chapter  7
22 Pages

Counterfeit Nature: The Marble Faun

Donatello'ssupposedly"leaf-shaped"andfurry ears(IV,71)areasnearasHawthorneisprepared tocomeinenumeratingthe"charms"ofhisyouth andvirgin,andeventhesehavetoremaininvisible (likethemerepossibilityofa"caudalappendage" whichishiddenbythelion'sskinintheFaunof Praxiteles)forthisisanareainwhichDonatello issaidtobeexcessivelysensitive;ithad"always beenatenderpointwithmyforefathersandme" (IV,l2).Sothepossibilityofscandalisnoted, butimmediatelyavoided,producinganareaof reticence("Ientreatyoutotakethetipsofmy earsforgranted"IV,12),onethatHawthornefelt impelledtotakeupinhisPostscript,addedto reduce,ifonlyalittle,themysteriesofwhichso manyreadersandreviewershadcomplained:"'Only onequestionmore,'saidI,withintense earnestness.'DidDonatello'searsresemblethose oftheFaunofPraxiteles?''Iknow,butmaynot tell,'repliedKenyon,smilingmysteriously.'On thatpoint,atallevents,thereshallbenotone wordofexplanation'"(IV,467).Thisconcludesthe novel.Hawthorne'sideathattheconceitoffaun's earsonamanmightbelightlypassedoverwasnot thecase,inpractise,andheregisteredhis imperfectsuccessinhavingtomakeanyfurther explanationatall:"TheideaofthemodernFaun, forexample,losesallthepoetryandbeautywhich theAuthorfanciedinit,andbecomesnothing betterthanagrotesqueabsurdity,ifwebringit intotheactuallightofday"(IV,463);and,"The ideagrowscoarse,aswehandleit,andhardensin ourgrasp"(IV,lO)."Hehadhopedtomystifythis anomalouscreaturebetweentheRealandthe Fantastic,insuchamannerthatthereader's

sympathiesmightbeexcitedtoacertain pleasurabledegree,withoutimpellinghimtoask howCuvierwouldhaveclassifiedpoorDonatello,or toinsistuponbeingtold,insomanywords, whetherhehadfurryearsornot.Asrespectsall whoasksuchquestions,thebookis,tothat extent,afailure"(IV,464).Butsurelythe presumedfurryearsareasignalnotsimplyofthe Faun'spoetryandbeauty,butofits outrageousness,asregardsthedecorumofthe"iron age":theystandforallthatispassedoverinthe censoriousnineteenthcenturyAmerica;thegolden ageisdangerous,erotic,tolerableonlyforits ignorance,ofwhichthegrotesquecorrectionlurks inthebackground,inthefigureofthebeginning ofthealphabet;ABCDEFG:hencetheembarassmentof the"Author".