Posts tagged ‘Nathaniel Hawthorne’

April 15, 2014

“Endicott and the Red Cross” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

by Biblioklept

“Endicott and the Red Cross”

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

At noon of an autumnal day, more than two centuries ago, the English colors were displayed by the standard-bearer of the Salem trainband, which had mustered for martial exercise under the orders of John Endicott. It was a period, when the religious exiles were accustomed often to buckle on their armour, and practice the handling of their weapons of war. Since the first settlement of New England, its prospects had never been so dismal. The dissensions between Charles the First and his subjects were then, and for several years afterwards, confined to the floor of Parliament. The measures of the King and ministry were rendered more tyrannically violent by an opposition, which had not yet acquired sufficient confidence in its own strength, to resist royal injustice with the sword. The bigoted and haughty primate, Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, controlled the religious affairs of the realm, and was consequently invested with powers which might have wrought the utter ruin of the two Puritan colonies, Plymouth and Massachusetts. There is evidence on record, that our forefathers perceived their danger, but were resolved that their infant country should not fall without a struggle, even beneath the giant strength of the King’s right arm.

Such was the aspect of the times, when the folds of the English banner, with the Red Cross in its field, were flung out over a company of Puritans. Their leader, the famous Endicott, was a man of stern and resolute countenance, the effect of which was heightened by a grizzled beard that swept the upper portion of his breastplate. This piece of armour was so highly polished, that the whole surrounding scene had its image in the glittering steel. The central object, in the mirrored picture, was an edifice of humble architecture, with neither steeple nor bell to proclaim it,–what nevertheless it was,–the house of prayer. A token of the perils of the wilderness was seen in the grim head of a wolf, which had just been slain within the precincts of the town, and, according to the regular mode of claiming the bounty, was nailed on the porch of the meetinghouse. The blood was still plashing on the door-step. There happened to be visible, at the same noontide hour, so many other characteristics of the times and manners of the Puritans, that we must endeavour to represent them in a sketch, though far less vividly than they were reflected in the polished breastplate of John Endicott.

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March 19, 2014

Ten Notes from Hawthorne’s Note-Books

by Biblioklept
  1. 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. By and by we become mutually adapted, and the perception is lost.
  2. An old looking-glass. Somebody finds out the secret of making all the images that have been reflected in it pass back again across its surface.
  3. Our Indian races having reared no monuments, like the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, when they have disappeared from the earth their history will appear a fable, and they misty phantoms.
  4. A woman to sympathize with all emotions, but to have none of her own.
  5. A portrait of a person in New England to be recognized as of the same person represented by a portrait in Old England. Having distinguished himself there, he had suddenly vanished, and had never been heard of till he was thus discovered to be identical with a distinguished man in New England.
  6. Men of cold passions have quick eyes.
  7. A virtuous but giddy girl to attempt to play a trick on a man. He sees what she is about, and contrives matters so that she throws herself completely into his power, and is ruined,–all in jest.
  8. A letter, written a century or more ago, but which has never yet been unsealed.
  9. A partially insane man to believe himself the Provincial Governor or other great official of Massachusetts. The scene might be the Province House.
  10. A dreadful secret to be communicated to several people of various characters,–grave or gay, and they all to become insane, according to their characters, by the influence of the secret.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

February 26, 2014

“To poison a person or a party of persons with the sacramental wine” and other ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

by Biblioklept

 

  1. A house to be built over a natural spring of inflammable gas, and to be constantly illuminated therewith. What moral could be drawn from this? It is carburetted hydrogen gas, and is cooled from a soft shale or slate, which is sometimes bituminous, and contains more or less carbonate of lime. It appears in the vicinity of Lockport and Niagara Falls, and elsewhere in New York. I believe it indicates coal. At Fredonia, the whole village is lighted by it. Elsewhere, a farm-house was lighted by it, and no other fuel used in the coldest weather.
  2. Gnomes, or other mischievous little fiends, to be represented as burrowing in the hollow teeth of some person who has subjected himself to their power. It should be a child’s story. This should be one of many modes of petty torment. They should be contrasted with beneficent fairies, who minister to the pleasures of the good.
  3. Some very famous jewel or other thing, much talked of all over the world. Some person to meet with it, and get possession of it in some unexpected manner, amid homely circumstances.
  4. To poison a person or a party of persons with the sacramental wine.
  5. A cloud in the shape of an old woman kneeling, with arms extended towards the moon.

