The Marble Faun
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The customs of artist life bestow such liberty upon the sex, which is elsewhere restricted within so much narrower limits; and it is perhaps an indication that, whenever we admit women to a wider scope of pursuits and professions, we must also remove the shackles of our present conventional rules, which would then become an insufferable restraint on either maid or wife.

Like his literary predecessor Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) was an American writer who didn’t spend much time in the States. His peak of activity was in the early 1850s, giving us the novels The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables (1850 and 1851 respectively), and the short-story collection Tanglewood Tales (1853). After this he spent several years in Europe, beginning with a stint as consul in Liverpool. This didn’t leave much time for writing—or perhaps it paid so well that he didn’t need to write.

By the time he started The Marble Faun, Hawthorne was living in Italy; the editor’s Introductory Note and author’s Preface go into more detail. The Preface is also unnervingly forthright about the novel’s setting. Italy, espe­cially Rome, is essentially a stage set, with the Italian people as walk-ons. All the fully realized characters are American:

She lives quite alone in her dove-cote; not a friend near her, not one in Rome, which, you know, is deserted by all but its native inhabi­tants.

Spoiler: Although The Marble Faun is often described as a “gothic novel”, there is ultimately nothing supernatural in it. But then, the same could be said about the works of—to pick a name at random—Ann Radcliffe.

Further spoiler: At no point in the primary narrative does the author spell out the sordid backstory that is supposed to justify the novel’s pivotal action. Evidently some readers complained; the result is the Conclusion tacked onto the final chapter.

Publisher’s Advertisement


List of Illustrations

Introductory Note


Chapters I–XVII


Chapters XXXIV–L

Language and Geography

The real-life Monte Beni is a volcanic peak about 60km (35 miles) north of Florence, though it’s anyone’s guess whether the author knew this. He may have picked the name because it sounded right, gambling that the reader wouldn’t know it was a real place.

In 1859, the spelling “Coliseum” was just beginning to gain ascendancy over “Colosseum” in American English. In British English, it would take a century longer. The author consistently says “Uffizzi” for the name now spelled “Uffizi” with one z.

Someone else will have to explain the author’s love of the word “methinks”. In this book it is especially striking because he even puts it into the mouth of non-English-speaking characters.


This edition’s illustrations took a slightly unusual course. Reasoning—probably correctly—that nobody would be interested in depictions of the novel’s events and characters, the publisher instead concentrated on the setting. Readers who aren’t in a position to visit Italy are treated to photographs of the artworks, monuments and buildings described in the book. The Publisher’s Advertisement goes into more detail.

The Hawthorne Family

By the time the book’s copyright was up for renewal, Nathaniel Hawthorne was long dead. Instead the 1888 copyright is in the name of his daughter, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop (1851–1926), youngest child of the writer and artist Sophia Peabody. Hawthorne, who married late, died the day before Rose’s thirteenth birthday, putting her with the half of all 19th-century Americans who lost at least one parent before age 13. (But not in the equally large statistical group of children who died before their own 13th birthday.)

When Rose was 20, while the family was living in England, her mother died and she married George Lathrop. Over the next quarter-century Rose got to know Emma Lazarus; converted to Catholicism; separated from her husband, who died of cirrhosis a few years later; and began working with poor women with cancer. In 1900, after her husband’s death, she became a Dominican nun, eventually founding her own order. Since 2003 she has been a candidate for formal canon­ization. (When your name is not Agnes Bojaxhiu, this can take a very long time.)

Way back in 1877—before Rose’s own conversion—her older sister Una had died in a convent. The Marble Faun does not express a high opinion of Catholics or Catho­licism. What would Nathaniel Hawthorne have said of the direction his daughters’ lives took?


This ebook is based on the 1889 Houghton Mifflin (New York) edition: Volume I, Volume II. The volumes were continuously paginated, so I’ve broken it into three parts instead. The preliminary material—including the Table of Contents and List of Illustrations for both volumes—is on this page. The first volume’s frontispiece is below, in its original position; the second has been moved to the chapter it refers to.

