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Textual Notes

These notes explicate our treatment of problems in the copy-text and of variants in the authoritative texts. In a few instances, the notes explain emendations that address problems in the copy-text not corrected in later editions; in most instances the notes explain why variants (especially substantives, but in some cases also accidentals) appearing in authoritative texts were either accepted into this edition or rejected in favor of copy-text readings. Each note begins with the page and line number of this edition followed by the adopted reading (either the retained reading of the copy-text or the adopted variant), both enclosed in a square bracket. The explanatory note follows the square bracket.

Some emendations are not explained in these notes either because they are simple, self-evident improvements or because they are brief and adopted largely or entirely on the authority of the edition or impression in which they first appear.

The symbols used to indicate the various collated texts are the same ones used in the Textual Introduction and are as follows: (1) the copy-text, first published in Boston in 1845, is identified as B; (2) the first impression of the second edition, published in Dublin in 1845, is identified as D1; (3) the second impression of the Dublin edition, published in 1846, is identified as D2; (4) the first impression of the third edition, published in Wortley near Leeds, England, in 1846, is identified as E1; (5) the second impression of the third edition, published in London in 1847, is identified as E2; and (6) the only impression of the fourth edition, published in London in 1852, is identified as L.

Each textual note dealing with a variant that appears in one or more authoritative texts indicates in which edition or impression the variant first occurs. The first occurrence is especially important because the decision to adopt or refuse a variant always takes into account the authority of the text in which it appears. If the note identifies only one text in which the variant appears without clarifying that it appears only in that text, it may be assumed that the variant appears in all subsequent editions and impressions. If the variant does not appear in all subsequent editions and impressions, the note indicates those in which it occurs. For substantive variants, this information is also available in the Historical Collation.

13.6 tell] The preposition "of" after "tell" in the copy-text (B) is awkward and inaccurate. Douglass was referring only to the slaves" inability to give their dates of birth, not to other information that slaves might relate about their birthdays. Because Douglass made changes in D2 at Richard D. Webb's suggestion, this alteration is almost certainly authoritative.


14.3 journeys] D2's singular noun is not recommended by the sense of the context. Douglass referred to four or five twelve-mile trips that his mother made at night in order to see him.

14.8 recollect] D2's deletion of the preposition "of" after "recollect" removes a superfluous as well as an awkward reading.

18.39 Mr. Severe] Douglass's misspelling of personal names has not been corrected in this edition unless the correction appears in Dl or D2. His spelling of the names of persons he knew or heard of while living in Maryland, especially, should be retained as a significant element of his memory of his slavery experience at the time he wrote the Narrative.

An excellent case in point is his recollection of the name of one of the overseers on the Lloyd plantation. By the time Douglass wrote My Bondage and My Freedom, his second autobiography, in 1855, he had learned that the name he had remembered as Mr. "Severe" ten years earlier was actually spelled "Sevier" (91-96). With this knowledge he was compelled to exclude his comment in the Narrative that "Mr. Severe was rightly named: he was a cruel man." Correcting the Narrative spelling obviously would pull most of the punch of his play on words.

19.13 Providence] This capitalization is based not on an alteration in a later edition or impression but on the principle of consistency. In three other passages in B in which "providence" is used in an identical sense (31.4, 31.15, and 47.4), it is capitalized in the last two. The "providence" in B 31.4, however, is capitalized in all subsequent editions and in the correlative passage in Bondage and Freedom (139). The weight of the evidence, therefore, is toward Douglass's intent to capitalize, and all four are capitalized in the established text.

20.14 O!"] D1's removal of the period outside the quotation marks in B corrects what is probably a compositor's error.

20.32 conception] Although all subsequent editions and impressions substitute the plural form, the singular is consistent with the context: Douglass was recalling his first insight into the nature of slavery. In the following sentence he refers back to "that conception"—not "those conceptions."

