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

  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.

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