Typographical errors are marked with mouse-hover popups and are listed again at the end of each chapter. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space.



Illustrated with Photogravures




Nathaniel Hawthorne



publisher’s device: Tout Bien ou Rien

The Riverside Press, Cambridge

Copyright, 1860,

Copyright, 1883,

Copyright, 1888,

Copyright, 1889,

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A.
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton and Company.
Photogravures executed by A. W. Elson & Co., Boston.



Ever since the first publication of The Marble Faun, travellers and lovers of Rome have used the book as a souvenir, and have found in its pages a most agreeable record of impressions created by the Eternal City and by the works of art preserved there. So satisfactory is the book in this regard that it early became the custom of visitors to Italy to collect photographs of the statues, paintings, and buildings referred to in the romance, and to interleave the book with them; and this has become so common that dealers in Rome and Florence make it their practice to keep such photographs arranged and ready for the traveller.

Nevertheless, photographs are unsatisfactory pictures for such a purpose, and the volumes in which they are interleaved are apt to be displeasing to a fasti­dious collector. The publishers of Hawthorne’s Works have therefore taken the hint from this well-established custom, and have prepared the following edition, by printing the work in two volumes and adding to the text photo­gravures of fifty subjects. Great care has been taken by the publishers in the ii choice of photographs, and their selection is not a mere repetition of the dealer’s choice. Every traveller knows that there is a wide difference between the best and the poorest of these photographs, and no pains have been spared to obtain the best made directly from the objects themselves.

The publishers trust that they have thus given Hawthorne’s classic a presen­tation more acceptable, not only to travellers but to all lovers of art and letters, than would have been possible had they resorted to the ordinary method of employing artists to illustrate the story. Some of the buildings illustrated have disappeared since Hawthorne saw them and wrote of them; others are likely to be altered or removed in the rapid change which is passing over Rome, and the work thus becomes a valuable record of the past as well as a pleasure to the eye.


Volume I
Introductory Note 7
Preface 13
Chap.  I. Miriam, Hilda, Kenton, Donatello 19
II. The Faun 26
III. Subterranean Reminiscences 35
IV. The Spectre of the Catacomb 43
V. Miriam’s Studio 53
VI. The Virgin’s Shrine 68
VII. Beatrice 80
VIII. The Suburban Villa 89
IX. The Faun and Nymph 97
X. The Sylvan Dance 106
XI. Fragmentary Sentences 114
XII. A Stroll on the Pincian 122
XIII. A Sculptor’s Studio 138
XIV. Cleopatra 149
XV. An Æsthetic Company 158
XVI. A Moonlight Ramble 170
XVII. Miriam’s Trouble 182
XVIII. On the Edge of a Precipice 191
XIX. The Faun’s Transformation 203
XX. The Burial Chant 210
XXI. The Dead Capuchin 219
XXII. The Medici Gardens 229
XXIII. Miriam and Hilda 236
XXIV. The Tower among the Apennines 248
XXV. Sunshine 256
Volume II
XXVI. The Pedigree of Monte Beni 267
XXVII. Myths 280
XXVIII. The Owl Tower 291
XXIX. On the Battlements 300
XXX. Donatello’s Bust 312
XXXI. The Marble Saloon 320
XXXII. Scenes by the Way 332
XXXIII. Pictured Windows 345
XXXIV. Market-Day in Perugia 355
XXXV. The Bronze Pontiff’s Benediction 363
XXXVI. Hilda’s Tower 372
XXXVII. The Emptiness of Picture Galleries 380
XXXVIII. Altars and Incense 392
XXXIX. The World’s Cathedral 403
XL. Hilda and a Friend 413
XLI. Snow-drops and Maidenly Delights 425
XLII. Reminiscences of Miriam 435
XLIII. The Extinction of a Lamp 444
XLIV. The Deserted Shrine 454
XLV. The Flight of Hilda’s Doves 465
XLVI. A Walk on the Campagna 474
XLVII. The Peasant and Contadina 482
XLVIII. A Scene in the Corso 493
XLIX. A Frolic of the Carnival 502
L. Miriam, Hilda, Kenyon, Donatello 514
Conclusion 522


