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Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864


from Nathaniel Hawthorne

Mostly these are quotes that have been published on the Internet. Please e-mail your favorite Hawthorne quote, tell us where you found it, and whether or not you want your name given.

The importance of caresses

Caresses, expressions of one sort or another, are necessary to the life of affections, as leaves are to the life of a tree. If they are wholly restrained, love will die at the roots.

--American Note-Books, 1853

a breathless point of time

Remarks prepared for delivery by Vice President Al Gore, International Telecommunications Union, Monday, March 21, 1994:

I have come here, 8,000 kilometers from my home, to ask you to help create a Global Information Infrastructure. To explain why, I want to begin by reading you something that I first read in high school, 30 years ago.

"By means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time ... The round globe is a vast ... brain, instinct with intelligence!"

This was not the observation of a physicist--or a neurologist. Instead, these visionary words were written in 1851 by Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of my country's greatest writers, who was inspired by the development of the telegraph. Much as Jules Verne foresaw submarines and moon landings, Hawthorne foresaw what we are now poised to bring into being....

Let men tremble

Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, when some mightier touch than their own may have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the calm content, the marble image of happiness which they will have imposed upon her as the warm reality.

The Scarlet Letter: A Romance, Chapter 15 (from

our heart-strings have mysteriously attached themselves to the Eternal City

"When we have left Rome, we are astonished by the discovery, by-and-by, that our heart-strings have mysteriously attached themselves to the Eternal City, and are drawing us thitherward again, as if it were more familiar, more intimately our home, than even the spot where we were born!"

--end of remarkable first sentence of chapter 36, The Marble Faun, 1860

As a general rule, Providence seldom vouchsafes to mortals....

A poetry teacher looking for a job writes: I was reading yesterday and came across a really cool quote in a not so cool book--House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
"As a general rule, Providence seldom vouchsafes to mortals any more than just that degree of encouragement, which suffices to keep them at a reasonably full exertion of their powers."

Happiness is a butterfly

Amy Freer ( wrote: Here is a quote that I found involving butterflys:
"Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne

I Was An Adulteress!

Some dialogue from George Axelrod's 1952 play The Seven Year Itch, in which hero Richard Sherman -- marketing muckety-muck at a paperback publishing house -- expounds on the genius of his boss:

"Mr. Brady wants to change The Scarlet Letter to I Was an Adulteress. I know it all seems a little odd to you -- but Mr. Brady understands the 25-cent-book field... The cover will be a picture of Hester Prynne with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. She'll be in a real tight, low-cut dress. Our big problem is -- if the dress is cut low enough to sell any copies, there won't be any space on the front for a big red letter."

See for yourself Maitland McDonagh's interesting collection of book covers

From: "D. Aaron Matthews" ( March 15, 1996:

NH on Love:

"Selfishness is one of the qualities apt to inspire love."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

NH on Progress:

"The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Taken from The Harper Book of Quotations, Third Edition. Edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry

Hawthorne's Law

"Every new society, wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne in one of his cheerier moods, is soon in need of a graveyard and a prison."

--The Economist Review of Books and Multimedia, March 16, 1966, p. 3

Booklover's Calendar, March 16, 1850

--Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is published:

"The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers--stern and wild ones--and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss."

the spiritualization of labor

"We had pleased ourselves with the delectable visions of the spiritualization of labor....Each stroke of the hoe was to uncover some aromatic root of wisdom....But...the clods of earth, which we constantly belabored and turned over and over, were never etherealized into thought. Our thoughts, on the contrary, were fast becoming cloddish. Our labor symbolized nothing and left us mentally sluggish in the dusk of the evening."

--The Age of The Smart Machine, by Shoshana Zuboff, (Basic Books 1988), quoted by Jay Machado, Bits and Bytes Online V1, #9.


Arlton E. Handy,

"I have, indeed, turned over a good many books, but in so desultory a way that it cannot be called a study, nor has it left me the fruits of study."

--Hawthorne, in a letter to Longfellow, 1837.


"Monadnock was visible like a saphire cloud against the sky."

reflections behind the mirror

Date: Tue, 16 Apr 96 20:15:07 UT
From: "George Vukic" <>

"A few words, perhaps might satisfy the feverish yearning of my soul for some master-thought, that should guide me through this labyrinth of life, teaching wherefore I was born, and how to do my task on earth, and what is death. Alas! Even that unreal image should forget to ape me, and laugh at these vain questions. Thus do mortals deify, as it were, a mere shadow of themselves, a spectre of human reason, and ask of that to unveil the mysteries, which Divine Intelligence has revealed so far as needful to our guidance, and hid the rest."

--Monsieur Du Mirior

aristocrats of a summer's day

"What are the haughtiest of us but ephemeral aristocrats of a summer's day?"

--(The Toll Gatherer's Day, Twice-Told Tales)

the iron rule in our day

"It is the iron rule in our day to require an object and a purpose in life. It makes us all parts of a complicated scheme of progress, which can only result in our arrival at a colder and drearier region than we were born in. It insists upon everybody's adding somewhat--a mite, perhaps, but earned by incessant effort--to an accumulated pile of usefulness, of which the only use will be, to burden our posterity with even heavier thoughts and more inordinate labor than our own. No life now wanders like an unfettered stream; there is a mill wheel for the tiniest rivulet to turn. We go all wrong, by too strenuous a resolution to go all right."

--The Marble Faun, ch. 26, 1860

Thou art the only person in the world that ever was necessary to me.

"Phoebe, I want thee much. Thou aft the only person in the world that ever was necessary to me. Other people have occasionally been more or less agreeable; but I think I was always more at ease alone than in anybody's company, till I knew thee. And now I am only myself when thou art within my reach. Thou art an unspeakably beloved woman. How couldst thou inflict such frozen agony upon me in that dream?

it's a disgrace

From NameBase NewsLine, No. 9, April-June 1995:

The Decline of American Journalism

by Daniel Brandt

On March 13, House Speaker Newt Gingrich told the nation's mayors that the concept of shame would be an important weapon in the war against the cultural elites. In this speech to the National League of Cities, he commented on the publication in "USA Today" of Gertrude Himmelfarb's essay on Victorian morality and the importance of a sense of shame in society. Later he told "Washington Times" reporters that "the reassertion of standards was the great fight we lost in the late sixties."

After the speech a reporter asked Gingrich if he advocates having disgraced persons wear a scarlet letter of shame, as in Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel. In response, Gingrich asked the reporter, "How grotesquely hard do you have to work to try to make a common-sense practical suggestion sound foolish?"


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