Study Guide

The Old Manse

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Old Manse Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The Old Manse” is an example of the kind of short pieces that Hawthorne published in collections of short stories, although they were not stories but sketches or essays. Other notable examples of such rambling descriptive pieces, which Hawthorne loved to write, are “The Toll Bridge” and “Rills from the Town Pump” in his Twice-Told Tales. As Poe pointed out in his famous review of that book, these nonfiction pieces are characterized by a feeling that Poe called repose. They arc almost in the opposite manner of short stories, in that nothing dramatic ever happens in them. Modern editors frequently refer to such works as “mood pieces.” There is no conflict; they do not have much of a point and do not build to any sort of climax.

Consequently, such pieces are now mostly popular with literary connoisseurs and not with the modern reader conditioned to expect thrills and titillation in his reading matter.

“The Old Manse” was first published as an introduction to a collection of Hawthorne’s short pieces titled Mosses from an Old Manse (1846), which contained such excellent short stories as “The Birthmark” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” Although “The Old Manse” is not a short story at all, it does evoke a mood of rustic peace and domestic bliss. It also contains interesting thumbnail descriptions of his famous neighbors Emerson and Thoreau. In this introduction, Hawthorne describes his contented life with his wife and children in a big house in Concord, which had formerly been the home of Emerson. It was called The Old Manse and has been preserved for posterity as a national monument.

The Old Manse Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bell, Millicent, ed. Hawthorne and the Real: Bicentennial Essays. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2005.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Hester Prynne. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004.

Bunge, Nancy. Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993.

Davis, Clark. Hawthorne’s Shyness: Ethics, Politics, and the Question of Engagement. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

Mellow, James R. Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Times. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.

Miller, Edward Havilland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991.

Millington, Richard H., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Moore, Margaret B. The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998.

Muirhead, Kimberly Free. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”: A Critical Resource Guide and Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography of Literary Criticism, 1950-2000. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004.

Newman, Lea Bertani Vozar. A Reader’s Guide to the Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979.

Pennell, Melissa McFarland. Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Scharnhorst, Gary. The Critical Response to Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Stoehr, Taylor. Hawthorne’s Mad Scientists. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1978.

Thompson, G. R. The Art of Authorial Presence: Hawthorne’s Provincial Tales. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993.

Von Frank, Albert J., ed. Critical Essays on Hawthorne’s Short Stories. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991.