Textual annotations



Download 164.68 Kb.
Page1/2
Date conversion21.05.2016
Size164.68 Kb.
  1   2
TEXTUAL

ANNOTATIONS

Preface

Crafts prefaces her novel with a traditional apologia, modestly questioning the very possibility of successfully achieving her goal of "portraying any of the peculiar features of that institution whose curse rests over the fairest land the sun shines upon," because her background as a slave is "a sphere so humble." Slavery, well before the 1850s, was commonly referred to as "the peculiar institution," a phrase that she echoes here. Her rhetorical strategy claims that slavery "blights the happiness of the white as well as the black race," southerners as well as northerners. This argument was com- mon among authors of slave narratives, such as Frederick Douglass, whose bestselling slave narrative was published in 1845, and abolitionist novelists, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1852. In addition, itwas also traditional to assert, as Crafts does, the factual na- ture of fictional narrative. Despite the fact that her text is so pervaded with gothic themes, Crafts claims that the work "makes no pretensions to to- mance." Throughout her text, Crafts shows an easy familiarity with fictional literary genres, such as the gothic and sentimental novels, both exceed- ingly popular forms in the 1850s. Referring to George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), Crafts writes that truth is "stranger than fiction." Ironically, Byron wrote that "truth is always strangemstranger than fiction" in his major work of fiction, Don Juan (canto 14, stanza 101).
Chapter 1

p. 5: Crafts provides biblical citations as a preface for almost all of her chap- ters. These are often slightly inaccurate or contain spelling errors. Crafts was very familiar with the King James Bible and is drawing from memory. The full verse of The Song of Solomon 1:6, which begins the first chapter, is as follows:

Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.

p. 5: The narrator's claim to have been reared without parents is a common theme in slave narratives. As in Narrative of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), Crafts's childhood as a slave is marked by "no training, no cul- tivation." Similarly, her reference to animals such as the "birds of the air" and "beasts of the feild [sic]" as comparisons for the status of a slave was a common feature of the slave narratives, again as in Douglass. Distinctly.un- like the slave narratives, however, Crafts's text rarely uses verisimilitude-- specific names, places, or dates-to authenticate her text, signaling early on that The Bondwoman's Narrative is a fictionalized text, even if based on a slave's actual experiences.

p. 6: Crafts refers to her African heritage ironically as "the obnoxious de- scent," parodying commonly held racist views of black ancestry. Despite the protagonist's light complexion and European features, she is influenced by her "obnoxious descent" to prefer "flaming colors." Throughout the text, this supposed preference for bright colors by African Americans is a source of fascination for the narrator. Her claim that her black genetic heritage was also responsible for "a rotundity to my person, a wave and curl to my hair," and "fancy pictorial illustrations" as well as a fondness for "flaming colors" reflects commonly held pseudoscientific beliefs about the domi- nant role of genetics in both physical and metaphysical characteristics, and preferences of taste.

p. 6: Crafts's observation that her master felt that education made slaves "less subservient to their superiors" echoes Douglass's claim that his master

said that "learning would spoil the best nigger in the world .... It would for- ever unfree him to be a slave."

p. 6: Crafts's reference to her master's opinion of the status of slaves as sim- ilar to that of "horses or other domestic animals" reflects Douglass's use of the same comparison.

p. 6: Echoing the passionate desire for literacy that is a structural principle in many slave narratives, Crafts yearns for "knowledge and the means of mental improvement" despite fear of punishment from her master. Al- though she concedes that her owner was "generally easy and good-tem- pered," he insists upon ignorance and subservience rather than literacy training among his slaves. Like Douglass, Crafts decides to teach herself by examining old books or newspapers. How a slave learned to read and write--and hence eventually gained the wherewithal to write his or her own narrafivenis a standard feature of sev- eral slave narratives, the signal scene of instruction that sets the text's plot "from slavery to freedom" in motion.

p. 7: The narrator's plan for literacy is aided when she meets a kindly, old northern woman. In explaining why she intends to defy the ban on teach- ing slaves to read, the pious woman answers that she was thinking of Christ's admonition to Peter to "feed my lambs" (John 21:15). Douglass's first literacy teacher was also a white woman, his master's wife, who initially is free of racial prejudice.

p. 8: Hannah's description of herself during this first encounter with liter- acy as "a being to whom a new world with all its mysteries and marvels was opening" again echoes Douglass's observation that literacy was "the path- way from slavery to freedom."

p. 8: Describing her desire to share her feelings, Crafts writes, "I had no mother, no friend." Douglass says, in his 1845 Narrative, that he saw his mother only "four or five times," and only "at night." He "received the tid- ings of her death with much the same emotions [as] I should have proba- bly felt at the death of a stranger."

p. 8: In what appears to be an appeal for abolitionist support, the narrator states that in the North "the colored race had so many and such true
friends." On p. 10, she idealizes northern whites as those who implicitly feel "keenly on the subject of slavery and the degradation and ignorance it im- poses on one portion of the human race." The claim that slaves were mem- hers of "the human race" was meant to counter pro-slavery claims that they were not, that they were subhuman.

p. 10: Describing her trips to Aunt Hetty and Uncle Siah, Hannah says that she would "steal away" to learn about Christianity. This invocation of the spiritual titled "Steal Away" is one of the few references to the African American musical tradition in this text. Hannah's admirable piety is un- derscored by the smugness of the contrast between her evening activities and the other slaves' enjoyment of "the banjo and the dance." Frederick Douglass makes similar critiques of white-sanctioned slave entertainment.

p. 11: "slaves though they were .... ignorant, and untutored, assimilated thus to the highest and proudest in the land--thus evinced their equal ori- gin, and immortal destiny." Pro-slavery ideology held that slaves, as persons of African descent, were destined by nature to be slaves and could not be ed- ucated or could not "improve" themselves. Crafts here is countering this ar- gument. With education and moral training, in other words, slaves were capable of scaling the great chain of being. Crafts's confession of her earli- est ambition, "to become their teacher," foreshadows the career she will un- dertake at the end of the narrative.

p. 13: Aunt Hetty's banishment is a restatement of the text's valorization of white abolitionists and their willingness to be punished for their defiance of unjust laws on behalf of the slave.

p. 13: With the marriage of Lindendale's master, the narrative switches from the style suggestive of the slave narrative and the sentimental novel to a text heavily influenced by gothic patterns and themes. Conventions of the sentimental novel reappear throughout the novel, especially at its denoue- ment.

p. 13: "it was whispered" Douglass uses whispered in this sense, describing the slaves' rumors of their master's secrets, and more especially of his own paternity.

p. 14: "whose sweat and blood and unpaid labor had contributed to pro- duce it" Crafts here echoes the economic-justice argument from aboli- tionist propaganda for the abolition of slavery.

p. 15: The description of the long galleries filled with portentous portraits of the family of Sir Clifford De Vincent, the current master's ancestor, is reminiscent of the central role played by portraiture in Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1765). Walpole's novel is considered to begin the gothic novel tradition. In American literature of the nineteenth century, Edgar Allan Poe is the most important practitioner of this genre, which often in- volves ancient houses, forlorn brides, and supernatural occurrences. Even for Virginia (the Old Dominion), Lindendale seems to be exceedingly aris- tocratic and antique for a New World setting.

p. 17: "I was not a slave with these pictured memorials of the past .... In their presence my mind seemed to run riotous and exult in its freedom as a rational being, and one destined for something higher and better than this world can afford." Crafts here argues for the transformative powers of the higher arts--in this case, the visual arts---on even a humble slave. While virtually all the slave narrators used the mastering of literacy in this way, few slave narrators, if any, used an appreciation of painting to show the common humanity of the slave and his white masters. Crafts's mistress's true identity as the daughter of a slave mother will be authenticated by a portrait. See p. 47.

