Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge
When Douglass published his Narrative, he became an instant celebrity – but for all the wrong reasons. Since he was still legally a slave in Maryland, he knew he could be kidnapped back into slavery at any time, so his fame made him a target. To stay safe, he traveled to Ireland for almost six months, where he was delighted to be treated like a normal person. In a letter to Garrison, he wrote that in Ireland there was "a total absence of all manifestations of prejudice against me, on account of my color." In the Irish edition of his book, in fact, he said that in Ireland "I seem to have undergone a transformation. I have a new life." (Source)
Douglass never knew the exact day he was born, so he eventually adopted February 14 as his birthday. He said this was because his mother used to call him her "little valentine." We at Shmoop think that's kind of adorable. (Dana Meachen Rau's Frederick Douglass)
Douglass was still pretty young when he wrote the first Narrative of his life in 1845. He actually wrote two more, completely new versions of his autobiography before he died, a book called My Bondage, My Freedom in 1855 and a much longer version in 1881 called Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
When Douglass talks about reading The Columbian Orator, a book of speeches that inspired him, he mentions that he was particularly impressed with "Sheridan's mighty speeches on and in behalf of Catholic emancipation." Unfortunately, he was a little mixed up; the speech he remembers was actually by Arthur O'Connor. The Richard Sheridan selection was a comic satire making fun of a corrupt lawyer. (Source)
The first edition of Douglass's narrative, which cost 50 cents, eventually sold more than 35 thousand copies in the U.S. and Europe and was quickly translated into French and German. (Source)