Happy Horrific Hallmarkian Holiday


Audio file of myself reading Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne



Monkshood flower AKA AconiteAconite or monkshood

Born July 4th, 1804 (in Salem, Mass) , died 1864
Interesting trivia: Reason why Nathaniel Hawthorne changed his name from ‘Hathorne’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hathorne His great-great-grandfather was a judge at the Salem witch trials -I have also heard the name of the town of Salem is a version of  ‘Shalom’- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem,_Massachusetts )

Bet you also didn’t know Nathaniel Hawthorne the writer lived on a utopian compound and shoveled poop. He supported President Pierce & wrote his campaign biography http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Pierce  who also got into trouble for not being enough of a liberal northern yankee type, much criticized on a political and personal level. Pierce’s popularity in the North declined sharply after he came out in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, repealing the Missouri Compromise and reopening the question of the expansion of slavery in the west . His reputation was further damaged when he declared support for the Confederacy. Pierce died of cirrhosis of the liver, Hawthorne of stomach cancer.

Many don’t appreciate his work, because it is often includes things painful or complex, not easily and neatly dealt with. He is not a fun writer, yet he is one of depth- His writing was criticized mostly for either the style, the ‘voice’, pretty much saying that his narrative was just a vehicle for his Puritan upbringing- a place to get on the moral soapbox -the same could be said when I or anyone else writes or speaks about the Christian/Newsom case   “Oh , you’re just using this ‘isolated, terrible news story’ as a platform to espouse your hateful views, blah blah”..but that is about people not wanting to hear the truth.

People don’t seem to care about what is right or true, they just shoot the messenger by shutting one down , calling names. In those days , they called ‘Puritan’, today they call ‘Racist!’  The very fact that through his writings, he dragged out things people did not want to deal with, made him a target. Some thought  he was too bold  – through plot or character development. Others said he was depressing or they didn’t want to be preached at, though that was perhaps not Hawthorne’s intent. People tend to view their own reactions as evidence of what the writer intended, if anything, in a given story. He questioned things, and we know very well that doing so unnerves folks.

Even with these criticisms, Hawthorne was  highly complimented by his peers-

From Wiki: “The style of Hawthorne is purity itself. His tone is singularly effective–wild, plaintive, thoughtful, and in full accordance with his themes.” He concluded that, “we look upon him as one of the few men of indisputable genius to whom our country has as yet given birth.” Edgar Allen Poe

Henry James praised Hawthorne, saying, “The fine thing in Hawthorne is that he cared for the deeper psychology, and that, in his way, he tried to become familiar with it”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Hawthorne#Novels

I also find fascinating that he was something of a creative revisionist:

Wiki says: Hawthorne is also considered among the first to experiment with alternate history as literary form. His 1845 short storyP.’s Correspondence” (a part of “Mosses from an Old Manse”) is the first known complete English language alternate history and among the most early in any language. The story’s protagonist is considered “a madman” due to his perceiving an alternative 1845 in which long-dead historical and literary figures are still alive; these delusions feature the poets Burns, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, the actor Edmund Kean, the British politician George Canning and even Napoleon Bonaparte.

In his time, Hawthorne might have been called something akin to a Goth-minus the Marilyn Manson Glam. But he didn’t have a rock band , wear makeup or dress like a vampire. Thank Gawd for that. Shackleton and Edison, you’ve got company. I get the feeling his writing wasn’t taken seriously or fully appreciated while he was alive by some and possibly further maligned through his association with the non politically-correct President Pierce, yet he is now considered required reading -or at least when I was in school, he was- by every high-school student.

“He was no mystic; what attracted him in Transcendentalism was its free inquiry, its radicalism, its contact with actual life..”


Cure_for_BeatriceBeatrice with vial

Other sources:

text: http://www.shsu.edu/~eng_wpf/authors/Hawthorne/Rappaccini.htm





http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/eng372/rappcrit.htm  yes I KNOW about the name, there’s many people on that page

15 thoughts on “Hearts & (poisonous) Flowers: Hawthorne

  1. Thomas St. John says:

    Fine entry on Hawthorne here! It is so encouraging to find comment directed to the man, and completely free from the academic’s reducing Hawthorne to a mere intellectual jig-saw puzzle, which has betrayed him, and the rest of us as well. I wonder what you would say to the poisons and the second-degree murder in “The Scarlet Letter”? Happy Valentine’s!

