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From Personal Recollections of Nathaniel Hawthorne,
by Horatio Bridge, 1893


IMMEDIATELY after his marriage, in 1842, Hawthorne went to reside in the "Old Manse" at Concord, where his life for three years was restful and happy. Full of enjoyment in his home and family, he was only troubled by narrow means, which was all the more annoying because those who owed him money enough to make life comfortable would not (doubtless could not) pay their debts. In this quiet retreat he occupied himself in writing tales, gardening, boating, and occasionally in receiving friends.

Several times Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne kindly urged me to visit them at the "Old Manse," and I was always received with the most cordial hospitality. Their life at Concord has been so fully and so beautifully described by Mr. Julian Hawthorne in the biography of his father and mother--not only in his own narration, but in their charming letters therein given--that it is perhaps needless for me to add anything to that recital. Let me say, however, that I was early impressed with the conviction that their marriage was a congenial and most happy one. By the delicate health of Mrs. Hawthorne she was all the more endeared to her manly husband, and in return she gave him a wealth of confidence, admiration, and love. The union was most fortunate for both, and the only drawback to their happiness came in the sharp economy requisite for living within their income.

The small and uncertain receipts from his literary work, as well as his "disappointments in money expected from three or four sources," made Hawthorne "sigh for the regular monthly payments at the custom-house," and led him to wish for the Salem post-office, the appointment to which his friends in that town and elsewhere zealously, though in vain, sought to procure for him.


In 1845 Hawthorne, besides preparing for the press the second series of "Twice-Told-Tales," edited the "Journal of an African Cruiser."

The origin of that little volume was this: Early in 1843 I was attached to a ship-of-war under orders to the West Coast of Africa. Hawthorne suggested the plan of my taking such notes as would give me material for a few articles in the Democratic Review. This plan was afterwards, by his advice, changed to that of publishing the notes in a book. I assented to the change on the condition that he should take the trouble of editing and bringing out the volume, and with the further condition that he should have the copyright and the sole profit of the publication.

The letters next following evince the great interest he took in this project--more on my account than on his own. They also set forth his views as to the best mode for successful journalizing, and they show conclusively that his life was a very happy one in the "Old Manse."

"CONCORD, March 24, 1843.

"DEAR BRIDGE,--I see by the newspapers that you have had the good fortune to undergo a tremendous storm. [note 1] Good fortune I call it, for I should be very glad to go through the same scene myself if I were sure of getting safe to dry land at last. I did not know of your having sailed, else I might have been under great apprehensions on your account; but, as it happened, I have only to offer my congratulations. I hope you were in a condition to look at matters with a philosophic eye--not sea-sick nor too much frightened. A staff-officer, methinks, must be more uncomfortable in a storm than the sea-officers. Taking no part in the struggle against the winds and the waves, he feels himself more entirely at their mercy. Perhaps a description of the tempest may form a good introduction to your series of articles in the Democratic.

"I returned from my visit to Salem on Wednesday last. My wife went with me as far as Boston. I did not come to see you because I was very short of cash, having been disappointed in money that I expected from three or four sources. My difficulties of this sort sometimes make me sigh for the regular monthly payments at the custom-house. The system of slack payments in this country is most abominable, and ought, of itself, to bring upon us the destruction foretold by Father Miller. It is impossible for any individual to be just and honest and true to his engagements when it is a settled principle of the community to be always behindhand. I find no difference in anybody in this respect. All do wrong alike. ------ is just as certain to disappoint me in money matters as any pitiful little scoundrel among the book-sellers. On my part I am compelled to disappoint those who put faith in my engagements, and so it goes round. The devil take such a system!

"I suppose it will be some time before you get to sea again, and perhaps you might find leisure to pay us another visit, but I cannot find it in my conscience to ask you to do so in this dreary season of the year. It is more than three months since we had a glimpse of the earth, and two months more must intervene before we can hope to see the reviving verdure. I don't see how a bachelor can survive such a winter. . . . We are very happy, and have nothing to wish for except a better filled purse--and not improbably gold would bring trouble with it, at least my wife says so, and therefore exhorts me to be content with little.

"I have heard nothing about the office since I saw you. They tell me in Salem that ----- will not probably gain his election, but that after a few more trials a coalition will be formed between the moderate Whigs and the candidate of a fraction of the Democratic party. In that case ----- will not get the post-office, and possibly it will yet be the reward of my patriotism and public services, but of this there is little prospect.

"The wine came safe, and my wife sends her best acknowledgments for it. As in duty bound, however, she has made it over to me, and I shall feel myself at liberty to uncork a bottle on any occasion of suitable magnitude. Longfellow is coming to see me, and as he has a cultivated taste in wines, some of this article shall be submitted to his judgment. If possible there shall be a bottle in reserve whenever you favor us with another visit.

"Do not forget your letters from Liberia. What would you think of having them published in a volume? But it will be time enough for this after their appearance in the magazine. I should like well to launch you fairly on the sea of literature.

"I have a horrible cold, and am scarcely clearheaded enough to write. God bless you,


"HORATIO BRIDGE, Esq., U. S. N., Portsmouth, N. H."

"CONCORD, May 3, 1843.

"DEAR BRIDGE,--I am almost afraid that you will have departed for Africa before this letter reaches New York; but I have been so much taken up with writing for a living, and likewise with physical labor out-of-doors, that I have hitherto had no time to answer yours. It was perhaps as well that you did not visit Concord again, for by comparison of dates I am led to believe that my wife and yourself were in Boston at the same time. She had gone thither to take leave of her sister Mary, who is now married, and has sailed in the May steamer for Europe.

"I formed quite a different opinion from that which you express about your description of the storm. It seemed to me very graphic and effective, and my wife coincides in this judgment. Her criticism on such a point is better worth having than mine, for she knows all about storms, having encountered a tremendous one on a voyage to Cuba. You must learn to think better of your powers. They will increase by exercise. I would advise you not to stick too accurately to the bare fact, either in your descriptions or your narrative; else your hand will be cramped, and the result will be a want of freedom that will deprive you of a higher truth than that which you strive to attain. Allow your fancy pretty free license, and omit no heightening touches because they did not chance to happen before your eyes. If they did not happen, they at least ought, which is all that concerns you. This is the secret of all entertaining travellers. If you meet with any distinguished characters, give personal sketches of them. Begin to write always before the impression of novelty has worn off from your mind, else you will be apt to think that the peculiarities which at first attracted you are not worth recording; yet those slight peculiarities are the very things that make the most vivid impression upon the reader. Think nothing too trifling to write down, so it be in the smallest degree characteristic. You will be surprised to find on re-perusing your journal what an importance and graphic power these little particulars assume. After you have had due time for observation, you may then give grave reflections on national character, custom, morals, religion, the influence of peculiar modes of government, etc., and I will take care to put them in their proper places and make them come in with due effect. I by no means despair of putting you in the way to acquire a very pretty amount of literary reputation, should you ever think it worth your while to assume the authorship of these proposed sketches. All the merit will be your own, for I shall merely arrange them, correct the style, and perform other little offices as to which only a practised scribbler is au fait.

"In relation to your complaint that life has lost its charm, that your enthusiasm is dead, and that there is nothing worth living for, my wife bids me advise you to fall in love. It is a woman's prescription, but a man-- videlicet, myself--gives his sanction to its efficacy. You would find all the fresh coloring restored to the faded pictures of life; it would renew your youth; you would be a boy again, with the deeper feeling and purposes of a man. Try it, try it--first, however, taking care that the object is in every way unexceptionable, for this will be your last chance in life. If you fail you will never make another attempt.

"I suppose you will see O'Sullivan in New York. I know nothing about the prospects of office, if any remain. It is rather singular that I should need an office, for nobody's scribblings seem to be more acceptable to the public than mine; and yet I shall find it a tough scratch to gain a respectable support by my pen. Perhaps matters may mend; at all events, I am not very eager to ensconce myself in an office, though a good one would certainly be desirable. By the bye, I received a request the other day from a Philadelphia magazine to send them a daguerreotype of my phiz for the purpose of being engraved. O'Sullivan likewise besought my wife for a sketch of my head, so you see that the world is likely to be made acquainted with my personal beauties. It will be very convenient for a retired and bashful man to be able to send these pictorial representations abroad instead of his real person. I know not but O'Sullivan's proposal was meant to be a secret from me, so say nothing about it to him.

