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Hawthorne at Salem

Hawthorne - Literature

"Lady Eleanore's Mantle"

Introduction to "Lady Eleanore's Mantle"

Materials prepared by:

Sharyn J. Emery, Department of English
University of Massachusetts Lowell; Lowell, Massachusetts

Melissa Pennell, Department of English
University of Massachusetts Lowell; Lowell, MA

 

Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle"
Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle" (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 

"Lady Eleanore's Mantle" is, most simply, a story about pride. It has also been described as a tale about revolution, and as a cautionary tale of infection and disease. Lady Eleanore Rochcliffe comes to Boston from London to live in the Province House under the care of her guardian, Governor Shute. She immediately shows her prideful disdain for all those she perceives as her inferiors, including Jervase Helwyse, a young man who has fallen in love with her. Lady Eleanore is known and envied for her beauty, which is highlighted by her embroidered mantle, without which she is seldom seen. To celebrate her arrival, Governor Shute hosts a ball to which all those of importance within the colony are invited, but Lady Eleanore ignores most of the guests. During the evening, she is approached by Jervase, who has been maddened by his love for her. He offers her a goblet of wine, which she refuses, then beseeches her to cast off her mantle, which she also refuses to do. In a short time, the famed smallpox plague of 1721 hits the city, and the rich and poor, the snobbish and compassionate alike, are felled by the disease. Lady Eleanore herself is stricken, and languishes in a final judgment on her pride-a disfiguring curse that may very well have been spread by her incredibly designed mantle.

In this story, Hawthorne creates a female character who is similar to some of his other female characters, yet markedly different at the same time. Lady Eleanore is strong-willed like Hester Prynne, yet has neither Hester's pity nor compassion. Eleanore is beautiful like Young Goodman Brown's wife, Faith, but has no spirit of kindness about her. What Eleanore does have, in spades, is attitude and conceit, the hubris that leads to a comeuppance even she cannot escape. Like Alice Pyncheon, Lady Eleanore becomes a mysterious presence, ghost-like in her haunting of the Province House at the end of the tale.

Literature Related to "Lady Eleanore's Mantle"

Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle"
Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle" (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 

Excerpts are from the story "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" (from Twice Told Tales, Volume 2, 1851)

  • In this first excerpt, Hawthorne explains why Lady Eleanore was sent to America, and his explanation shows the view of the colonies no doubt held by many in Britain.
     
  • As he begins to describe Lady Eleanore, Hawthorne identifies her main personality trait as pride, which will ultimately prove to be her undoing. 
     
  • In addition to her beauty, a distinctive feature about Lady Eleanore is her mantle, which attracts the attention of all who see her. 
     
  • When a young man jumps in front of Lady Eleanore so that she may step on him rather than walk in the dirt, Hawthorne provides a glimpse into her thought process. Lady Eleanore explains why she chooses to walk on the back of the young man, and thus describes her general disdain of men (and most people). Hawthorne describes Lady Eleanore's dismount from her carriage onto the back of the young man as a metaphor of how the heroine glides through her own life, bolstered by the admiration of those around her. 
     
  • In this excerpt, the wise doctor foretells a reckoning for Lady Eleanore, something Captain Langford--an ardent admirer of hers--disbelieves. 
     
  • In another description of Lady Eleanore's mantle, Hawthorne links its design to the feverish delirium and death of its creator. 
     
  • At a party given in her honor, Lady Eleanore surveys the crowd and reacts with her unique brand of arrogance and misanthropy. 
     
  • While at the party, Lady Eleanore begins to become positively radiant--a characteristic possibly attributed to the early stages of smallpox, if indeed her mantle carries the contagion. 
     
  • When Jervase Helwyse approaches her at the ball, Lady Eleanore reaches perhaps the very height of conceit
     
  • During an exchange between Lady Eleanore and Jervase, he begs her to throw off her mantle, which she refuses to do.
     
  • As the smallpox plague ravages the city, the people who had once been enchanted by Lady Eleanore begin to curse her, believing that she is somehow, through her enormous pride or her unkind ways, to blame for the constant stream of death. 
     
