"The Old Manse" Revisited:
Some Analogues for Art
by John C. Willoughby
Reprinted from THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY, vol. XLVI, No. 1, March, 1973, pp. 45-61, with the kind permission of the author.
HAWTHORNE'S "The Old Manse" may be seen as an expression of his convictions about art--hence, as an expression of his sense of relation to his audience and to his writings, and of his abiding concern with the problem of knowledge. We see this, of course, from a certain point of view, from a suitably Hawthornesque remoteness not unlike that from which we take our first glimpse of the old parsonage itself:
The glimmering shadows that lay half asleep between the door of the house and the public highway were a kind of spiritual medium, seen through which the edifice had not quite the aspect of belonging to the material world. Certainly it had little in common with those ordinary abodes which stand so imminent upon the road that every passer-by can thrust his head, as it were, into the domestic circle. From these quiet windows the figures of passing travelers looked too remote and dim to disturb the sense of privacy. In its near retirement and accessible seclusion it was the very spot for the residence of a clergyman,--a man not estranged from human life, yet enveloped in the midst of it with a veil woven of intermingled gloom and brightness. 
The spiritual medium of the glimmering shadows, the quietly remote sanctity of the domestic circle, the "near retirement and accessible seclusion"--these are virtually a paradigm of the imaginative atmosphere most congenial to the creation and appreciation of Hawthorne's work. And the image of the strangely veiled clergyman connects the passage with one near the end of the essay which offers the most extensive comment in "The Old Manse" on Hawthorne's relation to his audience--indeed one of the most extensive of such comments in his writings:
And now I begin to feel--and perhaps should have sooner felt--that we have talked enough of the Old Manse. Mine honored reader, it may be, will vilify the poor author as an egotist for babbling through so many pages about a mossgrown country parsonage, and his life within its walls and on the river and in the woods, and the influences that wrought upon him from all these sources. My conscience, however, does not reproach me with betraying anything too sacredly individual to be revealed by a human spirit to its brother or sister spirit. How narrow--how shallow and scanty too--is the stream of thought that has been flowing from my pen, compared with the broad tide of dim emotions, ideas, and associations which swell around me from that portion of my existence! How little have I told! and of that little, how almost nothing is even tinctured with any quality that makes it exclusively my own! Has the reader gone wandering, hand in hand with me, through the inner passages of my being? and have we groped together into all its chambers and examined their treasures or their rubbish? Not so. We have been standing on the greensward, but just within the cavern's mouth, where the common sunshine is free to penetrate, and where every footstep is therefore free to come. I have appealed to no sentiment or sensibilities save such as are diffused among us all. So far as I am a man of really individual attributes I veil my face; nor am I, nor have I ever been, one of those supremely hospitable people who serve up their own hearts, delicately fried, with brain sauce, as a tidbit for their beloved public. (II, 43-44) 
Significantly, this passage appears immediately following the most clearly personal section of "The Old Manse," that presenting Hawthorne's views on the hordes of Emersonian disciples then infesting the Concord area. The increasingly personal tone of the immediately preceding paragraphs (the passage begins, "Were I to adopt a pet idea. . .") is here emphatically checked. Hawthorne's use of the pretense that writer and reader have been engaged in conversation has the effect of asserting the distance between them, between the "I" and the "we" of the passage. The aggressively conventional tone of "Mine honored reader" and "the poor author" serves the same purpose, as does the particularly concentrated grouping of metaphors for nonconnection: the heart of a cavern has not been reached, a face remains veiled, a treasure remains undiscovered. The degree of Hawthorne's apprehension that he may have betrayed certain of his really individual attributes is further suggested by the flimsy assertion that he has been talking merely of the Old Manse; or "babbling. . . about a mossgrown country parsonage" or that the influences that wrought upon him were those to be found in the Manse itself, or on the river and in the woods.
