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Blake, or, The Huts of America... a collation

Overview of Results

After surveying all the changes made between 1859 and 1861, I can conclude that Delany did, indeed, revise his text, but he did not do so extensively in terms of restructuring, reworking, adding, or deleting large portions of text. My impression of Delany's revision of Blake is that in anticipation of its republication in the 1861 Anglo-African Weekly, he read through it and made quick, simple changes, generally enhancing and smoothing out the language, rather than substantially changing its purpose or meaning. When writing to William Lloyd Garrison in 1859 seeking his assistance in getting the work published as a book, Delany mentioned the need for revision:

The three chapters published in the first number of the Magazine, were full of errors, in consequence of the hurried manner in which it was got out, and the whole will be carefully revised and corrected as far as published up to the time, should the work be taken up by a publisher. [1]

Perhaps by 1861 when Delany had not found a publisher for his work, he decided it needed polishing for reprinting anyway.

The collations reveal many variants, accidental and substantive, between the 59 and 61 texts. These include both variants for which Delany most likely was responsible, as well as those that could have been the result of editorial intervention or typesetter error. I am dividing them into the categories of style, printing errors, and substantive. "Style" refers to issues such as hyphenation, capitalization, abbreviation and punctuation, which either the author or editor could have reworked. I do not know how thoroughly Delany typically revised these elements, and for this reason I cannot make a call as to whether he was or was not responsible for style changes. Printing errors are errors which transpired while the typesetter was setting the type in the galleys from copy. This category is particularly problematic because, as noted in "Collation Procedures," my 59 text is not taken from the original but a reprint of Vol. I of the Anglo-African Magazine—so their printing errors could have made it into the text, as well. I hesitate to draw any conclusions about Delany's intentions from these categories of variants, although they are vastly valuable to scholars interested in the inner workings of the press of the Anglo-African Magazine, 19th-century printing style, or typesetting practices. "Substantive" variants refer to the changes which alter the wording or meaning of the text and are likely to have been the result of Delany's revisions.

I. Style

As mentioned before, this category includes any changes which could have been either Delany's or the editor's, in an attempt to adapt his language to house style or other writing conventions. Hyphenation falls under this head. Generally, the 59 text hyphenates compound words much more frequently than the 61: in Chapter II, for instance,

maid-servant] 59; maid servant 61

This pattern is not perfectly consistent, but it is consistent and pervasive enough through the 26 chapters collated to declare it a pattern. Another such change is in capitalization of titles, such as "Colonel Franks," "Mammy Judy," and "Daddy Joe." 59 usually does not capitalize such titles, even when followed by the person's proper name, while the 61 usually does so. Similarly, when Henry addresses Mammy Judy as "Mammy" alone, the word is lowercase in 59 and uppercase in 61. Both hyphenation and capitalization seem likely to be the result of an editor standardizing, but they could equally be Delany's corrections. As mentioned before, one would need to ascertain Delany's editorial habits by examining any surviving correspondence between him and his publisher for clues, among other potential sources.

Another type of style change attributable to either Delany or the publisher/editor, includes punctuation marks—primarily commas and semicolons. When a character addresses another, for instance, 59 often neglects the comma before the addressee's name, while 61 usually restores it, as in the following: "I will not consent to part with her, cousin Arabella" (Ch. III). Additionally, commas are used more abundantly in 61 to indicate sentence structure, as in,

Upon this principle Colonel Franks acted] 59; ~principle,~ 61
Mrs. Franks grasping hold of his arm exclaimed] 59; ~Franks, grasping hold of his arm,~ 61

The times when 61 departs from this pattern, it appears to do so when this standard comma use might result in too many commas. For instance,

"You know, Colonel, that I gave my word to Henry, her husband, your most faithful servant] 59; ~Henry^~ 61

Semicolons are more consistently used in 61 to designate a break between two related independent clauses, rather than a comma, as in

'I know it,' answered he, 'but you know] 59; ~he; 'but~ 61

Another common change is the spelling of 'enquired' in 59 to 'inquired' in 61. It is consistently done, and it is potentially interesting in perhaps reflecting shifting spelling habits, but one would need to do more research, consulting dictionaries of the time. The change could simply be the result of an editor's whim. This is difficult to know. Enquire] inquire is the only such consistent spelling alteration in the collated chapters

