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Eden and the Re-Creation of the Artist

by Dr. Orley K. Marron
Dept. of English, Bar Habn University
Isreal

Portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne by Charles Osgood, 1840
Portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne by Charles Osgood, 1840 (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, Gift of Professor Richard C. Manning, Acc#121459)
 

Eden and the Re-Creation of the Artist

Dr. Orley K. Marron

(Orley.Marron at gmail.com)

Based on a paper presented in the June 2010 Conference

Hawthorne in Concord: Eden and Beyond


Nathaniel Hawthorne's complex and ambivalent attitude to art and to artists has been noted by many critics, and explained in diverse ways. However, close consideration of the characters in the narratives, and specifically the animated art objects with which they interact, show that his outlook actually evolved over time and became more accepting and sympathetic towards creators. The change is most marked when texts from two broad periods are compared: those written in the years 1828 – 1837, and the narratives created in the years beyond, 1838 – 1860. This change may reflect the confidence, and the perspective, that Hawthorne gained from his supportive artist wife Sophia.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's private diaries and published stories bear witness to his relentless search for the ultimately effective expressive medium: the perfect form through which the artist can accurately convey human truths and experiences. Fascinated by visual art such as painting and sculpting as well as photography, Hawthorne wondered whether visual artists can give clear and truthful renderings of the people, objects and scenes they observe1.

His European diaries reveal a critical and exhaustive exploration of visual art in museums and galleries, and his conviction that visual art cannot on its own depict the full truth2. In his diaries and letters Hawthorne also articulates his frustration with written language as an incomplete medium of expression, divorced from tone of voice or visual cues. "I wish there was something in the intellectual world analogous to the Daguerrotype … in the visible," writes Hawthorne in a love letter (December 1839) to his wife-to-be Sophia Peabody, "something which should print our deepest, and subtlest, and delicatest thoughts and feelings, as minutely and accurately as the above-mentioned instrument paints the various aspects of nature."

Hawthorne’s search for a literary daguerreotype, a tool that would accurately and delicately reveal the inner psyche of people through words, remained an alluring but unattainable ideal throughout his life. While it led him to develop, among other devices, the human-like animated art object, a vivid and effective fictional tool in the form of portrait paintings and sculptures that “come to life”, Hawthorne could never reconcile the ideal expressive art in his imagination with the physical, embodied outcome of artistic work. His narratives time and again describe the unsuccessful attempts of storytellers and other creators to convey vital ideas to their audiences. This insurmountable gap between the desired and the realized may elucidate in part Hawthorne’s ambivalent approach to art and artists, evident throughout his writing career.

However, in the earlier years of writing, Hawthorne’s frustrated aesthetic aspirations were coupled with an unsupportive, even hostile environment and great financial difficulties, leading him to cast art and creativity in a particularly negative light. Between the years 1828 and 1837, lacking public recognition and financial rewards, and contending with criticism from his pragmatic Manning relatives, Hawthorne's life-choice to be an author, a creative artist, seemed almost unjustifiable to himself. Rita Gollin suggests that his ambition was inherently “unrealistic in mercantile America - since most books were imported from England or pirated, and most magazine fiction was low-paid and published anonymously,” but the young author, aware of these problems, nonetheless hoped to succeed in an artistic career. Living in the New England society that viewed poverty as shameful (unlike the European acceptance of the poor bohemian creator), he suffered a deep sense of inadequacy and contended with financial concerns that continued to haunt him even in later years. Gloria Erlich points out that his sense of material and social inadequacy was especially apparent when he lived among the wealthier Concord intellectuals, renting the Emersons’ Manse. Hawthorne and his family had to remove from this Edenic location because they could not afford to pay the rent. Erlich suggests that Hawthorne's Manning family, and especially his pragmatic and business-oriented uncle Robert Manning, engendered a deep (perhaps crippling) ambivalence in Hawthorne as to the validity and worthiness of being an writer, transmitting their emphasis on money and diligence to the young artist: "The full flowering of his artistic powers was delayed by a sense of triviality, a conviction that serious masculinity was reserved for the ‘man of affairs’ "3. Hawthorne reached near-solvency only at the age of forty-eight, and had to rely on the aid of friends for support, suffering the "common American shame of pecuniary failure when, after his expulsion from the Salem Custom House, he had had to accept a fund raised for him by friends" (Millicent Bell4). Hawthorne himself discussed his lack of success as matter of personal shame, stating that “ill-success in life is really and justly a matter of shame… The fault of a failure is attributable – in a great degree at least – to the man who fails”5. Alongside the sense of shame was the paralyzing conviction that the public was indifferent to his artistic efforts, numbing his fingers and his inspiration. "If my writings had made any decided impression, I should have been stimulated to greater exertions; but there has been no warmth of approbation, so that I have always written with benumbed fingers."6

