English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 6-5-1967


Excerpt from introduction:

Hawthorne's attitude toward his own fiction was usually casual and commercial. He wrote rapidly, sometimes produc­ing several books a year. His first two novels, Bressant and Idolatry, show promise that was never achieved. He baffled the contemporary critics, for while his work was artistically superior to that of Edgar Fawcett and E. P. Roe, he used melodrama and supernatural machinery appealing to their followers. And he could not be tagged as a realist, despite his use of realistic and naturalistic elements, be­cause of all the romantic trappings. Nor did he venture often as far as Francis Marion Crawford and others in construc­ting romantic-horror tales.

Because Julian Hawthorne did use many romantic elements in his fiction, he can, with no considerable stretch of the imagination, be viewed as a type of Gothic novelist. As I consider him thus in this study, however, I rely not so much upon his use of Gothic conventions to create sustained horror but rather to produce an atmosphere of mystery and foreshadow­ing and suspense. One can find in Hawthorne's work all the requisites of the typical Gothic novels popular in the late 1700's and early 1800's: the gloomy, haunted castle: secret rooms and sliding panels; murder and revenge; dual person­ality; incest; the changeling motif; the wicked priest; persecuted maidens; ghosts or mistaken apparitions; and inanimate objects with marvelous power. In fact, Hawthorne has one work, Archibald Malmaison, that is an effective Gothic novel with mystery and horror sustained until the final scene. Generally, however, the supernatural equipment is for back­ ground and often a trick in that Hawthorne later explains it all away in a Radcliffian fashion.

Doubtless, Julian Hawthorne will never have another period of popularity. His fiction is unread now and largely deservedly so; except for a researcher in the literature of the late nineteenth century and in Hawthorne's work as illus­trative of certain tendencies of that age, it has little to offer a modern reader beyond historical importance and remains an interesting and often amusing, but chiefly unsuccessful, attempt to fuse the melodramatic and supernatural with the realistic. This study, while dealing with a minor novelist, makes no attempt to resurrect the obscured figure as one deserving a modern reputation. It attempts instead to show Julian Hawthorne working within two modes, 'the romantic and the realistic, which existed side by side in American fiction during the last decades of the nineteenth century.

Rather than working generally with all his fiction, I con­centrate upon four novels or romances which are quite typical of all his work in long fiction. These four are Bressant (1873), Idolatry (1874), Archibald Malmaison (1879), and A Fool of Nature (1896).

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First Committee Member (Chair)

George Arms

Second Committee Member

Ernest W. Baughman

Third Committee Member

Willis D. Jacobs

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