 

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

February 9, 2014

Seven Plots from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

by Biblioklept
  1. An article to be made of telling the stories of the tiles of an old-fashioned chimney-piece to a child.
  2. A person conscious that he was soon to die, the humor in which he would pay his last visit to familiar persons and things.
  3. A description of the various classes of hotels and taverns, and the prominent personages in each. There should be some story connected with it,–as of a person commencing with boarding at a great hotel, and gradually, as his means grew less, descending in life, till he got below ground into a cellar.
  4. A person to be in the possession of something as perfect as mortal man has a right to demand; he tries to make it better, and ruins it entirely.
  5. A person to spend all his life and splendid talents in trying to achieve something naturally impossible,–as to make a conquest over Nature.
  6. Meditations about the main gas-pipe of a great city,–if the supply were to be stopped, what would happen? How many different scenes it sheds light on? It might be made emblematical of something.
  7. A fairy tale about chasing Echo to her hiding-place. Echo is the voice of a reflection in a mirror.

from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

 

January 20, 2014

“By the by, a pretty riddle or fable might be made” | More Notes From Nathaniel Hawthorne

by Biblioklept
  1. Dandelions and blue flowers are still growing in sunny places. Saw in a barn a prodigious treasure of onions in their silvery coats, exhaling a penetrating perfume.
  2.  How exceeding bright looks the sunshine, casually reflected from a looking-glass into a gloomy region of the chamber, distinctly marking out the figures and colors of the paper-hangings, which are scarcely seen elsewhere. It is like the light of mind thrown on an obscure subject.
  3.  Man’s finest workmanship, the closer you observe it, the more imperfections it shows; as in a piece of polished steel a microscope will discover a rough surface. Whereas, what may look coarse and rough in Nature’s workmanship will show an infinitely minute perfection, the closer you look into it. 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.
  4. Standing in the cross-road that leads by the Mineral Spring, and looking towards an opposite shore of the lake, an ascending bank, with a dense border of trees, green, yellow, red, russet, all bright colors, brightened by the mild brilliancy of the descending sun; it was strange to recognize the sober old friends of spring and summer in this new dress. By the by, a pretty riddle or fable might be made out of the changes in apparel of the familiar trees round a house adapted for children. But in the lake, beneath the aforesaid border of trees,–the water being not rippled, but its grassy surface somewhat moved and shaken by the remote agitation of a breeze that was breathing on the outer lake,–this being in a sort of bay,–in the slightly agitated mirror, the variegated trees were reflected dreamily and indistinctly; a broad belt of bright and diversified colors shining in the water beneath. Sometimes the image of a tree might be almost traced; then nothing but this sweep of broken rainbow. It was like the recollection of the real scene in an observer’s mind,–a confused radiance.
  5. A whirlwind, whirling the dried leaves round in a circle, not very violently.
  6.  To well consider the characters of a family of persons in a certain condition,–in poverty, for instance,–and endeavor to judge how an altered condition would affect the character of each.
  7.  The aromatic odor of peat-smoke in the sunny autumnal air is very pleasant.

Notations from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

January 7, 2014

Old worm-eaten aristocracy (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

by Biblioklept

In the cabinet of the Essex Historical Society, old portraits.–Governor Leverett; a dark mustachioed face, the figure two thirds length, clothed in a sort of frock-coat, buttoned, and a broad sword-belt girded round the waist, and fastened with a large steel buckle; the hilt of the sword steel,–altogether very striking. Sir William Pepperell, in English regimentals, coat, waistcoat, and breeches, all of red broad-cloth, richly gold-embroidered; he holds a general’s truncheon in his right hand, and extends the left towards the batteries erected against Louisbourg, in the country near which he is standing. Endicott, Pyncheon, and others, in scarlet robes, bands, etc. Half a dozen or more family portraits of the Olivers, some in plain dresses, brown, crimson, or claret; others with gorgeous gold-embroidered waistcoats, descending almost to the knees, so as to form the most conspicuous article of dress. Ladies, with lace ruffles, the painting of which, in one of the pictures, cost five guineas. Peter Oliver, who was crazy, used to fight with these family pictures in the old Mansion House; and the face and breast of one lady bear cuts and stabs inflicted by him. Miniatures in oil, with the paint peeling off, of stern, old, yellow faces. Oliver Cromwell, apparently an old picture, half length, or one third, in an oval frame, probably painted for some New England partisan. Some pictures that had been partly obliterated by scrubbing with sand. The dresses, embroidery, laces of the Oliver family are generally better done than the faces. Governor Leverett’s gloves,–the glove part of coarse leather, but round the wrist a deep, three or four inch border of spangles and silver embroidery. Old drinking-glasses, with tall stalks. A black glass bottle, stamped with the name of Philip English, with a broad bottom. The baby-linen, etc., of Governor Bradford of Plymouth County. Old manuscript sermons, some written in short-hand, others in a hand that seems learnt from print.

