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from lack of power or an inconquerable reserve, the
author's touches have often an effect of tameness. The
book, if you would see anything in it, requires to be
read in the clear, brown twilight atmosphere in which
it was written; if opened in the sunshine, it is apt to
look exceedingly like a volume of blank pages";

and in his _Notebook_ (1840) he confesses:

"I used to think I could imagine all the passions, all
feelings and states of the heart and mind, but how
little did I know! Indeed we are but shadows, we are
not endowed with real life, and all that seems most
real about us is but the thinnest shadow of a
dream - till the heart be touched."

Whether he is threading the labyrinths of his imagination or
watching the human shadows come and go, Hawthorne lingers longer
in the shadow than in the sunshine. He was not a man of morose
and gloomy temper, disenchanted with life and driven by distress
or thwarted passion to brood in solitude. An irresistible,
inexplicable impulse drives him towards the sombre and the
gloomy. The delicacy and wistful charm of the words in which
Hawthorne criticises his own work and character reveal how
impossible it would have been for him to force his wayward
genius. His imagination hovers with curious persistence round
eerie, fantastic themes:

"An old looking-glass. Somebody finds out the secret of making
all the images reflected in it pass again across its surface" - a
hint skilfully introduced into the history of old Esther Dudley
in _The Legends of the Province House_, or:

"A dreadful secret to be communicated to several
persons of various character - grave or gay - and they
all to become insane, according to their characters, by
the influence of the secret"

- an idea modified and adapted in _The Marble Faun_. "An ice-cold
hand - which people ever afterwards remember when once they have
grasped it" - is bestowed on the Wandering Jew, the owner of the
marvellous _Virtuoso's Collection_, whose treasures include the
blood-encrusted pen with which Dr. Faustus signed away his
salvation, Peter Schlemihl's shadow, the elixir of life, and the
philosopher's stone. The form of a vampire, who apparently never
took shape on paper, flitted through the twilight of Hawthorne's
imagination:

"Stories to be told of a certain person's appearance in
public, of his having been seen in various situations,
and his making visits in private circles; but finally
on looking for this person, to come upon his old grave
and mossy tombstone."

With so many alluring suggestions floating shadowwise across his
mind, it is not wonderful that Hawthorne should have been
fascinated by the dream of a human life prolonged far beyond the
usual span - a dream, which, if realised, would have enabled him
to capture in words more of those "shapes that haunt thought's
wildernesses."

Although among the sketches collected in _Twice-Told Tales_ (vol.
i. 1837, vol. ii. 1842) some are painted in gay and lively hues,
the prevailing tone of the book is sad and mournful. The
light-hearted philosophy of the wanderers in _The Seven
Vagabonds_, the pretty, brightly coloured vignettes in _Little
Annie's Rambles_, the quiet cheerfulness of _Sunday at Home_ or
_The Rill from the Town Pump_, only serve to throw into darker
relief gloomy legends like that of _Ethan Brand_, the man who
went in search of the Unpardonable Sin, or dreary stories like
that of _Edward Fane's Rosebud_, or the ghostly _White Old Maid_.
One of the most carefully wrought sketches in _Twice-Told Tales_
is the weird story of _The Hollow of the Three Hills_. By means
of a witch's spell, a lady hears the far-away voices of her aged
parents - her mother querulous and tearful, her father calmly
despondent - and amid the fearful mirth of a madhouse
distinguishes the accents and footstep of the husband she has
wronged. At last she listens to the death-knell tolled for the
child she has left to die. The solemn rhythm of Hawthorne's
skilfully ordered sentences is singularly haunting and
impressive:

"The golden skirts of day were yet lingering upon the
hills, but deep shades obscured the hollow and the
pool, as if sombre night were rising thence to
overspread the world. Again that evil woman began to
weave her spell. Long did it proceed unanswered, till
the knolling of a bell stole in among the intervals of
her words, like a clang that had travelled far over
valley and rising ground and was just ready to die in
the air... Stronger it grew, and sadder, and deepened
into the tone of a death-bell, knolling dolefully from
some ivy-mantled tower, and bearing tidings of
mortality and woe to the cottage, to the hall and to
the solitary wayfarer that all might weep for the doom
appointed in turn to them. Then came a measured tread,
passing slowly, slowly on as of mourners with a coffin,
their garments trailing the ground so that the ear
could measure the length of their melancholy array.
Before them went the priest reading the burial-service,
while the leaves of his book were rustling in the
breeze. And though no voice but his was heard to speak
aloud, still here were revilings and anathemas
whispered, but distinct, from women and from men... The
sweeping sound of the funeral train faded away like a
thin vapour and the wind that just before had seemed to
shake the coffin-pall moaned sadly round the verge of
the hollow between three hills."

