« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
It is thus not difficult to understand that, I can they be found to differ from the realities with all his power, he is hardly what can be seen when the glass is withdrawn, and yet termed a popular author. In the present with a subtle ethereal character and air of day, indeed, the popular taste has become unreality. It is a style admirably adapted so vitiated by unhealthy stimulus and coarse to his genius and proclivities, and seems sensational excitement, that anything so re- with snake-like ease and
grace to curve itself fined as his flavour must be felt by all who round the quaintest forms, and to insinuate indulge in such debauchery (we can use no itself into the most tortuous convolutions milder term) to be cold, lifeless, vapid. of thought and sentiment. So far as mere He has nothing rough enough in the grain language is concerned, there are few writers to affect senses so exhausted and debased, that can produce effects of awe and terror and if he had, he is too true an Epicurean and weird-like mystery with so simple means. to use it. He is dainty in his tastes, and He builds his magic edifice with small and by the dainty reader alone will he be rel- plain materials, but disposed with such cunished. Not only, therefore, in these days ning art, that others more imposing and of demoralizing fiction and over-wrought gorgeous would be felt to be vulgar and osincident, will he be generally found to be tentatious in comparison. too reflective and deficient excitement to
There are, however,
minds deeply be attractive; at any time his fame is not thoughtful and full of generous sympathy, likely to be that of the well-thumbed and who find in his works neither the charm nor dog-eared page:
But even now he is, and the high tone we would ascribe to them. one day we believe will be still more, gen- His immense power — and that always exererally regarded by competent readers as cised in the most temperate and unstrained one of the most refined, tender, powerful, manner - can hardly, we think, be denied; and highly imaginative writers in the Eng- but he manifests a fondness for dealing lish language.
with sides of our nature where assuredly the His employment of that language in per- strength and cheerfulness of humanity do fect adaptation to his purpose, is one of the not lie, which by some is felt to be morbid. most prominent charms of this author. We And we would admit at once that he often have said, he is dainty in his tastes. In no- chooses subjects that are dangerous themes, thing is he more dainty than in his use of and unfolds with curious scrutiny the workwords. He is a purist in style. It may, ing of emotions, the treatment of which in perhaps, be possible that scrutinizing eyes almost any other hands than his would demay detect here and there an expression generate into sickly sentimentalism or rethat serves to mark his nationality. But his pulsive ugliness. In truth, he not only vocabulary is singularly choice and appro- shows a certain preference for handling such priate, and his style is a model of elegance. subjects, he sometimes almost seems to play It is free from exaggeration or straining, with them. He turns them over and over and if it is generally unimpassioned, it is as if loth to dismiss them or to leave a still more devoid of stiffness and dry unge- single point unexamined; he never wearies niality. It flows in a placid, gentle rill, al- trying on them the effect of various positions ways sweet and pellucid; sometimes in its and points of view. But we maintain that clearness and purity, in its unobtrusive his apparent toying with such topics is only operation and quiet movement, it may apparent. It is the mode in which minds rather be said to distil over upon its subject, like his question and investigate, and the and there to crystallize with curious refract- more cautious and thorough the research ing power, which reveals the image un- the more protracted the seeming dalliance. dimmed, but deflected from the direct line It is, in fact, after a certain fashion, an apof vision. Optics supply a parallel to an- plication to Ethics of the Baconian experiother of its qualities. It often acts like a mental method of inquiry. He does not reversed telescope, throwing objects back reason out his questions: he simply verifies into the distance, and imparting to them a them; and the experimental survey must fineness and delicacy and fairy-like aspect, be thorough and exhaustive to secure the so true and life-like that in no particular | inclusion of all possible contingencies. Moral and psychological problems which by natural beauty have a charm for him, not the abstract thinker would be analysed and less than the most intricate and complex acutely discussed, are by him — we shall tissue of strange and conflicting elements. not say solved, for positive solution is what Every reader must remember “The Old he rarely ventures to commit himself to - Manse,” with its rich orchard, bounded by but, in anatomical phrase, demonstrated, by the sluggish waters of the Concord; its exhibiting the bearings, the workings, and cobwebby library; the fishing excursion consequences of the data, in concrete and with Ellery Channing; the peaceful rest of living forms in many and various aspects. its “near retirement and accessible secluGiven combinations of moral and spiritual sion; ”its gentle joys “ in those genial days forces are not judged of speculatively. He of autumn, when Mother Nature, having reduces them to experiment and illustration. perfected her harvests and accomplished He embodies them in the creatures of his every needful thing that was given her to imagination, in their character and circum- do, overflows with a blessed superfluity of stances, and with the unerring sympathy and love, and has leisure to caress her chilinstinct of genius he inspires them with life dren." How fresh and touching in its exand evolves the results, leaving these to treme simplicity, mixed with one or two speak for themselves.
