The Life and Genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Frank Preston Stearns

Part 3 out of 6

results from judging our fellow-mortals by an inflexible standard was
the final outcome of his optimism. Hawthorne was more charitable when
he remarked that without Byron's faults we should not have had his
virtues; but the truth lies between the two.

There have been many instances of genius as sensitive as Hawthorne's in
various branches of art: Shelley and Southey, Schubert and Chopin,
Correggio and Corot. Southey not only blushed red but blushed blue--as
if the life were going out of him; and in Chopin and Correggio at least
we feel that they could not have been what they were without it.
Napoleon, whose nerves were like steel wires, suffered nevertheless
from a peculiar kind of physical sensitiveness. He could not take
medicines like other men,--a small dose had a terrible effect on him,--
and it was much the same with respect to changes of food, climate, and
the like.

What Hawthorne required was sympathetic company. Do not we all require
it? The hypercritical morality of the Emersonians, especially in
Concord, could not have been favorable to his mental ease and comfort.
How could a man in a happily married condition feel anything but
repugnance to Thoreau's idea of marriage as a necessary evil; or
Alcott's theory that eating animal food tended directly to the
commission of crime?

On the first anniversary of Hawthorne's wedding, a tragical drama was
enacted in Concord, in which he was called upon to perform a
subordinate part. One Miss Hunt, a school-teacher and the daughter of a
Concord farmer, drowned herself in the river nearly opposite the place
where Hawthorne was accustomed to bathe. The cause of her suicide has
never been adequately explained, but as she was a transcendentalist, or
considered herself so, there were those who believed that in some
occult way that was the occasion of it. However, as one of her sisters
afterward followed her example, it would seem more likely to have come
from the development of some family trait. She was seen walking upon
the bank for a long time, before she took the final plunge; but the
catastrophe was not discovered until near evening.

Ellery Channing came with a man named Buttrick to borrow Hawthorne's
boat for the search, and Hawthorne went with them. As it happened, they
were the ones who found the corpse, and Hawthorne's account in his
diary of its recovery is a terribly accurate description,--softened
down and poetized in the rewritten statement of "The Blithedale
Romance." There is in fact no description of a death in Homer or
Shakespeare so appalling as this literal transcript of the veritable

[Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 300.]

What concerns us here, however, are the comments he set down on the
dolorous event. Concerning her appearance, he says:

"If she could have foreseen while she stood, at five o'clock that
morning on the bank of the river, how her maiden corpse would have
looked eighteen hours afterwards, and how coarse men would strive with
hand and foot to reduce it to a decent aspect, and all in vain,--it
would surely have saved her from the deed."

And again:

"I suppose one friend would have saved her; but she died for want of
sympathy--a severe penalty for having cultivated and refined herself
out of the sphere of her natural connections."

The first remark has often been misunderstood. It is not the vanity of
women, which is after all only a reflection (or the reflective
consequence) of the admiration of man, which Hawthorne intends, but
that delicacy of feeling which Nature requires of woman for her own
protection; and he may not have been far wrong in supposing that if
Miss Hunt had foreseen the exact consequences of her fatal act she
would not have committed it. Hawthorne's remark that her death was a
consequence of having refined and cultivated herself beyond the reach
of her relatives, seems a rather hard judgment. The latter often
happens in American life, and although it commonly results in more or
less family discord, are we to condemn it for that reason? If she died
as Hawthorne imagines, from the lack of intellectual sympathy, we may
well inquire if there was no one in Concord who might have given aid
and encouragement to this young aspiring soul.

"Take her up tenderly;
Lift her with care,
Fashioned so slenderly,
Young and so fair."

And one is also tempted to add:

"Alas! for the rarity
Of Christian charity."

Hawthorne's earthly paradise only endured until the autumn of 1843.
When cool weather arrived, want and care came also. On November 26 he
wrote to George S. Hillard:

"I wish at some leisure moment you would give yourself the trouble to
call into Munroe's book-store and inquire about the state of my 'Twice-
told Tales.' At the last accounts (now about a year since) the sales
had not been enough to pay expenses; but it may be otherwise now--else
I shall be forced to consider myself a writer for posterity; or at all
events not for the present generation. Surely the book was puffed
enough to meet with a sale."

[Footnote: London AthenŠum, August 10, 1889.]

The interpretation of this is that Longfellow, Hillard and Bridge could
appreciate Hawthorne's art, but the solid men of Boston (with some rare
exceptions) could not. Even Webster preferred the grotesque art of
Dickens to Hawthorne's "wells of English undefiled." Recently, one of
the few surviving original copies of "Fanshawe" was sold at auction for
six hundred dollars. Such is the difference between genius and

The trouble then and now is that wealthy Americans as a class feel no
genuine interest in art or literature. They do not form a true
aristocracy, but a plutocracy, and are for the most part very poorly
educated. It was formerly the brag of the Winthrops and Otises that
they could go through college and learn their lessons in the
recitation-room. Now they go to row, and play foot-ball, and after they
graduate, they leave the best portion of their lives behind them. Then
if they have a talent for business they become absorbed in commercial
affairs; or if not, they travel from one country to another, picking up
a smattering of everything, but not resting long enough in any one
place for their impressions to develop and bear good fruit. They are
not like the aristocratic classes of England, France and Germany, who
become cultivated men and women, and serve to maintain a high standard
of art and literature in those countries.

The captain of a Cunard steamship, who owned quite a library, said in
1869: "I have bought some very interesting books in New York,
especially by a writer named Hawthorne, but the type and paper are so
poor that they are not worth binding." The reason why American
publishers do not bring out books in such good form as foreign
publishers--is that there is no demand for a first-rate article. Thus
do the fine arts languish. When rich young Americans take as much
interest in painting and sculpture as they do in foot-ball and
yachting, we shall have our Vandycks and Murillos,--if nothing better.

Discouraged with the ill success of "Fanshawe," Hawthorne had limited
himself since then to the writing of short sketches, such as would be
acceptable to the magazine editors, and now that he had formed this
habit, he found it difficult to escape from it. He informs us in the
preface to "Mosses from an Old Manse" that he had hoped a more serious
and extended plot would come to him on the banks of Concord River, but
his imagination did not prove equal to the occasion. Most of the
stories in "Mosses" must have been composed at Concord, but "Mrs. Bull-
Frog'" and "Monsieur du Miroir" must have been written previously, for
he refers to them in a letter at Brook Farm. A few were published in
the _Democratic Review_, and others may have been elsewhere; but
the proceeds he derived from them would not have supported a day-
laborer, and toward the close of his second year at the Manse,
Hawthorne found himself running in debt for the necessaries of life. He
endured this with his usual stoical reticence, although there is
nothing like debt to sicken a man's heart,--unless he be a decidedly
light-minded man. Better fortune, however, was on its way to him in the
shape of a political revolution.

On March 3, 1844, a daughter was born to the Hawthornes, whom they
named Una, in spite of Hillard's objection that the name was too poetic
or too fanciful for the prosaic practicalities of real life. The name
was an excellent one for a poet's daughter, and did not seem out of
place in Arcadian Concord. Miss Una grew up into a graceful, fair and
poetic young lady,--in all respects worthy of her name. She had an
uncommonly fine figure, and, as often happens with first-born children,
resembled her father much more than her mother. Her name also suggests
the early influence of Spenser in her father's style and mode of

Soon after this fortunate event Hawthorne wrote a letter to Hillard, in
which he said:

"I find it a very sober and serious kind of happiness that springs from
the birth of a child. It ought not come too early in a man's life--not
till he has fully enjoyed his youth--for methinks the spirit can never
be thoroughly gay and careless again, after this great event. We gain
infinitely by the exchange; but we do give up something nevertheless.
As for myself who have been a trifler preposterously long, I find it
necessary to come out of my cloud-region, and allow myself to be woven
into the sombre texture of humanity."

It seems then that his conscience sometimes reproached him, but this
only proves that his moral nature was in a healthy normal condition.
There was a certain kind of indolence in him, a love of the _dolce
far niente_, and an inclination to general inactivity which he may
have inherited from his seafaring ancestors. Much better so, than to
suffer from the nervous restlessness, which is the rule rather than the
exception in New England life.

In the same letter he mentions having forwarded a story to _Graham's
Magazine_, which was accepted but not yet published after many
months. He also anticipates an amelioration of his affairs from a
Democratic victory in the fall elections.

Meanwhile, Horatio Bridge had been traversing the high seas in the
"Cyane," which was finally detailed to watch for slavers and to protect
American commerce on the African coast. He had kept a journal of his
various experiences and observations, which he sent to Hawthorne with a
rather diffident interrogation as to whether it might be worth
publishing. Hawthorne was decidedly of the opinion that it ought to be
published,--in which we cordially agree with him,--and was well pleased
to edit it for his friend; and, although it has now shared the fate of
most of the books of its class, it is excellent reading for those who
chance to find a copy of it. Bridge was a good observer, and a candid

The election of 1844 was the most momentous that had yet taken place in
American history. It decided the annexation of Texas, and the
acquisition of California, with a coast-line on the Pacific Ocean
nearly equal to that on the Atlantic; but it also brought with it an
unjust war of greed and spoliation, and other evil consequences of
which we are only now begining to reach the end. The slaveholders and
the Democratic leaders desired Texas in order to perpetuate their
control of the government, and it was precisely through this measure
that they lost it,--as happens so often in human affairs. It was the
gold discoveries in California that upset their calculations.
California would _not_ come into the Union as a slave state.
Enraged at this failure, the Southern politicians made a desperate
attempt to recover lost ground, by seizing on the fertile prairies in
the Northwest; but there they came into conflict with the industrial
classes of the North, who fought them on their own ground and abolished
slavery. Never had public injustice been followed by so swift and
terrible a retribution.

In regard to the candidates of 1844, it was hardly possible to compare
them. Polk possessed the ability to preside over the House of
Representatives, but he did not rise above this; while Clay could be
fairly compared on some points with Washington himself, and united with
this a persuasive eloquence second only to Webster's. He was
practically defeated by fifteen or twenty thousand abolitionists who
preferred to throw away their votes rather than to cast them for a

Hawthorne, in the quiet seclusion of his country home, did not realize
this danger to the Republic. He only knew that his friends were
victorious, and was happy in the expectation of escaping from his
debts, and of providing more favorably for his little family.



There is no evidence in the Hawthorne documents or publications to show
exactly when the first edition of "Mosses from an Old Manse" made its
appearance, and copies of it are now exceedingly rare, but we find the
Hawthorne family in Salem reading the book in the autumn of 1845, so
that it was probably brought out at that time and helped to maintain
its author during his last days at Concord.

There must have been some magical influence in the Old Manse or in its
surrounding scenery, to have stimulated both Emerson's and Hawthorne's
love of Nature to such a degree. Emerson's eye dilates as he looks upon
the sunshine gilding the trunks of the balm of Gilead trees on his
avenue; and Hawthorne dwells with equal delight on the luxuriant squash
vines which spread over his vegetable garden. Discoursing on this he

"Speaking of summer squashes, I must say a word of their beautiful and
varied forms. They presented an endless diversity of urns and vases,
shallow or deep, scalloped or plain, molded in patterns which a
sculptor would do well to copy, since art has never invented anything
more graceful."

And again:

"A cabbage, too--especially the early Dutch cabbage, which swells to a
monstrous circumference, until its ambitious heart often bursts
asunder--is a matter to be proud of when we can claim a share with the
earth and sky in producing it."

It would seem as if no one before Hawthorne had rightly observed these
common vegetables, whose external appearance is always before our eyes.
He not only humanizes whatever attracts his attention, but he looks
through a refining medium of his own personality. He has the gift of
Midas to bring back the Golden Age for us. Who besides Homer has been
able to describe a chariot-race, and who but Hawthorne could extract
such poetry from a farmer's garden?