In a later collection of Hawthorne's short stories, _Mosses from
an Old Manse_, the grave and the gay, the terrific and the
sportive, are once more intermingled. Side by side with a forlorn
attempt at humorous allegory, Mrs. _Bullfrog_, we find the
serious moral allegories of _The Birthmark_ and _The
Bosom-Serpent_, the wild, mysterious forest-revels in _Goodman
Brown_, and the evil, sinister beauty of _Dr. Rappacini's
Daughter_, a modern rehandling of the ancient legend of the
poison-maiden, who was perhaps the prototype of Oliver Wendell
Holmes' heroine in _Elsie Venner_ (1861). The quiet grace and
natural ease of Hawthorne's style lend even to his least
ambitious tales a distinctive charm. If he chooses a slight and
simple theme, his touch is deft and sure. _Dr. Heidegger's
Experiment_, in which Hawthorne's delicate, whimsical fancy plays
round the idea of the elixir of life, is almost like a series of
miniature pictures, distinct and lifelike in form and colour,
seen through the medium of an old-fashioned magic-lantern. Yet
even in this fantastic trifle we can discern the feeling for
words and the sense of proportion that characterise Hawthorne's
longer works.

_The Scarlet Letter_ (1850) was originally intended to be one of
several short stories, but Hawthorne was persuaded to expand it
into a novel. He felt some misgivings as to the success of the
work:

"Keeping so close to the point as the tale does, and
diversified in no otherwise than by turning different
sides of the same dark idea to the reader's eye, it will
weary very many people and disgust some."

The plot bears a remarkable resemblance to that of Lockhart's
striking novel, _Adam Blair_. The "dark idea" that fascinates
Hawthorne is the psychological state of Hester Prynne and her
lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, in the long years that follow their
lawless passion. Their love story hardly concerns him at all. The
interest of the novel does not depend on the development of the
plot. No attempt is made to complicate the story by concealing
the identity of Hester's lover or of her husband. The action
takes place within the souls and minds of the characters, not in
their outward circumstances. The central chapter of the book is
named significantly: "The Interior of a Heart." The moral
situation described in _The Scarlet Letter_ did not present
itself to Hawthorne abstractly, but as a series of pictures. He
habitually thought in images, and he brooded so long over his
conceptions that his descriptions are almost as definite in
outline and as vivid in colour as things actually seen. His
pictures do not waver or fade elusively as the mind seeks to
realise them. The prison door, studded with pikes, before which
Hester Prynne first stands with the letter on her breast, the
pillory where Dimmesdale keeps vigil at midnight, the
forest-trees with pale, fitful gleams of sunshine glinting
through their leaves, are so distinct that we almost put out our
hands to touch them. Hawthorne's dream-imagery has the same
convincing reality. The phantasmagoric visions which float
through Hester's consciousness - the mirrored reflection of her
own face in girlhood, her husband's thin, scholar-like visage,
the grey houses of the cathedral city where she had spent her
early years - are more real to her and to us than the blurred
faces of the Puritans who throng the marketplace to gaze on her
ignominy. Although the moral tone of the book is one of almost
unrelieved gloom, the actual scenes are full of colour and light.
Pearl's scarlet frock with its fantastic embroideries, the
magnificent velvet gown and white ruff of the old dame who rides
off by night to the witch-revels in the forest, the group of Red
Indians in their deer-skin robes and wampum belts of red and
yellow ochre, the bronzed faces and gaudy attire of the Spanish
pirates, all stand out in bold relief among the sober greys and
browns of the Puritans. The tense, emotional atmosphere is
heightened by the festive brightness of the outer world.

