11 - Hawthorne and Stowe as Rival Interpreters of New England Puritanism  pp. 261-280


By Lawrence Buell

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Man was mercifully made with the power of ignoring what he believes. It is all that makes existence in a life like this tolerable.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oldtown Folks (1869)

[Holgrave] had that sense, or inward prophecy – which a young man had better never have been born, than not to have, and a mature man had better die at once, than utterly to relinquish – that we are not doomed to creep on forever in the old, bad way, but that, this very now, there are the harbingers abroad of a golden era, to be accomplished in his own lifetime.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables (1851)

Nathaniel Hawthorne and Harriet Beecher Stowe are by far the most ambitious and distinguished literary chroniclers of New England history. Both dedicated the bulk of their creative energies for a score, more or less, of their most productive years to the fictionalization of the New England past. Stowe wrote four major books on the subject: The Minister's Wooing (1859), The Pearl of Orr's Island (1862), Oldtown Folks (1869), and Poganuc People (1878). Hawthorne produced a number of superb tales and two full-length romances, as well as a child's history of Massachusetts, Grandfather's Chair (1841). The two authors make an instructive matched pair.