'Oh, who, in the enthusiasm of a daydream has not wished that
he were a wanderer in a world of summer wilderness...'
When the Mannings had first begun buying land in Raymond, settlers were
still arriving on horseback to clear their hundred acre lots. By 1800, Raymond's
population had reached four hundred and thirty eight people.
When Grandfather Manning had died in 1813, he had bought, over the years,
9,33 acres of land and had sold 5,767 acres.
(See map in the appendix which shows
the lots owned by the Mannings. Because Manning died intestate, his children,
including Nathaniel's mother, became entitled to a share of the annual profits
from these land holdings.
) Hawthorne's relatives had watched their investment grow, and he may have
remembered the Mannings when he wrote of the Pyncheons in the House of the
Seven Gables, "Where the old land-surveyor had put town woods, lakes, and
rivers, they marked out the cleared spaces, and dotted the villages and
towns, and calculated the progressively increasing value of the territory...
--Hawthorne, "Roger Malvin's Burial."(
Grandfather Manning bequeathed to his heirs both a sizable estate and
his dream of cultivating the wilderness and shaping a new community. Among
his books (valued at fourteen dollars at his death), may have been the
early copy of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, with "its thick leathern cover''
which had "...f looted down to [Hawthorne] from a remote ancestry ...."
and which he nearly wore out with forty years of 21. industrious reading.
Arcadia, written in the pastoral traditions might well have appealed to
a man who invested his money miles away from crowded urban Salem in a
virgin land. The Mannings thought of Maine as the land of bountiful plenty,
"the almost uncultivated woods" which could be transformed into a pastoral
Nathaniel's mother came to share the contagious enthusiasms of hey brother,
Robert, who had written from Maine "Besides the loss of the society of
our friends, which all the charms of Raymond cannot repair, we have to
regret being deprived of many conveniences which we enjoyed in Salem however
we are we satisfied with our bread a milk & contented with our situations
which you know is the very essence of happiness ....I intend writing N[athaniel]
a long letters I one to Louisa about the Lambs & one to E E[lizabeth]
about the many romantic views on which she could employ her pencil ...."
Hawthorne knew that the Mannings regarded Raymond as "this paradise;"
it was the focus of their conversation and energy far many years.
Nathaniel's trip from Salem down to Maine was an adventure in itself.
The stage-coach lumbered through miles-of dark forests, its large iron
wheels making ruts in the narrow dirt road. At Newburyport, the Hathornes
left the Manning stagecoaches and crossed the Merrimack River on a chain
-bridges a "bold undertaking."
(It was here at an island inns that Grandfather Manning hid died on his
way to Maine in 1813.) Their next stagecoach continued to Portsmouth and
then rattled on to Kennebunk. The next day
the Hathornes stopped in Westbrook before they arrived in the important
seaport of Portland.
The following days the weary Hathornes made their final stage from Portland
on through the tall Maine forests to Raymond, on the shores of Sebago
As they neared Raymond, the stage-coach would have bumped along as its
horses slowed down to negotiate a sharp bend in the road known as "Gay's
Pinch." At this bend Farmer Gay's hundred-foot timber lengths Tire approach
to Raymond Maine. which were being hauled to Portland for ships' masts,
had gotten trapped or "pinched" in the bend because they were too long.
Beyond Gay's Pinch, as the road began to descends the Hathorne children
could watch out the stage-coach windows for a glimpse of awesome Sebago,
then called the great Sebago pond. Almost twenty miles longs its waters
reflected the mood of the sky, and the White Mountains were barely visible
beyond it. Then the Hathornes would have lost the view of the lake as
the horses climbed another hill. High above the road to the right stood
a huge boulder, later known as "Pulpit Rock."
Then after crossing a small brook and climbing another hill, the
stage-coach turned down a road which angled to the west towards Sebago.
Nathaniel and his sisters might have strained to catch a glimpse of a
sight they could remember from their earlier visits, the Dingley mills
at the edge of wide Dingley Brook. Finally, the stage-coach climbed a
slight incline to the top of a knoll where Mrs. Hathorne's house would
be built two years later. There beyond the rushing stream was the Dingley
house.. And across the lane stood Uncle Richard's lovely home with its
gracious front entrance.
