Imágenes de páginas

hours each day. The rest of the time they were to have for social enjoyment and intellectual pursuits. Hawthorne was engaged to a brilliant, charming woman, and he hoped to be able to make a home for them at Brook Farm. The project failed, but he married and went to live at the Old Manse in Concord, to find perfect happiness in his home, and to work his way toward literary fame.


early life.

He had led a singular life. When he was four years old, his father, a sea-captain, died in South America. His mother shut herself away from the outside world and almost from her own family. The thorne's little boy was sent to school; but soon a football injury confined him to the silent house for two years. There was little to do but read; and he read from morning till night. Froissart, Pilgrim's Progress, and Spenser carried him away to the realms of the imagination, and made the long days a delight. At last he was well again; and then came one glorious year by Sebago Lake, where he wandered at his will in the grand old forests of Maine. He graduated at Bowdoin College in the famous class of 1825. There were names among those college boys that their bearers were afterwards to make famous: Henry W. Longfellow, J. S. C. Abbott, George B. Cheever, and




Horatio Bridge; and in the preceding class was Franklin Pierce. The last two became Hawthorne's warmest


Graduation separated him from his college companions; indeed, for twelve years he was isolated from almost every one. He had returned to his home in Salem. His older sister had become nearly as much of a recluse as her mother. Interruptions were almost unknown, and the young man wrote and read by day and by night. He published a novel which he was afterwards glad did not sell. He wrote many short stories. Most of them he burned; some he sent to various publishers. At the end of the twelve years, Bridge urged him to publish his stories in a volume, and offered to be responsible for the expense. This book was Told Tales, the Twice-Told Tales. Soon after his mar



from an

riage he published the second series of Tales, and a few years later, Mosses from an Old Manse. Most people who read these stories were pleased with them, but few recognized in Old Manse, their author the promise of a great romancer, 1846. Meanwhile, the romancer needed an income, and he was glad to retain the Custom House position in Boston that George Bancroft had secured for him. After a while he was transferred to the Salem Custom House. Then came a change in political power, and one day he had to tell his wife that he had been thrown out of his position. "I am glad," she said, “for now you can write your book." She produced a sum of money which she had been quietly saving for some such emergency, and her husband took up his pen with all good cheer. Not many months later, "a big man with brown beard and shining eyes, who bubbled over with enthusiasm and fun," knocked at the door. He was






James T. Fields, the publisher. He had read the manuscript, and he had come to tell its author what a magnificent piece of work it was. "It is the greatest book of the age," he declared. Even Fields, however, did not know what appreciation it would meet, and he did not stereotype it. The result was that, two weeks after its publication, the type had to be reset, for the whole edition had been sold. This book was The Scarlet The Letter, that marvellous picture of the stern old Scarlet Puritan days, softened and illumined by the 1850. touch of a genius. One need not fear to say that it is still the greatest American book.


Hawthorne had now come to the atmosphere of appreciation that inspired him to do his best work. Within three short years he wrote The House of the Seven Gables, a book of weird, pathetic humor and flashes of everyday sunshine. Then came The Wonder-Book, the little volume that is so dear to the hearts of children. The Blithedale Romance followed, whose suggestion arose from the months at Brook Farm. The life of his dear friend, Franklin Pierce, and Tanglewood 1852. Tales came next, a glorious record for less than three years.



wood Tales, 1853.


The House

of the Seven



The Won




Romance, 1852.

Life of

Franklin Pierce had become President, and he appointed his old friend consul at Liverpool. Four years of the consulship and three years of travel resulted in the Note-Books and The Marble Faun, the Faun, fourth of his great romances. Four years after its publication, Hawthorne died.

The Marble


It is as difficult to compare Hawthorne's romances with the novels of other writers of fiction as to compare a strain of music with a painting, for their aims are entirely different. Novelists strive to make their characters life

like, to surround them with difficulties, and to keep the reader in suspense as to the outcome of the struggle. Hawthorne's characters are clearly outlined, but they seem to belong to a different world. We could talk freely with Rip Van Winkle, but we should hardly know what to say to Clifford or Hepzibah, or even to Phebe. Nor are the endings of Hawthorne's books of supreme interest. The fact that four people in The House of the Seven Gables finally come to their own is not the most impressive fact of the story.

Difference between Hawthorne

and other


Hawthorne's power lies primarily in his knowledge of the human heart and in his ability to trace step by step the effect upon it of a single action. His charm comes from a humor so delicate that sometimes we hardly realize its presence; from a style so artistic that it is almost without flaw; from a manner of treating the supernatural that is purely his own. He has no clumsy ventriloquistic trickery like Brown; he gives the suggestive hint that sets our own fancy to work, then with a half smile he quietly offers us the choice of a matter-of-fact explanation, — which, of course, we refuse to accept. But the magic that removes Hawthorne's stories farthest from everyday life is the different atmosphere in which they seem to exist. The characters are real people, but they are seen through the thought of the romancer. In The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne ponders on how "the wrong-doing of one generation lives into the successive ones;" and everything is seen through the medium of that thought. No other American author has shown such profound knowledge of the human heart or has put that knowledge into words with so accurate and delicate a touch. No one else has treated the supernatural in so fascinating a

Hawthorne's power.

manner or has mingled so gracefully the prosaic and the
ideal. No one else has manifested such perfection of
literary style. Longfellow has well said:-

Ah! who shall lift that wand of magic power,

And the lost clew regain?

The unfinished window in Aladdin's tower
Unfinished must remain !


Ralph Waldo Emerson
Henry David Thoreau
Nathaniel Hawthorne


Transcendentalism had a strong effect upon New England literature. Its literary organ was The Dial. Among its special advocates were Channing, Parker, and Alcott. It aroused at first much unbalanced enthusiasm; but later it led toward freedom of thought and of life. Emerson and Thoreau are counted as the transcendentalists of American literature. Hawthorne is often classed with them.


Emerson became a minister, but resigned because of disa-
greement with the belief of his church.
He delivered many
lectures. His Phi Beta Kappa oration in 1837 was an
tellectual Declaration of Independence." Respect for one's
own individuality was the keynote of his teaching.

Thoreau cared little for people in the mass, but loved his
friends and nature. His Week on the Concord and Merrimack
Rivers and Walden were published during his lifetime. The
value of his work as author and naturalist was not fully
appreciated until long after his death.

Hawthorne was connected with the transcendentalists through the Brook Farm project and the spirit of his writings. His early life was singularly lonely, though he made warm friends in college. For twelve years after graduation, he was a literary recluse. Losing his position in the Salem Custom House, he produced The Scarlet Letter, which made him

« AnteriorContinuar »