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"People Will Pay To Hear The Drama": Plagiarism in Clotel.

It is no secret that William Wells Brown did not write everything that appears under his name in Clotel; or, the President's Daughter, the first published novel by an African American. Since 1969, when William Edward Farrison published an edition of Clotel with extensive notes on Brown's sources, scholars have known that Brown lifted passages from Lydia Maria Child's "The Quadroons," John Reilly Beard's The Life of Touissant L'Ouverture, Bishop William Meade's Sermons Addressed to Masters and Servants, and Theodore Weld's Slavery As It Is. Almost all of chapters four and eight and part of chapter twenty-three are taken from "The Quadroons"; the opening of chapter twenty-three and ten sentences in chapter twenty-four are taken from The Life of Touissant L'Ouverture; eight paragraphs in chapter six are taken from Meade's collection; and four sentences from Weld's introduction appear in chapter sixteen. Elsewhere, Farrison shows, Brown recycles some of his own previously published material, reprints a poem by Grace Greenwood without identifying her as the author, and incorporates newspaper articles without citing their actual sources. (1) In the latter cases, Brown does not actually represent the work of another writer as his own; at most, he simply leaves open the possibility that he composed the passages. The same is true of several similar cases identified by Robert S. Levine in his 2000 edition of Clotel. (2) In a 2005 online edition of the novel, however, Christopher Mulvey reported the discovery of six more plagiarized passages, four of which are voiced by Georgiana Carlton, the most lecture-prone character in the novel. (3) That brought the total amount of the plagiarism in Clotel to eighteen passages, or 4,781 words, derived from eight different sources.

This is, however, just the tip of a very large iceberg, a mass of information about Brown's expropriative practices, derived from phrase searches on various online databases, that is likely to occupy scholars for a long time to come. In a chapter on Clotel in her forthcoming Preaching and the Rise of the American Novel, Dawn Coleman identifies another twenty-six plagiarized passages, most of which are, like the passages identified by Mulvey, either sermonic or oratorical. (4) In those twenty-six passages, Brown copies 4,016 words from twenty different sources. Here, for ease of reference, is a table indicating their location--keyed to chapter and page number in the 1853 edition--and source.
 Passages in Clotel
Narrator: "Marriage is, indeed William Bowditch, Slavery and ...
relation being protected." the Constitution
, 56-57 (283 (1: 57-58) words)
Narrator: "What words can tell George Allen, Resistance to ...
meekness to forgive it." Slavery
, 15-16 (78 words) (1: 64)
Peck: "I have searched in vain Col. Wm. F. Hutson, Rev. of ... as
his necessity History of the Girondists
, enforces." (6: 88-89) 401-02 (242 words)
Peck: "The Bible furnishes to [James Thornwell], "Religious
us ... become an easy prey." Instruction," 108 (170
words) (6: 89-90)
Georgiana: "We must try the Allen, Resistance to Slavery
, character ... toil, through 13 (223 words) life." (6: 91-92)
Georgiana: "True Christian Thomas Reade, Christian love ...
Jesus Christ in Retirement
, 375 (20 words) sincerity." (6: 92)
Snyder: "Q.
 What command Bowditch, Slavery
, 50 (300 has God ... harbour a runaway? words) A.
 No. (6: 98-99)
Snyder: "No community can be John Gorham Palfrey, Papers on ...
and to social well-being." the Slave Power
, 55 (48 words) (7: 106)
Georgiana: "To claim, hold, La Roy Sunderland, and treat ...
against God and Anti-Slavery Manual
, 40 (16 man." (10: 115) words)
Georgiana: "The Christian La Roy Sunderland, Testimony
religion ... among murderers." of God
, 159 (18 words) (10: 115)
Georgiana: "Slaveholding is Theodore Weld, The Bible the
highest ... life-long against Slavery
, 11 (29 words) theft." (10: 115-16)
Georgiana: "When the Redeemer An Address to Free Colored ... who
are bound." (10: Americans
, 24-25 (385 words) 116-17)
Georgiana: "for the argument William Weston Patton, from ...
character of God." Slavery--The (10: 117-18)
, 6, 7 (28
Georgiana: "When he designed [Sarah Grimke], Address to ...
into he joy of your Lord." Free Colored Americans
, 14, 28 (10: 120) (199 words)
Narrator: "the right to enjoy Grimke, Address
, 5 (37 words) ... an act of gross injustice" (10: 121)
Narrator: "On the last Stewart, A Legal Argument
, day ... come to 9-10 (450 words) an end?" (21:
Narrator: "Commiseration for Benjamin Hughes, Eulogium on human
... at surrounded ... William Wilberforce
, 13 theirs." (21: 184-85) (103 words)
Narrator: "We learn from Parker Pillsbury, The Church
Scripture ... do ye even so to As It Is
, 78 (96 words) them." (21: 185)
Georgiana: "I dare not predict William Lloyd Garrison, An ...
until hey are Address
, 6, 7, 8, 10 (208 intelligent." (21: 186) words)
Georgiana: "Its pretences are Garrison, Thoughts on African
false ... its means Colonization
, 14 (10 words) contemptible." (21: 186)
Georgiana: "if we send away Garrison, Thoughts on African ...
and the same purpose?" Colonization
, 14 (36 words) (21: 187)
Narrator: "The most beautiful James Montgomery, Gleanings
flowers ... no more known on from Pious Authors
, 24 (51 earth." (21: 187-88) words)
Narrator: "In the midst of the [Jane S. Welch],
"Jairus's buoyancy ... cheerlessly upon Daughter," New
England the grave." (21: 189) Offering
, 108 (186 words)
Narrator: "Peace to her ashes! Hughes, Eulogium
, 13 (68 ... priesthood who gave their words) aid" (21: 189)
Narrator: "If true... him Robert Purvis, A Tribute
, 8 afraid" (21: 189) (60 words)
Narrator: "At the dusk ... [Seth Gates], "Slavery in the
beneath the waves of the District," New York Evangelist
river!" (25: 216-18) 8 Sept. 1842 (672" words) 