The light of Hawthorne's imagination is directed mainly on three
characters - Hester, Arthur, and the elf-like child Pearl, the
living symbol of their union. Further in the background lurks the
malignant figure of Roger Chillingworth, contriving his fiendish
scheme of vengeance, "violating in cold blood the sanctity of a
human heart." The blaze of the Scarlet Letter compels us by a
strange magnetic power to follow Hester Prynne wherever she goes,
but her suffering is less acute and her character less intricate
than her lover's. She bears the outward badge of shame, but after
"wandering without a clue in the dark labyrinth of mind," wins a
dull respite from anguish as she glides "like a grey and sober
shadow" over the threshold of those who are visited by sorrow. At
the last, when Dimmesdale's spirit is "so shattered and subdued
that it could hardly hold itself erect," Hester has still energy
to plan and to act. His character is more twisted and tortuous
than hers, and to understand him we must visit him apart. The
sensitive nature that can endure physical pain but shrinks
piteously from moral torture, the capacity for deep and
passionate feeling, the strange blending of pride and abject
self-loathing, of cowardice and resolve, are portrayed with
extraordinary skill. The different strands of his character are
"intertwined in an inextricable knot." His is a living soul,
complicated and varying in its moods, but ever pursued by a sense
of sin. By one of Hawthorne's swift, uncanny flashes of insight,
as Dimmesdale goes home after the forest-meeting, we hear nothing
of the wild beatings of hope and dreary revulsions to despair,
but only of foul, grotesque temptations that assail him, just as
earlier - on the pillory - it is the grim humour and not the
frightful shame of the situation that strikes him, when by an odd
trick of his imagination he suddenly pictures a "whole tribe of
decorous personages starting into view with the disorder of a
nightmare in their aspects," to look upon their minister.

Hawthorne's delineation of character and motive is as
scrupulously accurate and scientific as Godwin's, but there is
none of Godwin's inhumanity in his attitude. His complete
understanding of human weakness makes pity superfluous and
undignified. He pronounces no judgment and offers no plea for
mercy. His instinct is to present the story as it appeared
through the eyes of those who enacted the drama or who witnessed
it. Stern and inexorable as one of his own witch-judging
ancestors, Hawthorne foils the lovers' plan of escape across the
sea, lets the minister die as soon as he has made the revelation
that gives him his one moment of victory, and in the conclusion
brings Hester back to take up her long-forsaken symbol of shame.
Pearl alone Hawthorne sets free, the spell which bound her human
sympathies broken by the kiss she bestows on her guilty father.
There are few passionate outbursts of feeling, save when Hester
momentarily unlocks her heart in the forest - and even here
Hawthorne's language is extraordinarily restrained:

"'What we did had a consecration of its own. We felt it
so! We said so to each other. Hast thou forgotten it?'
'Hush, Hester!' said Arthur Dimmesdale, rising from the
ground. 'No; I have not forgotten.'"

Or again, after Dimmesdale has confessed that he has neither
strength nor courage left him to venture into the world: "'Thou
shalt not go alone!' answered she, in a deep whisper. Then all
was spoken."

In _The House of the Seven Gables_ (1851), as in _The Scarlet
Letter_, Hawthorne again presents his scenes in the light of a
single, pervading idea, this time an ancestral curse, symbolised
by the portrait of Colonel Pyncheon, who condemned an innocent
man for witchcraft.

"To the thoughtful man 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."

Hawthorne wins his effect by presenting the idea to our minds
from different points of view, until we are obsessed by the curse
that broods heavily over the old house. Even the aristocratic
breed of fowls, of "queer, rusty, withered aspect," are an emblem
of the decay of the Pyncheon family. The people are apt to be
merged into the dense shadows that lurk in the gloomy passages,
but when the sun shines on them they stand out with arresting
distinctness. The heroic figure of Hepzibah Pyncheon, a little
ridiculous and a little forbidding of aspect, but cherishing
through weary years a passionate devotion to her brother, is
described with a gentle blending of humour and pathos. Clifford
Pyncheon - the sybarite made for happiness and hideously cheated
of his destiny - is delineated with curious insight and sympathy.
It is Judge Jaffery Pyncheon, with his "sultry" smile of
"elaborate benevolence" - unrelenting and crafty as his infamous
ancestor - who lends to _The House of Seven Gables_ the element of
terror. Hour after hour, Hawthorne, with grim and bitter irony,
mocks and taunts the dead body of the hypocritical judge until
the ghostly pageantry of dead Pyncheons - including at last Judge
Jaffery himself with the fatal crimson stain on his
neckcloth - fades away with the oncoming of daylight.

