Yesterdays with Authors
James T. Fields

Part 1 out of 8


The firm of Ticknor and Fields, after many mergers and acquisitions,
continues to exist today as Houghton Mifflin Books. The firm's original
store, the Old Corner Bookstore, still exists as a bookstore at the
corner of School and Washington streets in Boston.

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"_Some there are,
By their good works exalted, lofty minds
And meditative, authors of delight
And happiness, which to the end of time
Will live, and spread, and kindle_."


Surrounded by the portraits of those I have long counted my friends, I
like to chat with the people about me concerning these pictures, my
companions on the wall, and the men and women they represent. These are
my assembled guests, who dropped in years ago and stayed with me,
without the form of invitation or demand on my time or thought. They are
my eloquent silent partners for life, and I trust they will dwell here
as long as I do. Some of them I have known intimately; several of them
lived in other times; but they are all my friends and associates in a
certain sense.

To converse with them and of them--

"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past"--

is one of the delights of existence, and I am never tired of answering
questions about them, or gossiping of my own free will as to their
every-day life and manners.

If I were to call the little collection in this diminutive house a
_Gallery of Pictures_, in the usual sense of that title, many would
smile and remind me of what Foote said with his characteristic sharpness
of David Garrick, when he joined his brother Peter in the wine trade:
"Davy lived with three quarts of vinegar in the cellar, calling himself
a wine merchant."

My friends have often heard me in my "garrulous old age" discourse of
things past and gone, and know what they bring down on their heads when
they request me "to run over," as they call it, the faces looking out
upon us from these plain unvarnished frames.

Let us begin, then, with the little man of Twickenham, for that is his
portrait which hangs over the front fireplace. An original portrait of
Alexander Pope I certainly never expected to possess, and I must relate
how I came by it. Only a year ago I was strolling in my vagabond way up
and down the London streets, and dropped in to see an old
picture-shop,--kept by a man so thoroughly instructed in his calling
that it is always a pleasure to talk with him and examine his collection
of valuables, albeit his treasures are of such preciousness as to make
the humble purse of a commoner seem to shrink into a still smaller
compass from sheer inability to respond when prices are named. At No. 6
Pall Mall one is apt to find Mr. Graves "clipp'd round about" by
first-rate canvas. When I dropped in upon him that summer morning he had
just returned from the sale of the Marquis of Hastings's effects. The
Marquis, it will be remembered, went wrong, and his debts swallowed up
everything. It was a wretched stormy day when the pictures were sold,
and Mr. Graves secured, at very moderate prices, five original
portraits. All the paintings had suffered more or less decay, and some
of them, with their frames, had fallen to the floor. One of the best
preserved pictures inherited by the late Marquis was a portrait of Pope,
painted from life by Richardson for the Earl of Burlington, and even
that had been allowed to drop out of its oaken frame. Horace Walpole
says, Jonathan Richardson was undoubtedly one of the best painters of a
head that had appeared in England. He was pupil of the celebrated Riley,
the master of Hudson, of whom Sir Joshua took lessons in his art, and it
was Richardson's "Treatise on Painting" which inflamed the mind of
young Reynolds, and stimulated his ambition to become a great painter.
Pope seems to have had a real affection for Richardson, and probably sat
to him for this picture some time during the year 1732. In Pope's
correspondence there is a letter addressed to the painter making an
engagement with him for a several days' sitting, and it is quite
probable that the portrait before us was finished at that time. One can
imagine the painter and the poet chatting together day after day, in
presence of that canvas. During the same year Pope's mother died, at the
great age of ninety-three; and on the evening of June 10th, while she
lay dead in the house, Pope sent off the following heart-touching letter
from Twickenham to his friend the painter:--

"As you know you and I mutually desire to see one another, I hoped
that this day our wishes would have met, and brought you hither. And
this for the very reason which possibly might hinder your coming,
that my poor mother is dead. I thank God, her death was as easy as
her life was innocent; and as it cost her not a groan, or even a
sigh, there is yet upon her countenance such an expression of
tranquillity, nay, almost of pleasure, that it is even amiable to
behold it. It would afford the finest image of a saint expired that
ever painting drew; and it would be the greatest obligation which
even that obliging art could ever bestow on a friend, if you could
come and sketch it for me. I am sure, if there be no very prevalent
obstacle, you will leave any common business to do this; and I hope
to see you this evening, as late as you will, or to-morrow morning
as early, before this winter flower is faded. I will defer her
interment till to-morrow night. I know you love me, or I could not
have written this; I could not (at this time) have written at all.
Adieu! May you die as happily!"

Several eminent artists of that day painted the likeness of Pope, and
among them Sir Godfrey Kneller and Jervas, but I like the expression of
this one by Richardson best of all. The mouth, it will be observed, is
very sensitive and the eyes almost painfully so. It is told of the poet,
that when he was a boy "there was great sweetness in his look," and
that his face was plump and pretty, and that he had a very fresh
complexion. Continual study ruined his constitution and changed his
form, it is said. Richardson has skilfully kept out of sight the poor
little decrepit figure, and gives us only the beautiful head of a man of
genius. I scarcely know a face on canvas that expresses the poetical
sense in a higher degree than this one. The likeness must be perfect,
and I can imagine the delight of the Rev. Joseph Spence hobbling into
his presence on the 4th of September, 1735, after "a ragged boy of an
ostler came in with a little scrap of paper not half an inch broad,
which contained the following words: 'Mr. Pope would be very glad to see
Mr. Spence at the Cross Inn just now.'"

English literature is full of eulogistic mention of Pope. Thackeray is
one of the last great authors who has spoken golden words about the
poet. "Let us always take into account," he says, "that constant
tenderness and fidelity of affection which pervaded and sanctified his

What pluck and dauntless courage possessed the "gallant little cripple"
of Twickenham! When all the dunces of England were aiming their
poisonous barbs at him, he said, "I had rather die at once, than live in
fear of those rascals." A vast deal that has been written about him is
untrue. No author has been more elaborately slandered on principle, or
more studiously abused through envy. Smarting dullards went about for
years, with an ever-ready microscope, hunting for flaws in his character
that might be injuriously exposed; but to-day his defamers are in bad
repute. Excellence in a fellow-mortal is to many men worse than death;
and great suffering fell upon a host of mediocre writers when Pope
uplifted his sceptre and sat supreme above them all.

Pope's latest champion is John Ruskin. Open his Lectures on Art,
recently delivered before the University of Oxford, and read passage
number seventy. Let us read it together, as we sit here in the presence
of the sensitive poet.

"I want you to think over the relation of expression to character in
two great masters of the absolute art of language, Virgil and Pope.
You are perhaps surprised at the last named; and indeed you have in
English much higher grasp and melody of language from more
passionate minds, but you have nothing else, in its range, so
perfect. I name, therefore, these two men, because they are the two
most accomplished _artists_, merely as such, whom I know, in
literature; and because I think you will be afterwards interested in
investigating how the infinite grace in the words of the one, the
severity in those of the other, and the precision in those of both,
arise wholly out of the moral elements of their minds,--out of the
deep tenderness in Virgil which enabled him to write the stories of
Nisus and Lausus, and the serene and just benevolence which placed
Pope, in his theology, two centuries in advance of his time, and
enabled him to sum the law of noble life in two lines which, so far
as I know, are the most complete, the most concise, and the most
lofty expression of moral temper existing in English words:--

'Never elated, while one man's oppressed;
Never dejected, while another's blessed.'

I wish you also to remember these lines of Pope, and to make
yourselves entirely masters of his system of ethics; because,
putting Shakespeare aside as rather the world's than ours, I hold
Pope to be the most perfect representative we have, since Chaucer,
of the true English mind; and I think the Dunciad is the most
absolutely chiselled and monumental work 'exacted' in our country.
You will find, as you study Pope, that he has expressed for you, in
the strictest language and within the briefest limits, every law of
art, of criticism, of economy, of policy, and, finally, of a
benevolence, humble, rational, and resigned, contented with its
allotted share of life, and trusting the problem of its salvation to
Him in whose hands lies that of the universe."

Glance up at the tender eyes of the poet, who seems to have been eagerly
listening while we have been reading Ruskin's beautiful tribute. As he
is so intent upon us, let me gratify still further the honest pride of
"the little nightingale," as they used to call him when he was a child,
and read to you from the "Causeries du Lundi" what that wise French
critic, Sainte-Beuve, has written of his favorite English poet:--

"The natural history of Pope is very simple: delicate persons, it
has been said, are unhappy, and he was doubly delicate, delicate of
mind, delicate and infirm of body; he was doubly irritable. But what
grace, what taste, what swiftness to feel, what justness and
perfection in expressing his feeling!... His first masters were
insignificant; he educated himself: at twelve years old he learned
Latin and Greek together, and almost without a master; at fifteen he
resolved to go to London, in order to learn French and Italian
there, by reading the authors. His family, retired from trade, and
Catholic, lived at this time upon an estate in the forest of
Windsor. This desire of his was considered as an odd caprice, for
his health from that time hardly permitted him to move about. He
persisted, and accomplished his project; he learned nearly
everything thus by himself, making his own choice among authors,
getting the grammar quite alone, and his pleasure was to translate
into verse the finest passages he met with among the Latin and Greek
poets. When he was about sixteen years old, he said, his taste was
formed as much as it was later.... If such a thing as literary
temperament exist, it never discovered itself in a manner more
clearly defined and more decided than with Pope. Men ordinarily
become classic by means of the fact and discipline of education; he
was so by vocation, so to speak, and by a natural originality. At
the same time with the poets, he read the best among the critics,
and prepared himself to speak after them.

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"Pope had the characteristic sign of literary natures, the faithful
worship of genius.... He said one day to a friend: 'I have always
been particularly struck with this passage of Homer where he
represents to us Priam transported with grief for the loss of
Hector, on the point of breaking out into reproaches and invectives
against the servants who surrounded him and against his sons. It
would be impossible for me to read this passage without weeping over
the disasters of the unfortunate old king.' And then he took the
book, and tried to read aloud the passage, 'Go, wretches, curse of
my life,' but he was interrupted by tears.

* * * * *

"No example could prove to us better than his to what degree the
faculty of tender, sensitive criticism is an active faculty. We
neither feel nor perceive in this way when there is nothing to give
in return. This taste, this sensibility, so swift and alert, justly
supposes imagination behind it. It is said that Shelley, the first
time he heard the poem of 'Christabel' recited, at a certain
magnificent and terrible passage, took fright and suddenly fainted.
The whole poem of 'Alastor' was to be foreseen in that fainting.
Pope, not less sensitive in his way, could not read through that
passage of the Iliad without bursting into tears. To be a critic to
that degree, is to be a poet."

Thanks, eloquent and judicious scholar, so lately gone from the world of
letters! A love of what is best in art was the habit of Sainte-Beuve's
life, and so he too will be remembered as one who has kept the best
company in literature,--a man who cheerfully did homage to genius,
wherever and whenever it might be found.

I intend to leave as a legacy to a dear friend of mine an old faded
book, which I hope he will always prize as it deserves. It is a
well-worn, well-read volume, of no value whatever as an _edition_,--but
_it belonged to Abraham Lincoln_. It is his copy of "The Poetical Works
of Alexander Pope, Esq., to which is prefixed the life of the author by
Dr. Johnson." It bears the imprint on the title-page of J.J. Woodward,
Philadelphia, and was published in 1839. Our President wrote his own
name in it, and chronicles the fact that it was presented to him "by his
friend N.W. Edwards." In January, 1861, Mr. Lincoln gave the book to a
very dear friend of his, who honored me with it in January, 1867, as a
New-Year's present. As long as I live it will remain among my books,
specially treasured as having been owned and read by one of the noblest
and most sorely tried of men, a hero comparable with any of

"The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man,
Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame,
New birth of our new soil, the first American."


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_What Emerson has said in his fine subtle way of Shakespeare may well be
applied to the author of "Vanity Fair."

