Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume I
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
The Old Manse
IN the preceding chapters little space has been given to discussion of the merely literary aspect and details of Hawthorne's life. A good deal might have been said about his early successes and disappointments in this direction: how hard he worked for publishers who paid him only with promises; how the "Athenaeum" and Mr. Longfellow praised him; how Poe criticised him; how the "Church Review" attacked him; and more to the same effect, with the writer's meditations and comments thereupon. But such matters appertain less to the biographer than to the bibliographer. They give no solidity or form to our conception of the man. Hawthorne's works are published to the world, and any one may read them, and derive from them whatever literary or moral culture he may be susceptible of. But any attempt to make the works throw light upon their author is certain to miscarry, unless the student be previously impregnated with a very distinct and unmistakable conception of that author's human and natural (as distinct from his merely imaginative and artistic) personality. The books may add depth and minuteness to this conception, when once it has been attained, but they cannot be depended on to create it beforehand. Accordingly, it is the biographer's business, so far as his abilities and materials allow, to confine himself to putting the reader in possession of this human aspect of his subject, and to let the rest take care, in great measure, of itself. In other words, he must do for the reader only so much as the reader cannot do for himself. To do more would be superfluous, if not presumptuous. Few men, who have made literature the business of their lives, have been less dependent than Hawthorne upon literature for a character. If he had never written a line, he would still have possessed, as a human being, scarcely less interest and importance than he does now. Those who were most intimate with him not only found in him all the promise of his works, but they found enough more to put the works quite in the background. His literary phase seemed a phase only, and not the largest or most characteristic. In the same way, when he was a consul at Liverpool, nobody could have been a better consul than he; but when you came into his presence, the consul was lost sight of' and the man shone out. Some men are swallowed up by their profession, so that nothing is left of them but the profession in human form. But, for men like Hawthorne, the profession is but a means of activity; they use it, and are not used by it. Hawthorne's son remembers that, twenty or thirty years ago, it seemed to him rather a regrettable thing that his father had written books. Why write books? He was a very good and satisfactory father without that. When, afterwards, he read the books, they struck him as being but a somewhat imperfect reflection of certain regions of his father's mind with which he had become otherwise familiar.
In the pages which are to follow, the same general aim and principle as heretofore will control the biographer in his selection and treatment of materials; but the character of the materials themselves undergoes a certain modification. A domestic career has been begun; there is a wife to be loved and to love, and there are children to be born and raised. The narrative moves more slowly as to time; it is more circumstantial and homogeneous; it is, for some years, rather contemplative than active. We feel that stories are being written, up there in the little study; we catch echoes, now and then, of the world's appreciation of them; but we are not called upon to give special heed to these matters. For there are the river, and the woods, and Sleepy Hollow; and the Old Manse itself, with its orchard, its avenue, and its vegetable garden; and Mr. Emerson passes by, with a sunbeam in his face; and Margaret Fuller receives rather independent treatment; and those odd young men, Ellery Channing and Henry Thoreau, make themselves agreeable or otherwise, as the case may be. The man has reached a region of repose, -temporary repose only, and complete merely on the side of the higher nature; for there are res angustoe domi to be dealt with, and other half-comical, half-serious difficulties to be overcome. Much of the history of this sojourn in the Old Manse has already been made public in the "Note-Books," and in the preface to the "Mosses;" but a note slightly more personal remains to be struck. In preparing Hawthorne's literary remains for the press, his wife labored under the embarrassment of being herself the constant theme of his journalizings, and the subject of his most loving observation and reflection; and the omission of this entire element from the record left a very perceptible gap. Even now the omission can be only partially repaired; but the additions, so far as they go, are full of significance and charm. The married lovers during several years were in the habit of a more or less continuous diary of their daily experiences, in which first one and then the other would hold the pen, in lovely strophe and antistrophe; and there is, moreover, that unfailing History of Happiness (as it might well be called),--the letters of Mrs. Hawthorne to her mother. In the present chapter, for reasons of clearness and convenience, a strict chronological sequence will occasionally be departed from disconnected references to the same subject will be brought together, and other slight liberties be taken with some of the more arbitrary arrangements of time. And perhaps we could not begin better than with this eloquent epithalamion--if such a title may be given to a retrospective essay, written after the death of both Hawthorne and his wife--by the latter's sister, Miss E. P. Peabody:--
"The mental idiosyncrasies of Hawthorne and his wife were in singular contrast,--a contrast which made their union more beautiful and complete. Her ministration was done as delicately as Ariel's 'spiriting,' as was needful with respect to an individuality so rare and alive as Hawthorne's, and a habit so reserved. He was not morbid or gloomy in nature; his peculiar form of shyness was rather the result of the outward circumstance that he belonged to a family which had done nothing (as the mother and sisters of a man generally do) to put him into easy relations with society,--into which, indeed, he never had any natural introduction until it was in some degree made by his wife, whose nature was very social. But they were thirty-two and thirty-eight years old, respectively, before they were married, and Sophia thought it too late to attempt to break up his secluded habits entirely. His reserved manners had come to be a barrier against intrusion, and she felt that the work he had to do for mankind was too important for him to waste any time and undergo any unnecessary suffering in reforming his social habits. In the hermitage made for him by his extreme sensibility, he was not in the dark, but saw clearly out of it, as if he walked among men with an invisible cap on his head. She guarded his solitude, perhaps with a needless extreme of care; but it was not in order to keep him selfishly to herself,--it was to keep him for the human race, to whose highest needs she thought he could minister by his art, if not interrupted in his artistic studies of men in their most profound relations to one another and to nature. She never had any jealousy of his study and books, as wives of many artists and authors have had. She delighted in the wide relations he held with the human race. There never was a love which was at the same time more intense and complete and personally unselfish. It is true, the bounty of his love for her could not but disarm, by rendering unnecessary, all disposition to exaction on her part. She protected him by her womanly tact and sympathy; he protected her by his manly tenderness, ever on the watch to ward off from her the hurts to which she was liable from those moral shocks given by the selfishness and cruelty she could never learn to expect from human beings. For though Sophia had the strength of a martyr under the infliction of those wounds which necessarily come to individuals by the providential vicissitudes of life, there was one kind of thing she could not bear, and that was, moral evil. Every cloud brought over her horizon by the hand of God had for her a silvery lining; but human unkindness, dishonor, falsehood, agonized and stunned her,--as, in 'The Marble Faun' the crime of Miriam and Donatello stunned and agonized Hilda. And it was this very characteristic of hers that was her supreme charm to Hawthorne's imagination. He reverenced it, and almost seemed to doubt whether his own power to gaze steadily at the evils of human character, and analyze them, and see their bounds, were really wisdom, or a defect of moral sensibility. Their mutual affection was truly a moral reverence for each other, that enlarges one's idea of what is in man; for it was without weakness, and enabled her to give him up without a murmur when, as she herself said, he came to need so much finer conditions than she could command for him; and thus it was that, as she herself also said in the supreme hour of her bereavement, 'Love abolished Death.'
"Before they met, they were already 'two self-sufficing worlds;' and this gave the peculiar dignity, without taking away the tender freshness, of their union,--for it was first love for both of them, though the flower bloomed on the summit of the mountain of their life, and not in the early morning; and it was therefore, perhaps, that it was amaranthine in its nature. As was said by a writer in the 'Tribune,' at the time of Mrs. Hawthorne's death, 'the world owes to this woman more than any one but Hawthorne knew;' but it will know better as he is better and better understood by the advancing thought of the English and American mind."
--Happiness is not especially articulate until one becomes a little accustomed to it; but no words are more weighted with tender and pathetic meaning than those of a mother who feels the loss of a favorite child; nor is any ingenuity more touching than that with which she endeavors to disguise her heartache, lest it cast a shadow upon the child's sunshine. The subjoined extracts from some of Mrs. Peabody's letters to her daughter have a beautiful and simple wistfulness that renders them valuable to literature as well as to this biography. The first is dated within six days after the wedding.
DEAR SOPHIE,--I could fill sheets with what my heart is full of, on several subjects; but I am more and more convinced that this world is not the place to pour out the soul without reserve. In a higher and a better, to know even as we are known will be a part of heaven, to our disciplined race. Here the noblest and best feelings are misunderstood, and our safety consists in forbearing to say--certainly to write - what it is our highest merit to feel. . . .
I never doubted that you would be most happy in the connection you have formed; you are kindred spirits, and it must be so; yet it was delightful to read such an outpouring of entire felicity. Yet, however happy you may be in each other, you will feel a void, if the enlarged circle of love is not occupied with objects worthy to be there. True love increases our capability of loving our fellow-beings, and, in the hour of sickness and worldly perplexity, the face of a friend is like a ray from heaven. Probably I shall often mention things which have already occurred to your own mind; but you must bear it, dear. Old housekeepers are apt to imagine they know a great deal; but after forty years' experience I find many new things may be learned; and so you must not wonder if my letters are often garnished with homely but very important hints upon family matters.
