The Blithedale Romance

The Blithedale Romance

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hardcover(Large Print Edition)

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Overview

One of Hawthorne's great romances, The Blithedale Romance draws upon the author's experiences at Brook Farm, the short-lived utopian community where Hawthorne spent much of 1841. Blithedale ("Happy Valley"), another would-be modern Arcadia, is the stage for Hawthorne's grimly comic tragedy (Henry James famously called the novel "the lightest, the brightest, the liveliest" of Hawthorne's "unhumorous fictions"). In his introduction, Robert S. Levine considers biographical and historical contexts and offers a fresh appreciation of the novel's ironic first-person narrator. The John Harvard Library edition reproduces the authoritative text to The Blithedale Romance in The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Since 1959 The John Harvard Library has been instrumental in publishing essential American writings in authoritative editions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780783802732
Publisher: Macmillan Library Reference
Publication date: 08/28/1998
Series: Perennial Bestsellers Series
Edition description: Large Print Edition
Pages: 335
Product dimensions: 6.41(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts, the son and grandson of proud New England seafarers. He lived in genteel poverty with his widowed mother and two young sisters in a house filled with Puritan ideals and family pride in a prosperous past. His boyhood was, in most respects, pleasant and normal. In 1825 he was graduated from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, and he returned to Salem determined to become a writer of short stories. For the next twelve years he was plagued with unhappiness and self-doubts as he struggled to master his craft. He finally secured some small measure of success with the publication of his Twice-Told Tales (1837). His marriage to Sophia Peabody in 1842 was a happy one. The Scarlet Letter (1850), which brought him immediate recognition, was followed by The House of the Seven Gables (1851). After serving four years as the American Consul in Liverpool, England, he traveled in Italy; he returned home to Massachusetts in 1860. Depressed, weary of writing, and failing in health, he died on May 19, 1864, at Plymouth, New Hampshire.

Date of Birth:

July 4, 1804

Date of Death:

May 19, 1864

Place of Birth:

Salem, Massachusetts

Place of Death:

Plymouth, New Hampshire

Education:

Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, 1824

Read an Excerpt


I
Old Moodie


The evening before my departure for Blithedale, I was returning to my bachelor-apartments, after attending the wonderful exhibition of the Veiled Lady, when an elderly-man of rather shabby appearance met me in an obscure part of the street.

“Mr. Coverdale,” said he, softly, “can I speak with you a moment?”

As I have casually alluded to the Veiled Lady, it may not be amiss to mention, for the benefit of such of my readers as are unacquainted with her now forgotten celebrity, that she was a phenomenon in the mesmeric line; one of the earliest that had indicated the birth of a new science, or the revival of an old humbug. Since those times, her sisterhood have grown too numerous to attract much individual notice; nor, in fact, has any one of them ever come before the public under such skilfully contrived circumstances of stage-effect, as those which at once mystified and illuminated the remarkable performances of the lady in question. Now-a-days, in the management of his “subject,” “clairvoyant,” or “medium,” the exhibitor affects the simplicity and openness of scientific experiment; and even if he profess to tread a step or two across the boundaries of the spiritual world, yet carries with him the laws of our actual life, and extends them over his preternatural conquests. Twelve or fifteen years ago, on the contrary, all the arts of mysterious arrangement, of picturesque disposition, and artistically contrasted light and shade, were made available in order to set the apparent miracle in the strongest attitude of opposition to ordinary facts. In the case of the Veiled Lady,moreover, the interest of the spectator was further wrought up by the enigma of her identity, and an absurd rumor (probably set afloat by the exhibitor, and at one time very prevalent) that a beautiful young lady, of family and fortune, was enshrouded within the misty drapery of the veil. It was white, with somewhat of a subdued silver sheen, like the sunny side of a cloud; and falling over the wearer, from head to foot, was supposed to insulate her from the material world, from time and space, and to endow her with many of the privileges of a disembodied spirit.

Her pretensions, however, whether miraculous or otherwise, have little to do with the present narrative; except, indeed, that I had propounded, for the Veiled Lady’s prophetic solution, a query as to the success of our Blithedale enterprise. The response, by-the-by, was of the true Sibylline stamp, nonsensical in its first aspect, yet, on closer study, unfolding a variety of interpretations, one of which has certainly accorded with the event. I was turning over this riddle in my mind, and trying to catch its slippery purport by the tail, when the old man, above-mentioned, interrupted me.

