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The Marble Faun Non relié – 1 juin 1992


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Non relié, 1 juin 1992
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--Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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Chapter I
Miriam, Hilda, Kenyon, Donatello

Four individuals, in whose fortunes we should be glad to interest the reader, happened to be standing in one of the saloons of the sculpture-gallery, in the Capitol, at Rome. It was that room (the first, after ascending the staircase) in the centre of which reclines the noble and most pathetic figure of the Dying Gladiator, just sinking into his death-swoon. Around the walls stand the Antinous, the Amazon, the Lycian Apollo, the Juno; all famous productions of antique sculpture, and still shining in the undiminished majesty and beauty of their ideal life, although the marble, that embodies them, is yellow with time, and perhaps corroded by the damp earth in which they lay buried for centuries. Here, likewise, is seen a symbol (as apt, at this moment, as it was two thousand years ago) of the Human Soul, with its choice of Innocence or Evil close at hand, in the pretty figure of a child, clasping a dove to her bosom, but assaulted by a snake.

From one of the windows of this saloon, we may see a flight of broad stone steps, descending alongside the antique and massive foundation of the Capitol, towards the battered triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, right below. Farther on, the eye skirts along the edge of the desolate Forum, (where Roman washerwomen hang out their linen to the sun,) passing over a shapeless confusion of modern edifices, piled rudely up with ancient brick and stone, and over the domes of Christian churches, built on the old pavements of heathen temples, and supported by the very pillars that once upheld them. At a distance beyond—yet but a little way, considering how much history is heaped into the intervening space—rises the great sweep of the Coliseum, with the blue sky brightening through its upper tier of arches. Far off, the view is shut in by the Alban mountains, looking just the same, amid all this decay and change, as when Romulus gazed thitherward over his half-finished wall.

We glance hastily at these things—at this bright sky, and those blue, distant mountains, and at the ruins, Etruscan, Roman, Christian, venerable with a threefold antiquity, and at the company of world-famous statues in the saloon—in the hope of putting the reader into that state of feeling which is experienced oftenest at Rome. It is a vague sense of ponderous remembrances; a perception of such weight and density in a by-gone life, of which this spot was the centre, that the present moment is pressed down or crowded out, and our individual affairs and interests are but half as real, here, as elsewhere. Viewed through this medium, our narrative—into which are woven some airy and unsubstantial threads, intermixed with others, twisted out of the commonest stuff of human existence—may seem not widely different from the texture of all our lives. Side by side with the massiveness of the Roman Past, all matters, that we handle or dream of, now-a-days, look evanescent and visionary alike.

It might be, that the four persons, whom we are seeking to introduce, were conscious of this dreamy character of the present, as compared with the square blocks of granite wherewith the Romans built their lives. Perhaps it even contributed to the fanciful merriment which was just now their mood. When we find ourselves fading into shadows and unrealities, it seems hardly worth while to be sad, but rather to laugh as gaily as we may, and ask little reason wherefore.

Of these four friends of ours, three were artists, or connected with Art; and, at this moment, they had been simultaneously struck by a resemblance between one of the antique statues, a well-known master-piece of Grecian sculpture, and a young Italian, the fourth member of their party.

“You must needs confess, Kenyon,” said a dark-eyed young woman, whom her friends called Miriam, “that you never chiselled out of marble, nor wrought in clay, a more vivid likeness than this, cunning a bust-maker as you think yourself. The portraiture is perfect in character, sentiment, and feature. If it were a picture, the resemblance might be half-illusive and imaginary; but here, in this Pentelic marble, it is a substantial fact, and may be tested by absolute touch and measurement. Our friend Donatello is the very Faun of Praxiteles. Is it not true, Hilda?”

“Not quite—almost—yes, I really think so,” replied Hilda, a slender, brown-haired, New England girl, whose perceptions of form and expression were wonderfully clear and delicate.—“If there is any difference between the two faces, the reason may be, I suppose, that the Faun dwelt in woods and fields, and consorted with his like; whereas, Donatello has known cities a little, and such people as ourselves. But the resemblance is very close, and very strange.”

“Not so strange,” whispered Miriam mischievously; “for no Faun in Arcadia was ever a greater simpleton than Donatello. He has hardly a man’s share of wit, small as that may be. It is a pity there are no longer any of this congenial race of rustic creatures, for our friend to consort with!”

“Hush, naughty one!” returned Hilda. “You are very ungrateful, for you well know he has wit enough to worship you, at all events.”

“Then the greater fool he!” said Miriam so bitterly that Hilda’s quiet eyes were somewhat startled.