You need give no injunctions, dear, to any of the dear ones I am with. Their care of me is only greater than I wish. To be useful while I live, is my effort; to have health and strength for it, is my prayer. When any one reflects how much I have been with you for thirty years, how fully we shared each other's thoughts, how soothing in every trial was your bright smile and ready sympathy, such an one will give me credit for behaving heroically, as well as gratefully for the blessings left. My hours are fully occupied; I housekeep, paint, sew, study German, read, and give no room for useless regrets and still more useless anxieties. We are all religiously doing all we can, for ourselves and others. . . .
--The privacy of the Old Manse was at first but little invaded, and only by friends who bestowed something almost as good as solitude. Nevertheless, Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne had not been many days settled in their dwelling, when a project was mooted to engraft upon their felicity that of another newly married couple,--Mr. and Mrs. Ellery Channing. Ellery's wife was the sister of Margaret Fuller; and the latter took upon herself the office of suggesting the plan to the Hawthornes; and it was to Mrs. Hawthorne that she addressed herself. Mrs. Hawthorne suppressed her own feelings in the matter (whatever they may have been) and referred the responsibility of decision to her husband. He, doubtless, perceived in her a secret repugnance to the idea, and shared that sentiment; and so far all was easy enough. But it was necessary for him to write a letter to Margaret refusing her proposal; and here was an embarrassment. Miss Fuller was a very clever woman, and most people stood in some awe of her. The fact that she was somewhat deficient in tact would increase the difficulty of dealing with her successfully. Furthermore, her proposal had been made in a spirit of benevolence to both the parties involved in it, and the rejection of it must therefore be made as considerate as it was explicit. Finally (and foremost probably, in Hawthorne's estimation), it was desirable to relieve his wife from any suspicion of bearing an active part in the conclusion arrived at, and to indicate unmistakably that the entire odium of it--if there were any rested upon his own shoulders. It will be seen, therefore, that Hawthorne was here afforded an unusually promising opportunity of making mortal enemies of three worthy persons; and to emerge from the scrape with credit to himself and without offence to them, would be a feat worthy of a practised diplomatist and man of the world. His management of the problem was as follows:--
CONCORD, Aug. 28, 1842.
DEAR MARGARET,--Sophia has told me of her conversation with you, about our receiving Mr. Ellery Channing and your sister as inmates of our household. I found that my wife's ideas were not altogether unfavorable to the plan,--which, together with your own implicit opinion in its favor, has led me to consider it with a good deal of attention; and my conclusion is, that the comfort of both parties would be put in great jeopardy. In saying this, I would not be understood to mean anything against the social qualities of Mr. and Mrs. Channing,--my objection being wholly independent of such considerations. Had it been proposed to Adam and Eve to receive two angels into their Paradise, as boarders, I doubt whether they would have been altogether pleased to consent. Certain I am, that, whatever might be the tact and the sympathies of the heavenly guests, the boundless freedom of Paradise would at once have become finite and limited by their presence. The host and hostess would no longer have lived their own natural life, but would have had a constant reference to the two angels; and thus the whole four would have been involved in an unnatural relation,--which the whole system of boarding out essentially and inevitably is.
One of my strongest objections is, the weight of domestic care which would be thrown upon Sophia's shoulders by the proposed arrangement. She is so little acquainted with it, that she cannot estimate how much she would have to bear. I do not fear any burthen that may accrue from our own exclusive relations because skill and strength will come with the natural necessity; but I should not feel myself justified in adding one scruple to the weight. I wish to remove everything that may impede her full growth and development,--which in her case, it seems to me, is not to be brought about by care and toil, but by perfect repose and happiness. Perhaps she ought not to have any earthly care whatever,--certainly none that is not wholly pervaded with love, as a cloud is with warm light. Besides, she has many visions of great deeds to be wrought on canvas and in marble during the coming autumn and winter; and none of these can be accomplished unless she can retain quite as much freedom from household drudgery as she enjoys at present. In short, it is my faith and religion not wilfully to mix her up with any earthly annoyance.
You will not consider it impertinent if I express an opinion about the most advisable course for your young relatives, should they retain their purpose of boarding out. I think that they ought not to seek for delicacy of character and nice tact and sensitive feelings in their hosts. In such a relation as they propose, those characteristics should never exist on more than one side; nor should there be any idea of personal friendship, where the real condition of the bond is to supply food and lodging for a pecuniary compensation. They will be able to keep their own delicacy and sensitiveness much more inviolate, if they make themselves inmates of the rudest farmer's household in Concord, where there will be no nice sensibillty to manage, and where their own feelings will be no more susceptible of damage from the farmer's family than from the cattle in the barnyard. There will be a freedom in this sort of life, which is not otherwise attainable, except under a roof of their own. They can then say explicitly what they want, and can battle for it, if necessary, and such a contest would leave no wound on either side. Now, when four sensitive people were living together, united by any tie save that of entire affection and confidence, it would take but a trifle to render their whole common life diseased and intolerable.
I have thought, indeed, of receiving a personal friend, and a man of delicacy, into my household, and have taken a step towards that object. But in doing so, I was influenced far less by what Mr. Bradford is, than by what he is not; or rather, his negative qualities seem to take away his personality, and leave his excellent characteristics to be fully and fearlessly enjoyed. I doubt whether he be not precisely the rarest man in the world. And, after all, I have had some misgivings as to the wisdom of my proposal to him.
This epistle has grown to greater length than I expected, and yet it is but a very imperfect expression of my ideas upon the subject. Sophia wished me to write; and as it was myself that made the objections, it seemed no more than just that I should assume the office of stating them to you. There is nobody to whom I would more willingly speak my mind, because I can be certain of being thoroughly understood. I would say more,--but here is the bottom of the page.
Sincerely your friend,
This finished the episode; Miss Fuller, if she felt any dissatisfaction, not thinking it advisable to express any, and the Channings resigning themselves to finding quarters elsewhere. But Miss Fuller was at this time in her apogee, and had to be doing something; and accordingly, during the ensuing year, she produced a book in which the never-to-be-exhausted theme of Woman's Rights was touched upon. The book made the rounds of the transcendental circle, and was sufficiently discussed; and doubtless there are disciples of this renowned woman now living who could quote pages of it. But married women, who had in their husbands their ideal of marital virtue, and whose domestic affairs sufficiently occupied them, were not likely to be cordial supporters of such doctrines as the book enunciated. Mrs. Hawthorne and her mother, in letters which happen to be written on the same day, expressed themselves on the subject as follows. I give passages from the former's epistle first.
Mr. Emerson's review of Carlyle in the 'Dial' is noble, is it not? What a cordial joy it must be to Carlyle to find in another such worthy appreciation of his best purposes. In all his writings I have been mainly impressed with his pure humanity, which has made me love the man and listen reverently to all he utters,--though in chaotic phrase, like rattling thunder echoed among ragged hills. lf ever a mortal had a high aim, it is certainly he. What do you think of the speech which Queen Margaret Fuller has made from the throne? It seems to me that if she were married truly, she would no longer be puzzled about the rights of woman. This is the revelation of woman's true destiny and place, which never can be imagined by those who do not experience the relation. In perfect, high union there is no question of supremacy. Souls are equal in love and intelligent, and all things take their proper places as inevitably as the stars their orbits. Had there never been false and profane marriages, there would not only be no commotion about woman's rights, hut it would be Heaven here at once. Even before I was married, however, I could never feel the slightest interest in this movement. It then seemed to me that each woman could make her own sphere quietly, and also it was always a shock to me to have women mount the rostrum. Home, I think, is the great arena for women, and there, I am sure, she can wield a power which no king or conqueror can cope with. I do not believe any man who ever knew one noble woman would ever speak as if she were an inferior in any sense: it is the fault of ignoble women that there is any such opinion in the world."
