30 DECEMBER 1882, Page 18


MR. HAWTHORNE, in editing his father's fragment—for, after all, a fragment it remains—speaks of "the character of old Dr. Grimshawe and the picture of his surroundings" as "hardly surpassed in vigour by anything their author has produced,"— and there we agree with him. But when he goes on to speak of 4‘ the dusky vision of the secret chamber which sends a mysteri- ous'shiver through the tale" " unique even in Hawthorne," we must express our absolute dissent. The power of Dr. Grim- shawe's Secret seems to us to begin and end with the picture of Dr. Grimahawe's life,—the " secret " itself is rubbish, and adds nothing to the tale. The latter part of the tale, though it contains one remarkable passage, does not affect us with any of the special sense of power which we are accus- tomed to associate with Nathaniel Hawthorne, nor indeed with any special sense of power at all. What we may term the spidery part of the story is extremely effective in that very singular manner to which all readers of Hawthorne are accustomed, but we do not include in the spidery part of the tale the appearance of the spider redivivus in tho old library of Braithwaite Hall. Whether it be that the English air does not seem to suit these monsters, or that the air of Radcliffian mystery about the second part of the tale does not harmonise with that peculiarly pallid twilight, neither clear nor dark, in which Hawthorne's imagination loved to dwell, we do not know, but certain it is that the characteristic power of this volume seems to us to disappear with the tenth chapter. Hawthorne's -eerie genius seems to have exhausted itself at that point, while the remainder of the tale might have come from a very ordinary pen. What is striking in the New England part of Dr. Grim. acme's Secret is the power, so unique in Hawthorne, of ex- citing conflicting emotions which seem, so to say, to curdle each other in the imagination of the reader, and sunder the different elements they contain almost as an acid curdles Milk, and separates it into curds and whey. Thus the opening picture of the passionate old doctor's life, with the ghastly spider on the one hand, and with the two innocent children on the other hand, on the very verge of the New England graveyard, is full of the elements of Hawthorne's peculiar power. Take this, for example, on the criticism which * Doctor Glintshatoo's Secret; a Romano°. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. Edited, with Preface and Hotta:, by Julian Hawthorne. Loudon : Long:nails and Co. might have been passed by the inhabitants of the graveyard on the man who first built a commodious house with the view of commanding a prospect over it :- " It has often perplexed my mind to conjecture what sort of man he could have been who, having the means to build a pretty, spacious, and comfortable residence, should have chosen to lay its foundation on the brink of so many graves ; each tenant of these narrow houses crying out, as it were, against the absurdity of bestowing much time or pains in preparing any earthly tabernacle save such as theirs. But deceased people see matters from an erroneous—at least too exclusive —point of viovv ; a comfortable grave is an excellent possession for those who need it, but a comfortable_house has likewise its merits and temporary advantages."

The remark that " deceased people see matters from an erroneous, or at least too exclusive, point of view," has all the genius of Hawthorne in it, for he always loved to criticise life from the point of view of something which, relatively to the greater part of that life, might fairly be called death itself. And again, the description of the most eminent of the spiders in Dr. Grimshawo's abode, with what is characteristically enough termed "its inauspicious splendour," is quite in Hawthorne's best fashion :— " All the above description, exaggerated as it may seem, is merely preliminary to the introduction of One single enormous spider, the biggest and ugliest over seen, the pride of the grim Doctor's heart, his treasure, his glory, the pearl of his soul, and, as many people said, the demon to whom he had sold his salvation, on condition of possess- ing the web of the foul creature for a certain number of years. The grim Doctor, according to this theory, was but a great fly which this spider bad subtly entangled in his web. But, iu truth, naturalists are acquainted with this spider, though it is a rare one.; the British Mnsenm has a specimen, and, houbtless, so have many other scientific institutions. It is found in South America ; its most hideous spread of legi covers a space nearly as large as a dinner-plate, and radiates from a body as big as a door-knob, which one conceives to be an agglomeration of sucked-up poison which the creature treasures through He, probably to expend it all, and life itself, on some worthy foe. Its colours, variegated in a sort of ugly and inauspicious splendour, were distributed over its vast bulb in great spots, seine of which glistened like gems. It was a horror to think of this thing living ; still more horrible to think of the foul cata- strophe, the crushed-out and wasted poison, that would follow the casual setting foot upon it."

Powerful, too, after Hawthorne's fashion, is the passage in which Dr. Grimshawe, in the midst of his drinking and smoking, and with the spiders weaving their webs all about him, breaks out to.the children concerning the dangers which await their spiritual nature in the world before them, and then sud- denly bursts into the laughter of self-scorn at the tone he has taken to them. In this passage, also, you have the double current of emotion,—the current of fierce vindictiveness which warns the doctor of the danger to which the children are liable, and his spiritual horror of that vindictiveness which protests against the ruling passion of his own heart; while the innocent children, who as yet hardly understand either feeling, listen in profound emotion to the tones which open to them so new and strange a world of temptation and of triumph :—

