Title Page
 Front Matter
 Table of Contents
 Chapter I: Sin
 Chapter II: The dance of life
 Chapter III: Sensitivity and...
 Chapter IV: Reality and religi...
 Chapter V: Society
 Chapter VI: Women
 Chapter VII: Art and the artis...
 Chapter VIII: Human nature
 Chapter IX: National natures
 Chapter X: Progress, reform, brotherhood,...
 Chapter XI: The synthesis
 Citation of primary sources

Group Title: Personal philosophy of Nathaniel Hawthorne ...
Title: The personal philosophy of Nathaniel Hawthorne ..
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Title: The personal philosophy of Nathaniel Hawthorne ..
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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Front Matter
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
    Chapter I: Sin
        Page 1
        The nature of sin
            Page 2
            Page 3
            Page 4
            Page 5
        Brotherhood in sin
            Page 6
        Concealed sin
            Page 7
        The devil and evil
            Page 8
        The transmission of sin
            Page 9
        Sin and purity
            Page 10
            Page 11
            Page 12
        The effects of sin
            Page 13
            Page 14
            Page 15
        Unpardonable sin
            Page 16
            Page 17
            Page 18
    Chapter II: The dance of life
        Page 19
        Part 1: The texture of life: marble and mud
            Page 20
            The approach
                Page 20
            The compound
                Page 21
                Page 22
                Page 23
            The ephemeral quality of life's texture
                Page 24
            Observations on the texture of life
                Page 25
                Page 26
        Part 2: Death
            Page 27
            Page 28
            Grief and sorrow
                Page 29
        Part 3: Fortune and faith
            Page 30
            The nature of fortune
                Page 31
                Page 32
            The governing power of fortune
                Page 33
                Page 34
                Page 35
                Page 36
                Page 37
        Part 4: Nature
            Page 3
            As God's poetry
                Page 3
            As a goddess
                Page 39
            Nature as refuge
                Page 40
            Nature as symbol
                Page 41
                Page 42
                Page 43
    Chapter III: Sensitivity and solitude
        Page 44
        The sensitive soul
            Page 45
            Page 46
            Page 47
        The solitary soul
            Page 48
            Page 49
            Page 50
            Page 51
            Page 52
            Page 53
    Chapter IV: Reality and religion
        Page 54
        Part 1: Reality
            Page 54
            Page 55
            Page 56
            Page 57
            Page 58
            Page 59
            Page 60
        Part 2: Religion
            Page 61
                Page 62
                Page 63
                Page 64
                Page 65
                Page 66
                Page 67
                Page 68
                Page 69
                Page 70
                Page 71
            Aspects of religion
                Page 72
                Page 73
            Formal religion
                Page 74
                Page 75
                Page 76
                Page 77
                Page 78
                Page 79
    Chapter V: Society
        Page 80
            Page 81
            Page 82
            Page 83
            Page 84
            Page 85
            Page 86
        Society at large
            Page 87
            Page 88
            Page 89
            Page 90
            Page 91
            Page 92
        Political society
            Page 93
            Page 94
            Page 95
    Chapter VI: Women
        Page 96
        The function of women
            Page 97
            Page 98
            Page 99
            Page 100
        Young women
            Page 101
            Page 102
            Page 103
        Old women
            Page 104
            Page 105
        Public women
            Page 106
            Page 107
            Page 108
            Page 109
            Page 110
        Women in general
            Page 111
            Page 112
        Marriage and the home
            Page 113
            Page 114
            Page 115
            Page 116
            Page 117
            Page 118
            Page 119
            Page 120
            Page 121
            Page 122
    Chapter VII: Art and the artist
        Page 123
            Page 124
            Page 125
            Page 126
            Page 127
            Page 128
            Page 129
            Page 130
            Page 131
            Page 132
            Page 133
            Page 134
            Page 135
            Page 136
            Page 137
            Page 138
            Page 139
            Page 140
        Hawthorne and fiction
            Page 141
            Page 142
            Page 143
            Page 144
            Page 145
            Page 146
            Page 147
            Page 148
        Talent and genius
            Page 149
        The audience
            Page 150
            Page 151
            Page 152
            Page 153
            Page 154
        The artist's ideal
            Page 155
            Page 156
            Page 157
            Page 158
            Page 159
        Methods and problems of art
            Page 160
            Page 161
            Page 162
            Page 163
            Page 164
    Chapter VIII: Human nature
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Limitation of mankind
            Page 167
            Page 168
        Man's nature
            Page 169
            Page 170
            Page 171
            Page 172
            Page 173
            Page 174
            Page 175
            Page 176
            Page 177
            Page 178
            Page 179
        Individual natures
            Page 180
            Page 181
            Page 182
            Page 183
            Page 184
            Page 185
        The nature of the public
            Page 186
            Page 187
            Page 188
        The nature of the sick
            Page 189
            Page 190
        The twilight zone
            Page 191
            Page 192
        Purpose and power
            Page 193
            Page 194
        The nature of a hero
            Page 195
            Page 196
        Proverbs on human nature
            Page 197
            Page 198
            Page 199
            Page 200
            Page 201
    Chapter IX: National natures
        Page 202
        The English
            Page 203
            Page 204
            Page 205
            Page 206
            Page 207
            Page 208
            Page 209
        The Scots
            Page 210
        The French
            Page 210
        The Italians
            Page 211
            Page 212
        The Americans
            Page 213
            Page 214
            Page 215
            Page 216
            Page 217
        The Puritans
            Page 218
            Page 219
        New England
            Page 220
        Similarity of natures
            Page 221
            Page 222
    Chapter X: Progress, reform, brotherhood, and war
        Page 223
        Part 1: Progress
            Page 224
            Page 225
            Page 226
            Page 227
            Page 228
            Page 229
            Page 230
            Page 231
            Page 232
        Part 2: Reform
            Page 233
            Page 234
            Page 235
            Page 236
            Page 237
            Page 238
        Part 3: Brotherhood
            Page 239
            Page 240
            Page 241
            Page 242
            The lack of brotherhood
                Page 243
                Page 244
        Part 4: War
            Page 245
            Page 246
            Page 247
            Page 248
            Page 249
    Chapter XI: The synthesis
        Page 250
        The emotional equation
            Page 250
            Page 251
            Page 252
            Page 253
            Page 254
            Page 255
            Page 256
            Page 257
            Page 258
            Page 259
            Page 260
            Page 261
        The synthesis
            Page 262
            Page 263
            Page 264
            Page 265
            Page 266
            Page 267
            Page 268
        Page 269
        Page 270
        Page 271
        Page 272
    Citation of primary sources
        Page 273
        Page 274
        Page 275
        Page 276
        Page 277
        Page 278
        Page 279
        Page 280
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Full Text





June, 1953



To Dr. Harry R. Warfel, my teacher,

and to Ann, my wife.

Life is made up of marble and mud.

-Nathaniel Hawthorne

If it be true that human nature is evil,
we shall gain nothing by blinking the fact.

-Julian Hawthorne


It is the aim of this study to select, classify, and interpret

those statements from the complete writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne

which indicate the novelist's personal philosophy. Even though he

did not adhere to a formal philosophy, he did express his opinions

often enough and with consistency enough that the pattern of his

thought may be ascertained, When the scattered bits of Hawthornian

opinion are brought together under a subject classification, and

handled chronologically, they present a clear statement of the

novelist's orientation to those phases of life which were of permanent

interest to him. The pattern thus formed constitutes the mental

substance of which the fiction is the end product.

This study shows the development of specific beliefs, the

relationship between different sets of beliefs, and some of the

subtleties which underlie them. While it is not proposed that the

Hawthornian system of thought is of sufficient import to lift the

novelist into the realm of great thinkers, I believe that this

systematic analysis does establish his thought pattern as intrinsically

significant. Indeed, the developed pattern elucidates the key ideas

of one of America's major novelists.

The primary material for this study is taken from Hawthorne's

published works, his journals, and his letters. The evidence I have

used consists of 562 statements, which range in length from a single

short sentence to a passage of several sentences. These selections,

which stand out boldly as attempts at interpreting life, usually

against the background of an event, a characterization, or a feeling,

are sententious, figurative, and decidedly moral. One quality of these

statements must be mentioned. They are characteristically orotund,

oracular, and universal rather than hesitant, uncertain, or particular.

They are the "truths" with which Hawthorne elevates his writings above

a merely local significance. In effect, they serve as a distillation

of the pure essence of the man.

When explicating several phases of the thought pattern it is

necessary to recall pertinent events in Hawthorne's life. It is

assumed that the reader is not unfamiliar with these events. Since

this study does not purport to be biographical in nature, references

to Hawthorne's life are employed only when biography relates quite

definitely to the ideas under consideration. These ideas or individual

segments of Hawthornian thought are studied as fractions of the broader

concepts of which they are a part rather than for their unique interest.

Once the novelist's commentary in the various thought areas is

assimilated, and once these several areas are taken in combination,

the total thought pattern thus brought into being affords an

invaluable background for a surer critical understanding of Hawthorne's

mind and art.


I can express but imperfectly my indebtedness to the overall

directing genius of Dr. Harry R. Warfel. His firm understanding of

the "lights and shadows" of Hawthorne's mind was of inestimable aid.

His continued encouragement was challenging. To Dr. George D.

Bartlett I am similarly grateful. His keen and determined probing

of the Hawthornian concepts which I attempted to explore repeatedly

brought those concepts into a sharper focus. For the careful

readings and suggestions of Dr. Ants Oras, Dr. Robert H. Bowers, and

Dr. Gordon E. Bigelow I am deeply appreciative. The experience with

Hawthorne was in every way made more rich and more delightful by the

painstaking and tender tutelage of this group of men.


PREFACE ... ...................... iv


I. SIN . . . . . 1

The Nature of Sin
Brotherhood in Sin
Concealed Sin
The Devil and Evil
The Transmission of Sin
Sin and Purity
The Effects of Sin
Unpardonable Sin

II. THE DANCE OF LIFE . . . .. 19


The Approach
The Compound
The Ephemeral Quality of Life's Texture
Observations on the Texture of Life

Part Two. DEATH . .. . .. 27

Grief and Sorrow

Part Three. FORTUNE AND FAITH . . 30

The Nature of Fortune
The Governing Power of Fortune

Part Four. NATURE . . ...... 38

As God's Poetry
As a Goddess
Nature as Refuge
Nature as Symbol


The Sensitive Soul
The Solitary Soul


Part One. REALITY .... ..... ... 54

Part Two. RELIGION . . .. . 61

Aspects of Religion
Formal Religion

V. SOCIETY ........... . ..... 80

Society at Large
Political Society

VI. WOMEN ......... ....... .... 96

The Function of Women
Young Women
Old Women
Public Women
Women in General
Marriage and the Home


Hawthorne and Fiction
Talent and Genius
The Audience
The Artist's Ideal
Methods and Problems of Art

VIII. HUMAN NATURE . ... ....... 165

Limitations on Mankind
Man's Nature
Individual Natures


The Nature of the Public
The Nature of the Sick
The Twilight Zone
Purpose and Power
The Nature of a Hero
Proverbs on Human Nature


The English
The Scots
The French
The Italians
The Americans
The Puritans
New England
Similarity of Natures


Part One. PROGRESS . .

Part Two. REFORM . .


The Lack of Brotherhood

Part Four. WAR . .


The Emotional Equation
The Synthesis

. 0 .* 0 a &



* 0 0 *

* 0 0














Sin is prenatal to Hawthorne's world. It is not adopted by him

merely as entertaining subject matter for fiction. Neither is the

Hawthornian interest in sin a manifestation of an abnormal predilection

for the seamier side of human nature, for his interest springs from an

intuitive acceptance of what the novelist felt to be an indisputable

actuality. Any serious attempt at establishing the system of opinions

which underlies Hawthorne's fiction and which constitutes the personal

philosophy of the man must immediately accept the omnipresence of sin,

for such an acceptance necessarily precedes a critical understanding of

the various aspects of life upon which Hawthorne reflected and wrote.

All questioning of the cause of the novelist's interest in sin

remain in the conjectural realm, nor do they belie that interest.

Why Hawthorne thus wrote, why the theme of sin so fascinated
him, dominating his writings and inspiring his efforts from a
moral motivation, is, since no one single trait or definite cause
is obviously accountable, is to be charged,-I suppose to

Hawthorne posited the existence of sin and consistently called it to

the foreground, while he never once questioned either the assumption

or the reasons behind that assumption. Melville explores sin; Hawthorne

states it as a fact of life beyond dispute. Sin's certain power was

1Carlos Kling, "Hawthorne's View of Sin," Personalist, XIII
(April 1932), 120.

ever-present to the Hawthorne mind. From that mental awareness it

broadened outward into his fiction with an astonishing fullness.

The Nature of Sin

But what is the nature of sin as Hawthorne viewed it? "In the

very depths of every heart there is a tomb and a dungeon, though the

lights, the music, and revelry above may cause us to forget their

existence, and the buried ones, or prisoners, whom they hide."(l)2

The certainty of evil is absolute. "There is evil in every human heart,

which may remain latent, perhaps, through the whole of life; but

circumstances may rouse it to activity."(2) Sin and evil are a natural

disposition of man, a coiled serpent awaiting action at the snap of a


Among the old problems of Puritanism the most exalted is sin.

Hawthorne had inherited the problem but not the accompanying answers of

election, atonement, and irresistible grace. For the study of

Hawthorne's mind it is necessary to cut back immediately into the

principles of Calvinism, for in rejecting Calvinism as a religion he

retained it as the raw material of his intellectual probings. "As

Franklin translated into secular terms the moral discipline of New

England, so Hawthorne translated into empirical truths the essential

doctrines of Calvinism."3 Hawthorne had broken through the heavy

2Arabic numbers within parentheses refer to the primary sources
of this study, that is, the 562 quotations. The citation of their
location in Hawthorne literature is in the appendix entitled "Citations
of Primary Sources."

3Herbert W. Schneider, The Puritan Mind (New York, 1930), p. 256.

Calvinistic tapestry, but he was unable to shake himself free from the

encircling strands of its shattered fibers. It is patent from the

Hawthornian commentary that the sin-cloud is latent in every heart.

Moreover, corrupted mankind is forced to act, and when it acts it sins.

"For our nature is not only destitute of all good, but is so fertile in

all evils that it cannot remain inactive."4 Hawthorne's statements

rest snugly in Calvinistic teaching.

"What is Guilt? A stain upon the soul."(3) Guilt proceeds

inevitably from a sinful act; it is one with sin. Whereas, formally,

sin may be understood to imply any want of conformity unto, or

transgression of, the laws of God, Hawthorne notes in a brief but

forceful manner that it is "a stain upon man's soul."

Hawthorne is not displeased to personify sin as the evil

mistress to whose call all mankind harkens. "But Sin, alas is careful

of her bond-slaves; they hear her voice, perhaps, at the holiest

moment, and are constrained to go whither she summons them."(4)

Again, he comments on the unlimited quantity and unmanageable quality

of the sin present in everyday life.

Perhaps, if we could penetrate Nature's secrets, we could find
that what we call weeds are more essential to the well-being of
the world than the most precious fruit or grain. This may be
doubted, however; for there is an unmistakable Csic] analogy
between these wicked weeds and the bad habits and sinful
propensities which have overrun the moral world; and we may as well
imagine that there is good in one as in the other.($)

Cotton Mather voiced the wrath of God in his Magnalia Christi

4John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans.
John Allen (Philadelphia, 1936), I, 275.

Americana, a work not unfamiliar to Hawthorne.5

Every sin both original and actual being a transgression of
the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own
nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to
the wrath of God, and the curse of the law, and so made subject to
death, with all its miseries spiritual, temporal and eternal.o

The novelist's ideas appear in accord with the expressed theological

sentiment. "0 Judgement Seat, not by the pure in heart wast thou

established, nor in the simplicity of nature; but by hard and wrinkled

men, and upon the accumulated heap of earthly wrong. Thou art the

very symbol of man's perverted state."(6)

Sin and evil permit neither balance nor repair in this life.

And be the stern and sad truth spoken, that the breach which
guilt has once made into the human soul is never, in this mortal
state, repaired. It may be watched and guarded; so that the enemy
shall not force his way again into the citadel, and might even, in
his subsequent assaults, select some other avenue, in preference
to that where he had formerly succeeded. But there is still the
ruined wall, and, near it, the stealthy tread of the foe that would
win over again his unforgotten triumph.(7)

Calvin's statements on the nature of original sin express a similar


Original sin, therefore, appears to be an hereditary pravity
and corruption of our nature, diffused through all the parts of
the soul, rendering us obnoxious to the Divine wrath, and producing
in us those works which the Scripture calls "works of the flesh."?

