Hawthorne's View of the Artist
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The Hawthorne depicted by Professor Bell in these pages will be as much of a surprise to many readers as is his appearance in the rare 1847 daguerreotype reproduced on the book-jacket. "This virtually unknown portrait," says the author, "corresponds with Samuel Goodrich's description, in 1856, of the New England writer: . ..'his hair dark and bushy, his eye steel gray, his brow thick, his mouth sarcastic, his whole aspect cold, moody, distrustful. ...At this period. ..he had tried his hand in literature and considered himself to have met with a fatal rebuff from the reading world'" (pp. 92-93). His sensitiveness to the predicament of the artist in early-nineteenth-century America—when the rush for power, money, and social prestige relegated creative talent to the dustbin—filled Hawthorne's writings with penetrating statements about the artist's fate in the new scientific, industrial world, statements still applicable today.
Millicent Bell is Assistant Professor of English at Brown University. She has also had a career in journalism and editing. She held jobs as reporter and feature writer for the Savannah Evening Press, the Toledo Blade, and the Philadelphia Record, and was Associate Editor of Architectural Forum. Her writings have appeared in such publications as PMLA, American Quarterly, New England Quarterly, Yale Library Gazette, Emerson Society Quarterly, and Modern Language Notes.
"I predict that this work will very soon be recognized as one of the most brilliant of the Hawthorne studies," says Dr. Randall Stewart, Chairman of Vanderbilt University's Department of English and dean of today's Hawthorne scholars. "The author shows first Hawthorne's absorption of the transcendental aesthetic and his criticism of it (counter-Romantic). Then, in masterly analyses of 'The Artist of the Beautiful,' 'The Prophetic Pictures,' and other tales, she shows the counter-Romantic at work, demonstrating through echoes in other stories that this is a dominant principle in Hawthorne's fiction. ...Her conclusions are wellnigh infallible. "