Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘My Kinsman, Major Molineux’’ was first published in the 1832 edition of The Token, an annual book of essays, poetry, and short fiction to which Hawthorne contributed several pieces over the years. The story was published anonymously, and it was not until 1836, when journalist Park Benjamin wrote a review of that year’s Token, that the reading public came to know Hawthorne’s name. Having read ‘‘a sufficient number of his pieces to make the reputation of a dozen of our Yankee scribblers,’’ he praises Hawthorne’s style, and his modesty in remaining anonymous. ‘‘If Mr. Hawthorne would but collect his various tales and essays into one volume,’’ Benjamin notes, ‘‘we can assure him that their success would be brilliant—certainly in England, perhaps in this country.’’ Hawthorne did issue a collection the next year, and it did sell well, but it did not include ‘‘My Kinsman, Major Molineux.’’ The story did not appear again until 1851, in the collection Snow-Image.

When Snow-Image appeared in 1851, it was quickly overshadowed by Hawthorne’s great novel, The Scarlet Letter, published in the same year. By this time, Hawthorne was widely recognized as an important writer, both in the United States and in England, as Benjamin had predicted. Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville had reviewed his stories with approval. In what may be the first published overview of Hawthorne’s work, Henry T. Tuckerman describes the stories in terms that seem especially appropriate for ‘‘My Kinsman, Major Molineux’’: ‘‘He always takes us below the surface and beyond the material; his most inartificial stories are eminently...

(The entire section is 696 words.)