21.24 virtue] Webb may have suggested this alteration to Douglass on either moral or logical grounds or both: that resisting the temptation to steal fruit should not be potentially included in the category "vice" or that the phrase in B is inconsistent with the mutual exclusivity of virtue and vice. Dl deletes the reference to vice.

22.3 Old] Douglass uses the terms "old" and "young" in the passages referring to the two Barneys more as names than as adjectives. The capitalization of "old" and "young" in this context in Dl, therefore, is warranted. Douglass also chose to capitalize "Old" in referring to "Old Barney" in Bondage and Freedom (112-114).

22.4 Young] See the preceding note. This variant occurs in D1, D2, and E1.

21.11 Old and Young] See the note for line 22.3.


22.23 Old] See the note for line 22.3.

22.28 Old] See the note for line 22.3.

22.34 Old] See the note for line 22.3.

23.1] whom the slave belonged to,] Douglass almost certainly intended to revise B's phrase, "where the slave belonged," to make it parallel with a phrase in the previous paragraph (23.6), where Colonel Lloyd asks a black man whom he meets on a road: " 'Well, boy, whom do you belong to?'" Douglass inserted "to" after "belonged" in D1, but either he or the compositor failed to substitute "whom" for "where."

23.32 did] We have retained the past tense despite the switch to present tense in Dl and D2 for two reasons. First, past tense works as well or better than present tense. Second, Douglass uses the past tense in a closely parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (117).

25.27 but few] D1 reads "but a few." In the correlative passage in Bondage and Freedom (122), however, Douglass chose the wording of the copy-text.

26.28 Hicks] B's "Hick," undoubtedly the result of a compositorial error, is rendered as "Hicks" in all subsequent editions and impressions. B's compositor twice rendered the name correctly at 26.39. 26.36 Hicks'] On the ground that the name intended by Douglass is "Hicks" rather than "Hick" (see previous note), it follows that B's possessive form "Hick's" involves a compositorially misplaced apostrophe. The error was corrected in D1 and D2 but recurred in El, E2, and L.

27.15 Mr. Beal Bondly] D1's deletion of "Mr." is almost certainly a compositor's oversight. Douglass and Webb would have acted with extreme inconsistency to have deleted one "Mr." among many. When initially referring to a white person, Douglass's habit was to use "Mr." or "Mrs." and first (if he knew it) and last name. Several examples occur in the immediate context of this alteration.

28.16 probably seven or] Douglass revised B's reading ("between seven and eight years old") in D2, but his intended revision apparently was not fully implemented: his substitution of "or" for "and" demanded also the deletion of "between," which D2 retains. Either Douglass inadvertently failed to mark the deletion of "between" or the compositor overlooked the deletion.

28.23 scurf,] D2's "scruff" appears to arise from preference for a term that is used by speakers of British English to refer to a thin coating, crust, or film. "Scurf," however, is more precise in this context, where Douglass is commenting on washing to remove "dead skin" from his feet and knees (28.26).

29.19 comfort] The slight awkwardness of the plural coupled with the authority of D2, where the change to the singular noun first appears, supports the adoption of D2's reading.

29.37 Loudon] B's "Louden" could have resulted from Douglass's misspelling of the word in manuscript or from a compositor's misreading. The mistake was corrected in D2 and not repeated in Bondage and Freedom (137).


29.39 Fell's] The absence of the apostrophe in B apparently is a compositor's mistake that was corrected in D1. The apostrophe is included in the second appearance of the word in B (93.20) and in both occurrences in Bondage and Freedom (137, 308).

30.18 Providence] See the note for 19.13.

30.30 within] All editions and impressions after B substitute "in," but the correlative passage in Bondage and Freedom (140) reverts to the B reading.

31.16 gradually] This variant first occurs in the authoritative D2. Douglass apparently substituted "gradually" for "soon" in order to emphasize, as he does at length in Bondage and Freedom (139-54), that Sophia Auld's soft heart hardened slowly and incrementally as she sought to be responsive to the wishes of her husband.