Hawthorne, with precedent in Calvinism, and in the great majority of

Christian dogmas, meets sin by intensifying its heinous aspects and by

5Marion L. Kesselring, Hawthorne's Reading: 1828-1850 (New
York, 1949), p. 56.

6Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana (Hartford, 1820),
II, 162.

7Calvin, Institutes, I, 274.

insisting on the irreparable breach in human affections occasioned by

an evil action.

"So it ever is, whether thus typified or no, that an evil deed

invests itself with the character of doom."(8) Sin, evil, and doom are

an unholy synonymous trinity. "What is there so ponderous in evil, that

a thumb's bigness of it should outweigh the mass of things not evil

which were heaped into the other scaleL"(9) Here, in a word, is the

one incontestible truth. Hawthorne here as elsewhere exclaims; he

neither doubts nor questions. The blot on man's soul may not be

eradicated, may not be ignored.

"It must be very tedious to listen, day after day, to the

minute and commonplace iniquities of the multitude of penitents, and it

cannot be often that these are redeemed by the treasure-trove of a

great sin."(l0) Rarely, indeed, is Hawthorne in as playful a mood

over so serious a subject. Herein lies the grim root of the moralist's

humor--that sin is so basic to life that it may occasionally be jested

about. Sin is the form giving cause from which life's substance evolves.

It is so mixed with the sundry aspects of life that mortal man may

function only within its shadows.

Basic to Puritan theology were the doctrines of original sin

and human depravity. Christianity tends to offer an outlet for sin

with penance, sacrifice, repentance, or by a combination thereof.

Hawthorne failed to see a ready and easy exit to the problem; he

continued to reflect instead upon the nature of sin, its effect on the

individual and the group, and on the subtle and miraculous manner in

which it tempers the whole of life. To the certain knowledge of

Hawthorne, the nature of sin is self-evident to all who would look at

life unflinchingly. Sin is decidedly more vivid than that which falls

before the eye of man, for it is intuitive and, to a degree, experienced

by all the senses.

Brotherhood in Sin

It is inherent in the very nature of sin that each individual

must fall heir to an indistinguishable brotherhood. "Man must not

disclaim his brotherhood, even with the guiltiest, since, though his

hand be clean, his heart has surely been polluted by the flitting

phantoms of iniquity."(ll) Hawthorne lashes out occasionally at the

holier-than-thou attitude encountered in bigots and hypocrites. "In

God's name, which of us miserable sinners does deserve anything?"(12)

We are alike sinners before God, for the encircling sweep of sin

brings all within her orbit.

No sin is individual and ended in time; rather, it creeps like

concentric circles from a splash in the millpond. "It is a terrible

thought, that an individual wrong-doing melts into the great mass of

human crime, and makes us,-who dreamed only of our own little

separate sin,-makes us guilty of the whole."(13) Individual

instances have universal reverberations in that each specific enactment

of a sinful deed echoes the depravity of the race. "Every crime

destroys more Edens than our own!"(14) No human being, however agile,

may leap free of the far-reaching splash of sin. Whereas it is

scarcely a frolicking and optimistic fraternity, this brotherhood in

sin, sorrow and death, there is every indication that Hawthorne thought

it, sad though it be, the only legitimate one.

Concealed Sin

One noteworthy aspect of sin is that a scarlet "S" is seldom

stamped on the foreheads of mankind. "Nothing is more remarkable than

the various deceptions by which guilt conceals itself from the

perpetrator's conscience, and oftenest, perhaps, by the splendor of its

garments."(15) Attention is again called to the splendid but hollow

delusion so frequently referred in Hawthorne's fiction. "Decency and

external conscience often produce a far fairer outside than is

warranted by the stain within."(16) Sin often wears a fair exterior

and is no longer sought out and exposed to shame. Were secret sins to

be unmasked, life's thoroughfares would abound in a swarming mass of

bearers. It is the nature of sin, however, that it should eat inward

instead of being merely an outward burden.

The corrosive nature of sin leads to attempts to hide guilt.

Concealment causes hypocrisy, and hypocrisy leads the errant one into

the region of shadows. "To the untrue man, the whole universe is

false,-it is impalpable,--it shrinks to nothing within his grasp. And

he himself, in so far as he shows himself in a false light, becomes a

shadow, or, indeed, ceases to exist."(17) Hypocrisy also leads to

confusion. "No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to

himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting

bewildered as to which may be the true."(18)

Through the ages man has become deft in the art of concealment.

"At no time are people so sedulously careful to keep their trifling

appointments, attend to their ordinary occupations, and thus put a

commonplace aspect on life, as when conscious of some secret that if

suspected would make them look monstrous in the general eye."(19)

Both the external, or sociological, and internal, or spiritual-

psychological aspects of concealed sin indicate that the majority of

human sins are hidden from view, and that this practiced concealment

of an acknowledged evil is in the seeds of the race and necessitates

a deterioration of the inner man. The assumption is, too, that social

intercourse reflects the same unhealthy concealment.?

The Devil and Evil

Satan is not alive to Hawthorne in the sense that he smells of

sulphur and brimstone. He does exist, however, as a metaphor for sin.

"The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the

breast of man."(20) "Unfathomable to mere mortals is the lore of

fiends."(21) "Every human being, when given over to the Devil, is

sure to have the wizard mark upon him, in one form or another."(22)

It is possible that the novelist adopts the Devil as the convenient

and logical symbol for sin and evil, or it is also possible that he

conceives of him as pride.8 Hawthorne frequents shadowy realms in

more than one piece of fiction, and it is indeed probable that he had

not completely shaken off the world of Increase Mather. "And as there

are many tremendous instances confirming the truth hereof, so that of

8Hawthorne presents the Devil as Pride in "Egotism; or, the
Bosom Serpent."

Satan's taking bodily possession of men is none of the least."9

There are no letter or journal references to the Devil. Indeed,

he furnishes Hawthorne's imagination with scant reflective material.

Although a flesh and blood Satan does appeal to Hawthorne the romancer-

the struggle for a man's soul reaches the height of romance and drama,--

he did not attract Hawthorne the man. Hawthorne's mind examined in

detail the problems of sin, God, and immortality, and while it held

tenaciously to and repeatedly probed these concepts, it cared little

for the preacher's Hell with its living Satan. It is not likely that a

Hawthorne detached from the threads of formal religion would give much

credulity to a Biblical or to a Miltonic Satan. Whether specifically

named, or whether referred to as the "fiend," "foe," or "enemy," the

devil does play a leading role in several pieces of Hawthorne's fiction.

Creative writers work within a limited and somewhat conventional frame

of reference, but they need not always believe, for their own part, in

the traditional concepts which they express in fiction. It may be

doubted whether or not Hawthorne cherished an actual belief in the

Devil. Indeed, his lack of reflection on the subject would indicate

that he was not interested in the devil, or that he did not believe in


The Transmission of Sin

Red-haired children are frequently born of red-haired parents.

Sin is transmitted from one generation to the next with a greater

9Increase Mather, Remarkable Providences, (London, 1890), p. 120.

certainty. ". the weaknesses and defects, the bad passions, the

mean tendencies, and the moral diseases which lead to crime are handed

down from one generation to another, by a far surer process of

transmission than human law has been able to establish in respect to

the riches and honors which it seeks to entail upon posterity."(23)

Mortality is never allowed a fresh start, for it must awaken always to

the burden of the past. "To the thoughtful mind there will be no

tinge of superstition in what we figuratively express, by affirming

that the ghost of a dead progenitor--perhaps as a portion of his own

punishment--is often doomed to become the Evil Genius of his family."(24)

Sin, then, may be transmitted through the blood in much the manner of

hereditary social diseases. Hawthorne is here stating a rather

traditional concept--that is, the sins of the father are visited on the

son. The consequence of an evil deed does not cease with the death of

its perpetrator, but continues to rankle in generations of offspring.

Sin and Purity

Good and bad angels have long been a commonplace in literature.

The conflict in which these two entities perpetually engage is seen by

Hawthorne in terms of the relationship existing between sin and purity.

Purity wears the halo; its touch is miraculous and holy. "With

stronger truth be it said, that a devout heart may consecrate a den of

thieves, as an evil one may convert a temple to the same."(25) "Thus

it is, that, bad as the world is said to have grown, innocence

continues to make a paradise around itself, and keep it still

unfallen."(26) Purity, Hawthorne fears, is but an early, temporary

alcove in the Gothic structure of life. Although some few persons

survive in a white innocence, the great majority are besmeared with

the mud of sin.

Hawthorne's conception of man's brotherhood in sin does not

permit the innocent to shun the guilty for the sake of maintaining a

cloistered virtue.10

Who more need the tender succor of the innocent, than
wretches stained with guilt! And must a selfish care for the
spotlessness of our own garments keep us from pressing the guilty
ones close to our hearts, wherein, for the very reason that we
are innocent, lies their securest refuge from further ill?(27)

Innocence or purity serves as a buffer for iniquity. It is clear

enough, however, that man's predisposition to sin is overwhelming, and

that purity's pedestal is a tenuous one.*

In his vision of purity Hawthorne does allow a brief sunbeam

to penetrate life's darkened pattern. In the same breath, however, the

writer resigns himself to the inevitable awakening of the pure by the

world evil.

It was that dismal certainty of the existence of evil in the
world, which, though we may fancy ourselves fully assured of the
sad mystery long before, never becomes a portion of our practical
belief until it takes substance and reality from the sin of some
guide, whom we have deeply trusted and revered, or some friend
whom we have dearly loved.(28)

Childhood's innocence is destroyed in turn.

It is a very miserable epoch, when the evil necessities of life,
in our tortuous world, first get the better of us so far as to
compel us to attempt throwing a cloud over our transparency.

10Hawthorne would appear to condemn Hilda in The Marble Faun on
the grounds that she fails to comfort the guilty Miriam.

Simplicity increases in value the longer we can keep it, and the
further we carry it onward into life; the loss of a child's
simplicity, in the inevitable lapse of years, causes but a
natural sigh or two, because even his mother feared that he could
not keep it always. But after a young man has brought it through
his childhood, and has still worn it in his bosom, not as an early
dew-drop, but as a diamond of pure, white, lustre,--it is a pity
to lose it, then.(29)

fhen speaking of the awakening to evil, Hawthorne gives moral

warning for the necessity of a good life. "Let us reflect, that the

highest path is pointed out by the pure Ideal of those who look up to

us, and who, if we tread less loftily, may never look so high again."(30)

Yet, innocence must learn through direct observation of life the

eternal presence of evil.

The young and pure are not apt to find out that miserable truth
until it is brought home to them by the guiltiness of some trusted
friend. They may have heard much of the evil of the world, and
seem to know it, but only as an impalpable theory. In due time,
some mortal, whom they reverence too highly, is commissioned by
Providence to teach them this direful lesson; he perpetrates a sin;
and Adam falls anew, and Paradise, heretofore in unfaded bloom, is
lost again, and closed forever, with the fiery swords gleaming at
its gates.(31)

Whereas Hawthorne does not question, and shows comparatively little

interest in the fact that the pure are inevitably awakened to evil, he

shows a permanent interest in the psychological readjustments

accompanying that awakening.

"Hence come angels or fiends into our twilight musings,

according as we may have peopled them in by-gone years."(32) Here

again we recognize the dual possibility of the human personality.

Although the "good life," which Hawthorne recognized as a rarity, may

prove an effective ballast, nonetheless man's true leanings are toward


The Effects of Sin

If the act of sinning held little interest, the consequences

of that act hypnotized Hawthorne's mind. Actual sin normally precedes

the opening of a Hawthorne tale, and is more often hinted at than

specifically described. The temporary exaltation of sinning, the iron

link of a mutual sin, the blunting effect, the subsequent isolation--

these, rather than the event itself, stir the inner recesses of

Hawthorne's imagination. The nether world of the sinner beckons to the

inquisitive author. "Fain would I search out the meaning of words,

faintly gasped with intermingled sobs and broken sentences, half

audibly spoken between earth and the judgement seat."(33) It is in

this tortured realm that much of Hawthorne's best fiction finds its


Actual performance of a sin is a matter of strength and

resolution, not of temerity. "Crime is for the iron-nerved, who have

their choice either to endure it, or, if it press too hard, to exert

their fierce and savage strength for a good purpose, and fling it off

at once!"(3h) Once the sin has been enacted, the initial resolve

subsides rapidly, only to be replaced by a variety of perplexing


But there is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and
inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably
compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghostlike, the
spot where some great and marked event has given the color to
their lifetime; and still the more irresistibly, the darker the
tinge that saddens it.(35)

The sinner returns to the scene of his deed--drawn by a magnetic inner


Hawthorne pondered the effects of sin as they evidenced

themselves in two distinct directions. "For, what other dungeon is so

dark as one's own heart! iWhat jailer so inexorable as one's self "(36)

The internal eating, here alluded to, and the social manifestations of

sin both provide ample food for an observer psychologically alert.

"For, guilt has its moment of rapture too. The foremost

result of a broken law is ever an ecstatic sense of freedom."(37)

Once more the matter of a temporary rapture is alluded to. A great sin

Hawthorne finds exciting, its effects on human nature dynamic.

Momentary passions are delusive, however.

Yet how tame and wearisome is the impression of all ordinary
things in the contrast with such a fact! How sick and tremulous,
the next morning, is the spirit that has dared so much only the
night before! How icy cold is the heart, when the fervor, the
wild ecstasy of passion, has faded away, and sunk down among the
dead ashes of the fire that blazed so fiercely, and was fed by the
very substance of its life! How faintly does a criminal stagger
onward, lacking the impulse of that strong madness that hurried
him into guilt, and treacherously deserts him in the midst of

"Possibly, moreover, the nice action of the mind is set ajar by any

violent shock, as of great misfortune or great crime, so that the finer

perceptions may be blurred thenceforth, and the effect be traceable in

all the minutest conduct of life."(39) Ordinary life is duller now,

for the power of the moment melts immediately and man's sensibilities

remain henceforth in a blunted condition.

Beyond all else there is manifest an interest in the isolating

effect of sin.

For it is one of the chief earthly incommodities of some
species of misfortune, or of a great crime, that it makes the
actor in the one, or the sufferer of the other, an alien in the

world, by interposing a wholly unsympathetic medium betwixt
himself and those whom he yearns to meet. (0)

The normal, the good people of society whose company the sinner might

wish to enjoy are now beyond reach. The sinner, by virtue of his sin,

is alienated from society.

Psychological observations on the effect of sin offer a

mottled but striking opportunity for the complex turns of Hawthorne's

mind. The over-all impression derived from a study of these

observations is a gloomy one, and it may appear to a reader of

Hawthorne that this seemingly undue dwelling on sin is abnormal. It

is both a blemish and a blessing of the Hawthorne intellect that it

held fast to its concepts. Unwillingly it turned an idea loose; by

preference it retained and continued to examine each idea from every

conceivable angle.

Representative writers of various Christian sects help to

substantiate Hawthorne's acceptance of sin. "Let us notice now some

of the bad effects that mortal sin produces in the soul. It

leaves a hideous stain in the soul, deforms it, and makes it hateful

in the sight of heaven. It renders man a slave of sin, and of

his evil desires."1l Catholicism recognizes "the stain upon the

soul," and also notes that man is a "slave" to mistress sin.

Calvin, the Presbyterian Creed, the Lutheran Creed, and the

Roman Catholic Creed are in basic agreement on the nature of sin.

llJ. FAA' Di Bruno, Catholic Belief (New York, 1922), p. 68.

Our perdition therefore proceeds from the sinfulness of our
flesh, not from God; it being only a consequence of our
degenerating from our primitive condition.12

In proportion as God is great and glorious Calvinism
recognizes the sin of man to be heinous and fatal.13

The Lutheran church has always regarded the doctrine of human
depravity as a fundamental article of the Christian System. .
The doctrine is, moreover, so frequently and forcibly inculcated
in the word of God, that no man ought to profess to be a believer
in the Scriptures, who denies its truths.l1

Of original sin, in which we are born, we are not personally
guilty with our own personal will, but our nature is guilty by the
will of Adam our head, with whom we form one moral body through
the human nature which we derive from him.15

Man's soul and man's body, his whole nature, are vitiated by

original sin. This depravity is an ordained fact of experience behind

which Hawthorne does not go. He finds it necessary on traditional,

intuitive, and empirical grounds to accept the fact-a fact stated

emphatically in the majority of Christian doctrines--without entering

into the theological niceties of those doctrines.

Unpardonable Sin

Unpardonable sins violate the sacredness of God's temple, the

human heart. "Supposing that the power arises from the transfusion of

one spirit into another, it seems to me that the sacredness of an

individual is violated by it; there would be an intruder into the holy

12Calvin, Institutes, I, 277.

13Egbert Watson Smith, The Creed of Presbyterians (Richmond,
Virginia, 1901), p. 48.

