"so quiet an individual as myself"
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1862)
Public DomainNathaniel Hawthorne (1862) - Credit: Emanuel Leutze

Whenever biographers or critics turn to the subject of Hawthorne’s personality, epithets such as quiet, shy and reserved always feature prominently. An 1881 article from Harper’s Magazine portrayed a man “strangely shy, so much so that he has been known to leave the highway for the fields rather than encounter a group of approaching villagers,” while more recently Clark Davis has founded his study of Hawthorne in ideas concerning the uses of shyness. Hawthorne too repeatedly highlights these qualities in himself, peppering numerous essays and prefaces with references to his “cursed habits of solitude.” Reserve, then, is paradoxically the means through which he enlists the reader's attention and sympathy.