Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. E. C. Stedman and G. E. Woodberry), “Hawthorne's Tales,” The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, New York: Stone and Kimball, vol. VII, 1895, pp. 19-38


[page 19:]



THE reputation of the author of “Twice-Told Tales” has been confined, until very lately, to literary society; and I have not been wrong, perhaps, in citing him as the example, par excellence, in this country, of the privately-admired and publicly-unappreciated man of genius. Within the last year or two, it is true, an occasional critic has been urged, by honest indignation, into very warm approval. Mr. Webber, for instance, (than whom no one has a keener relish for that kind of writing which Mr. Hawthorne has best illustrated), gave us, in a late number of the “American Review,” a cordial and certainly a full tribute to his talents; and since the issue of the “Mosses from an Old Manse,” criticisms of similar tone have been by no means infrequent in our more authoritative journals. I can call to mind few reviews of Hawthorne published before the “Mosses.” One I remember in “Arcturus” (edited by Matthews and Duyckinck) for May, 1841; another in the “American Monthly” (edited by Hoffman and Herbert) for March, 1838; a third in the ninety-sixth number of the “North American Review.” These criticisms, however, seemed to have little effect on the popular taste — at least, if we are to form any idea of the popular taste by reference to its expression in the newspapers, [page 20:] or by the sale of the author’s book. It was never the fashion (until lately) to speak of him in any summary of our best authors.

The daily critics would say, on such occasions, “Is there not Irving and Cooper, and Bryant and Paulding, and — Smith?” or, “Have we not Halleck and Dana, and Longfellow and — Thompson?” or, “Can we not point triumphantly to our own Sprague, Willis, Channing, Bancroft, Prescott and — Jenkins?” but these unanswerable queries were never wound up by the name of Hawthorne.

Beyond doubt, this inappreciation of him on the part of the public arose chiefly from the two causes to which I have referred — from the facts that he is neither a man of wealth nor a quack; but these are insufficient to account for the whole effect. No small portion of it is attributable to the very marked idiosyncrasy of Mr. Hawthorne himself. In one sense, and in great measure, to be peculiar is to be original, and than the true originality there is no higher literary virtue. This true or commendable originality, however, implies not the uniform, but the continuous peculiarity — a peculiarity springing from ever-active vigor of fancy — better still if from ever-present force of imagination, giving its own hue, its own character to everything it touches, and, especially, self impelled to touch everything.

It is often said, inconsiderately, that very original writers always fail in popularity — that such and such persons are too original to be comprehended by the mass. “Too peculiar,” should be the phrase, “too idiosyncratic.” It is, in fact, the excitable, undisciplined and child-like popular mind which most keenly feels the original. [page 21:]

The criticism of the conservatives, of the hackneys, of the cultivated old clergymen of the “North American Review,” is precisely the criticism which condemns and alone condemns it. “It becometh not a divine,” saith Lord Coke, “to be of a fiery and salamandrine spirit.” Their conscience allowing them to move nothing themselves, these dignitaries have a holy horror of being moved. “Give us quietude,” they say. Opening their mouths with proper caution, they sigh forth the word “Repose.” And this is, indeed, the one thing they should be permitted to enjoy, if only upon the Christian principle of give and take.

The fact is, that if Mr. Hawthorne were really original, he could not fail of making himself felt by the public. But the fact is, he is not original in any sense. Those who speak of him as original, mean nothing more than that he differs in his manner or tone, and in his choice of subjects, from any author of their acquaintance — their acquaintance not extending to the German Tieck, whose manner, in some of his works, is absolutely identical with that habitual to Hawthorne. But it is clear that the element of the literary originality is novelty. The element of its appreciation by the reader is the reader’s sense of the new. Whatever gives him a new and insomuch a pleasurable emotion, he considers original, and whoever frequently gives him such emotion, he considers an original writer. In a word, it is by the sum total of these emotions that he decides upon the writer’s claim to originality. I may observe here, however, that there is clearly a point at which even novelty itself would cease to produce the legitimate originality, if we judge this originality, as we should, by the effect designed: this point is that at which novelty [page 22:] becomes nothing novel; and here the artist, to preserve his originality, will subside into the commonplace. No one, I think, has noticed that, merely through inattention to this matter, Moore has comparatively failed in his “Lalla Rookh.” Few readers, and indeed few critics, have commended this poem for originality — and, in fact, the effect, originality, is not produced by it — yet no work of equal size so abounds in the happiest originalities, individually considered. They are so excessive as, in the end, to deaden in the reader all capacity for their appreciation.