If we compare this introductory chapter with such earlier sketches as
"The Vision at the Fountain" and "The Toll-Gatherer's Day," we
recognize the progress that Hawthorne has made since the first volume
of "Twice Told Tales." We are no longer reminded of the plain unpainted
house on Lake Sebago. His style is not only more graceful, but has
acquired greater fulness of expression, and he is evidently working in
a deeper and richer vein of thought. Purity of expression is still his
polar star, and his writing is nowhere overloaded, but it has a warmer
tone, a deeper perspective, and an atmospheric quality which painters
call _chi-aroscuro_. He charms with pleasing fancies, while he
penetrates to the soul.

Hawthorne rarely repeats himself in details, and never in designs. Two
of Dickens's most interesting novels, "Oliver Twist" and "David
Copperfield," are constructed on the same theme, but each of the
studies in this collection has a distinct individuality which appeals
to the reader after a fashion of its own. Each has its moral, or rather
central, idea to which all its component parts are related, and teaches
a lesson of its own, so unobtrusively that we become possessed of it
almost unawares. Some are intensely, even tragically, serious; others
so light and airy that they seem as if woven out of gossamer.

There are a few, however, that do not harmonize with the general tone
and character of the rest,--especially "Mrs. Bull-Frog," which
Hawthorne himself confessed to having been an experiment, and which
strangely enough is much more in the style of his son Julian. "Monsieur
du Miroir" and "Sketches from Memory" are relics of his earlier
writings; perhaps also "Feather-Top" and "The Procession of Life." It
would have been better perhaps if "Young Goodman Brown" had been used
to light a fire at the Old Manse.

"Monsieur du Miroir" is chiefly interesting as an example of
Hawthorne's faculty for elaborating the most simple subject until every
possible phase of it has been exhausted. It may also throw some light
scientifically on the origin of consciousness. We see ourselves
reflected not only in the mirror, but on the blade of a knife, or a
puddle in the road; and, if we look sharply enough, in the eyes of
other men--even in the expression of their faces. In such manner does
Nature force upon us a recognition of our various personalities--the
nucleus of self-knowledge, and self-respect.

Whittier once spoke of "Young Goodman Brown" as indicating a mental
peculiarity in Hawthorne, which like the cuttle-fish rarely rises to
the surface. The plot is cynical, and largely enigmatical. The very
name of it (in the way Hawthorne develops the story) is a fearful
satire on human nature. He may have intended this for an exposure of
the inconsistency, and consequent hypocrisy, of Puritanism; but the
name of Goodman Brown's wife is Faith, and this suggests that Brown may
have been himself intended for an incarnation of _doubt_, or
_disbelief_ carried to a logical extreme. Whatever may have been
Hawthorne's design, the effect is decidedly unpleasant.

Emerson talked in proverbs, and Hawthorne in parables. The finest
sketches in this collection are parables. "The Birth Mark,"
"Rappacini's Daughter," "A Select Party," "Egotism," and "The Artist of
the Beautiful." "The Celestial Railroad" is an allegory, a variation on
"Pilgrim's Progress."

"The Birth Mark" and "Rappacini's Daughter" are like divergent lines,
which originate at an single point; and that point is the radical
viciousness of trying experiments on human beings. It is bad enough,
although excusable, to vivisect dogs and rabbits; but why should we
attempt the same course of procedure with those that are nearest and
dearest to us? Such parables were not required in the time of Tiberius
CŠsar and men and women grew up in a natural, vigorous manner; but now
we have become so scientific that we continually attempt to improve on
Nature,--like the artist who left the rainbow out of his picture of
Niagara because its colors did not harmonize with the background.

The line of divergence in "The Birth Mark" is indicated by its name. We
all have our birth-marks,--traits of character, which may be
temporarily suppressed, or relegated to the background, but which
cannot be eradicated and are certain to reappear at unguarded moments,
or on exceptional occasions. Education and culture can do much to
soften and temper the disposition, but the original material remains
the same. The father who attempts to force his son into a mode of life
for which Nature did not intend him, or the mother who quarrels with
her daughter's friends, commits an error similar to that of Hawthorne's
alchemist, who endeavors to remove the birthmark from the otherwise
beautiful face of his wife, but only succeeds in effecting this
together with her death. The tragical termination of the alchemist's
experiments, the pathetic yielding up of life by his sweet "Clytie," is
described with an impressive tenderness. She sinks to her last sleep
without a murmur of reproach.

"Rappacini's Daughter" might serve as a protest against bringing up
children in an exceptional and abnormal manner. I once knew an
excellent lady, who, with the best possible intentions, brought up her
daughter to be different from all other girls. As a consequence, she
_was_ different,--could not assimilate herself to others. She had
no admirers, or young friends of her own sex, for there were few points
of contact between herself and general society. Her mother was her only
friend. She aged rapidly and died early. Similarly, a boy brought up in
a secluded condition of purity and ignorance, finally developed into
one of the most vicious of men.

Hawthorne has prefigured this by a bright colored flower which sparkles
like a gem, very attractive at a distance, but exhaling a deadly
perfume. He may not have been aware that the opium poppy has so
brilliant a flower that it can be seen at a distance from which all
other flowers are invisible. The scene of his story is placed in
Italy,--the land of beauty, but also the country of poisoners.
Rappacini, an old botanist and necromancer, has trained up his daughter
in the solitary companionship of this flower, from which she has
acquired its peculiar properties. A handsome young student is induced
to enter the garden, partly from curiosity and partly through the
legerdemain of Rappacini. The student soon falls under the daughter's
influence and finds himself being gradually poisoned. A watchful
apothecary, who has penetrated the necromancer's secret, provides the
young man with an antidote which saves him, but deprives the maiden of
life. She crosses the barrier which separated her from a healthy
existence, and the poison reacts upon her system and kills her. The old
apothecary looks out from his window, and cries, "O Rappacini! Is this
the consummation of your experiment?"

The underlying agreement between this story and "The Birth Mark"
becomes apparent when we observe that the termination of one is simply
a variation upon the last scene of the other. In one instance a
beautiful daughter is sacrificed by her father, and in the other a
lovely wife is victimized by her husband. There have been thousands, if
not millions, of such cases.

There is no other writer but Shakespeare who has portrayed the absolute
devotion of a woman's love with such delicacy of feeling and depth of
sympathy as Hawthorne. In the two stories we have just considered, and
also in "The Bosom Serpent," this element serves, like the refrain of a
Greek chorus, to give a sweet, penetrating undertone which reconciles
us to much that would otherwise seem intolerable. The heroines in these
pieces have such a close spiritual relationship that one suspects them
of having been studied from the same model, and who could this have
been so likely as Hawthorne's own wife. [Footnote: Notice also the
similar character of Sophia in J. Hawthorne's "Bressant."]

The theme of "The Bosom Serpent" is a husband's jealousy; and it is the
self-forgetful devotion of his wife that finally cures his malady and
relieves him of his unpleasant companion. The tale ends with one of
those mystifying passages which Hawthorne weaves so skilfully, so that
it is difficult to determine from the text whether there was a real
serpent secreted under the man's clothing, or only an imaginary one,--
although we presume the latter. Francis of Verulam says, "the best
fortune for a husband is for his wife to consider him wise, which she
will never do if she find him jealous"; and with good reason, for if he
is unreasonably jealous, it shows a lack of confidence in her; but
mutal confidence is the well-spring from which love flows, and if the
well dries up, there is an end of it.

"The Select Party" is quite a relief, after this tragical trilogy. It
is easy to believe that Hawthorne imagined this dream of a summer
evening, while watching the great cumulus clouds, tinted with rose and
lavender like aerial snow-mountains, floating toward the horizon. Here
were true castles in the air, which he could people with shapes
according to his fancy; but he chose the most common abstract
conceptions, such as, the Clerk of the Weather, the Beau Ideal, Mr. So-
they-say, the Coming Man, and other ubiquitous personages, whom we
continually hear of, but never see. The Man of Fancy invites these and
many others to a banquet in his cloud-castle, where they all converse
and behave according to their special characters. A ripple of delicate
humor, like the ripple made by a light summer breeze upon the calm
surface of a lake, runs through the piece from the first sentence to
the last; and the scene is brought to a close by the approach of a
thunder-storm, which spreads consternation among these unsubstantial
guests, much like that which takes place at a picnic under similar
circumstances; and Hawthorne, with his customary mystification, leaves
us in doubt as to whether they ever reached _terra firma_ again.

There is one proverbial character, however, whom Hawthorne has omitted
from this account; namely, Mr. Everybody. "What Everybody says, must be
true;" but unfortunately Everybody's information is none of the best,
and his judgment does not rise above his information. His self-
confidence, however, is enormous. He understands law better than the
lawyer, and medicine better than the physicians. He is never tired of
settling the affairs of the country, and of proposing constitutional
amendments. Is it not perfectly natural that Everybody should
understand Everybody's business as well as or better than his own? He
is continually predicting future events, and if they fail to take place
he predicts them again. He is omnipresent, but if you seek him he is
nowhere to be found,--which we may presume to be the reason why he did
not appear at the entertainment given by the Man of Fancy.

That which gives the elevated character to Raphael's faces--as in the
"Sistine Madonna" and other paintings--is not their drawing, though
that is always refined, but the expression of the eyes, which are truly
the windows of the soul. It was the same in Hawthorne's face, and may
be observed in all good portraits of him. An immutable calmness
overspread his features, but in and about his eyes there was a spring-
like mirthfulness; while down in the shadowy depth of those luminous
orbs was concealed the pathos that formed the undercurrent of his life.
So it is that high comedy, as Plato long ago observed, lies very close
to tragedy.

A well-known French writer compares English humor, in a general way, to
beer-drinking, and this is more particularly applicable to Dickens's
characters. The very name of Mark Tapley suggests ale bottles.
Thackeray's humor is of a more refined quality, but a trifle sharp and
satirical. It is, however, pure and healthful and might be compared to
Rhine-wine. Hawthorne's humor at its best is more refined than
Thackeray's, as well as of a more amiable quality, and reminds one (on
Taine's principle) of those delicate Italian wines which have very
little body, but a delightful bouquet. As a humorist, however,
Hawthorne varies in different times and places more than in any other
respect. He adapts himself to his subject; is light and playful in "The
Select Party"; takes on a more serious vein in "The Celestial
Railroad"; in his resuscitation of Byron, in the letter from a lunatic
called "P's Correspondence" he is simply sardonic; and "The Virtuoso's
Collection" has all the effect, although he does not anywhere descend
to low comedy, of a roaring farce. In "Mrs. Bull-Frog," as the title
intimates, he approaches closely to the grotesque.

In "The Virtuoso's Collection" we have the humor of impossibility.
Nothing is more common than this, but Hawthorne gives it a peculiar
value of his own. A procession of mythological objects, strange
historical relics, and the odd creations of fiction passes before our
eyes. The abruptness of their juxtaposition excites continuous laughter
in us. It would be an extremely phlegmatic person who could read it
with a serious face. Don Quixote's Rosinante, Doctor Johnson's cat,
Shelley's skylark, a live phťnix, Prospero's magic wand, the hard-
ridden Pegasus, the dove which brought the olive branch, and many
others appear in such rapid succession that the reader has no time to
take breath, or to consider what will turn up next. Like an
accomplished showman, Hawthorne enlivens the performance here and there
with original reflections on life, which are perfectly dignified, but
become humorous from contrast with their surroundings. In spite of its
comical effect, the piece has a very genteel air, for its material is
taken from that general stock of information that passes current in
cultivated families. The young man of fashion who had never heard of
Elijah, or of Poe's "Raven," would not have understood it.

In "The Hall of Fantasy," we catch some glimpses of Hawthorne's
favorite authors:

"The grand old countenance of Homer, the shrunken and decrepit form,
but vivid face, of Ăsop, the dark presence of Dante, the wild Ariosto,
Rabelais's smile of deep-wrought mirth, the profound, pathetic humor of
Cervantes, the all glorious Shakespeare, Spenser, meet guest for an
allegoric structure, the severe divinity of Milton and Bunyan, molded
of the homeliest clay, but instinct with celestial fire--were those
that chiefly attracted my eye. Fielding, Richardson, and Scott occupied
conspicuous pedestals."

