The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XI. Hawthorne

§ 4. Early Stories

The facts of his literary record are hardly more numerous, but they invite more comment. His college letters to his mother and his sisters show how early he mastered his superb style. Indeed, they are much better written than his first published story, Fanshawe (1828), which was probably composed, in part at least, during his college days. From 1825 to 1837 he lived at home in Salem, laboriously perfecting his short stories and sketches, and publishing them anonymously or under assumed names, chiefly in Goodrich’s annual, The Token, and in The New England Magazine. He gives an idealized account of this period in his sketches The Devil in Manuscript and The Journal of a Solitary Man. In 1837, again through Bridge’s good offices, a publisher was found for the Twice Told Tales (enlarged edition in two volumes, 1842). With this practical beginning of his reputation coincided his first acquaintance with the Peabody family. In all the biographies his love for Sophia Peabody has naturally filled a large place, but no sufficient estimate has perhaps been made of the intellectual enrichment his love brought him. It was through the Peabodys that he became really alive to the philosophical currents of his time. Transcendentalism had, of course, enfolded him, as it had the average New Englander, in its general atmosphere, and its temper is felt in some of his earliest writings, but it can hardly be said to have possessed his thought as it did later, and he had been in personal contact with none of the leaders. The Peabodys, however, were on intimate terms with Emerson, the young rhapsodist of Nature, whose recent triumph in The American Scholar had more recently been rendered equivocal by his Divinity School Address; and Alcott, Emerson’s inspirer, they knew still better, for Elizabeth and to some extent Sophia had assisted at his Temple school in Boston, and Elizabeth had published in her Records of a School (1835) verbatim reports of Alcott’s conversations with his pupils. When The Dial was founded in 1840, Elizabeth Peabody, who by that time had organized a remarkable book store, became its publisher. It was not extraordinary, therefore, that Hawthorne was drawn, though with some mental qualms, into the full tide of Transcendentalism, nor that upon the termination of his service in the Boston Custom House, in 1841, he joined the Brook Farm venture, in the hope of establishing a home there. His note-books tell us the most interesting aspects of this passage in his life. At the end of a year and a half, completely disillusioned with the community experiment, he married and settled at Concord, in the Old Manse, where for neighbours he had Emerson, Alcott, and Thoreau, all busy with The Dial, and where Thoreau was shortly to undertake his Walden solitude. In Concord most of the stories were written which Hawthorne published in 1846 as Mosses from an Old Manse. A still later collection, The Snow Image (1852), gathered up practically all of the remaining sketches which he cared to preserve.