The seasonal rhythm of writing (winter) and repose (summer) that marked Nathaniel Hawthorne's literary practice can be taken as something between an etiological source and a usable trope for his constitutional ambivalence toward nature, human nature, and the prospect of a natural religion dedicated to the soul's fulfillment within secular time. As a boy, Hawthorne divided his life between periods in Raymond, Maine, where he "ran quite wild," and residence among his Manning relatives in Salem. Raymond and Salem, summer and winter became his felt symbols of freedom and confinement, sensous delight and sober discipline, much as Quincy and Boston would be for the young Henry Adams. Hawthorne's darker early tales, associated with his "dismal and squalid chamber" in Salem, originated in obscure sexual guilts, which he came to project outward upon the canvas of history and universalize into a belief in common frailty. His marriage to Sophia Peabody and their life together at Concord's Old Manse constituted a programmatic effort to exorcise "Salem" and regenerate himself through sunny middle-class domesticity. Responding partly to the Emersonian spirit of cultural renewal, Hawthorne turned in the early 1840s from historical to contemporary subjects, finding his characteristic themes in the prospect of reform. Yet even at the height of New England's reformist summer, Hawthorne was precluded from a thoroughgoing social critique by the psychic residue of winter. Returning to Salem in 1845, he found once again, as he had on periodic visits to his mother and sisters, that only a concerted hold upon domesticity and socialization kept him from lapsing into the guilt-ridden solitariness of former days. The richness and tension of the mature romances derive from the collision of figurative "Concord" and "Salem," "summer" and "winter"-the naturalist's prospect of a life of the unfettered senses and the skeptic's fear that nature, however alluring, meant moral anarchy and spiritual oblivion. What I call Hawthorne's "winter dreams" are the fables woven by a sensibility powerfully attracted by the vision of a "natural" life-wild, sensuous, and creatively free-yet obliged by guilt and fear to record in the end a stern, self-suppressing "No."
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