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    CHAPTER XX.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XXII

Brown, Josephine
Biography of an American Bondman



--"Yet press on!
For it shall make you mighty among men;
And from the eyrie of your eagle thought,
You shall look down on monarchs!"

In 1852, Mr. Brown found, from the shortness of the lecturing season, which in England lasts only from November to May, and its furnishing a precarious means of living, that he must adopt some other mode of providing support for himself and his daughters, and therefore, through the solicitation of some of his literary friends, commenced writing for the English press. Not having received a classical education, he had often to re-write his articles. His contributions were mainly on American questions. For instance, his articles on the death of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, the return of Anthony Burns, were gladly received by the London press, and the fugitives was liberally paid for his labors. The writer of this has known Mr. Brown to be engaged all night, after the arrival of an American mail, in writing for a morning newspaper. In the autumn of 1852, he published his "Three Years in Europe," which paid him well. The criticisms on this work brought the fugitive prominently before the public, and gave him a position among literary men never before enjoyed by any colored American. The London

Morning Advertiser , in its review, said:-- "This remarkable book of a remarkable man cannot fail to add to the practical protests already entered in Britain against the absolute bondage of three millions of our fellow-creatures. The impressions of a Self-educated son of slavery, here set forth, must hasten the period when the senseless and impious denial of common claims to a common humanity, on the score of color, shall be scouted with scorn in every civilized and Christian country. And when this shall be attained, among the means of destruction of the hideous abomination, his compatriots will remember with respect and gratitude the doings and sayings of William Wells Brown. The volume consists of a sufficient variety of scenes, persons, arguments, inferences, speculations and opinions, to satisfy and amuse the most exigeant of those who read pour se desennuyer; ; while those who look deeper into things, and view with anxious hope the progress of nations and of mankind, will feel that the good cause of humanity and freedom; of Christianity, enlightenment and brotherhood, cannot fail to be served by such a book as this."

The London Literary Gazette , in speaking of the book, remarked:-- "The appearance of this book is too remarkable a literary event to pass without a notice. At the moment when attention in this country is directed to the state of the colored people in America, the book appears with additional advantage; if nothing else were attained by its publication, it is well to have another proof of the capability of the negro intellect. Altogether, Mr. Brown has written a pleasing and

amusing volume, and we are glad to bear this testimony to the literary merit of a work by a negro author."

"That a man," said the Morning Chronicle , "Who was a slave for the first twenty years of his life, and who has never had a day's schooling, should produce such a book as this, cannot but astonish those who speak disparagingly of the African race."

The London Critic pronounced it a "pleasingly and well written book." "It is," said the Athenĉum, "racy and amusing." The Eclectic Review , in its long criticism, has the following:-- "The extraordinary excitement produced by 'Uncle Tom's Cabin will, we hope, prepare the public of Great Britain and America for this lively book of travels by a real fugitive slave. Though he never had a day's schooling in his life, he has produced a literary work not unworthy of a highly-educated gentleman. Our readers will find in these letters much instruction, not a little entertainment, and the beatings of a manly heart on behalf of a down-trodden race, with which they will not fail to sympathise."

The British Banner , edited by Dr. Campbell, said:-- "We have read this book with an unusual measure of interest. Seldom, indeed, have we met with any thing more captivating. It somehow happens that all these fugitive slaves are persons of superior talents. The pith of the volume consists in narratives of voyages and journeys made by the author in England; Scotland, Ireland and France; and we can assure our readers that Mr. Brown has travelled to some purpose. The number of white men is not great who could

have made more of the many things that came before them. There is in the work a vast amount of quotable matter, which, but for want of space, we should be glad to extract. As the volume, however, is published with a view to promote the benefit of the interesting fugitive, we deem it better to give a general opinion, by which curiosity may be whetted, than to gratify it by large citation. A book more worth the money has not, for a considerable time, come into our hands."

