Printer Friendly

'Villette' and 'The Marble Faun.'

Commenting on Nathaniel Hawthorne's problem of casting an imaginative glow over bleak New England, "so provokingly raw and deficient in harmony," Leslie Stephen compares his task to that of Charlotte Bronte in painting the rugged life and topography of Yorkshire. After explaining that Bronte's "marvellous effects are obtained by the process which enables |an intense and glowing mind' to see everything through its own atmosphere," he examines two specific parallels between Villette and Hawthorne's novel The Transformation, known to American readers as The Marble Faun.(1)

The first parallel--that of a Protestant heroine confessing to a Roman Catholic priest--has since been noted by other scholars;(2) the second, the use of ghosts or specters, is illustrated in this discussion of the haunted garden in Villette:

She shows us a ghost who is for a moment a very terrible spectre indeed,

and then, very much to our annoyance, rationalises him into a flesh-and-blood

lover. Hawthorne would neither have allowed the ghost to intrude so

forcibly, nor have expelled him so decisively. The garden in his hands

would have been haunted by a shadowy terror of which we could render no

precise account to ourselves. It would have refrained from actual contact

with professors and governesses; and as it would never have taken bodily

form, it would never have been quite dispelled. His ghosts are confined to

their proper sphere, the twilight of the mind, and never venture into the

broad glare of daylight.(3)

Aside from these observations, however, little, if anything, has been made over the years of similarities between Charlotte Bronte and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and no one has explored further the avenue opened by Stephen.

Certain affinities between these two authors, of course, are to be expected, in particular, Romanticism with its characteristic modes of thought, style, and imagery (a concern with dualities, natural settings, moonlight, and the like) and stock devices of nineteenth-century popular fiction. Moreover, both were exposed in youth to vigorous strains of Calvinism, Bronte through Aunt Branwell's Methodism and Hawthorne through his Puritan heritage. And yet, it seems to me, the parallels between Villette and The Marble Faun go far beyond the expected ones, even considerably beyond those cited by Stephen. To some extent they can be accounted for by the fact that both novels grew out of experiences wherein a relatively provincial Protestant author was cast suddenly into the more sophisticated and complex culture of continental Europe, into old-world intrigue and Roman Catholic ritual. However, a close examination of the works suggests something far more interesting: that the parallels are sufficiently extensive and pointed to indicate that Hawthorne--consciously or unconsciously--might well have had Villette in mind when he composed his own novel, whether because he found in Bronte a kindred spirit or because he needed to shore up his flagging creative powers.(4)

External evidence of Hawthorne's borrowing from Villette, if not conclusive, is at least suggestive. He records having spoken of Charlotte Bronte with Sir James Kay Shuttleworth on April 19, 1857, and with an unnamed London traveler on August 2 of the same year.(5) More telling is his description of ascents between Manchester and Sheffield as "bleak, windy, and desolate, conveying the very impression which the reader gets from many passages of Miss Bronte's novel."(6) Moreover, a January 16, 1859, entry in Sophia Hawthorne's diary, written in Rome, indicates that some of the Bronte works were in the Hawthorne home the year The Marble Faun was published.(7) A 1935 study by Austin Warren, too, affirms that "he knew the work of ... all three Brontes."(8) And it is at least interesting that most of the novel was rewritten at the Yorkshire seaside village of Redcar and that it was subsequently published by Smith, Elder and Company, Charlotte Bronte's publisher.(9) With regard to internal evidence, the most readily noticeable parallel between Villette and The Marble Faun is, as suggested earlier, the use of the confessional. It is true that Hawthorne was fascinated by the institution of the confessional, and James Russell Lowell recorded in a June 12, 1860, letter to Miss Jane Norton that he had at one time considered having Arthur Dimmesdale "confess himself to a Catholic priest."(10) It is also true that Lucy's confession is motivated chiefly by loneliness and despair and Hilda's by her guilty knowledge of the act of murder. Nonetheless, there are some telling similarities in the treatments of the incidents. For instance, the priests are alike in age, demeanor, and method. Pare Silas of Villette is "gray and advanced in years" and "benign,"(11) I while Hilda's confessor is a "venerable figure with hair as white as snow, and a face strikingly characterized by benevolence";(12) likewise, both not only seize upon an opportunity to proselytize but also use their privileged positions to the advantage of their secular as well as their ecclesiastical masters. "They say he is a Jesuit,"(13) Dr. Bretton says of Pere Silas, who, although he shows some genuine concern for Lucy, joins Madame Beck's conspiracy to prevent Paul Emanuel from marrying her, just as the hint of the "leaven of professional craft"(14) in the priest of The Marble Faun manifests itself when he uses Hilda's revelation to help the church/state monolith apprehend Miriam and Donatello. And finally, both priests reappear in the climactic carnival scenes in the novels, about which more will be said later.

As to Stephen's second comparison between Villette and The Marble Faun--the use of the ghosts or the supernatural--one must concede that Hawthorne had used such effects in a number of works long before Charlotte Bronte ever wrote. And yet it is useful to pursue the comparison, particularly in light of Stephen's comments. First, ghosts or specters are central plot devices and symbols in both novels. Much of the action of Villette turns on the antics (real and imagined) of Lucy Snowe's "ghostly nun," as does that of The Marble Faun on the ubiquitous presence of Miriam's model--called "The Specter of the Catacombs" in the title of Chapter 4--both before and after his death; further, the principals in both works must exorcise the "ghosts" which are impeding their growth: Lucy's sexual repression and overactive imagination, Miriam and Donatello's guilt.

