Monday, September 10, 2012

Quote of the day

In The Abolitionist Imagination, Andrew Delbanco mentions an 1862 article by Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Chiefly About War Matters," which Hawthorne published under a pseudonym in The Atlantic. After quoting a passage from the article in which Hawthorne, referring to a group of fugitive slaves, wrote that "For the sake of the manhood which is latent in them, I would not have turned them back; but I should have felt almost as reluctant, on their own account, to hasten them forward to the stranger's land...," Delbanco observes (pp.28-9) that:
...this was an example of Hawthorne doing what he always did: arguing with himself. As F.O. Matthiessen put the matter, "the characteristic Hawthorne twist" was his habit, after making any decisive assertion..."to perceive the validity of its opposite." And so, in the Atlantic article, he not only acceded to the editors' insistence that the essay could be published only if accompanied by dissenting footnotes, but he supplied the annotations himself. "The author seems to imagine," he wrote in one note, that he has "compressed a great deal of meaning into" his "little, hard, dry pellets of aphoristic wisdom. We disagree with him."

No comments: