Ignoring the quote at the beginning of each chapter of Ideas Have Consequences is a mistake. Hence, today I take some time to write about the author of the one which frames chapter four, Egotism in Work and Art.
There’s more to the quote and I challenge you to re-read it. I did several times and could not recall it from my limited Hawthorne exposure in The Scarlet Letter or The House of Seven Gables.
All persons chronically diseased are egotists.
However, just those six words alone are pregnant with meaning and I'm sure I can tie them into Cindy's recent posts about parenting and discipline. But back to my framing of chapter four.
The first sentence grabbed me on several levels, not the least of which was my connection to the medical field. But that’s not where Weaver or Hawthorne were going with the thoughts. These few phrases are clipped from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, "Egotism or The Bosom Serpent" published in 1843 and nowadays readily available in a book of his short stories. Perhaps I should read it in my preparations for synopsizing and applying chapter four.
A little background on Hawthorne (1806 - 1864) from my college professor, Dr Russell Kirk, who names Hawthorne as one of his ten "most exemplary conservatives." It is significant that “on the eve of the Civil War, the two most interesting conservative thinkers (Nathaniel Hawthorne and Orestes Brownson) were men of letters (note connection to IHC chpt 3), rather than politicians. Unfortunately, they could not prevail against Abolitionists and Fire-eaters."
Furthermore, Kirk recommends reading Hawthorne as necessary in the development of the moral imagination (an Edmund Burke phrase mentioned in IHC’s chapter one - remember?). Kirk divides the reading of Great Books into four categories, which levels address the formation of the normative conscious. Hawthorne falls in the narrative history category.
Today Carmon is highlighting a noteworthy film because of its virtuous message, and I indeed hope to see Bella. In addition, however, I’m adding some Nathaniel Hawthorne to my reading list, so that when I run across him in the future I will recognize him and his influence.
I leave you with another Kirk quote:
Great books do influence societies for the better, and bad books do drag down
the general level of personal and social conduct.