'Oh how I wish I was again with you, with nothing to do but go a-gunning ....Why was I not a girl that I
might have been pinned all my life to my Mother's apron.''
--Hawthorne to his mother. ()
Nathaniel's thirteenth summer passed happily until a letter arrived for
his mother from her sister, Priscilla. An energetic person, Priscilla
enjoyed overseeing the household relationships. She had tried to help
Robert make his mother feel less forgotten and she looked after the needs
of her little nieces as well, writing to her brothers, "Elizabeth and
Louisa are well, and appear to enjoy the pleasures, and advantages which
are placed in their power, and which are so adapted to render their morn
of life happy."
Viewing life with a wider field of vision than the other Mannings, Priscilla
was interested in religion and politics. She had asked Robert for his
opinion of the proposed separation of Maine from Massachusetts and for
the views of Portland people "who understand it."
Nathaniel was probably very fond of his Aunt Priscilla; she was imaginative
and enjoyed writing in a flowery style often graced with poetic imagery.
Her desire to bridge the distance between Salem and Maine ignited his
literary powers. She noted that she had written one letter not ''...by
daylight, but by twilight."
Elizabeth to add more details to her letters so that the Mannings in Salem could more easily visit the
Hathornes in Raymond "in imagination," becoming part of their family circle by means of vivid descriptions.
Her letter to Betsey, written on August 91 1816, began in Priscilla's
emphatic tone, "How uncertain are all earthly expectations!--I can scarcely
express how much Iwish to see you all, I think frequently if I could pass
even one day with you it would afford me the highest satisfaction."
She then exhorted her sister to instruct her children "...in the important
truths of religion..." so that they might "...early resolve to devote
themselves to His Service."
before giving Betsey instructions for making
raspberry jelly, Priscilla left room for Robert's addition to the letter, an imperious note commanding
Betsey to send her son back to Salem for the fall:
"Dear Sister, Send Nathaniel, he may bring his 2 suits of Mixt Cloths, & no more, Your Loving " "
Robert Manning." ()
Note that Robert Manning added to a letter his sister, Priscilla, wrote on August 9, 1816 to their sister, Hawthorne's mother. Robert and Priscilla were in Salem at the time, and Betsey Hathorne and her children were in Raymond, Maine.
(courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Robert had written several years earlier to his mother that the local children in Raymond "...are not
subject to that order & subordination, which is so necessary to discourage bad
habits, & confirm good ones, ours I hope will duly appreciate the advantages they enjoy and profit by
Now Robert, and perhaps Priscilla, felt that Nathaniel should be back
in Salem under his watchful eyes.
Betsey Hathorne, with her gentle manners and quiet reserve, naturally
depended on her brothers and sisters for help in the otherwise lonely
task of raising her three children.
Because William Manning, her oldest brother, was content to manage the
stage-coach business in Salem, and Richard, the second oldest, had happily
moved to Raymond to live, Betsey's younger brother, Robert, only twenty-nine
when his father died in 1813, had assumed the responsibilities and authority
of the head of this large household. He had joked about how old he felt
when he became aware of the importance of his role:
Nathaniel--O how I am bedar'd and beuncle'd by great Boys and
girls. Why, when I read your letters, I went to the glass to see my white
hairs, I felt as if I was 40 or 50 years old, but no matter for that,
be good children, and the older 'Dear Uncle' grows, the more he will love
you. Nat, you want to learn to swim, and so you shall when Uncle comes
home, but you must study the hard lessons, learn all you can at school,
mind your mother, dont look cross, hold up your head like a man, keep
your cloths clean, and when Uncle comes home we shall enjoy ourselves
as we did in good old times. (
Louisa, especially, missed Robert whenever he was gone, and
wished to know "every circumstance" relating to him.
