On Hawthorne: The Best from American Literature

On Hawthorne: The Best from American Literature

by Edwin H. Cady, Louis J. Budd

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From 1929 to the latest issue, American Literature has been the foremost journal expressing the findings of those who study our national literature. The jouranl has published the best work of literary historians, critics, and bibliographers, ranging from the founders of the discipline to the best current critics and researchers. The longevity of this excellence lends a special distinction to the articles in American Literature.
Presented in order of their first appearance, the articles in each volume constitute a revealing record of developing insights and important shifts of critical emphasis. Each article has opened a fresh line of inquiry, established a fresh perspective on a familiar topic, or settled a question that engaged the interest of experts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822379973
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 08/01/2012
Series: The Best from American literature
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 295
File size: 471 KB

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On Hawthorne

The Best from American Literature

By Edwin H. Cady, Louis J. Budd

Duke University Press

Copyright © 1990 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-7997-3


Hawthorne and Literary Nationalism

Ned F. Doubleday

THE MOST obvious literary influence on Hawthorne is the work of Sir Walter Scott. Scott's influence on Hawthorne, in all its main aspects, has been recognized since G. E. Woodberry's Nathaniel Hawthorne. We now realize, too, that Hawthorne's early practice conforms to a critical demand that American materials be treated in the manner of Scott. Scott's work had a great influence on American literary theory in general, because it combined significantly with the patriotic nationalism of American writers and, as G. Harrison Orians has said, "converted the demand for nationalism into a quest for Scott-like ingredients in American life." By 1825 the success of this quest was apparent.

Hawthorne started out in his treatment of historical materials very much as current literary theory prescribed, but he developed away from and modified the theory which had directed his early work. To overlook the influence of current literary theory and fashion upon Hawthorne is to attribute to him an unwarranted isolation; to overlook the individuality of the treatment he gave quite ordinary materials is to miss something of his greatness as an artist. It is the purpose of this note to review the connections between Hawthorne's work and the contemporary desire for nationalistic fiction patterned after the work of Scott, and to discuss Hawthorne's final attitude toward the critical demand in which his work had its inception.

Hawthorne had been in college but one year when W. H. Gardiner, in some prefatory paragraphs to a review of Cooper's The Spy, stated the three great historical resources of the American fiction writer: the Colonial period, the Indian wars, and the Revolution. "What would not the author of Waverley," Gardiner asked, "make of such materials?" Ten years later, when Hawthorne was beginning to write for The Token, his first publication outside of Fanshawe and a few pieces for the Salem Gazette, the young Whittier was calling for the use of the same materials. Hawthorne makes important use of only one of these "three matters of American Romance," the Puritan material. W. C. Brownell has remarked, rather unaccountably, that Hawthorne's works "are thoroughly original, quite without literary derivation upon which much of our literature leans with such deferential complacence. Even the theme of many of them—the romance of Puritan New England—was Hawthorne's discovery." Actually, parallels in literary theory to Hawthorne's practice in his first period may be found as early as a Phi Beta Kappa address by William Tudor, which was printed in the second volume of the North American Review and which helps to mark the beginnings of a distinct New England literary consciousness. Writing almost prophetically at the beginning of Scott's career as a novelist, Tudor stated those characteristics of Scott's work which were to influence American literary theory and practice so deeply. Tudor says, speaking of the resources of American history for the fiction writer, that "Perilous and romantick adventures, figurative and eloquent harangues, strong contrasts and important interests, are as frequent in this portion of history, as the theatre on which these actions were performed is abundant in grand and impressive scenery." In this single sentence we see something of Hawthorne's early practice in the use of history: the perilous and romantic adventure of "The Grey Champion," the eloquent harangue of "Endicott and the Red Cross," the strong contrast of "The Maypole of Merry Mount," the important interest of "Howe's Masquerade." But it is perhaps more important that two of Tudor's four suggestions of specific historical incidents available for the writer are used by Hawthorne—the career of Ann Hutchinson, in "Mrs. Hutchinson" (1830), and the striking "incident mentioned by President Stiles ... of Dixwell, one of the regicides, suddenly emerging from his concealment, and by his presence animating an infant settlement ...," in "The Grey Champion" (1835), though changed to fit Hawthorne's purpose. John Neal, writing in Blackwood's in 1825, also suggests the life of Mrs. Hutchinson and the accounts of the regicide judges as story material, as well as "the female Quakers ... or the witches," the materials of "The Gentle Boy" and "Young Goodman Brown." Neal complains, indeed, of the pre-emption of the story of the regicide judge by Scott in Peveril of the Peak (1822). "The Grey Champion" particularly well illustrates the connection between Hawthorne's work and the literary climate about him, for in it Hawthorne is not only fulfilling Tudor's prescription, as three Americans had done before him, and almost certainly deriving (at least his title) from Peveril of the Peak, but also changing the traditional story—in which the "infant settlement" was imperiled by Indians—in order to combine it with the history of the resistance in Massachusetts to the government of Sir Edmund Andros. Just the year before the publication of "The Grey Champion," Rufus Choate, in an address called "The Colonial Age of New England," had made the resistance to Andros the prime example of the Colonial spirit of liberty, an example to be remembered and taught to succeeding generations.