"One can discern in his ample pictures what forms and humanities pleased
him; his delight in troops of friends, in large hospitality, in cheerful

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_"He read the hearts of men and women, their probity, and their second
thought, and wiles; the wiles of innocence, and the transitions by which
virtues and vices slide into their contraries."_


Dear old Thackeray!--as everybody who knew him intimately calls him, now
he is gone. That is his face, looking out upon us, next to Pope's. What
a contrast in bodily appearance those two English men of genius present!
Thackeray's great burly figure, broad-chested, and ample as the day,
seems to overshadow and quite blot out of existence the author of "The
Essay on Man." But what friends they would have been had they lived as
contemporaries under Queen Anne or Queen Victoria! One can imagine the
author of "Pendennis" gently lifting poor little Alexander out of his
"chariot" into the club, and revelling in talk with him all night long.
Pope's high-bred and gentlemanly manner, combined with his extraordinary
sensibility and dread of ridicule, would have modified Thackeray's usual
gigantic fun and sometimes boisterous sarcasm into a rich and strange
adaptability to his little guest. We can imagine them talking together
now, with even a nobler wisdom and ampler charity than were ever
vouchsafed to them when they were busy amid the turmoils of their
crowded literary lives.

As a reader and lover of all that Thackeray has written and published,
as well as a personal friend, I will relate briefly something of his
literary habits as I can recall them. It is now nearly twenty years
since I first saw him and came to know him familiarly in London. I was
very much in earnest to have him come to America, and read his series
of lectures on "The English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century," and
when I talked the matter over with some of his friends at the little
Garrick Club, they all said he could never be induced to leave London
long enough for such an expedition. Next morning, after this talk at the
Garrick, the elderly damsel of all work announced to me, as I was taking
breakfast at my lodgings, that Mr. _Sackville_ had called to see me, and
was then waiting below. Very soon I heard a heavy tread on the stairs,
and then entered a tall, white-haired stranger, who held out his hand,
bowed profoundly, and with a most comical expression announced himself
as Mr. Sackville. Recognizing at once the face from published portraits,
I knew that my visitor was none other than Thackeray himself, who,
having heard the servant give the wrong name, determined to assume it on
this occasion. For years afterwards, when he would drop in unexpectedly,
both at home and abroad, he delighted to call himself Mr. Sackville,
until a certain Milesian waiter at the Tremont House addressed him as
Mr. Thack_uary_, when he adopted that name in preference to the other.

Questions are frequently asked as to the habits of thought and
composition of authors one has happened to know, as if an author's
friends were commonly invited to observe the growth of works he was by
and by to launch from the press. It is not customary for the doors of
the writer's work-shop to be thrown open, and for this reason it is all
the more interesting to notice, when it is possible, how an essay, a
history, a novel, or a poem is conceived, grows up, and is corrected for
publication. One would like very much to be informed how Shakespeare put
together the scenes of Hamlet or Macbeth, whether the subtile thought
accumulated easily on the page before him, or whether he struggled for
it with anxiety and distrust. We know that Milton troubled himself about
little matters of punctuation, and obliged the printer to take special
note of his requirements, scolding him roundly when he neglected his
instructions. We also know that Melanchthon was in his library hard at
work by two or three o'clock in the morning both in summer and winter,
and that Sir William Jones began his studies with the dawn.

The most popular female writer of America, whose great novel struck a
chord of universal sympathy throughout the civilized world, has habits
of composition peculiarly her own, and unlike those belonging to any
author of whom we have record. She _croons_, so to speak, over her
writings, and it makes very little difference to her whether there is a
crowd of people about her or whether she is alone during the composition
of her books. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was wholly prepared for the press in a
little wooden house in Maine, from week to week, while the story was
coming out in a Washington newspaper. Most of it was written by the
evening lamp, on a pine table, about which the children of the family
were gathered together conning their various lessons for the next day.
Amid the busy hum of earnest voices, constantly asking questions of the
mother, intent on her world-renowned task, Mrs. Stowe wove together
those thrilling chapters which were destined to find readers in so many
languages throughout the globe. No work of similar importance, so far as
we know, was ever written amid so much that seemed hostile to literary

I had the opportunity, both in England and America, of observing the
literary habits of Thackeray, and it always seemed to me that he did his
work with comparative ease, but was somewhat influenced by a custom of
procrastination. Nearly all his stories were written in monthly
instalments for magazines, with the press at his heels. He told me that
when he began a novel he rarely knew how many people were to figure in
it, and, to use his own words, he was always very shaky about their
moral conduct. He said that sometimes, especially if he had been dining
late and did not feel in remarkably good-humor next morning, he was
inclined to make his characters villanously wicked; but if he rose
serene with an unclouded brain, there was no end to the lovely actions
he was willing to make his men and women perform. When he had written a
passage that pleased him very much he could not resist clapping on his
hat and rushing forth to find an acquaintance to whom he might instantly
read his successful composition. Gilbert Wakefield, universally
acknowledged to have been the best Greek scholar of his time, said he
would have turned out a much better one, if he had begun earlier to
study that language; but unfortunately he did not begin till he was
fifteen years of age. Thackeray, in quoting to me this saying of
Wakefield, remarked: "My English would have been very much better if I
had read Fielding before I was ten." This observation was a valuable
hint, on the part of Thackeray, as to whom he considered his master in

James Hannay paid Thackeray a beautiful compliment when he said: "If he
had had his choice he would rather have been famous as an artist than as
a writer; but it was destined that he should paint in colors which will
never crack and never need restoration." Thackeray's characters are,
indeed, not so much _inventions_ as _existences_, and we know them as we
know our best friends or our most intimate enemies.

When I was asked, the other day, which of his books I like best, I gave
the old answer to a similar question. "_The last one I read_." If I
could possess only _one_ of his works, I think I should choose "Henry
Esmond." To my thinking, it is a marvel in literature, and I have read
it oftener than any of the other works. Perhaps the reason of my
partiality lies somewhat in this little incident. One day, in the snowy
winter of 1852, I met Thackeray sturdily ploughing his way down Beacon
Street with a copy of "Henry Esmond" (the English edition, then just
issued) under his arm. Seeing me some way off, he held aloft the volumes
and began to shout in great glee. When I came up to him he cried out,
"Here is the _very_ best I can do, and I am carrying it to Prescott as a
reward of merit for having given me my first dinner in America. I stand
by this book, and am willing to leave it, when I go, as my card."

As he wrote from month to month, and liked to put off the inevitable
chapters till the last moment, he was often in great tribulation. I
happened to be one of a large company whom he had invited to a
six-o'clock dinner at Greenwich one summer afternoon, several years ago.
We were all to go down from London, assemble in a particular room at the
hotel, where he was to meet us at six o'clock, _sharp_. Accordingly we
took steamer and gathered ourselves together in the reception-room at
the appointed time. When the clock struck six, our host had not
fulfilled his part of the contract. His burly figure was yet wanting
among the company assembled. As the guests were nearly all strangers to
each other, and as there was no one present to introduce us, a profound
silence fell upon the room, and we anxiously looked out of the windows,
hoping every moment that Thackeray would arrive. This untoward state of
things went on for one hour, still no Thackeray and no dinner. English
reticence would not allow any remark as to the absence of our host.
Everybody felt serious and a gloom fell upon the assembled party. Still
no Thackeray. The landlord, the butler, and the waiters rushed in and
out the room, shrieking for the master of the feast, who as yet had not
arrived. It was confidentially whispered by a fat gentleman, with a
hungry look, that the dinner was utterly spoiled twenty minutes ago,
when we heard a merry shout in the entry and Thackeray bounced into the
room. He had not changed his morning dress, and ink was still visible
upon his fingers. Clapping his hands and pirouetting briskly on one leg,
he cried out, "Thank Heaven, the last sheet of The Virginians has just
gone to the printer." He made no apology for his late appearance,
introduced nobody, shook hands heartily with everybody, and begged us
all to be seated as quickly as possible. His exquisite delight at
completing his book swept away every other feeling, and we all shared
his pleasure, albeit the dinner was overdone throughout.

The most finished and elegant of all _lecturers_, Thackeray often made a
very poor appearance when he attempted to deliver a set speech to a
public assembly. He frequently broke down after the first two or three
sentences. He prepared what he intended to say with great exactness, and
his favorite delusion was that he was about to astonish everybody with a
remarkable effort. It never disturbed him that he commonly made a woful
failure when he attempted speech-making, but he sat down with such cool
serenity if he found that he could not recall what he wished to say,
that his audience could not help joining in and smiling with him when he
came to a stand-still. Once he asked me to travel with him from London
to Manchester to hear a great speech he was going to make at the
founding of the Free Library Institution in that city. All the way down
he was discoursing of certain effects he intended to produce on the
Manchester dons by his eloquent appeals to their pockets. This passage
was to have great influence with the rich merchants, this one with the
clergy, and so on. He said that although Dickens and Bulwer and Sir
James Stephen, all eloquent speakers, were to precede him, he intended
to beat each of them on this special occasion. He insisted that I
should be seated directly in front of him, so that I should have the
full force of his magic eloquence. The occasion was a most brilliant
one; tickets had been in demand at unheard-of prices several weeks
before the day appointed; the great hall, then opened for the first time
to the public, was filled by an audience such as is seldom convened,
even in England. The three speeches which came before Thackeray was
called upon were admirably suited to the occasion, and most eloquently
spoken. Sir John Potter, who presided, then rose, and after some
complimentary allusions to the author of "Vanity Fair," introduced him
to the crowd, who welcomed him with ringing plaudits. As he rose, he
gave me a half-wink from under his spectacles, as if to say: "Now for
it; the others have done very well, but I will show 'em a grace beyond
the reach of their art." He began in a clear and charming manner, and
was absolutely perfect for three minutes. In the middle of a most
earnest and elaborate sentence he suddenly stopped, gave a look of comic
despair at the ceiling, crammed both hands into his trousers' pockets,
and deliberately sat down. Everybody seemed to understand that it was
one of Thackeray's unfinished speeches and there were no signs of
surprise or discontent among his audience. He continued to sit on the
platform in a perfectly composed manner; and when the meeting was over
he said to me, without a sign of discomfiture, "My boy, you have my
profoundest sympathy; this day you have accidentally missed hearing one
of the finest speeches ever composed for delivery by a great British
orator." And I never heard him mention the subject again.

Thackeray rarely took any exercise, thus living in striking contrast to
the other celebrated novelist of our time, who was remarkable for the
number of hours he daily spent in the open air. It seems to be almost
certain now, from concurrent testimony, gathered from physicians and
those who knew him best in England, that Thackeray's premature death was
hastened by an utter disregard of the natural laws. His vigorous frame
gave ample promise of longevity, but he drew too largely on his brain
and not enough on his legs. _High_ living and high _thinking_, he used
to say, was the correct reading of the proverb.

He was a man of the tenderest feelings, very apt to be cajoled into
doing what the world calls foolish things, and constantly performing
feats of unwisdom, which performances he was immoderately laughing at
all the while in his books. No man has impaled snobbery with such a
stinging rapier, but he always accused himself of being a snob, past all
cure. This I make no doubt was one of his exaggerations, but there was a
grain of truth in the remark, which so sharp an observer as himself
could not fail to notice, even though the victim was so near home.