Actually, the use of ghosts is part of a strikingly similar pattern of folklore, fairy tale, and dream in the novels.(15) For example, the genealogy of Donatello's family in Chapter 26, entitled "The Pedigree of Monte Beni," exhibits the same fanciful traits as the pathetic history of the young nun Justine Marie, cited by Stephen. Perhaps an even closer resemblance exists between Bronte's identification of Madame Walravens with the evil fairy Malevola--"hunchbacked, dwarfish" and replete with "a silver beard" (16)--and Hawthorne's depiction of the ancient "manlike" paysannes of Tuscany, viewed by Kenyon upon his departure from Monte Beni, who "set off their witchlike ugliness to the worst advantage with black-felt hats, bequeathed them, one would fancy, by their long-buried husbands."(17) And the recurring appearances of Lucy's ghostly nun and Miriam's model, in eerie surroundings and at times of heightened psychological tension, recall not only fairy tales but childhood nightmares as well.

The carnival scenes, in particular, have magical, surrealistic atmospheres. Lucy, under the influence of Madame Beck's opiate, finds herself "with the suddenness of magic" in "a land of enchantment"; the party she is observing at one point "vanished like a group of apparitions," and the entire scene possesses a "dream-like character" with "every shape ... wavering, every movement floating, every voice echo-like."(18) To Kenyon, the carnival at Rome appears first as "a thin dream" in which "a long train of equipages ... shone as gorgeously as Cinderella's coach" and later--closely echoing the language of Villette--as "a feverish dream" whose masqueraders "vanished from him, as dreams and spectres do."(19) This last analogy, along with Hilda's spectral reappearance "in a white domino," looking "pale,"(20) recalls Madame Beck's gliding "ghost-like through the house," Lucy's reference to Paul Emanuel as "a harsh apparition" descending on the actors during rehearsals of the school play,(21) or a half-dozen other passages in Villette.

But noteworthy parallels between Villette and The Marble Faun do not stop with confessionals and the use of the "marvellous." They extend to virtually every area of composition: structure and plot, character, setting, theme, and imagery.

First, both novels are built around two love stories, one (Lucy-Paul and Miriam-Donatello) more or less realistic, at least psychologically, and the other (John Bretton-Paulina and Kenyon-Hilda) sentimental. (A third relationship in Villette, that between Ginevra Fanshawe and Colonel de Hamal, is really a materialistic accommodation for both and a comic counterpoise to the other two love affairs.)(22) Further, in a parallel to be developed later, certain characters (Lucy and Kenyon, in particular) begin as "mere looker(s)-on at life"(23) but, through love of another, are drawn into the center of action and thereby into life.

The confessions of Lucy and Hilda have been noted; less striking, but just as important to structure and plot, is the despatching of these same heroines on mysterious errands. Each--in classic fairy tale tradition--is given cryptic instructions and sent into a foreboding, byzantine world completely new to her. Lucy, adjured by Madame Beck to "insist on seeing Madame Walravens herself"(24) (although carrying only a basket of hothouse fruit), is ushered into the decaying grandeur of the latter's Gothic pile where, arriving just as a thunderstorm breaks, she learns from Pere Silas the story of Justine Marie and of Paul Emanuel's self-appointed role as Madame Walravens's benefactor. Hilda, carrying Miriam's sealed packet, finds her way through a "confusion of black and hideous houses" to "the gloomy old palace of Cencis,"(25) only to become a pawn in the conspiracy to apprehend Miriam and Donatello. In each case the heroine is drawn into a secular-ecclesiastical intrigue, the one to prevent a loyal son of the church from marrying a "heretic," the other to punish the murders of the Capuchin monk.

And perhaps more significantly, the climax of each work, as previously noted, occurs at a carnival. It is true that both Charlotte Bronte and Nathaniel Hawthorne had seen carnivals and that, being protestant and not from the European continent, they would be expected to find such spectacles memorable. However, in addition to the magical, dreamlike atmosphere of the scenes described earlier, the two have similar psychological implications. Nina Baym's comments are as pertinent to Lucy Snowe as to Kenyon: "The psyche in a state of anarchic turbulence throws up into the light of consciousness a myriad of horrible fears and fantasies, grotesque and terrifying figures out of the world of dreams, mostly with sexual import."(26) As to plot and structure, all of the principal players are brought onto stage in both episodes; the intrigues are revealed, and the priests who befriended Lucy and Hilda are shown to be in collusion with these designs. Kenyon and Hilda are reunited while Lucy remains alone, but the events of the evening serve as a turning point which will lead to the rapprochement between Lucy and Paul.

In the matter of character, no less than in that of plot and structure, telling similarities between Villette and The Marble Faun exist. The priests and the "specters" have been discussed; otherwise the points of comparison are confined for the most part to major characters. Most of the principals of both novels are, for instance, without one or both parents or, in the case of Miriam, of mysterious parentage.(27) Hilda, like Lucy Snowe, is an "orphan ... without near relatives"(28) and Lucy shares with Miriam and Donatello a certain enigmatic quality. Ginevra Fanshawe, her curiosity piqued by Lucy's unique situation at Madame Beck's, inquires, "Who are you, Miss Snowe?"(29) In almost the same words Miriam, intrigued by the mystery surrounding Donatello, asks, "What are you, my friend?"(30)

Additionally, all of the central characters of The Marble Faun share in some way Lucy Snowe's isolation or position as "looker-on at life" who perforce moves, through love and events, into the role of participant. Lucy's role of observer culminates in the carnival scene, where, watching and listening to Madame Beck's party, she reports, "Amidst so much life and suited me to be alone--quite alone."(31) But just as she had earlier been propelled from the nursery into the classroom and from observer of play rehearsals into a key role in the production, Lucy, through her love of Paul Emanuel and the conspiracy of Madame Beck and her circle, becomes a central player in the action. Her immersion into life is confirmed by mutual professions of love with Paul and acceptance of the school provided by him, although their final union is prevented by his (apparent) death at sea. This theme is reinforced by Lucy's attendance at the performance of Vashti and her visit to the art gallery as well as by the theatrical spectacles cited here. The other major characters in Villette have lost one or both parents, their role of observer emphasized by profession (John a doctor and Paul a professor) or by circumstance (Paulina a dependent).

