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Virtue of SympathyMagic, Philosophy, and Literature in Seventeenth-Century England$
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Seth Lobis

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780300192032

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300192032.001.0001

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Hawthorne’s Digby and Mary Shelley’s Milton

Hawthorne’s Digby and Mary Shelley’s Milton

Chapter:
(p.313) Coda: Hawthorne’s Digby and Mary Shelley’s Milton
Source:
Virtue of Sympathy
Author(s):

Seth Lobis

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300192032.003.0009

The Coda extends a key argument of the book—that older natural and natural-magical traditions of sympathy continued to overlap and interact with moral traditions—into the nineteenth century. It shows that Mary Shelley and Nathaniel Hawthorne engaged energetically with earlier representations of sympathy and in particular with those of John Milton and Sir Kenelm Digby. In Frankenstein, Shelley recalls and refers to Milton’s account of sympathy in Paradise Lost as a creaturely phenomenon. She suggests that an occult sympathy exists between Victor Frankenstein and his creature, even as both characters struggle to find true compassion and companionship in society. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne casts Roger Chillingworth as a Digbeian man of science and develops an analogous occult sympathy between his other two principal characters, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. The scarlet letter localizes the power of sympathy, and the novel as a whole turns on a magical idea of action at a distance. The Coda’s two readings demonstrate that novelistic sympathy is not merely a moral matter between characters or between authors and readers but also a complex negotiation between the natural and the moral and between past and present; the magic of sympathy endured.

Keywords:   Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frankenstein, The Scarlet Letter, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Sir Kenelm Digby, Sympathy, Novel

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