Nathaniel knew that his Uncle Robert, an ambitious person,
had greatly relished his project of subduing the Maine
wilderness, writing from Raymond in 1814, "We progress slow
but sure in the Settlement of the Business, much is yet to
A tense man who suffered from headaches, Uncle Robert was perhaps concerned
too much for the "Business," sometimes forgetting the importance of human
Richard, annoyed with his brother's failure to consider his needs, had
written to him, "I saw that you had advertized a number of horses for
Sale, I am in want of one that you can recommend as very steady and very
good and a large strong Horse, not one of your old worn ones. Iam tired
out with such creatures, and am determined to have a good one or none
Uncle Robert may have been in Hawthorne's mind when he wrote in The House of the
Seven Gables about a Pyncheon who had inherited, "...hard, keen sense, and practical energy."
Colonel Pyncheon, like Robert Manning, was endowed "...with common sense,
as massive and hard as blocks of granite, fastened together by stern rigidity
of purpose, as with iron clamps. He followed out his original design,
probably without so much as imagining an objection to it. On the score
of delicacy, or any scrupulousness which a finer sensibility might have
taught him, the Colonel, like most of his breed and generation, was impenetrable."
Nathaniel's uncle was also intellectually curious and interested in the
natural sciences, in an age when
men were beginning to realize that scientific knowledge might hold answers
to mysteries in the world around them. He had written encouragingly, if
overwhelmingly, to his very bright eleven-year old niece, Elizabeth, "A
learned little lady, studying the stars, my dear when will the next Eclipse
take place, can you tell how many stars is there, What
is the moon made of, all these things you must learn before you will be
a female Newton."
Robert constantly bought books and would later channel his creative
energies into establishing one of America's first pomological gardens, helping to found the
Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and writing a reference book on the horticulture of fruits. A man
whose face had none of Nathaniel's handsome features, he was a perfectionist whose critical nature and
lack of tact alienated him from others. Hawthorne later wrote of many artists-scientists whose attempts
to create perfection result in their destruction of those who love then. He came to resent his demanding
Uncle Robert and may have feared that his own artistic drives would likewise isolate him from others.
Nathaniel had always been the focus of Uncle Robert's attention. Aunt
Priscilla, only twenty-four years old herelf and sounding like an experienced
mother, had written to her brother, "Be so good Robert, as to favour him
[Nathaniel] with your advice (which I think will not fail to be influential,)
with regard to attending to writing, and some of his lessons, regularly.
The benefit he will derive will amply repay him for the
exertion it will require."
She then expressed
her wishes in a gardening image which Robert must have appreciated--"However rich the soil, we do not expect fruit, unless
good seed is sown, and the plants carefully attended."
In spite of their requests in August of 1816 to "send Nathaniel" back
to Salem, Aunt Priscilla and Uncle Robert were no doubt
disappointed when their older sister decided to remain in Maine, mentioning
nothing of sending Nathaniel back to Salem. Perhaps showing the strength
which Hawthorne remembered in her, Betsey may have preferred to stay near
her gentler brother, Richard.
She wrote apologetically, "I
am very sorry to give you the trouble of packing up my goods. You will be glad on that account that there
is so few of them whatever is not worth sending you will leave out." Then she added thoughtfully to
Priscillia--"I left a straw bed in the back upper chamber. I wish you to have the straw."
Before Betsey could finish her letter, Nathaniel's Aunt Mary, iris uncle
Samuel, and his Grandmother Manning had arrived in Raymond from Salem
for a visit. Aunt Mary finished Betsey's letter, countermanding all her
packing directions and heaving a sigh of relief at their safe arrival
in Maine. "Through the blessing of Heaven we have all arived here well,
and have the pleasure of finding our Friends here in good Health our dear
Mother bore the journey extraordinary well, and this morning she ate a
much hartier breakfast than she ever does at home."
