The Marble Faun
The Marble Faun: Or, The Romance of Monte Beni, also known as Transformation, was the last of the four major romances 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...

, and was published in 1860
1860 in literature
The year 1860 in literature involved some significant new books.-Events:*January - First issue of the Cornhill Magazine*June 9 ****- Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter becomes the first dime novel to be published....

. The Marble Faun, written on the eve of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, is set in a fantastical Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. The romance mixes elements of a fable
A fable is a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized , and that illustrates a moral lesson , which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.A fable differs from...

, pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

, gothic novel, and travel guide.


The four main characters are Miriam, a beautiful painter who is compared to Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

, Beatrice Cenci
Beatrice Cenci
Beatrice Cenci was an Italian noblewoman. She is famous as the protagonist in a lurid murder trial in Rome....

, Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth may refer to:*Lady Macbeth, from William Shakespeare's play Macbeth**Queen Gruoch of Scotland, the real-life Queen on whom Shakespeare based the character...

, Judith, and Cleopatra
Cleopatra VII of Egypt
Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great's death during the Hellenistic period...

, and is pursued by a mysterious, threatening man who is her "evil genius" through life; Hilda, an innocent copyist who is compared to the Virgin Mary and the white dove, and whose simple, unbendable moral principles can make her severe in spite of her tender heart; Kenyon, a sculptor, who represents rationalist humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

; and Donatello, the Count of Monte Beni, who is compared to Adam
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

, and amazingly resembles the Faun of Praxiteles; the novel plays with the characters' belief that the count may be a descendant of the antique Faun, with Hawthorne withholding a definite statement even in the novel's concluding chapter.

Publication history and response

After writing The Blithedale Romance
The Blithedale Romance
The Blithedale Romance is Nathaniel Hawthorne's third major romance. In Hawthorne , Henry James called it "the lightest, the brightest, the liveliest" of Hawthorne's "unhumorous fictions."-Plot summary:...

in 1852, Hawthorne, approaching fifty, turned away from publication and obtained a political appointment as American Consul in Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, an appointment which he held from 1853 to 1857. In 1858, Hawthorne and his wife Sophia Peabody moved to Italy and became essentially tourists for a year and a half. In the spring of 1858, Hawthorne was inspired to write his romance when he saw the Faun of Praxiteles
Praxiteles of Athens, the son of Cephisodotus the Elder, was the most renowned of the Attic sculptors of the 4th century BC. He was the first to sculpt the nude female form in a life-size statue...

 in the Palazzo Nuovo of the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

The book was published simultaneously in America and England in 1860; the title for the British edition was Transformation: Or the Romance of Monte Beni. Both titles continue to be used today in the U.K. Encouraged to write a book in three volumes, Hawthorne included lengthy descriptions that critics found distracting or boring. 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...

 called the novel "mush" but James Russell Lowell
James Russell Lowell
James Russell Lowell was an American Romantic poet, critic, editor, and diplomat. He is associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of New England writers who were among the first American poets who rivaled the popularity of British poets...

 was pleased with it and praised it as a Christian parable. Reviews were generally favorable, though many were confused by the ending. William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells was an American realist author and literary critic. Nicknamed "The Dean of American Letters", he was particularly known for his tenure as editor of the Atlantic Monthly as well as his own writings, including the Christmas story "Christmas Every Day" and the novel The Rise of...

 later wrote: "Everybody was reading it, and more or less bewailing its indefinite close, but yielding him that full honor and praise which a writer can hope for but once in his life." Friend and critic Edwin Percy Whipple
Edwin Percy Whipple
Edwin Percy Whipple was an American essayist and critic.-Biography:He was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1819. For a time, he was the main literary critic for Philadelphia-based Graham's Magazine. Later, in 1848, he became the Boston correspondent to The Literary World under Evert Augustus...

 noted that, even if Hawthorne had written nothing else, The Marble Faun would qualify him as a master of English composition. The climax comes less than halfway through the story, and Hawthorne intentionally failed to answer many questions about the characters and the plot. Complaints about this led Hawthorne to add a Postscript to the second edition.


  • The Marble Faun has been cited as an influence on H. P. Lovecraft
    H. P. Lovecraft
    Howard Phillips Lovecraft --often credited as H.P. Lovecraft — was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction....

    's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
    The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
    The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is a novella by H. P. Lovecraft. It was completed in 1927 and was unpublished in his lifetime. It is both the longest of the stories that comprise his Dream Cycle and the longest to feature protagonist Randolph Carter, and can thus be considered a culminating...


  • Weldon Kees
    Weldon Kees
    Harry Weldon Kees was an American poet, painter, literary critic, novelist, jazz pianist, and short story writer...

    ' third collection of poems, Poems 1947-1954 opens with an epigraph from the Marble Faun.

  • Frederic Tuten
    Frederic Tuten
    Frederic Tuten is an American novelist, short story writer and essayist. He has written five novels – The Adventures of Mao on the Long March , Tallien: A Brief Romance , Tintin in the New World: A Romance , Van Gogh's Bad Café and The Green Hour – as well as one book of inter-related short...

    's 1972 novel The Adventures of Mao on the Long March
    The Adventures of Mao on the Long March
    The Adventures of Mao on the Long March is Frederic Tuten's first published novel. The novel is a fictionalized account of Chairman Mao's rise to power, and is highly experimental in nature, including extensive use of parody and collage.-Plot summary:...

     uses an extensive quote from the sculptor's studio segment of the book, placing them alongside details of Chinese history from 1912 to Mao
    Mao Zedong
    Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

    's rise to power.

  • In the documentary film
    Documentary film
    Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

     Grey Gardens
    Grey Gardens
    Grey Gardens is a 1975 documentary film by Albert and David Maysles, with Susan Froemke, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer. The film depicts the everyday lives of two reclusive socialites, a mother and daughter both named Edith Beale, who lived at Grey Gardens, a decrepit mansion at 3 West End Road in...

    , Edith Bouvier Beale
    Edith Bouvier Beale
    Edith Bouvier Beale was an American socialite, fashion model and cabaret performer. She was a first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill...

     refers to teenage handyman Jerry Torre as "The Marble Faun" because he looks terribly like The Marble Faun.

  • The Marble Faun is also the title of a collection of poetry published in 1924 by William Faulkner
    William Faulkner
    William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

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