The Early Works | The Storyteller | the power of blackness: The Tales of 1835 | Public Life: 1836-1837 | A Visit to the Clerk of Weather | New Directions: 1838-1839 | Mosses from an Old Manse | Hawthorne's Sketches | Plan for an Anthology of Hawthorne

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Nathaniel Hawthorne

Mystery Tales

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Tales and Sketches

This article is a general survey of Hawthorne's short fiction and prose sketches. It starts with a list of Hawthorne's recommended mystery tales, above, but it covers all of Hawthorne's shorter work.

Realist critics have tended to distort the meaning of Hawthorne's works. With their strong biases towards realism and gloom, they have tended to ignore or belittle Hawthorne's fantastic fiction. In his review "Hawthorne and his Mosses" (1851), Herman Melville treated Hawthorne's fantasy collection Mosses From an Old Manse as the greatest work of fiction ever created by an American. By contrast, few realists even like this book. It is not even in print in its original form, although some stories from it get excerpted in other collections. Many modern critics also tend to believe that novels are greater than short stories. This is particularly hard on an author like Hawthorne, who put so much effort into his short tales.

The Early Works

Nathaniel Hawthorne's four earliest surviving short stories were written for a never to be published collection, Provincial Tales, which Hawthorne attempted to publish in 1829. They eventually were published in 1831, as a group. All four of the tales deal with early Massachusetts, and are written in a much more naturalistic style than most of Hawthorne's later short stories. There is an emphasis on character, and realistically unfolding plots that is absent in Hawthorne's later, more allegorical work. This is not to say the works have no allegorical or symbolic meanings - they do. But they are all still closer to conventional fiction, and are less "Hawthornian" than the bulk of this writer's output. This is not necessarily a good thing. The best of these tales is "My Kinsman, Major Molineux", a story written with remarkable vividness. This is one of Hawthorne's best works. Pointlessly morbid and sick is "Roger Malvin's Burial", which has naturally become a favorite of angst oriented academic critics. "The Wives of the Dead" is brief and minor, but it has something of the same style as "My Kinsman, Major Molineux". "The Gentle Boy" is an interesting tale of religious persecution and fanaticism. It offers a psychologically revealing portrait of "growing up different" from other people. This tale certainly lacks the perfection of form and style found in Hawthorne's better works, but is worth reading anyway for its content.

Hawthorne's second published story, "An Old Woman's Tale", (1830) is also first rate, a very beautiful fantasy. It seems to be an unfinished fragment of a longer work, as it ends just before a major plot revelation is to occur. I would love to know Hawthorne's plans for continuing the work. Hawthorne's other brief fiction of this year, "The Hollow of the Three Hills", is a grim but powerful tale of witchcraft. I didn't like it, but I have to admit the author's skill. The opening description of natural scenery is superb.

Hawthorne also published his first sketches in 1830. His series of historical portraits, "Sir William Phips", "Mrs. Hutchinson", and "Dr. Bullivant" (January 1831) are minor. "Mrs. Hutchinson" contains the first reference in Hawthorne to communes, a persistent theme in his work. His 1832 sketch "Sir William Pepperell" is very much in the same style, and I suspect it might have been written with the other three.

A major sketch of 1830 is "Sights From a Steeple." This is the first of Hawthorne's characteristic scene painting sketches, a genre at which he excelled. Hawthorne had the ability to create beauty.

Some early stories were published anonymously in The Token, source of many of Hawthorne's early tales. It is not clear whether Hawthorne was their author or not. "The Haunted Quack" (1830) is a humorous look at a quack doctor. I certainly hope it is by Hawthorne, for it is a delightful story. It has some features in common with Hawthorne's "Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe" (1834), including the comic tone, daily life in small town setting, and a style of plot construction. Both this and "Higginbotham" have affinities with the mystery story. Another of these anonymous tales is "The Bald Eagle" (1832), a humorous account of preparations for Lafayette's visit to a small New England town. It is hard to tell if Hawthorne is the author of this work or not, but the humorous tone, the evenly flowing storytelling (pointed out by Oliver Wendell Holmes as a Hawthornian characteristic), interest in village pageantry, and New England detail are consistent with Hawthorne's works. Some critics have ascribed this work to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Hawthorne published two works in 1832, "The Seven Vagabonds" and "The Canterbury Pilgrims". Both feature a group of disparate types who meet on the road. Neither is a great story, but both are worth reading. The ending of "The Canterbury Pilgrims", which deals with the Shaker Community, makes points related to those that will be raised later by the major story, "Earth's Holocaust" (1844), and should be read for that reason. The Shakers were one of many communal, Utopian groups that developed in mid 19th century America. All property was held in common by these groups, most of whom ran farms. Unlike the others, the Shakers had some very unusual religious beliefs. They did not believe in sex. Married people could join the Shakers, but they had to give up both their marriage bond and all sexual relations. Hawthorne is very skeptical of such communal groups, to put it mildly.

