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North American Slavery

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Authors Charles Dickens
Henry Morley
Genres Prose: Digest; Review i
Prose: Essay i
Prose: Leading Article i
Subjects Latin America—Politics and Government
Literature; Writing; Authorship; Reading; Books; Poetry; Storytelling; Letter Writing
Slavery; Slaves; Slaves—Fiction; Slave-Trade
United States—Politics and Government
Other Details
Printed : 18/9/1852
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume VI
Magazine : No. 130
Office Book Notes
Views : 1422

Dickens wrote the following portions of 'North American Slavery': the opening paragraph; the subsequent sections referring to Uncle Tom's Cabin (pp. 3 and 4).
Dickens may also have retouched or added to the following passages: the paragraph beginning 'This constant sale' (p. 3); from 'Why did he return?' (p. 3) to 'negro gentleman' (p. 4); from 'The slave population' to 'the negroes bear it' (p. 4); the final paragraph.
In addition, Dickens seems to have made occasional emendations elsewhere in the article.
Writing of 'North American Slavery' in a letter (20 December 1852), Dickens said: 'I wrote no part [of the article], but the high and genuine praise of Mrs Stowe's book [Uncle Tom's Cabin].' This disclaimer need not be taken literally, for though the opening paragraph may be the only extended section wholly by Dickens, his method of intensively editing, rewriting, and adding to what went into Household Words often made other sections of articles as much his as the original author's. This is preeminently true of what Dickens called his 'composite' articles - that is, articles, such as this one, which are listed in the Household Words Contributors' Book as jointly by Dickens and a collaborator. Dickens would not have been listed as a joint author if he had simply added the initial paragraph. The only published text of the letter from which the above disclaimer is quoted is in Harry Stone, 'Charles Dickens and Harriet Beecher Stowe,' Nineteenth-Century Fiction, XII (December 1957), 188-202.
Dickens had long been interested in American slavery. His library contained a collection of books and pamphlets on the subject, and he devoted an entire chapter of American Notes (1842) to attacking the system and recording its horrors. Household Words continued the campaign. 'North American Slavery' was followed by additional articles in which other writers objectified or elaborated what Dickens and Morley had written - for example, 'Freedom, or Slavery?' (22 July 1854), 'Slaves and their Masters' (23 August 1856), and 'Sketching at a Slave Auction' (14 February 1857).

Harry Stone; © Bloomington and Indiana University Press, 1968. DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

Casimir Leconte, "Les Noirs libres et les noirs esclaves", Revue des deux mondes (July 1852).

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852).

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