The Life and Genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Frank Preston Stearns

Part 2 out of 6

During these dismal years Horatio Bridge was Hawthorne's good genius.
The letters that Hawthorne wrote to him have not been preserved, but we
may judge of their character by Bridge's replies to him--always frank,
manly, sympathetic and encouraging. Hawthorne evidently confided his
troubles and difficulties to Bridge, as he would to an elder brother.
Bridge finally destroyed Hawthorne's letters, not so much on account of
their complaining tone as for the personalities they contained;
[Footnote: Horatio Bridge, 69.] and this suggests to us that there was
still another side to Hawthorne's life at this epoch concerning which
we shall never be enlightened. A man could not have had a better friend
than Horatio Bridge. He was to Hawthorne what Edward Irving was to
Carlyle; and the world is more indebted to them both than it often

There is in fact a decided similarity between the lives of Carlyle and
Hawthorne, in spite of radical differences in their work and
characters. Both started at the foot of the ladder, and met with a
hard, long struggle for recognition; both found it equally difficult to
earn their living by their pens; both were assisted by most devoted
friends, and both finally achieved a reputation among the highest in
their own time. If there is sometimes a melancholy tinge in their
writings, may we wonder at it? Pericles said, "We need the theatre to
chase away the sadness of life," and it might have benefited the whole
Hawthorne family to have gone to the theatre once a fortnight; but
there were few entertainments in Salem, except of the stiff
conventional sort, or in the shape of public dances open to firemen and
shop-girls. Long afterward, Elizabeth Hawthorne wrote of her brother:

"His habits were as regular as possible. In the evening after tea he
went out for about an hour, whatever the weather was; and in winter,
after his return, he ate a pint bowl of thick chocolate--(not cocoa,
but the old-fashioned chocolate) crumbed full of bread: eating never
hurt him then, and he liked good things. In summer he ate something
equivalent, finishing with fruit in the season of it. In the evening we
discussed political affairs, upon which we differed in opinion; he
being a Democrat, and I of the opposite party. In reality, his interest
in such things was so slight that I think nothing would have kept it
alive but my contentious spirit. Sometimes, when he had a book that he
particularly liked, he would not talk. He read a great many novels."
[Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 125.]

If Elizabeth possessed the genius which her brother supposed, she
certainly does not indicate it in this letter; but genius in the ore is
very different from genius smelted and refined by effort and
experience. The one important fact in her statement is that Hawthorne
was in the habit of taking solitary rambles after dark,--an owlish
practice, but very attractive to romantic minds. Human nature appears
in a more pictorial guise by lamplight, after the day's work is over.
The groups at the street corners, the glittering display in the
watchmaker's windows, the carriages flashing by and disappearing in the
darkness, the mysterious errands of foot-passengers, all served as
object-lessons for this student of his own kind.

Jonathan Cilley once said:

"I love Hawthorne; I admire him; but I do not know him. He lives in a
mysterious world of thought and imagination which he never permits me
to enter." [Footnote: Packard's "Bowdoin College," 306.]

Long-continued thinking is sure to take effect at last, either in words
or in action, and Hawthorne's mind had to disburden itself in some
manner. So, after the failure of "Fanshawe," he returned to his
original plan of writing short stories, and this time with success. In
January, 1830, the well-known tale of "The Gentle Boy" was accepted by
S. G. Goodrich, the editor of a Boston publication called the
_Token_, who was himself better known in those days under the
_nom de plume_ of "Peter Parley." "The Wives of the Dead," "Roger
Malvin's Burial," and "Major Molineaux" soon followed. In 1833 he
published the "Seven Vagabonds," and some others. The New York
_Knickerbocker_ published the "Fountain of Youth" and "Edward
Fayne's Rosebud." After 1833 the _Token_ and the _New England
Magazine_ [Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 175.] stood ready to accept
all the short pieces that Hawthorne could give them, but they did not
encourage him to write serial stories. However, it was not the custom
then for writers to sign their names to magazine articles, so that
Hawthorne gained nothing in reputation by this. Some of his earliest
pieces were printed over the signature of "Oberon."

An autumn expedition to the White Mountains, Lake Champlain and Lake
Ontario, and Niagara Falls, in 1832, raised Hawthorne's spirits and
stimulated his ambition. He wrote to his mother from Burlington,
Vermont, September 16:

"I have arrived in safety, having passed through the White Hills,
stopping at Ethan Crawford's house, and climbing Mt. Washington. I have
not decided as to my future course. I have no intention of going into
Canada. I have heard that cholera is prevalent in Boston."

It was something to have stood on the highest summit east of the Rocky
Mountains, and to have seen all New England lying at his feet. A hard
wind in the Crawford Notch, which he describes in his story of "The
Ambitious Guest," must have been in his own experience, and as he
passed the monument of the ill-fated Willey family he may have thought
that he too might become celebrated after his death, even as they were
from their poetic catastrophe. This expedition provided him with the
materials for a number of small plots.

The ice was now broken; but a new class of difficulties arose before
him. American literature was then in the bud and promised a beautiful
blossoming, but the public was not prepared for it. Monthly magazines
had a precarious existence, and their uncertainty of remuneration
reacted on the contributors. Hawthorne was poorly paid, often obliged
to wait a long time for his pay, and occasionally lost it altogether.
For his story of "The Gentle Boy," one of the gems of literature, which
ought to be read aloud every year in the public schools, he received
the paltry sum of thirty-five dollars. Evidently he could not earn even
a modest maintenance on such terms, and his letters to Bridge became
more despondent than ever.

Goodrich, who was a writer of the Andrews Norton class, soon perceived
that Hawthorne could make better sentences than his own, and engaged
him to write historical abstracts for his pitiful Peter Parley books,
paying him a hundred dollars for the whole work, and securing for
himself all the credit that appertained to it. Everybody knew who Peter
Parley was, but it has only recently been discovered that much of the
literature which passed under his name was the work of Nathaniel

The editor of a New York magazine to which Hawthorne contributed a
number of sketches repeatedly deferred the payment for them, and
finally confessed his inability to make it,--which he probably knew or
intended beforehand. Then, with true metropolitan assurance, he begged
of Hawthorne the use of certain unpublished manuscripts, which he still
had in his possession. Hawthorne with unlimited contempt told the
fellow that he might keep them, and then wrote to Bridge:

"Thus has this man, who would be considered a Mæcenas, taken from a
penniless writer material incomparably better than any his own brain
can supply." [Footnote: Horatio Bridge, 68, 69.]

Whether this New York periodical was the _Knickerbocker_ or some
other, we are not informed; neither do we know what Bridge replied to
Hawthorne, who had closed his letter with a malediction, on the
aforesaid editor, but elsewhere in his memoirs he remarks:

"Hawthorne received but small compensation for any of this literary
work, for he lacked the knowledge of business and the self-assertion
necessary to obtain even the moderate remuneration vouchsafed to
writers fifty years ago." [Footnote: Horatio Bridge, 77.]

If Horatio Bridge had been an author himself, he would not have written
this statement concerning his friend. Magazine editors are like men in
other professions: some of them are honorable and others are less so;
but an author who offers a manuscript to the editor of a magazine is
wholly at his mercy, so far as that small piece of property is
concerned. The author cannot make a bargain with the editor as he can
with the publisher of his book, and is obliged to accept whatever the
latter chooses to give him. Instances have been known where an editor
has destroyed a valuable manuscript, without compensation or
explanation of any kind. Hawthorne was doing the best that a human
being could under the conditions that were given him. Above all things,
he was true to himself; no man could be more so.

Yet Bridge wrote to him on Christmas Day, 1836:

"The bane of your life has been self-distrust. This has kept you back
for many years; which, if you had improved by publishing, would long
ago have given you what you must now wait a long time for. It may be
for the best, but I doubt it."

Nothing is more trying in misfortune than the ill-judged advice of
well-meaning friends. There is no nettle that stings like it. To expect
Hawthorne to become a literary genius, and at the same time to develop
the peculiar faculties of a commercial traveller or a curb-stone
broker, was unreasonable. In the phraseology of Sir William Hamilton,
the two vocations are "non-compossible." Bridge himself was undertaking
a grandly unpractical project about this time: nothing less than an
attempt to dam the Androscoggin, a river liable to devastating floods;
and in this enterprise he was obliged to trust to a class of men who
were much more uncertain in their ways and methods than those with whom
Hawthorne dealt. Horatio Bridge had not studied civil engineering, and
the result was that before two years had elapsed the floods on the
Androscoggin swept the dam away, and his fortune with it.

In the same letter we also notice this paragraph concerning another
Bowdoin friend:

"And so Frank Pierce is elected Senator. There is an instance of what a
man can do by trying. With no very remarkable talents, he at the age of
thirty-four fills one of the highest stations in the nation. He is a
good fellow, and I rejoice at his success." [Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i.

Pierce certainly possessed the cap of Fortunatus, and it seems as if
there must have been some magic faculty in the man, which enabled him
to win high positions so easily; and he continued to do this, although
he had not distinguished himself particularly as a member of Congress,
and he appeared to still less advantage among the great party leaders
in the United States Senate. He illustrated the faculty for "getting

In October, 1836, the time arrived for settling the matrimonial wager
between Hawthorne and Jonathan Cilley, which they had made at college
twelve years before. Bridge accordingly examined the documents which
they had deposited with him, and notified Cilley that he was under
obligation to provide Hawthorne with an octavo of Madeira.

Cilley's letter to Hawthorne on this occasion does not impress one
favorably. [Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 144.] It is familiar and jocose,
without being either witty or friendly, and he gives no intimation in
it of an intention to fulfil his promise. Hawthorne appears to have
sent the letter to Bridge, who replied:

"I doubt whether you ever get your wine from Cilley. His inquiring of
you whether he had really lost the bet is suspicious; and he has
written me in a manner inconsistent with an intention of paying
promptly; and if a bet grows old it grows cold. He wished me to propose
to you to have it paid at Brunswick next Commencement, and to have as
many of our classmates as could be mustered to drink it. It may be
Cilley's idea to pay over the balance after taking a strong pull at it;
if so, it is well enough. But still it should be tendered within the

In short, Cilley behaved in this matter much in the style of a tricky
Van Buren politician, making a great bluster of words, and privately
intending to do nothing. He was running for Congress at the time on the
Van Buren ticket, and it is quite likely that the expenses of the
campaign had exhausted his funds. That he should never have paid the
bet was less to Hawthorne's disadvantage than his own.

It was now that Horatio Bridge proved himself a true friend, and
equally a man. In the spring of 1836 Goodrich had obtained for
Hawthorne the editorship of the _American Magazine of Useful and
Entertaining Knowledge_, with a salary of five hundred dollars;
[Footnote: Conway, 45.]but he soon discovered that he had embarked on a
ship with a rotten hulk. He started off heroically, writing the whole
of the first number with the help of his sister Elizabeth; but by
midsummer the concern was bankrupt, and he retired to his lonely cell,
more gloomy and despondent than before. There are few sadder spectacles
then that of a man seeking work without being able to obtain it; and
this applies to the man of genius as well as to the day laborer.

Horatio Bridge now realized that the time had come for him to
interfere. He recognized that Hawthorne was gradually lapsing into a
hypochondria that might terminate fatally; that he was Goethe's oak
planted in a flowerpot, and that unless the flower-pot could be broken,
the oak would die. He also saw that Hawthorne would never receive the
public recognition that was due to his ability, so long as he published
magazine articles under an assumed name. He accordingly wrote to
Goodrich--fortunately before his mill-dam gave way--suggesting the
publication of a volume of Hawthorne's stories, and offered to
guarantee the publisher against loss. This proposition was readily
accepted, but Bridge might have made a much better bargain. What it
amounted to was, the half-profit system without the half-profit. The
necessary papers were exchanged and Hawthorne gladly acceded to
Goodrich's terms. Bridge, however, had cautioned Goodrich not to inform
Hawthorne of his share in the enterprise, and the consequence of this
was that he shortly received a letter from Hawthorne, informing him of
the good news--which he knew already--and praising Goodrich, to whom he
proposed to dedicate his new volume. Bridge's generosity had come back
to him, dried and salted,--as it has to many another.