Another story written by Hawthorne dealing with a group of people on the road is "The Great Carbuncle". It was not published till 1836, but it might well have been written around this time. This tale has beautiful descriptive passages of nature, and shows Hawthorne's abilities as a prose stylist. The best part of this story, the journey of the young couple through the White Mountains, also shows Hawthorne's ability to make natural scenery both descriptive of itself, and symbolize the progress through a spiritual and emotional journey.

The Storyteller

Hawthorne next developed a plan to publish a set of short stories, linked by a common background of a wandering storyteller, who tells the tales scattered through the book, as well as telling the story of his life and travels in between. This book, The Storyteller, although completed, never got published in its original form. Hawthorne published part of the frame story as "Passages From a Relinquished Work" (1834). This is also first rate Hawthorne. It shows him in a rare happy mood of wish fulfillment, describing in first person the adventures on the road of his wandering author.

One of the tales linked to The Storyteller was "Mr. Higginbottam's Catastrophe" (1834). This work is unusual among Hawthorne's works in being a mystery story. It has been praised by such distinguished mystery writers as Edgar Allan Poe, Jorge Luis Borges, and Ellery Queen. It is too bad that Hawthorne did not write more mysteries, as this one is very cleverly plotted and has nice touches of suspense and thrills. I don't want to give away too much of Hawthorne's plot, but some elements of circular time and cause and effect from past to future also figure in two later stories Hawthorne wrote, "The Prophetic Pictures" (1836) and "The Threefold Destiny" (1838). These works seem to continue the plotting style of "Mr. Higginbottam". Unfortunately, although their plots are ingenious, these stories are otherwise almost completely devoid of charm.

Other works were published that seem to be part of the frame of The Storyteller. These include a series of fine travel sketches, "My Visit to Niagara" (1835), "Sketches From Memory" (1835), and "Old Ticonderoga" (1836). Hawthorne's travel sketches concentrate on poetic imagery he encountered on the road, as well as character portraits of different travelers. They remind me strongly of the Japanese "poetic diaries" (known as "niki", in Japanese) of such writers as Sei Shonagon and Matsuo Basho.

The first part of "Sketches From Memory" seems like an introduction to "The Great Carbuncle", and possibly "The Ambitious Guest" (1835). The second part could have been used to introduce "The Haunted Quack". So possibly all of these pieces were part of The Storyteller project.

What is definitely part of the conclusion of The Storyteller frame was included in "Fragments from the Journal of a Solitary Man" (1837). This piece, presented as a diary of a fictional character, also includes entries that seem to be from Hawthorne's own diary, including a pathetic account of his loneliness, and a description of a dream. The dream has links to two stories Hawthorne was to publish in 1835, "The White Old Maid" and "The Wedding Knell". Hawthorne had vivid dreams, which he sometimes remembered and included in his journal. There is also a "diary" entry in "Fragments" dealing with travel that seems to be related to "My Trip to Niagara".

More works of 1834

Hawthorne also published "Alice Doane's Appeal" (1934) This is a revised, and botched version of an earlier unpublished story. It is a real mess, grim as hell, and only interesting for some natural description of Gallows Hill in Salem, and some very odd personal relations. Other works of 1834 include "The Village Uncle", an essay like account of an old fisherman and his village, with some charming local color, and a minor bucolic romance, "The Vision of the Fountain". Both stories show Hawthorne fantasizing about marrying some village girl and settling down.

