Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume I
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
WHEN Hawthorne went to Lenox, after Madame Hawthorne's death, the household in Mall Street was, of course, broken up; and his two sisters, Elizabeth and Louisa, were established, the latter with her relatives in Salem, the former in lodgings in a farmer's family on the sea-coast not far from Salem, where she lived, in perfect contentment, for more than thirty years, a life the solitude of which would have killed most women in as many days. Beyond the members of the farmer's family (who could be her associates only in the most literal sense) she very seldom saw or communicated with any one. She got up at noon every day, walked or read till two in the morning, and then all was darkness and silence till noon again. Her health was always perfect, both of mind and body; and she not only kept abreast of all that was going on in the great world, but was to the end of her life a keen and sagacious critic of American and European public men and politics. I mention this because, from the purely intellectual point of view, she bore a very striking resemblance to her brother; and this resemblance will be made to appear more fully in a subsequent portion of the present work. Before Hawthorne left Berkshire, his sister Louisa had spoken of Elizabeth in the letter which follows:--
SALEM, August, 1850.
DEAR SOPHIA, . . Elizabeth is very pleasantly situated in Manchester. We searched the country round for her, but did not find just the right place till five or six weeks ago. She has a large room, with a good bathing-room, and a very large closet all to herself; two of her windows look to the ocean, and one to a wooded hill. It is very retired, and but a short distance to the beach. They are good and kind people, and the living is very good. You seem in great admiration at Elizabeth's sitting at the table with the family, and ascribe it to Mrs. Dike's persuasion. But it was not even necessary to request it; Elizabeth did it as a matter of course. What should you say to see her go to church? She actually did go several times while she was here. I was afraid she would forget herself and speak at meeting, but she only made up a face at me when I looked at her.
I suppose you know that Mr. Upham is nominated for Congress in the place of Mr. King. The papers are full of his praises, and speak of his public services and private virtues as if such things were! I suppose he will be elected. Give my love to Nathaniel. If he only did know how I want to see him, but it is not to be told how much! How does he look now? I suppose the children are tanned brown: how does it become them? Do you think you shall come to Boston in the autumn? I want to hear from you exceedingly, and hope you will find or make time to write to me very soon. Good-by.
M. L. HAWTHORNE.
And Elizabeth herself wrote, some time afterwards:--
MONTSERRAT, May 3.
DEAR BROTHER,--Your letter gave me an unexpected pleasure, for I really had but little hope of ever hearing from you again. I wish I could see the children, especially Una; I cannot bear the idea of their ceasing to be children before I see them. Why cannot you bring Una with you? I thank you for your invitation, but I do not like to go further from home than I can walk.
I have read "The House of the Seven Gables," as everybody else has, with great delight. People who abjure, upon principle, all other works of fiction, make an exception of yours. I cannot tell whether I prefer it to "The Scarlet Letter," and there is no need of drawing a comparison. The chapter entitled "Governor Pyncheon" seems to me unequalled, in its way, by anything I can remember; and little Pearl, too, is unique,--perfectly natural, but unlike any other child, unless it be Una. Louisa says that Judge Pyncheon is supposed to be Mr. Upham. I do not know Mr. Upham, but I imagined him to be a much more insignificant person,--less weighty in every sense. There may be some points of resemblance, such as the warm smiles, and the incident of the daguerreotype bringing out the evil traits of his character, and his boasts of the great influence he had exerted for Clifford's release. The greatest charm of both books, for me, is the perfect ease and freedom with which they seem to be written; it is evident that you stand in no awe of the public, but rather bid it defiance, which it is well for all authors, and all other men, to do.
I stayed in Manchester from July to November, at a place called Kettle Cove. It is a spot of peculiar charactenstics. Few people are born there, and few die; and they enjoy uninterrupted health. The very old go off from a sense of propriety, to make room for those who have a right to their places. They are more susceptible of enjoyment than any people I have ever met with; they wander about in the woods, and pick berries, and fish, and congregate together to eat chowders in the open air, on the grass,--old men and women seventy and eighty years of age, and those of all intermediate ages down to two or three. I never knew before how much beauty and variety a mist, brightened by sunshine, can impart to a landscape. The hills and the houses at a distance look as if they were based on air. There is a house in the Cove which I think would have suited you; you certainly must have been happier near the sea. I would never go out of the sound of its roar if I could help it.
There are many advantages in my present position at Montserrat. I can lose myself in the woods by only crossing the road, and the air is very pure and exhilarating, and the sea but a mile distant. I have been very busy about "Cervantes's Tales." I want to consult you about what I think a few necessary alterations, when you come.
Yours, E. M. H.
--Near the beginning of 1852 Hawthorne sent a presentation copy of the "Seven Gables" to Washington Irving, who acknowledged the gift in this amusingly courteous little note:--
MY DEAR SIR,--Accept my most cordial thanks for the little volume you have had the kindness to send me. I prize it as the right hand of fellowship extended to me by one whose friendship I am proud and happy to make, and whose writings I have regarded with admiration as among the very best that have ever issued from the American press.
Hoping that we may have many occasions hereafter of cultivating the friendly intercourse which you have so frankly commenced, I remain, with great regard,
Your truly obliged
Meanwhile one of his English admirers had thus returned the compliment on Irving's behalf, as it were:--
LONDON, Nov. 6, 1851.
DEAR SIR,--I have ventured to send you a little book of mine, principally because it is a pleasure to me to do so, a little perhaps in the hope of pleasing you. Being desirous of drawing closer the acquaintance which I some time ago formed with you, through the medium of Mrs. Butler, afterwards through your books, I can hit upon no better method than this that I have adopted. It is a long way to send such a trifle; but I foresee that you have more than even the author's good-nature, and will accept graciously my little venture.
Your two last books have become very popular here. For my own part, I have read them with great pleasure; and you will not be displeased, I think, when I tell you that whilst I was reading your last book ("The House with the Seven Gables"), the turn of the thought or phrase often brought my old friend Charles Lamb to my recollection.
I entertain the old belief that one may know a good deal of an author (independently of his genius or capacity, I mean) from his works. And if you or Mr. Longfellow should assert that you are not the men that you really are, why, I shall turn a deaf ear to the averment, and put you both to the proof.
Farewell, my dear sir. I wish you all possible success in the world of letters, where you already look so long-lived and robust, and in all other worlds and circles where you desire to be held in affection or respect.
Believe me to be your very sincere
B. W. PROCTER
--Not many months afterwards, Miss Bötta wrote to him, regarding a German translation of his works, in these terms:--
DRESDEN, STRUVE ST., July 7, 1852.
DEAR SIR,--A countryman of yours, Mr. Motley, has given me your address so far that I hope this letter will reach you. Since the appearance of "The Scarlet Letter" in England, your name has become familiar even to Germany; two translations appeared of it, but written by people who write by the hour for their bread, and could not pay any attention to the style. The purport of this letter is to ask you whether you will kindly send us what you have written before "The Scarlet Letter." An author who will be one of us, we must know from the beginning of his career, to follow him step by step, and see the phases of his mind. You therefore would truly oblige me by collecting what you think will form in future times the complete edition of your works, and forward them to my publisher,--the Chevalier Dunker, in Berlin. And next to this, I should be glad to have the proof sheets of your next work, to prevent the professional translators from making a job of it. You write as if you wrote for Germany. The equality before the law--the moral law as well as the juridical--is the great wish of the women of my country; and you have illustrated this point with the skill of an artist, and a deep knowledge of man's secret motives and feelings. We know "The House of the Seven Gables," which is a lesson to family pride,--a frailty which must lie deep in human nature, since you have been able to trace it even in a free country. What it is with us, with our old aristocracy,--penniless beggars with long names,--you scarcely can imagine. Nevertheless, such a picture as you have drawn is a useful lesson, and will do good here if known in the right quarter. This is unfortunately not now the case, and it is the fault of the translators. Your passages are long, you do not write a racy style to carry on the reader, and in bad language it is impossible to get on with it. Instead of curtailing, they have spun out the matter, and made two volumes of one; and the consequence is that the second remains unread. We must prevent this for the future. Those who read English are enchanted with it; but their number is not large, and ladies are almost alone proficient in foreign languages, and at the same time ladies have no position in Germany.
