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Hawthorne and Women, Engendering and Expanding the Hawthorne Tradition. (Book Reviews).

John L. Idol and Melinda M. Ponder, editors. Hawthorne and Women, Engendering and Expanding the Hawthorne Tradition. University of Massachusetts Press. 1999. 323 pages. Cloth $60.00. Paper $19.95.

In Hawthorne and Women, five groups of essays look at the women directly influenced by Hawthorne's rising authorship or his style and themes. This historical and cultural account deals with women who knew Hawthorne and those he later affected. The book demonstrates how Hawthorne looked to women for emotional and professional support throughout his writing career.

The introduction provides a biographical synopsis of Hawthorne and his family, and introduces, along with the text's justification (female writers were not just "scribbling women" to Hawthorne), an explanation of the grouping of essays to follow. The first group of essays is dedicated to the three women --Hawthorne's immediate family -- who supported his literary career: Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, and Rose Hawthorne. Preceding these is Nina Baym's essay, "Again and Again, The Scribbling Women." Even though it is admirable and necessary that Baym recontextualizes Hawthorne's infamous statement -- "damned mob of scribbling women" (she points out that he calls himself a scribbler also) -- her argument is founded on second guessing. Baym relies on the notion that Hawthorne probably did not read The Lamplighter, and, even if he did, "he would not have targeted it for his wrath; and I conclude, therefore, that he had not read it." But if, as this book suggests, the literary women in Hawthor ne's life influenced him, then perhaps one of them read The Lamplighter; this possibility should have been addressed.

The essays that follow Baym's are insightful and inspiring. John Idol gives much needed details about the mutual help Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and Hawthorne gave one another, in both their personal and professional endeavors. Luanne Hurst provides personal insight into the vital role Sophia Hawthorne plays in her husband's life, and Patricia Valenti explains the dedication that Hawthorne's sister, Rose Lathrop, provides.

The second group of six essays discusses the influence of New England life on the women in Hawthorne's locale. David Kesterson tackles the puzzling relationship between Margaret Fuller and Hawthorne. Thomas Mitchell's brilliant article on Fuller shows how she influenced "Rappacini's Daughter." Mitchell points out that Fuller is one of the few close friends that the author confided in. However, James Wallace's "Stowe and Hawthorne" is problematic. Wallace's essay does not fit the theme of the text. Wallace struggles to find similarities between the two authors. Where are the thematic or aesthetic ties? Do the authors really influence one another? The article is mostly dedicated to Stowe's work and how she differs from Hawthorne. Wallace can only offer a hasty conclusion that Hawthorne influences Stowe's conception of literature in the element of escape and of freedom for the imagination. As these elements are not exclusively Hawthorne's, the reader will conclude that Stowe was not influenced much by him.

Claudia Johnson's essay "Discord in Concord" is an excellent description of the personal relationship between the Hawthorne and Alcott families. Personal and political problems eventually put the families at odds. Margaret Moore explains the influence of Hawthorne on Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard -- a distant relative -- and discusses Hawthorne's admiration of her first published book. Finally, Rita Gollin entices the reader with Annie Field's detailed account of Hawthorne's last five years of life.

The third group of three essays travels to England where Hawthorne's work becomes known to Mary Russell Mitford, George Eliot, and Mary Ward. Idol's second article provides details on how Mary Mitford works tirelessly to push Hawthorne's masterpieces in Britain, though she never had a chance to meet her favorite American author. Patricia Marks writes of Hawthorne's influence on George Eliot's works, noting, for example, that they both use sainthood as an isolation device. Carol Bensick explains how Mrs. Humphry Ward chooses to speak of Hawthorne's most idealized texts, the texts which contain ideal female characters, to solidify and support her own stance against feminism.

The fourth group of six essays discusses Hawthorne's thematic and aesthetic influence on Rebecca Harding Davis, Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary Wilkens Freeman, Katharine Lee Bates, and Willa Cather. Janice Lasseter explains how Rebecca Harding Davis considered herself the literary progeny of Hawthorne in writing the lives of common people. Gayle Smith explains how Sarah Orne Jewett adapted and refined what Hawthorne created. Melissa Pennell's essay discusses how Mary Freeman's female characters -- like Hawthorne's -- had to confront being trapped within the structures of genteel poverty. Melinda Ponder examines Katharine Bates's popular works, in which she "admired, promoted, learned from, and responded to Hawthorne's writing." John Murphy's essay looks at the similarities Willa Gather shares with Hawthorne -- his sense of locale, his descriptive powers and an "interest in rendering landscape." Finally, Elizabeth Goodenough explains the captivation that Virginia Woolf and Hawthorne had with children; to them, the ch ild represents "unestimated sensibility."

The final group of four essays explores sexuality and sexual behavior. Idol claims that this topic sustains the interest in Hawthorne's work. Karen Kilcup describes how Emily Dickinson and Hawthorne use the representation and meaning of the pearl in their work, tying the pearl to female sexuality. Denise Knight explains how Charlotte Perkins was enticed by Hawthorne as a young girl. She uses Hawthornesque techniques but writes for social change, whereas Hawthorne writes to entertain using complex moral dilemmas. Monika Elbert's excellent essay explores gender and class in Wharton's work, specifically the sexual, gothic properties where woman's body "becomes the locus of public scrutiny." Flannery O'Conner called herself "one of his [Hawthorne's] descendants," as John Gotta's essay reveals. Gotta examines how O'Conner's work is an offshoot from Hawthorne's writing. Finally, Franny Nudelman compares the use of ghosts and gothic convention to explain past, present and future in Hawthorne and Toni Morrison's crea tions.

Overall, this book is crucial for anyone interested in Hawthorne. Many of the essays contain additional information on further reading in the essay's particular subject area, a help for researchers. The Appendix presents historical reviews and essays on Hawthorne's influence from 1850 to 1904. This book's objective is clear, concise, and well done; Idol and Ponder provide a much needed exploration of Hawthorne's influence by and on women.
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Author:Yarington, Earl
Publication:Studies in the Humanities
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 2000
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