. 'There,' said his lordship, 'is where Cowley used to sit under the tree and read.' This reminded me that we were near Chertsey, where the poet spent his last days; and, as I was invited to spend the night within a short ride of that place, I resolved to visit it the next day. We returned to the drawing-room, and in a few minutes after, the party separated."

Although mingling with some of the best men and women of Europe, Mr. Brown never forgot has countrymen in bonds, or overlooked the fact that he was himself closely connected with them. Nor did his elevated position prevent his speaking out faithfully against the evils that degrade humanity in the old world. The temperance cause, peace, education, and the elevation of the laboring classes in Great Britain, claimed much of his time and attention.

During his residence abroad, Mr. Brown travelled more than twenty-five thousand miles through Great

raster
95
Britain, addressed above one thousand public meetings, and lectured before twenty-three literary societies, besides speaking at religious and benevolent anniversaries. Few persons could have accomplished more labor than did this fugitive slave during his five years' absence from America.

Mr. Brown rendered most valuable services to the cause of freedom while in England, by keeping on the track of every pro-slavery renegade who made his appearance there as an advocate of slavery. Rev. Dr. Prime, Dr. Dyer, and others of the same way of thinking, found the fugitive at their heels wherever they went. He exposed them, and held them up to the scorn and contempt of the people of Great Britain, through the columns of the English journals.

raster
96

    CHAPTER XXI.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XXIII.