“Donatello, my dear friend,” said Kenyon, in Italian, “pray gratify us all by taking the exact attitude of this statue.”

The young man laughed, and threw himself into the position in which the statue has been standing for two or three thousand years. In truth, allowing for the difference of costume, and if a lion’s skin could have been substituted for his modern Talma, and a rustic pipe for his stick, Donatello might have figured perfectly as the marble Faun, miraculously softened into flesh and blood.

“Yes; the resemblance is wonderful,” observed Kenyon, after examining the marble and the man with the accuracy of a sculptor’s eye.—“There is one point, however—or, rather, two points—in respect to which our friend Donatello’s abundant curls will not permit us to say whether the likeness is carried into minute detail.”

And the sculptor directed the attention of the party to the ears of the beautiful statue which they were contemplating.

But we must do more than merely refer to this exquisite work of art; it must be described, however inadequate may be the effort to express its magic peculiarity in words.

The Faun is the marble image of a young man, leaning his right arm on the trunk or stump of a tree; one hand hangs carelessly by his side; in the other, he holds the fragment of a pipe, or some such sylvan instrument of music. His only garment—a lion’s skin, with the claw upon his shoulder—falls half-way down his back, leaving the limbs and entire front of the figure nude. The form, thus displayed, is marvellously graceful, but has a fuller and more rounded outline, more flesh, and less of heroic muscle, than the old sculptors were wont to assign to their types of masculine beauty. The character of the face corresponds with the figure; it is most agreeable in outline and feature, but rounded, and somewhat voluptuously developed, especially about the throat and chin; the nose is almost straight, but very slightly curves inward, thereby acquiring an indescribable charm of geniality and humour. The mouth, with its full, yet delicate lips, seems so nearly to smile outright, that it calls forth a responsive smile. The whole statue—unlike anything else that ever was wrought in that severe material of marble— conveys the idea of an amiable and sensual creature, easy, mirthful, apt for jollity, yet not incapable of being touched by pathos. It is impossible to gaze long at this stone image without conceiving a kindly sentiment towards it, as if its substance were warm to the touch, and imbued with actual life. It comes very close to some of our pleasantest sympathies.

Perhaps it is the very lack of moral severity, of any high and heroic ingredient in the character of the Faun, that makes it so delightful an object to the human eye and to the frailty of the human heart. The being, here represented, is endowed with no principle of virtue, and would be incapable of comprehending such. But he would be true and honest, by dint of his simplicity. We should expect from him no sacrifice nor effort for an abstract cause; there is not an atom of martyr’s stuff in all that softened marble; but he has a capacity for strong and warm attachment, and might act devotedly through its impulse, and even die for it at need. It is possible, too, that the Faun might be educated through the medium of his emotions; so that the coarser, animal portion of his nature might eventually be thrown into the back-ground, though never utterly expelled.

The animal nature, indeed, is a most essential part of the Faun’s composition; for the characteristics of the brute creation meet and combine with those of humanity, in this strange, yet true and natural conception of antique poetry and art. Praxiteles has subtly diffused, throughout his work, that mute mystery which so hopelessly perplexes us, whenever we attempt to gain an intellectual or sympathetic knowledge of the lower orders of creation. The riddle is indicated, however, only by two definite signs; these are the two ears of the Faun, which are leaf-shaped, terminating in little peaks, like those of some species of animals. Though not so seen in the marble, they are probably to be considered as clothed in fine, downy fur. In the coarser representations of this class of mytho- logical creatures, there is another token of brute kindred—a certain caudal appendage—which, if the Faun of Praxiteles must be supposed to possess it at all, is hidden by the lion’s skin that forms his garment. The pointed and furry ears, therefore, are the sole indications of his wild, forest nature. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