Chapter 2

p. 19: In addition to the author's modernization of "speaketh" to "speaks," she changes Proverbs' seven abominations to "severe" abominations. Proverbs 26:25:

When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abom- inations in his heart.

p. 20: '°-Fhe clear cold sunshine glancing down the long avenue of elms" Crafts, in passages such as these, reveals exceptional powers of description. See pp. 121-123, and 192.
p. 20: Stormy weather and the creaking of the old linden tree trigger the narration of the legend of the linden and its 'wild and weird influence." In much of this text, storms, particularly at night, foreshadow crises, particu- larly for African Americans.

p. 21: The beating and torture of "an old woman" echo Douglass's de- scription of the beating of Aunt Hester.

p. 21: The curse on the house is earned by a series of cruelties by its first owner, culminating in the torture and death of a trusted old nurse and a lovable, shaggy, white dog. In the South, it is only the "direst act of cruelty" that could distinguish this master from other slave owners. Of course, the reason that a tree symbolizes extreme cruelty is parry historical, the very real use of trees for lynching. Its other connection is to crucifixion imagery, the use of a "tree" during the Passion.

p. 22: Sir Clifford boasts that his commands are comparable to "the laws of the Medes and Persians." This classical reference is to Media, an ancient country of West Asia that extended its rule over Persia circa 700 B.c. This dynasty was not overthrown until 550 B.c.

p. 26: The "Madras handkerchiefs" that are worn by many of the slaves for the celebration of their master's wedding was a term used from approxi- mately 1833 to 1881 to describe the slaves' silk-and-cotton kerchiefs used as headdresses.

p. 27: The true identity of Hannah's mistress is implied upon her intro- duction in the text. Physically, she is "small" and "brown" with a profusion of wavy, curly hair. Although those might be neutral descriptions, her lips, which are "too large," signal a warning about hidden ancestry, particularly in the racially charged South. Although the narrator owns to being "su- perstitious"m"people of my race and color usually are," she writes--her fear of her mistress being "haunted by a shadow or phantom" foreshadows coming disclosures.

p. 27: "Instead of books I studied faces and characters" Crafts here is re- inforcing her authority as a narrator who, though a slave and uneducated formally, nevertheless possesses "the unerring certainty of animal instinct."

p. 28: The "old gentleman in black" who shadows Hannah's mistress is rem- iniscent of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "elder person" of the woods, who is pos- sibly the devil, in "Young Goodman Brown" (1835).

p. 29: During the wedding party, the groaning of the linden tree signals the invocation of Rose's curse upon the house's descendants. In apparent protest, Sir Clifford's portrait falls from the wall as the new bride enters the portrait gallery. While this is not as dramatic as Walpole's Castle of Otranto, in which a ghost steps out of his portrait, the echoes of the first gothic novel can be heard.

Chapter 3

p. 31: To begin this chapter, Crafts offers a portion of Psalm 39:6:

Surely every man walketh in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.

Immediately following is a line of verse from "Lochiel's Warning" by Thomas Campbell (1777-1844). This warning, heavy with supernatural language, is issued by a wizard. The setting and the language of this cita- tion underscore the gothic nature of the text:

Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore And coming events cast their shadows before [55-56]

p. 33: Lizzy's, a quadroon, pride in the fact that her white ancestors came from "a good family" and her contention "that good blood was an inheri- tance," even to the slave, is a common theme in the African American lit- erary tradition.

p. 34: "suffered the extremes of a master's fondness, a mistress's jealousy and their daughter's hate" Crafts is unusually open about discussing sex- ual relations between masters and their female slaves. See below, p. 172.

p. 36: "My mistress was very kind, and.., she indulged me in reading whenever I desired." Compare this indulgence with that of Douglass's mistress, Sophia Auld. A mistress flouting her husband's strict prohibitions
guson (1896), which had been pending since 1893. Obviously, the dramatic possibilities had already occurred to previous American writers.

Chapter 5

p. 52: In this verse, Saint Paul warns of the danger of spiritual complacency and preaches of the need to prepare for the coming of the Lord. From I Thessalonians 5:3:

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruc- tion cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

p. 54: When lost in the forest, Hannah comforts her frightened mistress by reciting the Holy Scriptures. Crafts chooses Psalm 46:1-2 and quotes it al- most verbatim. The exact King James verse follows:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.

p. 57: Unlike slave narratives, sentimental and gothic novels rarely use the names of actual people for their characters. Place names, too, can be fic- tionalized. However, Milton, Virginia, is in Charles City County on the James River. Crafts's use of an actual locale in Virginia, where this section of the novel is set, made it possible to locate several individuals whose surnames are identical to several characters whom Crafts places in residence near Mil- ton. Milton is upriver from Jamestown and downriver from Richmond.

p. 58: Frederick Hawkins is one of the novel's few characters identified with a first and last name. According to the U.S. federal census, in 1810 and 1820, Frederick Hawkins was living in Dinwiddie County, Virginia; the dis- tance between Milton and the closest northwestern boundary of Dinwiddie County is approximately thirty kilometers.

p. 60: Hannah and her mistress take refuge in a "sanctuary of sweet home influences." This simple, clean house with its wholesome food, pious in- habitants, and the absence of slaves is reminiscent of northern, Quaker

homes in Uncle Tom's Cabin. However, this domicile is in Virginia and is per- vaded by the influence of slavery, as is revealed when the travelers learn that Mr. Trappe lives there.

p. 65: The only safe place that Hannah and her mistress can find in Virginia is a deserted cabin made in the fashion of a Native American wigwam. How- ever, it was made by "some forester," presumably white, and the description of the hut emphasizes its filth and abandonment rather than the connec- tion to Native Americans.

p. 66: The degraded nature of the wigwam is revealed when dried blood and a hatchet with hair on the heft are found on the premises. Nearby, in the woods, skeletal remains prove that they are living at the scene of a mur- der. Hannah's high-strung mistress becomes further unbalanced by fear of being haunted. Instead of a pastoral resting place, they have found another cursed, gothic domicile.

p. 67: When Hannah's mistress's paranoia extends to accusations against her servant, Crafts echoes Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when he asks God to spare him from the Passion. From Matthew 26:39 (and in slightly different forms in Mark and Luke):

O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: never- theless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

p. 71: Horace (65-8 B.c.) was one of the most outstanding Latin lyric poets within the Augustan circle. His work is characterized by the themes of love and friendship.

pp. 73-74: Crafts here shifts the tenses of her verbs from past to present when describing a scene from the past.