Hawthorne's mind was richly stored with "wild chimney-corner
legends," many of them no doubt gleaned from an old woman
mentioned in one of his _Tales and Sketches_. He takes over the
fantastic superstitions in which his ancestors had believed, and
uses them as the playthings of his fancy, picturing with
malicious mirth the grey shadows of his stern, dark-browed
forefathers sadly lamenting his lapse from grace and saying one
to the other:

"A writer of story-books! What kind of a business in
life, what manner of glorifying God, or being
serviceable to mankind in his day and generation may
that be? Why, the degenerate fellow might as well have
been a fiddler."

The story of Alice Pyncheon, the maiden under the dreadful power
of a wizard, who, to wreak his revenge, compelled her to
surrender her will to his and to do whatsoever he list, the
legends of ghosts and spectres in the _Twice-Told Tales_, the
allusions to the elixir of life in his _Notebooks_, the
introduction of witches into _The Scarlet Letter_, of mesmerism
into _The Blithedale Romance_, show how often Hawthorne was
pre-occupied with the terrors of magic and of the invisible
world. He handles the supernatural in a half-credulous,
half-sportive spirit, neither affirming nor denying his belief.
One of his artful devices is wilfully to cast doubt upon his
fancies, and so to pique us into the desire to be momentarily at
least one of the foolish and imaginative.

After writing _The Blithedale Romance_, in which he embodied his
experiences at Brook Farm, and his Italian romance,
_Transformation, or The Marble Faun_, Hawthorne, when his health
was failing, strove to find expression for the theme of
immortality, which had always exercised a strange fascination
upon him. In August, 1855, during his consulate in Liverpool, he
visited Smithell's Hall, near Bolton, and heard the legend of the
Bloody Footstep. He thought of uniting this story with that of
the elixir of life, but ultimately decided to treat the story of
the footstep in _Dr. Grimshawe's Secret_, of which only a
fragment was written, and to embody the elixir idea in a separate
work, _Septimius Felton_, of which two unfinished versions exist.
Septimius Felton, a young man living in Concord at the time of
the war of the Revolution, tries to brew the potion of eternity
by adding to a recipe, which his aunt has derived from the
Indians, the flowers which spring from the grave of a man whom he
has slain. In _Dr. Dolliver's Romance_, Hawthorne, so far as we
may judge from the fragment which remains, seems to be working
out an idea jotted down in his notebook several years earlier:

"A man arriving at the extreme point of old age grows
young again at the same pace at which he had grown old,
returning upon his path throughout the whole of life,
and thus taking the reverse view of matters. Methinks
it would give rise to some odd concatenations."

The story, which opens with a charming description of Dr.
Dolliver and his great-grandchild, Pansie, breaks off so abruptly
that it is impossible to forecast the "odd concatenations" that
had flashed through Hawthorne's mind.

Although Hawthorne is preoccupied continually with the thought of
death, his outlook is melancholy, not morbid. He recoils
fastidiously from the fleshly and loses himself in the spiritual.
He is concerned with mournful reflections, not frightful events.
It is the mystery of death, not its terror, that fascinates him.
Sensitive and susceptible himself, he never startles us with
physical horrors. He does not search with curious ingenuity for
recondite terrors. He was compelled as if by some wizard's
strange power, to linger in earth's shadowed places; but the
scenes that throng his memory are reflected in quiet, subdued
tones. His pictures are never marred by harsh lines or crude
colours.