The detachment of Hawthorne's characters is, in part, explained by the fact that three of them are artists; and yet, as in so many cases, the treatment echoes Villette. Kenyon, comfortably removed from the maelstrom of life in his studio, reveals by a look that he is unready or unwilling to hear Miriam's painful history; the latter's response--"You are as cold and pitiless as your own marble"(32)--recalls Lucy Snowe's last name and Bronte's insistence, in a letter to W. S. Williams on November 6, 1852, that "a cold name she must have."(33) Similar is Miriam's depiction of herself in a series of "sketches of common life" as "a figure ... apart"; one, in particular, portrays her "looking through a frosted window, from the outside," at young newlyweds seated at a fireside.(34) Donatello is separated at first by his unique nature and later by his killing of the model and subsequent guilt; and Hilda's isolation, born of her saintliness, is symbolized by her residence in the Dovecote. And yet each of these, like Lucy, is drawn into a participation in and acceptance of life through love and a growing understanding of human limitations. It is Kenyon, for example, who conceives and executes the scheme which leads to the reunion of Miriam and Donatello beneath the statue of Pope Julius in Perugia.

Closely related to character is the way in which the ancient European city in which each story is set becomes almost a living entity. Hilda's view--"I sometimes fancy ... that Rome--mere Rome--will crowd everything else out of my heart"(35)--is indicative, as is Bronte's decision, counter to her practice in Jane Eyre and Shirley, to entitle her novel Villette rather than Lucy Snowe. In both instances central character(s) with Puritan backgrounds find themselves in ancient European cities whose customs are alien and whose daily life is permeated by the spirit and influence of the Roman Catholic Church. Lucy Snowe's antipathy to Villette (the author's attitude toward Brussels is reflected in her use of the diminutive) begins with her entrance into the city, enshrouded in "a thick fog and small, dense rain-darkness, that might almost be felt"--where she is harassed by "two moustachioed men ... smoking cigars," whose "dress implied pretensions to the rank of gentlemen" but who were "very plebeian in soul."(36) From the first, Villette is identified not only with this sort of boorishness, but also with duplicity (routinely at first, with Madame Beck's furtive inspections of Lucy's effects, and more pointedly when the mutual affection between Lucy and Paul is discovered) and self-interest. Lucy's attitude is reflected in her contempt for such institutions as the "lecture pieuse" and in the nightmarish description of Madame Walravens's quarter of the city, where formerly grand houses "stand cold and empty, mouldering untenanted," the square overlooked by the "dark, half-ruinous turrets" of a once-opulent church.(37) And yet, in spite of all this, it is in Villette that Lucy will remain: to operate the school provided for her by the man she loves, Paul Emanuel, a true European and devout Roman Catholic.(38)

But if the city of Brussels is a vital presence in Villette, Rome--the Eternal City--is much more so in The Marble Faun, as Hilda's profession suggests. In all of the action of The Marble Faun, Rome is everywhere--the catacombs, the Tarpeian Rock, the Fountain of Trevi--and one is always aware of its presence: the beauty, the antiquity, the intrigue, the peril. To Kenyon "all the sense of these things rose from the young man's consciousness like a cloud, which had darkened over him without his knowing how densely."(39)

In both novels the past is an important theme, and this theme is at least in part allied to the cities in which they are set. It is evident not only in the tradition of the fetes and in the ancient streets and edifices, but also in legend and incident pertinent to the stories. Bronte as a rule creates her own legends, that of the "ghostly nun" in particular. Correlated with it (aside from the Fanshawe-de Hamal masquerade) is the story of Paul Emanuel's betrothal to the long-departed Justine Marie, his patronage of Madame Walravens, and, ultimately, the impetus for his fatal trip to Guadeloupe. Very clearly the "ghostly" imagery cited by Leslie Stephen is associated in part with these specters of the past.(40) Quite naturally, the past is in the very dust of Rome: "Everywhere, some fragment of ruin, suggesting the magnificence of a former epoch; everywhere, moreover, a Cross--and nastiness at the foot of it."(41) Here the emphasis is on not only the quaint genealogy of Donatello, the cryptic past of Miriam, the works of the ancient masters, or even the tradition-bound church, but, ultimately, the central events in the history of Christendom: the Fall of Man and the Resurrection.

As patently aware as they are of the power and the pervasiveness of the past, however, both authors are equally insistent on the necessity of burying the past. Obviously pertinent here is Lucy Snowe's burial of John Bretton's letters, though her destruction of the effigy of the nun is a more significant symbol of her growth. Even the Beck-Walravens axis is ready to forget the sainted Justine Marie and betroth Paul Emanuel to her wealthy flesh-and-blood namesake when, by persuading him to go to Guadeloupe, they can prevent an alliance with Lucy and perhaps recoup Madame Walravens's lost fortunes. As Lucy observes ironically, "the blooming and charming Present prevailed over the Past; and at length his nun was indeed buried."(42) In The Marble Faun, what must be put in the past is, of course, the murder of the model: Miriam and Donatello by accepting responsibility for the act, and Kenyon and (to a greater degree) Hilda by accepting their fallen companions, whose act symbolizes their own and indeed all mankind's fallibility. In the words of Cushing Strout,

Rome in the novel has been for them all a territory where Past and

Future meet, like Europe and America. The Europeans have had to come

to terms with their pasts ... in order to face the present with the prospect

of having a future. The Americans ... have had to be thawed out of their

emotional coldness and their blinding religion of culture in order to play

their parts as human beings in a real world.(43) This quotation is also an apt description of Villette and Lucy Snowe.

