Eight Ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

  1. A man, perhaps with a persuasion that he shall make his fortune by some singular means, and with an eager longing so to do, while digging or boring for water, to strike upon a salt-spring.
  2. To have one event operate in several places,–as, for example, if a man’s head were to be cut off in one town, men’s heads to drop off in several towns.
  3. Follow out the fantasy of a man taking his life by instalments, instead of at one payment,–say ten years of life alternately with ten years of suspended animation.
  4. Sentiments in a foreign language, which merely convey the sentiment without retaining to the reader any graces of style or harmony of sound, have somewhat of the charm of thoughts in one’s own mind that have not yet been put into words. No possible words that we might adapt to them could realize the unshaped beauty that they appear to possess. This is the reason that translations are never satisfactory,–and less so, I should think, to one who cannot than to one who can pronounce the language.
  5. A person to be writing a tale, and to find that it shapes itself against his intentions; that the characters act otherwise than he thought; that unforeseen events occur; and a catastrophe comes which he strives in vain to avert. It might shadow forth his own fate,–he having made himself one of the personages.
  6. It is a singular thing, that, at the distance, say, of five feet, the work of the greatest dunce looks just as well as that of the greatest genius,–that little space being all the distance between genius and stupidity.
  7. Mrs. Sigourney says, after Coleridge, that “poetry has been its own exceeding great reward.” For the writing, perhaps; but would it be so for the reading?
  8. Four precepts: To break off customs; to shake off spirits ill-disposed; to meditate on youth; to do nothing against one’s genius.

—Notations from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books(See also: Ten ideas and then Twenty ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books).

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