But even this does not capture the full extent of the plagiarism in Clotel. There are, in fact, at least seventy-three passages, ranging in length from ten to 1,335 consecutive words, that are lifted from other texts. (5) In those passages, Brown copies 13,002 words, nearly twenty-three percent of the novel, from fifty different sources. And if one groups those passages together with all of the epigraphs, poems, songs, newspaper clippings, and miscellaneous quotations in Clotel, the proportion of the novel written by people other than Brown jumps to thirty-five percent. (6) Here are the twenty-nine passages that I am adding to the list begun by Farrison, Mulvey, and Coleman.
 Passages in Clotel
Narrator: "This was a Southern "An Auction," New
York auction ... four hundred dollars Evangelist
 29 Apr. 1847 more." (1: 64) (32 words)
Narrator: "The dogs soon took ... "Hunting Robbers with dogs
are called off." (3: 74-76) Bloodhounds," Utica
 Daily Observer
 25 Sept.
 1848 (598 words)
Narrator: "From some you will ... "Views of the Benevolent
still deeper agony." (5: 86) Society," Alexandria
 22 June 1827 (23
Narrator: "The once unshorn ... "Prospects of
Slavery," New York splendid harvests" (6: 88) Daily
 19 Apr. 1853 (10
Narrator: "where Lombardy poplars Helen de Kroyft, A Place in Thy
... never cease to blossom." (6: Memory
, 23 (26 words) 88)
Narrator: "Her form was tall ... "Charlotte Corday,"
Eclectic youth, beauty, and health." (6: Magazine
, June 1849 (22 words) 91)
Sand Hill minister: "Friends and "Curious Funeral
Service," neighbors! ... fill up the Wellsborough
 (PA) Eagle 7 grave." (7: 103-04) May 1845 (159
Snyder: "Mr. J. Higgerson "Shocking Affair,"
attempted ... end to his life." 11 May 1849 (240 words) (7:105)
Carlton: "They were of a species "A Visit to a
Kennel," London ... for their business." (13:
 29 Dec. 1847 (29 136) words)
Narrator: "The croaking of "The Dismal Swamp,"
Scientific bull-frogs ... made the welkin American
 22 July 1848 (26 words) ring." (16: 149)
Georgiana: "Their good deeds ... William Cooper Nell, Services
of the danger is past." (18: 159) Colored Americans
, 21-22 (55
Narrator: "They were no longer John McDonogh, Letter of John
apparently ... seen and admired McDonogh
, 18 (73 words) by all." (18: 161)
Mr. Parker and Carlton: ""What McDonogh, Letter
, 24-25 (260 kind of people ... like to own words) him. (18: 162)
Narrator: "On the 6th inst.... "Daniel Webster
Mistaken," London were so ear missing." (19: Patriot
 5 Nov. 1849 (241 words) 174-75)
Morton: "That government is Thaddeus Stevens, Speech of Mr.
despotic ... ill brand and God Thaddeus Stevens
, 6-7 (599 words) abhor." (20: 179-80)
Morton: "The loss of a firm Milton Maxcy, An Oration
, 18-19 national ... desolated her (139 words) classic
fields." (20: 181)
Narrator: "The origin of American John Scoble, "American
Slavery," ... perpetrated against 97 (43 words)
humanity." (21: 184)
Stage-coach passengers: "Are you "Smart Boy," Rural
an Odd ... Mr. John Gosling." (Hudson, NY) 6 June 1846 (57
(22: 193) words)
Minister: "I say boldly ... Edward Baines, "Testimony
and converted into bloated Appeal," 10 (253 words) sots
." (22: 197)
Southerner: "You talk of your ... [Parker Pillsbury],
"Strong anthems of the morning stars." Language,"
Ohio Statesman
 13 May (22: 198) 1846 (76 words)
Narrator: "cultivated min ... had "The Woes of
Slavery," Liberator
taken poison." (23:206) 11 Feb. 1853 (29 words)
Narrator: "This was a most "A Peep into an Italian
singular spot ... washed its Interior," Chambers Edinburgh
base" (23: 207) Journal
 (49 words)
Narrator: "uncheered by the voice "Pauline,"
Anti-Slavery Reporter
... she waited for" (24: 214) 1 July 1846 (17 words)
Narrator: "The wind blew strong "The Mother," Albany
 (NY) ... as it did soon after" (26: Evening Journal
 10 Jan. 1849 223) (50 words)
George: "were trifling in [William Lloyd Garrison],
comparison ... a criminal "Declaration," Liberator
 14 Dec. offence." (26: 224) 1833 (82 words)
George: "a traditionary freedom "Shackford's
Letters," North Star
... left unto you desolate" (26: (Rochester, Nr 10 Mar. 1848
(128 225) words)
Narrator: "by a German artist ... "The Translation of St.
illustrious lady of Alexandria." Catherine," People's
 2 (28: 235) (1847) (19 words)
Narrator: "the fountains of "The Mother," Albany
 (NY) mingled grief ... marble-like Evening Journal
 10 Jan. 1849 cheeks." (28: 237) (21 words)
Narrator: "The bells called ... "Pauline,"
Anti-Slavery Reporter
and Presbyterians sprinkled." 1 July 1846 (17 words) (28:

Nine of these passages are, like the passages identified by Mulvey and Coleman, declamatory: the reflections on the sale of Clotel (from "An Auction"), the salute to African American soldiers (from Nell), the two sections of Henry Morton's "true democrat" speech (from Stevens and Maxcy), the dueling perorations of the stagecoach passengers (from Baines and Pillsbury), the comment on the African slave trade (from Scoble), and the two sections of George Green's jailhouse speech (from Garrison and Shackford). Five are versions of the newspaper clippings that Brown so often pins to his pages: the Sand Hill minister's coarse eulogy (from "Curious Funeral Service"), Snyder's account of a resistant slave (from "Shocking Affair"), Carlton's description of a bloodhound kennel (from "A Visit to a Kennel"), an anecdote about an innkeeper who thinks that Daniel Webster is black (from "Daniel Webster Mistaken"), and a description of a light-skinned black woman's suicide (from "The Woes of Slavery"). The other fifteen passages may be categorized, loosely, as colorful anecdotes, sentimental descriptions, evocations of settings, and melodramas of familial separation. Like the description of yellow fever that Brown borrowed from Beard's Life of Touissant L'Ouverture, they do not contribute to the novel's political objectives so much as they extend the range of its idioms and vary the music of its sentences. They include an account of dogs pursuing fugitive slaves (from "Hunting Robbers with Bloodhounds"), an introductory description of Poplar Farm (from "Prospects of Slavery" and de Kroyft), a sketch of Georgiana's appearance (from "Charlotte Corday"), an itemization of animal and insect noises (from "The Dismal Swamp"), a two-part illustration of the energies of free black laborers (from McDonogh), a comic routine involving an inexperienced farmer (from "Smart Boy"), a depiction of a forested cliff on the Louisiana coast (from "A Peep into an Italian Interior"), portrayals of the pain of separation (two from "Pauline," one from "Views of the Benevolent Society"), a description of a burning building (from "The Mother"), a description of a weeping woman (also from "The Mother"), and a reference to a German engraving (from "The Translation of St. Catherine").

