Nathaniel Hawthorne

Portret van Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Hieronder het artikel uit Chambers’s cyclopædia of English Literature uit 1886 over Nathaniel Hawthorne.


Letter This distinguished American author was born on the 4th July 1804 – the American Independence Day. He was a native of Salem, Massachusetts, and was early in the field as a contributor to periodical literature.

Two volumes of these pieces were collected and published under the title of Twice-told Tales (1837 and 1842). In 1845 appeared Mosses from an old Manse, and in 1850 The Scarlet Letter, which may be said to have given its author a European reputation. He afterwards joined with some friends in a scheme like the contemplated Pantisocracy of Southey and Coleridge – a society called the Brook Farm Community, from which Arcadian felicity and plenty were anticipated, but which ended in failure.

In 1851, Mr.Hawthorne produced The House of the Seven Gables, and in 1852 The Blithedale Romance. He published also a Life of General Pierce, and A Wonder Book, a second series of which, called Tenglewood Tales, was published in 1853. On the accession of General Pierce to the presidency in 1852, Hawthorne was appointed consul for the United States at Liverpool, which he held for about five years. A visit to Italy gave occasion to his writing Transformation (1860) – a novel, which gives an admirable view of Roman life, antiquities and art.

Mr.Hawthorne returned to America, and published Our Old Home, two vols., 1863, giving an account of England, but written in a tone of querulous discontent and unfairness which pained his friends on both sides of the Atlantic. Part of this must be attributed to ill-health, which continued to increase till the death of the novelist, which took place at Plymouth, New hampshire, May 19, 1864. An interesting volume of Memorials of Hawthorne has been published by Henry A. Page. His widow also edited and published Passages from the American Note-books of Nathaniel Hawthorne, two vols., 1868; Passages from the English Note-books of Nathaniel Hawthorne, two vols.1870; Septimius, 1871, and Dr.Grimshawe’s Secret, 1883, both unfinished romances.

The Scarlet Letter, Seven Gables, and Blithedale, are the most popular and original of Mr.Hawthorne’s works. The first of these pictures of New England life and Puritanism is on a painful subject, for The Scarlet Letter is the badge of the heroine’s shame, and her misery and degradation form the leading theme of the story. But it is intensely interesting, and its darker shades are relieved by passages of fine description. Perhaps its only fault is one which attaches also to Scott’s Waverly – a too long and tedious introduction.

The second romance does not possess the same harrowing interest, but it has greater variety, and the inmates of the old house are drawn with consummate skill. The Blithedale Romance is a story founded on the Socialist experiment at Brook Farm.