  2. Hmm I suppose I could take that as a kind of backhanded compliment about the
    ” so encouraging to find comment directed to the man, and completely free from the academic’s reducing Hawthorne to a mere intellectual jig-saw puzzle, which has betrayed him, and the rest of us as well….”


    What are you saying has betrayed him? That sentence was rather awkward- Academia or the jigsaw puzzle? I think you meant academia . By the way, I believe it would be “Academia’s” reduction of him….” rather than “academic’s” and “that has betrayed him” .
    I love Hawthorne for his imperfections, not in spite of them.

  3. Thomas St. John says:

    Silent Consort,

    You are right, that was a frightfully awkward sentence! It was also ungrammatical. Red wine does not improve my concentration? And yes, it is academia to blame for betraying Hawthorne, as you say. In France, you go into a bar and the workers will be having passionate argument about Victor Hugo.

    I assure you, there is nothing “backhanded” about my compliment on your work, and I am grateful for the link that you made to my work concerning “Rappaccini’s Daughter”.

    The thing is, I never learned to be afraid of Nathaniel Hawthorne, trusting implicitly ever, and always assuming his perfection! After thirty years of this delusion, I still cannot abandon this attitude’s folly, because there is more to learn about him. I’m not sure where to pick up Hawthorne’s trail at the moment, and he surely covers his tracks with a vengeance.

    I suspect that the answers lie in his final explorations back into the English and Italian past, back from Protestantism into the older Catholicism. Perhaps he saw a deeper political horror than Salem? What knowledge did he take as Consul, and from his access to the thoughts of his friend Franklin Pierce, who was so loyal to him until the end?


  4. Thomas,
    I apologize if my last reply came across as ..”snotty”. Occasionally, I get strange mail, much of which I delete or archive “in case”. I’ve developed this horrible trait of being suspicious of anything , (or perhaps especially?) of anyone who appears complimentary or even friendly. I hate this but it has become habit in the same way that we step hard on the brakes when a ball rolls into the street.
    As far as our subject, I make no claims to be a literary scholar or critic, I had quite enough of those insufferable types in school. I learn about Hawthorne through the writing itself as much as through his real-life information, perhaps even more- the same with reading diaries/notes of explorers, like Shackleton, etc. It is likely he did see , as you say ” a deeper political horror”. However, most of the time, he seems free of the “Salem Guilt” in the sense that he does not write in that obligatory “guilt undertone”
    that most all modern writers today have, constantly apologizing, making excuses, etc- Would a descendant of slaveholders (or fill in any other historic event).. write as Hawthorne did? It invokes in me a sense of curiosity- was the world free of “political correctness” then, or was “PC”
    actually “Personal/Moral Correctness”? In any case, snack for thought.
    I enjoy reading/recording various things- see link -(if you haven’t already) .If you have a N.H. story you would like me to read,
    please, let me know.

    A quote from our friend:

    “It contributes greatly towards a man’s moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate. “

  5. Thomas St. John says:

    Silent Consort,

    I’ve been reading “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” tonight, the first several chapters. It has been rewarding. Until very recently, I had not known that it is set in Maine, around 1900. That is, before our difficulties escalated, so to speak. It well behooves any historian to understand, what has been lost with time. My best friend was very surprised to learn about this reading selection of mine. My last reading was, “The Brothers Karamazov”.

    I was not going to email you again. “The hell with it!”. Not that it cannot be understood, your suspicion of people who compliment you for this, for that. Yesterday a joker from Boston called a work of mine “fabulous” and God knows what else. What vultures! I think Bob Dylan called these fellows, “the 101 inevitables”? You see how it is. Your suspicion is very healthy, as it were. Yes.

    I cannot hear your recording of “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, and I regret this. I would like to hear your voice, truth to tell. But the thing is, I lack the computer skills. I have been looking over your extensive website, in a shallow kind of way, given that I am a slow reader. I have determined that you are a sympathetic creature! Also, that you have another recording of, “The Red Shoes” by Hans Christian Anderson. Well. You can’t be all bad!

    Your choice of “Silent Consort” is excellent? I suppose that this name makes many people feel that they have a. A secret believer, a kind of sympathy waiting for them? Is that it? When I was a student in high school I was very struck by Walter de la Mare’s poem “The Listeners”. I would not have recalled this poem, in the midst of these most difficult times, without having seen your work. So, again, I am grateful to you.

    It is late here in Vermont. I must go.