During these difficult years, Hawthorne wrote a series of tales that deal in different ways with art and artists, some of which were published anonymously or pseudonymously in the Token or New England Magazine7. Among them are "Fanshawe” (1828), “The Village Uncle” (1835), “The Devil in Manuscript” (1835), “Fragments from the Journal of a Solitary Man” (1837) and “The Prophetic Pictures” (1837). These warn young men against choosing art as a profession: It is "a dangerous resolution, anywhere in the world" says the narrator of "The Story Teller," "it was fatal, in New England," (Mosses 322). The tales convey a sense of futility and even danger in creative activity, advising readers to abstain from it, and to find more profitable occupations instead (such as fishing) as well as conventional domestic happiness (for instance a kindly simple blond wife as an effective antidote to their artistic yearnings8 ) .

The truly wise, after all their speculations, will be led into the common path, and, in homage to the human nature that pervades them, will gather gold, and till the earth, and set out trees, and build a house. (JSM 314).”

In these narratives, the creative impulse is depicted as dangerously seductive and uncontrollable, and its consequences are unpredictable: artists submitting to it may become possessed, reclusive or mad, breaching ethical conventions Hawthorne apparently held as important9, and they may produce subversive art objects that become animate, show agency and provoke audiences to sinful ideas and dreadful actions. Hawthorne’s artists lie on different ends of the “creative power” scale: Oberon, the mediocre and reclusive artist in "The Devil in Manuscript” (1835), is possessed by the devil of art, but rejected thoroughly by publishers and audiences, to his shame and anguish. He produces demonic stories that lead him to lose control (and his home). In contrast to Oberon, the fanatically dedicated artist in "The Prophetic Pictures" is extremely successful and well respected. However, he too produces dangerous art, painting a set of portraits of a young couple that eventually awaken their subject's latent insanity, provoking Walter the husband to attempt murder on his wife Elinor. Thus, the characters who make the mistake of becoming artists, regardless of how successful or unsuccessful they are, irresponsibly produce and interact with their seditious art objects.

Hawthorne’s work undergoes a curious change around the time he meets Sophia, his artist lover, and the changes become more and more apparent as his domestic life and family experience develop: the animate art objects depicted in the narratives start evolving into objects of affection and even beauty, rather than horror and devilment. The artists creating them are no longer detached sinners, but vulnerable human beings who relish creation and treat their art with affection. They are depicted sympathetically and empathetically. And the creative impulse, rather than a demonic possession, is described in terms of the material process of art making, the remarkable and transformative relationship between the artist and his materials. Hawthorne's approach to art and artists begins an evolution that culminates in The Marble Faun, where a work of art serves as a path to redemption. It may be that the change in approach reflects Hawthorne's growing confidence in himself as an artist and a man, as well as his developing understanding of plastic art, both of which might be attributed to his relationship with his supportive and artistic wife.

