The Life and Genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Frank Preston Stearns
Part 6 out of 6
be so soon.
* * * * *
On the morning of May 20, I had just returned from my first recitation
when Julian Hawthorne appeared at my room in the Massachusetts
dormitory, and said, like a man gasping for breath, "My father is dead,
and I want you to come with me." Fields had sent him word through
Professor Gurney, who knew how to deliver such a message in the
kindliest manner. We went at once to Fields's house on Charles Street,
where Mrs. Fields gave Julian the little information already known to
them through a dispatch from Franklin Pierce,--that his father died
during his sleep in the night of May 18, at the Pemmigewasset House,
Plymouth, New Hampshire. After this we wandered about Boston, silent
and aimless, until the afternoon train carried him to Concord. He
greatly dreaded meeting the gaze of his fellow-townsmen, and confessed
that he wanted to hide himself in the woods like a wounded deer.
[Footnote: The passage in "A Fool of Nature," in which he describes
Murgatroyd's discovery of his father's death, must have been a
reminiscence of this time--a passage of the finest genius.]
On Wednesday, May 18, Hawthorne and Pierce drove from Centre Harbor to
Plymouth, a long and rather rough journey to be taken in a carriage.
Hawthorne, however, did not make much complaint of this, nor did he
seem to be unusually fatigued. He retired to his room soon after nine
o'clock, and was sleeping comfortably an hour later. Pierce was
evidently nervous about him, for he went in to look at him at two in
the morning, and again at four; and the last time he discovered that
life was extinct. Hawthorne had died in his sleep as quietly and
peacefully as he had lived. There is the same mystery in his death that
there was in his life, and it is difficult to assign either an
immediate or a proximate cause for it. With such a physique, and his
simple, regular habits of life, he ought to have reached the age of
ninety. General Pierce believed that he died of paralysis, and that is
the most probable explanation; but it was not like the usual cases of
paralysis at Hawthorne's age; for, as we have seen, the process of
disintegration and failure of his powers had been going on for years.
Nor did this follow, as commonly happens, a protracted period of
adversity, but it came upon him during the most prosperous portion of
his life. The first ten years following upon his marriage were years of
anxiety, self-denial and even hardship; but other men, Alcott, for
example, have suffered as much and yet lived to a good old age. It may
have been "the old dull pain" which Longfellow associated with him,
filing perpetually on the vital cord. It was part of the enigmatic side
of his nature.
The last ceremonies of respect to the earthly remains of Hawthorne were
performed at Concord on May 23, 1864, in the Unitarian Church, a
commodious building, [Footnote: In 1899 this building was burned to the
ground, and a new church has been erected on the same spot.] well
adapted to the great concourse of mourners who gathered there on this
occasion. Reverend James Freeman Clarke, who had united Hawthorne and
Sophia Peabody in marriage twenty-two years before, was now called upon
to preside over the last act in their married life. The simple
eloquence of his address penetrated to the heart of every person
present. "Hawthorne had achieved a twofold immortality,--and his
immortality on earth would be a comforting presence to all who mourned
him. The noblest men of the age had gathered there, to testify to his
worth as a man as well as to his genius as a writer." Faces were to be
seen in that assembly that were never beheld in Concord before. Among
these was the soldierly figure and flashing eye of the poet Whittier.
Longfellow, Emerson, Lowell, Agassiz, Alcott and Hillard were present;
and ex-President Pierce shook hands with Judge Hoar over Hawthorne's
bier. After the services the assembly of mourners proceeded to Sleepy
Hollow cemetery, and there the mortal remains of Hawthorne were buried
under the pine trees on the same hill-side where he and Emerson and
Margaret Fuller conversed together on the summer afternoon twenty years
before. He needs no monument, for he has found a place in the universal
pantheon of art and literature.
* * * * *
It would seem advisable at this parting of the ways to say something of
Hawthorne's religious convictions. He went as a boy with his mother and
sisters to the East Church in Salem, a society of liberal tendencies
and then on the verge of Unitarianism. All the Manning family attended
service there, but at a later time Robert Manning separated from it and
joined an orthodox society. Hawthorne's mother and his sister Louisa
became Unitarians, and at Madam Hawthorne's death in 1848 the funeral
services were conducted by Reverend Thomas T. Stone, of the First Salem
Church. It is presumable that Nathaniel Hawthorne also became a
Unitarian, so far as he can be considered a sectarian at all; but
certain elements of the older faith still remained in his mental
composition. It cannot be questioned that the strong optimism in
Emerson's philosophy was derived from Doctor Channing's instruction,
and it is equally certain that Hawthorne could never agree to this.
Whatever might be the origin of evil or its abstract value, he found it
too potent an element in human affairs to be quietly reasoned out of
existence. Whatever might be the ultimate purpose of Divine Providence,
the witchcraft prosecutions were an awful calamity to those who were
concerned in them. In this respect he resembled David A. Wasson, one of
the most devout religious minds, who left the church of Calvin (as it
was in his time), without ever becoming a Unitarian or a radical. Miss
Rebecca Manning says:
"I never knew of Hawthorne's going to church at all, after I remember
about him, and do not think he was ever in the habit of going. I think
he may have gone sometimes when he was in England, but I do not know
about it. Somewhere in Julian or Rose Hawthorne's reminiscences, there
is mention made of his reading family prayers, when he was in England.
