Jenna Silber Storey and Benjamin Storey at The New Atlantis:
Though Hawthorne’s ultimate verdict on the attempt to return to nature is sobering, The Blithedale Romance is not simply a conservative defense of the wisdom of custom or a churlish critique of hopes to transform human life. Communal life at Blithedale is enchanting, and the charm of the odd characters drawn to the community is essential to our experience of the story.
We first see Blithedale through the eyes of the narrator, the gentleman-poet Miles Coverdale. When we meet this young man on the eve of his departure for Blithedale, he has been indulging his idle curiosity in the spectacle of the “Veiled Lady” — a popular stage show involving mesmerism and a silent, wispy female form seemingly in communion with the spiritual realm — and is on his way back to his bachelor apartment and its well-stocked wine closet. In spite of its amusements and pleasures, Coverdale has come to find his own life hollow and dreary; his poetry seems artificial and no longer inspires even himself. He is all too ready, the next morning, to down a last glass of champagne, fling away his cigar, and leave his cozy apartment to seek a community of sympathetic spirits and a revivification of his poetic energies in the snowy fields beyond Boston.