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“Describ[es] Rome and Italian scenes as few others have.” —Anthony Trollope --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x8ea93e58) étoiles sur 5 21 commentaires
29 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8ee7d2c4) étoiles sur 5 Innocents Abroad 16 mars 2002
Par IRA Ross - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
_The Marble Faun_ concerns three young American artists, Miriam, Hilda and Kenyon, and their Italian faun-like friend, Donatello, whose characters are transformed while on their stay in Rome, the Eternal City. _The Marble Faun_ is very reminiscent of Henry James' novella, "Daisy Miller," where a young and innocent American woman falls under the deleterious spell of this European city. In fact, Hilda, while visiting one of its art galleries is warned by an old German artist to go back to America soon "or you will go never more...The air has been breathed too often, in so many thousand years, and is not wholesome for a little foreign flower like you, my child, a delicate wood-anemone from the western forest-land." Hilda witnesses a serious crime being committed by Donatello and Miriam (supposedly, neither of whom would have done so were it not for the evil influence of Rome's atmosphere) and becomes overwhelmed from ensuing feelings of guilt and depression. Despite her Puritan heritage, Hilda is compelled to unburden herself by seeking confession with a Catholic priest, who suggests that she convert to Catholicism. Hilda seriously considers, but decides to resist this transformation.
Hawthorne spends much of the novel in describing in detail Rome's architecture, its art galleries, churches, and its many other landmarks and shrines. When relevant to the story--especially in the author's depiction of the catacombs (from whence Miriam and Donatello commit their unforgivable deed), sunlight streaming through a church's stained glass windows, the extinction of a legendary flame standing before a lofty shrine, and the majestic bronze statue of a pope stretching out his hand in benediction--the effects are quite wonderful. However, a sizable portion of the novel is merely endless travelogue, which seriously detracts from this fairly well-told gothic romance. I did very much like Hawthorne's portrayal of carnival-time in Rome towards the end of the book, and the author's conversation with Kenyon and Hilda at the novel's conclusion is quite charming.
19 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8ea8878c) étoiles sur 5 Hawthorne's Best Novel 11 août 2001
Par Steve Thompson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I've always failed to understand why The Marble Faun has been overlooked for so long. Hawthorne did a masterful job of weaving together many different elements -- from mythological references and the retelling of The Fall, to Rome's amazing architecture and the beauty and power of art, and ultimately to some of the fundamental questions faced by humanity. He may have done this with such mastery and subtlety that not everyone picks up on the undercurrents of the text that hold this book together.
13 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8e750180) étoiles sur 5 Splendid 19th Century Travel Companion! 23 mai 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Thinking about traveling to Italy? Wait! Do not leave behind your most useful travel companion. Disregard Rick Steve's and Let's Go. The Marble Faun was the premiere 19th Century travel guide to Rome and should be for the 21st century traveler. This book will lead you around the ancient city without skipping any of the awe-inspiring sights. For travelers after The Marble Faun's publication in 1860, the novel was a necessary item for their European escapades. Masterfully constructing his story around four distinct characters, Miriam, Hilda, Kenyon, and Donatello, Hawthorne takes the reader on an adventure which holds as much intrigue as the splendid landmarks these travelers encounter in their own journeys. For one who enjoys art and the discussion of art, this book will provide everlasting enjoyment. Indeed, Hawthorne captures the ex-patriot community of artists who settled in Rome during the 19th century in an attempt to associate themselves and their work with the Old Masters. Through Hawthorne's exceptional narrative, the reader gains further understanding of the mindset of copyists who wish to discover the true essence of such famous works as the faun of Praxiteles. This work experiments in its narrative form and one must be willing to flow with it. The chapters at times jump from different characters and events with out much warning to the reader. In addition, Hawthorne interjects his own point of view from time to time. If the reader is sensitive to this un-structure then they will have little trouble enjoying the mystery as well as the valuable description. Hawthorne changed the standards for American travel writing with this novel. Without it, Henry James, among others, may not have followed his lead. It is time The Marble Faun won the recognition it deserves!
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8e800228) étoiles sur 5 A Novel of Conscience 29 mars 2006
Par J. Walsh - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This penetrating and provocative novel has the power to create a trance-like state in the reader's mind. Much of the dream quality of the scenes is the result of the setting in historic Rome, the art focused characters, and, especially, the author's poetic genius.

Like "The Scarlet Letter" and other Nathaniel Hawthorne works, this story centers upon morality and the value of experience in a person's growth, and here read "SIN" for experience.

I read the book in four days, and that is a dash for me. Totally immersed in the story, I frequently found myself marveling at the poetic presentation of universal truths about mankind; some of which had me re-examining hard won personal realizations about morality.

It had been years since I read this icon of the American Renaissance; I'll be reading another selection of his soon.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8e61a03c) étoiles sur 5 Haunting, Lyrical Book 23 mai 1998
Par Rainshine@cheerful.com - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Much faster reading than expected from Hawthorne; this book is very haunting and romantic. Very psychological and tragic--like a mythical phantasmagoria. I was disappointed in the ending (which is why I didn't give it a 10). I really really enjoyed this book--ALSO, for anyone who is familiar with Shelley's La Cenci or the tragedy of Beatrice Cenci, you'll REALLY enjoy this.
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