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Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic$
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Julia A. Stern

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226773285

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226773315.001.0001

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Smells The Stench of Slavery and Sentiment

Smells The Stench of Slavery and Sentiment

(p.133) Chapter Six Smells The Stench of Slavery and Sentiment
Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic

Julia A. Stern

University of Chicago Press

This chapter on Mary Chesnut's scrutiny of slavery, sentiment, and Stowe first explores details of Uncle Tom's Cabin itself as they resonate in Chesnut's 1880s narrative. Particular characters—Tom, Eva, Topsy, and Legree—captivated and also inflamed the writer and her peers, particularly proslavery women such as Louisa McCord, who reviewed the novel in January 1853. Chesnut's own thesis was that Stowe knew nothing of slavery, plantation life, or “Negro” culture under bondage in America. Accordingly, her central grievance was offered on the grounds of Stowe's cultural ignorance. After exploring Chesnut's “magnificent obsession” with Uncle Tom's Cabin, the chapter turns to the remarkable ways in which Chesnut inadvertently and unconsciously identified her mother-in-law, the profoundly Christian, charitable, and voraciously bookish Mary Cox Chesnut, with Stowe's heroine, little Eva. Finally, the chapter looks at her reminiscence about being invited, along with twelve other young ladies, to serenade president-elect George Washington at Trenton en route to New York for his inauguration in 1789.

Keywords:   slavery, Mary Chesnut, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Mary Cox Chesnut, sentiment, Stowe

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