Thackeray announced to me by letter in the early autumn of 1852 that he
had determined to visit America, and would sail for Boston by the Canada
on the 30th of October. All the necessary arrangements for his lecturing
tour had been made without troubling him with any of the details. He
arrived on a frosty November evening, and went directly to the Tremont
House, where rooms had been engaged for him. I remember his delight in
getting off the sea, and the enthusiasm with which he hailed the
announcement that dinner would be ready shortly. A few friends were
ready to sit down with him, and he seemed greatly to enjoy the novelty
of an American repast. In London he had been very curious in his
inquiries about American oysters, as marvellous stories, which
he did not believe, had been told him of their great size. We
apologized--although we had taken care that the largest specimens to be
procured should startle his unwonted vision when he came to the
table--for what we called the extreme _smallness_ of the oysters,
promising that we would do better next time. Six bloated Falstaffian
bivalves lay before him in their shells. I noticed that he gazed at them
anxiously with fork upraised; then he whispered to me, with a look of
anguish, "How shall I do it?" I described to him the simple process by
which the free-born citizens of America were accustomed to accomplish
such a task. He seemed satisfied that the thing was feasible, selected
the smallest one in the half-dozen (rejecting a large one, "because," he
said, "it resembled the High Priest's servant's ear that Peter cut off")
and then bowed his head as if he were saying grace. All eyes were upon
him to watch the effect of a new sensation in the person of a great
British author. Opening his mouth very wide, he struggled for a moment,
and then all was over. I shall never forget the comic look of despair he
cast upon the other five over-occupied shells. I broke the perfect
stillness by asking him how he felt. "Profoundly grateful," he gasped,
"and as if I had swallowed a little baby." It was many years ago since
we gathered about him on that occasion, but, if my memory serves me, we
had what might be called _a pleasant evening_. Indeed, I remember much
hilarity, and sounds as of men laughing and singing far into midnight. I
could not deny, if called upon to testify in court, that we had a _good
time_ on that frosty November evening.

We had many happy days and nights together both in England and America,
but I remember none happier than that evening we passed with him when
the Punch people came to dine at his own table with the silver statuette
of Mr. Punch in full dress looking down upon the hospitable board from
the head of the table. This silver figure always stood in a conspicuous
place when Tom Taylor, Mark Lemon, Shirley Brooks, and the rest of his
jolly companions and life-long cronies were gathered together. If I were
to say here that there were any dull moments on _that_ occasion, I
should not expect to be strictly believed.

Thackeray's playfulness was a marked peculiarity; a great deal of the
time he seemed like a school-boy, just released from his task. In the
midst of the most serious topic under discussion he was fond of asking
permission to sing a comic song, or he would beg to be allowed to
enliven the occasion by the instant introduction of a brief
double-shuffle. Barry Cornwall told me that when he and Charles Lamb
were once making up a dinner-party together, Charles asked him not to
invite a certain lugubrious friend of theirs. "Because," said Lamb, "he
would cast a damper even over a funeral." I have often contrasted the
habitual qualities of that gloomy friend of theirs with the astounding
spirits of both Thackeray and Dickens. They always seemed to me to be
standing in the sunshine, and to be constantly warning other people out
of cloudland. During Thackeray's first visit to America his jollity knew
no bounds, and it became necessary often to repress him when he was
walking in the street. I well remember his uproarious shouting and
dancing when he was told that the tickets to his first course of
readings were all sold, and when we rode together from his hotel to the
lecture-hall he insisted on thrusting both his long legs out of the
carriage window, in deference, as he said, to his magnanimous
ticket-holders. An instance of his procrastination occurred the evening
of his first public appearance in America. His lecture was advertised to
take place at half past seven, and when he was informed of the hour, he
said he would try and be ready at eight o'clock, but thought it very
doubtful. Horrified at this assertion, I tried to impress upon him the
importance of punctuality on this, the night of his first bow to an
American audience. At a quarter past seven I called for him, and found
him not only unshaved and undressed for the evening, but rapturously
absorbed in making a pen-and-ink drawing to illustrate a passage in
Goethe's Sorrows of Werther, for a lady, which illustration,--a charming
one, by the way, for he was greatly skilled in drawing,--he vowed he
would finish before he would budge an inch in the direction of the (I
omit the adjective) Melodeon. A comical incident occurred just as he was
about leaving the hall, after his first lecture in Boston. A shabby,
ungainly looking man stepped briskly up to him in the anteroom, seized
his hand and announced himself as "proprietor of the Mammoth Rat," and
proposed to exchange season tickets. Thackeray, with the utmost gravity,
exchanged cards and promised to call on the wonderful quadruped next

Thackeray's motto was 'Avoid performing to-day, if possible, what can be
postponed till to-morrow.' Although he received large sums for his
writings, he managed without much difficulty to keep his expenditures
fully abreast, and often in advance of, his receipts. His pecuniary
object in visiting America the second time was to lay up, as he said, a
"pot of money" for his two daughters, and he left the country with more
than half his lecture engagements unfulfilled. He was to have visited
various cities in the Middle and Western States; but he took up a
newspaper one night, in his hotel in New York, before retiring, saw a
steamer advertised to sail the next morning for England, was seized with
a sudden fit of homesickness, rang the bell for his servant, who packed
up his luggage that night, and the next day he sailed. The first
intimation I had of his departure was a card which he sent by the pilot
of the steamer, with these words upon it: "Good by, Fields; good by,
Mrs. Fields; God bless everybody, says W.M.T." Of course he did not
avail himself of the opportunity afforded him for receiving a very large
sum in America, and he afterwards told me in London, that if Mr. Astor
had offered him half his fortune if he would allow that particular
steamer to sail without him, he should have declined the
well-intentioned but impossible favor, and gone on board.

No man has left behind him a tenderer regard for his genius and foibles
among his friends than Thackeray. He had a natural love of good which
nothing could wholly blur or destroy. He was a most generous critic of
the writings of his contemporaries, and no one has printed or spoken
warmer praise of Dickens, in one sense his great rival, than he.

Thackeray was not a voluminous correspondent, but what exquisite letters
he has left in the hands of many of his friends! "Should any letters
arrive," he says in a little missive from Philadelphia, "addressed to
the care of J.T.F. for the ridiculous author of this, that, and the
other, F. is requested to send them to Mercantile Library, Baltimore. My
ghostly enemy will be delighted (or will gnash his teeth with rage) to
hear that the lectures in the capital of Pa. have been very well
attended. No less than 750 people paid at the door on Friday night, and
though last night there was a storm of snow so furious that no
reasonable mortal could face it, 500 (at least) amiable maniacs were in
the lecture-room, and wept over the fate of the last king of these

Almost every day, while he was lecturing in America, he would send off
little notes exquisitely written in point of penmanship, and sometimes
embellished with characteristic pen-drawings. Having attended an
extemporaneous supper festival at "Porter's," he was never tired of
"going again." Here is a scrap of paper holding these few words,
written in 1852.

"Nine o'clock, P.M. Tremont.

"Arrangements have just been concluded for a meeting _somewhere_
to-night, which we much desire you should attend. Are you equal to
two nights running of good time?"

Then follows a pen portrait of a friend of his with a cloven foot and a
devil's tail just visible under his cloak Sometimes, to puzzle his
correspondent, he would write in so small a hand that the note could not
be read without the aid of a magnifying-glass. Calligraphy was to him
one of the fine arts, and he once told Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh, that
if all trades failed, he would earn sixpences by writing the Lord's
Prayer and the Creed (not the Athanasian) in the size of that coin. He
greatly delighted in rhyming and lisping notes and billets. Here is one
of them, dated from Baltimore without signature:--

"Dear F----th! The thanguinary fateth (I don't know what their anger
meanth) brought me your letter of the eighth, yethterday, only the
fifteenth! What blunder cauthed by chill delay (thee Doctor
Johnthon'th noble verthe) Thuth kept my longing thoul away, from all
that motht I love on earth? Thankth for the happy contenth!--thothe
Dithpatched to J.G.K. and Thonth, and that thmall letter you
inclothe from Parith, from my dearetht oneth! I pray each month may
tho increathe my thmall account with J.G. King, that all the thipth
which croth the theath, good tidingth of my girlth may bring!--that
every blething fortune yieldth, I altho pray, may come to path on
Mithter and Mrth. J.T. F----th, and all good friendth in Bothton,

While he was staying at the Clarendon Hotel, in New York, every
morning's mail brought a few lines, sometimes only one line, sometimes
only two words, from him, reporting progress. One day he tells me:
"Immense hawdience last night." Another day he says: "Our shares look
very much up this morning." On the 29th of November, 1852, he writes:
"I find I have a much bigger voice than I knew of, and am not afraid of
anybody." At another time he writes: "I make no doubt you have seen that
admirable paper, the New York Herald, and are aware of the excellent
reception my lectures are having in this city. It was a lucky Friday
when first I set foot in this country. I have nearly saved the fifty
dollars you lent me in Boston." In a letter from Savannah, dated the
19th of March, 1853, in answer to one I had written to him, telling him
that a charming epistle, which accompanied the gift of a silver mug he
had sent to me some time before, had been stolen from me, he says:--

"My dear fellow, I remember I asked you in that letter to accept a
silver mug in token of our pleasant days together, and to drink a
health sometimes in it to a sincere friend.... Smith and Elder write
me word they have sent by a Cunard to Boston a packet of paper,
stamped etc. in London. I want it to be taken from the Custom-House,
dooties paid etc., and dispatched to Miss ----, New York. Hold your
tongue, and don't laugh, you rogue. Why shouldn't she have her
paper, and I my pleasure, without your wicked, wicked sneers and
imperence? I'm only a cipher in the young lady's estimation, and why
shouldn't I sigh for her if I like. I hope I shall see you all at
Boston before very long. I always consider Boston as my native
place, you know."

I wish I could recall half the incidents connected with the dear, dear
old Thackeray days, when I saw him so constantly and enjoyed him so
hugely; but, alas! many of them are gone, with much more that is lovely
and would have been of _good report_, could they be now
remembered;--they are dead as--(Holmes always puts your simile quite
right for you),--

"Dead as the bulrushes round little Moses,
On the old banks of the Nile."

But while I sit here quietly, and have no fear of any bad,
unsympathizing listeners who might, if some other subject were up,
frown upon my levity, let me walk through the dusky chambers of my
memory and report what I find there, just as the records turn up,
without regard to method.

I once made a pilgrimage with Thackeray (at my request, of course, the
visits were planned) to the various houses where his books had been
written; and I remember when we came to Young Street, Kensington, he
said, with mock gravity, "Down on your knees, you rogue, for here
'Vanity Fair' was penned! And I will go down with you, for I have a high
opinion of that little production myself." He was always perfectly
honest in his expressions about his own writings, and it was delightful
to hear him praise them when he could depend on his listeners. A friend
congratulated him once on that touch in "Vanity Fair" in which Becky
"_admires_" her husband when he is giving Steyne the punishment which
ruins _her_ for life. "Well," he said, "when I wrote the sentence, I
slapped my fist on the table and said, _'That_ is a touch of genius!'"

He told me he was nearly forty years old before he was recognized in
literature as belonging to a class of writers at all above the ordinary
magazinists of his day. "I turned off far better things then than I do
now," said he, "and I wanted money sadly, (my parents were rich but
respectable, and I had spent my guineas in my youth,) but how little I
got for my work! It makes me laugh," he continued, "at what The Times
pays me now, when I think of the old days, and how much better I wrote
for them then, and got a shilling where I now get ten."

One day he wanted a little service done for a friend, and I remember his
very quizzical expression, as he said, "Please say the favor asked will
greatly oblige a man of the name of Thackeray, whose only recommendation
is, that he has seen Napoleon and Goethe, and is the owner of Schiller's

I think he told me he and Tennyson were at one time intimate; but I
distinctly remember a description he gave me of having heard the poet,
when a young man, storming about in the first rapture of composing his
poem of "Ulysses." One line of it Tennyson greatly revelled in,--

"And see the great Achilles, whom we knew."

"He went through the streets," said Thackeray, "screaming about his
great Achilles, whom we knew," as if we had all made the acquaintance of
that gentleman, and were very proud of it.

One of the most comical and interesting occasions I remember, in
connection with Thackeray, was going with him to a grand concert given
fifteen or twenty years ago by Madame Sontag. We sat near an entrance
door in the hall, and every one who came in, male and female, Thackeray
pretended to know, and gave each one a name and brief chronicle, as the
presence flitted by. It was in Boston, and as he had been in town only a
day or two, and knew only half a dozen people in it, the biographies
were most amusing. As I happened to know several people who passed, it
was droll enough to hear this great master of character give them their
dues. Mr. Choate moved along in his regal, affluent manner. The large
style of the man, so magnificent and yet so modest, at once arrested
Thackeray's attention, and he forbore to place him in his extemporaneous
catalogue. I remember a pallid, sharp-faced girl fluttering past, and
how Thackeray exulted in the history of this "frail little bit of
porcelain," as he called her. There was something in her manner that
made him hate her, and he insisted she had murdered somebody on her way
to the hall. Altogether this marvellous prelude to the concert made a
deep impression on Thackeray's one listener, into whose ear he whispered
his fatal insinuations. There is one man still living and moving about
the streets I walk in occasionally, whom I never encounter without
almost a shudder, remembering as I do the unerring shaft which Thackeray
sent that night into the unknown man's character.

