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The Dream of Undying Fame:Hawthorne's First Novel </em>Fanshawe</em>

The Dream of Undying Fame1:Hawthorne's First Novel Fanshawe

By Dr. William Heath
Mount Saint Mary's University
Emmitsburg, Maryland

William R. Heath, Professor Emeritus, Mount Saint Mary
William R. Heath, Professor Emeritus, Mount Saint Mary's University, Emmitsburg, Maryland
 

Since its publication in 1828, Hawthorne’s critics have not quite known what to make of Fanshawe. William Leggett, the most prophetic of the novel’s reviewers, declared that “The mind that produced this little, interesting volume, is capable of great and rich additions to our national literature.” Although Leggett sensed that the author was a scholar, poet, and gentleman, who possessed “a heart alive to the beauties of nature, and the beauties of sentiment,” he had to admit that “the book has faults. The plot lacks all probability…. The flight of the heroine is without sufficient motive [and]…her rescue is effected by improbable means.”2 Others were not as generous. The New England Galaxy, for example, summarized the book as having “…a love story…like ten thousand others, a mystery, an elopement; a villain, a father, a tavern, almost a duel, a horrible death, and—heaven save the mark!...an end.”3 His publisher, James T. Fields, reports that Hawthorne spoke of Fanshawe “with great disgust,” and wrote to him that it would be in their “mutual interest to conceal” it and “other follies of my nonage.”4 Whether the author repudiated his novel because of its artistic failings or its inadvertent autobiographical revelations is an open question. I suspect that his revulsion had less to do with the book’s stilted sentences, overwrought plot, and conventional characters than with the fact that it blatantly reveals, through its title character, Hawthorne’s own “dream of undying fame.”

Upon Hawthorne’s return from college, Ebe recalled that “he read a great many novels; he made an artistic study of them.”5 Not surprisingly, many critics have seen Fanshawe as a derivative by-product of his reading. Doctor Melmoth, the college president, is clearly an allusion to Charles Maturin’s classic gothic romance Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). There are certain similarities—a pure maiden in distress who has been abandoned by her father; a rash young man unable to protect her from a seducer; clandestine meetings, capture and escape, flight and pursuit; a villain cast to his death from a great height—but many of these are merely the standard conventions of the gothic itself.6 As Leslie Fiedler and others have argued, Hawthorne would eventually write his finest work in the gothic tradition, yet Fanshawe is singularly lacking in “the power of blackness” we associate with that genre.7 Since Fanshawe’s vile seducer, Butler, is relatively lackluster and the novel rarely probes beneath the surface of things, Nina Baym labels the book “a sort of ‘smiling gothic,’ which avoids excess and tries to make events decorous and mild enough to appear probable in the calm American setting.”8 Because the author splits the hero/villain between Fanshawe, whose obsessive quest for knowledge is vaguely Faustian, and Butler, a melodramatic automaton of revenge, neither character achieves human complexity—in sum, no Melmoth or The Monk, let alone Heathcliff or Lovelace, is in sight. And Ellen, the Persecuted Maiden, is no Clarissa, but merely another ingénue qua American Girl. On the other hand, Baym overstates just how “calm” and “probable” the novel is; she assumes that Hawthorne was merely trying out fictive techniques, not that he was a conflicted and tormented young man who was seeking his social, artistic, and sexual identity.

Two aspects of the novel, in particular, stand out: how skillfully Hawthorne handles the low comedy scenes and how ludicrously the book is rigged in favor of Fanshawe. Hugh Crombie is the novel’s most realistic character and the events at his tavern have the ring of authentic experience. The other key comic figures, Dr. Melmoth and his wife, are also well-drawn and in voice; their vitality enlivens the book. On the other hand, the presentation of Fanshawe is unconvincing throughout, suggesting that the author has over-identified with this character and is using him to dramatize certain semi-conscious fantasies. The falsity of Fanshawe contributes to the strained presentations of Ellen Langton, Edward Walcott, and Butler, undercutting the main plot and the novel’s ultimate meaning. These failings help to explain why Hawthorne, shortly after his book’s publication, sought to destroy any memory of its existence. A close look at how the story unfolds, with a central focus on Hawthorne’s presentation of Fanshawe, is the best way to discuss the novel's strengths and weaknesses.