14S. S. Schmucker, Lutheran Manual on Scriptural Principles
(Philadelphia, 1855), p. 56.

15Di Bruno, Catholic Belief, p. 20.

of holies. ."(4l) A genuine concern with sin appears old-fashioned

when set beside the monstrous creations and expectations of twentieth

century America. Such a concern is no longer fashionable.16 Hawthorne

was vitally concerned with the sacredness of the heart, the soul, the

spirit, the personality.17 The personalists, a contemporary group

represented by B. P. Bowne and Edgar Brightman, present one interesting

corollary to Hawthorne's interpretation of the unpardonable sin. "For

the personalist, then, the moral will is at the center of personality

and hence of religion. Any violation of or disrespect for the moral

will is wrong, even if committed in the name of religion."18 TWhereas

the personalists deplore an intrusion into the personality by social,

political, or theological forces, Hawthorne condemns the violation of

one personality by another.

The energizing subject of Hawthorne's art was the subject of

all great art; for human life in all its wayward complexity. Sin is not

the cardinal subject of Hawthorne's fiction; it is but a keyhole, an

approach through which to view life. All writers have an approach to

their material; Hawthorne's approach is through sin. It is necessary

to emphasize properly the naturalness, the complete assurance with

16However, a comparatively recent religious movement in this
country designates itself "Christian realism" or "realistic theology."
It insists upon the doctrine that man is a sinner. For a discussion,
see Mary Frances Thelen, Man as a Sinner (New York, 19L6).

17Both Ethan Brand and Roger Chillingworth commit the
unpardonable sin of violating an individual personality.

18H. N. Wieman and B. E. Meland, American Philosophies of
Religion (Chicago, 1936), p. 143.

which Hawthorne follows out his approach. Sin is the coloring agent

in the Hawthornian vision.

Christian theology places on sin an emphasis which is often

strikingly Pauline. Following Saint Paul, Saint Augustine wove at the

same loom. Both Calvin and Luther patterned their interpretation of

sin on the writings of Saint Paul and Saint Augustine. The Mather

dynasty carried forward Calvin's lamentation of man's depravity.

Though a child of the liberation, Hawthorne is still of Puritan stock,

and, more important, of Puritan instinct. The Hawthorne who is

somewhat shocked by the sculpturing of nakedness evidences the same

Puritan instinct which could never question the eternal presence of

sin. It is only through acknowledging the universality of sin that

one may begin to enter the Hawthornian pattern of thought.



Hawthorne was an interested observer of the pure and unyielding

substance of which the daily course of mortal existence is composed.

Life, considered as an entity, is seen to have a specific nature or

constitution which is present to a like degree at all times. In the

physical process of living, man.performs a brief dance whose every

step is dictated by this constitution-which, though it is infinitely

complex, is definable within limits. The Hawthornian view of life

formed itself around intangible elements, yet these elements are

presented in a remarkably concrete terminology. It is well to study

those basic ingredients which Hawthorne saw in life before attempting

to bring man into the developing thought pattern.

Four phases of life upon which the novelist formed a definite

set of opinions are: the texture of life, fortune and fate, death, and

nature. These components are actualities to be reckoned with, in much

the manner that sin was reckoned with, for they too are assumed by the

Hawthorne mind to be prenatal. The significance of sin lies in the

background of all Hawthornian thought. To assume the existence of sin,

for example, is to assume at the same time that the dance of life is

scarcely a festal one. Once it is understood what Hawthorne meant by

sin and what he meant by the rock-ribbed dance of life-once this

concept is seen and felt in all its dark rigidity-then and only then


may a reader comprehend the native trend of Hawthorne's thought.



The actual texture of life was envisioned by Hawthorne in bold

outlines. He manages, from his point of view, to observe, reflect upon,

and state succinctly with a scientific deftness and self-certainty this

texture wherein the nature of life resides. In essence, the concept is

one of marble and mud. Although the texture is not destitute of actual

evil, as the Emersonian would see it, neither is it totally devoid of

good. It is constituted instead of balanced ingredients which the mind

of Hawthorne perceived and commented upon with an ever-increasing clarity.

The Approach

Since the actualities of life are to be faced and fronted

rather than avoided, in what manner is man to make his approach?

How much mud and mire, how many pools of unclean water, how
many slippery footsteps, and perchance heavy tumbles, might be
avoided, if we could but tread six inches above the crust of this
world! Physically, we cannot do this; our bodies cannot; but it
seems to me that our hearts and minds may keep themselves above
moral mud-puddles and other discomforts of the soul's pathway.((2)

It is a necessity of man's physical nature, the necessity of Adam's

flesh, that our bodies are besmeared with the world's mud. Hawthorne

advances the possibility, however, that the spirit may dwell above and

beyond this actuality. He advances this possibility with some small

optimism; yet he is extremely reluctant to state it as a fact of

experience. The moral gloom so pronouncedly perceived by Hawthorne

ultimately overpowers all. This being the case, the greatest possible

may a reader comprehend the native trend of Hawthorne's thought.



The actual texture of life was envisioned by Hawthorne in bold

outlines. He manages, from his point of view, to observe, reflect upon,

and state succinctly with a scientific deftness and self-certainty this

texture wherein the nature of life resides. In essence, the concept is

one of marble and mud. Although the texture is not destitute of actual

evil, as the Emersonian would see it, neither is it totally devoid of

good. It is constituted instead of balanced ingredients which the mind

of Hawthorne perceived and commented upon with an ever-increasing clarity.

The Approach

Since the actualities of life are to be faced and fronted

rather than avoided, in what manner is man to make his approach?

How much mud and mire, how many pools of unclean water, how
many slippery footsteps, and perchance heavy tumbles, might be
avoided, if we could but tread six inches above the crust of this
world! Physically, we cannot do this; our bodies cannot; but it
seems to me that our hearts and minds may keep themselves above
moral mud-puddles and other discomforts of the soul's pathway.((2)

It is a necessity of man's physical nature, the necessity of Adam's

flesh, that our bodies are besmeared with the world's mud. Hawthorne

advances the possibility, however, that the spirit may dwell above and

beyond this actuality. He advances this possibility with some small

optimism; yet he is extremely reluctant to state it as a fact of

experience. The moral gloom so pronouncedly perceived by Hawthorne

ultimately overpowers all. This being the case, the greatest possible

folly in approaching life would be to counterfeit or in any manner add

to the inevitable world sorrows.

There are so many unsubstantial sorrows which the necessity of
our mortal state begets on idleness, that an observer, casting
aside sentiment, is sometimes led to question whether there be any
real woe, except absolute physical suffering and the loss of
closest friends. (3)

"Is not the world sad enough, in genuine earnest, without making a

pastime of mock-sorrows?"n(4) Yet there remains a reasonable approach

to the predominantly solemn dance which all mortals perform.

"But there is a wisdom that looks grave, and sneers at

merriment; and again a deeper wisdom, that stoops to be gay as often as

occasion serves, and oftenest avails itself of shallow and trifling

grounds'of mirth; because, if we wait for more substantial ones, we

seldom can be gay at all."(45) Here is the approach which Hawthorne

feels to be the only sensible one. Here is a maxim to jot down in the

commonplace book, to frame on the wall, though it appears incongruous

amidst the practical aphorisms of Franklin and casts an occasional

shadow on the sunshiny certainty of an Emersonian dictum. It

represents, nonetheless, the Hawthornian approach-one thoroughly

consistent with his lifelong opinions.

The Compound

Considered in its simplest form, life may be reduced to a

formula or compound. This chemical compound is gray, a mixture of the

dark with the light. Moreover, it is decidedly a dark gray.

The world is so sad and solemn, that things meant in jest are
liable, by an overpowering influence, to become dreadful earnest,-
gayly dressed fantasies turning to ghostly and black-clad images,

of themselves.(46)

The movement of physical life is persistently walking into increasing

darkness. Color, it may be noted, plays an important metaphorical

role in Hawthorne's attempt to make vivid his compound.

Life's mixed and intermingled texture is nowhere more clearly

pronounced than in this statement:

Nevertheless, if we look through all the heroic fortunes of
mankind, we shall find this same entanglement of something mean
and trivial with whatever is noblest in joy or sorrow. Life is
made up of marble and mud. And, without all the deeper trust in
a comprehensive sympathy above us, we might hence be led to
suspect the insult of.a sneer, as well as an immitigable frown,
on the iron countenance of fate. What is called poetic insight
is the gift of discerning, in this sphere of strangely mingled
elements, the beauty and the majesty which are compelled to assume
a garb so sordid. (L7)

The compound with which man is forced to contend places limitations

upon him which are in every way as exacting as those imposed by the

existence of sin. The good, the pure, the beautiful are present, but

there is great difficulty in extracting them from the strangely

mingled ensemble.

It is difficult for Hawthorne to believe in man's ability to

dwell six inches above the earth's surface. Some hasty and thoughtless

soul will unfailingly splash the passer-by. "This contrast, or

intermingling of tragedy with mirth, happens daily, hourly,

momently."(48) "Human destinies look ominous without some perceptible

intermixture of the sable or the gray."(49) Constantly, the mind

returns to dwell, perhaps reluctantly, on the actual compound.

"Troubles (as I myself have experienced, and many others before

me) are a sociable sisterhood; they love to come hand in hand, or

sometimes, even, to come side by side with long looked-for and

hoped-for good fortune."(50) The balance is rarely if ever on the

side of jollity, for all merges finally into the darkening grayness.

"When we find ourselves fading into shadows and unrealities, it seems

hardly worth while to be sad, but rather to laugh as gayly as we may,

and ask little reason wherefore."(51) Since the transition may

neither be stayed nor denied, it is well, once the compound is

accepted, to find whatever little pleasure is possible.

Gloom, by its nature, spreads itself readily over the crust of


Unquestionably, a care-stricken mortal has no business abroad,
when the rest of mankind are at high carnival; they must either
pelt him and absolutely martyr him with jests, and finally bury
him beneath the aggregate heap; or else the potency of his darker
mood, because the tissue of human life takes a sad dye more
readily than a gay one, will. quell their holiday humors, like the
aspect of a death's-head at a banquet.(52)

Life's laughter is but a hair's breadth from its tears, and frequent

tears represent the more permanent state.

For it is thus, that with only an inconsiderable change, the
gladdest objects and existences become the saddest; hope fading
into disappointment; joy darkening into grief, and festal splendor
into funereal duskiness; and all evolving, as their moral, a grim
identity between gay things and sorrowful ones. Only give them a
little time, and they turn out to be just alike!(53)

Life evolves to sadness.

Here, in his elaboration of the compound, Hawthorne has spoken

in terms of dark-light, mirth-tragedy, gaiety-sadness, and marble-mud.

Both qualitatively and quantitatively the balance tends toward

darkness. While the transcendentalist saw the selfsame world, his

balance lay with the light and optimistic. Hawthorne's compound, one

filtered through sin, is certainly the more pessimistic of the two.

Yet, despite its awful solemnity, it is fundamentally based on

observation and experience.

The Ephemeral Quality of Life' s Texture

Hawthorne felt the pressures of life keenly; he felt also the

fleeting quality of the moment, but he always insisted that man must

concentrate on the now rather than the yet to be.

In this world we are things of a moment, and are made to
pursue momentary things, with here and there a thought that
stretches mistily towards eternity, and perhaps may endure as
long. All philosophy that would abstract mankind from the
present is no more than words. (54)

Though the marble is inextricably united with mud, still it is

imperative that man dwell on earth and speak only of what may be

actually known rather than depart the earth in a mystical flight.

"And what are the haughtiest of us but the ephemeral

aristocrats of a summer's day?"(55) Man's vainglory is denounced by

Hawthorne in the manner of an eighteenth century graveyard poet, and

frequently with the same schoolmaster tone.

But, after all, the most fascinating employment is simply to
write your name in the sand. Draw the letters gigantic, so that
two strides may barely measure them, and three for the long
strokes! Cut deep that the record may be permanent! Statesmen
and warriors and poets have spent their strength in no better
cause then this. It is accomplished? Return then in an hour or
two and seek for this mighty record of a name. The sea will have
swept over it, even as time rolls its effacing waves over the
names of statesmen and warriors and poets. Hark, the surf wave
laughs at you! (6)

Occasionally, Hawthorne advances a private commentary on life.

These brief glimpses allow the personality of the man to step into and

blend itself with the more theoretical world of ideas. "I, likewise,

am greedy of the summer-days for my own sake; the life of man does not

contain so many of them that-even one can be spared without regret."(57)

Observations on the Texture

Now that the approach to life, an awareness of its cold

compound, and the ephemeral quality of that compound, are taken into

account, what may be deduced from a detailed observation? First of

all, the texture does not permit the purely accidental, the

meaningless; each incident of life is directly moral. "Thought has

always its efficacy, and every striking incident its moral."(58)

Although the world is of a solid moral substance in which all has

significance, it is, paradoxically enough, a shadow. "Time-where man

lives not--what is it but eternity?" (9)

This present life has hardly substance and tangibility enough
to be the image of eternity;-the future too soon becomes the
present, which, before we can grasp it, looks back upon us as the
past;--it must, I think, be only the image of an image. Our next
state of existence, we may hope, will be more real--that is to
say, it may be only one remove from a reality. But, as yet, we
dwell in the shadow cast by Time, which is itself the shadow cast
by Eternity.(60)

The physical texture of life is but of the thickness of a spider's

web; from a spiritual point of view it is flimsy indeed. Rather than

placing Hawthorne in the transcendental stream, these reflections on

shadows offer a decidedly moralistic observation on the ephemeral

nature of life's texture.

Man dances to an old jig and accomplishes but little.

Possibly some cynic, at once merry and bitter, has desired to
signify, in this pantomimic scene, that we mortals, whatever our

business or amusement,-however serious, however trifling,--all
dance to one identical tune, and, in spite of our ridiculous
activity bring nothing finally to pass.(61)

Hawthorne habitually regarded the immediate effectiveness of any one

action or any group of actions with much skepticism. Mud is scarcely

so plastic as a reformer might tend to believe. Man must await God's

designs, for the texture of life is far too tough to be handled and

shaped by mere mortals. The balance has eternally resided with

sadness, and there is little indeed that man can effect which will

substantially alter the compound.

"But real life never arranges itself exactly like a

romance."(62) "Who can tell where happiness may come; or where,

though an expected'guest, it may never show its face?"(63) Real life

does not live happily ever after, for there is a something much

greater than man in control. The dark hue of life does not whiten at

man's call, but merrily continues in a stubborn and often inexplicable


In lieu of the fast fleeting and, from man's point of view,

unmanageable direction of life, Hawthorne marvels that the present

should appear so fixed. "How wonderful that this our narrow foothold

of the Present should hold its own so constantly, and, while every

moment changing, should still.be like a rock betwixt the encountering

tides of the Past and the infinite To-come!"(64)

The infinitely complex nature of life is at the same time an

amazingly. simple one. It is preferable to drift with it, enjoy it

whenever possible, and nowise attempt to direct it. Man is not the

master of his fate; he is a being who must recognize his own limits,

and who must recognize and accept at the same time life's limit--

marble and mud. Hawthorne's analysis of life's texture was not, for

him, moral speculation, so much as it was a reporting of experienced




Hawthorne views death primarily as the only certain release

from the life compound, and secondarily as a phase of the texture

itself. If it were not for death, life would be unbearable. "Curious

to imagine what murmurings and discontent would be excited, if any of

the great so called calamities of human beings were to be abolished,--

as, for instance, death."(65) Much of life is continually in

mourning for dead hopes; if there were no release through the

purifying aspects of death, life would soon be immersed and ossified

in a world-wide mud.

"iTe sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking

from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death."(66)

Life is a strife-torn excursion to Hawthorne, a briar patch of

countless thorns, whose only sure exit is death. "How invariably,

throughout all the forms of life, do we find these intermingled

memorials of death!"(67) Death, as it presents itself in everyday

life, grays the compound.

In the second sentence of The Scarlet Letter, in a spot

prominent enough to forewarn the reader of the novel of the unfolding

drama, and with a marked degree of emphasis, the novelist records that:

The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue
and happiness they might originally project, have invariably
recognized it among their earliest practical necessities. to allot
a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as
the site of a prison.(68)

Throughout his lifetime Hawthorne was something of a haunter of

graveyards. He was drawn, perhaps, not so much through morbidity as

by the eternal and basic recognition of death tugging at his intellect.

Death, moreover, is seen to contain the blessing of rest and

completion. It has lost its sting. "The best of us being unfit to

die, what an inexpressible absurdity to put the worst to death."(69)

An individual is not significant in the long look.

