Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume II
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
Eighteen Months Before Rome
IT was very hot weather. We spent the first night at Birmingham, and, resuming our journey the next morning passed through Leamington and Oxford, at each of which places we spent an hour or two. We reached Southampton in the dusk of the summer evening, and there, at the Castle Hotel, we found the travellers from Lisbon and Madeira, whom we had so longed to see.
Our plan was to spend two or three weeks at a country boarding-house near Southampton, and then to go up to London. The house in question was not officially a boarding-house; it was a young ladies' seminary, kept by a Mrs. Hume. This being vacation time, the young ladies, with the exception of two or three permanent boarders, had gone home, leaving plenty of accommodation. Mrs. Hume called upon us at the hotel; she was a small, agreeable, well-looking lady, and it seemed probable that our stay in her abode--Clifton Villa, it was called--would be very pleasant. So, after a week or so at the Castle Hotel, and a day at Salisbury and Stonehenge, we transferred ourselves thither. "We reached the house," writes Hawthorne,
"between six and seven o'clock. Looking a little more closely at the lady, I do not feel quite sure that the scheme of boarding with her for some weeks will be acted out. She seems to be a good and well-meaning little woman, with spirit, energy, and self-dependence and, being at the head of a respectable school for young ladies, it would be natural to suppose her cultivated and refined. But (at this stage of our acquaintance) I should pronounce her underbred, shallow, affected,--not through a natural lack of simplicity, but because her position impels her to pretend to qualities which she does not possess,--and, on the whole, a wearisome and unintentionally annoying sort of person. As mistress of a school, her faculties must be administrative rather than instructive. If she fed us better, I suppose I might be more lenient in my judgments; but eight months at Mrs. Blodgett's table have not been a very good preparation for the schoolgirl's bread and butter, morning and night, and the simple joint of mutton at two o'clock, which the good lady sets before us."
The simple truth was, that Mrs. Hume starved us, and afforded us nothing, in an aesthetic or intellectual direction, to compensate for the lack of substantial nourishment.
A visit was made to Gloucester; and after inspecting the cathedral, we went to an inn, and ordered a solid repast of meat and ale,--" a very satisfactory and by no means needless refreshment," Hawthorne remarks, "after such short commons as Mrs. Hume had kept us upon." And then he goes on to free his mind as follows:
"I never was more tired of a house than of Clifton Villa; and for Mrs. Hume's sake, I shall forever retain a detestation of thin slices of bread and butter. She is an awfully thrifty woman, and nobody can sit at her table without feeling that she both numbers and measures every mouthful that you eat; and the consequence is, that your appetite is discouraged and deadened, without ever being satisfied. She brews her own beer, and it is inexpressibly small, and is served out (only to the more favored guests) in one very little tumbler, with no offer or hint of a further supply. There is water in the milk, and she puts soda into the teapot, thereby to give the tea a color without adding to its strength. Human life gets cold and meagre under such a system; and I must say that I cordially hate Mrs. Hume, a little, bright, shallow, sharp, capable, self-relying, good woman enough. She seems to have a conscience; for she charged only four pounds a week, whereas we had paid nearly twenty at the Castle Hotel. The fare, I suppose, is a fair sample of the way of living in English boarding-houses; or, possibly, in economical English families generally."
Escaping from this Libby Prison of middle-class English propriety, we went to the suburban dwelling of Mr. Bennoch, in Blackheath, within arm's reach of London. Here we spent a month, comprising, says Hawthorne, "some of the happiest hours that I have known since we left our American home." Mrs. Newton Crosland lived at Blackheath, and Hawthorne met at her house Mr. Bailey, the author of "Festus." Another day he visited the wine-vaults of the London Docks; and called on Mr. Durham, the sculptor, and examined his busts and other works. In the evening Dr. Simpson, a London physician, came to see Mrs. Hawthorne professionally.
"He is a physician eminent in diseases of the throat and lungs ; about forty years of age, a very pleasant, cultivated, quickly perceptive man, easy and genial-mannered. After a glass of excellent burgundy, he assumed his professional character, and gave hopeful opinions respecting Sophia's case, and ordered some allopathic medicines, which she has great scruples of conscience and judgment about taking; but for my part, I am inclined to put faith in what is tangible. After tea Bennoch, the Doctor, Julian, and I walked across the heath, and from one point we had a fine and dusky view of immense London, with St. Paul's in the midst, and the towers of the two houses of Parliament, four or five miles off. On a bright morning it must form a splendid picture. Coming home by Greenwich Park, we saw many groups and couples wandering about, or sitting on the benches beneath the old trees, and decorously enjoying themselves. Continuing our ramble, Bennoch brought us to some ancient harrows, beneath which are supposed to be buried the slain of a great battle that was fought in the plain below, two or three centuries after Christ. They are small mounds, ten or twelve feet in diameter, elevated on]y a few feet, and with a shallow depression on the summit; and it seems to be pretty certain that they are as much as sixteen hundred years old. When one of them was opened, not long ago, nothing was found but a tuft of hair and some small jewels--no bones, nor aught beside."
He met Jenny Lind, and, "on the whole, was not very much interested in her;" Sir Emerson Tennent, Samuel Lover, and Miss Jewsbury. At a dinner at Mrs. Heywood's, he saw again Mr. Monckton Mimes, and his wife, who was of noble blood, and reminded him of "the best-mannered American women." She spoke to him of Tennyson, and said that Mrs. Tennyson was "a wise and tender woman, such as ought to be intrusted with such a fragile affair as Tennyson's comfort and happiness." Tom Taylor was there, and Hawthorne "liked him very well this evening; but be is a gentleman of very questionable aspect,--un-English, tall, slender, colorless, with a great beard of soft black, and, methinks, green goggles over his eyes."
