Excerpts from two reviews of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the first from a Boston journal, the second from The Southern Literary Messenger, published in Richmond.
....The enthusiastic reception of Mrs. Stowe's novel is the result of various causes. One is the merit of the book itself. It is, unquestionably, a work of genius…. It has the capital excellence of exciting the interest of the reader; this never stops or falters from the beginning to the end....
But whatever may be the literary merits of Uncle Tom, they do not account for its success.… It is true, that, were Uncle Tom not well written, it would not have produced these effects; but the result is so disproportioned to its merit as a work of art, that we must look to other causes. The book has one idea and purpose to which it is wholly devoted. Its sole object is to reveal to the world the nature of American slavery, and thus to promote the cause of abolition....
Another cause of the wide-spread popularity of Uncle Tom is its foundation in truth. It is a highly-colored description of a reality. This is undeniable by any one who can reflect on what must be the consequences of absolute and irresponsible power, bestowed without reference to character. Here is the real source of the power of the work. Were it a mere fanciful picture of ideal scenes, it would have already taken the place of other falsehoods, and been forgotten; for it does not pretend to be a work of mere imagination, and if it did, it wants the creative power, the touches of genius, that could give it life as such. If it be not founded on truth, it is nothing….
Unsigned, North American Review Boston, October 1853.
…We dismiss Mrs. Stowe: and we claim credit for our forbearance in thus resisting the temptation to castigate the improprieties of a woman, who has abandoned the elevated sphere appropriate to her sex, and descended into the arena of civil dissension and political warfare….
We have said that Uncle Tom's Cabin is a fiction. It is a fiction throughout; a fiction in form; a fiction in its facts; a fiction in its representations and coloring; a fiction in its statements; a fiction in its sentiments; a fiction in its morals; a fiction in its religion; a fiction in its inferences; a fiction equally with regard to the subjects it is designed to expound, and with respect to the manner of their exposition. It is a fiction, not for the sake of more effectually communicating truth; but for the purpose of more effectually disseminating a slander. It is a fictitious or fanciful representation for the sake of producing fictitious or false impressions. Fiction is its form and falsehood is its end....
Unsigned (probably John R. Thompson), Southern Literary Messenger Review (Richmond, October 1852).
From "Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture" website.