These points properly understood, it will be seen that the critic (unacquainted with Tieck) who reads a single tale or essay by Hawthorne, may be justified in thinking him original; but the tone, or manner, or choice of subject, which induces in this critic the sense of the new, will — if not in a second tale, at least in a third and all subsequent ones — not only fail of inducing it, but bring about an exactly antagonistic impression. In concluding a volume, and more especially in concluding all the volumes of the author, the critic will abandon his first design of calling him “original,” and content himself with styling him “peculiar.”

With the vague opinion that to be original is to be unpopular, I could, indeed, agree, were I to adopt an understanding of originality which, to my surprise, I have known adopted by many who have a right to be called critical. They have limited, in a love for mere words, the literary to the metaphysical originality. They regard as original in letters, only such combinations of thought, of incident, and so forth, as are, in fact, absolutely novel. It is clear, however, not only that it is the novelty of effect alone which is worth consideration, but that this effect is best wrought, for [page 23:] the end of all fictitious composition, pleasure, by shunning rather than by seeking the absolute novelty of combination. Originality, thus understood, tasks and startles the intellect, and so brings into undue action the faculties to which, in the lighter literature, we least appeal. And thus understood, it cannot fail to prove unpopular with the masses, who, seeking in this literature amusement, are positively offended by instruction. But the true originality — true in respect of its purposes — is that which, in bringing out the half-formed, the reluctant, or the unexpressed fancies of mankind, or in exciting the more delicate pulses of the heart’s passion, or in giving birth to some universal sentiment or instinct in embryo, thus combines with the pleasurable effect of apparent novelty, a real egotistic delight. The reader, in the case first supposed, (that of the absolute novelty), is excited, but embarrassed, disturbed, in some degree even pained at his own want of perception, at his own folly in not having himself hit upon the idea. In the second case, his pleasure is doubled. He is filled with an intrinsic and extrinsic delight. He feels and intensely enjoys the seeming novelty of the thought, enjoys it as really novel, as absolutely original with the writer — and himself. They two, he fancies, have, alone of all men, thought thus. They two have, together, created this thing. Henceforward there is a bond of sympathy between them — a sympathy which irradiates every subsequent page of the book.

There is a species of writing which, with some difficulty, may be admitted as a lower degree of what I have called the true original. In its perusal, we say to ourselves, not “how original this is!” nor “here is an idea which I and the author have alone entertained,” [page 24:] but “here is a charmingly obvious fancy,” or sometimes even, “here is a thought which I am not sure has ever occurred to myself, but which, of course, has occurred to all the rest of the world.” This kind of composition (which still appertains to a high order) is usually designated as “the natural.” It has little external resemblance, but strong internal affinity to the true original, if, indeed, as I have suggested, it is not of this latter an inferior degree. It is best exemplified, among English writers, in Addison, Irving and Hawthorne. The “ease” which is so often spoken of as its distinguishing feature, it has been the fashion to regard as ease in appearance alone, as a point of really difficult attainment. This idea, however, must be received with some reservation. The natural style is difficult only to those who should never intermeddle with it — to the unnatural. It is but the result of writing with the understanding, or with the instinct, that the tone, in composition, should be that which, at any given point or upon any given topic, would be the tone of the great mass of humanity. The author who, after the manner of the North Americans, is merely at all times quiet, is, of course, upon most occasions, merely silly or stupid, and has no more right to be thought “easy” or “natural” than has a cockney exquisite, or the sleeping beauty in the wax-works.

The “peculiarity” or sameness, or monotone of Hawthorne, would, in its mere character of “peculiarity,” and without reference to what is the peculiarity, suffice to deprive him of all chance of popular appreciation. But at his failure to be appreciated, we can, of course, no longer wonder, when we find him monotonous at decidedly the worst of all possible points — at that point which, having the least concern with [page 25:] Nature, is the farthest removed from the popular intellect, from the popular sentiment, and from the popular taste. I allude to the strain of allegory which completely overwhelms the greater number of his subjects, and which in some measure interferes with the direct conduct of absolutely all.