  • In the end, the doctor who acted neither charmed nor repulsed by Lady Eleanore provides his theory as to how the plague came to Boston. 
     
  • Finally, Lady Eleanore admits to an understanding of her scornful ways and how her attitude brought about the suffering she herself fell victim to. 
     
  • At the close of the tale, the townspeople burn an effigy wrapped in Lady Eleanore's mantle, bringing an end to the smallpox epidemic. The narrator speculates on Lady Eleanore's fate and describes a mysterious figure who haunts the Province House.

Full text of "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" (from Twice-Told Tales, Volume 2, 1851)

Images Related to "Lady Eleanore's' Mantle"

The following black and white illustrations by Frank Merrill accompanied the publication of "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" in 1896.

Illustration from \"Lady Eleanore's Mantle\"
Illustration from "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" 
from Colonial Stories illustrated by Frank T. Merrill and published in 1896 by Joseph Knight Company in Boston (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
\"Young Man, what is your Purpose?\"
"Young Man, what is your Purpose?"
Illustration by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" from In Colonial Days, in the edition published by L.C. Page & Co. in 1906 (77) 
Illustration \"The Communication could be of no Agreeable Import\" by Frank T. Merrill for \"Lady Eleanore's Mantle\"
Illustration "The Communication could be of no Agreeable Import" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore's Mantle"
from In Colonial Days, in the edition published by L.C. Page & Co. in 1906 (73) (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Illustration \"Keep my Image in your Remembrance\" by Frank T. Merrill for \"Lady Eleanore’s Mantle\"
Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle" 
from In Colonial Days, in the edition published by L.C. Page & Co. in 1906 (71) (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Illustration \"I Pray you take one Sip of This Holy Wine\" by Frank T. Merrill for \"Lady Eleanore's Mantle\"
Illustration "I Pray you take one Sip of This Holy Wine" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" 
from In Colonial Days, in the edition published by L.C. Page & Co. in 1906 (67) (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)

A 1906 publication featured illustrations in color, also by Frank Merrill.

Illustration \"A Pale Young Man...prostrated himself beside the Coach\" by Frank T. Merrill for \"Lady Eleanore's Mantle\"
Illustration "A Pale Young Man...prostrated himself beside the Coach" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" 
from In Colonial Days, in the edition published by L.C. Page & Co. in 1906(facing 59) (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
\"That Night a Processsion passed by Torchlight\"
"That Night a Processsion passed by Torchlight"
Illustration by Frank T. Merrill "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" from In Colonial Days,published by L.C. Page & Co. in 1906 (opposite 80) (with special thanks to Dr. John L. Idol Jr.)

 

These photographs reveal the interior settings that Lady Eleanore might have encountered upon her arrival in America and the style of clothing that wealthy young women might have worn.