Hawthorne's sketch, "Little Annie's Ramble" (1834) deals with the day of a little girl wandering around town. This sentimental favorite is perhaps a minor work, but manages to be a genuinely heartwarming picture of childhood. Hawthorne also wrote an essay, "The Haunted Mind" (1834), about the gloomy thoughts that crowded his mind during intervals of wakefulness at night. Hawthorne was definitely not a very cheerful kind of guy, or a party animal. Even when he stopped being a recluse in later life, he mainly spent social gatherings to which he was invited in stony silence, gazing at other people with his stern, unblinking visage till they wanted to scream or run and hide under the bed.

the power of blackness: The Tales of 1835

In 1835 Hawthorne published a large body of unique works. These stories are genuinely "Hawthornian", and show "the power of blackness" Herman Melville found in his work. They are generally very short, allegorical, full of horror and dark imagery. "Young Goodman Brown" is one of Hawthorne's two best stories. This remarkable work seems to come straight from Hawthorne's unconscious.

Most of the rest of the 1835 tales are not anywhere as good as stories, but I have to admit they show unusual thematic originality. Without the electrifying appeal of "Young Goodman Brown", but at a high level of artistry anyway, stands "The Minister's Black Veil." Also with some beautiful writing are "The Wedding Knell" and "The White Old Maid". Both of these stories deal with people who dress in shrouds - the subject of the dream in "Fragments From The Journal of a Solitary Man". All three of these stories deal in unusual clothes. Also making points about dress is "The Maypole of Merry Mount", which sets forth the opposition of Puritanism and the theater with remarkable forcefulness. In both "The Seven Vagabonds" and "The Storyteller" Hawthorne's wandering storyteller narrator joins up with theater people, and the theater comes to symbolize Hawthorne's profession as a writer. I would have enjoyed "The Maypole" more if Hawthorne had been more sympathetic to the theater people. But he seems to share the Puritan's antipathy to them. This made me angry. I love film and theater with all my heart, and take such criticisms personally. The criticism of the theater people also extends to a criticism to the sexuality for which they stand, their whole pageant having many features of a medieval fertility ritual. In general, Hawthorne's lack of sympathy for sex is one of his most unattractive points.

One excellent early work of Hawthorne's is the small sketch, "Graves and Goblins" (1835). This is a full scale fantasy treatment of ghosts. It shows Hawthorne's usual imaginative excellence in the creation of fantasy.

Lesser but still original tales include "Wakefield", "The Ambitious Guest", and finally a piece of patriotic sludge, "The Grey Champion". This story does, however, help you understand such later Hawthorne works as "The Legends of the Province House" and "Endicott and the Red Cross". Hawthorne's works all interconnect. Reading one helps you understand the others.

"Wakefield" and "The Ambitious Guest" are Hawthorne's most negative philosophical parables. "Wakefield" is a disturbing experience to read. It has a brooding, emotionally upsetting, Kafkaesque quality. "The Ambitious Guest" lacks this Kafkaesque quality, but it tells a forceful parable about death. Because death comes with complete arbitrariness to the characters in the story, unrelated to their characters or the plot, the story makes its point about the meaningless of death. This sort of plot non sequitur is very unusual in any sort of fiction, and forms an avant-garde variation on conventional storytelling strategies. The oblivion that accompanies the characters' destruction also suggests death's finality.

Hawthorne finished 1835 with "The Devil In Manuscript". This is an autobiographical tale about an author, blocked in his attempts to publish in an America hostile to native literature, who burns his unpublished manuscripts. The writing in this story is outstanding, and it gives a great deal of insight into Hawthorne's world. The fire imagery at the end is some of the best in an author who showed an obsession with fire in many of his works.

It is hard to tell if Hawthorne's 1935 stories were originally part of The Storyteller collection (as many scholars seem to believe), or whether they are new works, most of The Storyteller having gone up in a bonfire like that of "The Devil in Manuscript". In any case, they form a remarkably unified thematically, and sometimes stylistically outstanding series of stories.