Believe me that I truly appreciate your great talent, and sincerely wish that we might come to a sort of fusion, and longed-for Literature of the World.
With great regard,
---"The Blithedale Romance" was especially fortunate in eliciting cordial letters of appreciation from the author's friends, some of which are subjoined. The first is from Mr. Pike, an old Salem friend of Hawthorne, and a man of remarkable depth of mind and tenderness of nature. He probably knew Hawthorne more intimately than any other man did; for he had the faculty of calling forth whatever was best and profoundest in him. He was the son of a carpenter, self-educated, and at one time filled a government office in Salem. In religious belief he was a Swedenborgian. Personally, he was barely of the average height, broad-shouldered, strongly built, with gray hair and a short grizzled beard; his eyes were dark, with a peculiar warm glow; his expression grave, gentle, and winning, and his voice low and deep. There was something of the softer side of Hollingsworth in him. Here is his letter:--
SALEM, July 18, 1852.
DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I want to come and see you, and shall tell no one that I am going, nor, when I return, that I have been. I have read your "Blithedale Romance." It is more like "The Scarlet Letter" than "The House of the Seven Gables." In this book, as in "The Scarlet Letter," you probe deeply,--you go down among the moody silences of the heart, and open those depths whence come motives that give complexion to actions, and make in men what are called states of mind; being conditions of mind which cannot be removed either by our own reasoning or by the reasonings of others. Almost all the novel-writers I have read, although truthful to nature, go through only some of the strata; but you are the only one who breaks through the hard-pan,--who accounts for that class of actions and manifestations in men so inexplicable as to call forth the exclamation, "How strangely that man acts what a fool he is!" and the like. You explain, also, why the utterers of such exclamations, when circumstances have brought them to do the very things they once wondered at in others, feel that they themselves are acting rationally and consistently. Love is undoubtedly the deepest, profoundest, of the deep things of man, having its origin in the depths of depths,--the inmost of all the emotions that ever manifest themselves on the surface. Yet writers seldom penetrate very far below the outward appearance, or show its workings in a way to account for its strange phases and fancies. They say two young people fall in love, and then expend their whole talents in describing the disasters that attended them, and how many acts of heroism they performed before accomplishing a marriage union. My mother had a deep idea in her mind when, in talking of incongruous unions, she would say, "It requires deep thinking to account for fancy." In "Blithedale," as in "The Scarlet Letter," you show how such things take place, and open the silent, unseen, internal elements which first set the machinery in motion, which works out results so strange to those who penetrate only to a certain depth in the soul. And I intend this remark to apply not only to love, but to other subjects and persons described in these volumes. I sometimes wish I had the pen of some, for I should like to lay open to the world my idea of love, clear to my own mind, but difficult to communicate,--its profoundness, its elements; how 't is a part of every man and woman; how all other loves, affections, benevolences, aspirations, gratitudes, are from this same fountain; receiving its character, quality, and modification as it passes through the different avenues from the fountain to its object; and how the presence of each object calls forth through its proper channel the love appropriate to itself, as food in the stomach invites the gastric juices proper to itself; how men and women are not perfect without a true spiritual union with the opposite sexes; how the divine nature, ever seeking to come down in forms, cannot do so in making man alone or woman alone, but, whenever it ultimates itself in humanity, a man and a woman is made,--made to be one, and would, in an unperverted state, find each other and remain united forever. But this is not what I intended to write about,--'t was "Blithedale." In "Blithedale" you dig an Artesian well down among the questionings. I was reminded of an Artesian well opened by my neighbor, who, after boring through various strata of earth and several fresh springs, found clear, cold sea-water at the depth of two hundred feet, which came bubbling to the surface from beneath the whole. How little we on the upper crust imagined that, far in the depths, was a stream which received its origin, quality, and character from the mighty ocean,--or fancied that, ere the stream we saw pouring forth could be exhausted, the vast world of waters must be dried up! But so it is; and the motive powers, like pearls, shine far down in the deep waters, and we fail to see them. You show us that such depths exist, and how they operate through the different departments, till they reach the outward and become visible actions. Thus the strange acts of men are in perfect consistency with the individual self, the profound self. How admirably you explore those lurking-places! I think "Blithedale" more profound in maxims than any work of yours. They will be quoted in the future as texts. You hit off the follies and errors of man with a quick humor, as no other man does. I cannot describe your humor, but I can feel and enjoy it. This peculiarity of your writings I always thought wonderful, but "Blithedale" I think excels the others in this particular. It is sudden, bright, but not flashy,--bright enough to make us feel our frailties and weaknesses, yet not so painfully that we hesitate to open our eyes and look again. You make us think the more and resolve the better, because the smart is not so sharp that we have to stop thinking to rub the wound. The best way I can describe it is to say that it opens and shuts just like heat lightning.
Tell your children that I have been thinking of them ever since I sat down to write.
Your friend truly, WM. B. PIKE.
--Another characteristic letter is from George Hillard:--
BOSTON, July 27, 1852.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--You have written another book full of beauty and power, which I read with great interest and vivid excitement. I hate the habit of comparing one work of an author with another, and never do so in my own mind. Many of your readers go off in this impertinent way, at the first, and insist upon drawing parallels between "The Blithedale Romance" and "The Scarlet Letter" or "The House of the Seven Gables." I do not walk in that way. It is enough for me that you have put another rose into your chaplet, and I will not ask whether it outblooms or outswells its sister flowers. Zenobia is a splendid creature, and I wish there were more such rich and ripe women about. I wish, too, you could have wound up your story without killing her, or that at least you had given her a drier and handsomer death. Priscilla is an exquisite sketch. I don't know whether you have quite explained Hollingsworth's power over two such diverse natures. Your views about reform and reformers and spiritual rappings are such as I heartily approve. Reformers need the enchantment of distance. Your sketches of things visible, detached observations, and style generally, are exquisite as ever. May you live a thousand years, and write a book every year!
Yours ever, GEO. S. HILLARD.
--Mrs. Peabody, in a letter to her daughter, mentions both the "Seven Gables" and "Blithedale."
. . . .You remember that when I was ill in Boston and needed watchers, I had "The House of the Seven Gables" read to me five times, with increasing interest. Recently I have read it again, and find that till now I never realized its wonderful beauty and power. What a vast amount of thought it has, inducing lofty thoughts and high aspirations,--the utterance of a pure and elevated soul, replete at the same time with an enchanting playfulness of fancy, which forces a smile amidst tears of admiration and deep and touching pathos! How natural, circumstanced as she was, are the feelings and actions of good old Hepzibah, who was noble, with all her errors. What a character is Phoebe! and how exquisitely blended in her are the usefulness and the tenderness and refinement and poetry of a Christian woman! Your husband's books should not be read merely, but, like the Book of books, be studied.
