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Page 319

CHAPTER XIV
AMERICAN LITERATURE

Hawthorne had now come to the appreciation that inspired him to do his best work. Within three years he wrote The House of the Seven Gables, a book of weird, pathetic humour and flashes of everyday sunshine. Then came The Wonder-Book, the little volume that is so dear to the hearts of children. The Blithedale Romance followed, then a life of his friend Franklin Pierce, and Tanglezuood Tales lass. next-a glorious record for less than three years, Franklin Pierce had become President, and he appointed Hawthorne Consul at Liverpool. 'Four years of the consulship (1853-1857) and three years of travel resulted in the Note-Books and The Marble Faun, the fourth of his great romances. Four years after its publication Hawthorne died.
It is as difficult to compare Hawthorne's romances with other novels as to compare a strain of music with a painting, for their aims are entirely different. Novelists strive to make their characters lifelike, to surround them with difficulties, and to keep the reader in suspense as to the outcome of the struggle. Hawthorne's characters are clearly outlined, but they seem to belong to a different world. Nor are the endings of his books of supreme interest. The fact that four people in The House of the Seven Gables finally come to their own is not the most impressive fact of the story.
Hawthorne's power lies primarily in his knowledge of the human heart and in his ability to trace step by step the effect upon it of a single action. His charm comes from a humour so delicate that sometimes we hardly realize its presence ; from a style so artistic that it is almost without flaw ;

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