He, as also his mother and sisters were people of deeply religious
natures, though not always showing it by outward observances."
A Concord judge and an old Free-Soil politician once attended a
religious convention, and after the business of the day was over they
went to walk together. The politician confessed to the judge that he
had no very definite religious belief, for which the judge thought he
did himself great injustice; but is not that the most advanced and
intelligent condition of a man's religious faith? How can we possess
clear and definite ideas of the grand mystery of Creation? Consider
only this simple metaphysical fact, that space has no limit, and that
we can neither conceive a beginning of time nor imagine time without a
beginning. What is there outside of the universe? The brain reels as we
think of it. The time has gone by when a man can say to himself
definitely, I believe this or I believe that; but we know at least that
we, "the creature of a day," cannot be the highest form of intelligence
in this wonderful world. We thought that we lived in solid bodies, but
electric rays have been discovered by which the skeletons inside of us
become visible. The correlation and conservation of forces brings us
very close to the origin of all force; and yet in another sense we are
as far off as ever from the perception of it.
This would seem to have been also Hawthorne's position in regard to
religious faith. What do we know of the religious belief of Michel
Angelo, of Shakespeare, or of Beethoven? We cannot doubt that they were
sincerely and purely religious men; but neither of them made any
confession of their faith. Vittoria Colonna may have known something of
Michel Angelo's belief, but Vasari does not mention it; and Beethoven
confessed it was a subject that he did not like to talk about. The
deeper a man's sense of the awe and mystery which underlies Nature, the
less he feels inclined to expose it to the public gaze. Hawthorne's own
family did not know what his religious opinions were--only that he was
religious. One may imagine that the reticent man would be more reticent
on this subject than on any other; but we can feel confident that at
least he was not a sceptic, for the confirmed sceptic inevitably
becomes a chatterer. He walks to Walden Pond with Hillard and Emerson
on Sunday, and confesses his doubts as to the utility of the Church (in
its condition at that time), for spiritual enlightenment; but in regard
to the great omnipresent fact of spirituality he has no doubt. In "The
Snow Image" he makes a statue come to life, and says in conclusion that
if a new miracle is ever wrought in this world it will be in some such
simple manner as he has described.
To the poetic mind, which is after all the highest form of intellect,
the grand fact of existence is a sufficient miracle. The rising of the
sun, the changes of the seasons, the blooming of flowers and the
ripening of the grain, were all miracles to Hawthorne, and none the
less so because they are continually being repeated. The scientists
tell us that all these happen according to natural laws: perfectly
true, but WHO was it that made those laws? WHO is it that keeps the
universe running? Laws made for the regulation of human affairs by the
wisest of men often prove ineffective, and inadequate to the purpose
for which they were intended; but the laws of Nature work with
unfailing accuracy. The boy solves his problem in algebra, finding out
the unknown quantity by those values which are given him; and can we
not also infer something of the _unknown_ from the great panorama
that passes unceasingly before us? The one thing that Hawthorne could
not have understood was, how gifted minds like Lucretius and Auguste
Comte could recognize only the evidence of their senses, and
deliberately blind themselves to the evidence of their intellects. He
who denies the existence of mind as a reality resembles a person
looking for his spectacles when they are on his nose; but it is the
imagination of the poet that leads civilization onward to its goal.
College life is rather generally followed by a period of scepticism,
partly owing in former times to the enforced attendance at morning
prayers, and still more perhaps to the study of Greek and Latin
authors. During what might be called Hawthorne's period of despair, he
could not very well have obtained consolation from the traditional
forms of divine worship; at least, such has been the experience of all
those who have passed through the Wertherian stage, so far as we know
of them. It is a time when every man has to strike the fountain of
spiritual life out of the hard rock of his own existence; and those are
fortunate who, like Moses and Hawthorne, strike forcibly enough to
accomplish this. It is the "new birth from above," in the light of
which religious forms seem of least importance.
One effect of matrimony is commonly a deepening of religious feeling,
but it is not surprising that Hawthorne should not have attended church
after his marriage. His wife had not been accustomed to church-going,
on account of the uncertainty of her health; the Old Manse was a long
distance from the Concord tabernacle; Hawthorne's associates in
Concord, with the exception of Judge Keyes, were not in the habit of
going to church; and the officiating minister, both at that time and
during his later sojourn, was not a person who could have been
intellectually attractive to him. Somewhat similar reasons may have
interfered with his attendance after his return to Salem; and during
the last fifteen years of his life, he was too much of a wanderer to
take a serious interest in the local affairs of the various places he
inhabited; but he was desirous that his children should go to church
and should be brought up in honest Christian ways.
Little more need to be said concerning Hawthorne's character as a man.
It was not so perfect as Longfellow's, to whom all other American
authors should bow the head in this respect--the Washington of poets;
and yet it was a rare example of purity, refinement, and patient
endurance. His faults were insignificant in comparison with his
virtues, and the most conspicuous of them, his tendency to revenge
himself for real or fancied injuries, is but a part of the natural
instinct in us to return the blows we receive in self-defence.
