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A Romance of the Republic

A Romance of the Republic

Lydia Maria Child
Edited with an Introduction by Dana D. Nelson
Copyright Date: 1867
Edition: 1
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    A Romance of the Republic
    Book Description:

    A Romance of the Republic, published in 1867, was Lydia Maria Child's fourth novel and the capstone of her remarkable literary career. Written shortly after the Civil War, it offered a progressive alternative toUncle Tom's Cabin. Writer, magazine publisher and outspoken abolititionist, Child defied the norms of gender and class decorum in this novel by promoting interracial marriage as a way blacks and whites could come to view each other with sympathy and understanding. In constructing the tale of fair-skinned Rosa and Flora Royal -- daughters of a slaveowner whose mother was also the daughter of a slaveowner -- Child consciously attempted to counter two popular claims: that racial intermarriage was "unnatural" and that slavery was a benevolent institution. But Child's target was not merely racism. Her characters are forced both to reconsider their attitudes toward "white" and "black" and to question the very foundation of the patriarchal society in which they live.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4910-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. v-xxii)
    Dana D. Nelson

    In 1833, theNorth American Reviewpronounced Lydia Maria Child “the first woman in the republic.” The article, which summarized her literary works to date, continued: “We are not sure that any woman in our country would outrank Mrs. Child.” As Carolyn L. Karcher observes in her important biography of this central, and, until recently, nearly forgotten literary figure, Lydia Maria Francis Child (1802-1880) had craved such recognition for her writing throughout her early career.! The youngest daughter of a baker, Lydia Francis had always loved books and ideas. As a child she had formed a reading partnership with her...

    (pp. 1-15)

    “What are you going to do with yourself this evening, Alfred?” said Mr. Royal to his companion, as they issued from his counting-house in New Orleans. “Perhaps I ought to apologize for not calling you Mr. King, considering the shortness of our acquaintance; but your father and I were like brothers in our youth, and you resemble him so much, I can hardly realize that you are not he himself, and I still a young man. It used to be a joke with us that we must be cousins, since he was a King and I was of the Royal...

    (pp. 16-27)

    The sun was up before he woke. He rose hastily and ordered breakfast and a horse; for he had resolved the day before upon an early ride. A restless, undefined feeling led him in the same direction he had taken the preceding evening. He passed the house that would forevermore be a prominent feature in the landscape of his life. Vines were gently waving in the morning air between the pillars of the piazza, where he had lingered entranced to hear the tones of “Buena Notte.” The bright turban of Tulipa was glancing about, as she dusted the blinds. A...

    (pp. 28-35)

    A year passed away, and the early Southern spring had again returned with flowers and fragrance. After a day in music and embroidery, with sundry games at Battledoor and The Graces with her sister, Floracita heard the approaching footsteps of her father, and, as usual, bounded forth to meet him. Anyone who had not seen him since he parted from the son of his early New England friend would have observed that he looked older and more careworn; but his daughters, accustomed to see him daily, had not noticed the gradual change.

    “You have kept us waiting a little, Papasito,”...

    (pp. 36-46)

    Floracita was still in the full career of fun, when footsteps were heard approaching; and, as usual, she bounded forth to welcome her father. Several men, bearing a palanquin on their shoulders, were slowly ascending the piazza. She gave one glance at their burden, and uttered a shrill scream. Rosabella hastened to her in great alarm. Tulipa followed, and quickly comprehending that something terrible had happened, she hurried away to summon Madame Guirlande. Rosabella, pale and trembling, gasped out, “What has happened to my father?”

    Franz Blumenthal, a favorite clerk of Mr. Royal’s, replied, in a low, sympathizing tone, “He...

    (pp. 47-65)

    Such sudden reverses, such overwhelming sorrows, mature characters with wonderful rapidity. Rosa, though formed by nature and habit to cling to others, soon began to form plans for future support. Her inexperienced mind foresaw few of the difficulties involved in the career her friends had suggested. She merely expected to study and work hard; but that seemed a trifle, if she could avoid for herself and her sister the publicity which their father had so much dreaded.

    Floracita, too, seemed like a tamed bird. She was sprightly as ever in her motions, and quick in her gestures? but she would...

