THE LIFE AND GENIUS OF NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE
BY FRANK PRESTON STEARNS
AUTHOR OF "THE REAL AND IDEAL IN LITERATURE," "LIFE OF TINTORETTO," "LIFE OF BISMARCK," "TRUE REPUBLICANISM," "CAMBRIDGE SKETCHES," ETC.
TO EMILIA MACIEL STEARNS
"In the elder days of art Builders wrought with greatest care Each minute and unseen part,— For the gods see everywhere." —Longfellow
"Oh, happy dreams of such a soul have I, And softly to myself of him I sing, Whose seraph pride all pride doth overwing; Who stoops to greatness, matches low with high, And as in grand equalities of sky, Stands level with the beggar and the king." —Wasson
The simple events of Nathaniel Hawthorne's life have long been before the public. From 1835 onward they may easily be traced in the various Note-books, which have been edited from his diary, and previous to that time we are indebted for them chiefly to the recollections of his two faithful friends, Horatio Bridge and Elizabeth Peabody. These were first systematised and published by George P. Lathrop in 1872, but a more complete and authoritative biography was issued by Julian Hawthorne twelve years later, in which, however, the writer has modestly refrained from expressing an opinion as to the quality of his father's genius, or from attempting any critical examination of his father's literary work. It is in order to supply in some measure this deficiency, that the present volume has been written. At the same time, I trust to have given credit where it was due to my predecessors, in the good work of making known the true character of so rare a genius and so exceptional a personality.
The publication of Horatio Bridge's memoirs and of Elizabeth Manning's account of the boyhood of Hawthorne have placed before the world much that is new and valuable concerning the earlier portion of Hawthorne's life, of which previous biographers could not very well reap the advantage. I have made thorough researches in regard to Hawthorne's American ancestry, but have been able to find no ground for the statements of Conway and Lathrop, that William Hathorne, their first ancestor on this side of the ocean, was directly connected with the Quaker persecution. Some other mistakes, like Hawthorne's supposed connection with the duel between Cilley and Graves, have also been corrected.
F. P. S.
I. SALEM AND THE HATHORNES: 1630-1800 II. BOYHOOD OF HAWTHORNE: 1804-1821 III. BOWDOIN COLLEGE: 1821-1825 IV. LITTLE MISERY: 1825-1835 V. EOS AND EROS: 1835-1839 VI. PEGASUS AT THE CART: 1839-1841 VII. HAWTHORNE AS A SOCIALIST: 1841-1842 VIII. CONCORD AND THE OLD MANSE: 1842-1845 IX. "MOSSES FROM AN OLD MANSE": 1845 X. FROM CONCORD TO LENOX: 1845-1849 XI. PEGASUS IS FREE: 1850-1852 XII. THE LIVERPOOL CONSULATE: 1852-1854 XIII. HAWTHORNE IN ENGLAND: 1854-1858 XIV. ITALY XV. HAWTHORNE AS ART CRITIC: 1858 XVI. "THE MARBLE FAUN": 1859-1860 XVII. HOMEWARD BOUND: 1860-1862 XVIII. IMMORTALITY
PORTRAITS OF HAWTHORNE EDITIONS OF HAWTHORNE'S BOOKS PUBLISHED UNDER HIS OWN DIRECTION. MRS. EMERSON AND MRS. HAWTHORNE APPENDICES
List of Illustrations
PORTRAIT OF HAWTHORNE, BY FRANCES OSBORNE IN 1893 HAWTHORNE'S BIRTHPLACE HORATIO BRIDGE, FROM THE PORTRAIT BY EASTMAN JOHNSON HAWTHORNE, FROM THE PORTRAIT BY CHARLES OSGOOD IN 1840 THE OLD MANSE, RESIDENCE OF DR. RIPLEY THE CUSTOM HOUSE, SALEM, MASS THE WAYSIDE GUIDO RENI'S PORTRAIT OF BEATRICE CENCI STATUE OF PRAXITELES' RESTING FAUN TORRE MEDIAVALLE DELLA SCIMMIA (HILDA'S TOWER) IN ROME
THE LIFE AND GENIUS OF NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE
SALEM AND THE HATHORNES: 1630-1800
The three earliest settlements on the New England coast were Plymouth, Boston, and Salem; but Boston soon proved its superior advantages to the two others, not only from its more capacious harbor, but also from the convenient waterway which the Charles River afforded to the interior of the Colony. We find that a number of English families, and among them the ancestors of Gen. Joseph Warren and Wendell Phillips, who crossed the ocean in 1640 in the "good ship Arbella," soon afterward migrated to Watertown on Charles River for the sake of the excellent farming lands which they found there. Salem, however, maintained its ascendency over Plymouth and other neighboring harbors on the coast, and soon grew to be the second city of importance in the Colony during the eighteenth century, when the only sources of wealth were fishing, shipbuilding, and commerce. Salem nourished remarkably. Its leading citizens became wealthy and developed a social aristocracy as cultivated, as well educated, and, it may also be added, as fastidious as that of Boston itself. In this respect it differed widely from the other small cities of New England, and the exclusiveness of its first families was more strongly marked on account of the limited size of the place. Thus it continued down to the middle of the last century, when railroads and the tendency to centralization began to draw away its financial prosperity, and left the city to small manufactures and its traditional respectability.
The finest examples of American eighteenth century architecture are supposed to exist in and about the city of Salem, and they have the advantage, which American architecture lacks so painfully at the present time, of possessing a definite style and character—edifices which are not of a single type, like most of the houses in Fifth Avenue, but which, while differing in many respects, have a certain general resemblance, that places them all in the same category. The small old country churches of Essex County are not distinguished for fine carving or other ornamentation, and still less by the costliness of their material, for they are mostly built of white pine, but they have an indefinable air of pleasantness about them, as if they graced the ground they stand on, and their steeples seem to float in the air above us. If we enter them on a Sunday forenoon—for on week-days they are like a sheepfold without its occupants—we meet with much the same kind of pleasantness in the assemblage there. We do not find the deep religious twilight of past ages, or the noonday glare of a fashionable synagogue, but a neatly attired congregation of weather-beaten farmers and mariners, and their sensible looking wives, with something of the original Puritan hardness in their faces, much ameliorated by the liberalism and free thinking of the past fifty years. Among them too you will see some remarkably pretty young women; and young men like those who dug the trenches on Breed's Hill in the afternoon of June 16, 1775. There may be veterans in the audience who helped Grant to go to Richmond. Withal there is much of the spirit of the early Christians among them, and virtue enough to save their country in any emergency.
These old churches have mostly disappeared from Salem city and have been replaced by more aristocratic edifices, whose square or octagonal towers are typical of their leading parishioners,—a dignified class, if somewhat haughty and reserved; but they too will soon belong to the past, drawn off to the great social centres in and about Boston. In the midst of Salem there is a triangular common, "with its never-failing elms," where the boys large and small formerly played cricket—married men too—as they do still on the village greens of good old England, and around this enclosure the successful merchants and navigators of the city built their mansion houses; not half houses like those in the larger cities, but with spacious halls and rooms on either side going up three stories. It is in the gracefully ornamented doorways and the delicate interior wood-work, the carving of wainscots, mantels and cornices, the skilful adaptations of classic forms to a soft and delicate material that the charm of this architecture chiefly consists,—especially in the staircases, with their carved spiral posts and slender railings, rising upward in the centre of the front hall, and turning right and left on the story above. It is said that after the year eighteen hundred the quality of this decoration sensibly declined; it was soon replaced by more prosaic forms, and now the tools no longer exist that can make it. Sir Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones would have admired it. America, excepting in New York City, escaped the false rococo taste of the eighteenth century.
The Salem sea-captains of old times were among the boldest of our early navigators; sailing among the pirates of the Persian Gulf and trading with the cannibals of Polynesia, and the trophies which they brought home from those strange regions, savage implements of war and domestic use, clubs, spears, boomerangs, various cooking utensils, all carved with infinite pains from stone, ebony and iron-wood, cloth from the bark of the tapa tree, are now deposited in the Peabody Academy, where they form one of the largest collections of the kind extant. Even more interesting is the sword of a sword-fish, pierced through the oak planking of a Salem vessel for six inches or more. No human force could do that even with a spear of the sharpest steel. Was the sword-fish roused to anger when the ship came upon him sleeping in the water; or did he mistake it for a strange species of whale?
There is a court-house on Federal Street, built in Webster's time, of hard cold granite in the Grecian fashion of the day, not of the white translucent marble with which the Greeks would have built it. Is it the court-house where Webster made his celebrated argument in the White murder case, or was that court-house torn down and a plough run through the ground where it stood, as Webster affirmed that it ought to be? Salem people were curiously reticent in regard to that trial, and fashionable society there did not like Webster the better for having the two Knapps convicted.