Again, he breakfasted with Mr. Milnes, and met such persons as Mr. Ticknor (the historian of Spanish Literature), the old Marquis of Lansdowne, Florence Nightingale, Robert Browning, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whom he liked very much, and with whom he talked of spiritualism and of Miss Delia Bacon's theory regarding Shakspeare; and at last he saw, sitting next the host, a man of large presence, portly, gray-haired, but scarcely as yet aged, with a face fit for a scholar, a man of the world, a cultivated intelligence, and became aware that it was Macaulay. Hawthorne writes: "I am informed that the respectable old Marquis of Lansdowne, as I innocently considered him, is a most disreputable character, and that he is the original of Thackeray's Lord Steyne. I thought that honor belonged to the Marquis of Hertford." His trust in appearances received another shock in the case of a gentleman who had shown him many courtesies, but who, it was said, "began life as a hairdresser; was afterwards an unprincipled adventurer, on the Continent, and had made money in most questionable ways; but, growing wealthy, he put on respectability, and was now an honest man. I never should have suspected this beforehand," says Hawthorne;
"yet, now that I know it, it reconciles itself well enough with what I have seen of him. There is a kind of ease and smartness in his manner which I have never seen in any English gentleman; there is a trimness in his aspect very sutable for a hairdresser; and he wears what must be a wig, yet, if so, such an artful and exquisite one that no unprofessional man could so well have suited himself. In the presence of Lady Waldegrave he behaved like a footman; in short, I accept the statement about him, except as regards his deficient honesty. Well, his morality may have been scanty and ragged once, and have been pieced and mended as he rose in life. An Englishman with such facility and adaptiveness, so ready, so neat in his action, so devoid of the national clumsiness, is a kind of monster to begin with. On the other hand, the English are possibly less tolerant than ourselves of men who attain wealth by any other than the ordinary and regular methods and may accuse them of dishonesty when they have only been dexterous and shifty. Our friend would be altogether more at home, and more in keeping with the society around him, in America than here. Come what may, I shall always feel him to be, at least, a kind and hospitable man; and, hairdresser or not, he was a gentleman to us."
A visit to Blenheim, made about this time, is recorded in "Our Old Home;" but one of the pleasantest excursions of the summer was to Oxford, where Hawthorne and his wife were very kindly received and entertained by Mr. Speirs, the ex-mayor of the town. They remained several days, and before departing, the whole party (including Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall) were photographed on Mr. Speirs's lawn. In this photograph Hawthorne stands on the extreme right, facing the spectator, with his feet apart and his hands behind him, and his black frock coat unbuttoned. So far as figure and pose go, it is an admirable likeness; but the photograph, as a photograph, is execrably bad, and the faces of none of the group are recognizable.
About the middle of September Hawthorne and his family left Mr. Bennoch's, and betook themselves to Southport, a sandy seaside town on the northern coast of England. Lodgings had previously been engaged--or, rather, a house had been rented--on the esplanade. Liverpool was only about twenty miles distant, and therefore easily attainable by train; and Hawthorne was able to go down to his office in the morning and return at night. The tide, as at Rhyl, retired to immeasurable distances at low water; the neighboring country was flat and uninteresting; and, the "season" being just over at the time of our arrival, the place was deserted. The original intention was to remain there only until December; but our stay there, altogether, extended over ten months, though Hawthorne and his wife and their son made a somewhat extended trip into Scotland, as well as to Boston and other places in England, during that period. Before entering upon this, however, I will insert two letters, dating back to before the time we left Blackheath.
MY DEAR MRS. HAWTHORNE, I write a hurried line to say that we shall be in town on Thursday--Friday, rather--for some two weeks or more, and shall trust to see yourself; Una, Julian, and Rose--some or all--at 22 Woburn Square, where we shall be on our first arrival. I am to preach on the 20th and perhaps also on the 27th, though I believe I am expected to preach at Essex St. on that day. Mrs. Channing will tell you, when she meets you, the deep regret with which she learned, the other day, when calling on a friend at Mrs. Blodgett's, that Mrs. Blodgett knew as little as we did of the reasons which led Julian to leave us. We supposed that he had received directions to return, or we should have been more urgent with him to stay. I fear, however, he was not very happy; and he is a boy of so much independence and decision that we felt little inclined to interfere with his free choice. A very marked character he has, and I doubt not will be a high-minded and energetic man. But I must close. So with warm and friendly wishes, and the hope of soon meeting,
W. H. CHANNING.
LIVERPOOL, Aug. 16, 1856.
OLD BOY,--We have very good dinners at Mrs. Blodgett's, and I think you would like very much to be there. There are so many people that Charley sits at a side-table, and he lives upon the fat of the land; and so would you, if you sat at the side-table with him. Yesterday he ate roast-beef and Yorkshire pudding: but if he had preferred it, he might have had some chicken-pie, with nice paste; or some roast duck, which looked very good; or some tripe fried in batter; or some boiled chicken,--or a great many other delectable things. And we had two kinds of fish,--boiled salmon and fried soles. I myself ate salmon; but the soles seemed to be very nice too. And we had so many green peas that they were not half eaten, and string-beans besides,--oh, how nice! When the puddings, and tarts, and custards, and Banbury cakes, and cheese-cakes, and greengages, and that kind of stuff, was put on the table, I had hardly any appetite left; but I did manage to eat some currant pudding, and a Banbury cake, and a Victoria cake, and a slice of a beautiful Spanish musk-melon, and some plums. If you had been there, I think you would have had a very good dinner, and there would not have been nearly so many nice things left on the table. Tell mamma that, if she pleases, I have no objection to your taking riding-lessons along with Una. Mamma says you have been a very good boy. I am glad to hear it, and hope you will keep good till I come back.
Your loving father,
--At Southport the chief event of interest during the winter was a visit from Herman Melville, who turned up at Liverpool on his way to Constantinople, and whom Hawthorne brought out to spend a night or two with us.
"He looked much the same as he used to do; a little paler, perhaps, and a little sadder, and with his characteristic gravity and reserve of manner. I felt rather awkward at first, for this is the first time I have met him since my ineffectual attempt to get him a consular appointment from General Pierce. However, I failed only from real lack of power to serve him; so there was no reason to be ashamed, and we soon found ourselves on pretty much the former terms of sociability and confidence. Melville has not been well, of late; he has been affected with neuralgic complaints, and no doubt has suffered from too constant literary occupation, pursued without much success latterly; and his writings, for a long while past, have indicated a morbid state of mind. So he left his place in Pittsfield, and has come to the Old World. He informed me that he had "pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated;" but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation, and I think will never rest until he gets hold of some definite belief. It is strange how he persists--and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before--in wandering to and fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sandhills amidst which we were sitting. He can neither believe, nor he comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us."