Fanshawe, one of the earliest American novels about academia, opens on a comic note. Harley College in the mid-eighteenth century is pictured as a rural retreat where yeomen’s sons strive for a smidgeon of refinement that appears to have no positive impact on the area. The college president, Dr. Melmoth, has agreed to take in the daughter of an old friend, Mr. Langton, who has “set his heart to gather gold”9 in foreign lands. The shrewish Mrs. Melmoth, savvier about the ways of the world than her scholarly husband, is not amused. She wonders what kind of man would abandon his daughter and make such demands on a friend; she also notes that Ellen is beautiful and eighteen, a fact not unnoticed among the students, who henceforth devote themselves to love poems rather than homework. The handsome, wealthy, and high-spirited Edward Walcott soon becomes her particular favorite. He gives the novel’s plot away when he tells Ellen that Fanshawe is “a deep scholar and a noble fellow, but I fear we shall follow him to his grave, ere long” (346). Significantly, Hawthorne professes that Ellen’s beauty is beyond his powers of description, but he is more than willing to picture Fanshawe: “There was a nobleness on his high forehead, which time would have deepened into majesty; and all his features were formed with a strength and boldness, of which the paleness, produced by study and confinement, could not deprive them” (346). The pale, studious, strikingly handsome young man, with flashing eyes, a high forehead, a powerful imagination, haughty pride, and latent physical strength—this Nature’s nobleman is clearly the author’s narcissistic self-portrait as well as a foreshadowing of such alter-ego fictional heroes to come as Dimmesdale and Coverdale. The problem here is a lack of ironic distance: we are expected to empathize uncritically with this doomed, secretly ambitious, man of genius. Later in the chapter we learn that in his lonely chamber he asks himself “where was the happiness of superior knowledge?” A self-pitying Fanshawe sees himself as disconnected from the everyday world; however, Hawthorne tells us, “if his innermost heart could have been laid open, there would have been discovered that dream of undying fame, which, dream as it is, is more powerful than a thousand realities” (350).

The poetic epigraph at the head of Chapter III captures the novel’s central theme:

And let the aspiring youth beware of love,—
Of the smooth glance, beware; for ‘tis too late,
When on his heart the torrent softness pours.
Then wisdom prostrate lies, and fading fame
Dissolves in air away. –Thomson (352)
If Fanshawe wants to achieve his dream of undying fame, he will have to avoid “the torrent softness” of womanly wiles and surrender all hope of earthly happiness. Yet as he spends more time with Ellen on twilight walks, he begins to feel the stirrings of passion. To make matters worse, the ambitious scholar, as we have already seen, “was distinguished by many of those asperities around which a woman’s affection will often cling” (353). This laughable mouthful of a phrase again suggests that Hawthorne has over-identified with his hero—the more sincere the author wants to be the more stilted his prose becomes.10

When a mysterious stranger then appears called “the angler” who turns out to be Butler, the seducer with sinister designs on Ellen, Hawthorne manages to sustain a conceit—fishing as seduction—for five pages. Butler lures Ellen away for a private conversation and offers her his rod and line (this is the first college novel to deal with “hooking up”). In a final ironic image, Edward returns to the scene and finds a fish, abandoned by the stranger, gasping for breath on the bank. The secret that Butler has contrived to tell Ellen is that her father is near ruin, and that he, his one remaining friend, “has traveled far, to prove if his daughter has a daughter’s affection” (361). Although her father is a cold and distant man who has abandoned her, Ellen passes the test of a dutiful daughter and is ready to go with the stranger, but Fanshawe, quite improbably, intervenes:

“You speak as one in authority, young man,” he [Butler] said. “Have you the means of compelling obedience? Does your power extend to men?— Or do you rule only over simple girls? Miss Langton is under my protection, and, till you can bend me to your will, she shall remain so.”

Fanshawe turned, calmly, and fixed his eye on the stranger. “Retire, Sir,” was all he said.

Ellen almost shuddered, as if there were a mysterious and unearthly power in Fanshawe’s voice; for she saw that the stranger endeavored in vain, borne down by the influence of a superior mind… (363)

Hawthorne has slipped into wish-fulfillment fantasy —Fanshawe’s speaking with authority rings false, suggesting a boy’s dream of settling scores with a schoolyard bully. The author is relying on rhetorical assertion, not creditable behavior grounded in character. Rarely, for example, does Hawthorne offer us any specific evidence of the superior mind and wisdom of Fanshawe, who displays little insight into either his own motivations or those of others.