Wantonly, and of his own accord, he never injured human being. His
domestic life was as pure and innocent as that which appeared before
the world; and Mrs. Hawthorne once said of him in my presence that she
did not believe he ever committed an act that could properly be
considered wrong. It was like his writing, and his "wells of English
undefiled" were but as a synonym for the clear current of his daily
The ideality in Hawthorne's face was so conspicuous that it is
recognizable in every portrait of him. It was not the cold visionary
expression of the abstract thinker, but a human poetic intelligence,
which resolved all things into a spiritual alembic of its own. It is
this which elevates him above all writers who only deal with the outer
world as they find it, and add nothing to it from their own natures.
George Brandes, the Danish critic and essayist, speaks of Hawthorne
somewhere as "the baby poet;" but we suspect that if he had ever met
the living Hawthorne, he would have stood very much in awe of him. It
would not have been like meeting Ernest Rénan or John Stuart Mill.
Although Hawthorne was not splenetic or rash, there was an occasional
look in his eye which a prudent person might beware of. He was
emphatically a man of courage.
The wide and liberal interest which German scholars and writers have so
long taken in the literature of other nations, has resulted in founding
an informal literary tribunal in Germany, to which the rest of the
world is accustomed to appeal. A. E. Schönbach, one of the most recent
German writers on universal literature, gives his impression of
Hawthorne in the following statement:
"I find the distinguishing excellence of Hawthorne's imaginative
writings in the union of profound, keen, psychological development of
characters and problems with the most lucid objectivity and a joyous
modern realism. Occasionally there appears a light and delicate humor,
sometimes hidden in a mere adjective, or little phrase which lights up
the gloomiest situation with a gentle ray of hope. Far from unimportant
do I rate the charm of his language, its purity, its melody, its
graceful flexibility, the wealth of vocabulary, the polish which rarely
betrays the touch of the file. After, or with George Eliot, Hawthorne
is the first English prose writer of our century. At the same time he
sacrifices nothing of his peculiar American quality. Not only does he
penetrate into the most secret inner movements of the old colonial
life, as no one else has done, and reproduces the spirit of his
forefathers with a power of intuition which no historical work could
equal; but in all his other works, from the biography of General
Pierce, to the 'Marble Faun,' Hawthorne shows the freshness and
keenness, the precision and lucidity, and other qualities not easy to
describe, which belong to American literature. He is its chief
representative." [Footnote: "Gesammelte Aufsatze zur neueren
Litteratur," p. 346.]
Hawthorne has always been accorded a high position in literature, and
as time goes on I believe this will be increased rather than
diminished. In beauty of diction he is the first of American writers,
and there are few that equal him in this respect in other languages. It
is a pleasure to read him, simply for his form of expression, and apart
from the meaning which he conveys in his sentences. It is like the
grace of the Latin races,--like Dante and Chateaubriand; and the
adaptation of his words is so perfect that we never have to think twice
for his meaning. In those editions called the Elzevirs, which are so
much prized by book collectors, the clearness and legibility of the
type result from such a fine proportion of space and line that no other
printer has succeeded in imitating it; and there is something similar
to this in the construction of Hawthorne's sentences.
He is the romance writer of the English language; and there is no form
of literature which the human race prizes more. How many translations
there have been of "The Vicar of Wakefield," and of "The Sorrows of
Werther"! The latter is not one of Goethe's best, and yet it made him
famous at the age of twenty-eight. The novel deals with what is new and
surprising; the romance with what is old and universal. In "The Vicar
of Wakefield" we have the old story of virtue outwitted by evil, which
is in its turn outwitted by wisdom. There is nothing new in it except
the charming exposition which Goldsmith's genius has given to the
subject. Thackeray ridiculed "The Sorrows of Werther," and in the light
of matured judgment the tale appears ridiculous; but it strikes home to
the heart, because we all learn wisdom through such experiences, of
which young Werther's is an extreme instance. It was only another
example of the close relation that subsists between comedy and tragedy.
It cannot be questioned that "The Scarlet Letter" ranks above "The
Sorrows of Werther;" nor is it less evident that "The Marble Faun"
falls short of "Wilhelm Meister" and "Don Quixote." [Footnote: See
"Cervantes" in _North American Review_, May, 1905] Hawthorne's
position, therefore, lies between these two--nearer perhaps to
"Werther" than to "Wilhelm Meister." In certain respects he is
surpassed by the great English novelists: Fielding, Scott, Thackeray,
Dickens and Marian Evans; but he in turn surpasses them all in the
perfection and poetic quality of his art. There is much poetry in Scott
and Dickens, a little also in Thackeray and Miss Evans, but Hawthorne's
poetic vein has a more penetrating tone, and appeals more deeply than
Scott's verses. If power and versatility of characterization were to be
the test of imaginative writing, Dickens would push closely on to
Shakespeare; but we do not go to Shakespeare to read about Hamlet or
Falstaff, or for the sake of the story, or even for his wisdom, but for
the _tout ensemble_--to read Shakespeare. Raphael painted a dozen
or more pictures on the same subject, but they are all original,
interesting and valuable, because Raphael painted them. If it were not
for the odd characters and variety of incident in Dickens's novels they
would hardly be worth reading. Hawthorne's _dramatis personæ_ is
not a long one, for his plots do not admit of it, but his characters
are finely drawn, and the fact that they have not become popular types
is rather in their favor. There are Dombeys and Shylocks in plenty, but
who has ever met a Hamlet or a Rosalind in real life?