Nathaniel's relatives in Salem (Priscilla, William, and Robert), waited
anxiously for Mary's letter as Priscilla dramatically recounted:
Wednesday came, there was no letter; Robert said "Samuel must
be coming or they would have written," he then in his usual decided
manner, observed, "he will be here to night, and bring Nathaniel," the
evening passed away and we enquired, can they in the joyful meeting, have
forgotten those left at home; I told them the letter might
come on thursday, he Said it is possible, but seemed not to expect it;
William was quite anxious; in the morning, the letter came, we... were
rejoiced to hear you arrived safely ...." (
In Raymond, Nathaniel helped Aunt Mary and his grandmother
enjoy their visit. Aunt Miry wrote of taking "delightful
walks" and of finding Raymond "much pleasanter" than she had
expected to. She was impressed with Nathaniel's fishing
skills, writing, "The river at this season abounds with salmon
trout I could see them in the warter as I stood on the bank
Nathaniel is very successful in catching them." Mary even
thought she would, "on some accounts," prefer living in
Raymond to Salem, if only she could regularly attend "Public
In 1816, since Raymond had no settled minister, its families held religious
meetings in their homes, frequently at Captain Dingley's, with such itinerant
ministers as Rev. Paul Coffin of nearby Buxton, preaching. The Manning
women had been active in their respective churches in Salem, and Nathaniel
knew they viewed the events in their lives as moments in their eternal,
spiritual lives. Mary Manning energetically reminded her family of their
religious duties; she had admonished her brother Richard that as "...a
first step to happiness, to pay a strict regard to the Sabbath."
She was glad to hear of Richard's good humor but wanted to be sure that
he nevertheless felt repentant--"All have something to repent of I have
Even grief for a dead relative was to be borne with submission, "...knowing
that, it is God, who giveth and who taketh away."
In Maine, Nathaniel's mother compensated for the lack of a resident minister by raving her children
observe the Sabbath by reading religious books. Hawthorne remained a diligent reader of the Bible
throughout his life, often quoting it to his publisher as his authority for his use of a word.
As a boy, he knew that the Mannings perceived God as being the controlling
force of their lives. When his uncles, William and Samuel, had disastrously
incurred heavy financial debts in 1815, his mother had written to Richard
telling of the lesson her brothers could learn, "[It] will show then the
vanity and uncertainty of the riches of this world, and that we must not
trust in such fleeting things for happiness."
Aunt Priscilla also saw the didactic value of their heaven-sent suffering:
"Our prayers and our endeavours should be, that this and every other trial,
may make a suitable impression upon our minds, and have a good effect
upon our lives, if this should be our case, we shall have no reason for
sorrow, but shall on the contrary rejoice that we have been afflicted,
Hawthorne, writing later about the early struggles at Bowdoin College
of his friend, Franklin Pierce, echoed Priscilla's philosophy when he
wrote, "But a failure of this kind serves an opposite purpose to a mind
in which the strongest and richest qualities be deep ....It is indeed,
one of the best nodes of discipline that experience can administer, and
may reasonably be counted a fortunate event in the life of a young man
vigorous enough 'to overcome the momentary depression."
Hawthorne would develop the "Fortunate Fall" theory of
the value of sin in The Marble Faun.
In October of 1816, before the cold Maine winter set in, Nathaniel was
taken back to Salem with Aunt Mary and Grandmother Manning. Betsey Hathorne,
left behind in Maine with her daughters and separated from her son, developed
a cold and became extremely ill, requiring several doctors. She was diagnosed
as being consumptive and wished that she had returned to Salem with the
others. Her sympathetic brother, Richard, probably realized the real strain
which contributed to her collapse, as he wrote to Robert, "I thought first
that she was worried about Nath. as she was very loth to part with him."
Having already lost her husband,
she would certainly have been "lothe" to part with her twelve-year old son for a long period of time.
Nathaniel must also have suffered from the separation, and by February, 1817, Betsey Hathorne and her
daughters were back in Salem.
Meanwhile, Robert Manning worried about the family financial affairs.
The summer of 1816 had been a cold one in New England, known as "1800-and-froze-to-death."
In Maine, there had been frost every month of the year and the value of
the Manning farms and land may have seemed less secure.
Then, late in August of 1816, another threat to the Manning financial base appeared when a steamboat
company was formed which could compete for passengers with the
stage-coaches, with "incalculable effects."
