Academic journal article Nathaniel Hawthorne Review

"Like the Incense of a Bad Heart": The Ethics of Industry in Sophia Hawthorne's and Margaret Fuller's English Travelogues

Academic journal article Nathaniel Hawthorne Review

"Like the Incense of a Bad Heart": The Ethics of Industry in Sophia Hawthorne's and Margaret Fuller's English Travelogues

Article excerpt

Margaret Fuller and Sophia Hawthorne aren't often associated with the mid-nineteenth-century debates surrounding transatlantic factory and labor reform, yet both women begin their European travelogues with visits to English textile mills. In her first New-York Daily Tribune dispatch in August 1846, Fuller introduces her readers to an increasingly volatile Europe through a brief discussion of textile mill workers in Manchester and Liverpool. Over two decades later, Hawthorne's 1869 Notes in England and Italy similarly begins with her 1853 visit to a "very ugly" Lancashire mill town that is noticeably absent of workers yet leaves her haunted by the "cost" of industrialization (7-8). These moments are anomalous in both Fuller's and Hawthorne's narratives, yet they are also rare points of commonality in the two projects, which are divergent in many crucial ways. For even as Fuller's work for the Tribune traces her increasingly revolutionary politics, her more frequently discussed dispatches from Risorgimento Italy do not dwell on the effects of industrialization. (1) In contrast, Hawthorne's Notes focuses on ekphrastic descriptions of famous architectural landmarks and Italian masterworks; amid her accounts of museums and churches and interpretations of famous paintings and sculptures, social commentary is rare. (2)

While it is important to note the similarities and differences between their texts, I use the women's introductory--and brief--references to English factories and factory workers as a way to think about the larger mid-century, transatlantic conversations surrounding industrialization and ethical labor. (3) Fuller's and Hawthorne's travels may be filled with visits to famous literary and cultural sites, but their (at least partial) "pleasure tours," to borrow William Stowe's term, are all the more striking by beginning in the un-aesthetically pleasing industrial centers of northern England with serious discussions of education and reform (103). Fuller's and Hawthorne's seemingly elliptical descriptions of the mills point to a larger cultural touchstone: they are commentaries on how the increasing pervasiveness of industrialization in the nineteenth century also raises questions about doing fulfilling work and leading meaningful lives. By beginning their respective journeys--and their accounts of those journeys--with these visits, Fuller and Hawthorne reveal how factories and the cloth they produce affect individuals regardless of class, gender, race, and nationality. Moreover, as women visiting northern England, then the industrial center of the Western world, Fuller and Hawthorne call attention to the often invisible labor done, in large part, by women. For if, as Annamaria Elsden suggests, Hawthorne understands her writing as "a way to 'copy' what she sees on her travels and transmit it to readers at home," then perhaps we can understand both Fuller's first dispatch and Hawthorne's Notes as confronting an individual's culpability for the working conditions of the factory operatives--even when physically removed from sites of industrialization and production (74). Ultimately, each woman positions her reflections on her tour as a way to establish common ground with her imagined readers, underscoring the wide-reaching impact of the international textile trade, the growth of factories, and the passage of laws protecting humane working conditions.

In fact, Fuller and Hawthorne use their anomalous opening passages as oblique appeals to the middle-class reader--especially the middleclass, American woman reader--urging her to understand how she, too, is affected by these conditions overseas and, in turn, to support industrial reform on both sides of the Atlantic. I explore how Fuller's and Hawthorne's travel narratives are part of a larger mid-century print culture concerned with the transnational textile industry. I first outline Fuller's and Hawthorne's representations of their factory visits and how they pointedly obscure different parts of the industrial landscape: factories for Fuller and people for Hawthorne. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.