He also adds Goethe and Swedenborg, and remarks of them:

"Were ever two men of transcendent imagination more unlike?"

It is evident that Byron was not a favorite with Hawthorne. In addition
to his severe treatment of that poet, in "P's Correspondence," he says
in "Earth's Holocaust," where he imagines the works of various authors
to be consumed in a bonfire:

"Speaking of the properties of flame, me-thought Shelley's poetry
emitted a purer light than almost any other productions of his day,
contrasting beautifully with the fitful and lurid gleams and gushes of
black vapor that flashed and eddied from the volumes of Lord Byron."

This seems like rather puritanical treatment. If there are false lines
in Byron, there are quite as many weak lines in Shelley. If sincerity
were to give out a pure flame, Byron would stand that test equal to
any. His real fault is to be found in his somewhat glaring diction,
like the _voix blanc_ in singing, and in an occasional stroke of
_persiflage_. This increases his attractiveness to youthful minds,
but to a nature like Hawthorne's anything of an exhibitory character
must always be unpleasant.

Emerson and Hawthorne only knew Goethe through the translations of
Dwight, Carlyle and Margaret Fuller, and yet his poetry made a deeper
impression on them than on Lowell and Longfellow, who read it in the
original. Hawthorne appears to have taken lessons in German while at
Brook Farm, for we find him studying a German book at the Old Manse,
with a grammar and lexicon; but, as he confesses in his diary, without
making satisfactory progress.

"The Artist of the Beautiful" is a Dantean allegory, and a poetic gem.
A young watchmaker, imbued with a spirit above his calling, neglects
the profits of his business in order to construct an artificial
butterfly,--at once the type of useless beauty and the symbol of
immortality, and he perseveres in spite of the difficulties of the
undertaking and the contemptuous opposition of his acquaintances. He
finally succeeds in making one which seems to be almost endowed with
life, but only to be informed that it is no better than a toy, and that
he has wasted his time on a thing which has no practical value. A child
(who represents the thoughtlessness of the great world) crushes the
exquisite piece of workmanship in his little hand; but the watch-maker
does not repine at this, for he realizes that after having achieved the
beautiful, in his own spirit, the outward symbol of it has
comparatively little value. The Artist of the Beautiful is Hawthorne
himself; and in this exquisite fable he has not only unfolded the
secret of all high art, but his own life-secret as well.


The French and English scepticism of the eighteenth century, produced a
reaction in the more contemplative German nature, which took the form
of a strong assertion of spirit or mind as an entity in itself, and
distinct from matter. This movement was more like a national impulse
than the proselytism of a sect, but the individual in whom this
spiritual impulse of the German people manifested itself at that time
was Immanuel Kant. Without discrediting the revelations of Hebrew
tradition, he taught the doctrine that instead of looking for evidence
of a Supreme Being in the external world, we should seek him in our own
hearts; that every man could find a revelation in his own conscience,--
in the consciousness of good and evil, by which man improves his
condition on earth; that the ideas of a Supreme Being, or of
immortality and freedom of will, are inherent in the human mind, and
are not to be acquired from experience; but that, as the finite mind
cannot comprehend the infinite, we cannot know God in the same sense
that we know our own earthly fathers, or as Goethe afterwards expressed

"Who can say I know Him;
Who can say, I know Him not;"

and that it is in this aspiration for the unattainable, in this
reverence for absolute purity, wisdom and love, that the spirit of true
religion consists.

The new philosophy was named "Transcendentalism" by Kant's followers,
because it included ideas which were beyond the range of experience. It
became popular in Germany, as Platonism, to which it is closely
related, became popular in ancient Greece. It has never been accepted
in France, where scepticism still predominates, though we hear of it in
Taine and a few other writers; but in Great Britain, although the
English universities repudiated it, Transcendentalism became so
influential that Gladstone has spoken of it, in his Romanes lecture, as
the dominant philosophy of the nineteenth century. Every notable
English writer of that period, with the exception of Macaulay, Mill,
and Spencer, became largely imbued with it. In America its influence
did not extend much beyond New England, but in that section at least
its proselytes were numbered by thousands, and it effected an
intellectual revolution which has since influenced the whole country.

The Concord group of transcendentalists did not accept the teaching of
Kant in its original purity; but mixed with it a number of other
imported products, that in no way appertain to it. Thoreau was an
American _sansculotte_, a believer in the natural man; Ripley was
mainly a socialist; Margaret Fuller was one of the earliest leaders in
woman's rights; Alcott was a Neo-Platonist, a vegetarian, and a non-
resistant; while Emerson sympathized largely with Thoreau, and from his
poetic exaltation of Nature was looked upon as a pantheist by those who
were not accustomed to nice discriminations. Thus it happened that
Transcendentalism came to be associated in the public mind with any
exceptional mode or theory of life. Its best representatives in
America, like Professor Hedge of Harvard, Reverend David A. Wasson and
Doctor William T. Harris (so long Chief of the National Bureau of
Education), were much abler men than Emerson's followers, but did not
attract so much attention, simply because they lived according to the
customs of good society.

Sleepy Hollow, before it was converted into a cemetery, was one of the
most attractive sylvan resorts in the environs of Concord. It was a
sort of natural amphitheatre, a small oval plane, more than half
surrounded by a low wooded ridge; a sheltered and sequestered spot,
cool in summer, but also warm and sunny in spring, where the wild
flowers bloomed and the birds sang earlier than in other places.

There, on August 22, 1842, a notable meeting took place, between
Hawthorne, Emerson, and Margaret Fuller, who came that afternoon to
enjoy the inspiration of the place, without preconcerted agreement.
Margaret Fuller was first on the ground, and Hawthorne found her seated
on the hill-side--his gravestone now overlooks the spot--reading a book
with a peculiar name, which he "did not understand, and could not
afterward recollect." Such a description could only apply to Kant's
"Critique of Pure Reason," the original fountain-head and gospel of

It does not appear that Nathaniel Hawthorne ever studied "The Critique
of Pure Reason." His mind was wholly of the artistic order,--the most
perfect type of an artist, one might say, living at that time,--and a
scientific analysis of the mental faculties would have been as
distasteful to him as the dissection of a human body. History,
biography, fiction, did not appear to him as a logical chain of cause
and effect, but as a succession of pictures illustrating an ideal
determination of the human race. He could not even look at a group of
turkeys without seeing a dramatic situation in them. In addition to
this, as a true artist, he was possessed of a strong dislike for
everything eccentric and abnormal; he wished for symmetry in all
things, and above all in human actions; and those restless, unbalanced
spirits, who attached themselves to the transcendental movement and the
anti-slavery cause, were particularly objectionable to him. It has been
rightly affirmed that no revolutionary movement could be carried
through without the support of that ill-regulated class of persons who
are always seeking they know not what, and they have their value in the
community, like the rest of us; but Hawthorne was not a revolutionary
character, and to his mind they appeared like so many obstacles to the
peaceable enjoyment of life. His motto was, "Live and let live." There
are passages in his Concord diary in which he refers to the itinerant
transcendentalist in no very sympathetic manner.

His experience at Brook Farm may have helped to deepen this feeling.
There is no necessary connection between such an idyllic-socialistic
experiment and a belief in the direct perception of a great First
Clause; but Brook Farm was popularly supposed at that time to be an
emanation of Transcendentalism, and is still largely so considered. He
was wearied at Brook Farm by the philosophical discussions of George
Ripley and his friends, and took to walking in the country lanes, where
he could contemplate and philosophize in his own fashion,--which after
all proved to be more fruitful than theirs. Having exchanged his
interest in the West Roxbury Association for the Old Manse at Concord
(truly a poetic bargain), he wrote the most keenly humorous of his
shorter sketches, his "The Celestial Railroad," and in it represented
the dismal cavern where Bunyan located the two great enemies of true
religion, the Pope and the Pagan, as now occupied by a German giant,
the Transcendentalist, who "makes it his business to seize upon honest
travellers and fat them for his table with plentiful meals of smoke,
mist, moonshine, raw potatoes, and sawdust."

That Transcendentalism was largely associated in Hawthorne's mind with
the unnecessary discomforts and hardships of his West Roxbury life is
evident from a remark which he lets fall in "The Virtuoso's
Collection." The Virtuoso calls his attention to the seven-league boots
of childhood mythology, and Hawthorne replies, "I could show you quite
as curious a pair of cowhide boots at the transcendental community of
Brook Farm." Yet there could have been no malice in his satire, for
Mrs. Hawthorne's two sisters, Mrs. Mann and Miss Peabody, were both
transcendentalists; and so was Horace Mann himself, so far as we know
definitely in regard to his metaphysical creed. Do not we all feel at
times that the search for abstract truth is like a diet of sawdust or
Scotch mist,--a "chimera buzzing in a vacuum"?

James Russell Lowell similarly attacked Emerson in his Class Day poem,
and afterward became converted to Emerson's views through the influence
of Maria White. It is possible that a similar change took place in
Hawthorne's consciousness; although his consciousness was so profound
and his nature so reticent that what happened in the depths of it was
never indicated by more than a few bubbles at the surface. He was
emphatically an idealist, as every truly great artist must be, and
Transcendentalism was the local costume which ideality wore in
Hawthorne's time. He was a philosopher after a way of his own, and his
reflections on life and manners often have the highest value. It was
inevitable that he should feel and assimilate something from the wave
of German thought which was sweeping over England and America, and if
he did this unconsciously it was so much the better for the quality of
his art.

There are evidences of this even among his earliest sketches. In his
account of "Sunday at Home" he says: "Time--where a man lives not--what
is it but Eternity?" Does he not recognize in this condensed statement
Kant's theorem that time is a mental condition, which only exists in
man, and for man, and has no place in the external world? In fact, it
only exists by divisions of time, and it is _man_ who makes the
divisions. The rising of the sun does not constitute time; for the sun
is always rising--somewhere. The positivists and Herbert Spencer deny
this, and argue to prove that time is an external entity--independent
of man--like electricity; but Hawthorne did not agree with them. He
evidently trusted the validity of his consciousness. In that exquisite
pastoral, "The Vision at the Fountain," he says:

"We were aware of each other's presence, not by sight or sound or
touch, but by an inward consciousness. Would it not be so among the

You have probably heard of the German who attempted to evolve a camel
out of his inner consciousness. That and similar jibes are common among
those persons of whom the Scriptures tell us that they are in the habit
of straining at gnats; but Hawthorne believed consciousness to be a
trustworthy guide. Why should he not? It was the consciousness of
_self_ that raised man above the level of the brute. This was the
rock from which Moses struck forth the fountain of everlasting life.

Again, in "Fancy's Show-Box" we meet with the following:

"Or, while none but crimes perpetrated are cognizable before an earthly
tribunal, will guilty thoughts,--of which guilty deeds are no more than
shadows,--will these draw down the full weight of a condemning sentence
in the supreme court of eternity?"

Is this not an induction from or corollary to the preceding? If it is
not Kantian philosophy, it is certainly Goethean. Margaret Fuller was
the first American critic, if not the first of all critics, to point
out that Goethe in writing "Elective Affinities" designed to show that
an evil thought may have consequences as serious and irremediable as an
evil action--in addition to the well-known homily that evil thoughts
lead to evil actions. In his "Hall of Fantasy" Hawthorne mentions
Goethe and Swedenborg as two literary idols of the present time who may
be expected to endure through all time. Emerson makes the same
prediction in one of his poems.