What could Bridge do, in the premises? Goodrich had written to
Hawthorne that the publisher, Mr. Howes, was confident of making a
favorable arrangement _with a man of capital who would edit the
book_; but Bridge did not know this, and he suspected Goodrich of
sailing into Hawthorne's favor under a false flag. He therefore wrote
to Hawthorne, November 17, 1836:

"I fear you will hurt yourself by puffing Goodrich
_undeservedly_,--for there is no doubt in my mind of his
selfishness in regard to your work and yourself. I am perfectly aware
that he has taken a good deal of interest in you, but when did he ever
do anything for you without a _quid pro quo_? The magazine was
given to you for $100 less than it should have been. The _Token_
was saved by your writing. Unless you are already committed, do not mar
the prospects of your _first_ book by hoisting Goodrich into

This prevented the dedication, for which Hawthorne was afterward
thankful enough. The book, which was the first volume of "Twice Told
Tales" came from the press the following spring, and proved an
immediate success, although not a highly lucrative one for its author.
With the help of Longfellow's cordial review of it in the North
it established Hawthorne's reputation on a firm and
irrefragable basis. All honor to Horatio.

As if Hawthorne had not seen a sufficiently long "winter of discontent"
already, his friends now proposed to obtain the position of secretary
and chronicler for him on Commodore Jones's exploring expedition to the
South Pole! Franklin Pierce was the first to think of this, but Bridge
interceded with Cilley to give it his support, and there can be no
doubt that they would have succeeded in obtaining the position for
Hawthorne, but the expedition itself failed, for lack of a
Congressional appropriation. The following year, 1838, the project was
again brought forward by the administration, and Congress being in a
more amiable frame of mind granted the requisite funds; but Hawthorne
had now contracted new ties in his native city, bound, as it were, by
an inseparable cord stronger than a Manila hawser, and Doctor Nathaniel
Peabody's hospitable parlors were more attractive to him than anything
the Antarctic regions could offer.

We have now entered upon the period where Hawthorne's own diary
commences, the autobiography of a pure-minded, closely observing man;
an invaluable record, which began apparently in 1835, and was continued
nearly until the close of his life; now published in a succession of
American, English and Italian note-books. In it we find records of what
he saw and thought; descriptive passages, afterward made serviceable in
his works of fiction, and perhaps written with that object in view;
fanciful notions, jotted down on the impulse of the moment; records of
his social life; but little critical writing or personal confessions,--
although the latter may have been reserved; from publication by his
different editors. It is known that much of his diary has not yet been
given to the public, and perhaps never will be.

In July, 1837, Hawthorne went to Augusta, to spend a month with his
friend Horatio Bridge; went fishing with him, for what they called
white perch, probably the saibling; [Footnote: The American saibling,
or golden trout, is only indigenous to Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, and
to a small lake near Augusta.] and was greatly entertained with the
peculiarities of an idiomatic Frenchman, an itinerant teacher of that
language, whom Bridge, in the kindness of his heart, had taken into his
own house. The last of July, Cilley also made his appearance, but did
not bring the Madeira with him, and Hawthorne has left this rather
critical portrait of him in his diary:

"Friday, July 28th.--Saw my classmate and formerly intimate friend, ----,
for the first time since we graduated. He has met with good success
in life, in spite of circumstances, having struggled upward against
bitter opposition, by the force of his abilities, to be a member of
Congress, after having been for some time the leader of his party in
the State Legislature. We met like old friends, and conversed almost as
freely as we used to do in college days, twelve years ago and more. He
is a singular person, shrewd, crafty, insinuating, with wonderful tact,
seizing on each man by his manageable point, and using him for his own
purpose, often without the man's suspecting that he is made a tool of;
and yet, artificial as his character would seem to be, his
conversation, at least to myself, was full of natural feeling, the
expression of which can hardly be mistaken, and his revelations with
regard to himself had really a great deal of frankness. A man of the
most open nature might well have been more reserved to a friend, after
twelve years separation, than ---- was to me. Nevertheless, he is
really a crafty man, concealing, like a murder-secret, anything that it
is not good for him to have known. He by no means feigns the good
feeling that he professes, nor is there anything affected in the
frankness of his conversation; and it is this that makes him so
fascinating. There is such a quantity of truth and kindliness and warm
affections, that a man's heart opens to him, in spite of himself. He
deceives by truth. And not only is he crafty, but, when occasion
demands, bold and fierce like a tiger, determined, and even
straightforward and undisguised in his measures,--a daring fellow as
well as a sly one."

This can be no other than Jonathan Cilley; like many of his class, a
man of great good humor but not over-scrupulous, so far as the means he
might make use of were concerned. He did not, however, prove to be as
skilful a diplomat as Hawthorne seems to have supposed him. The duel
between Cilley and Graves, of Kentucky, has been so variously
misrepresented that the present occasion would seem a fitting
opportunity to tell the plain truth concerning it.

President Jackson was an honest man, in the customary sense of the
term, and he would have scorned to take a dollar that was not his own;
but he suffered greatly from parasites, who pilfered the nation's
money,--the natural consequence of the spoils-of-office system. The
exposure of these peculations gave the Whigs a decided advantage, and
Cilley, who had quickly proved his ability in debate, attempted to set
a back-fire by accusing Watson Webb, the editor of the _Courier and
Enquirer_, of having been bribed to change the politics of his
paper. The true facts of the case were, that the paper had been
purchased by the Whigs, and Webb, of course, had a right to change his
politics if he chose to; and the net result of Cilley's attack was a
challenge to mortal combat, carried by Representative Graves, of
Kentucky. Cilley, although a man of courage, declined this, on the
ground that members of Congress ought not to be called to account
outside of the Capitol, for words spoken in debate. "Then," said
Graves, "you will at least admit that my friend is a gentleman."

This was a fair offer toward conciliation, and if Cilley had been
peaceably inclined he would certainly have accepted it; but he
obstinately refused to acknowledge that General Webb was a gentleman,
and in consequence of this he received a second challenge the next day
from Graves, brought by Henry A. Wise, afterward Governor of Virginia.
Cilley still objected to fighting, but members of his party urged him
into it: the duel took place, and Cilley was killed.

It may be said in favor of the "code of honor" that it discourages
blackguardism and instructs a man to keep a civil tongue; but it is not
always possible to prevent outbursts of temper, especially in hot
climates, and a man's wife and children should also be considered.
Andrew Jackson said at the close of his life, that there was nothing he
regretted so much as having killed a human being in a duel. Man rises
by humility, and angels fall from pride.

Hawthorne wrote a kindly and regretful notice of the death of his old
acquaintance, which was published in the _Democratic Review_, and
which closed with this significant passage:

"Alas, that over the grave of a dear friend, my sorrow for the
bereavement must be mingled with another grief--that he threw away such
a life in so miserable a cause! Why, as he was true to the Northern
character in all things else, did he swerve from his Northern
principles in this final scene?" [Footnote: Conway, 63.]

It will be well to bear this in mind in connection with a somewhat
similar incident, which we have now to consider.

An anecdote has been repeated in all the books about Hawthorne
published since 1880, which would do him little credit if it could be
proved,--a story that he challenged one of his friends to a duel, at
the instigation of a vulgar and unprincipled young woman. Horatio
Bridge says in reference to it:

"This characteristic was notably displayed several years later, when a
lady incited him to quarrel with one of his best friends on account of
a groundless pique of hers. He went to Washington for the purpose of
challenging the gentleman, and it was only after ample explanation had
been made, showing that his friend had behaved with entire honor, that
Pierce and Cilley, who were his advisers, could persuade him to be
satisfied without a fight." [Footnote: Bridge, 5.]

How the good Horatio could have fallen into this pit is unimaginable,
for a double contradiction is contained in his statement. "Some time
after this," that is after leaving college, would give the impression
that the affair took place about 1830, whereas Pierce and Cilley were
not in Washington together till five or six years later--probably seven
years later. Moreover, Hawthorne states in a letter to Pierce's friend
O'Sullivan, on April 1, 1853, that he had never been in Washington up
to that time. The Manning family and Mrs. Hawthorne's relatives never
heard of the story previous to its publication.

The internal evidence is equally strong against it. What New England
girl would behave in the manner that Hawthorne's son represents this
one to have done? What young gentleman would have listened to such a
communication as he supposes, and especially the reserved and modest
Hawthorne? One can even imagine the aspect of horror on his face at
such an unlady-like proceeding. The story would be an ignominious one
for Hawthorne, if it were credible, but there is no occasion for our
believing it until some tangible evidence is adduced in its support.
There was no element of Quixotism in his composition, and it is quite
as impossible to locate the identity of the person whom Hawthorne is
supposed to have challenged.


EOS AND EROS: 1835-1839

It was fortunate for Hawthorne that there was at this time a periodical
in the United States, the _North American Review_, which was
generally looked upon as an authority in literature, and which in most
instances deserved the confidence that was placed in it, for its
reviews were written by men of distinguished ability. It was the
_North American Review_ which made the reputation of L. Maria
Child, and which enrolled Hawthorne in the order of geniuses.

There is not much literary criticism in Longfellow's review, and he
does not "rise to the level of the accomplished essayist" of our own
time, [Footnote: Who writes so correctly and says so little to the
purpose.] but he goes to the main point with the single-mindness of the
true poet. "A new star," he says, "has appeared in the skies"--a
veritable prediction. "Others will gaze at it with telescopes, and
decide whether it is in the constellation of Orion or the Great Bear.
It is enough for us to gaze at it, to admire it, and welcome it."

"Although Hawthorne writes in prose, he belongs among the poets. To
every subject he touches he gives a poetic personality which emanates
from the man himself. His sympathies extend to all things living, and
even to the inanimates. Another characteristic is the exceeding beauty
of his style. It is as clear as running waters are. Indeed he uses
words as mere stepping-stones, upon which, with a free and youthful
bound, his spirit crosses and re-crosses the bright and rushing stream
of thought."

Again he says:

"A calm, thoughtful face seems to be looking at you from every page;
with now a pleasant smile, and now a shade of sadness stealing over its
features. Sometimes, though not often, it glares wildly at you, with a
strange and painful expression, as, in the German romance, the bronze
knocker of the Archivarius Lindhorst makes up faces at the Student

Here we have a portrait of Hawthorne, by one who knew him, in a few
simple words; and behind a calm thoughtful face there is that
mysterious unknown quantity which puzzles Longfellow here, and always
perplexed Hawthorne's friends. It may have been the nucleus or tap-root
of his genius.

Longfellow seems to have felt it as a dividing line between them. He
probably felt so at college; and this brings us back to an old subject.
Hawthorne's superiority to Longfellow as an artist consisted
essentially in this, that he was never an optimist. Puritanism looked
upon human nature with a hostile eye, and was inclined to see evil in
it where none existed; and Doctor Channing, who inaugurated the great
moral movement which swept Puritanism away in this country, tended, as
all reformers do, to the opposite extreme,--to that scepticism of evil
which, as George Brandes says, is greatly to the advantage of
hypocrites and sharpers. This was justifiable in Doctor Channing, but
among his followers it has often degenerated into an inverted or
homoeopathic kind of Puritanism,--a habit of excusing the faults of
others, or of themselves, on the score of good intentions--a habit of
self-justification, and even to the perverse belief that, as everything
is for the best, whatever we do in this world must be for good. To this
class of sentimentalists the most serious evil is truth-seeing and
truth-speaking. It is an excellent plan to look upon the bright side of
things, but one should not do this to the extent of blinding oneself to
facts. Doctor Johnson once said to Boswell, "Beware, my friend, of
mixing up virtue and vice;" but there is something worse than that, and
it is, to stigmatize a writer as a pessimist or a hypochondriac for
refusing to take rainbow-colored views. This, however, would never
apply to Longfellow.

