Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Musings of a Scholarly Recluse

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), Fanshawe, chapter II:
He called up in review the years, that, even at his early age, he had spent in solitary study—in conversation with the dead—while he had scorned to mingle with the living world, or to be actuated by any of its motives. He asked himself to what purpose was all this destructive labor, and where was the happiness of superior knowledge? He had climbed but a few steps of a ladder that reached to infinity—he had thrown away his life in discovering, that, after a thousand such lives, he should still know comparatively nothing. He even looked forward with dread—though once the thought had been dear to him—to the eternity of improvement that lay before him. It seemed now a weary way, without a resting place, and without a termination; and at that moment he would have preferred the dreamless sleep of the brutes that perish, to man's proudest attribute, of immortality.

Fanshawe had hitherto deemed himself unconnected with the world, unconcerned in its feelings, and uninfluenced by it in any of his pursuits. In this respect he probably deceived himself. If his inmost heart could have been laid open, there would have been discovered that dream of undying fame, which, dream as it is, is more powerful than a thousand realities. But, at any rate, he had seemed, to others and to himself, a solitary being, upon whom the hopes and fears of ordinary men were ineffectual.

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