Mrs. Peabody writes from very much the same standpoint:--
"Margaret Fuller's book has made a breeze, I assure you. Seems to me I could have written on the very same subjects, and set forth as strongly what rights yet belonged to woman which were not granted her, and yet have used language less offensive to delicacy, and put in clearer view the only source (vital religion) from which her true position in society can be estimated. A consistent Christian woman will be exactly what Margaret would have woman to be; and a consistently religious man would readily award to her every rightful advantage. I believe that woman must wait till the lion shall lie down with the lamb, before she can hope to be the friend and companion of man. He has the physical power, as well as conventional, to treat her like a play thing or a slave, and will exercise that power till his own soul is elevated to the standard set up by Him who spake as never man spoke. I think Margaret is too personal. It is always painful to me to hear persons dwell on what they have done and thought,--it is taxing human sympathy too heavily. It is still worse in a book designed for the public. The style, too, is very bad. How is it that one who talks so admirably should write so obscurely? The book has great faults, I think,--even the look of absolute irreligion,--yet it is full of noble thoughts and high aspirations. I wish it may do good; but I believe little that is high and ennobling can have other foundation than genuine Christianity."
I find no further allusion to Margaret in any of the American letters or journals; but fifteen years afterwards, when she was dead, and Hawthorne was in Rome, he came across some facts regarding her marriage which led him into the following interesting and not too eulogistic analysis of her character and career.
Extract from Roman Journal.
Mr. Mozier knew Margaret well, she having been an inmate of his during a part of his residence in Italy. . . .He says that the Ossoli family, though technically noble, is really of no rank whatever; the elder brother, with the title of Marquis, being at this very time a working bricklayer, and the sisters walking the streets without bonnets,--that is, being in the station of peasant-girls. Ossoli himself, to the best of his belief, was -----'s servant, or had something to do with the care of -----'s apartments. He was the handsomest man that Mr. Mozier ever saw, but entirely ignorant, even of his own language; scarcely able to read at all; destitute of manners,--in short, half an idiot, and without any pretension to be a gentleman. At Margaret's request, Mr. Mozier had taken him into his studio, with a view to ascertain whether he were capable of instruction in sculpture; but after four months' labor, Ossoli produced a thing intended to be a copy of a human foot, but the great toe was on the wrong side. He could not possibly have had the least appreciation of Margaret; and the wonder is, what attraction she found in this boor, this man without the intellectual spark, she that had always shown such a cruel and bitter scorn of intellectual deficiency. As from her towards him, I do not understand what feeling there could have been; as from him towards her I can understand as little, for she had not the charm of womanhood. But she was a person anxious to try all things, and fill up her experience in all directions; she had a strong and coarse nature, which she had done her utmost to refine, with infinite pains; but of course it could only be superficially changed. The solution of the riddle lies in this direction; nor does one's conscience revolt at the idea of thus solving it; for (at least, this is my own experience) Margaret has not left in the hearts and minds of those who knew her any deep witness of her integrity and purity. She was a great humbug,--of course, with much talent and much moral reality, or else she could never have been so great a humbug. But she had stuck herself full of borrowed qualities, which she chose to provide herself with, but which had no root in her. Mr. Mozier added that Margaret had quite lost all power of literary production before she left Rome, though occasionally the charm and power of her conversation would reappear. To his certain knowledge, she had no important manuscripts with her when she sailed (she having shown him all she had, with a view to his procuring their publication in America), and the "History of the Roman Revolution," about which there was so much lamentation, in the belief that it had been lost with her, never had existence. Thus there appears to have been a total collapse in poor Margaret, morally and intellectually; and, tragic as her catastrophe was, Providence was, after all, kind in putting her and her clownish husband and their child on board that fated ship. There never was such a tragedy as her whole story,--the sadder and sterner, because so much of the ridiculous was mixed up with it, and because she could bear anything better than to he ridiculous. It was such an awful joke, that she should have resolved--in all sincerity, no doubt--to make herself the greatest, wisest, best woman of the age. And to that end she set to work on her strong, heavy, unpliable, and, in many respects, defective and evil nature, and adorned it with a mosaic of admirable qualities, such as she chose to possess; putting in here a splendid talent and there a moral excellence, and polishing each separate piece, and the whole together, till it seemed to shine afar and dazzle all who saw it. She took credit to herself for having been her own Redeemer, if not her own Creator; and, indeed, she was far more a work of art than any of Mozier's statues. But she was not working on an inanimate substance, like marble or clay; there was something within her that she could not possibly come at, to re-create or refine it; and, by and by, this rude old potency bestirred itself' and undid all her labor in the twinkling of an eye. On the whole, I do not know but I like her the better for it; because she proved herself a very woman after all) and fell as the weakest of her sisters might.
During the greater part of the time that the Hawthornes were living in Concord) Dr. and Mrs. Peabody remained in their house in West Street, Boston; and the outward circumstances of their existence lacked a good deal of being luxurious. Though advanced in years, they were obliged to work for their daily bread; and it was only within a short distance of the close of their lives that they were able to enjoy even a partial and comparative repose. For several years they placed their main dependence upon what they called "the book-room,"--a combination of a circulating library and a book-shop,--which they fitted up on the ground floor of their house. This business was under the especial charge of Mrs. Peabody; and, though always an invalid, she gave, as might have been expected, a good account of her stewardship. She also contrived to do occasional work in the way of making translations of famous European books, which yielded some profit, though almost infinitesimal according to present standards. Meanwhile, those instincts of hospitality and philanthropy, which still characterize in undiminished degree the surviving members of Dr. Peabody's family, induced them to take under their protection all such persons as were content to live upon them without making any return for their entertainment; so that the house got the name of being a sort of hospital for incapables. Through it all, Mrs. Peabody maintained her cheerfulness and religious serenity. For reasons indicated above, I have collected in this place extracts from her letters written to her daughter during the nine years following the latter's marriage.
MY DEAR SOPHIA,--I think of you continually, but know that you have a guardian beyond price, who cares for you always. Your wood-pile will diminish rapidly this month. Do not be anxious on our account. God takes care of us: we are neither lazy nor extravagant; we are honest, and faithfully employ the talents given us, and I believe we shall not be left to beg our bread. I have finished transcribing "Hermann and Dorothea" literally, and perhaps may, some future time, put it into purer English. It is beautiful. It is well that, as we must earn our bread by the sweat of our brows, there are some labors which occupy the mind profitably and keep it from preying on itself, as well as others which give vigor to physical existence by furnishing wholesome exercise in the open air. Now, traffic of any kind has neither of these advantages, and yet it must be attended to, and often by these who are worthy of better things. This seems to be an evil, but who knows but high moral results may flow from this most unattractive stream of human action? In one way I am sure good may come of it,--we may conquer by proper effort many of our worst propensities, and resolve to be high-minded, just, and generous, even in selling a book. Hard study is a blessing to me in many ways, and I feel indebted to it more than I can well explain, since I must be shut up in brick walls. How you must enjoy your woods and rivers and birds and flowers in the summer, and in winter even the pure snow. We shall be able to economize more than ever the coming year, because we have less time than ever to be lavish of hospitality. It has become an imperative duty for us no longer, as heretofore, to invite almost strangers to stay day after day and week after week. My feelings would impel me to say to all the good and to all the unfortunate, Come and find an asylum here. But, to be just before you are generous, I consider almost equal to the command, Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you."
MY DEAREST,--I have a thousand things to say, which are silly perhaps, but mothers cannot always be wise. When I gave you up, my sweetest confidante, my ever lovely and cheering companion, I set myself aside and thought only of the repose, the fulness of bliss, that awaited you under the protection and in possession of the confiding love of so rare a being as Nathaniel Hawthorne. Still, my heart was at times rebellious, and sunk full low when I entered the rooms so long consecrated to you; and I had to reason with myself and say, "I have not lost her, but have gained a noble son, and we can meet often." I suppose you and yours will be flying to another hemisphere some of these years; but unless it be to recruit health, I must hope you will find charms enough in sober New England, where native Apollos and Platos spring up in your every-day walk.
"I am strong in hope that my day of usefulness will be protracted till some of our bairns can do as dear Wellington used to say he hoped to,--place me in an easy-chair at a comfortable fireside, to knit stockings, read, and write. Why not hope this, as well as torment one's self with fears of being a burden to any one? The idle and the vicious may be burdens; but the mother and father who have done their duty, have a claim to the kind offices of the beings to whom their lives have been devoted. Is it not so? Oh, dear, what a vexation--grief, I may say--is this want of Gold! Mr. Hawthorne, who is writing to make the world better, ought to see all that is doing in the world. He ought to mingle as much as possible with the human beings he is doing so much to cultivate and refine. . . . I was glad indeed to hear that your husband was better; but have you not influence enough to induce him to be more saving of his mental treasures? The whole country as well as his family possess that in him which cannot be replaced. This is simple truth, and he ought to listen and take heed. . . . If your husband knew the man about whom we wish him to use his powerful pens he would feel a holy joy in tracing the character of the incorruptible patriot, the ardent lover of freedom, the unwearied doer of public duties, the devoted husband and father, the indulgent master, the saint-like follower of his Divine Teacher, of whose spirit be was full. I never think of my grandfather Palmer without enthusiasm,--I should be ashamed of myself if I could. It is so rare to find a consistent Christian, that we ought to rejoice and be exceeding glad when we know that such a one has lived. By writing this sketch, the knowledge of your husband's inimitable style of composition will be more widely diffused, and he will confer a lasting obligation on all who love the memory of those who struggled for the birthright of man! . . .