Hawthorne, with his eye ever on the mark, pursued a middle course. He
separated himself from the Puritans without joining their opponents,
and thus attained the most independent stand-point of any American
writer of his time; and if this alienated him from the various
humanitarian movements that were going forward, it was nevertheless a
decided advantage for the work he was intended to do. In this respect
he resembled Scott, Thackeray and George Eliot.

What we call evil or sin is merely the negative of civilization,--a
tendency to return to the original savage condition. In the light of
history, there is always progress or improvement, but in individual
cases there is often the reverse, and so far as the individual is
concerned evil is no imaginary metaphor, but as real and absolute as
what we call good. The Bulgarian massacres of 1877 were a historical
necessity, and we console ourselves in thinking of them by the fact
that they may have assisted the Bulgarians in obtaining their
independence; but this was no consolation to the twenty or thirty
thousand human beings who were ground to powder there. To them there
was no comfort, no hope,--only the terrible reality. Neither can we
cast the responsibility of such events on the mysterious ways of
Providence. The ways of Providence are not so mysterious to those who
have eyes to read with. Take for instance one of the most notable cases
of depravity, that of Nero. If we consider the conditions under which
he was born and brought up, the necessity of that form of government to
hold a vast empire together, and the course of history for a hundred
years previous, it is not difficult to trace the genesis of Nero's
crimes to the greed of the Roman people (especially of its merchants)
for conquest and plunder; and Nero was the price which they were
finally called on to pay for this. Marcus Aurelius, a noble nature
reared under favorable conditions for its development, became the
Washington of his time.

It is the same in private life. In many families there are evil
tendencies, which if they are permitted to increase will take permanent
hold, like a bad demon, of some weak individual, and make of him a
terror and a torment to his relatives--fortunate if he is not in a
position of authority. He may serve as a warning to the general public,
but in the domestic circle he is an unmitigated evil,--he or she,
though it is not so likely to be a woman. When a crime is committed
within the precincts of good society, we are greatly shocked; but we do
not often notice the debasement of character which leads down to it,
and still more rarely notice the instances in which fear or some other
motive arrests demoralization before the final step, and leaves the
delinquent as it were in a condition of moral suspense.

It was in such tragic situations that Hawthorne found the material
which was best suited to the bent of his genius.

In the two volumes, however, of "Twice Told Tales,"--the second
published two years later,--the tragical element only appears as an
undercurrent of pathos in such stories as "The Gentle Boy,"
"Wakefield," "The Maypole of Merry-mount," and "The Haunted Mind," but
reaches a climax in "The Ambitious Guest" and "Lady Eleanor's Mantle."
There are others, like "Lights from a Steeple," and "Little Annie's
Ramble," that are of a more cheerful cast, but are also much less
serious in their composition. "The Minister's Black Veil," "The Great
Carbuncle," and "The Ambitious Guest," are Dantean allegories. We
notice that each volume begins with a highly patriotic tale, the "Gray
Champion," and "Howe's Masquerade," but the patriotism is genuine and
almost fervid.

When I first looked upon the house in which Hawthorne lived at Sebago,
I was immediately reminded of these earlier studies in human nature,
which are of so simple and quiet a diction, so wholly devoid of
rhetoric, that Elizabeth Peabody thought they must be the work of his
sister, and others supposed them to have been written by a Quaker. They
resemble Dürer's wood-cuts,--gentle and tender in line, but unswerving
in their fidelity. We sometimes wish that they were not so quiet and
evenly composed, and then repent of our wish that anything so perfect
should be different from what it is. His "Twice Told Tales" are a
picture-gallery that may be owned in any house-hold. They stand alone
in English, and there is not their like in any other language.

Yet Hawthorne is not a word-painter like Browning and Carlyle, but
obtains his pictorial effect by simple accuracy of description, a more
difficult process than the other, but also more satisfactory. His eyes
penetrate the masks and wrappings which cover human nature, as the
Röntgen rays penetrate the human body. He sees a man's heart through
the flesh and bones, and knows what is concealed in it. He ascends a
church-steeple, and looking down from the belfry the whole life of the
town is spread out before him. Men and women come and go--Hawthorne
knows the errands they are on. He sees a militia company parading
below, and they remind him from that elevation of the toy soldiers in a
shop-window,--which they turned out to be, pretty much, at Bull Run. A
fashionable young man comes along the street escorting two young
ladies, and suddenly at a crossing encounters their father, who takes
them away from him; but one of them gives him a sweet parting look,
which amply compensates him in its presage of future opportunities. How
plainly that consolatory look appears between our eyes and the printed
page! Then Hawthorne describes the grand march of a thunder-storm,--as
in Rembrandt's "Three Trees,"--with its rolling masses of dark vapor,
preceded by a skirmish-line of white feathery clouds. The militia
company is defeated at the first onset of this, its meteoric enemy, and
driven under cover. The artillery of the skies booms and flashes about
Hawthorne himself, until finally: "A little speck of azure has widened
in the western heavens; the sunbeams find a passage and go rejoicing
through the tempest, and on yonder darkest cloud, born like hallowed
hopes of the glory of another world and the trouble and tears of this,
brightens forth the rainbow." All this may have happened just as it is
set down.

"Lady Eleanor's Mantle" exemplifies the old proverb, "Pride goeth
before destruction," in almost too severe a manner, but the tale is
said to have a legendary foundation; and "The Minister's Black Veil" is
an equally awful symbolism for that barrier between man and man, which
we construct through suspicion and our lack of frankness in our
dealings with one another. We all hide ourselves behind veils, and, as
Emerson says, "Man crouches and blushes, absconds and conceals."

"The Ambitious Guest" allegorizes a vain imagination, and is the most
important of these three. A young man suffers from a craving for
distinction, which he believes will only come to him after this life is
ended. He is walking through the White Mountains, and stops overnight
at the house of the ill-fated Willey family. He talks freely on the
subject of his vain expectations, when Destiny, in the shape of an
avalanche, suddenly overtakes him, and buries him so deeply that
neither his body nor his name has ever been recovered. Hawthorne might
have drawn another allegory from the same source, for if the Willey
family had trusted to Providence, and remained in their house, instead
of rushing out into the dark, they would not have lost their lives.

In the _Democratic Review_ for 1834, Hawthorne published the
account of a visit to Niagara Falls, one of the fruits of his
expedition thither in September, 1832, by way of the White Mountains
and Burlington, the journey from Salem to Niagara in those days being
fully equal to going from New York to the cataracts of the Nile in our
own time. "The Ambitious Guest" was published in the same volume with
it, and "The Ontario Steamboat" first appeared in the _American
Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge_, in 1836. Hawthorne
may have made other expeditions to the White Mountains, but we do not
hear of them.

In addition to the three studies already mentioned, Hawthorne drew from
this source the two finest of his allegories, "The Great Carbuncle" and
"The Great Stone Face."

"The Great Carbuncle" is not only one of the most beautiful of
Hawthorne's tales, but the most far-reaching in its significance. The
idea of it must have originated in the Alpine glow, an effect of the
rising or setting sun on the icy peaks of a mountain, which looks at a
distance like a burning coal; an appearance only visible in the White
Mountains during the winter, and there is no reason why Hawthorne
should not have seen it at that season from Lake Sebago. At a distance
of twenty miles or more it blazes wonderfully, but on a nearer approach
it entirely disappears. Hawthorne could not have found a more
fascinating subject, and he imagines it for us as a great carbuncle
located in the upper recesses of the mountains.

A number of explorers for this wonderful gem meet together at the foot
of the mountain beyond the confines of civilization, and build a hut in
which to pass the night. They are recognizable, from Hawthorne's
description, as the man of one idea, who has spent his whole life
seeking the gem; a scientific experimenter who wishes to grind it up
for the benefit of his crucible; a cynical sceptic who has come to
disprove the existence of the great gem; a greedy speculator who seeks
the carbuncle as he would prospect for a silver-mine; an English lord
who wishes to add it to his hereditary possessions; and finally a young
married couple who want to obtain it for an ornament to their new
cottage. The interest of the reader immediately centres on these last
two, and we care much more concerning their fortunes and adventures
than we do about the carbuncle.

The conversation that evening between these ill-assorted companions is
in Hawthorne's most subtle vein of irony, and would have delighted old
Socrates himself. Meanwhile the young bride weaves a screen of twigs
and leaves, to protect herself and her husband from the gaze of the

The following morning they all set out by different paths in search of
the carbuncle; but our thoughts accompany the steps of the young bride,
as she makes one toilsome ascent after another until she feels ready to
sink to the ground with fatigue and discouragement. They have already
decided to return, when the rosy light of the carbuncle bursts upon
them from beneath the lifting clouds; but they now feel instinctively
that it is too great a prize for their possession. The man of one idea
also sees it, and his life goes out in the exultation over his final
success. The skeptic appears, but cannot discover it, although his face
is illumined by its light, until he takes off his large spectacles;
whereupon, he instantly becomes blind. The English nobleman and the
American speculator fail to discover it; the former returns to his
ancestral halls, as wise as he was before; and the latter is captured
by a party of Indians and obliged to pay a heavy ransom to regain
freedom. The scientific pedant finds a rare specimen of primeval
granite, which serves his purpose quite as well as the carbuncle; and
the two young doves return to their cot, having learned the lesson of

How fortunate was Hawthorne at the age of thirty thus to anatomize the
chief illusions of life, which so many others follow until old age!

It is an erroneous notion that Hawthorne found the chief material for
his work in old New England traditions. There are some half-dozen
sketches of this sort, but they are more formally written than the
others, and remind one of those portraits by Titian which were painted
from other portraits,--better than the originals, but not equal to
those which he painted from Nature.

In the "Sights from a Steeple" Hawthorne exposes his methods of study
and betrays the active principle of his existence. He says:

"The most desirable mode of existence might be that of a spiritualized
Paul Pry hovering invisible round man and woman, witnessing their
deeds, searching into their hearths, borrowing brightness from their
felicity and shade from their sorrow, and retaining no emotion peculiar
to himself."

There are those who would dislike this busybody occupation, and others,
such as Emerson perhaps, might not consider it justifiable; but
Hawthorne is not to be censured for it, for his motive was an elevated
one, and without this close scrutiny of human nature we should have had
neither a Hawthorne nor a Shakespeare. There is no quality more
conspicuous in "Twice Told Tales" than the calm, evenly balanced mental
condition of the author, who seems to look down on human life not so
much from a church steeple as from the blue firmament itself.

Such was the _Eos_ or dawn of Hawthorne's literary art.

Hawthorne returned thanks to Longfellow in a gracefully humorous
letter, to which Longfellow replied with a cordial wish to see
Hawthorne in Cambridge, and by advising him to dive into deeper water
and write a history of the Acadians before and after their expulsion
from Nova Scotia; but this was not practicable for minds like
Hawthorne's, surcharged with poetic images, and the attempt might have
proved a disturbing influence for him. He had already contributed the
substance to Longfellow of "Evangeline," and he now wrote a eulogium on
the poem for a Salem newspaper, which it must be confessed did not
differ essentially from other reviews of the same order. He does not
give us any clear idea of how the poem actually impressed him, which is
after all the best that one can do in such cases. Poetry is not like a
problem in mathematics, which can be marked right or wrong according to
its solution.

When a young man obtains a substantial footing in his profession or
business, he looks about him for a wife--unless he happens to be
already pledged in that particular; and Hawthorne was not an exception
to this rule. He was not obliged to look very far, and yet the chance
came to him in such an exceptional manner that it seems as if some
special providence were connected with it. His position in this respect
was a peculiar one. He does not appear to have been much acquainted in
Salem even now; and the only son of a widow with two unmarried sisters
may be said to have rather a slim chance for escaping from those strong
ties which have grown up between them from childhood. Many a mother has
prevented her son from getting married until it has become too late for
him to change his bachelor habits. His mother and his sisters realize
that he ought to be married, and that he has a right to a home of his
own; but in their heart of hearts they combat the idea, and their
opposition takes the form of an unsparing criticism of any young lady
whom he follows with his eyes. This frequently happens also in a family
of girls: they all remain unmarried because, if one of them shows an
inclination in that direction, the others unite in a conspiracy against
her. On the other hand, a family of four or five boys will marry early,
if they can obtain the means of doing so, simply from the need of
feminine cheer and sympathy. A devoted female friend will sometimes
prevent a young woman from being married. Love affairs are soft earth
for an intriguing and unprincipled woman to work in, but, fortunately,
Mrs. Hawthorne did not belong in that category.

