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


Page 106

set of beliefs and under the sweet uses of prosperity had considerably enriched its life with secular culture. And yet so recent were the fires of that passion which had refined the spirit of the elder Puritans that the spirit of their descendants was still fine, though in a new way. In all but the sturdiest this modern spirit tended to be thin, frail, flat, merely a gentility of the intellect and disposition. Hawthorne was of the sturdiest. To a full heritage of the traditional inwardness he added wide reading and wide speculation and not a little observation of the color and costume of his province; he had talked with vagabonds and lived with transcendentalists. Of the little group at Concord—Hawthorne, Thoreau, Emerson—which with the passage of time stands up so eminently above the Longfellows and Lowells and Holmeses of the Cambridge-Boston tradition, Emerson enunciated a larger diversity of maxims, and Thoreau most vividly lived the Yankee life; but Hawthorne alone shaped the stuff of his meditations into visible forms and living creatures.
  Thus he may be said to sum up and body forth the inner vision of his age and section so far as that was done by any imaginative writer. What he insufficiently reflects is the homelier, coarser qualities of New England: its tough rustic fibre, its hickory-hearted endurance, its canniness yoked with dreams, its dry, knowing humor, its crackling dialect, its home-bred complacency, the fearful silence and obstinacy of which it is capable when crossed too long, the potentialities within it of degenerating when the stronger impulses weaken. Such of these as were surface matters Hawthorne eschewed as merely so much dialect—things not essential to the heart of his investigations



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