The Minister's Wooing
By Harriet Beecher Stowe
(Penguin Classics, Paperback, 9780140437027, 384pp.)
Publication Date: August 1, 1999
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From the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a domestic comedy that examines slavery, Protestant theology, and gender differences in early America.
First published in 1859, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s third novel is set in eighteenth-century Newport, Rhode Island, a community known for its engagement in both religious piety and the slave trade. Mary Scudder lives in a modest farmhouse with her widowed mother an their boarder, Samuel Hopkins, a famous Calvinist theologian who preaches against slavery. Mary is in love with the passionate James Marvyn, but Mary is devout and James is a skeptic, and Mary’s mother opposes the union. James goes to sea, and when he is reportedly drowned, Mary is persuaded to become engaged to Dr. Hopkins.
With colorful characters, including many based on real figures, and a plot that hinges on romance, The Minister’s Wooing combines comedy with regional history to show the convergence of daily life, slavery, and religion in post-Revolutionary New England.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, daughter of the Reverend Lyman Beecher of the local Congregational Church. In 1832, the family moved to Cincinnati, where Harriet married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor at the seminary, in 1836. The border town of Cincinnati was alive with abolitionist conflict and there Mrs. Stowe took an active part in community life. She came into contact with fugitive slaves, and learned from friends and from personal visits what life was like for the Negro in the South. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, and that same year Harriet’s sister-in-law urged the author to put her feelings about the evils of slavery into words. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first published serially during 1851-52 in The National Era, and in book form in 1852. In one year more than 300,000 copies of the novel were sold. Mrs. Stowe continued to write, publishing eleven other novels and numerous articles before her death at the age of eighty-five in Hartford, Connecticut.
Susan K. Harris is Joyce and Elizabeth Hall Distinguished Professor of American Literature at the University of Kansas.