Another significant theme of both Villette and The Marble Faun, anticipated by the allusion to the Fall and Resurrection above, is that of suffering: its inevitability (for some people, at least) and its correlation with human growth. Charlotte Bronte, of course, had good reason to know about suffering, which was undoubtedly greatest for her in the lonely years following the deaths of Emily and Anne--the period during which Villette was composed--and this preoccupation with suffering is translated into the very essence of Lucy Snowe: her solitary childhood, her arduous and lonely role of teacher in Madame Beck's school, and her ultimate loss of Paul Emanuel. Especially germane to a comparison with Hawthorne is Phyllis Bentley's insistence, recalling Strout's emphasis on coldness in the passage cited just above, that Lucy, "ice without, fire within ... is in fact a Puritan ... who ... on principle, believes that it is part of God's plan that |some must deeply suffer while they live."(44) Nevertheless, in spite of--more accurately, because of--this suffering, Lucy is a person who, by the narrative's end, has come to terms with herself and the world in which she lives. And, clearly, the suffering experienced by Miriam and Donatello after the murder of the model (in Miriam's case even before) is a vital part of their moral and spiritual growth. Indicative of this premise is the narrator's observation, while describing the Coliseum on the moonlit night on which Donatello kills the model, that the ancient structure has "derived a more than common sanctity" from all of the "crime and suffering" of gladiatorial combat.(45) And at the novel's end, Kenyon associates sin with suffering when he asks about the former, "Is it, like sorrow, merely an element of human education, through which we struggle to a higher and purer estate than we could otherwise have attained?"(46) What Otis B. Wheeler says of Donatello is largely true of Lucy Snowe: "Donatello's moral development finally comes about, not through love alone, and not through the suffering that follows sin, but rather through a combination of both."(47)

Further, both Bronte and Hawthorne appear to recognize that some will suffer more than others. While Lucy Snowe suffers from poverty, loneliness, and unrequited love, she remarks of the frivolous Ginevra Fanshawe that "the best of the good genii that guard humanity curtained her with his wings."(48) Later, noting the happy, tranquil fortunes of John Bretton and Paulina de Bassompierre, she observes, "Some lives are thus blessed." Likewise, it is evident that the sufferings of Hilda and Kenyon are minimal, even superficial, beside those of Miriam and Donatello. The authors' motives in this matter seem to coincide. Lucy Snowe believes that "it is God's will" that some lives are relatively without pain: "it is the attesting trace and lingering evidence of Eden";(49) in the same vein, Leo B. Levy associates the existence of Hilda with the necessity of having a view of innocence or of a Golden Age. "If Hilda falls," he writes, "something that cannot be regained is lost."(50)

A theme no less vital to both works, one allied to both character and setting, is that of art and the artist.(51) The comparison here is, admittedly, somewhat unwieldy. The first difficulty is that the theme is common in Hawthorne, treated directly in stories like "The Birthmark" and "The Artist of the Beautiful" and indirectly in The Scarlet Letter, The Blithedale Romance, and other works. Second, as its title implies, The Marble Faun is about art and artists per se, whereas Villette is concerned with the theme only on an adjunctive--at least a less explicit--level. In spite of these obstacles, however, some similarities are worth pursuing.

In a 1982 article, Graham Clarke pinpointed the correlation of art with other themes and motifs discussed here in a manner which is in many respects as applicable to Villette as to Hawthorne's novel. "Rome," he says, "is central to the work's message" because

it exists as an holistic symbol, a perceived reality, of man's (and the artist's)

attempts toward truth and salvation. Its historical, religious, and artistic

elements create the ultimate text of the perplexity of man's existence ... It

is a "dreary city" with a "contagious element, rising foglike from the

ancient depravity of Rome, and brooding over the dead and half-rotten city,

as nowhere else on earth." The "massiveness" of the past lingers "like a

long-decaying corpse," the spiritual and material efforts of the past "piled

up" in its buildings. And yet this is also the Eternal city where, if there is

the "pretence of holiness and the reality of nastiness, each equally omnipresent"

there is also the "world's cathedral" which dazzles with its

"visionary splendour and magnificence." Its largesse comes from the

interminable sense and evidence of the struggle of a "battered" humanity

to achieve grace: the mix, and the resulting ambiguity of the real and the

ideal. Rome is equally the repository of living and dead art: church and

cathedral, museum and gallery, ruin and monument make it a living

hieroglyph littered with the high points of Western art.(52) While not so widely known, Brussels has its own monuments, museums, and cathedrals; further, among the most significant episodes of the work are the carnival and the dramatic production, mentioned earlier, and the performance of the actress Vashti.

One function of the paraphernalia of art in Villette seems to be to underscore Lucy Snowe's remoteness, her reluctance to participate in the emotional life of the world, as has already been stated.(53) The most striking example of this phenomenon is her refusal to participate in Paul Emanuel's theatrical production until a last-minute emergency compels him to put extraordinary pressure on her. This deployment of art and artifice culminates in the carnival scene with Lucy's vivid awareness of "masks" along with "the timber, the paint, and the pasteboard."(54) Comparable references occur in the carnival episode of The Marble Faun, as in the account of some of the grotesquely masked revellers "poking their pasteboard countenances close to the sculptor's."(55) In each instance the character observing the scene achieves greater understanding and tolerance as well as a deeper involvement with life: Lucy recognizes her feelings for Paul, accepting his love and the gift of a school; Kenyon and Hilda, who now accept and appreciate the suffering of Donatello and Miriam, decide to marry.