Having introduced his main characters, Hawthorne switches to a secondary plot that centers on Hugh Crombie and the denizens of his tavern, the Hand and Bottle. Although his immediate literary predecessors might well be some of Scott’s “low” characters, the fact that Hugh’s nose “glowed with a Bardolphian fire” (368) tells us that his true origin was Shakespeare’s Boar’s Head Tavern. Indeed, he brings the spirit of Merry Old England to the book, suggesting Hawthorne’s enduring fascination with Elizabethan times and showing that he had more talent for creating realistic characters than is generally supposed. Hugh has forsaken the life of a pirate to settle down; like other eighteenth-century men, including George Washington, he has advanced his fortune by marrying a wealthy widow. For him marriage is not the threat it is for Fanshawe (or Hawthorne), rather he finds contentment as a tavern owner and is also “sufficiently attentive to his wife” (371). The dialogue in this chapter between Hugh and Butler is remarkably convincing:

“I little thought to meet you again in this life. When I last heard from you, your prayers were said, and you were bound for a better world.”

“There would have been no danger of your meeting me there,” observed the landlord.

“It is an unquestionable truth, Hugh,” replied the traveler. “For which reason I regret your voyage was delayed.”

“Nay, that is a hard word to bestow on your old comrade,” said Hugh Crombie. “The world is wide enough for both of us, and why should you wish me out of it?” (373-4)

This kind of crisp and witty banter is unusual in Hawthorne’s work, as are some descriptions showing that he knew a thing or two about taverns. In passages of sensuous discrimination a drink of old cider and older brandy is referred to as “extremely felicitous, pleasant to the taste, and producing a tingling sensation on the coats of the stomach, uncommonly delectable to so old a toper as Hugh” (372) and “the wine of that period” is judged to be “of purer and better quality than at the present day” (375). As the festivities mount, both Hugh and Edward Walcott burst into song. Edward’s lyric to the joys of wine and the cares of life strikes an authentic cavalier note and may well be the best of all Hawthorne’s early poems. And Hugh, before the author interrupts him, has begun to sing a bawdy limerick.

Although Hugh has renounced his wicked ways, Butler’s arrival revives their old association. With Hugh’s aid, Butler had left home at age fifteen; traveling abroad he had met Ellen’s father, who took him under his protection only to cut him loose again for “certain youthful indiscretions.” From that time forth the youth had turned “wholly to evil” (453), and now, believing that Mr. Langton had drowned at sea, was determined to compel Ellen to marry him in order to gain her fortune. “What think you of the plan?” he asks Hugh. “I have a winning way with me, when opportunity serves; and it shall serve with Ellen Langton. I will have no rivals in my wooing” (378-9). Hawthorne’s artistry fails him at this point. He cannot imagine what Butler would say to Hugh to win his cooperation, so he merely asserts that Hugh “reluctantly” agreed to help. Ellen is then lured to Hugh’s tavern, where Edward, his friend Glover, and a champagne-sipping Fanshawe enjoy a drunken revel.11 Ellen hears Edward’s “mirth and wild laughter” and is troubled by his “reckless gaiety” (394). When Glover announces that he has seen “a lady with a small white hand” (384), Hugh assures the young men that he “keeps no angels” (384). Ellen’s unexplained presence at the tavern has put her reputation in question: We will meet a woman like this again, with a babe in her arms and a scarlet letter on her bosom, enduring the public gaze of infamy in the Boston marketplace. Here the issue is less how well Ellen can endure censure, but rather which one of her suitors will stand up for her. Edward fails the test: “He was ungenerous enough to believe that Ellen—his pure and lovely Ellen—had degraded herself” (395). Not surprisingly, since the novel has been rigged to display his superior nobility, it is Fanshawe who rises to the occasion: “‘She has been deceived,’ he whispered—‘she is innocent. You are unworthy of her if you doubt it’” (393). Edward, in a drunken passion, not only doubts but also accuses Fanshawe of being her seducer. This remark, Hawthorne improbably asserts, almost roused our mild-mannered hero to “fierceness;” but he masters his emotions and walks “contemptuously away” (393). Edward then turns his anger on Butler, making Hugh intervene to prevent a duel: “I will take charge of these pop-guns” (397). Finally, Edward in his rage wrecks the tavern, awaking the next morning with a “raging thirst” and a head that “throbbed almost to bursting” (408).