"Mrs. Alcott has just come in to tell us about her house in Concord. It is at the entrance of a wood, two miles in a direct line to the river. She would enjoy Mr. Hawthorne's having it more than she can express; thinks the house would be forever honored; and, though she might never be so happy as to bear him speak, if she could sometimes see his inexpressibly sweet smile, it would be an enhancement of the value of her property only to be realized by those who know him. Thus she! . .
"Mr. Phillips, on reading 'The Procession of Life,' which calls forth praise everywhere, said that for the first time he comprehended the superior character of the writer, that he thought it a great production, and that he wished for a personal acquaintance. You know he is not a man who speaks unadvisedly, but is one on whom the purity, the high moral tone, the exquisite humor, of Mr. Hawthorne's style would have full effect. But what crude ideas some people have about talents, and genius, and taste, and love of literature! They cannot conceive them to be united with the every-day duties of life.
"I think 'The Celestial Railroad' capital. How skilfully he introduces the droppings of the sanctuary into everything he writes, without preaching or distraction! And what a sweet tale that of 'The Widows'! Who but Nathaniel Hawthorne could have written it? Who but he would have left the scenes of restored happiness to each individual reader? No language can do justice to the reality in such a case. Most sincerely do I wish that no thought of the body, wherewithal it may be fed and clothed, should ever stop the flight of such a mind into the region of the infinite. Still, we do not know what the effect of wealth and leisure might be. .
There is also the subjoined allusion to Fourier, to which is added Mrs. Hawthorne's reply:--
BOSTON, March 28, 1845.
The French have been and are still corrupt, and have lost all true ideas relative to woman. There is a sad tendency to the same evil among us. Why does not some undoubted man translate Fourier? Can the heavenly-minded W. H. Channing admire and follow an author whose books are undermining the very foundations of social order? Swedenborg, you know, has been misunderstood, and his doctrine corrupted. It is possible it may be so with Fourier's. This subject is often discussed in the book-room, and it is strange to me that among learned men, who are interested about public morals and our civil institutions, no one should take the trouble to read what Charles Fourier wrote. Time will prove, I trust; but many a young mind may be ruined first. I used to wish that I could take all my little ones and shelter them in some nook where God and trees and flowers should be all in all to them. But such feelings were momentary. It was not for this we were created. We must do our Father's work,--we must gird on His armor and fight with the spirit of Evil. Ours must not be negative virtue; therefore our darlings must do as we have done. We cannot hope to win an immortal crown merely by biding ourselves in a hermitage, where no temptations assail, where no virtue can be tested. All the tenderest parent can do is to watch, pray for, guide, and guard the immortals intrusted to them, and trust in God for the rest Is it not so, darling? But I must not preach. My vocation--now, at least--is buying and selling. . .
APRIL 6, 1845.
It was not a translation of Fourier that I read, but the original text,--the fourth volume; and though it was so abominable, immoral, irreligious, and void of all delicate sentiment, yet George Bradford says it is not so bad as some other volumes. Fourier wrote just after the Revolution; and this may account somewhat for the monstrous system he proposes, because then the people worshipped a naked woman as the Goddess of Reason. But I think that the terrific delirium that prevailed then with regard to all virtue and decency can alone account for the entrance of such ideas into Fourier's mind. It is very plain, from all I read (a small part), that he had entirely lost his moral sense. To make as much money and luxury and enjoyment out of man's lowest passions as possible, this is the aim and end of his system! To restrain, to deny, is not suggested, except, alas! that too great indulgence would lessen the riches, luxury, and enjoyment.
This is the highest motive presented for not being inordinately profligate. My husband read the whole volume, and was thoroughly disgusted. As to Mr. Theodore Parker, I think he is only a scholar, bold and unscrupulous, without originality. It seems to me that the moment any person thinks he is particularly original, and the private possessor of truth, he becomes one-sided and a monomaniac. No one can dam up the mighty flowing stream and secure private privileges upon it. It will be sure to break away the impertinent obstructions and ruin the property. . .
The last quotation from Mrs. Peabody's letters which I shall make in this chapter, speaks of the death of the painter Allston, who, it will be remembered, had taken an interest in Mrs. Hawthorne's (then Sophia Peabody's) artistic capacities.
"Mr. Allston is dead. What a light is extinguished! He had a party of friends who were to stay all night. At half-past ten, he took a most affectionate leave of each, and Mrs. Allston went upstairs with her guests to see them arranged for the night. Mr. Allston went into his little room, where he always had a small fire to warm his feet before going to bed, and to which he always retired, probably for devotion. After the guests were attended to, Mrs. Allston came down to see how Mr. Allston felt, for he had complained during the evening of a pain in his chest. He appeared to be asleep in his chair. She went to him, and found that the pure spirit had departed. He was dead. There could have been no struggle. He looked tranquil."
We may now take up the regular series of Mrs. Hawthorne's 1etters to her mother, up to the close of the Old Manse period. It would be a pity to encumber them with comment, and they need little if any explanation. They begin in October, 1842.
". . . Mr. Hawthorne's abomination of visiting still holds strong, be it to see no matter what angel. But he is very hospitable, and receives strangers with great loveliness and graciousness. Mr. Emerson says his way is regal, like a prince or general, even when at table he hands the bread. Elizabeth Hoar remarked that though his shyness was very evident, yet she liked his manner, because he always faced the occasion like a man, when it came to the point. Of what moment will it be, a thousand years hence, whether he saw this or that person? If he had the gift of speech like some others--Mr. Emerson, for instance--it would be different, but he was not born to mix in general society. His vocation is to observe and not to be observed. Mr. Emerson delights in him; he talks to him all the time, and Mr. Hawthorne looks answers. He seems to fascinate Mr. Emerson. Whenever he comes to see him, he takes him away, so that no one may interrupt him in his close and dead-set attack upon his ear. Miss Hoar says that persons about Mr. Emerson so generally echo him, that it is refreshing to him to find this perfect individual, all himself and nobody else.
"He loves power as little as any mortal I ever knew; and it is never a question of private will between us, but of absolute right. His conscience is too fine and high to permit him to be arbitrary. His will is strong, but not to govern others. He is so simple, so transparent, so just, so tender, so magnanimous, that my highest instinct could only correspond with his will. I never knew such delicacy of nature. His panoply of reserve is a providential shield and breastplate. I can testify to it now as I could not before. He is completely pure from earthliness. He is under the dominion of his intellect and sentiments. Was ever such a union of power and gentleness, softness and spirit, passion and reason? I think it must be partly smiles of angels that make the air and light so pleasant here. My dearest Love waits upon God like a child. . . ."
APRIL 20, 1843.
DEAREST MOTHER,--. . Sunday afternoon the birds were sweetly mad, and the lovely rage of song drove them hither and thither, and swelled their breasts amain. It was nothing less than a tornado of fine music. I kept saying, "Yes, yes, yes, I know it, dear little maniacs! I know there never was such an air, such a day, such a sky, such a God! I know it,--I know it!" But they would not be pacified. Their throats must have been made of fine gold, or they would have been rent with such rapture-quakes. Mary Bryan, our cook, was wild with joy. She had not heard any birds sing since she came from dear Ireland. "Oh, gracious! isn't it delicious, Mrs. Hawthorne? It revives my hort entirely!" I went into the orchard, and found my dear husband's window was open; so I called to him, on the strength of the loveliness, though against rules. His noble head appeared at once; and a new sun, and dearer, shone out of his eyes on me. But he could not come then, because the Muse had caught him in a golden net. At the end of Sunday evening came Ellery Channing, who was very pleasant, and looked brighter than he did last summer. We invited him to dine next day. It was dark and rainy; but he came, and stayed in the house with us till after tea, and was very interesting.
Mr. Hawthorne received a letter from James Lowell this week, in which was a proposal from Mr. Poe that he should write for his new magazine, and' also be engraved to adorn the first number! . . .
DECEMBER 27, 1843.