It was stout, large-hearted Elizabeth Peabody who broke the spell of
the enchanted castle in which Hawthorne was confined. The Peabodys were
a cultivated family in Salem, who lived pretty much by themselves, as
the Hawthornes and Mannings did. Doctor Nathaniel Peabody was a
respectable practitioner, but he had not succeeded in curing the
headaches of his daughter Sophia, which came upon her at the close of
her girlhood and still continued intermittently until this time. The
Graces had not been bountiful the Peabody family, so, to compensate for
this, they all cultivated the Muses, in whose society they ascended no
little distance on the way to Parnassus. Elizabeth Peabody was quite a
feminine pundit. She learned French and German, and studied history and
archaeology; she taught history on a large scale at Sanborn's Concord
School and at many others; she had a method of painting dates on
squares, which fixed them indelibly in the minds of her pupils; she
talked at Margaret Fuller's transcendental club, and was an active
member of the Radical or Chestnut Street Club, thirty years later; but
her chief distinction was the introduction of Froebel's Kindergarten
teaching, by which she well-nigh revolutionized primary instruction in
America. She was a most self-forgetful person, and her scholars became
devotedly attached to her.

Her sister Mary was as much like Elizabeth mentally as she differed
from her in figure and general appearance, but soon after this she was
married to Horace Mann and her public activity became merged in that of
her husband, who was the first educator of his time. Sophia Peabody
read poetry and other fine writings, and acquired a fair proficiency in
drawing and painting. They lived what was then called the "higher
life," and it certainly led them to excellent results.

Shortly before the publication of "Twice Told Tales," Elizabeth Peabody
learned that the author of "The Gentle Boy," and other stories which
she had enjoyed in the _Token_, lived in Salem, and that the name
was Hawthorne. She immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were
the work of Miss Elizabeth Hawthorne, whom she had known somewhat in
earlier days, and she concluded to call upon her and offer her
congratulations. When informed by Louisa Hawthorne, who came to her in
the parlor, instead of the elder sister, that "The Gentle Boy" was
written by Nathaniel, Miss Peabody made the significant remark, "If
your brother can do work like that, he has no right to be idle"
[Footnote: Lathrop, 168. Miss Peabody would seem to have narrated this
to him.]--to which Miss Louisa retorted, it is to be hoped with some
indignation, that her brother never was idle.

It is only too evident from this that public opinion in Salem had
already decided that Hawthorne was an idle fellow, who was living on
his female relatives. That is the way the world judges--from external
facts without any consideration of internal causes or conditions. It
gratifies the vanity of those who are fortunate and prosperous, to
believe that all men have an equal chance in the race of life. Emerson
once blamed two young men for idleness, who were struggling against
obstacles such as he could have had no conception of. Those who have
been fortunate from the cradle never learn what life is really like.

The spell, however, was broken and the friendliness of Elizabeth
Peabody found a deeply sympathetic response in the Hawthorne household.
Nathaniel at last found a person who expressed a genuine and heartfelt
appreciation of his work, and it was like the return of the sun to the
Arctic explorer after his long winter night. Rather to Miss Peabody's
surprise he and his sisters soon returned her call, and visits between
the two families thereafter became frequent.

Sophia Peabody belonged to the class of young women for whom
Shakespeare's Ophelia serves as a typical example. She was gentle,
affectionate, refined, and amiable to a fault,--much too tender-hearted
for this rough world, if her sister Elizabeth had not always stood like
a barrier between her and it.

How Hawthorne might have acted in Hamlet's place it is useless to
surmise, but in his true nature he was quite the opposite of Hamlet,--
slow and cautious, but driven onward by an inexorable will. If Hamlet
had possessed half of Hawthorne's determination, he might have broken
through the network of evil conditions which surrounded him, and lived
to make Ophelia a happy woman. It was only necessary to come into
Hawthorne's presence in order to recognize the force that was in him.

Sophia Amelia Peabody was born September 21, 1811, so that at the time
of which we are now writing she was twenty-five years of age. Hawthorne
was then thirty-two, when a man is more attractive to the fair sex than
at any other time of life, for then he unites the freshness and vigor
of youth with sufficient maturity of judgment to inspire confidence and
trust. Yet her sister Elizabeth found it difficult to persuade her to
come into the parlor and meet the handsomest man in Salem. When she did
come she evidently attracted Nathaniel Hawthorne's attention, for,
although she said little, he looked at her repeatedly while conversing
with her sister. It may not have been an instance of love at first
sight,--which may happen to any young man at a dancing party, and be
forgotten two days later,--but it was something more than a casual
interest. On his second or third call she showed him a sketch she had
made of "the gentle boy," according to her idea of him, and the subdued
tone with which he received it plainly indicated that he was already
somewhat under her influence. Julian Hawthorne writes of this:
[Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 179.]

"It may be remarked here, that Mrs. Hawthorne in telling her children,
many years afterwards, of these first meetings with their father, used
to say that his presence, from the very beginning, exercised so strong
a magnetic attraction upon her, that instinctively, and in self-defence
as it were, she drew back and repelled him. The power which she felt in
him alarmed her; she did not understand what it meant, and was only
able to feel that she must resist."

Every true woman feels this reluctance at first toward a suitor for her
hand, but a sensitive young lady might well have a sense of awe on
finding that she had attracted to herself such a mundane force as
Hawthorne, and it is no wonder that this first impression was
recollected throughout her life. There are many who would have refused
Hawthorne's suit, because they felt that he was too great and strong
for them, and it is to the honor of Sophia Peabody that she was not
only attracted by the magnetism of Hawthorne, but finally had the
courage to unite herself to such an enigmatical person.

We also obtain a glimpse of Hawthorne's side of this courtship from a
letter which he wrote to Longfellow in June, 1837, and in which he
says, "I have now, or shall soon have a sharper spur to exertion, which
I lacked at an earlier period;" [Footnote: Conway, 75.] and this is all
the information he has vouchsafed us on the subject. If there is
anything more in his diary, it has not been given to the public, and
probably never will be. A number of letters which he wrote to Miss
Sophia from Boston, or Brook Farm, have been published by his son, but
it would be neither right nor judicious to introduce them here.

It is, however, evident from the above that Hawthorne was already
engaged in June, 1837, but his engagement long remained a secret, for
three excellent reasons; viz., his slender means of support, the
delicate health of his betrothed, and the disturbance which it might
create in the Hawthorne family. The last did not prove so serious a
difficulty as he seems to have imagined; but his apprehensiveness on
that point many another could justify from personal experience.
[Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 196.]

From this time also the health of Sophia Peabody steadily improved, nor
is it necessary to account for it by any magical influence on the part
of her lover. Her trouble was plainly some recondite difficulty of the
circulation. The heart is supposed to be the seat of the affections
because mental emotion stimulates the nervous system and acts upon the
heart as the centre of all organic functions. A healthy natural
excitement will cause the heart to vibrate more firmly and evenly; but
an unhealthy excitement, like fear or anger, will cause it to beat in a
rapid and uneven manner. Contrarily, despondency, or a lethargic state
of mind, causes the movement of the blood to slacken. The happiness of
love is thus the best of all stimulants and correctives for a torpid
circulation, and it expands the whole being of a woman like the
blossoming of a flower in the sunshine. From the time of her betrothal,
Sophia Peabody's headaches became less and less frequent, until they
ceased altogether. The true seat of the affections is in the mind. The
first consideration proved to be a more serious matter. If Hawthorne
had not succeeded in earning his own livelihood by literature so far,
what prospect was there of supporting a wife and family in that manner?
What should he do; whither should he turn? He continually turned the
subject over in his mind, without, however, reaching any definite
conclusion. Nor is this to be wondered at. If the ordinary avenues of
human industry were not available to him as a college graduate, they
were now permanently closed. A man in his predicament at the present
time might obtain the position of librarian in one of our inland
cities; but such places are few and the applications are many. Bronson
Alcott once offered his services as teacher of a primary school, a
position he might have filled better than most, for its one requisite
is kindliness, but the Concord school committee would not hear of it.
If Hawthorne had attempted to turn pedagogue he might have met with a
similar experience.

Conway remarks very justly that an American author could not be
expected to earn his own living in a country where foreign books could
be pirated as they were in the United States until 1890, and this was
especially true during the popularity of Dickens and George Eliot.
Dickens was the great humanitarian writer of the nineteenth century,
but he was also a caricaturist and a bohemian. He did not represent
life as it is, but with a certain comical oddity. As an author he is to
Hawthorne what a peony is to a rose, or a garnet is to a ruby; but ten,
persons would purchase a novel of Dickens when one would select the
"Twice Told Tales." Scott and Tennyson are exceptional instances of a
high order of literary work which also proved fairly remunerative; but
they do not equal Hawthorne in grace of diction and in the rare quality
of his thought,--whatever advantages they may possess in other
respects. Thackeray earned his living by his pen, but it was only in
England that he could have done this.



Horatio Bridge's dam was washed away in the spring of 1837, by a sudden
and unprecedented rising of the Androscoggin River. Bridge was
financially ruined, but like a brave and generous young man he did not
permit this stroke of evil fortune, severe as it was, to oppress him
heavily, and Hawthorne seems to have felt no shadow of it during his
visit to Augusta the following summer. He returned to Salem in August
with pleasanter anticipations than ever before,--to enjoy the society
of his _fiancée_, and to prepare the second volume of "Twice Told

The course of Hawthorne's life during the next twenty months is mostly
a blank to us. He would seem to have exerted himself to escape from the
monotone in which he had been living so long, but of his efforts,
disappointments, and struggles against the giant coils of Fate, there
is no report. He wrote the four Province House tales as a send-off to
his second volume, as well as "The Toll-Gatherer's Day," "Footprints on
the Seashore," "Snow-Flakes," and "Chippings with a Chisel," which are
to be found in it. [Footnote: J. Hawthorne, 176.] There is a long blank
in Hawthorne's diary during the winter of 1837-38 which may be owing to
his indifference to the outer world at that time, but more likely
because its contents have not yet been revealed to us. It was the
period of Cilley's duel, and what Hawthorne's reflections were on that
subject, aside from the account which he wrote for the _Democratic
Review_, would be highly interesting now, but the absence of any
reference to it is significant, and there is no published entry in his
diary between December 6, 1837, and May 11, 1838.

Horatio Bridge obtained the position of paymaster on the United States
warship "Cyane," which arrived at Boston early in June, and on the 16th
of the month Hawthorne went to call on his friend in his new quarters,
which he found to be pleasant enough in their narrow and limited way.
Bridge returned with him to Boston, and they dined together at the
Tremont House, drinking iced champagne and claret in pitchers,--which
latter would seem to have been a fashion of the place. Hawthorne's
description of the day is purely external, and he tells us nothing of
his friend,--concerning whom we were anxious to hear,--or of the new
life on which he had entered.

On July 4, his thirty-fifth birthday, he wrote a microscopic account of
the proceedings on Salem Common, which is interesting now, but will
become more valuable as time goes on and the customs of the American
people change with it. The object of these detailed pictorial studies,
which not only remind one of Dürer's drawings but of Carlyle's local
descriptions (when he uses simple English and does not fly off into
recondite comparisons), is not clearly apparent; but the artist has
instincts of his own, like a vine which swings in the wind and seizes
upon the first tree that its tendrils come into contact with. We
sometimes wish that, as in the case of Bridge and his warship, they
were not so objective and external, and that, like Carlyle, he would
throw more of himself into them.