Volume I
Nathaniel Hawthorne Frontispiece
The Faun of Praxiteles 22
The Dying Gladiator 30
Saint Cecilia 40
In the Catacombs 46
Hilda’s Tower, Via Portoghese 68
Guido’s Beatrice Cenci 84
Piazza del Popolo 120
Fountain of Moses, Pincian Garden 122
View from the Pincian Hill 130
Grand Stairs from the Piazza di Spagna 136
Canova’s Studio 138
The Rape of the Sabines 150
Fountain of Trevi 172
A Roman Peasant 174
Trajan’s Column and Forum 178
The Coliseum 182
Interior of the Coliseum 184
Arch of Constantine 188
Arch of Titus 190
Roman Forum 194
Approach to the Capitol; to the left, Steps of the Ara Coeli 196
Statue of Marcus Aurelius 198
Guido’s Saint Michael 216
Capuchin Crypt 226
Medici Gardens 234
Dining-Room of an Italian Palace 260
Volume II
The Laocoön Frontispiece
Grand Ducal Square, and Palazzo Vecchio, Florence 292
Titian’s Magdalen 294
The Three Fates, by Michael Angelo 334
A Fresco by Giotto, in the Church of St. Francis, at Assisi 348
A Gateway of Perugia 354
Angel, by Fra Angelico 356
Statue of Pope Julius III. 370
The Transfiguration, by Raphael 384
Interior of St. John Lateran 394
Saint Peter’s 398
Statue of St. Peter 400
Interior of St. Peter’s 410
Castle of Saint Angelo 420
The Seven-Branched Golden Candlestick 422
The Ghetto 440
Apollo Belvedere 446
Porta San Sebastiano, and Arch of Drusus 472
Arch of Drusus: Appian Way 474
Cecilia Metella’s Tomb 476
Venus de’ Medici 480
The Campagna, Appian Way, and Claudian Aqueduct 490
The Pantheon 514
The Tomb of Raphael 520



The last of Hawthorne’s completed romances was also thought by its author to be his best. “The Marble Faun” certainly was the outcome of copious observation and mature deliberation; and it was produced after he had rested from composition for the space of five years. He began the book in the winter of 1859, at Rome, while harassed by illness in his family, and to some extent distracted by the number of interests appealing to him on all sides—“interruptions,” as he expressed it, “from things to see and things to suffer.”

He wrote to Mr. Fields at this time: “I take great credit to myself for having sternly shut myself up for an hour or two almost every day, and come to close grips with a romance which I have been trying to tear out of my mind. As for my success, I can’t say much. . . . I only know that I have produced what seems to be a larger amount of scribble than either of my former romances, and that portions of it interested me a good deal while I was writing them.”

He had already begun to sketch the romance during the previous summer while at Florence, where he wrote, in his journal, with reference to this new scheme: “It leaves me little heart for journalizing 8 and describing new things; and six months of uninterrupted monotony would be more valuable to me just now, than the most brilliant succession of novelties.” Soon after this he removed from his quarters in the city to the villa of Montauto on the hill called Bellosguardo, about a mile from Florence. This is a lovely spot, and the view from it over the valley of the Arno has since been described by a sympathetic traveller, himself a poet, as suggesting an outlook upon some “glade of heaven.” The villa itself, which remains standing, and is occasionally occupied by American tenants, is a capacious, old-fashioned building, with a tower, and served as the model for Donatello’s ancestral home, Monte Beni. At the time of Hawthorne’s residence there, it was invested with a sort of tradition not likely to lessen its desirability for him—that of being haunted. A murder was said to have been committed at some epoch conveniently remote, in a small oratory, in the tower; and from time to time semi-unaccountable sounds—the rustling of unseen robes, stealthy steps, and groans from the oratory,—were heard, which passed as evidence that the tragedy was reënacting by the murderer and the victim. Here Hawthorne continued, no doubt, to dream over his new story, perhaps putting an occasional touch to it. On the journey thence to Siena, in October, he left the manuscript in a bag, under one of the seats in the railway carriage; but, as he notes down, on going to search for his luggage, “At last the whole of our ten trunks and tin bandbox were produced, and finally my leather bag, in which was my journal and a manuscript book containing my sketch of a romance. It gladdened my very heart to see it.”