Nothing gives a stronger idea of old worm-eaten aristocracy–of a family being crazy with age, and of its being time that it was extinct–than theseblack, dusty, faded, antique-dressed portraits, such as those of the Oliver family; the identical old white wig of an ancient minister producing somewhat the impression that his very scalp, or some other portion of his personal self, would do.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

January 1, 2014

Read “The Sister Years,” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Allegorical New Year’s Tale

by Biblioklept

“The Sister Years” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Last night, between eleven and twelve o’clock, when the Old Year was leaving her final footprints on the borders of Time’s empire, she found herself in possession of a few spare moments, and sat down—of all places in the world—on the steps of our new city-hall. The wintry moonlight showed that she looked weary of body and sad of heart, like many another wayfarer of earth. Her garments, having been exposed to much foul weather and rough usage, were in very ill condition, and, as the hurry of her journey had never before allowed her to take an instant’s rest, her shoes were so worn as to be scarcely worth the mending. But after trudging only a little distance farther this poor Old Year was destined to enjoy a long, long sleep. I forgot to mention that when she seated herself on the steps she deposited by her side a very capacious bandbox in which, as is the custom among travellers of her sex, she carried a great deal of valuable property. Besides this luggage, there was a folio book under her arm very much resembling the annual volume of a newspaper. Placing this volume across her knees and resting her elbows upon it, with her forehead in her hands, the weary, bedraggled, world-worn Old Year heaved a heavy sigh and appeared to be taking no very pleasant retrospect of her past existence.

While she thus awaited the midnight knell that was to summon her to the innumerable sisterhood of departed years, there came a young maiden treading lightsomely on tip-toe along the street from the direction of the railroad dépôt. She was evidently a stranger, and perhaps had come to town by the evening train of cars. There was a smiling cheerfulness in this fair maiden’s face which bespoke her fully confident of a kind reception from the multitude of people with whom she was soon to form acquaintance. Her dress was rather too airy for the season, and was bedizened with fluttering ribbons and other vanities which were likely soon to be rent away by the fierce storms or to fade in the hot sunshine amid which she was to pursue her changeful course. But still she was a wonderfully pleasant-looking figure, and had so much promise and such an indescribable hopefulness in her aspect that hardly anybody could meet her without anticipating some very desirable thing—the consummation of some long-sought good—from her kind offices. A few dismal characters there may be here and there about the world who have so often been trifled with by young maidens as promising as she that they have now ceased to pin any faith upon the skirts of the New Year. But, for my own part, I have great faith in her, and, should I live to see fifty more such, still from each of those successive sisters I shall reckon upon receiving something that will be worth living for.

December 25, 2013

Journal entry, December 25, 1854 (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

by Biblioklept

December 25th.–Commodore P—- called to see me this morning,–a brisk, gentlemanly, offhand, but not rough, unaffected, and sensible man, looking not so elderly as he ought, on account of a very well made wig. He is now on his return from a cruise in the East Indian seas, and goes home by the Baltic, with a prospect of being very well received on account of his treaty with Japan. I seldom meet with a man who puts himself more immediately on conversable terms than the Commodore. He soon introduced his particular business with me,–it being to inquire whether I would recommend some suitable person to prepare his notes and materials for the publication of an account of his voyage. He was good enough to say that he had fixed upon me, in his own mind, for this office; but that my public duties would of course prevent me from engaging in it. I spoke of Herman Melville, and one or two others; but he seems to have some acquaintance with the literature of the day, and did not grasp very cordially at any name that I could think of; nor, indeed, could I recommend any one with full confidence. It would be a very desirable task for a young literary man, or, for that matter, for an old one; for the world can scarcely have in reserve a less hackneyed theme than Japan.

This is a most beautiful day of English winter; clear and bright, with the ground a little frozen, and the green grass along the waysides at Rock Ferry sprouting up through the frozen pools of yesterday’s rain. England is forever green. On Christmas Day, the children found wall-flowers, pansies, and pinks in the garden; and we had a beautiful rose from the garden of the hotel grown in the open air. Yet one is sensible of the cold here, as much as in the zero atmosphere of America. The chief advantage of the English climate is that we are not tempted to heat our rooms to so unhealthy a degree as in New England.