touches of quiet humour, and relieved here That in the prosecution of such experi- and there at the close of a paragraph by a mental Ethics through the instrumentality sudden turn of pleasantly quaint moralizing of the imagination, he evinces somewhat is “ Little Annie's Ramble.” What a genthe spirit and tendency of a casuist, must uine eye for, and unaffected love of, what perhaps be granted, in the sense that he gen- is purest, fairest in human nature, it reerally selects cases which are out of the or- veals! How charming a half-dozen pages ! dinary run of daily life, which are delicate, and all about the commonest objects, fine, and intricate in the complexity and of- some would say, the veriest trifles of daily ten in the contradictoriness of their ele- life. Little Pearl in The Scarlet Letter in ments, and which cannot be decided - one of her more natural moods, playing by which he at least is too judicial, too consci- the sea-shore, while her mother converses entious to decide — in the rough-and-ready with her outraged husband, is hardly less style, and by the sound, but not always beautiful, if, in its connexion and collateral nicely discriminating rules that prevail with bearings, not quite so simple a picture of salutary result in practical and busy life. childhood : The questions he raises are for the most
“ At first, as already told, she had flirted fanpart too complicated and difficult to be dealt cifully with her own image in a pool of water, with by so coarse though effective an instru- beckoning the phantom forth, and — as it dement as the so-called strong common sense clined to venture -seeking a passage for herof the upright man of the world. Such a self into its sphere of impalpable earth and inman would misjudge them, or if his conclu- attainable sky. Soon finding, however, that sions were right, they would be so on false either she or the image was unreal, she turned premisses, and irrespective of considerations elsewhere for better pastime. She made little that ought to obtain recognition. Haw- boats out of birch-bark, and freighted them with thorne rests satisfied with no such haphaz- snail-shells, and sent out more ventures on the ard and superficial treatment. He manipu-mighty deep than any merchant in New Englates his combinations with the utmost care land; but the larger part of them foundered and precision, to make sure the good there near the shore. She seized a live horse-shoe by is may not be lost sight of, or to impress on and laid out a jelly-fish to melt in the warm sun.
the tail, and made prize of several five-fingers, us with haunting iteration the baneful effects Then she took up the white foam, that streaked on it of that with which it is associated.
the line of the advancing tide, and threw it upon An evidence of the general healthiness of the breeze, scampering after it, with winged his nature may be found in the scenes of footsteps, to catch the great snow-flakes ere they sweet innocence and natural simplicity that fell. Perceiving a flock of beach-birds, that fed abound in his works. The freshness of and fluttered along the shore, the naughty child childhood and pictures of genial life and picked up her apron full of pebbles, and, creep
ing from rock to rock after these small sea-fowl, ments in the Chemistry of Ethics ; but if he displayed remarkable dexterity in pelting them, deals with poisons, it is to make their real One little grey bird, with a white breast, Pearl nature and effects known, even when they was almost sure had been hit by a pebble, and mingle with fair and good things, Hluttered away with a broken wing. But then to trifle with and disguise them. the elf-child sighed, and gave up her sport, be
To the general soundness as well as finecause it grieved her to have done harm to a little
ness of moral feeling and judgment disbeing that was as wild as the sea-breeze, or as wild as Pearl herself.