A certain English writer promulgated a list of the hundred superior
authors of all times and countries. There were no Americans in his
catalogue, but he admitted that if the number was increased to one
hundred and eighteen Hawthorne and Emerson might be included in it.
Doubtless he had not heard of Webster or Alexander Hamilton, and many
of his countrymen would be inclined to place Longfellow before Emerson.
I have myself frequently counted over the great writers of all times
and languages, weighing their respective values carefully in my mind,
but I have never been able to discover more than thirty-five authors
who seem to me decidedly superior to Hawthorne, nor above forty others
who might be placed on an equality with him. [Footnote: Appendix C.]
This, of course, is only an individual opinion, and should be accepted
for what it is worth; but there are many ancient writers, like Hesiod,
Xenophon, and Catullus, whose chief value resides in their antiquity,
and a much larger number of modern authors, such as Balzac, Victor
Hugo, Freytag, and Ruskin, who have been over-estimated in their own
time. Petrarch, and the author of "Gil Bias," might be placed on a
level with Hawthorne, but certainly not above him. Those whom he most
closely resembles in style and subject matter are Goldsmith, Manzoni,
Yet Hawthorne is essentially a domestic writer,--a poetizer of the
hearth-stone. Social life is always the proper subject for works of
fiction, and political life should never enter into them, except as a
subordinate element; but there is a border-land between the two, in
which politics and society act and react on each other, and it is from
this field that the great subjects for epic and dramatic poetry have
always been reaped. Hawthorne only knew of this by hearsay. Of the
strenuous conflict that continually goes on in political centres like
London and New York, a struggle for wealth, for honor, and precedence;
of plots and counterplots, of foiled ambition and ruined reputations,--
with all this Hawthorne had but slight acquaintance. We miss in him the
masculine vigor of Fielding, the humanity of Dickens, and the trenchant
criticism of Thackeray; but he knew that the true poetry of life (at
the present time) was to be found in quiet nooks and in places far off
from the turbulent maelstrom of humanity, and in his own line he
PORTRAITS OF HAWTHORNE
Hawthorne had no more vanity in his nature than is requisite to
preserve a good appearance in public, but he always sat for his
portrait when asked to do so, and this was undoubtedly the most
sensible way. He was first painted by Charles Osgood in 1840, a
portrait which has at least the merit of a fine poetic expression. He
was afterward painted by Thompson, Healy, and Emanuel Leutze, and drawn
in crayon by Rowse and Eastman Johnson. Frances Osborne also painted a
portrait of him from photographs in 1893, an excellent likeness, and
notable especially for its far-off gaze. Of all these, Rowse's portrait
is the finest work of art, for Rowse was a man of genius, but there is
a slight tendency to exaggeration in it, and it does not afford so
clear an idea of Hawthorne as he was, as the Osborne portrait. Healy
was not very successful with Hawthorne, and Miss Lander's bust has no
merit whatever. The following list contains most of the portraits and
photographs of Hawthorne now known to exist, with their respective
ownerships and locations.
Oil portrait painted by Charles Osgood, in 1840. Owned by Mrs. Richard
Crayon portrait drawn by Eastman H. Johnson, in 1846. Owned by Miss
Alice M. Longfellow.
Oil portrait painted by George P. A. Healy, in 1850. Now in the
possession of Kirk Pierce, Esq.
Oil portrait by Miss H. Frances Osborne, after a photograph by Silsbee,
Case & Co., Boston.
Crayon portrait drawn by Samuel W. Rowse, in 1866. Owned by Mrs. Annie
Engraving after the portrait painted in 1850 by Cephas G. Thompson.
Owned by Hon. Henry C. Leach.
The Grolier Club bronze medallion, made in 1892, by Ringel d'Illzach.
Owned by B. W. Pierson.
Cabinet photograph, bust, by Elliott & Fry, London. Owned by Mrs.
Richard C. Manning.
Card photograph, full length, seated, with book in right hand, by Black
& Case, Boston.
Cabinet photograph, three-quarter length, standing beside a pillar,
copy by Mackintire of the original photograph.
Card photograph, three-quarter length, seated, from Warren's
Photographic Studio, Boston.
Card photograph, bust, by Brady, New York, with autographic signature.
Owned by Hon. Henry C. Leach.
Bust in the Concord (Massachusetts) Public Library, by Miss Louise
Card photograph, bust, from Warren's Photographic Studio, Boston. Owned
by Mrs. Richard C. Manning.
Oil portrait by Emanuel Leutze, painted in April, 1852. Owned by Julian
Photograph by Mayall, London. The so-called "Motley photograph."
Two photographs by Brady, full length; one seated, the other standing.
Photograph showing Hawthorne, Ticknor and Fields standing together.
Editions of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Books published under his own
Fanshawe: A Tale, Boston, 1828.
Twice-Told Tales, Boston, 1837.
Another edition, Boston, 1842.
Peter Parley's Universal History, Boston, 1837.
The Gentle Boy: A Thrice-Told Tale, Boston, 1839.
Grandfather's Chair: A History for Youth, Boston, 1841.
Famous Old People: or Grandfather's Chair II, Boston, 1841.
Liberty Tree: The Last Words of Grandfather's Chair, Boston, 1841.
Biographical Stories for Children, Boston, 1842.
Historical Tales for Youth, Boston, 1842.