The literary addresses of Rufus Choate are particularly interesting in reference to Hawthorne because Choate is so eloquently representative of the dominant trend in the critical theory of his time. An address delivered at Salem in 1833, called "The Importance of Illustrating New-England History by a Series of Romances like The Waverley Novels," sums up impressively the combination of a literary nationalism, natural enough to a new nation, with the influence of Scott. Orians has well called it "the finest expression" of the demand for a Scott-like national literature. It is Choate's contention that the writer of historical fiction vivifies and fills in for the imagination the story of the past, and that every lover of American literature would like, not one, but a thousand American Scotts. Moreover, the American fiction writer ought not only to preserve, but to make intelligible and to universalize history: he must accommodate "the show of things to the desires and needs of the immortal moral nature." Particularly is the Puritan past available for this purpose, and it should be exalted and made to represent an ideal spirit of liberty and nobility. Hawthorne's "The Grey Champion" is as perfect an exemplification of Choate's theory as could be desired; "Endicott and the Red Cross" (1838), is, but for one ironic paragraph, as much so. Hawthorne says the Grey Champion himself is "the type of New England's hereditary spirit," his march "the pledge that New England's sons will vindicate their ancestry"; he makes Endicott's "rending of the Red Cross from New England's banner the first omen of that deliverance which our fathers consummated after the bones of the stern Puritan had lain more than a century in the dust."

But there is an emphasis in Choate's theory from which Hawthorne makes a significant departure. He will not use the past only to glorify and idealize it. Choate's motives are worthy enough; he believes that historical fiction would foster a corporate imaginative life and reassemble "the people of America in one vast congregation": "Reminded of our fathers, we should remember that we are brethren." He urges a selection from the varied materials of history to achieve artistic unity; but he urges, too, a selection in which all that is regrettable in Puritan society be suppressed. The writer of historical fiction will neglect that large portion of history which "chills, shames and disgusts us." Choate makes explicit what he thinks unavailable in New England history: "The persecutions of the Quakers, the controversies with Roger Williams and Mrs. Hutchinson, the perpetual synods and ecclesiastical surveillance of the old times; a great deal of this is too tedious to be read, or it offends and alienates you. It is truth, fact; but it is just what you do not want to know, and are none the wiser for knowing." Choate would hardly have wished Hawthorne to include, in "Endicott and the Red Cross," the Wanton Gospeller's question, "Call you this liberty of conscience?" or the suggestion of an answer in the "sad and quiet smile" which "flitted across the mild visage of Roger Williams." Much less would Choate have had Hawthorne write "The Gentle Boy" or "Mrs. Hutchinson"—perhaps not even "The Maypole of Merry Mount," almost certainly not "Young Goodman Brown." While Hawthorne's work has the ethical emphasis in which Choate's theory is representative of the best in New England literary theory, Hawthorne comes, early in his career, to relegate history to background, and to be less interested in the picturesqueness of individual incident than in history as background for the development of a general, not specifically national, moral theme.