Perhaps an even more precise parallel relating to art--as both theme and plot device--is the use by both authors of reproductions of Cleopatra.(56) While it is true that one is a painting and the other a clay model in a private studio, one or two likenesses are instructive. First, while Lucy and Miriam are ahead of their time in their attitude toward female independence, both decry the immodesty of exposed flesh in art. "She ought likewise to have worn decent garments," Lucy Snowe insists; "a gown covering her properly, which was not the case: out of abundance of material--seven-and-twenty yards, I should say, of drapery--she managed to make inefficient raiment."(57) While Kenyon's Cleopatra is clad "in a garb proper to her historic and queenly state," the unveiling triggers a discussion on the propriety and desirability of nudity in sculpture. Hoping that the figure will not be nude, Miriam observes, "Every young sculptor seems to think that he must give the world some specimen of indecorous womanhood, and call it Eve, Venus, a Nymph, or any name that may apologize for a lack of decent clothing."(58) Whatever the authors' personal convictions, the attitude in each work is thematically sound: neither of the speakers is prepared at this point to have her innermost feelings bared to the world at large. Still, Lucy sits for awhile "wondering at" the painting,(59) and Miriam, finding "womanhood ... thoroughly mixed up with all those seemingly discordant elements," tells Kenyon, "I recognize its truth."(60)

In both novels, too, artistic productions help delineate character. In a scene reminiscent of the doubloon episode in Moby-Dick, the reactions of the three principal male characters to the painting in Villette provide a vital clue to their personalities, from Colonel de Hamal's lascivious tittering to Dr. Bretton's lack of emotion to Paul Emanuel's balanced view of her as "une femme superbe--une taille d'imperatrice, des formes de Junon, mais une personne dont je ne voudrais ni pour femme, ni pour fille, ni pour soeur."(61) The ambivalence of Kenyon's Cleopatra, in "the repose of despair" but with "a great, smouldering furnace, deep down in the woman's heart," closely mirrors Miriam's own situation. Moved by the warmth and perceptiveness revealed in the sculpture, Miriam is almost moved to confide in Kenyon when, detecting "a certain reserve and alarm in his warmly expressed readiness to hear her story"(62) she delivers the censure cited previously.

A noteworthy allusion common to both works is also related to the art motif, at least in The Marble Faun. Early in the novel, the narrator speaks of a sketch in which Miriam "had jotted down her rough ideas for a picture of Jael, driving the nail through the temples of Sisera."(63) Given Hawthorne's religious heritage and the exigencies of the story, the device is a natural one; yet the allusion is a favorite of Bronte, occurring in Villette when Lucy Snowe, speaking of the need to "knock on the head" the irrational desire for something "to fetch me out of my present existence," concludes, "which I did, figuratively, after the manner of Jael to Sisera, driving a nail through their temples." She continues the metaphor as she describes the difficulty of keeping such feelings subdued, saying, "Tonight ... my Sisera lay quiet in his tent," while "Jael, the stern woman, sat apart, relenting somewhat over her captive."(64) In both novels the context is that of an independent single woman making her way in an often hostile, sometimes dangerous world.

Two images traditionally associated with art are mirrors and fountains (or wells). Both are common in Hawthorne's previous writings, but, as so often in The Marble Faun, one finds in his deployment of the devices echoes of Villette. For instance, two vital moments of self-revelation in the latter work occur when Lucy's image is framed in a mirror along with those of other characters. In the first, the unnaturalness of her presence in the Bretton world is underscored by her failure to recognize John, his mother, and herself ("a third person in a pink dress and black lace mantle") in a large mirror while at a concert; in the second, Paul Emanuel, seeing his and Lucy's images in a glass while walking in the garden of the Pensionnat Heger, says, "we are alike--there is affinity. Do you see it, mademoiselle, when you look in the glass?"(65) A virtually identical device appears in The Marble Faun when Hilda recoils upon seeing her own face projected alongside that of a portrait of Beatrice Cenci in a mirror in her studio, wondering, "Am I, too, stained with guilt?"(66)

Fountains and mirrors are explicitly correlated in Villette when Lucy refers to a stone basin she is seeking during her nocturnal adventure at the carnival as "that circular mirror of crystal." Lucy's successful quest for this basin, "with its clear depth and green lining,"(67) serves as an important milestone on her journey of self-discovery; the psychosexual implications are, of course, inherent in the imagery. Her completed journey is signalled not only by her new menage and mutual professions of love with her natural soul mate, Paul, but by the presence of appropriate imagery, including a large garden near her school in which "a jet rose from a well, and a pale statue leaned over the play of waters."(68) Not surprisingly, given The Marble Faun's setting and Hawthorne's usual practice, fountains (e.g., the fountain at Monte Beni with its cracked urn) play a significant role in both the ambience and the symbolic substructure of the novel. Nevertheless, it is, I think, worth noting that the "moonlight ramble" which ends in the killing of the model begins with a stop at the Fountain of Trevi, from which Miriam and Donatello drink, and that they are reunited at "a great marble fountain" near the statue of Pope Julius in Perugia.(69)

One other image pattern common to both works deserves more thorough examination: that of staircases and the towers, domes, attics, and the like to which they lead. Again, this device is not new to Hawthorne; one recalls, for instance, Coverdale's aerie in The Blithedale Romance and the staircases of The House of the Seven Gables. But what is noteworthy here is not only the frequency with which it recurs in the novels but, more particularly, its appearance in conjunction with other imagery and even phrasing. In the first such reference in Villette, Lucy Snowe, on a morning excursion in London, climbs to the dome of St. Paul's, where she sees, among other sights, "antique Westminster, and the green Temple Gardens, with sun upon them, and a glad, blue sky of early spring above; and, between them and it, not too dense a cloud of haze."(70) In the final pages of The Marble Faun, after the departure of Miriam and Donatello, a strikingly similar picture is used in the account of Hilda and Kenyon's visit to the Pantheon. Responding to Kenyon's assertion that "it is to the aperture in the dome--that great Eye, gazing heavenward--that the

Pantheon owes the peculiarity of effect," Hilda replies, "I like better ... to look at the bright, blue sky, roofing the edifice where the builders left it open. It is very delightful, in a breezy day, to see the masses of white cloud float over the opening, and then the sunshine fall through it again."(71)