"I have also been re-reading "Blithedale." I wonder that I could overlook, even at a first reading, the exquisite instruction it conveys. The real philanthropist, the practical reformer, the friend of his race, must be encouraged in his glorious course by reading this book a second time; and the Hollingsworths, the Zenobias, the Fauntleroys, will read with awe the fate that awaits selfishness and abused privileges.
--After finishing "Blithedale," Hawthorne had at first intended writing another romance,--this time, as he said, on some theme more cheerful than heretofore; but he failed to find the mood or the opportunity, and the project lapsed (as it turned out) forever. Instead of it, however, he produced--in compliance with many entreaties from young people, and also, no doubt, because he enjoyed the work--a second volume of "Wonder" stories, under the title of "Tanglewood Tales." I append a specimen of the numberless letters from children, urging him to this congenial task:--
BOSTON, Dec. 14, 1851.
MY DEAR MR. HAWTHORNE,--I was so much delighted with that Wonder-Book that I wish you would write another like it. I hope you are having a pleasant time at Lenox. I like the story of the Chimæra, and so I did like the other stories. I saw a good portrait of Jenny Lind, which Mrs. Ward brought to this house the other day; but I did not hear her sing, because the tickets cost so much.
Your affectionate friend,
CHARLES S. BOWDITCH.
P. S. Please direct the answer to J. J. Bowditch.
--The Wayside, in which the "Tanglewood Tales" and the Life of Pierce were written, is by this time tolerably familiar to sentimental pilgrims, not to speak of the many printed descriptions which have brought it before the mental eyes of those who are content to take their sentiment at second hand. There is, however, and probably there will always exist, in the public mind, a belief that the Wayside and the Old Manse are one and the same building; and such persons as have ventured to inhabit the former edifice since Hawthorne's death have often found it difficult or impossible to convince investigating travellers to the contrary. Nor is it easy to overstate the indignation and resentment of these same travellers, when an attempt is made to insinuate the idea that the house may even now be a private dwelling, not at all hours of the day and night open to the inquisitive presence of strangers. Be that as it may, a distance of about two miles separates the Wayside from the Old Manse, the latter being situated on the banks of the river, while the former is on the Boston highway, three quarters of a mile beyond the home of Mr. Emerson. Originally it was a small oblong structure, containing only four or five rooms; a mere box with a roof on it, like so many other houses built in New England a hundred and fifty years ago. When Mr. Alcott took possession of it, he put a gabled dormer window in front, over the entrance, and added a wing to each side of the building; and these wings were rendered picturesque by galleries--or "piazzas," as we call them--supported by rustic pillars, across the front. The barn was separate from the house, and stood against the hill on the spectator's left. Hawthorne made no alterations during his first occupancy; but when he returned from England in 1860, he moved the barn to the other side of the house, and connected it with the wing on that side, added another story to the other wing, built in two large rooms behind, and surmounted the whole with the "tower," in the top of which is the study where "Our Old Home" was written. It was all painted a warm buff color, and looks to-day almost precisely as it did then. The hill and the surrounding grounds are, however, somewhat more thickly wooded than in those days; and the old picket fence and thickset hedge, which in some measure protected it from the road, have disappeared.
Though never so secluded as the Old Manse, it was enough so for practical purposes; and by ascending the hill, Hawthorne could withdraw himself from approach as completely as if he were in the primeval forests of Maine. Along the ridge of this hill, which ran parallel with the road, it was his custom to walk several hours each day, until a narrow path, between two and three hundred yards in length, was worn there by his footsteps; and traces of it are still visible. But more will be said of the Wayside in the second volume of this work; meanwhile let this suffice.
It had been arranged that Miss Louisa Hawthorne was to make a visit at her brother's new home during the summer of 1852. She was a lady of sociable and gentle disposition, and a great favorite with the children, as well as with Mr. and Mrs Hawthorne. She had never enjoyed robust health, however, and had therefore been prevented from mingling, as much as she would otherwise have done, with the friends who loved her and whom she loved. But now that Hawthorne had a home of his own, it was hoped that she might finally be enabled to take up her permanent residence there. She was expected to arrive about the first of July, but was prevented, as the following letter shows, by the illness of a relative. The "Cardinal" and the "Chancellor" were two friends of Hawthorne, whom it was the family custom to designate by these titles. The latter dignitary was Mr. David Roberts.
SALEM, July 1, 1852.
MY DEAR BROTHER,--Mrs. Manning is very ill, and I must put off coming to you till next week. I am glad you like your house, and that you seem at last to be settled. I heard of you in Boston, two or three weeks ago, buying carpets. I should have been afraid to trust you. The day I went to Boston I encountered the Cardinal and the Chancellor in the depot. The latter detained me to recount the glorious career which was before you in the diplomatic line, if General Pierce should be elected; and he stopped me in the street the next day to repeat the list of offices. I remember being Minister to Russia was one of them. I, not by any means thinking office the most direct path to glory for you, very coolly told him I hoped you would have nothing to do with it. I believe he thought I was very ridiculous. The Cardinal desired that you might be told that he went for General Pierce. I don't know where he will go next! He wished very much to see you, and will meet you in Boston any day you may appoint. The Democratic party must flourish if it has many more such converts.
Yours affectionately, M. L. H
--When Mrs. Manning recovered, which was in the course of a week, Louisa further postponed her visit in order to accompany another relative to Saratoga. Here she remained two weeks, and then set out for New York by way of the Hudson. The steamer on which she embarked was the "Henry Clay," which, it will be remembered, was burned when within a short distance of its destination, on the 27th of July. The news was soon published in New England; but it was not until the third day that Hawthorne learned that Louisa had been among the passengers; and the letter which his wife wrote, a few hours later, to her mother, bears traces of the agitation which the intelligence had caused.
CONCORD, Friday morning, July 30, 1852.
MY DEAREST MOTHER,--This morning we received the shocking intelligence that Louisa Hawthorne was lost in the destruction of the steamer "Henry Clay" on the Hudson, on Wednesday afternoon, July 27. She has been at Saratoga Springs and with Mr. Dike for a fortnight, and was returning by way of New York, and we expected her here for a long visit. It is difficult to realize such a sudden disaster. The news came in an appalling way. I was at the toilet-table in my chamber, before seven o'elock, when the railroad coach drove up. I was astonished to see Mr. Pike get out. He left us on Monday morning,--two days ago. It struck to my heart that he had come to inform us of some accident. I knew how impossible it was for him to leave his affairs. I called from the window, "Welcome, Mr. Pike!" He glanced up, but did not see me nor smile. I said, "Go to the western piazza, for the front door is locked." I continued to dress my hair, and it was a considerable time before I went down. When I did, there was no Mr. Pike. "Where is Mr. Pike?--I must then have seen his spirit," said I. But upon going to the piazza, there he stood unaccountably, without endeavoring to enter. Mr. Hawthorne opened the door with the strange feeling that he should grasp a hand of air. I was by his side. Mr. Pike, without a smile, deeply flushed, seemed even then not in his former body. "Your sister Louisa is dead!" I thought he meant that his own sister was dead, for she also is called Louisa. "What! Louisa?" I asked. "Yes." "What was the matter?" "She was drowned." "Where?" "On the Hudson, in the 'Henry Clay'!" He then came in, and my husband shut himself in his study.
