Next> | <Prev | /Search/ | ?Help?
Words | Names | Dates | Places | Art | Notes | End

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864

William Pike and Hawthorne


[Online editor's note: following is from Harper's Magazine, possibly after 1879 (since it refers to Henry James's 1879 book), and even possibly by W. D. Howells after 1881, when he became editor of Harper's, since there are several other Howells pieces in this book. Further bibliographic information is not given in the uncopyrighted source, New England: A collection from Harper's Magazine, 1990, Octopus Books Limited, ISBN 0-8317-4256-9, pages 156-163, as "Hawthorne Among His Friends."]

IN the Salem Gazette of Tuesday, August 29, 1876, occurs the following brief obituary:

"Mr. William B. Pike, a former Collector of this port, who has been in failing health for some years past, died on Saturday afternoon in the sixty-sixth year of his age. He was in early life a mechanic, working for several years as a carpenter with his father, the late Jacob Pike. He was a Democrat in politics, and his opinions and judgment upon political matters were generally deferred to by his party associates, by whom he was regarded as a man of more than average discernment and sagacity. He was intimate with Hawthorne, Pierce, Wright, and other well-known gentlemen of his party; was a man of warm friendship, and was even too ready to render assistance to those who asked aid at his hands. Mr. Pike was appointed to office in the Boston Custom-house, and also held official position here for about eighteen years. He was weigher and gauger under Polk, Taylor, and Fillmore, and was appointed Collector under Pierce, retaining his office through the administration of Buchanan."

For several years I knew Pike well, and saw him nearly every day till within a few months of his death. He had a full and ready mind, an unfailing fund of common-sense and shrewd observation, a sunny and cheerful temper, and a child-like purity of heart. And these rare qualities, together with the fact that Pike had been for many years intimate with Hawthorne, contributed to make him always extremely interesting to me. To an unusual degree he had evidently been taken into the confidence of Hawthorne, who to him was indeed sacrosanct. That Pike was not unworthy of this privilege is indicated by the fact that he was not prone to talk about it; and although on other matters communicative enough, and a lavish giver from his exhaustless stores of anecdote and reminiscence, a fine reserve seemed to fetter his tongue whenever, as frequently befell, he was approached by strangers and questioned upon the subject of his friend. It was a reticence caught unconsciously, as it seemed to me, from the mysterious shyness of Hawthorne himself.

We were conversing one day upon the topic of so-called spiritual manifestations, and I found that Pike had once been profoundly interested in these matters. He had long ago, however, come to the conclusion that the very singular phenomena which he had witnessed were a delusion and a snare to those who imagined them to be of any practical value. I referred to the fact that Hawthorne's intuitions, as revealed by several passages in his Note-Books and elsewhere, were so true that he seems never for a moment to have had any faith in that vital article of the spiritualistic faith, namely, that we may actually communicate with departed friends. In this connection Pike spoke of having once written to Hawthorne detailing his experiences and ideas regarding the rappers, and he remembered having received a reply which he thought would interest me; and in a few days he gave me the followmg letter, with a few other mementos of his friend:

"Lenox, Ju1y 24,1851.

"DEAR PIKE,-- I should have written to you long since, acknowledging the receipt of your gin, and in answer to your letter, but I have been very busy with my pen. As to the gin, I can not speak of its quality; for the bottle has not yet been opened, and will probably remain corked till cold weather, when I mean to take an occasional sip. I really thank you for it, however; nor could I help shedding a few quiet tears over that which was so uselessly spilt by the expressman.

"The most important news I have to tell you (if you have not already heard it) is that we have another daughter, now about two months old. She is a very bright and healthy child, and neither more nor less handsome than babies generally are. I think I feel more interest in her than I did in the other children at the same age, from the consideration that she is to be the daughter of my age--the comfort (at least so it is to be hoped) of my declining years.

