« ПредишнаНапред »
The advantage of this is that it leaves the student free to concentrate his attention upon the writings rather than on the man. Hawthorne, in the passage quoted above, speaks of himself as one “who has been burrowing, to his utmost ability, into the depths of our common nature for the purposes of psychological romance ;” and this states, as closely as so short a sentence can, the controlling purpose and end of the author. The vitality of Hawthorne's characters is derived but little from any external description ; it resides in the truthfulness with which they respond to some permanent and controlling operation of the human soul. Looking into his own heart, and always, when studying others, in search of fundamental rather than occasional motives, he proceeded to develop these motives in conduct and life. Hence he had a leaning toward the allegory, where human figures are merely masks for spiritual activities, and sometimes he employed the simple allegory, as in The Celestial Railroad. More often in his short stories he has a spiritual truth to illustrate, and uses the simplest, most direct means, taking no pains to conceal his purpose, yet touching his characters quietly or playfully with human sensibilities, and investing them with just so much real life as answers the purpose of the story. This is exquisitely done in The SnowImage. The consequence of this “burrowing into the depths of our common nature” has been to bring much of the darker and concealed life into the movement of his stories. The fact of evil is the terrible fact of life, and its workings in the human soul had more interest for Hawthorne than the obvious physical manifestations. Since his observations are less of the men and women whom everybody sees and recognizes than of the souls which are hidden from
it is not strange that his stories should often lay bare secrets of sin, and that a somewhat dusky light should seem to be the atmosphere of much of his work. Now and then, especially when dealing with childhood, a warm, sunny glow spreads over the pages of his books; but the reader must
be prepared for the most part to read stories which lie in the shadow of life.
There was one class of subjects which had a peculiar interest for Hawthorne, and in a measure affected his work. He had a strong taste for New England history, and he found in the scenes and characters of that history favorable material for the representation of spiritual conflict. He was himself the most New English of New Englanders, and held an extraordinary sympathy with the very soil of his section of the country. By this sympathy, rather than by any painful research, he was singularly acquainted with the historic life of New England. His stories, based directly on historic facts, are true to the spirit of the times in something more than an archæological way. One is astonished at the ease with which he seized upon characteristic features, and reproduced them in a word or phrase. Merely careful and diligent research would never be adequate to give the life-likeness of the images in Howe's Masquerade.
There is, then, a second fact discovered by a study of Hawthorne, that while one finds in the Note-Books, for example, the material out of which stories and sketches seem to have been constructed, and while the facts of New England history have been used without exaggeration or distortion, the result in stories and romances is something far beyond a mere report of what has been seen and read. The charm of a vivifying imagination is the crowning charm of Hawthorne's stories, and its medium is a graceful and often exquisitely apt diction. Hawthorne's sense of touch as a writer is very fine. He knows when to be light, and when to press heavily ; a very conspicuous quality is what one is likely to term quaintness, - a gentle pleasantry which seems to spring from the author's attitude toward his own work, as if he looked upon that, too, as a part of the spiritual universe which he was surveying.
Hawthorne spent much of his life silently, and there are touching passages in his note-books regarding his sense of
loneliness and his wish for recognition from the world. His early writings were short stories, sketches, and biographies, scattered in magazines and brought together into TwiceTold Tales, in two volumes, published, the first in 1837, the second in 1842 ; Mosses from an Old Manse, in 1846 ; The Snow-Image and other Twice-Told Tales, in 1851. They had a limited circle of readers. Some recognized his genius, but it was not until the publication of The Scarlet Letter, in 1850, that Hawthorne's name was fairly before the world as a great and original writer of romance. The House of the Seven Gables followed in 1851; The Blithedale Romance in 1852. He spent years
1853–1860 in Europe, and the immediate result of his life there is in Our Old Home : A Series of English Sketches, published in 1863, and The Marble Faun, or the Romance of Monte Beni, in 1860. For young people he wrote Grandfather's Chair, a collection of stories from New England history, The Wonder-Book and Tanglewood Tales, containing stories out of classic mythology. There are a few other scattered writings which have been collected into volumes and published in the complete series of his works.
Hawthorne was born July 4, 1804, and died May 19, 1864.
The student of Hawthorne will find in G. P. Lathrop's A Study of Hawthorne, and Henry James, Jr.'s Hawthorne, in the series English Men of Letters, material which will assist him. Dr. Holmes published, shortly after Hawthorne’s death, a paper of reminiscences which is included in Soundings from the Atlantic ; and Longfellow welcomed Twice-Told Tales with a glowing article in the North American Review, xlviii. 59, which is reproduced in his prose works. The reader will find it an agreeable task to discover what the poets, Longfellow, Lowell, Stedman, and others, have said of this man of genius.
A CHILDISH MIRACLE.
ONE afternoon of a cold winter's day, when the sun shone forth with chilly brightness, after a long storm, two children asked leave of their mother to run out and play in the new-fallen snow. The elder child was a little girl, whom, because she was of a tender and modest disposition, and was thought to be very beautiful, her parents, and other people who were familiar with her, used to call Violet. But her brother was known by the style and title of Peony, on account of the ruddiness of his broad and round little phiz, which made everybody think of sunshine and great scarlet flowers. The father of these two children, a certain Mr. Lindsey, it is important to say, was an excellent but exceedingly matter-of-fact sort of man, a dealer in hardware, and was sturdily accustomed to take what is called the common sense view of all matters that came under his consideration. With a heart about as tender as other people's, he had a head as hard and impenetrable, and therefore, perhaps, as empty, as one of the iron pots which it was a part of his business to sell. The mother's character, on the other hand, had a strain of poetry in it, a trait of unworldly beauty, a delicate and dewy flower, as it were, that had survived out of her imaginative youth, and still kept it
self alive amid the dusty realities of matrimony and motherhood.
So Violet and Peony, as I began with saying, besought their mother to let them run and play in the new snow; for, though it had looked so dreary and dismal, drifting downward out of the gray sky, it had a very cheerful aspect now that the sun was shining on it. The children dwelt in a city, and had no wider play-place than a little garden before the house, divided by a white fence from the street, and with a pear-tree and two or three plum-trees overshadowing it, and some rose-bushes just in front of the parlor windows. The trees and shrubs, however, were now leafless, and their twigs were enveloped in the light snow, which thus made a kind of wintry foliage, with here and there a pendent icicle for the fruit.
“Yes, Violet, – yes, my little Peony,” said their kind mother; "you may go out and play in the new snow."
Accordingly, the good lady bundled up her darlings in woollen jackets and wadded sacks, and put comforters round their necks, and a pair of striped gaiters on each little pair of legs, and worsted mittens on their hands, and gave them a kiss apiece, by way of a spell to keep away Jack Frost. Forth sallied the two children, with a hop-skip-and-jump that carried them at once into the very heart of a huge snow-drift, whence Violet emerged like a snow-bunting, while little Peony floundered out with his round face in full bloom. Then what a merry time had they! To look at them, frolicking in the wintry garden, you would have thought that the dark and pitiless storm had been sent for no other purpose but to provide a new plaything for Violet and Peony; and that they them