We were about sitting down to breakfast. We sat down. Una was in the bathroom; I went to tell her. This upset me completely. I began to weep. By and by Mr. Pike got up from the breakfast-table, and said that unless he could do something for us, he must immediately return, and he went out. At last, my mind left the terrible contemplation of Louisa's last agony and fright, and imaged her supremely happy with her mother in another world. For she was always inconsolable for her mother, and never could be really happy away from her. So I burst out, "Oh, I have thought of something beautiful, sornething that will really comfort us!" Una's face lightened, but Julian could not pay heed. But I bent over him and said, "Aunt Louisa is with her mother, and is happy to be with her. Let us think of her spirit in another world." A smile shone in his eyes for a moment, but another flood of tears immediately followed. All at once he got up and went to the study,--he had the intention of consoling his father with that idea; but his father had gone on the hill.
Mr. Hawthorne will ask his sister Elizabeth to come here, to change the scene. It is an unmitigated loss to Elizabeth. Tell my sister Elizabeth not to stop here as she had intended. Mr. Pike said that Mrs. Dike was almost distracted,--he never saw any body so distressed. The news came by telegraph,--"Maria is lost." Mr. Pike brought us the paper. Good-by.
Your affectionate child, SOPHIA.
--The present writer remembers that morning, with its bright sunshine and its gloom and terror; Mr. Hawthorne stauding erect at one side of the room, with his hands behind him, in his customary attitude, but with an expression of darkness and suffering on his face such as his children had never seen there before. Mr. Pike sat at the breakfast-table; but no one could eat anything, and no one spoke. After a while Mr. Hawthorne went out, and was seen no more that day. It was a blow that struck him to the heart; but he could never relieve himself with words. Louisa's body was recovered a few days later; for she had leapt into the river, preferring that mode of death to the fire.
A week or two afterwards, Mrs. Peabody wrote the letter given below. Hawthorne had been contemplating a visit to the Isles of Shoals in the autumn, and he carried out his intention in the ensuing September. The allusion to "Blithedale" should, chronologically, precede that quoted above.
AUGUST 9, 1852.
MY BELOVED ONES,--Have your high and just views of the dealings of our Heavenly Father soothed the anguish nature must endure for a while under such a shock as you have received? Does Mr. Hawthorne mean to go to the seashore, or has this affliction changed his purpose? It would be best to go, if he can. His soul would then be filled with the glories of that Nature whose favored child he is. His perfect clearness of vision, his mildness, his calmness, his true strength and greatness, render him the ready recipient of all that magnificent scenery conveys to the soul. He is one of the few who can not only look at things, but into and through them. The world has great claims on one who can do so much towards raising the mind from stupid materialism to translucent wonder.
We are all reading "Blithedale." I am interested to see how differently it affects different minds. Some say (Mary, for one), "It is the greatest book Hawthorne has written." Another says, "I do not understand it;" another, "There is no interest in it to me;" another exclaims, "Was ever anything so exquisite!" I have not seen any review of it yet. I hope a reviewer will arise for the task who has soul; who can see the true philanthropist, the real reformer, piercing with a seer's eye all the vain efforts hitherto made to form associations that will really elevate the characters and better the worldly condition of men,--one who has power to realize why all such associations to ameliorate the condition of the laborer have hitherto failed. At Brook Farm, as elsewhere, they did not begin right. Many persons were huddled together there, with all their passions in full vigor; selfishness, covetousness, pride, love of dress, of approbation, of admiration, of flattery, operated on one and all. Petty jealousies rankled in hearts that ought to have throbbed only with love to God and man. How could such incongruous elements amalgamate and produce a genuine Brotherhood? Our associations carry in their very midst the causes of decay.
---It was either during this month of August or in the early part of the preceding July, that Hawthorne first met the poet, R. H. Stoddard. Mr. Stoddard made two visits to him before his departure from America, and has written the following account of his impressions:--
"I saw Hawthorne first in the summer of 1852, just after he became possessor of the Wayside. When I was introduced to him, he greeted me warmly, and, throwing open the door of the library, invited me to make myself at home, while he transacted some business with Whipple in the next room. Presently he rejoined me, and we ascended the hill behind the house and sat down in the old rustic summer-house. Here he began to talk with me, mostly about myself and the verses I had written, which, I was surprised to learn, he had read carefully. He mentioned, in particular, an architectural fancy I had thrown up, and compared it with his own little box of a house.
"'If I could build like you,' he said, 'I would have a castle in the air, too.'
"'Give me the Wayside,' I replied, 'and you shall have all the air-castles I can build.'
"He recalled a short memoir of my humble self, and the portrait that accompanied it, and was pleased to observe that I was neither so old nor so ill-looking as this portrait had led him to expect. As we rambled and talked, my heart went out towards this famous man, who did not look down upon me, as he well might have done, but took me up to himself as an equal and a friend. I see him now as I saw him then, a strong, broad-shouldered man, with dark iron-gray hair, a grave but kindly face, and the most wonderful eyes in the world, searching as lightning and unfathomable as night.
"The following winter I visited him again, to talk over a Custom House appointment I hoped to secure. When I reached Concord, the ground was covered with snow; it was freezing in the shade and thawing in the sun. We dined, and after dinner we retired to the study, where he brought out some strong cigars, and we smoked vigorously. Custom House matters were scarcely touched upon; and I was not sorry, for they were not half so interesting to me as the discursive talk of Hawthorne. He manifested a good deal of curiosity in regard to some old Brook Farmers, whom I knew in a literary way; and he listened to my impressions of the individuality of each with a twinkle in his eye; and I can see now that he was amused by my outspoken detestation of certain literary Philistines. He was outspoken, too; for he told me plainly that a volume of fairy-stories I had just published was not simple enough for the young. I could not but agree with him, for by this time I wished sincerely I had let the wee folk alone. We fell to talking about the sea, and the influence it had upon childhood; and other personal matters which I have forgotten. What impressed me most at the time was not the drift of the conversation, but the gracious manner of Hawthorne. He expressed the warmest interest in my affairs, and a willingness to serve me in every possible way. In a word, he was the soul of kindness, and when I forget him I shall have forgotten everything else.
"I have preserved but one of Hawthorne's letters written at this period. It is dated 'Concord, March 16, 1853.'
"DEAR STODDARD,--I beg your pardon for not writing before; but I have been very busy, and not particularly well. I enclose a letter from Atherton. Roll up and pile up as much of a snowball as you can, in the way of political interest; for there never was a fiercer time than this, among the office-seekers. You had better make your point in the Custom House at New York, if possible; for, from what I can learn, there will be a poor chance of clerkships in Washington.
"Atherton is a man of rather cold exterior, but has a good heart,--at least, for a politician of a quarter of a century's standing. If it be certain that he cannot help you, he will probably tell you so. Perhaps it would be as well for you to apply for some place that has a literary fragrance about it,--Librarian to some Department, the office which Lanman held. I don't know whether there is any other such office. Are you fond of brandy? Your strength of head (which you tell me you possess) may stand you in good stead at Washington; for most of these public men are inveterate guzzlers, and love a man that can stand up to them in that particular. It would never do to let them see you corned, however. But I must leave you to find your own way among them. If you have never associated with them heretofore, you will find them a new class; and very unlike poets.
"I have finished the 'Tanglewood Tales,' and they will make a volume about the size of the 'Wonder-Book,' consisting of six myths,--the Minotaur, the Golden Fleece, the story of Proserpine, etc., etc., etc., done up in excellent style, purified from all moral stains, re-created as good as new, or better, and fully equal, in their own way, to Mother Goose. I never did anything else so well as these old baby stories. In haste,
"P.S. When applying for office, if you are conscious of any deficiencies (moral, intellectual, or educational, or whatever else), keep them to yourself, and let those find them out whose business it may be. For example, supposing the office of Translator to the State Department to be tendered you, accept it boldly, without hinting that your acquaintance with foreign languages may not be the most familiar. If this unimportant fact be discovered afterwards, you can be transferred to some more suitable post. The business is, to establish yourself, somehow and anywhere.
"I have bad as many office-seekers knocking at my door, for three months past, as if I were a prime minister; so that I have made a good many scientific observations in respect to them. The words that Bradamante (I think it was) read in the Enchanted Hall are, and ought to be, their motto,--'Be bold, be bold, and evermore be bold.' But over one door she read, 'Be not too bold.' A subtile boldness, with a veil of modesty over it, is what is needed."
--It was during August and the first part of September of this year that Hawthorne wrote the biography of Pierce, at the latter's request. Pierce and he had been faithful friends since their college days; Hawthorne admired and respected, as well as loved, the future President, and never, to the end of his life, found any cause to alter his sentiments towards him. But though he was glad, from a personal point of view, to give his friend whatever assistance he might in consummating his career, nevertheless, as he wrote to Bridge, Pierce had now "reached that altitude where a man careful of his personal dignity will begin to think of cutting his acquaintance." In other words, he foresaw that lie would be accused of acting the part of a vulgar office-seeker,--of aiding Pierce only in order that Pierce might be the better able to aid him, and of apostatizing from his real political convictions in order to put money in his purse. It is true that he might have avoided the worst part of this reproach by declining the office which Pierce afterwards tendered to him; but, as it happened, he did not decline, but accepted it. We are forced to conclude, therefore, that he either bartered truth and honor for a few thousand dollars and a glimpse of Europe; or else that, being conscious of his own honesty and rectitude of purpose, he regarded with his customary indifference the angry accusations of his opponents. As for the present biographer, his only care will be to afford each reader the fullest liberty to decide the matter according to his private prejudices and prepossessions. Argument on such a subject is futile.
Mrs. Hawthorne wrote to her mother, on the completion of the book, as follows:--
CONCORD, Sept. 10, 1852.
I have just now finished reading the little biography, which I did not see in manuscript. It is as serene and peaceful as a dream by a river; and such another testimony to the character of a Presidential candidate was, I suspect, never before thrown upon the fierce arena of political warfare. Many a foot and hoof may trample on it; but many persons will preserve it for its beauty. Its perfect truth and sincerity are evident within it; as no instrument could wrench out of Mr. Hawthorne a word that he did not know to be true in spirit and in letter, so also no fear of whatsoever the world may attribute to him as motive would weigh a feather in his estimation. He does the thing he finds right, and lets the consequences fly.
How grand and dignified is Mr. Sumner's speech, and what a complete rendering of the subject!
--Miss Elizabeth Hawthorne, although, as we have seen, she was opposed to her brother in politics, seems to have accepted the "Life" with equanimity. This is her letter:--
SALEM, Sept. 23, 1852.
DEAR BROTHER,--You will be surprised to see that this is dated at Salem; but I knew that I must come here again, though I was glad to get away for a little while. I wish to hear from you about the business that we spoke of. I wish to do everything that must be done, while I am here now, and I should be glad never to see the place again. In Beverly I can do exactly as I choose, and even appear to be what I am, in a great degree. They are sensible and liberal-minded people, though not much cultivated.
Mr. Dike has bought your Life of Pierce, but he will not be convinced that you have told the precise truth. I assure him that it is just what I have always heard you say. The "Puritan Recorder" eulogizes the book, for you are a favorite with the Orthodox, and especially with the clergy; and for that reason I think you should judge more charitably of them. Vanity seems to me to be their besetting sin.
The "Gazette" calls the book "an honest biography," but says the subject of it "has never risen above respectable mediocrity." The "Register" calls it your "new Romance." People are talking about something that Mr. Pike is asserted to have said derogatory to General Pierce; perhaps you have heard of it. Uncle William thinks he was unguarded in some expressions in David Roberts's office, where he is in the habit of going, and that his words have been misinterpreted and misrepresented. I thought he was too experienced a politician to be guilty of any imprudence in speech.
Yours, E. M. H.
I hope you and Una will come to Montserrat. I am sure she would enjoy it. Besides the variety of colors in the woods, the barberry bushes, of which you have none, are now more beautiful than vineyards, as I can testify, for I see abundance of grapes here. If yon will send me the Life of Pierce, I could distribute some copies there, perhaps, with advantage.
--While the "Life" was doing its work, were it more or less, Hawthorne and Pierce made their expedition to the Isles of Shoals, where they spent about a fortnight; and Hawthorne's journal of the visit will be found in the first volume of the "American Note-Books." On Hawthorne's return, the quiet life at the Wayside was resumed; and Mrs. Hawthorne has left this picture of one of those lovely autumnal days:--
CONCORD, OCt. 5, 1852.
On the 1st of October we all (except Rosebud) took a walk. We mounted our hill, and "thorough bush, thorough brier," till we came out in Peter's Path, beyond the Old Manse. All that ground is consecrated to me by unspeakable happiness; yet not nearly so great happiness as I now have, for I am ten years happier in time, and an uncounted degree happier in kind. I know my husband ten years better, and I have not arrived at the end; for he is still an enchanting mystery, beyond the region I have discovered and made my own. Also, I know partly how happy I am, which I did not well comprehend ten years ago. We went up the bare hill opposite the Old Manse, and I descended on the other side, so I could look up the avenue, and see our first home for the first time in seven years. It was a very still day. The sun did not shine; but it was warm, and the sky was not sombre. As I stood there and mused, the silence was profound. Not a human being was visible in the beloved old house, or around it. Wachusett was a pale blue outline on the horizon. The river gleamed like glass here and there in the plain, slumbering and shining and reflecting the beauty on its banks. We returned through Sleepy Hollow, and walked along a stately, broad path, which we used to say should be the chariot-road to our castle, which we would build on the hill to which it leads. The trees have grown very much in seven years, and conceal the Hollow. From this we followed a wood-path which I remembered as very enchanting nine years ago, with its deep wooded dells on each side. We sat down in a sheltered spot for some time, and in the silence we heard the hum and sharp tone of summer insects; and the crows sailed above, crying, "Caw! caw!" A few trees had taken prismatic hues as if for particular ornament to the scene, and there was a group of low sumach which had turned a rich crimson color, and Julian wanted to take the whole of it along with him.
--The hill in Sleepy Hollow on which "our castle" was to stand is now the site of Hawthorne's grave; and the "chariot-road" was the path up which his funeral procession mounted.
It was a period of repose and comfort. The relaxing atmosphere of Concord had not yet begun to have its effect on Hawthorne, though he felt it sensibly enough on his return from England. The town stands on low meadow-land,--so low that it is said the bottom of Walden Pond (which is one hundred feet deep) is on a higher level than the top of any building in the village, though the village and the pond are but two miles apart. I will not, however, vouch for the accuracy of this measurement. At any rate, the air in autumn and winter is crisp and invigorating; in summer only, does it subdue the energies. Hawthorne and his children spent much time in exploring the woods and fields in the neighborhood. Walden Pond was at that time as secluded as the legendary lake of the "Great Carbuncle;" and the splendor of the autumn foliage, reflected in its still surface, might have been mistaken for the royal glow of that famous gem itself. Thoreau's hut was still standing on a level, pine-encircled spot, near the margin. When the snows began to fall, there was superb coasting to be had down the sides of the many small hills near the Wayside; and the children, with their father's assistance, rolled up a snowball so large and solid that it remained on the front lawn, an imposing object, all winter, and was only subdued by the soaking. spring rains. Mr. Ephraim Bull, the inventor of the Concord grape, was a next-door neighbor; and his original and virile character had a great attraction for Hawthorne, insomuch that they had much pleasant converse together. When the weather did not admit of excursions, there was always good entertainment within doors; and the new little sister, who had lately made her appearance, was better than the best of playthings to her brother and sister. She had always been regarded by them in the light of a special providence. Her mother has this mention of her in a letter to Mrs. Peabody:--
Our little Rosebud is only a comfort and joy from morning till night, and her rosy cheeks and clear blue eyes are very pleasant to see. She is very facetious, and makes and takes jokes with perfect understanding, looking sidelong, or from beneath her hair, with the drollest expression. Her hair is curling up behind, and I suppose will grow in waving curls, as Una's did. She is the very little blue-eyed daughter I prayed for, in every respect exact, except that I thought of yellow hair. I do not know whether she has the philosophic temperament of the other children; but she has vivid perceptions, and sees things picturesquely. When she looks at a picture, she acts it at once, if there are living beings in it. She has an air of command which is very funny.
--The only literary work of this epoch was the completion of the "Tanglewood Tales" volume, which had been relinquished in order to write the Life of Pierce. The stories appeared without the introductions and after-pieces which had been so agreeable a feature of the "Wonder-Book," and for which method of presenting a tale Hawthorne seems to have always had a liking; it was in such a setting, for example, that he had intended to frame the "Seven Tales of my Native Land." But either he thought a repetition undesirable, or else the idea had not satisfied his taste as well as he had expected. The stories themselves, however, were as good as the others, or perhaps better than they; and it is a pity that none of them bave ever been fittingly illustrated. Hawthorne has been especially unfortunate in his artists; and never more so than in the latest specimens of work in this kind which have been published. Yet no books are more stimulating than his to the artistic sense.
One of the best comments which this series of fairy stories elicited came from the pen of Mr. Robert Carter, a man of rare sagacity and wide learning and, in later years, editor of "Appleton's Journal." His letter is well worth reading:--
CAMBRIDGE, MASS., Feb. 10, 1853.
MY DEAR SIR,--At the time of publication, a copy of the "Wonder-Book" was sent to me as editor of the "Commonwealth." It got mislaid until last New Year's day, when I found it and took it home for my eldest child, a boy four years old, Master James Lowell Carter. Late in the evening, on lighting my cigar, I thought I would look into the book a little, and master the drift of at least one story, to be ready for my young inquisitor in the morning. A diligent reader of novels for at least a quarter of a century, I scarcely expected to find in a child's book a fresh fountain of new sensations and ideas. But the book threw me into a tamult of delight, almost equal to that of the first perusal of "Robinson Crusoe" or the "Arabian Nights." At two o'clock in the morning, my fire having entirely gone out, I laid down the book, every word read except "The Chimæra," which story I read aloud at breakfast to the immense delight of Master James, and the equal gratification of his mother, who pronounced it the finest poem she had heard for many a day, and thought, if the rest of the tales were as good, the book must be a wonder-book indeed.
Notwithstanding the beauty of many passages and descriptions in the tales and the framework, I do not so much admire the execution as the conception of the book, which seems to me exquisitely felicitous, developing as it does a new use for the apparently effete mythology of the ancients. It is, in fact, the most palpable hit that has been made in literature for many a day, and will mark an era in fiction, as did the translation of the "Arabian Nights." The Mahometan mythology does not excel the classic in romantic machinery, while it is far inferior to it in intellectual and moral interest, and in affinity with our current ideas and literature.
I observe with regret that in your preface you exhibit a doubtful, half-apologetic tone, as if you lacked confidence in your theme and its acceptance with critical readers,--the influence of which want of confidence seems to me perceptible in portions of the book, chiefly in leading you to adopt a lighter style now and then, which jars a little with the general effect,--as if, to forestall laughter, you desired to show that you were only in fun yourself. The intermediate parts--the framework--is exceedingly well written, with some fine Berkshire descriptions. But though the contrast is striking between the Old World tales and the fresh young life of America, I should have liked it better if you had given the tales a Greek setting, and thrown back Eustace Bright and his auditors a couple of thousand years, to a country-seat of Attica, Ionia, or Sicily. As it is, Mr. Pringle and his wife are decided excrescences, who ought to be condemned to the preface, and with them your friends the publisher and artist, who are now sadly out of place. I want to see nothing in the "Wonder-Book" that will not read harmoniously there a thousand years hence, or in any language of the world; for if you continue the book as well as you have begun it (and you ought to do it better), so that the value of quantity will be added to that of quality (for a book of tales must be pretty large to live), it will be read in the future as universally as the "Arabian Nights," and not only by children. An author has a strong temptation to introduce his friends into his pages, but it ought never to be done at a sacrifice of art. You doubtless remember that many of your friends and acquaintances who figured in "The Hall of Fantasy," as it appeared in the "Pioneer," have vanished from that structure in its present razeed condition.
Pardon me if I point out what seems to me another fault in the book. I observe that, for brevity, or from some difficulty in the managing the stories, or from some cause which has not occurred to me, you have omitted to use some of the most striking portions of the myths you have dealt with. For instance, the adventures of Perseus on his return, his Rescue of Andromeda, his petrifaction of Atlas, etc., would have added much to the incident of the story. And in "The Golden Touch," I do not understand why you have changed Bacohus into Mercury, or have omitted the capture of Silenus and his entertainment by Midas, which would have afforded fine material for pleasant and varied treatment. "The Three Golden Apples," likewise, ought not to exhaust the achievements of Hercules, which should rather be woven into a series rivalling those of "Sinbad the Sailor," in length and interest. But enough of fault-finding. My object in writing is merely to assure you that at least one of your readers is convinced that in the "Wonder-Book" you have hit upon the entrance to a golden mine, and that it is worth while to carry on the work with care and system, so as to get the full amount of the treasures; and not from haste or want of plan leave any part unworked or unexhausted.
With high respect, I am very truly yours,
--Whether or not Hawthorne ever entertained the intention of following this good advice, circumstances prevented him from doing so; and very possibly he would not have felt disposed to linger in a mine, however golden, from the treasures of which he had already extracted such fair specimens. As long as a subject had freshness, he could enjoy working upon it; but when it came to deliberately overhauling it for money's sake alone, enjoyment and inspiration both grew jaded.
There is reason to suppose, however, that he had a new romance in his mind, and would have written it during this year, but for the appointment to the Liverpool consulship, which came in the spring. There is no means of even conjecturing what this romance would have been; no trace of it remains, either in memoranda, or in the recollections of his friends. The following letter from Herman Melville indicates that he had suggested a story to Hawthorne; but Mr. Melville recently informed the present writer that it was a tragic story, and that Hawthorne had not seemed to take to it. It could not, therefore, have been the "more genial" tale which he spoke of to Bridge.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--The other day, at Concord, you expressed uncertainty concerning your undertaking the story of Agatha, and, in the end, you urged me to write it. I have decided to do so, and shall begin it immediately upon reaching home; and so far as in me lies, I shall endeavor to do justice to so interesting a story of reality. Will you therefore enclose the whole affair to me; and if anything of your own has occurred to you in your random thinking, won't you note it down for me on the same page with my memorandum? I wish I had come to this determination at Concord, for then we might have more fully and closely talked over the story, and so struck out new light. Make amends for this, though, as much as you conveniently can. With your permission I shall make use of the "Isle of Shoals," as far as the name goes at least. I shall also introduce the old Nantucket seaman, in the way I spoke to you about. I invoke your blessing upon my endeavors; and breathe a fair wind upon me. I greatly enjoyed my visit to you, and hope that you reaped some corresponding pleasure.
Julian, Una, and Rose,--my salutations to them.
--The cares of office were now to take precedence of literary interests for a time; and the disputes of political partisans made themselves audible even in the retirement of the Wayside, where not Hawthorne, indeed, but his wife, was moved to take a part in the discussion. The two letters from which the following extracts are taken are worth reading, not only for their intrinsic eloquence and earnestness, but as showing how ardently the wife identified herself with her husband, while yet retaining her independent judgment on certain points. The point to which I more particularly allude is Mrs. Hawthorne's estimate of Webster. She could not bring herself quite to believe that he was not as great as he looked; but Hawthorne had formed a somewhat different opinion. This opinion is set forth, by the by, in the story of "The Great Stone Face;" and for convenience, I will here quote the passages in which it is embodied:
"But now, again, there were reports and many paragraphs in the newspapers, affirming that the likeness of the Great Stone Face had appeared upon the broad shoulders of a certain eminent statesman. He, like Mr. Gathergold and Old Blood-and-Thunder, was a native of the valley, but had left it in his early days and taken up the trades of law and politics. Instead of the rich man's wealth and the warrior's sword, he had but a tongue; and it was mightier than both together. So wonderfully eloquent was he, that whatever he might choose to say, his auditors had no choice but to believe him; wrong looked like right, and right like wrong; for when it pleased him, he could make a kind of illuminated fog with his mere breath, and obscure the natural daylight with it. His tongue, indeed, was a magic instrument; sometimes it rumbled like thunder; sometimes it warbled like the sweetest music. It was the blast of war, the song of peace; and it seemed to have a heart in it when there was no such matter. In good truth, he was a wondrous man; and when his tongue had acquired him all other imaginable success, when it had been heard in halls of state and in the courts of princes and potentates, after it had made him known all over the world, even as a voice crying from shore to shore, it finally persuaded his countrymen to select him for the Presidency. . . .
"While his friends were doing their best to make him President, Old Stony Phiz, as he was called, set out on a visit to the valley where he was born. Of course, he had no other object than to shake hands with his fellow-citizens, and neither thought nor cared about any effect which his progress through the country might have upon the election. . . .
"'Here he is, now!' cried those who stood near Ernest. 'There! There! Look at old Stony Phiz, and then at the Old Man of the Mountain, and see if they are not as like as two twin brothers!' . . . .
"Now, it must be owned that, at his first glimpse of the countenance, which was bowing and smiling from the barouche, Ernest did fancy there was a resemblance between it and the old familiar face upon the mountain-side. The brow, with its massive depth and loftiness, and all the other features, indeed, were boldly and strongly hewn, as if in emulation of a more than heroic, of a Titanic model. But the sublimity and stateliness, the grand expression of a divine sympathy, that illuminated the mountain visage, and etherealized its ponderous granite substance into spirit, might here be sought in vain. Something had been originally left out, or had departed. And therefore the marvellously gifted statesman had always a weary gloom in the deep caverns of his eyes, as of a child that has outgrown its playthings, or a man of mighty faculties and little aims, whose life, with all its high performances, was vague and empty, because no high purpose had endowed it with reality. . . . Ernest turned away, melancholy, and almost despondent; for this was the saddest of his disappointments, to behold a man who might have fulfilled the prophecy, and had not willed to do so. . . .
--Such was Hawthorne's reading of the character of Webster. Let us now listen to the judgment of his wife.
" . . .I disagree from the pitilessness and severity of the censure of Webster. Would you resolve the great heart and great mind of Webster into a speech? I by no means say that, because Webster was great, he was therefore excusable for any sin. Oh, no! but that the vastness of his mental and physical force made it very difficult for colder-blooded, narrower people to judge him fairly. If Webster acknowledged that he was wrong in making the speech, let not vengeance pursue him farther. I should be grieved to hear that he died of a broken heart, and there is no sign of such a thing in the calm, grand death of which we hear. I have in the course of his life felt the utmost abhorrence of his habits; but I am glad that God is his judge on that subject, and not man. No man can be, who could not put himself in Webster's body, with all concomitant circumstances,--and then see what he would do! It blinds me with tears of profoundest sorrow to see that Ambition could make him stoop. He made that fatal mistake which so many make; he did evil that good might come of it,--which is an insult to God. I could by no means say Webster was 'a man consummate,' though, from his power and position, he was designed for that. Such a figure, such an intellect, such a heart, were certainly never combined before to awe the world. But greatness, as I use it and feel it in respect of Webster, is the vast plan of him; the front of Jove,--the regal, commanding air which cleared a path before him,--the voice of thunder and music which revealed the broad caverns of his breast,--the unfathomable eye which no sculptor could render,--all these external signs said, 'Here is a Great Man!' When I was present in court in Concord one day, he came in after the assembly had collected. I shall never forget his entrauce. The throng turned round and saw him, and instinctively every one fell back from the door and left a broad path, up which this native king walked along,--with such a majesty, with such a simple state, that the blood tingled in my veins to see him. This was long before he had fallen politically. 'This man,' I thought, 'has capacity to rule the world.' The idea of greatness is inseparable from him. Was not Lucifer the son of the morning, and the loftiest of the archangels? But he fell,--ambition brought him headlong from the Empyrean. If thunder rolled through the heavens at his fall, could one not have thrilled with a sad and sublime emotion? It will take an æon to compose another such man as Webster. I do not believe so great a man is to be found here or in Europe now. There can be found, perhaps, a high degree of moral greatness and noble capacity; but still, there is not the shadow of such a possible man. I cannot express how little it seems to me to dwell upon his failings. I think it takes Omniscience to judge him fairly. That he had a heart of deep power and love, that his immediate friends worshipped him, and the humblest of them perhaps the most, is a proof of a large kindliness and benignity which was revealed outwardly by what has been called 'the sweet grandeur of his smile.' His whole character as a farmer is very beautiful, and, considering his other aspect, even sublime. Such exact and tender care of his brute possessions, such wisdom, such loving interest in his agricultural pursuits, such a genuine enjoyment of nature,--this was a beautiful phase of the giant man. And the infinite melancholy of his kingly face, the deep beyond deep of gloom that quenched his lightnings, was to me most affecting and awful,--as if he were judging himself continually, and found no rest. It would seem that such a look ought to disarm criticism, and make each man, instead of endeavoring with narrow vision and spiritual pride to pronounce upon him, look into his own heart and find out whether, with far less temptations, at a far less dizzy height,--whether he is spotless of sin before God. It really does seem a pity to lose the image of such a man by such rapidity of condemnation. Does any one admire evil? does any one rejoice in iniquity? does any one commend treason to conscience? No! But let us freely, and with generous awe, admire greatness, and with tenderness, not pride, mourn over a vast soul in eclipse, passing into the unknown world.