In defence of allegory, (however, or for whatever object employed), there is scarcely one respectable word to be said. Its best appeals are made to the fancy — that is to say, to our sense of adaptation, not of matters proper, but of matters irnproper for the purpose, of the real with the unreal; having never more of intelligible connection than has something with nothing, never half so much of effective affinity as has the substance for the shadow. The deepest emotion aroused within us by the happiest allegory, as allegory, is a very, very imperfectly satisfied sense of the writer’s ingenuity in overcoming a difficulty we should have preferred his not having attempted to overcome. The fallacy of the idea that allegory, in any of its moods, can be made to enforce a truth — that metaphor, for example, may illustrate as well as embellish an argument — could be promptly demonstrated; the converse of the supposed fact might be shown, indeed, with very little trouble — but these are topics foreign to my present purpose. One thing is clear, that if allegory ever establishes a fact, it is by dint of overturning a fiction. Where the suggested meaning runs through the obvious one in a very profound under-current, so as never to interfere with the upper one without our own volition, so as never to show itself unless called to the surface, there only, for the proper uses of fictitious narrative, is it available at all. Under the best circumstances, it must always [page 26:] interfere with that unity of effect which, to the artist, is worth all the allegory in the world. Its vital injury, however, is rendered to the most vitally important point in fiction — that of earnestness or verisimilitude. That the “Pilgrim’s Progress” is a ludicrously over-rated book, owing its seeming popularity to one or two of those accidents in critical literature which by the critical are sufficiently well understood, is a matter upon which no two thinking people disagree; but the pleasure derivable from it, in any sense, will be found in the direct ratio of the reader’s capacity to smother its true purpose, in the direct ratio of his ability to keep the allegory out of sight, or of his in ability to comprehend it. Of allegory properly handled, judiciously subdued, seen only as a shadow or by suggestive glimpses, and making its nearest approach to truth in a not obtrusive and therefore not unpleasant appositeness, the “Undine” of De La Motte Fouqué is the best, and undoubtedly a very remarkable specimen.

The obvious causes, however, which have prevented Mr. Hawthorne’s popularity, do not suffice to condemn him in the eyes of the few who belong properly to books, and to whom books, perhaps, do not quite so properly belong. These few estimate an author, not as do the public, altogether by what he does, but in great measure — indeed, even in the greatest measure — by what he evinces a capability of doing. In this view, Hawthorne stands among literary people in America much in the same light as did Coleridge in England. The few, also, through a certain warping of the taste, which long pondering upon books as books merely never fails to induce, are not in condition to view the errors of a scholar as errors altogether. [page 27:] At any time these gentlemen are prone to think the public not right rather than an educated author wrong. But the simple truth is, that the writer who aims at impressing the people, is always wrong when he fails in forcing that people to receive the impression. How far Mr. Hawthorne has addressed the people at all, is, of course, not a question for me to decide. His books afford strong internal evidence of having been written to himself and his particular friends alone.

There has long existed in literature a fatal and unfounded prejudice, which it will be the office of this age to overthrow — the idea that the mere bulk of a work must enter largely into our estimate of its merit. I do not suppose even the weakest of the Quarterly reviewers weak enough to maintain that in a book’s size or mass, abstractly considered, there is anything especially calls for our admiration. A mountain, simply through the sensation of physical magnitude which it conveys, does indeed, effect us with a sense of the sublime, but we cannot admit any such influence in the contemplation even of the “Columbiad.” The Quarterlies themselves will not admit it. And yet, what else are we to understand by their continual prating about “sustained effort?” Granted that this sustained effort has accomplished an epic — let us then admire the effort, (if this be a thing admirable), but certainly not the epic on the effort’s account. Common sense, in the time to come, may possibly insist upon measuring a work of art rather by the object it fulfill, by the impression it makes, than by the time it took to fulfils the object, or by the extent of “sustained effort” which became necessary to produce the impression. The fact is, that perseverance [page 28:] is one thing and genius quite another; nor can all the transcendentalists in Heathendom confound them.


THE pieces in the volumes entitled “Twice-Told Tales,” are now in their third republication, and, of course, are thrice-told. Moreover, they are by no means all tales, either in the ordinary or in the legitimate understanding of the term. Many of them are pure essays; for example, “Sights from a Steeple,” “Sunday at Home,” “Little Annie’s Ramble,” “A Rill from the Town Pump,” the “Toll-Gatherer’s Day,” the “Haunted Mind,” the “Sister Years,” “Snow-Flakes,” “Night Sketches,” and “Foot-Prints on the Sea-Shore.” I mention these matters chiefly on account of their discrepancy with that marked precision and finish by which the body of the work is distinguished.