Readers can trace the changes in Hawthorne's approach to art by observing different elements in the texts, from domesticating women to audience reception and monetary evaluation of art. In the following paragraphs, a before /after comparison will focus on three aspects: the artist, the animated art object10, and the creative process that connects them. The artist figure, in the examples below, does not include other intellectuals and seekers of knowledge. Creative artists, in Hawthorne's stories, seem to affect their audiences almost in spite of themselves, through the magic of their uncontrolled art11, and they do not set out to intentionally manipulate their subjects (as do scientist-type characters like Dr. Rappacini in “Rappacini’s Daughter” or Aylmer in “The Birth Mark”). The second element of comparison, the animated art object, is a literary device that became for Hawthorne a unique visual language, a type of literary daguerreotype12. This device can be used to investigate Hawthorne’s changing attitude to art and himself (as well as to explore his narrative strategies).

The early texts present not only a negative depiction of the artist and his work, but a “vocal” argument against the creative process itself. In "The Village Uncle" (1835) a mediocre would-be poet, a "scribbler of trash," is on the verge of losing himself in his reclusive, icy art. He is rescued by a freckled fair maiden, and domesticated into a fisherman and family man, giving up his ambitious dreams13. In other tales, traveling story tellers waste their time on the road, viewed as vagabonds rather than respectable bards. Other authors, like the mediocre and reclusive Oberon in "The Devil in Manuscript”, (1835), are not only useless but dangerous, becoming detached from reality and reaching near madness. Oberon becomes “singularly averse to social intercourse” as a result of his writing, existing in some “strange sort of solitude in the midst of men, where nobody wishes for what I do, nor thinks nor feels as I do” (172). Oberon finds the desire to write an irresistible, devilish possession that produces demonic tales, and he depicts the creative devil's claw hooking into its writer victim, who cannot even pray for deliverance and hope to escape (171). The creative process is described in Romantic terms as a "feverish enchantment," and his brain becomes an incubator for horrors that don material existence, like Frankenstein's monster, in the form of manuscripts. These art objects start exhibiting autonomous agency and demonic powers, and Oberon, in a fit of anger, burns them with vengeance, anticipating "a wild enjoyment in seeing them in the blaze" such as he should "feel in taking vengeance on an enemy, or destroying something noxious" (173). The consequence of behaving so brutally towards his art is a raging fire that burns down his own house and casts him into the street (perhaps this is the manuscripts' revenge!).

While Oberon's manuscripts affect only his own fevered brain, the portraits of Walter and Elinor, created by the painter in "The Prophetic Pictures" (1837), intensely engage, and even corrupt, their audience, becoming catalysts for murder. Somehow these images capture a vision of Walter's propensity for violence, and become agents in fulfilling a prophesy of brutality. The painter who produces such potent art belongs at the extreme end of the mastery scale, a veritable Faustian magician: powerful, scholarly and immensely skilled, with a penetrating eye that exposes his subjects' hidden secrets and faults, and a hand capable of recording them on canvas. He is capable of the type expression of that Hawthorne sought through language, and sees himself as art’s prophet, whose sole purpose in life is to create, to record reality onto canvas. However, by giving in so fully to his creative impulses the painter irresponsibly produces uncontrollable and apparently treacherous art14. Although the artist had no conscious desire to control the young couple, (he was actually very sympathetic to Elinor, and was rather surprised at the consequences), he could not deny his agency and power over them15.

A similarly animated and alarming art object is the dark and demonic painting in "Edward Randolph's Portrait," (1838). Neither the artist nor the creative process is described, but the image itself acquires the status of a terrible icon: irremovable, forever watching, forever reminding its audience of wrongdoings and bloodshed. Although its function is ultimately positive – it serves as a reminder to leaders of their civic responsibility – its mode of action requires fear and invocations of terrible images from the netherworld.16

Transition

In 1842 Hawthorne married Sophia, his beloved “dove,” the supportive and vivacious artist and illustrator. Around this time, a change comes about in his depiction of artist characters and the art they produce. The mad, magical or destructive artists give way to new creative characters, warmer and more affectionate people who are depicted sympathetically and empathetically. The art is often three-dimensional, capable of far greater animation and interaction with the characters, and it does not exude the evil influence that previous objects did. Instead of a feverish and uncontrolled creative process, the tales describe in detail the actual process of making – that is, constructing beautiful new forms from raw materials, and they explore the interactions between the artist and his piece. It may be that observing Sophia at work gave Hawthorne a much better understanding of how the visual artist works with materials and ideas, and gave the process value in its own right.