While in Rome, Hawthorne went on laboring and 9 meditating upon “The Marble Faun,” the general theme and scope of which he occasionally descanted upon to his friend John Lothrop Motley, during the rambles which they took together; though the romancer never gave the historian any clew to the whole problem of his still unfinished work. Partly because of the interruptions already mentioned, and partly for other reasons, the book did not progress beyond the stage of an elaborate sketch until Hawthorne quitted the Continent. “I find this Italian air,” he had said in a letter from Florence, “not favorable to the close toil of composition, although it is a very good air to dream in. I must breathe the fogs of old England, or the east-winds of Massachusetts, in order to put me into working trim.” Finally, on getting to England, he systematically set about concluding his task, as Mrs. Hawthorne has explained.

“More than four months were now taken up in writing ‘The Marble Faun,’ in great part at the seaside town of Redcar, Yorkshire, Mr. Hawthorne having concluded to remain another year in England, chiefly to accomplish that romance. In Redcar, where he remained till September or October, he wrote no journal, but only the book. He then went to Leamington, where he finished ‘The Marble Faun,’ in March [1860].”1

“The long, hairy ears of Midas,” in the “Virtuoso’s Collection,” have already been spoken of as furnishing a slight intimation of Hawthorne’s interest in such a phenomenon,2 long before he went to Italy. But the first positive trace of the conception, which 10 was to ripen into “The Marble Faun,” appears in the “French and Italian Note-Books,” under the date of April 22, 1858. Setting down a brief account of his visit to the Capitol, Hawthorne says:—

“We afterwards went into the sculpture gallery, where I looked at the Faun of Praxiteles, and was sensible of a peculiar charm in it; a sylvan beauty and homeliness, friendly and wild at once. The lengthened but not preposterous ears, and the little tail which we infer, have an exquisite effect, and make the spectator smile in his very heart. This race of fauns was the most delightful of all that antiquity imagined. It seems to me that a story, with all sorts of fun and pathos in it, might be contrived on the idea of their species having become intermingled with the human race . . . the pretty hairy ears should occasionally reappear in members of the family; and the moral instincts and intellectual characteristics of the faun might be most picturesquely brought out, without detriment to the human interest of the story. Fancy this combination in the person of a young lady!”

It is believed by a member of the author’s family that one of the Counts of Montauto, whose personal appearance and grace were known to have made an impression on Hawthorne, furnished him with suggestions which established a connection between the Faun of Praxiteles and the Montauto villa as it afterward appeared, under the guise of Monte Beni. This living figure may also perhaps have assisted him in giving reality to his conception of Donatello. The young Italian of the romance, whose resemblance to the statue is made an important point, receives appropriately the name of a famous Italian sculptor; a name of which the associations form a link between the marble 11 and the man. The assertion has often been put forth in private, and it may be in print also, that Hawthorne made studies for other personages in the story from people of his acquaintance, and even from members of his own family or household. It is perhaps advisable to state here that there is no authority whatever for such an assertion, excepting the unaided fancy of those who, having known something of his connections, chose to trace purely imaginary resemblances. With the problem of Donatello’s development into a being with a conscience was interwoven the mystery of Miriam’s situation, concerning which no more need be said in this place than that it was evidently inspired by the author’s reflections upon the story of Beatrice Cenci.3 Of the original of Hilda’s tower in the Via Portoghese, at Rome, a description is given in the “Note-Books” (May 15, 1858), together with the legend accounting for the perpetual light at the Virgin’s shrine on the tower. (Among Italians, this story has imparted to the building the name of Torre del Simio.)