Of the essays just named, I must be content to speak brief. They are each and all beautiful, without being characterized by the polish and adaptation so visible in the tales proper. A painter would at once note their leading or predominant feature, and style it repose. There is no attempt effect. All is quiet, thoughtful, subdued. Yet this repose may exist simultaneously with high originality of thought; and Mr. Hawthorne has demonstrated the fact. At every turn we meet with novel combinations; yet these combinations never surpass the limits of the quiet. We are soothed as we read; and withal is a calm astonishment that ideas so apparently obvious have never occurred or been presented to us before. Herein our author differs materially from Lamb or Hunt or [page 29:] Hazlitt — who, with vivid originality of manner and expression, have less of the true novelty of thought than is generally supposed, and whose originality, at best, has an uneasy are meretricious quaintness, replete with startling effects unfounded in nature, and inducing trains of reflection which lead to no satisfactory result. The Essays of Hawthorne have much of the character of Irving, with more of originality, and less of finish; while, compared with the Spectator, they have vast superiority at all points. The Spectator, Mr. Irving, and Hawthorne have in common that tranquil and subdued manner which I have chosen to denominate repose; but, the case of the two former, this repose is attained rather by the absence of novel combination, or of originality, than otherwise, and consists chiefly in the calm, quiet, unostentatious expression of commonplace thoughts, in an unambitious, unadulterated Saxon. In them, by strong effort, we are made to conceive the absence of all. In the essays before me the absence of effort is too obvious to be mistaken, and a strong under-current of suggestion runs continuously beneath the upper stream of the tranquil thesis. In short, these effusions of Mr. Hawthorne are the product of a truly imaginative intellect, restrained, and in some measure repressed, by fastidiousness of taste, by constitutional melancholy, and by indolence.

But it is of his tales that I desire principally to speak. The tale proper, in my opinion, affords unquestionably the fairest field for the exercise of the loftiest talent, which can be afforded by the wide domains of mere prose. Were I bidden to say how the highest genius could be most advantageously employed for the best display of its own powers, I [page 30:] should answer, without hesitation — in the composition of a rhymed poem, not to exceed in length what might be perused in an hour. Within this limit alone can the highest order of true poetry exist. I need only here say, upon this topic, that, in almost all classes of composition, the unity of effect or impression is a point of the greatest importance. It is clear, moreover, that this unity cannot be thoroughly preserved in productions whose perusal cannot be completed at one sitting. We may continue the reading of a prose composition, from the very nature of prose itself, much longer than we can persevere, to any good purpose, in the perusal of a poem. This latter, if truly fulfilling the demands of the poetic sentiment, induces an exaltation of the soul which cannot be long sustained. All high excitements are necessarily transient. Thus a long poem is a paradox. And, without unity of impression, the deepest effects cannot be brought about. Epics were the offspring of an imperfect sense of Art, and their reign is no more. A poem too brief may produce a vivid, but never an intense or enduring impression. Without a certain continuity of effort — without a certain duration or repetition of purpose — the soul is never deeply moved. There must be the dropping of the water upon the rock. De Béranger has wrought brilliant things — pungent and spirit-stirring — but, like all immassive bodies, they lack momentum, and thus fail to satisfy the Poetic Sentiment. They sparkle and excite, but, from want of continuity, fail deeply to impress. Extreme brevity will degenerate into epigrammatism; but the sin of extreme length is even more unpardonable. In medio tutissimus ibis.

Were I called upon, however, to designate that class [page 31:] of composition which, next to such a poem as I have suggested, should best fulfil the demands of high genius — should offer it the most advantageous field of exertion — I should unhesitatingly speak of the prose tale, as Mr. Hawthorne has here exemplified it. I allude to the short prose narrative, requiring from a half-hour to one or two hours in its perusal. The ordinary novel is objectionable, from its length, for reasons already stated in substance. As it cannot be read at one sitting, it deprives itself, of course, of the immense force derivable from totality. Worldly interests intervening during the pauses of perusal, modify, annul, or counteract, in a greater or less degree, the impressions of the book. But simple cessation in reading would, of itself, be sufficient to destroy the true unity. In the brief tale, however, the author is enabled to carry out the fulness of his intention, be it what it may. During the hour of perusal the soul of the reader is at the writer’s control. There are no external or extrinsic influences — resulting from weariness or interruption.

A skilful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents — he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tend not to the outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which [page 32:] leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction. The idea of the tale has been presented unblemished, because undisturbed; and this is an end unattainable by the novel. Undue brevity is just as exceptionable here as in the poem; but undue length is yet more to be avoided.