Chapter 6

p. 75: This verse is Psalm 11:2:

For, 1o, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.

251
p. 78: crafts describes the darkness of the prison cell as Egyptian; later, the word "Stygian" was substituted. Stygian is a reference to the Greek myth of the river Styx in Hades, across which the souls of the dead are ferried.

p. 79: After Hannah is bitten by a rat in prison, she begins "to conjure strange fancies. I had heard of rats in prisons and ancient charnel-houses." Any number of gothic stories use the horror of vermin feeding on living flesh, although this passage seems to invoke Edgar Allan Poe.

p. 79: When left alone in the dark with the rats, Hannah feels peace when she remembers parts of Scripture. In one line, Crafts writes, 'Whe hairs of your heads are numbered your tears are in his bottle." This sentence con- rates two verses, one from the Hebrew Bible and the other from the New Testament. The gospel states in Luke 12:7, "But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows." And the Psalmist sings in Psalm 56:8, 'Whou tellest my wander- ings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?"

p. 82: Mrs. Wright, a woman driven insane by her imprisonment, is a white woman guilty of defying slavery and attempting to save her beautiful ser- want, Ellen, from being sold into sexual bondage in New Orleans. In re- sponse, Mrs. Wright had cut Ellen's hair, dressed her as a boy, and tried to escape with her. This cross-dressing disguise foreshadows Hannah's own-- successful--escape in masculine attire. Ellen's mode of escapemdisguised initially as a white boy--mimics that used by Ellen Craft, who escaped from slavery with her husband, William, in December 1848. Their dramatic es- cape was widely reported in the abolitionist press in 1849 and 1850. William Wells Brown's novel, Clotel (1853), employs this device, and two other female slaves, Clarissa Davis and Anna Maria Weems (alias Joe Wright), used this form of cross-dressing to escape enslavement in 1854 and 1855, respectively.

Chapter 7 p. 85: From the long Psalm 119, verse 121: I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppres- sors.

252

p. 90: Crafts quotes Job 3:25 to indicate her despair:

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.

p. 94: One extremely convincing sign that Hannah Crafts was once a slave is her observation that "those who think that the greatest evils of slavery are connected with physical suffering possess no just or rational ideas of human nature. The soul, the immortal soul must ever long and yearn for a thousand things inseperable [sic] to liberty." This sort of counterintuitive claim is common among ex-slaves as they attempt to explain what slavery is actually like, what surprising kinds of deprivations it causes. Frederick Doug- lass, for example, confesses that the most disturbing aspect of slavery for him as a child was his inability to know his birth date.

p. 97: Trappe's discourse on the relativity of slavery and freedom recalls Hegel's argument about the mutual dependency of master and slave for their roles, and their ultimate interchangeability. See Hegel's "Of Lordship and Bondage."

p. 98: 'You are not the first fair dame whose descent I have traced backm far back to a sable son of Africa" The scholar Werner Sollors has traced the history of novels of passing in his masterful study, Neither Black Nor White Yet Both.

Chapter 8

p. 101: Crafts uses Psalm 10:12 to begin this chapter:

Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.

pp. 104-105: According to the historian John W. Blassingame, suicide, such as that which Saddler reports of a slave named Louise, occurred more fre- quently than was commonly assumed within the slave community. Saddler also reports that he "lost six in one season" to suicide. See John W. Blassingame's Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews and Autobiographies (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977).

253
p. 105: "religion is so apt to make people stubborn" Throughout her text, Crafts argues implicitly that truly devout Christians will inevitably be anti- slavery.

p. 108: Trappe's lecture to Hannah on how to deport herself as a slave en- ables Crafts to expose one of the processes of objectification of a slave. Trappe admonishes her that as a slave, she "must have no mind, no desire, no purpose of your own."

p. 109: "took her to New Orleans... and made her his wife" New Orleans was thought to be a site of unusual ethnic hybridity and miscegenation in antebellum America.

Chapter 9

p. 111: Although Crafts identifies her citation as from the Book of Jere- miah, this verse is actually Lamentations 5:1:

Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.

p. 111: Seeing the freedom of birds, Hannah despairs of her enslavement until she remembers God's concern for all living creatures, but especially for his people. She paraphrases Luke 12:6-7, whose text is quoted below:

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

p. 113: 'Very respectable people... ; are they better than I am, who sells them?" Crafts is at pains to weave the blanket of guilt shared by slave catcher and slaveholder alike.

p. 114: "to hear my people sing, to have them laugh, and see them jovial and merry" Frederick Douglass makes the point that "slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows

254

of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears."

p. 116: 'They were all colored" Harriet Wilson, author of the novel Our Nig (1859), employs the word colored in the same effortless manner as Crafts does here. In the preface to her novel, Wilson appeals to her "colored brethren universally" to purchase her book.

p. 117: "I am one of that miserable class" Crafts's refusal to pass for white-except to escape--is a leitmotif of her novel, culminating in her de- cision to live in a free colored community in New Jersey when she finally manages to reach the North.

p. 118: While recovering from the wreck that kills Saddler, Hannah is strangely calm. She speculates that "it might be that the Redeemer was leading me in spirit through the green pastures and beside the still waters of Gospel truth and peace." She is paraphrasing Psalm 23:2: "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters."

p. 120: "vows and responsibilities strangely fearful when taken in connec- tion with their servile condition" The slave narratives frequently draw at- tention to the perilous nature of "marriage" among slaves. No one is more eloquent about the fragility of marriage within the slave community than Harriet Jacobs. See her slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), edited by Jean Fagan Yellin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).

p. 120: "the winds arose, clouds obscured the firmament, and there was darkness, and lightning, and rain" Crafts often indicates a reversal in for- tune for her characters by a rapid weather change. This is a standard con- vention of gothic novels.