By June of 1817 a steamboat had arrived in Salem harbor
attracting great crowds of curious people. It plied the waters off Salem
Neck at eight miles an hour, but, fortunately for the Mannings, as the
Reverend Bentley noted, although "...the public attention is excited towards
this experiment ... at present it has but a small share of the public
Nevertheless, Robert began the construction of a large house in Raymond
so that all of the Mannings could eventually move from economically depressed
Salem to their lands in Maine.
In the fall of 1817, Nathaniel and his family were probably present in
Salem for the wedding of Priscilla Manning to John Dike, a widowed coal
and wood merchant whose two children, John and Mary, were close to the
ages of the Hathorne children.
By the end of the following June, Nathaniel was happy to welcome his fun-loving
Uncle Samuel back to Salem where he joined his brother, William, in the
Manning stage coach offices. Samuel was tired of Maine, where he had been
running Richard's general store. Sounding like Crevecoeur who described
the men living on wild frontiers as "carnivorous animals," Samuel had
written to Robert, "I...have been constantly employed in retailing out
Rum, Molasses & Tobacco, to a set of drunken, noisy, quarilsome, ignorant
Aunt Mary granted her sister to bring organized religion to these people. She hoped Betsey would
organize a Sabbath school, telling her that "...if we only make a beginning this Season it will be better
than not doing any-thing and if we never begin we never shall have one. " Mary had subscribed
to a religious publication and wanted Betsey to give the used
issues as "rewards for the good schollors" in the Sabbath
school. In Uncle Richard's library was a copy of
The Panoplist, and Missionary Magazine United, for 1814, a journal
which published articles by Rev. Samuel Worcester of the
Tabernacle Church of Salem where a Sabbath school had been
established in 1813. Nathaniel's family, like others in
this period, with its great proliferation of religious sects,
were interested in missionary work.
While the Hathornes visited Salem during tire summer of
1818, construction on their new house continued in Raymond,
under Robert's direction.
Built to be large enough to house all the Mannings and Hathornes, it was
set on a knoll opposite the Mlanning house overlooking Dingley Brook.
However, Nathaniel was enjoying being in Salem with his mother while Uncle
Robert was in Maine. Now fourteen years old, he was ambivalent about returning
to Raymond where he knew it was impossible for him to remain permanently
because of its lack of a good school. He was finding beautiful areas near
Salem which could rival even Sebago, as he wrote in an irritating tone
All the family are well, and I hope you are the same....Ma'am [Grandmother Manning], Louisa, & I, Mr. and
Mrs. Dike, Aunt Priscilla John, & Mary have been to Nehant, we had a very pleasant time, fish are very
thick there. Is not the house almost finished? I think I had rather go to dancing school a little longer
before I come to Raymond. Does the Pond look the same as it did when I was there? it is
almost as pleasant at Nehant as at Raymond. I
thought there was no place here that I should
say so much of. I suppose you have a great many berries, We have very few. the garden I think looks as
well as when you was here though there is not much done to it. I have written all I can think off. Good
bye. ( )
However, Nathaniel's attachment to Salem would disappear by the next summer after he had
finally moved into the new house where he lived very happily with his mother and sisters in their first
By September, 1818, when the steamboat experiment in Salem had failed (only two passengers chose
to ride it to Boston), and the stage-coach business must have seemed more secure, the new house was
Louisa wanted to return to Maine, writing in her exuberant style to Uncle
Robert, "...I love berries very much, have you many berries this year,
I wish I was down there to eat some with you."
Nathaniel and his family finally moved into their first house in November
of 1818, after drying it out by keeping fires burning in the fireplaces
for a week.
Its cost had been $2407.10 according to
Richard's account books.
Elizabeth wrote to Aunt Priscilla of their satisfaction-"The chimneys
of the new house draw smoke very well, we are more pleased
with it every day."
