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The Marble Faun (Oxford World's Classics)

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,035 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
The fragility-and the durability-of human life and art dominate this story of American expatriates in Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. Befriended by Donatello, a young Italian with the classical grace of the "Marble Faun," Miriam, Hilda, and Kenyon find their pursuit of art taking a sinister turn as Miriam's unhappy past precipitates the present into tragedy.
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 7th 2002 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1860)
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Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeCrime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Best Books of the 19th Century
419th out of 872 books — 4,810 voters
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoyevskyGreat Expectations by Charles DickensLittle Women by Louisa May AlcottWar and Peace by Leo TolstoyLes Misérables by Victor Hugo
Best Books Of The Decade: 1860s
45th out of 118 books — 189 voters

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Community Reviews

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Aug 09, 2011 Lorna added it
I've just, finally, finished reading "The Marble Faun" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and I now have some conception of what it feels like to have run a marathon dressed in full deep-sea diving gear. Zeus, what a tedious, turgid, overblown book. I chose it because it was listed in a book called "1001 books to read before you die" - but perhaps I misread the title and it was actually "1001 books that are only marginally better than actually being dead".

The style is thick and clotted, the plot lacking in
Aug 11, 2008 Donna rated it really liked it
I loved this slow summer sojourn – a classic novel that unfolded gradually and beautifully. The Marble Faun is full of rich, atmospheric description that transports the reader instantly into the streets, the churches, the galleries, and the classical architecture of 19th-century Rome. Hawthorne is a masterful writer indeed. What could be more wholly Italian than a full paragraph devoted to a single sip of wine?

“Sipping, the guest longed to sip again; but the wine demanded so deliberate a pause,
Nimue Brown
Jan 10, 2013 Nimue Brown rated it really liked it
The Marble Faun is a gothic romance from the period when ‘romance’ meant ‘not as serious as a proper novel’. It’s a strange, moody tale with a lot of loose ends and uncertainty, which I think many modern readers would find difficult. However, I know I’m not the only one who enjoys that sort of thing.

It wasn’t written with an eye to posterity, which means a lot of checking foot notes is called for (get an edition with footnotes if you can, some commentary is helpful) as Hawthorn assumes you’ll ge
Sep 24, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family lived for several years in Italy, and his experiences there inspired him to write The Marble Faun, or the Romance of Monte Beni. Published in 1860, it became his best selling novel, but few readers today have ever heard of it, much less read it. The book opens in 19th century Rome, where a group of friends, three American artistic types and one Italian, are enjoying an idyllic summer in each other's company. Donatello is a young Italian count, who very much res ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Myles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, the-list, c19th
Thank you Little Edie, I never would have picked this if it hadn't been for you.

The Marble Faun follows three expatriate artists and their Italian friend Donatello living in Rome in the mid 19th century. Hilda is sweet-natured and devout, literally living above the city in a tower room and, though Protestant, maintains a shrine to the Virgin Mary as part of her rent. Kenyon is a promising sculptor in love with Hilda, but gently refused. Miriam is a dark haired beauty whose origins are mystery an
Aug 14, 2008 Mireya rated it it was amazing
Amazing travel companion when visiting Rome!
Oct 24, 2011 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: high-drama
Zounds, what a boring book! And I usually like Hawthorne, but... Perhaps only a brilliant writer could craft a novel this dull and unsatisfying. Page after page of monotonous, pretentious pontificating ensue, as characters stand around doing nothing except complementing each other on their brilliance and/or beauty, or complaining endlessly about things that most normal people generally take in stride. All the intriguing aspects of the story are left unexplained in the end (except in a silly post ...more
Jun 14, 2009 Dusty rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dusty by: My 11th grade English textbook
Shelves: read-in-2009
In middle school you were probably assigned some kind of descriptive composition. You know, the kind where you pick a Classroom Object -- a pencil, a wad of gum, your English teacher's unconvincing toupee -- and you write about it for a couple hundred words, sparing no meticulous detail. You turn the composition in to your teacher, who underlines words that could be even more thoroughly expounded. Maybe you are told you need to incorporate all five senses: How does this Object smell? may have be ...more
Jan 25, 2013 Karen rated it really liked it
I actually read this back in college, and loved it then. I still really like it, and enjoyed rereading it and following the mysteries of Miriam's and Donatello's pasts. This time, I was on a deadline and was not able to appreciate the long descriptive passages as I did the first time. It takes some imagination, but you can really begin to share the mindset of someone for whom reading was far more of a gateway to foreign places than it is today.

