Inward Sky: The Mind and Heart of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Inward Sky: The Mind and Heart of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Inward Sky: The Mind and Heart of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Inward Sky: The Mind and Heart of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Excerpt

The point of view from which this book was written, and from which I hope it will be read, finds its source in a love letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne to Sophia Peabody some months before their very happy marriage. Eager, like many another lover, to reveal himself to his sweetheart, Hawthorne was troubled by the cloudy veil that stretched over the abyss of his nature. Still, it pleased him to think that God saw through his heart, and that any angel with the power to penetrate it was welcome to know everything that was there. So, too, was any mortal welcome to come into his depths--any mortal capable of full sympathy. Such a capability, and the willingness to apply it, Hawthorne of course quite rightly assumed that Sophia had when he invited her to look into his heart.

When a writer presumes to explore the depths of character of such an honest and sensitive man as Hawthorne, he should be abandoning his humanity if he did anything less than to accept Hawthorne's own terms--that is, exercise his fullest sympathy--and if he did not ask his reader to accompany him with corresponding feelings. Here, let me say at once, is no book of criticism in which the writer wishes to demonstrate how much more clever he is than his subject. Here is no surgeon's dissecting knife, nor even the anteroom of the psychoanalyst. My reader will be content, I trust, with a modest attempt to lift that veil of which Hawthorne wrote, and to look, with the respect due such a privilege, into the recesses of a human mind and heart.

I turn to another letter, too, to show more particularly the means whereby I have sought to reveal those depths which are the objects of our exploration--a letter written when Hawthorne was a humble measurer at the Boston Custom House, in which capacity, when he emerged from the holds of coal-carrying ships, he was often besmudged and begrimed with dust, and hardly a romantic-looking lover. He had it in mind, he said, to write for his sweetheart's eye a journal of all his doings and sufferings, his whole external life, from the time he awoke at dawn until he closed his eyes at night. Since such a journal might be but a dry, dull history, he proposed to write . . .

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