Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume I
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
BIDDING good-by forever to literary obscurity and to Salem, Hawthorne now turned his face towards the mountains. The preceding nine months had told upon his health and spirits; and, had "The Scarlet Letter" not achieved so fair a success, he might have been long recovering his normal frame of mind. But the broad murmur of popular applause, coming to his unaccustomed ears from all parts of his native country, and rolling in across the sea from academic England, gave him the spiritual refreshment born of the assurance that our fellow-creatures think well of the work we have striven to make good. Such assurance is essential, sooner or later, to soundness and serenity of mind. No man can attain secure repose and happiness who has never found that what moves and interests him has power over others likewise. Sooner or later he will begin to doubt either his own sanity or that of all the rest of the world.
But, for Hawthorne, "The Scarlet Letter" permanently disposed of this danger. It dealt with a subject of universal interest in such a way as to command universal sympathy From the time that it was published, Hawthorne became a sort of Mecca of pilgrims with Christian's burden upon their backs. Secret criminals of all kinds came to him for counsel and relief. The letters he received from spiritual invalids would have made a strange collection. Some of them he showed to his wife; but most of them he withheld even from her, and all of them he destroyed. Had such a pilgrimage occurred before he wrote his great Romance, one might have thought that he had availed himself therein of the material thus afforded him. But such practical knowledge of the hidden places of the human heart comes only to those who have proved their right to it by independent spiritual intuition. Greatness is the only magnet of the materials upon which greatness is based.
Although, therefore, Hawthorne was below his usual mark of vigor when he came to Lenox, there was an inner satisfaction at his heart which would surely make him well again. In fact, the two or three years which lay next before him comprised his period of greatest literary activity. During those years he produced five books, four of which, at least, were masterpieces in their several ways. His mental faculties never reached a higher state of efficiency than at this epoch, when he had just passed his forty-first year; though, on the other hand, his physical energies perhaps never fully recovered from the shock and strain of that last year of Salem. In after life he was more easily affected than before by external accidents and circumstances, such as weather, fatigue, noise, climate; the boundless elasticity of youth was gone. He still, however, retained a solid basis of health and muscular strength up to the time of his daughter's nearly fatal illness in Rome, in 1858. His daughter recovered; but her illness proved fatal, in the end, to him. His countenance, like his mind, sent forth a mellower but graver light than that of youth; and there was a melancholy cadence in the tones of his voice,--the melancholy of a strong, composed, but no longer buoyant spirit.
"The Scarlet Letter" had been published by the firm of Ticknor & Co. Wiley and Putnam had failed some time before, and George Putnam (a relative of Mrs. Hawthorne) had made the best reparation in his power for the small sum owing to Hawthorne, by disposing of the stock and plates of such of his works as were in the firm's possession, to the above-named publishers. The book enjoyed the distinction of stimulating the thieving propensities of several English booksellers; and Henry Chorley, of the "Athenæum," was as much pleased with it as if he had manufactured its author himself. Hawthorne did not, at first, think so well of the book as of his subsequent ones; or rather, to use his own words, he did not think it a book natural for him to write. But there is reason to believe that, towards the end of his life, he modified this opinion. What the work lacked in breadth and variety, was more than compensated in other ways. As has been already intimated, it produced its effect even upon its own author, when the latter first read the manuscript to his wife. It may be as well, however, in this place, to correct an error into which a biographer of Hawthorne has fallen, in one of the three painstaking treatises upon his subject which he has thus far published. It is there stated that when Mrs. Hawthorne asked her husband (before the book was concluded) how it was going to end, he answered that he did not know. The idea of a man who could conceive "The Scarlet Letter;" being undecided, up to the last moment, as to whether or not Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale were going to elope together, is, when one comes to consider it, not a little startling and suggestive. Why should he have been at the pains of writing the story, had he contemplated the possibility of the alternative catastrophe? The anecdote, nevertheless, is true enough, save and except in one important particular; and that is, that it has been connected with the wrong story. The facts are as follows. When Hawthorne was writing "Rappaccini's Daughter," in the "Old Manse," he read the as yet unfinished manuscript to his wife. "But how is it to end?" she asked him, when he laid down the paper; "is Beatrice to be a demon or an angel?" "I have no idea!" was Hawthorne's reply, spoken with some emotion. In this case, however, as will appear upon reflection, no artistic necessity was involved. Whether the heroine turned out good or evil, the moral of the tale would remain substantially the same; and, moreover, it was a question open to discussion, especially to one of Hawthorne's quality of mind, whether the poison which had permeated the girl's physical system might not but be symbol of a still more terrible poison in her soul. He finally chose the brighter alternative; but there may still be a difference of opinion as to whether, from the merely artistic standpoint, the story loses or gains thereby.
It is scarcely worth while, as a general thing, to correct errors like the above, however constantly they may occur; and I have made an exception of this instance only because the mistake cast a doubt upon Hawthorne's possession of the intelligence of an average human being. Mr. George William Curtis has doubtless been surprised to find himself figuring as Hawthorne's companion in the adventure with the drowned girl in Concord River; the fact being, according to Hawthorne's own account, given above, that Ellery Channing was the person who called him up on that occasion. But it might just as well have been Mr. Curtis, as far as Hawthorne or the drowned girl is concerned; and, for aught I care, posterity may decide that it was. The night was dark; and the point is of no consequence.
The little red house which Hawthorne occupied while in Lenox is said to be still standing. It afforded better accommodation than one would have supposed from its outside, and it commanded a view of mountain, lake, and valley that might have made good many deficiencies. Attached to it, moreover, was a large two-storied hen-coop, populous with hens--an inexhaustible resource to the children. The hens all had their proper names, and were tamer than the pig in an Irish cabin. There were cows in the neighboring farmyard; and a barn with a hay-loft, which trenched very closely upon the delights of Paradise. Then there was the long declivity towards Tanglewood and the lake; and in winter, Hawthorne and the children used to seat themselves one behind another upon the big sled, and go down in headlong career through the snow-drifts,--as is related, in the "Wonder Book," of Eustace Bright and his little people. Even the incident of the collision with the stump, hidden beneath the snow, actually happened precisely as set down in the book, as well as many other humorous and delightful episodes. A little way up the road lived Mr. and Mrs. Tappan, the owners of the little red house, and its next-door neighbors; in the other direction, at a greater distance, was the abode of Luther Butler, who supplied the family with milk, and who, in the mind of one of Hawthorne's children, was for several years identified with the personage who threw his inkstand at the Devil and founded the Lutheran heresy. In Pittsfield, a few miles away, dwelt Herman Melville; Mr. G. P. R. James (not by any means the father of the present novelist, as has been rashly affirmed by an annotator) had a residence in the vicinity; and Fanny Kemble often rode up to the door on her strong black horse, and conversed, in heroic phrases, with the inmates of the red house. On one occasion she asked the smallest of the party whether he would like to have a ride; and, on his answering emphatically in the affirmative, she swung him up astride the pommel of her saddle, and galloped off with him. The wild delight of that gallop will never be forgotten by him who experienced it. On their return, Fanny reined in her steed with one hand, and, grasping her cavalier with the other, held him out at arm's length, exclaiming, "Take your boy!--Julian the Apostate!" Soon after their arrival at their new quarters, Mrs. Hawthorne wrote to her mother as follows:--
". . . .We had begun to be really homesick after such a long overturn of our penates, and I felt that I should never do anything and never feel rested till we were in our own house; and Mr. Hawthorne was so perfectly weary and worn with waiting for a place to be, to think, and to write in, that at last he gave up entirely and was so indisposed that I was quite distressed. He took cold because so harassed in spirit; and this cold, together with brain-work and disquiet, made a tolerable nervous fever. His eyes looked like two immense spheres of troubled light; his face was wan and shadowy, and he was wholly uncomfortable. He is now better, but not so vigorous yet as in former days, before the last year began. Still, he is reviving fast, and I expect soon to see him as in Concord. Mr. Tappan kept remarking that he enjoyed very much Mr. Hawthorne's illness, and finally rendered his reason. It was that he had conceived that Mr. Hawthorne could not be affected by mortal evils. He was glad to find him mortal in some respects. For several days the wounded Bird of Jove remained caged upstairs, and Mr. Tappan and two men took the opportunity to plough up the land on both sides of our house for us. This was an unexpected benefit, and it was no empty favor."
The summer was not Hawthorne's favorite season for writing, and it was not until the end of August that he had sufficiently digested the plan of "The House of the Seven Gables " to begin upon it. The witch element in this romance necessitated the scene being laid in Salem, though the "Custom House" sketch which had prefaced his former work was not taken in good part by some persons whose existence, save for that reminder thereof, would long ago have passed from human memory. Not all his fellow-incumbents, however, maintained a hostile attitude towards him, as may appear from this letter written by one of the personages mentioned in the essay in question, under the title of the Naval Officer.
SALEM, March 23, 1850.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I feel an inexplainable delicacy in addressing you, for I am altogether incapable of describing the sensations which seem to sway and control me in connection with my subject. I have just concluded the reading of "The Scarlet Letter," and am perfectly spellbound in view of the finy true and vivid picture of human life which is presented in its pages. I can no more tell you of the mighty influence this romance produced on me, than a child can explain a flash of lightning. I can only estimate the power and beauty of the production by its effect on my imperfect and humble powers of judgment. I have never throughout my life been so highly excited in reading a book, as this afternoon by "The Scarlet Letter." My mind has been taken captive, and carried through its scenes, as though I actually lived in its time and participated in its events. I should not have told you of this but that I thought it might possibly give you some little satisfaction. However this may be, I know you will accept this tribute in the spirit that has dictated it,--that of the sincerest friendship and good-will.
I have spent many hours in your society, probably for the first and only time on this side the grave. May Heaven bless you wherever fate or choice may lead you, and may your children and your children's children be blessed, and share the fame your townsmen may deny to you. But what matters it what Salem may do?--the world and all time must feel the power of your mighty and mysterious genius. I do not speak to flatter. I hate flattery and hypocrisy as I do the pains of hell. Write me, if you feel like it: I should be very highly pleased to have a line from you. I thank you for your notice of me in your introduction, although in so close proximity to "Joe." The "Old Inspector" was faithfully portrayed, and, as I understand, the galled jade winces and wishes he was young for your sake!
JOHN D. HOWARD.
---It will be more to the present purpose, however, to consider the following description of their home and mode of life, furnished to her mother by Mrs. Hawthorne--
LENOX, June 23, 1850.
MY DEAREST MOTHER,--I absolutely long to tell you more of our life. We are so beautifully arranged (excepting the guest-chamber), and we seem to have such a large house inside, though outside the little reddest thing looks like the smallest of ten-feet houses. Mr. Hawthorne says it looks like the Scarlet Letter. Enter our old black tumble-down gate,--no matter for that,--and you behold a nice yard, with an oval grass-plot and a gravel walk all round the borders, a flower-bed, some rose-bushes, a raspberry-bush, and I believe a syringa, and also a few tiger-lilies; quite a fine bunch of peonies, a stately double rose-columbine, which grows in memory of Elizabeth, because her favorite flower; and one beautiful Balsam Fir tree, of perfect pyramidal form, and full of a thousand melodies. We have planted flowers, besides; but they are slow to grow. All these will bloom in memory of Mary Mann. The front door is wide open. Enter and welcome. Here sits our little Julian on the floor, making a ship out of a cane, a cannon, and a piece of stick,--"a ship," he says, "in which we are all to go to England to destroy the land" (meaning to discover), for he is a new Columbus. At a mahogany stand sits your daughter, scribbling this history. Round this pretty little hall stand four cane-bottomed chairs, my flower-table, which survived transportation,--Julian's wee centre-table, and, at the fireplace, father's beautiful blind-fireboard. On the tiny mantelpiece reposes the porcelain lion and lamb, and a vase filled with lovely flowers. On the floor is the purple and gold-colored carpet, on the walls a buff paper; over the mantel hangs the divine Madonna del Pesce. Over the flower-table I have put Crawford's sculpture, "Glory to God in the Highest." Generally the little chairs are in this room, in which the children sit while I read about Christ, in the morning. And this reminds me of an occurrence which I meant to tell you. One day they asked me to read about Christ. Una got up out of her chair for something, and Julian took possession. Una complained very much. Her father said, "What did Christ say?--if a man take your cloak, give him your coat also. Do you know what he meant?" Una responded with an inward voice, "Yes, I know." She soon rose and gave Julian the chair, which he received with a radiant smile, having caught light from the radiance of the angel now descended, but immediately resigned again, feeling that he too must act well in such a presence. Do you think no glory was added to the sunshine by this scene, so trivial in appearance, but so universal in its influence? These children are wonderful revealers of truth and beauty. In everything of worth that I read them, they cause me somehow to comprehend it better.
On the right-hand side of the hall is a door. Will you enter the drawing-room? Between the front windows stands the beautiful antique ottoman, the monument of Elizabeth's loving-kindness, covered with woven flowers. In the corner at that side stands crosswise the fairy tea-table,--a Hawthorne heirloom,--and on an embroidered mat upon it lies my pretty white greyhound. In the other corner, on the same side, stands Apollo, whose head I have tied on! Diagonally opposite Apollo stands the ancient carved chair, with its tapestry of roses. Opposite the ottoman is the card-table, with the alabaster vase, and over the vase hangs Correggio's Madonna. Raphael's Transfiguration is over the ottoman. Opposite the door you have entered stands the centre-table; on it are books, the beautiful India box, and the superb India punch-bowl and pitcher, which Mr. Hawthorne's father had made in India for himself. In another corner stands the ancient Manning chair with its worked cover. The scarlet-tipped chair wanders about the room. The black haircloth rocking-chair was much abused in moving, and one of the rockers is off. It has not yet been mended; and when it is mended, the hall is to be its place. Over the centre-table hangs Endymion, and over the fireplace, Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna au Bas-relief. You cannot think how pretty the room looks, though with such a low stud that I have to get acclimated to it, and still fear to be crushed.
Opposite the ottoman is another door. Entrez, Madame ma mère, s'il vous plait. This is the dining-room, covered with nice straw-carpet. Between the windows looking upon the lake hangs the great looking-glass, over the Pembroke dining-table. On the right, against the wall of the staircase, stands the bookcase, surmounted with the bronzed vase. Mahogany chairs stand round about. Here is a door leading into the bath-room. On one wall are nailed up the "Petit Soldat Orphelin," and the two pictures of Psyche about to bathe and about to be dressed. On another, stretches out the magnificent Tuba-Rheda. On the other side of the stairway another door leads into our charming little boudoir. The window commands the lake and the rich interval of meadow, with its beautiful groups of trees, and beyond, the mountains. Opposite the window is the couch, covered with red patch. Over the couch I have nailed Claude's landscape of the Golden Calf, of which I mended the torn corner, and it looks very handsomely with the soiled margin cut off. Opposite the door, over the small centre-table, hangs Salvator Rosa's Forest, in a fine light; on each side of it the lovely Comos, and over it, Loch Lomond,--all making a beautiful pyramid. Opposite these are book-shelves, with books fit to take up in such a room. Under the shelves stands the great portfolio. On the shelves is the Caryatid, and upon a bracket in one corner, Antinous. Sit down upon the couch, and you will see such a landscape out of the window as will charm perpetually; for the motion of light and shadow among the mountains and on the lake varies the scene all the time. The summer hazes are of exquisite beauty. Sometimes clouds hang low upon the mountain-sides in beautiful shapes. Next summer we intend to have a flower-garden beneath the window of the boudoir, and there we mean to plant only fragrant flowers, which will send up an incense of sweet odors in the evening. Will you go upstairs? The old Brussels stair-carpet looks quite respectably. On the wall at the head of the stairs I have nailed Michael Angelo's frescos of prophets and sibyls, joining all together and making a covering for the wall. On the right is Mr. Hawthorne's study, which can boast of nothing but his presence in the morning and the picture out of window in the evening. It has in it his secretary, my long ottoman, re-covered with red, and the antique centre-table, which lost one foot on its journey from Salem to Lenox. It stands quite even without its foot, and so remains for the present. Now please to step across into our golden chamber. The golden couch is so absurdly huge in the low, shelving chamber, that it looks more as if it could hold the room than the room it. But with the new straw-carpet, and the bright tint of the furniture, and the lovely outlines and snowy counterpane, and the perennial picture of lake and mountain, and the soon-to-be-hung-up snowy full muslin curtains, it makes a pretty show. My looking-glass squeezes just in between the windows. Along the entry is the red straw-carpet to the guest-chamber. Come along it, dear mother, father, brother, sisters; but do not look into the guest-chamber, with its very ugly bare floor, full of knots, and its bedstead full of confusion, but pass by and go into the little lady Una's chamber. On the left, as you enter, stands her bed, covered with a white counterpane. Upon the wall opposite her eyes I have put one of Raphael's angels, a head large as life, and beneath it that pretty engraving of Dawn. Near the window is a superb tree in lithograph.
I began this letter in the morning, and it is now between seven and eight. The children have been long abed, so that you can see in Una's little room the little mistress of it in happy sleep.
I suppose father would like to hear about our household economy. We give only three cents a quart for the best of milk, and we have it of Luther Butler. Butter is fourteen cents a pound, and eggs eleven and twelve cents a dozen; potatoes, very good ones, two shillings a bushel. The most superb buckwheat at half the price we gave at the East, sixty-two cents for twenty-four pounds; wood, three and four dollars a cord; charcoal, eight cents a bushel; veal, six cents a pound; mutton, five cents; beef, nine cents.
Monday P.M.--This is one of Berkshire's golden afternoons, with the most invigorating air. We have been having a splendid hen-coop patched up, being nothing less than the shed attached to the house. On the front of this shed Justus Wetmore Barnes nailed slats in a rude style enough, with so little idea of beauty that Mr. Hawthorne says he shall put a placard up, signifying that it is not his work. The shed is in two stories, with an opening between; so the hens will have sumptuous accommodation. Mr. Hawthorne will grow corn for them.
---Her letters at this time were frequent and full. Here is one of her glowing eulogiums on her husband:--
. . . .Mr. Hawthorne said this morning that he should like a study with a soft, thick Turkey carpet upon the floor, and hung round with full crimson curtains so as to hide all rectangles. I hope to see the day when he shall have such a study. But it will not be while it would demand the slightest extravagance, because he is as severe as a stoic about all personal comforts, and never in his life allowed himself a luxury. It is exactly upon him, therefore, that I would like to shower luxuries, because he has such a spiritual taste for beauty. It is both wonderful and admirable to see how his taste for splendor and perfection is not the slightest temptation to him; how wholly independent he is of what he would like, all things being equal. Beauty and the love of it, in him, are the true culmination of the good and true, and there is no beauty to him without these bases. He has perfect dominion over himself in every respect, so that to do the highest, wisest, loveliest thing is not the least effort to him, any more than it is to a baby to be innocent. It is his spontaneous act, and a baby is not more unconscious in its innocence. I never knew such loftiness, so simply borne. I have never known him to stoop from it in the most trivial household matter, any more than in a larger or more public one. If the Hours make out to reach him in his high sphere, their wings are very strong. But I have never thought of him as in time, and so the Hours have nothing to do with him. Happy, happiest is the wife, who can bear such and so sincere testimony to her husband after eight years' intimate union. Such a person can never lose the prestige which commands and fascinates. I cannot possibly conceive of my happiness, but, in a blissful kind of confusion, live on. If I can only be so great, so high, so noble, so sweet, as he in any phase of my being, I shall be glad. I am not deluded nor mistaken, as the angels know now, and as all my friends will know, in open vision!
The other afternoon at the lake, when papa was lying his length along beneath the trees, Una and Julian were playing about, and presently Una said, "Take care, Julian; do not run upon papa's head. His is a real head, for it is full of thought." "Yes," responded Julian, with the unconscious wisdom of four years old, "it is thought that makes his head." We found a lovely new place that day. We found Indian council-chambers, boudoirs, and cabinets in the wood, and a high, dignified bank on the edge of the lake; and as we sat above, and were confined to a small view of the really tumultuous waves, we could easily imagine ourselves at Lake Superior. The children talked about the echo, and one of them finally settled the subject by remarking, "God says the echo." How children--all children not crushed by artifice resolve everything with the great, innate, all-satisfying idea of God!
A Mr. Ehninger, a young artist, has been here, who has made an illustration of "The Scarlet Letter." He was once a fashionable youth of New York, but discovered in himself a taste for art; he has been in Europe and studied design very faithfully, and is soon to return to perfect himself in color. He has been an ardent admirer of Mr. Hawthorne's books, and has made several designs in iUustration of them. The "Scarlet Letter" illustration was very remarkable--It is very large. It is the first scene of Hester coming out of the prison door. The figure of Hester is very majestic, noble, and stately, with a face of proud, marble beauty. On one side is a group of old women, whose faces are relieved by the sweet apparition of a child standing just at Hester's feet. On the other side are the officers. The drawing is not finished, but is full of beauty, power, and expression as far as it goes. When I first conducted Mr. Ehninger to our house, I said, "Here is our little red shanty." "The Temple of Art and the Muses!" enthusiastically exclaimed he, lifting his hat. It is certainly very pretty to see homage rendered to one's husband for immortal endowments.
---And here is a description of a typical day during their first winter:--
This superb winter's morning, when to live seems joy enough; even the hens are in such an animated state of spirits that Una keeps running in with eggs! There have been no winter horrors of great cold and storm here, as we were led to expect; when we look back, we find that opaline mists on the mountains are our strongest impression of the scene out of doors. The children have lived upon the blue nectared air all winter, and papa said the other day he did not believe there were two other children in New England who had had such uninterrupted health and freedom from colds. Such clear, unclouded eyes, such superb cheeks, as come in and out of the icy atmosphere! such relish for dry bread, such dewy sleep, such joyful uprisings, such merry gambols under pails of cold water! They wake at dawn. From the guest-chamber comes the powerful voice, 'I want to get up!' From a more distant room, 'Bon-jour, mamma! bon-jour, papa!' whereupon papa rises and makes a fire in the bath-room, when down rush the two birds.
In two minutes more they lift up dripping from a flood of fresh water; saying, 'Oh, how nice!' and 'How I am refreshing!' Then comes the vigorous rubbing before the warm fire, and the dressing, and then the leaping, running, springing about the room. Mamma seizes Julian (for Una attends to her own toilet) to brush his wet hair; but it is hard enough to keep him still, for who can hold a fountain! When all is done, papa goes out to feed the hens. After breakfast be disappears in his study, mamma sits down to her work-basket, and the children generally go out; or sometimes they sit side by side while I give them oral lessons in French, arithmetic, history, and geography. At noon papa descends from his study, instead of at night; and this causes great rejoicing throughout his kingdom. We sit down to dine (the children to sup) in a golden glow of sun-setting; and after this ceremony is always my particular hour for reading aloud to the children. About six they go to bed, each in a separate chamber, very happy, full of messages of love, respects, and thanks! and then they fall asleep, and we hear no more of them till the next dawn. Now follows our long, beautiful evening, which we richly enjoy. My husband has read aloud to me ever since he finished his book. 'David Copperfield' he has read. I never heard such reading. It is better than any acting or opera. Now he reads De Quincey. I don't know whether I told you that I bought some black velvet and put a new cover on my brother George's desk, and Kitty scrubbed all the brass bright, and I made the mahogany clean of ink and polished it, so that it looks very handsomely; and it was upon this desk that Mr. Hawthorne wrote 'The House of the Seven Gables'. . . .
--Herman Melville ("Omoo," as they called him, in allusion to one of his early romances) soon became familiar and welcome there; and, not seldom, strange visitors made their appearance, to pay homage to the Romancer's genius and to stare at him, at all of whom Mrs. Hawthorne looked in turn, with a penetrating and amused glance; as, for example,--
". . . .This morning 'Mr. Omoo' arrived; and soon after I went to the door to a knock, and there stood a clerical-looking gentleman, with white cravat and dark eyes. and very dainty in his fingers. He asked for Mr. Hawthorne,--said he did not know him, but had taken the liberty to introduce himself. I took him into the boudoir, where Mr. Melville was. He then said he had a lady in the carriage who would very much like to come in, but did not, because she did not know there was a Mrs. Hawthorne. Mr. Hawthorne and I went out, therefore, and escorted her in. She was a New York lady, rather handsome, with yet a hard, pitiless face. The children did not like her. It was diverting to me to see how the Professor (as she called the Reverend gentleman) and she herself devoured my husband with their eyes, as if they were determined to take a picture of him away with them. When Julian appeared, the lady made no hesitation in taking him by the hand and calling him 'Superb' right to his face; and then she remarked that he was 'the image of his father' (seriatim, 'You are superb, Mr. Hawthorne'!). They did not stay very long; and after they went away, Mr. Melville was very agreeable. . .
---As throwing light upon her own character, and also because it is desirable to preserve, as much as possible, the continuity of her letters, I insert here two more of Mrs. Hawthorne's most characteristic epistles.
MY DEAREST MOTHER,--Your birthday approaches. The prospects of all seem brightening in the way of externals, and I love to think of you sitting quietly in your great chair, and brooding over our joys, and good hopes, and successes. I trust you realize the blessing you have been to us, in the way of high principle and sentiment, and lofty purity of heart, and elegance of taste,--to say nothing of a motherly tenderness which has never been surpassed in God's universe, and seldom equalled. To me especially this unspeakable tenderness has been a guard-angelic. In earliest childhood I remember some portions of my life only in moments when, at some crisis of excitement or trouble, you said to me softly, "My love." The tone, the words, used to pour balm and coinfort over my whole being. Then I did not know how to thank you; but now I know well enough, and I remember it when my child is in the same mood, and I also say to her "My love!" and with the same effect. Alas for those who counsel sternness and severity instead of love towards their young children! How little they are like God, how much they are like Solomon, whom I really believe many persons prefer to imitate, and think they do well. Infinite patience, infinite tenderness, infinite magnanimity, No less will do, and we must practise them as far as finite power will allow. Above all, no parent should feel a pride or power. This, I doubt not, is the great stumbling-block, and it should never be indulged. From this comes the sharp rebuke, the cruel blow, the anger. A tender sorrow, a most sympathizing regret, alone should appear at the transgression of a child, who comes into the world with an involuntary inheritance of centuries of fallen Adams to struggle with. Yet how immitigable is the judgment and treatment of these little misdemeanors often! When my children disobey, I am not personally aggneved, and they see it, and find therefore that it is a disinterested desire that they should do right that induces me to insist. There is all the difference in the world between indulgence and tenderness. If the child never sees any acceptance of wrong-doing, but unalterably a horror and deep grief at it, certainly love and forgiveness can do no harm. In you I always felt there was sorrow for anything amiss I did; and very; very early I perceived that the influence of that silent regret was far more powerful with me than any rebuke of any other person. And how forever sweet it is to me to think that I imagined being a mother was synonymous with being disinterested. Silently, unawares almost to myself; but very consciously now, I remember quite small evidences of this: at table, wbat an impression of elegance and spirituality you made upon my mind, by never being preoccupied with your own plate and food, so that I used to think mothers lived without eating as well as without sleeping. I saw you were taken up with supplying others with what they wished for, before they had time to find out themselves. "What elegant manners!" I used to feel, and so resolved to do so too. There was a beautiful ideal in your mind; I saw it; that was my mother! . . . .
-- The "Elizabeth" in the next passage is, of course, Miss E. P. Peabody.
". . . .Who, I pray, is D. C.? Is he one of the many lame, halt, forlorn, poverty-stricken mortals, whom you and Elizabeth, in the infinite scope of your pity, sympathy, and hospitality, take in from the highways, because they have no other roof to cover them?--because you are so rich, and have so much leisure, and so much room, and so much linen and sumptuous fare, to bestow? I think that if you are obliged to leave your great menagerie, general hospital, Universal Sun, and final depot, then this dismal world, with its throngs of miserable ones, had better strike sail in the vast sea of space and sink, to rise no more, into some horrid vaouum. I declare, if all the nations of the earth--of each of which Elizabeth has certainly befriended and aided in sore distress one representative at least--do not come to kneel, like Flaxman's 'Aria,' and devoutly thank her; with tears of gratitude, I shall think there is no grace in Christendom. As I sit and look on these mountains, so grand and flowing in the illimitable, aerial blue, beyond and over, I seem to realize with peculiar force that bountiful, fathomless heart of Elizabeth, forever disappointed, but forever believing; sorely rebuffed, yet never bitter; robbed day by day, yet giving again from an endless store; more sweet, more tender, more serene, as the hours pass over her, though they may drop gall instead of flowers upon this unguarded heart. . .
--"The House of the Seven Gables" was written in about five months, which indicates pretty close application, even leaving out of account its extraordinary excellence as an achievement of thought and art; but Hawthorne himself seems to have considered that he worked rather slowly. While he was engaged upon it, Mr. Emerson wrote to him in behalf of a new magazine which was in contemplation.
CONCORD, December, 1850.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--Mr. George Bradburn, better known, I think, in the sectarian and agitation than in the literary world, desires to try his luck in solving that impossible problem of a New England magazine. As I was known to be vulnerable, that is, credulous, on that side, I was attacked lately by Hildreth (of U. S. History) and urged to engage in it. I told him to go to Lowell, who had been for a year meditating the like project; that I wished a magazine, but would not think of an experiment and a failure; that if he would assure himself, before he began, of the co-operation of Hawthorne, Cabot, Thoreau, Lowell, Parker, Holmes, and whatever is as good,--if there be as good,--he should be sure of me. So I promised nothing. A few days ago (having heard nothing further for three weeks), I had a letter from Theodore Parker desiring me to write to you and ask your interest and co-operation in Mr. Bradburn's magazine, and to assure you that all articles are to be paid for. So I hope, since they proceed so gently, you will not be taught to deny them, but will let them lay siege to your heart with their soft approaches. A good magazine we have not in America, and we are all its friends beforehand. If they win you, I shall think a great point is gained.
R. W. EMERSON.
--But Hawthorne, having once experienced the scope and freedom of the novel, bad ceased to measure himself out in the short lengths of magazine stories; the rather as his experience of that sort of publication had not been, from the pecuniary point of view, very felicitous. He stuck to his Romance, accordingly; and presently his wife was able to write:--
JANUARY 27, 1851.
"The House of the Seven Gables" was finished yesterday. Mr. Hawthorne read me the close, last evening. There is unspeakable grace and beauty in the conclusion, throwing back upon the sterner tragedy of the commencement an ethereal light, and a dear home-loveliness and satisfaction. How you will enjoy the book,--its depth of wisdom, its high tone, the flowers of Paradise scattered over all the dark places, the sweet wall-flower scent of Phoebe's character, the wonderful pathos and charm of old Uncle Venner. I only wish you could have heard the Poet sing his own song, as I did; but yet the book needs no adventitious aid,--it makes its own music, for I read it all over again to myself yesterday, except the last three chapters.
--And three weeks later--
FEBRUARY 12, 1851.
Mr. Hawthorne goes to the village for his proofs. They began to come last Saturday; and when he finds one or more, he remains at the post-office and corrects them, and puts them directly back into the mail. The book is stereotyped, and the printers are going on very fast. The publishers wish to get it out by March. They say they have already orders from all parts for it. . . .
--In fact, the demand was large; and good reports of the book soon began to come in from all quarters. A review, somewhat extravagant in its terms, was published in the "Literary World," and was enclosed to Hawthorne by Longfellow in this cordial note:--
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I suppose some other friend has already sent you the enclosed notice of yourself and your writings; but it is good enough to have two copies of it. I have rarely seen a more appreciating and sympathizing critic; and though I do not endorse all he says about others, I do endorse all he says about you.
I hear that you are delightfully situated in Berkshire. I hope you are as fully aware of your own happiness, and are enjoying the liberty and air of the mountains, as we are those of the seaside.
A letter from you would be very welcome; a visit, still more so. With kind remembrances to you and your wife from me and mine,
H. W. L.
--Something of the character of this notice may be gathered from the following passage in a letter of Mrs. Peabody's:--
". . . .I carried the 'Literary World' to Aunt Rawlins. She agreed in the main with the reviewer; but thought he had injured the subject by saying too much. 'No man of common-sense,' she said, 'would seriously name Mr. Hawthorne, deserving as he is of respect and admiration, in the same day with Shakspeare. Shakspeare! the greatest man that ever lived; great in every way,--in science, in knowledge art of human nature, in poetic fire, in historic knowledge, in taste, in imagination, to compare any one to Shakspeare argues ignorance, and only injures the friend he is attempting to serve.' So said that lady."
--It is certainly not necessary to the vindication of Hawthorne's fame to bracket him with Shakspeare; and to the man himself the idea must have appeared too absurdly monstrous to be understood otherwise than as covert satire, or at least as the ravings of well-meaning imbecility. Shakspeare might not have been able to treat the subjects which Hawthorne treated, with more insight and power than he; but, on the other hand, it is certain that Hawthorne could not, under any circumstances, have written a page of any one of Shakspeare's better-known plays. Such comparisons, however, are not worth the ink that traces them. The single pure ray of the American Romancer's genius is just as precious, in itself, as any one of the thousand-hued emanations of the great Poet of the world; for both are truth.
A far more sagacious and poignant discussion of the subject was contributed by Herman Melville in a letter; part of which has already appeared in print.
PITTSFIELD, Wednesday morning.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--Concerning the young gentleman's shoes, I desire to say that a pair to fit him, of the desired pattern, cannot be had in all Pittsfield,--a fact which sadly impairs that metropolitan pride I formerly took in the capital of Berkshire. Henceforth Pittsfield must hide its head. However, if a pair of bootees will at all answer, Pittsfield will be very happy to provide them. Pray mention all this to Mrs. Hawthorne, and command me.
"The House of the Seven Gables: A Romance. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. One vol. l6mo, pp. 344." The contents of this book do not belie its rich, clustering, romantic title. With great enjoyment we spent almost an hour in each separate gable. This book is like a fine old chamber, abundantly, but still judiciously, furnished with precisely that sort of furniture best fitted to furnish it. There are rich hangings, wherein are braided scenes from tragedies! There is old china with rare devices, set out on the carved buffet; there are long and indolent lounges to throw yourself upon; there is an admirable sideboard, plentifully stored with good viands; there is a smell as of old wine in the pantry; and finally, in one corner, there is a dark little black-letter volume in golden clasps, entitled "Hawthorne: A Problem." It has delighted us; it has piqued a re-perusal; it has robbed us of a day, and made us a present of a whole year of thoughtfulness; it has bred great exhilaration and exultation with the remembrance that the architect of the Gables resides only six miles of, and not three thousand miles away, in England, say. We think the book, for pleasantness of running interest, surpasses the other works of the author. The curtains are more drawn; the sun comes in more; genialities peep out more. Were we to particularize what most struck us in the deeper passages, we would point out the scene where Clifford, for a moment, would fain throw himself forth from the window to join the procession; or the scene where the judge is left seated in his ancestral chair. Clifford is full of an awful truth throughout. He is conceived in the finest, truest spirit. He is no caricature. He is Clifford. And here we would say that, did circumstances permit, we should like nothing better than to devote an elaborate and careful paper to the full consideration and analysis of the purport and significance of what so strongly characterizes all of this author's writings. There is a certain tragic phase of humanity which, in our opinion, was never more powerfully embodied than by Hawthorne. We mean the tragedies of human thought in its own unbiassed, native, and profounder workings. We think that into no recorded mind has the intense feeling of the usable truth ever entered more deeply than into this man's. By usable truth, we mean the apprehension of the absolute condition of present things as they strike the eye of the man who fears them not, though they do their worst to him,--the man who, like Russia or the British Empire, declares himself a sovereign nature (in himself) amid the powers of heaven, hell, and earth. He may perish; but so long as he exists he insists upon treating with all Powers upon an equal basis. If any of those other Powers choose to withhold certain secrets, let them; that does not impair my sovereignty in myself; that does not make me tributary. And perhaps, after all, there is no secret. We incline to think that the Problem of the Universe is like the Freemason's mighty secret, so terrible to all children. It turns out, at last, to consist in a triangle, a mallet, and an apron, nothing more! We incline to think that God cannot explain His own secrets, and that He would like a little information upon certain points Himself. We mortals astonish Him as much as He us. But it is this Being of the matter; there lies the knot with which we choke ourselves. As soon as you say Me, a God, a Nature, so soon you jump off from your stool and hang from the beam. Yes, that word is the hangman. Take God out of the dictionary, and you would have Him in the street.
There is the grand truth about Nathaniel Hawthorne. He says NO! in thunder; but the Devil himself cannot make him say yes. For all men who say yes, lie; and all men who say no,--why, they are in the happy condition of judicious, unincumbered travellers in Europe; they cross the frontiers into Eternity with nothing but a carpet-bag,--that is to say, the Ego. Whereas those yes-gentry, they travel with heaps of baggage, and, damn them! they will never get through the Custom House. What's the reason, Mr. Hawthorne, that in the last stages of metaphysics a fellow always falls to swearing so? I could rip an hour. You see, I began with a little criticism extracted for your benefit from the "Pittsfield Secret Review," and here I have landed in Africa.
Walk down one of these mornings and see me. No nonsense; come. Remember me to Mrs. Hawthorne and the children.
P.S. The marriage of Phoebe with the daguerreotypist is a fine stroke, because of his turning out to he a Maule. If you pass Hepzibah's cent-shop, buy me a Jim Crow (fresh) and send it to me by Ned Higgins.
---Meanwhile Hawthorne had been writing as follows to his sister Elizabeth:--
LENOX, March 11, 1851.
DEAR E.,--I wish you or Louisa would write to us once in a while, without waiting for regular responses on our part. Sophia is busy from morning till night, and I myself am so much occupied with pen and ink that I hate the thought of writing except from necessity. My book will be out about the 20th instant, and I have directed two copies to be sent to the care of Mr. Dike. You can dispose of them both as you like; but I should think it best to let him have one. The book, I think, has more merit than "The Scarlet Letter;" but it will hardly make so much noise as that. All the copies to which I am entitled (only six) of the new edition of "Twice-Told Tales" have been sent here. If possible, I will keep one for you till I come to Salem, or till Louisa or you come here. At any rate, I will bring you a proof copy of the portrait, which is finely engraved. I am terribly bothered with literary people, who send me their books and expect mine in return.
I trust that you have been at work on the translation of Cervantes' Tales. It appears to me that there can be hardly any doubt of success and profit from it.
It is my purpose to come to Boston (and of course to Salem) some time in June. Until then, I cannot possibly leave home, as our cottage is very lonely, and it would not he safe to go without leaving somebody here to take care of the family. So I mean to take advantage, for that purpose, of a projected visit from Dr. Peabody. We have spent a very pleasant winter; and upon the whole, I think that the best time for living in the country is the winter. I hope that one of you two will come to see us, after my return. The children would be delighted, and it would afford Sophia great pleasure.
Write me what you think of "The House of the Seven Gables."
Yours affectionately, N. H.
-- In the spring of the year, James Russell Lowell sent this careful and cordial definition of his views upon the subject:--
CAMBRIDGE, April 24, 1851.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I have been so delighted with "The House of the Seven Gables" that I cannot help sitting down to tell you so. I thought I could not forgive you if you wrote anything better than "The Scarlet Letter;" but I cannot help believing it a great triumph that you should have been able to deepen and widen the impression made by such a book as that. It seems to me that the "House" is the most valuable contribution to New England history that has been made. It is with the highest art that you have typified (in the revived likeness of Judge Pyncheon to his ancestor the Colonel) that intimate relationship between the Present and the Past in the way of ancestry and descent, which historians so carefully overlook. Yesterday is commonly looked upon and written about as of no kin to To-day, though the one is legitimate child of the other, and has its veins filled with the same blood. And the chapter about Alice and the Carpenter,--Salem, which would not even allow you so much as Scotland gave Burns, will build you a monument yet for having shown that she did not hang her witches for nothing. I suppose the true office of the historian is to reconcile the present with the past.
I think you hardly do justice (in your preface to "Twice-Told Tales") to your early reception. The augury of a man's popularity ought to be looked for in the intensity and not the vulgarity of his appreciation. However, I shall take to myself a dividend of the blessing you vouchsafe to the earlier acolytes; for I became a disciple in my eighteenth year, which, as Mabel says of day before yesterday, is "Oh, e-e-ever so long ago!"
"The House of the Seven Gables" (or "Gabbles," as a foreign friend of mine calls it, converting it into a kind of new tower of Babel) is, I suppose, the old Curwin House in Salem. If so, I flatter myself with a vague sort of ancestral credit in the book, and brag everywhere of my descent from the widow of the very Curwin who built it (I believe), and whose (the widow's) maiden name was Hathorne.
Waiting for the next, I remain
As ever your sincere friend,
J. R. LOWELL.
--The hypothesis as to the identity of the Curwin House with that of the Seven Gables brings to mind a controversy as stale as Egyptian mummy and as interminable as breathing. Did, or did not, the House of the Seven Gables have a prototype? Were, or were not, Zenobia and Margaret Fuller one and the same person? For my part, I should be loath to deprive of any part of their chosen occupation the worthy people who prosecute such inquiries; and although I am in possession of indubitable evidence on both of the above points (as well as on a dozen other and similar ones), the promulgation of which would forever set all conceivable doubts at rest, I shall, for that very reason, forbear to say one word on either side. Let the controversy go on, and the innocent controversialists be happy.
Sometimes letters came to Hawthorne from persons entirely unknown to him, save for that one utterance of gratitude and appreciation; and such letters have a value to an author as great sometimes, in its way, as the applause of friends and rivals. There is more likelihood of sincerity, and less of self-interest, in the former case than in the latter, always provided, of course, that the unknown admirer does not betray a desire for an "autograph." Out of many tributes of this kind I select the following:--
HARTFORD, CONN., April 10, 1851.
MR. HAWTHORNE,--An invalid, I dare address you; for I say, though my dearest author in the world is very wise, he will not disdain my heartfelt, grateful words. As a sick child will be petted, so, nothing fearing, I write to you; for indeed I must tell you how much I thank you--no, that I cannot; yet you have afforded so many pleasant hours to me, one wee one among the thousands. All the long afternoon with grim Cousin Hepzibah and sunshiny Phoebe in the dark gabled house I have been so happy (Phoebe, so like my best friend Genie!), have quite forgotten pain; and though mother says, "Your cheeks are flushed, put away the book!" it is all for pure, deep joy, I am sure. May that joy you give to every one return to you fourfold! May God bless you forever and ever!
Ever your humble, loving admirer,
--This is rather sickly-sentimental, and it is more than easy to laugh at it; but Hawthorne would have worked just as hard, and been just as glad, to give genuine pleasure to Sallie Litchfield as to Lowell, Melville, or Emerson,--the last of whom, by the way, was never able to complete the perusal of any of Hawthorne's stories.
In May, 1851, Mrs. Hawthorne's second daughter was born; and about a month before that event she wrote as follows to her mother:--
LENOX, April 13, 1851.
MY DEAREST MOTHER,--The precious words I received from you last evening went to my inmost heart, and I must answer them. How much in little you say! I am so glad you feel serenely about my little "flower," for it was a very great grievance to me not to tell you of such an expected happiness; but I did not want you to be anxious, and I thought it would save your fear if I should not let you know anything till I could write you that I had multiplied my powers of loving you by a whole new soul in a new form. I am in perfect health, and, now that you are recovering from your attack, again in perfect happiness. After such a winter and spring as I have passed, of tranquil and complete joy, with mountain air and outlines to live upon, I do not see how this new Hawthorne-bud can be otherwise than a lovely and glad existence.
Your child, SOPHIA.
--The birth of the new baby, and other matters, are touched upon in this letter from Hawthorne to his sister Louisa.
LENOX, May 20, 1851.
DEAR L.,--You have another niece. She made her appearance this morning at about three o'clock, and is a very promising child, kicking valiantly and crying most obstreperously. Her hair, I understand, is very much the tinge of Una's. Sophia is quite comfortable, and everything is going on well.
Judging by your long silence, you will not take much interest in the intelligence, nor in anything else which concerns us. I should really like to hear from you once or twice in the course of a twelve-month. Dr. Peabody (who is now here) says that you called in West Street, some time ago; this is our latest news of you. How did you like "The House of the Seven Gables"? Not so well as "The Scarlet Letter," I judge, from your saying nothing about it. I receive very complimentary letters from poets and prosers, and adoring ones from young ladies; and I have almost a challenge from a gentleman who complains of me for introducing his grandfather, Judge Pyncheon. It seems there was really a Pyncheon family formerly resident in Salem, and one of them bore the title of Judge, and was a Tory at the time of the Revolution,--with which facts I was entirely unacquainted. I pacified the gentleman by a letter. Have you seen a horrible wood engraving of me which, with as horrible a biography, has been circulating in the magazines and newspapers?
I am a little worn down with constant work (for I cannot afford any idle time now), but am pretty well, and expect to be greatly refreshed by my visit to the sea.
P.S. Ticknor & Co. want to publish a volume of my tales and sketches not hitherto collected. If you have any, or can obtain them, pray do so. Can you make me a black silk stock, to be ready when I come? To whom is Dora married, and how is she making out?
--After finishing "The House of the Seven Gables," Hawthorne allowed himself a vacation of about four months; and there is every reason to suppose that he enjoyed it. He had recovered his health, he had done his work, he was famous, and the region in which he dwelt was beautiful and inspiriting. At all events, he made those spring days memorable to his children. He made them boats to sail on the lake, and kites to fly in the air; he took them fishing and flower-gathering, and tried (unsuccessfully for the present) to teach them swimming. Mr. Melville used to ride or drive up, in the evenings, with his great dog, and the children used to ride on the dog's back. In short, the place was made a paradise for the small people. In the previous autumn, and still more in the succeeding one, they all went nutting, and filled a certain disused oven in the house with such bags upon bags of nuts as not a hundred children could have devoured during the ensuing winter. The children's father displayed extraordinary activity and energy on these nutting expeditions; standing on the ground at the foot of a tall walnut-tree, he would bid them turn their backs and cover their eyes with their hands; then they would hear, for a few seconds, a sound of rustling and scrambling, and, immediately after, a shout, whereupon they would uncover their eyes and gaze upwards; and lo there was their father--who but an instant before, as it seemed, had been beside them--swaying and soaring high aloft on the topmost branches, a delightful mystery and miracle. And then down would rattle showers of ripe nuts, which the children would diligently pick up, and stuff into their capacious bags. It was all a splendid holiday; and they cannot remember when their father was not their playmate, or when they ever desired or imagined any other playmate than he. Nevertheless, he must sometimes have benefited other people with his companionship, unless he invariably refused invitations like this:--
DEAR MR. HAWTHORNE,--I write you a few lines in case I should not find you at home to-day, in order to ask you to come over on Tuesday next with your two young people. We are going to have a little haymaking after the olden fashion, and a syllabub under the cow; hoping not to be disturbed by any of your grim old Puritans, as were the poor folks of Merrymount. By the way, you do not do yourself justice at all in your preface to the "Twice-Told Tales,"--but more on that subject anon from
G. P. R. JAMES.
--But it was with Herman Melville that Hawthorne held the most familiar intercourse at this time, both personally and by letter. Subjoined are two characteristic disquisitions by the author of "Moby Dick;" but Hawthorne's answers, if he wrote any, were unfortunately destroyed some years ago.
PITTSFIELD, June 29, 1851.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--The clear air and open window invite me to write to you. For some time past I have been so busy with a thousand things that I have almost forgotten when I wrote you last, and whether I received an answer. This most persuasive season has now for weeks recalled me from certain crotchety and over-doleful chimeras, the like of which men like you and me, and some others, forming a chain of God's posts round the world, must be content to encounter now and then, and fight them the best way we can. But come they will,--for in the boundless, trackless, but still glorious wild wilderness through which these outposts run, the Indians do sorely abound, as well as the insignificant but still stinging mosquitoes. Since you have been here, I have been building some shanties of houses (connected with the old one) and likewise some shanties of chapters and essays. I have been ploughing and sowing and raising and printing and praying, and now begin to come out upon a less bristling time, and to enjoy the calm prospect of things from a fair piazza at the north of the old farmhouse here.
Not entirely yet, though, am I without something to be urgent with. The "Whale" is only half through the press; for, wearied with the long delays of the printers, and disgusted with the heat and dust of the Babylonish brick-kiln of New York, I came back to the country to feel the grass, and end the book reclining on it, if I may. I am sure you will pardon this speaking all about myself; for if I may so much on that head, be sure all the rest of the world are thinking about themselves ten times as much. Let us speak, though we show all our faults and weaknesses,--for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it; not in set way and ostentatiously, though, but incidentally and without premeditation. But I am falling into my old foible,--preaching. I am busy, but shall not be very long. Come and spend a day here, if you can and want to; if not, stay in Lenox, and God give you long life. When I am quite free of my present engagements, I am going to treat myself to a ride and a visit to you. Have ready a bottle of brandy, because I always feel like drinking that heroic drink when we talk ontological heroics together. This is rather a crazy letter in some respects, I apprehend. If so, ascribe it to the intoxicating effects of the latter end of June operating upon a very susceptible and peradventure feeble temperament. Shall I send you a fin of the "Whale" by way of a specimen mouthful? The tail is not yet cooked, though the hell-fire in which the whole book is broiled might not unreasonably have cooked it ere this. This is the book's motto (the secret one), Ego non baptiso te in nomine--but make out the rest yourself.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I should have been rumbling down to you in my pine-board chariot a long time ago, were it not that for some weeks past I have been more busy than you can well imagine,--out of doors,--building and patching and tinkering away in all directions. Besides, I had my crops to get in,--corn and potatoes (I hope to show you some famous ones by and by),--and many other things to attend to, all accumulating upon this one particular season. I work myself; and at night my bodily sensations are akin to those I have so often felt before, when a hired man, doing my day's work from sun to sun. But I mean to continue visiting you until you tell me that my visits are both supererogatory and superfluous. With no son of man do I stand upon any etiquette or ceremony, except the Christian ones of charity and honesty. I am told, my fellow-man, that there is an aristocracy of the brain. Some men have boldly advocated and asserted it: Schiller seems to have done so, though I don't know much about him. At any rate, it is true that there have been those who, while earnest in behalf of political equality, still accept the intellectual estates. And I can well perceive, I think, how a man of superior mind can, by its intense cultivation, bring himself, as it were, into a certain spontaneous aristocracy of feeling,--exceedingly nice and fastidious,--similar to that which, in an English Howard, conveys a torpedo-fish thrill at the slightest contact with a social plebeian. So, when you see or hear of my ruthless democracy on all sides, you may possibly feel a touch of a shrink, or something of that sort. It is but nature to be shy of a mortal who boldly declares that a thief in jail is as honorable a personage as Gen. George Washington. This is ludicrous. But Truth is the silliest thing under the sun. Try to get a living by the Truth--and go to the Soup Societies. Heavens! Let any clergyman try to preach the Truth from its very stronghold, the pulpit, and they would ride him out of his church on his own pulpit bannister. It can hardly be doubted that all Reformers are bottomed upon the truth, more or less; and to the world at large are not reformers almost universally laughing-stocks? Why so? Truth is ridiculous to men. Thus easily in my room here do I, conceited and garrulous, revere the test of my Lord Shaftesbury.
It seems an inconsistency to assert unconditional democracy in all things, and yet confess a dislike to all mankind--in the mass. But not so.--But it's an endless sermon,--no more of it. I began by saying that the reason I have not been to Lenox is this,--in the evening I feel completely done up, as the phrase is, and incapable of the long jolting to get to your house and back. In a week or so, I go to New York, to bury myself in a third-story room, and work and slave on my "Whale" while it is driving through the press. That is the only way I can finish it now,--I am so pulled hither and thither by circumstances. The calm, the coolness, the silent grass-growing mood in which a man ought always to compose,--that, I fear, can seldom be mine. Dollars damn me; and the malicious Devil is forever grinning in upon me, holding the door ajar. My dear Sir, a presentiment is on me,--I shall at last be worn out and perish, like an old nutmeg-grater, grated to pieces by the constant attrition of the wood, that is, the nutmeg. What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,--it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot. So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches. I'm rather sore, perhaps, in this letter; but see my hand!--four blisters on this palm, made by bees and hammers within the last few days. It is a rainy morning; so I am indoors, and all work suspended. I feel cheerfully disposed, and therefore I write a little bluely. Would the Gin were here! If ever, my dear Hawthorne, in the eternal times that are to come, you and I shall sit down in Paradise, in some little shady corner by ourselves; and if we shall by any means be able to smuggle a basket of champagne there (I won't believe in a Temperance Heaven), and if we shall then cross our celestial legs in the celestial grass that is forever tropical, and strike our glasses and our heads together, till both musically ring in concert,--then, O my dear fellow-mortal, how shall we pleasantly discourse of all the things manifold which now so distress us,--when all the earth shall be but a reminiscence, yea, its final dissolution an antiquity. Then shall songs be composed as when wars are over; humorous, comic songs,--" Oh, when I lived in that queer little hole called the world," or, "Oh, when I toiled and sweated below," or, "Oh, when I knocked and was knocked in the fight"--yes, let us look forward to such things. Let us swear that, though now we sweat, yet it is because of the dry heat which is indispensable to the nourishment of the vine which is to bear the grapes that are to glve us the champagne hereafter.
But I was talking about the "Whale." As the fishermen say, "he's in his flurry" when I left him some three weeks ago. I'm going to take him by his jaw, however, before long, and finish him up in some fashion or other. What's the use of elaborating what, in its very essence, is so short-lived as a modern book? Though I wrote the Gospels in this century, I should die in the gutter. --I talk all about myself; and this is selfishness and egotism. Granted. But how help it? I am writing to you; I know little about you, but something about myself. So I write about myself;-- at least, to you. Don't trouble yourself; though, about writing; and don't trouble yourself about visiting; and when you do visit, don't trouble yourself about talking. I will do all the writing and visiting and talking myself.--By the way, in the last "Dollar Magazine" I read "The Unpardonable Sin." He was a sad fellow, that Ethan Brand. I have no doubt you are by this time responsible for many a shake and tremor of the tribe of "general readers." It is a frightful poetical creed that the cultivation of the brain eats out the heart. But it's my prose opinion that in most cases, in those men who have fine brains and work them well, the heart extends down to hams. And though you smoke them with the fire of tribulation, yet, like veritable hams, the head only gives the richer and the better flavor. I stand for the heart. To the dogs with the head! I had rather be a fool with a heart, than Jupiter Olympus with his head. The reason the mass of men fear God, and at bottom dislike Him, is because they rather distrust His heart, and fancy Him all brain like a watch. (You perceive I employ a capital initial in the pronoun referring to the Deity; don't you think there is a slight dash of flunkeyism in that usage?) Another thing. I was in New York for four-and-twenty hours the other day, and saw a portrait of N. H. And I have seen and heard many flattering (in a publisher's point of view) allusions to the "Seven Gables." And I have seen "Tales," and "A New Volume" announced, by N. H. So upon the whole, I say to myself; this N. H. is in the ascendant. My dear Sir, they begin to patronize. All Fame is patronage. Let me be infamous: there is no patronage in that. What "reputation" H. M. has is horrible. Think of it! To go down to posterity is bad enough, any way; but to go down as a "man who lived among the cannibals"! When I speak of posterity, in reference to myself; I only mean the babies who will probably be born in the moment immediately ensuing upon my giving up the ghost. I shall go down to some of them, in all likelihood. "Typee" will be given to them, perhaps, with their gingerbread. I have come to regard this matter of Fame as the most transparent of all vanities. I read Solomon more and more, and every time see deeper and deeper and unspeakable meanings in him. I did not think of Fame, a year ago, as I do now. My development has been all within a few years past. I am like one of those seeds taken out of the Egyptian Pyramids, which, after being three thousand years a seed and nothing but a seed, being planted in English soil, it developed itself; grew to greenness, and then fell to mould. So I. Until I was twenty-five, I had no development at all. From my twenty-fifth year I date my life. Three weeks have scarcely passed, at any time between then and now, that I have not unfolded within myself. But I feel that I am now come to the inmost leaf of the bulb, and that shortly the flower must fall to the mould. It seems to me now that Solomon was the truest man who ever spoke, and yet that he a little managed the truth with a view to popular conservatism; or else there have been many corruptions and interpolations of the text.--In reading some of Goethe's sayings, so worshipped by his votaries, I came across this, "Live in the all." That is to say, your separate identity is but a wretched one,--good; but get out of yourself, spread and expand yourself, and bring to yourself the tinglings of life that are felt in the flowers and the woods, that are felt in the planets Saturn and Venus, and the Fixed Stars. What nonsense! Here is a fellow with a raging toothache. "My dear boy," Goethe says to him, you are sorely afflicted with that tooth; but you must live in the all, and then you will be happy!" As with all great genius, there is an immense deal of flummery in Goethe, and in proportion to my own contact with him, a monstrous deal of it in me.
P. S. "Amen!" saith Hawthorne.
N. B. This "all" feeling, though, there is some truth in. You must often have felt it, lying on the grass on a warm summer's day. Your legs seem to send out shoots into the earth. Your hair feels like leaves upon your head. This is the all feeling. But what plays the mischief with the truth is that men will insist upon the universal application of a temporary feeling or opinion.
P.S. You must not fail to admire my discretion in paying the postage on this letter.
--Mr. Melville was probably quite as entertaining and somewhat less abstruse, when his communications were by word of mouth. Mrs. Hawthorne used to tell of one evening when he came in, and presently began to relate the story of a fight which he had seen on an island in the Pacific, between some savages, and of the prodigies of valor one of them performed with a heavy club. The narrative was extremely graphic; and when Melville had gone, and Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne were talking over his visit, the latter said, "Where is that club with which Mr. Melville was laying about him so?" Mr. Hawthorne thought he must have taken it with him; Mrs. Hawthorne thought he had put it in the corner; but it was not to be found. The next time Melville came, they asked him about it; whereupon it appeared that the club was still in the Pacific island, if it were anywhere.
In June, Hawthorne began the "Wonder-Book," which is less known than it ought to be; for in simplicity and eloquence of style, and in lovely wealth of fancy and imagination, it is equal to anything he produced. Before the book was in the printer's hands, the children could repeat the greater part of it by heart, from hearing it read so often,--as had before been the case with "The Snow Image,"--and even now, entire passages linger in their memory. It was written rapidly, and with great enjoyment on the author's part; being the only book he ever published which has not a gloomy page in it, though even here--in "The Chimæra," for example--there are the springs of quiet tears. But the humor, throughout, is exquisite; and though the sentiment often mounts to heaven, like Bellerophon's winged steed, it never outsoars the comprehension of the simplest child. The book was finished in the first week of July, 1851; and Hawthorne again wrote to Louisa as follows:--
LENOX, July 10, 1851.
DEAR L.,--If you have any of the magazine articles, mentioned in my last, I wish you would have them sent to B., as he is going to send a package to me within a week or two. The cravat, if ready, might be sent too; but perhaps it would be better to keep it till I come, for fear of its being jammed.
I have been too busy, lately, to write. The truth is, the pen is so constantly in my fingers that I abominate the sight of it. I have written a book for children, two or three hundred pages long, since the first of June. Sophia is likewise too busy to write even to her own family. By the by, it was not she, but myself, who wrote to Mrs. Foote.
Sophia will probably go to West Newton in the course of two or three weeks (some time in August, at all events) to see her mother. She will take the baby and Una, and leave Julian here under my charge. If you want to see the baby before next year, you must make arrangements to do it then. The Boston establishment is broken up, so that you cannot see her there; and unless Miss Rawlins Pickman should ask her to Salem, I see no way but for you to go to West Newton. You can get out there and back any hour in the day.
The baby flourishes, and seems to be the brightest and strongest baby we have had. She grows prettier, but cannot be called absolutely beautiful. Her hair, I think, is a more decided red than Una's. As for Una, she is as wild as a colt, and freckled and tanned so that you would hardly know her. Julian has grown enormous, but otherwise looks pretty much the same as he used to do.
Three or four editions of my two romances have been published in London at prices varying from one shilling to five shillings. Mrs. Kemble writes that it has produced a greater sensation than any book since "Jane Eyre," and advises that I take out my copyrights there.
I think we shall remove to Mrs. Kemble's cottage in the course of the autumn; for this is certainly the most inconvenient and wretched little hovel that I ever put my head in. Mrs. Kemble's has not more rooms, but they are larger, and perfectly convenient. She offers it to me, ready furnished, for the same price that I pay here. Last year she offered it for nothing, but I declined the terms. I shall regret the prospect from the windows of this house (for it is the most beautiful in Berkshire), but nothing else.
I have received a letter from Elizabeth (a good while ago, however), and should have answered it if I had had time. Send this to her. I want much to see her, and talk over her plans and prospects, and should come eastwards for that purpose, if for nothing else. Possibly I may come immediately after Sophia's return; but I rather think I may put it off till after our removal.
P.S. If the articles are in magazines or volumes, you had better cut them out, in order to get them within smaller compass. I do not intend to publish anything from the "American Magazine."
--Mrs. Hawthorne and her two daughters now set forth on their journey to their relatives in the East, leaving Hawthorne and his son, and the old negro cook, Mrs. Peters,--a stern and incorruptible African, and a housekeeper by the wrath of God,--to get along together for three weeks, as best they might. It must have been weary work, sometimes, for Hawthorne, though for the little boy it was one uninterrupted succession of halcyon days. A detailed narrative of their adventures was written, day by day, by the father, and would make a volume of upwards of a hundred pages,--as unique and quaint a little history as was ever seen. I have brought together a few representative extracts, taken from here and there.
Twenty Days with Julian and Bunny.
LENOX, July 28, 1851. --At seven o'clock, A. M., wife, Una, and Rosebud took their departure, leaving Julian and me, and Mrs. Peters (the colored lady who does our cooking for us), and Bunny, the rabbit, in possession of the Red Shanty. Bunny does not turn out to be a very interesting companion, and makes me more trouble than he is worth. There ought to be two rabbits, in order to bring out each other's remarkable qualities, if any there be. Undoubtedly, they have the least feature and characteristic prominence of any creature that God has made. With no playfulness, as silent as a fish, inactive, Bunny's life passes between a torpid half-slumber, and the nibbling of clover-tops, lettuce, plantain leaves, pig-weed, and crumbs of bread. Sometimes, indeed, he is seized with a little impulse of friskiness; but it does not appear to be sportive, but nervous. Bunny has a singular countenance, like somebody's I have seen, but whose, I forget. It is rather imposing and aristocratic, at a cursory glance; but, examining it more closely, it is found to be laughably vague. I am strongly tempted of the Evil One to murder him privately; and I wish with all my heart that Mrs. Peters would drown him.
Julian had a great resource in my jack-knife, which, being fortunately as dull as a hoe, I have given him to whittle with. So he made what he called a boat, and covered the floor of the boudoir with chips, twice over; and finds such inexhaustible amusement, that I think it would be cheaply bought with the loss of one or two of his fingers. . .
29th.--A cool, breezy morning, with sunshine glimpsing through sullen clouds, which seemed to hang low, and rest on the ridges of the hills that border the valley. After breakfast, we took Bunny out of doors, and put him down on the grass. Bunny appears to most advantage out of doors. His most interesting trait is the apprehensiveness of his nature, it is as quick and as continually in movement as an aspen leaf. The least noise startles him, and you may see his emotion in the movement of his ears; he starts, and scrambles into his little house, but in a moment peeps forth again and begins nibbling the grass and weeds,--again to be startled and as quickly reassured. Sometimes he sets out on a nimble little run, for no reason, but just as a dry leaf is blown along by a puff of wind. I do not think that these fears are any considerable torment to Bunny; it is his nature to live in the midst of them, and to intermingle them, as a sort of piquant sauce, with every morsel he eats. It is what redeems his life from dulness and stagnation. Bunny appears to be uneasy in broad and open sunshine; it is his impulse to seek shadow,--the shadow of a tuft of bushes, or Julian's shadow, or mine. He seemed to think himself rather too conspicuous--so important a personage as he is--in the breadth of the yard, and took various opportunities to creep into Julian's lap. At last, the northwest wind being cool to-day, and especially so when one of the thousand watery clouds intercepts the sun, we all three came in. This is a horrible, horrible, most hor-ri-ble climate; one knows not, for ten minutes together, whether he is too cool or too warm; but he is always one or the other, and the constant result is a miserable disturbance of the system. I detest it! I detest it!! I detest it!!! I hate Berkshire with my whole soul, and would joyfully see its mountains laid flat. Be it recorded that here, where I hoped for perfect health, I have for tbe first time been made sensible that I cannot with impunity encounter Nature in all her moods. . . .
After dinner (roast lamb for me and boiled rice for Julian), we walked down to the lake. On our way, we waged war with the thistles, which represented many-headed hydras and dragons, and on tall mulleins, which passed for giants. One of these latter offered such sturdy resistance, that my stick was broken in the encounter; and so I cut it off of a length suitable to Julian, who thereupon expressed an odd entanglement of sorrow for my loss and joy for his own gain. As I lay on my back, looking upwards through the branches of the trees, Julian spent nearly a quarter of an hour, I should think, beating down a single great mullein-stalk. He certainly does evince a persevering purpose, sometimes. We strolled through the woods, among the tall pillars of those primeval pines, and thence home along the margin of a swamp, in which I gathered a sheaf of cat-tails. The heavy masses of cloud, lumbering about the sky, threw deep black shadows on the sunny hillsides, so that the contrast between the heat and the coolness of the day was thus visibly expressed. The atmosphere was particularly transparent as if all the haze was collected into these dense clouds. Distant objects appeared with great distinctness; and the Taconic range of hills was a dark blue substance,--not cloud-like, as it often is. The sun smiled with mellow breadth across the rippling lake, rippling with the northwestern breeze. Julian was never out of spirits, and is certainly as happy as the day is long. He is happy enough by himself; and when I sympathize, or partake in his play, it is almost too much, and he nearly explodes with laughter and delight.
Little Marshall Butler has been to inquire whether "the bird" has come yet. I have seldom suffered more from the presence of any individual than from that of this odious little urchin. Julian took no more notice of him than if he had not been present, but went on with his talk and occupations, displaying an equanimity which I could not but envy. He absolutely ignores him; no practised man of the world could do it better, or half so well. After forging about the room and examining the playthings, Marshall took himself off. . . .
30th. Bunny has grown quite familiar, and comes hopping to meet us, whenever we enter the room, and stands on his hind legs to see whether we have anything for him. Julian has changed his name (which was Spring) to Hindlegs. One finds himself getting rather attached to the gentle little beast, especially when he shows confidence and makes himself at home. . .
We walked to the village for the mail, and on our way back we met a wagon in which sat Mr. G. P. R. James, his wife and daughter, who had just left their cards at our house. Here ensued a talk, quite pleasant and friendly. He is certainly an excellent man; and his wife is a plain, good, friendly, kind-hearted woman, and his daughter a nice girl. Mr. James spoke of "The House of the Seven Gables" and of "Twice-Told Tales," and then branched off upon English literature generally.
Proceeding homeward, we were overtaken by a cavalier on horseback, who saluted me in Spanish, to which I replied by touching my hat. But, the cavalier renewing his salutation, I regarded him more attentively, and saw that it was Herman Melville! So we all went homeward together, talking as we went. Soon Mr. Melville alighted, and put Julian in the saddle; and the little man was highly pleased, and sat on the horse with the freedom and fearlessness of an old equestrian, and had a ride of at least a mile homeward. I asked Mrs. Peters to make some tea for Herman Melville, and so she did; and after supper I put Julian to bed, and Melville and I had a talk about time and eternity, things of this world and of the next, and books, and publishers, and all possible and impossible matters, that lasted pretty deep into the night. At last he rose, and saddled his horse and rode off to his own domicile, and I went to bed. . . .
I forgot to say that before supper Mr. Tappan came in, with three or four volumes of Fourier's works, which I wished to borrow, with a view to my next romance [Blithedale]. . . .
31st.--Bunny ate a leaf of mint to-day, seemingly with great relish. It makes me smile to see how he invariably comes galloping to meet me, whenever I open the door, making sure that there is something in store for him, and smelling eagerly to find out what it is. He eats enormously, and I think has grown considerably broader than when he came hither. The mystery that broods about him--the lack of any method of communicating with this voiceless creature--heightens the interest. Then he is naturally so full of little alarms, that it is pleasant to find him free of them as to Julian and myself.
In the morning, for the first time since some immemorial date, it was really quite pleasant; not a cloud to be seen, except a few white and bright streaks, far off to the southward. Monument Mountain, however, had a fleece of sun-brightened mist, entirely covering it, except its western summit, which emerged. There were also mists along its western side, hovering on the tree-tops; and portions of the same mist had flitted upwards, and become real clouds in the sky. These vapors were rapidly passing away, and by the time we had done our errand (to Luther Butler's for the milk) they had wholly disappeared. . . .
I have sent Bunny over to Mr. Tappan's, in the hope that they may adopt him, as the excellent little animal, for whom I have a great regard, is not exactly suited to be an occupant of our sitting-room. He has, however, very pleasant little ways, and a character well worth studying. He has grown quite familiar with us, and seems to show a fondness for our society, and would always seat himself near us, and was attentive to all our motions. He has too, I think, a great deal of curiosity, and an investigating disposition, and is very observant of what is going on around him. I do not know any other beast, and few human beings, who, always present, and thrusting his little paw into all the business of the day, could at the same time be so perfectly unobtrusive. What a pity that he could not put himself under some restraint and rule as to certain matters!
August 5. --For several days past I have been out of order with a cold, but it seems now to have passed away. As I was sitting in the boudoir this morning, Mrs. Peters came in, and said that a lady wished to see me. The visitor was a lady, rather young, and quite comely, with pleasant and intelligent eyes, in a pretty Quaker dress. She offered me her hand, and spoke with much simplicity, but yet in a ladylike way, of her interest in my works, and of Lowell, Whittier, James, Melville, the scenery, and of various other matters. Her manners were very agreeable; the Quaker simplicity and the little touch of Quaker phraseology gave piquancy to her refinement and air of society. She had a pleasant smile, and eyes that readily responded to one's thought, so that it was not difficult to talk with her; a singular, but yet a gentle freedom in expressing her own opinions; an entire absence of affectation; and, on the whole, it was the only pleasant visit I ever experienced in my capacity as author. She did not bore me with laudations of my own writings, but merely said that there are some authors with whom we feel ourselves privileged to become acquainted, by the nature of our sympathy with their writings, or something to that effect.
All this time Julian was climbing into my lap and off again. She smiled on him, and inquired whether he looked like his mother, remarking that he had no resemblance to myself. Finally she rose to depart, and I ushered her to the gate, where, as she took leave, she told me her name,--Elizabeth Lloyd,--and, bidding me farewell, she went on her way, and I saw her no more. . . .
It has been quite showery this afternoon; and across our valley, from east to west, there was a heavy canopy of clouds, almost resting on the hills on either side. It did not extend southward so far as Monument Mountain, which lay in sunshine, and with a sunny cloud midway on its bosom; and from the midst of our storm, beneath our black roof of clouds, we looked out upon this bright scene, where the people were enjoying beautiful weother. The clouds hung so low over us, that it was like being in a tent, the entrance of which was drawn up, permitting us to see the sunny landscape. This lasted for several minutes; but at last the shower stretched southward, and quite snatched away Monument Mountain, and made it invisible. Now it is mistily reappearing.
Julian has got rid of the afternoon in a miscellaneous manner; making a whip, and a bow-and-arrow, and playing Jackstraws with himself as an antagonist. It was less than an hour, I think, after dinner, when he began to bellow for something to eat, although he dined abundantly on rice and string-beans. I allowed him a slice of bread in the middle of the afternoon; and an hour afterwards, be began to bellow at the full stretch of his lungs for more, and beat me terribly because I refused it. He is really as strong as a little giant. He asked me just now, "What are sensible questions?"--I suppose with a view to asking me some.
After a most outrageous resistance, the old gentleman was put to bed at seven o'clock. I ought to mention that Mrs. Peters is quite attentive to him, in her grim way. To-day, for instance, we found two ribbons on his straw hat, which must have been of her sewing on. She encourages no familiarity on his part, nor is he in the least drawn towards her; nor, on the other hand, does he exactly seem to stand in awe; but he recognizes that there is to be no communication beyond the inevitable,--and, with that understanding, she awards him all substantial kindness. . . .
August 8. --To-day, Herman Melville and the two Duyckincks came in a barouche, and we all went to visit the Shaker establishment at Hancock. I don't know what Julian expected to see,--some strange sort of quadruped or other, I suppose,--and probably he was a little disappointed when I pointed out an old man in a gown and a gray, broad-brimmed hat, as a Shaker. The old man was one of the Fathers and rulers of the community, and under his guidance we visited the principal dwelling-house of the Village. It was a large brick edifice, with admirably contrived arrangements, floors and walls of polished woods, and everything so neat that it was a pain and constraint to look at it; especially as it did not imply any real delicacy or moral nicety in the occupants of the house. There were spittoons (bearing no appearance of ever being used, it is true) at equal distances up and down the broad entries. The sleeping-apartments of the two sexes had an entry between them, on one side of which hung the hats of the men, on the other side the bonnets of the women. In each chamber were two particularly narrow beds, hardly wide enough for one sleeper, but in each of which, the old Elder told us, two persons slept. There were no bathing or washing conveniences in the chambers; but in the entry there was a sink and washboard, where all their attempts at purification were to be performed. This fact shows that all their miserable pretence of cleanliness and neatness is the thinnest superficiality, and that the Shakers are, and must needs be, an unwashed set. And then their utter and systematic lack of privacy is hateful to think of. The sooner tbe sect is extinct the better, I think.
In the great house we saw an old woman--a round, fat, cheerful little old sister--and two girls, from nine to twelve years old; these looked at us and at Julian with great curiosity, though slyly and with side glances. At the doors of other dwellings we saw women sewing and otherwise at work; and there seemed to be a kind of comfort among them, but of no higher kind than is enjoyed by their beasts of burden. Also, the women were mostly pale, and none of the men had a jolly aspect. They are certainly the most singular and bedevilled set of people that ever existed in a civilized land.
Coming home, we mistook our way, and the drive was by far the most picturesque I have seen in Berkshire. On one height, just before sunset, we had a view for miles and miles around, with the Catskills blue and far on the horizon. Then the road ran along the verge of a deep gulf;--deep, deep, deep, and filled with foliage of trees that could not half reach up to us; and on the other side of the chasm uprose a mountainous precipice; but there were occasional openings through the forest, as we drove along, showing the low country at the base of the mountain. I had no idea that there was such a region within a few miles of us.
By and by, Monument Mountain and Rattlesnake Hill became visible, and we found we were approaching Lenox from the west, and must pass through the village in order to reach home. I got out at the post-office, and received a letter from Phoebe. By the time we were out of the village, it was beyond twilight: indeed, but for the full moon, it would have been quite dark. The little man behaved himself still like an old traveller; but sometimes he looked round at me from the front seat, and smiled at me with a peculiar expression, and put back his hand to touch me. It was a method of establishing sympathy in what doubtless appeared to him the wildest and unprecedentedest series of adventures that had ever befallen mortal travellers. Anon, we drew up at the little gate of the old red house. . . .
August 9. --We arose at about seven. I felt the better for the expedition; and, asking Julian whether he had a good time, he answered with great enthusiasm in the affirmative, and that he wanted to go again, and that he loved Mr. Melville as well as me and as mamma and as Una.
The rain was pouring down, and from all the hillsides mists were steaming up, and Monument Mountain seemed to be enveloped as if in the smoke of a great battle. During one of the heaviest showers of the day there was a succession of thundering knocks at the front door. On opening it, there was a young man on the doorstep, and a carriage at the gate, and Mr. James thrusting his head out of the carriage window, and beseeching shelter from the storm! So here was an invasion. Mr. and Mrs. James, their eldest son, their daughter, their little son Charles, their maid-servant, and their coachman;--not that the coachman came in; and as for the maid, she stayed in the hall. Dear me! where was Phoebe in this time of need? All taken aback as I was, I made the best of it. Julian helped me somewhat, but not much. Little Charley is a few months younger than he, and between them they at least furnished subject for remark. Mrs. James, luckily, happened to be very much afraid of thunder and lightning; and as these were loud and sharp, she might be considered hors de combat. The son, who seemed to be about twenty, and the daughter, of seventeen or eighteen, took the part of saying nothing, which I suppose is the English fashion as regards such striplings. So Mr. James was the only one to whom it was necessary to talk, and we got along tolerably well. He said that this was his birthday, and that he was keeping it by a pleasure-excursion, and that therefore the rain was a matter of course. We talked of periodicals, English and American, and of the Puritans, about whom we agreed pretty well in our opinions; and Mr. James told how he had recently been thrown out of his wagon, and how the horse ran away with Mrs. James; and we talked about green lizards and red ones. And Mr. James told Julian how, when he was a child, he had twelve owls at the same time; and, at another time, a raven, who used to steal silver spoons and money. He also mentioned a squirrel, and several other pets; and Julian laughed most obstreperously.
As to little Charles, he was much interested with Bunny (who has been returned to us from the Tappans' somewhat the worse for wear), and likewise with the rocking-horse, which luckily happened to be in the sitting-room. He examined the horse most critically, and finally got upon his back, but did not show himself quite so good a rider as Julian. Our old boy hardly said a word. Finally the shower passed over, and the invaders passed away; and I do hope that on the next occasion of the kind my wife will be there to see. . . .
August 14.--Going on our usual milky way this morning, we saw a dim rainbow. I fear, from subsequent and present appearances, that it was prophetic of bad weather for the day. At breakfast, Julian observed some cake which Mrs. Peters had set on the table for me; whereupon he became discontented with his own breakfast, and wanted something different from the ordinary bread and milk. I told him that his bread had yeast in it; and he forthwith began to eat it with a great appetite, and thought it better than any he ever tasted. . . .
In the afternoon, Julian insisted that we should go down to the lake; so away we went, and he was in the highest possible exhilaration, absolutely tumbling down with laughter, once or twice, on small cause. On reaching the lake, he sobered himself; and began to angle, with his customary beanpole and bent pin, and with all the staidness of an ancient fisherman. By this time it clouded over, and the lake looked wild and angry, with the gusts that swept across it. . . . On our way home, we seated ourselves on some logs, and the old boy said that one of these logs was Giant Despair, and that the old giant was dead; and he dug a shallow hole, which he said should be the giant's grave. I objected that it was not half large enough; but he informed me that Giant Despair grew very small, the moment he was dead. . . . It was nearly five when we reached home, and within an hour, surely, or very little more, Phoebe cannot fail to shine upon us. It seems absolutely an age since she departed. I think I hear the sound of wheels now. It was not she.
Eight, P. M.--Inconceivable to tell, she did not come! I set out for the post-office; it was a clear and beautiful sunset, with a brisk, Septemberish temperature. To my further astoundment, I found no letter; so that I conclude she must, after all, have intended to come to-day. It may be that there was a decided rain, this morning, in the region round about Boston, and that this prevented her setting out. . . .
August 15. --We did not get up till seven this morning. It was very clear, and of autumnal freshness, with a breeze from the northwest. On our walk this morning, we met three ladies on horseback; and the little man asked me whether I thought the ladies pretty, and said that he did not. They really were rather pretty, in my opinion; but I suspect that their appearance on horseback did not suit his taste; and I agree with him that a woman is a disagreeable spectacle in such an attitude. But the old boy is very critical in matters of beauty; although I think the real ground of his censures lies in some wrong done to his sense of propriety and fitness. For instance, he denied that the Quaker lady who called on me was pretty; and it turned out that he did not like the unaccustomed fashion of her dress, and her thees and thous.
Bunny is evidently out of order. He appeared to be indisposed yesterday, and is still more evidently so to-day. He has just had a shivering fit. Julian thinks he has the scarlet fever; that being the only disease with which he was ever conversant.
Mr. Ward has just been here, expecting to find Phoebe had arrived yesterday. This heightens the mystery. Elizabeth wrote me that he would escort her on Wednesday. He was prevented from coming on that day, but supposed she would have come on Thursday. Where can she be? . . . .
I put Julian to bed, and went to the village. Still no letter from Sophie. I think she must have been under some mistake as to Mr. Ward's movements, and has waited in expectation of his escort. I spent the evening reading newspapers. To bed, disconsolate, a little before ten.
August 16. --On entering the bathing-room this morning, I peeped into Bunny's cage, with something like a foreboding of what had happened; and, sure enough, there lay the poor little beast, stark and stiff. That shivering fit, yesterday, had a very fatal aspect in my eyes. I have no idea what was his disorder; his symptoms had been a disinclination, for the last two days, to move or eat. Julian seems to be interested and excited by the event, rather than afflicted. He imputed it, as he does all other mishaps, to the agency of Giant Despair; and as we were going for the milk, he declared it was the wickedest thing the giant ever did. . . . After breakfast, we dug a hole, and we planted poor Bunny in the garden. Julian said, "Perhaps to-morrow there will be a tree of Bunnies, and they will hang all over it by their ears." I have before this observed that children have an odd propensity to treat death as a joke, though rather nervously. He has laughed a good deal about Bunny's exit.
We went to the lake, in accordance with the old boy's wish; he had taken with him the little vessel that his Uncle Nat had made for him long ago, and which, since yesterday, has been his favorite plaything. He launched it upon the lake, and it looked very like a real sloop, tossing up and down on the swelling waves. I believe he would contentedly have spent a hundred years or so, with no other amusement than this. I meanwhile took the "National Era" from my pocket, and gave it a pretty attentive perusal. I have before now experienced that the best way to get a vivid impression and feeling of a landscape is to sit down before it and read, or become otherwise absorbed in thought; for then, when your eyes happen to be attracted towards the landscape, you seem to catch Nature at unawares, and see her before she has time to change her aspect. The effect lasts but for a single instant, and passes away almost as soon as you are conscious of it; but it is real for that moment. It is as if you could overhear and understand what the trees are whispering to one another; as if you caught a glimpse of a face unveiled, which veils itself from every wilful glance. The mystery is revealed, and, after a breath or two, becomes just as great a mystery as before. I caught one such glimpse, this forenoon, though not so perfectly as sometimes. It was half past twelve when we got back. . . .
If Phoebe does not come to-day--well, I don't know what I shall do. It is nearly six by the clock, and they do not come! Surely, they must, must, must be here to-night!
Within a quarter of an hour after writing the above, they have come,--all well! Thank God!
--The "Wonder-Book" having been put forth, embellished with some wonderful illustrations, amusing to Hawthorne, but perplexing to his children, to whom the text had suggested marvels quite different from those of the artist, this work having been disposed of; nothing but a few months intervened between the author and his third great Romance of "Hollingsworth," or, as he finally resolved to call it, "The Blithedale Romance." Meanwhile, however, he removed from Lenox, and took a house within a few miles of Boston.
In fact, after freeing himself from Salem, Hawthorne never found any permanent rest anywhere. He soon wearied of any particular locality. A novelist would say that he inherited the roving disposition of his seafaring ancestors. Partly necessity or convenience, but partly, also, his own will, drove him from place to place; always wishing to settle down finally, but never lighting upon the fitting spot. In America he moved from place to place and longed for England. In England he travelled constantly and looked forward to France and Italy. In Paris, Rome, and Florence his affections reverted to England once more; but, having returned thither, he made it but a stepping-stone to America. Finding himself at length in Concord, he enlarged and refitted the house he had previously bought there, and tried to think that he was content to spend in it the remainder of his days. No sooner had he come to this determination, however, than memories of England possessed him more and more; he mused about it, wrote about it, and, till near the end, cherished a secret hope that some happy freak of destiny might lead him there again. And when it became evident that destiny forbade such hopes, he made ready for the longest journey of all. It was the only one to the goal of which he could look forward with assured confidence.
On the 2lst of November, 1851, the family, with their trunks, got into a large farmer's wagon, and were driven to Pittsfield, leaving the little red house empty behind them. It was a bleak day; and one of the party remembers that the five cats which had been fellow inmates for many months, divining by some inscrutable instinct that this departure was final, and not merely a picnic or a visit, evacuated the premises in a body, and scampered after the wagon for about quarter of a mile. This brought them to the ridge of a hill, from which the road descended rapidly; and upon this ridge the five cats seated themselves in a row, and stared despairingly after the rapidly receding vehicle. There they remained, in motionless protest, outlined against the sky, until distance blotted them from sight. A snow-storm presently arose; and whether the five cats returned to the deserted house, or perished in the fury of the elements, or resumed their vain pursuit of the wagon, can never be revealed. As for the family, it reached West Newton that same evening.
A more dismal and unlovely little suburb than West Newton was in the winter of 1851 could not exist outside of New England. It stood upon a low rise of land, shelving down to a railway, along which smoky trains screeched and rumbled from morning till night. One of these trains had its smoke-stack bound about with gayly colored bunting, for it was carrying Louis Kossuth from New York to Boston. A few days afterwards, one of the children remembers being in a large hall, full of ladies and gentlemen; and the child's mother said, "Here comes Kossuth!" The child had a card in its hand, on which it had printed with a pencil, "God bless you, Kossuth!" and as the slender, dark, bearded gentleman drew near, bowing and smiling, this document was presented to him. It was a tremendous moment in the experience of the child, if not of the Hungarian patriot, who, however, accepted the testimonial very graciously.
Lenox was one of those places where a man might be supposed to write because the beauty around him wooed him to expression. West Newton was a place where the omnipresent ugliness compels a man to write in self-defence. Lenox drew forth "The House of the Seven Gables," and in West Newton "The Blithedale Romance" was composed; from which data the curious in such matters may conclude which kind of environment is the more favorable to the artist. The book was produced somewhere between the first of December and the last of April of the next year, when the snow was lying a foot deep on the ground. West Newton is not far from West Roxbury, where Brook Farm was situated; and it is possible that Hawthorne may have revisited the place in his walks, in order to refresh his memory as to the locality of his story; though I should be inclined to think that he would carefully avoid thus running the risk of disturbing the artistic atmosphere which had softened his ten years' recollection of the spot.
But this chapter has grown to such length that any remarks upon "Blithedale" must be deferred to the next. West Newton, it may be remarked, was only used as a temporary dwelling-place while something better was being looked for; and it was upon Concord that Hawthorne finally fixed his hopes. He made inquiries of, among other persons, Ellery Channing, as to what prospect there was of getting a house there; and Ellery invited him to come and talk it over, as may be gathered from the following whimsical letters:--
CONCORD, Dec. 13, 1851.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I am glad you have shortened your longitude, and evacuated that devilish institution of Spitzbergen,--that ice-plant of Sedgwicks, etc. Good God! to live permanently in Iceland! I know nothing of West Newton, and do not wish to know any more; but it is further south than the other,--a great advantage,--and you can sell Old Boreas, lusty railer, etc.
I write to say that I have now a room at your command, where perhaps you might make yourself comfortable for a few days. Nobody at home but myself; and a prospect of strong waters. It is so damned near where you live that perhaps you would like to leave home,--always a devilish bore to me, at any rate. I have got a good cook, and some wood; and you can have whole days, as I never dine before five. There is only this, my dear fellow; and if you will come, please let me know instanter, as next week is the week I shall be ready for you.
Emerson is gone, and nobody here to bore you. The skating is damned good.
Ever yours, W. E. C.
N. B. Pipes and old tobac no end.
--Hawthorne replied that his literary employments and domestic affairs would not allow him to avail himself of Ellery's pipes and Mr. Emerson's absence; whereupon the eccentric poet entered into a more detailed discussion of the situation.
CONCORD, Friday, Dec. 17, 1851.
DEAR HAWTHORNE,--Your letter, received to-night, got carried to hell before it got here, and the Prince of Darkness interpolated a polite refusal to my lively invitation. Now, by dint of swearing at the cook, damning the butcher; breaking all the temperance laws of the State, and exerting ourselves, I doubt not I might have passed a profitable week, to me.
But as you are sweating Romances, and have got that execrable bore, a small family, it is all right. I am glad now you did not come. I was afraid you would be disappointed if you had.
For my own part, I would infinitely rather settle on the icy peak of Mt. Ararat than in this village. It is absolutely the worst spot in the world. There are so many things against it, that it would be useless to enumerate the first. Among others, day before yesterday, at six A. M., the thermometer was ten degrees below nothing. This is enough.
A good climate is a prime consideration to me. Think of the climate of Venice, of Fie-all, of Cuba, of Malaga,--the last best. I have been within about six miles of the last city; behind it rise majestic Sierras, before it glitters and dreams the blue Mediterranean, and the thermometer stands at 75 degrees the year round. O God! what a contrast to this d---d place!
I have never lived in Alcott's place; but I judge the thermometer there goes as low as anywhere else in this country. Of course, that place you were at was colder.
How would it do to have a house at Este, or on the Gulf of Spezzia, as Shelley of drowned memory did? The rents are low, and living is cheap. Shelley made good weather, by the aid of Byron, Hunt, Trelawney, Williams, and others. I fancy it would not do to go alone among the peasantry; and you might retire from the Domzilla with a knife in your guts.
Mr. Lowell, whom I did not know, is somewhere in that ilk, and Mr. Story, etc. But they keep at Rome or Florence; and the climate of Rome, though mild, is aguish. So it is, absolutely, in Venice.
Self-exiled, etc., how would this seem? The American stamp is pretty strong on you, and could you feel at ease in European circumstances? I disliked Europe, alone, beyond description. You are such a domestic affair, you would feel snug with your family, etc.
What do you think of California? Good climate, but lots of blacklegs. I think a villa among the Euganean Hills would be as good as anything. But it requires a coal-hod of tin to make it work. Byron's income was about $20,000 a year.
W. E. C.
--As there was no immediate prospect of realizing the Gulf of Spezzia, or even California, Hawthorne finally decided to buy Mr. Alcott's honse in Concord, together with the twenty acres or thereabouts of arable and wooded land belonging to it. But he wisely waited until June before entering on possession of it; for there are days in that month when the climate of Concord seems almost as Paradisiacal as that of Malaga or the Euganean Hills.