"It would gladden us much to have you here for a week, now that the country is growing beautiful, and the fishing season is coming on. But this is not to be hoped for until your return. Take care of your health, and do not forget the sketches. It is not the profit to myself that I think about, but I hope that they may contribute to give your life somewhat of an adequate purpose, which at present it lacks.

"God bless you. N. H.

"HORATIO BRIDGE, Esq., U.S. Ship Saratoga, New York City."

"CONCORD, April 1 1844.

"DEAR BRIDGE,--Your letter to my wife was received by her in a situation which I am sure you will consider sufficient excuse for her not answering it at present, a daughter having been born on the 3d of last month. So, you see, I am at last the regular head of a family, while you are blown about the world by every wind. I commiserate you most heartily. If you want a new feeling in this weary life, get married. It renews the world from the surface to the centre.

"I am happy to tell you that our little girl is remarkably healthy and vigorous, and promises, in the opinion of those better experienced in babies than myself, to be very pretty. For my own part, I perceive her beauty at present rather through the medium of faith than with my actual eyesight. However, she is gradually getting into shape and comeliness, and by the time when you shall have an opportunity to see her, I flatter myself she will be the prettiest young lady in the world. I think I prefer a daughter to a son.

"We have read your letter with very great interest. You have had great luck certainly in having actually fought through a whole war; but I hope that you will now be content to rest on your laurels. [note 2] The devil take those copper-slugs! As your station, I believe, does not call you to the front of the battle, do pray be advised to stay on board ship the next time, and think how much preferable is a sluggish life to such a slug-gish death as you might chance to meet on shore. A civilized and educated man must feel somewhat like a fool, methinks, when he has staked his own life against that of a black savage and lost the game. In the sight of God one life may be as valuable as another, but in our view the stakes are very unequal. Besides, I really do consider the shooting of these negroes a matter of very questionable propriety, and am glad, upon the whole, that you bagged no game upon either of those days.

"In one point of view, these warlike occurrences are very fortunate--that is, in supplying matter for the journal. I should not wonder if that were your object in thrusting yourself into these perils. Make the most of them.

"If I mistake not, it will be our best plan, both as regards your glory and my profit, to publish the journal by itself, rather than in a magazine, and thus make an independent author of you at once. A little of my professional experience will easily put it into shape, and I doubt not that the Harpers, or somebody else, will be glad to publish it, either in the book or pamphlet form, or perhaps in both, so as to suit the different classes of readers. My name shall appear as editor, in order to give it what little vogue may be derived from thence, and its own merits will do the rest.

"You must have as much as possible to say about the African trade, its nature, the mode of carrying it on, the character of the persons engaged in it, etc., in order to fit the book for practical men. Look at things, at least some things, in a matter-of-fact way, though without prejudice to as much romantic incident and adventure as you can conveniently lay hold of. Oh, it will be an excellent book.

"I have no news to tell you except the great event with which I began my letter. I continue to scribble tales, with good success so far as regards empty praise, some notes of which, pleasant enough to my ears, have come from across the Atlantic. But the pamphlet and piratical system has so broken up all regular literature that I am forced to write hard for small gains. If we have a Democratic President next year I shall probably get an office. Otherwise, it is to be hoped, God will provide for me and mine in some other way.

"I have not written to you before, not from coldness nor forgetfulness, but partly because the sight of a pen makes me sick, and partly because I never feel as if a letter would reach you in your wanderings on the trackless ocean. If you had any certain abiding-place it would be different; but now it is like trying to shoot a bird in the air. Take care of yourself, and keep clear of night dews and copper slugs.

"Your friend, N. H.

"HORATIO BRIDGE, Esq., U. S. Ship Saratoga, African Squadron."

"SALEM, Nov. 29, 1844.

"DEAR BRIDGE,--I have just received your letter at this place, where we have been spending Thanksgiving.

"It heartily rejoices me to know that you are again on your native soil. I do not think I shall return to Concord for ten days or a fortnight; so that it is very possible we may meet in Boston.