In "Rappacini's Daughter" Hawthorne says: "There is something truer and
more real than what we can see with the eyes and touch with the

And in "The Select Party" he remarks: "To such beholders it was unreal
because they lacked the imaginative faith. Had they been worthy to pass
within its portals, they would have recognized the truth that the
dominions which the spirit conquers for itself among unrealities become
a thousand times more real than the earth whereon they stamp their
feet, saying, 'This is solid and substantial! This may be called a

The essence of Transcendentalism is the assertion of the
indestructibility of spirit, that mind is more real than matter, and
the unseen than the seen. "The visible has value only," says Carlyle,
"when it is based on the invisible." No writer of the nineteenth
century affirms this more persistently than Hawthorne, and in none of
his romances is the principle so conspicuous as in "The House of the
Seven Gables." It is a sister's love which, like a cord stronger than
steel, binds together the various incidents of the story, while the
avaricious Judge Pyncheon, "with his landed estate, public honors,
offices of trust and other solid _un_realities," has after all
only succeeded in building a card castle for himself, which may be
dissipated by a single breath. Holgrave, the daguerreotypist, who
serves as a contrast to the factitious judge, is a genuine character,
and may stand for a type of the young New England liberal of 1850: a
freethinker, and so much of a transcendentalist that we suspect
Hawthorne's model for him to have been one of the younger associates of
the Brook Farm experiment. He is evidently studied from life, and
Hawthorne says of him:

"Altogether, in his culture and want of culture, in his crude, wild,
and misty philosophy, and the practical experience that counteracted
some of its tendencies; in his magnanimous zeal for man's welfare, and
his recklessness of whatever the ages had established in man's behalf;
in his faith, and in his infidelity; in what he had, and in what he
lacked, the artist might fitly enough stand forth as the representative
of many compeers in his native land."

This is a fairly sympathetic portrait, and it largely represents the
class of young men who went to hear Emerson and supported Charles
Sumner. In the story, Holgrave achieves the reward of a veracious
nature by winning the heart of the purest and loveliest young woman in
American fiction.

If Hawthorne were still living he might object to the foregoing
argument as a misrepresentation; nor could he be blamed for this, for
Ripley, Thoreau, Alcott and other like visionary spirits have so
vitiated the significance of Transcendentalism that it ought now to be
classed among words of doubtful and uncertain meaning.

Students of German philosophy are now chiefly known as Kantists or
Hegelians, and outside of the universities they are commonly classed as



In May, 1845, Paymaster Bridge found himself again on the American
coast. Meeting with Franklin Pierce in Boston, they agreed to go to
Concord together, and look into Hawthorne's affairs. Soon after
breakfast, Mrs. Hawthorne espied them coming through the gateway. She
had never met Pierce, but she recognized Bridge's tall, elegant figure,
when he waved his hat to her in the distance. Hawthorne himself was
sawing and splitting in the wood-shed, and thither she directed his
friends--to his no slight astonishment when they appeared before him.
Pierce had his arm across Hawthorne's broad shoulders when they
reappeared. There is one pleasure, indeed, which young people cannot
know, and that is, the meeting of old friends. Mrs. Hawthorne was
favorably impressed with Franklin Pierce's personality; while Horatio
Bridge danced about and acted an impromptu pantomime, making up faces
like an owl. They assured Hawthorne that something should be done to
relieve his financial embarrassment.[Footnote: J. Hawthorne, 281.]

All those whose attention Hawthorne attracted out of the rush and hurry
of the world were sure to become interested in his welfare. O'Sullivan,
the editor of the _Democratic Review_, had already exerted himself
in Hawthorne's behalf; but President Polk evidently did not know who
Hawthorne was, so that O'Sullivan was obliged to have a puff inserted
in his review for the President's better information. George Bancroft
was now in the Cabinet, and could easily have obtained a lucrative post
for Hawthorne, but it is plain that Bancroft was not over-friendly to
him and that Hawthorne was fully aware of this. Hawthorne had suggested
the Salem postmastership, but when O'Sullivan mentioned this, Bancroft
objected on the ground that the present incumbent was too good a man to
be displaced, and proposed the consulates of Genoa and Marseilles, two
deplorable positions and quite out of the question for Hawthorne, in
the condition of his family at that time. Perhaps it would have been
better for him in a material sense, if he had accepted the invitation
to dine with Margaret Fuller.

The summer wore away, but nothing was acomplished; and late in the
autumn Hawthorne left the Old Manse to return to his Uncle Robert
Manning's house in Salem, where he could always count on a warm
welcome. There he spent the winter with his wife and child, until
suddenly, in March, 1846, he was appointed Surveyor of the Port, or, as
it is now more properly called, Collector of Customs.

This was, in truth, worth waiting for. The salary was not large, but it
was a dignified position and allowed Hawthorne sufficient leisure for
other pursuits,--the leisure of the merchant or banker. Salem had
already begun to lose its foreign trade, and for days together it
sometimes happened that there was nothing to do. Hawthorne's chief
business was to prevent the government from being cheated, either by
the importers or by his own subordinates; and it required a pretty
sharp eye to do this. All the appointments, even to his own clerks,
were made by outside politicians, and when a reduction of employees was
necessary, Hawthorne consulted with the local Democratic Committee, and
followed their advice. Such a method was not to the advantage of the
public service, but it saved Hawthorne from an annoying responsibility.
His strictness and impartiality, however, soon brought him into
conflict with his more self-important subordinates, who were by no
means accustomed to exactness in their dealings, and this finally
produced a good deal of official unpleasantness; and the unfavorable
reports which were afterward circulated concerning Hawthorne's life
during this period, probably originated in that quarter.


All the poetry that Hawthorne could extract from his occupation at the
Custom House is to be found in his preface to "The Scarlet Letter," but
he withholds from us the prosaic side of it,--as he well might. At
times he comes close to caricature, especially in his descriptions of
"those venerable incumbents who hibernated during the winter season,
and then crawled out during the warm days of spring to draw their pay
and perform those pretended duties, for which they were engaged." There
were formerly large numbers of moss-grown loafers in the government
service, with whiskey-reddened noses and greasy old clothing, who would
sun themselves on the door-steps, and tell anecdotes of General
Jackson, Senator Benton, and other popular heroes, with whom they would
intimate a good acquaintance at some remote period of their lives. If
removed from office, they were quite as likely to turn up in a
neighboring jail as in any other location. This is no satire, but
serious truth; and instances of it can be given.

Hawthorne's life during the next three years was essentially domestic.
In June, 1846, his son Julian was born--a remarkably vigorous baby--at
Doctor Peabody's house in West Street, Boston; Mrs. Hawthorne wisely
preferring to be with her own mother during her confinement. [Footnote:
At the age of thirty-five, Julian resembled his father so closely that
Nathaniel Hawthorne's old friends were sometimes startled by him, as if
they had seen an apparition. He was, however, of a stouter build, and
his eyes were different.] With two small children on her hands, Mrs.
Hawthorne had slight opportunity to enjoy general society, fashionable
or otherwise. Rebecca Manning says, however:

"Neither Hawthorne nor his wife could be said to be 'in society' in the
technical sense. When the Peabody family lived in Salem, they were, I
have been told, somewhat straitened pecuniarily. After Hawthorne's
marriage, I think I remember hearing of his wife going to parties and
dinners occasionally. Dr. Loring's wife was her cousin. Other friends
were the Misses Howes, one of whom is now Mrs. Cabot of Boston. Mrs.
Foote, who was a daughter of Judge White, was a friend, and I remember
some Silsbees who were also her friends. Hawthorne's wife knew how to
cultivate her friends and make the most of them far better than either
Hawthorne or his sisters did. I have been told that when Hawthorne was
a young man, before his marriage, if he had chosen to enter Salem's
'first circle' he would have been welcome there."

During this last sojourn in his native city Hawthorne was chosen on the
committee for the lyceum lecture course, and proved instrumental in
bringing Webster to Salem,--where he had not been popular since the
trial of the two Knapps,--to deliver an oration on the Constitution; of
which Mrs. Hawthorne has given a graphic description in a letter to her
mother on November 19, 1848:

"The old Lion walked the stage with a sort of repressed rage, when he
referred to those persons who cried out, 'Down with the Constitution!'
'Madmen! Or most wicked if not mad!' said he with a glare of fire."

A pure piece of acting. The national Constitution was not even
endangered by the Southern rebellion,--much less by the small band of
original abolitionists; and Webster was too sensible not to be aware of

While Hawthorne was at the Salem Custom House, he made at least two
valuable friends: Doctor George B. Loring, who had married a cousin of
Mrs. Hawthorne, and William B. Pike, who occupied a subordinate
position in the Custom House, but whom Hawthorne valued for moral and
intellectual qualities of which he would seem to have been the first
discoverer. They were not friends who would be likely to affect
Hawthorne's political views, except to encourage him in the direction
to which he had always tended. Four years earlier, Doctor Loring had
been on cordial terms with Longfellow and Sumner, being a refined and
intellectual sort of man, but like Hillard, had withdrawn from them on
account of political differences. He was an able public speaker, and
became a Democratic politician, until 1862, when he went over to the
Republicans; but after that he was looked upon with a good deal of
suspicion by both parties. The governorship was supposed to have been
the object of his ambition, but he never could obtain the nomination.
Late in life he was appointed Commissioner of Agriculture, a post for
which he was eminently fitted, and finally went to Portugal as United
States Minister.

William B. Pike either lacked the opportunity or the necessary
concentration to develop his genius in the larger world, but Hawthorne
continued to communicate with him irregularly until the close of his
life. He invited him to Lenox when he resided there, and Mrs. Lathrop
recollects seeing him at the Wayside in Concord, after Hawthorne's
return from Europe. She discribes him as a "short, sturdy, phlegmatic
and plebeian looking man," but with a gentle step and a finely
modulated voice. It may have been as well for him that he never became
distinguished. [Footnote: Mrs. Lathrop, "Memories of Hawthorne," 154.]

The war with Mexico was now fairly afield, and Franklin Pierce, who
left the United States Senate on account of his wife's health, was
organizing a regiment of New Hampshire volunteers, as a "patriotic
duty." Salem people thought differently, and party feeling there soon
rose to the boiling-point. There is no other community where political
excitement is so likely to become virulent as in a small city. In a
country town, like Concord, every man feels the necessity for
conciliating his neighbor, but the moneyed class in Salem was
sufficient for its own purposes, and was opposed to the war in a solid
body. The Whigs looked upon the invasion of Mexico as a piratical
attempt of the Democratic leaders to secure the permanent ascendency of
their party, and this was probably the true reason for Franklin
Pierce's joining it. In their eyes, Hawthorne was the representative of
a corrupt administration, and they would have been more than human if
they had not wished him to feel this. The Salem gentry could not draw
him into an argument very well, but they could look daggers at him on
the street and exhibit their coldness toward him when they went on
business to the Custom House. It is evident that he was made to suffer
in some such manner, and to a tenderhearted man with a clear
conscience, it must have seemed unkind and unjust. [Footnote: When the
engagement between the "Chesapeake" and the "Shannon" took place off
Salem harbor in August, 1813, and Captain Lawrence was killed in the
action, the anti-war sentiment ran so high that it was difficult to
find a respectable mansion where his funeral would be permitted.] In
his Custom House preface, Hawthorne compares the Whigs rather
unfavorably with the Democrats, and this is not to be wondered at; but
he should have remembered that it was his own party which first
introduced the spoils-of-office system.

The first use that Hawthorne made of his government salary was to
cancel his obligations to the Concord tradespeople, and the next was to
provide a home for his wife and mother. They first moved to 18 Chestnut
Street, in June, 1846; and thence to a larger house, 14 Mall Street, in
September, 1847, in which "The Snow Image" was prepared for
publication, and "The Scarlet Letter" was written. Hawthorne's study or
workshop was the front room in the third story, an apartment of some
width but with a ceiling in direct contradiction to the elevated
thoughts of the writer. There is an ominous silence in the American
Note-book between 1846 and 1850, which is rather increased than
diminished by the publication from his diary of a number of extracts
concerning the children. The babies of geniuses do not differ
essentially from those of other people, and it is not supposable that
Hawthorne's reflections during this period were wholly confined to his
own family. It is to be hoped that fuller information will yet be given
to the public concerning their affairs in Salem; for the truth deserves
to be told.

In January, 1846, Mrs. Hawthorne wrote to her mother:

"No one, I think, has a right to break the will of a child, but God;
and if the child is taught to submit to Him through love, all other
submission will follow with heavenly effect upon the character. God
never drives even the most desperate sinner, but only invites or
suggests through the events of His providence."

