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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 105

which he had inherited, but here as in all his romances lurk certain questions the answers to which conduct to the most spacious regions of morals and imagination.
  From his return in 1860 to his death four years later Hawthorne accomplished no remarkable work except Our Old Home. Another theme for a romance constantly tempted him, or rather, two: the idea of an elixir of life and that of the return to England of an American heir to some hereditary estate; but though he experimented with them in four fragments, The Ancestral Footstep, Septimius Felton, Dr. Grimshawe’s Secret, and The Dolliver Romance, Hawthorne could not fuse or complete them. Not only had the Civil War fatally interrupted his reflections but his imagination was dissolving, his vitality breaking up, along with the New England era of which he had been, among its poets and romancers, the consummate flower. Had he survived he must have seemed an outlived figure in a community which after the war turned its eyes increasingly to Europe and to the American West, through emigration losing its compact strength, and as a result of larger connections with the rest of the world losing its stout old self-sufficiency. Although The House of the Seven Gables points forward to a whole school of prose elegists recording the New England decline, Hawthorne himself wrote while his corner of the country was still thriving and busy. Among men confident of the future of New England he could survey its past without the sense that life about him had diminished and so could utilize it without clutching it too closely as a compensation for the present. But though New England was still strong, it had softened its former iron theology to a more endurable



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