Even though these tavern scenes open on a realistic note, they are ultimately used to showcase Fanshawe, not as a young man of refined sensibility and superior knowledge, but rather as a heroic figure of force and action. Meanwhile, Ellen has been returned to the Melmoth home; however, during the dark and stormy night and still in search of her father, she slips away to the tavern and is abducted by Butler. The discovery that she has fled is one of the book’s better comic scenes—the Melmoths, in their frantic search for the missing girl, even have a slapstick collision on the stairs. Hugh, regretting the part he played in Butler’s plot, supplies all of Ellen’s would-be, but largely ineffectual rescuers with what he deems to be the fitting mounts—a nag for Mr. Melmoth, the old white for Fanshawe, the gray for Edward. When Edward’s faster horse catches up, Hawthorne makes sure that he registers the appropriate response, admitting that Fanshawe is “a gallant and manly youth, whom a lady might love, or a foe might fear…. He was a rival not to be despised, and might yet be a successful one, if by his means Ellen Langton were restored to her friends” (414). Having vouched for our hero’s bona fides, Edward rides on, leaving Fanshawe far behind.

Edward next encounters Dr. Melmoth mounted on his nag; Hawthorne treats their meeting as a Cervantine interlude: “‘Alas, youth! These are strange times,’ observed the President, ‘when a Doctor of Divinity and an under graduate set forth, like a knight-errant and his squire, in search of a stray damsel’” (416). This stilted dialogue continues until they encounter Ellen’s father, returned alive from foreign lands, whose concern for his missing daughter is less urgent than it should be. Although time is of the essence if Ellen’s purity is to be saved, Mr. Langton suggests that they stop at a tavern in a nearby village, where he can be told “at…leisure…the particulars of this unfortunate affair” (419). This uncalled-for delay allows Fanshawe time to catch up with the chase. Meanwhile Ellen and Butler in their flight happen on the lowly cottage of his dying mother, who expires amid a flood of tears upon seeing her long-lost son. This sob scene is the most sentimental of the novel, but Butler is not brought to repentance; rather his mother’s death makes him even more “desperate” and he melodramatically vows to devote himself to evil: “Thus it was that the Devil wrought within him to his own destruction” (435). Ellen is now aware that she is “in the power of a lawless and guilty man; though what fate intended for her, she was unable to conjecture” (436). Although she is in the hands of a ruthless seducer, Hawthorne insists that Ellen is so pure and childlike that she cannot foresee the threat of sexual violation. Even when Butler leads her into the dark forest and conceals her in a cave beneath a cliff, she has “an inability to realize the evils of her situation” (439).

In her effort to be a dutiful daughter, Ellen is the first of Hawthorne’s heroines to break the rules and take a risk. That her cold, stern father has abandoned her and semi-adopted Butler adds a sly undercurrent of incest to the ensuing seduction scene at the cave in the forest. Now that Ellen is in his power, the dark-visaged Butler plays his villainous part in language that anticipates Hawthorne’s later portrayal of Chillingworth: with “an ironical smile writhing his features” and eyes filled with “a wild, fierce joy,” he threatens her with a fate worse than death. In her virgin purity Ellen “knew not what to dread, but she was well aware that danger was at hand, and that, in the deep wilderness, there was none to help her, except that Being, with whose inscrutable purposes it might consist, to allow the wicked to triumph for a season, and the innocent to be brought low.” The viper Butler, knowing Ellen is now within his coils, challenges her to cry for help: “Shriek, and see if there be any among these rocks and woods to hearken to you!” To which Ellen steadfastly replies, “‘There is—there is one…. He is here—He is there.’ And she pointed to heaven” (442), before clasping her hands and falling to her knees in supplication. As if in answer to her prayers that a “Being” on high would come to her rescue, at this moment of peril “a fragment of rock” falls from the crag above them. To sustain the suspense, Hawthorne abruptly ends this chapter with captive Ellen “in the hope of deliverance” (442).

While setting up his seduction, Hawthorne has lost track of his hero; hence he must break into the narrative to announce that “the tale now returns to Fanshawe” (443). In a rare passage of introspection, we see our hero attempting to assess his motives, but the author admits that “the most powerful minds are not always the best acquainted with their own feelings” (445). Certainly this is true of Fanshawe, who rarely displays the supposed power of his intellect, apparently confuses self-pity with self knowledge, and knows very little of women. He pictures himself as someone set apart from the mainstream of humanity, and thus an unfit mate for Ellen, even though he desires her: “It was the yearning of a soul formed by Nature in a peculiar mould, for communion with those to whom it bore a resemblance, yet of whom it was not” (443-4). Since he is not formed to plod along with the multitude, “a dream of bliss” (444) with Ellen as his wife is out of the question. The irony, which may also elude the youthful author, is that Fanshawe’s “dream of undying fame” is also out of the question unless he learns more about human nature and the power of passion.

