The Marble Faun

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"The fragility - and the durability - of human life and art dominate this story of American expatriates in Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. Befriended by Donatello, a young Italian with the classical grace of the 'Marble Faun', Miriam, Hilda, and Kenyon find their pursuit of art taking a sinister turn as Miriam's unhappy past precipitates the present into tragedy." Hawthorne's 'International Novel' dramatizes the confrontation of the Old World and the New and the uncertain relationship between the 'authentic' and the 'fake' in life as in art. ...
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Overview

"The fragility - and the durability - of human life and art dominate this story of American expatriates in Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. Befriended by Donatello, a young Italian with the classical grace of the 'Marble Faun', Miriam, Hilda, and Kenyon find their pursuit of art taking a sinister turn as Miriam's unhappy past precipitates the present into tragedy." Hawthorne's 'International Novel' dramatizes the confrontation of the Old World and the New and the uncertain relationship between the 'authentic' and the 'fake' in life as in art. The author's evocative descriptions of classic sites made The Marble Faun a favourite guidebook to Rome for Victorian tourists, but his richly ambiguous symbolic romance is also the story of a murder, and a parable of the Fall of Man. As the characters find their civilized existence disrupted by the awful consequences of impulse, Hawthorne leads his readers to question the value of Art and Culture and addresses the great evolutionary debate which was beginning to shake Victorian society.

Allegorical tale of the fall of man, based on the statue of a faun. (From Marianne)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780192839763
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Series: Oxford World's Classics Series
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 5.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Delbanco is the Mendelson Family Chair of American Studies and Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.

Biography

Nathaniel Hathorne, Jr., was born into an established New England puritan family on Independence Day, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. After the sudden death of his father, he and his mother and sisters moved in with his mother's family in Salem. Nathaniel's early education was informal; he was home-schooled by tutors until he enrolled in Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

Uninterested in conventional professions such as law, medicine, or the ministry, Nathaniel chose instead to rely "for support upon my pen." After graduation, he returned to his hometown, wrote short stories and sketches, and chanced the spelling of his surname to "Hawthorne." Hawthorne's coterie consisted of transcendentalist thinkers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Although he did not subscribe entirely to the group's philosophy, he lived for six months at Brook Farm, a cooperative living community the transcendentalists established in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.

On July 9, 1942, Hawthorne married a follower of Emerson, Sophia Peabody, with whom he had a daughter, Una, and a son, Julian. The couple purchased a mansion in Concord, Massachusetts, that previously had been occupied by author Louisa May Alcott. Frequently in financial difficulty, Hawthorne worked at the custom houses in Salem and Boston to support his family and his writing. His peaceful life was interrupted when his college friend, Franklin Pierce, now president of the United States, appointed him U.S. consul at Liverpool, England, where he served for four years.

The publication of The Scarlet Letter in 1850 changed the way society viewed Puritanism. Considered his masterpiece, the novel focuses on Hawthorne's recurrent themes of sin, guilt, and punishment. Some critics have attributed his sense of guilt to his ancestors' connection with the persecution of Quakers in seventeenth-century New England and their prominent role in the Salem witchcraft trials in the 1690s.

On May 19, 1864, Hawthorne died in Plymouth, New Hampshire, leaving behind several unfinished novels that were published posthumously. He is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Scarlet Letter.

Good To Know

Hawthorne's birth name was actually Nathaniel Hathorne. It's rumored that he added a "w" to avoid being associated with his Puritan grandfather, Judge Hathorne -- who presided over the Salem Witch Trials.

Among Hawthorne's peers at Maine's Bowdoin College: author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Franklin Pierce, who would later become the country's 14th president.

In its first week of publication, The Scarlet Letter sold 4,000 copies.

Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, at the Pemigewasset House in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Ironically, former president Franklin Pierce had advised him to go there for his health.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      July 4, 1804
    2. Place of Birth:
      Salem, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Death:
      May 19, 1864
    2. Place of Death:
      Plymouth, New Hampshire
    1. Education:
      Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, 1824

Read an Excerpt

Chapter I
Miriam, Hilda, Kenyon, Donatello

Four individuals, in whose fortunes we should be glad to interest the reader, happened to be standing in one of the saloons of the sculpture-gallery, in the Capitol, at Rome. It was that room (the first, after ascending the staircase) in the centre of which reclines the noble and most pathetic figure of the Dying Gladiator, just sinking into his death-swoon. Around the walls stand the Antinous, the Amazon, the Lycian Apollo, the Juno; all famous productions of antique sculpture, and still shining in the undiminished majesty and beauty of their ideal life, although the marble, that embodies them, is yellow with time, and perhaps corroded by the damp earth in which they lay buried for centuries. Here, likewise, is seen a symbol (as apt, at this moment, as it was two thousand years ago) of the Human Soul, with its choice of Innocence or Evil close at hand, in the pretty figure of a child, clasping a dove to her bosom, but assaulted by a snake.