It may be remarked, however, that of all the events which
constitute a person's biography, there is scarcely one-none,
certainly, of anything like a similar importance-to which the
world so easily reconciles itself.as to his death.. In most cases
and contingencies, the individual is present among us, mixed up
with the daily revolution of affairs, and affording a definite
point for observation. At his decease, there is only a vacancy,
and a momentary eddy,-very small, as compared with the apparent
magnitude of the ingurgitated object,-and a bubble or two,
ascending out of the black depth and bursting at the surface.(70)

Hawthorne's concern over death has many facets. In a

philosophical or religious sense he sees spiritual release and

completion; accompanying the event he observes genuine grief and

sorrow; finally,subsequent to the event, he notes the psychological

impact of death on life.

It is very singular, how the fact of a man's death often seems
to give people a truer idea of his character, whether for good or
evil, than they have ever possessed while he was living and acting
among them. Death is so genuine a fact that it excludes
falsehood, or betrays its emptiness; it is a touchstone that
proves the gold, and dishonors the baser metal. Could the
departed, whoever he may be, return in a week after his decease,

he would almost invariably find himself at a higher or lower
point than he had formerly occupied, on the scale of public

More in keeping with philosophical interests lies the recognition of

a mysterious purifying aspect. "What a trustful guardian of secret

matters fire ist What should we do without Fire and Death?"(72)

In the final reckoning, death is viewed in a thoroughly

Christian manner.

The dying melt into the great multitude of the Departed as
quietly as a drop of water into the ocean, and, it may be, are
conscious of no unfamiliarity with their new circumstances, but
immediately become aware of an.insufferable strangeness in the
world which they have quitted. Death has not taken them away,
but brought them.home.(73)

Here is the sure and shining exit from the grayness of life.

Grief and Sorrow

Numerous of Hawthorne's reflections on the effects of death,

that is, grief and sorrow, are quite obviously of the graveyard school

of thought.

But when we ridicule the triteness of monumental verses, we
forget that Sorrow reads far deeper in them than we can, and finds
a profound and individual purport in what seems so vague and
inexpressive, unless interpreted by her. She makes the epitaph
anew, though the selfsame words may have served for a thousand

It is an old theme of satire, the falsehood and vanity of
monumental eulogies; but when affection and sorrow grave the letters
with their own painful labor, then we may be sure that they copy
from the record on their hearts.(75)

Grief is such a leveller, with its own dignity and its own
humility, that the noble and the peasant, the beggar and the
monarch, will waive their pretensions to external rank without
the officiousness of interference on our part.(76)

Illustrious unfortunates attract a wider sympathy, not because
their griefs are more intense, but because, being set on lofty
pedestals, they the better serve mankind as instances and by-words
of calamity.(77)

These commonplace notations are of little intrinsic worth, yet they do

show to some degree the sensitive, thoroughly human, and at times

almost sentimental nature of the reflective Hawthorne.

Finally, the detached observation of which Hawthorne is

extremely capable brings the matter into perspective.

Thus it is that the grief of the passing moment takes upon
itself an individuality, and a character of climax, which it is
destined to lose after a while, and to fade into the dark gray
tissue common to the grave or glad events of many years ago. It
is but for a moment, comparatively, that anything looks strange
or startling,-a truth that has the bitter and the sweet in it.(78)

There is no reason to suspect an unhealthy delight in death on the

part of Hawthorne; there is every reason to suppose that he accepted

it, along with sin, as one of the inevitable.



Hawthorne has been accused quite unfairly, by various

interpreters, of fatalism and cynicism. Any writer who employs the

terms "fortune," "chance," "necessity," "fate," and "providence" runs

the risk of being damned.as a pagan worshiper of the "Goddess

Fortuna." With Hawthorne, however, the matter is entirely a Christian

one. Never is he more orthodox than in his concept of the operation

of Providence. Whichever of the synonyms for Providence Hawthorne

employs, it is always clear from the context of the statement that

the precepts of Calvinism are not being violated.

The Nature of Fortune

Fortune is present in and concerned with the affairs of men.

"Then might I exemplify how an influence beyond our control lays its

strong hand on every deed we do, and weaves its consequences into an

iron tissue of necessity."(79) Hawthorne, had he been a theologian

rather than a romancer, would have been careful to use the technical

term: Providence.

First, then let the readers know that what is called
providence describes God, not as idly beholding from heaven the
transactions which happen in the world, but as holding the helm
of the universe, and regulating all events.19

The idea of man as a bit actor in a cosmic drama intrigues

Hawthorne, not so much that he is amazed that it is so, but that the

absolute truth of the concept is brought home so forcibly in everyday


We can be but partially acquainted even with the events which
actually influence our course through life, and our final destiny.
There are innumerable other events-if such they may be called--
which come close upon us, yet pass away without actual results,
or even betraying their near approach, by the reflection of any.
light or shadow across our minds. Could we know all the
vicissitudes of our fortunes, life would be too full of hope and
fear, exultation or disappointment, to afford us a single hour of
true serenity.(80)

It is far better, Hawthorne believes, that man should not be

acquainted with his destiny. "Life figures itself to me as a festal

or funereal procession. All of us have our places, and are to move

onward under the direction of the Chief Marshal."(81) Festal and

funereal are but vivid synonyms of the light and the dark, the marble

19Calvin, Institutes, I, 222.

and the mud. Man is not a free agent but follows instead a

predetermined course. This predetermination tends to make man feel

at home in his universe, assures him that the Chief Marshal is in

full control, and need nowise lead to fatalism and a gloomy


Providence is an accomplished wrecker of man's imperfect

plans and aspirations.

How often is the case that, when impossibilities have come to
pass and dreams have condensed their misty substance into
tangible realities, we find ourselves calm, and even coldly
self-possessed, amid circumstances which it.would have been a
delirium of joy or agony to anticipate! Fate delights to thwart
us thus. Passion will choose his own time to rush upon the
scene, and lingers sluggishly behind when an appropriate
adjustment of events would seem to summon his appearance.(82)

Destinal forces, it must be realized, are in complete control. It is

a prime characteristic of fortune that she scowls when we need her

smile, and smiles when we least expect it. Happiness, like the other

niceties of life, is God-sent not man-made.

Happiness, in this world, if it comes at all, comes
incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a
wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object,
and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness
without dreaming of such luck; but, likely enough, it is gone the
moment we say to ourselves--"Here it is!"--like the chest of gold
that treasure-seekers find.(83)

Hawthorne's remarks on the nature of fortune, taken

individually, appear to smack of defeatism.

Chance and change love to deal with men's settled plans, not
with their idle vagaries. If we desire unexpected and
unimaginable events, we should contrive an iron framework, such
as we fancy may compel the future to take one inevitable shape;
then comes in the unexpected, and shatters our design in

It is wisdom not to tempt the plan-wrecker, for mortals can never stay

the capricious twists of fortune.

In spite of the seeming waywardness of fortune the tenets of

Calvinism offer assurance to the doubter. "All future things being

uncertain to us, we hold them in suspense, as though they might happen

one way or another. Yet this remains a fixed principle in our hearts,

that there will be no event which God has not ordained."20 Hawthorne

is cognizant of the fact that man fails to comprehend this miraculous

element in life. "The actual experience of even the most ordinary

life is full of events that never explain themselves, either as

regards their origin or their tendency."(85) An over-all view is

above and beyond man's limited vision.

"No human effort, on a grand scale, has ever yet resulted

according to the purpose of its projectors. The advantages are

always incidental. Man's accidents are God's purposes. We miss the

good we sought, and do the good we little cared for."(86) Here is a

basic Hawthorne precept, and admonition. Man desires pure government,

reform, or any other good, yet he inevitably fails the quest. "A

dragon always waits on everything that is very good."(87) An angel

also waits on evil schemes. After a time the two balance each other,

but this balance is beyond the boundaries of the individual's view.

The Governing Power of Fortune

Fortune's government is a planned religious one in which chaos

20Ibid., I, 230.

receives no portion. This rigid concept Hawthorne embraces

intuitively and immediately-embraces it with the same lack of

astonishment with which he accepts sin. The mind of Hawthorne is

complex in that it is highly inquisitive, frequently skeptical of

generally accepted truths, normally empirical and imaginative, and

nearly always acute to the point of profundity. Yet at the same time

it is seldom swayed by cold logic, but believes instead with a

childlike unshakeable faith.

"Does it not argue a superintending Providence that, while

viewless and unexpected events thrust themselves continually athwart

our path, there should still be regularity enough in mortal life to

render foresight even partially available?"(88) Hawthorne is not a

thoroughgoing Puritan; he holds firmly to certain beliefs which would

have made the Mathers shudder. In his basic orientation to life,

however, in his forthright promulgation of the doctrines of sin and

Providence, he is thoroughly traditional.

God the creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose
and govern all creatures, actions and things, from the greatest
even to the least, by his most wise and holy Providence, according
to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free immutable counsel of
his own will to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power,
justice, goodness and mercy.21

Omnipotent Providence has taken on the additional duties of

assigning tasks and of establishing the basic balance of life.

But when the ethereal portion of a man of genius is obscured,
the earthly part assumes an influence the more uncontrollable,
because the character is now thrown off the balance to which

21Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, II, 161.

Providence had so nicely adjusted it, and which, in coarser
natures, is adjusted by some other method.(89)

So long as we love life for itself, we seldom dread the losing
it. When we desire life for the attainment of an object, we
recognize the frailty of its texture. But, side by side with this
sense of insecurity, there is a vital faith in our invulnerability
to the shaft of death while engaged in any task that seems
assigned by Providence as the proper thing to do, and which the
world would have cause to mourn for should we leave it
unaccomplished. (90)

These statements are but outspoken corollaries of a religious faith.

"Providence was the expression of His inner determination, and

though the lesson of some 'divine providence' could be read with

ease, the teaching of others remained obscure."22 The voicings of

God's decrees, or providence, is a matter of some concern. "It was,

indeed, a majestic idea, that the destiny of nations should be

revealed, in these awful hieroglyphics, on the cope of heaven. A

scroll so wide might not be deemed too expansive for Providence to

write a people's doom upon."(91) Perhaps Hawthorne would like to be

able to glance at the heavens and read for himself the gigantic

assurances of a communicative deity. Although he no longer believes

in superstitious omens, he is not as incredulous.of the miraculous as

many of his contemporaries.

Hawthorne has observed fortune's daily performances in our

mundane span. He has, in fact, become the spokesman of its powers

and its ways.

Destiny, it may be,--the most skilful of stage-managers,--
seldom chooses to arrange its scenes, and carry forward its drama,

22perry Miller, The New England Mind (New York, 1939), p. 39.

without securing the presence of at least one calm observer. It
is his office to give applause when due, and sometimes an
inevitable tear, to detect the final fitness of incident to
character, and distil in his long-brooding thought the whole
morality of the performance.(92)

Through the calm observations, and calm reflections of destiny's

observer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, American literature was vastly


The Presbyterian creed offers a formal statement of

Providence's administration of the affairs of mankind.

God is Sovereign. He reigns Supreme in fact as well as in
the right. The universe to him is not a surprise, a defeat, a
failure, but a development of his eternal purpose. That purpose
is Predestination. That development is Providence. The one is
the all-wise predetermined plan in the mind of God; the other is
the all-powerful execution of that plan in the administration of
the universe.23

The final and ultimately fair balance of Providence is accepted by

Hawthorne on faith.

Yet the ways of Providence are utterly inscrutable; and many
a murder has been done, and many an innocent virgin has lifted
her white arms, beseeching its aid in her extremity, and all in
vain; so that, though Providence is infinitely good and wise,--
and perhaps for that very reason,-it may be half an eternity
before the great circle of its scheme shall bring us the
super-abundant recompense for all these sorrows!(93)

Calvinism, Puritanism, Presbyterianism have frequently been

misinterpreted and misquoted on their beliefs in Providence and

predestination; have been misunderstood for the same reasons that

Hawthorne has been erroneously stamped a fatalist. A statement from

the Presbyterian creed may help to rectify this misapprehension.

The doctrine of our Standards is not that "whatever must be,

23Smith, The Creed of Presbyterians, p. 157.

must be," but that whatever God has decreed and purposed shall be.
The one expression attributes the course of events to a blind
mechanical necessity, the other to the intelligent purpose of a
personal God. The one is fatalism, the other Foreordination,
Predestination, Providence.24

There is no attempt to suggest that Hawthorne's mind kept a

literal allegiance to the tenets of Calvin. The doctrine of "election"

was repugnant to him, and "irresistible grace" scarcely warmed his

heart. Hawthorne did observe certain intangibles--sin and fortune-in

the daily dance of life. These he saw, these he understood, these he

never shook off. The essential problem of Calvinism, man as a sinner,

and the majestic destinal force, Providence, play principal roles in

Hawthorne's personal philosophy.

H. W. Schneider states the truth of the matter most


Needless to say, Hawthorne used the theological terminology
metaphorically. He did not need to believe in Puritanism, for
he understood it. He saw the empirical truth behind the
Calvinist symbols. He recovered what Puritans professed but
seldom practiced--the spirit of piety, humility and tragedy in
the face of the inscrutable ways of God.25

Sin and the inscrutable ways of Providence provide the musical

accompaniment to which man performs his stately waltz. Hawthorne's

final reckoning with these actualities constitutes the complete story

of his systematized orientation to life. It is sufficient for the

moment to insist that they are the obvious mental framework on which

all future speculation must be hung.

241bid., p. 166.

25Schneider, The Puritan Mind, p. 262.



A fourth and final component of the dance of life, nature,

Hawthorne conceived of as poetry, goddess, refuge, and symbol.

Essentially, She is viewed as a participating backdrop to life's

little dramas. Her role is only slightly subordinate to that of sin

and fortune. Although nature is.much more than a mechanical

externality or mere scenery to Hawthorne, he never saw in Her what

Emerson and Thoreau were seeing. She never spoke aloud to him. In

Hawthorne's fiction nature plays a very substantial, at times a

dynamic and symbolic, role. Nature is never inert matter alone, but

in the long view She is, like her interpreter, more of a moralist than

a mystic.

As God's Poetry

"It is strange what humble offices may be performed in a

beautiful scene without destroying its poetry."(94) "It is strange

what prosaic lines men thrust in amid the poetry of nature. ."(95)

There is no indication of an artistic deafness to the melodious

rhythms of nature. Man, in contrast, is viewed, more often than not,

as a black blemish to the beauty of the natural scene. Had Hawthorne

continued to write poetry after his seventeenth year,26 he would

scarcely have developed into a nature poet in the Wordsworthian sense.

26Hawthorne's early attempts at nature poetry show little
promise. For a reprint of the poems see: Elizabeth L. Chandler,
editor, "Hawthorne's Spectator," New England Quarterly, IV (April 1931),



A fourth and final component of the dance of life, nature,

Hawthorne conceived of as poetry, goddess, refuge, and symbol.

Essentially, She is viewed as a participating backdrop to life's

little dramas. Her role is only slightly subordinate to that of sin

and fortune. Although nature is.much more than a mechanical

externality or mere scenery to Hawthorne, he never saw in Her what

Emerson and Thoreau were seeing. She never spoke aloud to him. In

Hawthorne's fiction nature plays a very substantial, at times a

dynamic and symbolic, role. Nature is never inert matter alone, but

in the long view She is, like her interpreter, more of a moralist than

a mystic.

As God's Poetry

"It is strange what humble offices may be performed in a

beautiful scene without destroying its poetry."(94) "It is strange

what prosaic lines men thrust in amid the poetry of nature. ."(95)

There is no indication of an artistic deafness to the melodious

rhythms of nature. Man, in contrast, is viewed, more often than not,

as a black blemish to the beauty of the natural scene. Had Hawthorne

continued to write poetry after his seventeenth year,26 he would

scarcely have developed into a nature poet in the Wordsworthian sense.

26Hawthorne's early attempts at nature poetry show little
promise. For a reprint of the poems see: Elizabeth L. Chandler,
editor, "Hawthorne's Spectator," New England Quarterly, IV (April 1931),

For Hawthorne saw in nature a moral force which blends with, sometimes

echoes, and sometimes shapes the texture of life. Nature is but an

ingredient of a greater compound; her poetry is thereby provocative

but hardly rhapsodic.

As a Goddess

"The reason of the minute superiority of Nature's work over

man's is, that the former works from the innermost germ, while the

latter works merely superficially."(96) Nature is wedded in a

mysterious manner to fortune; she is a Goddess moving forward from

spiritual origins in a predetermined manner. She is not to be

identified with Providence, for She is a more immediate and warmer

administrator of the affairs of man.

It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape
or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions, either to
imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their perfection
must be wrought by toil and pain.(97)
"Nature sometimes displays a little tenderness for our vanity, but is

never careful for our pride. She is willing that we should look

foolish in the eyes of others; but keeps our little nonsensicalities

from ourselves."(98) Nature may be seen, then, to have something of

the warmth and personality of a Goddess. Man is but a child to be

cuddled or scolded.

