Zoë, or the Quadroon's Triumph

It would be well for Anglo-Saxondom throughout the world, if some wise school-marm could thus put an extinguisher upon her propensity to force her government, creeds, customs and tastes upon nations and people who do not like them, or who are not yet prepared for them.

"You cannot think that the unjust are ever happier than the injured, if innocent. If the slaves act as well as their circumstances will allow them, they are very near to 'Our Father,' which of itself is happiness; while the injurer, by his very injustice, shuts out God's presence from his soul, and what misery can be so great as that?"

"As for the dissolution of the Union, I have no fears for it, but I say, dissolve it, rather than strike hands with injustice and wrong forever."

That last quote could easily have come from Lois Waisbrooker's Nothing Like It. As with Emily Clemens Pearson and Lois Waisbrooker, I came across Elizabeth D. Livermore while browsing the digital shelves of Wright American Fiction. But I must admit that I have mixed feelings regarding this 1855 work. Ostensibly an anti-slavery and pro-feminist novel, when I first encountered it I was struck by its unique, early focus on racist attitudes towards free people of color. Before long, however, I discovered it to be largely a bait-and-switch for Unitarian evangelism. Not that I am put off by the theology itself, but it wears a bit thin at times.

Livermore's prose style has a formality almost approaching dullness: although by no means shallow, it definitely lacks the radical zest of Nothing Like It, or the vivid wit of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Nonetheless, despite the formality of the prose, the novel is entirely undisciplined in its content: it is overly long for the thin plot, and is dreadfully overstuffed with passages in the form of writing-within-writing. They make for a slog at times, and should you feel your eyes glazing over, please feel free to skim ahead without any fear that you're missing something crucial to the story.

I'm not saying that the book is not worth reading: certainly there are nuggets of wisdom worth digging up. Also, the character of "Young America" provides some occasional comic relief, and Mr. Lindsey is one of the better developed, and admirably mature, characters in the novel, despite his interminable habit of breaking out his wife's correspondence: almost invariably a signal to snooze. One fairly entertaining exception is "Mrs. Pumpkin's Tract for the Times," which again could do with considerable trimming, but parts of it bring a ray of hilarity to what is otherwise a pretty bleak story.

[Note that the depiction of Thorvaldsen's illness and death is completely fictional. In real life, he died suddenly—likely of a heart attack—while he was attending the theatre. While I realize this was for dramatic effect in the development of the central character of the story, it still irks me, just as I cannot stand biopics that are woven out of total bunk. A classic example of the latter is the "The Glenn Miller Story," starring Jimmy Stewart: any fan of Glenn Miller at the time would have hooted and razzed at some of the worst inventions, and any serious scholar would have gone purple in apoplexy.]

The text for the 1855 edition came primarily from these scans of Volume I and Volume II; because some pages were missing or obliterated, I filled in the gaps using these scans of Volume I and Volume II. While I corrected any obvious typographical errors I could spot, I preserved spelling that was typical for the time; where I encountered variation in spelling, I usually standardized it in favor of the most frequently occurring form. I also tried to standardize the use of quotation marks.

So here it is: the master HTML version, the home-brew Kindle version, and the actual Amazon publication.

As Mrs. Carlan paraphrases: "Yea, they who were down-trodden shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens and eat the fruit of them."

August 20, 2021


On Establishing a Date of Death

Every now and then I must do battle with Amazon whenever an author is quite obscure. I strongly believe that Kindle Direct Publication reviewers are not human, but are actually bots that are incapable of following a line of deduction. In this case, the point of contention was providing an online reference verifying the author's date of death to establish copyright status(!).

The first reference I was able to find was this obituary published on October 1879 in The Unitarian Review. While it doesn't give the actual date of her death, or the title of her novel, it does make this remarkable statement (with which I pretty much agree):

Under considerable excitement of mind she wrote and published an interesting novel, which displayed the same critical judgment, fine culture, and power of expression which she possessed in health. If it had had a more even poise, it might have won for her a brilliant reputation. As it was, it showed a richness and warmth of nature which was not always known even by her best friends and acquaintances.

The KDP bots rejected the reference.

Based on information given in that article, I was able to track down her gravestone, which gives the date of death as September 13, 1879.

Again, the KDP bots rejected the reference.

Then, searching under her husband's name and her maiden name, I was able to find this reference in Prabook:

On May 17, 1838, Livermore married his cousin Elizabeth Dorcas Abbot of Windham, New Hampshire, a woman of poetic gift, author of a novel, Zoe, or the Octaroon's Triumph. She died September 13, 1879.

True, the title of the novel is given incorrectly, but you would think it would satisfy the KDP bots. Nope: again, they rejected the reference.

At this point I contacted KDP directly, in tones of Hellfire and Perdition, like the very Calvinist preachers the novel parodies, asking to see a supervisor, presenting the references which establish the date of death, and asking why this should even be a sticking point when the novel was published in the United States in 1855!

Finally, KDP capitulated, and published the edition. The Transcriber's Triumph! The things you have to do, sometimes, to get your way in this world.

ffred's nearly-forgotten treasures