One day, many years ago, I saw him chaffing on the sidewalk in London,
in front of the Athenaeum Club, with a monstrous-sized, "copiously
ebriose" cabman, and I judged from the driver's ludicrously careful way
of landing the coin deep down in his breeches-pocket, that Thackeray had
given him a very unusual fare. "Who is your fat friend?" I asked,
crossing over to shake hands with him. "O, that indomitable youth is an
old crony of mine," he replied; and then, quoting Falstaff, "a goodly,
portly man, i' faith, and a corpulent, of a cheerful look, a pleasing
eye, and a most noble _carriage_." It was the _manner_ of saying this,
then, and there in the London street, the cabman moving slowly off on
his sorry vehicle, with one eye (an eye dewy with gin and water, and a
tear of gratitude, perhaps) on Thackeray, and the great man himself so
jovial and so full of kindness!

It was a treat to hear him, as I once did, discourse of Shakespeare's
probable life in Stratford among his neighbors. He painted, as he alone
could paint, the great poet sauntering about the lanes without the
slightest show of greatness, having a crack with the farmers, and in
very earnest talk about the crops. "I don't believe," said Thackeray,
"that these village cronies of his ever looked upon him as the mighty

'Sailing with supreme dominion
Through the azure deep of air,'

but simply as a wholesome, good-natured citizen, with whom it was always
pleasant to have a chat. I can see him now," continued Thackeray,
"leaning over a cottage gate, and tasting good Master Such-a-one's
home-brewed, and inquiring with a real interest after the mistress and
her children." Long before he put it into his lecture, I heard him say
in words to the same effect: "I should like to have been Shakespeare's
shoe-black, just to have lived in his house, just to have worshipped
him, to have run on his errands, and seen that sweet, serene face." To
have heard Thackeray depict, in his own charming manner, and at
considerable length, the imaginary walks and talks of Shakespeare, when
he would return to his home from occasional visits to London, pouring
into the ready ears of his unsophisticated friends and neighbors the
gossip from town which he thought would be likely to interest them, is
something to remember all one's days.

The enormous circulation achieved by the Cornhill Magazine, when it was
first started with Thackeray for its editor in chief, is a matter of
literary history. The announcement by his publishers that a sale of a
hundred and ten thousand of the first number had been reached made the
editor half delirious with joy, and he ran away to Paris to be rid of
the excitement for a few days. I met him by appointment at his hotel in
the Rue de la Paix, and found him wild with exultation and full of
enthusiasm for excellent George Smith, his publisher. "London," he
exclaimed, "is not big enough to contain me now, and I am obliged to add
Paris to my residence! Great heavens," said he, throwing up his long
arms, "where will this tremendous circulation stop! Who knows but that I
shall have to add Vienna and Rome to my whereabouts? If the worst comes
to the worst, New York, also, may fall into my clutches, and only the
Rocky Mountains may be able to stop my progress!" Those days in Paris
with him were simply tremendous. We dined at all possible and impossible
places together. We walked round and round the glittering court of the
Palais Royal, gazing in at the windows of the jewellers' shops, and all
my efforts were necessary to restrain him from rushing in and ordering a
pocketful of diamonds and "other trifles," as he called them; "for,"
said he, "how can I spend the princely income which Smith allows me for
editing the Cornhill, unless I begin instantly somewhere?" If he saw a
group of three or four persons talking together in an excited way, after
the manner of that then riant Parisian people, he would whisper to me
with immense gesticulation: "There, there, you see the news has reached
Paris, and perhaps the number has gone up since my last accounts from
London." His spirits during those few days were colossal, and he told me
that he found it impossible to sleep, "for counting up his subscribers."

I happened to know personally (and let me modestly add, with some degree
of sympathy) what he suffered editorially, when he had the charge and
responsibility of a magazine. With first-class contributors he got on
very well, he said, but the extortioners and revilers bothered the very
life out of him. He gave me some amusing accounts of his
misunderstandings with the "fair" (as he loved to call them), some of
whom followed him up so closely with their poetical compositions, that
his house (he was then living in Onslow Square) was never free of
interruption. "The darlings demanded," said he, "that I should re-write,
if I could not understand their ---- nonsense and put their halting
lines into proper form." "I was so appalled," said he, "when they set
upon me with their 'ipics and their ipecacs,' that you might have
knocked me down with a feather, sir. It was insupportable, and I fled
away into France." As he went on, waxing drolly furious at the
recollection of various editorial scenes, I could not help remembering
Mr. Yellowplush's recommendation, thus characteristically expressed:
"Take my advice, honrabble sir,--listen to a humble footmin: it's
genrally best in poatry to understand puffickly what you mean yourself,
and to igspress your meaning clearly afterwoods,--in the simpler words
the better, p'r'aps."

He took very great delight in his young daughter's first contributions
to the Cornhill, and I shall always remember how he made me get into a
cab, one day in London, that I might hear, as we rode along, the joyful
news he had to impart, that he had just been reading his daughter's
first paper, which was entitled "Little Scholars." "When I read it,"
said he, "I blubbered like a child, it is so good, so simple, and so
honest; and my little girl wrote it, every word of it."

During his second visit to Boston I was asked to invite him to attend an
evening meeting of a scientific club, which was to be held at the house
of a distinguished member. I was very reluctant to ask him to be
present, for I knew he could be easily bored, and I was fearful that a
prosy essay or geological speech might ensue, and I knew he would be
exasperated with me, even although I were the _innocent_ cause of his
affliction. My worst fears were realized. We had hardly got seated,
before a dull, bilious-looking old gentleman rose, and applied his auger
with such pertinacity that we were all bored nearly to distraction. I
dared not look at Thackeray, but I felt that his eye was upon me. My
distress may be imagined, when he got up quite deliberately from the
prominent place where a chair had been set for him, and made his exit
very noiselessly into a small anteroom leading into the larger room, and
in which no one was sitting. The small apartment was dimly lighted, but
he knew that I knew _he_ was there. Then commenced a series of
pantomimic feats impossible to describe adequately. He threw an
imaginary person (myself, of course) upon the floor, and proceeded to
stab him several times with a paper-folder, which he caught up for the
purpose. After disposing of his victim in this way, he was not
satisfied, for the dull lecture still went on in the other room, and he
fired an imaginary revolver several times at an imaginary head. Still,
the droning speaker proceeded with his frozen subject (it was something
about the Arctic regions, if I remember rightly), and now began the
greatest pantomimic scene of all, namely, murder by poison, after the
manner in which the player king is disposed of in Hamlet. Thackeray had
found a small vial on the mantel-shelf, and out of that he proceeded to
pour the imaginary "juice of cursed hebenon" into the imaginary porches
of somebody's ears. The whole thing was inimitably done, and I hoped
nobody saw it but myself; but years afterwards, a ponderous, fat-witted
young man put the question squarely to me: "What _was_ the matter with
Mr. Thackeray, that night the club met at Mr ----'s house?"

Overhearing me say one morning something about the vast attractions of
London to a greenhorn like myself, he broke in with, "Yes, but you have
not seen the grandest one yet! Go with me to-day to St. Paul's and hear
the charity children sing." So we went, and I saw the "head cynic of
literature," the "hater of humanity," as a critical dunce in the Times
once called him, hiding his bowed face, wet with tears, while his whole
frame shook with emotion, as the children of poverty rose to pour out
their anthems of praise. Afterwards he wrote in one of his books this
passage, which seems to me perfect in its feeling and tone:--

"And yet there is one day in the year when I think St. Paul's
presents the noblest sight in the whole world; when five thousand
charity children, with cheeks like nosegays, and sweet, fresh
voices, sing the hymn which makes every heart thrill with praise and
happiness. I have seen a hundred grand sights in the
world,--coronations, Parisian splendors, Crystal Palace openings,
Pope's chapels with their processions of long-tailed cardinals and
quavering choirs of fat soprani,--but think in all Christendom there
is no such sight as Charity Children's day. _Non Anglei, sed
angeli_. As one looks at that beautiful multitude of innocents; as
the first note strikes; indeed one may almost fancy that cherubs are

I parted with Thackeray for the last time in the street, at midnight, in
London, a few months before his death. The Cornhill Magazine, under his
editorship, having proved a very great success, grand dinners were given
every month in honor of the new venture. We had been sitting late at one
of these festivals, and, as it was getting toward morning, I thought it
wise, as far as I was concerned, to be moving homeward before the sun
rose. Seeing my intention to withdraw, he insisted on driving me in his
brougham to my lodgings. When we reached the outside door of our host,
Thackeray's servant, seeing a stranger with his master, touched his hat
and asked where he should drive us. It was then between one and two
o'clock,--time certainly for all decent diners out to be at rest.
Thackeray put on one of his most quizzical expressions, and said to
John, in answer to his question, "I think we will make a morning call on
the Lord Bishop of London." John knew his master's quips and cranks too
well to suppose he was in earnest, so I gave him my address, and we went
on. When we reached my lodgings the clocks were striking two, and the
early morning air was raw and piercing. Opposing all my entreaties for
leave-taking in the carriage, he insisted upon getting out on the
sidewalk and escorting me up to my door, saying, with a mock heroic
protest to the heavens above us, "That it would be shameful for a
full-blooded Britisher to leave an unprotected Yankee friend exposed to
ruffians, who prowl about the streets with an eye to plunder." Then
giving me a gigantic embrace, he sang a verse of which he knew me to be
very fond; and so vanished out of my sight the great-hearted author of
"Pendennis" and "Vanity Fair." But I think of him still as moving, in
his own stately way, up and down the crowded thoroughfares of London,
dropping in at the Garrick, or sitting at the window of the Athenaeum
Club, and watching the stupendous tide of life that is ever moving past
in that wonderful city.

Thackeray was a _master_ in every sense, having as it were, in himself,
a double quantity of being. Robust humor and lofty sentiment alternated
so strangely in him, that sometimes he seemed like the natural son of
Rabelais, and at others he rose up a very twin brother of the Stratford
Seer. There was nothing in him amorphous and unconsidered. Whatever he
chose to do was always perfectly done. There was a genuine Thackeray
flavor in everything he was willing to say or to write. He detected with
unfailing skill the good or the vile wherever it existed. He had an
unerring eye, a firm understanding, and abounding truth. "Two of his
great master powers," said the chairman at a dinner given to him many
years ago in Edinburgh, "are _satire_ and _sympathy_." George Brimley
remarked, "That he could not have painted Vanity Fair as he has, unless
Eden had been shining in his inner eye." He had, indeed, an awful
insight, with a world of solemn tenderness and simplicity, in his
composition. Those who heard the same voice that withered the memory of
King George the Fourth repeat "The spacious firmament on high" have a
recollection not easily to be blotted from the mind, and I have a kind
of pity for all who were born so recently as not to have heard and
understood Thackeray's Lectures. But they can read him, and I beg of
them to try and appreciate the tenderer phase of his genius, as well as
the sarcastic one. He teaches many lessons to young men, and here is one
of them, which I quote _memoriter_ from "Barry Lyndon": "Do you not, as
a boy, remember waking of bright summer mornings and finding your mother
looking over you? had not the gaze of her tender eyes stolen into your
senses long before you woke, and cast over your slumbering spirit a
sweet spell of peace, and love, and fresh-springing joy?" My dear
friend, John Brown, of Edinburgh (whom may God long preserve to both
countries where he is so loved and honored), chronicles this touching
incident. "We cannot resist here recalling one Sunday evening in
December, when Thackeray was walking with two friends along the Dean
Road, to the west of Edinburgh,--one of the noblest outlets to any city.
It was a lovely evening; such a sunset as one never forgets; a rich dark
bar of cloud hovered over the sun, going down behind the Highland hills,
lying bathed in amethystine bloom; between this cloud and the hills
there was a narrow slip of the pure ether, of a tender cowslip color,
lucid, and as if it were the very body of heaven in its clearness; every
object standing out as if etched upon the sky. The northwest end of
Corstorphine Hill, with its trees and rocks, lay in the heart of this
pure radiance; and there a wooden crane, used in the granary below, was
so placed as to assume the figure of a cross; there it was,
unmistakable, lifted up against the crystalline sky. All three gazed at
it silently. As they gazed, Thackeray gave utterance in a tremulous,
gentle, and rapid voice to what all were feeling, in the word,
'CALVARY!' The friends walked on in silence, and then turned to other
things. All that evening he was very gentle and serious, speaking, as he
seldom did, of divine things,--of death, of sin, of eternity, of
salvation, expressing his simple faith in God and in his Saviour."