  6. Thomas,
    Well, I am glad you seem to have accepted my apology, it was sincere. I’m not sure about the “fabulous” ( it is hard to tell sarcasm on paper)- but sometimes people really mean well, even if it isn’t the particular compliment one was hoping for !
    I don’t know about the “101 inevitables” though
    I admit, there are a few Dylan songs I enjoy. Like you with your books, I do not worry what others think about my musical tastes. Strange how I now wonder if I like songs like “Just like a Woman” or Van Morrison or Cat Stevens or Sandy Denny, etc.. for themselves, or if it is half-asleep memories from childhood of strains of these songs echoing through the heating vent to my room? To think I may have turned out to share my father’s taste in music for whatever reason is not all that bad.

    I believe the file host service may have “erased” or turned “blank” my file as the same host I used has since blocked me from uploading, as to why I do not know. However, I have re-uploaded somewhere else.
    It is a common MP3 file, windows media player should be able to play it, it plays fine on my PC. You say you lack computer skills- that is not your site , the phoenix ? In any case, your firewall seems to work quite well, I could only get as far as NH with your IP address. :)

    That is interesting, the way you see the name of the site, I neither confirm or deny anything.I like your interpretation. Please, don’t be grateful to me because you remembered a poem long forgotten. Sometimes forgetting is a gift, if only we could choose what to forget, if we could only choose what to be reminded of and not.

    Besides, there may come a time when you look over this site and come to a page that contains things you do not agree with and/or see that I am not always “sympathetic” or become offended at something, you will read something and judge me, (and my heart is heavy and soul greatly flawed)- if this should happen, do not worry, I have already accepted I cannot make everyone happy all of the time , as they say. In the case that this should happen you need not explain -people on the internet explain everything to people they don’t know- and I have done the same, and people who know each other in real life explain nothing! – this being the case, you are free- come and go at will , as is the natural way.
    and now it is late here in the west- Would I but have but a small vial of soporific-

    “I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”
    Bronte, Wuthering Heights

  7. Thomas St. John says:

    Silent Consort,

    I really am computer illiterate! I hired a webmaster to put my website online–it took about five years, beginning in 2001. Years ago I recall him mentioning that it would be a good idea to put in a firewall, and that it wouldn’t take much time. So I said all right. I don’t know a firewall from a fire engine. I’m happy that you say it works, and maybe I’ll run a search to see if I can find out what they do!

    For years I went to the library to scan and index, read all the old volumes of newspapers that no one in their right minds ever even looks at. The best articles that I found I put on my website for Brattleboro history.


    All the links are from the table of contents

    My Hawthorne work is the best writing that I’ll ever do, this “Nathaniel Hawthorne: Studies in The House of the Seven Gables”. It is inside this website.

    The “Rappaccini’s Daughter” piece was done with a fortunate geographical accident on my part. I don’t think that I could have assembled the sources, had I not just happened to live in Brattleboro, Boston-Cambridge, and knew Pittsfield and the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts as well. Astounding luck, and also to be alert at the right moment.

    I did explore your blog very quickly, and probably formed more wrong impressions than you can shake a stick at! So I will go slowly through it again. You were not on my New Years’ resolutions list, but then, neither was “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”? Any source to learn history!

    Your blogroll has some sites that I am familiar with for perhaps two years, no more than that. I can see your courage and endurance and love. So admirable. I’m sure that these are not wrong impressions at all.

    I’m slightly worried about how you might take the one thing that I’m best known for, this article “Indian-Hating in The Wizard of Oz” at http://www.geocities.com/seekingthephoenix/b/baum.htm I started writing this one in September, 1972, while living in Boston on Commonwealth Avenue.

    The University of Utah’s academic journal published a far longer version of this in 1982, and the online Counterpunch website also took the very short summary, and it has gone all over since then. American Indians are familiar with it. It’s become a political football for all and asundry, which is not entirely to my liking. The long version is far more convincing, but that’s not online.

    Your political passion is as obvious as your black boots, Silent Consort. So, I ask that you do not be quick to understand this one work. Even though I was terribly young when I began it, in fact, really first shoving my snout out into the world, the piece does strike deep. So, patience!
    I figured that I would tell you these things, since you are proving to be so difficult to walk away from.


  8. Thomas,
    I understand that most won’t agree with me on many things, or even half-agree – I am quite used to not being accepted or understood. I still occasionally try, but usually make things worse.