This is not to suggest that Hawthorne is simply engaging in a desperate attempt to be evasive, to unsay something he seems to have been saying. When he exclaims, "How little have I told!", he is also expressing a genuine conviction about the limitedness of human perception and the inadequacy of language as a mode of expression. It serves his purposes in this passage, of course, to suggest that he has not "been betraying anything too sacredly individual to be revealed by a human spirit to its brother or sister spirit"--though the exclusiveness implied by the kinship metaphor reveals his anxiety about the matter. Even if the bias of Hawthorne's temperament were not toward reticence, however, the limitation of language would itself restrict his communicating the nature of his private experience of the world. He often remarked the difficulty--indeed, the impossibility--of expressing anything adequately. The formulation of this notion in the passage we are discussing appears somewhat more satisfactorily expressed in The American Notebooks (July 27, 1844):
And now how narrow, scanty, and meagre, is this record of observation, compared with the immensity that was to be observed, within the bounds which I prescribed to myself. How shallow and small a stream of thought, too,--of distinct and expressed thought--compared with the broad tide of dim emotions, ideas, associations, which were flowing through the haunted regions of imagination, intellect, and sentiment, sometimes excited by what was around me, sometimes with no perceptible connection with them. When we see how little we can express, it is a wonder that any man ever takes up a pen a second time. [R. Stewart, editor, American Notebooks, 105.]
At the beginning of "The Old Manse," Hawthorne had introduced the idea that he might discover intellectual treasure during his residence at the Manse. Now, following his self-conscious reminder that we have entered no deeper than the cavern's mouth, he ends the essay by gracefully returning to the idea, in a passage which confirms his tactful handling of the authorial role by gently insisting upon the reciprocal nature--as precarious as it is vital--of the relationship between reader and writer:
The treasure of intellectual good which I hoped to find in our secluded dwelling had never come to light.... All that I had to show, as a man of letters, were these few tales and essays, which had blossomed out like flowers in the calm summer of my heart and mind.... With these idle weeds and withering blossoms I have intermixed some that were produced long ago,--old, faded things, reminding me of flowers pressed between the leaves of a book,--and now offer the bouquet, such as it is, to any whom it may please. These fitful sketches, with so little of external life about them, yet claiming no profundity of purpose,--so reserved, even while they sometimes seem so frank,--often but half in earnest, and never, even when most so, expressing satisfactorily the thoughts which they profess to image,--such trifles, I truly feel, afford no solid basis for a literary reputation. Nevertheless, the public--if my limited number of readers, whom I venture to regard rather as a circle of friends, may be termed a public--will receive them the more kindly, as the last offering, the last collection, of this nature which it is my purpose ever to put forth. (II, 45-46)
Much of the interest of this passage derives from its complexity of tone, from the subtle but very real tensions, for example, between "the public" and "a circle of friends," or between the Mosses as a "collection" and as "an offering." The notion that Hawthorne likes to think of his "limited number of readers ... as a circle of friends" is appropriate in a paragraph whose tone is so frankly modest as this one. Yet that notion and its accompanying tone vanish in the next paragraph, the final one, in which Hawthorne expresses his relation to the reader by reverting to the metaphor of a host showing a guest about his residence. What had seemed the genuine modesty of the penultimate paragraph here becomes the mock-modesty of a conventionally deferential authorial posture. In the fifth paragraph of the essay, Hawthorne had spoken of "the reader, whom I cannot help considering as my guest in the Old Manse and entitled to all courtesy in the way of sight-showing" (II, 14). In its final paragraph, his entreaty is, "Let the reader, if he will do me so much honor, imagine himself my guest..." (II, 46). The relationship suggested in both instances is the same; but because it is seen from two different perspectives--the author's and the reader's--there is also a sense in which the relationship is different.
Early in the essay Hawthorne simply asserts his conception of the reader as guest. (The distance kept here is interesting: one welcomes guests freely into his home, of course, but they are received less openly than are friends. We are not escorted very far, it seems, into the circle of the author's confidence.) At the conclusion he entreats the reader, with exaggerated humility, to do him the honor of sharing this conception; in effect, to acquiesce in it. The relationship, after all, is merely a conventional or rhetorical one: Hawthorne would never be so inhospitable as to inflict his works on an actual guest. By pointing up the conventionality of his role as literary host, Hawthorne enables himself both to take refuge in it and to dissociate himself from it.
Hawthorne frequently adopts this graciously Janus-like stance upon the threshold of his works. Indeed, Janus is surely one of the deities presiding over them. How congenial it is for a man like Hawthorne to linger at the threshold; for a threshold is at once a place of leave-taking and of greeting, of departures and returns, separating two spheres of existence, two modes of consciousness. A threshold also joins what it separates, of course, and thus occupies an intermediary realm rather like the overlapping area of two intersecting circles in the figure of a mandorla--a figure nicely appropriate to Hawthorne's exquisitely ambivalent habits of mind. Hawthorne's prefaces, among which "The Old Manse" should be included, are just such thresholds: areas of common ground upon which he and his audience may meet in mutual trust and propriety. Their very existence, as well as their manner, is an expression of the reticence and pathetically muted gregariousness, the hesitation and the quiet but surprisingly insistent resolve, so characteristic of Hawthorne.