The rescue scene, in which Fanshawe casts his small stone and brings down the villain, is the most ridiculous in the book. As he strives for sublimity, Hawthorne slides into bathos. He has effectively transposed the European gothic conventions of castle keep and parapet into American caves and cliffs, and used a fallen boulder to suggest crumbling ruins, but his handling of the human situation strains credulity. When we last saw Ellen, remember, she was pointing toward the sky and praying for deliverance from a heavenly “Being.” Lo and behold, who should at that moment appear occupying the moral high ground but Fanshawe, far above her on the verge of the precipice! The mere sight of her deliverer causes Ellen to faint away and drives Butler to distraction: “There was something awful, to his apprehension, in the slight form that stood so far above him, like a being from another sphere, looking down on his wickedness” (450). The villain then grits his teeth and ascends the cliff’s face to attack this superior, awe-inspiring “being,” but instead slips and falls to his richly deserved death: “With all the passions of hell alive in his heart, he had met the fate that he intended for Fanshawe” (451). Fanshawe then descends the precipice unscathed—supposedly to come to the assistance of the still unconscious Ellen—but what follows is pure wish-fulfillment of a rather peculiar kind:

He lifted the motionless form of Ellen in his arms, and resting her head against his shoulder, gazed on her cheek of lily paleness, with a joy—a triumph—that rose almost to madness. It contained no mixture of hope, it had no reference to the future—it was the perfect bliss of the moment—an insulated point of happiness. He bent over her and pressed a kiss—the first, and he knew it would be the last—on her pale lips; then bearing her to the fountain, he sprinkled its water profusely over her face, neck, and bosom. She at length opened her eyes, slowly and heavily; but her mind was evidently wandering till Fanshawe spoke.

“Fear not, Ellen, you are safe,” he said. (452)

How safe Ellen is in the hands of a man whose compulsive fantasy if to kiss a corpse-like girl may be a question Hawthorne would prefer we not ask. This scene is clearly at the center of Fanshawe’s (and perhaps Hawthorne’s) fantasy life. Because of his fear of female desire, his lips can only touch Ellen when she is unconscious and unable to respond. As Leslie Fiedler noted in regard to this scene, “It is a way of not eating your cake and having it, too. It is clear from the logic of Fanshawe’s character as Hawthorne has conceived it that he cannot have the girl, any girl, that he is psychologically impotent.”12

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) when was twenty-four; a comparison of his early novel with Hawthorne’s helps define some of Fanshawe’s artistic shortcomings. Goethe’s triangle of Werther, Albert and Lotte anticipates Hawthorne’s Fanshawe, Edward and Ellen; both present two male rivals—one a sensitive scholar, the other a solid citizen—in competition for an idealized female. Werther, for all his affectation, displays more intellect and force than Fanshawe. He is convinced that Lotte “would have been happier with me than with him [Albert]. Oh, he is not the man to satisfy the needs of her heart.”13 Lotte, happily married to Albert, is troubled by Werther’s obsession with her and repeatedly urges him to be less emotional and more reasonable; but one day when he is reading his translation of the songs of Ossian to her, she is so moved that Werther’s belief in their shared sensibility is proved, at least temporarily, to be true: “The anguish of his heart consumed his spirit’s remaining powers. The world was lost to them. He clasped her in his arms, held her close against him, and covered her trembling lips with a shower of passionate kisses. ‘Werther!’ she cried with choking voice, turning away, ‘Werther!’”14 This scene in its own way is as melodramatic as Hawthorne’s, but at least the lovers are conscious of each other and share one passionate moment as kindred spirits before Lotte returns to her contented bourgeois life and the sorrowful Werther commits suicide. At this stage of his career, Hawthorne can only fantasize his hero stealing a furtive kiss from a woman in a swoon. The reciprocal passion of a man and a woman is still beyond his powers to dramatize.