Public Life: 1836-1837

After this Hawthorne got out into the world. First he took a magazine job in Boston (1835). It fell through after six months, but at least it got Hawthorne out of his shell. He finally succeeded in publishing a collection of stories, Twice-Told Tales (1837), and even started dating. Finally he got engaged (1838). In 1839 he took a steady job in the Salem Custom House, and steady work temporarily destroyed his literary creativity, bringing this first period to an end. During this three year period he published a large quantity of stories. Few from 1836-1837 are first rate, but several have merit. Among these is "Mrs. Bullfrog" (1836), a comic story of marriage. It has many thematic elements in common with Hawthorne's later masterpiece, "The Birthmark", and should be read together.

"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" (1837) is a first-rate fantasy about the Fountain of Youth. "Sylph Etheredge" (1837) describes the private world of its delicate heroine. It celebrates such ideal worlds of feeling, and brought back powerful and beautiful memories to me of my own discovery of the world of plants in 1979.

These three stories seem to me to be Hawthorne's best work in this period. Moving down, to some of the lesser but still interesting works of this period, "The Man of Adamant" (1836) is also well written. "Endicott and the Red Cross" (1837) shows technical skill in its depiction of the whole issue of civil rights and freedom in the Puritan era in a very small space. "The Shaker Bridal" (1837) also deals with the Shakers. It is one of many Hawthorne pieces that show men failing women morally. These last two pieces show Hawthorne's increasing interest in studies of the social order. The sketch "A Bell's Biography" (1837) is also full of vividly written historical and political narration. All of these pieces are worth reading. Pieces I didn't like during this era include "Monsieur du Miroir" (1836), "Sunday at Home" (1836), "The Prophetic Pictures" (1836), "David Swan" (1836), "Fancy's Show Box" (1836), "Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure" (1837) (which is OK), "Edward Fane's Rosebud" (1837), and "The Threefold Destiny" (1838).

It is hard to evaluate the Hawthorne stories of the 1830's, aside from some obvious classics like "My Kinsman Major Molineux", "An Old Woman's Tale", "Mr. Higginbottam's Catastrophe", "Passages from a Relinquished Work", "Young Goodman Brown", "The Wedding Knell", and "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment". In general I enjoyed the stories from 1836-1837 more, because they are so well written. I do not think the 1835 tales are anywhere as well written, in general, or as fun to read. But paradoxically, I respected some of their intellectual conceptions more. By contrast, the underlying ideas of the 1836-1837 tales seem much weaker, and less original.

In general, except for the classics listed above, I think most of Hawthorne's 1830-1837 tales are inferior to those of the 1838-1850 period.

Hawthorne's sketches from the 1830's seem largely to me to be very good. He closed out this period with "Night Sketches" (1837), "The Toll Gatherer's Day" (1837), and "Footprints on the Sea-Shore" (January 1838). All of these have considerable beauty. Together with "Sights From A Steeple", "Little Annie's Ramble" and the travel sketches, they form a significant achievement.

A Visit to the Clerk of Weather

"A Visit to the Clerk of Weather" (1836) is an anonymously published work (as were all of Hawthorne's early stories) that may or may not be by Hawthorne. It personifies various events involved with the weather, and if it is by Hawthorne it is his earliest attempt at the sort of abstract fantasy later found in "A Select Party" or "The Intelligence Office". It is a delightful story, but I don't think it is by Hawthorne. One can summarize five reasons: 1) It is not allegorical. No attempt is made to draw any conclusions or philosophical lessons from the fantasy. This is very unlike Hawthorne. 2) It is very cheerful in tone. It seems to spring from a personality more upbeat than Hawthorne's. 3) It features a strong woman, which is not that common in the male chauvinist Hawthorne. 4) The narrator says goodbye to a friend at a hotel at the beginning of the tale. This shows a more social and man of the world type setting than is usual among Hawthorne's anti-social, poverty stricken loners. However, at this period Hawthorne was becoming more social, both in his life and his fiction. 5) It features Earth as just one planet among many inhabited planets. This point of view is uncommon among Hawthorne, but not that rare among his contemporaries. This was the era of "planetary consciousness", embodied most strongly in works by Charles Ischir Defontenay (Star) and Edward Everett Hale ("The Brick Moon", "Hands Off"), and also in works by Poe and, in passing, by the Brontës.

Clearly, none of these five reasons is conclusive, and Hawthorne certainly could be the author of the tale. In any case, I am very glad this piece has been revived, and is not lost in the obscurity of history.