Hawthorne's double vision is evident not merely when it is directed toward himself in relation to his readers, but also when it is directed toward his works, which from one point of view he truly sees as "idle weeds and withering blossoms," as "fitful sketches," or "trifles." Yet his vision--like that of his ideal readers--accommodates to the slightest alterations in perspective or in the conditions of light and shadow. Hence the deprecatory implications in the metaphor of weeds or flowers are blurred out of focus when we adjust our vision to the radiance of beauty in works "which had blossomed out like flowers in the calm summer of my heart and mind"--a beauty whose richness is in fact heightened by its very evanescence.
Hawthorne often refers to his works through metaphors drawn from horticulture: they are fruit, or blossoms, or flowers, or weeds. Such metaphors are wholly appropriate to express the notion of evanescent beauty. (In The French and Italian Notebooks, Sophia Hawthorne recalls Hawthorne one day plucking "a half-bloomed rose, without blemish, and, smiling with an infinite joy, [remarking], 'This is perfect. On earth a flower only can be perfect'" [X, 120].) Moreover, horticultural metaphors are valuable to Hawthorne because they suggest an organic wholeness, an independent force of being, at the same time that they point to a dependence which is at once vital and vulnerable.  Such metaphors, by asserting the need for an artist's work to be known--made a part of one's self--by another being, indicate further Hawthorne's sense of the reciprocal relation that exists between an author and his readers.
In a way not unlike that of his neighbor, Thoreau, Hawthorne took great satisfaction in gardening: "Childless men, if they would know something of the bliss of paternity, should plant a seed,--be it squash, bean, Indian corn, or perhaps a mere flower or worthless weed,--should plant it with their own hands, and nurse it from infancy to maturity altogether by their own care. ... I used to visit and revisit [my garden] a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation" (II, 22-23).  Hawthorne's many references to his works as children, progeny, or offspring--like some of the notebook entries upon his children, which also are marked by a sense of strangely remote intimacy,  suggest that the relation of a reader to a Hawthorne work is analogous to that of a guardian or foster-parent to a child. Indeed, since the reader is seen as co-creator of the imaginative experience to be known while reading one of Hawthorne's works, the relation is even more vitally immediate.
The rewards of authorship, parenthood, and gardening are nicely expressed in Hawthorne's deceptively slight comments about the "[m]ultitudes of bees [which] used to bury themselves in the yellow blossoms of the summer squashes." He observes that these visitations by the bees were "a deep satisfaction; although when they had laden themselves with sweets they flew away to some unknown hive, which would give back nothing in requital of what my garden had contributed. But I was very glad thus to fling a benefaction upon the passing breeze with the certainty that somebody must profit by it... (II, 23)." Similarly, Hawthorne makes it clear that it is not simply the intrinsic beauty of the squashes that makes them so attractive: "Gazing at them," he says, "I felt that by my agency something worth living for had been done. A new substance was born into the world. They were real and tangible existences, which the mind could take hold of and rejoice in" (II, 24).