The Celestial Railroad, Boston, 1843.
Mosses from an Old Manse, New York, 1846, 1851.
The Scarlet Letter, Boston, 1850.
True Stories from History and Biography, Boston, 1851.
The House of the Seven Gables, Boston, 1852.
A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys, Boston, 1851.
Another edition, Boston, 1857.
The Snow-Image and Other Tales, Boston, 1852.
Another edition, Boston, 1857.
The Blithedale Romance, Boston, 1852.
Life of Franklin Pierce, Boston, 1852.
Tanglewood Tales for Girls and Boys, Boston, 1853.
Transformation, or the Romance of Monte Beni, Smith & Elder, London, 1860.
The Marble Faun, or the Romance of Monte Beni, Boston, 1860.
Our Old Home, Boston, 1863.
_A complete list of Hawthorne's contributions to American magazines
will be found in the appendix to Conway's "Life of Hawthorne." _
Mrs. Emerson and Mrs. Hawthorne [Footnote: Read at the Emerson Club, at
Boston, January 2, 1906]
In 1892, when I was constructing the volume known as "Sketches from
Concord and Appledore," I said in comparing Emerson with Hawthorne that
one was like _day_, and the other like _night_. I was not aware that four years
earlier M. D. Conway had made a similar statement in his Life of Hawthorne,
which was published in London. Miss Rebecca Manning, Hawthorne's own
cousin, still living at the age of eighty and an admirable old lady,
distinctly confirms my statement, that "wherever Hawthorne went he
carried twilight with him." Emerson, on the contrary, was of a sanguine
temperament and an essentially sunny nature. His writings are full of
good cheer, and the opening of his Divinity School Address is as full of
summer sunshine as the finest July day. It was only necessary to see him
look at the sunshine from his own porch to recognize how it penetrated
into the depths of his nature.
It would seem consistent with the rational order of things, that
_day_ should be supplemented by _night_, and _night_ again by _day_;
and here we are almost startled by the completeness of our allegory. We
sometimes come across faces in the streets of a large city, which show
by their expression that they are more accustomed to artificial light
than to the light of the sun. Mrs. Emerson was one of these. She never
seemed to be fully herself, until the lamps were lighted. Her pale face
seemed to give forth moonlight, and its habitual expression was much like
that of a Sister of Charity. It was said of her that she was the last
in the house to retire at night, always reading or busying herself with
household affairs, until twelve or one o'clock; but this mode of life
would appear to have been suited to her organization, for in spite of
her colorless look she lived to be over ninety.
So far I can tread upon firm earth, without drawing upon my
imagination, but in regard to Mrs. Hawthorne I cannot speak with the
same assurance, for I only became acquainted with her after her
husband's health had begun to fail, and the anxiety in her face was
strongly marked; yet I have reason to believe that her temperament was
originally sanguine and optimistic, and that she alternated from
dreamy, pensive moods to bright vivacious ones. She certainly was very
different from her husband. Her sister, Elizabeth Peabody, was the most
sanguine person of her time, and her introduction of the kindergarten
into America was accomplished through her unbounded hopefulness. The
Wayside, where Mrs. Hawthorne lived, has an extended southern exposure.
The house was always full of light, which is not often the case with
New England country houses; and when she lived at Liverpool, where
sunshine is a rare commodity, she became unwell, so that Mr. Hawthorne
was obliged to send her to Madeira in order to avert a dangerous
These two estimable ladies were alike in the excellence of their
housekeeping, the purity of their manners, their universal kindliness,
and their devotion to the welfare of their husbands and children. It
was a pleasure to pass them on the road-side; the fare at their tables
was always of the nicest, even if it happened to be frugal; and people
of all classes could have testified to their helpful liberality. In
these respects they might almost have served as models, but otherwise
they were as different as possible. Mrs. Emerson was of a tall,
slender, and somewhat angular figure (like her husband), but she
presided at table with a grace and dignity that quite justified his
favorite epithet of "Queenie." There was even more of the Puritan left
in her than there was in him, and although she encouraged the liberal
movements and tendencies of her time, one always felt in her mental
attitude the inflexibility of the moral law. To her mind there was no
shady border-land between right and wrong, but the two were separated
by a sharply defined line, which was never to be crossed, and she lived
up to this herself, and, in theory at least, she had but little mercy
for sinners. On one occasion I was telling Mr. Emerson of a fraudulent
manufacturing company, which had failed, as it deserved to, and which
was found on investigation to have kept two sets of books, one for
themselves, and another for their creditors. Mrs. Emerson listened to
this narrative with evident impatience, and at the close of it she
exclaimed, "This world has become so wicked that if I were the maker of
it, I should blow it up at once." Emerson himself did not like such
stories; and although he once said that "all deaf children ought to be
put in the water with their faces downward," he was not always willing
to accept human nature for what it really is.
Mrs. Emerson did not agree with her husband's religious views; neither
did she adopt the transcendental faith, that the idea of God is innate
in the human mind, so that we cannot be dispossessed of it. She
belonged to the conservative branch of the Unitarian Church, which was
represented by Reverend James Freeman Clarke and Doctor Andrew P.