On July 27, Hawthorne started on an expedition to the Berkshire Hills,
by way of Worcester, remaining there nearly till the first of
September, and describing the scenery, the people he met by the way,
and the commencement at Williams College, which then took place in the
middle of August, in his customary accurate manner. He has given a full
and connected account of his travels; so full that we wonder how he
found time to write to Miss Sophia Peabody. He would seem to have been
entirely alone, and to have travelled mainly by stage. On the route
from Pittsfield to North Adams he notices the sunset, and describes it
in these simple terms: [Footnote: American Note-book, 130.]

"After or about sunset there was a heavy shower, the thunder rumbling
round and round the mountain wall, and the clouds stretching from
rampart to rampart. When it abated the clouds in all parts of the
visible heavens were tinged with glory from the west; some that hung
low being purple and gold, while the higher ones were gray. The slender
curve of the new moon was also visible, brightening amidst the fading
brightness of the sunny part of the sky."

At North Adams he takes notice of one of the Select-men, and gives this
account of him: [Footnote: American Note-book, 153.]

"One of the most sensible men in this village is a plain, tall, elderly
person, who is overseeing the mending of a road,--humorous,
intelligent, with much thought about matters and things; and while at
work he had a sort of dignity in handling the hoe or crow-bar, which
shows him to be the chief. In the evening he sits under the stoop,
silent and observant from under the brim of his hat; but, occasion
suiting, he holds an argument about the benefit or otherwise of
manufactories or other things. A simplicity characterizes him more than
appertains to most Yankees."

He did not return to Salem until September 24. A month later he was at
the Tremont House in Boston, looking out of the windows toward Beacon
Street, which may have served him for an idea in "The Blithedale
Romance." After this there are no entries published from his diary till
the following spring, so that the manner in which he occupied himself
during the winter of 1838-39 will have to be left to the imagination.
On April 27, 1839, he wrote a letter to Miss Sophia Peabody from
Boston, in which he says:

"I feel pretty secure against intruders, for the bad weather will
defend me from foreign invasion; and as to Cousin Haley, he and I had a
bitter political dispute last evening, at the close of which he went to
bed in high dudgeon, and probably will not speak to me these three
days. Thus you perceive that strife and wrangling, as well as east
winds and rain, are the methods of a kind Providence to promote my
comfort,--which would not have been so well secured in any other way.
Six or seven hours of cheerful solitude! But I will not be alone. I
invite your spirit to be with me,--at any hour and as many hours as you
please, but especially at the twilight hour before I light my lamp. I
bid you at that particular time, because I can see visions more vividly
in the dusky glow of firelight than either by daylight or lamplight.
Come, and let me renew my spell against headache and other direful
effects of the east wind. How I wish I could give you a portion of my
insensibility! and yet I should be almost afraid of some radical
transformation, were I to produce a change in that respect. If you
cannot grow plump and rosy and tough and vigorous without being changed
into another nature, then I do think, for this short life, you had
better remain just what you are. Yes; but you will be the same to me,
because we have met in eternity, and there our intimacy was formed. So
get well as soon as you possibly can."

This statement deserves consideration under two headings; and the last
shall be first, and the first shall be last.

It will be noticed that the accounts in Hawthorne's diary are for the
most part of a dispassionate objective character, as if he had come
down from the moon to take an observation of mundane affairs. His
letters to Miss Peabody were also dispassionate, but strongly
subjective, and, like the one just quoted, mainly evolved from his
imagination, like orchids living in the air. It was also about this
time that Carlyle wrote to Emerson concerning the _Dial_ that it
seemed "like an unborn human soul." The orchid imagination was an
influence of the time, penetrating everywhere like an ether.

In the opening sentences in this letter, Hawthorne comes within an inch
of disclosing his political opinions, and yet provokingly fails to do
so. There is nothing about the man concerning which we are so much in
the dark, and which we should so much like to know, as this; and it is
certain from this letter that he held very decided opinions on
political subjects and could defend them with a good deal of energy. On
one occasion when Hawthorne was asked why he was a Democrat, he
replied, "Because I live in a democratic country," which was, of
course, simply an evasion; and such were the answers which he commonly
gave to all interrogatories. His proclivities were certainly not
democratic; but the greater the tenacity with which a man holds his
opinions, the less inclined he feels to discuss them with others. The
Boston aristocracy now vote the Democratic ticket out of opposition to
the dominant party in Massachusetts, and Hawthorne may have done so for
a similar reason.

Hawthorne was now a weigher and gauger in the Boston Custom House, one
of the most laborious positions in the government service. The
defalcation of Swartwout with over a million dollars from the New York
customs' receipts had forced upon President Van Buren the importance of
filling such posts with honorable men, instead of political shysters,
and Bancroft, though a rather narrow historian, was a gentleman and a
scholar. He was the right man to appreciate Hawthorne, but whether he
bestowed this place upon him of his own accord, or through the ulterior
agency of Franklin Pierce, we are not informed. It is quite possible
that Elizabeth Peabody had a hand in the case, for she was always an
indefatigable petitioner for the benefit of the needy, and had
opportunities for meeting Bancroft in Boston society. His kindness to
Hawthorne was at least some compensation for having originated the most
ill-favored looking public building in the city. [Footnote: The present
Boston Custom House. George S. Hillard called it an architectural

Hawthorne's salary was twelve hundred dollars a year,--fully equal to
eighteen hundred at the present time,--and his position appears to have
been what is now called a store-keeper. He fully earned his salary. He
had charge and oversight of all the dutiable imports that came to
Long Wharf, the most important in the city, and was obliged to keep an
account of all dutiable articles which were received there. He had to
superintend personally the unloading of vessels, and although in some
instances this was not unpleasant, he was constantly receiving
shiploads of soft coal,--Sidney or Pictou coal,--which is the dirtiest
stuff in the world; it cannot be touched without raising a dusty vapor
which settles in the eyes, nose, and mouth, and inside the shirt-
collar. He counted every basketful that was brought ashore, and his
position on such occasions was to be envied only by the sooty laborers
who handled that commodity. We wonder what the frequenters of Long
Wharf thought of this handsome, poetic-looking man occupied in such a

Yet he appreciated the value of this Spartan discipline,--the
inestimable value of being for once in his life brought down to hard-
pan and the plain necessities of life. The juice of wormwood is bitter,
but it is also strengthening. On July 3, 1839, he wrote: [Footnote:
American Note-book.]

"I do not mean to imply that I am unhappy or discontented, for this is
not the case. My life only is a burden in the same way that it is to
every toilsome man, and mine is a healthy weariness, such as needs only
a night's sleep to remove it. But from henceforth forever I shall be
entitled to call the sons of toil my brethren, and shall know how to
sympathize with them, seeing that I likewise have risen at the dawn,
and borne the fervor of the midday sun, nor turned my heavy footsteps
homeward till eventide. Years hence, perhaps, the experience that my
heart is acquiring now will flow out in truth and wisdom."

This is one of the noblest passages in his writings.

On August 27 he notices the intense heat in the centre of the city,
although it is somewhat cooler on the wharves. At this time Emerson may
have been composing his "Wood Notes" or "Threnody" in the cool pine
groves of Concord. Such is the difference between inheriting twenty
thousand dollars and two thousand. Hawthorne lived in Boston at such a
boarding-place as Doctor Holmes describes in the "Autocrat of the
Breakfast Table," and for all we know it may have been the same one. He
lived economically, reading and writing to Miss Peabody in the evening,
and rarely going to the theatre or other entertainments,--a life like
that of a store clerk whose salary only suffices for his board and
clothing. George Bancroft was kindly disposed toward him, and would
have introduced Hawthorne into any society that he could have wished to
enter; but Hawthorne, then and always, declined to be lionized.
Hawthorne made but one friend in Boston during this time, and that one,
George S. Hillard, a most faithful and serviceable friend,--not only
to Hawthorne during his life, but afterwards as a trustee for his
family, and equally kind and helpful to them in their bereavement,
which is more than could be said of all his friends,--especially of
Pierce. Hillard belonged to the brilliant coterie of Cambridge literary
men, which included Longfellow, Sumner and Felton. He was a lawyer,
politician, editor, orator and author; at this time, or shortly
afterward, Sumner's law partner; one of the most kindly sympathetic
men, with a keen appreciation of all that is finest in art and
literature, but somewhat lacking in firmness and independence of
character. His "Six Months in Italy," written in the purest English,
long served as a standard work for American travellers in that ideal
land, and his rather unsymmetrical figure only made the graces of his
oratory more conspicuous.

Hawthorne kept at his work through summer's heat and winter's cold. On
February 11, 1840, he wrote to his fiancée:

"I have been measuring coal all day, on board of a black little British
schooner, in a dismal dock at the north end of the city. Most of the
time I paced the deck to keep myself warm....

"... Sometimes I descended into the dirty little cabin of the schooner,
and warmed myself by a red-hot stove among biscuit barrels, pots and
kettles, sea chests, and innumerable lumber of all sorts,--my
olfactories, meanwhile, being greatly refreshed by the odor of a pipe,
which the captain or some of his crew was smoking."


One would have to go to Dante's "Inferno" to realize a situation more
thoroughly disagreeable; yet the very pathos of Hawthorne's employment
served to inspire him with elevated thoughts and beautiful reflections.
His letters are full of aërial fancies. He notices what a beautiful day
it was on April 18, 1840, and regrets that he cannot "fling himself on
a gentle breeze and be blown away into the country." April 30 is
another beautiful day,--"a real happiness to live; if he had been a
mere vegetable, a hawthorn bush, he would have felt its influence." He
goes to a picture gallery in the Athenaeum, but only mentions seeing
two paintings by Sarah Clarke. He returns to Salem in October, and
writes in his own chamber the passage already quoted, in which he
mourns the lonely years of his youth, and the long, long waiting for
appreciation, "while he felt the life chilling in his veins and
sometimes it seemed as if he were already in the grave;" but an early
return to his post gives him brighter thoughts. He takes notice of the
magnificent black and yellow butterflies that have strangely come to
Long Wharf, as if seeking to sail to other climes since the last flower
had faded. Mr. Bancroft has appointed him to suppress an insurrection
among the government laborers, and he writes to Miss Sophia Peabody:

"I was not at the end of Long Wharf to-day, but in a distant region,--
my authority having been put in requisition to quell a rebellion of the
captain and 'gang' of shovellers aboard a coal-vessel. I would you
could have beheld the awful sternness of my visage and demeanor in the
execution of this momentous duty. Well,--I have conquered the rebels,
and proclaimed an amnesty; so to-morrow I shall return to that paradise
of measurers, the end of Long Wharf,--not to my former salt-ship, she
being now discharged, but to another, which will probably employ me
well-nigh a fortnight longer."

A month later we meet with this ominous remark in his diary:

"I was invited to dine at Mr. Bancroft's yesterday with Miss Margaret
Fuller; but Providence had given me some business to do, for which I
was very thankful."

Had Hawthorne already encountered this remarkable woman with the
feminine heart and masculine mind, and had he already conceived that
aversion for her which is almost painfully apparent in his Italian
diary? Certainly in many respects they were antipodes.

The Whig party came into power on March 4, 1841, with "Tippecanoe" for
a figure-head and Daniel Webster as its conductor of the "grand
orchestra." A month later Bancroft was removed, and Hawthorne went with
him, not at all regretful to depart. In fact, he had come to feel that
he could not endure the Custom House, or at least his particular share
of it, any longer. One object he had in view in accepting the position
was, to obtain practical experience, and this he certainly did in a
rough and unpleasant manner. The experience of a routine office,
however, is not like that of a broker who has goods to sell and who
must dispose of them to the best advantage, in order to keep his
reputation at high-water mark; nor is it like the experience of a young
doctor or a lawyer struggling to obtain a practice. Those are the men
who know what life actually is; and it is this thoroughness of
experience which makes the chief difference between a Dante and a

These reflections lead directly to Hawthorne's casual and oft-repeated
commentary on American politicians. He wrote March 15:

"I do detest all offices--all, at least, that are held on a political
tenure. And I want nothing to do with politicians. Their hearts wither
away, and die out of their bodies. Their consciences are turned to
india-rubber, or to some substance as black as that, and which will
stretch as much. One thing, if no more, I have gained by my custom-
house experience,--to know a politician." [Footnote: American
Notebook, i. 220.]

