Monday, March 17, 2008

Metta Victoria Victor

Celebrating Women's History Month, we lead off with a short piece by Metta Victoria Victor from her hilarious book "A Good Boy's Diary." We have read from Mrs. Victor's works before, most notably, one of her "Miss Slimmens" stories (Episode #265, January 29, 2006). Eventually, we will serialize "Miss Slimmens' Window," one of the funniest books ever written. It's rough doing her voice though, so it may have to wait a while.

In Kate Sanborn's 1885 book "The Wit of Women" she writes, "Mrs. Metta Victoria Victor, who died recently, has written an immense amount of humorous sketches. Her 'Miss Slimmens,' the boarding-house keeper, is a marked character, and will be remembered by many." 

Mrs. Victor wrote under an assortment of pen names, male and female, as well as her own. The Miss Slimmens books were originally published with the pen name of "Mrs. Mark Peabody." She wrote adventure stories, mysteries, romances, and anything else she could crank out. Her husband, Orville J. Victor, was the General Editor of Beadle and Adams, the major Dime Novel publishing house in the U. S. and England. Perhaps the most significant effort of her career was a novel called "Maum Guinea," a story of slavery that was only surpassed by Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in stirring up abolitionist feelings. Abe Lincoln was reported to have said, "It is as absorbing as 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.'"

Oddly enough, there is a tenuous connection between Mrs. Victor's novel and the Beecher family. When it was published in England, the book caused quite a stir, and sold tens of thousands of copies there, along with Mr. Victor's "The American Rebellion,. Some facts and Reflections for the Consideration of the British People," which also dealt with the scourge of slavery. When Henry Ward Beecher toured England as an emissary for Lincoln to (successfully) convince the British people not to recognize the Confederacy or to buy cotton from them, he later told Mr. Victor, "My dear fellow, your little book and Mrs. Victor's novel were a telling series of shots in the right spot."

So listen and enjoy Mrs. Victor's funny story, but realize that her humor was a small part of her accomplishments as a highly influential author of her day.

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