San Francisco News and Tall Tales: 1800s
May 15, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.--We remember a nursery tale, that used to beguile our childish fancy, of an old lady that had a daughter of a somewhat prying dispositon. The good woman, wishing to go out one day, hung her purse of money in the flue of the chimney, and to prevent the child from finding it, and to "make assurance doubly sure," told her that she must not look up the chimney, for there was something up there. Of course the girl found the purse, and ran away with it.
We see a great many people who resemble the good old lady in regard to Uncle Tom's Cabin. They go crying about the streets the dangerous tendency of the book, and warn people against it. The effect of this will be, of course, that everybody will read the book. No man believes that he is weak enough to be influenced by a work of fiction, the imaginings of an excited woman's brain, and if there is anything so wonderful in the book, they wish to know it. It is an uncommon book, they reason, or else it wouldn’t create such an excitement. Probably it would never have been read by one-half the number, had those opposed to the ideas it inculcates never said a word about it. A book could enver had been puffed and praised into such a sale and notoriety. Opposition and abuse of both the book and the author have done what flattery could never have accomplished.
For our own part we think this book has been vastly over rated. We think it owes its popularity almost entirely to the peculiarity of the subject, and that as a work of art and elaborate finish it bears no comparison to ag reat many novels which we have read that are considered neither classic nor standard. Two or three chapters in the first half of the book evince considerably genius and talent, but after that the intereset flags, and whateer there is, is of a most painful and disagreeable nature, and tends rather to disgust men with their kind, than to give us higher and nobler views of man and his destiny. The mawkish sensiblity which our trans-Atlantic friends exhibit in relation to the work, we take for just what it is worth. It springs from a feeling of triumph and superiority.
The odor of oppression in a land of republicanism is incense to their sense. They take credit to themselves that such an insitution does not exist among them and complacently regard the bitter, ceaseless misery of their own race, that meets them at their own doors. They regard the testimony of Mrs. Stowe is direct evidence in favor of their own institutions as contradistinguished from ours. They pour out their sympathies for the negro and think they stand acquitted before their Creator for neglect of the sufferings they see around them. It is not at all singular. It is far cheaper to lament than to act. They can bewail the fate of the poor slave, for it costs nothing, but to relieve the distresses at home, requires active philanthropy.
As regards the influence which this book is calculated to exert in our own country, we at thi stime know but little. It is our own opinion that the time may come when all will regret its publication as well as that of all kindred works which are calculated to engender sectional animosity and discord.