This seems rather severe, but at the time when Hawthorne wrote it,
American politics were on the lowest plane of demagogism. It was the
inevitable result of the spoils-of-office system, and the meanest
species of the class were the ward politicians who received small
government offices in return for services in canvassing ignorant
foreign voters. They were naturally coarse, hardened adventurers, and
it was such that Hawthorne chiefly came in contact with in his official
business. Cleon, the brawling tanner of Athens, has reappeared in every
representative government since his time, and plays his clownish part
with multifarious variations; but it is to little purpose that we
deride the men who govern us, for they are what we and our institutions
have made them. If we want better representatives, we must mend our own
ways and especially purge ourselves of political cant and national
vanity,--which is the food that ward politicians grow fat on. The
profession of a politician is based on instability, and he cannot
acquire, as matters now stand, the solidity of character that we look
for in other professions.

So far, however, was Hawthorne at this juncture from considering men
and things critically, that he closes the account of his first
government experience in this rather optimistic manner:

"Old Father Time has gone onward somewhat less heavily than is his wont
when I am imprisoned within the walls of the Custom-house. My breath
had never belonged to anybody but me. It came fresh from the ocean....

"... It was exhilarating to see the vessels, how they bounded over the
waves, while a sheet of foam broke out around them. I found a good deal
of enjoyment, too, in the busy scene around me. It pleased me to think
that I also had a part to act in the material and tangible business of
this life, and that a portion of all this industry could not have gone
on without my presence." [Footnote: American Note-book, i. 230.]

When Hawthorne philosophizes it is not in old threadbare proverbs or
Orphic generalities, but always specifically and to the point.



Who can compute the amount of mischief that Fourier has done, and those
well-meaning but inexperienced dreamers who have followed after him? A
Fourth-of-July firecracker once consumed the half of a large city. The
boy who exploded it had no evil intentions; neither did Fourier and
other speculators in philanthropy contemplate what might be the effect
of their doctrines on minds actuated by the lowest and most inevitable
wants. Wendell Phillips, in the most brilliant of his orations, said:
"The track of God's lightning is a straight line from justice to
iniquity," and one might have said to Phillips, in his later years,
that there is in the affairs of men a straight line from infatuation to
destruction. In what degree Fourier was responsible for the effusion of
blood in Paris in the spring of 1871 it is not possible to determine;
but the relation of Rousseau to the first French revolution is not more
certain. _Fate_ is the spoken word which cannot be recalled, and
who can tell the good and evil consequences that lie hidden in it? The
proper cure for socialism, in educated minds, would be a study of the
law. There we discover what a wonderful mechanism is the present
organization of society, and how difficult it would be to reconstruct
this, if it once were overturned.

As society is constituted at present, the honest and industrious are
always more or less at the mercy of the vicious and indolent, and the
only protection against this lies in the right of individual ownership.
In a general community of goods, there might be some means of
preventing or punishing flagrant misdemeanors, but what protection
could there be against indolence? Those who were ready and willing to
work would have to bear all the burdens of society.

In order that an idea should take external or concrete form it has to
be married, as it were, to some desire or tendency in the individual.
Reverend George Ripley had become imbued with Fourierism through his
studies of French philosophy, but he had also been brought up on a
farm, and preferred the fresh air and vigorous exercise of that mode of
life to city preaching. He was endowed with a strong constitution and
possessed of an independent fortune, and his aristocratic wife, more
devoted than women of that class are usually, sympathized with his
plans, and was prepared to follow him to the ends of the earth. He not
only felt great enthusiasm for the project but was capable of inspiring
others with it. There were many socialistic experiments undertaken
about that time, but George Ripley's was the only one that has acquired
a historical value. It is much to his credit that he gave the scheme a
thorough trial, and by carrying it out to a logical conclusion proved
its radical impracticability.

Such a failure is more valuable than the successes of a hundred men who
merely make their own fortunes and leave no legacy of experience that
can benefit the human race.

It must have been Elizabeth Peabody who persuaded Hawthorne to enlist
in the Brook Farm enterprise. She wrote a paper for the _Dial_
[Footnote: _Dial_, ii. 361.] on the subject, explaining the object
of the West Roxbury community and holding forth the prospect of the
"higher life" which could be enjoyed there. Hawthorne was in himself
the very antipodes of socialism, and it was part of the irony of his
life that he should have embarked in such an experiment; but he
invested a thousand dollars in it, which he had saved from his Custom
House salary, and was one of the first on the ground. What he really
hoped for from it--as we learn by his letters to Miss Sophia Peabody--
was a means of gaining his daily bread, with leisure to accomplish a
fair amount of writing, and at the same time to enter into such society
as might be congenial to his future consort. It seemed reasonable to
presume this, and yet the result did not correspond to it. He went to
West Roxbury on April 12, 1841, and as it happened in a driving
northeast snowstorm,--an unpropitious beginning, of which he has given
a graphic account in "The Blithedale Romance."

At first he liked his work at the Farm. The novelty of it proved
attractive to him. On May 3 he wrote a letter to his sister Louisa,
which reflects the practical nature of his new surroundings; and it
must be confessed that this is a refreshing change from the sublunary
considerations at his Boston boarding-house. He has already "learned to
plant potatoes, to milk cows, and to cut straw and hay for the cattle,
and does various other mighty works." He has gained strength
wonderfully, and can do a day's work without the slightest
inconvenience; wears a tremendous pair of cowhide boots. He goes to bed
at nine, and gets up at half-past four to sound the rising-horn,--much
too early for a socialistic paradise, where human nature is supposed to
find a pleasant as well as a salutary existence. George Ripley would
seem to be driving the wedge in by the larger end. Hawthorne is
delighted with the topographical aspect, and writes:

"This is one of the most beautiful places I ever saw in my life, and as
secluded as if it were a hundred miles from any city or village. There
are woods, in which we can ramble all day without meeting anybody or
scarcely seeing a house. Our house stands apart from the main road, so
that we are not troubled even with passengers looking at us. Once in a
while we have a transcendental visitor, such as Mr. Alcott; but
generally we pass whole days without seeing a single face save those of
the brethren. The whole fraternity eat together; and such a delectable
way of life has never been seen on earth since the days of the early
Christians." [Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 228.]

From Louisa Hawthorne's reply, it may be surmised that his family did
not altogether approve of the Brook Farm venture, perhaps because it
withdrew him from his own home at a time when they had looked with fond
expectation for his return; and here we have a glimpse into the
beautiful soul of this younger sister, otherwise so little known to us.
Elizabeth is skeptical of its ultimate success, but Louisa is fearful
that he may work too hard and wants him to take good care of himself.
She is delighted with the miniature of him, which they have lately
received: "It has one advantage over the original,--I can make it go
with me where I choose!"

Louisa wrote another warm and beautiful letter on June 11, recalling
the days when they used to go fishing together on Lake Sebago, and

"Elizabeth Cleveland says she saw Mr. George Bradford in Lowell last
winter, and he told her he was going to be associated with you; but
they say his mind misgave him terribly when the time came for him to go
to Roxbury, and whether to make such a desperate step or not he could
not tell." [Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 232.]

George P. Bradford was the masculine complement to Elizabeth Peabody--
flitting across the paths of Emerson and Hawthorne throughout their
lives. His name appears continually in the biographies of that time,
but future generations would never know the sort of man he was, but for
Louisa's amiable commentary. He appeared at Brook Farm a few days
later, and became one of George Ripley's strongest and most faithful
adherents. He is the historian of the West Roxbury community, and late
in life the editor of the _Century_ asked him to write a special
account of it for that periodical. Bradford did so, and received one
hundred dollars in return for his manuscript; but it never was
published, presumably because it was too original for the editor's

Is it possible that Hawthorne put on a good face for this letter to his
sister, in order to keep up appearances; or was it like the common
experience of music and drawing teachers that the first lessons are the
best performed; or did he really have some disagreement with Ripley,
like that which he represents in "The Blithedale Romance"? The last is
the more probable, although we do not hear of it otherwise. Spring is
the least agreeable season for farming, with its muddy soil, its
dressing the ground, its weeds to be kept down and its insects to be
kept off. After the first week of June, the work becomes much
pleasanter; and the harvesting is delightful,--stacking the grain,
picking the fruit,--with the cheery wood fires, so restful to mind and
body. Yet we find on August 12 that Hawthorne had become thoroughly
disenchanted with his Arcadian life, although he admits that the labors
of the farm were not so pressing as they had been. Ten days later, he
refers to having spent the better part of a night with one of his co-
workers, "who was quite out of his wits" and left the community next
day. He then continues in his diary: [Footnote: American Notebook, ii.

"It is extremely doubtful whether Mr. Ripley will succeed in locating
his community on the farm. He can bring Mr. E---- to no terms, and the
more they talk about the matter, the further they appear to be from a
settlement. We must form other plans for ourselves; for I can see few
or no signs that Providence purposes to give us a home here. I am
weary, weary, thrice weary, of waiting so many ages. Whatever may be my
gifts, I have not hitherto shown a single one that may avail to gather

Here are already three disaffected personages, desirous of escaping
from an earthly paradise. Mr. Ripley has by no means an easy row to
hoe. Yet he keeps on ploughing steadily through his difficulties, as he
did through the soil of his meadows. In September we find Hawthorne at
Salem, and on the third he writes: [Footnote: American Notebook, ii.

"But really I should judge it to be twenty years since I left Brook
Farm; and I take this to be one proof that my life there was unnatural
and unsuitable, and therefore an unreal one. It already looks like a
dream behind me. The real Me was never an associate of the community:
there has been a spectral appearance there, sounding the horn at
daybreak, and milking the cows, and hoeing potatoes, and raking hay,
toiling in the sun, and doing me the honor to assume my name. But this
spectre was not myself."

This idea of himself as a spectre seems to have accompanied him much in
the way that the daemon did Socrates, and to have served in a similar
manner as a warning to him. He left Brook Farm almost exactly as he
describes himself doing, in "The Blithedale Romance," and he returned
again on the twenty-second, but the brilliant woodland carnival which
he describes, both in his "Note-book" and in "The Blithedale Romance,"
did not take place there until September 28. It was a masquerade in
which Margaret Fuller and Emerson appeared as invited guests, and held
a meeting of the Transcendental club "_sub tegmine fagi_." As
Hawthorne remarks, "Much conversation followed,"--in which he evidently
found little to interest him. Margaret Fuller also made a present of a
heifer to the live-stock of the Farm, of whose unruly gambols Hawthorne
seems to have taken more particular notice. He would seem in fact to
have attributed the same characteristics to the animal and its owner.

Having more time at his own disposal, he now attempted to write another
volume of history for Peter Parley's library, but, although this was
rather a childish affair, he found himself unequal to it. "I have not,"
he said, "the sense of perfect seclusion here, which has always been
essential to my power of producing anything. It is true, nobody
intrudes into my room; but still I cannot be quiet. Nothing here is
settled; and my mind will not be abstracted." During the whole of
October he went on long woodland walks, sometimes alone and at others
with a single companion. He tried, like Emerson, courting Nature in her
solitudes, and made the acquaintance of her denizens as if he were the
original Adam taking an account of his animal kingdom. He picks up a
terrapin, the _Emys picta_, which attempts to hide itself from
him in a stone wall, and carries it considerately to a pond of water;
but there is not much to be found in the woods, and one can travel a
whole day in the forest primeval without coming across anything better
than a few squirrels and small birds. In fact, two young sportsmen once
rode on horseback with their guns from the Missouri River to the
Pacific Ocean without meeting any larger game than prairie-chickens.