Much more valuable than such associations is William Hunt's full-length portrait of Chief Justice Shaw, which hangs over the judge's bench in the front court-room. "When I look at your honor I see that you are homely, but when I think of you I know that you are great." it is this combination of an unprepossessing physique with rare dignity of character which Hunt has represented in what many consider the best of American portraits. It is perhaps too much in the sketchy style of Velasquez, but admirable for all that.
Time has dealt kindly with Salem, in effacing all memorials of the witchcraft persecution, except a picturesque old house at the corner of North and Essex Streets, where there are said to have been preliminary examinations for witchcraft,—a matter which concerns us now but slightly. The youthful associations of a genius are valuable to us on account of the influence which they may be supposed to have had on his early life, but associations which have no determining consequences may as well be neglected. The hill where those poor martyrs to superstition were executed may be easily seen on the left of the city, as you roll in on the train from Boston. It is part of a ridge which rises between the Concord and Charles Rivers and extends to Cape Ann, where it dives into the ocean, to reappear again like a school of krakens, or other marine monsters, in the Isles of Shoals.
New England has not the fertile soil of many sections of the United States, and its racking climate is proverbial, but it is blessed with the two decided advantages of pure water and fine scenery. There is no more beautiful section of its coast than that between Salem Harbor and Salisbury Beach, long stretches of smooth sand alternating with bold rocky promontories. A summer drive from Swampscott to Marblehead reminds one even of the Bay of Naples (without Vesuvius), and the wilder coast of Cape Ann, with its dark pines, red-roofed cottages, and sparkling surf, is quite as delightful. William Hunt went there in the last sad years of his life to paint "sunshine," as he said; and Whittier has given us poetic touches of the inland scenery in elevated verse:
"Fleecy clouds casting their shadows Over uplands and meadows; And country roads winding as roads will, Here to a ferry, there to a mill."
Poets arise where there is poetic nourishment, internal and external, for them to feed on; and it is not surprising that a Whittier and a Hawthorne should have been evolved from the environment in which they grew to manhood.
It is a common saying with old Boston families that their ancestors came to America in the "Arbella" with Governor Winthrop, but as a matter of fact there were at least fifteen vessels that brought colonists to Massachusetts in 1630, and I cannot discover that any lists of their passengers have been preserved. The statement that certain persons came over at the same time with Governor Winthrop might soon become a tradition that they came in the same ship with him; but all that we know certainly is that Governor Winthrop landed about the middle of June, 1630, and that his son arrived two weeks later in the "Talbot," and was drowned July 2, while attempting to cross one of the tide rivers at Salem. Who arrived in the thirteen other vessels that year we know not. Ten years later Sir Richard Saltonstall emigrated to Boston with the Phillips and Warren families in the "Arbella" (or "Arabella"), and there is no telling how much longer she sailed the ocean.
Hawthorne himself states that his ancestors came from Wig Castle in Wigton in Warwickshire, [Footnote: Diary, August 22, 1837.] but no such castle has been discovered, and the only Wigton in England appears to be located in Cumberland. [Footnote: Lathrop's "Study of Hawthorne," 46.] He does not tell us where he obtained this information, and it certainly could not have been from authentic documents,—more likely from conversation with an English traveller. Hawthorne never troubled himself much concerning his ancestry, English or American; while he was consul at Liverpool, he had exceptional advantages for investigating the subject, but whatever attempt he made there resulted in nothing. It is only recently that Mr. Henry F. Waters, who spent fifteen years in England searching out the records of old New England families, succeeded in discovering the connecting link between the first American Hawthornes and their relatives in the old country. It was a bill of exchange for one hundred pounds drawn by William Hathorne, of Salem, payable to Robert Hathorne in London, and dated October 19, 1651, which first gave Mr. Waters the clue to his discovery. Robert not only accepted his brother's draft, but wrote him this simple and business- like but truly affectionate epistle in return:
"GOOD BROTHER: Remember my love to my sister, my brother John and sister, my brother Davenport and sister and the rest of our friends.
"In haste I rest "Your loving brother,
"From Bray this 1 April, 1653. ROBERT HATHORNE."
From this it appears that Major William Hathorne not only had a brother John, who established himself in Lynn, but a sister Elizabeth, who married Richard Davenport, of Salem. Concerning Robert Hathorne we only know further that he died in 1689; but in the probate records of Berkshire, England, there is a will proved May 2, 1651, of William Hathorne, of Binfield, who left all his lands, buildings and tenements in that county to his son Robert, on condition that Robert should pay to his father's eldest son, William, one hundred pounds, and to his son John twenty pounds sterling. He also left to another son, Edmund, thirty acres of land in Bray, and there are other legacies; but it cannot be doubted that the hundred pounds mentioned in this will is the same that Major William Hathorne drew for five months later, and that we have identified here the last English ancestor of Nathaniel Hawthorne. His wife's given name was Sarah, but her maiden name still remains unknown. The family resided chiefly at Binfield, on the borders of Windsor Park, and evidently were in comfortable circumstances at that time. From William Hathorne, senior, their genealogy has been traced back to John Hathorne (spelled at that time Hothorne), who died in 1520, but little is known of their affairs, or how they sustained themselves during the strenuous vicissitudes of the Reformation. [Footnote: "Hawthorne Centenary at Salem," 81.]
Emmerton and Waters [Footnote: "English Records about New England Families."] state that William Hathorne came to Massachusetts Bay in 1630, and this is probable enough, though by no means certain, for they give no authority for it. We first hear of him definitely as a freeholder in the settlement of Dorchester in 1634, but his name is not on the list of the first twenty-four Dorchester citizens, dated October 19, 1630. All accounts agree that he moved to Salem in 1636, or the year following, and Nathaniel Hawthorne believed that he came to America at that time. Upham, the historian of Salem witchcraft, who has made the most thorough researches in the archives of old Salem families, says of William Hathorne:
"William Hathorne appears on the church records as early as 1636. He died in June, 1681, seventy-four years of age. No one in our annals fills a larger space. As soldier, commanding important and difficult expeditions, as counsel in cases before the courts, as judge on the bench, and innumerable other positions requiring talent and intelligence, he was constantly called to serve the public. He was distinguished as a public speaker, and is the only person, I believe, of that period, whose reputation as an orator has come down to us. He was an Assistant, that is, in the upper branch of the Legislature, seventeen years. He was a deputy twenty years. When the deputies, who before sat with the assistants, were separated into a distinct body, and the House of Representatives thus came into existence, in 1644, Hathorne was their first Speaker. He occupied the chair, with intermediate services on the floor from time to time, until raised to the other House. He was an inhabitant of Salem Village, having his farm there, and a dwelling-house, in which he resided when his legislative, military, and other official duties permitted. His son John, who succeeded him in all his public honors, also lived on his own farm in the village a great part of the time." [Footnote: "Salem Witchcraft," i. 99.]
Evidently he was the most important person in the colony, next to Governor Winthrop, and unequalled by any of his descendants, except Nathaniel Hawthorne, and by him in a wholly different manner; for it is in vain that we seek for traits similar to those of the great romance writer among his ancestors. We can only say that they both possessed exceptional mental ability, and there the comparison ends.
The attempt has been made to connect William Hathorne with the persecution of the Quakers, [Footnote: Conway's "Life of Hawthorne," 15.] and it is true that he was a member of the Colonial Assembly during the period of the persecution; it is likely that his vote supported the measures in favor of it, but this is not absolutely certain. We do not learn that he acted at any time in the capacity of sheriff; the most diligent researches in the archives of the State House at Boston have failed to discover any direct connection on the part of William Hathorne with that movement; and the best authorities in regard to the events of that time make no mention of him. [Footnote: Sewel, Hallowell, Ellis.] It was the clergy who aroused public opinion and instigated the prosecutions against both the Quakers and the supposed witches of Salem, and the civil authorities were little more than passive instruments in their hands. Hathorne's work was essentially a legislative one,—a highly important work in that wild, unsettled country,—to adapt English statutes and legal procedures to new and strange conditions. He was twice Speaker of the House between 1660 and 1671, and as presiding officer he could exert less influence on measures of expediency than any other person present, as he could not argue either for or against them. And yet, after Charles II. had interfered in behalf of the Quakers, William Hathorne wrote an elaborate and rather circuitous letter to the British Ministry, arguing for non-intervention in the affairs of the colony, which might have possessed greater efficacy if he had not signed it with an assumed name. [Footnote: J. Hawthorne's "Nathaniel Hawthorne," i. 24.] However strong a Puritan he may have been, William Hathorne evidently had no intention of becoming a martyr to the cause of colonial independence. Yet it may be stated in his favor, and in that of the colonists generally, that the fault was not wholly on one side, for the Quakers evidently sought persecution, and would have it, cost what it might. [Footnote: Hallowell's "Quaker Invasion of New England."] Much the same may be affirmed of his son John, who had the singular misfortune to be judge in Salem at the time of the witchcraft epidemic. The belief in witchcraft has always had its stronghold among the fogs and gloomy fiords of the North. James I. brought it with him from Scotland to England, and in due course it was transplanted to America. Judge Hathorne appears to have been at the top of affairs at Salem in his time, and it is more than probable that another in his place would have found himself obliged to act as he did. Law is, after all, in exceptional cases little more than a reflex of public opinion. "The common law," said Webster, "is common-sense," which simply means the common opinion of the most influential people. Much more to blame than John Hathorne were those infatuated persons who deceived themselves into thinking that the pains of rheumatism, neuralgia, or some similar malady were caused by the malevolent influence of a neighbor against whom they had perhaps long harbored a grudge. They were the true witches and goblins of that epoch, and the only ones, if any, who ought to have been hanged for it.