I think I have been happier this Christmas than ever before,–by my own fireside, and with my wife and children about me,–more content to enjoy what I have,–less anxious for anything beyond it in this life. My early life was perhaps a good preparation for the declining half of life; it having been such a blank that any thereafter would compare favorably with it. For a long, long while, I have occasionally been visited with a singular dream; and I have an impression that I have dreamed it ever since I have been in England. It is, that I am still at college,–or, sometimes, even at school,–and there is a sense that I have been there unconscionably long, and have quite failed to make such progress as my contemporaries have done; and I seem to meet some of them with a feeling of shame and depression that broods over me as I think of it, even when awake. This dream, recurring all through these twenty or thirty years, must be one of the effects of that heavy seclusion in which I shut myself up for twelve years after leaving college, when everybody moved onward, and left me behind. How strange that it should come now, when I may call myself famous and prosperous!–when I am happy, too!

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s English Note-Books.

 

December 15, 2013

“Egotism; Or, The Bosom Serpent” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

by Biblioklept

 “Egotism; Or, The Bosom Serpent” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Here he comes!” shouted the boys along the street. “Here comes the man with a snake in his bosom!”

This outcry, saluting Herkimer’s ears as he was about to enter the iron gate of the Elliston mansion, made him pause. It was not without a shudder that he found himself on the point of meeting his former acquaintance, whom he had known in the glory of youth, and whom now after an interval of five years, he was to find the victim either of a diseased fancy or a horrible physical misfortune.

“A snake in his bosom!” repeated the young sculptor to himself. “It must be he. No second man on earth has such a bosom friend. And now, my poor Rosina, Heaven grant me wisdom to discharge my errand aright! Woman’s faith must be strong indeed since thine has not yet failed.”

Thus musing, he took his stand at the entrance of the gate and waited until the personage so singularly announced should make his appearance. After an instant or two he beheld the figure of a lean man, of unwholesome look, with glittering eyes and long black hair, who seemed to imitate the motion of a snake; for, instead of walking straight forward with open front, he undulated along the pavement in a curved line. It may be too fanciful to say that something, either in his moral or material aspect, suggested the idea that a miracle had been wrought by transforming a serpent into a man, but so imperfectly that the snaky nature was yet hidden, and scarcely hidden, under the mere outward guise of humanity. Herkimer remarked that his complexion had a greenish tinge over its sickly white, reminding him of a species of marble out of which he had once wrought a head of Envy, with her snaky locks.

The wretched being approached the gate, but, instead of entering, stopped short and fixed the glitter of his eye full upon the compassionate yet steady countenance of the sculptor.

“It gnaws me! It gnaws me!” he exclaimed.

And then there was an audible hiss, but whether it came from the apparent lunatic’s own lips, or was the real hiss of a serpent, might admit of a discussion. At all events, it made Herkimer shudder to his heart’s core.

“Do you know me, George Herkimer?” asked the snake-possessed.

Herkimer did know him; but it demanded all the intimate and practical acquaintance with the human face, acquired by modelling actual likenesses in clay, to recognize the features of Roderick Elliston in the visage that now met the sculptor’s gaze. Yet it was he. It added nothing to the wonder to reflect that the once brilliant young man had undergone this odious and fearful change during the no more than five brief years of Herkimer’s abode at Florence. The possibility of such a transformation being granted, it was as easy to conceive it effected in a moment as in an age. Inexpressibly shocked and startled, it was still the keenest pang when Herkimer remembered that the fate of his cousin Rosina, the ideal of gentle womanhood, was indissolubly interwoven with that of a being whom Providence seemed to have unhumanized.

December 1, 2013

“The journal of a human heart for a single day in ordinary circumstances” and other ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

by Biblioklept

 

  1. A young man and girl meet together, each in search of a person to be known by some particular sign. They watch and wait a great while for that person to pass. At last some casual circumstance discloses that each is the one that the other is waiting for. Moral,–that what we need for our happiness is often close at hand, if we knew but how to seek for it.
  2. The journal of a human heart for a single day in ordinary circumstances. The lights and shadows that flit across it; its internal vicissitudes.
  3. Distrust to be thus exemplified: Various good and desirable things to be presented to a young man, and offered to his acceptance,–as a friend, a wife, a fortune; but he to refuse them all, suspecting that it is merely a delusion. Yet all to be real, and he to be told so, when too late.
  4. A man tries to be happy in love; he cannot sincerely give his heart, and the affair seems all a dream. In domestic life, the same; in politics, a seeming patriot; but still he is sincere, and all seems like a theatre.
  5. An old man, on a summer day, sits on a hill-top, or on the observatory of his house, and sees the sun’s light pass from one object to another connected with the events of his past life,–as the school-house, the place where his wife lived in her maidenhood,–its setting beams falling on the churchyard.
  6. An idle man’s pleasures and occupations and thoughts during a day spent by the seashore: among them, that of sitting on the top of a cliff, and throwing stones at his own shadow, far below.
  7. A blind man to set forth on a walk through ways unknown to him, and to trust to the guidance of anybody who will take the trouble; the different characters who would undertake it: some mischievous, some well-meaning, but incapable; perhaps one blind man undertakes to lead another. At last, possibly, he rejects all guidance, and blunders on by himself.