Nothing is more unfortunate than to break the will of a child, for all
manliness and womanliness is grounded in the will; but it is often
necessary to control the desires and humors of children for their self-
preservation. Hawthorne himself was not troubled with such fancies.
Alcott, who was his nearest neighbor at the Wayside, once remarked that
there was only one will in the Hawthorne family, and that was
Nathaniel's. His will was law and no one thought of disputing it. Yet
what he writes concerning children is always sweet, tender, and
beautiful, with the single exception of a criticism of his own
daughter, which was published long after his death and could not have
been intended for the public eye.

The war with Mexico was wonderfully successful from a military point of
view, but its political effects were equally confounding to the
politicians who projected it. The American people resemble the French,
quite as much perhaps as they do the English, and the admiration of
military glory is one of their Gallic traits. It happened that the two
highest positions in the army were both held by Whig generals, and the
victory of Buena Vista carried Zachary Taylor into the White House, in
spite of the opposition of Webster and Clay, as well as that of the
Democrats and the Free Soilers. Polk, Bancroft, and Pierce had all
contributed to the defeat of their own party. The war proved their
political terminus to the two former; but, _mirabile dictu_, it
became the cap of Fortunatus to Pierce and Hawthorne.

This, however, could not have been foreseen at the time, and the
election of Taylor in November, 1848, had a sufficiently chilling
effect on the little family in Mall Street. Hawthorne entertained the
hope that he might be spared in the general out-turning, as a
distinguished writer and an inoffensive partisan, and this indicates
how loath he was to relinquish his comfortable position. Let us place
ourselves in his situation and we shall not wonder at it. He was now
forty-five, with a wife and two children, and destitution was staring
him in the face. For ten years he had struggled bravely, and this was
the net result of all his endeavors. Never had the future looked so
gloomy to him.

The railroad had superseded his Uncle Manning's business, as it had
that of half the mercantile class in the city, and his father-in-law
was in a somewhat similar predicament. At this time Elizabeth Peabody
was keeping a small foreign book-store in a room of her father's house
on West Street. One has to realize these conditions, in order to
appreciate the mood in which Hawthorne's Custom House preface was

There is one passage in it, however, that is always likely to be
misunderstood. It is where he says:

"I thought my own prospects of retaining office, to be better than
those of my Democratic brethren; but who can see an inch into futurity,
beyond his nose? My own head was the first that fell!"

It is clear that some kind of an effort was made to prevent his
removal, presumably by George S. Hillard, who was a Whig in good favor;
but the conclusion which one would naturally draw from the above, that
Hawthorne was turned out of office in a summary and ungracious manner,
is not justified by the evidence. He was not relieved from duty until
June 14, 1849; that is, he was given a hundred days of grace, which is
much more than officeholders commonly are favored with, in such cases.
We may consider it morally certain that Hillard did what he could in
Hawthorne's behalf. He was well acquainted with Webster, but
unfortunately Webster had opposed the nomination of General Taylor, and
was so imprudent as to characterize it as a nomination not fit to be
made. This was echoed all over the country, and left Webster without
influence at Washington. For the time being Seward was everything, and
Webster was nothing.

In a letter to Horace Mann, shortly after his removal, Hawthorne refers
to two distinct calumnies which had been circulated concerning him in
Salem, and only too widely credited. The most important of these--for
it has seriously compromised a number of Salem gentlemen--was never
explained until the publication of Mrs. Lathrop's "Memories of
Hawthorne" in 1897; where we find a letter from Mrs. Hawthorne to her
mother, dated June 10, 1849, and containing the following passage:

"Here is a pretty business, discovered in an unexpected manner to Mr.
Hawthorne by a friendly and honorable Whig. Perhaps you know that the
President said before he took the chair that he should make no removals
except for dishonesty and unfaithfulness. It is very plain that neither
of these charges could be brought against Mr. Hawthorne. Therefore a
most base and incredible falsehood has been told--written down and
signed and sent to the Cabinet in secret. This infamous paper certifies
among other things (of which we have not heard)--that Mr. Hawthorne has
been in the habit of writing political articles in magazines and
newspapers!" So it appears that the gutta-percha formula [Footnote: By
which eighty-eight per cent, of the classified service were removed.]
of President Cleveland in regard to "offensive partisanship" was really
invented forty years before his time, and had as much value in one case
as in the other. It is possible that such a document as Mrs. Hawthorne
describes was circulated, signed, and sent to Washington, to make the
way easy for President Taylor's advisers, and if so it was a highly
contemptible proceeding; but the statement rests wholly on the
affirmation of a single witness, whose name has always been withheld,
and even if it were true that Hawthorne had written political articles
for Democratic papers the fact would have in no wise been injurious to
his reputation. The result must have been the same in any case. General
Taylor was an honorable man, and no doubt intended to keep his word, as
other Presidents have intended since; but what could even a brave
general effect against the army of hungry office-seekers who were
besieging the White House,--a more formidable army than the Mexicans
whom he had defeated at Buena Vista? In all probability he knew nothing
of Hawthorne and never heard of his case.

The second calumny which Hawthorne refers to was decidedly second-rate,
and closely resembles a servant's intrigue. The Department at
Washington, in a temporary fit of economy, had requested him to
discharge two of his supervisors. He did not like to take the men's
bread away from them, and made a mild protest against the order. At the
same time he consulted his chief clerk as to what it might be best to
do, and they agreed upon suspending two of the supervisors who might
suffer less from it than some others. As it happened, the Department
considered Hawthorne's report favorably, and no suspension took place;
but his clerk betrayed the secret to the two men concerned, who hated
Hawthorne in consequence, and afterward circulated a report that he had
threatened to discharge them unless they contributed to the Democratic
campaign fund. This return of evil for good appears to have been a new
experience for Hawthorne, but those who are much concerned in the
affairs of the world soon become accustomed to it, and pay little
attention to either the malice or the mendacity of mankind.

Twenty years later one of Hawthorne's clerks, who had prudently shifted
from the Democratic to the Republican ranks, held a small office in the
Boston Navy Yard, and was much given to bragging of his intimacy with
"Nat," and of the sprees they went on together; but the style and
description of the man were sufficient to discredit his statements
without further evidence. There were, however, several old shipmasters
in the Salem Custom House who had seen Calcutta, Canton, and even a
hurricane or two; men who had lived close to reality, with a vein of
true heroism in them, moreover; and if Hawthorne preferred their
conversation to that of the shipowners, who had spent their lives in
calculating the profits of commercial adventures, there are many among
the well educated who would agree with him. He refers particularly to
one aged inspector of imports, whose remarkable adventures by flood and
field were an almost daily recreation to him; and if the narratives of
this ancient mariner were somewhat mixed with romance, assuredly
Hawthorne should have been the last person to complain of them on that

At first he was wholly unnerved by his dismissal. He returned to Mall
Street and said to his wife: "I have lost my place. What shall we now
do for bread?" But Mrs. Hawthorne replied: "Never fear. You will now
have leisure to finish your novel. Meanwhile, I will earn bread for us
with my pencil and paint-brush." [Footnote: Mrs. George S. Hillard.]
Besides this, she brought forward two or three hundred dollars, which
she had saved from his salary unbeknown to him; but who would not have
been encouraged by such a brave wife? Fortunately her pencil and paint-
brush were not put to the test; at least so far as we know. Already on
June 8, her husband had written a long letter to Hillard, explaining
the state of his affairs and containing this pathetic appeal:

"If you could do anything in the way of procuring me some stated
literary employment, in connection with a newspaper, or as corrector of
the press to some printing establishment, etc., it could not come at a
better time. Perhaps Epes Sargent, who is a friend of mine, would know
of something. I shall not stand upon my dignity; that must take care of
itself. Perhaps there may be some subordinate office connected with the
Boston AthenŠum (Literary). Do not think anything too humble to be
mentioned to me." [Footnote: Conway, 113.]

There have been many tragical episodes in the history of literature,
but since "Paradise Lost" was sold for five pounds and a contingent
interest, there has been nothing more simply pathetic than this,--that
an immortal writer should feel obliged to apply for a subordinate
position in a counting-room, a description of work which nobody likes
too well, and which to Hawthorne would have been little less than a
death in life. "Do not think anything too humble to be mentioned to

What Hillard attempted to do at this time is uncertain, but he was not
the man to allow the shrine of genius to be converted into a gas-
burner, if he could possibly prevent it. We may presume that he went to
Salem and encouraged Hawthorne in his amiable, half-eloquent manner.
But we do not hear of him again until the new year. Meanwhile Madam
Hawthorne fell into her last illness and departed this life on July 31;
a solemn event even to a hard-hearted son--how much more to such a man
as she had brought into the world. Three days before her death, he
writes in his diary of "her heart beating its funeral march," and
diverts his mind from the awful _finale_ by an accurate description of
his two children playing a serio-comic game of doctor and patient, in the
adjoining room.

It was under such tragical conditions, well suited to the subject, that
he continued his work on "The Scarlet Letter," and his painfully
contracted brow seemed to indicate that he suffered as much in
imagination, as the characters in that romance are represented to have
suffered. In addition he wrote "The Great Stone Pace," one of the most
impressive of his shorter pieces (published, alas! in a Washington
newspaper), and the sketch called "Main Street," both afterward
included in the volume of "The Snow Image." On January 17, 1850, he was
greatly surprised to receive a letter from George S. Hillard with a
large check in it,--more than half-way to a thousand dollars,--which
the writer with all possible delicacy begged him to accept from a few
of his Boston admirers. It was only from such a good friend as Hillard
that Hawthorne would have accepted assistance in this form; but he
always considered it in the character of a loan, and afterward insisted
on repaying it to the original subscribers,--Professor Ticknor, Judge
Curtis, and others. Hillard also persuaded James T. Fields, the younger
partner of Ticknor & Company, to take an interest in Hawthorne as an
author who required to be encouraged, and perhaps coaxed a little, in
order to bring out the best that was in him. Fields accordingly went to
Salem soon afterward, and has given an account of his first interview
with Hawthorne in "Yesterdays with Authors," which seems rather
melodramatic: "found him cowering over a stove," and altogether in a
woe-begone condition. The main point of discussion between them,
however, was whether "The Scarlet Letter" should be published
separately or in conjunction with other subjects. Hawthorne feared that
such a serious plot, continued with so little diversity of motive,
would not be likely to produce a favorable impression unless it were
leavened with material of a different kind. Fields, on the contrary,
thought it better that the work should stand by itself, in solitary
grandeur, and feared that it would only be dwarfed by any additions of
a different kind. He predicted a good sale for the book, and succeeded
in disillusionizing Hawthorne from the notions he had acquired from the
failure of "Fanshawe."

As it was late in the season, Fields would not even wait for the
romance to be finished, but sent it to the press at once; and on
February 4, Hawthorne wrote to Horatio Bridge:

"I finished my book only yesterday; one end being in the press at
Boston, while the other was in my head here at Salem; so that, as you
see, the story is at least fourteen miles long."

The time of publication was a propitious one: the gold was flowing in
from California, and every man and woman had a dollar to spend. The
first edition of five thousand copies was taken up within a month, and
after this Hawthorne suffered no more financial embarrassments. The
succeeding twelve years of his life were as prosperous and cheerful as
his friends and readers could desire for him; although the sombre past
still seemed to cast a ghostly shadow across his way, which even the
sunshine of Italy could not entirely dissipate.


The germ of this romance is to be found in the tale of "Endicott and
the Red Cross," published in the _Token_ in 1838, so that it must
have been at least ten years sprouting and developing in Hawthorne's
mind. In that story he gives a tragically comic description of the
Puritan penitentiary,--in the public square,--where, among others, a
good-looking young woman was exposed with a red letter A on her breast,
which she had embroidered herself, so elegantly that it seemed as if it
was rather intended for a badge of distinction than as a mark of
infamy. Hawthorne did not conjure this up wholly out of his
imagination, for in 1704 the General Court of Massachusetts Bay passed
the following law, which he was no doubt aware of:

"Convicted before the Justice of Assize,--both Man and Woman to be set
on the Gallows an Hour with a Rope about their Necks and the other end
cast over the Gallowses. And in the way from thence to the common Gaol,
to he Scourged not exceeding Forty Stripes. And forever after to wear a
Capital A of two inches long, of a contrary colour to their cloathes,
sewed on their upper Garments, on the Back or Arm, in open view. And as
often as they appear without it, openly to be Scourged, not exceeding
Fifteen Stripes." [Footnote: Boston, Timothy Green, 1704.]