New Directions: 1838-1839

Very well written are Hawthorne's last works of the 1830's, the four linked "Legends of the Province House" (1838 -1839), and "The Lily's Quest" (1839), which has fine descriptive passages of nature. The "Legends" is the first of Hawthorne's linked storied sequences to survive in its original form. They form a rich mix, with Hawthorne's typical wild plotting, historical fiction and commentary, and beautiful descriptive writing all stirred into the pot.

"Time's Portraiture" (January 1838) and "The Sister Years" (January 1839) seem to be Hawthorne's first attempts at the sort of allegorical fantasy he would write so well in the 1840's. Both pieces were written as New Year's Day stories for the local newspaper, the Salem Gazette, and allegorically personify Time, and the New and Old Years, respectively. "Time's Portraiture" is not bad at all, but is surpassed by its sequel. "The Sister Years" is pretty good in itself, and a harbinger of great things to come.

The stories of this period seem to be the start of a new era in Hawthorne's work. They have much in common thematically with the fantasies of the 1840's, and together form the greatest period of his work in the short story. Hawthorne's new creativity is perhaps related to his engagement in 1838. Hawthorne's last works of the 1830's show an increasing worldliness. They are set among upper class characters and settings, and show greater interest in both romantic and sociological themes.

Hawthorne also published two biographical sketches of friends in 1838. "Jonathan Cilley" is minor, but "Thomas Green Fessenden" is very interesting. It has themes in common with his great story, "The Artist of the Beautiful" (1844), and might well be read with that piece. Of his other 1838 sketches, I didn't like "Snowflakes", perhaps because I hate winter weather. "Chippings With a Chisel" is very absorbing on the other hand, and is one of Hawthorne's best sketches. It seems formally very different from the other sketches, and is perhaps closer to such works of 1832 that deal with groups of people on the road.


Hawthorne wrote some works for children during the 1839-1841 era, which I have not read. His only short story for adults, "John Inglefield's Thanksgiving" (1840), is a very short and truly terrible family melodrama of the "Her Picture's Been Turned To The Wall" type. The great sin of the "fallen daughter" in this story was leaving home and becoming an actress. Once again, the theater is made to stand for sin in the Puritanical mindset. Give it a rest, Nathaniel!

Hawthorne published a series of children's books in late 1840 and early 1841, collectively entitled Grandfather's Chair. They are a series of biographies that tell the history of the US from the Pilgrims to the Revolutionary war. Hawthorne then spent six months in a commune, Brooke Farm. He left it in late 1841, wrote another set of children's historical biographies, True Stories (1842), and got married.

Mosses from an Old Manse: The 1840's

Hawthorne got married in 1842. He devoted himself full time to writing through 1845, and produced the greatest works of his career. Many of Hawthorne's best stories of the 1830's were fantasies, even though the bulk of his writing was realistic. In the early 1840's, he turned to producing fantastic stories full time.

Hawthorne's talent clearly thrived on fantasy. These stories were collected, along with some of his earlier work, in Mosses from an Old Manse (1846), his greatest book.

In May 1842 appeared "A Virtuoso's Collection", a mildly interesting piece foreshadowing the "abstract" fantasies of 1844. This piece is full of cultural allusions, and it is funniest when you know them. I am familiar with less than half, but enjoyed most of those I got. I especially liked the place near the end, where the hero sits down and the sofa turns out to be Cowper's. Many of Hawthorne's 40's stories show a welcome humor, dealing with extravagant fantasy conceptions.

Hawthorne's philosophical fantasies seem to me to be the nearest ancestor to Borges'. They show an abstract world like many of Borges', and work it out with logic and many imaginative details.

Borges reveres Hawthorne's work, and considers it a precursor to Kafka. He also said in this context that writers create their own predecessors, and that we read Hawthorne's work differently today because of our awareness of the ideas in Kafka's fiction. Hawthorne is certainly a predecessor to Borges, too. He, along with G. K. Chesterton, is one of the two most important influences on Borges' work.

In 1843 Hawthorne published a series of excellent science fiction and fantasy tales. These include "The New Adam and Eve", and three of Hawthorne's best works: "The Birthmark", "Egotism", and "The Celestial Railroad".