Uncle Richard and his
new wife, Susan Dingley Manning, would have greeted the Hathornes. (Uncle
Richard had moved to Raymond permanently bath to oversee the Manning property
and to act as the agent for the proprietors back in Salem.) Nathaniel's
imaginative Aunt Priscilla, writing from the Manning house in Salem which
then seemed empty and quiet without the three children, described the
feelings of the Mannings left behind. "Mother [Grandmother Manning] can,
scarce be reconciled to having so few in family and at first she went
from one room to the other expecting to see you; when Samuel [the youngest
uncle] has a few moments leisure, he thinks he will come in and see the
And then Priscilla pictured the Hathornes' arrival in Maine, writing,
"How does all our family at Raymond, for there I hope you have arrived
ere this, Susan enjoying the delightful satisfaction of being, at home,
Betsy solicitously enquiring(?) if she shall there fix her abode, Elizabeth
surveying those scenes, with which her imagination has been so charmed...,
Nathaniel and Louisa, visiting the Lambs, admiring the streams and with
you, discovering all that is interesting around you."
Susan and Richard's house was a large square hip-roofed house with gracious
proportions. At either edge of the granite steps below the front entrance
was a hand hammered foot scraper. Above the front door was a large fan-shaped
which was ornamented with a sunburst design--its center was a small wrought-iron
"sun" whose rays radiated outwards on the glass. Once inside the wainscoted
front hall, the Hawthorn children could hear the door being barred behind
them for the night, as a large bar was lowered into place across the side
shutters any elegantly carved door free.
To the left was the sitting
room or library. Here Nathaniel could share Uncle Richard's great pleasure
in newspapers, journals and books. Richard often wrote to the Mannings
in Salem requesting them to send him reading material. He had once written
asking for "...the Cottage Girl a Novel, Anecdotes Historical & Literary,
Herriott's Travels in Canada, & Witchcraft or the art of fortune telling."
"Don't Laugh at my whims," he had
written after the last title. At the windows of thin room were "Indian"
shutters, possibly used for protection against occasional Indian renegades,
but more importantly for protection against the bitter cold winds of the
long Maine winters. The window glass which Richard had chosen had been
hand-made in Belgium.
Aunt Susan's parlor across the front hall eras eves more formal. Its
walls were covered with a dado of pumpkin pines boards
running from the floor to the window sills and capped with a chair-rail
hand carved in a diamond shaped pattern. The wallpaper above the chair-rail
had come from England, its design block printed on large sheets and stitched
together. Even in the wilderness,
Uncle Richard had found a master craftsman to planes the smooth woodwork
and make the perfect bead-like border over
hallway behind tie door was the wide kitchen, with its large
fireplace where the cooking pots hung from cranes. A deep beehive oven
was built into the edge of the fireplace wall where the bread was baked
after its flour had been ground at Susan's father's mill at the foot of
In the hallways the children could hear Uncle Richard's stately
tall clock strike the hours. Brought by wagon to Raymond its case was
polished mahogany, its face enameled and elaborately trimmed with gilt.
One of Richard's most valued possessions was a drawing which his sister,
Maria, had made shortly before her death. Priscilla had framed it and
sent it by sleigh for him to have in Raymond.
Uncle Richard's artistic taste was evident in every detail of his home.
The molding along the risers of the long front stairway was ornamented
with decorative scrollwork. Each scalloped curve had been cut by hand.
The floors downstairs, where guests came, had been made of selected cut
boards, carefully laid to match, but the
upstairs floors were of random width planking whose size indicated the
size of the tree from which they had been cut, and were as wide as ten
Uncle Richard and Aunt Susan slept in the formal front bedrooms. The
south west bedroom got the late afternoon sun and looked down toward Dingley
Brook while the darker, chillier bedroom on the south east side of the
house was more somber.
Over the kitchen, behind a door paneled as a "Christian'' door in the
front and a country door in the back, were the servants' quarters. This
area, which had its own set of hack stairs up from the kitchen below,
was where the weaving was done since its exposure took advantage of the
long surer twilight hours.
Nathaniel and his sisters could run out the kitchen door to the large
barns now empty of its stock of winter hay. Among the ploughs and oxen-yokes
was the lathe which had been used for all the decorative wood in Uncle
Richard's house. In a few years the lathe would be set up again to fashion
the wood for :ors. Hawthorne's houses which would be built in a style
similar to that of Richard Manning's house.