Chapter 10 p. 121: The author attributes this verse to King Solomon. The King James version of Proverbs 31:30 reads as follows:

255
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

pp. 121-123: Crafts's description of the architectural style of the house called Forget Me Not and its furniture demonstrates her remarkable de- scriptive skill as a narrator. Whereas plot and character would seem to take a priority over setting in the slave narratives, in her novel Crafts seems to luxuriate in making observations such as these, observations that are broad and general rather than specific to the politics of slavery and race.

p. 124: "and even now it is not my intention to draw their portraits" Crafts, in this passage, substitutes what we might think of as a metaphysical verisimilitude--a portrait of inner attributes and characteristics--for the physical verisimilitude common to the slave narratives. John H. Henry, a Presbyterian clergyman, was living in Stafford County, Virginia, in 1850. Stafford County is eighty miles from Milton. Henry was born in New York.

p. 125: "a scallion" Crafts meant "scullion," a kitchen helper.

p. 126: "Compassionated" means "sympathize with or pity."

p. 127: "the accusing spirit of Cesar summoning Brutus to Philippi" MarcusJunius Brutus (78?-42 B.c.) was made governor and then praetor of Cispaline Gaul by Julius Caesar in 46 and 44 B.c., respectively. He famously took part in the assassination of Caesar. Mark Anthony and Octavian, the first of the Roman emperors, fought Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in 42 B.c. Brutus committed suicide after his forces were defeated. Shake- speare immortalized Brutus in his tragedy Julius Caesar, which is most prob- ably Crafts's source for this reference. Crafts, like Harriet Wilson, enjoyed a broad, if not deep, exposure to literature through the sort of texts or "classics" commonly found in a small library in a middle-class household in America in the mid-nineteenth century. See Appendix C for books in Wheeler's library.

p. 127: "and yet my heart rose against the man .... I almost felt that he had done me a personal injury, an irreparable wrong." While Crafts demon- strates remarkable self-control throughout her text, this reaction of anger, disgust, and disbelief seems quite genuine and human, unlike the unbe- lievable Christian tolerance and forgiveness of some of the black characters

256

in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Crafts's attitude here, if rendered in contemporary terms, would be "Are you serious? You must be joking!"

p. 128: "a friend and distant relative in North Carolina" Mrs. Henry is re- ferring to John Hill wheeler. Since Wheeler's servant Jane escaped in 1855, and since Mrs. wheeler refers to this event, we can date this section of the novel to 1855.

p. 128: "Their names are wheeler" The passage refers to John Hill Wheeler, a native of North Carolina, and his second wife, Ellen. In Wash- ington, D.C., Mr. Wheeler served in a number of government positions during the Pierce and Buchanan administrations. See notes to chapter 12.

p. 130: "Alas; those that view slavery only as it relates to physical sufferings or the wants of nature, can have no conception of its greatest evils." Crafts, like Douglass, makes several perceptive counterintuitive claims about the nature of slavery and its effects on the slaves, seemingly from in- side of the slave community.

Chapter 11

p. 131: This is one of the three chapters in which Crafts uses a poetic as well as a biblical citation. The first quotation is Psalm 140:1:

Deliver me, 0 Lord, from the evil man: preserve me from the vi- olent man.

p. 131: 'q'he slave, if he or she desires to be content, should always remain in celibacy" The slave narratives are replete with observations of this sort about the evils that slavery can inflict, capriciously, on those slaves who think that they are "married." Slavery recognized no legal institutions such as marriage among slaves.

p. 132: "lest 'de ghost' should steal on them unaware" Crafts, like Dou- glass and Harriet Jacobs, uses black dialect to distinguish between house and field servants, educated and uneducated, rational and superstitious slaves. Crafts does not romanticize the members of the slave community, drawing distinctions among the slaves as an insider would rather than re-

257
ducing their differences and distinctions to a blanket, common identity, consciousness, or culture predetermined by their race or ethnicity. The more distinctions between blacks that an author draws, in other words, the more likely it is that he or she has observed slavery from inside the institu- tion. Here, Crafts distances herself from the Henrys' other house servants by dismissing them as slaves to superstition, unlike herself. All the slave nar- rators, in one form or another, draw distinctions between the "representa- five," intelligent, questing narrator and the bulk of the slaves demeaned by slavery whom the narrator will ultimately leave behind. In a sense, this class of slaves will become the progenitor ofW. E. B. Du Bois's (1868-1963) fa- mous concept of The Talented Tenth."

p. 133: "the most ludicrous state of terror conceivable" This hilarious scene, at the servantJo's expense, is designed to reinforce Hannah's status as a superior, rational person, one capable, of course, of writing her own narrative. This is a common rhetorical strategy found in the slave narra- tives. The ex-slave author William Wells Brown (1814-84) used dialect and humor brilliantly, especially in his novel, Clotel. Parody of the sort that Crafts uses here is dependent for its effect on intimate knowledge of the original. See also Jo's argument with the other servants about whether ghosts can eat! Not all of the slaves speak in black vernacular English. See pp. 140-143 for Charlotte's and William's discourse about escape.

p. 136: "How could I acquit my conscience of cruelty and wrong" Han- nah, seemingly obsessed with conformity to duty, here chooses loyalty to her fellow slave Charlotte over an inner obligation to be a consistently truthful person.

p. 137: "In attending these religious exercises" The religious practices of the slaves, "earnest and fervid," as Crafts puts it, were frequently com- mented upon in slave narratives. Though obviously conservative in her manners, beliefs, and practices, Crafts nevertheless found these services "an agre [e] able diversion for my thoughts."

p. 138: "a very pleasant walk among the negro lodges" Crafts is demon- strafing in this paragraph the inherent love of beauty, order, and industry among slaves who are respected, nourished, and well cared for.

258

p. 138: Crafts states that the "ludicrous countenances" of the fearful slaves could have "provoked a smile on the lip of Heraclitus." The author consis- tently distances herself from other slaves by her lack of fear and supersti- tion. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus (535 B.c.-475 B.c.) was often contrasted with "the laughing philosopher," Democritus, because of his "melancholy philosophy."

p. 139: "a withered smoke-dried face, black as ebony" Black authors in the nineteenth century often strove to differentiate among the variety of colors of the slaves, both to chart their individuality and to testify to the master's or overseer's penchant for sexual relations with female slaves, leading to the birth of mulattos. Over subsequent generations, the colors of members of the black community became quite variegated.

p. 139: Despite her initial decision to remain discreet, Hannah here shares Charlotte's secret with Mrs. Henry. She seems to have done so to enlist Mrs. Henry as Charlotte's ally rather than to betray her, judging from Mrs. Henry's calm and circumspect reaction. The entire scene, as it unfolds over the next four pages, is designed to specify the cruelties of slavery through the severing of the marriage bond, one of the holiest institutions of Chris- tianity.

p. 142: "Duty, gratitude and honor forbid it." Throughout her text, Crafts seeks to chart her inner nobility of spirit in such a way as to justify--at last-- her own inevitable need to flee slavery, ultimately, to protect her virtue and virginity, contrary to stereotypes of black women as licentious and hyper- sexualized. This was a clever rhetorical and, implicitly, ideological strategy, but one not without its risks. Crafts often comes across as the metaphorical grandmother--a prototype--of the tragic mulatto commonly found in black fiction at the turn of the century who renders herself noble against the ignobility of lower-class, or darker, African Americans. She can also be taken as an antecedent of the light-complexioned members of the middle class whose aristocratic pretensions are bitterly critiqued in E. Franklin Fra- zier's Black Bourgeoisie (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1957). While often masked or muted, in other words, class divisions in the black community have a long and consistent history, and arose within the institution of slavery.