Several names were proposed for the romance, and among them “The Transformation of the Faun.” This the English publishers shortened to “Transformation,” while in America the work was brought out with the better known title, preferred by Hawthorne himself, “The Marble Faun: a Romance of Monte Beni.” Among the many tokens of success which its publication brought to Hawthorne was a letter from Motley, with an extract from which this note may close:—

“Everything that you have ever written, I believe, 12 I have read many times. . . . But the ‘Romance of Monte Beni,’ has the additional charm for me that it is the first book of yours that I have read since I had the pleasure of making your personal acquaintance. My memory goes back at once to those walks (alas, not too frequent) we used to take along the Tiber, or in the Campagna; . . . and it is delightful to get hold of the book now, and know that it is impossible for you any longer, after waving your wand as you occasionally did then, indicating where the treasure was hidden, to sink it again beyond plummet’s sound. . . . With regard to the story, which has been somewhat criticised, I can only say that to me it is quite satisfactory. I like those shadowy, weird, fantastic, Hawthornesque shapes flitting through the golden gloom which is the atmosphere of the book. I like the misty way in which the story is indicated rather than revealed; the outlines are quite definite enough from the beginning to the end, to those who have imagination enough to follow you in your airy flights; and to those who complain, I suppose that nothing less than an illustrated edition, with a large gallows on the last page, with Donatello in the most pensile of attitudes—his ears revealed through a white night-cap—would be satisfactory.”

In replying to this, Hawthorne wrote: “You work out my imperfect efforts and half make the book with your warm imagination; and see what I myself saw, but could only hint at. Well, the romance is a success, even if it never finds another reader.”

G. P. L.

1 French and Italian Note-Books, June 22, 1859.

2 See the prefatory note to Mosses from an Old Manse, in this edition.

3 Should the reader care to see a discussion of this matter, the ninth chapter of A Study of Hawthorne may be consulted.

Notes and Corrections: Introductory Note

He wrote to Mr. Fields at this time
[Between 1860—when The Marble Faun was first published—and 1889—the date of the present edition—the publisher Ticknor & Fields went through a series of mergers and changes, winding up as Houghton Mifflin.]

G. P. L.
[Who the deuce was G. P. L.? Lacking evidence to the contrary, I will assume he was an editor at Houghton, Mifflin. If anyone can shed light, I would like to hear about it.]



It is now seven or eight years (so many, at all events, that I cannot precisely remember the epoch) since the author of this romance last appeared before the Public. It had grown to be a custom with him to introduce each of his humble publications with a familiar kind of preface, addressed nominally to the Public at large, but really to a character with whom he felt entitled to use far greater freedom. He meant it for that one congenial friend,—more comprehensive of his purposes, more appreciative of his success, more indulgent of his shortcomings, and, in all respects, closer and kinder than a brother,—that all-sympathizing critic, in short, whom an author never actually meets, but to whom he implicitly makes his appeal whenever he is conscious of having done his best.

The antique fashion of Prefaces recognized this genial personage as the “Kind Reader,” the “Gentle Reader,” the “Beloved,” the “Indulgent,” or, at coldest, the “Honored Reader,” to whom the prim old author was wont to make his preliminary explanations and apologies, with the certainty that they would be favorably received. I never personally encountered, nor corresponded through the post with this representative essence of all delightful and desirable qualities which a reader can possess. But, fortunately for myself, I never therefore concluded him to be merely a mythic 14 character. I had always a sturdy faith in his actual existence, and wrote for him year after year, during which the great eye of the Public (as well it might) almost utterly overlooked my small productions.

Unquestionably, this gentle, kind, benevolent, indulgent, and most beloved and honored Reader did once exist for me, and (in spite of the infinite chances against a letter’s reaching its destination without a definite address) duly received the scrolls which I flung upon whatever wind was blowing, in the faith that they would find him out. But, is he extant now? In these many years, since he last heard from me, may he not have deemed his earthly task accomplished, and have withdrawn to the paradise of gentle readers, wherever it may be, to the enjoyments of which his kindly charity on my behalf must surely have entitled him? I have a sad foreboding that this may be the truth. The “Gentle Reader,” in the case of any individual author, is apt to be extremely short-lived; he seldom outlasts a literary fashion, and, except in very rare instances, closes his weary eyes before the writer has half done with him. If I find him at all, it will probably be under some mossy gravestone, inscribed with a half-obliterated name which I shall never recognize.

