On Hawthorne's last years as a resident of Salem from Nathaniel Hawthorne
in His Times by James R. Mellow pp. 267+ (courtesy of the author and Johns
Hopkins University Press
"Part of Hawthorne's difficulty during the winter of 1845-1846 was that he was in a continual state of uncertainty about his political prospects; the waiting was a trial. Then, too, his living arrangements were not ideal. Unfortunately, the Herbert Street house was dismally cold; Sophia worried continually about Una's visits to her grandmother's icy, uncarpeted bedroom. But a principal reason for Hawthorne's anxiety was that Sophia was pregnant again. Both he and Sophia were determined that the baby would not be born in the Herbert St. house, but there was no clear alternative..." (267).
Late in March, Sophia wrote her mother about their future plans; she wanted to be in Boston, close to Dr. Wesselhoeft, during the final stages of her pregnancy. They had decided to take the Carver Street house, which the Horace Manns would shortly be vacating for a home in West Newton. 'There is only one solitary drawback,' Sophia wrote her mother, 'and this is the occasional absence of my husband, should he enter his official station before we return.' But Hawthorne would be able to take the train to Salem after breakfast and be home again for dinner (270).
...[In the fall of 1846, after Hawthorne's appointment as Surveyor of the
Salem Custom House at $1200 a year, Hawthorne and his wife] managed to find
a house on Chestnut Street, 'the most stately street in Salem,' Sophia thought,
but the house was too small for their needs, and they regarded it as only an
interim stop" (274).
Not until early in September 1847 did the Hawthornes find a suitable home
in Salem-a large house at 14 Mall Street. ...[T]here was a separate suite of
rooms, and Mrs. Hawthorne, Louisa, and Elizabeth would be moving into these.
...In the new house, Hawthorne would have a third-floor study, all to himself
...In the privacy of his study, he found himself 'dreaming about stories, as of old; but these forenoons in the Custom House undo all that the afternoons and evenings have done.' Still, he spent his afternoons in the barely furnished, uncarpeted third-floor room, staring out at the North River" (283).
In that steamy midsummer of his forty-fifth year, Hawthorne reached his psychological
nadir. Not only did he have to face frustrating political battles and financial
anxieties, but hismother became seriously ill. ...[After his mother died on
July 31, 1849], [t]here was little time for grief: Hawthorne was faced with
new charges from his political enemies. ...
Since it had been one of Zachary Taylor's campaign promises that office-holders
would be dismissed only because of 'malfeasance,' the local Whigs were obliged
to find more satisfactory grounds for Hawthorne's dismissal than they had managed
so far. In their assault, they fixed on the long-term political practice of
squeezing office-holders for 'assessments,' or kickbacks for the support of
the party in power. The Whigs claimed not only that Hawthorne had condoned the
old practice, but that he had been involved in an attempt to levy an additional
assessment against his own Democratic inspectors" (301). ...
...Thoroughly disgusted with his home town and its treacherous politicians,
he gave vent to his anger in his letter [to Horace Mann]: 'I mean, as soon as
possible-that is to say, as soon as I can find a cheap, pleasant and healthy
residence-to remove into the country and bid farewell forever to this abominable
city; for, now that my mother is gone, I have no longer anything to keep me