259
p. 142: "With me it is liberty or death" William uses the rebellion of the American Revolution and its famous orator Patrick Henry (1736-99) to au- thorize his flight to freedom.

p. 143: "Thy desire shall be thy husband" In Genesis 3:16, God rules that because of Eve's involvement in eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, women shall desire and be ruled by their husbands. Moreover, God says, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children." The actual quotation from Genesis is "thy desire shall be to thy husband."

p. 145: "and with these hounds real Cuban" Bloodhounds were used to track fugitive slaves. The three principal breeds of bloodhound are Eng- lish, Cuban, and African. Cuban bloodhounds are thought to be a variety of the mastiff.

Chapter 12

p. 147: From Psalm 69, verse 29:

But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.

p. 147: "death-damps" Crafts refers to the perspiration, the clammy skin, which indicates physiological shock and impending death.

p. 148: "Mrs Wheeler came on her summer visit" At this point in the text, Crafts is drawing upon an actual historical event--the escape of a female slave named Jane Johnson from John Hill Wheeler in 1855--to develop her plot. Her decision to do so and to use the real names of Jane and the Wheelers greatly facilitated the authentication of her narrative. The most likely time of Mrs. Ellen Wheeler's visit to the Henrys, as suggested by a scrutiny of Mr. Wheeler's diary, was mid-1856. She was in Nicaragua when Jane escaped, having moved there with her husband in 1854. At this date he still held the post of Resident Minister to Nicaragua and was therefore absent from the United States. The latter half of Wheeler's diary for 1856 is lost (last entry: May 23), but his return in November 1857 is recorded in his diary for the following year. If Mrs. Wheeler visited the Henrys in sum-

260

mer 1856, then she must have returned to the United States from Nicaragua some time between late 1855 and early 1856.

John Hill Wheeler diary, 1857 [p. 97]: Sunday, November 15 This day a year ago I landed at New York from Central America in bad health and spirits. Today I am well and contented, thanks to kind Providence. p. 148: "Her two waiting maids had ran [sic] off to the North" Crafts is fic- tionalizing Jane Johnson's escape with her two sons, Daniel and Isaiah, from Wheeler in July 1855, on a trip from Washington to New York. Jane escaped in Philadelphia. Wheeler's diary entry on the escape reads as fol- lows:

Wed, 18 [July 1855] Left Washington City at 6 o'clock with Jane Daniel and Isaiah (my servants) for New York. D. Webster Esq. 6th Street Phila. in Co. Reached Phila. [a]t 1 1/2--went to Mr. Sully's to get Ellen's [i.e., Wheeler's wife] things--and hurried to the Warf [sic]. The Boat had just left--so we remained until 5 o'clock--took dinner at Blood- good's Hotel foot of Walnut Street. At 4 I/2 went on board of the Steamer Washington, and a few minutes before the boat started a gang of Negroes led on by Passmore Williamson an Abolitionist came up to us, and told Jane that [i]f she would go ashore she was free--On my remonstrating they seized me by the collar, threatened to cut my throat if I resisted, took the servants by force, they remon- strating and crying murder. Hurried them on shore--to a carriage which was waiting, and drove [stricken: "off"] them off. p. 149: ']ane was very handy at almost everything." Mrs. Wheeler is refer- ring to Jane Johnson. p. 149: "He wanted me to come, and I couldn't think of doing without her in my feeble health." Crafts is fictionalizing an actual event here: Wheeler was bringing Jane from Washington to Nicaragua, to serve his wife, Ellen. When Mrs. Wheeler remarks that "I didn't much like the idea of bringing her to Washington," Crafts is echoing warnings that Wheeler had received about attempting to transport a slave from Washington through Philadel-

261
phia--a hotbed of anti-slavery sentiment. Slavery was legal in Washington. It was in Philadelphia that Jane Johnson escaped.

p. 150: "My husband.., occupies a high official position in the Federal City" Wheeler held a number of government jobs. Wheeler's diary for 1854 [p. 19] reads as follows:

Wed. 2 Aug. [1854] My Birthday--48 years of age--This day I received a commission from the President [Pierce] appointing me by and with the advice and consent of the Senate Minister Resident of the U.S. near the Re- public of Nicaragua, Central America.

Thurs. 10th [August 1854] Resigned my commission as Assistant Sec[retar]y to the President and Henry E. Baldwin of New Hampshire appointed my successor.

p. 150: The "Federal City" was a commonly used nickname for Washington, D.C.

p. 150: "swarming with the enemies of our domestic institution": slavery.

p. 150: "and if strangers called on her during my absence, or she received messages from them" Crafts here echoes Whee!er's command to Jane Johnson not to speak with abolitionists or free colored people while they visited Philadelphia.

p. 150: "Those who suppose that sonthern ladies keep their attendants at a distance, scarcely speaking to them" This is one of the several keen oh- servations about slavery that Crafts makes throughout her text, reflecting her experience of slaveryland especially of the master- or mistress-slave re- lationshiplfrom the inside, that is, as a slave. As William Andrews oh- serves, Elizabeth Keckley, in her slave narrative, Behind the Scenes or Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868), states that such scenes between mistress and slave are not uncommon. Andrews, author of the de- finitive study of the slave narratives, finds this passage convincing proof of Crafts's authenticity as an African American woman and a former slave. I quote Andrews's argument at length:

262

In chapter 14 of Behind the Scenes Keckley notes that soon after the war is over, her former mistress, Ann Garland, asks her to come back to see the family in Virginia. The idea that such a reunion would ap- peal to her former owners is incredible to Keckley's northern friends, who think that since Keckley was a slave she couldn't possi- bly care about the Garlands or they about her. Keckley goes on to re- count her reunion with the Garlands to show that they think very highly of her even after the war. Of course, Mrs. Wheeler doesn't think highly of Hannah, but the fact that the narrator of that story is at pains to point out to her reader that female slaveholders treat their female slaves with a great deal more intimacy than standard abolitionist propaganda acknowl- edges allies the Crafts narrative to that of Keckley, who also insists to her northern white friends, equally convinced by antislavery propa- ganda that black women and white women couldn't possibly have any basis for communication after the war, that there was an intimate connection between her and her former mistress. In Keckley that in- timacy is based on genuine mutual concernat least that's the way she portrays it--whereas in Crafts's, Mrs. Wheeler cares nothing for Hannah as a person. The key similarity, however, is that in both texts, a black woman is trying to get her white readers to realize that the relationship between white and black women in slavery was not one of mere dictation, white to black, or mere subjugation of the black woman by the white woman. A white woman in the North in the an- tebellum era who wanted to preserve her antislavery credentials would have found it hard to make such a characterization of inti- macy between women slaveholders and their female slaves. A white southern woman sympathetic to slavery might make such a claim, but she wouldn't suggest that Mrs. Wheeler is as shallow and self- interested in cultivating Hannah as Crafts makes her out to be. Thus only a black woman who had herself been a slave would be in a po- sition of authority to make such a claim about this kind of intimacy between white and black women in slavery. (Letter to Henry Louis Gates, Jr., October 26, 2001)

p. 151: "Did you try to recover them?.., he disliked making a hue and cry." As is clear from Wheeler's diary entries, a protracted attempt was made during the next few years to secure Jane Johnson's return; failing in this, Wheeler attempted without success to obtain an indemnity for her value