We had a most enchanting time during Mary the cook's holiday sojourn in Boston. We remained in our bower undisturbed by mortal creature. Mr. Hawthorne took the new phasis of housekeeper, and, with that marvellous power of adaptation to circumstances that he possesses, made everything go easily and well. He rose betimes in the mornings, and kindled fires in the kitchen and breakfast-room, and by the time I came down, the tea-kettle boiled, and potatoes were baked and rice cooked, and my lord sat with a book, superintending. Just imagine that superb head peeping at the rice or examining the potatoes with the air and port of a monarch! And that angelico riso on his face, lifting him clean out of culinary scenes into the arc of the gods. It was a magnificent comedy to watch him, so ready and willing to do these things to save me an effort, and at the same time so superior to it all, and heroical in aspect,--so unconsonant to what was about him. I have a new sense of his universal power from this novel phasis of his life. It seems as if there were no side of action to which he is not equal,--at home among the stars, and, for my sake, patient and effective over a cooking-stove.
Our breakfast was late, because we concluded to have only breakfast and dinner. After breakfast, I put the beloved study into very nice order, and, after establishing him in it, proceeded to make smooth all things below. When I had come to the end of my labors, my dear lord insisted upon my sitting with him; so I sat by him and sewed, while he wrote, with now and then a little discourse; and this was very enchanting. At about one, we walked to the village; after three, we dined. On Christmas day we had a truly Paradisiacal dinner of preserved quince and apple, dates, and bread and cheese, and milk. The washing of dishes took place in the mornings; so we had our beautiful long evenings from four o'clock to ten. At sunset he would go out to exercise on his wood-pile. We had no visitors except a moment's call from good Mrs. Prescott.
FEBRUARY 4, 1844.
In the papers it is said that there has not been so cold a January for a hundred years I think we are miracles to have survived that fortnight in this house. Were we not so well acclimated, we should probably have become pillars of ice. As it was, our thoughts began to hang in icicles, and my powers of endurance were frozen solid. Mary the cook, while washing in a cloud of steam, put her hand to her head, and found her hair all rough and stiff with hoar frost,--frozen steam! In her extreme desperation at the cold, she began to sing, and sang as loud as she could for several days. I walked out with my husband every day, and braved the enemy. But, oh, our noses! I shall certainly make muffs for them if any more such days come. But on the first of February there was 30-degree increase of temperature, which thawed our minds and made all things seem practicable. A flock of crows, whose throats had thawed, poured out a torrent of caws, as if they had been nearly choked by withholding them so long.
My husband has been reading aloud to me, afternoons and evenings, Macaulay's "Miscellanies," since he finished Shakspeare. Macaulay is very acute, a good hater, a sensible admirer, and one of the best simile-makers I know. His style is perfectly clear, though by no means perfect. His humor makes his grave topics shine quite pleasantly, but we do not always agree with his dicta.
I suspect that Mary's baby must have opened its mouth the moment it was born, and pronounced a School Report; for its mother's brain has had no other permanent idea in it for the last year. It will be a little incarnation of education systems, a human school.
The "Mary" here alluded to is Mrs. Hawthorne's sister, who married Horace Mann. She entered so unreservedly into her husband's educational schemes, that the above sally of imagination might not seem altogether beyond bounds.
On March 3, 1844, Mrs. Hawthorne's first child, Una, was born; and here is George S. Hillard's letter of congratulation upon that event:--
DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I heard yesterday, with great joy, of the happiness which has come upon your house and heart. I think you will now agree with me that the first child is the greatest event in life. Nothing else approaches it in its influences upon the mind and character. May God give you all the sweetness of my cup and none of its bitterness! As to the name of Una, I hardly know what to say. At first it struck me not quite agreeably, but on thinking more of it I like it better. The great objection to names of that class is that they are too imaginative. They are to be rather kept and hallowed in the holy crypts of the mind, than brought into the garish light of common day. If your little girl could pass her life in playing upon a green lawn, with a snow-white lamb, with a blue ribbon round its neck, all things would be in a "concatenation accordingly;" but imagine Sophia saying, "Una, my love, I am ashamed to see you with so dirty a face," or, "Una, my dear, you should not sit down to dinner without your apron." Think of all this, before you finally decide.
The Longfellows are very well and happy, and you will be glad to learn that there is a bud of unexpanded joy in store for them which will one day ripen and expand into such another perfect flower of bliss as now blooms upon your hearth. God bless the poets, and keep up their line to the end of time; for you are a poet and a true one, though not wearing the garb of verse. My love to Sophia, who I am sure is wearing meekly and gently her crown of motherhood.
Are you writing for Graham now?
GEO. S. HILLARD.
The mother does not seem to have shared their friend's misgivings as to the prudence of challenging comparison with Spenser's heroine.
APRIL 4, 1844.
MY DEAREST MOTHER,--I have no time,--as you may imagine. I am baby's tire-woman, handmaiden, and tender, as well as nursing mother. My husband relieves me with her constantly, and gets her to sleep beautifully. I look upon him with wonder and admiration. He is with me all the time when he is not writing or exercising. I do not think I shall have any guests this spring and summer, for I cannot leave Baby a minute to enact hostess it is a sweet duty which must take precedence of all others.
Wednesday.--Dearest mother, little Una sleeps.
Thursday.--Dearest mother, yesterday little Una waked also, and I had to go to her. But she sleeps again this morning. She smiles and smiles and smiles, and makes grave remarks in a dovelike voice. Her eyelashes are longer every morning, and bid fair to be, as Cornelia said Mr. Hawthorne's were, "a mile long and curled up at the end." Her mouth is sweetly curved, and, as Mary the cook prettily says, "it has so many lovely stirs in it." Her hands and fingers--ye stars and gods! This is all as true and as much a fact as that twice three is six. Every morning when I wake and find the darling lying there, or hear the sound of her soft breathing, I am filled with joy and wonder and awe. God be praised for all the influences and teachings and inward inclinings that have kept for me upon the fruit of life the down and bloom. Thanks to you, blessed mother, for your lofty purity and delicacy of nature; to my father, who caused me to grow up with the idea that guilelessness and uprightness were matters of course in grownup gentlemen; to Elizabeth, who was to my childhood and first consciousness the synonym of goodness. Never can I forget to thank God for His beneficence.
Father [Dr. Peabody] has done everything for us. He has fixed my chamber-bell, mended the bellows, mended the rocking-chair,--that unfortunate arm, which was forever coming off. One day Mr. Hawthorne took hold of it, to draw it towards him; and as the crazy old arm came off in his hand, he threw himself into a despairing attitude, and exclaimed, " Oh, I will flee my country!" It was indescribably witty; I laughed and laughed. Well, father has split all the wood, taken down the partition in the kitchen, pasted all the torn paper on the walls, picked up the dead branches on the avenue, mended baby's carriage, mended the garden gate,--in short, I cannot tell you what he has not done, besides tending Una beautifully and making my fire in the mornings.
". . . Una observes all the busts and pictures, and Papa says he is going to publish her observations on art in one volume octavo next spring. She knows Endymion by name, and points to him if he is mentioned; and she talks a great deal about Michael Angelo's frescos of the Sibyls and Prophets, which are upon the walls of the dining-room. At the dinner-table she converses about Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna of the Bas Relief, which hangs over the fire-place. She now waves her hand in farewell with marvellous grace."
"Una, some time ago, began to say 'Adam!' a great deal; and lately she has taken to omitting the first syllable. She will take a book which I have given her for a plaything, and sit down and begin 'Dam--dam--dam,' often in dulcet tones, and then again as loudly and emphatically as if she were firing a cannon. I always say 'Adam' to remind her of her original pronunciation. I am anxious to enlarge her vocabulary, that she may have some variety of language in which to express her mind. But no words can express the comicality of hearing this baby utter that naughty word with those sweet little lips, and with such energy, and sometimes so aptly."
". . .Thank you for my sun-bonnet. My husband laughed greatly at the depth of it, and says that if I should wear it to the village, the ruffle would be there as soon as I turned out of our avenue; and he asked if he might walk before me in the hot summer days, so as to be benefited by the shade of the front part. He says he has not the smallest idea of my face at the end of the scoop,--it is entirely too far off."
