- Hawthorne’s Ghost in Henry James’s Italy: Sculptural Form, Romantic Narrative, and the Function of Sexuality
Miss Hosmer is also, to say the word, very willful, and too independent by half, and is mixed up with a set whom I do not like, and I can therefore do very little for her. . . . She may or may not have inventive powers as an artist, but if she have will not she be the first woman?—William Wetmore Story to James Russell Lowell (February 11, 1853) 1
Were [the author] capable of stealing from a lady, he would certainly have made free with Miss Hosmer’s admirable statue of Zenobia.—Hawthorne, Preface, The Marble Faun (1859) (x)
Story’s “Hatty” is of course Miss Harriet Hosmer, the most eminent member of that strange sisterhood of American “lady sculptors” who at one time settled upon the seven hills in a white, marmorean flock. . . . [T]heir rise, their prosperity, their subsidence, are, in presence of some of the widely scattered monuments of their reign, things likely to lead us into bypaths queer and crooked. . . .—Henry James, William Wetmore Story and His Friends (1903) (1: 257)
In “Swept Away: Henry James, Margaret Fuller, and ‘The Last of the Valerii,’” I argued that Henry James began his literary career by repeating and in some cases extending the anti-feminist views of his most important New England predecessors, notably Emerson, Henry James Sr., and Hawthorne. I based my argument primarily on the paternalism and defensiveness in these male transcendentalists’ accounts of their friend and literary colleague, Margaret Fuller, and the younger Henry James’s subsequent references to Fuller in his reconstruction of that interesting colony of American artists and socialites in Rome from the 1840s [End Page 107] to 1870s in William Wetmore Story and His Friends, in which he claims to represent the “old relation, social, personal, aesthetic, of the American world to the European” and ends up revealing his own psycho-poetic and cultural roots (WWS 1: 5). In particular, I examined James’s motives in William Wetmore Story for representing Fuller as what he terms the “Margaret-ghost,” a specter of the past that he links with that other hauntingly tragic figure for the Victorian imagination, Beatrice Cenci, whose portrait by Guido Reni hung even then in the Palazzo Barberini, where the Storys took up residence on the third floor in 1856 (1: 127, 337). 2
Both Fuller and the nineteenth-century popularity of Beatrice Cenci explicitly link James’s reflections in William Wetmore Story with Hawthorne’s fiction, notably The Blithedale Romance (1852) and The Marble Faun (1859), as well as with Hawthorne’s accounts of his own Italian experiences in his French and Italian Notebooks. Long considered the origin of Hawthorne’s Zenobia in The Blithedale Romance, Fuller is one of several possible models for the mysterious and tragic Miriam in The Marble Faun. Indeed, Fuller’s involvement in the Italian republican revolution of the 1840s and her marriage to another follower of Mazzini, Marquis Angelo Ossoli, gives added credibility to the seemingly playful suggestion in Hawthorne’s 1860 “Postscript” to The Marble Faun that Miriam’s “secret” past somehow involves the turbulent politics of post-1848 Italy in the struggle between republican forces and Pope Pius IX, whose claims to political power in the Papal States were defended by Napoleon III’s French army of occupation from 1849 to 1870 (MF 464–65). Although Hawthorne’s “Postscript” is often rightly considered his effort to tease readers intent upon “solving” a romantic mystery designed to invoke our postlapsarian history and allegorize Original Sin and felix culpa in a modern drama, his jeu d’esprit may also refer to the “family connections” Fuller made by marrying Marquis Ossoli, whose father was an officer in the Papal Guards and a staunch anti-republican. 3
For the younger Henry James, Margaret Fuller, with her public commitments to women’s rights and abolition, condenses many of his literary fathers’ anxieties about the attention women intellectuals and artists were attracting for their cultural work. Yet my exclusive focus in that essay on Margaret Fuller, however motivated it was by Hawthorne’s and Henry...