Academic journal article Nathaniel Hawthorne Review

Hawthorne's Transatlantic Gothic House of Fiction: The House of the Seven Gables

Academic journal article Nathaniel Hawthorne Review

Hawthorne's Transatlantic Gothic House of Fiction: The House of the Seven Gables

Article excerpt

Poe's 1842 review of Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales features an error--Poe suggests that Hawthorne's "Howe's Masquerade" (1838) may have plagiarized from "William Wilson" (1839), even though such plagiarism would be impossible, since Hawthorne's tale was published a year before "William Wilson" appeared. As readers of Poe have long understood, Poe was not immune to the tendency toward plagiarism he was so keen to descry in the works of his peers. Poe's "Life in Death" (1842) (later "The Oval Portrait," 1845) and "The Masque of the Red Death" (1842) have been linked to Hawthorne's previously published "The Prophetic Pictures" (1836) and "Howe's Masquerade" (1838) (Dowell, Lauber, Regan). More recently, Richard Kopley has reconceived The Scarlet Letter (1850) at least in part as a retelling of "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843). (1) Both Poe and Hawthorne came of age as writers in an era marked by a lack of international copyright, a situation that led to rampant reprinting and republication of written materials in English and subsequently depressed the remuneration that writers on either side of the Atlantic could expect or claim. Like Poe, Hawthorne spent his formative years as a writer mired in what Poe dubbed "the Magazine Prison-House" (1845), publishing for little pay in magazines, story-papers, and gift books. Both writers produced fiction during a period that was profoundly impacted by transatlantic publishing practices. Further, just as Poe apprenticed himself to what has been called "The British Magazine Tradition" (Allen), Hawthorne was schooled by transatlantic periodicals, including the Gentlemans Magazine, the London Quarterly Review, the Monthly Magazine, the European Magazine, the Edinburgh Review, and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (Kesselring). It has been argued that one of Hawthorne's early Gothic tales, "Alice Doane's Appeal" (1834), was significantly lifted from a partial translation of an E.T.A. Hoffmann novel Hawthorne read in an edition of Blackwood's, despite its Salem witch trials frame and its reference to the American gift book, the Token. Indeed, in the review of Twice Told-Tales containing Poe's false

accusation of plagiarism, Poe remarks on the origins of what he calls the tale of "terror, or passion, or horror." Poe labels this genre collectively as "tales of effect many fine examples of which were found in the earlier numbers of Blackwood." These "were relished by every man of genius" (Thompson 573); and, as Poe concludes the review, "Mr. Hawthorne is a man of the truest genius" (Thompson 577). While Poe failed in detecting a plagiarism in Hawthorne, he recognized the influence of British fictional conventions, particularly those related to the Gothic. Poe praised Twice-Told Tales in nationalistic terms: "As Americans, we feel proud of the book" (Thompson 574). The irony of Poe's praise, however, is that his fellow author is lauded as worthy of his British prototypes: "Articles at random, now and then, might be advantageously compared with the best effusions of the British Magazines; but, upon the whole, we are far behind our progenitors in this department of literature" (Thompson 573-74).

Just as both Poe and Hawthorne's fiction share Gothic conventions--the masquerade, the double, the haunted dwellings, the dying women, the obsessive individuals, the self-punishing guilty, the murderous if not murdering--both writers were haunted by publishing norms that rewarded conventionality and stifled originality through a corrupt system of puffery and a transatlantic "culture of reprinting" (McGill; see also Charvat and Winship). As Poe punned, the 1842 edition of Twice-Told Tales--an updated reprint of a book of magazine fiction reprints--really meant that most of Hawthorne's stories in that collection were "thrice-told" (Thompson 568). Both writers felt oppressed by the scanty remuneration and small chance for recognition afforded by publishing in magazines and gift books. In early 1844, Hawthorne called writing stories for periodicals "the most unprofitable business in the world" (16:23). …

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