31.18 eventually] See the note above.

30.20-21 Thus is slavery the enemy of both the slave and the slaveholder.] Appearing first in D2, this drawing out of the moral of his discussion of the gradual change in Sophia Auld is undoubtedly authorial.

36.14 wished] It is problematic whether B's "wishing" or D2's "wished" is the preferable reading, but the authority of D2 is the determining factor.

37.34 italics] The capitalization of "italics" in B is probably a compositor's mistake that D1 corrects. The parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (171), contains the lowercase "i."

38.7 son, Richard,] Consistency within the immediate context requires either that "Richard" be set off with commas or that "Captain Anthony" (38.8), "Andrew" (38.8-9), and "Lucretia" (38.9) not be. The absence of commas on either side of Richard is probably a compositor's error that was corrected in D1.

38.27 all were] The transposition of subject and verb in D2 is both preferable and authoritative.

39.28 fate] D's omission of a direct object in this sentence, probably a compositor's oversight, was not corrected in subsequent editions. Both "fate" and our placement of it seem called for by the context because Douglass seems to have been varying the cliche "a fate worse than death."

39.34 had] The D1 reading is simpler and cleaner and supported by the use of the same tense in a closely parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (180).

41.29 his] The phrase "betwixt himself and brother" seems to call for a thirdperson possessive pronoun before "brother," the lack of which is probably owing to a compositor's oversight. The addition of "his" was first made in D2 and retained in subsequent editions and impressions.

48.31-48.38 St. Michaels ... of] The extensive alteration of these lines, appearing first in D2, may be intended to condense and tighten a wordy passage. It seems more likely that Douglass was responding to the urgings of Webb to delete sexual references that the British public would deem unnecessary or coarse. The edited passage omits the description of Caroline as well as the exclamation that


Covey "hired a married man of Mr. Samuel Harrison, to live with him one year; and him he used to fasten up with her every night!"

When he wrote a parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (218), Douglass included a close paraphrase of B's reading, including the exclamation. We reject the D2 reading despite its probable authority because it appears to be an adaptation to British readers that he discarded when he wrote his second autobiography.

49.18 beam] In Bondage and Freedom (219-21), Douglass quoted a threepage passage from the Narrative that includes the line under consideration. He used B as the source of the quotation and retained "beam" even though "gleam" is substituted in Dl and all other editions and impressions.

49.26 many] D1s "much" is inexplicable except as a compositor's error. D2 reverted to "many," and the correction is retained in all other editions and impressions.

50.11 get] Douglass retained "get" in the Narrative passage quoted in Bondage and Freedom that is referenced in the note for line 49.18. Each edition and impression after B substitutes "go."

55.18 industrious ones] D2 deletes "ones," but Douglass retained the noun in the correlative sentence in Bondage and Freedom (251).

55.22 ball playing] DTs transposition of words in B's "playing ball" is ratified by the correlative sentence in Bondage and Freedom (252).

58.25 county,] The alteration of "county" to "country" in D1 is likely a
compositor's error. Douglass might credibly write from personal knowledge of the reputation of slaveholders "in the whole county," but not in the "whole country."

58.26 privilege of] The awkwardness of this sentence is due in part to its syntax and in part to the apparent omission of a noun and a preposition before "getting." The omission, probably a compositor's error, remained uncorrected in later impressions and editions.

58.31 who] D2 appropriately substitutes the personal pronoun "who" for the impersonal "that."

59.36 is] The change to past tense in D1 was not retained by Douglass when he included the passage intact (as a footnote) in Bondage and Freedom (264).

62.29 subjected] D1 substitutes "subject," but in Bondage and Freedom (286) Douglass retained the stronger notion of being interrupted and scrutinized as opposed merely to opening themselves to the possibility or probability of scrutiny.

62.32 words:—] D1 deletes "to wit" no doubt because it is redundant. Douglass left the phrase off when he reworded the parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (286).