263
from the state of Pennsylvania. These overtures were made through legal channels, "making a hue and cry" of enormous proportions. Crafts here is mocking the Wheelers for their desperate efforts to retrieve Jane Johnson.

Wed. 18 [July 1855] • I went to the Marshal's [sic] Office and with his Deputy, Mr. Mul- loy, went to Judge Kane, who ordered a Habeas Corpus---returned to town about 10 o'clock, to Mr. J. C. Hazlitt the Dep[uty] Cl[er]k--- took out the writ, then we went to the House of Williamson who had absconded. At 1 o'clock I left Phila. and arrived at New York at 6-- and put up at the Washington House.

p. 151: 'The Senator from Ohio" is a thinly veiled reference to Passmore Williamson, the head of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, who facili- tated Jane Johnson's escape.

p. 152: "while Mrs Wheeler requested me to read for her" Crafts is demonstrating her mastery of literacy at this point in her life, implicitly es- tablishing her credentials as an author. This reversal of the topos of a white person reading to an illiterate slave is a very powerful rhetorical gesture, underscoring Crafts's intellectual superiority over other slaves and her equality--or superiority---of intellect with her white mistress. Similarly, on p. 153, Crafts writes of how "that afternoon she [Mrs. Wheeler] dictated a letter for me to write." Frederick Douglass equates learning to read and write with the desire to be free, to run away.

p. 153: 'you prefer the service of a lady to that of a gentleman, in which probably you would be compelled to sacrifise [sic] honor and virtue" Crafts foreshadows the event that will force her to escape--the sacrifice of her virginity to rape sanctioned by her master and mistress.

Chapter 13

p. 156: Although Ninevah is mentioned four times as a "great city" in the short Book of Jonah, it is never described as "full of people" in the Bible. However, in Jonah 4:11, Ninevah is said to have "sixscore thousand per- sons." Crafts's reliance on the oral tradition, while inaccurate, certainly conveys the meaning.

264

p. 156: "perhaps a Python might be caught by another Apollo" According to legend, Delphi, home of the famous Greek oracle, was protected by a dragon or serpent (Python) in the pre-Hellenic period. Greek mythology states that the god Apollo slew the Python, ousted the deity (Mother Earth) it was guarding, and founded his oracle there.

pp. 156-157: 'Where a negro slave was seen slipping and sliding but a mo- ment before Alas; that mud and wet weather should have so little respect for aristocracy" Crafts is parodying the snobbery of white governmental officials in this passage.

p. 158: The Italian medicated powder that turns Mrs. Wheeler black ap- pears to be a product of Hannah Crafts's wit and imagination.

p. 159: "Report said that he [Mr. Wheeler] had actually quarreled with the President, and challenged a senator to fight a duel, besides laying a cowhide.., over the broad shoulders of a member of Congress." Wheeler states his difficulties in office at this time in entirely circumscribed terms, ig- noring his indiscreet support of the self-styled General Walker's exploits in Central America, which led to his dismissal from his position in Nicaragua.

Diary for 1857 [p. 10]: Monday, March 2, [printed "February," struck out, replaced by hand printed "March"] Went to President's, heard him reply to a com[mittee?] from Texas---had a conference as to Nic[aragu]a. He resolved to have no diplomatic relations with Nic.a and of course no use for me--[I] re- signed on this ground alone.

Later in 1857, after the Wheelers' visit to North Carolina and Hannah's es- cape from the plantation there, Wheeler's political fortunes changed for the better. At some point after his return, he was appointed clerk of the Department of the Interior. Later, he was selected for another post, as ap- pears below, but he apparently did not accept it.

Diary for 1857 [p. 109]: Tuesday, December 22 Met Mr. Craig who informed me that I had been selected by the Com. [mittee] for For. [eign] Affairs as their Clerk--

265
There are references in this diary to Mr. Wheeler's own pugnacious nature, as remarked by Crafts, but notices of other attacks occur later in his diary for 1860. Crafts is most probably referring to the attack of Preston Brooks of South Carolina with a cane on Charles Sumner of Massachusetts in the Senate on May 22, 1856. This event is not recorded by Wheeler, though as it occurred a day before the last surviving entry in his diary of 1856, it may have been reported by him in a later, now lost, entry. Wheeler's diary re- ports two other incidents of violence following Hannah's escape:

Diary for 1860 [p. 55]: Friday 13th [April] Went to Capitol; Pryor of Va. Challenged Potter of Missouri; ac- cepted to fight with bowie knivesdeclined by Pryor as unseemly & so the matters end--Friends of both claim for each the triumph-- which will produce other difficulties.

Diary for 1860 [p. 102]: Sunday 8th [July] Lovely day but very cool for the time of year. Bathed and called to Gen [era]l Bowman, my opposite neighbour, who was attacked on yesterday morning by E. B. Schnabel, with a cane, and severely wounded. He made a speech at a Douglass [sic] meeting on Tuesday evening last, which the Constitution (Genl. Bowman's paper) spoke of, and of Schnabel--hence [?] the attack.

p. 160: "Riggs of the Naval Department" I have found no record of a Riggs working in the Naval Department at this time. Crafts could be refer- ring to George Washington Riggs (1813-81), a prominent banker and co- owner of the Corcoran and Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., between 1837 and 1848, when Riggs resigned his partnership. In 1854 Riggs took over the bank, renaming it Riggs and Co., and expanded it considerably. Riggs, in other words, was a prominent name in Washington when Hannah Crafts lived there.

p. 166: Mr. Wheeler points out that Mrs. Wheeler's face is "black as Tophet." Tophet is the Hebrew Bible's name for hell, and Tophet is men- tioned nine times in the Book of Jeremiah. In Isaiah 30:33, Tophet's history is explained as follows:

266

For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.

Obviously, Tophet's "blackness" relates to the ash and burned wood pres- ent in large amounts.

p. 168: "Why Cattell, and his clerks .... Cattell," as spelled by Hannah Crafts, probably refers to Mr. Cotrell, a government officeholder and asso- ciate of John Hill Wheeler's.