    (pp. 66-74)

    Mr. fitzgerald lingered on the wharf till the vessel containing his treasure was no longer visible. Then he returned to the carriage, and was driven to his hotel. Notwithstanding a day of very unusual excitement and fatigue, when he retired to rest he felt no inclination to sleep. Rosabella floated before him as he had first seen her, a radiant vision of beauty surrounded by flowers. He recalled the shy pride and maidenly modesty with which she had met his ardent glances and impassioned words. He thought of the meek and saddened expression of her face, as he had seen...

    (pp. 75-92)

    The scenery of the South was in the full glory of June, when Mr. Fitzgerald, Rosa, and Floracita were floating up the Savannah River in a boat manned by negroes, who ever and anon waked the stillness of the woods with snatches of wild melody. They landed on a sequestered island which ocean and river held in their arms. Leaving the servants to take care of the luggage, they strolled along over a carpet of wild-flowers, through winding bridle-paths, where glances of bright water here and there gleamed through the dark pines that were singing their sleepy chorus, with its...

    (pp. 93-107)

    A week later, when Gerald had gone to Savannah and Rosa was taking her daily siesta, Floracita filled Thistle’s panniers with several little pasteboard boxes, and, without saying anything to Tulee, mounted and rode off in a direction she had never taken, except in the barouche. She was in search of the Welby plantation.

    Mrs. Delano, who was busy with ber crochet-needle near the open window, was surprised to see a light little figure seated on a donkey riding up the avenue. As soon as Floracità dismounted, she recognized her, and descended the steps of the piazza to welcome her....

    (pp. 108-116)

    Rosa was surprised at the long absence of her sister; and when the sun showed only a narrow golden edge above the horizon, she began to feel anxious. She went to the kitchen and said, “Tulee, have you seen anything of Floracita lately? She went away while I was sleeping.”

    “No, missy,” she replied. “The last I see of her was in her room, with the embroidery-frame before her. She was looking out of the window, as she did sometimes, as if she was looking nowhere. She jumped up and hugged and kissed me, and called me ‘Dear Tlllee, good...

    (pp. 117-126)

    Rosabella had never experienced such loneliness as in the months that followed. All music was saddened by far-off echoes of past accompaniments. Embroidery lost its interest with no one to praise the work, or to be consulted in the choice of colors and patterns. The books Gerald occasionally sent were of a light character, and though they served to while away a listless hour, there was nothing in them to strengthen or refresh the soul. The isolation was the more painful because there was everything around her to remind her of the lost and the absent. Flora’s unfinished embroidery still...

    (pp. 127-137)

    In less than three weeks after that tender parting, an elegant barouche stopped in front of Magnolia Lawn, and Mr. Fitzgerald assisted a very pretty blonde young lady to alight from it. As she entered the parlor, wavering gleams of sunset lighted up the pearl-colored paper, softened by lace-shadows from the windows. The lady glanced round the apartment with a happy smile, and, turning to the window, said: “What a beautiful lawn ! What superb trees!”

    “Does it equal your expectations, dear?” he asked. “You had formed such romantic ideas of the place, I feared you might be disappointed.”


    (pp. 138-144)

    Mr. fitzgerald had ordered his horse to be saddled at an earlier hour than Tom had ever known him to ride, except on a hunting excursion, and in his own mind heconc1uded that his master would be asleep at the hour he had indicated. Before he stretched himself on the floor for the night, he expressed this opinion to the cook by saying, “Yer know, Dinah, white folks is allers mighty wide awake de night afore dey gits up.”

    To his surprise, however, Mr. Fitzgerald made his appearance at the stable just as he was beginning to comb the horse....

    (pp. 145-159)

    If Flora could have known all this, the sisters would have soon been locked in each other’s arms; but while she supposed that Rosa still regarded Mr. Fitzgerald with perfect love and confidence, no explanation of her flight could be given. She did indeed need to be often reminded by Mrs. Delano that it would be the most unkind thing toward her sister, as well as hazardous to herself, to attempt any communication. Notwithstanding the tenderest care for her comfort and happiness, she could not help being sometimes oppressed with homesickness. Her Boston home was tasteful and elegant, but everything...

    (pp. 160-170)

    Alfred r. king, when summoned home to Boston by the illness of his mother, had, by advice of physicians, immediately accompanied her to the South of France, and afterward to Egypt. Finding little benefit from change of climate, and longing for familiar scenes and faces, she urged her son to return to New England, after a brief sojourn in Italy. She was destined never again to see the home for which she yearned. The worn-out garment of her soul was laid away under a flowery mound in Florence, and her son returned alone. During the two years thus occupied, communication...

    (pp. 171-186)

    Rosa came out of her swoon in a slow fever accompanied with delirium. Tulee was afraid to leave her long enough to go to the plantation in search of Tom; and having no medicines at hand, she did the best thing that could have been done. She continually moistened the parched tongue with water, and wiped the hot skin with wet cloths. While she was doing this, tears fell on her dear young mistress, lying there so broken and helpless, talking incoherently about her father and Floracita, about being a slave and, being sold. This continued eight or ten days,...

    (pp. 187-205)

    Madame’s anxiety was much diminished after she began to receive letters in Rosa’s own handwriting; but, knowing the laws of Georgia, and no longer doubtful concerning Fitzgerald’s real character, she placed small reliance upon his promise of manumission. “This is another of his deceptions,” said she to the Signor. “I have been thinking a good deal about the state of things, and I am convinced there will be no security in this country for that poor girl. You have been saying for some time that you wanted to see your beautiful Italy again, and I have the same feeling about...

    (pp. 206-217)

    While Rosabella had been passing through these dark experiences, Flora was becoming more and more accustomed to her new situation. She strove bravely to conceal the homesickness which she could not always conquer; but several times, in the course of their travels, Mrs. Delano noticed moisture gathering on her long black eyelashes when she saw the stars and stripes floating from the mast of a vessel. Once, when a rose was given hel, she wept outright; but she soon wiped her eyes, and apologized by saying: “I wonder whether a Pensee – Vivace makes Rosa feel as I do when I...

    (pp. 218-226)

    Though Flora had been so wakeful the preceding night, she tapped at Mrs. Delano’s door very early the next morning. “Excuse me for coming before you were dressed,” said she; “but I wanted to ask you how long you think it will be before Mr. Percival can find out whether Mr. Fitzgerald has brought Rosa with him.” “Protably not before noon,” replied Mrs. Delano, drawing the anxious little face toward her, and imprinting on it her morning kiss. “Last evening I wrote a note to Mr. Green, requesting him to dispose of the opera tickets to other friends. Mr. Fitzgerald...

    (pp. 227-232)

    While Flora was listlessly gazing at Monte Pincio from the solitude of her room in the Via delle Quattro Fontane, Rosabella was looking at the same object, seen at a greater distance, over intervening houses, from her high lodgings in the Corso. She could see the road winding like a ribbon round the hilI, with a medley of bright colors continually moving over it. But she was absorbed in revery, and they floated round and round before her mental eye, like the revolving shadows of a magic lantern.

    She was announced to sing that night, as the new Spanish prima...

    (pp. 233-244)

    She slept late the next day, and woke with a feeling of utter weariness of body and prostration of spirit. When her dressing-maid Giovanna came at her summonf, she informed her that a gentleman had twice called to see her, but left no name or card. “Let no one be admitted to-day but the manager of the opera,” said Rosa. “I will dress now; and if Mamma Balbino is at leisure, I should like to have her come and talk with me while I breakfast.”

    “Madame has gone out to make some purchases,” replied Giovanna. “She said she should return...

    (pp. 245-254)

    The engagement of the Senorita Rosita Campaneo was for four weeks, during which Mr. King called frequently and attended the opera constantly. Every personal interview, and every vision of her on the stage, deepened the impression she made upon him when they first met. It gratified him to see that, among the shower of bouquets she was constantly receiving, his was the one she usually carried; nor was she unobservant that he always wore a fresh rose. But she was unconscious of his continual guardianship, and he was careful that she should remain so. Every night that she went to...

    (pp. 255-269)

    While Rosabella was thus exchanging the laurel crown for the myrtle wreath, Flora and her friend were on their way to search the places that had formerly known her. Accompanied by Mr. Jacobs, who had long been a steward in her family, Mrs. Delano passed through Savannah, without calling on her friend Mrs. Welby, and in a hired boat proceeded to the island. Flora almost flew over the ground, so great was her anxiety to reach the cottage. Nature, which pursues her course with serene indifference to human vicissitudes, wore the same smiling aspect it had worn two years before,...