Notations from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

November 15, 2013

“An article on fire, on smoke” and Other Ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

by Biblioklept
  1. An article on fire, on smoke. Diseases of the mind and soul,–even more common than bodily diseases.
  2. Tarleton, of the Revolution, is said to have been one of the two handsomest men in Europe,–the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV., being the other. Some authorities, however, have represented him as ungainly in person and rough in manners. Tarleton was originally bred for the law, but quitted law for the army early in life. He was son to a mayor of Liverpool, born in 1754, of ancient family. He wrote his own memoirs after returning from America. Afterwards in Parliament. Never afterwards distinguished in arms. Created baronet in 1818, and died childless in 1833. Thought he was not sufficiently honored among more modern heroes. Lost part of his right hand in battle of Guilford Court House. A man of pleasure in England.
  3. It would be a good idea for a painter to paint a picture of a great actor, representing him in several different characters of one scene,–Iago and Othello, for instance.
  4. A description of a young lady who had formerly been insane, and now felt the approach of a new fit of madness. She had been out to ride, had exerted herself much, and had been very vivacious. On her return, she sat down in a thoughtful and despondent attitude, looking very sad, but one of the loveliest objects that ever were seen. The family spoke to her, but she made no answer, nor took the least notice; but still sat like a statue in her chair,–a statue of melancholy and beauty. At last they led her away to her chamber.
  5. Observation. The effect of morning sunshine on the wet grass, on sloping and swelling land, between the spectator and the sun at some distance, as across a lawn. It diffused a dim brilliancy over the whole surface of the field. The mists, slow-rising farther off, part resting on the earth, the remainder of the column already ascending so high that you doubt whether to call it a fog or a cloud.

Notations from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

 

October 25, 2013

“There Is Evil in Every Human Heart” and Seven Other Story Ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

by Biblioklept
  1. Our body to be possessed by two different spirits; so that half of the visage shall express one mood, and the other half another.
  2. An old English sea-captain desires to have a fast-sailing ship, to keep a good table, and to sail between the tropics without making land.
  3. A rich man left by will his mansion and estate to a poor couple. They remove into it, and find there a darksome servant, whom they are forbidden by will to turn away. He becomes a torment to them; and, in the finale, he turns out to be the former master of the estate.
  4. Two persons to be expecting some occurrence, and watching for the two principal actors in it, and to find that the occurrence is even then passing, and that they themselves are the two actors.
  5. There is evil in every human heart, which may remain latent, perhaps, through the whole of life; but circumstances may rouse it to activity. To imagine such circumstances. A woman, tempted to be false to her husband, apparently through mere whim,–or a young man to feel an instinctive thirst for blood, and to commit murder. This appetite may be traced in the popularity of criminal trials. The appetite might be observed first in a child, and then traced upwards, manifesting itself in crimes suited to every stage of life.
  6. The good deeds in an evil life,–the generous, noble, and excellent actions done by people habitually wicked,–to ask what is to become of them.
  7. A satirical article might be made out of the idea of an imaginary museum, containing such articles as Aaron’s rod, the petticoat of General Hawion, the pistol with which Benton shot Jackson,–and then a diorama, consisting of political or other scenes, or done in wax-work. The idea to be wrought out and extended. Perhaps it might be the museum of a deceased old man.
  8. An article might be made respecting various kinds of ruin,–ruin as regards property,–ruin of health,–ruin of habits, as drunkenness and all kinds of debauchery,–ruin of character, while prosperous in other respects,–ruin of the soul. Ruin, perhaps, might be personified as a demon, seizing its victims by various holds.