" One evening, I know not how, he was betrayed into speaking on this point, and a sort of inspiration seized him. A vista opened before him ; handling en immortal spirit, he began to know its re- quisitions, in a degree far beyond what he had conceived them to be when his great task was undertaken. His voice grew deep, and had a strange, impressive pathos in it ; his talk became eloquent with depth of meaning and fooling, as ho told the boy of the moral dangers of the world, for which he was seeking to educate him ; and which, ho said, presented what looked like groat triumphs, and yet were the greatest and saddest of defeats. Ho told him that many things that seemed nearest and dearest to the heart of man were destructive, eating and gnawing away and corroding what was beet in him ; and what a high, noble, re-creating triumph it was when these dark impulses were resisted and overthrown ; and haw, from that epoch, the soul took a new start. He denounced the selfish greed of gold, lawless passion, revenge—and here the grim Doctor broke out into a strange passion and zeal of anathema against this deadly sin, making a dreadful picture of the ruin that it creates in the heart where it establishes itself, and how it makes a corrosive acid of those genial juices. Then he told the boy.that the condition of all good was, in the first place, truth ; then courage ; then justice ; then mercy; out of which principles, operating upon one another, would come all brave, noble, high, unselfish actions, and the scorn of all menu ones ; and how that from such a nature all hatred would fall away, and all good affections would he ennobled. I know not at what point it was, pre- cisely, in those ethical instructions that an insight seemed to strike the grim Doctor that something more—vastly more—was needed than all ho had said; and he began, doubtfully, to speak of man's spiritual nature and its demands, and the emptiness of everything which a sense of these demands did not pervade, and condense, and weighted into realities. And going on in this strain, he soared out of himself and astonished the two children, who stood gazing at him, wondering whether it wore the Doctor who was speaking thus, until some in- terrupting circumstance seemed to bring him back to himself, and he burst into one of his great roars of laughter. Tho inspiration, the strange light whereby he had been transfigured, passed out of his face ; and there was the uncouth, wild-bearded, rough, earthy, pas- sions.to man, whom they called Doctor Grim, looking ashamed of himself, and trying to turn the whole matter into a jest. It was a sad pity that he should have been interrupted, and brought into this mocking mood, just when he seemed to have broken away from the sinfulness of his hot, evil nature, and to have soared into a region where, with all his native characteristics transfigured, he seemed to have become an angel in his own likeness. Crusty Hannah, who had been drawn to the door of the study by the unusual tones of his voice —a kind of piercing sweetness in it—always averred that she saw the gigantic spider swooping round his head in great, crafty circles, and clutching, as it were, at his brain with its great claws. But it was the old woman's absurd idea that this hideous insect was the Devil in that ugly guise—a superstition which deserves absolutely no countenance. Nevertheless, though this paroxysm of devotional feeling and insight returebd no more to the grim Doctor, it was ever after a memorable occasion to the two children. It touched that religious chord in both their hearts which there was no mother to touch ; but now it vibrated long, and never ceased to vibrate so long as they remained together—nor, perhaps, after they wore parted from each other and from the grim Doctor. And oven then, in those after-years, the strange music that had been awakened, was con- tinued, as it were the echoes from harps on. high."

But the most characteristic touch of Hawthorne in the tale, is the contrast between the passionate and fleshly Dr. Grim- shawe, with his fierce love and fierce fire of revenge, and the gentle, pallid nature of the New England schoolmaster, who has reduced his whole life, by virtue of long inherited habits of abstinence, to a faint and neutral tint of placid friendliness, want- ing in all the force of moral initiative, and in all the strength of the affections, but all the healthier• and gentler in the plane of its sober friendliness for this defect of intensity. The contrast here is very vivid, and completely in Ilawthorne's best manner :—

" On Colcord's part there was a good deal of evidence to be detected by a nice observer that he found it difficult to put up with the Doctor's coarse peculiarities, whether physical or moral. His animal indulgences of appetite struck him with wonder and horror ; his coarse expressions, his free indulgence of wrath, his sordid and un- clean habits; the dust, the cobwebs, the monster that dangled from the ceiling; his pipe, diffusing its fragrance through the house, and showing, by the plainest and simplest proof, how we all breathe one another's breath, nice and proud as we may be, kings and daintiest ladies breathing the air that has already served to inflate a beggar's lungs. He shrank, too, from the rude manhood of the Doctor's char- acter, with its human warmth—an element which he seemed not to possess in his own character. He was capable only of gentle and mild regard—that was his warmest affection ; and the warmest, too, that he was capable of exciting in others. So that he was doomed, as much apparently as the Doctor himself, to be a lonely creature, without any very deep companionship in the world, though not in- capable, when he, by some rare chance, met a soul distinctly akin, of holding a certain high spiritual communion. With the children, however, he succeeded in establishing some good and available rela- tions; his simple and passionless character coincided with their sim- plicity and their as yet unawakened passions; they appeared to understand him hotter than the Doctor ever succeeded in doing. He touched springs and elements in the nature of both that had never been touched till now, and that sometimes made a sweet, high music. But this was rarely ; and as far as the general duties of an instructor went, they did not seem to be very successfully performed. Some. thing was cultivated ; the spiritual germ grew, it might be ; but the children, and especially Ned, were intuitively conscious of a certain want of substance in the instructor—a something of earthly bulk; a too etherealness Friend,' said he at length, thou halt something on thy mind.'—' Aye,' said the grim Doctor, coming to a stand before his chair. You see that ? Can you sea as well what it is P'—' Some stir and writhe of something in the past that troubles you, as if you had kept a snake for many years in your bosom, and stupefied it with brandy, and now it awakes again, and troubles you with bites and stings.'—' What sort of a man do you think ma ?' asked the Doctor.—' I cannot tell,' said the schoolmaster. The sym- pathies of my nature are not those that should give me knowledge of snob men.'—' Am I, think you,' continued the grim Doctor, a man capable of great crime ?'—' A great one, if any,' said Coloord ; ' a great good, likewise, it might be.'—' What would I bo likely to do,' asked Dr. Grim, supposing I had a darling purpose, to the accom- plishment of which I had given my soul—yes, my soul—my success in life, my days and nights of thought, my years of time, dwelling upon it, pledging myself to it, until at last I had grown to love the burden of it, and not to regret my own degradation ? 1, a man of strongest will—what would I do, if this were to be resisted ?'—' I do not conceive of the force of will shaping out my ways,' said the schoolmaster. walk gently along, and take the path that opens before me.'—' Ha! ha! ha!' shouted the grim Doctor, with one of his portentous laughs. ' So do we all, in spite of ourselves ; and sometimes the path comes to a sadden ending !' And he resumed his drinking."