Therefore, I have little heart or confidence (especially, writing as I do, in a foreign land, and after a long, long absence from my own) to presume upon the existence of that friend of friends, that unseen brother of the soul, whose apprehensive sympathy has so often encouraged me to be egotistical in my prefaces, careless though unkindly eyes should skim over what was never meant for them. I stand upon ceremony now; and, after stating a few particulars about 15 the work which is here offered to the Public, must make my most reverential bow, and retire behind the curtain.

This Romance was sketched out during a residence of considerable length in Italy, and has been rewritten and prepared for the press in England. The author proposed to himself merely to write a fanciful story, evolving a thoughtful moral, and did not purpose attempting a portraiture of Italian manners and character. He has lived too long abroad not to be aware that a foreigner seldom acquires that knowledge of a country at once flexible and profound, which may justify him in endeavoring to idealize its traits.

Italy, as the site of his Romance, was chiefly valuable to him as affording a sort of poetic or fairy precinct, where actualities would not be so terribly insisted upon as they are, and must needs be, in America. No author, without a trial, can conceive of the difficulty of writing a romance about a country where there is no shadow, no antiquity, no mystery, no picturesque and gloomy wrong, nor anything but a commonplace prosperity, in broad and simple daylight, as is happily the case with my dear native land. It will be very long, I trust, before romance-writers may find congenial and easily handled themes, either in the annals of our stalwart republic, or in any characteristic and probable events of our individual lives. Romance and poetry, ivy, lichens, and wall-flowers, need ruin to make them grow.

In rewriting these volumes, the author was somewhat surprised to see the extent to which he had introduced descriptions of various Italian objects, antique, pictorial, and statuesque. Yet these things fill the mind everywhere in Italy, and especially in Rome, 16 and cannot easily be kept from flowing out upon the page when one writes freely, and with self-enjoyment. And, again, while reproducing the book, on the broad and dreary sands of Redcar, with the gray German Ocean tumbling in upon me, and the northern blast always howling in my ears, the complete change of scene made these Italian reminiscences shine out so vividly that I could not find it in my heart to cancel them.

An act of justice remains to be performed towards two men of genius with whose productions the author has allowed himself to use a quite unwarrantable freedom. Having imagined a sculptor in this Romance, it was necessary to provide him with such works in marble as should be in keeping with the artistic ability which he was supposed to possess. With this view, the author laid felonious hands upon a certain bust of Milton, and a statue of a pearl-diver, which he found in the studio of Mr. Paul Akers, and secretly conveyed them to the premises of his imaginary friend, in the Via Frezza. Not content even with these spoils, he committed a further robbery upon a magnificent statue of Cleopatra, the production of Mr. William W. Story, an artist whom his country and the world will not long fail to appreciate. He had thoughts of appropriating, likewise, a certain door of bronze by Mr. Randolph Rogers, representing the history of Columbus in a series of admirable bas-reliefs, but was deterred by an unwillingness to meddle with public property. Were he capable of stealing from a lady, he would certainly have made free with Miss Hosmer’s admirable statue of Zenobia.

He now wishes to restore the above-mentioned beautiful pieces of sculpture to their proper owners, with 17 many thanks, and the avowal of his sincere admiration. What he has said of them in the Romance does not partake of the fiction in which they are imbedded, but expresses his genuine opinion, which, he has little doubt, will be found in accordance with that of the Public. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to say, that, while stealing their designs, the Author has not taken a similar liberty with the personal characters of either of these gifted sculptors; his own man of marble being entirely imaginary.

Leamington, December 15, 1859.

Notes and Corrections: Preface

It is now seven or eight years (so many, at all events, that I cannot precisely remember the epoch) since the author of this romance last appeared before the Public.
[Show me an author who cannot name every last one of his works, with time and place of publication, number of copies sold, and total revenues, both net and gross—and I’ll show you a bridge you might be interested in.]

with the gray German Ocean tumbling in upon me
[The author betrays his age. By 1860, the name “German Ocean” was beginning its slow decline, while “North Sea” became increasingly common.]