Contraction spellings are problematic and inconsistent. For instance, "can't" could be spelt any of the following ways: can't, ca'nt, can 't, or cant. Patterns within chapters occasionally arise, as when Henry's contractions are correctly spelt and apostrophized while he speaks with Colonel Franks in Chapter VII. When speaking with Mammy Judy and Daddy Joe, however, Henry's contractions lose their apostrophes. If this is done for a deliberate reason by Delany, it could signify a concern with letting Henry be the grammatical equal of Franks while not looking too out of place with his parents-in-law; this idea is not, however, consistent with the clear distinction Henry receives by his manner of speaking overall. I have been unable to dedicate enough attention to contraction spellings; I only point it out as one of the idiosyncrasies of the work any scholar interested in its textual history must be prepared to consider. To delve into this question, I would produce a table of the spellings which occur in each chapter and their frequency of use. The results could point to a deliberate pattern, but I suspect them to be arbitrary, or at the most, to be the result of the whims of various compositors.

Another element to mention is the use of italics. While the 59 text employs italics for emphasis, the 61 text does not until around Chapter XVI. I do not know how to account for this, but I have included the italicized text in my HTML text, as well as represented the places where italics fail to appear in the 61 in the apparatus.

II. Accidentals: Compositor and Printing Errors

There are many compositor errors which occur in both 59 and 61. Below is a sample of the sorts of errors which appear; they affect word order, spelling, and punctuation. As is clear in the examples, both editions of the novel have plenty of errors, so an eclectic edition would be necessary adopting the correct variants in each.

Ch. IIIOh, is there no hope for me?] 59; ~there is~ 61
Ch. IV'Po' me! po' me! po' me!] 59; 'Po'! po' me! po' me!' 61
Ch. Vout of every ally] 59; ~alley 61
Ch. VIIIsir name] 59; surname 61
Ch. XVformely] 59; formerly 61
Ch. XVbachelor] 59; batchelor 61

In some cases, even larger portions of text get left out as the result of compositor error. For instance, in Ch. VII, Franks' question to Henry "Where's the other horse?" got omitted in 61, making the flow of dialogue between Franks and Henry not make sense. This was clearly not how Delany wrote the passage, but most likely the result of error on the part of a dyslexic compositor.

Errors result not only from compositors misreading or mispelling, but mis-setting their type. Often, 'u's are flipped and become 'n's, and vice versa, changing "Laud" to "Land" or "Andy" to "Audy." In Ch. XIV, "Minney" became "Winney," probably because the 'M' was turned upside down. Beware, textual scholars who fail to take bibliographical concerns into account and read great meaning into such variants.

In many cases, errors result from type having either worn down or fallen out of the form. There are places at the ends of lines in particular where punctuation types have disappeared. Consequently, there are many variants resulting from missing end punctuation. Misspelled words also result from places where type has fallen out. In refining this project in order to make it more helpful to scholars, I would include a designation, such as an *, on all such variants, as the spacing is not always represented in the digitized text and collation apparatus.

Typesetting anomalies can also occur from what we might term 'printing economy.' In the 59, exclamation points are occasionally used at the end of questions instead of question marks. I suspect that this may be because Delany uses too many question marks, and the number of question-mark types in the fount are inadequate; hence, typesetters may have been instructed to use exclamation points when they might suffice. This is a theory impossible to prove, however, without access to the original 1859 broadsides. With this access, I could count the number of question marks used in a form and see if that number is consistent across the issues. Another case of printing econony affecting the typography occurs in Chapter XXII, which falls at the end of the 61 broadside recto. Here, all dialogue is set off in double quotes rather than single quotes, as is standard everywhere else, then upon flipping the sheet, single quotes resume again. Apparently the typesetters ran out of single quotes and needed to substitute double quotes. For such cases as these, I converted the doubles to singles so as not to pepper the collation results with single] double variants. Instead, I include a note at the end of that chapter's apparatus designating the affected text.