What never has been reasoned up cannot be reasoned down. It seems incredible in this enlightened era, as the newspapers call it, that any woman should be at once so inhuman and so frivolous as to swear away the life of a fellow-creature upon an idle fancy; and yet, even in regard to this, there were slightly mitigating conditions. Consider only the position of that handful of Europeans in this vast wilderness, as it then was. The forests came down to the sea-shore, and brought with them all the weird fancies, terrors and awful forebodings which the human mind could conjure up. They feared the Indians, the wild beasts, and most of all one another, for society was not yet sufficiently organized to afford that repose and contentment of spirit which they had left behind in the Old World. They had come to America to escape despotism, but they had brought despotism in their own hearts. They could escape from the Stuarts, but there was no escape from human nature.
It is likely that their immediate progenitors would not have carried the witchcraft craze to such an extreme. The emigrating Puritans were a fairly well-educated class of men and women, but their children did not enjoy equal opportunities. The new continent had to be subdued physically and reorganized before any mental growth could be raised there. Levelling the forest was a small matter beside clearing the land of stumps and stones. All hands were obliged to work hard, and there was little opportunity for intellectual development or social culture. As a logical consequence, an era ensued not unlike the dark ages of Europe. But this was essential to the evolution of a new type of man, and for the foundation of American nationality; and it was thus that the various nationalities of Europe arose out of the ruins of the Roman Empire.
The scenes that took place in Judge Hathorne's court-room have never been equalled since in American jurisprudence. Powerful forces came into play there, and the reports that have been preserved read like scenes from Shakespeare. In the case of Rebecca Nurse, the Judge said to the defendant:
"'You do know whether you are guilty, and have familiarity with the Devil; and now when you are here present to see such a thing as these testify,—and a black man whispering in your ear, and devils about you,—what do you say to it?'"
To which she replied:
"'It is all false. I am clear.' Whereupon Mrs. Pope, one of the witnesses, fell into a grievous fit." [Footnote: Upham's "Salem Witchcraft," ii. 64.]
Alas, poor beleaguered soul! And one may well say, "What imaginations those women had!" Tituba, the West Indian Aztec who appears in this social-religious explosion as the chief and original incendiary,— verily the root of all evil,—gave the following testimony:
"Q. 'Did you not pinch Elizabeth Hubbard this morning?'
"A. 'The man brought her to me, and made me pinch her.'
"Q. 'Why did you go to Thomas Putnam's last night and hurt his child?'
"A. 'They pull and haul me, and make me go.'
"Q. 'And what would they have you do?'
"A. 'Kill her with a knife.'
"(Lieutenant Fuller and others said at this time, when the child saw these persons, and was tormented by them, that she did complain of a knife,—that they would have her cut her head off with a knife.)
"Q. 'How did you go?'
"A. 'We ride upon sticks, and are there presently.'
"Q. 'Do you go through the trees or over them?'
"A. 'We see nothing, but are there presently.'
"Q. 'Why did you not tell your master?'
"A. 'I was afraid. They said they would cut off my head if I told.'
"Q. 'Would you not have hurt others, if you could?'
"A. 'They said they would hurt others, but they could not.'
"Q. 'What attendants hath Sarah Good?'
"A. 'A yellow-bird, and she would have given me one.'
"Q. 'What meat did she give it?'
"A. 'It did suck her between her fingers.'".
This might serve as an epilogue to "Macbeth," and the wonder is that an unlettered Indian should have had the wit to make such apt and subtle replies. It is also noteworthy that these strange proceedings took place after the expulsion of the royal governor, and previous to the provincial government of William III. If Sir Edmund Andros had remained, the tragedy might have been changed into a farce.
After all, it appears that John Hathorne was not a lawyer, for he describes himself in his last will, dated June 27, 1717, as a merchant, and it is quite possible that his legal education was no better than that of the average English squire in Fielding's time. It is evident, however, from the testimony given above, that he was a strong believer in the supernatural, and here if anywhere we find a relationship between him and his more celebrated descendant. Nathaniel Hawthorne was too clear-sighted to place confidence in the pretended revelations of trance mediums, and he was not in the least superstitious; but he was remarkably fond of reading ghost stories, and would have liked to believe them, if he could have done so in all sincerity. He sometimes felt as if he were a ghost himself, gliding noiselessly in the walks of men, and wondered that the sun should cast a shadow from him. However, we cannot imagine him as seated in jurisdiction at a criminal tribunal. His gentle nature would have recoiled from that, as it might from a serpent.
In the Charter Street burial-ground there is a slate gravestone, artistically carved about its edges, with the name, "Col. John Hathorne Esq.," upon it. It is somewhat sunken into the earth, and leans forward as if wishing to hide the inscription upon it from the gaze of mankind. The grass about it and the moss upon the stone assist in doing this, although repeatedly cut and cleaned away. It seems as if Nature wished to draw a kind of veil over the memory of the witch's judge, himself the sorrowful victim of a theocratic oligarchy. The lesson we learn from his errors is, to trust our own hearts and not to believe too fixedly in the doctrines of Church and State. It must be a dull sensibility that can look on this old slate-stone without a feeling of pathos and a larger charity for the errors of human nature.
It is said that one of the convicted witches cursed Judge Hathorne,— himself and his descendants forever; but it is more than likely that they all cursed him bitterly enough, and this curse took effect in a very natural and direct manner. Every extravagant political or social movement is followed by a corresponding reaction, even if the movement be on the whole a salutary one, and retribution is sure to fall in one shape or another on the leaders of it. After this time the Hathornes ceased to be conspicuous in Salem affairs. The family was not in favor, and the avenues of prosperity were closed to them, as commonly happens in such cases. Neither does the family appear to have multiplied and extended itself like most of the old New England families, who can now count from a dozen to twenty branches in various places. Of John Hathorne's three sons only one appears to have left children. The name has wholly disappeared from among Salem families, and thus in a manner has the witch's curse been fulfilled.
Joseph Hathorne, the son of the Judge, was mostly a farmer, and that is all that we now know of him. His son Daniel, however, showed a more adventurous spirit, becoming a shipmaster quite early in life. It has also been intimated that he was something of a smuggler, which was no great discredit to him in a time when the unfair and even prohibitory measures of the British Parliament in regard to American commerce made smuggling a practical necessity. Even as the captain of a trading vessel, however, Daniel Hathorne was not likely to advance the social interests of his family. It is significant that he should have left the central portion of Salem, where his ancestors had lived, and have built a house for himself close to the city wharves,—a house well built and commodious enough, but not in a fashionable location.
But Daniel Hathorne had the advantage over fashionable society in Salem, in being a thorough patriot. Boston and Salem were the two strongholds of Toryism during the war for Independence, which was natural enough, as their wealthy citizens were in close mercantile relations with English houses, and sent their children to England to be educated. Daniel Hathorne, however, as soon as hostilities had begun, fitted out his bark as a privateer, and spent the following six years in preying upon British merchantmen. How successful he was in this line of business we have not been informed, but he certainly did not grow rich by it; although he is credited with one engagement with the enemy, in which his ship came off with honor, though perhaps not with a decisive victory. This exploit was celebrated in a rude ballad of the time, which has been preserved in "Griswold's Curiosities of American Literature," and has at least the merit of plain unvarnished language. [Footnote: Also in Lathrop's "Hawthorne."]
There is a miniature portrait of Daniel Hathorne, such as was common in Copley's time, still in the possession of the Hawthorne family, and it represents him as rather a bullet-headed man, with a bright, open, cheery face, a broad English chin and strongly marked brows,—an excellent physiognomy for a sea-captain. He appears besides to have had light brown or sandy hair, a ruddy complexion and bright blue eyes; but we cannot determine how truthful the miniature may be in respect to coloring. At all events, he was of a very different appearance from Nathaniel Hawthorne, and if he resembled his grandson in any external respect, it was in his large eyes and their overshadowing brows. He has not the look of a dare-devil. One might suppose that he was a person of rather an obstinate disposition, but it is always difficult to draw the line between obstinacy and determination.
A similar miniature of his son Nathaniel, born in 1775, and who died at Surinam in his thirty-fourth year, gives us the impression of a person somewhat like his father, and also somewhat like his son Nathaniel. He has a long face instead of a round one, and his features are more delicate and refined than those of the bold Daniel. The expression is gentle, dreamy and pensive, and unless the portrait belies him, he could not have been the stern, domineering captain that he has been represented. He had rather a slender figure, and was probably much more like his mother, who was a Miss Phelps, than the race of Judge Hathorne. He may have been a reticent man, but never a bold one, and we find in him a new departure. His face is more amiable and attractive than his father's, but not so strong. In 1799 he was married to Miss Elizabeth Clarke Manning, the daughter of Richard Manning, and then only nineteen years of age. She appears to have been an exceptionally sensitive and rather shy young woman—such as would be likely to attract the attention of a chivalrous young mariner—but with fine traits of intellect and character.
The maternal ancestry of a distinguished man is quite as important as the paternal, but in the present instance it is much more difficult to obtain information concerning it. The increasing fame of Hawthorne has been like a calcium-light, illuminating for the past fifty years everything to which that name attaches, and leaving the Manning family in a shadow so much the deeper. All we can learn of them now is, that they were descended from Richard Manning, of Dartmouth in Devonshire, England, whose son Thomas emigrated to Salem with his widowed mother in 1679, but afterwards removed to Ipswich, ten miles to the north, whence the family has since extended itself far and wide,—the Reverend Jacob M. Manning, of the Old South Church, the fearless champion of practical anti-slaveryism, having been among them. It appears that Thomas's grandson Richard started in life as a blacksmith, which was no strange thing in those primitive times; but, being a thrifty and enterprising man, he lived to establish a line of stage-coaches between Salem and Boston, and this continued in the possession of his family until it was superseded by the Eastern Railway. After this catastrophe, Robert Manning, the son of Richard and brother of Mrs. Nathaniel Hathorne, became noted as a fruit-grower (a business in which Essex County people have always taken an active interest), and was one of the founders of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The Mannings were always respected in Salem, although they never came to affluent circumstances, nor did they own a house about the city common. Robert Manning, Jr., was Secretary of the Horticultural Society in Boston for a long term of years, a pleasant, kindly man, with an aspect of general culture. Hawthorne's maternal grandmother was Miriam Lord, of Ipswich, and his paternal grandmother was Rachel Phelps, of Salem. His father was only thirty-three when he died at Surinam.
In regard to the family name, there are at present Hawthornes and Hathornes in England, and although the two names may have been identical originally, they have long since become as distinct as Smith and Smythe. I have discovered only two instances in which the first William Hathorne wrote his own name, and in the various documents at the State House in which it appears written by others, it is variously spelled Hathorn, Hathorne, Hawthorn, Haythorne, and Harthorne,—from which we can only conclude that the a was pronounced broadly. It was not until the reign of Queen Anne, when books first became cheap and popular, that there was any decided spelling of either proper or common names. Then the printers took the matter into their own hands and made witch-work enough of it. The word "sovereign," for instance, which is derived from the old French souvrain, and which Milton spelled "sovran," they tortured into its present form,—much as the clerks of Massachusetts Colony tortured the name of William Hathorne. This, however, was spelled Hathorne oftener than in other ways, and it was so spelled in the two signatures above referred to, one of which was attached as witness to a deed for the settlement of the boundary between Lynn and Salem, [Footnote: Also in Lathrop's "Hawthorne."] and the other to a report of the commissioners for the investigation of the French vessels coming to Salem and Boston in 1651, the two other commissioners being Samuel Bradstreet and David Denison. [Footnote: Massachusetts Archives, x. 171.]The name was undoubtedly Hathorne, and so it continued with one or two slight variations during the eighteenth century down to the time of Nathaniel Hathorne, Jr., who entered and graduated at Bowdoin College under that name, but who soon afterward changed it to Hawthorne, for reasons that have never been explained.
All cognomens would seem to have been derived originally from some personal peculiarity, although it is no longer possible to trace this back to its source, which probably lies far away in the Dark Ages,—the formative period of languages and of families. Sometimes, however, we meet with individuals whose peculiarities suggest the origin of their names: a tall, slender, long-necked man named Crane; or a timid, retiring student named Leverett; or an over-confident, supercilious person called Godkin In the name of Hawthorne also we may imagine a curious significance: "When the may is on the thorn," says Tennyson. The English country people call the flowering of the hawthorn "the may." It is a beautiful tree when in full bloom. How sweet-scented and delicately colored are its blossoms! But it seems to say to us, "Do not come too close to me."
BOYHOOD OF HAWTHORNE: 1804-1821
Salem treasures the memory of Hawthorne, and preserves everything tangible relating to him. The house in which he was born, No. 27 Union Street, is in much the same style and probably of the same age as the Old Manse at Concord, but somewhat smaller, with only a single window on either side of the doorway—five windows in all on the front, one large chimney in the centre, and the roof not exactly a gambrel, for the true gambrel has a curve first inward and then outward, but something like it. A modest, cosy and rather picturesque dwelling, which if placed on a green knoll with a few trees about it might become a subject for a sketching class. It did not belong to Hawthorne's father, after all, but to the widow of the bold Daniel, It was the cradle of genius, and is now a shrine for many pilgrims. Long may it survive, so that our grandchildren may gaze upon it.
Here Nathaniel Hawthorne first saw daylight one hundred years ago [Footnote: 1804.] on the Fourth of July, as if to make a protest against Chauvinistic patriotism; here his mother sat at the window to see her husband's bark sail out of the harbor on his last voyage; and here she watched day after day for its return, only to bring a life- long sorrow with it. The life of a sea-captain's wife is always a half- widowhood, but Mrs. Hathorne was left at twenty-eight with three small children, including a daughter, Elizabeth, older than Nathaniel, and another, Louisa, the youngest. The shadow of a heavy misfortune had come upon them, and from this shadow they never wholly escaped.
Lowell criticised a letter which John Brown wrote concerning his boyhood to Henry L. Stearns, as the finest bit of autobiography of the nineteenth century.[Footnote: North American Review, April 1860.] It is in fact almost the only literature of the kind that we possess. A frequent difficulty that parents find in dealing with their children is, that they have wholly forgotten the sensations and impressions of their own childhood. The instructor cannot place himself in the position of the pupil. A naturalist will spend years with a microscope studying the development of a plant from the seed, but no one has ever applied a similar process to the budding of genius or even of ordinary intellect. We have the autobiography of one of the greatest geniuses, written in the calm and stillness of old age, when youthful memories come back to us involuntarily; yet he barely lifts the veil from his own childhood, and has much more to say of external events and older people than of himself and his young companions. How valuable is the story of George Washington and his hatchet, hackneyed as it has become! What do we know of the boyhood of Franklin, Webster, Seward and Longfellow? Nothing, or next to nothing.
Goethe says that the admirable woman is she who, when her husband dies, becomes a father to his children; but in the case of Hawthorne's mother, this did not happen to be necessary. Her brother, Robert Manning, a thrifty and fairly prosperous young man, immediately took Mrs. Hathorne and her three children into his house on Herbert Street, and made it essentially a home for them afterward. To the fatherless boy he was more than his own father, away from home ten months of the year, ever could have been; and though young Nathaniel must have missed that tenderness of feeling which a man can only entertain toward his own child, there was no lack of kindness or consideration on Robert Manning's part, to either the boy or his sisters.
It was Mrs. Hathorne who chiefly suffered from this change of domicile. She would seem to have been always on good terms with her brother's wife, and on the whole they formed a remarkably harmonious family,—at least we hear nothing to the contrary,—but she was no longer mistress of her own household. She had her daughters to instruct, and to train up in domestic ways, and she could be helpful in various matters, large and small; but the mental occupation which comes from the oversight and direction of household affairs, and which might have served to divert her mind from sorrowful memories, was now gone from her. Her widowhood separated her from the outside world and from all society, excepting a few devoted friends, [Footnote: Wide Awake, xxxiii. 502.] so that under these conditions it is not surprising that her life became continually more secluded and reserved. It is probable that her temperament was very similar to her son's; but the impression which has gone forth, that she indulged her melancholy to an excess, is by no means a just one. The circumstances of her case should be taken into consideration.
Rebecca Manning says:
"I remember aunt Hawthorne as busy about the house, attending to various matters. Her cooking was excellent, and she was noted for a certain kind of sauce, which nobody else knew how to make. We always enjoyed going to see her when we were children, for she took great pains to please us and to give us nice things to eat. Her daughter Elizabeth resembled her in that respect. In old letters and in the journal of another aunt, which has come into our possession, we read of her going about making visits, taking drives, and sometimes going on a journey. In later years she was not well, and I do not remember that she ever came here, but her friends always received a cordial welcome when they visited her."
This refers to a late period of Madam Hathorne's life, and if she absented herself from the table, as Elizabeth Peabody states, [Footnote: Lathrop's "Study of Hawthorne."] there was good reason for it.
