HARRIET BEECHER STOWE by Noel B. Gerson

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Since neither the Civil Rights Movement nor Women's Lib has yielded a full-scale biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe, we are stuck with Gerson's pat, patronizing rehash, pitched to the lowest common denominator. It does have the merit of treating Harriet in the full context of her large, august family of New England intelligentsia. Three men shaped her: Lyman Beecher, her illustrious Puritan father (""Papa taught her that all God's children were equal""); brother Henry Ward, described as the most eloquent preacher since St. Paul; and the man that Harriet married--woolly-headed Calvin Ellis Stowe, professor of biblical literature, whom Harriet's prodigious literary output supported. But the men never overshadowed her--or as Gerson says: ""Harriet was a victim of the Beecher curse--burning ambition."" There is some interest in learning how Dickens, George Sand, Henrich Heine, et al. responded to Uncle Tom. But what is one to make of Gerson's curious claim that Harriet refused ""to become the vehicle of Abolitionist propaganda"" despite her extended anti-slavery tours? Worse, Gerson in no way goes beyond the stereotypic picture of a moralizing, frumpy, very Victorian lady.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1976
Publisher: Praeger