The artist as beneficent gardener--whether grower of flowers, fruit, squashes, or even weeds--is a congenial notion for Hawthorne because it further suggests the related idea of the reader as bee. And the reader as bee--by transferring a degree of creative responsibility to the reader--is a notion which goes some way toward reconciling the tension between the writer's coexistent needs for detachment from and close relation to his society. Such a notion is also congenial in that it serves partially to disclaim responsibility for what is created in the reader's consciousness; or, more positively, in that it gently affirms the reader's own active role in the aesthetic experience. For Hawthorne is at one with Coleridge, Hazlitt, and the Romantics generally, in his conviction that perception itself is a process involving what Hazlitt called the sympathetic imagination--a reciprocal engagement of subject and object. The artist and his audience are united in an analogous relationship. Hawthorne knew that believing is seeing, no less than seeing is believing. His entry in The French and Italian Notebooks as he contemplates Michaelangelo's "Fates" is among the clearest of his many expressions of this view:
It is a very impressive group. But, as regards the interpretation of this, or of any other profound picture, there are likely to be as many interpretations as there are spectators. It is very curious to read criticisms upon pictures, and upon the same face in a picture, and by men of taste and feeling, and to find what different conclusions they arrive at. Each man interprets the hieroglyphic in his own way; and the painter, perhaps, had a meaning which none of them have reached; or possibly he put forth a riddle without himself knowing the solution. There is such a necessity, at all events, of helping the painter out with the spectator's own resources of feeling and imagination, that you can never be sure how much of the picture you have yourself made. (X, 331-332)
That Hawthorne should have referred to his works as "mosses"  seems particularly appropriate--mosses being unobtrusively beautiful plants, hardy and tenacious, yet requiring conditions for survival that are not present in all atmospheres. Moreover, they are associated with age, the passing of time, and history. Hawthorne's title for this collection of his sketches and tales, like his use of moss in The Scarlet Letter and in The House of the Seven Gables, suggests that moss is for him symbolic at once of decay and regeneration, of the reality of the past in the present, of "Time's vicissitude." In this latter respect mosses are rather like the old apple trees in the orchard at the Manse:
An orchard has a relation to mankind, and readily connects itself with matters of the heart. The trees possess a domestic character; they have lost the wild nature of their forest kindred, and have grown humanized by receiving the care of man as well as by contributing to his wants... .And what is more melancholy than the old apple-trees that linger about the spot where once stood a homestead, but where there is now only a ruined chimney rising out of a grassy and weed-grown cellar? They offer their fruit to every wayfarer,--apples that are bitter sweet with the moral of Time's vicissitude. (II, 21)
Such a moral is also to be found in the Old Manse's library, whose books remind us of "the humiliating fact that the works of man's intellect decay like those of his hands" (II, 29). Hawthorne's experience in the old library, nevertheless, bears out his conviction--borne of "a superstitious reverence for literature of all kinds"--"that every new book or antique one may contain the 'open sesame,'--the spell to disclose treasures hidden in some unsuspected cave of Truth" (II, 31). Reading in "a few old newspapers, and still older almanacs . . . was as if [he] had found bits of magic looking-glass among the books, with the images of a vanished century in them" (II, 30). 
The image of a hidden treasure which confers the imaginative power to transcend space and time recalls an earlier, and very significant, passage in "The Old Manse," in which Hawthorne remarks the effect upon his imagination of having discovered the site of an old Indian village and finding there an arrowhead:
You see a splinter of stone, half hidden beneath a sod; it looks like nothing worthy of note; but, if you have faith enough to pick it up, behold a relic! ... There is exquisite delight in picking up for one's self an arrowhead that was dropped centuries ago and has never been handled since, and which we thus receive directly from the hand of the red hunter, who purposed to shoot it at his game or at an enemy. Such an incident builds up again the Indian village and its encircling forest, and recalls to life the painted chiefs and warriors, the squaws at their household toil, and the children sporting among the wigwams, while the little wind-rocked pappoose swings from the branch of the tree. It can hardly be told whether it is a joy or a pain, after such a momentary vision, to gaze around in the broad daylight of reality and see stone fences, white houses, potato fields, and men doggedly hoeing in their shirt-sleeves and homespun pantaloons. But this is nonsense. The Old Manse is better than a thousand wigwams. (II, 19-20)
From the perspective of "the broad daylight of reality" such visions doubtless may be seen as moonshiny nonsense. From another point of view it seems no less nonsensical that one's mode of perception should be conditioned by any single perspective. And, nonsense or no, the old Indian village and the finding there of Indian artifacts excite Hawthorne's imagination--more even than does the Concord battlefield itself, "or any other scene of historic celebrity."
The notion of the artist as ploughman turning up a treasure which has the power--provided he has faith enough--to alter his perceived relation to the world is also another version of Hawthorne's ideal reader, one able to discover the treasure in writings which from certain points of view may look like nothing worthy of note, or even like nonsense. Any book, that is, may turn up a world-transforming treasure, if the reader brings to it that childlike simplicity of vision which Hawthorne, like Coleridge, regarded as imaginative faith.  Even the book of nature may be so read by a sympathetic spirit--someone like Thoreau, who had the uncanny faculty of discovering things "not to be hoped for unless when a poet adjusts his inward eye to a proper focus with the outward organ" (II, 33) 
This remark about the poet's inward eye is found in the most powerfully evocative section of "The Old Manse," a description of a fishing excursion with Ellery Channing: "Strange and happy times were those when we cast aside all irksome forms and strait-laced habitudes, and delivered ourselves up to the free air, to live like the Indians or any less conventional race during one bright semicircle of the sun. Rowing our boat against the current, between wide meadows, we turned aside into the Assabeth. A more lovely stream than this, for a mile above its junction with the Concord, has never flowed on earth,--nowhere, indeed, except to lave the interior regions of a poet's imagination" (II, 31-32).