Several forms of the same imagery recur in both novels. Lucy Snowe occupies a second-story room at Madame Beck's and is described on more than one occasion as ascending or descending the stairs leading to it. Pressed into service by Paul Emanuel to take a last-minute role in his play, she is led "up stairs, up two pair of stairs, nay, actually up three ... to the solitary and lofty attic";(72) whence she descends to execute the role successfully (despite insisting on wearing her purple-grey dress under the man's coat and cravat) as well as to work off some of her frustration over her futile love for Dr. Bretton. Later at Madame Walravens's, the dwarflike crone materializes from "a mystic winding stair ... of cold stone, uncarpeted and unpainted," and it is while Lucy waits on a landing of the "cold staircase" that she is accosted once again by Pere Silas, who recounts for her the history of Paul Emanuel, the departed nun Justine Marie, and Madame Walravens.(73) On the eve of the climactic carnival episode, Lucy goes upstairs to her room from which, excited by Madame Beck's opiate, she descends to carry out the actions described earlier. And finally, during her inspection of the school provided for her by Paul, the latter conducts her "up the narrow but clean staircase" to "two pretty cabinets of sleeping-rooms" and "once more ... below" to her well-provided classroom,(74) thus rendering her independent and cementing their relationship.

The staircases in The Marble Faun are as prominent as those in Villette. The Virgin's shrine, tended by Hilda, and the tower of Monte Beni are, in fact, two of the most memorable features of Hawthorne's work. And from the opening page of the novel, with its picture of the "broad stone steps" leading from the Capitol to the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus," to the description of the dome at the end, such imagery is frequent. For example, Miriam's studio is reached by ascending a staircase from the courtyard of an ancient palace; and even in the "Conclusion" which Hawthorne added to the second edition, it is after climbing "to the top of St. Peter's"(75) with Kenyon and Hilda that the narrator asks the latter about the particulars of her disappearance.

The symbolic functions of the edifices and staircases, the climbing and descending, in these novels are, I think, closely allied. They are, first of all, associated with the characters' insularity, their propensity to observe or avoid rather than to participate in life, and each, in his or her own way, ultimately "descends from the tower" to love and to become part of what Hawthorne has called in "Ethan Brand" "the magnetic chain of humanity." Lucy Snowe, having mounted the stairs to inspect her bedchambers, descends to serve Paul Emanuel chocolate on the balcony of her new house. Here, under a moon "lovely ... and halcyon," beside which "a star shone ... with the unemulous ray of pure love",(76) Lucy is now a willing participant in life, in perfect accord with her new roles. Her commitment to life is at last so strong that it survives even the loss of Paul Emanuel himself. In The Marble Faun the dark cell in the tower of Monte Beni symbolizes the imprisonment of the heart and mind of Donatello (and perhaps to some degree Miriam, who shows up there also) and his arduous ascent to understanding and redemption. Reminded by Kenyon that we cannot "escape the companions whom Providence assigns for us, by climbing an old tower like this,"(77) Donatello agrees to accompany the sculptor to Perugia and the prearranged meeting with Mirriam. At this point the healing process begins in earnest, the penitents' mutual love serving as a catalyst. Even Hilda descends from her dovecote at the end to become the wife of Kenyon, whom Miriam had admonished for his coldness.(78) Allied with the notion of human contact, too, would appear--in both novels--to be the idea revealed in Kenyon's suggestion to Donatello that "with its difficult steps, and the dark prison-cells you speak of, your tower resembles the spiritual experience of many a sinful soul, which, nevertheless, may struggle upward into the pure air and light of Heaven, at last."(79) The celestial imagery of the passage from Villette just mentioned also hints at some sort of spiritual victory; the ideal seems to be reinforced by the inclusion of sun, sky, and haze or clouds associated with St. Paul's in Villette and the Pantheon in The Marble Faun.(80)

In the matter of this imagery as with so many of the parallels examined in this paper, good reasons can be found as to why Hawthorne might have written as he did had he never heard of Villette. His strong feelings about Roman Catholicism, his burning interest in contemporary and ancient Rome, his continued use of themes and techniques of earlier works all help to explain how the work he came to call The Marble Faun took shape. Still, the cumulative weight of the evidence--the dramatic parallels such as the confession episodes, the Cleopatras, the allusions to Jael and Sisera, and the climactic carnivals in particular--arouse in the careful reader of both works the suspicion that Hawthorne is, consciously or unconsciously, drawing on the earlier novel.

In arriving at this conclusion, the reader is supported by a knowledge of what was happening in Hawthorne's professional life at this time. His failure to complete other novels suggests that his imaginative and creative faculties were beginning to wane by the late 1850s, and letters to his publisher James T. Fields reveal that he was struggling with this one. Furthermore, it would not have been the first time during this late phase of his career that Hawthorne's writings contained suspicious overtones of a popular contemporary work; for instance, the firelight revery in Chapter 4 of The Blithedale Romance (the author's last major production before The Marble Faun), "The Supper-Table," has unmistakable similarities to the section of Donald G. Mitchell's Reveries of a Bachelor entitled "Smoke, Flame, and Ashes."(81) Is it not reasonable to assume, then, that material from the pen of a writer with whom he must have felt a close kinship and whose experience had been in many ways similar to his own should at times present ideas that his own declining imagination failed to supply or that refused to shape themselves as clearly as he might have wished?

At the very least, a close reading of Villette and The Marble Faun suggests much closer similarities between these novels than anyone has realized--or at least recorded. The recurrence of certain themes, attitudes, and images could have been taken for granted, but as has been amply demonstrated, the parallels go much deeper than this. I suspect that Hawthorne had not only read Villette, but that--his declaration that "all women, as authors, are feeble and tiresome"(82) notwithstanding--it had laid a fairly powerful hold on his imagination and that as he began to struggle with his own European novel, he began to draw, probably subconsciously, upon this work, with which his own had natural affinities and whose echoes still resounded in the antechambers of his mind. Whether or not Hawthorne's decision to complete his novel in Yorkshire was coincidental is anybody's guess, and the publisher Smith, Elder was chosen by Fields; however, the circumstances are fitting. Had Charlotte Bronte continued to live into 1859 and had she come upon a manuscript of The Marble Faun during a visit with the celebrated American author at the village of Redcar, I have no doubt that her eyebrows would have risen more than once as she perused it.