Hawthorne himself makes it plain that, in his maturity, his acceptance of the conventional doctrine for the use of American materials was limited. In 1846 Hawthorne reviewed W. G. Simms's Views and Reviews in American Literature, History and Fiction (New York, 1845), which has for its main theme a belated repetition of the familiar plea for an American literature that will use the materials of American history. Hawthorne's review represents his dislike for the bombastic generalization in which Simms is fairly typical of middle nineteenth-century literary theory in America. But Hawthorne's most important stricture on Simms's book suggests his own position concerning the use of historical material. For Hawthorne, historical background relieves, and at the same time gives perspective to, an ethical or spiritual theme. He says of Simms's book:

... we cannot help feeling that the real treasures of his subject have escaped the author's notice. The themes suggested by him, viewed as he views them, would produce nothing but historical novels, cast in the same worn out mould that has been in use these thirty years, and which it is time to break up and fling away. To be a prophet of Art requires almost as high a gift as to be a fulfiller of the prophecy. Mr. Simms has not this gift; he possesses nothing of the magic touch that should cause new intellectual and moral shapes to spring up in the reader's mind, peopling with varied life what had hitherto been a barren waste.

But it may very well be that Hawthorne's feeling that the mould of American historical fiction was outworn influenced his own departure, after The Scarlet Letter, from the field of historical fiction.

The mature Hawthorne found that his early admiration for Scott had become limited with the passing years and his changing concept of the function of literature. He was aware of a certain lack of depth in Scott which perhaps he consciously contrasts with his own seriousness. In "P's Correspondence" (1845), Hawthorne makes "P" say of Scott: "Were he still a writer, and as brilliant a one as ever, he could no longer maintain anything like the same position in literature. The world, nowadays, requires a more earnest purpose, a deeper moral, and a closer and homelier truth than he was qualified to supply it with." In the same sketch is included a characterization of Abbotsford (long before Hawthorne had seen it) and a judgment of Scott: "... that splendid fantasy ... which grew out of his brain and became a symbol of the great romancer's tastes, feelings, studies, prejudices, and modes of intellect. Whether in verse, prose, or architecture, he could achieve but one thing, although that one in infinite variety." Some years later in his account of a visit to Abbotsford in the English Notebooks, Hawthorne, after a description of Scott's collection of curios, is led to reflect on the lack in Scott's character that Abbotsford typifies. What he writes seems to be partly an unconscious reminiscence of the passage just quoted:

On the whole, there is no simple and great impression left by Abbotsford; and I felt angry and dissatisfied with myself for not feeling something which I did not and could not feel. But it is just like going to a museum, if you look into particulars; and one learns from it, too, that Scott could not have been really a wise man, nor an earnest one, nor one that grasped the truth of life; he did but play, and the play grew very sad toward its close. In a certain way, however, I understand his romances the better for having seen his house; and his house the better for having read his romances. They throw light on one another.

Yet Hawthorne confesses "a sentiment of remorse" for having visited the home of Scott "with so cold a heart and in so critical a mood,— his dwelling-place ... whom I had so admired and loved, and who had done so much for my happiness when I was young." He still cherishes Scott in "a warm place" and he anticipates rereading all his novels. Hawthorne may indeed have cherished Scott, for much of his work is to be regarded as a development in an American tradition which nourished itself on Scott.


Suggestions for Interpreting The Marble Faun

Dorothy Waples

PERHAPS The Marble Faun is a novel which needs to be seen in a certain light to be fully revealed. Although Hawthorne has always had his admirers and defenders among literary critics, this novel has sometimes been selected for unfavorable comparison. Henry James, who so frequently penetrated to the core of Hawthorne's thought, set The Marble Faun at comparatively slight value among its author's novels. The faun he granted to be charming, but he said: "I think it a pity that the author should not have made him more definitely modern, without reverting so much to his mythological properties and antecedents, which are very gracefully touched upon, but which belong to the region of picturesque conceits, much more than to that of real psychology." James was regarding the romance in the light of cosmopolitan realistic novels, and under that light it did not show well. Granville Hicks has complained in The Great Tradition that Hawthorne wrote as if unaware of the stream of thought in his own day. But Hicks was regarding Hawthorne from a point of view which sees only that great literature cannot be written within our social framework; and examined for traces of socialism, the novel does not shine. Ludwig Lewisohn has called The Marble Faun a book "quite without bone or muscle, that is, acceptable intellectual or moral content." He was viewing it as the expression of a private, personal, unnaturally exaggerated sense of guilt in Hawthorne. So viewed, of course the novel is devoid of acceptable content—even of sense.