It was all in vain. Hawthorne's nature was not like Emerson's, and what
stimulated the latter mentally made comparatively little impression on
the former. Hawthorne found, then as always, that in order to practice
his art, he must devote himself to it, wholly and completely, leaving
side issues to go astern. In order to create an ideal world of his own,
he was obliged to separate himself from all existing conditions, as
Beethoven did when composing his symphonies. Composition for Hawthorne
meant a severe mental strain. Those sentences, pellucid as a mountain
spring, were not clarified without an effort. The faculty on which
Hawthorne depended for this, as every artist does, was his imagination,
and imagination is as easily disturbed as the electric needle. There is
no fine art without sensitiveness. We see it in the portrait of
Leonardo da Vinci, a man who could bend horseshoes in his hands; and
Bismarck, who was also an artist in his way, confessed to the same
mental disturbance from noise and general conversation, which Hawthorne
felt at Brook Farm. It was the mental sensitiveness of Carlyle and
Bismarck which caused their insomnia, and much other suffering besides.

George Ripley published an essay in the _Dial_, in which he
heralded Fourier as the great man who was destined to regenerate
society; but Fourier has passed away, and society continues in its old
course. What he left out of his calculations, or perhaps did not
understand, was the principle of population. If food and raiment were
as common as air and water, mankind would double its numbers every
twelve or fifteen years, and the tendency to do so produces a pressure
on poor human nature, which is almost like the scourge of a whip,
driving it into all kinds of ways and means in order to obtain
sufficient sustenance. Most notable among the methods thus employed is,
and always has been, the division of labor, and it will be readily seen
that a community like Brook Farm, where skilled labor, properly
speaking, was unknown, and all men were all things by turns, could
never sustain so large a population relatively as a community where a
strict division of industries existed. If a nation like France, for
instance, where the population is nearly stationary, were to adopt
Fourier's plan of social organization, it would prove a more severe
restriction on human life than the wars of Napoleon. This is the reason
why the attempt to plant a colony of Englishmen in Tennessee failed so
badly. There was a kind of division of labor among them, but it was
purely a local and a foreign division and not adapted to the region
about them. Ripley's method of allowing work to be counted by the hour
instead of by the day or half-day, was of itself sufficient to prevent
the enterprise from being a financial success. Farming everywhere
except on the Western prairies requires the closest thrift and economy,
and all hands have to work hard.

Neither could such an experiment prove a success from a moral point of
view. Emerson said of it: "The women did not object so much to a common
table as they did to a common nursery." In truth one might expect that
a common nursery would finally result in a free fight. The tendency of
all such institutions would be to destroy the sanctity of family life;
and it would also include a tendency to the deterioration of manliness.
One of the professed objects of the Brook Farm association was, to
escape from the evils of the great world,--from the trickery of trade,
the pedantry of colleges, the flunkyism of office, and the arrogant
pretensions of wealth. Every honest man must feel a sympathy with this;
there are times when we all feel that the struggle of life is an
unequal conflict, from which it would be a permanent blessing to
escape; yet he who turns his back upon it, is like a soldier who runs
away from the battle-field. It is the conflict with evil in the great
world, and in ourselves, that constitutes virtue and develops
character. It is _good_ to learn the trickery of knaves and to
expose it, to contend against pedantry and set a better example, to
administer offices with a modest impartiality, and to treat the gilded
fool with a dignified contempt. But if the wings of the archangel are
torn and soiled in his conflict with sin, does it not add to the honor
of the victory? The man who left his wife and children, because he
found that he could not live with them without occasionally losing his
temper, committed a grievous wrong; and it is equally true that
hypocrisy, the meanest of vices, may sometimes become a virtue.

George P. Bradford, and a few others, enjoyed the life at Brook Farm,
and would have liked to remain there longer. John S. Dwight, the
translator of Goethe's and Schiller's ballads, [Footnote: One of the
most musical translations in any language.] said in his old age that if
he were a young man, he would be only too glad to return there; and it
is undeniable that such a place is suited to a certain class of
persons, both men and women. It cannot be repeated too often, however,
that the true object of life is not happiness, but development. It is
our special business on this planet, to improve the human race as our
progenitors improved it, and developed it out of we know not what. By
doing this, we also improve ourselves and happiness comes to us
incidentally; but if we pursue happiness directly, we soon become
pleasure-seekers, and, like Faust, join company with Mephistopheles.
Happiness comes to a philosopher, perhaps while he is picking berries;
to a judge, watching the approach of a thunder-storm; to a merchant,
teaching his boy to skate. It came to Napoleon listening to a prayer-
bell, and to Hawthorne playing games with his children. [Footnote:
Perhaps also in his kindliness to the terrapin.] Happiness flies when
we seek it, and steals upon us unawares.

George P. Bradford's account of Brook Farm in the "Memorial History of
Boston" [Footnote: Vol. iv. 330.] is not so satisfactory as it might
have been if he had given more specific details in regard to its
management. The general supposition has been that there was an annual
deficit in the accounts of the association, which could only be met by
Mr. Ripley himself, who ultimately lost the larger portion of his
investment. It is difficult to imagine how such an experiment could end
otherwise, and the final conflagration of the principal building, or
"The Hive," as it was called, served as a fitting consummation of the
whole enterprise,--a truly dramatic climax. George Ripley went to New
York to become literary editor of the _Tribune_, and was as
distinguished there for the excellence of his reviews, and the elegance
of his turnout in Central Park as he had been for the use of the spade
and pitchfork at West Roxbury.

Mr. Bradford returned to the instruction of young ladies in French and
Latin; and John S. Dwight became one of the civilizing forces of his
time, by editing the Boston _Journal of Music_. None of them were
the worse for their agrarian experiment.

Even if the West Roxbury _commune_ had proved a success for two or
three generations, it would not have sufficed for a test of Fourier's
theory for it would have been a republic within a republic, protected
by the laws and government of the United States, without being
subjected to the inconvenience of its own political machinery. The only
fair trial for such a system would be to introduce it in some tract of
country especially set apart and made independent for the purpose; but
the chances are ten to one that a community organized in this manner
would soon be driven into the same process of formation that other
colonies have passed through under similar conditions. The true
socialism is the present organization of society, and although it might
be improved in detail, to revolutionize it would be dangerous. Yet the
interest that has been aroused at various times by discussions of the
Brook Farm project, shows how strong the undercurrent is setting
against the present order of things; and this is my chief excuse for
making such a long digression on the subject.

During these last months of his bachelorhood, Hawthorne appears to us
somewhat in the light of a hibernating bear; for we hear nothing of him
at that season at all. Between the last of October, 1841, and July,
1842, there are a large number of odd fancies, themes for romances, and
the like, published from his diary, but no entries of a personal
character. We hear incidentally that he was at Brook Farm during a
portion of the spring, which is not surprising in view of the fact that
Doctor Nathaniel Peabody had removed from Salem to Boston in the mean
time. One conclusion Hawthorne had evidently arrived at during the
winter months, and it was that his engagement to Miss Sophia Peabody
ought to be terminated in the way all such affairs should be; viz., by
matrimony. Their prospects in life were not brilliant, but it was
difficult to foresee any advantage in waiting longer, and there were
decided disadvantages in doing so. It was accordingly agreed that they
should be married at, or near, the summer solstice, the most suitable
of all times for weddings--or engagements. On June 20, he wrote to his
_fiancée_ from Salem, reminding her that within ten days they were
to become man and wife, and added this significant reflection: "Nothing
can part us now; for God himself hath ordained that we shall be one. So
nothing remains but to reconcile yourself to your destiny. Year by year
we shall grow closer to each other; and a thousand years hence, we
shall be only in the honeymoon of our marriage."

Yet we find him writing again the tenderest and most graceful of love-
letters on June 30. [Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 241.] The wedding has
evidently been postponed; but two days later he is in Boston, and finds
a pleasant recreation watching the boys sail their toy boats on the
Frog Pond. The ceremony finally was performed on July 9, and it was
only the day previous that Hawthorne wrote the following letter, which
is dated from 54 Pinckney Street:


"Though personally a stranger to you, I am about to request of you the
greatest favor which I can receive from any man. I am to be married to
Miss Sophia Peabody to-morrow, and it is our mutual desire that you
should perform the ceremony. Unless it should be decidedly a rainy day,
a carriage will call for you at half-past eleven o'clock in the

"Very respectfully yours,

"Chestnut St."

George S. Hillard lived on Pinckney Street, and Hawthorne may have been
visiting him at the moment. The Peabodys attended service at Mr.
Clarke's church in Indiana Place, where Hawthorne may also have gone
with them. He could not have made a more judicious choice; but,
singularly enough, although Mr. Clarke became Elizabeth Peabody's life-
long friend, and even went to Concord to lecture, he and Hawthorne
never met again after this occasion.

The ceremony was performed at the house of Sophia Peabody's father, No.
13 West Street, a building of which not one stone now rests upon
another. It was a quiet family wedding (such as oftenest leads to
future happiness), and most deeply impressive to those concerned in it.
What must it have been to Hawthorne, who had known so much loneliness,
and had waited so long for the comfort and sympathy which only a
devoted wife can give?

Time has drawn a veil over Hawthorne's honeymoon, but exactly four
weeks after the wedding, we find him and his wife installed in the
house at Concord, owned by the descendants of Reverend Dr. Ripley. It
will be remembered that Hawthorne had invested his only thousand
dollars in the West Roxbury Utopia, whence it was no longer possible to
recover it. He had, however, an unsubstantial Utopian sort of claim for
it, against the Association, which he placed in the hands of George S.
Hillard, and subsequent negotiation would seem to have resulted in
giving Hawthorne a lease of the Ripley house, or "Old Manse," in return
for it. It was already classic ground, for Emerson had occupied the
house for a time and had written his first book there; and thither
Hawthorne went to locate himself, determined to try once more if he
could earn his living by his pen.




The Ripley house dates back to the times of Captain Daniel Hathorne, or
even before him, and at Concord Fight the British left wing must have
extended close to it. Old and unpainted as it is, it gives a distinct
impression of refinement and good taste. Alone, I believe, among the
Concord houses of former times, it is set back far enough from the
country-road to have an avenue leading to it, lined with balm of Gilead
trees, and guarded at the entrance by two tall granite posts somewhat
like obelisks. On the further side of the house, Dr. Ripley had planted
an apple orchard, which included some rare varieties, especially the
blue pearmain, a dark-red autumn apple with a purple bloom upon it like
the bloom upon the rye. A high rounded hill on the northeast partially
shelters the house from the storms in that direction; and on the
opposite side the river sweeps by in a magnificent curve, with broad
meadows and rugged hills, leading up to the pale-blue outline of Mount
Wachusett on the western horizon. The Musketequid or Concord River has
not been praised too highly. Its clear, gently flowing current,
margined by bulrushes and grassy banks, produces an effect of mental
peacefulness, very different from the rushing turbulent waters and
rocky banks of Maine and New Hampshire rivers. From whatever point you
approach the Old Manse, it becomes the central object in a charming
country scene, and it does not require the peculiar effect of
mouldering walls to make it picturesque. It has stood there long, and
may it long remain.

There was formerly an Indian encampment on the same ground,--a well-
chosen position both strategically and for its southern exposure. Old
Mrs. Ripley had a large collection of stone arrow-heads, corn-mortars,
and other relics of the aborigines, which she used to show to the young
people who came to call on her grandchildren; and there were among them
pieces of a dark-bluish porphyry which she said was not to be found in
Massachusetts, but must have been brought from northern New England.
There was no reason why they should not have been. The Indians could go
from Concord in their canoes to the White Mountains or the Maine lakes,
and shoot the deer that came down to drink from the banks of the river;
but the deer disappeared before the advance of the American farmer, and
the Indians went with them. Now a grandson of Madam Ripley, in the
bronze likeness of a minuteman of 1775, stands sentinel at "The Old
North Bridge."