    Don’t worry about your Wizard of Oz article. It was I who linked to your work- how a computer illiterate found his way back to this blog is still a curiosity, the timing of when I put the post up and then you showing up- and no doubt that is how you found your way here (there are many ways to see who links to a site,Google blog searches, don’t know if geocities shows links coming in or ‘links to’ stats. Now, it is possible you could be faking being that site owner, but I doubt it- you got here one way or the other shortly after I put up that post mentioning Hawthorne, not out of the blue.

    Nevertheless, the point is, it was I who linked to your site, therefore technically, I initiated the contact- which in the circles of the politically incorrect and justifiably paranoid, means you are probably “all right”. When someone starts talking to you (and anonymously) out of nowhere, that is a “red flag” . I am not worried about you in that way, or the typically liberal-ish views on Indians or the rest. Though I think our govt and those within are the “man behind the curtain” rather than the groups you mentioned.
    However you found this site, I don’t expect someone from “out there” to agree with me or not end up judging me. That even happens with “our own”. So don’t worry I will judge you harshly, I am forgiving of much. Patient? To a point. Difficult to walk away from? Don’t know about that. Congrats on getting published anywhere- that is hard even if “PC”.
    Was also reading this earlier
    but I got sidetracked at the start, looking up what these words meant-
    Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft , though I skimmed the rest, it turned predictably into scholarly analysis, which often times seems to get further and further away from the story and its characters and further into the “form” of the thing, the incessant picking apart of the trees in search of the forest,orbiting the story until one is at Pluto’s gates staring at the vast expanse o dark space, forgetting even what the story was about, what was said, what happened, and so on…
    So I don’t know if I want to bother with the rest , as much as I like the story, and the Victorian Web. I did a much lesser version of that type thing in school,and didn’t like it.I’d much rather either simply read and enjoy the story, or even try and write my own.

    Search results for Hawthorne on that site :

    Well, hope your night is restful, sometimes dreams can leave one less rested, or make one cry upon waking that we have left the dream unwillingly , and worse, that it was not even real, though it was so real while there- it is how the living haunt themselves or each other-

    may your dreams not be as such, Thomas.

  9. Thomas St. John says:

    Silent Consort,

    Fairly often I go to a search engine, usually Yahoo, or Google, Altavista, alltheweb–they give different results for the same search–and just enter “seekingthephoenix”, with or without quotes. Computers are very literal-minded, and that word is unusual, so the search brings up all the sites that have mentioned my work at all. The Yahoo search done this way turned up your title Hearts and (Poisonous) Flowers at the bottom of the third page of the hit list. That’s how I found your blog. It was easy!

    You have not done any similar search with Yahoo, say, for “silentconsort” or “silent consort”? Also an unusual word. Anyway, this is the way to find out all kinds of things about how people respond to your work. Try it!

    Actually, I just did search this way, and the list had your message to a site called “Stuff White People Like”. Your wonderful close observations in the Palestinian coffeehouse impressed me. I saw a custom of drinking similar to that, only with old Italian men with hard white wine, sitting about in Spanish Harlem one summer. The more I read your writing, the more I trust you.

    And it was your description of Franklin Pierce as non-politically correct that made me add to my reading list, the new biography of this President.

    About two years ago I really started going to seriously politically incorrect websites for the news–for the first time. Rivero’s Whatreallyhappened.com, Makow’s savethemales.ca, Rense.com, lots of others. Enough to give me my first really genuine case of paranoia! It’s no picnic! Just a month ago, I decided to back off from it a little, cut the computer time, and set my nerves awash with tons of chamomile tea. It does do wonders for one’s sleep, and the dreams are fairly pleasant.

    Have you heard of Ramzy Baroud’s website out of Seattle, The Palestine Chronicle? It is not PC. I mention this because I want to convince you that I am not politically correct. Ramzy had written an article on Wounded Knee for a website called cactus48. So I called his attention to my Wizard of Oz article and he published it in The Palestine Chronicle. Not a politically correct move! And there’s nothing correct about any serious effort to find the truth out about anything. And that’s all I do, ever.

    And I can see your courage to be incorrect, and sacrifice, and suffer, and I will take more time to read your posts through this year. I’m a slow reader, just remember that? Your writing has doubtless helped far more people than you know. It’s the evidence of unseen things. You have helped me, I know, so, take care of yourself. Try the chamomile!