III. Substantive: Dialect Spellings

The most pervasive sort of revision made to the text of Blake is the re-spelling of dialect. Dialect is used to represent the speech of primarily slaves, such as Daddy Joe, Mammy Judy, Ailcey, and Andy. Poor whites and immigrants such as the ferryman, Dave and Adeline Starkweather, and the likely-German Isaac Slusher also receive non-standard-English dialect. Dialect serves the important purpose in Blake of distinguishing the "intelligent" people from the unintelligent, and is therefore of particular interest in this collation. It was also clearly of interest to Delany, who wrote to William Lloyd Garrett, "The language used may seem odd, but it is that made use of by the slave." [2] According to his letter, Delany intended the dialect to resemble that of the speaker, so it is interesting that so much of it was revised for the 1861 serialization. Below are some examples of the changes made:

Wat a mautteh] 59; What a mahtter 61
wud] 59; word 61
fadah] 59; fader 61
widah] 59; wider 61
ouah] 59; our 61
ah] 59; I 61
nebeh] 59; neber 61
da] 59; de 61
cah] 59; cant/can't/ca n't 61
huccum] 59; huc cum / How come 61

These respellings are consistent throughout the work, and they appear to be altered in an effort to make the words more comprehensible. 'er's which are originally pronounced as 'eh' in 59 are respelled to include the 'r's, which does result in more clarity, as the dialect word more closely resembles the standard spelling that way. For examples in the text, see Chapter VI and the beginning of Chapter VIII in particular.

Dialect is respelled throughout the novel for the sake of readability, but there are important revisions to point out in the cases of specific characters which I believe show deliberate thought being given to how the dialect impacts characterization. For instance, even though their pronunciations are spelled so as to be more readable, Ailcey and Andy both lose their 59-text subject-verb agreement in the 61 text, making them both sound less-standard grammatically and less "intelligent" in the scheme of the novel:

Ailcey: I hate him so!] 59; I hates ~ 61
Ailcey: while we wuh at de suppeh] 59; ~we was~ 61
Andy: Dat's what I like to know] 59; ~I likes~ 61
Andy: yeh keep] 59; yeh keeps 61
Andy: 'e all'as lays it] 59; ~lay~ 61

I suspect that this is an effort to compensate for the clarity achived in respelling, thus keeping a safe distinction between Henry and his fellow slaves. In other places, however, dialect and pronunciation clearly show character development. This is strikingly apparent in the language of the whites. In Chapter VIII, the slavetrader Harris, for instance, calls Henry a "fellow" in 59 but a "feller" in 61. Otherwise, none of Harris's speech is in dialect, but this move makes him sound distinctly more backward. An even more apparent example occurs in Chapter XXX, when the Starkweathers' language suffers through abbreviation, respelling, mismatched subjects and verbs, and redundancy:

might have] 59; might a' 61
if] 59; ef 61
is she] 59; am she 61
No she ain't] 59; ~arn't 61
just] 59; jist 61
Devilish] 59; Devlish 61
little tired, I spose?] 59; little kind 'o tired, I spose? 61
Didn't come far] 59; ~fur 61

Shortly after the Starkweathers make their brief appearance, the German immigrant Isaac Slusher takes the stage, and his speech is adjusted so as to make his accent even thicker and less comprehensible—and thus he becomes a clear departure from the overall respelling trend in the novel:

black] 59; plack 61
housh] 59; houish 61
ant] 59; andt 61
ondly] 59; ondtly 61
must] 59; musht 61
please] 59; blese 61

If the spelling variants only moved the language closer to standard English for the sake of comprehension, then I would be tempted to view it as the work of an editor. The variants, however, are not that consistent, and the cases of the whites who are clearly made to sound less intelligent despite the general tendency in revision suggest to me that Delany was the one doing the respelling. The effect is to make the blacks' speech clearer, albeit still grammatically impaired, and that of the whites less so; in accord with the significance of language in the novel, this also means the blacks rise in intelligence while the whites fall, showing the higher probability of success in the event of a slave rebellion.

IV. Substantive: for General Improvement

Another category of substantive revisions is that of minor rewording and tidying for the sake of overall improvement. These were likely done by Delany in the course of "revising and correcting." In most cases, it is readily apparent why these particular changes were made. For instance, in Chapter I, "their time and attention appeared to be absorbed" is changed to "their time and attention seemed to be absorbed" simply because in the sentence before, "They were few in number, and appeared..." Thus, this revision merely corrects repetition. In Chapter XVI, "the boy he sent for" becomes "the boy for whom he sent" to avoid having a preposition at the end of a sentence. In Chapter XXI, "in the direction in which was Henry" is thankfully changed to "in the direction where Henry stood," probably because the first was awkward. There are many more such revisions, but I will not go into more detail about them.