Behind this warmth, in sharp relief to the implied tenderness,

lies the more deliberate wantonness of nature.

Nothing comes amiss to Nature-all is fish that come to her
net. If there be a living form of perfect beauty instinct with
soul-why, it is all very well, and suits Nature well enough. But
she would just as lief have that same beautiful, soul-illumined
body, to make worm's meat of, and to manure the earth with.(99)

In this instance, She is the fickle goddess, Fortuna, in all her pagan


How Nature seems to love us! And how readily, nevertheless,
without a sigh or a complaint, she converts us to a meaner
purpose, when her highest one-that of a conscious intellectual
life and sensibility-has been untimely balked!(100)

More often than not, nature, charged with planting various

seeds in man, is seen as a second gardener to fortune. "How strange,

how strange it is, this deep, wild passion that nature has implanted

in us to be the death of our fellow-creatures, and which coexists at

the same time with horror!"(101) Nature, though more immediate than

fortune, is at times identified with her. She is, in fact, in one of

her aspects, a personal executer of the divine will. Hawthorne does

not deify nature, nor does he pledge himself to her mysterious

messages, for he reads her as a moral rather than an emotional divine


Nature as Refuge

Hawthorne, more than most men, seems to have felt the cross

and crude pressures encountered in earning a living. In his youth he

had romped in the Maine woods with notorious happiness. In young

manhood he took long walks into nature and was fond of ice skating.

In his maturity and in his autumnal years he continued the habit of

nature walks with close friends. He died while on an excursion with

Pierce. Ralph Waldo Emerson had attended Hawthorne on more than one

walking tour; it was perhaps all they had in common, this love for


The sailor blood in Hawthorne was never happy far inland, for

he found in the coastal wilds and the ocean's roar an escape, a relief

from civilized pressures. "Oh that Providence would build me the

merest little shanty, and mark me out a rood or two of garden-ground,

near the sea-coast."(102) Salem and Liverpool were seaports, whereas

Concord was too far inland for the descendant of Captain Nathaniel

Hathorne, "Bold" Daniel Hathorne, and other sea-going men.

Nature affords an uncorrupted retreat from "the perverted

ingenuity of the race." Especially in the autumn is she apt to

coddle those who come unto her.

If n readers should decide to give up civilized life, cities,
houses, and whatever moral or material enormities in addition to
these the perverted ingenuity of our race has contrived, let it
be in the early autumn. Then Nature will love him better than at
any other season, and will take him to her bosom with a more
motherly tenderness.(103)

It was to nature that Hawthorne was wont to go when life's pressures


But perhaps it is necessary for the health of the human mind
and heart that there should be a possibility.of taking refuge in
what is wild, and uncontaminated by any culture; and so it has
been ordained that science shall never alter the aspect of the
sky, whether stern, angry, or beneficent, nor of the awful sea,
either in calm or tempest, nor of these rude Highlands.(l04)

Nature as Symbol

Finally there exists in the renewing aspect of nature a symbol

of the purification-rebirth cycle of life. "Will the world ever be so

decayed that spring may not renew its greenness? Can man be so

dismally age-stricken that no faintest sunshine of his youth may

revisit him once a year? It is impossible."(105) Each spring

brings life out of death with an endless yet eternally beautiful


By and large the symbolism of nature is unreadable to the

intellect. "When God expressed himself in the landscape to mankind,

He did not intend that it should be translated into any tongue save

his own immediate one."(106) Her beauty may be felt in the heart

but never fully comprehended. She is the painting of an artistically

adept God, a hieroglyph which man may neither uncover or emulate with

any degree of success.

Hawthorne's symbolical nature is one of varying aspects. "One

touch of Nature makes not only the whole world, but all time, akin."(107)

Nature is gigantic and beautiful, a manifestation of God's plan, but,

above all, a moral force in the life of man. She is the catalyst for

the compound of life, although she frequently enters that compound.

Life as an entity, apart from the people who live it, has

stamped itself in bold relief on the mind of Hawthorne. Life's

texture is one which may be felt between the fingers, stretched and

probed, yet it always reverts to the same pattern. Hawthorne is not

repelled by the harshness of that pattern. Death, for example, is

taken as an integral aspect of life. It is everywhere present as a

solemn reminder of mortality, yet Hawthorne views it as a great

awakening-an awakening far greater than the one associated with

Jonathan Edwards. Fate, Fortune, Chance, Destiny, Necessity,

Providence and Nature are fused in Hawthorne's observation into the

dynamic, yet unfathomable, directional forces hovering above life's

surfaces. They are seen by the "calm observer" as detached yet

meaningful hieroglyphs, if one can read them, of God's divine plan.

Puritan existence was a predetermined one-one in which man

relinquished God's matters to God and went zestfully to fulfill his

own obligations. Few systems emphasizing the free will of man have

evidenced a like vitality. The Puritan dance of life is essentially

the one which Hawthorne observed. It is solemn, rigid, and a bit

forbidding. At the same time it is the dance of assurance in an

ordered universe. Though there are few strains of light and airy

music, neither is there the staccato of hesitation. It is the

Puritan's world; it is God's world; it is Hawthorne's world. It is a

world tutored by morality. It moves to the pipings of sin, for flesh

is sinful, but occasionally it looks upward from the dark texture of

physical life to the brighter texture of a spiritual one.



If there is one personal and at the same time social problem

which confounded Hawthorne time and again it is to be discovered in

that necessity which forces a sensitive person to find solace in an

insensitive world. The romantic, misleading account of Hawthorne's

life between 1825 and 1837, one depicting a sensitive and secluded

artist in a dismal chamber, has been justifiably amended by more recent

biographers.27 Yet Hawthorne was basically both a sensitive and a

solitary soul. Had it not been for the pressures exerted by Sophia,

Nathaniel would have been eagerly content to dwell a little apart

socially. Following his marriage on July 9, 1842, and the subsequent

political appointments which befell him, it became mandatory that the

reluctant author assume social burdens in an institutionalized society.

Once he entered the outer world, especially during the Liverpool years,

he became more accustomed to the social role which all men must play to

some degree. The Hawthorne of 1855 shouldered with some ease social

obligations which would have set the Hawthorne of 1835 all atremble.

In one sense of the word, Hawthorne entered late into society,

although he had never been so far out of it as early biographers were

prone to believe; yet in a more abstract sense he never entered at all.

27Robert Cantwell, Nathaniel Hawthorne: The American Years
(New York, 1948), p. viii ff.

He was essentially a family man, a warm friend to not over a half

dozen people. "Hawthorne was never a very social person, in the sense

that he liked to have a lot of people around him. This was due, in all

probability, not only to the circumstances of his childhood, but to his

own nature as well."28

Prior to 1842 Hawthorne preferred an individual form of

seclusion, which became after 1842 a kind of domestic seclusion, from

social fanfare. He, like Jonathan Swift, enjoyed the individual but

not the group. Yet in the midst of his personal struggle with the

problem of society he was internally possessed of two basic ideas:

first, man is essentially alone in the world in that he can never

break through the invisible barrier to his fellow man; and, second,

the world will not let a man alone but eternally insists that he

participate in its affairs as a social being. Intimately related with

these beliefs are the problems which they father: the solitary soul who

is doomed to the cold outer fringe of society, and the sensitive soul

whose cross of living lies unbearably heavy upon him.

The Sensitive Soul

The notion of a soul too sensitive to endure the harsh

strictures of life is a central one to the Hawthorne philosophy. It

persists in the fiction, journals, and letters. If there are but two

types of man, the sensitive and the insensitive, the former is

invariably trampled upon by the latter. Life's burdens overwhelm the

28Manning Hawthorne, "Hawthorne's Early Years," Essex
Institute Historical Collections, LXXIV (1938), 11.

sensitive being; the group becomes a vicious animal; he desires above

all things to be left alone, to withdraw from the clamor of a busy and

unconcerned world. "Mercy on us, what a noisy world we quiet people

live ini"(108) Playfully but with a certain seriousness, the reader

is made aware of that gulf existing between a quiet inner world and a

boisterous external one.

"But there are natures too indolent, or too sensitive, to

endure the dust, the sunshine, or the rain, the turmoil of moral and

physical elements, to which all the wayfarers of the world expose

themselves."(109) It is tragic that there are beings, often with

imaginative and fertile minds, who are constantly impaled upon the

indifferences and open hostility of the external world. Hawthorne was

enough of a sensitive soul in his own right to feel the wounds keenly.

The readiest way out is to create an internal world, a world, however,

which proves a dangerous substitute. "A dreamer may dwell so long

among fantasies, that the things without him will seem as unreal as

those within."(llO)

Hawthorne's sensitivity was far removed from that of a

mild-mannered Casper Milquetoast. He enjoyed good cigars, good

liqueurs, and good company as much as any man, nor was he blind to the

charms of the fairer sex. At the same time he was quite hesitant about

intruding on people. "It is very painful to me to disturb and derange

anybody in the world."(lll) Although frequently imposed upon by

others,29 Hawthorne was instinctively retiring, and somewhat reluctant

29Throughout the notebooks there is ample evidence that

to ask a favor.

A sensitive person may withdraw from life as much as possible,

he may play leech to a stronger personality, or he may relinquish the

struggle altogether.

In moods of heavy despondency, one feels as if it would be
delightful to sink down in some quiet spot, and lie there forever,
letting the soil gradually accumulate and form a little hillock
over us, and the grass and perhaps flowers gather over it. At
such times, death is too much of an event to be wished for;--we
have not spirits to encounter it; but choose to pass out of
existence in this sluggish way.(112)

The easily wounded person is hard pressed to find the wherewithal to

resist the blunting effect of life.

There are chaotic, blind, or drunken moments, in the lives of
persons who lack real force of character,-moments of test, in
which courage would most assert itself,-but where these
individuals, if left to themselves, stagger aimlessly along, or
follow implicitly whatever guidance may befall them, even if it be
a child's.. No matter how preposterous or insane, a purpose is a
God-send to them.(113)

Weak, shy, and sensitive creatures need to rely on the guidance

of others, for once they have encountered the "mud of life" they are

not again eager to step forward. Self-justifications with which shyness

attempts to excuse itself are on shaky grounds.

It is a very genuine admiration, that with which persons too
shy or too awkward to take a due part in the bustling world regard
the real actors in life's stirring scenes; so genuine, in fact,
that the former are usually fain to make it palatable to their
self-love, by assuming that these active and forcible qualities are
incompatible with others, which they choose to deem higher and more
important. (11)

Hawthorne was frequently imposed on. Beggars found him an easy mark;
his friends found him ready to lend money when he had any; several
Americans stranded in England borrowed but never repaid return passage

Frequently, and this was somewhat the choice of Hawthorne, the

sensitive individual contrives an inner world to act as a buffer to

the outer, which in turn gradually fades from vision. "I need

monotony, too, an eventless exterior life, before I can live in the

world within."(ll5) This inner world is felt to be of greater

significance than the artificial structure of social life.

There is little reason to assume that Hawthorne may be

legitimately characterized as a sensitive soul. His sensitivity

represents but a minor phase of his total personality, and, as is often

the case with artists, it tends to lack stability. Other components of

his intellectual and emotional make-up are much more sharply defined.

Nevertheless, the author's fictionalization of a sensitive soul

mirrors one aspect of his inmost self. Sensitivity, as Hawthorne

lived it and wrote it, appears as that reaction which the idealistic

and introverted person feels when thrust into a materialistic and

extroverted world.

The Solitary Soul

It is part and parcel of an observer of life that he should be

cut off from the humanity subjected to his gaze.

The most desirable mode of existence might be that of a
spiritualized Paul Pry, hovering invisible round man and woman,
witnessing their deeds, searching into their hearts, borrowing
brightness from their felicity and shade from their sorrow, and
retaining no emotion peculiar to himself.(116)

The role which Hawthorne proposes, that of a Paul Pry, provides the

detached observer with ample material for reflection and fiction, but

chills him with a cold and clam~y aftermath. While a role of this

type enables an author to supply himself with raw material for his

writings, it promotes an unfortunate breach between author and subject.

While solitude is to be feared and avoided as a permanent

condition of life, while man's appetite for society is intuitive,

still there is an occasional longing for the refreshing calm which

solitude affords. "What would a man do, if he were compelled to live

always in the sultry heat of society, and could never bathe himself

in solitude?"(117)

The ill effects of solitude overbalance its advantages, and

the isolated individual, the man cut off by the group or left behind

by it, is to be pitied among mortals. "Some old people have a dread

of solitude, and when better company may not be had, rejoice even to

hear the quiet breathing of a babe, asleep upon the carpet."(ll8)

Solitude is to be dreaded above all other waters in which a man may

drown himself. Perspective grows into a distorted ideal.

It is not good for man to cherish a solitary ambition. Unless
there be those around him by whose example he may regulate himself,
his thoughts, desires, and hopes will become extravagant, and be
the semblance, perhaps the reality of a madman.(119)

In a letter to Longfellow in 1837, Hawthorne referred to his

so-called solitary period and stated the problem of one who has cut

the warm ties of humanity and drifted into bleak isolation.

You tell me that you have met with troubles and changes. I
know not what they may have been; but I can assure you that trouble
is the next best thing to enjoyment, and that there is no fate in
the world so horrible as to have no share in either its joys or its

30Samuel Longfellow, Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(Boston, 1891), I, 264.

There were no great sorrows plaguing Hawthorne's twelve years of

literary apprenticeship, neither were there the pleasures of love and

success. Perhaps the novelist's romantic self-estimate is overly

dramatic. Assuredly, though, it has some basis in fact.

At the very moment when Hawthorne felt himself to be in

isolation he longed for the crowd. His acceptance of solitude both as

a personal problem and as a concern of mankind recognized that a

reluctant fear of the crowd must eventually give way before the

greater evils of solitude. He was continually forced to battle a

nature which yearned for seclusion and the freedom to think and dream

and feel.31

By the time of his marriage, Hawthorne had come to look upon

the solitude of his early years as a loathsome disease. Henceforth he

conceives of the solitary way in the blackest of terms. "In a forest,

solitude would be life; in a city, it is death."(120)

Herein lies the strongest statement of an ill-starred course:

"The worst possible fate would be to remain behind, shivering in the

solitude of time, while all the world is on the move towards

eternity."(121) "To persons whose pursuits are insulated from the

common business of life--who are either in advance of mankind or

apart from it-there often comes a sensation of moral cold that makes

the spirit shiver as if it had reached the frozen solitudes around the

pole."(122) Physical separation does not enter into the Hawthorne

31Nathaniel Hawthorne, Love Letters of Nathaniel Hawthorne,
preface by Roswell Field (Chicago, 1907), I, 213.

concept; he speaks rather of a complete mental and emotional alienation

from one's fellow beings. The outcast desires nothing more than a

return to the human fold. "Persons who have wandered, or been expelled,

out of the common track of things, even were it for a better system,

desire nothing so much as to be led back. They shiver in their

loneliness, be it on a mountain-top or in a dungeon."(123)

Repeatedly, Hawthorne refers to that dreary region of

isolation as being one of a physical and mental coldness. Society is

the heat; solitude the ice of life.

Generosity is a very fine thing, at a proper time and within
due limits. But it is an insufferable bore to see one man
engrossing every thought of all the women, and leaving his friend
to shiver in outer seclusion, without even the alternative of
solacing himself with what the more fortunate individual has

Even when recording sentiments of this kind on the lighter side of the

ledger, Hawthorne evinces an abounding sympathy for those who are

by-passed by life.

Seclusion, the state of being utterly alone with one's self,

rapidly grows insufferable.

A secluded man often grasps at any opportunity of communicating
with his kind, when it is casually offered to him, and for the
nonce is surprisingly familiar, running out towards his
chance-companion with the gush of a dammed-up torrent, suddenly

Especially in the more extreme moments of life does the insufficient

solitude of self seek out the common herd for solace.

In circumstances of profound feeling and passion, there is
often a sense that too great a seclusion can not be endured; there
is an indefinite dread of being quite alone with the object of our
deepest interest. The species of solitude that a crowd harbors

within itself is felt to be preferable, in certain conditions of
the heart, to the remoteness of a desert or the depths of an
untrodden wood. Hatred, love, or whatever kind of too intense
emotion, or even indifference, where emotion has once been,
instinctively seeks to interpose some barrier between itself and
the corresponding passion in another breast.(126)

Hawthorne's chief concern is with the individual who has been

shut off by mankind, or with the one who, by virtue of his own nature,

in the midst of companions is unable to break the barrier between

personalities. The man who is alone when in a crowd, alone when with

friends or family, is the true solitary figure. Thomas Wolfe, some

sixty-five years after Hawthorne's death, began to write long and

earnest novels dealing in part with that invisible barrier separating

man from man. He too felt keenly that solitude, in its more abstract

sense, is a permanent state of man. Hawthorne, although he recognizes

man as a social being, continues to believe that the cocoon of self

surrounding the individual, however transparent it may appear, is

scarcely penetrable.

