Chapter 6

Photograph Photograph

Thackeray to Anny and Minny Thackeray, 14-19 March 1853. Private collection. Image may not be reproduced without permission.

Thackeray to his daughters from Savannah, 14-19 March 1853.

Thackeray’s American tour took him not only all over the east but also into the Deep South. He preferred this region to the north, believing that Southerners were “much pleasanter to be with, than the daring go ahead northern people.” In the tumultuous years just before the Civil War, it was difficult to ignore issues of race and slavery, and Thackeray developed his own opinions. Displaying a vociferously racist view, he wrote to his mother in February, “Sambo is not my man & my brother; the very aspect of his face is grotesque and inferior. I can’t help seeing & owning this; at the same time of course denying any white man’s right to hold this fellow-creature in bondage…”

In this letter to Anny and Minny, Thackeray describes the life of slaves he observed on a Georgia plantation: “I went into their houses: they are not uncomfortable…they are kindly treated that’s the truth…Of course there are bad and savage masters too, but the general condition is far from unhappy. They are no more fit for freedom than a child of 10 years old is fit to compete in the struggle of life with grown up folks…”

Private collection.