Now, Mr. Lewisohn tells us that Hawthorne's treatment of sin is different from a normal artist's treatment; and to define the difference, he uses a statement by Thomas Mann. "The difference between Hawthorne and the more normal artist is this," Mr. Lewisohn says, "that the latter dwells upon the process of creative justification of himself and, as Thomas Mann has pointed out, hence of mankind. Out of his need to justify himself he becomes servant and savior of his race and seeks constantly to 'justify the ways of God to man.' Hawthorne, on the contrary, was imprisoned with his feeling of guilt and impelled to state and restate it in tale after tale and romance after romance."

The best part of this passage is its statement that the normal artist conducts a creative justification of mankind. If we test Hawthorne's novel by this demand upon the artist, we may by this very definition find in The Marble Faun some bone or muscle, after all, some intellectual or moral content. In the process, we may even discover a connection between the faun and "real psychology" which escaped Henry James. We may find a content acceptable enough to warrant our saying that instead of being merely provincial, out of the stream of contemporary thought, or indicative of abnormality, The Marble Faun now shows itself "more definitely modern" than it seemed to James.

It has been asked before this whether "nature caught in the snare of guilt" is indeed the subject of The Marble Faun. Is not the subject, rather, nature improved by a share of guilt? This is a theme so daring that though it is reiterated, Hawthorne tempers it to the shorn lambs who may read it; Hilda is allowed to say, perhaps on behalf of the timid reader, that the idea is shocking.

Hawthorne is investigating for himself the nature of good and evil. He puts into Miriam's mouth the question whether the murder had not been a blessing in disguise, a means of education whereby the "simple and imperfect nature" of Donatello had been brought to "a point of feeling and intelligence which it could have reached under no other discipline." Kenyon warns her that she is tending towards "unfathomable abysses." But Miriam professes that "there is a pleasure" in such thoughts.


Excerpted from On Hawthorne by Edwin H. Cady, Louis J. Budd. Copyright © 1990 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Table of Contents

Series Introduction vii

Hawthorne and Literary Nationalism (1941) / Neal F. Doubleday 1

Suggestions for Interpreting The Marble Faun (1941) / Dorothy Waples 8

The "Case" of Tobias Pearson: Hawthorne and dthe Ambiguities (1950) / Louise Dauner 24

The Double Symbol (1951) / Harold Orel 33

Hawthorne's Revision of "The Gentle Boy" (1954) / Seymour L. Gross 39

Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter: " The Dark Problem of this Life" (1955) / Hugh N. Maclean 52

The Gharacter of Flame: The Function of Pearl in The Scarlet Letter (1956) / Anne Marie McNamara 65

A New Reading of The Blithdale Romance (1957) / Frederick C. Crews 82

Hawthorne's Allegory of Science: "Rappaccini's Daughter" (1960) / Edward H. Rosenberry 106

Shadows of Doubt: Specter Evidence in Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" (1962) / David Levin 114

Hester Prynne's Little Pearl: Sacred and Profane Love (1968) / Robert E. Whelan 123

Hawthorne and Nineteenth-Century Perfectionism (1973) / Claudia D. Johnson 141

Hawthorne's Public Decade and the Values of Home (1974) / Terence Martin 152

Hawthorne's Coverdale: Character and Art in The Blithedale Romance (1975) / James H. Justus 164

Beyond Convention: The Dynamics of Imagery and Response in Hawthorne's Early Sense of Evil (1980) / David Downing 180

Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Mother: A Biographical Speculation (1982) / Nina Bryan 194

The Scarlet Letter and Revolutions Abroad (1985) / Larry J. Reynolds 221

Nature and Frontier in "Roger Malvin's Burial" (1988) / James McIntosh 245

Nathanel Hawthorne's Intention in "Chiefly About War Matters" (1989) / James Bense 262

Index 277

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