A Los Angeles auction house Thursday put a historical item up for sale with Massachusetts ties: an 1852 letter that author and antislavery activist Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote from Andover.
On its website, Nate D. Sanders Auctions said the letter, penned by Stowe on Oct. 27, 1852, was written at the height of the popularity of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” her novel chronicling the barbaric cruelty of American slavery.
The Eagle-Tribune first reported on the auction.
“Stowe writes to an unnamed gentleman who had sent her an article,” the auction house said. “She writes in part, ‘ . . . I am obliged to you for sending me the ‘text to my subject’ enclosed in your letter. It will be a very good one. Any one that stirs up this subject of southern law as a defence of slavery emphatically wakes up the wrong passenger. Nothing more is needed than to awaken the attention of the public to an expose of the slave law system. If they desire law on this subject, they shall have it.’ ”
The auction house also noted that President Abraham Lincoln reportedly said to Stowe in 1862 as the Civil War raged, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.’’
Bidding was set to end at 8 p.m. Thursday, with a minimum bid of $21,000 required to enter the fray. Prospective buyers can bid online. A first-edition printing of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was also available from the auction house, with a minimum bid of $20,000 required.
The novel was serialized in the National Era, an abolitionist newspaper, in 1851-1852 and issued as a book in 1852.
Its publication was an international sensation. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” sold 10,000 copies the first week it rolled off the presses. In the first year, it sold 300,000 copies in the United States. In Britain, it sold 1.5 million in a single year. It was translated into 48 languages before Stowe’s death at 85 in 1896.