Thackeray was found dead in his bed on Christmas morning, and he
probably died without pain. His mother and his daughters were sleeping
under the same roof when he passed away alone. Dickens told me that,
looking on him as he lay in his coffin, he wondered that the figure he
had known in life as one of such noble presence could seem so shrunken
and wasted; but there had been years of sorrow, years of labor, years of
pain, in that now exhausted life. It was his happiest Christmas morning
when he heard the Voice calling him homeward to unbroken rest.


* * * * *

_A hundred years ago Henry Vaughan seems almost to have anticipated
Hawthorne's appearance when he wrote that beautiful line,_

"_Feed on the vocal silence of his eye_."


I am sitting to-day opposite the likeness of the rarest genius America
has given to literature,--a man who lately sojourned in this busy world
of ours, but during many years of his life

"Wandered lonely as a cloud,"--

a man who had, so to speak, a physical affinity with solitude. The
writings of this author have never soiled the public mind with one
unlovely image. His men and women have a magic of their own, and we
shall wait a long time before another arises among us to take his place.
Indeed, it seems probable no one will ever walk precisely the same round
of fiction which he traversed with so free and firm a step.

The portrait I am looking at was made by Rowse (an exquisite drawing),
and is a very truthful representation of the head of Nathaniel
Hawthorne. He was several times painted and photographed, but it was
impossible for art to give the light and beauty of his wonderful eyes. I
remember to have heard, in the literary circles of Great Britain, that,
since Burns, no author had appeared there with a finer face than
Hawthorne's. Old Mrs. Basil Montagu told me, many years ago, that she
sat next to Burns at dinner, when he appeared in society in the first
flush of his fame, after the Edinburgh edition of his poems had been
published. She said, among other things, that, although the company
consisted of some of the best bred men of England, Burns seemed to her
the most perfect gentleman among them. She noticed, particularly, his
genuine grace and deferential manner toward women, and I was interested
to hear Mrs. Montagu's brilliant daughter, when speaking of Hawthorne's
advent in English society, describe him in almost the same terms as I
had heard her mother, years before, describe the Scottish poet. I
happened to be in London with Hawthorne during his consular residence in
England, and was always greatly delighted at the rustle of admiration
his personal appearance excited when he entered a room. His bearing was
modestly grand, and his voice touched the ear like a melody.

Here is a golden curl which adorned the head of Nathaniel Hawthorne when
he lay a little child in his cradle. It was given to me many years ago
by one near and dear to him. I have two other similar "blossoms," which
I keep pressed in the same book of remembrance. One is from the head of
John Keats, and was given to me by Charles Cowden Clarke, and the other
graced the head of Mary Mitford, and was sent to me after her death by
her friendly physician, who watched over her last hours. Leigh Hunt says
with a fine poetic emphasis,

"There seems a love in hair, though it be dead.
It is the gentlest, yet the strongest thread
Of our frail plant,--a blossom from the tree
Surviving the proud trunk;--as though it said,
Patience and Gentleness is Power. In me
Behold affectionate eternity."

There is a charming old lady, now living two doors from me, who dwelt in
Salem when Hawthorne was born, and, being his mother's neighbor at that
time (Mrs. Hawthorne then lived in Union Street), there came a message
to her intimating that the baby could be seen by calling. So my friend
tells me she went in, and saw the little winking thing in its mother's
arms. She is very clear as to the beauty of the infant, even when only a
week old, and remembers that "he was a pleasant child, quite handsome,
with golden curls." She also tells me that Hawthorne's mother was a
beautiful woman, with remarkable eyes, full of sensibility and
expression, and that she was a person of singular purity of mind.
Hawthorne's father, whom my friend knew well, she describes as a
warm-hearted and kindly man, very fond of children. He was somewhat
inclined to melancholy, and of a reticent disposition. He was a great
reader, employing all his leisure time at sea over books.

Hawthorne's father died when Nathaniel was four years old, and from that
time his uncle Robert Manning took charge of his education, sending him
to the best schools and afterwards to college. When the lad was about
nine years old, while playing bat and ball at school, he lamed his foot
so badly that he used two crutches for more than a year. His foot ceased
to grow like the other, and the doctors of the town were called in to
examine the little lame boy. He was not perfectly restored till he was
twelve years old. His kind-hearted schoolmaster, Joseph Worcester, the
author of the Dictionary, came every day to the house to hear the boy's
lessons, so that he did not fall behind in his studies. [There is a
tradition in the Manning family that Mr. Worcester was very much
interested in Maria Manning (a sister of Mrs. Hawthorne), who died in
1814, and that this was one reason of his attention to Nathaniel.] The
boy used to lie flat upon the carpet, and read and study the long days
through. Some time after he had recovered from this lameness he had an
illness causing him to lose the use of his limbs, and he was obliged to
seek again the aid of his old crutches, which were then pieced out at
the ends to make them longer. While a little child, and as soon almost
as he began to read, the authors he most delighted in were Shakespeare,
Milton, Pope, and Thomson. The "Castle of Indolence" was an especial
favorite with him during boyhood. The first book he bought with his own
money was a copy of Spenser's "Faery Queen."

One who watched him during his childhood tells me, that "when he was six
years old his favorite book was Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress': and that
whenever he went to visit his Grandmother Hawthorne, he used to take the
old family copy to a large chair in a corner of the room near a window,
and read it by the hour, without once speaking. No one ever thought of
asking how much of it he understood. I think it one of the happiest
circumstances of his training, that nothing was ever explained to him,
and that there was no professedly intellectual person in the family to
usurp the place of Providence and supplement its shortcomings, in order
to make him what he was never intended to be. His mind developed itself;
intentional cultivation might have spoiled it.... He used to invent long
stories, wild and fanciful, and tell where he was going when he grew up,
and of the wonderful adventures he was to meet with, always ending with,
'And I'm never coming back again,' in quite a solemn tone, that enjoined
upon us the advice to value him the more while he stayed with us."

When he could scarcely speak plain, it is recalled by members of the
family that the little fellow would go about the house, repeating with
vehement emphasis and gestures certain stagy lines from Shakespeare's
Richard III., which he had overheard from older persons about him. One
line, in particular, made a great impression upon him, and he would
start up on the most unexpected occasions and fire off in his loudest

"Stand back, my Lord, and let the coffin pass."

On the 21st of August, 1820, No. 1 of "The Spectator, edited by N.
Hathorne," neatly written in printed letters by the editor's own hand,
appeared. A prospectus was issued the week before, setting forth that
the paper would be published on Wednesdays, "price 12 cents per annum,
payment to be made at the end of the year." Among the advertisements is
the following:--

"Nathaniel Hathorne proposes to publish by subscription a NEW
EDITION of the MISERIES OF AUTHORS, to which will be added a SEQUEL,
containing FACTS and REMARKS drawn from his own experience."

Six numbers only were published. The following subjects were discussed
by young "Hathorne" in the Spectator,--"On Solitude," "The End of the
Year," "On Industry," "On Benevolence," "On Autumn," "On Wealth," "On
Hope," "On Courage." The poetry on the last page of each number was
evidently written by the editor, except in one instance, when an Address
to the Sun is signed by one of his sisters. In one of the numbers he
apologizes that no deaths of any importance have taken place in the
town. Under the head of Births, he gives the following news, "The lady
of Dr. Winthrop Brown, a son and heir. Mrs. Hathorne's cat, seven
kittens. We hear that both of the above ladies are in a state of
convalescence." One of the literary advertisements reads:--

"Blank Books made and for sale by N. Hathorne."

While Hawthorne was yet a little fellow the family moved to Raymond in
the State of Maine; here his out-of-door life did him great service, for
he grew tall and strong, and became a good shot and an excellent
fisherman. Here also his imagination was first stimulated, the wild
scenery and the primitive manners of the people contributing greatly to
awaken his thought. At seventeen he entered Bowdoin College, and after
his graduation returned again to live in Salem. During his youth he had
an impression that he would die before the age of twenty-five; but the
Mannings, his ever-watchful and kind relations, did everything possible
for the care of his health, and he was tided safely over the period when
he was most delicate. Professor Packard told me that when Hawthorne was
a student at Bowdoin in his freshman year, his Latin compositions showed
such facility that they attracted the special attention of those who
examined them. The Professor also remembers that Hawthorne's English
compositions elicited from Professor Newman (author of the work on
Rhetoric) high commendations.

When a youth Hawthorne made a journey into New Hampshire with his uncle,
Samuel Manning. They travelled in a two-wheeled chaise, and met with
many adventures which the young man chronicled in his home letters, Some
of the touches in these epistles were very characteristic and amusing,
and showed in those early years his quick observation and descriptive
power. The travellers "put up" at Farmington, in order to rest over
Sunday. Hawthorne writes to a member of the family in Salem: "As we were
wearied with rapid travelling, we found it impossible to attend divine
service, which was, of course, very grievous to us both. In the evening,
however, I went to a Bible class, with a very polite and agreeable
gentleman, whom I afterwards discovered to be a strolling tailor, of
very questionable habits."

When the travellers arrived in the Shaker village of Canterbury,
Hawthorne at once made the acquaintance of the Community there, and the
account which he sent home was to the effect that the brothers and
sisters led a good and comfortable life, and he wrote: "If it were not
for the ridiculous ceremonies, a man might do a worse thing than to join
them." Indeed, he spoke to them about becoming a member of the Society,
and was evidently much impressed with the thrift and peace of the

This visit in early life to the Shakers is interesting as suggesting to
Hawthorne his beautiful story of "The Canterbury Pilgrims," which is in
his volume of "The Snow-Image, and other Twice-Told Tales."

A lady of my acquaintance (the identical "Little Annie" of the "Ramble"
in "Twice-Told Tales") recalls the young man "when he returned home
after his collegiate studies." "He was even then," she says, "a most
noticeable person, never going into society, and deeply engaged in
reading everything he could lay his hands on. It was said in those days
that he had read every book in the Athenaeum Library in Salem." This
lady remembers that when she was a child, and before Hawthorne had
printed any of his stories, she used to sit on his knee and lean her
head on his shoulder, while by the hour he would fascinate her with
delightful legends, much more wonderful and beautiful than any she has
ever read since in printed books.

The traits of the Hawthorne character were stern probity and
truthfulness. Hawthorne's mother had many characteristics in common with
her distinguished son, she also being a reserved and thoughtful person.
Those who knew the family describe the son's affection for her as of the
deepest and tenderest nature, and they remember that when she died his
grief was almost insupportable. The anguish he suffered from her loss is
distinctly recalled by many persons still living, who visited the family
at that time in Salem.

I first saw Hawthorne when he was about thirty-five years old. He had
then published a collection of his sketches, the now famous "Twice-Told
Tales." Longfellow, ever alert for what is excellent, and eager to do a
brother author opportune and substantial service, at once came before
the public with a generous estimate of the work in the North American
Review; but the choice little volume, the most promising addition to
American literature that had appeared for many years, made little
impression on the public mind. Discerning readers, however, recognized
the supreme beauty in this new writer, and they never afterwards lost
sight of him.