In what follows, I will explore the significance of the latter group of passages by way of an analysis of the scene in chapter one in which Clotel is sold at auction. After showing how Brown's revisions of the original version of the scene foreground the activity of "an unfettered mind, free to skip wantonly from detail to detail" (Tamarkin 199), I will suggest two things about the way in which Brown plagiarizes in Clotel. First, he tends to insert passages that are noticeably more colloquial or more formal than the ordinary level of his prose in order to induce in the reader the sense of a sudden leap or drop in linguistic status. (7) By maximizing the force of the contrast between the various discursive modes that he employs, as opposed to blending them into a single complex mode, he fills the text with breaks--interludes and ruptures--that emphasize his companionable versatility: his ability, as "host," to change things up and keep things moving. Second, he has a strong preference for passages in which a ceaseless movement is evoked, a movement that proceeds, as it were, from nowhere, or from no human agent. In spite of all of the sermonizing in Clotel, the essential spirit of the novel is the spirit that moves in such passages, a spirit that is fundamentally indifferent to doctrinal consistency and resistant to final statements. The more we learn about the plagiarism in Clotel, the more it begins to appear that the only fixity in the novel is in fact the lack of fixity to which it repeatedly returns us, both through its reminders of the contradiction at the heart of American democracy and through its unpredictable movement from idiom to idiom. By exposing us, via his narrative persona, to an incessant re-beginning, Brown invites us to associate blackness with a migrating instability that is, for him, the most pleasurable--and hence the most promising--basis of abolitionist consciousness.

These suggestions are necessarily tentative, for the "he" to whom I am assigning this attraction to breaks and flows is impossible to locate with any certainty in the pages of the novel. He is, in other words, not an "author," if an author is imagined to bear "the same relation of antecedence to his work as a father to his child" and "to furnish it with a final signified" (Barthes 145, 147). (8) Neither, however, is he dead, in Barthes's sense, writing "no longer with a view to acting directly on reality but intransitively ... outside of any function other than that of the very practice of the symbol itself" (Barthes 142). However tempting it may be to identify Clotel with the text of Barthes's "modern scriptor" (Barthes 145)--variously described by Barthes as "a field without origin," "a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture," and "a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash" (Barthes 146)--it would belie the seriousness of its politics and the centrality of its narrator, whose persona is established even before the novel begins by a self-promotional "Memoir of the Author," to do so. In the end, Brown simply refuses to choose between the oppositions that structure Barthes's argument, just as he refuses to choose, in the introductory "Memoir," between third-person narration and embedded self-quotation. The Latin root of "citation," Samuel Weber notes, is citare, "to set in motion," a resonance that "is buried in verbs such as 'incite' and 'excite'" (Weber 45). By means of his unacknowledged citations of other people's language, Brown keeps "his" voice in motion, thereby generating, ideally, not only abolitionist incitement and aesthetic excitement, but a rich, cosmopolitan sociability, defined by its difference from--and openness to--subjectivity and nonsubjectivity alike. (9)

On April 29, 847, the New York Evangelist published the following item under the heading "An Auction":
 While traveling at the south, a short time since, one day, as I was
 passing through a noted city, my attention was arrested by a
concourse of
 people upon the public square.
 Soon I saw two men coming through the crowd attended by a female.
 entered the ring around the stand. The sequel showed them to be an
 auctioneer, the unfortunate merchant, and the more unfortunate young
 lady, for slave she could not be. The auctioneer stepped upon the
 and ordered her to follow. She dropped her head upon her heaving
 but she moved not. Neither did she weep--her emotions were too deep
 tears. The merchant stood near me. I attentively watched his
 'Twas that of a father for the loss of an only daughter.
Daughter he had
 not; but I understand that he intended to adopt her, who, instead of
 being now free, was doomed to perpetual slavery. He appeared to have
 humane heart. With tears in his eyes he said, "Helen, you must
 can protect you no longer." I could bear no more--my heart
struggled to
 free itself from the human form. I turned my eyes upwards--the flag
 listlessly by the pole, for not a breeze had leave to stir. I thought
 could almost see the spirits of the liberty martyrs, whose blood had
 stained that soil, and hear them sigh over the now desecrated spot.
 I turned to look for the doomed. She stood upon the auction stand.
 stature she was of the middle size; slim and delicately built. Her
 was lighter than many a Northern brunette, and her features were
 with thin lips. Indeed, many thought no black blood coursed in her
 Now despair sat on her countenance. O! I shall never forget that
 "Good heavens!" ejaculated one of the two fathers, as he
beheld the
 features of Helen, "is that beautiful lady to be sold?"
 Then fell upon my ear the auctioneer's cry--"How much is
said for this
 beautiful healthy slave girl--a real albino--a fancy girl for any
 gentleman? (!) How much? How much? Who bids?" "Five hundred
 "eight hundred," "one thousand," were soon bid by
different purchasers.
 The last was made by the friends of the merchant, as they wished to
 assist him to retain her. At first no one seemed disposed to raise
 bid. The crier then read from a paper in his hand, "She is
 well informed, easy to communicate, a first rate instructress."
 raises the bid?" This had the desired effect. "Twelve
 hundred"--"fourteen"--"sixteen," quickly
followed. He read again--"She is
 a devoted Christian, sustains the best of morals, and is perfectly
 trusty." This raised the bids to two thousand dollars, at which
she was
 struck off to the gentleman in favor of whom was the prosecution.
 closed one of the darkest scenes in the book of time.
 This was a Southern auction--an auction at which the bones,
 sinews, blood and nerves of a young lady of nineteen, sold for one
 thousand dollars; her improved intellect, for six hundred more; and
 Christianity--the person of Christ in his follower, for four hundred
 more. (10) 

When this article came to Brown's attention, he was in the midst of composing his first book, A Narrative of the Life of William W. Brown, which would be published in July 1847. In that book, he includes, in his account of his final conversation with his mother, two parts of the article's second paragraph. "On seeing me," he writes in the Narrative, "she immediately dropped her head upon her heaving bosom. She moved not, neither did she weep. Her emotions were too deep for tears" (44). Other than interpolating the word "immediately" and adding the word "but," his only changes are to the punctuation. Two paragraphs later, after his mother, chained on a steamboat bound for New Orleans, tells him that she "cannot last long upon a cotton plantation," he reproduces another sentence: "I could bear no more--my heart struggled to free itself from the human form" (44; emphasis in original). As if there is nothing singular about his experience--as if expressions of feeling are independent of the events that prompt them, as if they are applicable to an unlimited number of other events--he passes off someone else's representations of grief as his own. (11)

Five years later, Brown would borrow from "An Auction" again. (12) "A True Story of Slave Life," which was published in the December 1852 issue of the Anti-Slavery Advocate, opens with the following paragraph:

