IN the autumn of 1845 the family left Concord and returned to Salem, in reference to which Hawthorne wrote:
"SALEM, Oct. 7, 1845.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--Here I am, again established in the old chambers where I wasted so many years of my life. I find it rather favorable to my literary duties, for I have already begun to sketch out the story for Wiley & Putnam. I received a letter from Duyckink to-day, which I mean to enclose as giving authentic intelligence of the welfare of your book.
"Your check arrived seasonably, and did me as much good as the same amount ever did anybody.
* * *
"Sophia has remained in Boston in order to see her friends in and about the city, before withdrawing into my den. I shall bring her
home the latter part of this week or the first of next.
"HORATIO BRIDGE, Esq., U. S. Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N. H."
"20 CLINTON PLACE, Oct. 2, 1845.
"DEAR SIR, - I hope you will not think me a troublesome fellow if I drop you another line with the vociferous cry, MSS.! MSS.! Mr. Wiley's American series is athirst for the volume of Tales, and how stands the prospect for the 'History of Witchcraft' I whilom spoke of?
"The 'Journal of the Cruiser' has just gone to a second edition of a thousand copies, the first, I believe, having been two thousand. W. & P. project cheap series of these books for the school district libraries, in the first of which the Journal will be included.
"The English notices are bounteous in praise. No American book in a long time has been so well noticed.
"Pray, MSS. or no MSS., let me hear from you, that you are well and your family.
"Yours truly, EVERT A. DUYCKINCK.
"NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, Esq."
"SALEM, Feb. 21, 1846.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--A day or two after receiving
your letter communicating the arrangement about the Surveyorship and Naval office, I had one from O'Sullivan who had been in Washington, but had just returned to New York. He appeared to know nothing about the above arrangement, but said that the President had promised to give me either the Surveyorship or Naval office. It appears therefore that I may consider myself pretty certain of getting one or the other, and I trust it will be the Surveyorship, which is the most eligible, both on account of the emolument and the position which it confers. Whichever it is, it is to you I shall owe it among so many other solid kindnesses. I have as true friends as any man; but you have been the friend in need and the friend indeed.
"In other respects, too, my affairs look promising enough. Wiley & Putnam are going to publish two volumes of my Tales instead of one, and I shall send off the copy, I hope, on Monday. My mind will now settle itself after the long inquietude of expectation; and I mean to make this a profitable year in the literary way.
"I regret that you are so soon thinking of going to sea again. You must not go without giving me the chance of another visit, though of the briefest duration.
"I hope, moreover, that you will remain ashore until I am again established in a home of my
own, when it will be easy for you to be my guest often, at bed and board. We are neighbors now.
I have found the following scrap of a letter which must have been written soon after my return from the coast of Africa, in 1845, since it refers to some furs known as African lynx, which I had brought home and presented to Mrs. Hawthorne.
The deep satisfaction he expressed in his wife and his--then--only child makes this fragment worth preserving.
"The skins came safe yesterday morning, and Sophia, I believe, contemplates having them made into a muff. She and Una are very well, and Una continues to talk about 'Misser Bidge.' After all, having a wife who thoroughly satisfies me, and a child whom I would not exchange for a fortune, I am not quite so unlucky a devil as you set me down for.
When Mr. Polk became President, the plan of campaign for Hawthorne's appointment to the Salem Post-office was pursued with vigor for a while; but there were strong political obstacles
in the way, and consequently his efforts and those of his friends were turned towards the Surveyorship of the Salem Custom-house, an office of less labor and responsibility, though of smaller emolument than the post-office afforded.
Referring to a visit made me in the summer of 1845, at the navy-yard near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, it so happened that I was then stationed at that yard. Living in spacious quarters as a bachelor, and not unwilling to share my summer comforts with my friends, it occurred to me that Hawthorne's interests could best be promoted by bringing him and Mrs. Hawthorne into social relations with some of my influential friends and their wives.
To carry out this project, and for my personal pleasure as well, I invited Senator and Mrs. Pierce and Senator and Mrs. Atherton, of New Hampshire, and Senator Fairfield, of Maine, together with Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne and little Una, to spend two or three weeks with me. To make the reunion less formal, two of my own sisters and some Washington friends were included. The indulgent party enjoyed the novelty of a visit to a bachelor at a navy-yard, and when any shortcomings in his housekeeping occurred the guests only grew the merrier therefor.
What with boating, fishing, and driving, and in the entire absence of formality, the visit went off
smoothly, and its main object--that of interesting men of influence in Hawthorne's behalf--was attained.
Though Pierce was an old friend, Atherton and Fairfield first made the acquaintance of Hawthorne at that time, and they became his strong advocates and friends.
In June of the next year he was appointed Surveyor.
Hawthorne's life flowed tranquilly for the next three years, at the end of which period he was removed by the Whig administration, under (in that case, at least) the pernicious doctrine of rotation in office.
With other friends I strove zealously to save him, because he wished to retain the office. But when the dismissal came I wrote my congratulations, telling him that he would now be obliged to devote himself to his appropriate work in life. Eight months after his official decapitation he finished "The Scarlet Letter," and increased fame, as well as freedom from pressing anxiety about pecuniary matters, followed quickly upon the publication of the great romance.
"SALEM, Feb. 4, 1850.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--I finished my book only yesterday, one end being in press in Boston, while the
other was in my head here in Salem; so that, as you see, the story is at least fourteen miles long.
