Imágenes de páginas

chantments, is the rich and royal man. Only as far as the masters of the world have called in nature to their aid, can they reach the height of magnificence. This is the meaning of their hanginggardens, villas, garden-houses, islands, parks, and preserves, to back their faulty personality with these strong accessories. I do not wonder that the landed interest should be invincible in the state with these dangerous auxiliaries. These bribe and invite ; not kings, not palaces, not men, not women, but these tender and poetic stars, eloquent of secret promises. We heard what the rich man said, we knew of his villa, his grove, his wine, and his company, but the provocation and point of the invitation came out of these beguiling stars. In their soft glances, I see what men strove to realize in some Versailles, or Paphos, or Ctesiphon. Indeed, it is the magical lights of the horizon, and the blue sky for the background, which save all our works of art, which were otherwise bawbles. When the rich tax the poor with servility and obsequiousness, they should consider the effect of men reputed to be the possessors of nature, on imaginative minds. Ah! if the rich were rich as the poor fancy riches ! A boy hears a military band play on the field at night, and he has kings and queens, and famous chivalry palpably before him. He hears the echoes of a horn in a hill country, in the Notch Mountains, for example, which converts the mountains into an Æolian harp, and this supernatural tiralira restores to him the Dorian mythology, Apollo, Diana, and all divine hunters and huntresses. musical note be so lofty, so haughtily beautiful ! young poet, thus fabulous is his picture of society; he is loyal ; he respects the rich; they are rich for the sake of his imagination ; how poor his fancy would be, if they were not rich! That they have some high-fenced grove, which they call a park! that they live in larger and better-garnished saloons than he has visited, and go in coaches, keeping only the society of the elegant, to watering-places, and to distant cities, are the groundwork from which he has delineated estates of romance, compared with which their actual possessions are shanties and paddocks. The muse herself betrays her son, and enhances the gifts of wealth and wellborn beauty, by a radiation out of the air, and clouds, and forests that skirt the road, — a certain haughty favor, as if from patrician

Can a To the poor

genii to patricians, a kind of aristocracy in nature, a prince of the power of the air.

The moral sensibility which makes Edens and Tempes so easily, may not be always found, but the material landscape is never far off. We can find these enchantments without visiting the Como Lake, or the Madeira Islands. We exaggerate the praises of local scenery. In every landscape, the point of astonishment is the meeting of the sky and the earth, and that is seen from the first hillock as well as from the top of the Alleghanies. The stars at night stoop down over the brownest, homeliest common, with all the spiritual magnificence which they shed on the Campagna, or on the marble deserts of Egypt. The uprolled clouds and the colors of morning and evening, will transfigure maples and alders. The difference between landscape and landscape is small, but there is great difference in the beholders. There is nothing so wonderful in any particular landscape, as the necessity of being beautiful under which every landscape lies. Nature cannot be surprised in undress. Beauty breaks in everywhere.

[From Essays, Second Series, “ Nature,” 1844. The text is that of the first edition.]


[Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Mass., July 4, 1804, and died in Plymouth, N.H., May 19, 1864. Hawthorne came of an old Puritan family, long resident in Salem. His great-great-grandfather was a judge in the witchcraft trials, and his grandfather a Revolutionary officer. His father was a sea-captain. In 1821, Hawthorne graduated at Bowdoin College, where Longfellow was his classmate. From 1821 to 1839 he remained in Salem, devoting himself to reading and composition, and living for the most part in great seclusion. In 1836-8 he was engaged in editorial work; in 1839-41 he was weigher and gauger at the Boston custom house, under George Bancroft, who was then collector of the port; in 1841-2 he spent a year at Brook Farm. He married in 1842, and lived at Concord, Mass., until 1846. From 1846 to 1849 he was surveyor at the Salem custom house, and from 1850 to 1853 lived successively in Lenox, West Newton, and Concord, Mass. In 1853 he was appointed consul at Liverpool, by his old college friend, President Peirce. He held office for four years, and passed three years more in foreign travel; the remainder of his life he spent at Concord.

Some of Hawthorne's best stories appeared in various periodicals between 1828 and 1838. His first published work was Twice-Told Tales, first volume, 1837; second volume, 1842. The names and dates of his other important works are as follows: Mosses from an Old Manse (1846), The Scarlet Letter (1850), The House of the Seven Gables (1851), A Wonder Book (1851), The Blithedale Romance (1852), Tanglewood Tales (1853), The Marble Faun (1860), Our Old Home (1863). The following were published after his death: Passages from the American Note Books (1868), Passages from the English Note Books (1870), Passages from the French and Italian Note Books (1871), Septimius Felton (1872), The Dolliver Romance (1876), Doctor Grimshawe's Secret (1883).

PERHAPS it is not extravagant to describe Hawthorne as the greatest American man of letters of his day and generation. He may have been surpassed by some of his contemporaries in single pieces of literature; he may have been inferior to some of them in intellectual power and in versatility and originality of genius ; he may even, though this is more doubtful, have been rivalled by some of them in his mastery of style. Nevertheless, he is the greatest distinctively American literary artist of his day,--the one

writer in America who loved life and looked out upon life with an unflagging desire to create beauty in literature and with the ability to make that desire effective. Emerson, besides being a writer, was a preacher, a lecturer, a philosopher. Lowell was a teacher and a diplomat. Thoreau was too much of a seer to be a typical man of letters, too self-involved, too careless of a public. Poe was thoroughly a man of letters, but hardly an American one ; his work seems exotic.

Hawthorne's work, on the other hand, bears everywhere impressed on it traces of its American origin, of its New England origin. Richard Holt Hutton has called Hawthorne “the Ghost of New England." The aptness of the name lies in its suggestion both of Hawthorne's loyalty to New England life and of his pathetic remoteness from that life ; his practical ineffectualness in the midst of it. Hawthorne haunts New England. He is not at home there, nor indeed anywhere on this earth-ball, and yet he cannot escape. Concentrated in his nature, he has all the old Puritan prejudices, and throughout his artistic dreaming, he not only makes use of New England material, but he uses this material in harmony with Puritan feelings and beliefs. Each of his romances turns out, on analysis, to be the artistic expression and illustration of some deeply rooted moral or spiritual prejudice that has been inherited from Puritan ancestors and that has completely subdued to its purposes, for the time being, Hawthorne's imagination.

Hawthorne's methods in his story-writing are substantially the same whether the story be short or long. He works from the conception of some symbolic image or character or situation out toward the world of concrete fact. He cares for and is concerned to portray, not primarily fact, but the world on the other side of fact, for the revelation of which fact must be duly refined and made transparent. His stories owe their origin not to the desire to catch the surface play of expression on some portion of everyday life, but to a wish to illustrate some half-mystical truth about human destiny, usually about man's moral or spiritual nature. In the service of this wish, Hawthorne's imagination quests hither and yon through the regions of visible and verifiable experience, and fashions gradually a mimic world of men and women and nature, all expressive of a single controlling purpose.

Correspondent with these aims and methods is Hawthorne's characterization. Typical characters in their large outlines shape themselves in his imagination; these characters are not closely realized, or wrought out into the minute complication of habit and quality and motive that exists in the world of individualized fact and that our modern novelists try to achieve in emulation of nature. Hawthorne's characters have each only a few prevailing interests and aims, which serve to guide them through a remote world of tempered light and shade and to keep them ever intent on some symbolic purpose. Their persuasiveness comes not from their having the complexity of life, but from their appeal to our sympathy and imagination. We meet them more than half-way, because they stir into play some of the most radical and permanent instincts of human nature and seem sincerely concerned with the great primal interests and facts of life.

In order that these typical characters may capture our sympathy and belief, Hawthorne has to keep them from any rude competition with actual life. Hence come the calculated vagueness of his treatment and his delicate search for atmosphere. His characters nearly always issue from a nebulous past; like Priscilla they

fall out of the clouds": " a slight mist of uncertainty" floats about them and keeps them “from taking a very decided place among creatures of flesh and blood.” Their motives and even their acts are often left uncertain ; in place of clear accounts of these matters, strange rumors are recited, that have run from lip to lip; the superstitious whisperings of credulous onlookers are reported and keep the reader continually in a calculated uncertainty. Acts and motives are sheltered from the impertinent queries of the verifying scientific spirit. The characters, too, are stamped as irretrievably out of the common by tricks of manner or physical traits that tantalize us with symbolic suggestiveness ; Priscilla seems listening to a distant voice” ; Dimmesdale's hand clutches convulsively at his heart; Donatello has dubious ears. These tricks and features tease the imagination and keep it alert; more is meant than meets the eye. The characters awe us by their mysterious, only half-divined significance ; symbols they are and symbols they pursue. They are “goblins of flesh and blood," and delicately avoid the taint of conformity to literal fact. Even

« AnteriorContinuar »