"What a sad account you give of your solitude in your letter! I am not likely ever to have that feeling of loneliness which you express; and I most heartily wish that you would take measures to remedy it in your own case, by marrying Miss B---- or someone else as soon as possible. If I were at all in the habit of shedding tears, I should have felt inclined to do so at your description of your present situation--without family, and estranged from your former friends. Whenever you find it quite intolerable (and I can hardly help wishing that it may become so soon), do come to me. By-the-way, if I continue to prosper as heretofore in the literary line, I shall soon be in a condition to buy a place and if you should hear of one, say worth from $1500 to $2000, I wish you would keep your eye on it for me. I should wish it to be on the sea-coast, or, at all events, with easy access the sea. Very little land would suit my purpose; but I want a good house, with space enough inside, and which will not need any considerable repairs. I find that I do not feel at home among these hills, and should not like to consider myself permanently settled here. I do not get acclimated to the peculiar state of the atmosphere; and, except in midwinter, I am continually catching cold, and am never so vigorous as I used to be on the sea-coast. The same is the case with my wife; and though the children seem perfectly well, yet I rather think they would flourish better near the sea. Say nothing about my wishes; but if you see a place likely to suit me, let me know. I shall be in Salem probably as soon as October, and possibly you will have something in view by that time.

"Why did you not express your opinion of The House of the Seven Gables, which I sent you? I suppose you were afraid of hurting my feelings by disapproval; but you need not have been. I should receive friendly censure with just as much equanimity as if it were praise, though, certainly, I had rather you would like the book than not. At any rate, it has sold finely, and seems to have pleased a good many people better than the other; and I must confess that I myself am among the number. It is more characteristic of the author, and a more natural book for me to write, than the Scarlet Letter was. When I write another romance, I shall take the Community for a subject, and shall give some of my experiences and observations at Brook Farm. Since the publication of the Seven Gables I have written a book for children, which is to be put to press immediately.

"My wife, with the baby and Una, is going eastward in two or three weeks to see her mother, who, I think, will not survive another winter. I shall remain here with Julian. If you can be spared from that miserable Custom-house, I wish you would pay me a visit,--although my wife would hardly forgive you for co,ing while she was away. But I do long to see you, and to talk about a thousand things, relating to this world and the next. I am very glad of your testimony in favor of spiritual intercourse. I have heard and read much on the subject, and it appears to me to be the strangest and most bewildering affair I ever heard of. I should he very glad to believe that these rappers are, in any one instance, the spirits of the persons whom they profess themselves to be; but, though I have talked with those who have had the freest communication, there has always been something that made me doubt. So you must allow me to withhold my full and entire belief, until I have heard some of the details of your own spiritual intercourse.

"On receiving your letter, I wrote to Longfellow, requesting him to forward you any books that might facilitate your progress in the Swedish language. He has not told me whether or no he did so. I asked him to send them to the Mansion House in Salem. I wish you had rather undertaken Latin, or French, or German, or indeed almost any other language, in which there would have been a more extensive and attainable literature than in the Swedish. But if it turns out to be a pleasure and improvement to yourself, the end is attained. You will never, I fear (you see that I take a friend's privilege to speak plainly), make the impression on the world that, in years gone by, I used to hope you would. It will not be your fault, however, but the fault of circumstances. Your flower was not destined to bloom in this world. I hope to see its glory in the next.

"I had much more to say, but it has escaped my memory just now, and it is of no use trying to say any real thing in a letter. Hoping to see you sooner or later, your friend ever,


"Excuse this illegible scrawl; but I have contracted such a habit of scrawling that can not possibly help it."

Let it be noted regarding this letter that it is given here just as it ran from Hawthorne's pen, driven at hot epistolary speed. It is by no means, however, the "illegible scrawl" which he calls it. The handwriting is not in the least difficult to decipher, and not only is every word spelled in full, even to the ands, but the punctuation itself is as perfect as in any printed page of his works. It is quite amusing, however, to notice that amid a accuracy which may be regarded as singular in an unpremeditated epistle, dashed off at a rate which, had the hand been less steady, might well have been illegible, there is one lapse--the word withhold is spelled with one h.

There is something very charming in Hawthorne's reference to the Seven Gables and in his apprehension that it might have been disappointing to his friend. And the fine prophecy, so frank and tender, as to the flower "not destined to bloom in this world," shows the relation of intimate friendship and confidence which these men stood to each other.

Lenox, where this letter was written has gone into our annals not merely as a delightful summer resort, but, dating back to the days of Miss Sedgwick, it has ever been with artist and author a chosen place of sojourn. What drew Hawthorne thither has not been revealed. If he sought seclusion, it was surely to be found in the humble abode which he secured among the hills of Berkshire. He called it "the ugliest little red cottage you ever saw." It is situated on the outskirts of the charming village of Lenox, being, in fact, over the line and within the limits of Stockbridge; and it is so embosomed in foliage that to a passing stranger it might easily escape observation. Within, however, is cozy and not inconvenient, and the rear windows furnish an unobstructed view of a wide and varied landscape. Shouldering groups of mountains cluster about a delightful little lake called Stockbridge Bowl. Conspicuous among these hills is Bald Head of the Wonder-Book; and beyond the water, looking in the blue distance, so Hawthorne thought, "like a headless sphinx," is visible the vast bulk of Monument Mountain, whose legend has been sung by Bryant. Hawthorne lived in great retirement at Lenox, and is to this day referred to by the villagers as "the silent man." Often, too, he was strangely shy, so much so that he has been known to leave the highway for the fields rather than encounter a group of approaching villagers. And still he had wonderful nerve, and possessed a poise and readiness equal to any emergency, and comporting well with that stalwart and manly form, Websterian brow, and eyes which seemed to possess the strange power of exploring the twilight recesses of the heart and mind. Higginson, in one of his admirable papers in the Literary World, entitled "Short Studies of American Authors," reveals the impression which Hawthorne made upon him:

"The self-contained purpose of Hawthorne, the large resources, the waiting power--these seem to the imagination to imply an ample basis of physical life; and certainly his stately and noble port is inseparable, in my memory, from these characteristics. Vivid as this impression is, I yet saw but twice, and never spoke to him. I first met him on a summer morning, in Concord, as he was walking along the road near the Old Manse, with his wife by his side, and a noble-looking baby-boy in a little wagon which the father was pushing. I remember him as tall, firm, and strong in bearing; . . . when I passed, Hawthorne lifted upon me his great gray eyes, with a look too keen to seem indifferent, too shy to be sympathetic--and that was all . . . . Again I met Hawthorne at one of the sessions of a short-lived literary club; and I recall the imperturbable dignity and patience with which he sat through a vexatious discussion, whose details seemed as much dwarfed by his presence as if he had been a statue of Olympian Zeus."

Once, while Hawthorne was Surveyor at the port of Salem, two Shakers, leaders in their community, visited the Custom-house, and were conducted through its various departments. With what keen scrutiny the broad-hatted strangers were regarded by Hawthorne, as they passed through his room, we may well imagine from the fact that no sooner was the door shut as they passed out, than the elder of the celibates asked, with great interest, who that man was; and remarking upon his strong face and those eyes, the most wonderful he had ever beheld, he said: "Mark my words, that man will make in some way a deep impression upon the world."

An accomplished scholar and essayist, one of whose noblest productions--"Olympus and Asgard"--fills the place of honor in the Atlantic for January, 1859, tells me that Hawthorne, when he first dwelled at the Old Manse, and was comparatively little known, had made a singular impression upon the villagers, among whom a report was current that this man Hawthorne was somewhat uncanny--in point of fact, not altogether sane. My friend, the son of a Concord farmer, and at that time a raw college youth, had heard these bucolic whisperings as to the sanity of the recluse dweller at the ancient parsonage but he knew nothing of the man, had read at that time none of his productions, and of course, took no interest in what was said or surmised in the village gossip about him. And one day casting his eye toward the Manse as he was passing, he saw Hawthorne up the pathway, standing with folded arms, in motionless attitude and with eyes fixed upon the ground . "Poor fellow," was his unspoken comment; "he does look as if he might be daft." And when, on his return, a full hour afterward, Hawthorne was seen standing in the same place and attitude. the lad's very natural conclusion was. "The man is daft, sure enough." My friend, who has now these many years worshipped at the shrine of Hawthorne, is inclined to believe that there was latent insanity in him. But in this connection he expresses an opinion which others entertain as well, namely, that everybody is a monomaniac on some point or other. "Indeed," said he, "whole communities are delivered over to lunacy sometimes, as Bishop Butler says." Except, however, in the sense that

"True wit to madness nearly is allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide,"

no one knew Hawthorne, so Pike has assured me, who was not strongly impressed with the evident vigor and sanity of the man in mind and body; and with the fact, as Hawthorne himself says, that h had a system "naturally well balanced and lacking no essential part of a thorough organization."

When Hawthorne decided to leave Lenox and move to West Newton, he sold at auction various household goods which he did not care to transport thither. Among these was a plain mahogany desk, upon which he wrote The House of the Seven Gables, The Wonder-Book, The Snow-Image, and nearly the whole of The Blithedale Romance--the final chapters of the latter having been composed after his departure from Lenox. A short time since, certain young men, lovers of Hawthorne and members of the Berkshire Athenaeum, secured this homely yet convenient arrangement of drawers, shelves, and writing-desk, and it may be seen now in the museum of that institution, bearing an appropriate placard, and surmounted by a framed document, sworn to and subscribed before a notary, authenticating the above facts for the benefit of future generations.

I would advise no man, unless his faith in the greatness and purity of Hawthorne is established beyond the possibility of disturbance, to investigate too closely into the muck-heaps of local prejudice which even to this day are found to exist among certain cliques and coteries of his native town. Persons of intelligence and respectability are met who actually regard their illustrious townsman with feelings of strong personal aversion. I have endeavored honestly and patiently to look into this strange matter for the purpose of discovering, if I could, the cause of an animosity so pronounced that were I to repeat here the sentiments of rancor and bitterness toward Hawthorne which I have heard spoken, the record would be read with astonishment and incredulity. I rejoice to say, however, that these people are in a very small minority, and that to most Hawthorne is a bright particular star, dwelling aloft beyond the reach of detraction. Hawthorne was a Democrat in politics at a time when, by these unfriendly people, themselves of Whiggish proclivities, grave doubts were entertained whether a Democrat might by any possibility be admitted to heaven; and he was considered not overselect in his associates. It is true that, with a few rare exceptions, Hawthorne held himself aloof from what was regarded as the best society of his native town. Flattering invitations from the wealthiest families were not accepted, nor acknowledged even, and the very existence of the writers was ignored. This was discouraging and of course not wholly agreeable to an aristocracy which, finding this stalwart and handsome young man stranded on their shores like some wonderful marine monster, would fain capture him for the entertainment and distinction which might accrue to them thereby. It is thought that this was boorish and rude, and indicative of a soul hopelessly Democratic and depraved. It once befell that he was appointed, without his knowledge or consent, secretary of the Salem Lyceum, an honorable association which for more than half a century had given annual courses of lectures. He quietly ignored the association, performing none of the duties of secretary, declining to introduce the speakers, and not even attending the lectures. On one occasion, however, Thoreau being the lecturer, Hawthorne had ventured, it seems into the anteroom; and it being whispered among the audience that he was without, there was some eagerness at the close of the lecture to see him. Do you remember Thackeray's sketch of himself in one of the Roundabout Papers? A rear view like that was all the dispersing crowd could get of Hawthorne, for he had promptly planted his nose in a corner and as the audience passed by into the street nothing was visible save the broad of his back. And this ludicrous incident is to this day cited as indisputable evidence of the man's innate boorishness. It is claimed, too, that the associates whom Hawthorne seemed to prefer while he was Surveyor of the port of Salem were for the most part stipendiaries of the Custom house and dubious hangers-on, who were not only Democrats, but quaffers of strong waters, tellers of stories unfit for ears refined, and men whose walk and conversation were not improving. And with such as these Hawthorne was wont to go down the harbor now and then on the government tug, with convivial intent. Undoubtedly all this may be to some extent true. And Hawthorne, who in his early days is known to have delighted in sitting, himself unknown, a silent observer in bar-rooms and country taverns, listening to the talk of hangers-on at such resorts, admits freely, in the prologue to the Scarlet Letter, how great a change, following his appointment as Surveyor, had occurred in his associates and surroundings: "Such," he says,

"were some of the people with whom I now found myself connected. I took it in good part, at the hands of Providence, that I was thrown into a position so little akin to my past habits, and set myself seriously to gather whatever profit was at hand. After my fellowship of toil and impracticable schemes with the dreamy brethren at Brook Farm; after living for three years within the subtle influence of an intellect like Emerson's; after those wild, free days on the Assabeth, indulging fantastic speculations, beside our fire of fallen boughs, with Ellery Channing; after talking with Thoreau about pine-trees and Indian relics, in his hermitage at Walden; after growing fastidious by sympathy with the classic refinement of Hillard's culture; after becoming imbued with poetic sentiment at Longfellow's hearth-stone-it was time, at length, that I should exercise other functions of my nature, and nourish myself with food for which I had hitherto had little appetite. Even the old Inspector was desirable, as a change of diet, to a man who had known Alcott. I looked upon it as an evidence, in some measure, of a system natura]ly well balanced, and lacking no essential part of a thorough organization, that, with such associates to remember, I could mingle at once with men of altogether different qualities, and never murmur at the change."

Let it be said in passing, that the portraiture of the old Inspector here referred to was regarded by many of Hawthorne's warmest friends as a sketch which, in spite of its merit as a bit of inimitable character painting, should not have been published while the original was living; for he had reached a patriarchal age, and was surrounded by children and grandchildren, who must needs boil with pious wrath and indignation at seeing their revered progenitor thus portrayed. And the local haters of Hawthorne now living can not forget nor forgive this act, which, it must be admitted, was as injudicious as it surely was utterly free from any touch of malice or personal aversion.

A man like Hawthorne, or Goethe, or Shakspeare, endowed by the Creator with exceptional genius, lives an ideal life, a life of thought, and may not be gauged by common standards. In a manner they are in the world, but not of it, nor do their souls readily contract taint or blemish. They refuse to be fed on conventionalities and commonplaces.

" Bring me wine, but wine which never grew
in the belly of the grape,
Or grew on vine whose tap-roots, reaching through
Under tile Andes to the Cape,
Suffered no savor of the earth to 'scape."

James finely says: "Hawthorne had a democratic strain in his composition, and a relish for the common stuff of human nature. He liked to fraternize with plain people, to take them on their own terms and put himself, if possible, into their shoes. His Note-Books, and even his tales are full of evidence of this easy and natural feeling about all his unconventional fellow-mortals, this imaginative interest and contemplative curiosity, and it sometimes takes the most charming and graceful forms. Commingled as it is with his own subtlety and delicacy, his complete exemption from vulgarity, it is one of the points in his character which his reader comes most to appreciate--that reader, I mean, for whom he is not, as for some few, a dusky and malarious genius. And James elsewhere remarks: "In fact Hawthorne appears to have ignored the good society of his native place almost completely; no echo of its conversation was to be found in his tales or his journals."

A few particulars further regarding Hawthorne's friend and correspondent may not be uninteresting. William E Pike was born at Salem, October, 1810. He received a public-school education but stopped short of the High School, and practiced carpentry with his father. His parents were Methodists, and at an early age he became interested in religious matters. He joined the Sewall Street Methodist Church, under the pastorate of Rev. Jesse Fillmore, and became a devoted and successful class-leader. He contemplated entering the ministry, and prepared and preached several sermons. Applying for a position as chaplain in the navy, he was strongly recommended by certain influential gentlemen of Essex County, who respected him for his talents and piety, and under the impression that he had been regularly ordained, represented that as the case in their letters of recommendation. It is said that Pike knew of this error, and that, in his eagerness to secure the appointment, he failed to correct it. However this may be, these gentlemen, happening to learn from his pastor that Pike had not been ordained, recalled their letters, and the chaplain project fell through. This was a great disappointment to Pike, and the failure occurred in a manner so mortifying that in the revulsion he withdrew forever from the Methodist fold, and beteok himself for some years to the Episcopal communion of old St. Peter's. He afterward became profoundly interested in the works of Swedenborg, and was one of the pioneer members of the New Jerusalem Society, which for some years has had a house of worship on Essex Street, and is quite respectable in numbers and intelligence.

About the time of Jackson's election, in 1832, Pike adopted strong Democratic principles, which he held ever after with unswerving fidelity. And he became remarkably well informed in current politics, as well as in general political history, for he had a tenacious memory, and was an insatiable reader. Among his Democratic friends he was regarded as an oracle, and being vigorously aggressive, he became an acknowledged leader of that party in Essex County. In the second year of Van Buren's administration, under the Collectorship of Bancroft the historian, Pike and Hawthorne both secured places at the Boston Custom-house, Pike as assistant measurer, and Hawthorne as weigher and gauger, and both, after a brief service, were rotated out of office. Hawthorne returned to his lonely chamber on Union Street, and to his literary labors, and Pike worked off and on at his trade, but was ever alert as a politician, and wrote frequently for the press. His papers were mostly of a political character, and were contributed chiefly to the Salem Advertiser and the People's Advocate. These articles appeared generally as editorial, but the authorship was easily recognized, for they were strongly marked with his well-known peculiarities of thought and style.

During the administration of Polk, Pike was commissioned weigher and gauger at the Salem Custom-house, and thereafter, in one capacity or another, remained continuously in the customs service till the end of Buchanan's administration. During the closing hours of the administration of his personal friend Frank Pierce, he was promoted to the Collectorship, then a very lucrative berth. Soon after, he built a residence at Groveland, in a region hallowed by the genius of Whittier. It is opposite the city of Haverhill; and here the valley of the Merrimac, everywhere abundantly beautiful, puts on its loveliest aspects, and will live forever in radiant verse as the scene of Cobbler Keezar's Vision. The period of Pike's residence at Groveland was the sunniest and most fruitful in happy memories of his life. The spot was, indeed,

"A place of nestling green for poets made."

Here he was wont to entertain his friends with generous hospitality. Here, also, he was induced, contrary to the advice of his friends, to put money into a shoe factory; but the venture was not a success, for he had no knowledge of the business, and, besides, he was lacking in the peculiar intelligence and shrewdness, and that instinct for the main chance, which go to make up a successful and enterprising business man. For men like him, savings-banks are the only snug harbor for spare cash.

It was about this time, I think, that Hawthorne, while consul at Liverpool, wrote Pike strongly urging him to throe up his Custom-house berth, and join him there in the capacity of vice-consul; but Pike, it seems, could not be persuaded to go abroad.

Pike had a strongly marked, benignant face, indicative of intelligence and individuality. He was gray at twenty, and always looked older than his years, and his white hairs "thatched an intellectual tenement," capacious and in good repair. His countenance, except when engaged in animated conversation, was grave and kindly. He had a keen sense of the ludicrous, a vivid recollection of localities and incidents, a quick apprehension of personal peculiarities and traits, and he was a most graphic and entertaining narrator. He had, also, a unique way of receiving good things, which was so characteristic and appreciative that if you chanced upon a nux postcoenatica of real genuine old particular flavor, you would surely go with it to Pike. No matter how side-splitting the story might be, he would look you in the eye through it all with a face perfectly impassive, until the conclusion, and then breaking into a brief volcanic laugh, the grave look would immediately return, as if he were engaged in digesting a matter profoundly serious.

Pike was exceptionally sympathetic and free-handed, especially to his kin people. He had several sisters, all whom he survived. Some were married but not advantageously, and all were at times in straitened circumstances. Generous brother that he was, he kept them ever in mind, looking after and helping them promptly in their straits, even to the extent, upon occasion, of parting with his last dollar.

For some maiden aunts he hired a small house, where they lived with him in great contentment. It was a sorry apology for a house, to be sure, but the inmates had conceived for it a strong attachment, and the sly owner endeavored to persuade Pike to buy it, offering the house and lot for $l300. So it befell one day that our tender-hearted friend conferred with a fellow-stipendiary of Uncle Sam who happened to know the property well, and asked his advice. "The cellar is damp, I think." Pike admitted this to be the fact, and confessed that a slender stream of water gurgled through the midst of the cellar almost continually. "And there is no cellar wall, I believe; It is merely boarded up, is it not?" Pike gravely, and with child-like innocence, admitted that this also was true. "And is not the house itself a flimsy, ramshackle old rookery? You are a carpenter, and you dwell in the house, and must be competent to judge of its value." Pike did know all about the house, and then and there told its strange, eventful history. The owner, a house-painter, who has these many years been gathered to his fathers, had managed in some sort of dicker, or in settlement of a debt, to secure a little lot of land on Crombie Street. Upon this lot, it seems, he had hauled first a porch, which was fit for nothing better than fuel, and might have served a useful end in tempering the local baker's oven with reference to its daily yield of brick-loaf, bun, and ginger bread, or in helping Deacon Safford to brew his famous julep--that horrible decoction, the memory of which to this day hath power to distort the face as if one were quaffing verjuice. But the owner had other aims. By-and-by, watching his chances, he had secured portions of two other dismantled houses, which also were hauled on to the lot. "Hitching these sorry wrecks together somehow," said Pike, "he finally put in a few windows, and called it a house."

Here the colloquy ended. And yet, to of the vast amazement of his interlocutor, it transpired not long afterward that Pike had actually bought this thing of shreds and patches. His excuse was that the inmates had become attached to the dwelling (doubtless because their guileless and devoted kinsman had made it a very paradise to their hearts), and the mere fact of this attachment weighed so strongly with Pike that, out of sheer kindliness, the snug little sum of $1300, which he happened to be able to spare at the time, was foolishly flung away upon this insalubrious rattle-trap. And shortly after, poor fellow, he fell sick of a slow fever, which Dr. Floto attributed to the dampness of the cellar, and was laid by for many weeks.

The close of every life is a tragedy more or less pathetic. The prophecy of his friend Hawthorne was fulfilled. "You will never, I fear, make the impression on the world that, in years gone by, I used to hope you would. It will not be your fault, however, but the fault of circumstances. Your flower was not destined to bloom in this world. I hope to see its glory in the next." While Pike held the Collectorship, the emolument of that office had rendered him comfortably well off. Temperate, upright, honorable, singularly pure in heart and life, but generous and free-handed to a fault, when he lost his place and his income, his means dwindled, and he became abjectly poor and dependent; blindness and other infirmities overtook him; but through all these thronging misfortunes his mind was unclouded, and his soul kindly and serene. And so the end drew nigh, and bidding his friends and the world good-night,

"He hath crossed the languid river,
He hath paid the last obole,
Day for him hath set forever,
He hath won the mystic goal."

Twelve years earlier, Hawthorne had preceded him into the Silent Land; and now his friend of many years has also "sailed beyond the sunset, and touched the Happy Isles."

Next> | Words | Names | Dates | Places | Art | Notes | ^Top