In 1844, the same year that Una was born, Hawthorne wrote "The Artist of the Beautiful," in which a master craftsman creates a marvelously beautiful three-dimensional mechanical butterfly. This tale seems to be transitional in terms of approach to art, but already shows a different approach to the artist and the creative process, placing a value on the aesthetic experience in itself. That year Hawthorne also wrote "Drowne's Wooden Image," in which he focuses on the reciprocal effect of materials and the artist handling them, and explores the theme of the inspiring power of love. As the simple carver Drowne transforms a base piece of wood into a beautiful sculpture of a woman, he himself metamorphoses from a dull craftsman to a truly inspired and perceptive artist. The process of art-making becomes transformative and enlightening. Neither the artist nor the art object harbor evil: Drowne desires no power or control, nor monetary reward; his labor is a gift of love. And the lovely figurehead, although considered devilish by hostile Puritan audiences, is greatly admired and appreciated by the positive artist character Copley17 and the lively Captain who commissioned her. The sculpture is animated in one instance of the story, responding or resonating in some strange way with the beautiful woman model, and then it is given to its new owner, the Captain. When the sculpture – and the model – leave the town, Drowne's inspiration also disappears. Gone is the image of the evil artist bent on destruction, and gone is the notion of a treacherous art object. What is left is the empathetic rendering of an artist and his loss.

Another step in the evolution of Hawthorne's approach is "The Snow-Image: A Childish Miracle”, 1850. This tale represents a marked change in Hawthorne's discourse of the artistic process: in it, the making of a snow-girl by two innocent children reflects the marvel of divine creation. Aided by heavenly angels, the children sculpt a snowy "sister" that they animate with a kiss. There are no associations between creation and devilish manipulation, and the process of shaping the sculpture from raw materials transforms the little artists, making them more and more perceptive and sensitive to the different types of materials and techniques. They choose the right types of snow for the right effects, and handle the material with the right touch: the whitest snow for the girl's pure heart and bosom, the fragile curls from the branches become her hair. Even the sunlight, Hawthorne’s symbol of purity and divine presence, takes part in the creative process. Once the children bring the art object to life, she becomes part of the natural world around her – dancing with the wind and decorated with snowbirds. Hawthorne’s son, Julian, explains that he and his sister Una were the models for the story – a fact that could explain the fondness with which the little artists are described (Hawthorne and His Circle 2518). Eventually, however, the snow child encounters a hostile audience – the pragmatic father, who drags her inside and causes her to melt, her demise conveying the destructive power of dull and unsympathetic audiences.

A final example in the evolution of Hawthorne’s approach is the tale of the scarecrow "Feathertop" (1852), Hawthorne’s most animated and vulnerable art object. The story explores the complex relationship of parent/ creator to his child, and the responsibility creators hold towards their created objects. Specifically in this narrative, Hawthorne strikes a metafictional note, and openly discusses with the reader the process of writing, finding similarity in Feathertop's half formed, immobile form to his own evolving fictional characters19. While the artist in the story is a witch well acquainted with different types of artistic media, Mother Rigby is also a humorous, motherly character who doesn't want to frighten children. Step by step, she constructs a scarecrow from an eclectic collection of materials (objet trouvé), and when it is complete she is so delighted with its lovely form that she decides to animate it and send it into the human world to seek its fortune20. Expected to perform beyond his natural capacity, perhaps like Adam and Eve, Feathertop forgets his lowly origins and becomes vulnerable to human dreams, daring to wish for love and intimacy. At the end of the tale, upon realizing what he really is and how futile his dreams are, the sensitive creation commits suicide, becoming a tragic figure, and an allegory for the frailty of humans created from mud by their God. Feathertop embodies the idea expressed by Kenneth Gross that a living statue might be “a parable about our responsibility to humanly created objects, a sense that there is a life in them that demands our care"21. Through Feathertop, Hawthorne also investigates the tri-partite relationship between the maker, the liberated art object, and the audience engaging with both.