In 1828 Hawthorne published a short anonymous romance called Fanshawe. I
once asked him about this disowned publication, and he spoke of it with
great disgust, and afterwards he thus referred to the subject in a
letter written to me in 1851: "You make an inquiry about some supposed
former publication of mine. I cannot be sworn to make correct answers as
to all the literary or other follies of my nonage; and I earnestly
recommend you not to brush away the dust that may have gathered over
them. Whatever might do me credit you may be pretty sure I should be
ready enough to bring forward. Anything else it is our mutual interest
to conceal; and so far from assisting your researches in that direction,
I especially enjoin it on you, my dear friend, not to read any
unacknowledged page that you may suppose to be mine."

When Mr. George Bancroft, then Collector of the Port of Boston,
appointed Hawthorne weigher and gauger in the custom-house, he did a
wise thing, for no public officer ever performed his disagreeable duties
better than our romancer. Here is a tattered little official document
signed by Hawthorne when he was watching over the interests of the
country: it certifies his attendance at the unlading of a brig, then
lying at Long Wharf in Boston. I keep this precious relic side by side
with one of a similar custom-house character, signed _Robert Burns_.

I came to know Hawthorne very intimately after the Whigs displaced the
Democratic romancer from office. In my ardent desire to have him
retained in the public service, his salary at that time being his sole
dependence,--not foreseeing that his withdrawal from that sort of
employment would be the best thing for American letters that could
possibly happen,--I called, in his behalf, on several influential
politicians of the day, and well remember the rebuffs I received in my
enthusiasm for the author of the "Twice-Told Tales." One pompous little
gentleman in authority, after hearing my appeal, quite astounded me by
his ignorance of the claims of a literary man on his country. "Yes,
yes," he sarcastically croaked down his public turtle-fed throat, "I see
through it all, I see through it; this Hawthorne is one of them 'ere
visionists, and we don't want no such a man as him round." So the
"visionist" was not allowed to remain in office, and the country was
better served by him in another way. In the winter of 1849, after he had
been ejected from the custom-house, I went down to Salem to see him and
inquire after his health, for we heard he had been suffering from
illness. He was then living in a modest wooden house in Mall Street, if
I remember rightly the location. I found him alone in a chamber over the
sitting-room of the dwelling; and as the day was cold, he was hovering
near a stove. We fell into talk about his future prospects, and he was,
as I feared I should find him, in a very desponding mood. "Now," said I,
"is the time for you to publish, for I know during these years in Salem
you must have got something ready for the press." "Nonsense," said he;
"what heart had I to write anything, when my publishers (M. and Company)
have been so many years trying to sell a small edition of the
'Twice-Told Tales'?" I still pressed upon him the good chances he would
have now with something new. "Who would risk publishing a book for _me_,
the most unpopular writer in America?" "I would," said I, "and would
start with an edition of two thousand copies of anything you write."
"What madness!" he exclaimed; "your friendship for me gets the better of
your judgment. No, no," he continued; "I have no money to indemnify a
publisher's losses on my account." I looked at my watch and found that
the train would soon be starting for Boston, and I knew there was not
much time to lose in trying to discover what had been his literary work
during these last few years in Salem. I remember that I pressed him to
reveal to me what he had been writing. He shook his head and gave me to
understand he had produced nothing. At that moment I caught sight of a
bureau or set of drawers near where we were sitting; and immediately it
occurred to me that hidden away somewhere in that article of furniture
was a story or stories by the author of the "Twice-Told Tales," and I
became so positive of it that I charged him vehemently with the fact. He
seemed surprised, I thought, but shook his head again; and I rose to
take my leave, begging him not to come into the cold entry, saying I
would come back and see him again in a few days. I was hurrying down the
stairs when he called after me from the chamber, asking me to stop a
moment. Then quickly stepping into the entry with a roll of manuscript
in his hands, he said: "How in Heaven's name did you know this thing was
there? As you have found me out, take what I have written, and tell me,
after you get home and have time to read it, if it is good for anything.
It is either very good or very bad,--I don't know which." On my way up
to Boston I read the germ of "The Scarlet Letter"; before I slept that
night I wrote him a note all aglow with admiration of the marvellous
story he had put into my hands, and told him that I would come again to
Salem the next day and arrange for its publication. I went on in such an
amazing state of excitement when we met again in the little house, that
he would not believe I was really in earnest. He seemed to think I was
beside myself, and laughed sadly at my enthusiasm. However, we soon
arranged for his appearance again before the public with a book.

This quarto volume before me contains numerous letters, written by him
from 1850 down to the month of his death. The first one refers to "The
Scarlet Letter," and is dated in January, 1850. At my suggestion he had
altered the plan of that story. It was his intention to make "The
Scarlet Letter" one of several short stories, all to be included in one
volume, and to be called

Together With Sketches,

His first design was to make "The Scarlet Letter" occupy about two
hundred pages in his new book; but I persuaded him, after reading the
first chapters of the story, to elaborate it, and publish it as a
separate work. After it was settled that "The Scarlet Letter" should be
enlarged and printed by itself in a volume he wrote to me:--

"I am truly glad that you like the Introduction, for I was rather
afraid that it might appear absurd and impertinent to be talking
about myself, when nobody, that I know of, has requested any
information on that subject.

"As regards the size of the book, I have been thinking a good deal
about it. Considered merely as a matter of taste and beauty, the
form of publication which you recommend seems to me much preferable
to that of the 'Mosses.'

"In the present case, however, I have some doubts of the expediency,
because, if the book is made up entirely of 'The Scarlet Letter,' it
will be too sombre. I found it impossible to relieve the shadows of
the story with so much light as I would gladly have thrown in.
Keeping so close to its point as the tale does, and no otherwise
than by turning different sides of the same to the reader's eye, it
will weary very many people and disgust some. Is it safe, then, to
stake the fate of the book entirely on this one chance? A hunter
loads his gun with a bullet and several buckshot; and, following his
sagacious example, it was my purpose to conjoin the one long story
with half a dozen shorter ones, so that, failing to kill the public
outright with my biggest and heaviest lump of lead, I might have
other chances with the smaller bits, individually and in the
aggregate. However, I am willing to leave these considerations to
your judgment, and should not be sorry to have you decide for the
separate publication.

"In this latter event it appears to me that the only proper title
for the book would be 'The Scarlet Letter,' for 'The Custom-House'
is merely introductory,--an entrance-hall to the magnificent edifice
which I throw open to my guests. It would be funny if, seeing the
further passages so dark and dismal, they should all choose to stop
there! If 'The Scarlet Letter' is to be the title, would it not be
well to print it on the title-page in red ink? I am not quite sure
about the good taste of so doing, but it would certainly be piquant
and appropriate, and, I think, attractive to the great gull whom we
are endeavoring to circumvent."

One beautiful summer day, twenty years ago, I found Hawthorne in his
little red cottage at Lenox, surrounded by his happy young family. He
had the look, as somebody said, of a banished lord, and his grand figure
among the hills of Berkshire seemed finer than ever. His boy and girl
were swinging on the gate as we drove up to his door, and with their
sunny curls formed an attractive feature in the landscape. As the
afternoon was cool and delightful, we proposed a drive over to
Pittsfield to see Holmes, who was then living on his ancestral farm.
Hawthorne was in a cheerful condition, and seemed to enjoy the beauty of
the day to the utmost. Next morning we were all invited by Mr. Dudley
Field, then living at Stockbridge, to ascend Monument Mountain. Holmes,
Hawthorne, Duyckinck, Herman Melville, Headley, Sedgwick, Matthews, and
several ladies, were of the party. We scrambled to the top with great
spirit, and when we arrived, Melville, I remember, bestrode a peaked
rock, which ran out like a bowsprit, and pulled and hauled imaginary
ropes for our delectation. Then we all assembled in a shady spot, and
one of the party read to us Bryant's beautiful poem commemorating
Monument Mountain. Then we lunched among the rocks, and somebody
proposed Bryant's health, and "long life to the dear old poet." This was
the most popular toast of the day, and it took, I remember, a
considerable quantity of Heidsieck to do it justice. In the afternoon,
pioneered by Headley, we made our way, with merry shouts and laughter,
through the Ice-Glen. Hawthorne was among the most enterprising of the
merry-makers; and being in the dark much of the time, he ventured to
call out lustily and pretend that certain destruction was inevitable to
all of us. After this extemporaneous jollity, we dined together at Mr.
Dudley Field's in Stockbridge, and Hawthorne rayed out in a sparkling
and unwonted manner. I remember the conversation at table chiefly ran on
the physical differences between the present American and English men,
Hawthorne stoutly taking part in favor of the American. This 5th of
August was a happy day throughout, and I never saw Hawthorne in better

Often and often I have seen him sitting in the chair I am now occupying
by the window, looking out into the twilight. He liked to watch the
vessels dropping down the stream, and nothing pleased him more than to
go on board a newly arrived bark from Down East, as she was just moored
at the wharf. One night we made the acquaintance of a cabin-boy on board
a brig, whom we found off duty and reading a large subscription volume,
which proved, on inquiry, to be a Commentary on the Bible. When
Hawthorne questioned him why he was reading, then and there, that
particular book, he replied with a knowing wink at both of us, "There's
consider'ble her'sy in our place, and I'm a studying up for 'em." He
liked on Sunday to mouse about among the books, and there are few
volumes in this room that he has not handled or read. He knew he could
have unmolested habitation here, whenever he chose to come, and he was
never allowed to be annoyed by intrusion of any kind. He always slept in
the same room,--the one looking on the water; and many a night I have
heard his solemn footsteps over my head, long after the rest of the
house had gone to sleep. Like many other nervous men of genius, he was a
light sleeper, and he liked to be up and about early; but it was only
for a ramble among the books again. One summer morning I found him as
early as four o'clock reading a favorite poem, on Solitude, a piece he
very much admired. That morning I shall not soon forget, for he was in
the vein for autobiographical talk, and he gave me a most interesting
account of his father, the sea-captain, who died of the yellow-fever in
Surinam in 1808, and of his beautiful mother, who dwelt a secluded
mourner ever after the death of her husband. Then he told stories of his
college life, and of his one sole intimate, Franklin Pierce, whom he
loved devotedly his life long.

In the early period of our acquaintance he much affected the old Boston
Exchange Coffee-House in Devonshire Street, and once I remember to have
found him shut up there before a blazing coal-fire, in the "tumultuous
privacy" of a great snow-storm, reading with apparent interest an
obsolete copy of the "Old Farmer's Almanac," which he had picked up
about the house. He also delighted in the Old Province House, at that
time an inn, kept by one Thomas Waite, whom he has immortalized. After
he was chosen a member of the Saturday Club he came frequently to dinner
with Felton, Longfellow, Holmes, and the rest of his friends, who
assembled once a month to dine together. At the table, on these
occasions, he was rather reticent than conversational, but when he
chose to talk it was observed that the best things said that day came
from him.

As I turn over his letters, the old days, delightful to recall, come
back again with added interest.

"I sha'n't have the new story," he says in one of them, dated from
Lenox on the 1st of October, 1850, "ready by November, for I am
never good for anything in the literary way till after the first
autumnal frost, which has somewhat such an effect on my imagination
that it does on the foliage here about me,--multiplying and
brightening its hues; though they are likely to be sober and shabby
enough after all.

"I am beginning to puzzle myself about a title for the book. The
scene of it is in one of those old projecting-stoned houses,
familiar to my eye in Salem; and the story, horrible to say, is a
little less than two hundred years long; though all but thirty or
forty pages of it refer to the present time. I think of such titles
as 'The House of the Seven Gables,' there being that number of
gable-ends to the old shanty; or 'The Seven-Gabled House'; or simply
'The Seven Gables.' Tell me how these strike you. It appears to me
that the latter is rather the best, and has the great advantage that
it would puzzle the Devil to tell what it means."