As they journey along the quiet stream "through the mid-most privacy and deepest heart of a wood"--as in many of Hawthorne's inward journeys--the nature of reality itself is momentarily called into question. Of all the enchanted scene around them, "the slumbering river has a dream picture in its bosom. Which, after all, was the most real--the picture, or the original?--the objects palpable to our grosser senses, or their apotheosis in the stream beneath? Surely the disembodied images stand in closer relation to the soul" (II, 32). The journeyers glide "from depth to depth, and [breathe] new seclusion at every turn." They stop, kindle a fire, prepare a meal, and experience a strange magical harmony "with the river gliding by and the foliage rustling over [them]." Words such as "sacrilege," "sacred," "offices," and "rites" are needed to describe the experience. Clearly their state of mind, their inner world, is in deep accord with the beauty and poetry of the scene around them: "It was the very spot in which to utter the extremest nonsense or the profoundest wisdom, or that ethereal product of the mind which partakes of both, and may become one or the other, in correspondence with the faith and insight of the auditor" (II, 35). This is precisely the sort of language Hawthorne uses later in "The Old Manse" to talk about the ethereal products of his own mind, and clearly suggests the responsibility his readers have of bringing with them sufficient "faith and insight."
Since for Hawthorne perception is necessarily to some degree interpretive, he knows that his works--like anything else--both are and are not "nonsense," depending on one's point of view. What is important is that one's vision retain the capacity to adjust to as many as possible of the conditions impinging upon it; that one maintain a diligent sensitivity to the importance of context, situation, occasion; that we "never pass judgment on the merits of any person or thing, unless we see it in the circumstances for which it is intended and adapted." 
What awaits the reader who does bring such vision to Hawthorne's writing is indicated by what Hawthorne and Channing discover on their journey into the woods--a liberating mode of intercourse which is at once social and spiritual: "the chief profit of those wild days... lay, not in any definite idea, not in any angular or rounded truth, which we dug out of the shapeless mass of problematical stuff, but in the freedom which we thereby won from all custom and conventionalism and fettering influences of man on man. We were so free today that it was impossible to be slaves again to-morrow. When we crossed the threshold of the house or trod the thronged pavements of a city, still the leaves of the trees that overhang the Assabeth were whispering to us, 'Be free! Be free!'" (II, 35). Implicit in this passage is Hawthorne's harshly critical view of the situation of the writer in early nineteenth-century New England. It reveals his hostile fear of a civilization--and a reading public--which by repressing men's imaginations denies their full humanity. For what their inward journey has freed Hawthorne and Channing from is all that is stifling in their New England civilization, from "all irksome forms and strait-laced habitudes"--"all custom and conventionalism and fettering influences of man on man." The passage suggests Hawthorne's tendency to conflate imaginative experience with moral and spiritual experience; and thereby indicates the profound relation he believed to exist between aesthetic, social, and religious experience. "Fettering influences," because they make men imaginatively and emotionally sterile, are dehumanizing, immoral, even evil.
It is thoroughly characteristic of Hawthorne, however, that he should conclude this celebration of the spirit's liberating engagement with nature by acknowledging the value to be found in society, the locus of forces precisely antagonistic to those he has been celebrating. After the sacramental experience of their journey, "how sweet was it to return within the system of human society, not as to a dungeon and a chain, but as to a stately edifice, whence we could go forth at will into statelier simplicity!" (II, 36).  After such knowledge, the homely aspect of the Old Manse offered a gentle rebuke to "the speculative extravagances" of the river-journey. The Old Manse "had grown sacred in connection with the artificial life against which we inveighed; it had been a home for many years in spite of all; it was my home too; and, with these thoughts, it seemed to me that all the artifice and conventionalism of life was but an impalpable thinness upon its surface, and that the depth below was none the worse for it" (II, 36). The passage relating the excursion on the Assabeth is virtually an epitome of "The Old Manse" in the evocativeness of its description, and in the way that description almost imperceptibly directs our vision from a natural landscape to aesthetic, moral, psychological, or religious contexts, and thereby suggests meanings of unsuspected complexity.