Peabody. The subject was one which was permitted to remain in abeyance
between them, but Mrs. Emerson was naturally suspicious of those
reverend gentlemen who called upon her husband, and this may have been
the reason why he did not encourage the visits of clergymen like Samuel
Johnson, Samuel Longfellow, and Professor Hedge, whom he greatly
respected, and who should have been by good rights his chosen
companions. I suppose all husbands are obliged to make these domestic
Mrs. Emerson had also something of the spirit-militant in her. When
David A. Wasson came to dine at Mr. Emerson's invitation, she said to
him, by way of grace before meat: "I see you have been carrying on a
controversy with Reverend Mr. Sears, of Wayland, and you will excuse me
for expressing my opinion that Mr. Sears had the best of it." But after
sounding this little nourish of trumpets, she was as kindly and
hospitable as any one could desire. She was one of the earliest
recruits to the anti-slavery cause,--not only a volunteer, but a
recruiting officer as well,--and she made this decision entirely of her
own mind, without any special encouragement from her husband or
relatives. At the time of John Brown's execution she wanted to have the
bells tolled in Concord, and urged her husband energetically to see
that it was done. Mrs. Emerson was always thoroughly herself. There
never was the shadow of an affectation upon her; nor more than a shadow
of self-consciousness--very rare among conscientious persons. One of
her fine traits was her fondness for flowers, which she cultivated in
the little garden between her house and the mill-brook, with a loving
assiduity. She is supposed to have inspired Emerson's poem, beginning:
"O fair and stately maid, whose eyes
Were kindled in the upper skies
At the same torch that lighted mine:
For so I must interpret still
Thy sweet dominion o'er my will,
A sympathy divine."
There are other references to her in his published writings, which only
those who were personally acquainted with her would recognize.
* * * * *
Mrs. Hawthorne belonged to the class of womankind which Shakespeare has
typified in Ophelia, a tender-hearted, affectionate nature, too
sensitive for the rough strains of life, and too innocent to recognize
the guile in others. This was at once her strength and her weakness;
but it was united, as often happens, with a fine artistic nature, and
superior intelligence. Her face and manners both gave the impression of
a wide and elevated culture. One could see that although she lived by
the wayside, she had been accustomed to enter palaces. Her long
residence in England, her Italian experience, her visit to the Court of
Portugal, her enjoyment of fine pictures, poetry, and architecture, the
acquaintance of distinguished men and women in different countries, had
all left their impress upon her, combined in a quiet and lady-like
harmony. Her conversation was cosmopolitan, and though she did not
quite possess the narrative gift of her sister Elizabeth, it was often
Hawthorne has been looked upon as the necrologist of the Puritans, and
yet a certain coloring of Puritanism adhered to him to the last. It was
his wife who had entirely escaped from the old New England conventicle.
Severity was at the opposite pole from her moral nature. Tolerant and
charitable to the faults of others, her only fault was the lack of
severity. She believed in the law of love, and when kind words did not
serve her purpose she let matters take what course they would, trusting
that good might fall, "At last far off at last to all."
I suspect her pathway was by no means a flowery one. Mrs. Emerson's
life had to be as stoical as her husband's, and Mrs. Hawthorne's,
previous to the Liverpool consulate,--the consulship of Hawthorne,--was
even more difficult. No one knew better than she the meaning of that
heroism which each day requires. A writer in the _Atlantic
Monthly_, reviewing Julian Hawthorne's biography of his father,
emphasizes, "the dual selfishness of Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne." Insensate
words! There was no room for selfishness in the lives they led. In a
certain sense they lived almost wholly for one another and for their
children; but Hawthorne himself lived for all time and for all mankind,
and his wife lived through him to the same purpose. The especial form
of their material life was as essential to its spiritual outgrowth as
the rose-bush is to the rose; and it would be a cankered selfishness to
complain of them for it.
There is at least one error in the Symmes diary, which is however
explainable, and need not vitiate the whole of it. It has been
ascertained that the drowning of Henry Jackson in Songo River by being
kicked in the mouth by another boy while swimming, took place in 1828,
so that the statement to that effect in the diary, must have been
interpolated. As it happened, however, another Henry Jackson was
drowned in the Songo River, so Mr. Pickard says, more than twenty years
before that, and it is quite possible that young Hawthorne overheard
some talk about that catastrophe, and mistook it for a recent event;
and that Symmes afterwards confounding the two Jacksons and the
difference in time, amended Hawthorne's statement as we now have it.
Mr. Pickard says in a recent letter:
"This item alone led me to doubt. But I cannot doubt, the more I
reflect upon it, that H. himself had a hand in most, if not all, the
other items. Who but his uncle could have written that inscription? The
negro Symmes could not have composed that--only a man of culture."...
"The sketch of the sail on Sebago Lake surely was written by some one
who was in that party. Symmes _might_ have been there, but he was
a genius deserving the fame of a Chatterton if he really did this.
Three of that party I personally knew--one (Sawyer) was a cousin of my
grandfather. His sleight of hand, his skill with rifle, his being a
'votary of chance,' are traditions in my family."
This does not differ essentially from the opinion I have already
expressed in Chapter II. F. B. Sanborn, who is one of the best-informed
of living men in regard to Hawthorne, takes a similar view.
In February, 1883, a review of "Nathaniel Hawthorne and his Wife" was
published in the _Atlantic Monthly_, evidently written by a person
with no good-will toward the family. Editors ought to beware of such
reviews, for their character is easily recognized, and the effect they
produce often reacts upon the publication that contains them. In the
present instance, the ill-humor of the writer had evidently been
bottled up for many years.
