Minister's Black Veil Essays: The Minister’s Black Veil and its Author

Satisfactory Essays
“The Minister’s Black Veil” and its Author Evaluated By Contemporaries

Initially, of course, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories went unranked among those of other American and British writers. But his reputation, along with the popularity of his works, grew gradually even among contemporary critics, until he was recognized as a “man of genius.”

Edgar Allen Poe, in a review of Hawthorne’s work, said in Godey's Lady's Book, November, 1847, no. 35, pp. 252-6:

It was never the fashion (until lately) to speak of him in any summary of our best authors. . . . The "peculiarity" or sameness, or monotone of Hawthorne, would, in its mere character of "peculiarity," and without reference to what is the peculiarity, suffice to deprive him of all chance of popular appreciation. But at his failure to be appreciated, we can, of course, no longer wonder, when we find him monotonous at decidedly the worst of all possible points--at that point which, having the least concern with Nature, is the farthest removed from the popular intellect, from the popular sentiment and from the popular taste. I allude to the strain of allegory which completely overwhelms the greater number of his subjects.

So literary critic Edgar Allan Poe thinks that Hawthorne’s heavy reliance on allegory is the cause of his lack of popularity during the 1830’s and 40’s. In 1848 James Russell Lowell wrote a piece of poetry entitled “Hawthorne” for the periodical A Fable for Critics:

"There is Hawthorne, with genius so shrinking and rare

That you hardly at first see the strength that is there;

A frame so robust, with a nature so sweet,

So earnest, so graceful, so lithe and so fleet,

Is worth a descent from Olympus to meet;

'Tis as if a rough oak that for ages had stood,

With his gnarled bony branches like ribs of the wood,

Should bloom, after cycles of struggle and scathe,

With a single anemone trembly and rathe;

His strength is so tender, his wildness so meek. . . .

The author considers that now, “after cycles of struggle and scathe,” Hawthorne is finally emerging into recognition for his work. In 1850 Herman Melville wrote “Hawthorne and His Mosses” for The Literary World, August 17 and 24 editions, in which he humbly acknowledges the genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne:
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