From one of the windows of this saloon, we may see a flight of broad stone steps, descending alongside the antique and massive foundation of the Capitol, towards the battered triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, right below. Farther on, the eye skirts along the edge of the desolate Forum, (where Roman washerwomen hang out their linen to the sun,) passing over a shapeless confusion of modern edifices, piled rudely up with ancient brick and stone, and over the domes of Christian churches, built on the old pavements of heathen temples, and supported by the very pillars that once upheld them. At a distance beyond--yet but a little way, considering how much history is heaped into theintervening space--rises the great sweep of the Coliseum, with the blue sky brightening through its upper tier of arches. Far off, the view is shut in by the Alban mountains, looking just the same, amid all this decay and change, as when Romulus gazed thitherward over his half-finished wall.

We glance hastily at these things--at this bright sky, and those blue, distant mountains, and at the ruins, Etruscan, Roman, Christian, venerable with a threefold antiquity, and at the company of world-famous statues in the saloon--in the hope of putting the reader into that state of feeling which is experienced oftenest at Rome. It is a vague sense of ponderous remembrances; a perception of such weight and density in a by-gone life, of which this spot was the centre, that the present moment is pressed down or crowded out, and our individual affairs and interests are but half as real, here, as elsewhere. Viewed through this medium, our narrative--into which are woven some airy and unsubstantial threads, intermixed with others, twisted out of the commonest stuff of human existence--may seem not widely different from the texture of all our lives. Side by side with the massiveness of the Roman Past, all matters, that we handle or dream of, now-a-days, look evanescent and visionary alike.

It might be, that the four persons, whom we are seeking to introduce, were conscious of this dreamy character of the present, as compared with the square blocks of granite wherewith the Romans built their lives. Perhaps it even contributed to the fanciful merriment which was just now their mood. When we find ourselves fading into shadows and unrealities, it seems hardly worth while to be sad, but rather to laugh as gaily as we may, and ask little reason wherefore.

Of these four friends of ours, three were artists, or connected with Art; and, at this moment, they had been simultaneously struck by a resemblance between one of the antique statues, a well-known master-piece of Grecian sculpture, and a young Italian, the fourth member of their party.

"You must needs confess, Kenyon," said a dark-eyed young woman, whom her friends called Miriam, "that you never chiselled out of marble, nor wrought in clay, a more vivid likeness than this, cunning a bust-maker as you think yourself. The portraiture is perfect in character, sentiment, and feature. If it were a picture, the resemblance might be half-illusive and imaginary; but here, in this Pentelic marble, it is a substantial fact, and may be tested by absolute touch and measurement. Our friend Donatello is the very Faun of Praxiteles. Is it not true, Hilda?"

"Not quite--almost--yes, I really think so," replied Hilda, a slender, brown-haired, New England girl, whose perceptions of form and expression were wonderfully clear and delicate.--"If there is any difference between the two faces, the reason may be, I suppose, that the Faun dwelt in woods and fields, and consorted with his like; whereas, Donatello has known cities a little, and such people as ourselves. But the resemblance is very close, and very strange."

"Not so strange," whispered Miriam mischievously; "for no Faun in Arcadia was ever a greater simpleton than Donatello. He has hardly a man's share of wit, small as that may be. It is a pity there are no longer any of this congenial race of rustic creatures, for our friend to consort with!"

"Hush, naughty one!" returned Hilda. "You are very ungrateful, for you well know he has wit enough to worship you, at all events."

"Then the greater fool he!" said Miriam so bitterly that Hilda's quiet eyes were somewhat startled.

"Donatello, my dear friend," said Kenyon, in Italian, "pray gratify us all by taking the exact attitude of this statue."

The young man laughed, and threw himself into the position in which the statue has been standing for two or three thousand years. In truth, allowing for the difference of costume, and if a lion's skin could have been substituted for his modern Talma, and a rustic pipe for his stick, Donatello might have figured perfectly as the marble Faun, miraculously softened into flesh and blood.

"Yes; the resemblance is wonderful," observed Kenyon, after examining the marble and the man with the accuracy of a sculptor's eye.--"There is one point, however--or, rather, two points--in respect to which our friend Donatello's abundant curls will not permit us to say whether the likeness is carried into minute detail."

And the sculptor directed the attention of the party to the ears of the beautiful statue which they were contemplating.

But we must do more than merely refer to this exquisite work of art; it must be described, however inadequate may be the effort to express its magic peculiarity in words.