The Hawthorne house in Raymond, Maine, photographed in 1981
(courtesy of Dr. Melinda Ponder)
Nathaniel's enjoyment of the house was brief; by mid-December he had been sent by Uncle Robert thirty
miles away with Jacob Dingley to Reverend Caleb Bradley's school in Stroudwater, near Portland.
Hawthorne was later thankful of the brevity of his formal schooling, writing, ''One of the peculiarities of
my boyhood was a grievous disinclination to go to schools and (Providence favouring me in this natural
repugnance) I never did go half as much as other boys, partly because, much of the time, there were no
schools within reach." Stroudwater was a rural crossroads with tanbark-paved streets; its houses
sat high above the Fore and Stroudwater rivers.
Nathaniel's teacher, Reverend Bradley, was an unpleasant person--his
autobiographical sketch reveals his stinginess. Although it was customary
for a minister to repay the marriage fee to the first couple he married,
Reverend Bradley "held fast" to what had been given to him refusing to
honor the custom.
He complained of his work--"the ministerial duties were many, and well might I exclaim, 'who is
sufficient for these things'. He complained of insufficient compensation for his military services
and of modern-day Sabbath schools, and, after he wed his second wife, the Widow Partridge, he joked, "I
married this old Partridge myself."
Nathaniel did not enjoy his time at Reverend Bradley's but he may have felt satisfied later when he
could use story material from his stay at Stroudwater. He immortalized the stinginess of the household
by describing the cold parlor,
around whose tan-bark fire the minister's family sat in the darkness in "A Vision of the Fountain," a
story about a boy who is boarding with a minister's family.
Hawthorne also wrote a vivid account of the story of previously admired
Hannah Duston, a revered ancestor of Reverend Bradley. He had begun his
autobiographical sketch by announcing proudly, "I, the writer of these
pages, am a great grandchild of two wonderful women, the noted Hannah
Dustan, who scalped ten Indians and Mrs. Hannah Bradley who scalded two
to death with boiling soap.
Hawthorne, in his article on "The Dustin Family," would elicit sympathy
only for Mr. Dustan who knew that his wife was a match for "a whole tribe
Hawthorne must have chuckled as he condemned Reverend Bradley's great
grandmother, the "bloody tigress," and her murder of the Indian children:
Would that the bloody old hag had been
drowned in crossing Contocook river, or
that she had sunk over head and ears in a
swamp, and been there buried, till summoned
forth to confront her victims at the Day of
Judgment; or that she had gone astray and
been starved to death in the forests and
nothing ever seen of her again, save her
skeleton with the ten scalps twisted round
it for a girdle!" ()
Nathaniel, very homesick in Stroudwater
for his mother, returned to Raymond in mid-February, 1817, three weeks
early, with "doeful complaints no momma to take care of him ..."
He spent what was to be his last winter in Raymond skating and tracking
bears on the great expanses of frozen Sebago Lake. Elizabeth later recalled
their adventures on "one cold winter evening when the
moon was at the full..." and they walked three miles out across the frozen
later told his son, how, armed with his fowling piece, he had followed the tracks of a black bear. He
loved the exhilaration of skating for hours, just as he would later in Concord " perpetually darting [away]
in long sweeping curves, and
returning again--again to shoot away."
His winter in Concord would also evoke memories of Raymond which Hawthorne
shared with his wife, Sophia, who wrote of him to her mother, "This morning
was very superb and the
Lake Sebago, near Raymond, Maine, in March, still frozen; photographed in 1981
(courtesy of Dr. Melinda Ponder)
sunlight played upon the white earth
like the glow of rubies upon pearls. My husband was entirely
satisfied with the beauty of it ...He shoveled paths (heaps of snow being
trifles to his might) and sawed and split wood, and brought me water from
the well ....Then he read aloud part of "The Tempest" while I sewed. In
the evening he told me about his early life in Raymond."
The Icy Expanse of Lake Sebago, Maine
(courtesy of Dr. Melinda Ponder)
Nathaniel learned that the long Maine winters were deadly as well as beautiful. In March of 1817, a nine-day
blizzard on Raymond Cape killed Samuel Tarbox and his wife, orphaning their five children. Mr.
