Tales like these are among the most characteristic and original of the author's works. And wherever we notice this quality in a story, we call it Hawthornish. "Peter Rugg, the Missing Man," is Hawthornish; so is "Peter Schemil, the Man without a Shadow"; or Balzac's "Peau de Chagrin"; or later work, some of it manifestly inspired by Hawthorne, like Stevenson's tale of a double personality, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"; or Edward Bellamy's "Dr. Heidenhoff's Process"-a process for ensuring forgetfulness of unpleasant things-a modern water of Lethe. Even some of James's early stories like "The Madonna of the Future" and "The Last of the Valerii," as well as Mr. Howells's "Undiscovered Country," have touches of Hawthorne.
Emerson and Hawthorne
Emerson and Hawthorne were fellow townsmen for some years at Concord, and held each other in high regard. One was a philosophical idealist: the other, an artist of the ideal, who sometimes doubted whether the tree on the bank, or its image in the stream was the more real. But they took no impress from one another's minds. Emerson could not read his neighbor's romances. Their morbid absorption in the problem of evil repelled the resolute optimist. He thought the best thing Hawthorne ever wrote was his "Recollections of a Gifted Woman," the chapter in "Our Old Home" concerning Miss Delia Bacon, originator of the Baconian theory of Shakespeare, whom Hawthorne befriended with unfailing patience and courtesy during his Liverpool consulship.
Hawthorne paid a fine tribute to Emerson in the introduction to "Mosses from an Old Manse," and even paid him the honor of quotation, contrary to his almost invariable practice. I cannot recall a half dozen quotations in all his works. I think he must have been principled against them. But he said he had come too late to Concord to fall under Emerson's influence. No risk of that, had he come earlier. There was a jealous independence in Hawthorne which resented the too close approach of an alien mind: a species of perversity even, that set him in contradiction to his environment. He always fought shy of literary people. During his Liverpool consulship, he did not make-apparently did not care to make-acquaintance with his intellectual equals. He did not meet Carlyle, Dickens, Thackeray, Tennyson, Mill, Grote, Charles Reade, George Eliot, or any other first-class minds. He barely met the Brownings, but did not really come to know them till afterwards in Italy. Surrounded by reformers, abolitionists, vegetarians, come-outers and radicals of all gospels, he remained stubbornly conservative. He held office under three Democratic administrations, and wrote a campaign life of his old college friend Franklin Pierce when he ran for President. Commenting on Emerson's sentence that John Brown had made the gallows sacred like the cross, Hawthorne said that Brown was a blood-stained fanatic and justly hanged.
This conservatism was allied with a certain fatalism, hopelessness, and moral indolence in Hawthorne's nature. Hollingsworth, in "The Blithedale Romance," is his picture of the one-ideaed reformer, sacrificing all to his hobby. Hollingsworth's hobby is prison reform, and characteristically Hawthorne gives us no details of his plan. It is vagueness itself, and its advocate is little better than a type. Holgrave again, in "The House of the Seven Gables," is the scornful young radical; and both he and Hollingsworth are guilty of the mistake of supposing that they can do anything directly to improve the condition of things. God will bring about amendment in his own good time. And this fatalism again is subtly connected with New England's ancestral creed-Calvinism. Hawthorne-it has been pointed out a hundred times-is the Puritan romancer. His tales are tales of the conscience: he is obsessed with the thought of sin, with the doctrines of foreordination and total depravity. In the theological library which he found stowed away in the garret of the Old Manse, he preferred the seventeenth-century folio volumes of Puritan divinity to the thin Unitarian sermons and controversial articles in the files of The Christian Examiner. The former, at least, had once been warm with a deep belief, however they had now "cooled down even to the freezing point." But "the frigidity of the modern productions" was "inherent." Hawthorne was never a church-goer and adhered to no particular form of creed. But speculatively he liked his religion thick.
The Psalm-tunes of the Puritan,
The songs that dared to go
Down searching through the abyss of man,
His deeps of conscious woe-
spoke more profoundly to his soul than the easy optimism of liberal Christianity. Hawthorne was no transcendentalist: he went to Brook Farm, not as a Fourierite or a believer in the principles of association, but attracted by the novelty of this experiment at communal living, and by the interesting varieties of human nature there assembled: literary material which he used in "The Blithedale Romance." He complains slyly of Miss Fuller's transcendental heifer which hooked the other cows (though Colonel Higginson once assured me that this heifer was only a symbol, and that Margaret never really owned a heifer or cow of any kind).