Nathaniel could see that Uncle Richard's house was very different from
his Grandfather Manning's austere and functional house in crowded, noisy
Salem. Richard had succeeded in creating a home filled with grace and
beauty in the midst of a vast land being cleared for farms--a home which
would have appealed to Nathaniel. Always fascinated by architectural structures,
he would later write wonderfully detailed descriptions of interior spaces
which help situate his "romances" in a tangible world. He also felt that
houses could embody the qualities of the people they sheltered, likening
the weathered house which takes on a central symbolic role in The House
of the Seven Gables to a human face. "The aspect of the venerable
mansion has always affected me like a human countenance bearing the traces
not merely of outward storm and sunshine, but expressive also, of the
long lapse of mortal life and accompanying vicissitudes that have passed
As the summer days lengthened Nathaniel and his sisters were delighted with
their new aunt They knew how happy the Mannings had been when Uncle Richard
had written of his engagement to her. His older sisters Mary, had sent the
family's wary approval when she wrote "I rejoice to hear you intend being
Married. our Dear Mother gives her intire approbation and consent and I
am desired to inform you we are all pleased with your choise. Our dear Father
[Grandfather Manning] had a great regard [?] for Mr. Dingley's Family and
spoke of Susan in particular as being a very likely girl.
And then Mary added her own blessing in which she visualized Richard and
Susan as pilgrims an a journey through life: "I hope your Union will indeed
be blessed that you will be healpmaits to each other not only in the affairs
of this life but as traviling the road to Heaven as heirs together of an
inheritance in immortal glory."
Their house that summer was filled with story-telling and laughter as
Aunt Susan entertained Elizabeth Nathaniel and Louisa with tales of "her
early life in that wild region."
Susan was the granddaughter of Joseph Dingley, Raymond's first settler,
the cunning hero of a story handed down in the Dingley family. In 1770,
when the proprietors in Salem had wanted to attract settlers to their
land in Raymond, they offered an extra hundred acre lob to the first person
who could settle there before December 1, 1770. Joseph Dingley of Duxbury
and Dominicus Jordan of Cape Elizabeth were racing each other for this
prize when they reached the southern shore of Sebago at night. According
to his descendants, Dingley took a canoe which he fund there and paddled
across the water in the darkness to win the prize."
(Another version of this rice tells of Dingley waging before Jordan and
taking the canoe they shared, leaving Jordan far being and still asleep."
Several years later, the wily Dingley again outsmarted poor Dominicus
Jordan when he wanted to reach Beverly, Massachusetts ahead of Jordan
in order to acquire a particular piece of land. Along their route they
stopped at a tavern for a meal when sly Dingley put a piece of cutlery
into the pocket of unaware Jordan while a scullery maid was watching.
They had, not gone far when a sheriff galloped ups insisting that they
return with him to the tavern. Dingley quickly proved his innocence and
rode off, once more, to acquire the land he wanted.
Nathaniel must have loved these stories and would later build the plot
of his first novel, Fanshawe, around the hot pursuit of a villain
past the village tavern.
As a child, Nathaniel had always been fascinated by stories, listening
the stage-coach drivers, and then creating his own tales, often shocking
his audience with his sense of the dramatic. Elizabeth remembered him
"...repeating with vehement emphasis and gestures certain stagy lines
from Shakespere's Richard III, which he had overheard from older persons
about him.-he would start up on the most unexpected occasions and fire
off in his loudest tones 'Stand back, my Lord, and let the coffin pass."
His childhood, so filled with separations and deaths, may have caused
Nathaniel to pretend that he was the person leaving his own hone, and
the invention of his stories may have provoked the reassurance he sought
that his family would never let him abandon them. Elizabeth recalled that
Nathaniel "...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."
Nathaniel loved a good story for its own sake and had a wonderful sense
of humor. His long time friend and publisher, James Fields, remembered
seeing him "marvellously moved to fun" "[No] man laughed more heartily
over a good story .... Hawthorne ...always had the talismanic faculty
of breaking up that thoughtfully sad face into mirthful waves."
Aunt Susan could have regaled the children with the jingles that her grandfather
had thought up:
If you will but hark
Evidently a cantankerous person, Dingley was called "Twitch-Jaw" by some
of his family, perhaps because of such rhymes as this which he wrote for
an unwelcome guest:
Here is Mr. Clark;
And he has come to borrow your side saddle;
And as true as you are born;
When he is gone;
You will have to ride bareback a-straddle.
