Jack Matthews on the memoir of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Son

Jack Matthews has a new essay appearing in August 15 Chronicle Review:

It is no surprise to literary scholars that Henry David Thoreau was soaked in Emerson’s thinking, but Julian tells us that even the younger man’s handwriting was like Emerson’s. And yet, Julian pointed out, unlike Emerson, Thoreau’s "surest happiness was in discontent," and furthermore, "his brain was poisoned by philosophy." Thoreau feared and despised the growing passion for land development, considering it "treason to the Great Mother"; and he found that birds, squirrels, and hedgehogs had not lost "their primeval courtesy." While those sentiments were oddities in his time, they verge upon being clichés today.

This small sampling demonstrates how rewarding a book Julian’s Memoirs is, with its wealth of warm chatter and curious anecdotes about the giants of the New England Renaissance. But the reason for my focus on the book here is an anecdote in it so astonishing that if I were vulnerable to mystic vapors, reading it would have left me adrift in unworldly speculation. And I am even more astonished that I have never encountered a reference to it elsewhere.

(You will have to read the essay to see what he was talking about.  But the anecdote about the son of Nat Hawthorne  is astonishing).

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