Notations from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

October 5, 2013

Ten Notes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

by Biblioklept
  1. Anciently, when long-buried bodies were found undecayed in the grave, a species of sanctity was attributed to them.
  2. Some chimneys of ancient halls used to be swept by having a culverin fired up them.
  3. At Leith, in 1711, a glass bottle was blown of the capacity of two English bushels.
  4. The buff and blue of the Union were adopted by Fox and the Whig party in England. The Prince of Wales wore them.
  5. In 1621, a Mr. Copinger left a certain charity, an almhouse, of which four poor persons were to partake, after the death of his eldest son and his wife. It was a tenement and yard. The parson, headboroughs, and his five other sons were to appoint the persons. At the time specified, however, all but one of his sons were dead; and he was in such poor circumstances that he obtained the benefit of the charity for himself, as one of the four.
  6. A town clerk arranges the publishments that are given in, according to his own judgment.
  7. To make a story from Robert Raikes seeing dirty children at play, in the streets of London, and inquiring of a woman about them. She tells him that on Sundays, when they were not employed, they were a great deal worse, making the streets like hell; playing at church, etc. He was therefore induced to employ women at a shilling to teach them on Sundays, and thus Sunday-schools were established.
  8. To represent the different departments of the United States government by village functionaries. The War Department by watchmen, the law by constables, the merchants by a variety store, etc.
  9. At the accession of Bloody Mary, a man, coming into a house, sounded three times with his mouth, as with a trumpet, and then made proclamation to the family. A bonfire was built, and little children were made to carry wood to it, that they might remember the circumstance in old age. Meat and drink were provided at the bonfires.
  10. To describe a boyish combat with snowballs, and the victorious leader to have a statue of snow erected to him. A satire on ambition and fame to be made out of this idea. It might be a child’s story.

Notations from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books

 

September 28, 2013

“A picnic party in the woods” / September 28, 1841 Journal Entry from Nathaniel Hawthorne

by Biblioklept

A picnic party in the woods, yesterday, in honor of little Frank Dana’s birthday, he being six years old. I strolled out, after dinner, with Mr. Bradford, and in a lonesome glade we met the apparition of an Indian chief, dressed in appropriate costume of blanket, feathers, and paint, and armed with a musket. Almost at the same time, a young gypsy fortune-teller came from among the trees, and proposed to tell my fortune. While she was doing this, the goddess Diana let fly an arrow, and hit me smartly in the hand. The fortune-teller and goddess were in fine contrast, Diana being a blonde, fair, quiet, with a moderate composure; and the gypsy (O. G.) a bright, vivacious, dark-haired, rich-complexioned damsel,–both of them very pretty, at least pretty enough to make fifteen years enchanting. Accompanied by these denizens of the wild wood, we went onward, and came to a company of fantastic figures, arranged in a ring for a dance or a game. There was a Swiss girl, an Indian squaw, a negro of the Jim Crow order, one or two foresters, and several people in Christian attire, besides children of all ages. Then followed childish games, in which the grown people took part with mirth enough,–while I, whose nature it is to be a mere spectator both of sport and serious business, lay under the trees and looked on. Meanwhile, Mr. Emerson and Miss Fuller, who arrived an hour or two before, came forth into the little glade where we were assembled. Here followed much talk. The ceremonies of the day concluded with a cold collation of cakes and fruit. All was pleasant enough,–an excellent piece of work,–”would’t were done!” It has left a fantastic impression on my memory, this intermingling of wild and fabulous characters with real and homely ones, in the secluded nook of the woods. I remember them, with the sunlight breaking through overshadowing branches, and they appearing and disappearing confusedly,–perhaps starting out of the earth; as if the every-day laws of nature were suspended for this particular occasion. There were the children, too, laughing and sporting about, as if they were at home among such strange shapes,–and anon bursting into loud uproar of lamentation, when the rude gambols of the merry archers chanced to overturn them. And apart, with a shrewd, Yankee observation of the scene, stands our friend Orange, a thick-set, sturdy figure, enjoying the fun well enough, yet, rather laughing with a perception of its nonsensicalness than at all entering into the spirit of the thing.

This morning I have been helping to gather apples. The principal farm labors at this time are ploughing for winter rye, and breaking up the greensward for next year’s crop of potatoes, gathering squashes, and not much else, except such year-round employments as milking. The crop of rye, to be sure, is in process of being threshed, at odd intervals.

I ought to have mentioned among the diverse and incongruous growths of the picnic party our two Spanish boys from Manilla,–Lucas, with his heavy features and almost mulatto complexion; and José, slighter, with rather a feminine face,–not a gay, girlish one, but grave, reserved, eying you sometimes with an earnest but secret expression, and causing you to question what sort of person he is.

From a September 28, 1841 journal entry in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

September 27, 2013

“The Gorgon’s Head” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

by Biblioklept

“The Gorgon’s Head” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

PERSEUS was the son of Danaë, who was the daughter of a king. And when Perseus was a very little boy, some wicked people put his mother and himself into a chest, and set them afloat upon the sea. The wind blew freshly, and drove the chest away from the shore, and the uneasy billows, tossed it up and down; while Danaë clasped her child closely to her bosom, and dreaded that some big wave would dash its foamy crest over them both. The chest sailed on, however, and neither sank nor was upset; until, when night was coming, it floated so near an island that it got entangled in a fisherman’s nets, and was drawn out high and dry upon the sand. The island was called Seriphus, and it was reigned over by King Polydectes, who happened to be the fisherman’s brother.

