"Then we talked about...the experiences of early childhood,
whose influence remains upon the character after the collection of them
has passed away ......
Hawthorne to Margaret Fuller (
Nathaniel Hawthorne was a boy of eleven when he could walk on Union
Street in the seaport of Salem, Massachusetts to the Manning stage-coach
office. He was about to travel to Maine with his sisters, Elizabeth. and
Louisa, and his widowed mother, who had been thinking for some tine of
moving permanently to Maine where her family, the Mannings, owned extensive
property. From the top of Union Street, where he waited to board the stage-coach,
Hawthorne could have seen the houses, the long harbor and the little gardens
which had been his childhood world.
Directly down Union Street was his grandparents' house in which he had
been born. A squarish, snug, clapboard house whose huge center chimney provided
heat for the
low-cellinged rooms, it had been Nathaniel's hone for the first four years of
Hawthorne's prominent Hathorne ancestors, "stern and black-browed Puritans,"
had held high administrative and judicial posts in the Massachusetts Bay
would later feel that the image of an early ancestor connected him to past generations
of his family,
writing in "The Custom House" section of The Scarlet Letter, "The figure
of that first ancestor, invested
by family tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish
imagination, as far back as I can
remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past
paternal grandfather, "Bold Daniel" Hathorne, who had died long before Nathaniel
was born, was a
He knew that his grandfather's bravery was the subject of a ballad recorded
later in Griswold's "Curiosities of American Literature."
Hawthorne's father, Capt. Nathaniel Hathorne, had courted his beautiful
neighbor, Elizabeth Clarke Manning, the third of nine children. Twenty-one
year old Betsey Manning, with "remarkable eyes" and "a clear and luminous
complexion," had inspired Capt. Hathorne to write poetry in his ship's
log-books. "In the Midst of all these dire allarms/ I'll think dear Betsey
on thy Charms...."
They were married on August 2, 1801, and their first child, Elizabeth,
was born only seven
months and five days later, on March 7, 1802. As a child, Nathaniel would not
have known these details,
but he would have seen his mother lead a very secluded life, especially in Salem
where she would have
been sensitive to the inevitable gossip about the short duration of her first
It is probably significant that The Scarlet Letter, written while
Hawthorne was suffering intense grief from his mother's death, is concerned
with the effects of isolation imposed on a woman and her child.
Two years after Elizabeth's birth, Nathaniel had been born "in the chamber
over the little parlor" in his grandparents' Union Street house on the
Fourth of July.
In her travail, his
mother would have heard the roar of cannons and the clanging of church bells
as Salem's patriotic
citizens celebrated Independence Day. Early in the morning of July 4, 1804,
a procession had formed at the
nearby court house, "...with the Cadets & Band in front, then the Orator,
& Committee, & the Citizens, two a
two, till they reached the East Meeting House. 500 were in the procession &
1300 upon the Seats ....The
Canon roared till Sundown, & the Evening was illumined with Rockets, &
the Band gave great pleasure to
the Company collected on Washington Square."
Nathaniel was a beautiful child, with blond curls. Unfortunately, he saw
little of his father who was on
voyages for months at a time. Capt. Hathorne was at sea on January 9, 1808,
when Hawthorne's second
sister, Maria Louisa, was born, and he was never to see her. In April of 1808,
Mrs. Hathorne called her
three-and-a-half year old son into her room next to the one where he slept with
Elizabeth, to tell him his
father was dead.
Capt. Hathorne had died of yellow fever in Surinam while on a voyage to
the East Indies. As a small boy, Nathaniel perhaps looked with awe at
the few visible symbols of his father-- a tea-service which Capt. Hathorne
had brought from China, an India punch bowl and pitcher which had been
made to order for him in Calcutta, a set of china dishes decorated with
his monograms, a little oval tray, his gold watch and chain, his books
(valued at ten dollars) his spyglass, and a pair of pistols.
Capt. Hathorne's pipes, usually filled with
"yards" of tobacco, sat empty.
He had been "a reticent man, warm-hearted fond of children and a great
Hawthorne, reticent himself, apparently never wrote of his father and
rarely spoke of him.
Nevertheless, he would come to treasure the few objects which had belonged
to his father as he passed them down to his own children.
When her husband died, Betsey Manning had moved her little family from
the widow-filled Hathorne household, dependent upon the Forrester money
for help, across the Union Street Garden to her parents' home on Herbert
Street. Nathaniel and his sisters were the only children in this large
household, where they were surrounded by two grandparents, three aunts,
four uncles, and several cats. The Manning aunts and uncles were "as fond"
of their small nephew and "as careful of his welfare as if he had been
their own child."
