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From Tanglewood Tales, 1853

By Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864



HAWTHORNE'S first "Wonder Book" was so well received, that he was induced to undertake another within eighteen months from the time of finishing the first. To this new volume, made up in the same way of Greek myths retold with a modern, free, half realistic and half fanciful tone, he gave the name "Tanglewood Tales." The previous series having been ostensibly narrated by one Eustace Bright, among the hills of Berkshire, these additional stories in the like vein were represented as having been brought by Eustace Bright to Hawthorne, at his new home, The Wayside, in Concord.

This place Hawthorne had bought and moved into, early in the summer of 1852, after finishing "The Blithedale Romance" at West Newton, during the preceding winter. [note 1] Some slight references to it are made in the Introduction headed "The Wayside," where "my predecessor's little ruined, rustic summerhouse, midway on the hill-side," is mentioned. The predecessor was Mr. A. Bronson Alcott, one of the so-called Transcendental school of thinkers, the intimate friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the father of Miss Louisa M. Alcott, since become one of the most popular of writers for children. This summer-house, therefore, becomes to the mind a sort of station between the new generation and the old, a link between Hawthorne in his capacity of tale-teller to the little folks of America, and the woman who, at that time a child, has in later years assembled from the young people a vast audience of her own. The romancer speaks of this rustic structure in a letter to George William Curtis, dated July 14, 1852--

"Mr. Alcott expended a good deal of taste and some money (to no great purpose) in forming the hill-side behind the house into terraces, and building arbors and summer-houses of rough stems and branches and trees, on a system of his own. They must have been very pretty in their day, and are so still, although much decayed, and shattered more and more by every breeze that blows."

No vestige of this sylvan edifice now remains.

Prior to his return to Concord and installation at The Wayside, Hawthorne had contemplated giving up that humble abode at Lenox, which, in a letter to George William Curtis, he had called "the ugliest little old red farm-house you ever saw," and renting the country-seat of Mrs. Fanny Kemble, in the same vicinity. But as I have mentioned in the Introductory Note prefixed to the "Wonder-Book," he had already begun to languish somewhat in the inland air of the Berkshire Valley; added to which was the not altogether favorable influence of the striking scenery in that picturesque mountain-district. In October, 1851, he wrote from Lenox to a friend: "We shall leave here (with much joy) on the first day of December."

The sojourn at West Newton, however, served only to occupy the interval between Lenox and his settlement at Concord. After he had arrived at the latter place, he wrote to Horatio Bridge (October 18, 1852) "In a day or two I intend to begin a new romance, which, if possible, I intend to make more genial than the last." The "last" was "The Blithedale Romance;" but of the newly projected work here mentioned we find no further trace, and it is impossible to conjecture what scheme for a fresh work of fiction was then occupying the author's mind. The "campaign" Life of Franklin Pierce had already been produced after his coming to The Wayside, and he was apparently free to turn his attention to this projected romance; but instead of pursuing the design, whatever it may have been, he took up the composition of the "Tanglewood Tales," which were completed in the early spring of 1853. On the 13th of March, that year, he wrote the preface for them. Ten days later his appointment to the consulate at Liverpool by President Pierce was confirmed by the Senate of the United States.

G. P. L.


[note 1:] For a detailed account of The Wayside, the prefatory note to Septimius Felton, in this edition of the works, may be consulted.

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