To place typographical errors to the debit of an author's account--not
very numerous for a work of eight hundred pages--suggests either an
inexperienced or a strongly prejudiced critic. This is what the
_Atlantic_ writer begins with, and he (or she) next proceeds to
complain that the book does not contain a complete bibliography of
Hawthorne's works; although many excellent biographies have been
published without this, and it is quite possible that Hawthorne's son
preferred not to insert it. No notice is taken of the many fine
passages in the book, like the apostrophe upon Hawthorne's marriage,
[Footnote: J. Hawthorne, i. 242,] and that excellent description of the
performances of a trance medium at Florence, but continues in an
ascending climax of fault-finding until he (or she) reaches the passage
from Hawthorne's Roman diary concerning Margaret Fuller. [Footnote: J.
Hawthorne, i. 30-35.]
If public opinion has any value, this passage concerning Margaret
Fuller's marriage ought not to have been published; but what can
Margaret Fuller's friends and admirers expect? Do they think that a
young American woman can go to a foreign country, and live with a
foreign gentleman, in defiance of the customs of modern society,
without subjecting herself to the severest criticism? It is true that
she married Count d'Ossoli before her child was born, and her friends,
who were certainly an enlightened class, always believed that she acted
throughout from the most honorable motives (my own opinion is, that she
acted in imitation of Goethe), but how can they expect the great mass
of mankind to think so? Hawthorne had a right to his opinion, as well
as Emerson and Channing, and although it was certainly not a very
charitable opinion, we cannot doubt that it was an honest one. In
regard to the marriage tie, Hawthorne was always strict and
This is the climax of the _Atlantic_ critique, and its anti-climax
is an excoriation of Hawthorne's son for neglecting to do equal and
exact justice to James T. Fields. This truly is a grievous accusation.
Fields was Hawthorne's publisher and would seem to have taken a
personal and friendly interest in him besides, but we cannot look on it
as a wholly unselfish interest. It was not like Hillard's, Pierce's,
and Bridge's interest in Hawthorne. If Fields had not been his
publisher, it is not probable that Hawthorne would have made his
acquaintance; and if his son has not enlarged on Fields's good offices
in bringing "The Scarlet Letter" before the public, there is an
excellent reason for it, in the fact that Fields had already done so
for himself in his "Yesterdays with Authors." That Fields's name should
have been omitted in the index to "Nathaniel Hawthorne and his Wife,"
may have been an oversight; but, at all events, it is too microscopic a
matter to deserve consideration in a first-class review.
Are we become such babies, that it is no longer possible for a writer
to tell the plain, ostensible truth concerning human nature, without
having a storm raised about his head for it? George P. Bradford and
Martin F. Tupper are similar instances, and like Boswell have suffered
the penalty which accrues to men of small stature for associating with
The great poets and other writers of all nations whom I conceive to be
superior to Hawthorne, may be found in the following list: Homer,
Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Pindar, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle,
Demosthenes, Theocritus, Plutarch; Horace, Virgil, Cicero, Tacitus;
Dante, Tasso, Petrarch; Cervantes, Calderon, Camoens; Molière, Racine,
Descartes, Voltaire; Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Kant; Swedenborg;
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Bacon, Milton, and perhaps Burns and Byron;
Alexander Hamilton, Napoleon.
These also may be placed more on an equality with Hawthorne, although
there will of course always be wide differences of opinion on that
point: Hesiod, Herodotus, Menander, Aristophases; Livy, Cæsar,
Lucretius, Juvenal; Ariosto, Macchiavelli, Manzoni, Lope de Vega,
Buthas Pato; Corneille, Pascal, Rousseau; Wieland, Klopstock, Heine,
Auerbach; Spenser, Ben Jonson, Fletcher, Fielding, Pope, Scott,
Wordsworth, Shelley, Carlyle, Browning, Tennyson, Froude; Webster,
Emerson, Wasson. Sappho, Bion, Moschus, and Cleanthes were certainly
poets of a high order, but only some fragments of their poetry have
survived. Gottfried of Strassburg, the Minnesinger, might be included,
and some of the finest English poetry was written by unknown geniuses
of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Ballads like "Chevy Chace"
and the "Child of Elle" deserve a high place in the rank of poetry; and
the German "Reineke Fuchs" is in its way without a rival. There may be
other French, German, and Spanish writers of exceptional excellence
with whom I am unacquainted, but I do not feel that any French or
German novelists of the last century ought to be placed on a level with
Hawthorne--only excepting Auerbach. Victor Hugo is grandiloquent, and
the others all have some serious fault or limitation. I suppose that
not one in ten of Emerson's readers has ever heard of Wasson, but he
was the better prose writer of the two, and little inferior as a poet.
More elevated he could not be, but more profound, just, logical and
humane--that is, more like Hawthorne. Emerson could not have filled his
place on the _Atlantic Monthly_ and the _North American Review_.
Adams, John Quincy
Alcott, A. Bronson
"Ambitious Guest, The,"
"Ancestral Footstep, The,"
_Antinous_ of the villa Ludovisi
"Arabella," the ship
"Artist of the Beautiful, The,"
Bacon's, Miss, volume published
"Birth Mark, The,"
"Bosom Serpent, The,"
Bradford, George P
Brandes, Danish critic
Bright, Henry A.