Hawthorne himself has left no word concerning his mother, of favorable or unfavorable import, but it seems probable that he owed his genius to her, if he can be said to have owed it to any of his ancestors. In after life he affirmed that his sister Elizabeth, who appears to have been her mother over again, could have written as well as he did, and although we have no palpable evidence of this—and the letter which she wrote Elizabeth Peabody does not indicate it,—we are willing to take his word for it. With the shyness and proud reserve which he inherited from his mother, there also came that exquisite refinement and feminine grace of style which forms the chief charm of his writing. The same refinement of feeling is noticeable in the letters of other members of the Manning family. Where his imagination came from, it would be useless to speculate; but there is no good art without delicacy.
Doctor Nathaniel Peabody lived near the house on Herbert Street, and his daughter Elizabeth (who afterward became a woman of prodigious learning) soon made acquaintance with the Hathorne children. She remembers the boy Nathaniel jumping about his uncle's yard, and this is the first picture that we have of him. When we consider what a beautiful boy he must have been, with his wavy brown hair, large wistful eyes and vigorous figure, without doubt he was a pleasure to look upon. We do not hear of him again until November 10, 1813, when he injured his foot in some unknown manner while at play, and was made lame by it more or less for the three years succeeding. After being laid up for a month, he wrote this pathetic little letter to his uncle, Robert Manning, then in Maine, which I have punctuated properly so that the excellence of its composition may appeal more plainly to the reader.
"SALEM, Thursday, December, 1813.
"I hope you are well, and I hope Richard is too. My foot is no better. Louisa has got so well that she has begun to go to school, but she did not go this forenoon because it snowed. Mama is going to send for Doctor Kitridge to-day, when William Cross comes home at 12 o'clock, and maybe he will do some good, for Doctor Barstow has not, and I don't know as Doctor Kitridge will. It is about 4 weeks yesterday since I have been to school, and I don't know but it will be 4 weeks longer before I go again. I have been out of the office two or three times and have set down on the step of the door, and once I hopped out into the street. Yesterday I went out in the office and had 4 cakes. Hannah carried me out once, but not then. Elizabeth and Louisa send their love to you. I hope you will write to me soon, but I have nothing more to write; so good-bye, dear Uncle.
"Your affectionate Nephew, "NATHANIEL HATHORNE." [Footnote: Elizabeth Manning in Wide Awake, Nov. 1891.]
This is not so precocious as Mozart's musical compositions at the same age, but how could the boy Hawthorne have given a clearer account of himself and his situation at the time, without one word of complaint? It is worth noting also that his prediction in regard to Doctor Kitridge proved to be correct and even more.
It is evident that neither of his doctors treated him in a physio- logical manner. Kitridge was a water-cure physician, and his method of treatment deserves to be recorded for its novelty. He directed Nathaniel to project his naked foot out of a sitting-room window, while he poured cold water on it from the story above. This, however, does not appear to have helped the case, and the infirmity continued so long that it was generally feared that his lameness would be permanent.
Horatio Bridge considered this a fortunate accident for Nathaniel, since it prevented him from being spoiled by his female relatives, as there is always danger that an only son with two or more sisters will be spoiled. But it was an advantage to the boy in a different manner from this. He learned from it the lesson of suffering and endurance, which we all have to learn sooner or later; and it compelled him, perhaps too young, to seek the comfort of life from internal sources. There were excellent books in the house,—Shakespeare and Milton, of course, but also Pope's "Iliad," Thomson's "Seasons," the "Spectator," "Pilgrim's Progress," and the "Faerie Queene," and the time had now come when these would be serviceable to him. He was not the only boy that has enjoyed Shakespeare at the age of ten, but that he should have found interest in Spenser's "Faerie Queene" is somewhat exceptional. Even among professed litterateurs there are few that read that long allegory, and still fewer who enjoy it; and yet Miss Manning assures us that Hawthorne would muse over it for hours. Its influence may be perceptible in some of his shorter stories, but "Pilgrim's Progress" evidently had an effect upon him; and so had Scott's novels, as we may judge from the first romance that he published.
At the age of twelve years and seven months he composed a short poem, so perfect in form and mature in judgment that it is difficult to believe that so young a person could have written it. Not so poetic as it is philosophical, it is valuable as indicating that the boy had already formed a moral axis for himself,—a life principle from which he never afterward deviated; and it is given herewith: [Footnote: A facsimile of the original can be found in Wide Awake, November, 1891.]
"With passions unruffled, untainted by pride, By reason my life let me square; The wants of my nature are cheaply supplied, And the rest are but folly and care. How vainly through infinite trouble and strife, The many their labours employ, Since all, that is truly delightful in life, Is what all if they please may enjoy.
"NATHANIEL HATHORNE. "SALEM, February 13, 1817."
He wrote this with the greatest nicety, framing it in broad black lines, and ornamenting the capitals in a manner that recalls the decoration of John Hathorne's gravestone. He composed a number of poems between his thirteenth and seventeenth years, quite as good as those of Longfellow at the same age; but after he entered Bowdoin College he dropped the practice altogether and never resumed it, although one would suppose that Longfellow's example would have stimulated him to better efforts. Neither does he appear to have tried his hand in writing tales, as boys who have no thought of literary distinction frequently do. During the years of his lameness he sometimes invented extemporaneous stories, which invariably commenced with a voyage to some foreign country, from which his hero never returned. This shows how continually his father's fate was in his mind, although he said nothing of it.
Robert Manning's interest in the stage-company afforded the boy fine opportunities for free rides, and he probably also frequented the stables; although neither as youth nor as man did he take much interest in driving or riding. He was more fond of playing upon the wharves, a good healthy place,—and watching the great ships sailing forth to far- off lands, and returning with their strange cargoes,—enough to stimulate any boy's imagination, if he has it in him. It is likely that if Nathaniel's father had lived, he would also have followed a seafaring life, and would never have become useful to the world in the way that he did.
Somewhere about the close of the eighteenth century, Richard Manning, the father of Mrs. Hathorne, purchased a large tract of land in Cumberland County, Maine, between Lake Sebago and the town of Casco; and in 1813 Robert Manning built a house near the lake, in the township of Raymond, and his brother Richard, who had become much of an invalid, went to live there, partly for his health and partly to keep an oversight on the property. In 1817 Mrs. Hathorne also went there, taking her children with her, and remaining, with some intermissions, until 1822. Meanwhile the Mannings sold some thousands of acres of land, although not, as we may suppose, at very good prices, and the name of Elizabeth Hathorne was repeatedly attached to the deeds of conveyance. The house that Robert built was the plainest sort of structure, of only two stories, and with no appearance of having been painted; but the farmers in the vicinity criticised it as "Manning's folly,"—exactly why, does not appear clearly, unless they foresaw what actually happened, that the house could be neither sold nor rented after the Mannings had left it. For many years, it served as a meeting- house,—one could not call it a church,—and now it has become a Hawthorne museum, the town of Raymond very laudably keeping it in repair.
Although none of the events in the early life of Hawthorne ought to be considered positive misfortunes, as they all contributed to make him what he was, yet upon general principles it is much to be regretted that he should have passed the best years of his boyhood in this out- of-the-way place. His good uncle supplied him with a boat and a gun, and he enjoyed the small shooting, fishing, sailing and skating that the place afforded; but in later years he wrote to Bridge, "It was at Sebago that I learned my cursed habit of solitude," and this pursued him through life like an evil genius, placing him continually at a disadvantage with his fellow-men. It has been supposed that this mode of life assisted in developing his individuality, but quite as strong individualities have been developed in the midst of large cities. "Speech is more refreshing than light."
When will parents learn wisdom in regard to their children? A conscientious, tender-hearted boy will be sent to a rough country school, to be scoffed at and maltreated there, before he is twelve years old; while another of a coarser and harder nature will be kept at home, to be petted and pampered until all the vigor and manliness are sapped out of him. Parents who prefer to live in a modest, humble manner, in order that their children may have better advantages, deserve the highest commendation, but in this respect good instruction is less important than favorable associations. From fourteen to twenty- one is the formative period of character, and the influences which may be brought to bear on the growing mind are of the highest importance. Lake Sebago served as an excellent gymnasium for young Hawthorne, and may have helped to develop his sense of the beautiful, but he found few companions there, and those not of the most suitable kind. He was exceedingly fond of skating—so much so that when the ice was smooth he sometimes remained on the lake far into the night. This we can envy him, for skating is the poetry of motion.
The captain of the "Hawthorne," which plies back and forth across the lake in summer, regularly points out to his passengers the house where the Hathornes lived. It is easily seen from the steamer,—a severely plain, unpainted building, in appearance much like the Manning house on Herbert Street. Nearly in line with it a great cliff-like rock juts out from the centre of the lake, on which the Indians centuries ago etched and painted great warlike figures, whose significance is now known to no one. It is said that Hawthorne frequently sailed or rowed to Indian Rock, and to a sort of grotto there which was large enough for his boat to enter. Both the rock and the Manning house are now difficult of access. Longfellow wrote a pretty descriptive poem of a voyage on Sebago, and it is remarkable how he has made use of every feature of the landscape, every incident of the excursion, to fill his verses. The lake has much the shape of an hour-glass, the northern and southern portions being connected by a winding strait, so crooked that it requires the constant effort of the pilot to prevent the little steamer from running aground. There used to be fine fishing in it,—large perch, bass, and a species of fresh-water salmon often weighing from six to eight pounds.
Strangely enough, one of Hawthorne's acquaintances on the shores of Sebago was a mulatto boy named William Symmes, the son of a Virginia slave, foisted by his father upon a Maine sea-captain named Britton, who lived in the half-wilderness around Raymond. Symmes afterwards became a sailor, and continued in that vocation until the Civil War, when he went to live in Alexandria, Va. In 1870 he published in the Portland Transcript what pretended to be a series of extracts from a diary which young Hawthorne had kept while at Raymond, and which was found there, after the departure of the Manning family, by a man named Small, while moving a load of furniture which had been sold to another party. Small preserved it until 1864, and then made a present of it to Symmes.
Doubts have been cast on the genuineness of this diary, as was natural enough under the circumstances; for the original manuscript was never produced by Symmes, who died the following year, and no one knows what has become of it. It may also be asked, why should Small have disposed so readily of this manuscript to Symmes after preserving it sedulously for more than forty years? Why did he not return it to its rightful owner; or, if he felt ashamed of his original abstraction, why did not Symmes restore it to the Hawthorne family after Hawthorne's death, when every newspaper in the country was celebrating Hawthorne's genius? It also might have occurred to one of them that such property would have a marketable value, and could be disposed of at a high price to some collector of literary curiosities; but Symmes did not even ask to be remunerated for the portion that he contributed to the Portland Transcript. Neither did he harbor the slightest ill feeling toward Hawthorne, whom he claimed to have met several times in the course of his wanderings,—once at Salem, and again at Liverpool,—and was always treated by him with exceptional kindness and civility.
The only answer that can be made to these queries is, that men in Symmes's position in life do not act according to any method that can be previously calculated. In a case like the present, there could be no predicting it; and it is possible that this mulatto valued the diary above all price, as a souvenir of the one white man who had ever been kind and good to him. Who knows what a heart there may have been in William Symmes?
The internal evidence of this diary is so strongly in its favor as to be almost conclusive. Lathrop, who made a special study of it, says:
"The fabrication of the journal by a person possessed of some literary skill and familiar with the localities mentioned, at dates so long ago as 1816 to 1819, might not be an impossible feat, but it is an extremely improbable one."
To which it might be added, that it could be only a Hawthorne that could accomplish such a fabrication. Few things in literature are more difficult than to make a boy talk like a boy, and the tone of this Sebago journal is not only boyish, but sweet and pleasant to the ear, such as we might imagine the talk of the youthful Hawthorne. Not only this, but there is a gradated improvement of intelligence in the course of it,—rather too much so for entire credibility. It is quite possible that there is more of it than Hawthorne ever wrote, but that does not prevent us from having faith in the larger portion of it. The purity of its diction, the nice adaptation of each word to its purpose, and the accuracy of detail are much in its favor; besides which, the personal reflections in it are exactly like Hawthorne. The published portion of the diary in Mr. Pickard's book makes about fifty rather small pages, but no dates are given except at the close, and that is August, 1818; and as Hawthorne went to Sebago for the first time the preceding year, we may presume that this note-book represents a winter and summer vacation, during which he would seem to have enjoyed himself in a healthy boyish fashion. We have only space for a few extracts from this publication, which serve both to exemplify Hawthorne's mode of life at Raymond and to illustrate the preceding statement concerning the book.
The first observation in the diary is quoted by Lathrop, and has a decidedly youthful tone.
"Two kingbirds have built their nest between our house and the mill- pond. The male is more courageous than any creature that I know about. He seems to have taken possession of the territory from the great pond to the small one, and goes out to war with every fish-hawk that flies from one to the other over his dominion. The fish-hawks must be miserable cowards to be driven by such a speck of a bird. I have not yet seen one turn to defend himself."
Kingbirds are the knights-errant of the feathered tribes. They never attack another bird unless it is three times their own size; but when a few years older, the boy Hawthorne would probably have noticed that the kingbirds' powers of flight are so superior that all other birds are practically at their mercy. This fixes the date of the entry in the early summer of 1817, for kingbirds are not belligerent except during the nesting season. Somewhat later in the year he writes:
"Went yesterday in a sail-boat on the Great Pond with Mr. Peter White, of Windham. He sailed up here from White's Bridge to see Captain Dingley, and invited Joseph Dingley and Mr. Ring to take a boat-ride out to the Dingley Islands and to the Images. He was also kind enough to say that I might go, with my mother's consent, which she gave after much coaxing. Since the loss of my father, she dreads to have any one belonging to her go upon the water. It is strange that this beautiful body of water is called a 'pond.' The geography tells of many in Scotland and Ireland, not near so large, that are called 'Lakes.'"
Notice his objection to bad nomenclature, and his school-boy argument against it. In his account of this excursion he says further:
"After we got ashore, Mr. White allowed me to fire his long gun at a mark. I did not hit the mark, and am not sure that I saw it at the time the gun went off, but believe rather that I was watching for the noise that I was about to make.
"Mr. Ring said that with practice I could be a gunner, and that now, with a very heavy charge, he thought I could kill a horse at eight paces!"
Here or nowhere do we recognize the budding of Hawthorne's genius. This clear introspective analysis is the foundation of all true mental power, and Hawthorne might have become a Platonic philosopher, if he had not preferred to be a story-teller.
These sports came to an end in the autumn when he was sent to study with the Reverend Caleb Bradley, a somewhat eccentric graduate of Harvard, who resided at Stroudwater, Maine, and with whom he remained during the winter. [Footnote: S. T. Pickard's "Hawthorne's First Diary."]He refers to this period of tuition in the short story of "The Vision of the Fountain," and whether or no any such vision appeared to him, we can fairly believe that the tale was suggested by some pretty school-girl who made an impression on him, only to disappear in a tantalizing manner. It is to be presumed that he returned to his mother at Raymond, for Christmas; and at that time he heard a story of how an Otisfield man named Henry Turner had killed three hibernating bears which he discovered in a cave near Moose Pond, not a difficult feat when one comes upon them in that torpid condition. This would place the killing of the bears at about the first of December, which would be probable enough, and the fact itself has been substantiated by Samuel Pickard. The next succeeding entry relates to the drowning of a boy while swimming, which could only have happened the following June. Mrs. Hathorne was greatly alarmed, and objected to Nathaniel's going in bathing with the other boys. He did not like the restriction, but writes that he shall obey his mother.
There is a ghost story in the diary, quite original, and told with an air of excellent credibility; and also a short anthropomorphic romance concerning a badly treated horse, full of genuine pathos and kindly sympathy,—more sympathetic, in fact, than Hawthorne's later stories, in which he is sometimes almost too reserved and unemotional:
"'Good morning, Mr. Horse, how are you to-day?' 'Good morning, youngster,' said he, just as plain as a horse can speak, and then said, 'I am almost dead, and I wish I was quite. I am hungry, have had no breakfast and stand here tied by the head while they are grinding the corn, and until master drinks two or three glasses of rum at the store, and then drag him and the meal up the Ben Ham hill, and home, and am now so weak that I can hardly stand. Oh, dear, I am in a bad way,' and the old creature cried,—I almost cried myself."
The only difficulty in believing this diary to be genuine is the question: If Hawthorne could write with such perspicuity at fourteen, why are there no evidences of it during his college years? But it sometimes happens so.
We cannot refrain from quoting one more extract from the last entry in the Sebago diary, so beautifully tender and considerate as it is of his mother's position toward her only son. He had been invited by a party of their neighbors to go on an all-day excursion, and though his mother grants his request to be allowed to join them, he feels the reluctance with which she does so and he writes:
"She said 'Yes,' but I was almost sorry, knowing that my day's pleasure would cost her one of anxiety. However, I gathered up my hooks and lines, with some white salted pork for bait, and with a fabulous number of biscuit, split in the middle, the insides well buttered, then skilfully put together again, and all stowed in sister's large work- bag, and slung over my shoulder, I started, making a wager with Enoch White, as we walked down to the boat, as to which could catch the largest number of fish." [Footnote: Appendix A.]
This is the only entry that is dated (August, 1818), and as it was on this same occasion that the black ducks were shot, it must have been on one of the last days of August. We may presume that Nathaniel returned to his studies at Stroudwater the following month, for we do not hear of him again at Raymond—or in Salem, either—until March 24, when he writes to his uncle, Robert Manning, who has evidently just returned from Raymond to Salem, and speaks of expecting to go to Portland with a Mr. Linch for the day. On May 16, 1819, he writes to his uncle Robert again:
"The grass and trees are green, the fences finished and the garden planted. Two of the goats are on the island and the other kept for the milk. I have shot a partridge and a hen-hawk and caught eighteen large trout [probably Sebago salmon]. I am sorry that my uncle intends sending me to school again, for my mother can hardly spare me."
From which it is easy to infer that he had not attended school very regularly of late, and Uncle Robert would seem to have concluded that it would be better to have his fine nephew where he could personally supervise his goings and comings. Accordingly, on July 26 we find Nathaniel attending school in Salem,—a most unusual season for it,— and although his mother remained at Raymond two years longer, he was not permitted to return there again, except possibly for short periods.
Emerson once pointed out to me on Sudbury Street, Boston, an extremely old man with long white locks and the face of a devoted scholar, advancing toward us with slow and cautious steps. "That," said he, "is Doctor Worcester, the lexicographer." Hawthorne's early education remains much of a mystery. In 1819 he complains in a letter to his mother that he has to go to a cheap school,—a good indication that he did not intend to trust to fortune for his future welfare; soon after this we hear that dictionary Worcester is his chief instructor. He could not have found a more amiable or painstaking pedagogue; nor is it likely that the fine qualities of his teacher were ever better appreciated. Hawthorne himself says nothing of this, for it was not his way to express admiration for man or woman, but we can believe that he felt the same affection for the doctor that well-behaved boys commonly do for their old masters. It was from Worcester that he derived his excellent knowledge of Latin, the single study of which he was fond; and it is his preference for words derived from the Latin which gives grace and flexibility to Hawthorne's style, as the force and severity of Emerson's style come from his partiality for Saxon words. During his last year at school, Hawthorne took private lessons of a Salem lawyer, Benjamin Oliver, and perhaps studied with him altogether at the finish.
Hawthorne's life had been so irregular for years that it is creditable to him that he should have succeeded in entering college at all. We hear of him at Sebago in winter and at Salem in July. He writes to his Uncle Robert to look out for the shot-gun which he left in a closet at Sebago, and which has a rather heavy charge of powder in it. He appears to have found as little companionship in Salem as he did in that wilderness,—the natural effect of such a life. He may have been acquainted with half the boys in Salem, but he did not make any warm friends among them. His sister Louisa, who was a more vivacious person than Elizabeth, was his chief companion and comfort. Seated at the window with her on summer evenings, he elaborated the plan of an imaginary society, a club of two, called the "Pin Society," to which all fees, assessments and fines were paid in pins,—then made by hand and much more expensive than now. He constituted himself its secretary, and wrote imaginary reports of its proceedings, in which Louisa is frequently fined for absence from meetings. We do not hear of their going to parties or dances with other children.
In August, 1820, he started an imaginary newspaper called the Spectator, which he wrote himself with some help from Louisa, and of which there was only one copy of each number. He continued this through five successive issues, and we trace in its pages the commencement of Hawthorne's peculiar humor,—too quiet and gentle to make us laugh, but with a penetrating tinge of pathos. Take for instance the following:
"There is no situation in life more irksome than that of an editor who is obliged to find amusement for his Readers, from a head which is too often (as is the present predicament with our own) filled with emptiness. Since commencing this paper, we have received no communication of any kind, so that the whole weight of the business devolves upon our own shoulders, a load far too great for them to bear. We hope the Public will reflect on these grievances."
This is true fiction, and Nathaniel was not the first or the last editor to whom the statement has applied. His difficulties are imaginary, but he realizes what they might be in reality.
In another number he says:
"We know of no news, either domestic or foreign, and we hope our readers will excuse our not inserting any. The law which prohibits paying debts when a person has no money will apply in this case."
Then he makes this quiet hit against the people of Maine for having separated themselves and their territory from Massachusetts:
"By a gentleman in the state of Maine, we learn that a famine is seriously apprehended owing to the want of rain. Potatoes could not be procured in some places. When children break their leading strings, and run away from their Parent, (as Maine has done) they may expect sometimes to suffer hunger." [Footnote: Wide Awake, xxxiii. 512.]
Of his religious instruction we hear nothing; but church-going in New England during the first forty years of the nineteenth century was wellnigh universal, and it makes little difference now to which of the various forms of Calvinistic worship the Manning family subscribed. That young Hawthorne was seriously impressed in this way is evident from the following ode, which he may have composed as early as his fifteenth year:
"Oh, I have roamed in rapture wild Where the majestic rocks are piled In lonely, stern, magnificence around The troubled ocean's steadfast bound; And I have seen the storms arise And darkness veil from mortal eyes The Heavens that shine so fair and bright, And all was solemn, silent night. Then I have seen the storm disperse, And Mercy hush the whirlwind fierce, And all my soul in transport owned There is a God, in Heaven enthroned."
There is more of a rhetorical flourish than of serious religious feeling in this; but genuine piety is hardly to be expected, and not greatly to be desired, in a boy of that age. It represents the desire to be religious, and to express something, he knows not what.
Nathaniel Hawthorne had already decided on his vocation in life before he entered Bowdoin College,—a decision which he afterwards adhered to with inflexible determination, in spite of the most discouraging obstacles. In a memorable letter to his mother, written March 13, 1821, he says:
"I am quite reconciled to going to college, since I am to spend my vacations with you. Yet four years of the best part of my life is a great deal to throw away. I have not yet concluded what profession I shall have. The being a minister is of course out of the question. I shall not think that even you could desire me to choose so dull a way of life. Oh, no, mother, I was not born to vegetate forever in one place, and to live and die as tranquil as—a puddle of water. As to lawyers, there are so many of them already that one-half of them (upon a moderate calculation) are in a state of actual starvation. A physician, then, seems to be 'Hobson's choice'; but yet I should not like to live by the diseases and infirmities of my fellow-creatures. And it would weigh very hardly on my conscience, in the course of my practice, if I should chance to send any unlucky patient 'ad infernum,' which, being interpreted, is 'to the realms below.' Oh that I was rich enough to live without profession! What do you think of my becoming an author, and relying for support upon my pen? Indeed, I think the illegibility of my hand is very author-like." [Footnote: Conway, 24.]
Such were the Ides of March for Hawthorne. It was no boyish ambition for public distinction, nor a vain grasping at the laurel wreath, but a calmly considered and clear-sighted judgment.
BOWDOIN COLLEGE: 1821-1825.
The life of man is not like a game of chess, in which the two players start upon equal terms and can deliberate sufficiently over every move; but more like whist, in which the cards we hold represent our fortunes at the beginning, but the result of the game depends also on the skill with which we play it. Life also resembles whist in this, that we are obliged to follow suit in a general way to those who happen to have the lead.
Why Hawthorne should have entered Bowdoin College instead of Harvard has not been explained, nor is it easily explained. The standard of scholarship maintained at Harvard and Yale has always been higher than that at what Doctor Holmes designated as the "freshwater colleges," and this may have proved an unfavorable difference to the mind of a young man who was not greatly inclined to his studies; but Harvard College is only eighteen miles from Salem, and he could have returned to his home once a week if he had chosen to do so, and this is a decided moral and social advantage to a young man in those risky years. If Hawthorne had entered Harvard in the next class to Emerson, he could not well have escaped the latter's attention, and would have come in contact with other vigorous and stimulating minds; but it is of little use to speculate on what might have been.
Boys are encouraged to study for college by accounts of the rare enjoyment of university life, but they commonly find the first term of Freshman year both dismal and discouraging. Their class is a medley of strangers, their studies are a dry routine, and if they are not hazed by the Sophomores, they are at least treated by them with haughtiness and contempt. It is still summer when they arrive, but the leaves soon fall from the trees, and their spirits fall with them.
Hawthorne may have felt this more acutely than any other member of his class, and in addition to the prevailing sense of discomfort he was seized early in November with that disgusting malady, the measles, which boys usually go through with before they are old enough to realize how disagreeable it is. It appears to have been a light attack, however, and in three weeks he was able to attend recitations again. He made no complaint of it, only writing to his uncle for ten dollars with which to pay the doctor. He likes his chum, Mason, of Portsmouth, and does not find his studies so arduous as at Salem before entering. Neither are the college laws so strict as he anticipated.
In the following May he received the present of his first watch, presumably from Uncle Robert, and he writes to his mother, who is still at Sebago, that he is mightily pleased with it, and that it enables him "to cut a great dash" at college. His letters to his relatives are not brilliant, but they indicate a healthful and contented mind.
We will now consider some of the distinguished personages who were Hawthorne's friends and associates during these four years of his apprenticeship to actual life; and there were rare characters among them.
In the same coach in which Hawthorne left Portland for Brunswick, in the summer of 1821, were Franklin Pierce and Jonathan Cilley. [Footnote: Bridge's Memoir of Hawthorne, 3.] Two men seated together in a modern railway-carriage will often become better acquainted in three hours than they might as next-door neighbors in three years; and this was still more likely to happen in the old days of coach journeys, when the very tedium of the occasion served as an inducement to frank and friendly conversation. Pierce was the right man to bring Hawthorne out of his hard shell of Sebago seclusion. He had already been one year at Bowdoin, and at that time there was not the same caste feeling between Sophomores and Freshmen—or at least very little of it—that has since arisen in American colleges. He was amiable and kindly, and possessed the rare gift of personal magnetism. Nature sometimes endows men and women with this quality in lieu of all other advantages, and such would seem to have been the case with Franklin Pierce. He was not much above the average in intellect, and, as Hawthorne afterward confessed, not particularly attractive in appearance; with a stiff military neck, features strong but small, and opaque gray eyes,—a rather unimpressive face, and one hardly capable of a decided expression. Yet with such abilities as he had, aided by personal magnetism and the lack of conspicuous faults, he became United States Senator at the age of thirty-five, and President fifteen years later. The best we can say of him is, that he was always Hawthorne's friend. From the first day that they met he became Hawthorne's patron and protector—so far as he may have required the latter. There must have been some fine quality in the man which is not easily discernible from his outward acts; a narrow- minded man, but of a refined nature.
Jonathan Cilley was an abler man than Pierce, and a bold party-leader, but not so attractive personally. He always remained Hawthorne's friend, but the latter saw little of him and rarely heard from him after they had graduated. The one letter of his which has been published gives the impression of an impulsive, rough-and-tumble sort of person, always ready to take a hand in whatever might turn up.
On the same day, Horatio Bridge, who lived at Augusta, was coming down the Kennebec River to Brunswick. Hawthorne did not make his acquaintance until some weeks later, but he proved to be the best friend of them all, and Hawthorne's most constant companion during the four years they remained together. Pierce, Cilley and Bridge were all born politicians, and it was this class of men with whom it would seem that Hawthorne naturally assimilated.
On the same day, or the one previous, another boy set out from Portland for Brunswick, only fourteen years old, named Henry W. Longfellow,—a name that is now known to thousands who never heard of Franklin Pierce. Would it have made a difference in the warp and woof of Hawthorne's life, if he had happened to ride that day in the same coach with Longfellow? Who can tell? Was there any one in the breadth of the land with whom he might have felt an equal sympathy, with whom he could have matured a more enduring fellowship? It might have been a friendship like that of Beaumont and Fletcher, or, better still, like that of Goethe and Schiller,—but it was not written in the book of Fate. Longfellow also had tried his hand on the Sebago region, and was fond of the woods and of a gun; but he was too precocious to adapt himself easily to persons of his own age, or even somewhat older. He had no sooner arrived at Bowdoin than he became the associate and favorite of the professors. In this way he missed altogether the storm-and-stress period of youthful life, which is a useful experience of its kind; and if we notice in his poetry a certain lack, the absence of a close contact with reality,—as if he looked at his subject through a glass casement,—this may be assigned as the reason for it.
During the four years they went back and forth to their instruction together, Hawthorne and Longfellow never became cordially acquainted. They also belonged to rival societies. There were only two principal societies at Bowdoin, which continued through the college course—the Peucinian and the Athenaan, and the difference between them might be described by the words "citified" and "countrified," without taking either of those terms in an objectionable sense. Pierce was already a leading character in the Athenaan, and was soon followed by Cilley, Bridge and Hawthorne. The Peucinian suffered from the disadvantage of having members of the college faculty on its active list, and this must have given a rather constrained and academic character to its meetings. There was much more of the true college spirit and classmate feeling in the Athenaan.
Horatio Bridge is our single authority in regard to Bowdoin College at this time, and his off-hand sketches of Hawthorne, Pierce and Longfellow are invaluable. Never has such a group of distinguished young men been gathered together at an American college. He says of Hawthorne:
"Hawthorne was a slender lad, having a massive head, with dark, brilliant, and most expressive eyes, heavy eyebrows, and a profusion of dark hair. For his appearance at that time the inquirers must rely wholly upon the testimony of friends; for, I think, no portrait of him as a lad is extant. On one occasion, in our senior years, the class wished to have their profiles cut in silhouette by a wandering artist of the scissors, and interchanged by all the thirty-eight. Hawthorne disapproved the proposed plan, and steadily refused to go into the Class Golgotha, as he styled the dismal collection. I joined him in this freak, and so our places were left vacant. I now regret the whim, since even a moderately correct outline of his features as a youth would, at this day, be interesting.
"Hawthorne's figure was somewhat singular, owing to his carrying his head a little on one side; but his walk was square and firm, and his manner self-respecting and reserved. A fashionable boy of the present day might have seen something to amuse him in the new student's appearance; but had he indicated this he would have rued it, for Hawthorne's clear appreciation of the social proprieties and his great physical courage would have made it as unsafe to treat him with discourtesy then as at any later time.
"Though quiet and most amiable, he had great pluck and determination. I remember that in one of our convivial meetings we had the laugh upon him for some cause, an occurrence so rare that the bantering was carried too far. After bearing it awhile, Hawthorne singled out the one among us who had the reputation of being the best pugilist, and in a few words quietly told him that he would not permit the rallying to go farther. His bearing was so resolute, and there was so much of danger in his eye, that no one afterward alluded to the offensive subject in his presence." [Footnote: Horatio Bridge, 5.]
Horatio Bridge is a veracious witness, but we have to consider that he was nearly ninety years of age at the time his memoirs were given to the public. It is difficult to imagine Hawthorne as a slender youth, for his whole figure was in keeping with the structure of his head. It is more likely that he had a spare figure. Persons of a lively imagination have always been apt to hold their heads on one side, but not commonly while they are walking. It is for this reason that phrenologists have supposed that the organ of ideality is located on the side of the head,—if there really is any such organ.
Bridge says of Longfellow precisely what one might expect:
"He had decided personal beauty and most attractive manners. He was frank, courteous, and affable, while morally he was proof against the temptations that beset lads on first leaving the salutary restraints of home. He was diligent, conscientious, and most attentive to all his college duties, whether in the recitation-room, the lecture-hall, or the chapel. The word 'student' best expresses his literary habit, and in his intercourse with all he was conspicuously the gentleman."
In addition to those already mentioned, James W. Bradbury of Portland, afterwards United States Senator, and the Reverend Dr. George B. Cheever, the vigorous anti-slavery preacher, were members of this class. Three others, Cilley, Benson and Sawtelle, were afterward members of the United States House of Representatives. Surely there must have been quite a fermentation of youthful intellect at Bowdoin between 1821 and 1825.
Franklin Pierce was so deeply interested in military affairs that it was a pity he should not have had a West Point cadetship. He was captain of the college militia company, in which Hawthorne and Bridge drilled and marched; a healthy and profitable exercise, and better than a gymnasium, if rather monotonous. Pierce was the popular hero and magnus Apollo of his class, as distinguished foot-ball players are now; but just at this time he was neglecting his studies so badly that at the close of his second year he found himself at the very foot of the rank list. The fact became known through the college, and Pierce was so chagrined that he concluded to withdraw from Bowdoin altogether, and it was only by the urgent persuasion of his friends that he was induced to continue his course. "If I remain, however," he said, "you will witness a change in me." For months together he burned midnight oil in order to recover lost ground. During his last two years at college, he only missed two recitations, both for sufficient reasons. His conduct was unexceptionable, he incurred no deductions, and finally graduated third in his class. It is an uncommon character that can play fast-and-loose with itself in this manner. The boy Franklin had departed, and Pierce the man had taken his place. [Footnote: Professor Packard's "History of Bowdoin College."] Horatio Bridge gives a rather more idealized portrait of him than he does of Hawthorne. He says:
"In person Pierce was slender, of medium height, with fair complexion and light hair, erect, with a military bearing, active, and always bright and cheerful. In character he was impulsive, not rash; generous, not lavish; chivalric, courteous, manly, and warm-hearted,—and he was one of the most popular students in the whole college."
The instruction in American colleges during the first half of the nineteenth century was excellent for Greek, Latin and mathematics,— always the groundwork of a good education,—but the modern languages were indifferently taught by French and German exiles, and other subjects were treated still more indifferently. The two noble studies of history and philosophy were presented to the young aspiring soul in narrow, prejudiced text-books, which have long since been consigned to that bourn from which no literary work ever returns. As already stated, Hawthorne's best study was Latin, and in that he acquired good proficiency; but he was slow in mathematics, as artistic minds usually are, and in his other studies he only exerted himself sufficiently to pass his examinations in a creditable manner. We may presume that he took the juice and left the rind; which was the sensible thing to do. As might be expected, his themes and forensics were beautifully written, although the arguments in them were not always logical; but it is significant that he never could be prevailed upon to make a declamation. There have been sensitive men, like Sumner and George W. Curtis, who were not at all afraid of the platform, but they were not, like Hawthorne, bashful men. The college faculty would seem to have realized the true difficulty in his case, and treated him in a kindly and lenient manner. No doubt he suffered enough in his own mind on account of this deficiency, and it may have occurred to him what difficulties he might have to encounter in after-life by reason of it. If a student at college cannot bring himself to make a declamation, how can the mature man face an audience in a lecture-room, command a ship, or administer any important office? Such thoughts must have caused Hawthorne no slight anxiety, at that sensitive age.