Melville made the rounds of Liverpool under the guidance of Henry Bright; and afterwards Hawthorne took him to Chester; and they parted the same evening,
"at a street corner, in the rainy evening. I saw him again on Monday, however. He said that he already felt much better than in America; but observed that he did not anticipate much pleasure in his rambles, for that the spirit of adventure is gone out of him. He certainly is much overshadowed since I saw him last; but I hope he will brighten as he goes onward. He sailed on Tuesday, leaving a trunk behind him, and taking only a carpetbag to hold all his travelling-gear. This is the next best thing to going naked; and as he wears his beard and mustache, and so needs no dressing-case,--nothing but a toothbrush,--I do not know a more independent personage. He learned his travelling habits by drifting about, all over the South Seas, with no other clothes or equipage than a red flannel shirt and a pair of duck trousers. Yet we seldom see men of less criticisable manners than he."
Among the curiosities of Southport was Mr. Scarisbrook, the landlord of the township.
"He is an eccentric man, and there seems to be an obscurity about the early part of his life; according to some reports, he kept a gambling-house in Paris before succeeding to the estate. Neither is it a settled point whether or no he has ever been married: some authorities utterly ignoring the point; others affirming that he has legitimate children, who are now being educated in Paris. He is a Catholic, but is bringing up his children, they say, in the Protestant faith. He is a very eccentric and nervous man, and spends all his time at the secluded Hall, which stands in the midst of mosses and marshes; and sees nobody, not even his steward. He might be an interesting person to know; but, after all, his character, as I have just sketched it, turns out to be one of the commonplaces of novels and romance."
Towards the end of February of the next year (1857) our house was entered by burglars, who had come up from Liverpool, probably with splendid anticipations of the booty they would get at the residence of the American Consul. They did not get much, being frightened away prematurely by a noise; but, on coming down the next morning, we found the house in quite a dishevelled condition. Hawthorne was much amused, and chuckled a good deal over the misadventure, though the thieves had carried off, among other things, his boots and his top-coat. The police earnestly undertook the case, and, contrary to all anticipation, and not a little to Hawthorne's regret, they captured the two scamps, and we all went down to the police court to "appear" against them. They were young fellows; and although their appearance was that of thorough rascality, they steadfastly maintained a demeanor of more than infantile innocence; and one of them was something of a wag into the bargain, so that, altogether, the affair seemed vastly entertaining to the younger members of the Consul's family. But the thieves got five and ten years' imprisonment, respectively, which was probably no joke to them; and by this time they are probably in another and better world. English thieves seldom live long; the climate as well as the laws are against them.
On the 10th of April Hawthorne left his two daughters in charge of their governess, Miss Brown, at Southport, and took his wife and son with him on a three or four days' trip to York and Manchester. Accounts of this journey, as well as of succeeding ones to Scotland and to Old Boston, are to be found both in the Note-Books and in Mrs. Hawthorne's "Notes in England and Italy."
Five days later, Hawthorne attended a banquet on the occasion of the laying of the corner-stone of Mr. Browne's free library at Liverpool. He met there Lord Stanley (the present Earl of Derby), then a young man; and seems to have taken a fancy to him, though he says, considered as one whose destiny it was to take a leading part in political life, he appeared to labor under certain natural or physical disadvantages. "I would not care to take his position," he says, "unless I could have considerably more than his strength."
The expedition to Old Boston now followed; and on the way back, a visit was made to Newstead Abbey, formerly the residence of Lord Byron, and at that time in possession of Colonel Wildman. Mrs. Hawthorne, in a letter written to her daughter Una, describes the abbey with much minuteness, and says that after they had returned to their hotel, the landlady came in and gave her many interesting particulars about the Byrons, with whom her mother and herself had had considerable intercourse, years before.
"She told me that when Lady Lovelace, two years before her death, went to Newstead, Lord Lovelace brought her here (to the hotel), and remained here during her visit to her father's house, not being willing to accompany her, She said the Lady Ada was not beautiful, and did not resemble her father at all; that she was extremely careless in her dress, not looking as well-appointed as her maid; and that she was very silent and gloomy. After her departure Colonel Wildman came to see Mrs. Browne (the landlady) and told her all about the visit. He did not invite Lady Lovelace to Newstead, he said, and was quite amazed to see her and to find she intended to stay. He presumed, however, she would make herself a pleasant guest, as he had heard of her accomplishments and learning; and bethought him of all his Latin and Greek and algebra, so as to be able to cope with her in conversation. But she appeared to be a perfect blank; her only response to all his efforts at talking with her were 'Yes' and 'No.' She kept her eyes cast down, and her thoughts and ideas to herself. So it went on for two days, till the kind Colonel lost patience; and when on the third morning she went down in the gardens, he followed her, and accosted her with resolute sociability. She then suddenly burst through her cloud of reserve, and confided to him her thoughts. She told him how sad and absorbed she had been at finding herself in her father's home, and that she was so oppressed she could not utter a word or respond in any way to his kindness, but that she regretted her apparent incivility, and would no longer hold herself aloof. So from that moment she was very communicative, and the Colonel told Mrs. Browne he had never before met with so agreeable and cultivated a lady. The unfortunate Lady Lovelace had two sons, both of whom were wild young men; and I remember that Lord Lovelace called on papa at the Consulate to inquire after one of them, who had disappeared, he did not know where, but supposed he had gone to sea. He thought papa might know whether he had gone to America. With all her accomplishments, Lady Lovelace had great failings, like Lord Byron, and lost forty thousand pounds by gambling, a short time before her last illness. And Mrs. Browne believed that this loss caused her death. The good landlady had also entertained Lord Byron's beloved sister, Mrs. Augusta Leigh. She said she was not beautiful, but had a very gentle and amiable countenance. But she also had a son who was dissipated, and made his mother wretched. This young Leigh came here a great deal, and talked very freely with Mrs. Browne; and one day he told her he was going to be married. She begged him not to do so, because he was too wild and thoughtless, and could not make a wife happy. But he replied that it was too late,--that he had settled it all. So he soon brought to the George the Fourth Inn a lovely little fairy, whom he introduced as his wife; and he cautioned Mrs. Browne not to whisper a word to her about his true character, for she was loving and content, and he was going to be quite sedate and good. And this was the last she ever saw or heard of either him or his child-wife. Every one connected with Lord Byron seemed doomed,--for even Mary Chaworth, his first love, became very unhappy in her marriage. Mrs. Browne talked a great deal about Colonel Wildman. He bought the estate six years before the poet's death, and Lord Byron was very glad that he should have it. On account of a mortgage, he bought it for only L80,000, and he has since spent many thousands of pounds in restoring and adorning it. He has also been at great expense in entertaining distinguished and even royal guests; the Duke of Sussex (with a train of lords and gentlemen) was very fond of going there, and nearly ruined the poor Colonel at every visit, especially as he had lost a large amount of money in the East Indies. So now he is not very rich, but still most generous and hospitable. He is easily excited; and she described very amusingly his terrible rage when he rushed into the hotel one day, and told her about Barnum's having offered him L500 for the tree on which Byron had carved his name."
