BESIDES writing tales for different reviews and magazines, Hawthorne contributed many articles to The Token, an annual published by Mr. S. G. Goodrich. A few years later he was employed by that publisher to write some of the "Peter Parley" books. He received but small compensation for any of this literary work, for he lacked the knowledge of business and the self-assertion necessary to obtain even the moderate remuneration vouchsafed to writers fifty years ago. It would be amusing, if it were not exasperating, to observe the patronizing tone of Mr. Goodrich, when, as late as September, 1836, he wrote to Hawthorne, "Your letter and the two folios of 'Universal History' were received some days ago. I like the history pretty well. I shall make it do." See "Biography of Hawthorne," Vol. I., p. 138. The book certainly did for its sale went above a million long ago, though it is my impression that the author received only $100 for the work.
A letter of S. G. Goodrich to Hawthorne,
dated January 19, 1830--see "Hawthorne Biography," Vol. I., p. 131--shows that Mr. Goodrich had then in his hands the manuscript of a proposed book of Hawthorne's. He says in relation to it, "On my return to Boston in April, I will use my influence to induce a publisher to take hold of the work, who will give it a fair chance of success."
In a letter of Hawthorne's to Goodrich, dated May 6, 1830, given in Derby's "Fifty Years among Authors and Publishers," p. 113, the former speaks of the "Provincial Tales," adding, "Such being the title I propose to give to my volume."
Whatever may have been the causes for delay, the fact remains that the volume, under the altered title of "Twice-Told-Tales," did not appear until 1837--seven years after the manuscript--in part--was first in Mr. Goodrich's possession.
From time to time I heard of this intended publication, and constantly encouraged Hawthorne to bring out the volume. But I hesitated to intervene without his sanction, and that would not have been given to any course involving possible loss to me. At last, however, having become convinced that my friend was being deluded by false hopes, I wrote to Mr. Goodrich and asked if there was any pecuniary obstacle in the way of the publication; adding, if that were
the cause of the delay, I would obviate it by guaranteeing the publisher against loss. As I was a stranger to him, I proffered Boston references. The following was his answer:
"BOSTON, Oct. 20, 1836.
"DEAR SIR,--I received your letter in regard to our friend Hawthorne. It will cost about $450 to print 1000 volumes in good style. I have seen a publisher, and he agrees to publish it if he can be guaranteed $250 as an ultimate resort against loss. If you will find that guaranty, the thing shall be put immediately in hand.
"I am not now a publisher, but I shall take great interest in this work; and I do not think there is any probability that you will ever be called upon for a farthing. The generous spirit of your letter is a reference. I only wish to know if you will take the above risk. The publication will be solely for the benefit of Hawthorne; he receiving ten per cent, on the retail price--the usual terms.
"I am, yours respectfully,
"S. G. GOODRICH.
"HORATIO BRIDGE, Esq., Augusta, Me."
I gave the requisite guaranty at once, stipulating only that the affair should be concealed from Hawthorne; for I was sure he would object to the publication if he were informed of my action
in the premises. Mr. Goodrich assented to this stipulation, and in due time the book came out.
There is reason to suppose that he magnified his own part in the matter, for, while the volume was going through the press, Hawthorne told me that he intended to dedicate it to Mr. Goodrich, in recognition of his services in that regard.
Knowing that this would bring the parties into a false attitude towards each other, I cautioned Hawthorne against this proposed dedication, as appears in a forgotten letter of mine, published in the "Hawthorne Biography," Vol. I., p. 143. Having learned from Mr. Goodrich--some months after "Twice-Told-Tales" appeared--that its sales had satisfied the guaranty, I told Hawthorne of my unauthorized intervention, as it was clearly right that he should know the extent of his obligation to the publisher.
The letter of Mr. Goodrich, just quoted, will interest some readers, as showing the cost of printing books, and the comparative avails to author and publisher, in 1836. The retail price of "Twice-Told-Tales" was, I believe, one dollar. From the $1000 first obtained, after deducting the cost of printing ($450) and the author's share ($100), there would remain to the publisher and the retail bookseller $450. For any copies printed in excess of the first thousand, the cost to the publisher would be much less, while the author's
percentage would remain the same. This in a case where the publisher was assured against loss. How different would have been Hawthorne's encouragement had he commenced his literary work in this decade!