In October of 1844, amongst a number of slaves who were exposed for sale at a slave auction in Richmond, Virginia, was a woman of middle size, slim, and delicately built. Her skin was lighter than many a northern brunette's and her features were oval, with thin lips; indeed, many thought no African blood coursed through her veins. The day was as fine as one could wish to behold. The auctioneer's flag hung listless by the pole, and not a breeze had leave to stir. ("True" 374)

In this mashing together of lines from the third and second paragraphs of "An Auction," very little is changed. The auction itself, however, is radically transformed:

"Who bids for this nice young woman? How much, gentlemen? Real albino, fit for a fancy girl for any one. She enjoys good health, and is an excellent house servant. How much do you say?" "Five hundred dollars." "Only five hundred for such a girl as this? Gentlemen she is worth double that sum. I am sure if you knew the superior qualities of the girl, you would give more. Here, gentlemen, I hold in my hand a paper certifying that she has a good moral character--" "Seven hundred." "Ah, gentlemen, that is something like. This paper also states that she is very intelligent." "Eight hundred." "She is a devoted Christian and perfectly trustworthy." "Nine hundred," "Nine-fifty," exclaimed a second, "Ten hundred," said a third, and the woman was struck off to the last bidder for one thousand dollars. ("True" 374)

In the article, the dialogue is broken up by--and subordinated to--the voice of the narrator; here, it is vivid, rapid, and uninterrupted. In the article, the auctioneer pumps the bids up twice, through references to intelligence and Christianity; here, he pumps them up three times, throwing in a reference to moral character. Finally, in the article, other than characterizing the slave woman as a "real albino" and reading two commendatory sentences to the crowd, the auctioneer contributes nothing out of the ordinary to the event. Here, he spreads out, verbally buttonholing the buyers ("How much, gentlemen?"), feigning surprise ("Only five hundred for such a girl as this?"), and rewarding them with praise ("Ah, gentlemen, that is something like"). In making these changes, Brown highlights not only the degree to which the desirability of the "fancy girl" is contingent on her "proximate whiteness" (Johnson 150)--her asymptotic approach to a condition from which she is permanently excluded--but the means by which that desirability is ratcheted up: the simulation of a personal relationship between buyer and seller, a pleasurably fraternal and "gentlemanly" bond. (13)

The version of the scene in chapter one of Clotel takes it even further in this direction. In his description of Clotel on the auction block, the narrator lingers on the details of her physical appearance: "There she stood, with a complexion as white as most of those who were waiting with a wish to become her purchasers; her features as finely defined as any of her sex of pure Anglo-Saxon; her long black wavy hair done up in the neatest manner; her form tall and graceful, and her whole appearance indicating one superior to her position" (1: 62). By dwelling, successively, on her complexion, facial features, hair, height, and posture, Brown prolongs and intensifies our attention to her, holding off, for a little while, the event to come. Then, after the auctioneer's patter, carried over from "A True Story of Slave Life," has escalated the bids--"Nine hundred." "Nine fifty." "Ten." "Eleven." "Twelve hundred."--Brown halts the action:
 Here the sale came to a dead stand. The auctioneer stopped, looked
 around, and began in a rough manner to relate some anecdotes relative
 the sale of slaves, which, he said, had come under his own
 At this juncture the scene was indeed strange. Laughing, joking,
 swearing, smoking, spitting, and talking kept up a continual hum and
 noise amongst the crowd; while the slave-girl stood with tears in her
 eyes, at one time looking towards her mother and sister, and at
 towards the young man whom she hoped would become her purchaser. 

Abruptly, the auctioneer returns to the business at hand: "The chastity of this girl is pure; she has never been from under her mother's care; she is a virtuous creature." The bids resume their climb and Clotel is "struck" for fifteen hundred dollars (1: 63).

The break in the bidding accomplishes at least three things. First, by dramatizing the auctioneer's re-establishment of a "rough" camaraderie with the men in the crowd, it emphasizes the theatricality of the auction as a whole. Second, by itemizing the time-filling actions of the men in the crowd--"[l]aughing, joking, swearing, smoking, spitting, and talking"--it draws attention to the ongoingness that underlies all appearances of finality, the fluid, uncertain temporality of the present participle. Third, by tracking the movement of Clotel's gaze, it intensifies the sense of inbetweenness with which she has already been invested. Suspended between seller and buyer, split between "white" prestige and "black" debasement, and hovering, emotionally, between family and suitor, she stands forth, on the neither-here-nor-there space of the auction block, as the embodiment of a radical intermediacy. In this peculiarly directionless narrative space, the contradiction that suspends her identity in all of the above ways--the contradiction of slavery in a republic--is thrown into the sharpest possible relief. (14)

Hence the awkwardness of the sentence that immediately follows the striking of the auctioneer's hammer: "This was a Southern auction, at which the bones, muscles, sinews, blood, and nerves of a young lady of sixteen were sold for five hundred dollars; her moral character for two hundred; her improved intellect for another hundred; her Christianity for three hundred; and her chastity and virtue for four hundred dollars more" (1: 63-64). After everything that Brown has done to animate and extend the preceding scene, that balanced, retrospective pronouncement--a slightly adjusted version of the final sentence of the original article--seems to descend from another discursive sphere. As if to naturalize what is for now a foreign discourse, Brown follows it with an oratorical flourish--"And this, too, in a city thronged with churches, whose tall spires look like so many signals pointing to heaven, and whose ministers preach that slavery is a God-ordained institution"--and a paragraph lifted, as Coleman notes, from the Rev. George Allen's Resistance to Slavery Every Man's Duty:
 What words can tell the inhumanity, the atrocity, and the immorality
 that doctrine which, from exalted office, commends such a crime to
 favour of enlightened and Christian people? What indignation from all
 world is not due to the government and people who put forth all their
 strength and power to keep in existence such an institution? Nature
 abhors it; the age repels it; and Christianity needs all her meekness
 forgive it. (15) 

Brown then jerks us back to the end of the auction, lets us know that Clotel's purchaser was her lover Horatio Green, and regales us once more, this time in a sentence that he almost certainly wrote, with a slow-beat summary of the event: "Thus closed a negro sale, at which two daughters of Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of American Independence, and one of the presidents of the great republic, were disposed of to the highest bidder" (1: 64). Finally, after a fragment of a poem inspired by "An Auction," the chapter's curtain drops. (16)

The modal dissonance that we encounter in this extended sequence is one of the basic stylistic features of Clotel as a whole. Again and again, Brown switches from plain-spoken, informational language into high-cultural declamations, sentimental apostrophes, comic dialogues, or finely detailed descriptions, and then, as if nothing has happened, switches back. (17) Because these modal dissonances very often occur at the juncture between plagiarized and original writing, it would be easy to write them off as the accidental by-products of a effort to elevate the tone of the novel. As I have already indicated, however, when we look at the entire range of Brown's borrowings from other writers, it becomes clear that he uses plagiarized passages to force the tone not only upward, but downward as well. It makes more sense, accordingly, to think of the modal dissonances as theatrical diversifications of tone, subtly pleasurable disruptions of "an ever homogenizing textual field" (Reid-Pharr 19). Although Brown was more than capable of crafting formal sentences, he clearly prefers, in many cases, the steeper cultural gradient that the work of a more practiced--and privileged--writer could generate. Similarly, even though he had an extraordinarily good ear for colloquial speech, he copies several passages that seem to have been, for him, especially full of demotic energies. The primary purpose of the plagiarism in Clotel is neither to make his writing life easier in many cases, it seems to have made it more difficult--nor to improve his social standing, but to enable him to shift hard from one linguistic register to another.