This George the Fourth Hotel seems to have been a veritable Dionysius's Ear; and good Mrs. Browne would stand as the prototype of all the loquacious housekeepers, with prodigious memories, who work up the historical portion of the Mrs. Wood and Miss Braddon species of romances.
Now followed the Scottish expedition; but I can only add, to what has been already printed on the subject, this little passage,--they had spent the 9th of July in wandering all over Edinburgh, and had enjoyed themselves greatly. "As it was our wedding-day," says Hawthorne, "and as our union has turned out to the uttermost satisfaction of both parties, after fifteen years' trial, I gave mamma a gold-and-amethyst-bodied cairngorm beetle, with a ruby head."
On the 20th of July, we finally uprooted ourselves from Southport, and went to Manchester, where the Exhibition was in progress, and where we remained six weeks, in homely but not homelike lodgings at Choriton Road. However, as we were most of the time at the Exhibition, that did not make so much difference. Hawthorne went diligently and repeatedly through all the galleries of pictures and sculptures, at first with weariness and distrust, but afterwards more cordially. The truth is, he did not enjoy pictures. The art seemed to him artifice; he wished the picture to be as good as nature in the first place, and then as much better as selection and arrangement could make it. He was inclined to ascribe great merit to the Dutch School, on account of the minute perfection of their technique; and he disapproved of them at the same time because they expended these pains on such undignified subjects. As for the "Raphaels, Correggios, and stuff," their failure was the reverse of this: they chose lofty subjects, but there was not enough illusion of reality. In the end he favored the latter class of painters rather than the former, and admired more than aught else the portrait of "Beatrice Cenci" (as it used to be called), the charm of which depends wholly on the expression and pose; the brnshwork being inferior. Mrs. Hawthorne, on the other hand, enjoyed the Exhibition without limit; she had vastly more artistic faith than her husband, and much less of the arrogant, uneasy, Puritan conscience, which would not let him unrestrainedly enjoy a rose unless he could feel convinced that both the rose and he deserved it.
While wandering about the galleries one day, with his friend Ireland, he had some glimpses of Alfred Tennyson, who was also strolling about in company with the sculptor Woolner. Hawthorne had the highest appreciation of Tennyson's poetry, and had long been desirous of seeing the man. "Tennyson," he says,
"is the most picturesque figure, without affectation, that I ever saw; of middle size, rather slouching, dressed entirely in black, and with nothing white about him except the collar of his shirt, which, methought, might have been whiter the day before. He had on a black wide-awake hat, with round crown and wide, irregular brim, beneath which came down his long black hair, looking terribly tangled; he had a long pointed beard, too, a little browner than the hair, and not so abundant as to encumber any of the expression of his face. His frock coat was buttoned up across the breast, though the afternoon was warm. His face was very dark, and not exactly a smooth face, but worn, and expressing great sensitiveness, though not at that moment the pain and sorrow that is seen in his bust. His eyes were black; but I know little of them, as they did not rest on me, nor on anything but the pictures. He seemed as if he did not see the crowd, nor think of them, but as if he defended himself from them by ignoring them altogether; nor did anybody but myself cast a glance at him. Mr. Woolner was as unlike Tennyson as could well be imagined; a small, smug man, in a blue frock and brown pantaloons. They talked about the pictures, and passed pretty rapidly from one to another, Tennyson looking at them through a pair of spectacles which he held in his hand, and then standing a minute before those that interested him, with his hands folded behind his back. There was an entire absence of stiffness in his figure; no set-up in him at all; no nicety nor trimness; and if there had been, it would have spoilt his whole aspect.
"Knowing should be glad to smoke a cigar with him. Mr. Ireland says that, having heard he was to be at the Exhibition, and not finding him there, he conjectured that he must have gone into the Botanical Garden to smoke; and, sure enough, he found him there. He told me an anecdote about Tennyson while on a visit to Paris. He had a friend with him who could not speak very good French, any more than the poet himself. They were sitting at the fireside in the parlor of the hotel; and the friend proposed a walk about the city, and finally departed, leaving Tennyson at the fireside, and telling the waiter 'ne souffrez pas le faire sortir.' By and by Tennyson also rose to go out; but the waiter opposed him with might and main, and called another waiter to his assistance; and when Tennyson's friend returned, he found him really almost fit for a strait-jacket. He might well enough pass for a madman at any time, there being a wildness in his aspect. which doubtless might readily pass from quietude to frenzy. He is exceedingly nervous."
Our residence in Manchester came to an end soon after this, and we next settled down in Lansdowne Circus, Leamington, where the months of September and October were passed. It was at this place that we were joined by Miss Ada Shepard, who acted as governess in the family during the ensuing two years, and who--if Steele's classic compliment to Lady Elizabeth Hastings was not quite applicable to her--was at all events a young lady of sound and varied accomplishments, which were yet less noticeable than her winning manners and pleasant aspect. This American girl of three-and-twenty added not a little to the pleasure of our Italian tour, and was invaluable as an interpreter of the various strange tongues one meets with on the Continent.