If to this house you do sort
I hope your visit wilt be short. (
Aunt Susan also loved to tell hey new nieces and nephew the story of
her own pet bear, "Cubby." One rainy night when he had been left out of
doors, he climbed on the roof then down into the great chimneys being
drenched with water and covered with soot, crept into the bed with [her]
and her, little sister without waking them and was not discovered until
Aunt Susan and Uncle Richard made the Hathornes welcome in Raymond, and with his father's fowling-
piece at his side Nathaniel soon was busy exploring the world down the
paths from Uncle Richard's house. As he walked down the
hill to the west he passed the Dingley mills--the gristmill with its whirling
millstones and meal troughs and the lumbermill with its large saws and
the hogsheads being steamed and then taken apart and laid up as stages
to be shipped as shooks.
In Cuba, the casks would be reassembled, filled with molasses, and shipped
back to such towns as Melrose and Medford for the rum industry
Over the hills and around the bend
to the rights Nathaniel came to the
inviting waters of huge Be ago Lake. There in a sheltered bay where Dingley
Brook flowed Into the lake, the Dingleys launched their boat to ferry
their goats and sheep
out to the nearby Dingley Islands. Protected by
the water from hungry bears and wolves, the animals could graze safely.
In the little inlets Nathaniel could also watch the loggers riding their
gigantic rafts of logs along the lake to the mills at Presumpscot. Several
miles farther to the north was the outlet of the Songo River, which Longfellow,
who had also spent his childhood in Maine, remembered:
Nowhere such a devious stream,
Save in fancy or in a dream,
Winding slow through bush and brake
Links together lake and lake.
When Nathaniel ran dawn the path which went over the hill to the west
from the mills he had the whole Raymond Cape to explore. A large land
area which extended out into Sebago bake, it was full of farms. he climbed
along the rocky shoreline of Sebago, whose none meant "big stretch of
water's to the Indians.
As frightening as the limitless ocean to a child, it was also magnificent.
High above the water, the trees filtered the sunlight onto the lichencovered
boulders below. Under the giant pines was a soft layer of pine needles
and among the rocks were huckleberries, sweet enough to eat by august.
Nathaniel's sisters Elizabeth, later remembered, "The walks by the Sebago
were delightful, especially in a dry seasons when the pond was low, and
we could follows as we once did, the windings of the shore,
climbing over the rocks until we reached a projecting point, from which
there was no resisting the temptation to go on to another, and then still
further, until one were stopped by a deep brook impossible to be crossed;
though he could swim, but I could not and he would not desert me."
(Hawthorne's boundless energy was later recalled by his son who wrote
that Hawthorne had been a tireless walker and, "...of great. bodily activity;
up t3 the time he teas forty years old, he could clear a height of five
feet at a standing jump."
Nathaniel thrived out of doors in Maine; he grew "tall and strong."
he learned to fish sometimes with his. little sisters Louisa, tagging
along. Twenty-five years later when he was at bucolic Brook Farm she wrote
to him "Do not you remember haw you and I used to go a-fishing together
in Raymond? Your mention of wild-flowers aced pickerel has given me a
longing for the woods and maters again; and I want to wander about as
I used to in old times ...."
In Fanshawe Hawthorne wrote with the first-hand knowledge of an
experienced angler of a pool in a stream, where the current "...had worn
a hollow under the roots of an old bare oak-tree-- a most delicate retreat
for a trout."
Elizabeth later described their days in Maine to Hawthorne's daughters
saying "We enjoyed it exceedingly...."
Hawthorns remembered this tide as the "happiest period'' of his life.
"I lived in Maine...like a bird of the air, so perfect was the freedom
I enjoyed....I recall the summer days also, when, with my gun I roamed
at will through the woods of Maine."
On his walks, he had time to listen to the sounds of the wind and the
tries. His knowledge of forest setting would add lifelike detail to the
descriptive passages in some of his earliest tales, such as that in the
following passage from "Roger Malvin's Burials": "Whenever the rustling
of the branches or the creaking of the trunks made a sounds, as if the
forest were waking from slumber Reuben instinctively raised the musket
that rested on his arm, and cast a quick, sharp glance on every side ...."