The most diligent investigation, however, has failed to discover an
instance in which punishment was inflicted under this law, so that we
must conclude that Hawthorne invented that portion of his statement. In
fact, nothing that Hawthorne published himself is to be considered of
historical or biographical value. It is all fiction. He sported with
historical facts and traditions, as poets and painters always have
done, and the manuscript which he pretends to have discovered in his
office at the Custom House, written by one of his predecessors there,
is a piece of pure imagination, which serves to give additional
credibility to his narrative. He knew well enough how large a portion
of what is called history is fiction after all, and the extent to which
professed historians deal in romance. He felt that he was justified so
long as he did not depart from the truth of human nature. We may thank
him that he did not dispel the illusion of his poetic imagery by the
introduction of well-known historical characters. This is permissible
in a certain class of novels, but its effect is always more or less

Our Puritan ancestors evidently did not realize the evil effects of
their law against faithless wives,--its glaring indelicacy, and
brutalizing influence on the minds of the young; but it was of a piece
with their exclusion of church-music and other amenities of
civilization. Was it through a natural attraction for the primeval
granite that they landed on the New England coast? Their severe self-
discipline was certainly well adapted to their situation, but, while it
built up their social edifice on an enduring foundation, its tendency
was to crush out the gentler and more sympathetic qualities in human
nature. In no other community would the story of Hester Prynne acquire
an equal cogency and significance. A German might, perhaps, understand
it; but a Frenchman or an Italian not at all.

The same subject has been treated in its most venial form by
Shakespeare in "Measure for Measure," and in its most condemnable form
in Goethe's "Faust." "The Scarlet Letter" lies midway between these
two. Hester Prynne has married a man of morose, vindictive disposition,
such as no woman could be happy with. He is, moreover, much older than
herself, and has gone off on a wild expedition in pursuit of objects
which he evidently cares for, more than for his wife. She has not heard
from him for over a year, and knows not whether he has deserted her, or
if he is no longer living. She is alone in a strange wild country, and
it is natural that she should seek counsel and encouragement from the
young clergyman, who is worthy of her love, but, unfortunately, not a
strong character. Lightning is not swifter than the transition in our
minds from good to evil, and in an unguarded moment he brings ruin upon
himself, and a life-long penance on Hester Prynne. Hawthorne tells this
story with such purity and delicacy of feeling that a maiden of sixteen
can read it without offence.

"The Scarlet Letter" is at once the most poetic and the most powerful
of Hawthorne's larger works, much more powerful than "The Vicar of
Wakefield," which has been accepted as the type of a romance in all
languages. Goldsmith's tale will always be more popular than "The
Scarlet Letter," owing to its blithesome spirit, its amusing incidents
and bright effects of light and shade; but "The Scarlet Letter" strikes
a more penetrating chord in the human breast, and adheres more closely
to the truth of life. There are certain highly improbable circumstances
woven in the tissue of "The Vicar of Wakefield," which a prudent,
reflective reader finds it difficult to surmount. It is rather
surprising that the Vicar should not have discovered the true social
position of his friend Mr. Burchell, which must have been known to
every farmer in the vicinity; and still more so that Mr. Burchell
should have permitted the father of a young woman in whom he was deeply
interested, to be carried to prison for debt without making an inquiry
into his case. "The Scarlet Letter" is, as Hawthorne noticed, a
continual variation on a single theme, and that a decidedly solemn one;
but its different incidents form a dynamic sequence, leading onward to
the final catastrophe, and if its progress is slow--the narrative
extends over a period of seven years--this is as inevitable as the
march of Fate. From the first scene in the drama, we are lifted above
ourselves, and sustained so by Hawthorne's genius, until the close.

This sense of power arises from dealing with a subject which demanded
the whole force and intensity of Hawthorne's nature. Hester Prynne
herself is a strong character, and her errors are those of strength and
independence rather than of weakness. She says to Mr. Dimmesdale that
what they did "had a consecration of its own," and it is this belief
which supports her under a weight of obloquy that would have crushed a
more fragile spirit. She does not collapse into a pitiful nonentity,
like Scott's Effie Deans, nor is she maddened to crime like George
Eliot's "Hetty Sorrel"; [Footnote: A name apparently compounded from
Hester Prynne and Schiller's Agnes Sorrel.] but from the outset she
forms definite resolutions,--first to rehabilitate her own character,
and next to protect the partner of her shame. This last may seem to be
a mistaken devotion, and contrary to his true interest, for the first
step in the regeneration from sin is to acknowledge manfully the
responsibility of it; but to give the repentance even the appearance of
sincerity, the confession must be a voluntary one, and not be forced
upon the delinquent person by external pressure. We cannot withhold our
admiration for Hester's unswerving fidelity to this twofold purpose. We
may condemn her in our minds, but we cannot refuse her a measure of
sympathy in our hearts.

I believe this to be the explanation of her apparent inconsistency at
the close of the book. Many of Hawthorne's commentators have been
puzzled by the fact that Hester, after so many years of contrition,
should advise Dimmesdale to fly to England, and even offered to
accompany him. Women have not the same idea of law that men have. In
their ideas of right and wrong they depend chiefly on their sense of
purity; and it is very difficult to persuade a woman that she could be
wrong in obeying the dictates of her heart. Hester perceives that her
former lover is being tortured to death by the silent tyranny of
Chillingworth; the tide of affection so long restrained flows back into
her soul; and her own reputation is as nothing compared with the life
of the man she hopes to save. There is no other passage in American
fiction so pathetic as that woodland meeting, at which their mutual
hopes of happiness blaze up like the momentary brightness of a dying
flame. Hester's innocent child, however, representing the spirit of
truthfulness, is suddenly seized with an aversion to her father and
refuses to join their company,--an unfavorable omen and dark presage of
the minister's doom.

Pearl's behavior, on this occasion, may be supposed to represent the
author's own judgment. How far shall we agree with him? The past
generation witnessed one of the noblest of women uniting herself, for
life and death, to a man whom she could not marry on account of purely
legal objections. Whether Hester's position in the last act of this
drama is comparable with that of Marian Evans every one must decide
according to his or her conscience.

Hawthorne certainly proves himself a good Puritan when he says, "And be
the stern and sad truth spoken that the breach which guilt has once
made into the human soul, is never in this mortal state repaired." The
magnitude of the evil of course makes a difference; but do we not all
live in a continual state of sinning, and self-correction? That is the
road to self-improvement, and those who adhere most closely to
inflexible rules of conduct discover at length that the rules
themselves have become an evil. Mankind has not yet fully decided as to
what things are evil, and what are good; and neither Hawthorne nor the
Puritan lawmakers would seem to have remembered Christ's admonition on
a similar occasion: "Let him who is without sin among you, cast the
first stone."

A writer in the _Andover Review_, some twenty years ago,
criticised the impersonation of Pearl as a fable--"a golden wreck." He
quoted Emerson to the effect that in all the ages that man has been
upon the earth, no communication has been established between him and
the lower animals, and he affirmed that we know quite as little of the
thoughts and motives of our own children. Both conclusions are wide of
the mark. There is much more communication between man and the domestic
animals than between animals of the same species. The understanding
between an Arab and his horse is almost perfect, and so is that between
a sportsman and his setters. Even the sluggish ox knows the word of
command. Then what shall we say of the sympathetic relation between a
mother and her child? Who can describe it--that clairvoyant
sensibility, intangible, too swift for words? Who has depicted it,
except Hawthorne and Raphael? Pearl is like a pure spirit in "The
Scarlet Letter," reconciling us to its gloomy scenes. She is like the
sunshine in a dark forest, breaking through the tree-tops and dancing
in our pathway. It is true that Hawthorne has carried her clairvoyant
insight to its furthest limits, but this is in accordance with the
ideal character of his work. She has no rival except Goethe's Mignon.

Hawthorne's method of developing his stories resembled closely that of
the historical painter; and it was only in this way that he could
produce such vivid effects. He selected models for his principal
characters and studied them as his work progressed. The original of
Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale was quickly recognized in Salem as an amiable
inoffensive person, of whom no one suspected any evil,--and that was,
no doubt, the reason why Hawthorne selected him for his purpose. It was
no discredit to the man himself, although tongues were not wanting to
blame Hawthorne for it. Who Hester may have been still remains a
mystery; but it was evidently some one with whom the author was well
acquainted,--perhaps his younger sister. So Rubens painted his own wife
at one time an angel, and at another in the likeness of Herodias. It is
still more probable that Pearl is a picture of Hawthorne's own
daughter, who was of the right age for such a study, and whose
sprightly, fitful, and impulsive actions correspond to those of
Hester's child. This would also explain why her father gave Una so much
space in his Note-book. He may have noticed the antagonism between her
and the Whig children of the neighborhood and have applied it to
Pearl's case. It was also his custom, as appears from his last
unfinished work, to leave blank spaces in his manuscript while in the
heat of composition, which, like a painter's background, were
afterwards filled in with descriptions of scenery or some subsidiary

The models of the novelist cannot be hired for the purpose, like those
used by the painter or sculptor, but have to be studied when and where
they can be found, for the least self-consciousness spoils the effect.
Hawthorne in this only followed the example of the best authors and
dramatists; and those who think that good fiction or dramatic poetry
can be written wholly out of a man's or a woman's imagination, would do
well to make the experiment themselves.


PEGASUS IS FREE: 1850-1852

Frederick W. Loring, that bright young poet who was so soon lost to us,
once remarked: "Appreciation is to the artist what sunshine is to
flowers. He cannot expand without it." The success of "The Scarlet
Letter" proved that all Hawthorne's genius required was a little
moderate encouragement,--not industry but opportunity. His pen, no
longer slow and hesitating, moved freer and easier; the long pent-up
flood of thoughts, emotions, and experiences had at length found an
outlet; and the next three years were the most productive of his life.

His first impulse, however, was to escape from Salem. Although his
removal from office had been a foregone conclusion, Hawthorne felt a
certain degree of chagrin connected with it, and also imagined a
certain amount of animosity toward himself which made the place
uncomfortable to him. He was informed that the old Sparhawk mansion,
close to the Portsmouth Navy Yard, was for sale or to rent, and the
first of May, Hawthorne went thither to consider whether it would serve
him for a home. [Footnote: Lathrop, 225.] One would suppose that sedate
old Portsmouth, with its courteous society and its dash of military
life, would have suited Hawthorne even better than Concord; but he
decided differently, and he returned to meet his family in Boston,
where he made the acquaintance of Professor Ticknor, who introduced him
at the Athenaeum Library. He saw Hildreth at the AthenŠum working on
his history of the United States; sat for his portrait to C. E.
Thompson; went to the theatre; studied human nature in the smoking-room
at Parker's; and relaxed himself generally. He must have stayed with
his family at Doctor Peabody's on West Street, for he speaks of the
incessant noise from Washington Street, and of looking out from the
back windows on Temple Place. This locates the house very nearly.

Two months later, July 5, 1850, he was at Lenox, in the Berkshire
Mountains. Mrs. Caroline Sturgis Tappan, a brilliant Boston lady,
equally poetic and sensible, owned a small red cottage there, which she
was ready to lease to Hawthorne for a nominal rent. Lowell was going
there on account of his wife, a delicate flower-like nature already
beginning to droop. Doctor Holmes was going on account of Lowell, and
perhaps with the expectation of seeing a rattlesnake; Fields was going
on account of Lowell and Holmes. Mrs. Frances Kemble, already the most
distinguished of Shakespearian readers, had a summer cottage there; and
it was hoped that in such company Hawthorne would at last find the
element to which he properly belonged.