As he grew older Hawthorne
came to resent their control over him.
Always sensitive to architectural beauty, Hawthorne later described the
Manning house as "a tall, ugly,
old, grayish building."
It sat with its side towards Herbert Street, which, like Union Street,
ran down to busy Derby street, opposite the wharves of Salem harbor.
Across from the wharves stood the imposing houses of Salem's merchants,
many of whom, like Elias Hasket Derby, had accumulated great fortunes
partly by their privateering activities in the Revolution.
Nathaniel and his sisters could venture down Herbert Street to the wharves
which were fascinating with their sounds of sails luffing in the wind,
of heavy lines creaking, and of the shouts of the ships' crews unloading
cargo from deep within the hold of the ship. Occasionally a loud thudding
splash announced that a ship's ballast of blue and white common china
carried from the other side of the world, was being thrown overboard into
the mud of shallow Salem harbor--its usefulness as ballast over.
The Hathorne children knew, too, that their father had sailed from these
waters, never to return to them.
However, Nathaniel's Manning grandparents, unlike his father's side of
the family, were not involved in the Salem maritime trade. His grandfather,
Richard Manning, had been born in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1775 and later
moved to Salem to work as a blacksmith. Many of his Manning ancestors
had been blacksmiths, then highly respected artisans who crafted mechanical
items including clocks, and who were first known as gunsmiths because
of the importance of guns in a frontier society.
business enterprise had enabled him to move beyond the blacksmith
profession to become the manager
of the stagecoach line which ran between Salem and Boston. Such roads as
the turnpike from Andover to
Salem were slowly being built by subscription funds, often under the
patronage of a wealthy citizen, and
the need for reliable transportation between the expanding New England
towns caused Grandfather
Manning's energetic management of the vital stage-coach line to be quite
As a boy, Nathaniel could have watched the bustling activity
of the stage-coach office where the drivers swapped their stories and
the passengers vanished on their journeys, each with a tale to tell. He
played in the livery stables, imagining the adventures of the interesting
people who had ridden in the carriages.
Hawthorne's lifelong fascination with the limitless possibilities of journeys
and the moral education possible for the traveler is apparent in many
of his tales and sketches written later. For instance, in "Mrs. Bullfrog,''
the capsize of the stage-coach, "with the wheels in the air and our heels
where our heads should have been," leads the narrator to learn the truth
about "the journey of the day and the journey of life" with his new bride.
Hawthorne could very well have been describing his own love of travel
in the opening passages of "The Toll Gatherer's Day: A Sketch of Transitory
Life," when he wrote, "In youth perhaps, it is good far the observer to
run about the earth -- to leave the track of his footsteps far and wide--to
mingle himself with the action of numberless vicissitudes."
He may have remembered the hours he
had spent around the
Manning stage-coaches when he later took great delight in travelling to New
England villages. His
journal entry for July 27, 1838 (written when he was thirty-four), records
his still intense enjoyment of
travel and the unique view of the rest of the world from a stage-coach
The highest point of our journey was at Windsor, where we could
see leagues around over the mountain-- a terrible bare, bleak spot, fit
for nothing but sheep and without shelter of woods. We rattled
downward into a warmer region beholding as we went, the sun shining on
portions of the landscape miles ahead of use while we were yet in chillness
and gloom, It is probable that, during part of the stage, the mists around
us looked like sky-clouds to those in the lower regions. Think of riding
in a stage-coach through the clouds!(
Hawthorne's Grandfather Manning eventually left the management of the
stage-coach company to his sons in Salem -- William, Robert and Samuel
-- and invested his profits in the land of Raymond, Maine, a "township"
in the wilderness which bordered on the great Sebago Lake. Raymond (then
known as Raymondtown with the present town of South Casco included within
its generous boundaries), was a township of fifty-nine square miles amounting
to roughly 31,377 acres of lands which had been given in payment to men
of Salem and Beverly, Massachusetts who had fought against the French
and Indians in the 1690 Expedition to Quebec.
Captain William Rayment, of Beverly, who
had shown great bravery
and skill in fighting the Indians in "The Great Swamp Fight" of King
Phillip's War in 1675 was chosen to
lead a company of men who agreed to represent their town in the Essex
regiment as part of the huge
effort to drive out the English colonists from Massachusetts. The entire
Expedition of 1690 was led by
Sir William Phips, later a governor of Massachusetts, whose fascinating
life provided Hawthorne with
material for two interesting biographical sketches.
