Wilfrid and Mary; or, Father and Daughter, A Domestic Comedy illustrative of American Slave Life

Wilfrid and Mary; or, Father and Daughter, A Domestic Comedy illustrative of American Slave Life

Edinburgh, London, and New York: Myles Macphail, Simpkin Marshall, Appelton, 1861. Hardcover. First American Edition. Complete with 72 pages. 4.5” x 7.5”. Sound binding; rear hinge starting. Light soiling to some pages. Sunned cover with gilded, stamped title. Spine covering has all but perished. Good to Very Good. Item #009234

An excellent example of an abolitionist play of “exquisite reality of representation” published for the British market. St. Bo (a pseudonym for an unidentified author) probably never intended for his play to be performed and there is no record of any public production.

This romantic melodrama touches upon many conventions and stereotypes of abolitionist novels and theater: a dastardly overseer, a sympathetic plantation owner with a faithful Uncle Tomish slave who illegally has been taught to read, a coon song, a harrowing escape, minstrel-like dialect and jokes, laws against miscegenation, the Fugitive Slave Act, etc. It centers on Wilfrid, a Georgia widower whose plantation was located near Milledgeville, and his daughter, Mary. Wilfrid has just recently learned that, perhaps through mismanagement or fraud by his evil overseer, Swanston all of his property, including his slaves have fallen under the control of a conniving and lecherous lawyer, Vellum. As the date of sale for the estate approaches, Vellum informs Wilfrid that he knows his hidden secret; Mary is Wilfrid’s daughter by his now deceased beloved “quadroon concubine.” Vellum informs Wilfrid, that Mary will be sold at public auction along with the other slaves unless Wilfrid agrees that he may purchase her in a direct, discrete sale. After Wilfrid informs the very light-skinned Mary, who had no idea her mother had been a slave, of their plight, she runs to her appropriately named true love, Wilberforce, who crafts a successful plan to foil Vellum and allow all three to escape to Canada via Cincinnati. See “Wilfrid and Mary” in MacPail’s Edinburgh Ecclesiastical Journal and Literary Review, CLXXV, June 1861 and Collins’s American Drama in Antislavery Agitation 1792-1861.

Rather scarce outside of institutional holdings, although reprints, microform, and digital editions are available. As of 2019, although about thirty institutions hold copies.

Price: $300.00

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