ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance
"Hawthorne's Shyness: Romance and the Forms of Truth"
To better understand how Nathaniel Hawthorne presents himself to the world, it is important to generate a description of his notion of truth--and it is possible to do so by contrasting his approach to both friendship and fiction writing with that of his most famous literary friend and correspondent, Herman Melville. Melville's reading of Hawthorne in "Hawthorne and His Mosses" discloses an objectifying conception of truth, a tendency to see the friend as a problem to be solved through access to his secretive writing. Hawthorne himself, as is evident in his prefaces--particularly the preface to The House of the Seven Gables, offers a more complex, less object-oriented vision of truth, one that is more poetic than philosophical, more pragmatic than idealistic, more elusive than definite. Once understood in this way, Hawthorne reveals his connections to early pragmatist and postromantic philosophers such as Emerson, Thoreau, William James, and Martin Heidegger.