    (pp. 270-284)

    About two months after their return from the South, Mr. Percival called one evening, and said: “Do you know Mr. Brick, the police-officer? I met him just now, and he stopped me. ‘There’s plenty of work. for you Abolitionists now-a-days,’ said he. 'There are five Southerners at the Tremont, inquiring for runaways, and cursing Garrison. An agent arrived last night from Fitzgerald’s plantation,he that married Bell’s daughter, you know. He sent for me to give me a description of a nigger that had gone off in a mysterious way to parts unknown. He wanted me to try to find the...

    (pp. 285-295)

    An interval of nineteen years elapsed, bringing with them various changes to the personages of this story. A year after Mr. Fitzgerald’s return from Europe, a feud sprang up between him and his father-in-law, Mr. Bell, growing out of his dissipated and spendthrift habits. His intercourse with Boston was consequently suspended, and the fact of Flora’s existence remained unknown to him. He died nine years after he witnessed the dazzling apparition of Rosa in Rome, and the history of his former relation to her was buried with him, as were several other similar secrets. There was generally supposed to be...

    (pp. 296-306)

    Mrs. green’s ball wastheparty of the season. Five hundred invitations were sent out, all of them to people unexceptionable for wealth, or fashion, or some sort of high distinction, political, literary, or artistic. Smith had receivedcarte blancheto prepare the most luxurious and elegant supper poilsible. Mrs. Green was resplendent with diamonds; and the house was so brilliantly illuminated, that the windows of carriages traversing that part of Beacon Street glittered as if touched by the noonday sun. A crowd collected on the Common, listening to the band of music, and watching the windows of the princely...

    (pp. 307-318)

    Strange contrasts occur in human society, even where there is such a strong tendency toward equality as there is in New England. A few hours before Queen Fashion held her splendid court in Beacon Street, a vessel from New Orleans called “The King Cotton” approached Long Wharf in Boston. Before she touched the pier, a young man jumped on board from another vessel close by. He went directly up to the captain, and said, in a low, hurried tone: “Let nobody land. You have slaves on board. Mr. Bell is in a carriage on the wharf waiting to speak to...

    (pp. 319-329)

    A few days past the middle of the following May, a carriage stopped before the house of Mr. Joseph Bright, in Northampton, and Mrs. Delano, with all the Blumenthal family, descended from it. Mr. Bright received them at the gate, his face smiling all over. “You’re welcome, ladies,“ said he. “Walk in ! walk in ! Betsey, this is Mrs. Delano. This is Mrs. Bright, ladies. Things ain’t so stylish here as at your house; but I hope you ’II find ’em comfortable.”

    Mrs. Bright, a sensible-looking woman, with great moderation of manner, showed them into a plainly furnished, but...

    (pp. 330-337)

    So youarealive!” exclaimed Rosa, holding her sister back a little, and gazing upon her face with all her

    soul in her eyes.

    “Yes, verymuchalive,” answered Flora, with a smile that brought out all her dimples. “But do tell me,” said Rosa, “how you came to go away so strangely, and leave me to mourn for you as if you were dead.”

    The dimples disappeared, and a shadow clouded Flora’s expressive eyes, as she replied: “It would take a long while to explain all that,sistita mia.“We will talk it over another time, please.”

    Rosa sighed...

    (pp. 338-344)

    When the sisters were alone together, the next day after dinner, Flora said, “Rosa, dear, does it pain you very much to hear about Mr. Fitzgerald?”

    “No; that wound has healed,” she replied. “It is merely a sad memory now.”

    “Mrs. Bright was nursery governess in his family before her marriage,” rejoined Flora. “I suppose you have

    heard that he disappeared mysteriously. I think she may know something about it, and I have been intending to ask her; but your sudden appearance, and the quantity of things we have had to say to each other, have driven it out of...

    (pp. 345-356)

    If young Fitzgerald had not been strongly inclined to spend the summer in Northampton, he would have been urged to it by his worldly-minded mother and grandfather, who were disposed to make any effort to place him in the vicinity of Eulalia King. They took possession of lodgings on Round Hill in June; and though very few weeks intervened before the college vacation, the time seemed so long to Gemld, that he impatiently counted the days. Twice he took the journey for a shbrt visit before he was established as an inmate of his grandfather’s household. Alfred Blumenthal had a...