Nathaniel's visual and auditory experiences in Maine remained in his memory,
and he could call them forth later when he wanted to depict with intensity
a natural world which is responsive to men's actions:
The tangled and gloomy forest through which the personages
of my tale were wandering differed widely from the dreamer's land of fantasy
....The darkened gloomy pines looked down from theme ands as the wind
swept through their tops a pitying sound was heard in the forest; or did
those old trees groan in fear that men were come to lay the axe to their
roots at last. (
Characteristically Hawthorne placed the following climactic scene of
The Scarlet Letter in which his characters reveal their deepest feelings
to each others in a lives natural setting:
Here [Hester and Pearl] sat down on a luxuriant heap of moss,
which, at some epoch of the preceding century,-had been a gigantic piney
with its roots and trunk in the dark-some shades and its head aloft in
the upper atmosphere. It was a little dell where they had seated -themselves,
with a leaf-strewn bank rising gently on .either sides and a brook flowing
through the midst, over a bed of fallen and drowned leaves. The trees
impending over it had flung down great branches from time to times which
choked up the current and compelled it to form eddies and black depths
at some points; whiles in its swifter and livelier passages there appeared
a channel-way of pebbles, and sparkling sand .... All these giant trees
and bowlders of granite seemed intent on making a mystery of the course
of this small brook; fearing perhaps that with its never-ceasing loquacity,
it should whisper tales out of the heart of the old forest whence it flowed,
or mirror its revelations on the smooth surface of a pool." (119)
Hawthorne would later fondly recall how this world looked to hurl as
a boy: "Those were delightful days; for that part of the country was wild
then with only scattered clearings? and nine tenths of it primeval woods."
The settlers in Wine often cleared the land by cutting down the trees
and then burning them. Hawthorne describes such a fire in the following
powerful simile used to heighten the eerie tension in "Young Goodman Brown"--"Thus
sped the demoniac Brown on his course, until, quivering among the trees,
he saw a red light before him, as when the felled trunks and branches
of a clearing have been set on fire, and throw up their lurid blaze against
the sky, at the hour of midnight.'
The stumps of the trees which remained in the ground after their trunks
were cut had to be pulled out of the fields by oxen. These "earthy roots"
of up torn trees were sometimes used to make fences, as were the hundreds
of stones, also pulled out of the ground.
The walls made from the stones were certainly more picturesque than the
stump fences whose ugliness gave rise to the local expression, "Homely
as a stump fence!"
Fascinated by all he saw in Maine, Hawthorne wrote in 1836 of a particular
"vivid picture" which he remembered clearly:
The first habitations of the hardy settlers of our country
were constructed of the ruins of the forest, which had fallen beneath
their axes. The log-house was a rude, but comfortable dwelling, homely
and substantial, like the characters of those who built it. In our memory,
there is a vivid picture of such an edifices which we used to visit in
our boyhood, while running wild on the borders of a forest-lake. It had
a little square window, the size of four panes of glassy the chimney was
built of sticks and clay, like a swallow's nest; the hearth was a huge,
flat, unhewn stone; and the fire place, where sat an old Revolutionary
pensioner and his dame, occupied nearly the whole breadth of the house.
Characteristically, Hawthorne perceived the log-house as a reflection of
its builders, who "homely and substantial" themselves, had created an intimate
home with its chimney like a swallow's nest and huge inviting fireplace.
Nathaniel enjoyed running wild in the forest, but he also responded to
the human desire to domesticate the wilderness and to establish homes.
He wrote later of Roger Malvin's futile desire to return home after a
battle with the Indians in northern New England: "Them is many and many
a long mile of howling wilderness before us yet; nor would it avail me
anything if the smoke of my own chimney were but on the other side of
that swell of land."
The possibility of death was never out of Nathaniel's mind; even in Raymond
he could see the family graveyard out beyond Uncle Richard's house in
the field ;which overlooked Dingley Brow. Its gravestones were silent
reminders of the power of the unseen world over human lives. Although
Raymond was not a center of trader the road which passed through it linked
New Hampshire Vermont and parts of Maine with the commercial seacoast
town of Portland. Nathaniel could watch garners from the remote clearings
far beyond Raymond haul their produce on carts and wagons to the Portland
market. Raymond itself was a farming community, set in an extraordinarily
beautiful landscape on the edge of the wilderness. On the farm where the
Hathornes boarded during the summer of 1816, vegetables and grains were
grown, cattle were slaughtered for their meat, butter was churned and
cheese was made.
When Mrs. Hathorne had her own houses several years later, she kept a
cow which was fed with hay cut from the surrounding fields.
Nathaniel's friends in Raymond were children of farmers. Across the lane
from uncle Richard's house were the Dingleys (Aunt Susan's parents) whose
son, Jacob, was close to Nathaniel's age. A few miles over to the east
on Quaker Hill with its breathtaking view of distant Mount Washington,
lived Robinson Cook. He was the son of one of the early settlers of the
small community of Quakers who had built their first meeting house on
Quaker hill in 1814.
Robinson Cook later remembered swapping pocket knives with Nathaniel and
a bear story about Henry Turner who had gone to the woods with his oxen
to get birch bark to make sap buckets and discovered a den of three bears
beneath the tree. Henry killed the bears with his axe, but his oxen "...were
so badly frightened, that he was obliged to fasten them a tree with chains
until he had loaded the dead bears upon his sled. Then he let the oxen
looses japed upon the sled] and was carried home at a furious pace by
the maddenned animals."
Robinson and Nathaniel probably knew William Symmes, the mulatto son
of "a leading member of the Massachusetts bar," who was raised as the
foster son of Can t. Jonathan Britton of Otisfield because his own father
Nathaniel and his friends could walk along broad Dingley Brook as it flowed
down from its sources Thomas Pond, a half mile away. On its shores was
the brickyard run by Jacob Watkins with made the bricks necessary for
the chimneys of the houses. From Thomas Pond, Nathaniel could see Rattlesnake
Mountain, several piles away, a. view which he loved.
The mountain had been named for the huge number of snakes which lived
in its rocks and had been so numerous teat men had hunted them in groups
capturing up to a hundred in a day.
From Thomas Pond which reflected the green leaves on his hillsides in
its clear waters, the boys could climb up the hill that led to ''Pulpit
rock." It stood among other boulders at the top of a hill which ascended
sharply from a boggy areas and was very much like the setting Hawthorne
would later use for "Young Goodman Brown.`" Hidden on toy of the boulder
amongst the treetops, Nathaniel and his friends could hear the voices
of people on the road below. A mile beyond Thomas Pond was Panther Pond,
named for the wild animals which still occasionally roamed its banks.
On Panther Pond the boys could watch the plaster mill which used limestone
made in kilns like those in Hawthorne's story of "Ethan Brand" and those
in the Estabrook Woods near his later home in Concord, Massachusetts.
Nathaniel also enjoyed visiting Uncle Richard's general stare. Built
on a rise of ground just east of his house, it was stocked with various
staple items such as calico, sugar and a great deal of rum.
This store and the Dingley mills were the-gathering places for the farmers
and teamsters. Here Nathaniel could match Washington Longley's amazing
displays of the drumming skills which he had acquired, along with his
drummer's uniform, in the recent War of 1812.
Nathaniel might spend a rainy day listening to the stories being swapped
by the old-timers of Raymond as they mystified him with tales of such
unexplainable events as the spiders whose web saved the life of a little
girl from blood-thirsty Indians.
Stories were told about local characters--everyone-knew of Betty Welsh
the first girl born in Raymond, who, while picking berries one days had
filled a rattlesnake and a woodchuck. After finishing her berry-pickings
she extracted the rattlesnake's ail to use for cooking and fixed the woodchuck
for the family dinner.
Another local story was of Eli Longley. While en route to the eternally
good weather on the western frontier, Longley had awakened one spring
morning in Pennsylvania to find the ground covered with frost, and so
had returned to Maine to live more contentedly.
Nathaniel also listened to these vigorous men discussing the many property
and boundary disputes inevitable where land was being surveyed and cleared.
He would later place a dispute over land in Maine in the background of
the plot of The House of the Seven Gables.
Hawthorns undoubtedly remembered how he loved to listen to stories as
a boy when in 1851 he sat down in the heat of the Berkshire super to write
the second of his three very appealing books of stories nor children.
(He had already written Grandfather's Chair in which he entertainingly
told stories of New England history, structurally bound together by the
presence of an ancient chair.) In his preface to A Wonder Book,
Hawthorn, wrote: "[The] author has not always thought it necessary to
write downward, in order to meet the comprehension of children. He has
generally suffered the theme to soar, whenever such was its tendency,
and when he himself was buoyant enough to follow without an effort. Children
possess an unestimated sensibility to whatever is deep or high, in imagination
or feeling, so long as it is simple, likewise. It is only the artificial
and complex that bewilders them."
