Q. D. Leavis states that Hawthorne had among his forbears a “witch-hanging judge and the Quaker-whipping Major” (30). This is a reference to one instance of historical allusion in Hawthorne’s short stories. This essay will explore a variety of historical incidences referred to in his short story, “Roger Malvin’s Burial.”
Clarice Swisher in “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography” states the author’s deep historical ties:
William Hathorne was a colonial magistrate involved in the persecution of Quakers, another Protestant religious group. Hawthorne later described him as “grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned,” a hard, dark man. His son John Hathorne was well known as a Puritan judge who condemned women as witches in 1692 during the Salem witchcraft trials, and who later expressed no remorse for his actions. . . . Of his ancestors, especially Judge John, Hawthorne later said, “I . . . hereby take shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that any curse incurred by them . . . may be now and henceforth removed (14).
Is it any wonder then, that Hawthorne in “Roger Malvin’s Burial” should use history as a source for this tale. Wagenknecht notes in Nathaniel Hawthorne a reliance on history (60). Some other critics comment on Hawthorne’s incorporation of history into his literary works. Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” states: What he wrote of New England was not merely “local color”; rather it was the subconscious mind of New England. It was this memorable art of his which distinguished him from Emerson and Thoreau, an art which included his distillations of historical episodes into moods.” (43) Sculley Bradley, Richmond Croom Beatty and E. Hudson Long i...
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Fuller, Edmund and B. Jo Kinnick in “Stories Derived from New England Living.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Leavis, Q.D. “Hawthorne as Poet.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.
Swisher, Clarice. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Wagenknecht, Edward. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Man, His Tales and Romances. New York: Continuum Publishing Co., 1989.
Williams, Stanley T. “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
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