In reviewing Twice-Told Tales, Edgar Allen Poe wrote: "Mr. Hawthorne's distinctive trait is invention, creation, imagination, and originality. It would be a matter of some difficulty to designate the best of these tales; we repeat, without exception, they are beautiful."
This little Dover Thrift Edition - Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories - offers seven interesting and varied tales by Hawthorne. Actually, only one, Dr. Heidegger's Experiment (1837), is found in Twice-Told Tales. This imaginative short story is among Hawthorne's most humorous and is often found today in short story anthologies. Accused by some of plagiarizing this story from a chapter in a novel by Alexandre Dumas, Hawthorne pointed out that his tale predated by more than twenty years that of Dumas, and that he took some pride in that Dumas chose to appropriate this fanciful work for his novel.
Five stories - The Birthmark (1843), Young Goodman Brown (1835), Rappaccini's Daughter (1844), Roger Malvin's Burial (1832), and The Artist of the Beautiful (1844) - are from the collection titled Mosses from an Old Manse. The Birthmark and Rappaccini's Daughter are tales of arrogance and obsession, whereby men of science go astray in their compulsive pursuit of knowledge and perfection.
Like many of Hawthorne's stories, Young Goodman Brown is distinctly American, drawing upon the Puritan influence in the New England colonies. I find this inventive story of witchcraft and temptation to be somewhat sobering as Goodman Brown learns that the mere act of encountering temptation, even if ultimately resisted, may have unexpected consequences.
The Artist of the Beautiful stands apart from the others in this short collection; this story of artistic passion is surprisingly modern. The psychological development and somewhat ambiguous ending is, perhaps, not entirely unlike the writings of Henry James some fifty years later.
I do not recall previously encountering either of the last two stories, Roger Malvin's Burial and My Kinsman, Major Molineux. Although Roger Malvin's Burial is a tale of guilt and ultimate retribution, it does not draw upon the Puritan heritage. Rather out of character for Hawthorne, Malvin's Burial explores the role of the frontier wilderness in New England history. Although My Kinsman, Major Molineux offers a humorous conclusion to these New England tales, this story of the revolutionary period has a serious side also.