In Feathertop, both artist and art object are rendered sympathetically (and humorously), with Feathertop becoming a symbol for humankind's dreams of impossible things. The artistic witch– while having originally animated Feathertop to poke fun at human follies – sensitively regrets pushing him beyond his limitations. When she realizes his sorrow, she takes responsibility and leaves him to a calm and untroubled existence as a scarecrow.

Conclusion

Hawthorne’s approach to art and the creative process clearly changed over his years of authorship, and the transition is most noticeable after he married Sophia. It may be that watching her at work as an artist affected his perspective of art-making, or perhaps her complete support and respect for his work (and masculinity) improved his confidence, liberating his creative faculties. This transition can be viewed as a type of Eden: Hawthorne found a world where creation and art are respectable and where art objects do not need to be judged by pragmatic standards. He discovered that the interaction of artists with their materials is a remarkable and transformative process, of value on its own. Most importantly, he realized that artists do not need to live in bitter solitude, but may create and flourish within the intimacy of the family. Love and support, like the materials of art, liberate the creator’s “frozen fingers” and transform ice to inspiration.


Time Table


Date First Published

Name

1828

Fanshawe (1828) FS

1833

The Seven Vagabonds

1834

Passages from a Relinquished Work

The Story Teller

1835

Alice Doane's Appeal (1835) ADA

The Devil in Manuscript (1835) DM

Village Uncle (The Little Mermaid) (1835) VU

1837

Journal of a Solitary Man (1837) JSM

The Prophetic Pictures (1837) PP

1838

Edward Randolph's Portrait (1838) ERP

1838

Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Peabody become secretly engaged

1842

Hawthorne marries Sophia Peabody, & they move into the Old Manse

1844

The Artist of the Beautiful (1844) AB

1844

Drowne's Wooden Image (1844) DWI

1850

The Scarlet Letter (1850) SL

1850

Ethan Brand (1850) EB

1850

Snow-Image (1850) SI

1850

The Great Stone Face

1851

The House of Seven Gables (1851) (Portrait & Daguerreotypes) HSG

1852

Feathertop

1852

The Blithedale Romance

1860

The Marble Faun (1860) MF


Additional Information on “The Artist of the Beautiful”

In 1844, the same year that Una was born, Hawthorne wrote "The Artist of the Beautiful," in which Owen the master craftsman creates a marvelously beautiful 3-dimensional mechanical butterfly. This tale seems to be transitional in terms of approach to art: the artist is somewhat detached from people, but he does yearns for the companionship and appreciation of a woman, and the narrator can envision for Owen a wife who might have inspired him to even greater achievements. While he is sometimes depicted as ineffectual, small and unimpressive, he manages to accomplish a remarkable technological feat, a work of art. And although certain pragmatic and insensitive characters regard the art object as witchcraft (as eighteenth century people often regarded automata22), the narrator's descriptive language places it at a higher sphere, crossing, as Newberry suggests, from the artisanal into the realm of the artistic23. The tale places a positive value on the actual experience of aesthetic creation, describing/couching it in transcendental terms, and allows an abstract and unprofitable goal such as beauty to justify art-making. When his material art object is destroyed, Owen, unlike Oberon, does not wallow in regret, because nothing can erase his intense memory of the aesthetic/ transcendental creative experience.

Primary References

Notes and Letters of Nathaniel Hawthorne


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Love Letters of Nathaniel Hawthorne 1839-1841. 1907. Washington

DC: NCR Microcard Editions, 1972.

---.. The English Notebooks. 1868-71. Ed. Randall Stewart. New York: Russell and Russell Inc, 1962.

---.. The American Notebooks. Charvat et al, Centenary Edition Vol. 8.


Fictional Books and Collections by Nathaniel Hawthorne


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. New York: Modern Library, 2001.

