constantly unfolds in the world, he believed in the efficacy of mere time to break down conventions and to reveal a nobler law, and in his historical scenes—Howe's Masquerade, for example, or The Gray Champion—he liked to show a fossilized past at the moment when it is shattered. He could believe that life does so far make restitution, but in daily life he could find no compensation for the injuries suffered by the innocent, nor could he persuade himself that a noble bearing of wrongs will necessarily lead to spiritual profit. Indeed, though Emerson's sunny temperament had spread its glamour over his discussion of this theory, to Hawthorne the theory seemed, so far as it was true, one of the darkest and most perplexing. Still less could he agree with Emerson's exaggeration of the same doctrine in Circles. Optimism here, taking the bit in its teeth, contended that as there is in experience no such thing as a straight line, so there is practically no such thing as evil—a prophetic application, it would seem, of Riemannian geometry to morals; that what seems hopelessly bad will in the end be found to contain the good principle; and, quite illogically, that what seems to be good will actually prove to be so.
In vain produced, all rays return;In a famous passage in Circles, Emerson acknowledges the awkwardness of this position, and explains that his temperament dictates it. Hawthorne could not undertake any such cheerfulness, but he was profoundly concerned with the moral phenomena by which Emerson may have justified his faith. Here springs that paradox of experience, that mystery of sin, the question as to what sin is, which threw its shadow over three at least of the four romances. Since we rarely discern our true destiny, the human being who steps out of what seems the moral order may really have chanced upon a sounder morality; through what appears to be sin, therefore, may sometimes come the regeneration of a soul—not through repentance, be it observed, but through sincere adherence to the sin. Conversely, though a man should devote himself to the highest ideal he is aware of, if that ideal does not lie in
Evil will bless and ice will burn.