The last work of 1843 was a little allegory for children, "Little Daffydowndilly". This story is more interesting for its fantasy plot, which has some moments of inventiveness, than for its allegorical meaning, which hammers home the Puritan Work Ethic.

Hawthorne also published two purely abstract fantasies in 1843, "The Hall of Fantasy" (which is weaker than his 1844 works in this category), and worst of all, "The Procession of Life", the poorest work in the Mosses collection. These stories are just not much good, and are much poorer than Hawthorne's average level of work during this period. The story that started 1843, "The Antique Ring", is also very weak tea. Its best part is the look at a literary career in the opening pages. ("The Hall of Fantasy" also has some comments on American writers, so such things were clearly on Hawthorne's mind at this time.) The description of a church collection at the end has some decent genre painting, too.

In 1844 he came out with an outstanding series of "abstract" fantasies, "The Intelligence Office", "A Select Party", and "Earth's Holocaust". These last two are especially good. These works are often called "allegorical fantasies". Certainly they are allegorical, but so are most of Hawthorne's works. I prefer to call them "abstract fantasies". This period also includes a weaker but still interesting abstract fantasy, the gloomy "A Christmas Banquet".

Hawthorne followed these up with a fantasy and two science fiction works: "Drowne's Wooden Image", "The Artist of the Beautiful" and "Rappaccini's Daughter". I have reservations about the first and last: "Drowne" is a weak story, "Rappaccini" is morbid. This last story reminds us that Hawthorne's wife remarked that "Hawthorne hates to be touched, more than any other person I know." "Rappaccini's Daughter" is at least ingenious in its science fiction plot. It is often anthologized, but I suspect its popularity with English professors derives from its sharing one of their favorite ideologies: it is anti-science.

"The Artist of the Beautiful" seems to me to be Hawthorne's best story. It is a major statement of Hawthorne's beliefs about art and the artist. As well as its impressive content, it is also written with the most haunting beauty, and is full of many remarkable details of imagination.

"P.'s Correspondence", his only work of 1845, brings this suite of works to a worthy conclusion. Hawthorne's look at the Romantic poets is also a great achievement.


Hawthorne went to work again at this point with a steady job. He wrote a few more stories during this period: "Ethan Brand", "The Snow Image: A Childish Miracle", "The Great Stone Face" (all published in 1850, but perhaps written during 1848-1849). "The Snow Image" shows Hawthorne' skill with fantasy. The other two are on the mid level of his achievement; they are readable and moderately interesting.

Hawthorne lost his job, in 1849, and started writing again. But this time it was novels: The Scarlet Letter (1850), The House of the Seven Gables (1851), and The Blithedale Romance (1852). He wrote one more story: "Feathertop" (1852), another mid level work, and then wrote no more in the short story medium. "Feathertop" shares with "The Snow Image" a plot centering on the creation of an imaginary person.

Hawthorne's works benefit from being read together. Details about mirrors, for example, are seen in "Monsieur Du Miroir", "Lady Elinor's Mantle", and "Feathertop". The last two works also suggest Hawthorne's fascination with gold embroidery and noblemen's stars. Hawthorne had a distinct streak of narcissism. "Feathertop" deals with a sexually alluring man, who uses his powers for personal manipulation. This is a theme of The Blithedale Romance, too, in the character of Hollingsworth. The climax of "Feathertop" could almost be used as a textbook illustration of those psychological theories which link low self-image to poor self esteem.

A work that is not dated, but which also seems to be a late work, is "The Ghost of Dr. Harris". This gentle, humorous ghost story builds up a genuinely dream like atmosphere. The narrator describes his surprisingly, unexplained calm acceptance of the supernatural goings on; this calm acceptance of the incredible is similar to that with which we experience such events in dreams.

Hawthorne's work is full of characters and situations that have become archetypal in our culture. The mad scientist of "The Birthmark" and the dedicated artist in conflict with social pressure in "The Artist of the Beautiful" are two. So is his treatment of ghosts and telepathy in "Graves and Goblins". So are many details in his work: the culminating suspense sequence of "Mr. Higginbottam's Catastrophe", the missing deed and family feuds in The House of the Seven Gables. His treatment of Puritans in New England in many works is the definitive image of these people in our culture. Hawthorne created the Puritans as a literary and cultural entity in Western consciousness the way Longfellow created the Indians in Hiawatha or Sir H. Rider Haggard created the Africa of jungles, savannas, lions, Noble Black Warriors, cruel tribal chieftains and witch doctors practicing white and black magic. Anyone reading their works will recognize dozens of echoes that have since appeared in books, movies, comics, radio and TV programs.