This quality of emblematic richness is corroborated by a passage early in "The Old Manse" about the Concord River. Having presented himself as "a writer of idle stories" (II, 12), Hawthorne enters upon a vignette re-creating the scene of the battle at Concord which began the War of Independence. We are imagined as standing on the brink of the Concord River, "certainly the most unexcitable and sluggish stream that ever loitered imperceptibly towards its eternity--the sea" (II, 14) From one point of view, however, the river's apparent lifelessness is a source of hidden value: "From the incurable indolence of its nature, the stream is happily incapable of becoming the slave of human ingenuity, as is the fate of so many a wild, free mountain torrent. While all things else are compelled to subserve some useful purpose, it idles its sluggish life away in lazy liberty, without turning a solitary spindle or affording even water-power enough to grind the corn that grows upon its banks" (II, 15). The analogies between the artist, the writer of idle stories, and the river are further suggested as Hawthorne observes that, again from a certain point of view (river's power to reflect such a vision despite "its tawny hue and the muddiness of its bed," prompts Hawthorne to urge its fitness as a symbol "that the earthliest human soul has an infinite spiritual capacity and may contain the better world within its depths" (II, 16). Such oblique views of the artist as river, of the river as artist, and of the spiritually regenerative force of art, are characteristic of Hawthorne. No less characteristic, however, is the sense of his uneasiness with such notions, something of which is betrayed by the tone of the next sentence: "But, indeed, the same lesson might be drawn out of any mud puddle in the streets of a city; and, being taught us everywhere, it must be true" (II, 16). The final clause--in its muted irony and its utter ambivalence--is vintage Hawthorne.
"The Old Manse" is a carefully arranged bouquet of emblematic flowers whose lessons are to be repeated in Hawthorne's subsequent prefaces, in which the concern is likewise to establish a true relation with his audience. Indeed, "The Old Manse" is remarkable for the fullness of its commentary upon the writer's relation to his audience--commentary often veiled as observations on a stream, or an orchard, or gardening, or an excursion upon a river. In the passage describing the Concord River, for example, the suggestion is that it is pleasant to be, like the river, free of the compulsion to serve some utilitarian purpose. Such a notion is balanced, however, by a passage like that about the artist as gardener, which remarks the equal pleasure to be found in "the certainty that somebody must profit by what one has brought into being." The tension implicit in two such modes of satisfaction informs all of Hawthorne's varied commentary on art and the artist's relation to society. His vignettes of these complementary lives of the artist, as idle stream and as beneficent gardener, express Hawthorne's conviction that detachment from one's society and intimate relation to it are equally necessary and equally threatening to the artist's survival. "The Old Manse" is wholly characteristic of Hawthorne in its over-all complexity of tone, and of vision, and in its pervasive ambivalences--all of which qualities are suggested by the image of Hawthorne as gracious host, holding his reader-guest somewhat uneasily at arm's length while mildly protesting the unique intimacy of their friendship.
Reprinted from THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY, vol. XLVI, No. 1, March, 1973, by kind permission of the author.
 Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Old Manse," in Mosses from an Old Manse, vol. II of The complete Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Parsons Lathrop, editor (Boston, 1883), 11-12. Subsequent references to texts in this, the Riverside, edition will be identified by volume and page numbers in the article.
 Cf. Hawthorne's observation in Randall Stewart, editor, The American Notebooks by Nathaniel Hawthorne (New Haven, 1932), 107: "People who write about themselves and their feelings, as Byron did, may be said to serve up their own hearts, duly spiced, and with brain-sauce out of their own heads, as a repast for the public."
 In a letter (July 15, 1851) to his publisher, James T. Fields, Hawthorne writes: "There are weeds enough in my mind, to be sure, and I might pluck them up by the handful; but in so doing I should root up the few flowers along with them. It is also to be considered, that what one man calls weeds another classifies among the choicest flowers in the garden" (James T. Fields, Yesterdays With Authors [Boston, 1900], 60). The latter sentence makes clear a further reason for Hawthorne's attraction to horticultural metaphors.