Sitting Room in Crowninshield Bentley House, Salem, MA
Sitting Room in Crowninshield Bentley House, Salem, MA
Sitting room typical of era during which Lady Eleanore's Mantle is set (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Desk in Sitting Room in Crowninshield House
Desk in Sitting Room in Crowninshield House
Desk that appears in sitting room typical of era during which Lady Eleanore's Mantle is set. (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Dressing Table in second floor of Gardner-Pingree House, Salem, MA
Dressing Table in second floor of Gardner-Pingree House, Salem, MA
A lady's dressing table from the late eighteenth century (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Portrait of young woman on wall of lady's sitting room of Crowninshield Bentley House
Portrait of young woman on wall of lady's sitting room of Crowninshield Bentley House
This portrait of a young woman reflects the style of dress popular during the time period of the story "Lady Eleanore's Mantle." (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Canopy bed in lady's bedroom on second floor of Crowninshield Bentley House
Canopy bed in lady's bedroom on second floor of Crowninshield Bentley House
Crowninshield Bentley House. This room is typical of the room in which Lady Eleanore would have stayed. Its furnishings reflect the degre of comfort to which she would have been accustomed.  (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Lady's Bedroom in Crowninshield Bentley House
Lady's Bedroom in Crowninshield Bentley House
Crowninshield Bentley House. These elements of decor are typical of those that would have graced the rooms in which Lady Eleanore lived. (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Table with mirror and candle in lady's bedroom of Crowninshield Bentley House, Salem, MA
Table with mirror and candle in lady's bedroom of Crowninshield Bentley House, Salem, MA
This mirror is typical of that in which Lady Eleanore might have studied her reflection and admired her appearance. (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Portrait of Cotton Mather (1663-1723)
Portrait of Cotton Mather (1663-1723)
Cotton Mather was one of Puritan New England's most influential ministers and leaders. He was famous for his writings, histories such as Magnalia Christi Americana and those that helped stir up support for the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. He also promoted learning and early scientific knowledge in New England. He worked for acceptance of the smallpox vaccine and wrote a treatise on medicine called The Angel of Bethesda.  (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Illustration for \"Lady Eleanore’s Mantle\" from <I>Hawthorne’s Works, vol. 1, Twice-Told Tales,</i> frontispiece
Illustration for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle" from Hawthorne’s Works, vol. 1, Twice-Told Tales, frontispiece
from the 1882 Riverside Press 15 volume edition of Hawthorne's works published by Houghton, Mifflin & Co. in Boston (courtesy of Halldor F. Utne)

Critical Commentary Related to "Lady Eleanore's Mantle"

Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle"
Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle" (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 
  • Harry Levin in The Power of Blackness views the rift between scornful Lady Eleanore and the people she overlooks as a political metaphor.
     
  • In his book Hawthorne's Faust, William Stein proposes that the story of Lady Eleanore is a metaphor for the powder-keg atmosphere of the pre-Revolutionary colonial period.
     
  • Nancy Bunge focuses on Lady Eleanore's interactions and the themes of her pride and punishment in her book, Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Study of the Short Fiction. In this first excerpt, she describes the role of Lady Eleanore's peers in the story.
     
  • In a second excerpt Bunge finds the crowd to be not so different from the story's cruel heroine. 
     
  • Bunge describes Lady Eleanore as an unfortunate mirror for her peers' own pride.
     
  • Bunge attempts to identify positive outcomes of the dire consequences faced by Lady Eleanore. 
     
  • Michael Colacurcio makes the most in-depth study of "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" in his book Province of Piety. In the chapter entitled "Plague, Pox, Pride and Corruption," he looks at how the smallpox crisis and other contextual events shaped Hawthorne's story, as well as its allegorical implications. 
     
  • Colacurcio focuses on Jervase Helwyse as a precursor of the revolutionary firebrand. 
     
  • Colacurcio reveals just how Helwyse's action ties into the political and religious atmosphere of the story's setting. 
     
  • Colacurcio also links the physical smallpox epidemic to an equally infectious cultural epidemic. 
     
  • In The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Moore identifies a possible source for Hawthorne's tale of Lady Eleanore.

Websites Related to "Lady Eleanore's Mantle"

Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle"
Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle" (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 

Explore Activities Related to "Lady Eleanore's Mantle"

Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle"
Illustration "Keep my Image in your Remembrance" by Frank T. Merrill for "Lady Eleanore’s Mantle" (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 

Excerpts are from the story "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" (from Twice Told Tales, Volume 2, 1851)

First, look up the symptoms and history of smallpox:

  • Where does it break out?
  • What are its effects?
  • How does it spread?

Next, apply that to the story, "Lady Eleanore's Mantle":

  • In your opinion, after studying about smallpox, does Lady Eleanore appear to have symptoms of the disease?
  • How is it affecting the people of the city? Why were the citizens so fearful of this disease?
  • How many would have become sick?

Learn about the outbreak of smallpox in 1721 by visiting the following web sites:

Contemporary study

  • Were you vaccinated? Find at least 3 people who were (hint: check with your parents). Were they re-vaccinated to travel outside the United States?
  • Does smallpox still occur today?
  • List several of the current questions surrounding smallpox and outline the current vaccination program.
  • How might an author today use smallpox in a story?