The Provincial papers and the London press united in their praise of this, the first literary production of travels by a fugitive slave. The Glasgow Citizen , in its review, remarked:--"W. Wells Brown is no ordinary man, or he could not have so remarkably surmounted the many difficulties and impediments of his training as a slave. By dint of resolution, self-culture and force of character, he has rendered himself a popular lecturer to a British audience, and vigorous expositor of the evils and atrocities of that system whose chains he has shaken off so triumphantly and for ever. We may safely pronounce William Wells Brown a remarkable man, and a full refutation of the doctrine of the inferiority of the negro."

The Glasgow Examiner said:--"This is a thrilling book, independent of adventitious circumstances, which will enhance its popularity. The author of it is not a man in America, but a chattel,--a thing to be bought, and sold, and whipped; but in Europe, he is an author, and a successful one, too. He gives in this book an interesting and graphic description of a three year's residence in Europe. The book will no doubt

obtain, as it well deserves, a rapid and wide popularity."

The Caledonian Mercury concludes and article of more than two columns of criticism and extracts as follows:--"The profound anti-slavery feeling produced by 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' needed only such a book as this, which shows so forcibly the powers and capacity of the negro intellect, to deepen the impression."

Mr. Brown's criticism on Thomas Carlyle brought about his ears a whirlwind of remarks from the friends of the distinguished Scotchman, while a portion of the press sided with the fugitive, and pronounced the article ably written and most just in its criticism. The following is the offensive part of the essay, and refers to his meeting Mr. Carlyle in an omnibus:--

"I had scarcely taken my seat, when my friend, who was seated opposite me, with looks and gestures informed me that we were in the presence of some distinguished individual. I eyed the countenances of the different persons, but in vain, to see if I could find any one who, by his appearance, showed signs of superiority over his fellow-passengers. I had given up the hope of selecting the person of note, when another look from my friend directed my attention to a gentleman seated in the corner of the omnibus. He was a tall man, with strongly marked features, hair dark and coarse. There was a slight stoop of the shoulder,--that bend which is always a characteristic of studious men. But he wore on his countenance a forbidding and disdainful frown, that seemed to tell one that he thought himself better than those about him. His dress did not indicate

a man of high rank, and had we been in America, I should have taken him for an Ohio farmer. While I was scanning the features and general appearance of the gentleman, the omnibus stopped and put down three or four of the passengers, which gave me an opportunity of getting a seat by the side of my friend, who, in a low whisper, informed me that the gentleman whom I had been eyeing so closely was no less a person that Thomas Carlyle. I had read his `Hero Worship' and `Past and Present,' and had formed a high opinion of his literary abilities. But his recent attack upon the emancipated people of the West Indies, and his laborious article in favour of the reestablishment of the lash and slavery, had created in my mind a dislike for the man, and I almost regretted that we were in the same omnibus. In some things, Mr. Carlyle is right; but in many, he is entirely wrong. As a writer, Mr. Carlyle is often monotonous and extravagant. He does not exhibit a new view of nature, or raise insignificant objects into importance; but generally takes common-place thoughts and events, and tries to express them in stronger and statelier language than others. He holds no communion with his kind, but stands alone, without mate or fellow. He is like a solitary peak, all access to which is cut off. He exists, not by sympathy, but by antipathy. Mr. Carlyle seems; chiefly to try how he shall display his powers, and astonish mankind by starting new trains of speculation, or by expression old ones so as not to be understood. He cares little what he says, so that he can say it differently from others. To read his works is one
thing; to understand them is another. If any one thinks that I exaggerate, let him sit for an hour over `Sartor Resartus,' and if he does not rise from its pages, place his three or four dictionaries on the shelf, and say I am right, I promise never again to say a word against Thomas Carlyle. He writes one page in favor of reform and ten against it. He would hang all prisoners to get rid of them; yet the inmates of the prison and workhouses are better off than the poor. His heart is with the poor; yet the blacks of the West Indies should be taught, that if they will not raise sugar and cotton of their own free will, `Quashy should have the whip applied to him.' He frowns upon the reformatory speakers upon the boards of Exeter Hall; yet he is the prince of reformers. He hates heroes and assassins; yet Cromwell was an angel, and Charlotte Corday a saint. He scorns every thing, and seems to be tried of what he is by; nature, and tries to be what he is not."

    CHAPTER XX.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XXII