The expedition failed but in 1736 land was finally granted to the descendants
of the men who had fought for the English, in lieu of money as payment
for their military service. The town of Raymond was laid out in an area
that is now Weare, New Hampshire, because, at that time, Massachusetts
claimed much of the land that is now New Hampshire.
After a bitter
dispute over the location of the Massachusetts boundary, the king ruled in
1704 that it did not include
the area where Salem and Beverly frontiersmen had already begun to build
their new settlement.
Finally, in 1765, they were granted land again, this time near Sebago Lake
in Maine, territory still
owned by Massachusetts. The owners of these landgrants, called
proprietors began selling hundred-
acre farmlots to families of Beverly and Salem, and it was this land that
Grandfather Manning began
buying in 1795 when he purchased several hundred acres from Samuel Symonds
of Danvers. He was
seeking a secure financial investment in a distant wilderness just as other
Salem families had invested
their financial hopes in the exotic fast-India. trade.
During Hawthorne's childhood the thriving maritime economy of Salem had begun
to decline, and he was fortunate that his grandfather had, with foresight,
invested in land, rather than in ships. As early as 1805, the minister
of Salem's East Church, William Bentley, had recorded in his diary that,
"Everything respecting Commerce aggravated by report & a stagnation
The Embargo Act of 1807-1809, which forbade any American vessel to leave
an American port bound for a foreign port, had greatly crippled Salem's
maritime activity, and had caused politics in the winter of 1808 to become
the Embargo? say all."
A second act then forbade the importation of any of the British goods
which had come through the port of Salem which never recovered its former
prosperity after 1809.
Nathaniel, of course, had few memories of the Embargo years, but at 1812
at the age of eight, he was old enough to recognize the excitement and
losses which the War of 1812 brought to his life. He could watch the militia
drill on nearby Salem Common as the men prepared for battle. The port
became busier than it had been "for months" and privateers arrived, "fitted
for sea" and waited only for commissions, fearful, as Dr. Franklin had
reminded them, of having Canada fall into the hands of a foreign nation.
They agreed with Rev. Bentley that, "Liberty once lost is lost forever."
Nathaniel had said goodbye to his twenty-four year old uncle, John Manning,
who left to be a sailor in the war. He never returned. Having lost his
own father to the sea, Hawthorne must have felt keenly the loss of his
young uncle. Hs wrote forty years later that he never saw his name "without
thinking that this may be the lost uncle ...as long as his mother lived,
as many as twenty years, she never gave up the hope of his return, and
was constantly hearing stories of persons whose description answered to
his ...Thus, so far as her belief was concerned, he still walked the earth."
Even in the deeds to the land in Maine, a place was left for John Manning's
signature, should he return.
Hawthorne later created the character of Hepzibah Pyncheon's uncle who
was never heard from after he went to sea, and Wakefield, a man who mysteriously
leaves his own household to live unrecognized nearby. These characters
may have had their genesis in John Manning, who, like Hawthorne's father,
vanished from a family who never ceased to grieve for him.
Shortly before Nathaniel's ninth birthday in 1813, the war became a visible
reality to the people of Salem when a British ship, the "Shannon," sailed
within sight of the shore and an American frigate from Boston, the "Chesapeake,"
went in chase of her. The Reverend Bentley reported that, "The notice
of the fight deeply interested our inhabitants who went in throngs to
Legge's Hill [the hill near the Salem Marblehead town line] & the
heights ....Leggs's hill...was black like the swarm of bees....The Am.
Frigate hove too & fired a gun, but the English Frigate suffered herself
to be chased till she was out of sight."
In the Manning household, Nathaniel heard his Aunt Maria worry about
the war's effect on the availability of firewood as the Mannings realized
that their land in Maine could be a source of precious goods. Maria wrote
to her brother, Robert then visiting his brother, Richard, who resided
permanently in Maine. "This cold weather, we almost envy Richard his good
fire, tho we have not suffer'd yet for want of one, but wood is very dear
& so is everything that we most want."
price of wool and cloth had
tripled, causing many Salem residents to begin weaving their own cloth. The
remarked that he had never seen a loom in his part of the town until then.