In the opening paragraph of chapter six, for instance, he presents us with a relatively straightforward description of how the Connecticut-born John Peck became "the owner of a plantation with seventy slaves" in "a beautiful valley nine miles from Natchez" (6: 87-88). Then, by suturing an expanded version of a phrase from a newspaper article called "Prospects of Slavery" ("The once unshorn face of nature now blooms with splendid harvests") to a slightly altered phrase from a description of a lake cottage in Helen de Kroyft's A Place in Thy Memory ("where Lombard poplars lift their tapering tops almost to prop the skies; the willow, locust, and horse-chestnut spread their branches, and flowers never cease to blossom") he creates a sentence that stands out sharply against that prosaic background: "The once unshorn face of nature had given way, and now the farm blossomed with a splendid harvest, the neat cottage stood in a grove where Lombardy poplars lift their tufted tops almost to prop the skies; the willow, locusts, and horse-chestnut spread their branches, and flowers never cease to blossom" (6: 88). As in many other instances of plagiarism in Clotel, the transposition of old material into a new context generates a certain amount of awkwardness: the syntax is confusing, the verb "blossom" appears twice, and the big house on the Mississippi plantation is, thanks to the influence of de Kroyft, a mere "cottage." (18) But none of that seems to matter very much to Brown, who would reproduce the sentence, with minor changes, in each of the three subsequent versions of the novel. All that he really cares about is its bouquet of conceits ("The once unshorn face of nature"), alliterations ("Lombardy poplars lift their tufted tops"), and leisurely listings ("willow, locust, and horse-chestnut"), which distinguishes it not only from the sentences that precede it but also from the one that ensues: "This was the parson's country house, where the family spent only two months during the year" (6: 88).

An even more telling example may be found in chapter eighteen, when Miles and Georgiana Carlton inform a group of slaves who have been hiring themselves out as bricklayers that their subsequent earnings will be credited to them and that they will be freed when they reach a certain amount. The "great ... change amongst all these people" (18: 161) is described in a passage transcribed from the slaveowner John McDonogh's account of what happened when he made a similar deal with his bricklayers:
 They were no longer apparently the same people. A sedateness, a
care, an
 economy, an industry, took possession of them, to which there seemed
 be no bounds but in their physical strength. They were never tired of
 labouring, and seemed as though they could never effect enough. They
 became temperate, moral, religious, setting an example of innocent,
 unoffending lives to the world around them, which was seen and
admired by
 all. (18: 161) 

As in the earlier case, the passage is set off from the sentences that surround it by its ornamental repetitions and stately rhythms. This time, however, it is succeeded by a very different kind of set piece, once again drawn from McDonogh, in which a certain Mr. Parker testifies to the change in the bricklayers:

"Why sir," continued Parker, "I have never seen such people; building as they are next door to my residence, I see and have my eye on them from morning till night. You are never there, for I have never met you, or seen you once at the building. Why, sir, I am an early riser, getting up before day; and do you think that I am not awoke every morning in my life by the noise of their trowels at work, and their singing and noise before day; and do you suppose, sir, that they stop or leave off work at sundown? No, sir, but they work as long as they can see to lay a brick, and then they carry up brick and mortar for an hour or two afterward, to be ahead of their work the next morning. And again, sir, do you think that they walk at their work? No, sir, they run all day. You see, sir, those immensely long ladders, five stories in height; do you suppose they walk up them? No, sir, they run up and down them like so many monkeys all day long. I never saw such people as these in my life. I don't know what to make of them. Were a white man with them and over them with a whip, then I should see and understand the cause of the running and incessant labour; but I cannot comprehend it; there is something in it, sir. Great man, sir, that Jim; great man; I should like to own him." (18: 162) (19)

Why does Brown turn from a measured account of sedateness and temperance to a cartoonish account of bricklayers running up and down five-story ladders all day long? For the same reason that the auctioneer in chapter one launches into a series of "rough" anecdotes when the bidding stops: because he senses that it is time to change things up, to open a space in the narrative into which the slightly addled monologue of an incidental character can gratuitously flow.

The opening of a space in which a seemingly endless motion is occurring--here, both the repetitive loquaciousness of Mr. Parker and the nonstop labor of the slaves--is, as I have already suggested, a secondary purpose of the plagiarism in Clotel. In a striking number of cases, Brown seems to plagiarize for the sake of this effect, mining other people's writing for the same kind of theatricality, ongoingness, and in-betweenness that he independently generates in his revision of "An Auction." In chapter three, for instance, he reproduces most of "Hunting Robbers with Bloodhounds," an article from the Delta (New Orleans), paring away only the setup, the aftermath, and a pace-slackening description of the thieves--two white men--putting on new clothes. The result is an extended passage whose signature grammatical feature is the present participle (swimming, scenting, losing, taking, bringing, starting, putting, persevering, meeting, astonishing, running, working, whimpering, shaking, escaping) and whose most dramatic grammatical effect is a midstream change from past to present tense. In each of these ways, the passage puts us into contact with a kind of surplus singularity--not with the "now," understood as "a self-contained moment of presence," but with the "ongoing," understood as "the disjunctive reiterations of a series that never comes full-circle" (Weber 62-63). In the first half of the passage, the general event--dogs hunt and catch runaway slaves--is broken down into a succession of individual acts that take us on a "zigzag course" through a swamp, where the fugitives had become lost. In the second half, after the dogs, now confident, have begun to run, the internal divisions and expansions of the sentences are generated by other means, including a parade of preliminary modifying clauses ("Here, in this common highway--the thoroughfare for the whole country around--through mud and through mire, meeting wagons and teams, and different solitary wayfarers, and, what above all is most astonishing, actually running through a gang of negroes, their favourite game, who were working on the road") and an instant-by-instant rendering of mental processes ("Nearer and nearer the whimpering pack presses on; the delusion begins to dispel; all at once the truth flashes upon them like a glare of light; their hair stands on end; 'tis Tabor with his dogs") (3: 74-75). Although such strategies cannot "overcome time," writes Samuel Weber, they "can temporarily arrest, interrupt, or suspend [its] progress" (191). None of the bits into which these descriptions are broken have any immanent significance; they merely "come to pass," appear only to disappear, in an incessant stream that "can never be reduced to the property or product of an individual" (Weber 7, 27; emphasis in original).