On the days when the rain fell "almost in a continual sheet; and occasional
powerful gusts of wind drove it hard against the...windows..," Nathaniel
could curl up with Uncle Richard's books--Shakespeare, The Pilgrim's
Progress, and any "poetry or light books" within his reach.
He enjoyed Thomson's "Seasons" " whose lines he recited years later, as
James yields recalled:
It was a sleepy, warm afternoon, and he [Hawthorne] proposed
that we should wander up the banks of the river and lie down and watch
the clouds float above and in the quiet stream. I recall his lounging,
easy air as he tolled me long until the came to a spot secluded, and oftimes
sacred to his wayward thoughts. He bade me lie down on the grass and hear
the birds sing. As we steeped ourselves in the delicious idleness, he
began to murmur some half-forgotten lines from Thomson's "Seasons," which
he said had been favorites of his from boyhood. While we lay there, hidden
in the grass, we heard approaching footsteps, and Hawthorne hurriedly
whispered, "Duck! or we shall be interrupted by somebody." (
In Maine, Nathaniel was left alone to read and dream, probably more than
he had been in Salem. He later wrote of the value of these quiet hours:
"It is only a solitary child-left much to such wild modes of culture as
he chooses for himself while yet ignorant what culture means, standing
on tiptoe to pull down boos from no very lofty shelf, and then shutting
himself up, as it mere, between the leaves, going astray through the volume
at his own pleasure, and comprehending it rather by his sensibilities
and affections than his intellect--that child is the only student that
ever gets the sort of intimacy which I am now thinking of, with a literary
During this summer in Maine, Nathaniel was finally responsible to his
mother alone. Away from the Manning uncles and aunts in Salem, with their
constant worrying and rigorous standards, Nathaniel and his sisters flourished
under their Mother's gentle guidance. h beautiful, refined, quiet woman,
"...of singular purity of mind...," Nathaniel's mother was loving and
thoughtful, remembered by her niece as welcoming visits from children,
taking great pains to please them, and giving then nice things to eat.
Much to Louisa's delight, Mrs. Hathorne even understood her daughter's
concern for a little animal, as Louisa wrote her uncle, "There is a little
squirrel runs about in our yard in the day time and sleeps in the shed
at night Mother says she hopes he will stay here all winter."
A sensitive and shy woman, Betsey Hathorne was delicate and frail, suffering
from frequent illnesses and poor health. Ever responsive to beauty, she
later loved the "most perfect force" of her first grandchild, Una Hawthorne,
and sire was very supportive of Hawthorne's early publishing ventures.
Nathaniel and his mother were linked to each other by strong bonds; her
beauty was mirrored in his handsomeness, and he resembled her, also, in
his "sensitiveness and capacity for placid enjoyment," as well as in his
"gentle manners, reserve, and thoughtfulness."
His resemblance to his father surely endeared him to his mother even more.
Hawthorne would movingly describe her death many years later in his notebooks,
as "tire darkest lour'' he ever lived.
In The Marble Faun, Hilda perhaps voices Hawthorne's feelings about
his own mother when she exclaims, "Oh, my mother! --my mother! Were she
yet living, I would travel over land and sea to tell her this dark secret,
as I told all the little troubles of my infancy."
Hawthorne's son, Julian, gave credit to Mrs. Hawthorne for the important
role she played in Hawthorne's artistic development. It was his mother,
who "...in spite of her unworldliness, had some wile views as to education,
gave him boots to read of romances poetry and allegory, which largely
aided to develop the ideal side of lies mind. Too much weight can hardly
be given to the value of this imaginative training in a boy who united
a high and sensitive organization to robust bodily powers. It, provided
him with a world apart from the material world."
Nathaniel's first full summer in Maine was an ideal time for him-- days
of rambling in a beautiful setting and of listening to stories, reading,
and dreaming. Elizabeth wrote later of its value--"It did him a great
deal of good in many ways ....His imagination was stimulated, too by the
scenery and by the strangeness of the people; and by the absolute freedom
He also experienced the solitude and independence which later would be
necessary for him as a writer. He would always feel that he needed " a
room" of his own where he could live in the "world within."
He would compare his stories to vegetables which had sprung up of their
own accord in his receptive imagination-an imagination, which in Maine
had begun absorbing images of natural beauty and of a home set in a pastorals
to Chapter 3