The success of "Twice-Told-Tales" was not pecuniarily great at first, but in this country and still more in England, where Hawthorne was promptly and highly appreciated, the book established his right to a place among living authors of recognized power.
The cloud had lifted at last, and he never afterwards wholly despaired of achieving success as a writer. There were times, however; when he felt unequal to the effort of writing even a letter, saying that he "detested a pen."
Fortunately his habits were inexpensive, and his abhorrence of debt nerved him to retain his independence in the darkest seasons.
Several letters of my own (hereinbefore given, and quite forgotten until they appeared in the "Hawthorne Biography") show that I was constantly advising him to cease publishing in magazines and annuals, and to bring out his writings in the form of volumes only. By this method he could free himself from the necessity of offering his productions piecemeal to editors--a process repulsive to his sensitive spirit.
Early in 1837 General Pierce, believing that Hawthorne would be benefited by an entire change of his surroundings, suggested to him the plan of joining the contemplated Exploring Expedition to the South Sea as its historian. The project pleased him, and for three or four months an active correspondence relating to this subject was maintained by Hawthorne, Pierce, and the present writer. Several letters of General Pierce and myself--addressed to Hawthorne and published in the "Hawthorne Biography," pp. 152 to 162--refer to the efforts made to bring about the desired arrangement.
This expedition was primarily organized under the plan of J. N. Reynolds, Esq.--a man of some scientific reputation and great energy of character--who was to be the ruling spirit of the enterprise.
A squadron under the command of Commodore Ap Catesby Jones, composed of the frigate Macedonian, three brigs, and a store-ship, was put in commission for this exploring duty; and a large scientific corps, with Reynolds at its head, was provided for.
At that time I was spending the winter in Washington, and I did what I could to secure for Hawthorne the office he desired. My friend and townsman, Hon. R. Williams, was Chairman of the Senate Naval Committee, and, of course, was
influential at the Navy Department. He cordially co-operated with Pierce and Cilley, backed by the rest of the Maine and New Hampshire delegations, in the effort to secure Hawthorne's appointment. With the influences at work there was a good prospect of success, when naval and scientific jealousy interrupted the programme.
The cry of economy was raised, the vessels were ordered to other duty, and Reynolds's ambitious project suddenly collapsed so far as he was concerned.
The expedition was reorganized the next year, and Lieutenant--afterwards Rear-Admiral--Wilkes was ordered to its command. Meantime Hawthorne's prospects had brightened with the success of "Twice-Told-Tales," and he ceased to care for duty in the expedition.
Had his aspirations in that direction been successful the current of his life would have been strangely disturbed, and his later writings would, I think, have taken on an entirely different coloring--whether for the better, who shall say?
In 1839 Hawthorne was appointed weigher and gauger in the Boston Custom-house, which office he held until 1841. Thus two years of his life were devoted to the routine duties of an office requiring only the practical qualities possessed by
men of ordinary intelligence and reliability; and he brought his good sense to bear upon his prosaic duties, which he performed faithfully and well. On leaving the custom-house he joined the colony at Brook Farm, where he lived for several months as co-laborer, and especially as an interested inquirer into the social experiment then and there in progress. He had previously become engaged to Miss Sophia A. Peabody, and this episode was tentative as to the expediency of making the Farm a temporary home for his intended wife and himself. But his pecuniary interest in the scheme was that of creditor, not partner. He loaned Mr. Ripley $1000 or $1500, which money, when closing his connection with the association, he was unable to recover without resorting to legal measures, which he did through the agency of G. S. Hillard, Esq., with what ultimate result I do not know.
I drove out from Boston two or three times to see Hawthorne at Brook Farm. He had a small room, simply furnished, and with very few books visible. He was apparently enjoying himself, curiously observing the odd phase of life around him, and, while having little faith in the success of the social experiment, doing his full share to secure it. At the same time, he was disposed to get such amusement as he might from his surroundings. I remember that he boasted of
having driven into Boston with the farmer in the farm-wagon, wearing a linsey-woolsey frock, and carrying a calf to market.
I remember also his glee in telling of his strictly enforcing the rules for early rising by blowing the horn--long and loud--at five o'clock in the morning, much to the discomfort of the drowsy members of the family. But enough of Brook Farm. It has been fully chronicled in many publications.