Academic journal article Nathaniel Hawthorne Review

Hawthorne, Grace Greenwood, and the Culture of Pedagogy

Academic journal article Nathaniel Hawthorne Review

Hawthorne, Grace Greenwood, and the Culture of Pedagogy

Article excerpt

Hawthorne's letter of 1838 to Longfellow musing on the possibility of jointly creating a children's book that "would entirely revolutionize the whole system of juvenile literature" regularly appears in studies of Hawthorne's writings for children. (1) What is less noted, however, is that Hawthorne came of age as a writer during a period that witnessed a revolution of its own in the growing significance of the literatures of the child (15: 266). (2) Antebellum literary markets were flooded: juvenile magazines, children's literature, juvenile histories and geographies, readers, primers, chapbooks, Sunday School stories, child-rearing manuals and family guides. The aggregate of these works attests to a "revolutionize^]" antebellum conception of the book and a concomitant faith in a reformist culture of pedagogy to regenerate both individuals and societies. While Hawthorne seems to have done his best to avoid school ("One of the peculiarities of my boyhood was a grievous disinclination to go to school" [23: 379]), the antebellum New England in which he was rooted was the center of a national culture obsessed with the values of education and personal betterment through autodidacticism. Hawthorne's first steady job was his appointment in January 1836 as editor of the American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge, a periodical whose existence attests to changing models of literary consumption that were increasingly focused on the middle-class family and the child reader/auditor. Additionally, Hawthorne's early associations with Samuel G. Goodrich, who published The Token annual but who made his mark with the ever-present Peter Parley's series of children's books and periodicals, is well known. Hawthorne's next full-time work was as editor of Peter Parley's Universal History, on the Basis of Geography (1836). Further, from the high Transcendentalism of Elizabeth Peabody's Record of a School (1835), dubbed by Megan Marshall as "the [transcendentalist] movement's opening salvo" (314), and published just months after Hawthorne's "Little Annie's Ramble" appeared in the Youth's Keepsake (1834), to Mary Peabody Mann's Moral Culture of Infancy, published in 1863, though parts of it were drafted as early at 1841, when Mary was teaching school on the second floor of her sister Elizabeth's West Street bookstore, Hawthorne's identity as an author was formed in relation to an intellectual atmosphere saturated with interest in the transformative forces of pedagogy (Ronda 292, Marshall 424). Margaret Fuller continued her "conversations" in adult female education at the West Street shop, where Elizabeth stocked a special edition of Hawthorne's romantic vision of the child, "He Gentle Boy," dedicated to Sophia and containing an illustration she created for the story; Elizabeth also published Hawthorne's first original entry into book-length children's works, the Grandfather's Chair series, beginning in December 1840 (Marshall 371-372, 393, 396, 424). Hawthorne and Sophia were married in the back parlor of the West Street bookshop (Ronda 208)--a fitting symbol of Hawthorne's links to a culture of pedagogy in which the literary and the didactic were blended (less than a year later, Sophia's sister Mary married Horace Mann, the champion of the Common School movement, in the same parlor [Marshall 441]). Hough he attempted to keep his distance from the impulse toward reform and its concomitant didactic pressure on literature, Hawthorne's habitations in Brook Farm, Concord, Boston, and the Berkshires, his associations with the literary and transcendental communities of New England--even his in-laws, put him in the middle of an antebellum culture of pedagogy that was transforming notions of authorship as these were being shaped by market forces dominated by the rise of the middle-class family.

Authorship and an Antebellum Culture of Pedagogy

As Karen Sanchez-Eppler puts it, from "Little Annie's Ramble" to the relationship between Dimmesdale and Pearl in The Scarlet Letter, "He scene of a grown man entering the public sphere hand in hand with a young child is repeated throughout Hawthorne's fiction" (143). …

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