 Julian Hawthorne recalls his father sending back from England during his Consulship "a great number of Norway spruces and firs" to be planted at the Wayside ("Scenes of Hawthorne's Romances," The Century Magazine, 28 [July, 1884]; reprinted in Kenneth Walter Cameron, editor, Hawthorne Among his Contemporaries [Hartford, Conn., 1968], 256). This act, like Hawthorne's love of gardening in general, seems an expression of his conservatism, and of his sense of history. Yet one must also remember that side of him which believed "the hand that renovates is always more sacrilegious than that which destroys" (II, 44).
 Cf. especially R. Stewart, editor, The American Notebooks, entries in the section for June 20, 1847 to Aug. 16, 1851. The long entry for Jan. 28, 1849 (199-203) is characteristic.
 In a letter to Evert Duyckinck of February 22, 1846, Hawthorne writes: "I have bestowed much and solemn consideration upon the title of the book. 'Wall-Flowers from an Old Abbey' occurred to me; but it is too fine. 'Moss and Lichens from an Old Parsonage';--that does not go off trippingly enough. 'Mosses from an Old Manse' suits me rather better; and if my wife agrees with me, so shall the book be christened." (Quoted, by permission of The New York Public Library, from its Duyckinck Collection, Nathaniel Hawthorne Folder, Manuscript Division.) "Christened" in conjunction with the consistently horticultural titles is characteristic.
 The ambivalence about libraries here' is anticipated in Hawthorne's earlier sketch, "The New Adam and Eve" (II, 279-302), which has to do with the ills attendant upon "the artificial system which is implied in every lamp post and each brick of the house's" (II, 282), among which his protagonists wander. The description of the library of Harvard University in that sketch ("a Gothic edifice of gray stone" [II, 298]) recalls an earlier one of the prison ("an edifice of stern gray stone" [II, 286]). Indeed, the long description of "the mysterious perils of the library" (II, 299), and of Eve's "happy influence" in rescuing Adam from them, is an extraordinarily rich example of the tensions implicit in Hawthorne's view of what is called, in Chapter IV of The Scarlet Letter, "the hungry dream of knowledge."
 There are' many possessors of such vision in Hawthorne's work. One of the most exemplary is Mrs. Lindsey, in "The Snow-Image: A Childish Miracle," who "all through her life. . . had kept her heart full of childlike simplicity and faith, which was as pure and clear as crystal; and, looking at all matters through this transparent medium, she sometimes saw truths so profound that other people laughed at them as nonsense and absurdity" (III, 406). Cf. 58-67 of the discussion of "Hawthorne's Aesthetic Intentions" in Marjorie Elder, Nathaniel Hawthorne: Transcendental Symbolist (Athens, Ohio, 1969). Two other studies I have found helpful in the preparation of this article are Dan McCall, "Hawthorne's Familiar Kind of Preface," ELH, XXXV (1968), 422-439, and Richard Harter Fogle, "Weird Mockery: An Element of Hawthorne's Style," Style No. 2 (Fall, 1968), 191-208.
 Cf. Hawthorne's comments upon Thoreau's uncanny powers of perception in Stewart, editor, The American Notebooks, 166-167 (entry for Sept. 1, 1842). Hawthorne's description of the act of skillfully rowing "The Pond-Lily," the boat he bought from Thoreau, offers analogies to his view of the aesthetic experience: "I have always liked to be afloat; but I think I have never adequately conceived of the enjoyment till now, when I begin to feel a power over that which supports me'.... Oh that I could run wild!--that is, that I could put myself into a true relation with nature, and be on friendly terms with all congenial elements" (American Notebooks,, 169).
 Nathaniel Hawthorne, in Randall Stewart, editor, The English Notebooks by Nathaniel Hawthorne (New York, 1941), 567; cited by Miss Elder, Hawthorne: Transcendental Symbolist, 67
 Significantly, the society Hawthorne returns to here is chiefly that centered about "the [sacred] hearth of a household fire." Indeed, whenever Hawthorne celebrates the virtues of society his frame of reference is customarily restricted to the domestic sphere. And when he ends the present passage by recalling his prayer "that the upper influences might long protect the institutions that had grown out of the heart of mankind" (II, 36), he is presumably referring to marriage and the family--not surprisingly, of course, when one remembers that the years at the Old Manse were the first years of his marriage, and probably the happiest ones of his life. Cf. Hyatt Waggoner, "'Grace' in the Thought of Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne," ESQ, No. 54 (1st Quarter, 1969), pp. 70-71. For Hawthorne's early days of marriage, see Stewart, editor, The American Notebooks, 145ff--the first entries for Aug., 1842.