But soon the scarcity of cloth
"... produced from the labour of private families good cloathing of all
sorts, sheeting, & blanketing, the
cloathing which has been done at home by the knitting needle [was] worthy
of the best directed
Nathaniel's Uncle Robert wrote to his nieces and nephews telling them about
the sheep in Maine, but Hawthorne's mother, in her reply, after noting her children's
imaginative response to his letters, wrote of her mother's more practical interest
in the sheep: "The children were delighted with the account of the sheep and
have already, in ideas, large flocks and wool enough to clothe them ....Mother
[Mrs. Miriam Manning] desires you would not sell that bottom wool it is very
high here and if you have a good opportunity she wishes you to send it and she
will pay the freight."
(Indeed the sheep in Raymond, Maine provided an enormous amount of wool
for the home industry of weaving. The 1810 census recorded that there
were ninety-two looms in 131 Raymond homes which produced 6,650 yards
of woolen cloth per year.
The tension from the War of 1812 continued to grow in Salem when in the neighboring
town of Marblehead, harboring an American frigate, the "Constitution,"
expected to be attacked by the British in the spring of 1814. Nathaniel's
uncles, William, Robert and Samuel, had helped ready their livery horses
(which were enjoying their Sabbath day rest) to draw cannon to Marblehead.
The expected bombardment never occurred but Hawthorne's uncles were commended
in the Salem Gazette for their aid.
Nathaniel knew of his Aunt Priscilla's feelings of fear as she learned of
the British military advances.
She wrote to her brothers in Maine, "I have the satisfaction of informing
you that we ...yet possess our
habitations in peace .... The report that our capital is in the possession
of the British has reached us!
She then reminded her brothers of her faith in God's power to intervene
in their lives, writing, "What shall we do? but in the courageous and
conscientious use of all our means of resistance such help from that God
who hath hitherto been our Deliveror, from our enemies, and who can as
easily give victory 'by a few as by many.' May we individually and as
a nation, become the object of his Guardian ....We need fear no evil."
A few weeks later all of Salem's citizens in a, "frenzy shook with fear
at an alarm brought up from Halifax of the intended invasion of the town
by the British and the Hawthorne and Manning aunts prepared to flee to
They sent several truckloads of valuable items including books, out Salem
for safe-keeping. Nathaniel, then ten years old, had wanted to remain
in Salem so that he could "see the English," but because he was "one of three
children," he was sent to Ipswich with his sisters.
In Raymond forty-six men
had been drafted and prepared to march to Portland because the coast of
Maine had been attacked by the British.
Meanwhile, Robert Manning sent the
bounty of Raymond, some "wheat rye butter & cheese," to the beleagured Hathornes
and Mannings in Salem.
Hawthorne himself, writing nearly forty years later, probably remembered
the drama of those war years when he described the influence of the "military
spirit" on his boyhood friends Franklin Pierce: "He became early imbued,
too with the military spirit which the old soldier [Pierce's father] had
retained from his long services and which was kept active by the constant
alarms and warlike preparations of the first twelve years of the present
During these years, Nathaniel had listened to his mother talk to her
older sister, Mary, about the possibility of moving with her to a farm
in Bridgton, Maine, an area even more remote than Raymond. The threat
of the British invasion accelerated their plans, and Mary persuasively
wrote to her brother Richard, "It will be very trying far us to leave
our Dear Mother [Grandmother Manning] ....Should the war continue we may
be under the necessity of leaveing Salem in such a case. It may be very
convenient for them [the Mannings who would remain in Salem] to have us
But the plan to move was postponed because the
Bridgton farm was "much out of repair."
Hawthorne's childhood days were filled with the reality of war as well
as the trauma of losing more relatives. On April 19, 1813, Grandfather
Manning died en route to Raymond at the Carr Island Bridge in Newbury,
Massachusetts. Reverend Bentley noted that he had gone to bed "well" but
"...was found in an Apoplexy in the morning at sunrise & expired on
Three days earlier, Rachel Hathorne, Nathaniel's grandmother, had died
in the Union Street house where he had been born. It was in her home that
Nathaniel had first enjoyed Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, in a large
chair "in a corner of the room near a window" where he had read "by the
hour, without once speaking."
Hawthorne would continue to read Bunyan throughout his life, fascinated
by his brilliant use of allegory.
