“Fanshawe” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Fanshawe” is the first published novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, written in 1828 when he was just 23 years old. However, Hawthorne himself was not satisfied with the work and later disowned it, even going to great lengths to try and suppress its publication. As a result, “Fanshawe” is not as well-known or widely read as Hawthorne’s later works.

The novel tells the story of a young Harvard student named Fanshawe, who forms a close friendship with a fellow student named Edward Walcott. The two friends develop a strong bond and share a love for the same woman, Ellen Langton. However, due to misunderstandings and personal conflicts, their friendship becomes strained.

As the narrative unfolds, Fanshawe withdraws from society and isolates himself, seeking solace and refuge in nature. He becomes consumed by his own inner turmoil and feelings of loss. Meanwhile, Edward, who has married Ellen, faces his own challenges and eventually becomes entangled in a financial scandal.

The novel explores themes of love, friendship, guilt, and isolation. It delves into the complexities of human relationships and the consequences of choices made in youth. The characters struggle with their own desires, responsibilities, and the expectations of society.

Critics have noted that “Fanshawe” bears some resemblance to the Romantic tradition of the time, with its focus on intense emotions and the conflict between individual desires and societal norms. However, it lacks the depth and maturity found in Hawthorne’s later works, such as “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Gables.”

Despite its relative obscurity and Hawthorne’s own disavowal of the novel, “Fanshawe” remains of interest to scholars and fans of Hawthorne’s work, as it provides insight into his early development as a writer and offers glimpses of themes and motifs that he would later explore more extensively in his renowned works.

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