The Blithedale Romance

At the moment I’m reading Hawthorne’s “The Blithedale Romance,” a fictional account of his experiences during the year he spent at the experimental community of Brook Farm.  I haven’t picked up Hawthorne for a long time, probably because I was unimpressed with him when we were required to read his works during high school.  Perhaps it’s better to leave the more serious and complex authors to a later time, when one is better able to appreciate them.  In any case, I’m seeing a lot in Hawthorne I never saw in high school.  I suspect I’ll be looking at more of his work.  The quote for today is from the book, and describes Hollingsworth, a specimen of what H. L. Mencken would later call the “uplift.”  He is one of those familiar characters who is out to save mankind in one way or another.  In Hollingsworth’s case, the passion is prison reform.  However, Hawthorne’s description of him is an excellent fit for the professional saviors of the world of a later time; Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, et. al.  His words have a prophetic ring today:  “This is always true of those men who have surrendered themselves to an over-ruling purpose.  It does not so much impel them from without, not even operate as a motive power within, but grows incorporate with all that they think and feel, and finally converts them into little else save that one principle.”  “They have no heart, no sympathy, no reason, no conscience.  They will keep no friend, unless he make himself the mirror of their purpose.”…and, completing the banner quote-  “They have an idol, to which they consecrate themselves high-priest, and deem it holy work to offer sacrifices of whatever is most precious, and never once seem to suspect–so cunning has the Devil been with them–that this false deity, in whose iron features, immitigable to all the rest of mankind, they see only benignity and love, is but a specturm of the very priest himself, projected upon the surrounding darkness.”  Nuances of Turgenev’s Bazarov, no?  I suppose we’ve been warned about these types in every age, but never took the prophets seriously.

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