    (pp. 357-365)

    That evening young Fitzgerald was closeted two or three hours with Mr. King. Though the disclosure was made with the utmost delicacy and caution, the young man was startled and shocked; for he inherited pride from both his parents, and he had been educated in the prejudices of his grandfather. At first he flushed with indignation, and refused to believe he was so disgraced.

    “I don’t see that you are disgraced, my young friend,” replied Mr. King. “The world might indeed so misjudge, because it is accustomed to look only on externals; but there is no need that the world...

    (pp. 366-379)

    The next morning after these conversations, Mrs. Blumenthal, who was as yet unconscious of the secret they had revealed, was singing in the garden, while she gathered some flowers for her vases. Mr. Bright, who was cutting up weeds, stopped and listened, keeping time on the handle of his hoe. When Flora came up to him, she glanced at the motion of his fingers and smiled. “Can’t help it, ma’am,” said he. “When I hear your voice, it's as much as e. er I can do to keep from dancing; but if I should do that, I should shock my...

    (pp. 380-388)

    The probability that the lost child was alive and in slavery was a very serious complication of existing difficulties. Thinking it prudent to prepare Gerald’s mind for any contingencies that might occur, Mr. King proceeded immediately to Boston to have a conference with him. The young man received the news with unexpected composure.

    “It will annoy Lily-mother very much,” said he, “and on that account I regret it; but so far as I am myself concerned, it would in some respects be a relief to me to get out of the false position in which I find myself. Grandfather Bell...

    (pp. 389-394)

    The old merchant received Mr. King with marked politeness; for though he suspected him of antislavery proclivities, and despised him for that weakness, he had great respect for a man whose name was as good as gold, and who was the father of such an eligible match as Eulalia.

    After some discursive conversation, Mr. King said, "I am desirous to tell you a short story, if you will have patience to listen to it.”

    “Certainly, sir,” replied the old gentleman.

    His visitor accordingly began by telling of Mr. Royal’s having formed one of those quadroon alliances so common in New...

    (pp. 395-402)

    A few weeks after the funeral of Mr. Bell, Gerald wrote the following letter to Mr. King:—“My honored and dear Friend, —Lily-mother has decided to go to Europe this fall, that I may have certain educational advantages which she has planned for me. That is the only reason she assigns; but she is evidently nervous about your investigations, and I think a wish to be out of the country for the present has had some effect in producing this decision. I have not sought to influence her concerning this, or the other important point you wot of. My desire...

    (pp. 403-412)

    Through the following year, the political sky grew ever darker with impending clouds, crinkled with lightning, and vocal with growlings of approaching thunder. The North continued to make servile concessions, which history will blush to record; but they proved unavailing. The arrogance of slaveholders grew by what it fed on. Though a conscientious wish to avoid civil war mingled largely with the selfishness of trade, and the heartless gambling of politicians, all was alike interpreted by them as signs of Northern cowardice. At last, the Sumter gun was heard booming through the gathering storm. Instantly, the air was full of...

    (pp. 413-422)

    When mr. King returned from his mournful journey to Washington, he said to his wife: “I saw George Falkner, and was pleased with him. His resemblance to poor Gerald is wonderful. I could see no difference, except a firmer expression of the mouth, which I suppose is owing to his determined efforts to escape from slavery. Of course, he has not Gerald’s gracefulness; but his bearing seemed manly, and there was no obvious stamp of vulgarity upon him. It struck me that his transformation into a gentleman would be an easy process. I was glad our interview was a hurried...

    (pp. 423-430)

    The months passed on, and brought ever-recurring demands for more soldiers. Mr. King watched the progress of the struggle with the deepest anxiety.

    One day, when he had seen a new regiment depart for the South, he returned home in a still more serious mood than was now habitual to him. After supper, he opened the Evening Transcript, and read for a while. Then turning to his wife, who sat near him knitting for the army, he said, “Dear Rosabella, during all the happy years that I have been your husband, you have never failed to encourage me in every...

    (pp. 431-442)

    Another year brought with it what was supposed to be peace, and the army was disbanded. Husband and son returned alive and well, and Flora was her young self again. In the exuberance of her joy she seemed more juvenile than her girls; jumping from husband to son and from son to husband, kissing them and calling them all manner of pet names; embracing Mrs. Delano at intervals, and exclaiming, “O Mamita, here we are all together again! I wish my arms were long enough to hug you all at once.”

    “I thank God, my child, for your sake and...