Browning and Carlyle
Browning, Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett
Carlyle and Hawthorne
Castor and Pollux, statues of
"Celestial Railroad, The"
Cenci, Beatrice, portrait of
Channing, William H.
Cilley and Graves duel
Clarke, Edward H.
Clarke, Rev. Dr. James F.
"Code of Honor," the
Columbia, statue of
Conway, Rev. M. D.
Crab spider, the
"Critique of Pure Reason, The"
Curtis, George William
Dallas, George M.
"Doctor Grimshawe's Secret"
"Dolliver Romance, The"
Dwight, John S., musical critic
Emerson, Mrs. R. W.
Essex County people
"Fancy's Show Box"
"Faun of Praxiteles"
Fields, James T
Gardner, E. A., Prof
Genius, its growth
"Gentle Boy, The,"
his tinted Eves and Venuses
Gladstone, William E., on transcendentalism
Godkin, E. L.
Golden Age, A
Goodrich, S. G., editor
"Great Carbuncle, The,"
"Great Stone Face, The,"
Guilty glimpses at hired models
Gurney, Prof. E. W.
"Hall of Fantasy, The,"
Harris, Dr. William T.
Harvard Law School
his last will
Letter to British Ministry
Hawthorne, Mrs. Sophia Peabody
becomes engaged to Hawthorne
writes to her mother
encourages her husband
praises her husband
is out of health
goes to Madeira
is presented at court
the original of Hilda
character and style
his English ancestors
life at Sebago
his first diary
the budding of his genius
fits for college
decides on his vocation
has the measles
his life at Bowdoin
is fined for gambling
graduates at Bowdoin
decides his profession
changes his name
goes to Lake Champlain
wins his bet with Cilley
commences his diary
his supposed challenge
goes to Berkshire Hills
character of his diary
enters Custom House
goes to Brook Farm
his true Arcadia
opinion of Emerson
birth of a daughter
style as an author
returns to Robert Manning's house
is appointed Surveyor of the Port
son Julian is born
occupies house on Mall street
is removed from office
publishes "Scarlet Letter"
method of development
sits for his portrait; goes to Lenox
publishes "House of Seven Gables"
birth of his daughter Rose
leaves Lenox for Newton
returns to Concord
writes the "Life of Pierce"
the Liverpool consulate
sails for England
as an office-holder
his life in England
makes a speech
kindness to Delia Bacon
resigns the Consulate
as a law writer
goes to Paris
arrives at Rome
journeys to Florence
goes to the Vatican
on modern sculpture
returns to Rome
summer at Redcar
publishes the "Marble Faun
Hawthorne the famous
begins to dislike writing
returns to Concord
method of writing
proposes to arm negroes
sojourns at Beverly Farms
last entry in his journal
dedicates book to President Pierce
his position in literature
Hawthorne, Rose, her birth
Hawthorne, Una, her birth
severe illness of
Hilda, character of
Hillard, George S.
Hoar, Miss Elizabeth
Holmes, Oliver Wendell
"House of the Seven Gables, The"
Howe, Dr. Samuel G.
Hunt, suicide of Miss
James, Henry, Jr.
James, Henry, Sr.
Jameson, Mrs. Anna
"Lady Eleanor's Mantle"
Lathrop, George P.
Longfellow, Henry W.
Loring, Frederick W.
Loring, Dr. George B.
Lowell, James Russell
Mann, Mrs. Horace
"Marble Faun, The," English reviews of
McClellan, General George B.
his _Last Judgment and Moses_
"Miroir, Monsieur du"
"Mosses from an Old Manse"
Niagara Falls, visit to
_North American Review_
Nurse, Rebecca, a witch
"Old Manse," the
"Ontario Steamboat, The"
O'Sullivan, an editor
"Our Old Home"
Peabody, Sophia Amelia
Philadelphia Hock Club
Pickard, Samuel T.
goes to the war
nominated for President
Pike, William B.
Poetic mind, the
Politicians, opinion of
Portraits of Hawthorne by Osgood, Healy, Rowse, and
Prescott, George L
Prince of Wales
Quakers, persecution of
Reform Club of London
Runnel, Mary, sweetheart of Daniel Hathorne
Salem, situation of
Sanborn, Frank B., attempt to kidnap
"Scarlet Letter, The,"
Schönbach, A. E., German critic
"Select Party, The,"
Shakespeare, authorship of
Shaw, Chief Justice
"Sights from a Steeple"
Skepticism of evil
Story, William W.
St. Petersburg _Venus_
Sumner and Motley
Symms, William, a mulatto
Ticknor, W. D., death of
Tituba, the Aztec
Tragedy, character of
Trance medium, a
Tupper, Martin Farquhar
Turner, J. M. W.
"Twice Told Tales"
"Unpardonable Sin, The,"
Upham, the historian
Vanity of Women
_Venus dé Medici_
"Vicar of Wakefield"
"Virtuoso's Collection, The,"
"Vision at the Fountain, The,"
Wasson, David A
Waters, Henry F., researches of
West Roxbury commune
Whittier, the poet
Wig Castle in Wigton
Worcester, Doctor, the lexicographer
"Young Goodman Brown"
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