Looking Back: October
Jonathan Biss, pianist, concert at Duke; “Seminar,” play at Carolina Playmakers
Enjoying ciders at the local wine bar; lunch in Chapel at Weathervane; dinner at Greek restaurant in Chapel Hill (excellent moussaka!)
Continuing of the colors of leaves; beginning of leaf fall; first days of light frost; first light jacket weather
Pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, scarecrows, spiders, spider webs, witches, hay bales as home and business decorations
Halloween, with no trick-or-treaters
Lectio divina and Arthurian meditations; completing the teaching of Ecclesiastes
Reading The New Yorker, The American Scholar, Harper’s; reading Hawthorne (Mosses from an Old Manse); a biography of John Wesley; A Shepherd’s Life
There were church reunions, family reunions, the North Carolina State Fair, reunions with friends.
Alamance Artist Studio Tours, visiting artists in the south part of the county
Notes on Reading. Fiction and Nonfiction. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse (1846, 1854). In Hawthorne: Tales and Sketches, The Library of America, 1982.
The Library of America has printed all of the tales and sketches of Hawthorne, with two other books, A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys and Tanglewood Tales for Girls and Boys, in one volume of 1469 pages. Mosses from an Old Manse contains 26 tales and sketches.
Mosses from an Old Manse shows that Hawthorne knows, enjoys, and loves humanity. He is aware of the darkness in the heart of humans and explores that darkness in several of the well-known tales of the volume: “The Birth-mark,” “Young Goodman Brown,” “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” “Feathertop,” “Drowne’s Wooden Image,” “Roger Malvin’s Burial,” each of which is often anthologized. “Young Goodman Brown,” is my favorite, strong in images and imagination, the epitome of the initiation story. All of these stories are strong in characterization and entertain the reader with startling images and memorable plots.
“The Celestial Rail-road” is an homage to The Pilgrim’s Progress, showing that conveyance in the modern mode of transportation, an easier way to the Celestial City, is not appropriate.
The tale “The Artist of the Beautiful,” is a story of achievement of a goal and the realization of maturity, contrasting success in material and aesthetic accomplishments. It should be better known.
The sketches, often not anthologized, show interesting variety: “Mrs. Bullfrog,” a wry satire on marriage; “Fire-worship,” a praise of the hearth and fireside; “Buds and Bird-Voices,” an evocation of spring; “The Old Apple-Dealer,” a memorable portrait of an old salesperson selling apples, cakes, and candy at a railway station; “Sketches from Memory,” descriptions of travel in the White Mountains and on the Erie Canal. The preface to the collection recalls the Battle of Concord, praises the gardens of the manse, tells of fishing with Channing, arrowhead hunting with Thoreau, chatting with Lowell and the cemetery; praises Emerson for his influence; speaks of two ghosts in the manse.
The sketches give a view of Hawthorne as one who enjoys and delights in life and its pleasures, a good contrast with the darkness of many of his stories.
Quotation from Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse:
“A blessing is flung abroad and scattered far and wide over the earth, to be gathered up by all who choose. I recline upon the still unwithered grass, and whisper to myself: –‘Oh, perfect day! –Oh, beautiful world! –Oh, beneficent God!’ And it is the promise of a blissful Eternity; for our Creator would never have made such lovely days, and have given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal. This sunshine is the golden pledge thereof. It beams through the gates of Paradise, and shows us glimpses far inward.” (“Preface”)
“The fragrance of flowers, and of new-mown hay; the genial warmth of sunshine, and the beauty of a sunset among clouds; the comfort and cheerful glow of the fireside; the deliciousness of fruits, and of all good cheer; the magnificence of mountains, and seas, and cataracts, and the softer charm of rural scenery; even the fast-falling snow, and the gray atmosphere through which it descends–all these, and innumerable other enjoyable things of earth, must perish with her. The country frolics; the homely humor; the broad, open-mouth roar of laughter, in which body and soul conjoin so heartily! I fear that no other world can show us anything just like this.” (“The Hall of Fantasy”)
“Summer works in the present, and thinks not of the future; Autumn is a rich conservative; Winter has lost its faith, and clings tremulously to the remembrance of what has been; but Spring, with its outgushing life, is the true type of the Movement!” (“Buds and Bird-Voices”)
Thank you for reading!