V. Substantive: Rewording

The last class of revisions includes the changes Delany made to wording and meaning. Most of these are simple one-word changes or the addition of a descriptive phrase, made for a variety of purposes. These revisions are too numberous to go over every one in detail, but I have identified a few trends.


First, Delany makes changes for the sake of clarification and continuity. For instance, when Colonel Franks rides out on horseback to search for Henry, he unexpectedly returns home that evening and summons Daddy Joe from his supper. This is amended in 61 by added the bolded portion: "The horse was soon at the door, and with his rider cantering away, the Colonel to return in the evening." Several more revisions like this one occur, for similar reasons.


Delany also makes what appear to be corrections to his text. In Chapter VIII, when Harris handcuffs Henry, he calls the handcuffs a "set of ruffles" in 59 and a "pair of ruffles" in 61, likely because pair connotes two while set, more than two. Another clear correction occurs in the chapter on New Orleans, in the description of the moon. In 59, the moonlight is "shed from the crescent of the first day of the last quarter," while in 61 it is the "last day of the first quarter." This is very clearly a correction, as Delany wished to represent a crescent moon, the first day of the last quarter being the day the full moon begins to wane, and the last day of the first quarter being the day the new moon has waxed to a half crescent.

Two fascinating changes occur in Chapter XVIII, when Henry visits the Latuer plantation. Here, in 59, the armless slave had to pick "with [his] toes, a hundred pound of cotton a day," whereas in 61 that number decreased to 80. Similarly, the slave girls' cotton baskets read "225 lbs." in 59 and "125 lbs." in 61. Why did Delany change these numbers? They seem like details he would only change if he received better information about cotton-picking practices; otherwise, if he wanted to further demonize Southern plantation slave holders, a larger number, one would think, might serve better.

Reducing Melodrama and Strengthening Descriptions

Aside from corrections, thematic trends occur in the revisions in Blake. First, the 61 text appears to have been revised in an effort to reduce melodramatic passages while strengthening more poignant images, resulting in a less flagrant, more touching overall effect. When on her way to church after Colonel Franks has sold Maggie, "Mrs. Franks wept out most bitterly" in 59 but "wept most bitterly" in 61. The removal of "out" makes the lady sound less demonstrative and more sincere. A particularly interesting change which illustrates this even better occurs in Chapter XVI, "Solicitude and Amusement," when Captain Grason forces the consumptive slave boy to perform tricks before Judge Armsted and Colonel Franks. Colonel Franks chides Armsted when he sees him "wiping away the tears" in 59, whereas in 61 Armsted wipes away "a stealing tear." This may seem like a small change, but it makes the detail more powerful in two ways. First, it lessens the melodrama which results from the judge openly weeping. Secondly, the singular "tear" and the adjective "stealing" suggest how hard Armsted tries to fight the expression of his sympathy for the dying slave boy; this scene thus not only reveals the cruelty of slavery to the slaves themselves but also how it pervades social relationships among slaveholders and makes it difficult for them to extricate themselves from the institution. This one small change ultimately strengthens Delany's overall point that blacks must free themselves, as even sympathetic whites are not strong enough to aid them.

The set of revisions in Delany's depiction of the consumptive slave boy is particularly interesting in seeing how he made minor changes in order to produce a much more powerful impression. For instance, while in 59 the boy has "projecting upper teeth," in 61 they are "projecting under teeth." Although this could be a compositor misreading copy, the change makes sense if one considers it a part of Delany's increasing the shock factor of the scene: an overbite is a much more common phenomenon than an underbite. This "miserable child" becomes a "miserable child of pity" in 61, and when he canters around on all fours at the behest of Grason, he does so "like an animal" in 59 but "like a brute" in 61. The very word brute is a more jarring and abasing one than animal is. Another peculiar change which I am not sure how to read is that in 59 the boy coughs up "gobs of hemorrhage" but "clots of hemorrhage" in 61; I myself do not know what to make of this revision, as to me both 'gobs' and 'clots' seem equally distressing, but I include the change here to draw the user's attention to it as being of interest.