(1) See "Nathaniel Hawthorne" in Hours in a Library, 3 vols. (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1874), 1:277-78. (2) See, for instance, Harry Levin, "Statues from Italy: The Marble Faun," in Hawthorne Centenary Essays, ed. Roy Harvey Pearce (Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1964), p. 132; Henry G. Fairbanks, The Lasting Loneliness of Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Study of the Sources of Alienation in Modern Man (Albany, NY: Magi Books, Inc., 1965), p. 58; and Nina Baym, "The Marble Faun: Hawthorne's Elegy for Art," New England Quarterly 44 (1971): 370. (3) Stephen, Hours in a Library, 1:294. (4) Hawthome's inability to complete novels such as Dr. Grimshawe's Secret, The Dolliver Romance, and Septimius Felton is common knowledge; however, he also had difficulties with the first draft of The Marble Faun. In a February 3, 1859, letter to his publisher James T. Fields, for example, he confesses that in spite of shutting himself up "for an hour or two, almost every day," he "can't say much" about his success, admitting that "the story has developed itself in a very imperfect way, and will have to be revised hereafter" (The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Letters, 1857-1864, ed, Thomas Woodson, L. Neal Smith, and Normal Holmes Pearson [Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1987], pp. 160-61). (5) The English Notebooks by Nathaniel Hawthorne, ed. Randall Stewart (New York: Russell and Russell, Inc., 1962), pp. 459, 555. (6) The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Our Old Home: A Series of English Sketches, ed. William Charvat, Roy Harvey Pearce, and Claude Simpson (Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1970), p. 140. (7) The entry states, "I read for the second time Charlotte Bronte." The manuscript of this diary is in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library; see also Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, Memories of Hawthorne (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1923), p. 363. (8) "Hawthorne's Reading," The New England Quarterly 8 (1935): 497. (9) Hawthorne apparently found the Yorkshire atmosphere congenial to his efforts, for after having struggled with the first draft in Italy, he moved through the rewriting with comparative speed. Claude M. Simpson, in his introduction to The Centenary Edition to the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Marble Faun: or, The Romance of Monte Beni, ed. William Charvat, Roy Harvey Pearce, and Claude Simpson (Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1968), cites passages in Hawthorne's 1859 diary which show that he "began the romance in great earnest" on July 26, four days after arriving there, and that shortly after removing to Leamington in early October sent the manuscript completed "as far as page 429" to Smith, Elder (pp. xxiv-xxv). The entire manuscript (508 pages) was finished on November 8. Subsequent references are to this edition. (10) See Letters of James Russell Lowell, ed. Charles Eliot Norton, 2 vols. (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1894), 1:302. (11) Charlotte Brontd, The Clarendon Edition of the Novels of the Brontes: Villette (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), pp. 226, 228. Subsequent references are to this edition. (12) The Marble Faun, p. 358. (13) Villette, p. 265. (14) The Marble Faun, p. 362. (15) The association between the world of magic or the supernatural and dreams has been examined in E. D. H. Johnson's "Daring the Dread Glance: Charlotte Bronte's Treatment of the Supernatural in Villette," Nineteenth- Century Fiction 20 (1966): 325-36; and in The Marble Faun by Rita Gollin in Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Truth of Dreams (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1979). References to magic are extensive in both novels, but here and elsewhere in this paper the purpose is not to make an exhaustive analysis of parallels but to call attention to those areas which exhibit sufficient likenesses in execution or language to suggest possible influence. (16) Villette, p. 563. (17) The Marble Faun, p. 290, (18) Villette, pp. 654, 655, 656. (19) The Marble Fazin, pp. 442, 447. (20) Ibid., p. 451. (21) Villette, pp. 100, 179. (22) Otis B. Wheeler, in "Love Among the Ruins: Hawthorne's Surrogate Religion," Southern Review 10 (1974): 535-65, has called these love stories "the most obvious structural pattern of The Marble Faun" (p. 561). Judith Williams, in Perception and Expression in the Novels of Charlotte Bronte (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1988) anatomizes the farcical subplot of Villette, finding Ginevra an "alter ego" of Lucy "into whom she projects her feelings while at the same time hiding from them" (p. 138). (23) Villette, p. 197. (24) Ibid., p. 559. (25) The Marble Faun, pp. 388, 389. (26) "The Marble Faun: Hawthorne's Elegy for Art," p. 374. Robert B. Heilman's ground-breaking artic "Charlotte Bronte's |New' Gothic," in From Jane Austen to Joseph Conrad: Essays Collected in Memory of James T. Hillhouse, ed. Robert C. Rathburn and Martin Steinmann, Jr. (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1958), pp. 118-32; and Robert Bernard Martin's The Accents of Persuasion: Charlotte Bronte's Novels (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1966) make similar points about Villette, Heilman saying that the scene "gives the air of a dream mistaken for reality to what is in fact reality made like a dream ... a surrealistic, trance-like episode which ... in its role of liberator of feeling characteristically explores the non-naturalistic" (p. 129); and Martin that Lucy's "subconscious tumbles forth fragmentary hints of the scenes of the past connected with her unfettered feelings" (p. 173). (27) For discussions of the psychological implications evident here, see, for instance, Penny Boumelha, Charlotte Bronte (Bloomington: Univ. of Indiana Press, 1990), p. 120; and Frederick C. Crews, The Sins of the Fathers: Hawthorne's Psychological Themes (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1966), p. 226-27. (28) The Marble Faun, p. 55. (29) Villette, p. 440. (30) The Marble Faun, p. 78. (31) Villette, p. 658. (32) The Marble Faun, p. 129. (33) The Brontes: Their Lives, Friendships, and Correspondence in Four Volumes, ed. T. J. Wise and J. A. Symington (Oxford: Shakespeare Head Press, Published by Basil Blackwell and Houghton Mifflin Co., 1933), 4:18. (34) Although it is unlikely that Hawthorne knew it, Bronte's original surname for Lucy Snowe was Frost. (35) The Marble Faun, p.111. (36) Villette, pp. 82, 86. Part of the hostility here, of course (as the masculine imagery suggests) is Lucy's fear of her own sexuality. Her coming to terms with it--an important thread in the novel--anticipates a similar theme in The Marble Faun (see, for example, the citation from Baym above). (37) Villette, p. 560. (38) While many scholars have commented on the functions of these cities in the novels, perhaps the most apt for both is Judith Williams's assertion that "|Villette' (Brussels) is a realm of the active imagination, the spirit, and the will: the material world is interfused with significance, and vision and revelation occur in moral and spiritual as well as in physical terms" (p. 103). (39) The Marble Faun, p. 74. (40) Compare Janice Carlisle's contention in "The Face in the Mirror: Villette and the Conventions of Autobiography," ELH 46 (1979): 262-89, that "To return to the past" (as Lucy does when she awakens in the familiar surroundings of her childhood bedroom, now transported to Villette) "is to journey into a world that is spectral because it is dead, a world that calls into question the stability and substantiality of one's identity" (p. 269). (41) The Marble Faun, p. 111. (42) Villette, pp. 675-76. (43) "Hawthome's International Novel," Nineteenth-Century Fiction 24 (1969): 177. (44) The Bronte Sisters (London: Longmans, Green and Company, 1950), p. 28. (45) The Marble Faun, p. 154. (46) Ibid., p. 460. (47) "Love Among the Ruins: Hawthorne's Surrogate Religion," p. 563. (48) Villette, pp. 221-22. (49) Ibid., p. 546. (50) "The Marble Faun: Hawthorne's Landscape of the Fall," American Literature 42 (1970): 150. (51) Margot Horne's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman: The Dualism of Heroine and Anti-Heroin in Villette," Dutch Quarterly Review of Anglo-American Letters 6 (1976): 216-32; and Jane Sellars's "Art and the Artist as Heroine in the Novels of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte," Bronty Society Transactions 20, Part 2 (1990): 57-76, treat this theme most directly in Villette. Commentaries on the role of art and artists in Hawthorne are, to no one's surprise, too numerous to mention. (52) "To Transform and Transfigure: The Aesthetic Play of Hawthorne's The Marble Faun," in Nathaniel Hawthorne: New Critical Essays, ed. A. Robert Lee (London and Totowa, N.J.: Vision and Barnes and Noble, 1982), p. 138. (53) In E. D. H. Johnson's words, Lucy's "role of spectator is emphasized by the theatrical atmosphere of these settings--the background music, the lighting effects, the pervasive sense that each grouping is composed of actors playing their assigned parts in a shadowy drama, all oblivious of the solitary onlooker in the wings" (p. 334). (54) Villette, pp. 654, 655. (55) The Marble Faun, p. 446. (56) It is necessary to add here that Kenyon's Cleopatra was at least partly inspired by an actual sculpture by Hawthorne's friend William Wetmore Story. (57) Villette, p. 285. (58) The Marble Faun, pp. 126, 123. (59) Villette, p. 285. (60) The Marble Faun, p. 127. (61) Villette, p. 291. (62) The Marble Faun, pp. 126, 128. (63) Ibid., p. 43. (64) Villette, pp. 152-53. (65) Ibid., pp. 298, 531. (66) The Marble Faun, p. 205. The appearance of the shadows of Miriam, Donatello, and the Model, cast by moonlight into the Fountain of Trevi "as if all three were drowned together" (p. 147), is a close approximation of this device. (67) Villette, p. 657. (68) Ibid., p. 705. (69) The Marble Faun, pp. 142, 312. (70) Villette, p. 65. (71) The Marble Faun, p. 457. (72) Villette, p. 187. (73) Ibid., pp. 562, 564, (74) Ibid., p. 701. (75) The Marble Faun, p. 464. (76) Villette, p. 705. (77) The Marble Faun, p. 264. (78) This immersion into love and life is not without a price. For instance, Darrel Abel has remarked in The Moral Picturesque: Studies in Hawthorne's Fiction (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue Univ. Press, 1988) that while Kenyon "has comprehended" the events he has witnessed, "his marriage to Hilda signifies a deliberate commitment to the New England point of view that was his birthright, but from which his artistic detachment had hitherto enabled him to stand apart" (p. 313). Charlotte Bronte's reluctance to compromise this integrity may be one reason why Lucy remains, finally, alone and independent. (79) The Marble Faun, p. 253. (80) Compare Lucy Snowe's climbing staircases and burying John Bretton's letters with Hawthorne's observation, as he speaks of the beginnings of Donatello's spiritual growth, that "Every human life, if it ascends to truth or delves down to reality (my italics), must undergo a similar change" (p. 262). (81) I am indebted to my colleague Professor Wayne R. Kime, author of Donald G. Mitchell (Boston: Twayne Publishing Co., 1985), for this insight. (82) Letter to James T. Fields, 18 December 1852, The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Letters, 1843-1853, ed. Thomas Woodson, L. Neal Smith, and Norman Holmes Pearson (Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1985), p. 624.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Johns Hopkins University Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Wills, Jack C.
Publication:Studies in the Novel
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Previous Article:"Subtle, but remorseful hypocrite": Dimmesdale's moral character.
Next Article:Reading Blackwater Park: gothicism, narrative, and ideology in 'The Woman in White.'

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters