Dr. Heidegger's Experiment

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"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" was first published anonymously in the January 1837 issue of Knickerbocker magazine under the title "The Fountain of Youth." Hawthorne republished it in book form later that year in United States, under his own name and its current title, in a collection of stories called Twice-old Tales (in the sense that every tale had been published somewhere else before and hence was being told for the second time).

Interestingly, in 1860, Hawthorne added to his story a note addressing a supposed accusation of plagiarism against him. It seems that an English review of his story insinuated that he lifted the idea from Mémoires d'un Médecin, a novel by Alexandre Dumas (whom you know as the author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo). In his note, Hawthorne points out that he wrote "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" twenty years earlier and long before Dumas's novel, but that the far more famous Dumas is welcome to lift any ideas he pleases from Hawthorne's own work.


Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" is a short story by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, about a doctor who claims to have been sent water from the Fountain of Youth.


Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on 4 July 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts in the family home at 27 Hardy Street, now a museum. He was the son of Elizabeth Clarke Manning and Nathaniel Hathorne, a Captain in the U. S. Navy who died when Nathaniel was four years old. His ancestors were some of the first Puritans to settle in the New England area and the lingering guilt Hawthorne felt from his great grandfather having officiated during the Salem Witch Trials provided a theme for many of his stories including The House of Seven Gables. After his father died Nathaniel and his mother moved to her parents’ home just a few doors down from #27, which Hawthorne referred to as ‘Castle Dismal’. Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine (1821-24) along with fellow poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and future American President Franklin Pierce, of whom he wrote a biography of in 1852. Hawthorne was not interested in entering any of the traditional professions; he was an avid reader and already writing his own short stories and had many published in magazines. His novel Fanshawe was published anonymously in 1828. Upon graduation he continued to write stories and sketches, some of them included in his collection Twice Told Tales (1837). Longfellow would write a favourable review of it in North American Review magazine. It was not a lucrative pursuit so Hawthorne worked at the Salem Custom-House to augment his income. He also lived at the experimental transcendentalist community ‘Brook Farm’, but stayed only a year.

In Boston on 9 July 1842, Hawthorne married painter and fellow transcendentalist Sophia Peabody with whom he would have three children; daughters Una (1844-1877) and Rose (1851-1926), and future author Julian Hawthorne (1846-1934). The newly married couple settled in the heart of Transcendentalist country Concorde, Massachusetts, living in the ‘The Old Manse’. Hawthorne’s collection of short stories Mosses from an Old Manse (1846) was followed by his brooding Gothic romance The House of Seven Gables (1851);


• Mendicant- Beggar
• Seclusion- Isolation
• Prejudiced- Affected negatively
• Obscurest- Darkest
• Ponderous- Heavy
• Eccentricity- Unconventional behavior
• Stigma- Mark of disgrace
• Deception- Trickery
• Impregnated- Permeated
• Rejuvenescent- youthful
• Visages- Faces
• Tremulous- Quivering
• Fleeting- Passing
• Effervesced- gone like bubbles
• Transient- Temporary


   If all stories were true, Dr. Heidegger's study must have been a very curious place. It was a dim, old-fashioned chamber, festooned with cobwebs, and besprinkled with antique dust....
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