“Thomas is thorough and clear in the presentation of her argument, basing it on close textual evidence and relating Thackeray’s attitudes to contemporary social and cultural contexts.”
Donald Hawes, Analytical & Enumerative Bibliography
“Drawing upon history, sociology, and literary criticism, this wide-ranging and thoughtful study is meticulously researched and well written.”
S. A. Parker, Choice
Slavery fascinated Thackeray. For him, the essence of slavery consisted of treating people like things. Thomas examines relationships in Thackeray’s fiction in which people have been reduced to objects and power is an end. These relationships include not only actual slaves and blacks, but also servants, dependents of all races, upper-class women sold into marriage, and children struggling to escape parental domination.
Thomas also clarifies Thackeray’s view of black slavery. Many of his remarks about black men and women reflect an attitude that we could today call racist. He regarded blacks of the American South (where he traveled on lecture tours in 1852-53 and 1855-56) as inherently different from whites. At the same time, he viewed slavery as inherently wrong and condemned its exploitive aspects. Nonetheless, in some of his letters from America, he observed that the slaves he had seen appeared better treated, on the whole, than many domestic servants and industrial workers in England. It was characteristic of Thackeray to try to see both sides of a complex issue. However, modern students of Thackeray often seem to be so uncomfortable with his effort to present what he considered a balanced picture that they overlook his basic awareness of the vils of slavery and the way in which the idea of slavery repeatedly occurs in his writing. The prominence of this idea in his fiction has important implications for anyone studying nineteenth-century literature and culture.
For Thackeray, as for most of his nineteenth-century British contemporaries, the major form of slavery was that to be found in the New World. However, ideas regarding galley (penal) slavery and Western concepts of “Oriental” slavery also contributed to his thinking about human bondage. Prior to his visits to the United States, the image of slavery had a powerful creative effect on Thackeray’s writing. In contrast, after his exposure to the reality of slavery in the American South, this image waned in creative power in his fiction. For Thackeray in this regard, the unseen was imaginatively more stimulating than the seen.
Thackeray and Slavery
Save 20% ($44)
US and Canada only
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center
The son of former slaves, Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the most prominent figures in American literature at the turn of the twentieth century. Thirty-three years old at the time of his death in 1906, he had published four novels, four collections of short stories, and fourteen books of poetry, as well as numerous songs, plays, and essays in newspapers and magazines around the world.In
In 1863, as the Civil War raged, the escaped slave, abolitionist, and novelist William Wells Brown identified two groups most harmful to his race. “The first and most relentless,” he explained, “are those who have done them the greatest injury, by being instrumental in their enslavement and consequent degradation.
“Mysticism is peculiar to the mountainbred,” Frank Waters once told an interviewer for Psychology Today. And in Mountain Dialogues, available for the first time in paperback, the mountainbred Waters proves it true. Ranging over such diverse subjects as silence, spirits, time, change, and the sacred mountains of the world, Waters sounds again and again the radiant, mystic theme of man’s inherent wholeness and his oneness with the cosmos.Writing
Sign up to be notified when new Literature titles come out.
We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.