---. The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Eds. William Charvat, Roy

Harvey Pearce, Claude M. Simpson. 16 vols. Columbus: Ohio State UP 1962 - 85

---. "The Custom-House." The Scarlet Letter & The House of Seven Gables. Ed. Michael P.

Kramer. 7-44.

---. Mosses from an Old Manse. New York: The Modern Library, 2003.

---. Our Old Home: A series of English Sketches. Charvat, Centenary Edition Vol. 5.

---. Selected Tales and Sketches. Ed. Michael J. Colacurcio. New York:

Penguin Books, 1987.

---. The Snow-Image and Uncollected Tales. Charvat, Centenary Edition Vol. 11.

---. Twice Told Tales. New York: Modern Library, 2001.

---. A Wonder-Book and Tanglewood Tales. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1951.


Short Stories within Collections

---. "The Artist of the Beautiful." Hawthorne, Mosses 354-76.

---. "The Devil in Manuscript." Charvat The Snow-Image and Uncollected Tales 170-78.

---. "Drowne's Wooden Image." Hawthorne, Mosses 243 - 54.

---. "Edward Randolph's Portrait." Hawthorne, Twice Told Tales 198-209.

---. "Feathertop." Hawthorne, Mosses 174-92.

---."Journal of a Solitary Man." Charvat, et al. The Snow-Image and Uncollected Tales

312-28.

---. "The Old Manse." Hawthorne, Mosses 3-27.

---. "Passages from a Relinquished work." Hawthorne, Mosses 321-24.

---. "The Prophetic Pictures." Hawthorne, Twice Told Tales 126-38.

---."Snow-Image." Charvat et al, The Snow-Image and Uncollected Tales 7-48.

---. "Village Uncle." Hawthorne, Twice Told Tales 241-51.



Endnotes

1 Looking at his beautifully formed summer squashes, Hawthorne felt that no artist could ever mimic their perfection, and that "art has never invented anything more graceful" (Mosses, 11-12).


2 to make the image significant, indicates Hawthorne, the viewer must partake in the process and recreate in his mind the artist's intention or vision. Millicent Bell attributes this approach to creative engagement to R.W. Emerson's transcendentalist view of art.

3 Gloria C. Erlich, Family Themes and Hawthorne's Fiction. New Jersey: Rutgers UP, 1984. pp 8-10. Hawthorne reflects this conception in many of his narratives, especially in the "Custom House" introduction to the Scarlet Letter, where his materialistic Puritan ancestors are projected as denying the legitimacy of aesthetic story writing, rejecting it as degenerate, idle work that neither glorifies God nor provides service to mankind (13).


4 Millicent Bell. Hawthorne’s View of the Artist. New York: SUNY UP 1962. p.4.

5 Hawthorne states this in a letter to G.S. Hillard, dated Jan 20 1850.

6 The quote is from H's letter to Longfellow in 1837 upon the publishing of Twice Told Tales through the generous help of Horatio Bridge (Woodberry 73-74). In his 1851 preface to Twice Told Tales (xxi) Hawthorne expresses the author's need for financial rewards in addition to the pleasure of writing.

7 Randall Stewart ( Nathaniel Hawthorne, A Biography. New York: Archon Books, 1970) ) explains that the publishers apparently preferred not to reveal to the public that they were drawing so much of their material from one author. "Such enforced anonymity must have towered higher and higher in his mind's eye as an obstacle to recognition” (31). See Stewart's detailed history of Hawthorne's publications, including Samuel G. Goodrich's policy that kept Hawthorne anonymous. Stewart mentions among others the Token (a Boston Annual edited and published by Goodrich) in which 22 tales were published (e.g. "Alice Doane's Appeal" in 1835 or "My Kinsman, Major Molineux" in 1832). Others tales were published in the Salem Gazette and in the New England Magazine (30 – 33).


8 Sweet, kind, warm and preferably simple and blond wives have a talent for completely wiping out creative desires and potential for greatness, providing instead a sense of home and banishing solitude.

Hawthorne's "solution" for undesirable artistic tendencies may be reflecting his personal ambivalence towards a loving relationship and marriage: his sister Ebe held the conviction that a wife would destroy his creative potential, yet he desired a normal human connection.