It is striking, in this context, that several of the plagiarized passages describe actions that have no human agent. Here, for instance, is Brown's description of a "country seat, near the junction of the Mississippi river with the sea," drawn from a description of a Jewish burial ground in Ancona, Italy: "This was a most singular spot, remote, in a dense forest spreading over the summit of a cliff that rose abruptly to a great height above the sea; but so grand in its situation, in the desolate sublimity which reigned around, in the reverential murmur of the waves that washed its base, that, though picturesque, it was a forest prison" (23: 206-07). (20) The burial ground/country seat spreads, the cliff rises, the sublimity reigns, and the waves wash and murmur, but no human being is the subject of a transitive verb. For the following description of the fire that George Green braves in order to save a box of documents, Brown extracts the most vivid details from a newspaper description of a tenement fire in Buffalo: "The wind blew strong, and swept the flames in that direction. Broad sheets of fire were blown again and again over that part of the building, and then the wind would lift the pall of smoke, which showed that the work of destruction was not yet accomplished" (26: 223). (21) Again, no human agents appear: only the wind, blowing, sweeping, lifting, and showing--and in the beginning of the next sentence, also borrowed from the newspaper article, only the building and the fire. More extensive versions of this phenomenon include the dog's-eye view of the hunt in chapter three, the description of yellow fever in chapter twenty-three, and the extremely long account of the fight between the bull and the bear in chapter twenty-two. Instead of looking, as a reader, for character-revealing details or plot-developing events or a masterfully idiosyncratic writerly tone, Brown seems to have been listening for something essentially nonsubjective: "the giant murmuring upon which language opens," the "ungraspable vibration" of the "elemental depth" where "words begin to become their appearance" (Blanchot 27, 223; emphasis in original). (22)

This is, I think, why Brown generally changes so little in the passages that he takes from other writers. Even though he is, in one sense, passing them off as his own, insofar is he is not crediting them to their authors, he is, in a profounder sense, simply passing them along, as entities without any particular origin, entities that take their rise from a "giant murmuring." In two of the three subsequent versions of Clotel, Brown includes a sentence that reads, "A distinguished critic has beautifully said, 'the sound which the stream of high thought, carried down to future ages, makes, as it flows--deep, distant, murmuring ever more, like the waters of the mighty ocean'" (Miralda 234; Clotelle 104). Without the first two words--"Fame is"--of the original sentence, which had appeared in William Hazlitt's "On the Living Poets," the sentence is unexpectedly fragmentary; the quotation approaches, but never actually reaches, a determinate meaning. Beauty, not meaning, is what Brown intends to reproduce here: the oceanic sound of a deep, distant, murmuring "stream of high thought," not any one thought in particular. What he hopes to provide at such moments is the kind of energy that can be derived from the approach to that murmuring, which is to say that he means to be not the proprietor of the language we are reading, but a mediator, putting us in touch with language at the not-quite-semantic moment of its arising. (23) The same is true of the moments in which he diverts a stream of vernacular discourse into his texts: in each case, he is linking himself to a pure potentiality. That potentiality is linked, in turn, to the energetic becoming with which Brown associates himself in the introductory "Memoir" and the erotic in-betweenness with which black people in general are associated in the novel's illustrations, which depict a boy on a gambling table, a man wading across a river, two men wrestling on the floor, and a woman in the act of leaping from a bridge into a river. To counteract a racism that violently insists on the identification of blackness with immobility, Brown joins blackness to an unceasing, unpredictable, and acutely pleasurable coming-to-pass. (24)

I want to conclude by turning to one last example of Brown's plagiarism. In an essay on Lord Byron in The Spirit of the Age, Hazlitt writes that unlike Sir Walter Scott, Byron
 holds no communion with his kind; but stands alone, without mate or
 "As if a man were author of himself,
 and owned no other kin."
 He is like a solitary peak, all access to which is cut off not more
 elevation than distance. ... He exists not by sympathy, but by
 antipathy.... [He] chiefly thinks how he shall display his own power,
 vent his spleen, or astonish the reader either by starting new
 and trains of speculation, or by expressing old ones in a more
 and emphatic manner than they have been expressed before. He cares
 what it is he says, so that he can say it differently from others....
 is often monotonous, extravagant, offensive....[He] does not exhibit
 new view of nature, or raise insignificant objects into importance by
 romantic associations with which he surrounds them; but generally (at
 least) takes common-place thoughts and events, and endeavours to
 them in stronger and statelier language than others. (150, 151-52,

That obsession with saying things "differently from others" may explain, Hazlitt goes on to say, "the charges of plagiarism which have been repeatedly brought against the Noble Poet." Byron seems to believe, Hazlitt writes, that
 if he can borrow an image or sentiment from another, and heighten it
 an epithet or an allusion of greater force and beauty than is to be
 in the original passage ... he shows his superiority of execution in
 in a more marked manner than if the first suggestion had been his
 He therefore takes the thoughts of others (whether contemporaries or
 out of their mouths, and is content to make them his own, to set his
 stamp upon them, by imparting to them a more meretricious gloss, a
 relief, a greater loftiness of tone, and a characteristic inveteracy
 purpose. (152) 

In his 1852 travel narrative, Three Years in Europe, Brown reproduces much of Hazlitt's critique of Byron in his own critique of Thomas Carlyle:

As a writer, Mr. Carlyle is often monotonous and extravagant. He does not exhibit a new view of nature, or raise insignificant objects into importance, but generally takes commonplace thoughts and events, and tries to express them in stronger and statelier language than others. He holds no communion with his kind, but stands alone without mate or fellow. He is like a solitary peak, all access to which is cut off. He exists not by sympathy but by antipathy. Mr. Carlyle seems chiefly to try how he shall display his own powers, and astonish mankind, by starting new trains of speculation or by expressing old ones so as not to be understood. He cares little what he says, so as he can say it differently from others. (Brown, Three 217)

Much of what Brown hopes to accomplish as a writer can be inferred from this passage. He wants to be multitonal, to cast overlooked objects in a new light, to exist by sympathy, to communicate clearly--to be, in short, relational, versatile, inclusive, and responsive. With the source of the passage at our disposal and Brown's body of work in mind, however, we can expand on that characterization. He wants to be, like Hazlitt's Scott, a writer who "casts his descriptions in the mould of nature, ever-varying, never tiresome, always interesting and always instructive, instead of casting them constantly in the mould of his own individual impressions"; a writer who "takes away that tightness at the breast which arises from thinking or wishing to think that there is nothing in the world out of a man's self"; a writer who "emancipat[es] the mind from petty, narrow, and bigoted prejudices"; and, strange as it may seem, a writer who plagiarizes faithfully (Hazlitt 154, 155). Unlike Hazlitt's Byron, who offers, through his rewriting of existing texts, nothing more than a monotonously "original" self-aggrandizement, Brown lets other voices speak for themselves in his pages, in what appears to have been a conscious choice to be, like Hazlitt's Scott, an essentially "dramatic writer" (Hazlitt 155; emphasis in original).