A month afterwards he writes further with regard to "The House of the
Seven Gables," concerning the title to which he was still in a

"'The Old Pyncheon House: A Romance'; 'The Old Pyncheon Family; or
the House of the Seven Gables: A Romance';--choose between them. I
have rather a distaste to a double title? otherwise, I think I
should prefer the second. Is it any matter under which title it is
announced? If a better should occur hereafter, we can substitute. Of
these two, on the whole, I judge the first to be the better.

"I write diligently, but not so rapidly as I had hoped. I find the
book requires more care and thought than 'The Scarlet Letter'; also
I have to wait oftener for a mood. 'The Scarlet Letter' being all in
one tone, I had only to get my pitch, and could then go on
interminably. Many passages of this book ought to be finished with
the minuteness of a Dutch picture, in order to give them their
proper effect. Sometimes, when tired of it, it strikes me that the
whole is an absurdity, from beginning to end; but the fact is, in
writing a romance, a man is always, or always ought to be, careering
on the utmost verge of a precipitous absurdity, and the skill lies
in coming as close as possible, without actually tumbling over. My
prevailing idea is, that the book ought to succeed better than 'The
Scarlet Letter,' though I have no idea that it will."

On the 9th of December he was still at work on the new romance, and

"My desire and prayer is to get through with the business in hand. I
have been in a Slough of Despond for some days past, having written
so fiercely that I came to a stand-still. There are points where a
writer gets bewildered and cannot form any judgment of what he has
done, or tell what to do next. In these cases it is best to keep

On the 12th of January, 1851, he is still busy over his new book, and
writes: "My 'House of the Seven Gables' is, so to speak, finished; only
I am hammering away a little on the roof, and doing up a few odd jobs,
that were left incomplete." At the end of the month the manuscript of
his second great romance was put into the hands of the expressman at
Lenox, by Hawthorne himself, to be delivered to me. On the 27th he

"If you do not soon receive it, you may conclude that it has
miscarried; in which case, I shall not consent to the universe
existing a moment longer. I have no copy of it, except the wildest
scribble of a first draught, so that it could never be restored.

"It has met with extraordinary success from that portion of the
public to whose judgment it has been submitted, viz. from my wife. I
likewise prefer it to 'The Scarlet Letter'; but an author's opinion
of his book just after completing it is worth little or nothing, he
being then in the hot or cold fit of a fever, and certain to rate it
too high or too low.

"It has undoubtedly one disadvantage in being brought so close to
the present time; whereby its romantic improbabilities become more

"I deem it indispensable that the proof-sheets should be sent me for
correction. It will cause some delay, no doubt, but probably not
much more than if I lived in Salem. At all events, I don't see how
it can be helped. My autography is sometimes villanously blind; and
it is odd enough that whenever the printers do mistake a word, it is
just the very jewel of a word, worth all the rest of the

I well remember with what anxiety I awaited the arrival of the
expressman with the precious parcel, and with what keen delight I read
every word of the new story before I slept. Here is the original
manuscript, just as it came that day, twenty years ago, fresh from the
author's hand. The printers carefully preserved it for me; and Hawthorne
once made a formal presentation of it, with great mock solemnity, in
this very room where I am now sitting.

After the book came out he wrote:--

"I have by no means an inconvenient multitude of friends; but if
they ever do appear a little too numerous, it is when I am making a
list of those to whom presentation copies are to be sent. Please
send one to General Pierce, Horatio Bridge, R.W. Emerson, W.E.
Channing, Longfellow, Hillard, Sumner, Holmes, Lowell, and Thompson
the artist. You will yourself give one to Whipple, whereby I shall
make a saving. I presume you won't put the portrait into the book.
It appears to me an improper accompaniment to a new work.
Nevertheless, if it be ready, I should be glad to have each of these
presentation copies accompanied by a copy of the engraving put
loosely between the leaves. Good by. I must now trudge two miles to
the village, through rain and mud knee-deep, after that accursed
proof-sheet. The book reads very well in proofs, but I don't believe
it will take like the former one. The preliminary chapter was what
gave 'The Scarlet Letter' its vogue."

The engraving he refers to in this letter was made from a portrait by
Mr. C.G. Thompson, and at that time, 1851, was an admirable likeness. On
the 6th of March he writes:--

"The package, with my five heads, arrived yesterday afternoon, and
we are truly obliged to you for putting so many at our disposal.
They are admirably done. The children recognized their venerable
sire with great delight. My wife complains somewhat of a want of
cheerfulness in the face; and, to say the truth, it does appear to
be with a bedevilled melancholy; but it will do all the better for
the author of 'The Scarlet Letter.' In the expression there is a
singular resemblance (which I do not remember in Thompson's picture)
to a miniature of my father."

His letters to me, during the summer of 1851, were frequent and
sometimes quite long. "The House of the Seven Gables" was warmly
welcomed, both at home and abroad. On the 23d of May he writes:--

"Whipple's notices have done more than pleased me, for they have
helped me to see my book. Much of the censure I recognize as just; I
wish I could feel the praise to be so fully deserved. Being better
(which I insist it is) than 'The Scarlet Letter,' I have never
expected it to be so popular (this steel pen makes me write
awfully). ---- ---- Esq., of Boston, has written to me, complaining
that I have made his grandfather infamous! It seems there was
actually a Pyncheon (or Pynchon, as he spells it) family resident in
Salem, and that their representative, at the period of the
Revolution, was a certain Judge Pynchon, a Tory and a refugee. This
was Mr. ----'s grandfather, and (at least, so he dutifully describes
him) the most exemplary old gentleman in the world. There are
several touches in my account of the Pyncheons which, he says, make
it probable that I had this actual family in my eye, and he
considers himself infinitely wronged and aggrieved, and thinks it
monstrous that the 'virtuous dead' cannot be suffered to rest
quietly in their graves. He further complains that I speak
disrespectfully of the ----'s in Grandfather's Chair. He writes more
in sorrow than in anger, though there is quite enough of the latter
quality to give piquancy to his epistle. The joke of the matter is,
that I never heard of his grandfather, nor knew that any Pyncheons
had ever lived in Salem, but took the name because it suited the
tone of my book, and was as much my property, for fictitious
purposes, as that of Smith. I have pacified him by a very polite and
gentlemanly letter, and if ever you publish any more of the Seven
Gables, I should like to write a brief preface, expressive of my
anguish for this unintentional wrong, and making the best reparation
possible else these wretched old Pyncheons will have no peace in the
other world, nor in this. Furthermore, there is a Rev. Mr. ----,
resident within four miles of me, and a cousin of Mr. ----, who
states that he likewise is highly indignant. Who would have dreamed
of claimants starting up for such an inheritance as the House of the
Seven Gables!

"I mean, to write, within six weeks or two months next ensuing, a
book of stories made up of classical myths. The subjects are: The
Story of Midas, with his Golden Touch, Pandora's Box, The Adventure
of Hercules in quest of the Golden Apples, Bellerophon and the
Chimera, Baucis and Philemon, Perseus and Medusa; these, I think,
will be enough to make up a volume. As a framework, I shall have a
young college student telling these stories to his cousins and
brothers and sisters, during his vacations, sometimes at the
fireside, sometimes in the woods and dells. Unless I greatly
mistake, these old fictions will work up admirably for the purpose;
and I shall aim at substituting a tone in some degree Gothic or
romantic, or any such tone as may best please myself, instead of the
classic coldness, which is as repellant as the touch of marble.

"I give you these hints of my plan, because you will perhaps think
it advisable to employ Billings to prepare some illustrations. There
is a good scope in the above subjects for fanciful designs.
Bellerophon and the Chimera, for instance: the Chimera a fantastic
monster with three heads, and Bellerophon fighting him, mounted on
Pegasus; Pandora opening the box; Hercules talking with Atlas, an
enormous giant who holds the sky on his shoulders, or sailing across
the sea in an immense bowl; Perseus transforming a king and all his
subjects to stone, by exhibiting the Gorgon's head. No particular
accuracy in costume need be aimed at. My stories will bear out the
artist in any liberties he may be inclined to take. Billings would
do these things well enough, though his characteristics are grace
and delicacy rather than wildness of fancy. The book, if it comes
out of my mind as I see it now, ought to have pretty wide success
amongst young people; and, of course, I shall purge out all the old
heathen wickedness, and put in a moral wherever practicable. For a
title how would this do: 'A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys'; or,
'The Wonder-Book of Old Stories'? I prefer the former. Or 'Myths
Modernized for my Children'; that won't do.

"I need a little change of scene, and meant to have come to Boston
and elsewhere before writing this book; but I cannot leave home at

Throughout the summer Hawthorne was constantly worried by people who
insisted that they, or their families in the present or past
generations, had been deeply wronged in "The House of the Seven Gables."
In a note, received from him on the 5th of June, he says:--

"I have just received a letter from still another claimant of the
Pyncheon estate. I wonder if ever, and how soon, I shall get a just
estimate of how many jackasses there are in this ridiculous world.
My correspondent, by the way, estimates the number of these Pyncheon
jackasses at about twenty; I am doubtless to by remonstrated with by
each individual. After exchanging shots with all of them, I shall
get you to publish the whole correspondence, in a style to match
that of my other works, and I anticipate a great run for the volume.

"P.S. My last correspondent demands that another name be
substituted, instead of that of the family; to which I assent, in
case the publishers can be prevailed on to cancel the stereotype
plates. Of course you will consent! Pray do!"

Praise now poured in upon him from all quarters. Hosts of critics, both
in England and America, gallantly came forward to do him service, and
his fame was assured. On the 15th of July he sends me a jubilant letter
from Lenox, from which I will copy several passages:--

"Mrs. Kemble writes very good accounts from London of the reception
my two romances have met with there. She says they have made a
greater sensation than any book since 'Jane Eyre'; but probably she
is a little or a good deal too emphatic in her representation of the
matter. At any rate, she advises that the sheets of any future book
be sent to Moxon, and such an arrangement made that a copyright may
be secured in England as well as here. Could this be done with the
Wonder-Book? And do you think it would be worth while? I must see
the proof-sheets of this book. It is a cursed bore; for I want to be
done with it from this moment. Can't you arrange it so that two or
three or more sheets may be sent at once, on stated days, and so my
journeys to the village be fewer?

"That review which you sent me is a remarkable production. There is
praise enough to satisfy a greedier author than myself. I set it
aside, as not being able to estimate how far it is deserved. I can
better judge of the censure, much of which is undoubtedly just; and
I shall profit by it if I can. But, after all, there would be no
great use in attempting it. There are weeds enough in my mind, to be
sure, and I might pluck them up by the handful; but in so doing I
should root up the few flowers along with them. It is also to be
considered, that what one man calls weeds another classifies among
the choicest flowers in the garden. But this reviewer is certainly
a man of sense, and sometimes tickles me under the fifth rib. I beg
you to observe, however, that I do not acknowledge his justice in
cutting and slashing among the characters of the two books at the
rate he does; sparing nobody, I think, except Pearl and Phoebe. Yet
I think he is right as to my tendency as respects individual

"I am going to begin to enjoy the summer now, and to read foolish
novels, if I can get any, and smoke cigars, and think of nothing at
all; which is equivalent to thinking of all manner of things."

The composition of the "Tanglewood Tales" gave him pleasant employment,
and all his letters, during the period he was writing them, overflow
with evidences of his felicitous mood. He requests that Billings should
pay especial attention to the drawings, and is anxious that the porch of
Tanglewood should be "well supplied with shrubbery." He seemed greatly
pleased that Mary Russell Mitford had fallen in with his books and had
written to me about them. "Her sketches," he said, "long ago as I read
them, are as sweet in my memory as the scent of new hay." On the 18th of
August he writes:--

"You are going to publish another thousand of the Seven Gables. I
promised those Pyncheons a preface. What if you insert the

"(The author is pained to learn that, in selecting a name for the
fictitious inhabitants of a castle in the air, he has wounded the
feelings of more than one respectable descendant of an old Pyncheon
family. He begs leave to say that he intended no reference to any
individual of the name, now or heretofore extant; and further, that,
at the time of writing his book, he was wholly unaware of the
existence of such a family in New England for two hundred years
back, and that whatever he may have since learned of them is
altogether to their credit.)