Sensitivity and solitude are phases of personality rather than

a primal element of life. 'Whereas sin and the dance of life are

empirical essences present prior to the emergence of the individual,

the sensitive and solitary man reflects one aspect of that emergence.

It is on the reluctantly emerging individual that the prenatal

realities and institutional influences of life cut their deepest mark.

He is the eternally exposed, nerve-filled figure which Hawthorne

pushes back and forth in his mind with curiosity and with sympathy.

Hawthorne is fully aware that all men are not as delicately

constituted as the unfortunates which he envisions. At the other end

of the scale there are crassly social, unemotional beings who are

repugnant to the artist, while the great majority fall into a middle

range. Although Hawthorne, in his own life, tended to move toward

a more balanced social state during his middle years, although he

looked back with special dread upon isolated existence, he never lost

that natural sympathy for the sensitive and solitary soul.

The struggle within an individual between his desire for

isolation and his desire for society sets forth a problem central to

Hawthornian philosophy. Solitary life, a contentment with one's own

self, has about it a cold but wholesome quality which is difficult to

maintain in group living. At the same time, however, society offers

a warmth and companionship which is essential to man's well-being.

The continual dilemma of those individuals whose native sympathies

would lead them along the quiet and lonely pathway emphasizes the

struggle. When emerging into the social order the individual

encounters mass imperfection; yet, emergence is mandatory. There can

be little doubt that Hawthorne's preoccupation with this problem

reflects a struggle contained within his own personality. For

Hawthorne's part, the question was never completely resolved. The

conflict lessened, but it did not cease. For mankind, Hawthorne urges

a full participation in the social way. The imperfect nature of

society makes mere association an imperfect solution, but the

gregarious appetite of man makes it the only possible one.



At the heart of the Hawthornian world view are two intangible

interests which are formed upon faith and which supersede in a calm

fashion other concepts developed from observation and reflection.

These dual essences, "reality" and religion, are frequently fused,

because Hawthorne's conception of actuality falls within a religious

framework. At other times, the nature of the actual becomes a unique

problem in Hawthorne's conquest of ideas. For the most part, however,

the commentary on "reality" serves as prefatory material for a

systematized analysis of his religious thought.



Although it may appear both personal and intuitive at first

glance, Hawthorne's vision of "reality" is not essentially a mystical

one. Ultimately, it is highly impersonal, completely natural, and

thoroughly unspectacular. This vision, dealt with on two planes,

concerns a single essence. The superficial voicings of polite society

often counterfeit the hidden thoughts of the social participants in

the same manner that the perception of sensory phenomena cloaks life's

spiritual values. An underlying "reality" may be detected on both

these levels, in the first instance on a limited or human plane and in




At the heart of the Hawthornian world view are two intangible

interests which are formed upon faith and which supersede in a calm

fashion other concepts developed from observation and reflection.

These dual essences, "reality" and religion, are frequently fused,

because Hawthorne's conception of actuality falls within a religious

framework. At other times, the nature of the actual becomes a unique

problem in Hawthorne's conquest of ideas. For the most part, however,

the commentary on "reality" serves as prefatory material for a

systematized analysis of his religious thought.



Although it may appear both personal and intuitive at first

glance, Hawthorne's vision of "reality" is not essentially a mystical

one. Ultimately, it is highly impersonal, completely natural, and

thoroughly unspectacular. This vision, dealt with on two planes,

concerns a single essence. The superficial voicings of polite society

often counterfeit the hidden thoughts of the social participants in

the same manner that the perception of sensory phenomena cloaks life's

spiritual values. An underlying "reality" may be detected on both

these levels, in the first instance on a limited or human plane and in


the second on a limitless or spiritual one.

Earthly things do not possess finality.

On being transported to strange scenes, we feel as if all were
unreal. This is but the perception of the true unreality of
earthly things, made evident by the want of congruity between
ourselves and them.(127)

An attempt to discover a true and direct knowledge of the material

world in which man lives lies beyond Hawthorne's desire. Such a

knowledge, if ascertainable, would prove of little worth. "But then,

as I have said above, the grosser life is a dream, and the spiritual

life a reality."(128)

Nothing in worldly life constitutes "reality" in a greater

sense; for a prime ingredient of the life compound is that it shall

be ephemeral and shadowy.

Indeed, we are but shadows--we are not endowed with real life,
and all that seems most real about us is but the thinnest
substance of a dream-till the heart is touched. That touch
creates us-then we begin to be-thereby we are beings of reality,
and inheritors of eternity.(129)

Several seemingly Platonic reflections, reminiscent of Plato's cave

symbolism, when considered in conjunction with other facets of

Hawthorne's total conception, are seen in their true light as moral

assertions of a spiritual truth rather than as elevated metaphysical

speculation for its own sake.

In truth, words fail when attempting to define "reality," for

it is experienced through the feelings and not through the intellect.

"Who has not been conscious of mysteries within his mind, mysteries of

truth and reality, which will not wear the chains of language?"(130)

While a statement on the exact nature of actuality is never advanced,

it may be averred that what the great body of mankind clutches as

"reality" is but delusive externality. "Human nature craves a certain

materialism, and clings pertinaciously to what is tangible, as if that

were of more importance than the spirit accidentally involved in it."(131)

That which is actual is also immortal, timeless, indestructible.

Pure beauty, of the type which Shelley poetized, possesses these

qualities. "Not that beauty is worthy of less than immortality; no,

the beautiful should live forever--and thence, perhaps, the sense of

impropriety when we see it triumphed over by time."(132) Earthly

beauty, though it be a deserving reflection of a perfect spiritual

beauty, is unfortunately bounded. Celestial beauty is unblemished

and infinite; the world's beauty is finite.

Sophistication, however delicately it is contrived, often

brings its observer to an awareness of the obvious incongruity between

what is said and what is thought. Polite conversation perpetually

borders on deceit. "Strange spectacle in human life where it is the

instinctive effort of one and all to hide those sad realities, and

leave them undisturbed beneath a heap of superficial topics which

constitute the materials of intercourse between man and man!"(133)

Social intercourse, as Hawthorne observes it, partakes too often of

the purely artificial.

Two paths to "reality"-one man-centered, one God-centered-

seemed worthy of investigation by Hawthorne. The first and more

artistic medium, one which man may attempt, is that of the imagination.

"It is only through the medium of the imagination that we can lessen

those iron fetters, which we call truth and reality, and make

ourselves even partially sensible what prisoners we are."(134) A

heightened imagination, then, may cut through the outer layers of life

and into "reality." Imagination is a man-centered, active medium

which pierces and reveals. Although Hawthorne frequently employed

this method in his fiction, he discussed it but little. Instead, he

allowed the work to be the final testimony of the efficacy of this


The second medium of perception is passive, intuitive, and

God-centered. "There is something truer and more real than what we

can see with the eyes and touch with the finger."(135) God, in his

wise Providence, occasionally permits the actual to break through the

deceptive externality of life. This breakthrough may occur in the

rugged beauties of nature or in the delicately contrived, man-made

arts. When viewing majestic and awesome beauty, a person may

instantly intuit, with no effort on his own part, the existence of

those universal forces and truths to which he is normally blinded.

Thus it is that a sunset or a Raphael painting tends to reassure man

of that full and final acquaintance with "reality" which awaits the

close of physical life.

"Realities keep to the rear, and put forward an advance-guard

of show and humbug."(136) Repeatedly, the novelist refers to that

lesser plane of deception-one on which the unreal quality of the daily

events of life is too apparent. Many of the artificialities which

confront man in society are intuitively fathomed by sensitive

observers. "But yet, in some indescribable way (as is the case with

all that has deluded us when once found out), the poor reality was

felt beneath the cunning artifice."(137)

The manner in which idealism works is intimately related to

the quest for "reality." Since the "realities" of life are all

important, he who falls short of knowing them, he who never attains

his ideals, has still advanced further than the man who manages to

accumulate the merely material goods of life.

Yet, after all, let us acknowledge it wiser, if not more
sagacious, to follow out one's day-dream to its final consummation,
although, if the vision have been worth the having, it is certain
never to be consummated otherwise than by a failure. And what of
that? Its airiest fragments, impalpable as they may be, will
possess a value that lurks not in the most ponderous realities of
any practicable scheme. They are not the rubbish of the mind.(138)

Meaningful success can be gained in striving for those indescribable

yet permanent truths just beyond man's immediate reach. "I think I

might yield to higher poetry of heavenlier wisdom than mortals in the

flesh have ever sung or uttered."(139) Continually though, man is

called away from his yearnings for truth and forced to dwell among a

humanity largely dedicated to surface values. A person inclined

toward artificiality presents an outer appearance beneath which his

true being loses its original force. "It is the effect of anything

completely and consummately artificial, in human shape, that the

person impresses us as an unreality and as having hardly pith enough

to cast a shadow upon the floor."(140)

Man, in this life, is curtained off from eternal essences; yet

he retains mysterious inklings of prior happenings. "Scenes and events

that had once stained themselves, in deep colors, on the curtain that

Time hangs around us, to shut us in from eternity, cannot be quite

effaced by the succeeding phantasmagoria, and sometimes, by a

palimpsest, show more strongly than they."(141) For the most part,

man is unable to comprehend the inmost nature of those forces which

are functioning all around him. Only on rare occasions does

providential light break through man's dark enclosure. It is even

more difficult for mortals to push aside momentarily that heavy

tapestry. In truth, there is but one solution which man may himself


Facts, as we really find them, whatever poetry they may
involve, are covered with a stony excrescence of prose, resembling
the crust on a beautiful sea-shell, and they never show their
most delicate and divinest colors until we shall have dissolved
away their grosser actualities by steeping them long in a
powerful menstruum of thought.(142)

Hawthorne felt no need to question his faith in spiritual substances,

for though the nature of actuality is difficult to define its

presence is undeniable. It is blandly assumed and blandly revealed;

for "reality" is a matter of feeling and faith, not one of intellect

and logic.

Through glimpses of an eternal essence present in the inmost

nature of this world, man may come to understand a true essence.

There is, then, a fundamental spirituality permeating all. It may be

seen, but imperfectly, as through a mist, for man's nature is a

corrupted one. Our world is but a shadow of a greater, spirituality in

that its tangibles are ephemeral and do not constitute "reality."

Although this world exists as but a moment in eternity, it is of

primary importance in that it must consume man's total effort while he

dwells thereon.

Those visionaries who would neglect the duties of earthly life

in an effort to achieve total idealism are in for a rude awakening.

Hawthorne, thoroughly cognizant of the necessity of earthly living,

has no leisure for mystical philosophies whose aim is to elevate man

above this world. In truth, his entire philosophy is a caveat on

detached and oblivious idealism. Although his perceptions are taken

by him as natural assurances of that ultimate knowledge beginning with

death, although he emphasizes that "reality," or spiritual life, does

await man, he makes it quite clear that man's achievement of a

spiritual state belongs to another world. Man's first duty is to the

mortal world.

One opportunity of viewing naked actuality while still residing

in this world is to be found in those glimmerings which God allows to

filter through life. Conversely, man may, through empirical stimuli

distilled by the imagination, break through to that selfsame inner

truth. "Reality"--that all-engulfing presence which surrounds, is

present within, and occasionally darts through the external crust of

life-may be arrived at in either fashion-through the strivings of man

or through the beneficences of God. Hawthorne's comments on "reality"

are wholly intuitive, but he assumes that mankind is potentially

capable of an identical intuition. "Reality" is an undeniable natural

phenomenon of which all men may partake as they are individually

capable. The novelist did not assume that he alone held a private

telephone line with divinity.

Hawthorne's understanding of "reality" blends readily with his

acceptance of sin and with the general tenor of his moral and religious

thought; for although he believes that an ideal world transcends the

phenomenal one, he insists that man's life is a pilgrimage through the

material world and that man's chief concern must remain in that

immediate realm where the will to goodness is feeble and the propensity

to evil staggering. At the same time, the novelist would offer a

severe warning to those individuals who would shirk the obligations of

mortal life. Although Hawthorne's belief in the existence of an

underlying "reality" is firmly rooted, his commentary on the exact

nature of that "reality" is not explicit. Taken as a group, his

assertions of "reality" stand more as a preface to his ideas on

religion than as pure philosophical strictures.



Religious faith is possible not because man is good, an image

of the divine, but because God is powerful and unduly benevolent. A

religious attitude may exist in spite of man's inherent evil and

weakness. Of all the thought areas with which Hawthorne concerned

himself, that of religion is the most clearly and consistently defined.

Despite the lack of a specific name with which to label Hawthorne's

religious concepts, the nature of his religious thought is easily


"Hawthorne never made any mention of his or his sisters'

attending church while they were children, and his days at Bowdoin were

filled with fines imposed for cutting prayers and Sunday chapel."32

Like many another religious man he had no Sunday religion. Nominally a

Unitarian, wedded to the daughter of a devout Unitarian, Hawthorne

cared little or nothing for specific creeds. He was too keenly aware

of man as a sinner to accept in toto the optimistic Unitarianism of his

generation. When Hawthorne reflected on Jesus, His goodness seemed

less significant than the evil things which men had done to Him.33 An

hereditary and instinctive awareness of evil prevented Hawthorne's

accepting an easy religion.


Hawthorne's belief in that spiritual essence which Christianity

has designated man's soul was unshakeable.

We do wrong to our departed friends, and clog our own
heavenward aspirations, by connecting the idea of the grave with
that of death. Our thoughts should follow the celestial soul, and
not the earthly corpse.(143)

A first acquaintance with one's soul may come through suffering.

Any sort of bodily and earthly torment may serve to make us
sensible that we have a soul that is not within the jurisdiction of
such shadowy demons,-it separates the immortal within us from the
mortal. (144)

Sufferings of the body are but haircloths which quicken the

soul's stirring.

32Manning Hawthorne, "Parental and Family Influences on
Hawthorne," Essex Institute Historical Collections, LXXVI (1940), 6.

33Cantwell, The American Years, p. 90.

Yet words are not without their use, even for purposes of
explanation,-but merely for explaining outward acts, and all sorts
of external things, leaving the soul's life and action to explain
itself in its own way. (15)

Man's soul is not his property, but functions as a thing apart with

directions all its own. frequently, souls are squeezed, perhaps by sin,

until their flutterings become enfeebled. "For there are states of our

spiritual system when the throb of the soul's life is too faint and

weak to render us capable of religious aspiration."(146) Although a

soul may fall becalmed in individual instances, it still retains full

potentiality for goodness.

All souls belong to God.

It takes down the solitary pride of man, beyond most other
things, to find the impracticability of flinging aside affections
that have grown irksome. The bands that were silken once are apt
to become iron fetters when we desire to shake them off. Our souls,
after all, are not our own. Wie convey a property in them to those
with whom we associate; but to what extent can never be known,
until we feel the tug, the agony, of our abortive effort to resume
an exclusive sway over ourselves. (l7)

"It is because the spirit is inestimable that the lifeless body is so

little valued."(148) Hawthorne's conception of man's soul, while

conventionally Christian, is also conventionally vague. There is no

attempt to ferret out the secrets of a soul beyond the fact that there

is a something which resides within the body during life and leaves it

upon death for higher regions. It is viewed as a bit of divine

property temporarily housed by a beneficent Creator in physical beings.


Actions in this life serve as a springboard for immortality.

"The soul shall survive its frail earthly tenement; and if we have

conducted ourselves justly here, there will be a reward for us in

another, and a better world."(149) "And whatever may be the duration

of this earthly existence, let it ever be in our minds, that another

comes hastening on-vwhich is eternal.n"(10) This basic notion of

eternal life does not deviate appreciably from the standard body of

Christian teachings.

Heaven is a joyous place only a breath away; yet human nature

strives too frequently for less substantial rewards. "A man will

undergo great toil and hardship for ends that must be many years

distant,-as wealth or fame,-but none for an end that may be close at

hand,-as the joys of heaven."(151) Man should fasten his gaze upon

firmly rooted eternality, rather than a fluctuating worldly life.

Has it talked for so many ages and meant nothing all the while?
No; for those ages find utterance in the sea's unchanging voice,
and warn the listener to withdraw his interest from moral
vicissitudes, and let the infinite idea of eternity pervade his

Good deeds and faith thrust aside the curtain between the

momentary and the eternal. "And thus we, night wanderers through a

stormy and dismal world, if we bear the lamp of Faith, enkindled at a

celestial fire, it will surely lead us home to that heaven whence its

radiance was borrowed."(153) There is little to be perceived in

Hawthorne's presentation of immortality which would not be acceptable

to the majority of Christian believers. His declaration of faith in an

afterlife, though it is made with certainty, nowise balances the darker

aspects of his life philosophy.

