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Hawthorne and a Framework of Faith

Excerpt from Margaret Moore's The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne (courtesy of the University of Missouri Press)

Moore presents Hawthorne in this passage as reluctant to ascribe to any particular faith, but certainly not out of ignorance. His wife, Sophia, was, apparently active in religious activities and thought, as were those around him. Hawthorne would have known what the various religious thinkers in Salem were saying. Apparently, he chose to subscribe to no single idea.

Nathaniel never altogether followed her [Sophia's religious] lead. He knew the same people, but it is clear that his views differed. He believed in sin, for example, or the ineradicable evil that seemed to persist in man. He did not go to hear the Reverend Edward Taylor (1793-1871), the famous Methodist preacher to the seamen, because he felt 'somewhat afraid to hear this divine Father Taylor, lest my sympathy with thy [Sophia's] admiration of him be colder and feebler than thou lookest for' (CE 15:431). He added that he was a "most malleable man," and indeed he was. Had he known what Taylor said to Cyrus Bartol on one occasion, he might have changed his mind. Taylor had defined Transcendentalism by saying it was 'like a gull-long wings, lean body, poor feathers, and miserable meat.' The Unitarians seemed to Hawthorne too rational, too little inclined to see the vast mysteries of life, I think. The Transcendentalists were too much inclined to soar into the ethereal (114-5).

Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/10254/

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