21st Century: Query 195 (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
“I did not write [Uncle Tom’s Cabin]. God wrote it. I merely did his dictation.”
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. She came from the Beecher family, a famous religious family, and is best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which depicts the harsh conditions for enslaved African Americans. The book reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and Great Britain, energizing anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. Stowe wrote 30 books, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. She was influential for both her writings and her public stances and debates on social issues of the day.
What does Stowe’s assertion about God’s “dictation” reveal about her writing process?
(Note: Divine inspiration is probably another form of “automatic writing,” a claimed psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. In an 1890 paper on hypnotism Morton Prince claims, “automatic writing is not a purely unconscious reflex act, but, the product of conscious individuality.”)
How might Stowe’s deeply religious background account for her assertion regarding the writing of her most famous novel?