“Mr. Coverdale!—Mr. Coverdale!” said he, repeating my name twice, in order to make up for the hesitating and ineffectual way in which he uttered it—“I ask your pardon, sir—but I hear you are going to Blithedale tomorrow?”

I knew the pale, elderly face, with the red-tipt nose, and the patch over one eye, and likewise saw something characteristic in the old fellow’s way of standing under the arch of a gate, only revealing enough of himself to make me recognize him as an acquaintance. He was a very shy personage, this Mr. Moodie; and the trait was the more singular, as his mode of getting his bread necessarily brought him into the stir and hubbub of the world, more than the generality of men.

“Yes, Mr. Moodie,” I answered, wondering what interest he could take in the fact, “it is my intention to go to Blithedale tomorrow. Can I be of any service to you, before my departure?”

“If you pleased, Mr. Coverdale,” said he, “you might do me a very great favor.”

“A very great one!” repeated I, in a tone that must have expressed but little alacrity of beneficence, although I was ready to do the old man any amount of kindness involving no special trouble to myself. “A very great favor, do you say? My time is brief, Mr. Moodie, and I have a good many preparations to make. But be good enough to tell me what you wish.”

“Ah, sir,” replied old Moodie, “I don’t quite like to do that; and, on further thoughts, Mr. Coverdale, perhaps I had better apply to some older gentleman, or to some lady, if you would have the kindness to make me known to one, who may happen to be going to Blithedale. You are a young man, sir!”

“Does that fact lessen my availability for your purpose?” asked I. “However, if an older man will suit you better, there is Mr. Hollingsworth,3 who has three or four years the advantage of me in age, and is a much more solid character, and a philanthropist to boot. I am only a poet, and, so the critics tell me, no great affair at that! But what can this business be, Mr. Moodie? It begins to interest me; especially since your hint that a lady’s influence might be found desirable. Come; I am really anxious to be of service to you.”

But the old fellow, in his civil and demure manner, was both freakish and obstinate; and he had now taken some notion or other into his head that made him hesitate in his former design.

“I wonder, sir,” said he, “whether you know a lady whom they call Zenobia?”

“Not personally,” I answered, “although I expect that pleasure tomorrow, as she has got the start of the rest of us, and is already a resident at Blithedale. But have you a literary turn, Mr. Moodie?—or have you taken up the advocacy of women’s rights?—or what else can have interested you in this lady? Zenobia, by-the-by, as I suppose you know, is merely her public name; a sort of mask in which she comes before the world, retaining all the privileges of privacy—a contrivance, in short, like the white drapery of the Veiled Lady, only a little more transparent. But it is late! Will you tell me what I can do for you?”

“Please to excuse me to-night, Mr. Coverdale,” said Moodie. “You are very kind; but I am afraid I have troubled you, when, after all, there may be no need. Perhaps, with your good leave, I will come to your lodgings tomorrow-morning, before you set out for Blithedale. I wish you a good-night, sir, and beg pardon for stopping you.”

And so he slipt away; and, as he did not show himself, the next morning, it was only through subsequent events that I ever arrived at a plausible conjecture as to what his business could have been. Arriving at my room, I threw a lump of cannel coal upon the grate, lighted a cigar, and spent an hour in musings of every hue, from the brightest to the most sombre; being, in truth, not so very confident as at some former periods, that this final step, which would mix me up irrevocably with the Blithedale affair, was the wisest that could possibly be taken. It was nothing short of midnight when I went to bed, after drinking a glass of particularly fine Sherry, on which I used to pride myself, in those days. It was the very last bottle; and I finished it, with a friend, the next forenoon, before setting out for Blithedale.