Somehow, the novelist had picked up the idea that mental labor

will find its completion in the next life. "It seems a greater pity

that an accomplished worker with the hand should perish prematurely,

than a person of great intellect; because intellectual arts may be

cultivated in the next world, but not physical ones."(154) This sort

of conjecture on the exact nature of a soul, or on the heaven in which

it dwells, points out once more that Hawthorne's religion did not

always evolve from that rationalism so intimately linked with


In one way, an anthropomorphic one, the necessity for

immortality is affirmed. "Thus ever does the gross fatality of earth

exult in its invariable triumph over the immortal essence which, in

this dim sphere of half development, demands the completeness of a

higher state."(155) Heaven affords Utopian fulfillment for earth's

projects. Moreover, it appears as a mecca for total personalities-

loved ones are united, poets round off their poems, all is brought to


The existence of a higher life is thus proclaimed: first, God

is benevolent; second, there is sense and order to man's existence;

third, the nature of physical life is incomplete; fourth, since this

life is incomplete and since God is just and good, there must be a


This so frequent abortion of man's dearest projects must be
taken as a proof that the deeds of earth, however etherealized by
piety or genius, are without value, except as exercises and
manifestations of the spirit. In heaven, all ordinary thought is
higher and more melodious than Milton's song. Then, would he add
another verse to any strain that he had left unfinished here?(156)

Hawthorne begins empirically with a hard world-centered texture and

ascends intuitively to celestial heights.

But God would not have made the close so dark and wretched, if
there were nothing beyond; for then it would have been a fiend that
created us, and measured out our existence, and not God. It would
be something beyond wrong-it would be insult-to be thrust out of
life into annihilation in this miserable way. So, out of the very
bitterness of death, I gather the sweet assurance of a better state
of being.(157)

In one instance, Hawthorne questions his own naivete' in

assuming the existence of heaven with such wishful logic.

If we consider the lives of the lower animals, we shall see in
them a close parallelism to those of mortals;--toil, struggle,
danger, privation, mingled with glimpses of peace and ease; enmity,
affection, a continual hope of bettering themselves, although their
objects lie at less distance before them than our own do. Thus, no
argument from the imperfect character of our existence, and its
delusory promises, and its injustice, can be drawn in reference to
our immortality, without, in a degree, being applicable to our
brute brethren.(158)

It is highly probable that immortality has become so fixed a concept

that it, like sin, may occasionally be treated with levity. On the

other hand, this one statement may reflect an earnest doubt, one soon

merged in a sea of certainty.

Mortal life's grim limitations forewarn eventual perfection.

God himself cannot compensate to us for being born, in any
period short of eternity. All the misery we endure here
constitutes a claim for another life;-and, still more, all the
happiness, because all true happiness involves something more than
the earth owns, and something more than a mortal capacity for the
enjoyment of it.(159)

And it is the promise of a blessed eternity; for our creator
would never have made such lovely days and have given us the deep
hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were
meant to be immortal. This sunshine is a golden pledge thereof.
It beams through the gates of paradise and shows us glimpses far
inward. (160)

Beauty, "reality," immortality, though they are kindred terms to

Hawthorne, are not identical in connotation. Beauty, as a state of

taste, may be thought of as relative and amoral. Yet beauty, as man

knows it, is but the symbol of a permanent essence. Since genuine

beauty descends from another world, it tends to be confused as a symbol

with the condition which it symbolizes. The conceptions of "reality"

and immortality are closely allied in that immortality is merely the

return of the soul to a state of permanent "reality"-a "reality" which

can be only imperfectly known in physical life, but which immortality


In the midst of more objective voicings there rings always a

personal note. "Yet I am not loath to go away; impatient rather; for,

taking no root, I soon weary of any soil in which I may be temporarily

deposited. The same impatience I sometimes feel or conceive of as

regards this earthly life. ."(161) Hawthorne dreaded that he

might die without leaving ampleprovision for his wife and children,

but there is no evidence in his writings of a personal fear of death.

Immortality is accepted as a natural legacy. At fifty-five, Hawthorne

was old and tired; Una's severe illness in Italy had especially

depleted his strength. When he returned to America in 1860, the fire

and zest of ten years previous had thoroughly chilled. Death wore a

kindly face.

"Now, the very knowledge of God sufficiently proves the

immortality of the soul, which rises above the world, since an

evanescent breath or inspiration could not arrive at the fountain of

life."34 The Calvinistic concept of the after life is proved by the

34Calvin, Institutes, I, 204.

very fact that God exists. For Hawthorne, heaven is intuitive. "We

have strongly within us the sense of an undying principle, and we

transfer that true sense to this life and to the body, instead of

interpreting it justly as the promise of spiritual immortality."(162)

It is the incurable disease of a corrupted humanity that it perverts

and mischannels its longing for immortality.

If man performs good deeds and keeps faith he will be awarded

a niche in heaven. Heaven, where human aspirations are culminated on

a divine level, is thought of as a more perfect world. Here man is

compensated for the mud of his earthly life. The existence of a

spiritual life is known through an undeniable intuition. Taken as a

group, these Hawthornian reflections on immortality are more notable

for their number than for their variety.


God is presented in surprisingly warm terms. Hawthorne speaks

of a personal deity, a loving caretaker, whose chief attribute is

goodness. It is true that an equally strong conception of fortune

emphasizes the complete and awesome sovereignty of God.

Calvin had stressed the ruling powers of the Creator.

Therefore, since God claims a power unknown to us of governing
the world, let this be to us the law of sobriety and modesty, to
acquiesce to his supreme dominion, to account his will the only.
rule of righteousness, and most righteous cause of all things.X3

Puritan divines had likewise singled out the sovereignty of God as the

one attribute which could be rendered most vivid to human

351bid, I, 235.

intelligence.36 While Hawthorne is a thoroughgoing Puritan in his

clear-cut recognition of the governing power of God, or Providence, he

leans toward an abstract optimism when he reflects on the nature of God.

Similarly, Calvinism, while it preaches the attribute of sovereignty

for the most part, makes it plain enough in its dogma that through His

beneficence God is a warm and munificent father to each and all.

To Hawthorne, God is immeasurably good.

Thus it appears that all the external beauty of the universe is
a free gift from God over and above what is necessary to our
comfort. How grateful, then, should we be to that divine Benevolence,
which showers even superfluous bounties upon us (163)

While God's goodness is bountiful in an absolute or final sense,

immediate actions remain inscrutable. "God has imparted to the human

soul a marvelous strength in guarding its secrets, and he keeps at

least the deepest and most inward record for his own perusal."(l64)

He reads souls as readily as man reads a newspaper, and He gives each

a just and thorough reading.

There is no mention, when dealing with that infinite

disembodied primal spirit, of anger or harshness. Providence is

necessarily severe in that it mingles with a corrupted world, and is

viewed as it works upon that world; but God, although he institutes

Providence, is not besmeared with earth's mire.

A paternal God actively loves and cares for all mankind.

It is a comfortable thought, that the smallest and most turbid
mud-puddle can contain its own picture of Heaven. Let us remember
this, when we feel inclined to deny all spiritual life to some

36William Warren Sweet, Religion in Colonial America (New York,
1951), p. 98.

people, in whom, nevertheless, our Father may perhaps see the image
of his face.(165)

Manifestations of that loving care are felt in mortal life. "God does

not let us live anywhere or anyhow on earth, without placing something

of Heaven close at hand, by rightly using and considering which, the

earthly darkness or trouble will vanish, and all be Heaven."(166)

Trinitarians stress the qualities of goodness and mercy when speaking

of Christ. The Puritans had thought in terms of "irresistible grace."

Hawthorne, since he intellectually rejects the divinity of Jesus, may

well have shifted back to God those attributes which Trinitarians find

personified in Christ. That is not to say that Trinitarians do not

attribute supreme goodness and mercy to God, for they do; yet they

frequently treat God as a rather distant supreme Deity and view Christ

as an immediate and warm Savior. While Providence is seen as a

comparatively cold force by Hawthorne, God, by contrast, takes on a

warmth not typical of the Puritan's God.

Calvinism assures man of the active directive energies of God.

For he is accounted omnipotent, not because he is able to act,
yet sits down in idleness, or continues by a general instinct the
order of nature originally appointed by him; but because he governs
heaven and earth by his providence, and regulates all things in
such a manner that nothing happens but according to his counsel.37

Hawthorne, in like vein, writes of a supreme caretaker. "But God, who

made us, knows, and will not leave us on our toilsome and doubtful

march, either to wander in infinite uncertainty, or perish by the

wayl"(167) Once again there is a recognition of a warm dominion. As

the recipient of paternal care, man owes prayer for what is so

37Calvin, Institutes, I, 220.

gratuitously given. "The air, with God's sweetest and tenderest

sunshine in it, was meant for mankind to breathe into their hearts,

and send forth again as the utterance of prayer."(168)

Prayer is one expression of man's dutiful allegiance to God;

humility is another. "This is the true way to do; a man ought not to

be too proud to let his eyes be moistened in the presence of God and of

a friend."(169) "God knows best; but I wish He had so ordered it that

our mortal bodies, when we have done with them, might vanish out of

sight and sense, like bubbles."(170) Whether in jest or in earnest,

Hawthorne does not question divine intelligence; he remains humble

before it. Feeling and faith provide sufficient grounds for belief.

"But he never discussed religion in set terms either in his writings

or in his talk. He 'believed' in God but never sought to define him."38

In contrast to the dark affirmation of Providence, Hawthorne's

warm assertion of God comes as a pleasant surprise. The dominant

impression of God, if God may be separated from his own providential

nature, is more Unitarian than Puritan. While Hawthorne had almost

nothing to say on the subject of mercy itself, he does pay full homage

to God's goodness.

38Julian Hawthorne, The Memoirs of Julian Hawthorne, ed. Edith
G. Hawthorne (New York, 1938), p. 16. It is interesting to speculate
on the nature of the God in which Hawthorne believed. It would seem
from the commentary on man's soul and on immortality that the God he
envisioned did not differ greatly from the Christian God as presented
in the Scriptures. However, since Hawthorne does differ from the
majority of Christians in that he rejects the Trinity and in that he
seems to have had little belief in the devil or in hell, it may well
be that his conception of God is not nearly so conventional as it
might at first appear.

Aspects of Religion

Religion is an unlettered institution in that it requires

simplicity and humility of its subjects rather than erudition. In the

most trivial workings of life, religion reaches out to man. "No

fountain is so small but that Heaven may be imaged in its bosom."(171)

No creature is left dry by the outflowing religious tide.

"Purity and simplicity hold converse at ever moment with their

Creator."(172) It is a consistent belief of Hawthorne's that

simplicity and purity are intimately connected with divinity. Just as

there is an undeniable chain of evil running throughout life, even so

is there a corresponding chain of goodness.

In every good action there is a divine quality, which does not
end with the completion of that particular deed, but goes on to
bring forth good works in an infinite series. It is seldom
possible, indeed, for human eyes to trace out the chain of blessed
consequences, that extends from a man's simple and conscientious
act, here on earth, and connects it with those labors of love
which the angels make it their joy to perform, in heaven above.(173)

Assertions of goodness appear as a minority report however, when placed

beside the vivid and immense body of recognized evil. Although

goodness holds equal qualitative strength with evil, the former is

overwhelmed by the quantity of the latter. Hawthorne's commentary on

the various aspects of religion, in its repeated emphasis of goodness,

tends to neglect for the moment the sterner phase of religion-God's

indefeasible sovereignty.

Unless the believer have an unquestioning faith, religion

provides a free play for his imagination. Hawthorne is numbered among

those who have faith; yet he inserts a rather daring thought of what

conceivably might be.

Perhaps there are higher intelligence that look upon all the
manifestations of the human mind-metaphysics, ethics, histories,
politics, poems, stories etc etc-with the same interest as we do
on flowers, or any other humble production of nature; finding a
beauty and fitness even in the poorest of them which we cannot see
in the best.(l74)

It is a fanciful idea, not a serious one.

"Generally, I suspect, when people throw off the faith they

were born in, the best soil of their hearts is apt to cling to its

roots."(175) In England, in Rome, however far from the land of his

ancestors Hawthorne journeyed, he never relinquished his birthright.

The roots were in Puritanism and they were infinitely deep.

Calvin was certain that the day of judgment would see numerous

souls fallen into Hell. "For those whom the Lord does not favour with

the government of his Spirit, he abandons, in righteous judgement, to

the influence of Satan."39 While there are abundant comments by

Hawthorne affirming his mental and emotional acceptance of God and

Heaven, there is little or no evidence, outside of fictional

representations, that the novelist countenanced a literal belief in

Satan and Hell. At times, he seems to take what is tantamount to the

existentialist view that man is his own hell. "At the last day-I

presume, that is, in all future days, when we see ourselves as we are-

man's only inexorable judge will be himself, and the punishment of his

sins will be the perception of them."(176) Satan and Hell find little

room in Hawthorne's world of ideas, yet it is true that he utilized

them as dramatic features of his tales. It is conceivable that Satan

39Calvin, Institutes, I, 335.

and Hell, in their traditional employment as fictional entities, are

known to the Hawthorne intellect as convenient metaphors for evil; even

though they are not wholly discarded from an emotional standpoint.

A blacksmith may perform his tasks in a religious manner.

Calvin and the Puritan fathers had preached the doctrine that work is

worship. We do ourselves wrong, and too meanly estimate the Holiness

above us, when we deem that any act or enjoyment, good in itself, is

not good to do religiously."(177)

Hawthorne chose to comment on the brighter aspects of religion

rather than the darker ones. Religion is seen as more than a way of

life; it becomes life itself. Purity, goodness, humility are commended

as earthly manifestations of divinity.

Formal Religion

Hawthorne's irreligion consisted in his not attending church:

as a child, he was rarely present at Sunday services; during his

courtship, Sophia could not prevail upon him to hear visiting

ministers; in England, he sent the children to church and felt much

better thereby, but did not go himself. There was no one sect with

sufficient answers for Hawthornets questioning mind. He had cast off

some vital Puritan beliefs as untenable, but he failed to find comfort

in the rationalistic program of New England Unitarianism. The eternal

wrangling over minute doctrinal points, which formal religions

frequently engage in, was especially repugnant. Hawthorne dwelt in a

subjective religious world which felt no need for the objective act of

church going.

"0, but the church is the symbol of religion. May its site,

which was consecrated on the day when the first tree was felled, be

kept holy forever, a spot of solitude and peace, amid the trouble and

vanity of our week-day worldl"(178) While the church had slight

appeal to Hawthorne the individual, he heartily recommends it for the

rest of mankind. The Church, however, may be found in the individual

heart with more certainty than in the visible church building.

Clerical people, with their dust-destined volumes, failed to

make a favorable impression. "I find that my respect for clerical

people as such, and my faith in the utility of their office, decreases

daily. We certainly do need a new revelation--a new system-for there

seems to be no life in the old one."(179) There is more than one

appeal by Hawthorne for a new apostle to rescue Protestantism from

stagnant waters.

One of the most disconcerting aspects of formal religion is

that it rapidly grows intolerant. This schismatic tendency of

Protestantism is as old as time. Sects tend to pull apart rather than

draw together in a mutual effort for a common cause.

Each sect surrounds its own righteousness with a hedge of
thorns. It is difficult for the good Christian to acknowledge the
good Pagan; almost impossible for the good Orthodox to grasp the
hand of the good Unitarian, leaving to their Creator to settle the
matters in dispute, and giving their mutual efforts strongly and
trustingly to whatever right thing is too evident to be
mistaken. (180)

Simplicity is the keynote of religion. Books of religion, many

of which Hawthorne had thumbed, seemed to him to miss the heart of the


Books of religion, however, cannot be considered a fair test

of the enduring and vivacious properties of human thought, because
such books so seldom really touch upon their ostensible subject,
and have, therefore, so little business to be written at all. So
long as an unlettered soul can attain to saving grace, there would
seem to be no deadly error in holding theological libraries to be
accumulations of, for the most part, stupendous impertinence.(181)

Notwithstanding an evident disdain of theological tomes, there

is every indication that Hawthorne held the Bible to be the inspired

word of God. In a letter to his publisher, James T. Fields, in 1860,

there is a tribute to the saving powers of the Scriptures:

Did I not suggest to you, last summer, the publication of the
Bible in ten or twelve 12 mo volumes? I think it would have great
success, and, at least (but as a publisher, I suppose this is the
very smallest of your cares), it would result in the salvation of
a great many souls, who would never find their way to heaven, if
left to learn it from the inconvenient editions of the Scriptures
now in use.4

By 1858, Hawthorne had increasingly come to feel that

Protestantism needed rejuvenation. "Protestantism needs a new apostle

to convert it into something positive... .(182) In the same year

he made his first real acquaintance with Catholicism,~4 and was both

attracted and repelled by what he found. "What better use could be

made of life, after middle-age, when the accumulated sins are many and

the remaining temptations few, than to spend it all in kissing the

black cross of the Coliseum!"(183) iWhile Catholicism, especially the

Roman Popes, evoked rather harsh criticism and satirical thrusts from

Hawthorne, he discovered that certain practices of the Catholic faith,

notably the confessional, deeply appealed to him.