. . .The other day, when my husband saw me contemplating an appalling vacuum in his dressing-gown, he said he was "a man of the largest rents in the country, and it was strange he had not more ready money." Our rents are certainly not to he computed; for everything seems now to be wearing out all at once, and I expect the dogs will begin to bark soon, according to the inspired dictum of Mother Goose. But, somehow or other, I do not care much, because we are so happy. We
Into the region of exceeding Day,"
and the shell of life is not of much consequence. Had my husband been dealt justly by in the matter of his emoluments, there would not have been even this shadow upon the blessedness of our condition. But Horatio Bridge and Franklin Pierce came yesterday, and gave us solid hope. I had never seen Mr. Pierce before. As the two gentlemen came up the avenue, I immediately recognized the fine, elastic figure of the "Admiral." When he saw me, he took off his hat and waved it in the air, in a sort of playful triumph, and his white teeth shone out in a smile. I raised the sash, and he introduced "Mr. Pierce." I saw at a glance that he was a person of delicacy and refinement. Mr. Hawthorne was in the shed, hewing wood. Mr. Bridge caught a glimpse of him, and began a sort of waltz towards him. Mr. Pierce followed; and when they reappeared, Mr. Pierce's arm was encircling my husband's old blue frock. How his friends do love him! Mr. Bridge was perfectly wild with spirits. He danced and gesticulated and opened his round eyes like an owl. He kissed Una so vehemently that she drew back in majestic displeasure, for she is very fastidious about giving or receiving kisses. They all went away soon to spend the evening and talk of business. My impression is very strong of Mr. Pierce's loveliness and truth of character and natural refinement. My husband says Mr. Pierce's affection for and reliance upon him are perhaps greater than any other person's. He called him "Nathaniel," and spoke to him and looked at him with peculiar tenderness.
Mr. Bridge, on another occasion, had happened to call at the Old Manse when both Mrs. Hawthorne and Una were ill; and he took his departure after leaving the following playfully ironic note, in pencil, on the drawing-room table:--
"Mr. Bridge presents his compliments and his condolence to Mrs. Hawthorne, and begs to assure her that, out of the friendship he bears her, he can never presume to approach again a house where his presence is heralded by the sickness of the mistress. Mr. B. is unwilling that disease shall be any longer considered as his own premonitory symptom, and with sincere reluctance will henceforth deprive himself of a friendly intercourse in Concord, which, though promising great pleasure to him, brings only pain to his friend.
"Little Una, too, seems to have entered into an alliance with the weird sisters to keep the intruder off, and, though famed for her gentleness and amiability, cries at the very sight of her father's friend. Truly Mr. B. is a persecuted man; but he feared this would be the result of Hawthorne's marriage, as it was intimated in a former letter.
"What queer expedients Mrs. H. resorts to for driving off her husband's bachelor friends! A suspicious man would think that the lady was shamming, and that the child had been pinched by its father. But Mr. B. does not allow himself to entertain, much less to intimate, such an idea.
"Mr. B. closes with the hope that Mrs. H. will speedily recover her health; and, to promote that desirable object, he will leave by the earliest conveyance.
"THE MANSE, Jan. 5, 1845."
--In this year James Russell Lowell was married; and Mrs. Lowell wrote, from their home in Philadelphia, the letter which will be found below:--
PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 16, 1845.
MY DEAR SOPHIA,--I wished to write to you before I left home; but, in the hurry of those last hours, I had no time, and, instead of delicate sentiments, could only send you gross plum-cake, which I must hope you received.
We are most delightfully situated here in every respect, surrounded with kind and sympathizing friends, yet allowed by them to be as quiet and retired as we choose; but it is always a pleasure to know you can have society if you wish for it, by walking a few steps beyond your own door.
We live in a little chamber on the third story, quite low enough to be an attic, so that we feel classical in our environment; and we have one of the sweetest and most motherly of Quaker women to anticipate all our wants, and make us comfortable outwardly as we are blest inwardly. James's prospects are as good as an author's ought to be, and I begin to fear we shall not have the satisfaction of being so very poor after all. But we are, in spite of this disappointment of our expectations, the happiest of mortals or spirits, and cling to the skirts of every passing hour, although we know the next will bring us still more joy.
How is the lovely Una? I heard, before I left home, that she was sunning Boston with her presence, but I was not able to go to enjoy her bounty. James desires his love to Mr. Hawthorne and yourself, and sends a kiss to Una, for whom he conceived quite a passion when he saw her in Concord. I shall not ask you to write, for I know how much your time must be occupied. But I will ask you to bear sometimes in your heart the memory of
Your most happy and affectionate
--Also belonging to this period is a letter from Hawthorne's friend (and Una's godfather), John L. O'Sullivan. It refers to various projects for Hawthorne's political advancement, which, however, came to nothing at the time.
NEW YORK, March 21, 1845.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I have written to Bancroft again about the Salem P.O., though I do not believe Brown will be removed. Bancroft spoke of him as an excellent and unexceptionable man. I did not speak of the other places you named at Salem, because you say the emoluments are small. I named the following consulships,--Marseilles, Genoa, and Gibraltar. What would you say to go out as a consul to China with A. H. Everett? It seems to me that in your place I should like it; and the trade opening there would give, I should suppose, excellent opportunity for doing a business which would soon result in fortune. I have no doubt Una would be delighted to play with the Chinese pigtails for a few years, on such a condition. If the idea smiles at all to you, I will make more particular inquiries about its worth, and, if satisfactory, will apply for it, if neither of the others above-named is accessible. At any rate, something satisfactory shall be done for you. For the purpose of presenting you more advantageously, I have got Duyckinck to write an article about you in the April Democratic; and what is more, I want you to consent to sit for a daguerreotype, that I may take your head off in it. Or, if Sophia prefers, could not she make a drawing based on a daguerreotype? By manufacturing you thus into a Personage, I want to raise your mark higher in Polk's appreciation. The Boston Naval Office was forestalled,-Parmenter's appointment coming out immediately after. Bancroft suggested a clerkship only en attendant for the Smithsonian Librarianship. You underrate his disposition in the matter. I have received "P.'s Correspondence," though not till long after its date, owing to my absence. I will send you the money for it in a few days.
Your friend ever faithfully,
JOHN L. O'SULLIVAN.
--It had now become necessary to give up the Old Manse, and seek another home in Salem, Mr. Ripley resuming possession of the former abode.
SEPTEMBER 7, 1845.
MY BEST MOTHER,--My husband is writing, and I cannot now ask him about your suggestion for the transfer of our furniture. But he has said he could do everything there is to be done, and I think he could, with instructions; but it is rather hard for him to fasten his thoughts upon a dish, so as to dispose of it in the best manner, because that is not the tendency of his fancies. Nevertheless, he can by violent wrenching twist his imagination round a plate with the finest results. Dear mother, I assure you it is neither heroism nor virtue of any kind for me to be beyond measure thankful and blest to find shelter anywhere with my husband. Unceiled rafters and walls, and a pine table, chair, and bed would be far preferable with him, to an Albambra without him even for a few months. He and Una are my perpetual Paradise; and I besieged Heaven with prayers that we might not find it our duty to separate, whatever privations we must outwardly suffer in consequence of remaining together. Heaven has answered my prayers most bounteously. My first idea was that we would take the old kitchen in Mr. Manning's house, because I thought he would not ask so much for that as for the parlor; but Louisa says now that he would ask as much for the kitchen as for the parlor; so we will have the parlor. So now I shall have a very nice chamber, upon whose walls I can hang Holy Families, and upon the floor can put a pretty carpet. The three years we have spent here will always be to me a blessed memory because here all my dreams became realities. I have got gradually weaned from it, however, by the perplexities that have vexed my husband the last year, and made the place painful to him. If such an involved state of things had come upon him through any fault or oversight on his own part there would have been a solid though grim satisfaction in meeting it. But it was only through too great a trust in the honor and truth of others. There is owing to him, from Mr. Ripley and others, more than thrice money enough to pay all his debts; and he was confident that when be came to a pinch like this, it would not be withheld from him. It is wholly new to him to be in debt, and he cannot "whistle for it," as Mr. Emerson advised him to do, telling him that everybody was in debt, and that they were all worse than he was. His soul is too fresh with Heaven to take the world's point of view about anything. I regret this difficulty only for him; for in high prosperity I never should have experienced the fine temper of his honor, perhaps. But, the darker the shadow behind him, the more dazzlingly is his figure drawn to my sight. I must esteem myself happiest of women, whether I wear tow or velvet, or live in a log-cabin or in a palace. "Them is my sentiments!" . .
While his wife had thus been keeping up her version of the family records, Hawthorne, in addition to writing the "Mosses," had occasionally varied this imaginative work by a few pages of journal. Some of these pages have already seen the light in the published "Note-Books;" many are not to be published; there remain a few letters, and detached observations upon his wife, and upon some of the celebrities of Concord with whom he was brought in contact. The letters were written to his wife either while he was visiting his mother and sisters in Salem, or while she was with her mother in Boston. The journal extracts cover the first year of marriage, beginning in the summer of 1842.
