Writers like to believe they can change the world. This one actually did.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Fergus Bordewich reviews Mightier Than the Sword by David S. Reynolds: a book about Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Bordewich quotes from the book that in the first year after its release, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

sold 310,000 copies in the United States, triple the number of its nearest rivals.

It would eventually sell a million copies in Great Britain alone.

The book “opened the way for a widespread acceptance in the North of antislavery arguments that had long been ignored or dismissed.”

It helped pave the way for Lincoln’s efforts to “convert countless apathetic Yankees into men willing to fight for the emancipation of slaves.”

I read the book many many years ago, as a pre-teen — it was one of the novels I found as I worked my way through my hometown’s little library. Even then I recognized it was not only dated but propaganda; I recognized that the writing was in service of a Cause rather than an esthetic.

But what a cause, and what an accomplishment for a writer to almost single-handedly turn an entire country away from its acceptance of slavery . . .

 

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