* * * * *
Of the persons named in this letter,
Kate is a slave-mother, belonging to the lady who writes the letter.
Cygnet was Kate’s babe.
Mammy is a common appellation for a slave-nurse. The Mammy to whom the message in the letter is sent was nursery-maid when the writer of the letter and several brothers and sisters were young; and, more than this, she was maid to their mother in early years. She is still in this gentleman’s family. Her name is Cygnet; Kate’s babe was named for her.
Mary is the lady’s married sister.
Chloe is Mary’s servant.
The incidental character of this letter and the way in which it came to me, gave it a special charm. Some recent traveller, describing his sensations at Heidelberg Castle, speaks of a German song which he heard, at the moment, from a female at some distance and out of sight. This letter, like that song, derives much of its effect from the unconsciousness of the author that it would reach a stranger.
Having read this letter many times, always with the same emotions as at first, I resolved to try the effect of it upon my friend, A. Freeman North. He is an upright man, much sought after in the settlement of estates, especially where there are fiduciary trusts. Placing the letter in his hands, I asked him, when he should have read it, to put in writing his impressions and reflections. The result will be found in the next chapter. Mrs. North, also, will engage the reader’s kind attention.
Northern comments on southern life.
“As blind men use to bear their
Than those that have their eyes and sight entire.”
“One woman reads another’s
Without the tedious trouble of decyphering.”
Ben Jonson. New Inn.
So then, this is a Southern heart which prompts these loving, tender strains. This lady is a slave-holder. It is a slave toward whom this fellow-feeling, this gentleness of pity, these acts of loving-kindness, these yearnings of compassion, these respectful words, and all this care and assiduity, flow forth.