". . Having made up my bunch of flowers, I return home with them to my wife, of whom what is loveliest among them are to me the imperfect emblems. My imagination twines her and the flowers into one wreath; and when I offer them to her, it seems as if I were introducing her to beings that have somewhat of her own nature in them. 'My lily, here are your sisters; cherish them'--this is what my fancy says, while my heart smiles, and rejoices at the conceit. Then my dearest wife rejoices in the flowers, and hastens to give them water, and arranges them so beautifully that they are glad to have been gathered, from the muddy bottom of the river, and its wet, tangled margin,--from among plants of evil smell and uncouth aspect, where the slimy eel and the frog and the black mud-turtle hide themselves,-- glad of being rescued from this unworthy life, and made the ornaments of our parlor. What more could the loveliest of flowers desire? It is its earthly triumph, which it will remember with joy when it blooms in the Paradise of flowers. . . . The chief event of the afternoon, and the happiest one of the day, is our walk. She must describe these walks; for where she and I have enjoyed anything together, I always deem my pen unworthy and inadequate to record it."
"My wife is, in the strictest sense, my sole companion, and I need no other; there is no vacancy in my mind, any more than in my heart. In truth, I have spent so many years in total seclusion from all human society, that it is no wonder if now I feel all my desires satisfied by this sole intercourse. But she has come to me from the midst of many friends and a large circle of acquaintance; yet she lives from day to day in this solitude, seeing nobody but myself and our Molly, while the snow of our avenue is untrodden for weeks by any footstep save mine; yet she is always cheerful. Thank God that I suffice for her boundless heart!"
". . . Dear little wife, after finishing my record in the journal, I sat a long time in grandmother's chair, thinking of many things; but the thought of thee, the great thought of thee, was among all other thoughts, like the pervading sunshine falling through the boughs and branches of a tree and tingeing every separate leaf And surely thou shouldst not have deserted me without manufacturing a sufficient quantity of sunshine to last until thy return. Art thou not ashamed?"
"Methinks my little wife is twin-sister to the Spring; so they should greet one another tenderly,--for they both are fresh and dewy, both full of hope and cheerfulness; both have bird-voices, always singing out of their hearts; both are sometimes overcast with flitting mists, which only make the flowers bloom brighter; and both have power to renew and re-create the weary spirit. I have married the Spring! I am husband to the month of May!"
"About nine o'clock (Sunday) Hillard and I set out on a walk to Walden Pond, calling by the way at Mr. Emerson's to obtain his guidance or directions. He, from a scruple of his external conscience, detained us till after the people had got into church, and then he accompanied us in his own illustrious person. We turned aside a little from our way to visit Mr. Hosmer, a yeoman, of whose homely and self-acquired wisdom Mr. Emerson has a very high opinion. He had a free flow of talk, and not much diffidence about his own opinions. . . . I was not impressed with any remarkable originality in his views, but they were sensible and characteristic. Methought, however, the good yeoman was not quite so natural as he may have been at an earlier period. The simplicity of his character has probably suffered by his detecting the impression he makes on those around him. There is a circle, I suppose, who look up to him as an oracle; and so he inevitably assumes the oracular manner, and speaks as if truth and wisdom were uttering themselves by his voice. Mr. Emerson has risked the doing him much mischief by putting him in print,--a trial which few persons can sustain without losing their unconsciousness. But, after all, a man gifted with thought and expression, whatever his rank in life and his mode of uttering himself, whether by pen or tongue, cannot he expected to go through the world without finding himself out; and as all such self-discoveries are partial and imperfect, they do more harm than good to the character. Mr. Hosmer is more natural than ninety-nine men out of a hundred, and is certainly a man of intellectual and moral substance. It would be amusing to draw a parallel between him and his admirer, Mr. Emerson, the mystic, stretching his hand out of cloud-land in vain search for something real; and the man of sturdy sense, all whose ideas seem to be dug out of his mind, hard and substantial, as he digs potatoes, carrots, beets, and turnips out of the earth. Mr. Emerson is a great searcher for facts, but they seem to melt away and become unsubstantial in his grasp."
"I find that my respect for clerical people, as such, and my faith in the utility of their office, decrease daily. We certainly do need a new Revelation, a new system; for there seems to be no life in the old one."
"Mr. Thoreau dined with us. He is a singular character,--a young man with much of wild, original nature still remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated, it is in a way and method of his own. He is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and somewhat rustic, though courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty. He was educated, I believe, at Cambridge, and formerly kept school in the town; but, for two or three years back, he has repudiated all regular modes of getting a living, and seems inclined to live a sort of Indian life,--I mean, as respects the absence of any systematic effort for a livelihood. He has been for some time an inmate of Mr. Emerson's family, and, in requital, he labors in the garden, and performs such other offices as may suit him, being entertained by Mr. Emerson for the sake of what true manhood may be in him. He says that Ellery Channing is coming back to Concord, and that he (Mr. Thoreau) has concluded a bargain in his behalf for the hire of a small house, with land, at $56 per year. I am rather glad than otherwise; but Ellery, so far as he has been developed to my observation, is but an imperfect substitute for Mr. Thoreau. Mr. Emerson, by the way, seems to have suffered some inconvenience from his experience of Mr. Thoreau as an inmate. It may well be that such a sturdy, uncompromising person is fitter to meet occasionally in the open air, than to have as a permanent guest at table and fireside. He is to leave Concord, and it is well on his own account; for, morally and intellectually, he does not seem to have found the guiding clew."
"Ellery Channing is one of those queer and clever young men, whom Mr. Emerson (that everlasting rejecter of all that is, and seeker for he knows not what) is continually picking up by way of a genius. Ellery, it appears looks upon his own verses as too sacred to be sold for money. Prose he will sell to the highest bidder; but measured feet and jingling lines are not to be exchanged for gold,--which, indeed, is not very likely to be offered for them."
--These two letters were both written from Salem:
MARCH 12, 1843.
DEAR WIFE,--I found our mother tolerably well; and Louisa, I think, in especial good condition for her; and Elizabeth comfortable, only not quite thawed. They speak of you and us with an evident sense that we are very happy indeed; and I can see that they are convinced of my having found the very little wife that God meant for me. I obey your injunctions, as well as I can, in my deportment towards them; and though mild and amiable manners are foreign to my nature, still I get along pretty well for a new beginner. In short, they seem content with your husband, and I am very certain of their respect and affection for his wife.
Take care of thy little self, I tell thee. I praise Heaven for this snow and "slosh," because it will prevent thee from scampering all about the city, as otherwise thou wouldst infallibly have done. Lie abed late, sleep during the day, go to bed seasonably, refuse to see thy best friend if either flesh or blood be sensible of the slightest repugnance, drive all trouble from thy mind, and, above all things, think continually what an admirable husband thou hast!
Mr. Upham, it is said, has resigned his pastorship. When he returned from Concord he told the most pitiable stories about our poverty and misery, so as almost to make it appear that we were suffering for food. Everybody that speaks to me seems tacitly to take it for granted that we are in a very desperate condition, and that a government office is the only alternative of the almshouse. I care not for the reputation of being wealthier than I am; but we never have been quite paupers, and need not have been represented as such.
Now, good-by. I thank God above all things that thou art my wife. Nobody but we ever knew what it is to be married. If other people knew it, this dull old earth would have a perpetual glory round about it.
--Hawthorne's debts, at this most impoverished period of his life, were of a ridiculously small amount,--not more than a popular magazine writer of the present day could work off by a few days' labor. But magazine prices were not at that time what they are now; and it was by no means unusual for contributors (and especially for Hawthorne) to be left without any remuneration whatever. Indeed, had this not been the case, the butcher and the grocer who had Nathaniel Hawthorne's name upon their books would never have had to wait for their money; for he never spent until after he had earned. However, these indispensable personages were all enabled to receipt their bills before their customer left Concord; and so everybody was made happy.
His next visit to his mother's home was made in the winter of 1844.
SALEM, Dec. 20, 1844.
SWEETEST PHOEBE,--It will be a week to-morrow since I left you. Our mother and sisters were rejoiced to see me, and wish me to stay here till after Christmas, which I think is next Wednesday; but I care little for festivals. My only festival is when I have you. But I suppose we shall not get home before the last of next week. If I had not known it before, I should have been taught by this separation that the only real life is to he with you, and to share all things, good or evil, with you. The time spent away from you is unsubstantial,--there is nothing in it; and yet it has done me good, in making me more conscious of this truth.
Give Una a kiss, and her father's blessing. She is very famous in Salem. We miss you and her greatly here in Castle Dismal. Louisa complains of the silence of the house; and not all their innumerable cats avail to comfort them in the least. When Una and three or four or five other children are grown up and married off, you will have a little leisure, and may paint that Grecian picture which used to haunt your fancy. But then our grandchildren--Una's children and those of the others--will be coming upon the stage. In short, after a woman has become a mother, she may find rest in heaven, but nowhere else. I have been much affected by a little shoe of Una's, which I found on the floor. Does she walk well yet?
--There has been a good deal of speculation as to the precise nature of the episode which Hawthorne used, nine years later, to give color to the culminating scene of the "Blithedale" tragedy. I therefore print the record of it here, as it stands in his journal; and it shall conclude this chapter. The date, it will be noticed, is that of the first anniversary of his marriage.
"On the night of July 9, 1843, a search for the dead body of a drowned girl. She was about nineteen years old; a girl of education and refinement, but depressed and miserable for want of sympathy,--her family being an affectionate one, but uncultivated, and incapable of responding to her demands. She was of a melancholic temperament, accustomed to solitary walks in the woods. At this time she had the superintendence of one of the district schools, comprising sixty scholars, particularly difficult of management. Well, Ellery Channing knocked at the door, between nine and ten in the evening, in order to get my boat to go in search of the girl's drowned body. He took the oars, and I the paddle, and we went rapidly down the river, until, a good distance below the bridge, we saw lights on the bank, and the dim figures of a number of people waiting for us. Her bonnet and shoes had already been found on this spot, and her handkerchief, I believe, on the edge of the water; so that the body was probably at no great distance, unless the current (which is gentle and almost imperceptible) had swept her down.
"We took in General Buttrick, and a young man in a blue frock, and commenced the search; the General and the other man having long poles, with hooks at the end, and Ellery a hay-rake, while I steered the boat. It was a very eligible place to drown one's self. On the verge of the river there were water-weeds; but after a few steps the bank goes off very abruptly, and the water speedily becomes fifteen or twenty feet deep. It must be one of the deepest spots in the whole river; and, holding a lantern over it, it was black as midnight, smooth, impenetrable, and keeping its secrets from the eye as perfectly as mid-ocean would. We caused the boat to float once or twice past the spot where the bonnet, etc., had been found, carefully searching the bottom at different distances from the shore, but for a considerable time without success. Once or twice the pole or the rake caught in bunches of water-weed, which in the starlight looked like garments; and once Ellery and the General struck some substance at the bottom, which they at first mistook for the body, but it was probably a sod that had rolled in from the bank. All this time, the persons on the bank were anxiously waiting, and sometimes giving us their advice to search higher or lower, or at such and such a point. I now paddled the boat again past the point where she was supposed to have entered the river, and then turned it, so as to let it float broadside downwards, about midway from bank to bank. The young fellow in the blue frock sat on the next seat to me, plying his long pole.
"We had drifted a little distance below the group of men on the bank, when the fellow gave a sudden start. 'What's this?' cried he. I felt in a moment what it was; and I suppose the same electric shock went through everybody in the boat. 'Yes; I've got her!' said he; and, heaving up his pole with difficulty, there was an appearance of light garments on the surface of the water. He made a strong effort, and brought so much of the body above the surface that there could be no doubt about it. He drew her towards the boat, grasped her arm or hand, and I steered the boat to the bank, all the while looking at the dead girl, whose limbs were swaying in the water, close at the boat's side. The fellow evidently had the same sort of feeling in his success as if he had caught a particularly fine fish, though mingled, no doubt, with horror. For my own part, I felt my voice tremble a little, when I spoke, at the first shock of the discovery, and at seeing the body come to the surface, dimly, in the starlight. When close to the bank, some of the men stepped into the water and drew out the body; and then, by their lanterns, I could see how rigid it was. There was nothing flexible about it; she did not droop over the arms of those who supported her, with her hair hanging down, as a painter would have represented her, but was all as stiff as marble. And it was evident that her wet garments covered limbs perfectly inflexible. They took her out of the water and deposited her under an oak-tree; and by the time we had got ashore, they were examining her by the light of two or three lanterns.
"I never saw or imagined a spectacle of such perfect horror. The rigidity, above spoken of, was dreadful to behold. Her arms had stiffened in the act of struggling, and were bent before her, with the hands clenched. She was the very image of a death-agony; and when the men tried to compose her figure, her arms would still return to that same position; indeed, it was almost impossible to force them out of it for an instant. One of the men put his foot upon her arm, for the purpose of reducing it by her side; but in a moment it rose again. The lower part of the body had stiffened into a more quiet attitude; the legs were slightly bent, and the feet close together. But that rigidity--it is impossible to express the effect of it; it seemed as if she would keep the same position in the grave, and that her skeleton would keep it too, and that when she rose at the Day of Judgment, it would be in the same attitude.
"As soon as she was taken out of the water, the blood began to stream from her nose. Something seemed to have injured the eye; perhaps it was the pole when it first struck the body. The complexion was a dark red, almost purple; the hands were white, with the same rigidity in their clench as in all the rest of the body. Two of the men got water and began to wash away the blood from her face; but it flowed and flowed, and continued to flow; and an old carpenter, who seemed to be skilful in such matters, said that this was always the case, and that she would continue to 'purge,' as he called it, until her burial, I believe. He said, too, that the body would swell, by morning, so that nobody would know her. Let it take what change it might, it could scarcely look more horrible than it did now, in its rigidity; certainly she did not look as if she had gotten grace in the world whither she had precipitated herself but rather, her stiffened death-agony was an emblem of inflexible judgment pronounced upon her. If she could have foreseen, while she stood, at five o'clock that morning, on the bank of the river, how her maiden corpse would have looked, eighteen hours afterwards, and how coarse men would strive with hand and foot to reduce it to a decent aspect, and all in vain,--it would surely have saved her from the deed. So horribly did she look, that a middle-aged man, David Buttrick, absolutely fainted away, and was found lying on the grass at a little distance, perfectly insensible. It required much rubbing of hands and limbs to restore him.
"Meantime General Buttrick had gone to give notice to the family that the body was found; and others had gone in search of rails, to make a bier. Another boat now arrived, and added two or three more horror-struck spectators. There was a dog with them, who looked at the body; as it seemed to me, with pretty much the same feelings as the rest of us,--horror and curiosity. A young brother of the deceased, apparently about twelve or fourteen years old, had been on the spot from the beginning. He seemed not much moved, externally; but answered questions about his sister, and the number of the brothers and sisters (ten in all, with composure. No doubt, however, he was stunned and bewildered by the scene,--to see his sister lying there, in such terrific guise, at midnight, under an oak, on the verge of the black river, with strangers clustering about her, holding their lanterns over her face; and that old carpenter washing the blood away, which still flowed forth, though from a frozen fountain. Never was there a wilder scene. All the while, we were talking about the circumstances, and about an inquest, and whether or no it were necessary, and of how many it should consist; and the old carpenter was talking of dead people, and how he would as lief handle them as living ones.
"By this time two rails bad been procured, across which were laid some boards or broken oars from the bottom of the boat; and the body, being wrapt in an old quilt, was laid upon this rude bier. All of us took part in bearing the corpse or in steadying it. From the bank of the river to her father's house was nearly half a mile of pasture-ground, on the ascent of a hill; and our burden grew very heavy before we reached the door. What a midnight procession it was! How strange and fearful it would have seemed if it could have been foretold, a day before-hand, that I should help carry a dead body along that track! At last we reached the door, where appeared an old gray-haired man, holding a light; he said nothing, seemed calm, and after the body was laid upon a large table, in what seemed to be the kitchen, the old man disappeared. This was the grandfather. Good Mrs. Pratt was in the room, having been sent for to assist in laying out the body, but she seemed wholly at a loss how to proceed; and no wonder,--for it was an absurd idea to think of composing that rigidly distorted figure into the decent quiet of the coffin. A Mrs. Lee had likewise been summoned, and shortly appeared,--a withered, skin-and-bone-looking woman; but she too, though a woman of skill, was in despair at the job, and confessed her ignorance how to set about it. Whether the poor girl did finally get laid out, I know not; but can scarcely think it possible. I have since been told that on stripping the body they found a strong cord wound round the waist and drawn tight,--for what purpose is impossible to guess.
" 'Ah, poor child!'--that was the exclamation of an elderly man, as he helped draw her out of the water. I suppose one friend would have saved her; but she died for want of sympathy,--a severe penalty for having cultivated and refined herself out of the sphere of her natural connections.
"She is said to have gone down to the river at five in the morning, and to have been seen walking to and fro on the bank, so late as seven,--there being all that space of final struggle with her misery. She left a diary, which is said to exhibit (as her whole life did) many high and remarkable traits. The idea of suicide was not a new one with her; she had before attempted it, walking up to her chin in the water, but coming back again, in compassion to the agony of a sister who stood on the bank. She appears to have been religious and of a high morality.
"The reason, probably, that the body remained so near the spot where she drowned herself, was that it had sunk to the bottom of perhaps the deepest spot in the river, and so was out of the action of the current."