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13 January, 2012
The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
At different times, doubt has been expressed
whether the scenes and characters portrayed in "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
convey a fair representation of slavery as it at present exists. This work,
more, perhaps, than any other work of fiction that ever was written, has been
a collection and arrangement of real incidents, of actions really performed,
of words and expressions really uttered, grouped together with reference to
a general result, in the same manner that the mosaic artist groups his fragments
of various stones into one general picture. His is a mosaic of gems--this
is a mosaic of facts.
Artistically considered, it might not be best to point out in which quarry
and from which region each fragment of the mosaic picture had its origin;
and it is equally unartistic to disentangle the glittering web of fiction,
and show out of what real warp and woof it is woven, and with what real colouring
dyed. But the book had a purpose entirely transcending the artistic one, and
accordingly encounters at the hands of the public demands not usually made
on fictitious works. It is treated as a reality--sifted,
tried, and tested, as a reality; and therefore as a reality it may be proper
that it should be defended.
The writer acknowledges that the book is a very inadequate representation
of slavery; and it is so, necessarily, for this reason--that slavery,
in some of its workings, is too dreadful for the purposes of art. A work which
should represent it strictly as it is would be a work which could not be read;
and all works which ever mean to give pleasure must draw a veil somewhere,
or they cannot succeed.
The author will now proceed along the course of the story, from the first
page, and develop, as far as possible, the incidents by which different parts