63.14 and in] The addition of "and" in Dl wras also used by Douglass in the parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (289).

64.4 at] The substitution of "in the barn" for "at the barn" in D1 was ignored by Douglass when he wrote the parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (291).


64.27 can't] D2 avoids a double negative by substituting "can" for "can't." Douglass, however, apparently intended to use the double negative to give authentic flavor to an exclamation attributed to fellow slave Henry Harris because he retained it in the parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (293).

64.28 damned!] Almost certainly the five substitutions of "d——d" in D2 for the spelling out of the expletive (67.25; 68.24; 69.21; 69.22) were the result of the urging of Webb and exemplify the attempt to adapt the text to British taste.

65.20 ever] The change from "ever" to "even" in Dl is probably compositorial: it involves a single letter and undermines the sense of the sentence. A denial that they "even" intended to run away makes sense as a defence against the charge that they had actually sought to escape, but the accusation lodged against them was only that they had conspired to flee.

66.9 if] B's "though" is an awkward choice of prepositions that Douglass corrected in D2.

66.16 supposed] The change to the present tense in D1 is not justified by the context. It seems clear that Douglass was describing his state of mind in jail as a slave, not offering his contemporary analysis of events.

68.29 ship-yard, within the bounds of the Slave States.] Whether this phrase was inserted in D2 as an adaptation to the concerns of British readers or not, it was fully authorized and Americanized by Douglass's paraphrase of it in the parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (315). He even added a temporal qualification ("at that time") and tightened the geographical restriction ("in any other part of Maryland").

69.7 was] D1 pairs "A large company of men" with the appropriate singular verb form.

71.5-8 very public manner . . . upperground railroad.] The variant introduced in D1 simplifies sentence structure and improves readability. We must assume, however, that Douglass preferred what he had written in 1845, for he lifted the parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (323) bodily from B.

71.9 willingly] D1's deletion of "willingly" removes a mild redundancy, but in the parallel passage in Bondage and Freedom (323-24), Douglass chose to retain B's reading.

81.18-19 every where surround me. We] The variant "co-exist in the Slave States. They," which appears in D1, appears to be a clear instance of adaptation to British sensibilities. Writing in Massachusetts, Douglass asserts in B that religious hypocrisy pervades his surroundings; but revising in Ireland, he probably was pressured by Webb to exclude the North (where many churches had close ties to British counterparts) from the charge.

82.6-9 Here . . . see] "Here we have" in B is altered in D1 to "There we
behold." D2 retains "There we behold" and embellishes the passage with two additional phrases deploring the union of slavery and religion.


We reject D1's "There we behold" as an adaptation to British concerns and incorporate D2's embellishment, which is undoubtedly from the pen of Douglass and has no taint of adaptation to a secondary audience.

83.1 twofold] D2's "tenfold" is a puzzling substitution because in B Douglass accurately quotes most of Matt. 23:15 (King James Version), including the reference to the Pharisees making their converts twofold more a child of hell than themselves.

83.11 outwardly appear] D1's transposition of these words, which is retained in D2, El, and E2, is puzzling for the reason given in the previous note. Douglass quotes Matt. 23:28 (King James Version) accurately in B, so the transposition is inferior and without apparent reason.

83.21 faith.] This is yet a third example (see the two notes immediately preceding) of Douglass quoting or paraphrasing the King James Version of the Bible accurately in B only to undermine the accuracy in D1 or D2. In this example, he accurately paraphrases Matt. 23:23, in which Jesus is quoted as specifying the weightier matters of the law to be judgment, mercy, and faith. Inexplicably, Dl
substitutes "truth" for "faith."

83.33 feel] B's "have felt" was changed to "felt" in D1 and then to the adopted present tense in D2, which is later than D1 and more explicitly authoritative.

83.34-86.5 I ... END.] The British editions delete these final pages of B, probably out of the desire of both Webb and Douglass to avoid offending British church people. The Textual Introduction elaborates further on the probable reason for the deletion of this material.

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