played in his works, we must admit, at least, “ Her final employment was to gather sea
one grave exception. His Life of Pierce weeds of various kinds, and make herself a scarf might perhaps be disposed of as an ephemor mantle, and a head-dress, and thus assume eral production, which, if it served its more the aspect of a little mermaid. She inherited immediate purpose, was never meant to do her mother's gift for devising drapery and cos- more; as unworthy, it may be, of his reputume. As the last touch to her mermaid's garb, tation and powers, but never put forth with Pearl took some eel-grass, and imitated, as best the intention or hope of its surviving its she could, on her own bosom, the decoration temporary aims, and therefore to count for with which she was so familiar on her mother's, nothing in an estimate of his literary capaca letter - the letter A - but freshly green in- ity and character. Were it merely worthstead of scarlet! The child bent her chin upon less, this course might be followed. It were her breast, and contemplated this device with hard could one not help his friend to the strange interest, even as if the one only thing Presidency by an electioneering pamphlet, for which she had been sent into the world was without it being subjected to the same critito make out its hidden import.”
cism as his more earnest and professedly The heart that so sings in harmony with artistic works. Such plea may be sustained childhood's sweetest music can hardly be for an innocent squib or jeu d'esprit. But suspected of choosing and enjoying the de- how slight soever its proportions, bow oclineation of horror or evil for its own sake. casional soever its ostensible purpose, his Even in his tales of darker shade and lurid Life of Pierce seeks to achieve that purpose light, these qualities are relieved, and their by a treatment, neither apparently frivolous real character attested, by the bright sun- nor uncandid, of a question of the deepest shine and winning beauty that form the import; and would seem difficult to esbroader features of the picture. In this cape the dilemma, that either the opinions lies the contrast and moral superiority of it sets forth are seriously entertained and his tales, even of most thrilling awe, to advocated by the author, or the success of those of his wild, erratic countryman, Ed- General Pierce was more to him than truth gar Allan Poe, whose productions derive or falsehood in regard to a question as satheir chief fascination from the depth of un- cred as it is momentous. When General redeemed and unnatural horror they reveal. Pierce offered himself as a candidate for the It may be, that what is strange and unusual Presidency, the repeal or the maintenance in humanity has for Hawthorne rather more of the Fugitive Slave Act was the question than a due share of attractiveness, but he of the day. Pierce was a declared pronever chooses evil for his study from a love slavery man; and it is with extreme pain of it; and delicate themes he always treats that we find Hawthorne advocating his with the utmost delicacy. Nothing could claims as those of a man who dared to exceed the purity, tenderness, and, at the love that great and grand reality his same time, harrowing truthfulness, with whole united native country — better than which the sin of the " Scarlet Letter” and the mistiness of a philanthropic theory." its fruits are portrayed. We regret we can Still we are reluctant to allow ourselves to extract no passage for illustration. Quota- think that he was, in defiance of nobler tion here is of no avail. It is a delicacy, convictions, basely prostituting his pen for not of any one scene, but pervading the electioneering purposes. We are rather entire story, with a sustained tone that could disposed to believe that he distrusted the be achieved only by a mind in which the wisdom and ability as well as the moderahighest delicacy of feeling is native and in- tion of the extreme Abolition party, — that herent. Very different results would such he doubted whether violent effort to achieve materials have yielded in the hands of a promptly great social changes might not reGeorge Sand, or of a Victor Hugo. Even sult in worse disaster. The gradual proin those of not a few of our popular Eng- gress, the natural growth of the body social lish novelists we should have seen over all and politic, was one of the soundest les“the trail of the serpent.” It may be that sons our own great statesman Burke taught. Hawthorne exhibits too great a predilection It may be easy for us now, with the result for what may be considered curious experi- so far accomplished, to read the past in a different light. But we should not forget of the universe in general, on the other. how little, at one stage of the great strug- It were assuredly unjust to assume that the gle, many even of the most generous and opinions expressed