40james T. Fields, Yesterday with Authors (Boston, 1900), p. 95.

41Hawthorne's youngest daughter, Rose, became a Catholic convert
some years after her father's death.

The Catholic Church is praiseworthy in that it keeps religion

present to the daily life of man.

Whatever may be the iniquities of the papal system, it was a
wise and lovely sentiment that set up the frequent shrine and cross
along the roadside. No wayfarer, bent on whatever worldly errand,
can fail to be reminded at every mile or two, that this is not the
business which most concerns him. The pleasure-seeker is silently
admonished to look heavenward for a joy infinitely greater than he
now possesses. The wretch in temptation beholds the cross, and is
warned that, if he yield, the Saviour's agony for his sake will
have been endured in vain.(184)

Catholicism continually reminds her followers of life's deeper

meanings. Hawthorne is more than superficially attracted by

Catholicism, but it is extremely doubtful that he would have ever

become a convert. His energy for any sort of outer participation in

religion was quite feeble.

Since the universe in which he found himself was predominantly

moral, Hawthorne felt man's chief business and urgent problem to be a

sufficient morality.42 Calvinism had provided an intellectual

background steeped in morality.

Calvinism in fact is not essentially a systematic body of
doctrine. Its essence is revealed in that which Calvin consistently
strove to effect and actually succeeded in effecting in no small
degree-the moralisation of all life by religion.43

Hawthorne's religion is not formally Calvinistic in that it is

not Trinitarian, and in that it finds no faith in "election" and

"irresistible grace." Literal Satans, literal Hells, and the angry

God of early New England are not taken seriously. Hawthorne did

42Vernon L. Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought (New
York, 1927), II, 442.

43A. Mitchell Hunter, The Teaching of Calvin (London, 1950),
p. 298.

believe in the soul, in immortality, in a God with the attributes

which Christian theology reiterates, and in the saving power of the

Holy Writ. Goodness in this life is to be rewarded by heaven; man's

sins are to be punished, possibly through a persistently conscious

dwelling with those very sins. Heaven is to compensate man for an

imperfect earthly life.

"Hawthorne's religious faith was of an almost childlike

simplicity, though it was as deeply rooted as his life itself."u4

Religion is not that urge which brings man to church on Sunday, but it

is that, instead, which gives meaning and color to all life's actions.

Inklings of doubt, if they occurred, were quickly lost in the certainty

of a naive but admirable faith. Sophia's unstinting belief in God must

have given added impetus to that intuitive faith which her husband

possessed. "He deeply accepted his wife's rejoicing faith, and

perceived the limitations of reason."45

God in his pure form, considered apart from Providence, is far

more of the paternal being and less of the almighty spirit than might

be suspected. The further Hawthorne moved into abstraction and away

from the dance of life, the more optimistic he became. Thus Providence,

as the chief protagonist of the texture of life, is seen in rigid gray

lines. The workings of Providence are visible to the Hawthorne eye;

hence they are instinctively intellectualized with immediate pessimism,

although the long look at Providence, unobtainable in this sphere, is

"Julian Hawthorne "Hawthorne's Philosophy," The Century
Magazine, XXXII (May, 1886), 91.

5Julian Hawthorne, Memoirs, p. 16.

an optimistic one. To God, on the other hand, felt through the

unlettered heart, is ascribed warm and personal, almost sunshiny


Jesus affords a special interpretative problem. He enters

Hawthorne's writings only in brief and scattered passages. Nowhere is

the Hawthorne intellect seriously concentrated on the question of his

divinity. However, in a letter to Sophia, written the 24th of December

1839, the would-be husband in alluding to the fact that the Custom

House employees must work on Christmas day, makes warm mention of Jesus.

"The holiest of holydays-the day that brought ransom to all other

sinners--leaves us in slavery still.n46 Although he had discarded a

belief in the divinity of Jesus, possibly Hawthorne had not completely

shaken it from his mind.

Religion is traditionally one of the most significant

institutions confronting man in society. All life is a religious

reflection, for religion as an institution casts its shadow over the

whole scope of human activity. It is not suggested that Hawthorne was

pious, notably devout, or in any way a proselytizer of the good life;

but rather that he saw the ephemeral procession of life as a somber

one, and that he recognized religious faith as the one necessary

accompaniment to mortal man's procession.

Love Letters, I, 118.



Social and civic institutions, Hawthorne scans with a practical

but slightly jaundiced eye. Society in its greater sense, and

political society more specifically, are to be interpreted as earthly

actualities, conceived and perpetuated by man out of his need for

cooperation and for his own convenience. In contrast to the

imponderable presence of a religious force which dwells both above man

and within his individual heart, and which renders every action both

moral and meaningful, society emerges as a gross superficiality. This

is not to imply that institutionalized social forces are not central

to earthly life--for they are indeed a prime concern--but rather that

they are not spiritual in essence.

Religion, while it is simultaneously the most immediate and the

most ultimate of actualities, and while it enters somehow into all

actions, allows man free rein to work out his social living in his own

limited and blundering way. Somehow, man, with all his spiritual

shortsightedness, caught up in marble and mud-man who goes wrong more

often than right--somehow, he constructs upon the social appetite a

formalized mode of life which regulates his earthly intercourse and

which he recognizes as society. The social way is the natural way-in

so far as the urge to group is as dominant as the urge to mate-yet,

when seen in its refined form, institutionalized and standardized


society may be viewed as a monument to man's tendency to err.

In close conjunction with the social process, tradition looms

ominous. In effect, it is tradition which nourishes and hands forward

the more formalized and the more habitual aspects of the communal way.

Man, wherever he might seek release, continually stumbles beneath the

heavy weight of tradition. At times, tradition appears to the

Hawthorne mind as an insidious pressure, distinct from yet intimately

linked to social living. Less frequently it is seen as a worthwhile

agent of conservatism.


The Hawthornian analysis of tradition is overwhelmingly

consistent to the point of monotony. The principal concern is for the

decay, the sterility, the effeteness accompanying tradition. Life

requires periodical renewing, for "Human nature will not flourish, any

more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a

series of generations, in the same worn-out soil."(185) Even though

tradition propagates and increases the oppressive weight on man's

shoulder, its conservative influence is a utilitarian one. "This long

connection of a family with one spot, as its place of birth and burial,

creates a kindred between the human being and the locality, quite

independent of any charm in the scenery or moral circumstances that

surround him. It is not love, but instinct."(186) An appetite for

the land, of the kind expressed in Tennyson's "Northern Farmer Old

Style," presents the nobler countenance of tradition. Unfortunately,

as is the case with many a pure desire, evil adheres to its practical


Undoubtedly, the five generations of Puritan ancestors which

had preceded Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as the spirit of Salem

itself, were in his blood. He could not rid himself of this profound

influence.47 It is this sort of tradition-the double-barreled

internal pressure of heredity and environment--which confounds

Hawthorne. To escape from tradition is to escape from one's physical


"The evil of these departed years would naturally have sprung

up again, in such rank weeds (symbolic of the transmitted vices of

society) as are always prone to root themselves about human dwellings."

(187) There is a heavy insistence that decay and vice invariably

follow the passage of time and that a dwelling enriched by age evinces

the mouldy face of evil. Tradition transmits that evil.

Hence, too, might be drawn a weighty lesson from the little
regarded truth, that the act of the passing generation is the germ
which may and must produce good or evil fruit in a far-distant
time; that, together with the seed of the merely temporary crop,
which mortals term expediency, they inevitably sow the acorns of a
more enduring growth, which may darkly overshadow their posterity.

Good, which may theoretically be transmitted, tends to melt before the

glare of its darkened antithesis.

Vice is robust and free roaming, not caged and sickly; it is an

untamed entity swept .forward by tradition.

Not to be deficient in this particular, the author has
provided himself with a moral,-the truth, namely that the
wrong-doing of one generation lives into the successive ones, and,

47Manning Hawthorne, "Hawthorne's Early Years," Essex Institute
Historical Collections, LXXIV, 21.

divesting itself of every temporary advantage, becomes a pure and
uncontrollable mischief; and he would feel it a singular
gratification if this romance might effectually convince mankind-
or, indeed, any one man-of the folly of tumbling down an
avalanche of ill-gotten gold, or real estate, on the heads of an
unfortunate posterity, thereby to maim and crush them, until the
accumulated mass shall be scattered abroad in its original

Each generation, if it is to breathe a pure air and labor with any

degree of freedom, must somehow find release from the ever-increasing

pressures of its past. From the point of pure theory, in the purely

abstract realm, Hawthorne is seen as a would-be reformer of society,

as a reader of Rousseau. He is seen as one who wishes man freed from

the accumulated artifice of civilization. Actually, however,

Hawthorne's practical recognition of the incorrigible yet necessary

nature of man's physical sojourn belies the ideal.

"Tradition,--which sometimes brings down truth that history

has let slip, but is oftener the wild babble of the time, such as was

formerly spoken at the fireside and now congeals in the newspapers,-

tradition is responsible for all contrary averments."(190) Tradition,

in whatever manner it is perpetuated, speaks with an absolute voice.

Yet, mere age fails to impress Hawthorne. He is interested in values

rather than the purely antique. "An old thing is no better than a new

thing, unless it Ebe] a symbol of something, or have some value in


Complete detachment from the past is impossible. Individuals

and nations may change their minds, but they cannot change their

history. Apparent change and newness is somehow connected with past

events. Man continues to build onto the material and mental structures

of past ages, and in so doing drags behind him, like the chambered

nautilus, an outgrown past.

The fact is, the world is accumulating too many materials for
knowledge. We do not recognize for rubbish what is really rubbish;
and under this head might be reckoned almost everything one sees in
the British Museum; and as each generation leaves its fragments and
potsherds behind it such will finally be the desperate conclusion
of the learned.(192)

The present is burthened too much with the past. We have not
time, in our earthly existence, to appreciate what is warm with
life, and immediately around us; yet we heap up all these old
shells, out of which human life has long emerged, casting them off
forever. I do not see how future ages are to stagger onward under
all this dead weight, with the additions that will be continually
made to it.(193)

If only man were allowed to start afresh, though Hawthorne sees no

effective means of casting aside outmoded paraphernalia, then and only

then would the transmitted sears of society heal in the new enthusiasm

of fresh conquest. It is a young idea, a liberal idea, but scarcely a

well-rounded one. When Hawthorne cries out that dead weight makes

progress difficult, that society should amputate its withered limbs,

he begins and ends with the same lament, but fails to provide the

necessary surgical implements.

"But methinks it must be weary, weary, weary, this rusty

unchangeable village-life, where men grow up, grow old, and die, in

their fathers' dwellings, and are buried in their grandsires'very

graves, the old skulls, and cross-bones being thrown out to make room

for them, and shovelled in on the tops of their coffins."(l19) The

spectacle of a traditional life led in an unthinking manner is a

depressing one, for it is felt that the person observed never comes

alive. Hawthorne admits his own need for a physical rut, for a calm

external routine, to free his mind for action. The observed failure

of a mind lost in traditional ways to once flex its muscles is most

deplorable; mental fixedness is to be avoided at all costs.

Man's only release from tradition comes through fire and death.

These two purifying agents are applied by Hawthorne to both the

individual and the group problem. "All towns should be made capable of

purification by fire, or of decay, within each half-century. Otherwise,

they become the hereditary haunts of vermin and noisomeness, besides

standing apart from the possibility of such improvements as are

constantly introduced into the rest of man's contrivances and

accommodations."(195) It is criminal to foist the present onto unborn

generations-to pass on old homes, old ways, and old evils. Ideally,

man should be allowed a new cycle each fifty years.

Late in his life, in 1862, the graying novelist appears to

contradict his earlier conclusions. Such reversals of position are

exceedingly rare, for Hawthorne normally probes and elaborates his

ideas in an amazingly consistent manner. It is not his wont to jump

from a considered opinion to its very opposite. Frequently, the

Hawthornian paradox is nonexistent when the surface contradiction is

evaluated in terms of the over-all thought pattern. In other

instances, the intellectual phase of the writer's personality gives

ground to temporary emotional outbursts or even to petty grievances.

Then, too, Hawthorne is known to have occasionally spoken with tongue

in cheek.

The sentiment expressed but two years prior to the novelist's

death is readily seen as a more conservative and perhaps a more

reasoned approach to the problem.

It may seem to be paying dear for what many will reckon but a
worthless weed; but the more historical associations we can link
with our localities, the richer will be the daily life that feeds
upon the past, and the more valuable the things that have been
long established: so that our children will be less prodigal than
their fathers in sacrificing good institutions to passionate
impulses and impracticable theories.(196)

The bulk of Hawthorne's criticism of tradition decries the immense

burden of a perpetuated evil. It fails to recognize that "good" may be

transmitted to any worthwhile degree; it fails to give full recognition

to tradition as a stabilizing element in society. Finally, when the

author comes to speak of "good institutions," it is with the voice of

an old man--one made more malleable and more conservative by a long and

sharp engagement with life. The more balanced view, arrived at late in

life, scarcely represents the dominant Hawthorne notion.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born into a town overladen with old

houses, old customs, old legends, and old evils. He inherited the rich

and shadowy past of the Hawthorne family. On his maternal side, the

Mannings were equally tradition-conscious. Mary Manning, the youth's

aunt, had steeped him in New England lore. Then, too, from infancy he

was made aware that certain accomplishments were expected of a

Hawthorne. He rebelled against those expectations in taking up the

pen. Perhaps the constant nagging of grandmother Manning and the

Manning uncles had much to do with that rebellion. In any event,

Hawthorne never quite came to a balanced understanding of tradition.

His rebellion, for all its vinegar and impishness, is not an entirely

illogical one when viewed in the light of the youth's upbringing.

One too keenly attuned to the world's evil could not help

feeling that any carry-over from the past is essentially an evil one.

Tradition gives rise to social as well as personal problems.

Intellectually and emotionally Hawthorne is repeatedly called on to

face tradition. He recognized it for what it appeared to him,

scrutinized it in the dark light of lifes's prenatal influences, but

never quite knew what to make of it.

Society at Large

"Man is naturally a sociable being; not formed for himself

alone, but destined to bear a part in the great scheme of nature. All

his pleasures are heightened, and all his griefs are lessened, by

participation. It is only in Society that the full energy of the mind

is aroused, and all its powers drawn forth."(197) At age sixteen,

some years before the artistic Hawthorne was to hesitate sensitively

on the brink of society, the adolescent Hawthorne offers a lucid

statement of social necessity. Together with a recognition of that

necessity, the youth unhesitatingly affirms the nature of the social

problem and the inevitable choice of answers which an individual must

make. "Perhaps life may pass more tranquilly, estranged from the

pursuits and the vexations of the multitude, but all the hurry and

whirl of passion is preferable to the cold calmness of indifference,"

(198) After endless encounters with the crass actuality of social

existence, after numerous cries of pain, Hawthorne is led, through

living and through observing the life pattern of others, to accept in

his later years the prophetic statement of his adolescent self.

Though the appetite for society is genuine enough, the edifices

erected on that urge are shallow and vain. "Alas that the vanity of

dress should extend even to the grave!"(199) With all deference to

the English poets of the eighteenth century, Hawthorne takes up the

theme of man's vainglory. When the visible workings of society are

seen apart from the shining theory which mandates them, they wear

conspicuously the stamp of man's imperfectibility.

"Amid the seeming confusion of our mysterious world,

individuals are so nicely adjusted to a system, and systems to one

another and to a whole, that, by stepping aside for a moment, a man

exposes himself to the fearful risk of losing his place forever."(200)

Society mechanically thrusts itself forward on an uncharted track.

Once the individual withdraws from its intricate train of movement he

never regains his former seat. Those who remain "shivering behind" can

but marvel at the unfeeling complexity of that in which they once

participated. Hawthorne unquestionably believes, at this stage in his

development, that a functional society, moulded by man of artificial

ingredients, lacks spiritual substance. Society is binding on man in

that acquiescence to it is necessary for a balanced participation in

this life, yet it is factitious in that it is born of man's short and

shallow view.

By the sheer force of its routine, the social way provides a

needed fortress for the individual. Yet at the same time it is so

superficially fashioned, so lacking in spiritual fiber, that it can

scarcely withstand a sharp interruption of its order.

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