Many of the images of Fantasy as a genre also found definitive form in Hawthorne's works. The many images that are created out of, or dissolve into light, seem to have an origin in his work. Such images were a staple of fantastic movies of the last thirty years, from people appearing and disappearing on Bewitched to Scotty beaming people aboard on Star Trek. Hawthorne's descriptions of such things are very vivid and imaginative. It is hard to know how developed fantasy was as a genre before Hawthorne. There was Ariosto & Spenser, Walpole and Anne Radcliffe, Hoffman, Tieck and Mary Shelley. All the same, the creation of Fantasy as a genre seems to owe something to Hawthorne. I suspect that many authors' image of fantasy fiction ultimately derives a great deal from Hawthorne's works.

Hawthorne's Sketches

Hawthorne published many sketches in the same collections as his short stories. These seem largely in the tradition of the English "familiar essay". This genre is peculiarly British, and has been practiced by many English authors over the last 300 years. Despite this, I have never learned to like it at all. Hawthorne, like his predecessors, describes scenes from his daily life, intermixed with philosophical comments designed to provide moral uplift. The whole genre is terminally boring. Even G. K. Chesterton, who wrote dozens of familiar essays, was only occasionally witty or interesting in them.

I enjoyed Hawthorne's essays far more than those of most British writers in this genre. One, "The Old Apple Dealer" (1843), is related in theme to Hawthorne's story "Earth's Holocaust", as are his stories "The Canterbury Pilgrims" and "Old Esther Dudley".

"The Old Manse" (1846) and "Buds and Bird-Voices" (1843) depict Hawthorne's life, or more properly, his natural surroundings, at the Old Manse, where he wrote his Mosses collection. They are readable, as Hawthorne's essays go, and rise to genuine beauty when Hawthorne describes the local rivers. "Buds" has a few glimmerings of allegorical splendor as well.

Some of Hawthorne's sketches are as good as his short stories. "Sights From A Steeple" (1830) is a very vivid description of the aerial view of Salem from a church steeple. Such aerial views seem surprisingly "modern"; I am used to associating them with airplanes and high rise buildings. "Night Sketches" (1836) describes a nocturnal walk in the rain, one of my favorite pastimes when younger. It too is very vivid.

Plan for an Anthology of Hawthorne

Selections from Hawthorne's works have often obscured his themes. One could create a thematically organized look at Hawthorne's tales as follows:

1) Mystery Tales:

My Kinsman, Major Molineux

The Haunted Quack

Mr. Higginbottam's Catastrophe

The Prophetic Pictures

2) On the Road

Passages From a Relinquished Work

The Seven Vagabonds

The Great Carbuncle

3) Ghosts

An Old Woman's Tale

Graves and Goblins

The Ghost of Dr. Harris

4) Loneliness and Isolation

Young Goodman Brown

The Minister's Black Veil

The Wedding Knell

Ethan Brand

5) Men Vs. Women

Sylph Ethredge

The Birthmark

Mrs Bullfrog

? Rappacini's Daughter

6) Sketches

Sights From a Steeple

Little Annie's Ramble

Night Sketches

Footprints on the Sea-Shore

Chippings From A Chisel

7) The Coming Disintegration

Earth's Holocaust

The Canterbury Pilgrims

The Old Apple Dealer

8) Abstract Fantasies

A Visit With The Clerk of Weather

The Sister Years

A Virtuoso's Collection

The Intelligence Office

A Select Party

P.'s Correspondence

9) Art and Machines

The Artist of The Beautiful

Thomas Green Fessenden

10) Horror and Fantasy

The Hollow of the Three Hills

Dr. Heidegger's Experiment


The Celestial Railroad

A New Adam and Eve

The Snow Image

11) History

A Bell's Biography

Endicott and the Red Cross

Legends of The Province House

The Gentle Boy