It was something of a shock to see how anti-Catholi
Vol. I: Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Vol. II: Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
Dec 12, 2015 Wanda marked it as to-read
Recommended to Wanda by: Laura
12 DEC 2015 - spied on Laura's updates. Free download/s at Project Gutenberg:

Volume 1 -

Volume 2 -
Nov 11, 2009 Bryn rated it it was amazing
I first came to Hawthorne through 'The Scarlet Letter' but this is undoubtedly my favourite of his. While most of his stories are set in America, this one follows a group of arty, bohemian types in Europe, sas they struggle along, fall in love with each other and generally get into difficulty. It's got a fabulously gothic sort of atmosphere, there's mystery, dark histories and a supernatural possibility that I loved. (Won't say to much, no spoilers). It's a gorgeous, darkly romantic and strange ...more
Jason Reeser
Mar 25, 2013 Jason Reeser rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book. I was captivated by it immediately. Far better than Hawthorne's "Gables" or "Scarlet Letter". I never understand why no one ever mentions this book.
Jul 20, 2015 Stuart rated it really liked it
Nathaniel Hawthorne's MARBLE FAUN is, depending on who you ask, either a masterpiece or an interesting failure, but regardless of which view you take, it is an undeniably unique novel. Though it can be terribly slow at times, there are also excellent extended passages of breathtaking beauty, precise and poignant observations about the human condition, and more than one plot twist that keeps you interested. If you can learn to appreciate the digressions onto the the beauty and culture of Italy, a ...more
Mar 21, 2014 Scott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
The Marble Faun was a delightful read. Hawthorne's last published novel finds him at the zenith of his skill as a writer. One can tell that this is Hawthorne honed by decades of refining his craft. He is able to communicate with depth, and yet with a clarity that does not imprison you in a mire of verbose minutiae. Compare this with the dry reading of his collegiate venture, Fanshawe (which he later disowned), and his maturing process as a writer is clear. Having read the ponderous, solemn works ...more
Narcisse Navarre
Jan 12, 2015 Narcisse Navarre rated it it was amazing
I came across this book by accident really. This book is one of Hawthorne's lesser known works–a romance that received a lukewarm reception at the time of publication for its colloquial, quirky style of addressing the reader directly and breaking that invisible line of narrator and reader. After reading, I have returned tot his book many times. Hawthorne's language is nothing short of spectacular in my opinion. His characters are real and shine with an inner beauty that only a great writer can i ...more
May 12, 2010 Tamara rated it it was amazing
Hawthorne has a very poetic love language and a lot of renaissance visuals in this book. I love where I go when I read the pages.(And having spent some time in Italy allows this book to be a lovely escape from my now hectic world.)
Oct 29, 2014 Edward rated it liked it
Hawthorne's last completed novel, based on the year and a half he spent in Italy, is sporadically interesting, but it is never going to displace THE SCARLET LETTER as his masterpiece. Everyone has read, or is at least familiar with the story of Hester Prynne the Puritan woman, castigated for her sin of adultery by having to wear a scarlet letter A on her breast. The weight of "sin", as defined by a society, and the psychological implications of living in that society are explored in that novel. ...more
I really like Hawthorne’s writing. He wrote two of my favorite works. But for me, The Marble Faun is missing something.

The good: Hawthorne makes some really good insights here...exposing the irony of art and situation...what might really go on behind the scenes when creating a piece of art or sculpture, and how this might affect one’s perceptions and reception of the art, especially if the piece of art has a religious theme. Also interesting is his portrayal of the loss of innocence and its effe
May 22, 2010 Surreysmum rated it liked it
[These notes were made in 1983:]. I found this a very pleasant read, and with more substance than I anticipated from a preliminary brush through the first chapters. It was written in Italy, and abounds in that luxurious description of old artworks and older buildings which seems to overtake so many visitors to that country. In Hawthorne's case, it's done well, and linked in to the themes of the story. The old preoccupations - the effect of hidden sin - are all there, as the method of suggesting ...more
Jun 28, 2013 Ian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Donatello is an Italian count of a juvenile nature and a striking resemblance to a mythical faun captured in marble. He is in love with Miriam, a gifted painter, but a girl with a dark secret. In Rome they enjoy the company of two New Englanders - Kenyon, a sculptor who is in love with the other, Hilda, a talented copyist and as pure as the Virgin. A rash, murderous act changes all their lives.
A slight plot is fleshed out with anti-Catholic rhetoric, musings on the relative merits of two- and th
Feb 25, 2013 Stephen rated it liked it
Mad monks and marble skulls. Ruined castles and rustic revels. I love gothic horror and romance but this one barely makes the grade. Dealing with familiar Hawthorian themes of sin and redemption The Marble Faun is set in Rome and it's environs and concerns itself with a smart set of young artists visiting from New England. The author doesn't seem to think very highly of Catholics or the Italian "race" in general including the group's handsome young mascot, Donatello. The language is beautiful bu ...more
The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne was a daunting read for my American Romanticism class. The chapters are weighty, long, and descriptive - especially when reading an average of 50+ pages every other day over the course of a week or two. All the same, I greatly enjoyed this novel. I loved the ambiguity of the book - the mysterious concerning Miriam's past as well as being introduced to the alluring Italian Donatello, the sculptor Kenyon, and the innocent, angelic Hilda as they journey throug ...more
Much like any work of art, this piece has multiple dimensions, some clear and defined, others less so, shrouded in mystery and dense, close, darkness, clouds of shadows encircling stumbles and mumbles of stone mingled with earthy patches of organic sensibility. Hawthorne wanders through this narrative with obviously symbolic characters, interspersed with malingering discourses on art and the influence of grave errors on the soul. His writing is sublime and efficient, but not spartan. The entire ...more
Jan 08, 2016 Tom rated it really liked it
What a pleasure to return to Hawthorne! Marble Faun has been on my to-read list for 40 years. Nice to have the leisure to turn to it. The Scarlet Letter is one of America's finest novels ever, certainly in my top five. The Marble Faun is not. However flawed it may be, particularly in the rather awkward ending, it still exhibits all the fine points of Hawthorne's style and explores many of the same themes as Red Letter does. Hawthorne takes us to Rome and introduces us to four fascinating and som ...more
Jo Rioux
Apr 22, 2015 Jo Rioux rated it liked it
I was so poised to love this book. It had so many amazing elements- a cast of artist in 19th century Rome, an evil monk, a grisly murder, mystery, love, catacombs and carnivals... And yet the story Hawthorne weaved with these glorious threads left me lukewarm.