Diary for 1855 [p. 106]: Thurs. 19 [July 1855] Friend Cotrell aided me with all his power.

[p. 116]: Sat. 1 Sept. 1855 Cotrell was selected as consul [to San Juan del Norte] and his commission ordered--

[p. 117]: Wed. 5 [1855] Packing up and preparing to leave [for Nicaragua]--At 3 1/2 left New York in the steamer Star of the West, Capt. Turner in company with Dr. & Mrs. Van Dy[ke] Thos. V. Dandy--Cotrell.

p. 169: "Mrs Wheeler like Byron" George Gordon, Lord Byron, the great Romantic poet, author of Don Juan. See note to Preface.

p. 170: The Wheelers owned a substantial home in Washington at this time. In the first entry in the "Memoranda" section of his diary for 1857 (dated lstJanuary 1857), Wheeler lists a "town House & Lot in Washington City," valued at $6,000. Later, Wheeler owned at least two residential properties in the city, one of which was located on I Street and provided rental in-

come,

p. 170: "Mr Vincent" Several Vincents are listed as living in Dinwiddie County and Henrico County, Virginia, in the U.S. federal census between

267
1830 and 1850. Henrio County is twenty kilometers from Milton, while Dinwiddie County is thirty kilometers from Milton. p. 170: "Mr Cosgrove" The Cosgrove family lived in Henrico County from 1840 to 1860.

Chapter 14

p. 172: The passage used below is located rather generally as from the "Bible." The citation is Psalm 74:20:

Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.

p. 172: "Our master.., took a great fancy to beautiful female slaves" Lizzy's tale of Mr. Cosgrove's infidelity is an unusually explicit account of master- slave sexual relations on the plantation. In the slave narratives, these rela- tions are usually referred to in veiled, or metaphoric, language.

p. 175: "To think that she had been rivaled by slaves" Here, Crafts seems to be speaking as a person who had directly experienced or witnessed this tension over sexual rivalry.

p. 177: "and with a motion so sudden that no one could prevent it, she snatched a sharp knife which a servant had carelessly left after cutting butcher's meat, and stabbing the infant.., she had run the knife into her own body" The most famous case of slave infanticidemthe murdering of one's child to prevent its sale as a slave--was that of Margaret Garner on January 28, 1856. Garner's case became the basis of the plot of Toni Mor- rison's magnificent novel Beloved (1987). Garner; her husband, Robert; their two children, MaryNage two--and Cilla, an infant; and Robert's parents were escaping to freedom from a plantation in Kentucky. Pursued by her master, Archibald Gaines, Garner chose to slit her daughter Mary's throat with a butcher knife rather than allow her to be returned to slavery. Gaines was thought to be the child's fa- ther. Garner was returned to slavery and sold to another slave owner. She died in Mississippi in 1858. This story was widely discussed because of its sensational aspect and because of its implications in light of the Fugitive

268

Slave Act of 1850. Crafts most probably knew this story. Garner's actions, of course, echo those of Medea, in the tragedy of Euripides. It is quite possi- ble that Crafts knew both sources.

Chapter 15

p. 179: This chapter continues the story related by Lizzy; Crafts omits a heading presumably to aid the flow of Lizzy's narrative.

p. 181: "she more resembled a Fury of Orestes" The Furies, or Eu- menides, were the avengers of crimes against kinship bonds in Greek mythology. The Furies play an important role in the classical tragedy of Eu- ripedes titled Orestes.

p. 185: "plenty of these human cattle" Slaves were frequently referred to as chattel, and their status compared to that of cattle.

p. 187: Rock Glen appears to have been a fictional location.

p. 189: "negroes working in a field of tobacco" North Carolina was a cen- ter of the tobacco industry in antebellum America.

p. 194: "Sic transit gloria mundi" Well-known Latin phrase meaning "so passes away the glory of the world." Crafts probably encountered the phrase through The Imitation of Christ, by Sir Thomas /t Kempis (1370-1471).

Chapter 16

p. 195: This introductory quote appears to be drawn from Esther 7:4, al- though it is a very loose and incomplete variation. Crafts leaves out the rest of the verse, in which Esther mentions the possibility of the Hebrews being sold into slavery as "bondmen and bondwomen" as a more attractive possi- bility than the total destruction that Haman has planned. Considering the novel's tide, this biblical quotation is obviously very important. In chapters 16 and 17, Crafts, who had fled slavery previously only to help her mistress, finally rebels when she is given to a male slave as his %rife." As she says on

269
p. 206, being forced into a "compulsory union" makes her see that "rebel- lion would be a virtue." The full verse from Esther that inspires these sen- timents is as follows:

For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king's damage.

p. 196: "As we rode down to the boat designed to convey us to Mrs Wheeler's 'place in North Carolina'" John and Ellen Wheeler and their servants sailed from Baltimore to North Carolina on the steamer Ge0rg/a on Saturday, March 21, 1857. This is the sort of detail that attests to Crafts's ac- curacy and veracity in reporting and to her firsthand experience as a slave of the Wheelers' and as a member of their traveling party. The 1857 date is consistent with the internal sequence of events that transpires in the novel, commencing with Jane Johnson's escape in 1855.

p. 196: "and taken refuge beneath the equestrian statue of Jackson" John Wheeler's diary refers to the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson in refer- ence to a monument to Washington of this type commissioned to the same sculptor, Clark Mills (1810 or 1815-1883). The statue of Jackson, the first equestrian monument made in America, is considered Mills's masterpiece and was completed in 1853. His statue of Washington was erected in 1860.

Diary for 1857 [p. 65]: Saturday, August 15 Day hot as blazes. Went to Interior Department, Patent Office about Genl. Jackson's portraitm

[p. 101]: Saturday, November 28 Visited Clark Mills, saw his equestrian Statue of Washington--on which he is at work and by which he will be immortalized--as it is equal or superior to his Jackson.

p. 197: "and a ship Canal across the Isthmus" Crafts is referring to the suggestion that the United States construct a canal across the Isthmus of Panama.

270

p. 197: "they would quell the Indians and oust the Mormons" In mid-1857 President James Buchanan sent one-third of the American army to Utah to discipline insurgent Mormons in Utah; the force was led by Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, who would later become a general in the Confederate Army. The Mormons were forced temporarily to evacuate Salt Lake City. This was known as the Mormon War. (I am indebted to the historian David Brion Davis for this observation.) From Mrs. Wheeler's comment, it is clear that Colonel Johnston's action against the Mormons had not yet begun, which would be consistent with John Hill Wheeler's diary entry of March 21, 1857, reporting that he and his family were leaving Washington for a visit to North Carolina. See note to p. 198. p. 198: "Mr Wheeler's fine plantation was situated near Wilmington" Wheeler's plantation was actually in Lincolnton, North Carolina, which is approximately 220 miles from Wilmington. Crafts situated the plantation here most probably to mask the Wheelers' true identity, in accordance with her initial representation of the Wheelers as the 'qh r" family in her text.

p. 198: The Wheelers' 1857 trip to North Carolina lasted six weeks, from March 21 to May 4, as follows:

Diary for 1857 [p. 16]: At 3 1/2 left for North Carolina in cars via [?] Baltimore. At 6 left Bait. On steamer Georg/a...

