Table of Contents
2. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Life
2.1.Upbringing and Education
2.2. Marriage and Children
2.2. Literary Career
3. Travels across Great Britain
3.1. The Letters
4. Working with the letters
4.1.The outer Appearance of the British
5. Slavery in the United States and Working Conditions in Great Britain
5.1. Working Conditions in Great Britain
5.2. Slavery in the United States
The following paper will deal with the novel “Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands“ by Harriet Beecher Stowe which was written in 1854. It has been out of print for several years, which is why it was difficult to find secondary literature. Consequently, I mostly worked with the book itself, which consists of letters Stowe wrote to friends and family members. They do not include any personal details. It is not clear whether the letters were printed in the original way or if certain details have been left out on purpose.
In its preface, written by Harriet Beecher Stowe herself, she says, “If the criticism be made that every thing is given couleur de rose , the answer is, Why not? They are the impressions, as they arose, of a most agreeable visit.“
In my paper I will try to answer her question “Why not?“. During her travels, Stowe encountered mostly friendly people who gave her a warm welcome to Britain. Stowe was, at the time, enjoying great status and fame in Britain due the overwhelming success of her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin“. While “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” sold 150.000 copies in the United States during the first year of its publication, it sold over one million times in Great Britain. Consequently, people who were also anti-slavery oriented, were very pleased to be in her company. Some encounters Stowe describes, remind one of almost popstar-like fame, and it is only normal that such enthusiastic emotions would push her towards looking at everything in a more positive light. Consequently, Stowe’s attitude towards the British working class seems a little too “couleur de rose”. Being so active in the anti-slavery movement, it is hard to believe that a woman like Stowe with such strong political opinions can be so oblivious to the horrible working conditions in Britain.
In this paper, I will start out by mentioning a few facts concerning Stowes background and upbringing. In order to understand her opinions and especially her religious approach, it is important to take a look at her family and general environment.
Furthermore, I will provide a little background information on the letters she wrote and a map to show the different places she visited.
In chapter 4 I will work with the letters. I will show what Stowe thought about the British, the differences and similarities she noticed between British and American people. I will point out in depth what Stowe wrote about their outer appearance, their behavior and the immense feeling of comfort Stowe had while in Britain.
Chapter 5 will give a brief summary of working conditions in Great Britain and slavery in the United States at the time Stowe wrote “Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands”.
2.Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Life
2.1.Upbringing and Education
With the goal of making Stowe’s impressions and general attitudes more accessible to the reader, a few facts concerning Stowe’s background will be given:
Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Her father was Reverend Lyman Beecher, a Congretional Minister. Her mother was Roxana Foote Beecher, who died of tuberculosis when Harriet was only five years old. Harriet had 12 brothers and sisters. After Roxana’s death in 1816, Lyman remarried the following year, in 1817.
Lyman's dynamic preaching, religious energy and commitment had a profound impact on all of his children. He encouraged an intellectual environment at home and would often lead family debates on important issues.
At the age of twelve, Harriet began to attend Hartford Female Seminary, an academy founded and run by her older sister Catherine. At that time, Hartford Female Seminary was one of only a handful of schools that took the education of girls seriously. Catherine introduced many innovations to the school including teaching physical education and home economics, and the practice of student government. At that time girls were expected to remain at home and needed very little education, so Catherine helped to change these ideas. She also stressed the importance of written expression. Her students spent many hours composing essays. As a result of Catherine's teaching methods, Harriet received an unusually fine education, and, under her sister's guidance, began to develop her talent as a writer. Harriet also worked there as a teacher.
In 1832, the Beecher family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, when Lyman became president of the Lane Theological Seminary.
In 1834, at the age of 23, Harriet's first story was published in the Western Monthly Magazine. The story was chosen over one by Edgar Allen Poe for a literary prize.
2.2.Marriage and Children
In 1836 she met and married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor at Lane Theological Seminary. Together they had seven children, so Harriet was destined to live a life of prolific childbearing, as well as writing. Their twin daughters, Eliza and Harriet, were born in 1836. A son, Henry, was born in 1838, and Frederick followed in 1840. In 1843, Harriet published The Mayflower, which was a collection of stories about the descendants of the Puritans. Her daughter, Georgiana, was also born this year. In 1846, Stowe was diagnosed with exhaustion from pregnancy and childbearing. She spent fifteen months at a water cure in Vermont to recover her physical and mental strength. Her son Samuel was born in 1848, but died the following year in a cholera epidemic. Their son Charles was born in 1850.
Stowe was fortunate to have the support of her husband Calvin who always encouraged his wife in her career. This kind of support from a husband was unusual at the time when women were not expected to have a career outside the home
Cincinnati was just across the river from Kentucky, a slave state. It was there that Stowe first became aware of the horrors of slavery. Cincinnati was one of the largest cities in the country.
In Cincinnati, Stowe became a member of the Semi-Colon Club, a local literary society in which members wrote articles which were read and discussed by other participants. Her experiences in this club sharpened her writing style. During her early married years, Stowe began to publish stories and magazine articles to supplement the family income. While she lived in Cincinnati, Stowe co-authored a book, Primary Geography for Children. After the publication of this book, Stowe received a special commendation from the bishop of Cincinnati because it conveyed a positive image of the Catholic religion. Stowe’s religious tolerance was unusual for Protestants at the time.
In 1850, Calvin Stowejoined the faculty of his alma mater, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. The Stowe family moved to Maine and lived in Brunswick until 1853.
1850 was also an important year for Stowe because the Fugitive Slave Law was passed. It required Northerners and Southerners alike to turn in runaway slaves. This law was of great importance in Stowe’s anti-slavery writing. In 1851, Uncle Tom's Cabin first appeared as a serial in an anti-slavery paper, called The National Era. Due to its popularity, it was published the next year as a two-volume book.
 Klingberg 1968:306
 Hedrick 1994:6
 Hedrick 1994:23
 Hedrick 1994:32-43
 Hedrick 1994:87
 Jackson 1987: 11
 Stowe 1911:108-123