"Insert it or not, as you like. I have done with the matter."

I advised him to let the Pyncheons rest as they were, and omit any
addition, either as note or preface, to the romance.

Near the close of 1851 his health seemed unsettled, and he asked me to
look over certain proofs "carefully," for he did not feel well enough
to manage them himself. In one of his notes, written from Lenox at that
time, he says:--

"Please God, I mean to look you in the face towards the end of next
week; at all events, within ten days. I have stayed here too long
and too constantly. To tell you a secret, I am sick to death of
Berkshire, and hate to think of spending another winter here. But I
must. The air and climate do not agree with my health at all; and,
for the first time since I was a boy, I have felt languid and
dispirited during almost my whole residence here. O that Providence
would build me the merest little shanty, and mark me out a rood or
two of garden-ground, near the sea-coast. I thank you for the two
volumes of De Quincey. If it were not for your kindness in supplying
me with books now and then, I should quite forget how to read."

Hawthorne was a hearty devourer of books, and in certain moods of mind
it made very little difference what the volume before him happened to
be. An old play or an old newspaper sometimes gave him wondrous great
content, and he would ponder the sleepy, uninteresting sentences as if
they contained immortal mental aliment. He once told me he found such
delight in old advertisements in the newspapers at the Boston Athenaeum,
that he had passed delicious hours among them. At other times he was
very fastidious, and threw aside book after book until he found the
right one. De Quincey was a special favorite with him, and the Sermons
of Laurence Sterne he once commended to me as the best sermons ever
written. In his library was an early copy of Sir Philip Sidney's
"Arcadia," which had floated down to him from a remote ancestry, and
which he had read so industriously for forty years that it was nearly
worn out of its thick leathern cover. Hearing him say once that the old
English State Trials were enchanting reading, and knowing that he did
not possess a copy of those heavy folios, I picked up a set one day in a
bookshop and sent them to him. He often told me that he spent more
hours over them and got more delectation out of them than tongue could
tell, and he said, if five lives were vouchsafed to him, he could employ
them all in writing stories out of those books. He had sketched, in his
mind, several romances founded on the remarkable trials reported in the
ancient volumes; and one day, I remember, he made my blood tingle by
relating some of the situations he intended, if his life was spared, to
weave into future romances. Sir Walter Scott's novels he continued
almost to worship, and was accustomed to read them aloud in his family.
The novels of G.P.R. James, both the early and the later ones, he
insisted were admirable stories, admirably told, and he had high praise
to bestow on the works of Anthony Trollope. "Have you ever read these
novels?" he wrote to me in a letter from England, some time before
Trollope began to be much known in America. "They precisely suit my
taste; solid and substantial, written on the strength of beef and
through the inspiration of ale, and just as real as if some giant had
hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it under a glass case, with
all its inhabitants going about their daily business and not suspecting
that they were made a show of. And these books are as English as a
beefsteak. Have they ever been tried in America? It needs an English
residence to make them thoroughly comprehensible; but still I should
think that the human nature in them would give them success anywhere."

I have often been asked if all his moods were sombre, and if he was
never jolly sometimes like other people. Indeed he was; and although the
humorous side of Hawthorne was not easily or often discoverable, yet
have I seen him marvellously moved to fun, and no man laughed more
heartily in his way over a good story. Wise and witty H----, in whom
wisdom and wit are so ingrained that age only increases his subtile
spirit, and greatly enhances the power of his cheerful temperament,
always had the talismanic faculty of breaking up that thoughtfully sad
face into mirthful waves; and I remember how Hawthorne writhed with
hilarious delight over Professor L----'s account of a butcher who
remarked that "Idees had got afloat in the public mind with respect to
sassingers." I once told him of a young woman who brought in a
manuscript, and said, as she placed it in my hands, "I don't know what
to do with myself sometimes, I'm so filled with _mammoth thoughts_." A
series of convulsive efforts to suppress explosive laughter followed,
which I remember to this day.

He had an inexhaustible store of amusing anecdotes to relate of people
and things he had observed on the road. One day he described to me, in
his inimitable and quietly ludicrous manner, being _watched_, while on a
visit to a distant city, by a friend who called, and thought he needed a
protector, his health being at that time not so good as usual. "He stuck
by me," said Hawthorne, "as if he were afraid to leave me alone; he
stayed past the dinner hour, and when I began to wonder if he never took
meals himself, he departed and set another man to _watch_ me till he
should return. That man _watched_ me so, in his unwearying kindness,
that when I left the house I forgot half my luggage, and left behind,
among other things, a beautiful pair of slippers. They _watched_ me so,
among them, I swear to you I forgot nearly everything I owned."

* * * * *

Hawthorne is still looking at me in his far-seeing way, as if he were
pondering what was next to be said about him. It would not displease
him, I know, if I were to begin my discursive talk to-day by telling a
little incident connected with a famous American poem.

Hawthorne dined one day with Longfellow, and brought with him a friend
from Salem. After dinner the friend said: "I have been trying to
persuade Hawthorne to write a story, based upon a legend of Acadie, and
still current there; a legend of a girl who, in the dispersion of the
Acadians, was separated from her lover, and passed her life in waiting
and seeking for him, and only found him dying in a hospital, when both
were old." Longfellow wondered that this legend did not strike the fancy
of Hawthorne, and said to him: "If you have really made up your mind not
to use it for a story, will you give it to me for a poem?" To this
Hawthorne assented, and moreover promised not to treat the subject in
prose till Longfellow had seen what he could do with it in verse. And so
we have "Evangeline" in beautiful hexameters, --a poem that will hold
its place in literature while true affection lasts. Hawthorne rejoiced
in this great success of Longfellow, and loved to count up the editions,
both foreign and American, of this now world-renowned poem.

I have lately met an early friend of Hawthorne's, older than himself,
who knew him intimately all his life long, and I have learned some
additional facts about his youthful days. Soon after he left college he
wrote some stories which he called "Seven Tales of my Native Land." The
motto which he chose for the title-page was "We are Seven," from
Wordsworth. My informant read the tales in manuscript, and says some of
them were very striking, particularly one or two Witch Stories. As soon
as the little book was well prepared for the press he deliberately threw
it into the fire, and sat by to see its destruction.

When about fourteen he wrote out for a member of his family a list of
the books he had at that time been reading. The catalogue was a long
one, but my informant remembers that The Waverley Novels, Rousseau's
Works, and The Newgate Calender were among them. Serious remonstrances
were made by the family touching the perusal of this last work, but he
persisted in going through it to the end. He had an objection in his
boyhood to reading much that was called "true and useful." Of history in
general he was not very fond, but he read Froissart with interest, and
Clarendon's History of the Rebellion. He is remembered to have said at
that time "he cared very little for the history of the world before the
fourteenth century." After he left college he read a great deal of
French literature, especially the works of Voltaire and his
contemporaries. He rarely went into the streets during the daytime,
unless there was to be a gathering of the people for some public
purpose, such as a political meeting, a military muster, or a fire. A
great conflagration attracted him in a peculiar manner, and he is
remembered, while a young man in Salem, to have been often seen looking
on, from some dark corner, while the fire was raging. When General
Jackson, of whom he professed himself a partisan, visited Salem in 1833,
he walked out to the boundary of the town to meet him,--not to speak to
him, but only to look at him. When he came home at night he said he
found only a few men and boys collected, not enough people, without the
assistance he rendered, to welcome the General with a good cheer. It is
said that Susan, in the "Village Uncle," one of the "Twice-Told Tales,"
is not altogether a creation of his fancy. Her father was a fisherman
living in Salem, and Hawthorne was constantly telling the members of his
family how charming she was, and he always spoke of her as his
"mermaid." He said she had a great deal of what the French call
_espieglerie_. There was another young beauty, living at that time in
his native town, quite captivating to him, though in a different style
from the mermaid. But if his head and heart were turned in his youth by
these two nymphs in his native town, there was soon a transfer of his
affections to quite another direction. His new passion was a much more
permanent one, for now there dawned upon him so perfect a creature that
he fell in love irrevocably; all his thoughts and all his delights
centred in her, who suddenly became indeed the mistress of his soul. She
filled the measure of his being, and became a part and parcel of his
life. Who was this mysterious young person that had crossed his
boyhood's path and made him hers forever? Whose daughter was she that
could thus enthrall the ardent young man in Salem, who knew as yet so
little of the world and its sirens? She is described by one who met her
long before Hawthorne made her acquaintance as "the prettiest low-born
lass that ever ran on the greensward," and she must have been a radiant
child of beauty, indeed, that girl! She danced like a fairy, she sang
exquisitely, so that every one who knew her seemed amazed at her perfect
way of doing everything she attempted. Who was it that thus summoned all
this witchery, making such a tumult in young Hawthorne's bosom? She was
"daughter to Leontes and Hermione," king and queen of Sicilia, and her
name was Perdita! It was Shakespeare who introduced Hawthorne to his
first real love, and the lover never forgot his mistress. He was
constant ever, and worshipped her through life. Beauty always captivated
him. Where there was beauty he fancied other good gifts must naturally
be in possession. During his childhood homeliness was always repulsive
to him. When a little boy he is remembered to have said to a woman who
wished to be kind to him, "Take her away! She is ugly and fat, and has a
loud voice."

When quite a young man he applied for a situation under Commodore Wilkes
on the Exploring Expedition, but did not succeed in obtaining an
appointment. He thought this a great misfortune, as he was fond of
travel, and he promised to do all sorts of wonderful things, should he
be allowed to join the voyagers.

One very odd but characteristic notion of his, when a youth, was, that
he should like a competent income which should neither increase nor
diminish, for then, he said, it would not engross too much of his
attention. Surrey's little poem, "The Means to obtain a Happy Life,"
expressed exactly what his idea of happiness was when a lad. When a
school-boy he wrote verses for the newspapers, but he ignored their
existence in after years with a smile of droll disgust. One of his
quatrains lives in the memory of a friend, who repeated it to me

"The ocean hath its silent caves,
Deep, quiet, and alone;
Above them there are troubled waves,
Beneath them there are none."

When the Atlantic Cable was first laid, somebody, not knowing the author
of the lines, quoted them to Hawthorne as applicable to the calmness
said to exist in the depths of the ocean. He listened to the verse, and
then laughingly observed, "I know something of the deep sea myself."

In 1836 he went to Boston, I am told, to edit the "American Magazine of
Useful Knowledge," for which he was to be paid a salary of six hundred
dollars a year. The proprietors soon became insolvent, so that he
received nothing, but he kept on just the same as if he had been paid
regularly. The plan of the work proposed by the publishers of the
magazine admitted no fiction into its pages. The magazine was printed on
coarse paper and was illustrated by engravings painful to look at. There
were no contributors except the editor, and he wrote the whole of every
number. Short biographical sketches of eminent men and historical
narratives filled up its pages. I have examined the columns of this
deceased magazine, and read Hawthorne's narrative of Mrs. Dustan's
captivity. Mrs. Dustan was carried off by the Indians from Haverhill,
and Hawthorne does not much commiserate the hardships she endured, but
reserves his sympathy for her husband, who was _not_ carried into
captivity, and suffered nothing from the Indians, but who, he says, was
a tenderhearted man, and took care of the children during Mrs. D.'s
absence from home, and probably knew that his wife would be more than a
match for a whole tribe of savages.

When the Rev. Mr. Cheever was knocked down and flogged in the streets of
Salem and then imprisoned, Hawthorne came out of his retreat and visited
him regularly in jail, showing strong sympathy for the man and great
indignation for those who had maltreated him.

Those early days in Salem,--how interesting the memory of them must be
to the friends who knew and followed the gentle dreamer in his budding
career! When the whisper first came to the timid boy, in that "dismal
chamber in Union Street," that he too possessed the soul of an artist,
there were not many about him to share the divine rapture that must have
filled his proud young heart. Outside of his own little family circle,
doubting and desponding eyes looked upon him, and many a stupid head
wagged in derision as he passed by. But there was always waiting for him
a sweet and honest welcome by the pleasant hearth where his mother and


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