At the core of the problem is perhaps Hawthorne's New World puritanism. It's not a creed that deals well with mysteries and nuances, which is what this story should have been about.

On the one hand, it would be fair to say that Hawthorne w
Monty Milne
Apr 19, 2016 Monty Milne rated it liked it
There were things I liked about this: the curiously appealing Donatello (who may or may not have furry pointed ears), the lush, ornate descriptions of architecture, wine and Roman landscape, and the conversations about the meaning of art (confused and confusing though they are). I also liked it for surprising me out of what I thought I knew of the author. It's my fourth Hawthorne, and if I'd never read this, I'd have remained convinced he was a dull old Puritan with limited horizons (though The ...more
Jack Hrkach
Nov 11, 2015 Jack Hrkach rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, fiction
I am not the greatest fan of Hawthorne, having suffered through Puritan hell in The Scarlet Letter too many years ago to count.

This book interested me primarily as I traveled to Rome a little over a month ago, and I discovered that 19th century tourists used it to get them to important artistic sites, mostly artistic, in Rome. I avidly research my trips abroad, and a nice sidelight for this self-confessed nerd-first-class is to find a novel or two to read before I go/while I'm there/shortly afte
Dec 29, 2014 Kristi rated it it was amazing
The fellowship of three young bohemian artists in Rome and a young Italian,takes a fateful turn when a dark secret creates guilt and sorry that challenges their relationships. Distinctive as Hawthorne's "international novel," this mystery draws on the author's personal experiences, as well as the romance of tourism, to ask tantalizing questions about human nature, the value of culture, and the consequences of impulse.
Troy Storm
Mar 27, 2013 Troy Storm rated it really liked it
The Marble Faun holds a special place in my literary heart since it was one of the books I had to read in school. It was a revelation at the time, stunning me with the power of words to put us into new and strange worlds. Later readings have proven it to be a bit exotic for my present taste, but as a cornerstone of the works of one of our great writers it's more than worth a visit.
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Nathaniel Hawthorne was a 19th century American novelist and short story writer. He is seen as a key figure in the development of American literature for his tales of the nation's colonial history.

Shortly after graduating from Bowdoin College, Hathorne changed his name to Hawthorne. Hawthorne anonymously published his first work, a novel titled Fanshawe, in 1828. In 1837, he published Twice-Told T
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“A forced smile is uglier than a frown.” 10 likes
“Every young sculptor seems to think that he must give the world some specimen of indecorous womanhood, and call it Eve, Venus, a Nymph, or any name that may apologize for a lack of decent clothing. I am weary, even more than I am ashamed, of seeing such things. Nowadays people are as good as born in their clothes, and there is practically not a nude human being in existence. An artist, therefore, as you must candidly confess, cannot sculpture nudity with a pure heart, if only because he is compelled to steal guilty glimpses at hired models. The marble inevitably loses its chastity under such circumstances. An old Greek sculptor, no doubt, found his models in the open sunshine, and among pure and princely maidens, and thus the nude statues of antiquity are as modest as violets, and sufficiently draped in their own beauty. But as for Mr. Gibson's colored Venuses (stained, I believe, with tobacco juice), and all other nudities of to-day, I really do not understand what they have to say to this generation, and would be glad to see as many heaps of quicklime in their stead.” 3 likes
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