Nathaniel had watched the grief and tension mount in the household, now
presided over by Grandmother Manning. The following list of Reverend Bentley's
prayers suggests her suffering: "October 31, 1813, Miriam Manning &
children,.. p[rayers] for two sons absent. One at sea, [John Manning]
the other infirm in Maine [Richard Manning]. Mrs. Manning lost her brother
in law by a fall from a house & since the d[eath] of her husband in
six months her sister in law, & two sons, & one d[aughter] of
the same sister, besides three d[aughters] recovered from the same fever
of which the above four in one family have died in so short a time."
Nathaniel saw death next take his Aunt Maria, who died at only twenty-seven
years of a severe sore throat. A lively, intelligent woman, her letter
in 1806 to her older sister, Mary, away on a visit to Portland, suggests
her sense of humor. She wrote, "I hope you will not have the misfortune
to meet with any other than the best of people ... But I had forgot to
notice your injunction "keep peace at home" indeed and so we shall did
you suppose peace vanished when your Ladyship left us? You would not think
so if you could be with us, so much love so much condescension, you would
certainly be edifyed by the sight ...."
An emotional woman, Maria had become deeply depressed before her death,
and turned to her religion, and minister, Joseph Worcester of the Tabernacle
Church, for consolation.
Aunt Priscilla vividly described her sister's death to her brother in
Maine, "The mournful task devolves on me, to tell you, we have lost a
beloved sister. Maria has left this world, we doubt not for a better she
breathed her last in the arms of her friends this after-noon, and was
enabled to give evidence to the truth of religion, and that God is the
support of those who put their trust in him her dying words were, it is
the will of God. let God be praised. My Redeemer, his precious Blood,
is the foundation of my hope. My every wish is satisfied, God is good
and I am his own child. The world is nothing, nothing to me. she kissed
us and bade us Live to the Glory of God."
While Nathaniel was recovering emotionally from the shock of the loss of five
members of his family, he had been recovering as well from an injury to his
foot which prevented him from walking. Then nine years old, he had written the
following letter to his Uncle Robert in Maine:
I hope you are well and I hope Richard is too. My foot is no better ....it
is know 4 weeks yesterday since I
have been to school and I dont know but [?but?] it will be 4 weeks longer
before I go again .I have been out
in the office two or three times and have set down on the step of the door
and once I hopped out into the
street. Yesterday I went out in the office and had 4 cakes Hannah carried
me out once but not then ....
" I hope you will write to me soon but I have nothing more to write so good
bye dear Uncle ()
During this long period of psychological stress, Nathaniel was happy
to remain at home where his teacher, Joseph Worcester, came to listen
to his lessons. Especially during his lameness, Nathaniel read constantly.
He added his own literary thoughts to the books he read, as his sister
recalled, "When my brother was young he covered the margins and the fly
leaves of every book in the house with lines of poetry and other quotations,
and with his own names and other names. Nothing brings him back to me
so vividly as looking at those old books."
Fortunately for Nathaniel, the Mannings owned books that he could enjoy.
Books were valuable, and even acquiring then was difficult. Reverend Bentley
carefully watched for sales of books so that he could enlarge his collection.
He threw up his hands in dismay at the dearth of educated men who understood
the importance of reading when he observed, "The professional men have
their Libraries but more for their immediate use than great taste. I was
asked by a rich merchant whether Books were not a bad stock to calculate
upon & whether they must not sell again below the prime cost?"
The Salem Athenaeum, whose
members could borrow its books, was begun in 1810, but even in that venture,
Bentley noted that there "...was too much of the Merchant to be seen in this
A child in a household of busy adults, Nathaniel had naturally turned for enjoyment
to the worlds waiting for him in the books
he read. He loved Spenser's The Faerie Queen and read Grandfather Manning's
copy of Dr. Johnson. He
later wrote that Dr. Johnson, a "heavy-foot traveller," had balanced his own
propensities towards "Fairy Land."
Finally, in December of 1811, Nathaniel was able to walk, as his mother gratefully
reported to her brother, Richard, "We are very carefull to send you all the
bad news, but I think I have been very negligent as to what is pleasing. Nathaniel
has entirely recovered the use
of his feet and walks, as well as he did before he was lame, his joy was great,
when he found he could walk without crutches."
Hawthorne was very glad to be rid of his crutches when he left for Maine
in May of 1816. Shortly before his recovery, his Uncle Richard, lame himself,
had written to Robert, ''Tell... Nathaniel ...when he comes down here
I shall give him a nice Fowling piece that once belonged to his Father."
And so, as he left Salem behind, with its painful memories of separations,
wars and death, Nathaniel could dream of happier days ahead in Maine.
to Chapter 2