The Rebellion

Many revisions made for the 1861 serialization depict the need for rebellion as being more urgent, as well as the slaves' success more certain. The urgency becomes more apparent when Henry describes "the stormy sea of trouble and oppression," which becomes "this stormy sea..." in 61. The "this" makes the trouble more personal and immediate. When the bell-ringer at Natchez calls out, the sound "spread terror among the slaves" in 59 but "spreads terror"—present tense—in 61. This change makes clear the fact that in 1861, slaves were still being sold on the auction block, despite the Civil War raging. Despite this fact, there seems to be more hope in the 61 edition, as is clear when Charles' "an uh mos' think uh got 'im now," talking about 'getting' his master, turns to the much more certain "an' I got 'im now!"

In addition to increased urgency and certainty, Delany makes the political dimension of the rebellion clearer in the 61 edition. In Chapter XXIII, "The Rebel Blacks," the plan of the organization in New Orleans is described as "the plot for the destruction of the city" in 59, but in 61, Delany adds "and seizure of the State" to the phrase. This highlights the fact that the blacks do not just want to free themselves by rising against the whites, but they want to seize the government, as well, and take political control.

Biblical Overtones

One final set of thematically linked revisions draws, in my opinion, stronger Biblical connotations. In Blake, Henry is clearly depicted as a Christ/Messiah/redeemer figure. Slaves who have never met him both expect his coming and know him on sight by a mysterious "mahk" which is never detailed. This impression is heightened in 61. When Henry replies to Mrs. Franks, "Let the righteous correct the wicked" in 59, "correct" becomes "reprove" in 61, bringing the probable paraphrase of the passage from Psalm 141:5 closer to the actual phraseology: "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me...." In Chapter IX, Henry tells Mammy Judy and Daddy Joe, "time with me is precious" in 59 and "the time with me is precious" in 61. Again, I may be making too much of a simple article, but one must ask why Delany did make the effort to add it. "The" makes Henry's statement seem less like a declaration of hurriedness and more like a hint that his time with Judy and Joe seem is a transcient and pre-set period of time—much like Jesus' time on Earth, which he knows will end with first the Crucifixion, and second, the Ascention. A sense of Henry's mysterious otherness is heightened in another simple change when he is speaking with Latuer's female slaves:

They instinctively as did Nancy, drew their garments around and about them, on coming in sight of the stranger. Standing on the outside of the fence, Henry politely bowed as they approached.] 59; ~ on coming in sight of the stranger, standing on the outside of the fence, who politely bowed as they approached. 61

This particular rearrangement of the sentence could simply be an attempt at condensing and improving the flow of the language; however, I think it also serves the purpose of, by taking away his name and leaving him only "the stranger," making Henry seem less like a friendly fellow-slave and passer-by than a mystical, unknown visitor. Finally, Biblical overtones are multiplied in Chapter XXIX when Henry and his fellow runaways have crossed the river by ferry and eluded their pursuers, who "on the other shore stood grinding their teeth" in 59 and "gnashing their teeth" in 61. "Gnashing" much more deliberately invokes the biblical image of those in Hell and their "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 25:30; Luke 13:28; Acts 7:54—to name a few).

VI. Concluding Remarks

There are many interesting substantive revisions which I have not mentioned, each of which deserves its own special investigation and essay looking into Delany's possible motivations in making it. The above represent a mere sampling. For instance, someone should delve into why rawhide becomes a cowhide in 61 (Ch. VIII), and why Captain Hart's Christian name changes from "Jesse" to "Jacob" in the course of those two years (Ch. XVIII). I am also interested in why Henry wants to know whether Latuer's overseer is free or enslaved in 59 but does not care to ask that question in 61 (Ch. XVIII). For now, however, I must leave these questions in the hands of the scholars visiting this collation and invite them to delve further than I have gone.

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1. Letter to William Lloyd Garrison, 19 Feb. 1859, Garrison Papers, Boston P.L./Rare Books Dept, cited in Martin R. Delany: A Documentary Reader, ed Robert S. Levine (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2003): 295-96.

2. ibid 295-96.