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Unjustly overlooked in its own time, Frank J. Webb’s novel of pre-Civil War Philadelphia weaves together action, humor, and social commentary. The Garies and Their Friends tells the story of two families struggling for different sorts of respectability: the Garies, a well-to-do interracial couple who relocate to Philadelphia from the plantation South in order to legalize their marriage, and their friends the Ellises, free black Philadelphians hoping to make the move from the working class into the bourgeoisie. Along the way the families confront racialized violence, melodramatic villainy, and sentimental reversals. Entertaining and fast-moving, the novel has a Dickensian mix of uncanny coincidence and interwoven personal experiences.
The historical documents accompanying this Broadview Edition provide reviews of the novel along with extensive materials on slavery, the color line, and contemporary Philadelphia.
“This is an outstanding edition of Webb’s powerful (and still relatively neglected) novel about the struggles of the free black community in pre-Civil War Philadelphia. The editors make the bold decision to use as their source text the ‘Cheap Series’ paperback edition widely circulating in London, where The Garies and Their Friends was published in 1857. They provide reviews, new information about Webb, and compelling contextual materials that help us to better understand the novel in relation to key legal and social contexts. Webb has been wonderfully served by Howell and Walsh. I couldn’t imagine teaching any other edition, and the excellence of this edition should help to bring new readers to Garies.” — Robert S. Levine, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, and author of The Lives of Frederick Douglass
“The Garies and Their Friends is one of the most interesting American novels of the mid-nineteenth century; the new Broadview edition finally gives it the editorial treatment it deserves. William Huntting Howell and Megan Walsh share supplemental documents essential to reading or teaching the novel, and they frame this work in a rich set of transatlantic contexts.” — Eric Gardner, author of Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture
“Frank Webb’s stunning novel comes alive in this accessible and informative edition edited by Howell and Walsh. The annotations are well crafted and will introduce readers to the broad racial, social, and literary contexts of Garies. The appendices are likewise well formulated to illuminate both the novel’s reception and its key geographic and legal coordinates. This wonderful edition is a boon for new readers and also for those who are already familiar with Webb’s novel.” — Jeffory Clymer, University of Kentucky, author of Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century