Tarbox had gone to get food for his family but could not make his way through the huge snow drifts to his
house. He sank down exhausted in the snow, but his wife heard his calls for help and covered him with
her shawl while she attempted to stagger through the howling winds with the food for her starving family.
They were both frozen by their own front door.
Nathaniel, horrified, watched their burial from Capt. Dingley's house
and wrote to Robert Manning of the tragedy. Betsy Tarbox, only three and
a half years old, was adopted by Aunt Susan and Uncle Richard who had
no children of their own. Over the years the Hathornes and Mannings sent
Betsy little gifts and their greetings. Hawthorne later would write such
powerful stories as "The Gentle Boy" and "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
about boys who are cut off from their real families who go in search of
their true heritage.
As the snows melted and the fireplaces were cleaned out for the summer, the Hathornes wrote of
missing their relatives
in Salem and expectantly awaited the arrival of a new and needed doctor, Winthrop Brown of Salem.
Nathaniel's sister, Elizabeth, was especially sarcastic about the lack of compatible society in Raymond.
She wrote, "People can talk about nothing tolerable but their neighbors' faults. That theme rouses them
from the langour which otherwise overwhelms them & then no tongue is silent." She continued her
attack: "I must not say what I think of the inhabitants of Raymond, because I believe they have agreed
among themselves that they are the most polished and enlightened people in the world."
She wanted Uncle Robert to know her feelings "...it is certainly much
to be lamented that so pleasant a place should be inhabited by people
so rude and uncultivated."
However, the lack of much social interchange in Maine gave Nathaniel the chance to grow up
unrestricted by a demanding social atmosphere. Even in Salem, the Mannings did not entertain or spend
a great deal of time paying calls to families outside their circle of relatives. Their home-centered life
gave him time to develop a reliance on his own strengths and confidence in his own values.
Like Nathaniel, Louisa loved the simple peasures Raymond offered, writing
in her charming style to Uncle Robert, "I wish you was down here now and
then we could walk round the garden together we have got a great many
trees and bushes that look very well I have got a small garden for flowers
but I have not got many flowers seeds to plant I meant to have brought
some down but I forgot it when we went away from Salem
the trees are most leaved out...the cow has got a pretty calf."
Just three years after his arrival in the stage-coach with his mother and sisters
for his first long visit, Nathaniel also wrote enthusiastically of how
Maine looked in May of 1819, "The grass and some of the trees look very
green and the roads are very good there is no snow on Lymington Mountains.
The fences are all finished and the garden is laid out and planted. Two
of the goats are on the island and we keep the other one for her milk
.... I have shot a partridge and a hen hawke and caught 18 large trout
out of our brooke."
And then Nathaniel wrote wistfully to his uncle: "I am sorry you intend to send me to
school again. Mother says she can hardly spare me." He would write later of another boy departing
from his mother. Describing Theseus, who was leaving his home to go on a long journey in search of his
father, Hawthorne wrote, "...and after affectionately embracing his mother, he set forth, with a good many
of her tears glistening on his cheeks, and some, if the truth must be told, that had gushed out of his own
eyes. But he let the sun and wind dry them, and walked stoutly on ...."
Nearly fifteen, Nathaniel was back on Herbert Street with the Mannings
in Salem by June 23, 1819, having left his father's fowling-piece, his
fishing rod, his sisters and mother far away in their new house in Edenic
Maine. He did not know when he left that his Uncle Robert would keep him
in Salem for two years before he would let Nathaniel return
for one day on his way to enroll in Bowdoin College. Hawthorne shared
his memories of Maine with an old friend shortly before his death --"Ah,...how
well I recall the...woods of Maine. How sad middle life looks to people
of erratic temperaments. Everything is beautiful in youth, for all things
are allowed to it then."
The "vivid pictures" of his boyhood worlds were etched deeply in Hawthorne's
to the Introduction