The weather at Lansdowne Circus was very pleasant, and the autumnal air was an invitation to walking, which was often accepted. Hawthorne's favorite direction was the immemorial village of Witnash, where the houses were of the Elizabethan period or earlier, with frameworks of oak filled in with plaster, and where, in front of the old church, stood the older yew-tree, with space for half a dozen persons to stand inside its hollow trunk. Another walk we often took was to Warwick, about two miles distant. I take the following acount of one of them from the journal:
"On Monday, a warm and bright afternoon, Julian and I took a walk together to Warwick. It appeared to me that the suburbs of Warwick now stretch further towards Leamington than they did at our last visit; there being still some pretty reaches of sylvan road, with bordering hedges and overshadowing trees, and here and there a bench for the wayfarer; but then begin the vulgar brick dwellings for the poorer classes, or the stuccoed Elizabethan imitation for those a step or two above them. Neither did I find in the town itself such an air of antiquity as I thought I remembered there, though the old archway looks as ancient as ever. But the Hospital close by it has certainly undergone some trausmogrification, the nature of which I cannot quite make out.
"We turned aside, before entering the heart of the town, and went to the stone bridge over the Avon, where such a fine view of the castle is to be obtained. I suppose I have described it already; but I am certain that there is nothing more beautiful in the world, in such a quiet, sunny summer afternoon, than these turrets and towers and high-windowed walls, gray softened with abundant foliage intermixed, and looking down upon the sleepy river, along which, between the bridge and the castle, the willows droop into the water. I stayed a good while on the bridge, and Julian mounted astride of the balustrade and jogged up and down like a postilion, thereby exciting a smile from some ladies who drove by in a barouche. We afterwards returned towards the town and, turning down a narrow lane, bordered with some old cottages and one or two ale-houses, we found that it led straight to the castle walls, and terminated beneath them. It seemed to be the stable entrance; and as two gentlemen and a groom were just riding away, I felt ashamed to stand there staring at the walls which I had no leave to look upon; so I turned back with Julian and went into the town. The precincts of the castle seem to he very extensive, and its high and massive outer wall shoulders up almost to the principal street. We rambled about, without any definite aim, and passed under the pillars that support the spire of St. Mary's Church; and thence into the market-place, where we found an omnibus just on the point of starting for Leamington. I have never yet seen--what those who have seen it call the finest spectacle in England--the interior of Warwick Castle; it being shown only on Saturdays. I do not blame the Earl; for I would hardly take his magnificent castle as a gift, burthened with the condition that the public should be free to enter it."
--I recollect a visit we made to Coventry about this time, because of a little incident that happened there, not much in itself; but which impressed at least one of those present in a manner not to be forgotten. Hawthorne, his wife, and son arrived in Coventry after dark, and took a cab, the driver of which was ordered to drive us to a hotel. Off we rattled accordingly, and presently pulled up at a place the outward aspect of which was not inviting. The cabby got down to open the cab door; but Hawthorne told him to bid the landlord step out to us. The landlord came out in his shirt-sleeves, and, putting his head into our window, filled the vehicle with the aroma of inferior brandy. Hawthorne felt indignant, but asked the man, courteously, whether he could furnish us with a private sitting-room. "I don't know, sir,"he replied; "I'll see what we can do for you'" "Driver, this won't do," said Hawthorne ; "take us somewhere else." We rattled along once more, and at length again halted, aud the driver came to the window. We were in a shabby and ill-lighted part of the town, and alongside of an iron railing, with a gate through it. " If you'll come with me, sir," said the cabby, "I'll show you a place--" But here Hawthorne interrupted him. "Why should I go with you?" he demanded, in a tone that made the unfortunate jehu start as if he had been kicked; and then, in a voice as terrible as the blast of a trumpet, "Why don't you drive us to the best hotel in town, as I told you to?" As he spoke, there was an expression in his eyes--a sudden flame of wrath--which, together with the voice, not only sobered the half-tipsy cabby and sent him flying back to his box as if he had been blown thither by an explosion, but so appalled the other two auditors that they scarcely recovered their breath until they were safely ensconced in a good suite of rooms in "the best hotel in town." Mrs. Hawthorne afterwards said, "That was the first time I ever heard papa raise his voice to a human being." But in the days before his marriage, when overseeing the perverse and conscience-less coal-shippers on the Boston wharves, Hawthorne had made his voice heard and his indignation felt as forcibly as now.
Leaving Leamington on the 10th of November, we went into lodgings at 24 Great Russell Street, nearly opposite the British Museum. We intended starting for the Continent before the end of the month; but all the children were taken with measles, and our departure was consequently delayed until the first of the New Year (1858). The physician who attended the invalids was Dr. J. J. Garth Wilkinson, the biographer of Swedenborg, and at that period somewhat involved in spiritism. Hawthorne went to a small evening reception at his house, when the Doctor showed him spirit poetry, and told him of marvels in the "materializing" line, and so forth. "Do I believe in these wonders?" Hawthorne asks himself in the Note-Books. "Of course; for how is it possible to doubt either the solemn word or the sober observation of a learned and sensible man like Dr. Wilkinson? But, again, do I really believe it? Of course not; for I cannot consent to have heaven and earth, this world and the next, beaten up together like the white and yolk of an egg, merely out of respect to Dr. Wilkinson's sanity and integrity. . . Meanwhile this matter of spiritualism is surely the strangest that ever was heard of; and yet I feel unaccountably little interest in it,--a sluggish disgust, and repugnance to meddle with it;"--a repugnance, we may venture to add, characteristic of a thoroughly healthy and well-balanced mind. Whether spiritism be true or false is of small moment; but it is eminently expedient not to meddle with it.
Dr. Wilkinson introduced Hawthorne to Coventry Patmore, the poet of "The Angel in the House,"--a poem which Hawthorne had been greatly pleased with, as be now was with its author. He was the last person whom it was pleasant to think of as a friend, that we met previous to our departure for France and Italy.
It only remains to append some letters and documents referring to official matters. Hawthorne had sent in his resignation as American Consul early in the summer. During his term of office he had striven vigorously to improve the condition of affairs that obtained between the seamen and the officers on board American vessels. Mr. Henry Bright strongly sympathized with his action, and supported it in every way open to him; and he has kindly forwarded to me the extracts which I here append, and which explain themselves.
"Mr. Hawthorne," writes Mr. Bright, "took a warm interest in putting down cruelty at sea, especially in American ships; and I have a long letter from him on the subject. But he did not wish to come forward publicly in the matter. The question had disturbed me a good deal, and at that time (1859) I was preparing a pamphlet, and hoped to get a letter from your father which I might quote; but he did not wish to be quoted, and all I could do was to allude to him and to the then Consul, Mr. Dudley. Now the evil is much abated. I enclose an extract from your father's letter (Rome, April, 1859)."
--The extract is as follows:
"It is a very horrible state of things; there is an immense amount of unpunishable cruelty: but the perpetrators of it, as well as the sufferers by it, are the victims of a vicious system. At the bottom of the whole lies the fact that there are no good seamen to be had; the next worst thing is the mode of shipping seamen, and the payment of advance wages; lastly, there is the infinite absurdity of allowing our ships to go to sea without arming the officers with any legal means of enforcing their authority."
--In "Our Old Home" ("Consular Experiences") Mr. Hawthorne further remarks:
"The newspapers all over England contained paragraphs inveighing against the cruelties of American shipmasters. The British Parliament took up the matter (for nobody is so humane as John Bull when his benevolent propensities are to be gratified by finding fault with his neighbor), and caused Lord John Russell to remonstrate with our Government on the outrages for which it was responsible before the world, and which it failed to prevent or punish. The American Secretary of State, old General Cass, responded, with perfectly astounding ignorance of the subject, to the effect that the statements of outrages had probably been exaggerated, that the present laws of the United States were quite adequate to deal with them, and that the interference of the British Minister was uncalled for. . . I once thought of writing a pamphlet on the subject, but quitted the Consulate before finding time to effect my purpose; and all that phase of my life immediately assumed so dreamlike a consistency that I despaired of making it seem solid or tangible to the public."
The "paragraphs in the newspapers" and General Cass's reply to them had reflected obliquely on Hawthorne's conduct in office, and drew from him the following very strong despatch to the Secretary of State:--
Despatch No. 90.
CONSULATE OF THE UNITED STATES,
LIVERPOOL, June 17, 1857.
SIR,--There has recently appeared, in most of the English newspapers, what purports to be a letter from the Secretary of State of the United States, to Lord Napier, British Minister at Washington, in response to a communication from his Lordship on the treatment of American seamen. In making some remarks upon that letter, it is hardly necessary to say that I do not presume to interfere in a discussion between the head of a department, in which I am a subordinate officer, and the minister of a foreign power. But as the above-mentioned letter has been made public property, there is as much propriety in my referring to it as to any other matter of public importance bearing especial reference to my official duties. I therefore take the liberty to address you, on the supposition that this document expresses the opinion and intimates the policy of our Government respecting a subject on which I have bestowed much thought, and with which I have had opportunities to become practically acquainted.
The sentiment is very decidedly expressed in the letter, that "the laws now in force on the subject of seamen employed on board the mercantile vessels of the United States are quite sufficient for their protection." I believe that no man, practically connected with our commercial navy, whether as owner, officer, or seaman, would affirm that the present marine laws of the United States are such as the present condition of our nautical affairs imperatively demands. These laws may have been wise, and effectual for the welfare of all concerned, at the period of their enactment. But they had in view a state of things which has entirely passed away; for they are based upon the supposition that the United States really possess a body of native-born seamen, and that our ships are chiefly manned by crews whose home is on our own shores. It is unfortunately the fact, however, that not one in ten of the seamen employed on board our vessels is a native-born or even a naturalized citizen, or has any connection with our country beyond his engagement for the voyage. So far as my observation extends, there is not even a class of seamen who ship exclusively in American vessels, or who habitually give them the preference to others. While the present voyage lasts, the sailor is an American; in the next, he is as likely to be sailing under any other flag as our own. And there is still another aspect of the subject causing a yet wider discrepancy between the state of things contemplated by the law and that actually existing. This lies in the fact that many of the men shipped on board our vessels, comprising much the larger portion of those who suffer ill-usage, are not seamen at all. Almost every ship, on her trip from New York to Liverpool, brings a number of returning emigrants, wholly unacquainted with the sea and incapable of performing the duties of seamen, but who have shipped for the purpose merely of accomplishing their homeward passage. On this latter class of men falls most of the cruelty and severity which have drawn public notice and reprobation on our mercantile marine. It is a result, not, as one would naturally suppose, of systematic tyranny on the part of the constituted authorities of the ship, but of a state of war between two classes who find themselves for a period inextricably opposed on shipboard. One of these classes is composed of the mates and actual seamen, who are adequate to the performance of their own duty, and demand a similar efficiency in others; the second class consists of men who know nothing of the sea, but who have imposed themselves or been imposed upon the ship, as capable of a seaman's duty.
This deception, as it increases the toil and hardship of the real sailor, draws his vengeance upon the unfortunate impostor. In the worst case investigated by me, it appeared that there was not one of the sailor class, from the second mate down to the youngest boy, who had not more or less maltreated the landsmen. In another case, the chief and second mate, during the illness of the master, so maltreated a landsman, who had shipped as sailor, that he afterwards died in a fit. In scarcely a single instance has been possible to implicate the master as taking a share in these unjustifiable proceedings. In both the cases above alluded to, the guilty escaped punishment; and in many similar ones it has been found that the sufferers are practically without protection or redress. A few remarks will make this fact obvious.
A consul, as I need not inform the Department, has no power (nor could he have unless by treaty with the Government in whose territory he resides) to inflict condign punishment for assaults and other outrages which may come under his official cognizance. The extent of his power--except in a contingency hereafter to be noticed--is to enable a complainant to seek justice in our own courts of law. If the United States really possessed any native seamen, this might be effectual so far as they were concerned; for such seamen would naturally gravitate homeward, and would there meet the persons who had outraged them under circumstances which would insure redress. But the foreigner can very seldom be prevailed upon to return for the mere purpose of prosecuting his officers; and with the returning emigrant, who has suffered so much for the sake of obtaining a homeward passage, it is out of the question. In such cases what is the consul to do? Before the complainants make their appeal to him, they have ceased to be under the jurisdiction of his country; and they refuse to return to it in quest of a revenge which they cannot be secure of obtaining, and which would benefit them little if obtained. The perpetrators of these outrages are not men who can be made pecuniarily responsible, being almost invariably, as I have said, the lower officers and able seamen of the ship. In cases of unjustifiably severe usage, if the master of the vessel be found implicated in the offence, the consul has it at his option to order the discharge of the sufferer with the payment of three months' extra wages. But the instances of cruel treatment which have come under my notice are not of the kind contemplated by the act of 1840; not being the effect of the tyranny or bad passions of the master, or of officers acting under his authority, but, as already stated, of the hostile interests of two classes of the crew. To prevent these disorders would require the authority and influence of abler men, and of a higher stamp, than American shipmasters are now found to be. In very difficult circumstances, and having a vast responsibility of life and property upon their hands, they appear to me to do their best, with such materials as are at their command. So far as they lay themselves open to the law, I have been ready to inflict it, but have found few opportunities. Thus a great mass of petty outrage, unjustifiable assaults, shameful indignities, and nameless cruelty, demoralizing alike to those who perpetrate and to those who suffer, falls into the ocean between the two countries, and can be punished in neither. Such a state of things, as it can be met by no law now in existence, would seem to reqnire new legislation.
I have not failed to draw the attention of the Government to this subject on several former occasions. Nor has it been denied by the last Administration that our laws in this regard were defective and required revision. But the extent of those acknowledged defects and of that necessary revision was alleged as a reason why no partial measures should be adopted. The importance of the matter, as embracing the whole condition of our mercantile marine, cannot be overestimated. It is not an exaggeration to say that the United States have no seamen. Even the officers, from the mate downward, are usually foreigners, and of a very poor class; being the rejected mates and other subordinates of the British commercial navy. Men who have failed to pass their examinations, or have been deprived of their certificates by reason of drunkenness or other ill conduct, attain, on board of our noble ships, the posts for which they are deemed unworthy in their own. On the deterioration of this class of men necessarily follows that of the masters, who are promoted from it. I deeply regret to say, that the character of American shipmasters has already descended, many degrees, from the high standard which it held in years past,--an effect partly due, as I have just hinted, to the constantly narrowing field of selection, and likewise, in a great degree, to the terrible life which a shipmaster is now forced to lead. Respectable men are anxious to quit a service which links them with such comrades, loads them with such responsibility, and necessitates such modes of meeting it. In making this communication to the Department, I have deemed it my duty to speak with all possible plainness, believing that you will agree with me that official ceremony is of little importance in view of such a national emergency as is here presented. If there be an interest which requires the intervention of Government with all its wisdom and all its power,--and with more promptitude than Governments usually display,--it is this. The only efficient remedy, it appears to me, must be found in the creation of a class of native seamen; but, in the years that must elapse before that can be effected, it is most desirable that Government should at least recognize the evils that exist, and do its utmost to alleviate them. No American statesman, being in the position which makes it his especial duty to comprehend and deal with this matter, can neglect it without peril to his fame. It is a subject which requires only to be adequately represented in order to attract the deepest interest on the part of the public; and the now wasted or destructive energy of our philanthropists might here be most beneficially employed.
In conclusion, I beg leave to say a few words on the personal bearing which the Secretary's supposed letter has upon my own official character. The letter expresses the opinion that the laws of the United States are adequate to the protection of our seamen, and adds that the execution of these laws devolves mostly on consuls; some of whom, it suggests, in British ports, may have been "delinquent in the discharge of their duty." Now it is undeniable that outrages on board of our ships have actually occurred; and it is equally well known, and I myself hereby testify, that the majority of these outrages pass without any punishment whatever. Most of them, moreover, in the trade between America and England, have come under my own consular supervision, and been fully investigated by me. If I have possessod the power to punish these offences, and, whether through sluggishness or fear or favor, have failed to exercise it, then I am guilty of a great crime, which ought to be visited with a severity and an ignominy commensurate with its evil consequences; and those, surely, would be nothing less than national. If I am innocent,--if I have done my utmost, as an executive officer, under a defective law, to the defects of which I have repeatedly called the attention of my superiors,--then, unquestionably, the Secretary has wronged me by a suggestion pointing so directly at myself. It trenches upon one of the few rights, as a citizen and as a man, which an office-holder might imagine himself to retain. I leave the matter with the Department. It is peculiarly unfortunate for me that my resignation is already in the hands of the President; for, going out of office under this stigma, I foresee that I shall be supposed to have committed official suicide, as the only mode of escaping some worse fate. Whether it is right that an honorable and conscientious discharge of duty should be rewarded by loss of character, I leave to the wisdom and justice of the Department to decide. I am, sir, most respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
GEN. LEWIS CASS,
SECRETARY OF STATE, WASHINGTON, D.C.
--The General's reply is given below:--
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON,
Sept. 24, 1857.
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, Esq., Consul, Liverpool
SIR.- Your despatch, No. 90, of the 17th of June last, upon the maltreatment of seamen on board vessels of the United States, was duly received. The note to Lord Napier, which accompanied it, was correctly published in the English journals, but without the previous knowledge or consent of this Department. You seem to suppose that some of its expressions may have been intended to charge you with delinquency in your official duties towards seamen. No such intention, however, was entertained; and now that you are about to retire from your position, I am happy to bear testimony to the prudent and efficient manner in which you have discharged your duties. I owe it to myself, however, to add that I perceive nothing in the letter to Lord Napier which justifies the construction you have placed on it. On the contrary, while it admits that some delinquency, on the part of our Consuls, in executing the laws of the United States concerning seamen, is not absolutely impossible, it expressly disclaims all knowledge of such delinquency; and where offenders have escaped punishment, it attributes the escape to causes over which our Consuls could exercise no control. What you say with regard to the evils that afflict our commercial marine, it is not now necessary to consider; but you quite misapprehend my views if you suppose that I am insensible to the magnitude of these evils, or could have ever intended to deny their existence. I concur with you in opinion, however, that they are not so much chargeable to defective laws as to the want of that very class of persons whom the laws were made to protect. While, therefore, our statutes may be, and probably are, as well adapted to their objects as those of any other country, it is none the less true that our merchant service suffers constantly from the want of American seamen. How this want can be supplied, is a question to which, in my note to Lord Napier, it was not my purpose to reply. I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,
--Of the same date is the subjoined communication, accepting Hawthorne's resignation:--
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON,
Sept. 24, 1857.
Esq., U. S. Consul, Liverpool.