Copyright 2001 by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Table of Contents

Introduction Robert S. Levine ix

Note on the Text xxxi

Chronology of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Life xxxiii

The Blithedale Romance

Preface 1

I Old Moodie 5

II Blithedale 9

III A Knot of Dreamers 14

IV The Supper-Table 23

V Until Bedtime 32

VI Coverdale's Sick-Chamber 39

VII The Convalescent 49

VIII A Modern Arcadia 58

IX Hollingsworth, Zenobia, Priscilla 69

X A Visitor from Town 81

XI The Wood-Path 89

XII Coverdale's Hermitage 98

XIII Zenobia's Legend 106

XIV Eliot's Pulpit 117

XV A Crisis 128

XVI Leave-Takings 137

XVII The Hotel 145

XVIII The Boarding-House 153

XIX Zenobia's Drawing-Room 160

XX They Vanish 168

XXI An Old Acquaintance 174

XXII Fauntleroy 182

XXIII A Village-Hall 194

XXIV The Masqueraders 204

XXV The Three Together 213

XXVI Zenobia and Coverdale 222

XXVII Midnight 229

XXVIII Blithedale-Pasture 238

XXIX Miles Coverdale's Confession 245

Selected Bibliography 249

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The Blithedale Romance 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hawthorne likes to write about society versus the individual In this book, a group of people decide to isolate themselves from society and establish their own eutopia. It leads to interesting results. Out of three Hawthorne books I've read (the other's being THe Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables), this is my favorite. It is covered with subtle humor. I really like Nathaniel Hawthorne and found myself really drawn into this story.
autumnesf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Story of a group of town men and women that decided to go work at a farm and live the simple life. Twist in the relationship of the leading women. Narrator seems to be a rather boring yet nosy poet. Surprise ending. Great last line.
aulsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite Hawthorne. A roman a clef about Brook Farm, the failed Transcendental communal experiment.
kant1066 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading ¿The Scarlet Letter¿ years ago in school, and now ¿The House of Seven Gables¿ and ¿The Blithedale Romance¿ in relatively close conjunction, there seems to be a common theme running throughout much of Hawthorne¿s longer fiction: namely, the deep and abiding mistrust in ideas of utopia, progress or perfectibility, especially of the human kind. Hawthorne came from a long line of Puritans, one of whom even presided over some of the Salem witch trials. Now writing on the cusp of the Civil War, he feels the renewed need for the kind of pragmatic skepticism which, one generation later, an entire generation of American philosophers will call for.Coverdale, the naïve narrator in search of an agrarian source of truth, discovers Blithedale (the name itself should set off bells of suspicion), a community built around the ideals of Fourier, the utopian French social theorist. Fourier thought that life could be optimized through a kind of rationalistic social engineering, the basic living unit of which he called the ¿phalanstere.¿ The hilarious (hilarious in that subtle, dowdy, Puritan way that was uniquely Hawthorne¿s) part is that, once everyone in Blithedale is introduced into the mix, tensions, different ideas, passions, and ideologies start to bubble to the surface showing just what a pipedream Fourier¿s utopia really is. Hawthorne¿s point seems to be that holding rationality primary over contingency and human emotion is shortsighted and silly. Not only is Blithedale a folly, but the very idea of a utopia is a sheer impossibility. I¿m sure that Hawthorne would have us remember the clever lesson from Thomas More¿s ¿Utopia¿ ¿ that it means, quite literally, ¿no place.¿ I¿ll forego a lot of the plot details because I read this several months ago, and wouldn¿t be able to do them justice without re-reading it. What I have unpacked here is just what jumped out at me the most. There is a strange woman named Zenobia who always wears a fresh flower in her hair, who turns out being the half-sister of a Blithedale foundling named Priscilla. The novel culminates in a set of philosophical disagreements between Coverdale and Hollingsworth, the ironically patriarchal figure whose presence hangs over Blithedale. I found the plot somewhat contrived and unrealistic, even for Hawthorne, but still very much worthwhile. The action is based on Hawthorne¿s experiences at Brook Farm, a well-known utopian community in its own right, where he spent most of 1841, largely in an effort to save money for his marriage. He would marry Sophia Peabody (of the famous Peabody sisters) in July of the next year.
belgrade18 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the worst novels I've read in a while- the plot is contrived, the prose is overdone, characters not as interesting as first appeared, etc. I expected the utopian community angle would make it intersting, but it doesn't play a very central part in the plot (or I didn't think so). At least it was short ...
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