Monday, November 19, 2007

Hawthorne's notebooks, full of little gems

'Mr. Schaeffer shaving himself, yesterday morning. He was in excellent spirits, and could not keep his tongue or body still, more than long enough to make two or three consecutive strokes at his beard. Then would he turn, flourishes his razor and grimacing joyously , enacting strange antics, breaking out into scraps and verses of drinking songs – “A boire! A boire!” &c – then laughing heartily and crying “Vive la gaiete!” – then resuming his task, looking into the glass with grave face, on which, however, a grin would soon break out anew; and all his antics would be repeated with variations. He turned his foolery to philosophy, by observing that mirth contributed to goodness of heart, and to make us love our fellow-creatures.'

The American Notebooks, Centenary Edition, p. 49

The context, if it matters, is that Hawthorne is visiting a college friend in Augusta, Maine. Mr. Schaeffer is the friend's French roommate.

In a Dickens novel, this would be typically brilliant sketch. In a Balzac novel, this would be one of the good bits. It would not be out of place in either. The temporary attempts at seriousness about his shaving are the best touch.

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