Monday, November 25, 2013

John Inglefield's Thanksgiving - 1852
Nathaniel Hawthorne
6 pages
genre  - short story
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

Of the few works I have read of Hawthorne's, none of them have been particularly cheerful. I hope one day that I will be pleasantly surprised to read an uplifting and happy story of his writing.  'John Inglefield's Thanksgiving' is from Hawthorne's anthology The Snow-Image and Other Twice Told Tales.

There are four people sitting around John Inglefield's table on that Thanksgiving night.  John, his son (who is home from college), his 16-year-old daughter, and John's journeyman.  There is an empty chair at the table for John's wife who had died a few months ago.

"Within the past year another member of his household had gone from him, but not to the grave. Yet they kept no vacant chair for her."

Everyone is astonished when Prudence Inglefield walks in the door. 

I have to admit that there were a few ideas in the tale that I will have to consider.  And that's what I like best about books: when I am given points to ponder.

About the author -

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. After the death of his father in 1808, young Nathaniel, his mother and two sisters lived with relatives.

William Hathorne, the author's great-great-great-grandfather, a Puritan, was the first of the family to emigrate from England.  William's son, John Hathorne, was one of the judges who oversaw the Salem witch trials. Having learned about this, the author may have added the "w" to his surname in his early twenties, in an effort to dissociate himself from his notorious forebears.

Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody on July 9, 1842. The couple moved to Concord, Massachusetts. His neighbor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, invited him into his social circle, but Hawthorne was almost pathologically shy and stayed silent when at gatherings.

Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter in mid-March 1850. One of the first mass-produced books in America, it sold 2,500 volumes within ten days and earned Hawthorne $1,500 over 14 years.

Hawthorne met Herman Melville at a picnic hosted by a mutual friend. Melville had just read Hawthorne's short story collection Mosses from an Old Manse. Melville, who was composing Moby-Dick at the time, wrote that these stories revealed a dark side to Hawthorne, "shrouded in blackness, ten times black". Melville dedicated Moby-Dick  to Hawthorne: "In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne."

Hawthorne died in his sleep on May 19, 1864.

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