We have said that the tale has a point of superiority even over the poem. In fact, while the rhythm of this latter is an essential aid in the development of the poem’s highest idea — the idea of the Beautiful — the artificialities of this rhythm are an inseparable bar to the development of all points of thought or expression which have their basis in Truth. But Truth is often, and in very great degree, the aim of the tale. Some of the finest tales are tales of ratiocination. Thus the field of this species of composition, if not in so elevated a region on the mountain of Mind, is a table-land of far vaster extent than the domain of the mere poem. Its products are never so rich, but infinitely more numerous, and more appreciable by the mass of mankind. The writer of the prose tale, in short, may bring to his theme a vast variety of modes or inflections of thought and expression — (the ratiocinative, for example, the sarcastic or the humorous) which are not only antagonistical to the nature of the poem, but absolutely forbidden by one of its most peculiar and indispensable adjuncts; we allude, of course, to rhythm. It may be added, here, par parenthése, that the author who aims at the purely beautiful in a prose tale is laboring at great disadvantage. For Beauty can be better treated in the poem. Not so with terror, or passion, or horror, or a multitude of such other points. And here it will be seen how full [page 33:] of prejudice are the usual animadversions against those tales of effect, many fine examples of which were found in the earlier numbers of Blackwood. The impressions produced were wrought in a legitimate sphere of action, and constituted a legitimate although sometimes an exaggerated interest. They were relished by every man of genius: although there were found many men of genius who condemned them without just ground. The true critic will but demand that the design intended be accomplished, to the fullest extent, by the means most advantageously applicable.

We have very few American tales of real merit — we may say, indeed, none, with the exception of the “Tales of a Traveller” of Washington Irving, and these “Twice-Told Tales” of Mr. Hawthorne. Some of the pieces of Mr. John Neal abound in vigor and originality; but in general, his compositions of this class are excessively diffuse, extravagant, and indicative of an imperfect sentiment of Art. Articles at random are, now and then, met with in our periodicals which might be advantageously compared with the best effusions of the British Magazines; but, upon the whole, we are far behind our progenitors in this department of literature.

Of Mr. Hawthorne’s “Tales” we would say, emphatically, that they belong to the highest region of Art — an Art subservient to genius of a very lofty order. We had supposed, with good reason for so supposing, that he had been thrust into his present position by one of the impudent cliques which beset our literature, and whose pretensions it is our full purpose to expose at the earliest opportunity; but we have been most agreeably mistaken. We know of few compositions which the critic can more honestly [page 34:] commend then these “Twice-Told Tales.” As Americans, we feel proud of the book.

Mr. Hawthorne’s distinctive trait is invention, creation, imagination, originality — a trait which, in the literature of fiction, is positively worth all the rest. But the nature of originality, so far as regards its manifestation in letters, is but imperfectly understood. The inventive or original mind as frequently displays itself in novelty of tone as in novelty of matter. Mr. Hawthorne is original at all points.

It would be a matter of some difficulty to designate the best of these tales; we repeat that, without exception, they are beautiful. “Wakefield” is remarkable for the skill with which an old idea — a well-known incident — is worked up or discussed. A man of whims conceives the purpose of quitting his wife and residing incognito, for twenty years in her immediate neighborhood. Something of this kind actually happened in London. The force of Mr. Hawthorne’s tale lies in the analysis of the motives which must or might have impelled the husband to such folly, in the first instance, with the possible causes of his perseverance. Upon this thesis a sketch of singular power has been constructed. the “Wedding Knell” is full of the boldest imagintion — an imagination fully controlled by taste. The most captious critic could find no flaw in this production. “The Minister’s Black Veil” is a masterly composition of which the sole defect is that to the rabble its exquisite skill will be caviare. The obvious meaning of this article will be found to smother its insinuated one. The moral put into the mouth of the dying minister will be supposed to convey the true import of the narrative; and that a crime of dark dye, (having reference to the [page 35:] “young lady”) has been committed, is a point which only minds congenial with that of the author will perceive. “Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe” is vividly original and managed most dexterously. “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is exceedingly well imagined, and executed with surpassing ability. The artist breathes in every line of it. the “White Old Maid” is objectionable, even more than the “Minister’s Black Veil,” on the score of its mysticism. Even with the thoughtful and analytic, there will be much trouble in penetrating its entire import.

