Caroline Lee Hentz
(1800 – 1856)
June 26th Saturday Was assisting Hannah about house
most of the forenoon Made pies & cake baked
in the small new tins Have been mending
this afternoon and finished Marcus Warland
by Mrs Caroline Lee Hentz
Mr Ames brought home 1/4 lb black sewing
silk from Boston I have a bad cough
Although her “bad cough” presaged an oncoming cold, Evelina managed to accomplish many domestic tasks today. Perhaps the best part of the day, however, came after the choring, baking and mending. She finished reading Marcus Warland; or, The Long Moss Spring. Tale of the South. by Caroline Lee Hentz.
Caroline Lee Hentz was an immensely popular novelist, “well known and much esteemed.”* In the 1850s, the Boston Library listed her as one of the three top writers of the day. A major literary figure, now largely forgotten, Mrs. Hentz described herself as a “Northerner who traveled and worked throughout the South for nearly thirty years.”** Though born and raised in Lancaster, Massachusetts, only fifty-odd miles from North Easton, Caroline and her teacher husband spent married life in various Southern states, opening and closing schools as they went along. They lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Covington, Kentucky (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, where they met Harriet Beecher Stowe); Alabama; Georgia; and Florida.
Unlike Mrs. Stowe, Mrs. Hentz was an apologist for slavery. In the Introduction to Marcus Warland, she wrote:
“We believe, if the domestic manners of the South were more generally and thoroughly known at the North, the prejudices that have been gradually building up a wall of separation between these two divisions of our land would yield to the irresistible force of conviction.”*** She believed not only that the institution of slavery was essential to the South’s livelihood, but that blacks were a lesser race who needed to be looked after. She was hardly alone in the latter belief.
After Mrs. Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published to both huge acclaim and vehement dissent, Mrs. Hentz penned a rebuttal novel entitled The Planter’s Northern Bride. It came out in 1854 and found a wide audience. We can imagine that Evelina might have read it out of curiosity.
But today, while Evelina reclined with Marcus Warland, her old father-in-law was dependably keeping his eye on the sky and his finger to the wind. The weather entry for today read “the 24 – 25 + 26 were fair cool days for the season + windy drying days wind north west + west most of the time.”**** This bode well for haying.
* Anonymous, Southern Quarterly Review, circa 1851, quoted by Karen Tracey, Plots and Propsals, University of Illinois, 2000.
** “Caroline Lee Hentz,” Wikipedia, accessed June 24, 2015
*** Caroline Lee Hentz, Marcus Warland, 1852, p, 2
****Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection