The uneasy and spellbinding tales of a great American author
Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of the earliest admired American novelists and short story writers. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, his origins ever influenced his work. His tales were invariably set in New England, were darkly romantic and were often concerned with the occult and witches and their works in particular. Indeed, one of Hawthorne’s ancestors actually sat as a judge during the famous Salem Witch Trials, so the author’s inspiration could barely have stronger foundations. Predictably Hawthorne’s stories contain puritanical messages on the themes of sin, guilt and fundamental evil which go well with stories that contain uncanny and, sometimes, almost surreal elements. Although Hawthorne was decidedly popular with readers opinions about his work was sharply divided among his peers. Poe was a particularly harsh critic. Nevertheless, more recent analysis has suggested that he remains—possibly—America’s greatest novelist, challenged only by Henry James and William Faulkner. This Leonaur collection of four volumes has gathered together Hawthorne’s tales which contain elements of the weird and bizarre. It contains very well known works and those that may be less familiar.
In volume one readers will discover the novel, ‘The House of the Seven Gables’ and the novelette, ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter,’ together with fifteen short stories including ‘The Great Stone Face,’ ‘Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,’ ‘The Wedding Knell,’ ‘Drowne’s Wooden Image,’ ‘The Snow-Image’ and others.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Perhaps, with momentary truth of feeling, she thought how much happier had been her fate, if, after years of bliss, the bell were now tolling for her funeral, and she were followed to the grave by the old affection of her earliest lover, long her husband. But why had she returned to him, when their cold hearts shrank from each other’s embrace?<br>
Still the death-bell tolled so mournfully, that the sunshine seemed to fade in the air. A whisper, communicated from those who stood nearest the windows, now spread through the church; a hearse, with a train of several coaches, was creeping along the street, conveying some dead man to the churchyard, while the bride awaited a living one at the altar. Immediately after, the footsteps of the bridegroom and his friends were heard at the door. The widow looked down the aisle, and clinched the arm of one of her bridesmaids in her bony hand with such unconscious violence, that the fair girl trembled.<br>
“You frighten me, my dear madam!” cried she. “For Heaven’s sake, what is the matter?”<br>
“Nothing, my dear, nothing,” said the widow; then, whispering close to her ear, “There is a foolish fancy that I cannot get rid of. I am expecting my bridegroom to come into the church, with my first two husbands for groomsmen!”<br>
“Look, look!” screamed the bridesmaid. “What is here? The funeral!”<br>
As she spoke, a dark procession paced into the church. First came an old man and woman, like chief mourners at a funeral, attired from head to foot in the deepest black, all but their pale features and hoary hair; he leaning on a staff, and supporting her decrepit form with his nerveless arm. Behind appeared another, and another pair, as aged, as black, and mournful as the first. As they drew near, the widow recognized in every face some trait of former friends, long forgotten, but now returning, as if from their old graves, to warn her to prepare a shroud; or, with purpose almost as unwelcome, to exhibit their wrinkles and infirmity, and claim her as their companion by the tokens of her own decay. Many a merry night had she danced with them, in youth. And now, in joyless age, she felt that some withered partner should request her hand, and all unite, in a dance of death, to the music of the funeral bell.<br>
While these aged mourners were passing up the aisle, it was observed that, from pew to pew, the spectators shuddered with irrepressible awe, as some object, hitherto concealed by the intervening figures, came full in sight. Many turned away their faces; others kept a fixed and rigid stare; and a young girl giggled hysterically, and fainted with the laughter on her lips. When the spectral procession approached the altar, each couple separated, and slowly diverged, till, in the centre, appeared a form, that had been worthily ushered in with all this gloomy pomp, the death knell, and the funeral. It was the bridegroom in his shroud!<br>
No garb but that of the grave could have befitted such a deathlike aspect; the eyes, indeed, had the wild gleam of a sepulchral lamp; all else was fixed in the stern calmness which old men wear in the coffin. The corpse stood motionless, but addressed the widow in accents that seemed to melt into the clang of the bell, which fell heavily on the air while he spoke.<br>
“Come, my bride!” said those pale lips, “the hearse is ready. The sexton stands waiting for us at the door of the tomb. Let us be married; and then to our coffins!”