While Hawthorne in his _Twice-Told Tales_ was toying pensively
with spectral forms and "dark ideas," Edgar Allan Poe was
penetrating intrepidly into trackless regions of terror. Where
Hawthorne would have shrunk back, repelled and disgusted, Poe,
wildly exhilarated by the anticipation of a new and excruciating
thrill, forced his way onwards. He sought untiringly for unusual
situations, inordinately gloomy or terrible, and made them the
starting point for excursions into abnormal psychology. Just as
Hawthorne harps with plaintive insistence on the word "sombre,"
Poe again and again uses the epithet "novel." His tales are
never, as Hawthorne's often are, pathetic. His instinct is always
towards the dramatic. Sometimes he rises to tragic heights,
sometimes he is merely melodramatic. He rejoices in theatrical
effects, like the death-throes of William Wilson, the return of
the lady Ligeia, or the entry, awaited with torturing suspense,
of the "lofty" and enshrouded figure of the Lady Madeline of
Usher. Like Hawthorne, Poe was fascinated by the thought of
death, "the hemlock and the cypress overshadowed him night and
day," but he describes death accompanied by its direst physical
and mental agonies. Hawthorne broods over the idea of sin, but
Poe probes curiously into the psychology of crime. The one is
detached and remote, the other inhuman and passionless. The
contrast in style between Hawthorne and Poe reflects clearly
their difference in temper. Hawthorne writes always with easy,
finished perfection, choosing the right word unerringly, Poe
experiments with language, painfully acquiring a conscious,
studied form of expression which is often remarkably effective,
but which almost invariably suggests a sense of artifice. In
reading _The Scarlet Letter_ we do not think of the style; in
reading _The Masque of the Red Death_ we are forcibly impressed
by the skilful arrangement of words, the alternation of long and
short sentences, the device of repetition and the deliberate
choice of epithets. Hawthorne uses his own natural form of
expression. Poe, with laborious art, fashions an instrument
admirably adapted to his purposes.

Poe's earliest published story, _A Manuscript Found in a
Bottle_ - the prize tale for the _Baltimore Saturday Visitor_,
1833 - proves that he soon recognised his peculiar vein of talent.
He straightway takes the tale of terror for his own. The
experiences of a sailor, shipwrecked in the Simoom and hurled on
the crest of a towering billow into a gigantic ship manned by a
hoary crew who glide uneasily to and fro "like the ghosts of
buried centuries," forecast the more frightful horrors of _A
Descent into the Maelstrom_ (1841). Poe's method in both stories
is to induce belief by beginning with a circumstantial narrative
of every-day events, and by proceeding to relate the most
startling phenomena in the same calm, matter-of-fact manner. The
whirling abyss of the Maelstrom in which the tiny boat is
engulfed, and the sensations of the fishermen - awe, wonder,
horror, curiosity, hope, alternating or intermingled - are
described with the same quiet precision as the trivial
preliminary adventures. The man's dreary expectation of
incredulity seals our conviction of the truth of his story. In
_The Manuscript Found in a Bottle_, too, we may trace the first
suggestion of that idea which finds its most complete and
memorable expression in _Ligeia_ (1837). The antique ship, with
its preternaturally aged crew "doomed to hover continually upon
the brink of eternity, without taking a final plunge into the
abyss," is an early foreshadowing of the fulfilment of Joseph
Glanvill's declaration so strikingly illustrated in the return of
Ligeia: "Man doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death
utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will." In
_Ligeia_, Poe concentrates on this idea with singleness of
purpose. He had striven to embody it in his earlier sketches, in
_Morella_, where the beloved is reincarnated in the form of her
own child, in the musical, artificial _Eleonora_ and in the
gruesome _Berenice_. In _Ligeia_, at last, it finds its
appropriate setting in the ebony bridal-chamber, hung with gold
tapestries grotesquely embroidered with fearful shapes and
constantly wafted to and fro, like those in one of the _Episodes
of Vathek_. In _The Fall of the House of Usher_ he adapts the
theme which he had approached in the sketch entitled _Premature
Burial_, and unites with it a subtler conception, the sentience
of the vegetable world. Like the guest of Roderick Usher, as we
enter the house we fall immediately beneath the overmastering
sway of its irredeemable, insufferable gloom. The melancholy
building, Usher's wild musical improvisations, his vague but
awful paintings, his mystical reading and his eerie verses with
the last haunting stanza:

"And travellers now within that valley
Through the red-litten windows, see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a rapid, ghastly river,
Through the pale door,
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh - but smile no more,"

are all in harmony with the fate that broods over the family of
Usher. Poe's gift for avoiding all impressions alien to his
effect lends to his tales extraordinary unity of tone and colour.
He leads up to his crisis with a gradual crescendo of emotion.
The climax, hideous and terrifying, relieves the intensity of our
feelings, and once it is past Poe rapidly hastens to the only
possible conclusion. The dreary house with its vacant, eye-like
windows reflected at the outset in the dark, unruffled tarn,
disappears for ever beneath its surface.

In _The Masque of the Red Death_ the imagery changes from moment


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