Ellen’s unsullied purity and lack of curiosity survive the seduction scene; she is “instinctively” so demure that she does not notice Butler’s dead body or “inquire of Fanshawe the manner of her deliverance” (452). And she unquestionably accepts the chauvinistic notion that Fanshawe, because he rescued her from the villain, is entitled to her soft, little, white hand. For all her earlier display of gumption on behalf of her less-than-loving father, Ellen has no say in the matter. The two rivals Fanshawe and Edward, however, are locked in one more competition, this time not for bravery but for benevolence. Each tries to outdo the other in practicing renunciation and not pressing his advantages. Ellen is properly impressed with Fanshawe’s attributes: “Yours is a heart, full of strength and nobleness,” but our fastidious hero resists the temptation of earthly happiness. When she extends her hand, Fanshawe refuses it, knowing that he was “turning from an angel, who would have guided him to Heaven.” Instead of indulging “a selfish passion…stronger than my integrity,” he anticipates his early death: “When you hear that I am in my grave, do not imagine that you have hastened me thither” (458-9). Fanshawe believes he is speaking the truth about his feelings, the question is whether Hawthorne sees how deluded his titular hero is. The author asserts at the end that Fanshawe “was in reality the thoughtful and earnest student that he seemed. He had exerted the whole might of his spirit over itself—and he was the conqueror” (459). This hymn to the strength of will power is not convincing; the passage suggests that Hawthorne still had a lot to learn about the deeper psychology. While Goethe admits that in Werther’s case “the anguish of his heart consumed his spirit’s remaining powers,”15 Hawthorne maintains that Fanshawe has repressed all his anguished longing and dies instead of unremitting study.

Many tears were shed over his grave; but the thoughtful and the wise, though turf never covered a nobler heart, could not lament that it was so soon at rest. He left a world for which he was unfit; and we trust that, among the innumerable stars of heaven, there is one where he has found happiness. (460)
In contrast to his later work, Hawthorne does not “mix in the marvelous” in Fanshawe, though he certainly does slip on occasion into the improbable; nor does he offer any alternative explanations, no “some say Fanshawe died of a broken heart.” Instead, he insists against the preponderance of evidence on the power of Fanshawe’s will. This, perhaps, was the author’s final wish-fulfillment. Hawthorne’s sexual fears and desires were on a deeper level of his unconscious than his adolescent fantasy of undying fame as a man of letters. At the start of his career he apparently thought he could indulge his wish for fame without exposing his inner demons. Although he dies young, Fanshawe achieves celestial fame as a star in heaven. After four years of mourning, Ellen marries Edward, who, Hawthorne claims, “never regretted the worldly distinction of which she thus deprived him” (460). Any hopes Hawthorne may have harbored that Fanshawe would win him fame were soon dashed. It would take ten more years of hard work before Twice-told Tales appeared in print.

Clearly, Fanshawe is a semi-autobiographical work that reveals much more about the young author than he probably intended to tell. At the same time, the novel is not strictly based on Hawthorne’s life; Goethe, after all, did not blow out his brains over a lost love and Hawthorne did not die of excessive studiousness at an early age. Both authors are trying to exorcise facets of their personalities, or at least bring them under control. Hawthorne wants to convince himself that will power is greater than the power of passion and that the love of a woman must be avoided at all costs by the aspiring young writer. It is not hard to surmise that the superior wisdom Fanshawe thinks he seeks in books is, in part, an unconscious ploy to hide his desire to know about women and passion. The ultimate irony is that until the would-be artist in Hawthorne can create a woman of passion like Hester Prynne he will not write a novel of lasting value and his own dream of undying fame will not yet be realized.

Endnotes:

  • 1. That serious writers strive to write works that that shall outlive them is axiomatic; I am certainly not the only critic to notice Hawthorne’s early hunger for fame; George Parsons Lathrop, his first biographer, stated that Fanshawe’s “dream of undying fame” had its source in Hawthorne’s “own heart,” and his most recent, Brenda Wineapple, uses the phrase as a chapter title; see A Study of Hawthorne (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1876), 121, and Hawthorne: A Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003): 58-72. See also, Thomas Woodson, “Hawthorne and the Author’s Immortal Fame” Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 30 (2004): 56-91. In this essay I study how a preoccupation with fame shaped Hawthorne’s first novel.

  • 2. Brian Harding, Nathaniel Hawthorne: Critical Assessments I (Mountfield, East Sussex: Helm Information, 1995): 47-48.

  • 3. Harding, Critical Assessments, 45. Boston Weekly Messenger, XVIII, 13 November 1828.