by any of his characters, philanthropic among ourselves sympathized – even those that by any preference or with or had faith in the professions or the general approval or other token seem to cause of the North. The heroic is born of lie nearest the personality of the author, — intensity rather than of breadth and com- represent the author's own sentiments; and prehension, and a man may see things on full account must be taken of the fact, that too many sides, unless he sees them all in what we now quote, the speaker is repfully and in their just relations. With lim- resented as undergoing a process of gradited faculties activity may be paralysed by ual but thorough deterioration alike moralincreased knowledge and breadth of view,- ly and intellectually. Still, as that speaker not by the calls to action appearing less, is also portrayed as a man of indomitable but by the objections to any particular ac- will and self-reliance, and therefore presents tion appearing greater. Some spirits are no special appropriateness - at least no
clear call or apology for such views as “ framed
he is made to utter, the expression of opinToo subtly pondering for mastery,"
ion, especially taken in connexion with the or, indeed, for any independent action at deliverance above given by the author in all. The following reads less like a wise propria persona, is not without significanceand humble distrust of human foresight and scheming, than a renunciation of enlight- with gloomy sternness,
“ • Peace, Hester, peace!' replied the old man,
it is not granted me ened moral agency and of free human aim to pardon. I have no such power as thou tellest and effort, - less like a submission to Provi- me of. My old faith, long forgotten, comes back dence than an acquiescence in Fate: to me, and explains all that we do, and all we
“One view, and probably a wise one, looks suffer. By thy first step awry, thou didst plant upon slavery as one of those evils which 'Divine the germ of evil; but since that moment it has Providence does not leave to be remedied by hu- all been a dark necessity. Ye that have wronged
me are not sinful, save in a kind of typical illuman contrivances, but which, in its own good ed, but by the simplest and easiest operation; Let the black flower blossom as it may! Now go time, by some means impossible to be anticipat- sion; neither am I fiend-like, who have snatched
a fiend's office from his hands. It is our fate. when all its uses shall have been fulfilled, shall vanish like a dream. There is no instance in thy ways, and deal as thou wilt with yonder all history of the human will and intellect having perfected any great moral reform by meth
So again in that terrible interview by the ods which it adapted to that end; but the pro- brook-side in the forest, when Hester gress of the world at every step leaves some evil Prynne, in obedience to the requirement or wrong on the path behind it, which the wisest of her child, again fastens on her breast the of mankind, of their own set purpose, could never have found the way to rectify." *
stigma of her sin and shaine, with the re
moval of which she had felt as if the burWhile, however, we recognise a source den of her life and its anguish had departed of weakness and timidity in this scrupulous from her spirit, we read : anxiety to discriminate and to balance, a shrinking from responsibility that tends to
“Hopefully, but a moment ago, as Hester had issue in a system almost of indifferentism, spoken of drowning it in the deep sea, there in forgetfulness of the fact that the respon- thus received back the deally symbol from the
was a sense of inevitable doom upon her, as she sibility of laissez-faire decision is quite as hand of fate. She had Aung it into infinite great' as that of one of interference, it is space! She had drawn an hour's free breath ! well we should not confound this with de- and here again was the scarlet misery glittering liberate pandering of clear and honest con- on the old spot! So it ever is, whether thus typvictions to lower motives.
ified or no, that an evil deed invests itself with An inclination to a fatalistic view of the the character of doom." + world and human affairs crops out in oth
A reflection made by the author in his er parts of his writings, and perhaps it
own name at the end of The Scarlet Letter, might form an interesting question how far in taking leave of two of the principal charthis tendency may be due to his training in acters, affords less doubtful evidence of the a school of mystic idealism, on the one hand, and to his experience of an attempt usual, his strongly undogmatic tendency
transcendental influence of Emerson. As to realize a specious but unsound commun- restrains him from any positive assertion ; ism and social scheme for the amelioration
* The Scarlet Letter, p. 161. * Life of Franklin Pierce, pp. 113, 114.
| lbid. p. 198.
but the negation of any fundamental and more striking instance could be found of ineradicable distinction between right and how little he depends on the interest of wrong, good and evil, is more than nibbled suspense, of doubt to be solved, of difficulty at:
to be overcome, than is presented in the “ Nothing was more remarkable than the chapter of Transformation entitled “The change which took place, almost immediately after Spectre of the Catacomb.” The separation Mr. Dimmesdale’s death, in the appearance and of one from the other members of a party demeanour of the old man known as Roger Chill- visiting the Catacombs of Rome would ing worth. All his strength and energy — all his seem to afford an occasion for a most natuvital and intellectual force - seemed at once to de- ral, almost unavoidable scene of highsert him; insomuch that he positively withered up, pitched interest and excitement. The reshrivelled away, and almost vanished from mortal ality of the danger; its magnitude and horsight, like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in ror; the confusion of the searchers, themthe gun.
This unhappy man had made the very selves ignorant of the labyrinth, and each principle of his life to consist in the pursuit and in imminent risk of being lost in the gloom systematic exercise of revenge ; and when by its and enravelment of the intersecting narrow completest triumph and consummation, that evil principle was left with no further material to
passages; their proneness to rush hither support it, when, in short, there was no more and anxiety only multiplying the difficulties
and thither without plan; their eagerness Devil's work on earth for him to do, it only remained for the unhumanized mortal to betake and the hazard; their hasty movements, himself whither his Master would find him tasks now extinguishing their tapers, now carryenough, and pay him his wages duly. But to ing them past marks that are important for all these shadowy beings, so long our near ac- retracing their own steps; their flashing quaintances,- as well Roger Chillingworth as hopes and crushing disappointments ; — all his companions, - we would fain be merciful. the details of such an event are what many It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, writers of fiction would make a considerable whether hatred and love be not the same thing digression to introduce — what hardly one at bottom. Ech in its utmost development sup- would spurn. Yet Hawthorne, when Mirposes a high degree of intimacy and heart-knowl- iam is separated from her companions in edge; each renders one individual dependent for the dismal corridors of St. Calixtus, after the food of his affections and spiritual life upon mentioning that the guide assured them another; each leaves the passionate lover, or that there was no possibility of rendering the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desc- assistance unless by shouting at the top of late by the withdrawal of his subject. Philo- their voices, quietly disposes
of the crisis in sophically considered, therefore, the two passions seem essentially the same, except that one hap
a sentence : Accordingly they all began pens to be seen in a celestial radiance, and the to shriek, halloo, and bellow, with the utmost other in a dusky and lurid glow. In the spirit- force of their lungs. And, not to prolong ual world, the old physician and the minister - the reader's suspense (for we do not particmutual victims as they have been may una- ularly seek to interest him in this scene, wares have found their earthly stock of hatred telling it only on account of the trouble and and antipathy transmuted into golden love." * strange entanglement which followed), tbey The view we have taken of his writings, voice.” He dwells chiefly on the develop
soon heard a responsive call in a female as aiming before all else to be an embodi- ment of the results on the inner life of such ment of the operation and results of strange, events as are narrated — or implied; for often involved, and conflicting combinations of the event is already passed, and only inferred, moral and spiritual data, is quite in keep- or its circumstantial details, and not unfreing with the very sparing use he makes of quently its actual nature, left vague and uneventful incident. Perhaps no novelist so
defined. Sometimes even
so little is little depends on plot, or on the interest of made of mere outward actualities - a sugoutward circumstance. If the crucial merit gestion is offered of several possible cases, of such a form of literary composition be, and the reader invited to make his choice. as some are disposed to hold, the continu- The actual facts of outward life, considered ous movement of a well-told story, few merely as facts, are held quite subordinate claims can be made in his favour. There to the intellectual and moral influences with is no romantic adventure; no gathering which they are charged; and these he sets complications disentangled by sudden un- forth with a patient minuteness and lingerdreamt-of disclosures; no development of ing scrutiny as if he suspected they might events in strict causal sequence, leading yet present some new aspect, or were afraid ultimately to startling unsuspected results, to close the record uncompleted. not even stirring movement of life. No
It must not, however, be understood that * The Scarlet Letter, pp. 248, 249. we would imply that he is to be described