Unfortunately Hawthorne took to raising chickens, and that seems to
have interested him more than anything else at Lenox. He fell in
cordially with the plans of his friends; ascended Monument Mountain,
and went on other excursions with them; but it may be more than
suspected that Lowell and Holmes did most of the talking. He
assimilated himself more to Holmes perhaps than to any of the others.
His meeting with Mrs. Kemble must have been like a collision of the
centrifugal and centripetal forces; and for once, Hawthorne may be said
to have met his antipodes. They could sincerely admire one another as
we all do, in their respective spheres; but such a chasm as yawned
between them in difference of temperament, character, and mode of
living, could not have been bridged over by Captain Eads.

Fannie Kemble, as she was universally called, had by long and
sympathetic reading of Shakespeare transformed herself into a woman of
the Elizabethan era, and could barely be said to belong to the
nineteenth century. Among other Elizabethan traits she had acquired an
unconsciousness of self, together with an enormous self-confidence, and
no idea of what people thought of her in polite society ever seems to
have occurred to her. She had the heart of a woman, but mentally she
was like a composite picture of Shakespeare's _dramatis personae_,
and that Emerson should have spoken of her as "a great exaggerated
creature" is not to be wondered at. In her own department she was

The severity of a mountain winter and the disagreeableness of its
thawing out in spring, is atoned for by its summer,--that fine
exhilarating ether, which seems to bring elevated thoughts, by virtue
of its own nature. Hawthorne enjoyed this with his children and his
chickens; and his wife enjoyed it with him. It is evident from her
letters that she had not been so happy since their first year at the
Old Manse. She had now an opportunity to indulge her love of artistic
decoration, in adorning the walls of their little red cottage, which
has since unfortunately been destroyed by fire. She even began to give
her daughter, who was only six years old, some instruction in drawing.
The following extract concerning her husband, from a letter written to
her mother, is charmingly significant of her state of mind at this

"Beauty and the love of it, in him, are the true culmination of the
good and true, and there is no beauty to him without these bases. He
has perfect dominion over himself in every respect, so that to do the
highest, wisest, loveliest thing is not the least effort to him, any
more than it is to a baby to be innocent. It is his spontaneous act,
and a baby is not more unconscious in its innocence. I never knew such
loftiness, so simply borne. I have never known him to stoop from it in
the most trivial household matter, any more than in a larger or more
public one." [Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 373.]

Truly this gives us a beautiful insight into their home-life, and
Hawthorne himself could not have written a more accurate eulogium. As
intimated in the last chapter, we all make our way through life by
correcting our daily trespasses, and Hawthorne was no exception to it;
but as a mental analysis of this man at his best Mrs. Hawthorne's
statement deserves a lasting recognition.


It was not until early frosts and shortening days drove Hawthorne
within doors that he again took up his writing, but who can tell how
long he had been dreaming over his subject? Within five months, or by
the last week of January, "The House of the Seven Gables" was ready for
the press. There is no such house in Salem, exactly as he describes it;
but an odd, antiquated-looking structure at No. 54 Turner Street is
supposed to have served him for the suggestion of it. The name is
picturesque and well suited to introduce the reader to a homely
suburban romance.

The subject of the story goes back to the witchcraft period, and its
active principle is a wizard's curse, which descends from one
generation to another, until it is finally removed by the marriage of a
descendant of the injured party to a descendant of the guilty one.
Woven together with this, there is an exposition of mesmerism, or, as
it is now called, Christian Science, with its good and evil features.

Each of Hawthorne's larger romances has a distinct style and quality of
its own, apart from the fine individualized style of the author.
Lathrop makes an excellent remark in regard to "The House of the Seven
Gables," that the perfection of its art seems to stand between the
reader and his subject. It resembles in this respect those Dutch
paintings whose enamelled surface seems like a barrier to prevent the
spectator from entering the scenes which they represent. It would be a
mistake to consider this a fault, but one cannot help noticing the
accuracy with which the subordinate details of the plot are elaborated.
Is it possible that this is connected in a way with the rarefied
atmosphere of Lenox, in which distant objects appear so sharply

"The House of the Seven Gables" might be symbolized by two paintings,
in the first of which Hepzibah Pyncheon stands as the central figure,
her face turned upward in a silent prayer for justice, her brother
Clifford, with his head bowed helplessly, at one side, and the judge,
with his chronic smile of satisfaction, behind Clifford; on the other
side the keen-eyed Holgrave would appear, sympathetically watching the
progress of events, with Phoebe Pyncheon at his left hand. Old Uncle
Banner and little Ned Higgins might fill in the background. In the
second picture the stricken judge would be found in a large old-
fashioned arm-chair, with Clifford and Hepzibah flying through a
doorway to the right, while Phoebe and Holgrave, the one happy and the
other startled, enter on the left.

Hepzibah, not Phoebe, is the true heroine of the romance,--or at least
its central figure. Nowhere do we look more deeply into Hawthorne's
nature than through this sympathetic portrait of the cross-looking old
maid, whose only inheritance is the House of the Seven Gables, in which
she has lived many years, poor, solitary, friendless, with a disgrace
upon her family, only sustained by the hope that she may yet be a help
and comfort to her unfortunate brother. The jury before whom Clifford
was tried believed him to be guilty, but his sister never would believe
it. She lives for him and suffers with him. Hawthorne does not mitigate
the unpleasantness of her appearance, but he instructs us that there is
a divine spark glowing within. Very pitiful is her attempt to support
the enfeebled brother by keeping a candy store; but noble and heroic is
her resistance to the designs of her tyrannical cousin. It is her
intrepidity that effects the crisis of the drama.

Both Hepzibah and Clifford Pyncheon are examples of what fine
portraiture Hawthorne could accomplish in exceptional or abnormal
personalities, without ever descending to caricature. Judge Pyncheon
has been criticised as being too much of a stage villain, but the same
might be alleged of Shakespeare's (or Fletcher's) Richard III. What is
he, in effect, but a Richard III. reduced to private life? Moreover,
his habit of smiling is an individual trait which gives him a certain
distinction of his own. Usually,

Faces ever blandly smiling
Are victims of their own beguiling.

But Judge Pyncheon is a candidate for the governorship, and among the
more mercenary class of politicians smiling often becomes a habit for
the sake of popularity. Hawthorne might have added something to the
judge's _personale_ by representing him with a droll wit, like
James Fiske, Jr., or some others that we have known, and he might have
exposed more of his internal reflections; but he serves as a fair
example of the hard, grasping, hypocritical type of Yankee. We see only
one side of him, but there are men, and women too, who only have one
side to their characters.

It has been affirmed that Hawthorne made use of the Honorable Mr.
Upham, the excellent historian of Salem witchcraft, as a model for
Judge Pyncheon, and that this was done in revenge for Mr. Upham's
inimical influence in regard to the Salem surveyorship. It is
impossible, at this date, to disentangle the snarl of Hawthorne's
political relations in regard to that office, but Upham had been a
member of Congress and was perhaps as influential a Whig as any in the
city. If Hawthorne was removed through his instrumentality, he
performed our author a service, which neither of them could have
realized at the time. Hawthorne, however, had a strong precedent in his
favor in this instance; namely, Shakespeare's caricature of Sir Thomas
Luce, as Justice Shallow in "The Merry Wives of Windsor"; but there is
no reason why we should think better or worse of Mr. Upham on this

Phoebe Pyncheon is an ideal character, the type of youthful New England
womanhood, and the most charming of all Hawthorne's feminine creations.
Protected by the shield of her own innocence, she leaves her country
home from the same undefined impulse by which birds fly north in
spring, and accomplishes her destiny where she might have least
expected to meet with it. She fills the whole book with her sunny
brightness, and like many a young woman at her age she seems more like
a spirit than a character. Her maidenly dignity repels analysis, and
Hawthorne himself extends a wise deference to his own creation.

The future of a great nation depends more on its young women than upon
its laws or its statesmen.

In regard to Holgrave, we have already said somewhat; but he is so
lifelike that it seems as if he must have been studied from one of the
younger members of the Brook Farm association; perhaps the one of whom
Emerson tells us, [Footnote: Lecture on Brook Farm.] that he spent his
leisure hours in playing with the children, but had "so subtle a mind"
that he was always consulted whenever important business was on foot.
He is visible to our mental perspective as a rather slender man, above
medium height, with keen hazel eyes, a long nose, and long legs, and
quick and lively in his movements. Phoebe has a more symmetrical
figure, bluish-gray eyes, a complexion slightly browned from going
without her hat, luxuriant chestnut-brown hair, always quiet and
graceful. We have no doubt that Holgrave made a worthy husband for her,
and that he occasionally took a hand in public affairs.

Judge Pyncheon's duplicity is revealed to Holgrave by the medium of a
daguerreotype. Men or women who are actors in real life should avoid
being photographed, for the camera is pretty sure to penetrate their
hypocrisy, and expose them to the world as they actually are. Every
photograph album is to a certain extent a rogues' gallery, in which our
faults, peculiarities, and perhaps vices are ruthlessly portrayed for
the student of human nature. If a merchant were to have all his
customers photographed, he would soon learn to distinguish those who
were not much to be trusted.

Notice also Hawthorne's eye for color. When Clifford, Hepzibah, and
Phoebe are about to leave the seven-gabled house for the last time, "A
plain, but handsome dark-green barouche" is drawn to the door. This is
evidently his idea of a fine equipage; and it happens that the
background of Raphael's "Pope Julius" is of this same half-invisible
green, and harmonizes so well with the Pope's figure that few realize
its coloring.

The plot of this picturesque story is the most ingenious of Hawthorne's
life, but sufficiently probable throughout to answer the purpose of a
romance, and it is the only one of Hawthorne's larger works which ends
happily. It was brought out by Ticknor & Company at Easter 1850,--less
than ten weeks after it was finished; but we think of the House of the
Seven Gables as standing empty, deserted and forlorn.

In December Emerson had written to Hawthorne concerning a new magazine
in which he and Lowell were interested, and if Hawthorne would only
give it his support its success could not be questioned. What Hawthorne
replied to this invitation has never been discovered, but he had seen
too many such periodicals go to wreck to feel much confidence in this
enterprise. [Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 381.] It is of more importance
now that Emerson should have addressed him as "My dear Hawthorne," for
such cordial friendliness was rare in "the poet of the pines." Mrs.
Alcott once remarked that Emerson never spoke to her husband otherwise
than as "Mr. Alcott," and it is far from likely that he ever spoke to
Hawthorne differently from this. The conventionalities of letter-
writing run back to a period when gentlemen addressed one another--and
perhaps felt so too--in a more friendly manner than they do at present.

Works of fiction and sentimental poetry stir up a class of readers
which no other literature seems to reach, and Hawthorne was soon
inundated with letters from unknown, and perhaps unknowable, admirers;
but the most remarkable came from a man named Pyncheon, who asserted
that his grandfather had been a judge in Salem, and who was highly
indignant at the use which Hawthorne had made of his name. [Footnote:
Conway, 135.] This shows how difficult it is for a writer of fiction or
a biographer to escape giving offence. The lightning is sure to strike


The question now was, what next? As it happened, the next important
event in the Hawthorne family was the advent of their younger daughter,
born like Agassiz, "in the lovely month of May," and amid scenery as
beautiful as the Pays de Vaud. Her father named her Rose, in defiance
of Hillard's objection to idyllic nomenclature; and as a child she
seemed much like the spirit of that almost fabulous flower, the wild
orange-rose. Ten years later, she was the most graceful girl in the
Concord dancing-school, and resembled her elder sister so closely that
they could not have been mistaken for anything but sisters. As she grew
older she came more and more to resemble her mother.

It was said that Hawthorne's "Wonder Book" originated in his telling
free versions of the Greek myths to his children on winter evenings;
and also that Horace Mann's boys, who were almost exactly of the same
age as Una and Julian, participated in the entertainment. This may have
happened the following winter at Newton, but could hardly have taken
place at Lenox; and otherwise it is quite impossible to identify all
the children with botanical names in Hawthorne's introduction. Julian
once remarked, at school, that he believed that he was the original of
Squash-blossom, and that is as near as we can get to it. Some of them
may have been as imaginary as the ingenious Mr. Eustace Bright, and
might serve as well to represent one group of children as another.