Hawthorne ascended the hill opposite his house and wrote of the view
from it:

"The scenery of Concord, as I beheld it from the summit of the hill,
has no very marked characteristics, but has a great deal of quiet
beauty, in keeping with the river. There are broad and peaceful
meadows, which, I think, are among the most satisfying objects in
natural scenery. The heart reposes on them with a feeling that few
things else can give, because almost all other objects are abrupt and
clearly defined; but a meadow stretches out like a small infinity, yet
with a secure homeliness which we do not find either in an expanse of
water or air."

The great cranberry meadows below the north bridge are sometimes a
wonderful place in winter, when the river overflows its banks and they
become a broad sheet of ice extending for miles. There one can have a
little skating, an exercise of which Hawthorne was always fond.

It was now, and not at Brook Farm, that he found his true Arcadia, and
we have his wife's testimony that for the first eighteen months or more
at the Old Manse, they were supremely happy. Every morning after
breakfast he donned the blue frock, which he had worn at West Roxbury,
and went to the woodshed to saw and split wood for the daily
consumption. After that he ascended to his study in the second story,
where he wrote and pondered until dinner-time. It appears also that he
sometimes assisted in washing the dishes--like a helpful mate. After
dinner he usually walked to the post-office and to a reading-room in
the centre of the town, where he looked over the Boston _Post_ for
half an hour. Later in the afternoon, he went rowing or fishing on the
river, but his wife does not seem to have accompanied him in these
excursions, for Judge Keyes, who often met him in his boat, does not
mention seeing her with him. In the evenings he read Shakespeare with
Mrs. Hawthorne, commencing with the first volume, and going straight
through to the end, "Titus Andronicus" and all,--and this must have
occupied them a large portion of the winter. How can a man fail to be
happy in such a mode of life!

Hawthorne also went swimming in the river when the weather suited--
rather exceptional in Concord for a middle-aged gentleman; but there
were two very attractive bathing places near the Old Manse, one, a
little above on the opposite side of the river, and the other,
afterwards known as Simmons's Landing, where there was a row of tall
elms a short distance below the bridge. It is probable that Hawthorne
frequented the latter place, as being more remote from human
habitations. He did not take to his gun again, although he could see
the wild ducks in autumn, flying past his house. There were grouse and
quail in the woods, and woodcock were to be found along the brook which
ran through Emerson's pasture; but perhaps Hawthorne had become too
tenderhearted for field-sports.

If Boston is the hub of the universe, Concord might be considered as
the linchpin which holds it on. Its population was originally derived
from Boston, and it must be admitted that it retains more Bostonian
peculiarities than most other New England towns. It does not assimilate
readily to the outside world. Nor is it surprising that few local
visitors called upon the Hawthornes at the Old Manse. Emerson, always
hospitable and public-spirited, went to call on them at once; and John
Keyes, also a liberal-minded man, introduced Hawthorne at the reading-
club. Margaret Fuller came and left a book for Hawthorne to read, which
may have annoyed him more than anything she could have said. Elizabeth
Hoar, a woman of exalted character, to whose judgment Emerson sometimes
applied for a criticism of his verses, also came sometimes; but the Old
Manse was nearly a mile away from Emerson's house, and also from what
might be called the "court end" of the town. Hawthorne's nearest
neighbor was a milk-farmer named George L. Prescott, afterward Colonel
of the Thirty-second Massachusetts Volunteers. He not only brought them
milk, but also occasionally a bouquet culled out of his own fine
nature, as a tribute to genius. A slightly educated man, he was
nevertheless one of Nature's gentlemen, and his death in Grant's
advance on Richmond was a universal cause of mourning at a time when so
many brave lives were lost.

Hawthorne, as usual, was on the lookout for ghosts, and there could not
have been a more suitable abode for those airy nothings, than the Old
Manse. Mysterious sounds were heard in it repeatedly, especially in the
nighttime, when the change of temperature produces a kind of settlement
in the affairs of old woodwork. Under date of August 8 he writes in his

"We have seen no apparitions as yet,--but we hear strange noises,
especially in the kitchen, and last night, while sitting in the parlor,
we heard a thumping and pounding as of somebody at work in my study.
Nay, if I mistake not (for I was half asleep), there was a sound as of
some person crumpling paper in his hand in our very bedchamber. This
must have been old Dr. Ripley with one of his sermons."

Evidently he would have preferred seeing a ghost to receiving an
honorary degree from Bowdoin College, and if the shade of Doctor Ripley
had appeared to him in a dissolving light, like the Röntgen rays,
Hawthorne would certainly have welcomed him as a kindred spirit and
have expressed his pleasure at the manifestation.

Another idiosyncrasy of his, which seems like the idiom in a language,
was his total indifference to distinguished persons, simply as such. It
was not that he considered all men on a level, for no one recognized
more clearly the profound inequalities of human nature; but he was
quite as likely to take an interest in a store clerk as in a famous
writer. It is not necessary to suppose that a man is a parasite of fame
because he goes to a President's reception, or wishes to meet a
celebrated English lecturer. It is natural that we should desire to
know how such people appear--their expression, their tone of voice,
their general behavior; but Hawthorne did not care for this. At the
time of which we write, Doctor Samuel G. Howe, the hero of Greek
independence and the mental liberator of Laura Bridgman, was a more
famous man than Emerson or Longfellow. He came to Concord with his
brilliant wife, and they called at the Old Manse, where Mrs. Hawthorne
received them very cordially, but they saw nothing of her husband,
except a dark figure gliding through the entry with his hat over his
eyes. One can only explain this by one of those fits of exceeding
bashfulness that sometimes overtake supersensitive natures. School-
girls just budding into womanhood often behave in a similar manner; and
they are no more to be censured for it than Hawthorne,--to whom it may
have caused moments of poignant self-reproach in his daily reflections.
But Doctor Howe was the man of all men whom Hawthorne ought to have
known, and half an hour's conversation might have made them friends for

George William Curtis was a remarkably brilliant young man, and gave
even better promise for the future than he afterwards fulfilled,--as
the editor of a weekly newspaper. He was at Brook Farm with Hawthorne,
and afterward followed him to Concord, but is only referred to by
Hawthorne once, and then in the briefest manner. Neither has Hawthorne
much to say of Emerson; but Thoreau and Ellery Channing evidently
attracted his attention, for he refers to them repeatedly in his diary,
and he has left the one life-like portrait of Thoreau--better than a
photograph--that now exists. He surveys them both in rather a critical
manner, and takes note that Thoreau is the more substantial and
original of the two; and he is also rather sceptical as to Channing's
poetry, which Emerson valued at a high rate; yet he narrowly missed
making a friend of Channing, with whom he afterward corresponded in a
desultory way.

We should not have known of Hawthorne's skating at Concord, but for
Mrs. Hawthorne's "Memoirs," from which we learn that he frequently
skated on the overflowed meadows, where the Lowell railway station now
stands. She writes: "Wrapped in his cloak, he moved like a self-
impelled Greek statue, stately and grave." This is the manner in which
we should imagine Hawthorne to have skated; but all others were a foil
to her husband in the eyes of his wife. [Footnote: "Memories of
Hawthorne," 52.] He was evidently a fine skater, gliding over the ice
in long sweeping curves. Emerson was also a dignified skater, but with
a shorter stroke, and stopping occasionally to take breath, or look
about him, as he did in his lectures. Thoreau came sometimes and
performed rare glacial exploits, interesting to watch, but rather in
the line of the professional acrobat. What a transfiguration of
Hawthorne, to think of him skating alone amid the reflections of a
brilliant winter sunset!

When winter came Emerson arranged a course of evening receptions at his
house for the intellectual people of Concord, with apples and
gingerbread for refreshments. Curtis attended these, and has told us
how Hawthorne always sat apart with an expression on his face like a
distant thunder-cloud, saying little, and not only listening to but
watching the others. Curtis noticed a certain external and internal
resemblance in him to Webster, who was at times a thunderous-looking
person--denoting, I suppose, the electric concentration in his
cranium. Emerson also watched Hawthorne, and the whole company felt his
silent presence, and missed him greatly once or twice when he failed to
come. Miss Elizabeth Hoar said:

"The people about Emerson, Channing, Thoreau and the rest, echo his
manner so much that it is a relief to him to meet a man like Hawthorne,
on whom his own personality makes no impression." Neither did Mrs.
Emerson echo her husband.

The greater a man is, intellectually, the more distinct his difference
from a general type and also from other men of genius. No two
personalities could be more unlike than Hawthorne and Emerson.

It would seem to be part of the irony of Fate that they should have
lived on the same street, and, have been obliged to meet and speak with
each other. One was like sunshine, the other shadow. Emerson was
transparent, and wished to be so; he had nothing to conceal from friend
or enemy. Hawthorne was simply impenetrable. Emerson was cordial and
moderately sympathetic. Hawthorne was reserved, but his sympathies were
as profound as the human soul itself. To study human nature as
Hawthorne and Shakespeare did, and to make models of their
acquaintances for works of fiction, Emerson would have considered a
sin; while the evolution of sin and its effect on character was the
principal study of Hawthorne's life. One was an optimist, and the other
what is sometimes unjustly called a pessimist; that is, one who looks
facts in the face and sees people as they are.

[Footnote: "Sketches from Concord and Appledore."]

While Emerson's mind was essentially analytic, Hawthorne's was
synthetic, and, as Conway says, he did not receive the world into his
intellect, but into his heart, or soul, where it was mirrored in a
magical completeness. The notion that the artist requires merely an
observing eye is a superficial delusion. Observation is worth little
without reflection, and everything depends on the manner in which the
observer deals with his facts. Emerson looked at life in order to
penetrate it; Hawthorne, in order to comprehend it, and assimilate it
to his own nature. The one talked heroism and the other lived it. Not
but that Emerson's life was a stoical one, but Hawthorne's was still
more so, and only his wife and children knew what a heart there was in

The world will never know what these two great men thought of one
another. Hawthorne has left some fragmentary sentences concerning
Emerson, such as, "that everlasting rejecter of all that is, and seeker
for he knows not what," and "Emerson the mystic, stretching his hand
out of cloud-land in vain search for something real;" but he likes
Emerson's ingenuous way of interrogating people, "as if every man had
something to give him." However, he makes no attempt at a general
estimate; although this expression should also be remembered:
"Clergymen, whose creed had become like an iron band about their brows,
came to Emerson to obtain relief,"--a sincere recognition of his
spiritual influence.

Several witnesses have testified that Emerson had no high opinion of
Hawthorne's writing,--that he preferred Reade's "Christie Johnstone" to
"The Scarlet Letter," but Emerson never manifested much interest in
art, simply for its own sake. Like Bismarck, whom he also resembled in
his enormous self-confidence, he cared little for anything that had not
a practical value. He read Shakespeare and Goethe, not so much for the
poetry as for the "fine thoughts" he found in them. George Bradford
stated more than once that Emerson showed little interest in the
pictorial art; and after walking through the sculpture-gallery of the
Vatican, he remarked that the statues seemed to him like toys. His
essay on Michel Angelo is little more than a catalogue of great
achievements; he recognizes the moral impressiveness of the man, but
not the value of his sublime conceptions. Music, neither he nor
Hawthorne cared for, for it belongs to emotional natures.

In his "Society and Solitude" Emerson has drawn a picture of Hawthorne
as the lover of a hermitical life; a picture only representing that
side of his character, and developed after Emerson's fashion to an
artistic extreme. "Whilst he suffered at being seen where he was, he
consoled himself with the delicious thought of the inconceivable number
of places where he was not," and "He had a remorse running to despair,
of his social _gaucheries_, and walked miles and miles to get the
twitching out of his face, the starts and shrugs out of his shoulders."

[Footnote: "Society and Solitude," 4, 5.]

There is a touch of arrogance in this, and it merely marks the
difference between the modest author of the "Essays," and the proud,
censorious Emerson of 1870; but his love of absolute statements
ofttimes led him into strange contradictions, and the injustice which


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