SIR,--I have to acknowledge the receipt of your despatches to No. 95, inclusive, with their respective enclosures. In transmitting the enclosed communication, in which you are requested to deliver the Archives of the Consulate at Liverpool to Mr. Beverly Tucker, the gentleman appointed by the President to be your successor, it gives the Department pleasure, on your voluntary retirement, to express its acknowledgments for the valuable information and suggestions relative to our commercial interests, which you have, from time to time, communicated, and to assure you of its satisfaction with the manner in which you have discharged the laborious and responsible duties of the office.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
--The next two letters are from Henry Wilding, the head clerk of the Consulate, and Hawthorne's faithful friend and assistant during his incumbency. They refer to details connected with the office, and incidentally illustrate the spirit in which such things were conducted by the Foreign Office of that day:
LIVERPOOL, May 5, 1858.
MY DEAR SIR,--It required a search through the books, to find the names of the persons for whom the unclaimed wages were paid, before I could answer your letter. I have been slow in doing it, as my health is still too precarious to admit of my working in the evening unless the need were very pressing. I now enclose a statement of the amount, and the names, which, should be signed by you and sent to the fifth Auditor when you pay the money to Barings, when receipt should also be forwarded. There have been two letters about the disbursement accounts, one informing you that you had overdrawn for some three dollars against the account to September, 1856. You may remember this was drawn for while I was away, and it was found that only one part of the account had been drawn for, and neither yourself nor Mr. Pearce nor Mr. Shaw could tell what exchange had been drawn at; we drew for the rest of the account, leaving the exchange unsettled. No doubt the three dollars is the difference of exchange. The other letter was to say that the accounts (disbursement to June 30, 1857) had been adjusted, and that the amount charged for loss of exchange had been suspended, as there was no proof of your having actually sustained the loss on selling your drafts. I have been in communication with Baring, who informed me that you did not sell them your drafts, but only sent them out for collection; but they have furnished me with a statement which I think must satisfy the very particular Comptroller. I will forward it from here to Washington. A letter also informs me that your draft for office-rent has been paid, but that the amount has been placed against you in the books of the Treasury "until you furnish vouchers." What will you do? I have obtained a voucher for what you actually paid, including rate, and enclose amended account for your signature, if you should determine to claim the amount, which I certainly should do. The amount drawn for was the full ten per cent, amounting to $583.56. Of the accounts for fees there is not a word. I hope their silence means assent. I should think if they are not satisfied about the protest money they would have written before this. However, I will write to you if I hear anything. There is a bill before the Senate to amend the Consular Law. I don't know the provisions, but I believe an attempt is being made to allow clerk-hire. Pity they can't make that retrospective. We have still the regular succession of complaints,--brutal officers and vicious sailors, suffering and misery before us all day, and not to be forgotten at night.
U. S. CONSULATE, Nov. 14, 1861.
DEAR SIR,--The enclosed letter to you was received here three months since. While you were in Italy, letters were received informing you that the sums charged in your accounts for losses of exchange were disallowed for want of vouchers. On communicating with Barings, it appeared that you had not sold your drafts to them, but only left them with them for collection. I got such certificates from them as they were willing to sign, and wrote to the Comptroller, showing him that although you had not sustained such loss in a literal sense, you had practically in the shape of interest commissions, etc. I heard no more of it, and supposed the matter settled. From this letter of the 8th inst. it appears that the certificates and explanation were accepted as to part of the amount only; why they were not for the rest, I cannot imagine. At this distance of time it is difficult to get at the accounts and vouchers among the mass of dusty accumulations, and one's memory affords but little help. I am therefore unable to ascertain the nature of all the items making up the $189.41, but believe they were all losses by exchange. I have found the vouchers for the $5.80, copies of which were ordered sent with the accounts. If you send these to the Comptroller he will have that amount brought to your credit, but I fear you will have to submit to the loss of the remainder, unless you can attack the present Comptroller more successfully than I did the other. It is a manifest injustice, as of course you had to pay Baring's commissions for collecting the drafts, and interest on the money advanced to pay the accounts. . . I am still at the Consulate, battling with hard captains and sailors,--struggling to do right amid threats and discouragements, when the truth is hard to find.
With best wishes and affectionate regards to you all,
--The last letter received before leaving England was this cordial one from the Rev. W. H. Channing:--
7 MONTPELIER TERRACE, UPPER PARLIAMENT ST.,
MY DEAR MRS. HAWTHORNE,-Your most welcome note reached me this morning; and I at once reply, to tell you how rejoiced we all are that the communication between as is again opened. For I have felt as if the cable had snapped in the salt seas, and no message more might pass. What had become of you all we could not discover, and so fancied you as enjoying yourselves amid the gay splendors of Paris and the sunny scenes of Florence and Rome. But last week, one day, I met Mr. Wilding,--having called before at the office when he was ill,--and then learned with astonishment and sorrow that you were still in England, and that you had all been suffering from measles. How very sad your experience had been, however, I had no conception till your note arrived. Thank Heaven, the worst seems past. Please let me know your future movements, and your direction for the ensuing months; for we must not let the cable break again if we can help it.
Since I saw you I have made three charming trips,--to Wales, Devonshire, and Yorkshire. The last was especially interesting, as I visited Haworth and Bolton Priory. The day was dreary in extreme, with gloomy fog half veiling the mysterious hills, which, resting on their folded arms, bowed solemnly as we swept by. Not a breath of wind was stirring; all was still, as if in sleep. As I stood on the doorstep of the parsonage, and gazed into the narrow garden enclosure, which separates the house from the desolate graveyard, with its green mounds and mossy monuments, it seemed to me that the black gnarled shrubbery, and the dank, brown flower-beds, where the wilted stalks hung heavy with the wet, wonderfully symbolized dear Charlotte Bronte's sorrows. And seeing the scene in its hour of desolation, it was easy to fancy the sunbursts and wild breezes from the heathery moorland, and the spotless, snowy moonlights. . . .
And so, with cordial and affectionate greetings to one and all of you, from each and all of us, I am
W. H. CHANNING.
Happy New Year!
--On the eve of embarking, Hawthorne delivered his English journals into the keeping of his friend, Henry Bright, with the accompanying little note:--
DEAR MR. BRIGHT,--Here are these journals. If unreclaimed by myself, or by my heirs or assigns, I consent to your breaking the seals in the year 1900, -not a day sooner. By that time, probably, England will be a minor republic, under the protection of the United States. If my countrymen of that day partake in the least of my feelings, they will treat you generously.
--On the 3d of January, a gloomy and wintry day, we took the train to Folkestone, and two days later arrived in Paris.