"My Kinsman, Major Molineux" in its Original Published Edition (1832)
This story was first published, anonymously as "by the author of 'Sights from a Steeple'," in The Token, ed. Samuel G. Goodrich (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1832), a copy of which is available at the Rare Book Room. The Token was an elaborately produced Christmas annual intended for gift-giving, and its stories were accompanied by many custom-made steel engravings. In addition to this story, Goodrich also published three other anonymous Hawthorne stories in this issue of the annual. Can you detect them? What do their content and style, combined with "MK,MM," tell us about the way readers would have encountered Hawthorne's early published work? What kind of reputation is he cultivating? Think of this like a singer trying to build on the audience for a "break-out single." What would readers of "Sights from a Steeple" expect to find in this story, and how would what they read affect them?
Also, keep in mind the early date of this publication. What might have been the effect of reading this story for the first time in this edition in 1832? Keep in mind that this puts its first American readers considerably closer in time to the pre-Revolutionary-War events described in the introduction as happening on "a summer night, not far from a hundred years ago" (i.e., 1732). America had won its independence after the English army surrendered at Yorktown in 1781, but fought and nearly lost a second war with England in 1812-15, only 17 years before this story was published. Do the editor's choices of surrounding items increase or decrease this part of the story's associations? (If you consider this aspect of the evidence, you might want to look at the story's reprinting many years later in Hawthorne's The Snow Image (1852).
Read what readers encountered just before "MK,MM": Hawthorne's story is preceded by four poems that combine to set several themes before the reader before the story begins. After an engraving illustrating the poem, H. F. Gould's "The Young Artist" discusses the world view of a naive young artist and his first adoring public, his sister. The anonymous poem, "The Meteor" (85), describes the meteor's passage through the sky in moral terms as a fall from "pure companions" to earth. S. G. Goodrich places one of his own poems next, "Weep Not for the Dead" (86), a standard invocation of Christian stoicism in the face of death in hopes of eternal salvation. Charles Sherry's "Returning a Stolen Ring" (87-8) treats a slightly more daring subject, the poet's address to the young woman whose ring he stole in a poem that begs her not to forget him. How might these poems, which come immediately before "MK,MM" in The Token, plant thematic ideas in readers minds that might affect their reception of Robin's adventures. How would Hawthorne's tale have seemed in that setting?
Read what readers encountered just after "MK, MM": Hawthorne's story is followed by the short anonymous poem, "Love and Care" (116), which describes the relationship between love and care (worry, work, etc.) allegorically as a marriage ending in "Care"'s tragic death. After an engraving illustrating "The Toilet," readers encounter Grenville Mellen's satirical poem of the same title (118-20). (Do not be misled. In pre-C20 usage, a "toilet" is a scene composed of a lady at her dressing table and its make-up, etc..) The young lady's obsession with her hair is satirized. The next poem also follows an engraving illustrating its subject, the widow of "The Dead Soldier" (121-2). If this seems jarring given the content you focused on in "MK,MM," take it seriously. How is the editor redirecting readers' reception of Hawthorne's story, and why might he be doing so?