This fisherman, I am glad to tell you, was an exceedingly humane and upright man. He showed great kindness to Danaë and her little boy; and continued to befriend them, until Perseus had grown to be a handsome youth, very strong and active, and skilful in the use of arms. Long before this time, King Polydectes had seen the two strangers–the mother and her child–who had come to his dominions in a floating chest. As he was not good and kind, like his brother the fisherman, but extremely wicked, he resolved to send Perseus on a dangerous enterprise, in which he would probably he killed, and then to do some great mischief to Danaë herself. So this bad-hearted king spent a long while in considering what was the most dangerous thing that a young man could possibly undertake to perform. At last, having hit upon an enterprise that promised to turn out as fatally as be desired, he sent for the youthful Perseus.

The young man came to the palace, and found the king sitting upon his throne.

September 14, 2013

Four Story Ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

by Biblioklept
  1. A girl’s lover to be slain and buried in her flower-garden, and the earth levelled over him. That particular spot, which she happens to plant with some peculiar variety of flowers, produces them of admirable splendor, beauty, and perfume; and she delights, with an indescribable impulse, to wear them in her bosom, and scent her chamber with them. Thus the classic fantasy would be realized, of dead people transformed to flowers.
  2. Objects seen by a magic-lantern reversed. A street, or other location, might be presented, where there would be opportunity to bring forward all objects of worldly interest, and thus much pleasant satire might be the result.
  3. A missionary to the heathen in a great city, to describe his labors in the manner of a foreign mission.
  4. To show the effect of gratified revenge. As an instance, merely, suppose a woman sues her lover for breach of promise, and gets the money by instalments, through a long series of years. At last, when the miserable victim were utterly trodden down, the triumpher would have become a very devil of evil passions,–they having overgrown his whole nature; so that a far greater evil would have come upon himself than on his victim.
September 10, 2013

Facts, Questions, and Images from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

by Biblioklept
  1. The Abyssinians, after dressing their hair, sleep with their heads in a forked stick, in order not to discompose it.
  2. At the battle of Edge Hill, October 23, 1642, Captain John Smith, a soldier of note, Captain Lieutenant to Lord James Stuart’s horse, with only a groom, attacked a Parliament officer, three cuirassiers, and three arquebusiers, and rescued the royal standard, which they had taken and were guarding. Was this the Virginian Smith?
  3. Stephen Gowans supposed that the bodies of Adam and Eve were clothed in robes of light, which vanished after their sin.
  4. Lord Chancellor Clare, towards the close of his life, went to a village church, where he might not be known, to partake of the Sacrament.
  5. In the tenth century, mechanism of organs so clumsy, that one in Westminster Abbey, with four hundred pipes, required twenty-six bellows and seventy stout men. First organ ever known in Europe received by King Pepin, from the Emperor Constantine, in 757. Water boiling was kept in a reservoir under the pipes; and, the keys being struck, the valves opened, and steam rushed through with noise. The secret of working them thus is now lost. Then came bellows organs, first used by Louis le Débonnaire.
  6. After the siege of Antwerp, the children played marbles in the streets with grape and cannon shot.
  7. A shell, in falling, buries itself in the earth, and, when it explodes, a large pit is made by the earth being blown about in all directions,–large enough, sometimes, to hold three or four cart-loads of earth. The holes are circular.
  8. A French artillery-man being buried in his military cloak on the ramparts, a shell exploded, and unburied him.
  9. In the Netherlands, to form hedges, young trees are interwoven into a sort of lattice-work; and, in time, they grow together at the point of junction, so that the fence is all of one piece.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

 

