'Villette' and 'The Marble Faun.'

By Wills, Jack C. | Studies in the Novel, Fall 1993 | Go to article overview

'Villette' and 'The Marble Faun.'


Wills, Jack C., Studies in the Novel


Commenting on Nathaniel Hawthorne's problem of casting an imaginative glow over bleak New England, "so provokingly raw and deficient in harmony," Leslie Stephen compares his task to that of Charlotte Bronte in painting the rugged life and topography of Yorkshire. After explaining that Bronte's "marvellous effects are obtained by the process which enables |an intense and glowing mind' to see everything through its own atmosphere," he examines two specific parallels between Villette and Hawthorne's novel The Transformation, known to American readers as The Marble Faun.(1)

The first parallel--that of a Protestant heroine confessing to a Roman Catholic priest--has since been noted by other scholars;(2) the second, the use of ghosts or specters, is illustrated in this discussion of the haunted garden in Villette:

She shows us a ghost who is for a moment a very terrible spectre indeed,

and then, very much to our annoyance, rationalises him into a flesh-and-blood

lover. Hawthorne would neither have allowed the ghost to intrude so

forcibly, nor have expelled him so decisively. The garden in his hands

would have been haunted by a shadowy terror of which we could render no

precise account to ourselves. It would have refrained from actual contact

with professors and governesses; and as it would never have taken bodily

form, it would never have been quite dispelled. His ghosts are confined to

their proper sphere, the twilight of the mind, and never venture into the

broad glare of daylight.(3)

Aside from these observations, however, little, if anything, has been made over the years of similarities between Charlotte Bronte and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and no one has explored further the avenue opened by Stephen.

Certain affinities between these two authors, of course, are to be expected, in particular, Romanticism with its characteristic modes of thought, style, and imagery (a concern with dualities, natural settings, moonlight, and the like) and stock devices of nineteenth-century popular fiction. Moreover, both were exposed in youth to vigorous strains of Calvinism, Bronte through Aunt Branwell's Methodism and Hawthorne through his Puritan heritage. And yet, it seems to me, the parallels between Villette and The Marble Faun go far beyond the expected ones, even considerably beyond those cited by Stephen. To some extent they can be accounted for by the fact that both novels grew out of experiences wherein a relatively provincial Protestant author was cast suddenly into the more sophisticated and complex culture of continental Europe, into old-world intrigue and Roman Catholic ritual. However, a close examination of the works suggests something far more interesting: that the parallels are sufficiently extensive and pointed to indicate that Hawthorne--consciously or unconsciously--might well have had Villette in mind when he composed his own novel, whether because he found in Bronte a kindred spirit or because he needed to shore up his flagging creative powers.(4)

External evidence of Hawthorne's borrowing from Villette, if not conclusive, is at least suggestive. He records having spoken of Charlotte Bronte with Sir James Kay Shuttleworth on April 19, 1857, and with an unnamed London traveler on August 2 of the same year.(5) More telling is his description of ascents between Manchester and Sheffield as "bleak, windy, and desolate, conveying the very impression which the reader gets from many passages of Miss Bronte's novel."(6) Moreover, a January 16, 1859, entry in Sophia Hawthorne's diary, written in Rome, indicates that some of the Bronte works were in the Hawthorne home the year The Marble Faun was published.(7) A 1935 study by Austin Warren, too, affirms that "he knew the work of ... all three Brontes."(8) And it is at least interesting that most of the novel was rewritten at the Yorkshire seaside village of Redcar and that it was subsequently published by Smith, Elder and Company, Charlotte Bronte's publisher. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'Villette' and 'The Marble Faun.'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.