The Faun is the marble image of a young man, leaning his right arm on the trunk or stump of a tree; one hand hangs carelessly by his side; in the other, he holds the fragment of a pipe, or some such sylvan instrument of music. His only garment--a lion's skin, with the claw upon his shoulder--falls half-way down his back, leaving the limbs and entire front of the figure nude. The form, thus displayed, is marvellously graceful, but has a fuller and more rounded outline, more flesh, and less of heroic muscle, than the old sculptors were wont to assign to their types of masculine beauty. The character of the face corresponds with the figure; it is most agreeable in outline and feature, but rounded, and somewhat voluptuously developed, especially about the throat and chin; the nose is almost straight, but very slightly curves inward, thereby acquiring an indescribable charm of geniality and humour. The mouth, with its full, yet delicate lips, seems so nearly to smile outright, that it calls forth a responsive smile. The whole statue--unlike anything else that ever was wrought in that severe material of marble-- conveys the idea of an amiable and sensual creature, easy, mirthful, apt for jollity, yet not incapable of being touched by pathos. It is impossible to gaze long at this stone image without conceiving a kindly sentiment towards it, as if its substance were warm to the touch, and imbued with actual life. It comes very close to some of our pleasantest sympathies.

Perhaps it is the very lack of moral severity, of any high and heroic ingredient in the character of the Faun, that makes it so delightful an object to the human eye and to the frailty of the human heart. The being, here represented, is endowed with no principle of virtue, and would be incapable of comprehending such. But he would be true and honest, by dint of his simplicity. We should expect from him no sacrifice nor effort for an abstract cause; there is not an atom of martyr's stuff in all that softened marble; but he has a capacity for strong and warm attachment, and might act devotedly through its impulse, and even die for it at need. It is possible, too, that the Faun might be educated through the medium of his emotions; so that the coarser, animal portion of his nature might eventually be thrown into the back-ground, though never utterly expelled.

The animal nature, indeed, is a most essential part of the Faun's composition; for the characteristics of the brute creation meet and combine with those of humanity, in this strange, yet true and natural conception of antique poetry and art. Praxiteles has subtly diffused, throughout his work, that mute mystery which so hopelessly perplexes us, whenever we attempt to gain an intellectual or sympathetic knowledge of the lower orders of creation. The riddle is indicated, however, only by two definite signs; these are the two ears of the Faun, which are leaf-shaped, terminating in little peaks, like those of some species of animals. Though not so seen in the marble, they are probably to be considered as clothed in fine, downy fur. In the coarser representations of this class of mytho- logical creatures, there is another token of brute kindred--a certain caudal appendage--which, if the Faun of Praxiteles must be supposed to possess it at all, is hidden by the lion's skin that forms his garment. The pointed and furry ears, therefore, are the sole indications of his wild, forest nature.
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Table of Contents

Author's Preface iii
I. Miriam, Hilda, Kenyon, Donatello 1
II. The Faun 5
III. Subterranean Reminiscences 10
IV. The Specter of the Catacomb 14
V. Miriam's Studio 20
VI. The Virgin's Shrine 29
VII. Beatrice 36
VIII. The Suburban Villa 41
IX. The Faun and Nymph 45
X. The Sylvan Dance 50
XI. Fragmentary Sentences 54
XII. A Stroll on the Pincian 59
XIII. A Sculptor's Studio 68
XIV. Cleopatra 74
XV. An Aesthetic Company 79
XVI. A Moonlight Ramble 86
XVII. Miriam's Trouble 93
XVIII. On the Edge of a Precipice 98
XIX. The Faun's Transformation 105
XX. The Burial Chant 109
XXI. The Dead Capuchin 114
XXII. The Medici Gardens 120
XXIII. Miriam and Hilda 124
XXIV. The Tower Among the Apennines 130
XXV. Sunshine 135
XXVI. The Pedigree of Monte Beni 142
XXVII. Myths 149
XXVIII. The Owl Tower 155
XXIX. On the Battlements 160
XXX. Donatello's Bust 167
XXXI. The Marble Saloon 172
XXXII. Scenes by the Way 179
XXXIII. Pictured Windows 186
XXXIV. Market Day in Perugia 192
XXXV. The Bronze Pontiff's Benediction 196
XXXVI. Hilda's Tower 202
XXXVII. The Emptiness of Picture Galleries 207
XXXVIII. Altars and Incense 213
XXXIX. The World's Cathedral 219
XL. Hilda and a Friend 225
XLI. Snowdrops and Maidenly Delights 232
XLII. Reminiscences of Miriam 237
XLIII. The Extinction of a Lamp 242
XLIV. The Deserted Shrine 248
XLV. The Flight of Hilda's Doves 254
XLVI. A Walk on the Campagna 260
XLVII. The Peasant and Contadina 264
XLVIII. A Scene in the Corso 271
XLIX. A Frolic in the Carnival 276
L. Miriam, Hilda, Kenyon, Donatello 283
Postscript 288
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    I am always watching. *he dissappears, his eyes glowing red before he...dissappears.*

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