August 31, 2013

Salem, August 31, 1836 — Nathaniel Hawthorne

by Biblioklept

Salem, August 31, 1836.–A walk, yesterday, down to the shore, near the hospital. Standing on the old grassy battery, that forms a semicircle, and looking seaward. The sun not a great way above the horizon, yet so far as to give a very golden brightness, when it shone out. Clouds in the vicinity of the sun, and nearly all the rest of the sky covered with clouds in masses, not a gray uniformity of cloud. A fresh breeze blowing from land seaward. If it had been blowing from the sea, it would have raised it in heavy billows, and caused it to dash high against the rocks. But now its surface was not all commoved with billows; there was only roughness enough to take off the gleam, and give it the aspect of iron after cooling. The clouds above added to the black appearance. A few sea-birds were flitting over the water, only visible at moments, when they turned their white bosoms towards me,–as if they were then first created. The sunshine had a singular effect. The clouds would interpose in such a manner that some objects were shaded from it, while others were strongly illuminated. Some of the islands lay in the shade, dark and gloomy, while others were bright and favored spots. The white light-house was sometimes very cheerfully marked. There was a schooner about a mile from the shore, at anchor, laden apparently with lumber. The sea all about her had the black, iron aspect which I have described; but the vessel herself was alight. Hull, masts, and spars were all gilded, and the rigging was made of golden threads. A small white streak of foam breaking around the bows, which ware towards the wind. The shadowiness of the clouds overhead made the effect of the sunlight strange, where it fell.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

 

August 24, 2013

Borges Riff/Borges Anxiety

by Edwin Turner
borgesscan

Art by Roman Muradov

1. Jorge Luis Borges is 115 today.

2. I’ve shared clips from my scattered readings of Borges on this blog (receiving the occasional takedown notice as well)—but I’ve never mustered the energy to try to say anything about him or describe his writing or try to situate it or analyze it or anything—

3. Because that’s what Borges does: He situates, analyzes, condenses, clarifies, expands, complicates, archives, curates, cultivates, teaches, improves literature.

4. And he does it in a way that makes following him with my own mealy mottled words seem superfluous (or maybe futile is the word I want—although I think Borges is unrelentingly positive and futile is such an ugly word).

5. I read a book of Borges’ essays this summer, a collection entitled Other Inquisitions. I read most of it in the Great Smoky Mountains, where the crisp morning air was perfect for Borges. Or for me to read Borges. It was lovely.

6. I wanted to write about Borges’ book—or, rather, and more exactly, I wanted to have written Borges’ book.

7. In one essay—I’ve put the book aside for now and can’t recall exactly which essay (maybe on FitzGerald and Omar Khayyam?); nor will I go look; if I had it out I’d only cite it, recycle it here; the book would kill this riff immediately, put a stake through its heart—Borges suggests that “A great writer creates his precursors.” — This, years, decades before Harold Bloom makes a career out of the same notion.

8. And Borges’ essays are a canon-making: His own canon–the formation and creation of his own precursors: Whitman, Kafka, DeQuincey, Carlyle, Becher, Valery, Wilde, Poe, Hawthorne…

9. The shock I experienced reading Borges’ essay on Nathaniel Hawthorne. That Borges had set about to riff on Hawthorne’s Note-Books, the same note-books I’d been reading since the early spring, the same note-books that seemed and still seem so generative to me, so full of entire worlds, so rich, so much fuller and richer than Hawthorne’s novels or his stories, so full in their singularity and off-focus, these notes, these Borgesian notes. Oh and that Borges had written the essay that I wished I could write!

10. Borges, who never wrote a novel, whose entire work might be some kind of postmodern novel.

11. Borges, whose short stories often seem like pretexts to an essay he’d like to write—and here pretext is not the right word, again—-so maybe the short stories, so many of them so brilliant, act as some kind of surface text that illuminates and yet simultaneously hides an essay underneath.

12. The great joy of reading Borges: We read through Borges: Borges the librarian grants us access to so many minds. We get to share his perceptions, read over his shoulder, or maybe through his glasses—we get to glance over his annotations, his notes. But that’s not accurate—he’s so much more lucid than that scatter-shot image suggests, even when he’s at his most Borgesian, which is to say his most labyrinthine, mirrored, winding, forking, decentering and recentering, deferring, echoing, prefiguring…

13. I’ve written more than I intended to and have yet barely edged into all the thicket of anxieties that guard Borges’ oeuvre from poseurs like myself. It’s enough to know that his works exist, will exist.

August 16, 2013

Six Figments from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

by Biblioklept
  1. A blind man on a dark night carried a torch, in order that people might see him, and not run against him, and direct him how to avoid dangers.
  2. To picture a child’s (one of four or five years old) reminiscences at sunset of a long summer’s day,–his first awakening, his studies, his sports, his little fits of passion, perhaps a whipping, etc.
  3. The blind man’s walk.
  4. To picture a virtuous family, the different members examples of virtuous dispositions in their way; then introduce a vicious person, and trace out the relations that arise between him and them, and the manner in which all are affected.
  5. A man to flatter himself with the idea that he would not be guilty of some certain wickedness,–as, for instance, to yield to the personal temptations of the Devil,–yet to find, ultimately, that he was at that very time committing that same wickedness.
  6. What would a man do, if he were compelled to live always in the sultry heat of society, and could never bathe himself in cool solitude?

Notations from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

 

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