When her ship arrived at Liverpool on 10 April 1853 Harriet Beecher Stowe was fêted like royalty. Thousands thronged the docks as far as the eye could see. Smiling crowds lined the streets as she was driven away by cab and one small boy tried to climb in with her. And she was greeted by similar receptions all over Britain during her tour, as well as being welcomed and entertained by earls, countesses, lords, ladies, politicians and churchmen.
The cause of the excitement was, of course, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The nineteenth century’s biggest bestseller, it sold in millions and in many formats, with several translations. It caused the rapid metamorphosis of its author into an international antislavery campaigner. Apart from the outstanding commercial success of Uncle Tom’s Cabin,