Not everyone will find this choice to their taste--Frederick Douglass, who exposed one of Brown's earlier plagiarisms five months before the publication of Clotel, certainly didn't. (25) It involved a risk that was more than merely personal, insofar as the fraudulence of one black abolitionist would inevitably damage the credibility of every other, and it flew in the face of a cultural predisposition toward originality that was, and continues to be, extremely powerful. But he made the choice, as I have tried to suggest, for reasons that extend far beyond self-interest. "People will pay to hear the Drama that would not give a cent in an anti-slavery meeting," Brown writes in an 1857 letter on the crowds that his one-man play, The Escape, had been attracting (qtd. in Farrison 294). Like his plays, his lectures, his panoramic exhibition, his travel narrative, his collection of antislavery songs, and his compendia of mini-biographies, Clotel is, in essence, a variety-show "Drama" in which abolitionist material rides on a broken, rippling stream of stylistic gestures. The sound of that stream is what he thinks white audiences will "pay to hear," and the association of that perpetual becoming with blackness is what he thinks will make, over time, the most significant political difference. However much one may wish, one cannot separate that association of blackness and becoming, to which so many of Brown's most recent critics have been drawn, from his luxuriant, nonegotistical plagiarism. (26) The world to which we are exposed by his something-borrowed, something-new novel is one in which, to return to the lines from Coriolanus that Hazlitt quotes, we are not our own authors, a world in which we exist, moment to moment, in the midst of kin.

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[Thornwell, James.] "The Religious Instruction of the Black Population." Southern Presbyterian Review 1 (December 1847): 89-120. Google Books. Web. 18 May 2011.

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[Welch, Jane S.]. "Jairus's Daughter." New England Offering 1 (August 1848): 108. Google Books. Web. 18 May 2011.

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(1.) The Greenwood poem is actually misidentified. Farrison claims that Brown borrowed most of Greenwood's "The Leap from the Long Bridge" from her 1851 Poems but made changes to its final stanza and tacked on an additional stanza of his own. In fact, the poem that appears in Clotel is a word-for-word transcription of the original version of the poem, "The Escape," which had been published in The Liberator under Greenwood's actual name, Sarah J. Clarke, in September 1844.

(2.) In addition to identifying the sources of fifteen epigraphs and four poems, Levine indicates in his footnotes that the speeches by Andrew Jackson in chapter 18 are from William C. Nell's Services of Colored Americans, in the Wars of 1776 and 1812, and that the quotation from a "celebrated writer" in chapter 28 is from Washington Irving's "The Broken Heart." He also provides advance notice of two of Coleman's discoveries: the transcription from Grimke's Address to Free Colored Americans of the passage beginning "When the Redeemer" in chapter 10 and the transcription from Stewart's A Legal Argument of the passage beginning "On the last day" in chapter 21.

(3.) The plagiarisms identified by Mulvey are as follows: two passages from the end of Georgiana's long address in chapter 10 (between "The Old Testament" and "no other book" and "He surveys the church" and "the Bible sanctions it"), taken from Patton 5-6; a passage in chapter 15 (between "What social virtues" and "two classes"), taken from Martineau, Society in America 2:200; a mini-oration from Georgiana in chapter 16 (between "you may place the slave" and "the hand of man"), taken from an 1832 speech by the Virginia state legislator James McDowell that had been republished in Sunderland, The Testimony of God against Slavery 168; another speech from Georgiana in chapter 18 (between "Nothing has been held so cheap" and "refreshment of the human race"), taken from Stewart, A Legal Argument 7; and a passage in chapter 19 (between "As yet" and "sound of every footfall"), taken from Child, "The Quadroons" 138-39. Mulvey also identified the sources of two more implicit citations: Georgiana's recitation in chapter 13 ("Missionary Hymn") and the epigraph to chapter 17 (Glover, "The Georgian Slave Ballad").

(4.) I am grateful to Coleman for sharing her unpublished work with me.

(5.) My decision to make ten consecutive words the point at which incidental phrase-borrowing becomes plagiarism is, of course, arbitrary, a function of my need to set a bar somewhere. In an effort to avoid any appearance of over-reaching, I set the bar relatively high; several passages in Clotel that were almost certainly taken from other texts have not made it onto my list.

(6.) Here are the implicitly quoted passages not already identified by Farrison and Levine, followed by their sources: the slave code extracts in chapter 1 (Goodell, American Slave Code 23); the questions and answers on slave marriage in chapter 1 (Bowditch 62); the dog owners' advertisements in chapter 3 (Bowditch 101); the epigraph to chapter 4 (Burleigh, "A Summer Morning in the Country"); the poem at the end of chapter 8 (Badger, "The Wife"); the poem at the end of chapter 11 ("My Little Nig"); Jack's poem in chapter 13 ("Sentimental"); Sam's song in chapter 16 ("The Slaveholder's Rest"); the article on the voting case in chapter 19 ("Hurrah for the Nineteenth Century!"); the poem in chapter 20 ("Love Thy Neighbor"); the article on racial testing in chapter 20 ("Phlebotomy--Amalgamation!"); the first poem in chapter 21 (Gillies, "Alone"); and the article on the fight between the bull and the bear in chapter 22 ("Sunday Amusements in New Orleans"). It is worth noting, as well, that the quotations from Jefferson in chapter 17 may be found in the same order and with the same italicizations in Garrison, Letter to Louis Kossuth 40.

(7.) By "the ordinary level of his discourse," I mean the economical narration that reviewers so admired in his 1847 Narrative. As a rule, when describing events or providing contexts, Brown builds sentences with a limited number of moving parts, sentences that draw their energy not from stylistic extravagance, but from narrative momentum.

(8.) My reading of authorship in Clotel is indebted to Cohen's remarkable essay on Brown's plagiarism of Beard. I am grateful to her for sharing it with me.

(9.) For an extremely stimulating account of the general phenomenon of antislavery sociability, see Tamarkin.

(10.) The article first appeared in a now-lost issue of the Utica (NY) Liberty Press.

