Boston: Phillips, Sampson & Company, 1856. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding stamped in gilt and blind. Yellow endpapers. Some fading to spine, with cloth generally a bit rubbed; small chips to spine ends and minor fraying to corners. Early ownership signatures of M. Nett and T.B. Long to front pastedown; ownership inscription to front endpaper, "Thomas B. Long, May 5th 1868." Internally with a bit of toning as is expected of the period, and some marginal staining not affecting text on pages 430-433 and 452-464. With first endpaper excised, else complete. An early anti-racist novel by Mary Hayden Green, under one of her preferred pseudonyms, nicer than is typically found.
"Mary Hayden Green Pike, a pre-Civil War novelist of Calais, Maine, was one of the more popular writers to follow in the wake of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Deeply concerned with the moral issues at the root of slavery, she visited the South, where she made close observation of the system...Her second novel, Caste, dealt with the problems of racial discrimination, particularly that of miscegenation" (Griffin). Though composed in the popular sentimental style of the 1850s, Caste's unabashed depiction of the violence caused by systemic racism -- particularly to women of color -- met with some opposition in its time for being too overtly abolitionist. Following the governess Helen Dupre's life as a governess on a Southern plantation, Pike initially presents her protagonist as living a happy life, perceiving the enslaved people around her as "happy and well cared for...because she sees few examples of the system's real cruelties" (Griffin). But slowly, her eyes are opened to the atrocities around her, beginning with the separation of an enslaved husband and wife, and their desperate attempt to escape North. When Helen and her suitor Hubert Warner, a South Carolina plantation heir, discover her own interracial heritage, they are also ripped apart by the system that defined Helen as less than human. Initially contemplating suicide, Helen ultimately accepts the beauty of her identity; she and Hubert escape to Europe to begin anew, and to learn this version of their lives in a more accepting culture. An overt critique of American racism and a call not only for abolition, but for the recognition of BIPOC people's dignity and humanity within society. Very Good + (Item #3948)