  • 4. Fields, 48. Among Hawthorne’s biographers, Robert Cantwell is the most enthusiastic about the novel’s artistry, see pp. 119-123. Louise Desalvo, Nathaniel Hawthorne (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1987) finds in the scarcely realized character of Ellen “a far more radical critique of presumptions about maleness and femaleness than anything Hawthorne would write in his maturity,” 56. David Greven, “Fear of Fanshawe: Intransigence, Desire, and Scholarship in Hawthorne’s First Published Novel” Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 29 (Fall 2003) argues that Fanshawe is “a (tragic) hero,” whose “onanistic characteristics and abnegation of normative desire can be observed as inviolate manhood’s queer threat to reproductive capitalist futurity,” 14, 2. Most critics concentrate on one aspect of the novel—its style, characters, humor, and antecedents—and make modest claims for its literary merits. Robert Gross lists the formal attributes of Hawthorne’s style, which displays impressive rhetorical skills, but he does not discriminate enough between the novel’s felicitous and fustian sentences and paragraphs. “Hawthorne’s First Novel: The Future of Style” PMLA, 78, 11 (March 1963): 60-68. Most close readers of the book would not claim that its eloquence is unblemished; Mark Van Doren, for one, cites “a paragraph perhaps unparalleled for narrative ineptitude.” Nathaniel Hawthorne (New York: William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1949): 36. Carl Bode praises Fanshawe’s “cold, even appraisal” of himself and argues that “Hawthorne’s greatness is foreshadowed through his superior handling of character.” “Hawthorne’s Fanshawe: The Promise of Greatness” NEQ, 23, 2 (June 1950): 242. F. O. Matthiessen is closer to the mark when he asserts that Hawthorne’s “comic strain called out his best efforts both in style and characterization,” but “the serious characters in the book have scarcely the thickness of cardboard,” noting a “cleavage…between an achieved manner of writing and an unmatured content.” American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1941): 204. J. C. Janssen notes Hawthorne’s “verbal cleverness” and “wit worthy of Twain,” as well as his “attempt through humorously inflated language to see things in their true perspective.” At his more profound, he “combines grief and gaiety” in the scenes at Hugh Crombie’s tavern to create an atmosphere of “grotesque merriment.” “Fanshawe and Hawthorne’s Developing Comic Sense” ESQ, 22 (1976): 24-26. E. Cifelli adds that “Hawthorne showed a talent for portraying humorous situations in Fanshawe that he was never able to reproduce…. The characters in many of the humorous scenes come to life as they do nowhere else.” “Hawthorne as Humorist” CEA Critic, 38 (1976): 14. Mr. and Mrs. Melmoth and Hugh Crombie are the most memorable characters and the tavern scenes the most vivid. Unfortunately, in terms of Hawthorne’s artistry, the novel’s hero is supposed to be Fanshawe.

  • 5. Julian Hawthorne, Hawthorne and His Wife (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1884) I, 125.

  • 6. Jesse Sidney Goldstein, “The Literary Source of Hawthorne’s Fanshawe” Modern Language Notes, 60 (Jan., 1945): 1-8.

  • 7. Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel (New York: Criterion Books, 1960). Fiedler sums up Fanshawe as an “absurdly conventional action…rendered in the style of the female epigones of Richardson, with no real inwardness,” 226.

  • 8. Nina Baym, “Hawthorne’s Gothic Discards: Fanshawe and ‘Alice Doane’” The Nathaniel Hawthorne Journal (1974): 107-8.

  • 9. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance and Fanshawe. The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Volume III. (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1964). Subsequent quotations will be cited by page in the text.

  • 10. Elsewhere, Butler refers to a fishing hook as a “piscatorial instrument of death,” but perhaps we shouldn’t judge Hawthorne’s circumlocutions too harshly. Richardson, after all, described tears as “pellucid fugitives,” Scott a gull as “a winged denizen of the crag,” and Godwin hard work as “I was unintermitted in my assiduity.”

  • 11. Greven, “Fear of Fanshawe,” argues that Fanshawe’s “fairy speech” presents a “queer challenge to coherent male identity,” 16-19. I see this scene more as evidence that Fanshawe has affinities with Shakespeare’s Oberon, Hawthorne’s early nom de plume.

  • 12. Fiedler, 227.

  • 13. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, translated by Elizabeth Mayer and Louise Bogan (New York: Random House, 1971): 100.

  • 14. Goethe, 154.

  • 15. Goethe, 126.




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