The Life and Adventures of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw: Or, Scenes on the Mississippi

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Baudry's European Library, 1836 - English literature - 365 pages

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This powerful book is muck-raking journalism at its very best. An Englishwoman seeking to support her family and to work for the freedom of slaves in America, journeyed there with her sons' tutor, an artist, and together they observed first-hand what slavery was like, before Queen Victoria reigned. She describes a lynching - which continued to happen within our living memory. Frances Trollope writes like Jane Austen but with vinegar and compassion. Her book and Richard Hildreth's White Slave were then to be copied by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Both Frances Trollope and Richard Hildreth are buried together in Florence's 'English' Cemetery to which Frederick Douglass came and where also, Nadezhda, who came to Florence at 14, a black slave from Nubia, is buried near the tomb of the American Hiram Powers whose sculptures the 'Greek Slave', 'America', and 'The Last of her Tribe' all spoke out against racial injustice.
Frances Trollope's novel creates characters out of Shakespeare and Fielding, like Juno and Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, that are in fact more powerful than any character created by her more famous son, Anthony Trollope.

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Page 118 - wily old woman" knows exactly how to play "upon the terrors which ever lie crouching in the mind of a bad man ..." (118). Indeed, the narrator launches into hyperbole about Juno's extraordinary command of human psychology: A metaphysician might have understood all this wonderfully well, and yet have been puzzled to work the machinery of such a mind as skilfully as Juno did. In truth, she knew to a nicety how far she might carry her tricks with every individual with whom she had to deal; and if all...
Page 119 - ... appropriated by Harriet Beecher Stowe for her later anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. But Frances Trollope does not gloss over, as the narrative of Prince does, Juno's sexual exploitation by her various white male owners. Instead, the narrative relates how the "English settler" casually departs for Europe, "taking with him a little yellow girl of eighteen months old" (119). He bestows Juno on a friend of his, by whom she has eight children. When this man dies, she is sold to the highest...
Page 79 - I'll engage for her. Go it, my beauty!' he continued, clapping his hands: 'Off with ye! You shall have three minutes' law — upon my soul you shall'" (1: 218). As Helen Heineman has observed, there is a shocking level of specificity in these "dramatized scenes of Whitlaw's erotic brutality
Page 66 - ... doubt that he is an admirable man of profound faith and integrity. Especially at the beginning of the book, she emphasizes his beauty and piety. An early paean to his sincerity, interestingly enough, explicitly disassociates him from the dangerously self-serving vocation of England's Evangelicals. Never did a hope more holy, an ambition more sublime, engross the soul of man. Remote as is good from evil, was the principle which sent him forth, thus self-elected and self-devoted, to raise the poor...
Page 211 - She was placed in the corner of the room, and a large orange tree covered with blossoms so arranged as to form a sort of canopy over her. Her attitude was one that might have rendered rising difficult to any woman, but to a Creole it was impossible. She therefore clapped her miniature white hands together ; and though the sound produced was scarcely louder than what might have followed a similar concussion between two little balls...
Page 45 - What's freedom for, if we can't do what we like with our own born slaves?" (1: 123). The latter, a far more benign figure, is primarily a source of humor with her outrageous behavior, clothing, and makeup. Nevertheless, her influence is potentially malignant, as when Agnes Willoughby seems seriously in danger of losing her respectability in her aunt's mad dash after Lord...
Page 91 - I'm positive certain that some of my black varment are being learned to read ; and if that spreads, we'll have an insurrection and be murdered in our beds before we're a year older, as sure as the sun's in heaven.
Page 97 - ... treated in her relationship to the business community. When Edward Bligh, the abolitionist, is driven to seek employment for his sister, he enters a store staffed by a beautiful young woman whose delicate complexion had a slight shade of that peculiar tinge which marks the quadroon in Louisiana. . . . Beautiful, graceful, elegant and gentle as she was, he dared not place his sister near her. Let her moral character be what it might, disgrace must of necessity be coupled with her name. Her remarkable...
Page 68 - Do you not know that the planters have sworn together to take vengeance on any one who should only be caught teaching a negro to read? And how much more dreadful vengeance would they take on any who should dare to say that the soul of a black man is like the soul of a white one!
Page 128 - The vegetation is universally bright and abundant, and the whole scene animated by the variety of its living groups ; among which, creoles, quadroons, and negroes are found in nearly equal proportions ; while not unfrequently a party of Indians, more picturesque than any of them, may be seen sadly and silently gazing upon the wide expanse that was once their own, but which they now traverse with the timid step of an intruder.

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