Uncle Tom's Cabin

  • Chapter I

  • In Which the Reader Is Introduced to a Man of Humanity

  • Narrator

    Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P----, in Kentucky.

    Profile Picture of Narrator in Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • There were no servants present, and the gentlemen, with chairs closely approaching, seemed to be discussing some subject with great earnestness.

  • For convenience sake, we have said, hitherto, two gentlemen.

  • One of the parties, however, when critically examined, did not seem, strictly speaking, to come under the species.

  • He was a short, thick-set man, with coarse, commonplace features, and that swaggering air of pretension which marks a low man who is trying to elbow his way upward in the world.

  • He was much over-dressed, in a gaudy vest of many colors, a blue neckerchief, bedropped gayly with yellow spots, and arranged with a flaunting tie, quite in keeping with the general air of the man.

  • His hands, large and coarse, were plentifully bedecked with rings;

  • and he wore a heavy gold watch-chain, with a bundle of seals of portentous size, and a great variety of colors, attached to it,--which, in the ardor of conversation, he was in the habit of flourishing and jingling with evident satisfaction.

  • His conversation was in free and easy defiance of Murray’s Grammar,* and was garnished at convenient intervals with various profane expressions, which not even the desire to be graphic in our account shall induce us to transcribe.

  • * English Grammar (1795), by Lindley Murray (1745-1826), the most authoritative American grammarian of his day.

  • Narrator

    His companion, Mr. Shelby, had the appearance of a gentleman;

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  • and the arrangements of the house, and the general air of the housekeeping, indicated easy, and even opulent circumstances.

  • As we before stated, the two were in the midst of an earnest conversation.

  • Profile Picture of Mr. Shelby in Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Mr. Shelby

    “That is the way I should arrange the matter,”

  • Narrator

    said Mr. Shelby.

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  • Profile Picture of Haley in Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Haley

    “I can’t make trade that way--I positively can’t, Mr. Shelby,”

  • Narrator

    said the other, holding up a glass of wine between his eye and the light.

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  • Profile Picture of Mr. Shelby in Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Mr. Shelby

    “Why, the fact is, Haley, Tom is an uncommon fellow;