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Dark Victorians by Vanessa D.

Dickerson
Review by: Eve Allegra Raimon
The Journal of American History, Vol. 95, No. 4 (Mar., 2009), p. 1172
Published by: Organization of American Historians
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27694623 .
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1172The Journal ofAmerican History March 2009

Dark Victorians. By Vanessa D. Dickerson. abolitionists


Douglass and Brown upon reach

(Urbana: of Illinois Press, 2008. x, to discuss the more re


University ing England complex
163 pp. $35.00, isbn 978-0-252-03256-1.) actions of such celebrated literary Britons
as

Dickens, Carlyle, and others when confronted


At first African with American while most
glance, nineteenth-century slavery. Dickens,
Americans' veneration of British Victorians concerned with matters of while in
copyright
and Britons' fascination with in the the United States, decried the slave system in
slavery
United States both seem
perplexing, consider his American Notes (1842) once he returned
that these coincided with the At the same
ing phenomena home. time, he shared the visceral

height of the British Empire and, therefore, distaste of theblack body that in thenineteenth
with the forced labor of blacks around the
century was common to both white Americans
Nonetheless, as Vanessa D. Dickerson's
globe. and Victorians, who were the emer
absorbing
Dark Victorians shows, a
relation
complex gent theories of scientific racialism.
between the two
ship developed populations, the most contribution
Perhaps original
conducted transatlantic visits and the of Dark Victorians is its
through unlikely comparison
literature that grew out of them. of the British conservative Carlyle with the
Dark Victorians a trend in African
joins "Black Victorian" Du Bois (p. 95). Dickerson
American that takes a closer
literary history asserts that Carlyle's doctrine of
convincingly
look at such real?or
imagined?crossings the Tightnessof heroworship helped shapeDu
and how they shaped culture on both sides Bois's famous notion of the "talented tenth,"
of theAtlantic Ocean. Along with Audrey A. who would lead his race forward. Moreover,
Fisch's American Slaves in Victorian
England World War
after I Du Bois became, likeCar
(2000) and other studies,Dickerson's book of a critic of as a of gov
lyle, democracy system
fers an important contribution to the field of
ernment. The difference, she has
important
American studies by reexamining literary pro tens to note, is that while remained a
Carlyle
duction a transatlantic
about slavery from per staunch Du Bois moved toward
reactionary,
spective. Dickerson's work extends this trend
socialism and Pan-Africanism.
the "intercultural relations" be
by addressing While the manuscript of Dark Victorians
tween black Americans and British Victori
seems not to have been
ans on both carefully
copyedited,
shores is aware
(p. 5). The author and its conclusion into twenty
leaps abruptly
that her may strike some readers
undertaking its sus
as Eurocentric first-century commodity capitalism,
in its stress on British cultural
tained focus on the fluid nature of cultural
She counters
that charge by insist
authority. between Victorian Britain and Afri
the on nature exchange
ing, rightly, "hyperhybridized" can America offers a addition to the
of African Americans in the United States and significant
field by a more view
the extraordinary influence of Victorian cul providing comprehensive
of transatlantic on and race
ture on white and black Americans before the authorship slavery
in the antebellum
CivilWar period.
(p. 6).
Indeed,Dickerson's project is to
explore
Eve Allegra Raimon
the
complicated
"romance" between African University ofSouthernMaine
Americans and Britain by examining the works Lewiston, Maine

of, among others, Thomas Carlyle, Charles

Dickens, Frederick Douglass, William Wells Kate Field: TheMany Lives of a Nineteenth
Brown, and W. E. B. Du Bois in order to un American Journalist. Scharn
Century By Gary
derstand the phenomenon of "Black Victori horst. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press,
anism." Thus, it studies the response of British 2008. xvi, 306 pp. $27.95, isbn 978-0-8156
travelers commenting on inAmerica as 0874-5.)
slavery
much as it does African Americans'
profound,
yet tenuous, experience of freedom in
Eng
Few todayhave heard ofKate Field, one of the
land. best-known of the nineteenth
personalities
Dickerson's analysis goes beyond the well century. Author, lecturer, actress,
playwright,
known expressions of relief of the renowned editor, writer, and Field knew al
publicist,

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