--The next extract refers to Pierce. It is certainly worth a man's while, even after he is dead, and no matter how large he may have loomed in the world's eye, to have had a friend and champion such as Sophia Hawthorne.
It hurts me, dear mother, to have you speak of General Pierce as if he were too far below Mr. Hawthorne to have Mr. Hawthorne indebted to him. You judge General Pierce from the newspapers, and the slanders spread abroad by the Whigs to prevent his election. The nation's reply to all slander has been to elect him. If you knew the man as we know him, you would be the first to respect him. Mr. Hawthorne wrote the Biography with the most careful sobriety, because he did not wish to seem eulogistic and extravagant. I wish I could convey to you what I know to be the truth about him. He is an incorruptible patriot, and he loves his country with the purity and devotion of the first of our early Patriots. He will never do anything for effect,--he will do anything, however odious it may appear, that he thinks right, and for enduring good. Ambition has not touched him. The offices which he has filled were brought and laid at his feet, without any interference of his own; and it was also so with regard to his nomination for the Presidency. When he was actually nominated, a profound sadness fell upon him. He is a deeply religious man, and a brave man, not only with the sword of steel, but with the sword of the spirit. He is a man who understands duty; he has a living sense of responsibility to God. He is a man great from the very moral force which Webster lacked. His intellect is keen and rapid,--he seizes points. He sees men, and knows what man is fitted for certain places and emergencies. He is modest and captivating from a natural courtesy and grace of address based upon kindness and generosity of heart. The personal homage and love he commands, the enthusiasm of affection felt for him by his friends, are wonderful. His gentleness is made beautiful by a granite will behind; 'out of the strong comes forth sweetness.' He is a man wholly beyond bribery on any score whatever. As regards the stories of his intemperance, if he ever did in dulge unduly in wine, he is now an uncommonly abstemious man. And it is a singular fact that this particular weakness of indulging in too much stimulants does not debase a noble mind as other vices do. When it rises above it, it rises without the stains left by the other vices. My own experience, in my young girlhood, with the morphine that was given me to stop my headaches, has given me infinite sympathy and charity for persons liable to such a habit. But the greater a man's fault has been, the greater is his triumph if it can be said of him, as it can of General Pierce,--now he never is guilty of it.
"As regards the Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Law, it is his opinion that these things must now be allowed for the sake of the slave! One of his most strenuous supporters said that, 'viewed in itself, the Fugitive Slave Law was the most abominable of wrongs;' but that it was the inevitable fruit of the passionate action of the Abolitionists, and, like slavery itself, must for the present be tolerated. And so with the Compromise,--that it is the least of the evils presented. It has been said, as if there were no gainsaying it, that no man but Webster could ever be such a fool as really to believe the Union was in danger. But General Pierce has lately, with solemn emphasis, expressed the same dread; and it certainly seems that the severance of the Union would be the worst thing for the slave. General Pierce's lifelong votes and opinions have been uniformly the same on these matters; so it cannot be said that he advocated the Compromise from an ambitious motive. There are always two sides to every question. Two given men may stand on opposite sides, and each think diametrically contrary to the other, and yet each man have the highest principle and the sincerest love of country. But generally the worst motive possible is ascribed to one or both of them. What would become of the planets without the centrifugal as well as the centripetal forces?
"Mr. Hawthorne did not feel as if he could refuse a boon to an old friend, and one whom he could so safely praise. He knew that it would subject him to abuse, and that the lowest motives would be ascribed to him; but, provided his conscience is clear, he never cares a sou what people say. He knew he never should ask for an office; and not one word on the subject has ever passed between General Pierce and Mr. Hawthorne. But if Mr. Hawthorne should see fit to accept an office from General Pierce, and people preferred to ascribe it to a low motive, he would make them welcome to the enjoyment of evil-thinking. He chooses to be free, and not act with reference to any person's lack of generous interpretation. He has no sensibility in that direction, and never defends himself, and never can be prevailed upon to do anything but smile good-naturedly at personal attacks. When the Whigs turned him out and told all manner of falsehoods about him, I saw his temper. It was as unhurt and undisturbed as Prince Arthur's shield beneath the veil. Even good Mr. Howes had tried his best to lash him into anger; but he found it as impossible as to excite the distant stars into war with one another."
--These letters were addressed to Mrs. Hawthorne's mother, and were written a month or two before her husband's appointment was made, and confirmed by the Senate. But in the interval another great sorrow was destined to fall upon the family; Mrs. Peabody was taken unexpectedly ill, and died. Mrs. Hawthorne was unable to be with her; and Miss E. P. Peabody, who attended her throughout, wrote to her sister the next day the following account of the good and pure-minded woman's last moments:--
So very quietly she passed at last, that it was a quarter of an hour we were in doubt; but she had labored so for breath for eighteen hours, that I have no feeling yet but thankfulness that she went without access of suffering, and that she is above and beyond all suffering, forever and ever. Doubt not she is with you, more intimately than ever; for the spirit must be where the heart's affections are. Her last words about you were when I asked her if you should come again. "Oh, no; don't let her come--don't let her come--oh, no; don't let her come and leave that poor baby!" So characteristic! That was yesterday, and I wrote you last evening. Last night we put her to bed at ten o'clock; and L, as usual, lay down at the head of the bed, and, till two o'clock, she slept more peacefully than for a long while. Then she roused and got up for a short time, but soon wanted the bed; and then she lay in my arms two or three hours, during which time I thought she would go; but at five she wanted to get up, and we put her in the lolling-chair. When she was settled there, and the table and pillow put before her, and she had gone to sleep, father came in, and I left him and Mary with her, and lay down and slept soundly three hours. It was ten o'clock before we put her to bed again; and then Mary or father or Margaret or I had her in our arms all day, till she went. She was strong enough to raise her body and hold up her head till the last; and we changed her position, as she indicated, all the time. At the last moment, Mary was lying at the head of the bed, supporting her, with the intervention of some pillows. I was on the other side of the bed, and father in the rocking-chair. So long a time passed without a sound, that father rose and went to look, and then I; and (as I said) it was quarter of an hour. She breathed very gently the first part of the time. We all felt so thankful when it seemed that she had indeed fled without a sigh, when we had been dreading a final struggle between her tenacious life and the death angel. But, no; her life went out into the free spaces, and here she lies, for I am sitting by her bedside this first night. Mary has gone home; father has gone to bed. We are all at peace--peace--peace. This sentiment in me shuts out all realization that the only being in the wide world whose affection for me knew no limit, has gone out of it. It seems to me that I never shall feel separated. She scarcely spoke but in monosyllables; but these showed she was perfectly sensible. Several times she wanted me to "go to bed," and did not seem to realize that it was the daytime. I think she was perfectly conscious, but I am not sure that she knew that she was dying. I was not sure myself, though I knew she could not live long. I read to her one of David's Psalms of Thanksgiving in the afternoon; I thought it might awaken sweet echoes of association.
My dear Sophia, I hope your heart too will rest in peace upon the thought of the ascended one, ascended, and yet, I dare say, hovering over the beloved ones.
From your affectionate
--Hawthorne's nomination was confirmed on March 26, 1853, and he sailed for Liverpool, in the Cunard steamship "Niagara," Captain Leach, in the latter part of the ensuing June. I do not know that I can close this chapter, and the volume, better than by adding the following notes of ideas and studies for stories, taken from his journals of the five or six preceding years. They are similar in general character to those already familiar to the readers of the published "Note-Books;" but, though fully as suggestive as any of the latter, were not included among them.
[The notes follow in the next page.]