The book was written very rapidly, at an average of ten pages a day,
and it has Hawthorne's grace and purity of style, but it does not
belong to the legitimate series of his works. It is an excellent book
for the young, for they learn from it much that every one ought to
know; but to mature minds the original fables, even in a translation,
are more satisfactory than these Anglo-Saxon versions in the "Wonder

The collection of tales which passes by the name of "The Snow Image" is
a much more serious work. "The Great Stone Face" and one or two others
in the collection were prepared at Salem for the same volume as "The
Scarlet Letter," but judiciously excluded by Mr. Fields. "The Snow
Image" itself, however, is plainly derived from Hawthorne's own
experience during the winter at Lenox. The common-sensible farmer and
his poetic wife could not be mistaken for Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne, but
the two sportive children are easily identified as Una and Julian. They
are not only of the same age, but the "slight graceful girl" and
"chubby red-cheeked boy" describes them exactly. The idea has been
derived from the fable of the Greek sculptor Pygmalion whose statue
came to life. That seems far enough off to be pleasantly credible, but
to have such a transubstantiation take place in the front yard of a
white-fenced American residence, is rather startling. Yet Hawthorne,
with the help of the twilight, carries us through on the broad wings of
his imagination, even to the melting of the little snow-sister before
an airtight stove in a close New England parlor. The moral that
Hawthorne draws from this fable might be summed up in the old adage,
"What is one man's meat is another man's poison"; but it has a deeper
significance, which the author does not seem to have perceived. The
key-note of the fable is the same as that in Goethe's celebrated
ballad, "The Erl King"; namely, that those things which children
imagine, are as real to them as the facts of the external world. Nor do
we altogether escape from this so long as we live.

The origin of "The Great Stone Face" is readily traced to the profile
face in the Franconia Mountains,--which has not only a strangely human
appearance, but a grave dignified expression, and, as a natural
phenomenon, ranks next to Niagara Falls. The value of the fable,
however, has perhaps been over-estimated. It is an old story in a
modern garb, the saying so often repeated in the Book of Isaiah: "The
last shall be first, and the first shall be last." The man Ernest, who
is much in his ways like Hawthorne himself, spends his leisure in
contemplating the Great Stone Face, and thus acquires a similar
expression in his own. The wealthy merchant, the famous general, the
great party leader, and the popular poet, all come upon the scene; but
not one of them appears to advantage before the tranquil countenance of
the Great Stone Face. Finally, Ernest in his old age carries off the
laurel; and in this Hawthorne hits the mark, for it is only through
earnestness that man becomes immortal. Yet, one would suppose that
constantly gazing at a face of stone, would give one a rather stony
expression; as sculptors are liable to become statuesque from their

Another Dantean allegory, and fully equal in power to any Canto in
Dante's "Inferno," is the story of "Ethan Brandt," or "The Unpardonable
Sin." We have a clew to its origin in the statement that it was part of
an unfinished romance; presumably commenced at Concord, but afterward
discarded, owing to the author's dissatisfaction with his work--an
illustration of Hawthorne's severe criticism of his own writing. The
scene is laid at a limekiln in a dark and gloomy wood, where a lime-
burner, far from human habitations, is watching his fires at night. To
him Ethan Brandt appears, a strange personage, long known for his quest
after the unpardonable sin, and the solitude echoes back the gloominess
of their conversation. Finally, the lime-burner fixes his fires for the
night, rolls himself up in his blanket, and goes to sleep. When he
awakes in the morning, the stranger is gone, but, on ascending the kiln
to look at his caldron, he finds there the skeleton of a man, and
between its ribs a heart of white marble. This is the unpardonable sin,
for which there is neither dispensation nor repentance. Ethan Brandt
has committed suicide because life had become intolerable on such

The summer of 1851 in Lenox was by no means brilliant. It had not yet
become the tip end of fashion, and Hawthorne's chief entertainment
seems to have been the congratulatory letters he received from
distinguished people. Mrs. Frances Kemble wrote to him from England,
announcing the success of his book there, and offering him the use of
her cottage, a more palatial affair than Mrs. Tappan's, for the ensuing
winter. Mrs. Hawthorne, however, felt the distance between herself and
her relatives, and perhaps they both felt it. Mrs. Hawthorne's sister
Mary, now Mrs. Horace Mann, was living in West Newton, and the last of
June Mrs. Hawthorne went to her for a long summer visit, taking her two
daughters with her and leaving Julian in charge of his father, with
whom it may be affirmed he was sufficiently safe. It rarely happens
that a father and son are so much together as these two were, and they
must have become very strongly attached.

For older company he had Hermann Melville, and G. P. R. James, whose
society he may have found as interesting as that of more distinguished
writers, and also Mr. Tappan, whom Hawthorne had learned to respect for
his good sense and conciliatory disposition--a true peace-maker among
men and women. Burill Curtis, the amateur brother of George W. Curtis,
came to sketch the lake from Hawthorne's porch, and Doctor Holmes
turned up once or twice. On July 24 Hawthorne wrote to his friend Pike
at Salem: [Footnote: Mrs. Lathrop, 151.]

"By the way, if I continue to prosper as heretofore in the literary
line, I shall soon be in a condition to buy a place; and if you should
hear of one, say worth from $1500 to $2000, I wish you would keep your
eye on it for me. I should wish it to be on the seacoast, or at all
events with easy access to the sea."

The evident meaning of this is that the Hawthornes had no desire to
spend a second winter in the Berkshire hills. The world was large, but
he knew not where to rest his head. Mrs. Hawthorne solved the problem
on her return to Lenox, and it was decided to remove to West Newton
when cold weather came. Thither they went November 21 in a driving
storm of snow and sleet,--a parting salute from old Berkshire,--and
reached Horace Mann's house the same evening.

Nobody knows where the Hawthornes lived in Newton. The oldest survivors
of both families were only five years of age at that time. Mrs.
Hawthorne's father also resided in Newton that winter, and it is more
than likely that they made their residence with him. Julian Hawthorne
has a distinct recollection of the long freight-trains with their
clouds of black smoke blowing across his father's ground during the
winter; so they could not have lived very far from the Worcester
railroad. Horace Mann's house is still standing, opposite a school-
house on the road from the station, where a by-way meets it at an acute
angle. The freight-trains and their anthracite smoke must have had a
disturbing influence on Hawthorne's sensibility.

The long-extended town of Newton, which is now a populous city, has
much the best situation of any of the Boston suburbs--on a moderately
high range of hills, skirted by the Charles River, both healthful and
picturesque. It is not as hot in summer nor so chilly at other seasons
as Concord, and enjoys the advantage of a closer proximity to the city.
Its society is, and always has been, more liberal and progressive than
Salem society in Hawthorne's time. Its citizens, mainly professional
and mercantile men, are active, intelligent, and sensible, without
being too fastidious. It was a healthful change for Hawthorne, and we
are not surprised to find that his literary work was affected by it.
Mrs. L. Maria Child lived there at the time, and so did Celia Thaxter,
although not yet known to fame. The sound, penetrating intelligence of
Horace Mann may have also had its salutary effect.


Hawthorne's "Wonder Book" and "The Snow Image" were expressed to
Ticknor & Company before leaving Lenox, and "The Blithedale Romance"
may also have been commenced before that change of base. We only know,
from his diary, that it was finished on the last day of April, 1852,
and that he received the first proof-sheets of it two weeks later--
which shows what expedition publishers can make, when they feel

The name itself is somewhat satirical, for Hawthorne did not find the
life at Brook Farm very blithesome, and in the story, with the
exception of the sylvan masquerade, there is much more rue than
heart's-ease, as commonly happens in his stories. The tale ends
tragically, and without the gleam of distant happiness which lights up
the last scenes of "The Scarlet Letter." It commences with a severe
April snowstorm, an unfavorable omen; the same in which Hawthorne set
out to join the West Roxbury community.

And yet the name is not without a serious meaning--a stern, sad moral
significance. The earth is not naturally beautiful, for rank Nature
ever runs to an excess. It is only beautiful when man controls and
remodels it; but what man makes physically, he can unmake spiritually.
We pass by a handsome estate, a grand arcade of elms over its avenue,
spacious lawns, an elegant mansion, a luxurious flower-garden; but we
are informed that happiness does not dwell there, that its owner is a
misanthropic person, whose nature has been perverted by the selfishness
of luxury; that there are no pleasant parties on the lawn, no happy
wooing in that garden, no marriage festivals in those halls; and those
possessions, which might have proved a blessing to generations yet
unborn, are no better than a curse and a whited sepulchre. How many
such instances could be named.

It may have occurred to Hawthorne, that, if George Ripley, instead of
following after a will-o'-the-wisp notion, which could only lead him
into a bog, had used the means at his disposal to cultivate Brook Farm
in a rational manner, and had made it a hospitable rendezvous for
intellectual and progressive people,--an oasis of culture amid the wide
waste of commercialism,--the place might well have been called
Blithedale, and Mr. Ripley would have inaugurated a movement as rare as
it was beneficial. It was only at a city like Boston, whose suburbs
were pleasant and easily accessible, that such a plan could be carried
out; and it was only a man of Mr. Ripley's scholarship and intellectual
acumen who could have drawn together the requisite elements for it. It
looks as if he missed an opportunity.

We should avoid, however, confounding George Ripley with Hawthorne's
Hollingsworth. It is quite possible that Hawthorne made use of certain
traits in Ripley's character for this purpose, and also that he may
have had some slight collision with him, such as he represents in "The
Blithedale Romance;" but Ripley was an essentially veracious nature,
who, as already remarked, carried out his experiment to its logical
conclusion. Hollingsworth, on the contrary, proposes to pervert the
trust confided to him, in order to establish at Blithedale an
institution for the reformation of criminals, by which proceeding he
would, after a fashion, become a criminal himself. At the same time, he
plays fast and loose with the affections of Zenobia and Priscilla, who
are both in love with him, designing to marry the one who would make
the most favorable match for his purpose. It is through the junction of
these two streams of evil that the catastrophe is brought about.

Priscilla is evidently taken from the little seamstress whom Hawthorne
mentions in his diary for October 9, 1841, and if she ever discovered
this, she could hardly have been displeased, for she is one of his most
lovable creations; not so much of an ideal as Phoebe Pyncheon, for she
is older and has already seen hard fortune. Her quiet, almost
submissive ways at first excite pity rather than admiration, but at
length we discover that there is a spirit within her, which shines
through its earthly envelope, like the twinkling of a star.

Zenobia has a larger nature and a more gifted mind than Priscilla, but
also a more mixed character. Her name suggests a queenly presence and
she is fully conscious of this. She does not acquire an equal influence
over the other sex, for she is evidently in love with herself. She is
described as handsome and attractive, but no sooner had "Blithedale"
been published than people said, "Margaret Fuller" [Footnote: the name
of Zenobia is not very remotely significant of Margaret Fuller. Palmyra
was the centre of Greek philosophy in Zenobia's time, and she also
resembled Margaret in her tragical fate.]--although Margaret Fuller
was rather plain looking, and never joined the Brook Farm association.

If this surmise be correct, it leads to a curious consideration. After
painting a portrait of Zenobia in Chapter VI of "Blithedale," quite
worthy of Rubens or Titian, he remarks, through the incognito of Miles
Coverdale, in the first part of Chapter VII, that Priscilla reminds him
of Margaret Fuller, and says this to Priscilla herself. Now it proves
in the sequel that Priscilla and Zenobia are half-sisters, but it would
be as difficult to imagine this from anything that is said in the story
about them, as it is to understand how the shy, undemonstrative
Priscilla could have reminded Coverdale of the brilliant and aggressive
leader of the Transcendentalists.

The introduction of Margaret Fuller's name in that place comes abruptly
on the reader, and momentarily dispels the illusion of the tale. Was
Hawthorne conscious of the undercurrent of relationship, which he had
already formulated in his mind, between Priscilla and Zenobia; or what
is more likely, did he make the comparison in order to lead his readers
away from any conceptions they might have formed in regard to the


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