ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance
"'Disorders of the Circulating Medium' Hawthorne's Early Children's Literature"
While Hawthorne was a prolific children's author--dedicating himself to juvenile literature in 1839-44 and returning to it again in 1851, penning in the process several book collections as well as magazine sketches--comparatively little critical attention has directed itself to this part of his career. This essay reads Hawthorne's children's writings of the early 1840s as a response to the state of the adult literature market. These texts register an obsessive interest in images of circulation and exchange--of money, texts, viruses--that betrays Hawthorne's anxieties about the market's direction and his own standing within what he saw as an increasingly competitive, mass-market print culture. In seeking to join the crusade for the creation of a new, thoroughly "American" juvenile literature promoted by men like Horace Mann, Hawthorne essentially hoped to ensure his own success as a writer. He saw the medium as a chance to "educate" his readers, to model for an impressionable young audience not yet complicit in what he saw as the "vices" of the adult market the kind of sympathetic, loving, and disciplined relationship between writer and reader that might bind them to him and, thus, ensure his literary and financial futures.