  10. heh, ok, you need not explain more, i believe you-and thank you for your kind words- most times I feel rather invisible but don’t mind it. Someone turned around that was walking ahead of me today that didn’t know I was there, I took my car keys out and he heard it and wheeled around like he was startled. I wasn’t making an effort of being sneaky or anything, but it seems if I want to, I can manage not to be noticed. But my “magic powers” have been on the wane for a while now- I wonder if they will ever come back…
    Googling names-
    I think I did that a few times, googled my name here, but all these other results came up that had nothing to do with me (yes I did it all as one word not 2 words! because apparently that way it is used as kind of a cliche in writing)..800,000 as 2 words, 8500 as one word. When i google my real name, I’m related to almost every result that comes up, we are that few.

    I will try the tea, i have heard that before, about the chamomile having soporific qualities, I guess I should put some faith in something natural that will knock me out besides Nyquil. I like the night, it is when i feel most mentally active, I like to write at night, I take walks at night, i don’t care much for the hustle and bustle of the day , or sun, for that matter -the quietness, I love being in the silence and being able to hear/feel subtle things,the day takes that away- the day, the consistency of the sun, belongs to men- the darkness, the phases of the moon are much more like me-
    I don’t get that seasonal affective disorder people talk much about, from prolonged overcast days or rain- Sometimes I feel colder indoors than out. I walk and walk , somehow it calms me.

    I’ll check out your sites tomorrow, some of them I have been to before. So you say chamomile makes for good dreams? Now that would be worth falling asleep for- especially if they aren’t the kind that consistently wake you up at 5:30 Am and then you can’t get back to sleep and are a wreck for the rest for the rest of the day.
    Well I better try and sleep some. you don’t have to prove you are or aren’t “PC” to me. You’re a guest. I don’t interrogate guests (that badly).
    Well, good night.

  11. Thomas St. John says:

    Silent Consort,

    Yes! A guest. I’m happy.

    I need your advice here, about websites on the internet. The websites which I named are only a small minority of the ones that I read. And I am still stumbling through the fog of general smoke and mirrors, and bread and circuses. I will listen to your suggestions.

    It’s a vast struggle for perspective, and I see why there is this expression “going down the rabbit hole”, an allusion to Alice in Wonderland, for the experience of a political dupe who encounters the politically incorrect analysis that is on the internet, for the first time.

    I am not a “tin foil hat” personage, but I do worry occasionally, that some things may be accurate from that quarter. I mention this because one of my impressions of you was, that you are not overly fond of tin foil hattery? I don’t actually believe everything that I read on those sites which I mentioned to you before!

    One “new” interpretation that I do believe, implicitly, now is the view of astronomy-myth-archeology that is presented as “electric universe theory” at http://www.thunderbolts.info

    My father was an electric, mechanic, and chemical professional engineer who at one point was invited to join the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. He turned that offer down. I have his common sense and practicality. Did you know, that there is a PC astronomy and the more truthful alternative?

    I will look at your writings, as soon as I complete “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”. This will take some time, so you may not hear from me for the month or two? I am not cutting out on you! You have been very generous with your time for me, and you must be able by now to guess my word for this general situation. Grateful!


  12. Thomas,
    Thank you for visiting me and sharing your own thoughts, insight, comments, etc. I wish you well -perhaps you will return someday, and that you have found something of value to take with you to your next destination.
    The road to this site is not very well-traveled, indeed, it is a place of vast loneliness in many respects. Go, enjoy your books- meantime, I am relieved to hear your father did not contribute to the atomic bomb. As for tin-foil-hatdom, some things I believe, some I don’t, depends on what it is. You asked about links, but to what? Politics? Nationalism?
    This page has a vast storehouse- somehow I ended up listed there as well-

    There undoubtedly exists a great capacity for destruction and Evil in the world, the knowledge of which makes it easier to believe “conspiracies” than to disbelieve them.
    I’d like to believe that mortality itself is a tin-foil hat conspiracy, but I have kissed death more than once , and felt its hard, cold, stone-like face.
    Be well, Thomas-


  13. Thomas St. John says:

    Silent Consort,

    I’ll be all right, and back before this month is out. I printed out that passage from Wuthering Heights that you sent, and carry it around with me.


  14. Oh , there are passages I identify much more with but that one seemed one seemed safe enough. I wish you well in your travels- I get a kind of jet lag from dreams, though there is no time and space, I know when I awake I have been somewhere else.
    6:43 Am today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: