Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Modest Man

Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Modest Man

Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Modest Man

Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Modest Man

Excerpt

All of Nathaniel Hawthorne's contemporaries have testified to his strangeness. He puzzled them; but though he resisted all influences, rejected all advice, and discouraged even those whom he really liked from approaching too close, he attracted them, too. It was easy enough to gain a general impression of the man, to make a sketch of his character. But once a more detailed drawing was attempted the design of the whole went awry. Recognizing this, they asked themselves, "Why?" and searched around for an answer. It was easy enough to see that because of his early environment he had grown up a young man given to long periods of seclusion. And in that seclusion his reading, extensive though it was, was nothing more than an unregulated browsing. To men like Emerson, Longfellow, James Russell Lowell and Oliver Wendell Holmes, men disciplined to serious study, such indiscriminate consumption of literature must have but one result--a vagueness of opinion. But were his opinions ever vague? They had to confess that they were not--only queerly orientated. That is to say, not theirs.

The evidence concerning him was conflicting. He shunned society, which was unfortunate; for the intelligentsia of New England was socially minded to an exaggerated degree. They talked so much that it is remarkable that they found time for work. It was odd that, shunning society as he did, Hawthorne . . .

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