Nothing pleased Hawthorne more than to contrast what we May call pallid natures with fierce and passionate natures, and to enjoy the thrill which the contrast causes in us.: Hawthorne well understood that New England had developed a special kind of frigidity, an intellectual as well as moral patience and ghostliness in man, which is almost unkown to the Old World ; and he knew that there was no slaiverlike the shiver with which we recognise a difference, between men living alike in the body, such as rather suggests the differ-

ence between the embodied and the disembodied than any other difference of kind between man and man. The whole power of the early part of the tale consists in these various weird con-

trasts,—between the house with its merry children and the grave- yard ; between the man of fierce passion and the innocence of the children ; between the apparent craft of the spider and the simplicity of the children ; between the man of passion and the man of passionlessness ; between the violent life of 'the old doctor and his lonely death. • In the second—the English—part of the tale, we see little or no sign of Hawthorne's characteristic power, though, as we said, it contains one striking passage, not, as we should have supposed, at all specially characteristic of him. It is the pas- sage in which the American hero recognises the probability that Lord Braithwaite may find it necessary to put him out of the way, and yet may boar him no ilb.will while he is cherishing in his breast this design :—

" It might make the thing more horrible, perhaps ; but it has been often seen in those who poison for the sake of interest, 'without feel- ings of personal malevolence, that they do it as kindly as the nature of the thing will permit ; they, possibly, may oven have a certain degree of affection for their victims, enough to induce thorn to make the last hours of life sweet and pleasant ; to wind up the fever of life with it double supply of enjoyable throbs ; to sweeten and deli- cately flavour the cup of death that they offer to the lips of him whose life is inconsistent with some stated necessity of their own.. Dear friend,' such a one might say to the friend whom he reluctantly condemned to death, think not that there is any base malice, any desire of pain to thee, that actuates me in this thing. Heaven knows, I earnestly wish thy good. But I have well considered the matter— more deeply than thou bast—and have found that it is essential that one thing should be, and essential to that thing that thou, my friend, shouldst die. Is that a doom which even thou wouldst object to with such an end to be answered ? Thou art innocent ; thou art not a man of evil life ; the worst thing that can come of it, so far as thou, art concerned, would be a quiet, endless repose in yonder churchyard, among dust of thy ancestry, with the English violets growing over thee there, and the green, sweet grass, which thou wilt not scorn to. associate with thy dissolving elements, remembering that thy fore- father owed a debt, for his own birth and growth, to this English soil, and paid it not—consigned himself to that rough soil of another clime, under the forest leaves. Pay it, dear friend, without repining, and leave me to battle a little longer with this troublesome world, and in a few years to rejoin thee, and talk quietly over this matter,. which we are now arranging. How slight a favour, then, for one friend to do another will seem this that I seek of thee "

That is striking,—to our minds, almost the only striking pas- sage in the latter part of the story, but scarcely striking in the same way as the earlier part of Dr. Grims7tatco's Secret. If we.

understand Mr. Julian Hawthorne rightly,--we have had no opportunity of comparing this story with the form of the talc in which it was printed some short time ago in an American magazine,—the recast of the talc which he now gives us differs• from that already published in America, chiefly in its first por- tion,—the portion which we have recognised in its newer shape as full of the special power of Nathaniel Hawthorne. At all events, the flavour of the true Hawthorne genius seems to us to belong exclusively to this portion of the tale, and to desert the continuation of it in this country almost altogether. A student of Hawthorne might well have supposed, judging from ex- ternal evidence alone, that the first ten chapters were his, and the rest by a much less original hand. But however this may be, the first ten chapters will delight every true admirer of that mighty master of a style which may be called the style of

bloodless inquisitiveness into the secrets of hot and surging, blood.