Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mr. Higgenbotham's Catastrophe

Mr. Higgenbotham's Catastrophe

I enjoyed this story.

A few things struck my notice.

Especially was he beloved by the pretty girls along the Connecticut, whose favor he used to court by presents of the best smoking tobacco in his stock; knowing well that the country lasses of New England are generally great performers on pipes.

Sly dog, did he really say that?

At one point, the pedlar swore that Daniel Webster never spoke nor looked so like an angel as Miss Higginbotham...

This contemporary cultural reference excited my curiosity about Mr. Webster's life in relation to Hawthorne's. And I wondered when Stephen Vincent Benet wrote The Devil and Daniel Webster. Daniel Webster (1782-1852) preceded Hawthorne (1804-1864) by a generation and was a US Senator during the 1830's. Benet's story was published a century later and received the O. Henry Award in 1938. In Benet's story, Hawthorne's infamous ancestor, John Hathorne, judges the suit Daniel Webster brings against Scratch.

One last musing on the statement that Higgenbotham's dwelling stood beside the old highway, but had been left in the background by the Kimballton turnpike. I always think of shifts of this sort as being a symptom of modern progress in the 20th and 21st centuries. I appreciate that Hawthorne reminds me that this land, New England, already had a 150 year history before the USA was founded, and much that people bemoan today (new highways and racism and religious intolerance and even country lasses performing on pipes) was going on here right from the start.

No comments:

Post a Comment