"I should make you a thousand apologies for being so negligent a correspondent if you did not know me of old, and, as you have tolerated me so many years, I do not fear that you will give me up now. The fact is, I have a natural abhorrence of pen and ink, and nothing short of absolute necessity ever drives me to them.
"My book, the publisher tells me, will not be out before April. He speaks of it in tremendous terms of approbation. So does Mrs. Hawthorne, to whom I read the conclusion last night. It broke her heart, and sent her to bed with a grievous headache, which I look upon as a triumphant success.
"Judging from its effect on her and the publisher, I may calculate on what bowlers call a ten-strike. Yet I do not make any such calculation. Some portions of the book are powerfully written; but my writings do not, nor ever will, appeal to the broadest class of sympathies, and therefore will not obtain a very wide popularity. Some like them very much, others care nothing for them, and see nothing in them. There is an introduction to this book giving a sketch of my custom-house life, with an imaginative touch here and there, which may, perhaps, be more widely attractive than the main
narrative. The latter lacks sunshine, etc. To tell you the truth, it is--(I hope Mrs. Bridge is not present)--it is positively a h--l-f--d story, into which I found it almost impossible to throw any cheering light.
"This house on Goose Creek, which you tell me of, looks really attractive; but I am afraid there must be a flaw somewhere. I like the rent amazingly. I wish you would look at it and form your own judgment and report accordingly; and, should you decide favorably, I will come myself and see it; but if it appears ineligible to you I shall let the matter rest there, it being inconvenient for me to leave home, partly because funds are to be husbanded at this juncture of my affairs, and partly because I can ill spare the time, as winter is the season when my brain-work is chiefly accomplished.
"I should like to give up the house which I now occupy at the beginning of April, and must soon make a decision as to where I shall go. I long to get into the country, for my health latterly is not quite what it has been for many years past. I should not long stand such a life of bodily inactivity and mental exertion as I have lived for the last few months. An hour or two of daily labor in a garden, and a daily ramble in country air, or on the sea-shore, would keep all right. Here, I hardly go out once a week. Do not
allude to this matter in your letters to me, as my wife already sermonizes me quite sufficiently on my habits; and I never own up to not feeling perfectly well. Neither do I feel anywise ill; but only a lack of physical vigor and energy, which reacts upon the mind.
"With our best regards to Mrs. Bridge, I remain,
Truly your friend,
"HORATIO BRIDGE, Esq., U. S. Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N. H."
SALEM, April 13, 1850.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--I am glad you like 'The Scarlet Letter.' It would have been a sad matter indeed if I had missed the favorable award of my oldest and friendliest critic. The other day I met with your notice of 'Twice-Told-Tales' for the Augusta Age; and I really think nothing better has been said about them since. This book has been highly successful: the first edition having been exhausted in ten days, and the second (five thousand copies in all) promising to go off rapidly.
"As to the Salem people, I really thought that I had been exceedingly good-natured in my treatment of them. They certainly do not deserve good usage at my hands after permitting me to be deliberately lied down--not merely once, but
at two several attacks--on two false indictments--without hardly a voice being raised on my behalf; and then sending one of the false witnesses to Congress, others to the Legislature, and choosing another as the mayor.
"I feel an infinite contempt for them--and probably have expressed more of it than I intended--for my preliminary chapter has caused the greatest uproar that has happened here since witch-times. If I escape from town without being tarred and feathered, I shall consider it good-luck. I wish they would tar and feather me; it would be such an entirely novel kind of distinction for a literary man. And, from such judges as my fellow-citizens, I should look upon it as a higher honor than a laurel crown.
"I have taken a cottage in Lenox, and mean to take up my residence there about the first of May. In the interim my wife and children are going to stay in Boston; and nothing could be more agreeable to myself than to spend a week or so with you; so that your invitation comes exceedingly apropos. In fact, I was on the point of writing to propose a visit. We shall move our household gods from this locality to-morrow or next day. I will leave my family at Dr. Peabody's, and come to Portsmouth on Friday of this week, unless prevented from coming at all. I shall take the train that leaves Boston at eleven
o'clock; so, if you happen to be in Portsmouth that afternoon, please to look after me. I am glad of this opportunity of seeing you, for I am assured you will never find your way to Lenox. I thank Mrs. Bridge for her good-wishes as respects my future removal from office, but I should be sorry to anticipate such bad-fortune as being ever again appointed to one.
"Truly your friend,
Hawthorne's feelings towards Salem and its inhabitants, as shown in the above letter, may be accounted for somewhat by the circumstances and surroundings of his boyhood.
The isolation of his family, his three years' lameness, and his long absences--at Raymond and in college--prevented him from forming friendships with other Salem boys that might have essentially modified his later sentiments towards his native town. As it was, he grew up almost as a stranger in his birthplace--until he had reached manhood. But I have seen no evidence of unfriendliness towards his fellow-citizens previous to his being brought into closer relations with them as an officer of the Salem Custom-house, from which office he was removed through the strenuous exertions of leading men of the opposite political party. As Hawthorne
had never been an active partisan, and as no fault could justly have been found with his official or personal character, it was not strange that he became embittered against many of the men of influence in Salem and against the town itself. And he did not attempt to conceal his sentiments, or to mollify the anger resulting from his cutting statements in that regard!