[p. 20]: Thursday 2 [April] Went to Sully and Woodbury [Wheeler's sons]. Weather very cool. Went to Cousin Mollie Mebane['s?] Bertie CountymEllen in company Also Esther and John &James Mr. Ferguson and Williams Allan [part of this name cut off in photocopy] • • • lanching [?: beginning of this word cut off in photo- copy] the Seine Thomas Ganet & others there.

271
[p. 30]: Sunday, May 3 Visited with my dear Brother, the gi[graves?] of our Father and Mother [in Murfreesboro, N.C.].

[p. 31]: Monday, May 4 At 12 left and reached Boykin's Ports.o [Portsmouth, Va.] At 7--1eft in steamer Herald for Bait.

[Landing] and reached

The place described by Hannah as "Mr. Wheeler's fine plantation" and "sit- uated near Wilmington" could, in fact, refer to one of two plantations. One possibly is the estate near Murfreesboro of Mr. Wheeler's relative Dr. Moore. Dr. Moore married Wheeler's sister. Boykin's Landing, Virginia, which exists today as Boykins, was the last stop toward Murfreesboro, the nearest large town to Dr. Moore's plantation. The Wheelers' own planta- tion, as is made clear elsewhere in his diary, was located a considerable dis- tance away, near Lincolnton in the southwest central area of North Carolina. While Lincolnton, near Charlotte, is approximately 220 miles from Wilmington, Murfreeshoro is 150 miles from Wilmington. Crafts probably placed the plantation near Wilmington because it was the largest port in the state and was the site of a large slave market, one well known in abolitionist circles.

pp. 198-199: "lime-tree walks," "orange trees," "peach trees," "grapes," "figs," "pomegranates" Writing her narrative ostensibly from the safe haven of New Jersey, Crafts is recollecting the types of fruits that she saw growing in North Carolina. Figs, peaches, and grapes flourished there; pomegranates could be cultivated privately, within the homes of wealthy plantation owners. Although limes and oranges did not thrive there--ef- forts to introduce citrus fruits to North Carolina in the colonial period proved unsuccessful--linden trees, commonly nicknamed "limes," and osage oranges did. Crafts is most probably using a shorthand for these two plants. The linden tree is a leitmotif throughout the novel. Cherries, apri- cots, pears, plums, pecans, quinces, damsons, and nectarines also flour- ished in North Carolina. I am indebted to Sharon Adams, a garden designer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Brian Sinche, for this informa-

272

tion. See also Cornelius Oliver Cathey's Agricultural Developments in North Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956).

p. 199: "a cotton field.., a large plantation of rice" Cotton and rice were both grown on North Carolina plantations.

p. 199: "The huts of these people" Crafts consistently refers to the slaves as full members of the human community. The casual use of the phrase "these people" is meant to remind the reader almost subconsciously of that fact.

p. 199: "by night they contained a swarm of misery, that crowds of foul ex- istence crawled in out of gaps" Crafts's description of living conditions in the slave quarters is one of the most vivid in black literature.

p. 200: "that false system which bestows on position, wealth, or power the consideration only due to a man" Crafts's critique of the social system of the antebellum South is quite consistent with abolitionist and Protestant Christian rhetoric of the period.

p. 200: "to a lower link in the chain of being than that occupied by a horse" Crafts is referring to the slaves, held to be subhuman by many pro-slavery advocates, and therefore occupying a lower order on the Great Chain of Being.

p. 201: "To be made to feel that you have no business here.., you are scarcely human" Crafts in this passage moves--in a series of rhetorical questions asked of "Doctors of Divinity"--back and forth between referring to herself as a member of the class of slaves ('you have no business here") and the third person "It must be... strange," a phrase she repeats for ef- fect. James Baldwin often used a similar rhetorical device, identifying him- self for effect with the "us" or The" of the non-black American population.

p. 201: "to fear that their opinion is more than half right" Crafts's cata- logue of the degrading effects of slavery upon the slave is astonishingly honest and frank. Rarely do we find in the slave narratives a more com- pelling statement of slavery's debilitating effects upon the sense of self- worth that slaves struggled to maintain. By framing her questions in the form of "it must be," Crafts is also distinguishing herself from her fellow

273
slaves who ostensibly have been crushed by the system of slavery. Both Doug- lass and Jacobs also draw distinctions of class and individual merit, intelli- gence, and worth between themselves and other slaves.

p. 202: "Of course the family residence was stocked with slaves of a higher and nobler order than those belonging to the fields." The traditional class (and often color) distinctions between house slaves and field slaves was commonly remarked upon by slave narrators and white writers alike, but Crafts's descriptions are especially stark.

p. 203: "I had to deal with a wary, powerful, and unscrupulous enemy. She was a dark mulatto, very quick motioned with black snaky eyes" One of Crafts's tendencies as a narrator is to draw distinctions--to individuate---ef- fortlessly between black characters rather than treating them in a blanket or an undifferentiated manner. When the librarian and bibliophile Dorothy Porter refers to the natural manner in which Crafts treats black characters, it is this sort of description of the slave Maria that I believe she had in mind, as well as her frank account of the degrading living conditions of life in the slave quarters.

p. 205: "Retreating to the loneliest garret in the house" Harriet Jacobs hides in a garret in her grandmother's home in North Carolina for seven years. See Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, especially the chapter The Loop Hole of Retreat."

p. 205: "and most horrible of all doomed to association with the vile, foul, filthy inhabitants of the huts, and condemned to receive one of them for my husband my soul actually revolted with horror unspeakable" Crafts's "horror" is based in part upon her perception of the extreme gap in class-- breeding, education, sensibility, and cleanliness--between herself as a mu- latto house servant and the lack of these virtues and characteristics among the "degraded" field hands. The severity of her characterizations here are unusually extreme, compared with similar distinctions drawn in the slave narratives. A large part of her revulsion arises from being forced to marry someone not '¢oluntarily assumed," as she writes in her next sentence. Pro- tecting herself from rape is Crafts's motivation for fleeing. See the first paragraph in chapter 17. In comparison, Stowe, in Uncle Tom's Cabin, de- scribes Legree's slave huts as being "mere rude shells, destitute of any species of furniture, except a heap of straw, foul with dirt, spread confus-

274

edly over the floor, which was merely the bare ground, trodden hard by the tramping of innumerable feet."

Chapter
  1   2


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page