9 See discussion by Reverend Leonard Fick in The Light Beyond: A Study of Hawthorne’s Theology (Westminster: Newman Press, 1955) on Hawthorn's apparent ethics and hierarchy of sin, which includes solipsism, egotism and isolation as greater sins than those of the flesh. He includes among the worst sins cold heartedness and aloofness, pride and mistaken noble intentions, controlling others' souls and thereby breaching man's inherent right to be the master of his own life and destiny (41, 44, 66-67, 92-93).

10 Animated art objects are a time-honored fantastical literary construct recurrent also in the 19th century. Hawthorne created the Portrait of Edward Randolph, the Snow Image and Feathertop – to mention a few.

11 The most powerful artist figure that Hawthorne creates is the artist in PP, yet he does not set out coldly to control his subjects (as Ethan Brand does), and is even somewhat surprised to discover his power over their destiny.

12 Orley K. Marron, unpublished PhD dissertation, Nov. 2008 “Fictions Beyond Fiction: A Cognitive-Literary Study of Human-like Animated Objects in the Fiction of Lewis Carroll and Nathaniel Hawthorne”


13 He warns the reader of the dangers and seductions of art, and extols the virtue of the happy, simple conventional path. Needless to say he has achieved nothing particularly distinguishing in life and the subtext belies his advice.

14 Bell suggests the source for the Prophetic Pictures is an incident related by the American art historian William Dunlap concerning the painter Gilbert Stuart and a subject whom he depicted prophetically as insane (Bell, 114-115). Dunlap apparently saw this as an illustration of the penetrative faculty of the artist, superior to that of other people. However, for Hawthorne, proposes Bell, this power was a potential for an actual curse – that art might become an “engrossing purpose” which would insulate the artist from the mass of human kind (Bell 115).


15 The painter seemed to hear the step of Destiny approaching behind him, on its progress towards its victims. A strange thought darted into his mind. Was not his own the form in which that destiny had embodied itself, and he a chief agent of the coming evil which he had foreshadowed? (138)


16 In the story, just before a fatal anti-democratic decision by the Governor Hutchinson, a type of "deal with the [British] devil," the painting becomes animate, its horrible visage appears, warning the Royalist to retract/ reconsider. The proud Governor ignores the message and seals his dire fate – adding another tragic decision to the cache of bad memories associated with the art object. Several years later, in HSG (1851), Judge Pyncheon's stern portrait will be similarly linked to evil doings and death, and it as well will animation in response to "dealings with the devil." It will not be able to avert catastrophe, either.

17 after the American portrait painter John Singleton Copley, 1738–1815

18 Although that may not be relevant to the plot, it does explain the intimate and realistic details of their play (Hawthorne was a rapt observer, keeping detailed notes of his children's activities), as well as Hawthorne's awareness of the remarkable learning process engendered through creative work by children.


19Shall I confess the truth? At its present point of vivification, the scarecrow reminds me of some of the lukewarm and abortive characters, composed of heterogeneous materials, used for the thousandth time, and never worth using, with which romance writers (and myself, no doubt, among the rest) have so overpeopled the world of fiction.”

20 She treats him as a fond and proud mother, calling him her "darling" and teaching him to walk into the wide world. "Better than any witch's puppet in the world; and I've made them of all sorts--clay, wax, straw, sticks, night fog, morning mist, sea foam, and chimney smoke. But thou art the very best. So give heed to what I say."

21 See Kenneth Gross, The Dream of the Moving Statue. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1992. p. 9

22 See Wood's discussion of the marvelous mechanicals created in the 18th century and the fear they evoked in audiences.

23 Newbury suggests that this unique work "crosses from the realm of the artisanal into the realm of the artistic," and that Hawthorne distinguishes this transformation from craft into art by surrounding the piece with words such as "ethereal," "higher sphere," "immortal". Michael Newbury. Figuring Authorship in Antebellum America. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1997. pp 45-46.




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