the “Hollow of the Three Hills” we would quote in full, had we space; — not as evincing higher talent than any of the other pieces, but as affording an excellent example of the author’s peculiar ability. The subject is commonplace. A witch subjects the Distant and the Past to the view of a mourner. It has been the fashion to describe, in such cases, a mirror in which the images of the absent appear; or a cloud of smoke is made to arise, and thence the figures are gradually unfolded. Mr. Hawthorne has wonderfully heightened his effect by making the ear, in place of the eye, the medium by which the fantasy is conveyed. The head of the mourner is enveloped in the cloak of the witch, and within its magic folds there arise sounds which have an all-sufficient intelligence. Throughout this article also, the artist is conspicuous — not more in positive than in negative merits. Not only is all done that should be done, but (what perhaps is an end with more difficulty attained) there is nothing done which should not be. Every word tells, and there is not a word which does not tell.

In “Howe’s Masquerade” we observe something which resembles a plagiarism — but which may be a [page 36:] very flattering coincidence of thought. We quote the passage in question.

With a dark flush of wrath upon his brow they saw the general draw his sword and advance to meet the figure in the cloak before the latter had stepped one pace upon the floor. “Villain, unmuffle yourself,” cried he, “you pass no farther!” The figure, without blenching a hair’s breadth from the sword which was pointed at his breast, made a solemn pause, and lowered the cape of the cloak from his face, yet not sufficiently for the spectators to catch a glimpse of it. But Sir William Howe had evidently seen enough. The sternness of his countenance gave place to a look of wild amazement, if not horror, while he recoiled several steps from the figure, and let fall his sword upon the floor. — See vol. 2, page 20.

The idea here is, that the figure in the cloak is the phantom or reduplication of Sir William Howe; but in an article called “William Wilson,” one of the “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” we have not only the same idea, but the same idea similarly presented in several respects. We quote two paragraphs, which our readers may compare with what has been already given. We have italicized, above, the immediate particulars of resemblance.

The brief moment in which I averted my eyes had been sufficient to produce, apparently, a material change in the arrangement at the upper or farther end of the room. A large mirror, it appeared to me, now stood where none had been perceptible before: and as I stepped up to it in extremity of terror, mine own image, but with features all pale and dabbled in blood, advanced with a feeble and tottering gait to meet me. Thus it appeared I say, but was not. It was Wilson, who then stood before me in the agonies of dissolution. Not a line in all the marked and [page 37:] singular lineaments of that face which was not even identically mine own. His mask and cloak lay where he had thrown them, upon the floor. — Vol. 2. p. 57.

Here, it will be observed that, not only are the two general conceptions identical, but there are various points of similarity. In each case the figure seen is the wraith or duplication of the beholder. In each case the scene is a masquerade. In each case the figure is cloaked. In each, there is a quarrel — that is to say, angry words pass between the parties. In each the beholder is enraged. In each the cloak and sword fall upon the floor. The “villain, unmuffle yourself,” of Mr. H. is precisely paralleled by a passage at page 56, of “William Wilson.”


I must hasten to conclude this paper with a summary of Mr. Hawthorne’s merits and demerits.

He is peculiar and not original — unless in those detailed fancies and detached thoughts which his want of general originality will deprive of the appreciation due to them, in preventing them for ever reaching the public eye. He is infinitely too fond of allegory, and can never hope for popularity so long as he persists in it. This he will not do, for allegory is at war with the whole tone of his nature, which disports itself never so well as when escaping from the mysticism of his Goodman Browns and White Old Maids into the hearty, genial, but still Indian-summer sunshine of his Wakefields and Little Annie’s Rambles. Indeed, his spirit of “metaphor run-mad” is clearly imbibed from the phalanx and phalanstery atmosphere in which he has been so long struggling for breath. [page 38:] He has not half the material for the exclusiveness of authorship that he possesses for its universality. He has the purest style, the finest taste, the most available scholarship, the most delicate humor, the most touching pathos, the most radiant imagination, the most consummate ingenuity; and with these varied good qualities he has done well as a mystic. But is there any one of these qualities which should prevent his doing doubly as well in a career of honest, upright, sensible, prehensible and comprehensible things? Let him mend his pen, get a bottle of visible ink, come out from the Old Manse, cut Mr. Alcott, hang (if possible) the editor of the “Dial,” and throw out of the window to the pigs all his odd numbers of the “North American Review.”




[S:0 - SW, 1895] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Hawthorne's Tales (Stedman and Woodberry, 1895)