(11.) In a related instance, after reporting, in a phrase borrowed from Benjamin Wait's Letters from Van Dieman's Land, that a "shudder,--a feeling akin to horror, shot through my frame" upon witnessing a slave mother begging to keep her infant, he tells us that he has "often since in imagination heard her crying for her child" and inserts the opening verses of a song called "The Slave and Her Babe" (Brown, Narrative 30-31).

(12.) He actually borrowed from "An Auction" in a November 1847 lecture as well. In this early reworking of the details of the article, the owner of the slave is an avaricious businessman, not a mournful father or brother, and the auctioneer is merely the vehicle of his will. See Brown, "A Lecture" 128.

(13.) For the cultural history of such performatively established bonds, see Nelson.

(14.) See, in this context, Castronovo's argument that Brown "dramatize[s] the fractures in the American mythic narrative" by making "sexual conjunction ... act as national disjunction" (32) and Ernest's claim that Brown "does not so much represent a world as capture a world in the act of unconscious self-representation," in which what is represented is "not the meaninglessness of the national text but rather its meaningful incoherence" (Resistance 34).

(15.) The only difference between the passages, as Coleman notes, is that Brown substitutes "enlightened and Christian people" for "Christian nations" and cuts a somewhat redundant reference to the fact that slavery is "the deliberate counsel and practical wisdom of a great and enlightened Christian republic."

(16.) The poem, "The Slave-Auction--A Fact," was originally published in The Friend of Virtue, the organ of the New England Female Moral Reform Society, but Brown probably encountered it in The Liberator, where it was republished in early 1848. Later that year, Brown himself republished it in The Anti-Slavery Harp.

(17.) Several critics have called attention to these extremely bumpy transitions. After "craft[ing] a poetic phrase (even from someone else's phrase)," duCille writes, Brown can "shift direction in an instant and turn a metaphor with the cutting edge of irony" (Coupling 26). The "digressions into quasi-documentary abolitionist anecdotes" are so "crudely sudden that they jerk the reader out of the illusionism of the narrative," Ellis writes, creating "an unsettling mix of modes and genres" that "constantly shrugs off the impetus of the plot line" (108, 103).

(18.) As Coleman notes, by dropping a line from Hutson's review of History of the Girondists, he garbles the end of the final sentence of Peck's speech to Carlton in chapter 6 ("Though man has no rights, as thus considered, undoubtedly he has the power, by such arbitrary rules of right and wrong as his necessity enforces") and by skipping the opening of a sentence in Purvis's Tribute near the conclusion of chapter 21, he produces a sentence whose anaphoric expansions lead nowhere ("Who can think of the broken hearts made whole, of sad and dejected countenances now beaming with contentment and joy, of the mother offering her free-born babe to heaven, and of the father whose cup of joy seems overflowing in the presence of his friends, where none can molest or make him afraid").

(19.) His only changes are to cut a distracting sequence in which McDonogh, in response to a question from Parker, tells him that he lives on the other side of the river, and to take out Parker's repetition of the phrases "there is something in it" and "should like to own him."

(20.) He substitutes "in a dense forest" for "undefended" and "though picturesque, it was a forest prison" for "it was one of our favourite resorts" but otherwise leaves the passage unrevised.

(21.) In addition to changing the description of the buildings that are aflame--originally, "a row of tenements occupied by poor Irish families"--Brown cuts a decorative reference to the way in which the sheets of fire "envelope and entwine the frail buildings in their burning folds, threatening the whole with inevitable and speedy conflagration."

(22.) What he seems to have been drawn to in the passages from "Pauline," for instance, is their lyrical listing of moods and denominations: "for many weary months, uncheered by the voice of kindness, alone, hopeless, desolate, she waited" and "the bells there called to mass and prayer-meeting, and Methodists sang, and Baptists immersed, and Presbyterians sprinkled" ("Pauline" 19).

(23.) My sense of the mediating function of Brown's narrator is related to Ernest's argument that by placing us "in an uncertain relationship to the usual interpretive moorings," the narrator encourages us to rely on him as "a practiced and suitably sly guide in this deceptive world" (Resistance 23); Raimon's argument that the narrator is "a 'mediator' between the real and the fictive worlds--one who not merely reflects but transforms our sense of both realms through a subtle yet powerful manipulation of various discourses" (69; emphasis in original); and Carby's more general argument that "the figure of the mulatto" is "a vehicle for an exploration of the relationship between the races" (89). In my reading, however, Clotel draws us most often and most intensely to the borderlands of the meaningful and the not-quite-meaningful, not the borderlands of honesty and deceptiveness, reality and fictionality, or whiteness and blackness.

(24.) It should be noted, however, that when Brown's orientation toward energetic transitions finds an outlet in comic anecdotes--as in the case of the story illustrated by the image of the two men wrestling on the floor--his work often verges on minstrelsy. Although it is possible to read this aspect of his work as an elitist ridiculing of "common" black people, it is also possible to read it as a sign of his desire to put the "dizzy energies" of minstrelsy to work for him (Lhamon 41).

(25.) In the June 10, 1853 issue of Frederick Douglass' Paper, Douglass reprints a letter from Brown to William Lloyd Garrison with an asterisk by a sentence that reads, "Uncle Tom's Cabin has come down upon the dark abodes of slavery like a mornings sunlight, unfolding to view its enormities in a manner which has fastened all eyes upon the 'peculiar Institution,' and awakening sympathy in hearts that never before felt for the slave." "We are always glad to lay anything from Mr. Brown before our readers," Douglass writes, and his letter is "very prettily expressed," but "[t]he sentence which we have taken the liberty to mark above, so resembles certain lines which occur in a 'Call,' published nearly a year ago, by 'the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society,' that we fear friend Brown has, like some other literary men, mistaken the beautiful sentiment of another for the creation of his own fancy!" Douglass then reproduces the sentence in question, which had originally appeared in the August 13, 1852 issue of his newspaper. It reads, "'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' by Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, has come down, upon the dark abodes of human bondage, like the morning sunlight, unfolding to view the enormities of slavery, in a manner which has fastened all eyes upon them, and awakened sympathy for the slave in hearts unused to feel" (Douglass 1).

(26.) Among the critics who are drawn to the association of blackness with mobility in Brown are duCille, who admires the "slippery nature of Brown's brand of realism," which "does not necessarily have a fixable real" ("Where" 458); Ernest, who argues that by playing the part of the "trickster," Brown creates "openings for new national and global historical narratives" (Liberation 340); Loughran, who claims that what "ensures survival" in Brown's world is "the willingness to circulate freely through and across many different kinds of identities" (420); and Stadler, who explores Brown's responsiveness to the "fragmentary, ephemeral social relations of modern urban life" (101).
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Author:Sanborn, Geoffrey
Publication:African American Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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