Mosses from an Old Manse
Mosses from an Old Manse was a short story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 collection by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

, first published in 1846.

Background and publication history

The collection included several previously-published short stories and was named in honor of The Old Manse
The Old Manse
The Old Manse is an historic manse famous for its American literary associations. It is now owned and operated as a nonprofit museum by the Trustees of Reservations...

 where Hawthorne and his wife lived for the first three years of their marriage. The first edition was published in 1846.

Hawthorne seems to have been paid $75 for the publication.


Many of the tales collected in Mosses from an Old Manse are allegories
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 and, typical of Hawthorne, focus on the negative side of human nature. Hawthorne's friend Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

 noted this aspect in his review "Hawthorne and His Mosses
Hawthorne and His Mosses
"Hawthorne and His Mosses" is an essay and critical review of the short story collection Mosses from an Old Manse written by Herman Melville in 1850. Published anonymously by "a Virginian spending July in Vermont", it appeared in the New York Literary World magazine in two issues: August 17 and...

William Henry Channing
William Henry Channing
William Henry Channing was an American Unitarian clergyman, writer and philosopher.-Biography:William Henry Channing was born in Boston, Massachusetts...

 reviewed the collection in The Harbinger
The Phalanx
The Phalanx; or Journal of Social Science is a Fourierist journal published in New York City, edited by Albert Brisbane and Osborne Macdaniel from 1843 to 1845....

and noted that its author "had been baptized in the deep waters of Tragedy" and his work was dark with only brief moments of "serene brightness" which was never brighter than "dusky twilight".

Critical reception

After its first publication, Hawthorne sent copies to critics including Margaret Fuller
Margaret Fuller
Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, commonly known as Margaret Fuller, was an American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism...

, Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

, Rufus Wilmot Griswold
Rufus Wilmot Griswold
Rufus Wilmot Griswold was an American anthologist, editor, poet, and critic. Born in Vermont, Griswold left home when he was 15 years old. He worked as a journalist, editor, and critic in Philadelphia, New York City, and elsewhere. He built up a strong literary reputation, in part due to his 1842...

, and Henry Theodore Tuckerman
Henry Theodore Tuckerman
Henry Theodore Tuckerman was an American writer, essayist and critic.-Biography:Tuckerman was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a sympathetic and delicate critic, with a graceful style. He wrote extensively both in prose and verse. He travelled much in Italy, which influenced his choice of...

. Poe responded with a lengthy review in which he praised Hawthorne's writing but faulted him for associating with New England journals, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

, and the Transcendentalists
Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the New England region of the United States as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian...

. He wrote, "Let him mend his pen, get a bottle of visible ink, come out from the Old Manse, cut Mr. Alcott
Amos Bronson Alcott
Amos Bronson Alcott was an American teacher, writer, philosopher, and reformer. As an educator, Alcott pioneered new ways of interacting with young students, focusing on a conversational style, and avoided traditional punishment. He hoped to perfect the human spirit and, to that end, advocated a...

, hang (if possible), the editor of 'The Dial
The Dial
The Dial was an American magazine published intermittently from 1840 to 1929. In its first form, from 1840 to 1844, it served as the chief publication of the Transcendentalists. In the 1880s it was revived as a political magazine...

,' and throw out of the window to the pigs all his odd numbers of the North American Review
North American Review
The North American Review was the first literary magazine in the United States. Founded in Boston in 1815 by journalist Nathan Hale and others, it was published continuously until 1940, when publication was suspended due to J. H. Smyth, who had purchased the magazine, being unmasked as a Japanese...

. A young Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

 wrote that Hawthorne was underpaid and that it was unfair that his book competed with imported European books. He asked, "Shall real American genius shiver with neglect while the public runs after this foreign trash?" Generally, most contemporary critics praised the collection and considered it better than his earlier collection, Twice-Told Tales
Twice-Told Tales
Twice-Told Tales is a short story collection in two volumes by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The first was published in the spring of 1837, and the second in 1842...


Regarding the second edition, published in 1854, Hawthorne wrote to publisher James Thomas Fields
James Thomas Fields
James Thomas Fields was an American publisher, editor, and poet.-Early life and family:He was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on December 31, 1817 and named James Field; the family later added the "s". His father was a sea captain and died before Fields was three...

 that he no longer understood the messages he was sending in these stories. He wrote, "I remember that I always had a meaning—or, at least, thought I had." He noted, "Upon my honor, I am not quite sure that I entirely comprehend my own meaning in some of these blasted allegories... I am a good deal changed since those times; and to tell you the truth, my past self is not very much to my taste, as I see in this book."


  • "The Old Manse
    The Old Manse
    The Old Manse is an historic manse famous for its American literary associations. It is now owned and operated as a nonprofit museum by the Trustees of Reservations...

    " (1846)
  • "The Birth-Mark
    The Birth-Mark
    "The Birth-Mark" is a romantic short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne that examines obsession with human perfection. It was first published in the March, 1843 edition of The Pioneer...

    " (1843)
  • "A Select Party" (1844)
  • "Young Goodman Brown
    Young Goodman Brown
    "Young Goodman Brown" is a short story by American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. The story takes place in 17th century Puritan New England, a common setting for Hawthorne's works, and addresses the Calvinist/Puritan belief that humanity exists in a state of depravity, exempting those who are born in...

    " (1835)
  • "Rappaccini's Daughter
    Rappaccini's Daughter
    "Rappaccini's Daughter" is a short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1844 concerning a medical researcher in medieval Padua. It was published in the collection Mosses from an Old Manse.-Plot summary:...

    " (1844)
  • "Mrs. Bullfrog" (1837)
  • "Fire-Worship" (1843)
  • "Buds and Bird-Voices" (1843)
  • "Monsieur du Miroir" (1837)
  • "The Hall of Fantasy" (1843)
  • "The Celestial Rail-road "(1843)
  • "The Procession of Life" (1843)
  • "The New Adam and Eve" (1843)
  • "Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent
    Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent
    "Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent" is a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The author originally intended for the story to appear in a collection entitled Allegories of the Heart. It was first published in the March, 1843 edition of The United States Magazine and Democratic Review...

    " (1843)
  • "The Christmas Banquet" (1844)
  • "Drowne's Wooden Image" (1844)
  • "The Intelligence Office" (1844)
  • "Roger Malvin's Burial
    Roger Malvin's Burial
    "Roger Malvin's Burial" is one of the lesser known short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, included in the collection Mosses from an Old Manse...

    " (1832)
  • "P.'s Correspondence
    P.'s Correspondence
    "P.'s Correspondence" is a 1845 short story by the 19th century American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, constituting a pioneering work of alternate history. Some consider it the very first such work in the English language...

    " (1845)
  • "Earth's Holocaust" (1844)
  • "The Old Apple-Dealer" (1843)
  • "The Artist of the Beautiful" (1844)
  • "A Virtuoso's Collection
    A Virtuoso's Collection
    "A Virtuoso's Collection" is the final short story in Mosses from an Old Manse by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was first published in Boston Miscellany of Literature and Fashion, I , 193-200....

    " (1842)

Added to second edition in 1854

  • "Feathertop
    "Feathertop" is a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, first published in 1852.-Plot summary:In seventeenth century New England, the witch Mother Rigby builds a scarecrow to protect her garden...

    " (1852)
  • "Passages from a Relinquished Work" (1834)
  • "Sketches from Memory" (1835)
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