"As to the post-office, -----'s kinsman is now out of the question. A new appointment was made two or three months ago, but it has not been confirmed by the Senate. As the removal was entirely on political grounds, there seems to be considerable doubt whether they will sanction it. Very probably your influence might cause the rejection of the new incumbent; in which case I think I might have a good chance for the office from Polk. The late appointment is not particularly satisfactory to the Democrats here, as the man belongs to the clique, which has never lost its influence in Essex County. If I am not misinformed, Tyler had actually appointed me, but was afterwards induced to change it. He will probably leave it to the next administration to make a new appointment.

"God bless you. If you come to Boston within a fortnight, let us know. Inquire at 13 West Street.

Yours ever,


"HORATIO BRIDGE, Esq., Washington."


The three letters next following relate principally to the "Journal of an African Cruiser," which was published in 1845.

"CONCORD, April 17, 1845.

"DEAR BRIDGE,--I am happy to announce that your book is accepted, and will make its appearance as one of the volumes of "Choice Reading." Few new authors make their bows to the public under such favorable auspices; but you always were a lucky devil, except in the speculation of the Kennebec mill-dam, which, likewise, may turn out to have been good luck in the long run. I have christened the book the "Journal of an African Cruiser." I don't know when it is to come out--probably soon; although I suppose they will wish the American series to be led by some already popular names. Your last letter arrived when the manuscript was on the point of being sent off, but I contrived to squeeze in whatever was essential of the new matter.

"I have heard nothing--good or bad--as to the result of the P. O. application. Duyckinck, in his letter about the book, mentions that O'Sullivan was in Washington, where doubtless he will do all that can be done in my behalf. Your interview with Bancroft gave me better auspices than I before had on the subject.

"Mrs. Hawthorne wishes me to tell you that she will not be able to make you the talked-of visit the approaching summer. Her sister, Mrs. Mann, is coming to board in Concord, principally with a view to being near Sophia, and even if I should obtain an office, I shall leave her here at the Old Manse for the summer and resume a bachelor-life in Salem. It shall go hard, but I will drop in upon you at least for a day or two, or for a dinner, if better may not be.

"Una continues to flourish. Her mother lulls her to sleep every night by stories about your visit, so that you were not only pleasant while here, but are very profilable now that you have departed.

Your friend,


"HORATIO BRIDGE, Esq., Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N. H."

"CONCORD, May 2, 1845.

"DEAR BRIDGE,--Duyckinck writes me that your book is stereotyped and about to go to press. The first edition will be of two thousand copies, five hundred of which will be sent to London. It seems they have put in my name as editor, contrary to my purpose, and much to my annoyance; not that I am troubled with any such reluctance about introducing you as you felt about introducing your friend to fashionable society; but I wished you to have all the credit of the work yourself. Well, you shall still engross all the merit, and may charge me with all the faults.

"I have bespoken fifty copies for you, and directed them to be sent to my address in Boston, whence I will take care to have them forwarded to you immediately, with the exception of perhaps half a dozen, which I shall reserve for distribution myself. You had better send me the names of the persons whom you wish to have copies in Boston and vicinity. The fifty copies will be paid for out of my avails for the book, for it would be rather too severe a joke to make your work an actual expense to you.

"I have heard nothing from O'Sullivan, nor from any other source, in reference to the post-office.

"Write forthwith and tell me how the books should be sent from Boston to Portsmouth.

"Your friend,


"HORATIO BRIDGE, Esq., Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N. H."

"CONCORD, May 7, 1845.

"DEAR BRIDGE,--I send the Journals as requested, and heartily wish that I could afford to come myself. Have you told Charles Greene of the forthcoming book? If not, it will be best to do so immediately, that he may be in readiness to add his voice to the general acclamation of praise. I requested Duyckinck to send your copies to Dr. Peabody's, directed to me. They probably will not arrive so soon as this, but it will do no harm for you to call there before leaving Boston, and if you find them, you can dispose of them according to your pleasure, leaving out six, or, if you can spare them, ten copies, which I will endeavor to dispose of so as to promote the interests of the book. If you find that you have not copies enough, we can procure more from New York.

"In a hurry, your friend,


"CONCORD, August 19, 1845.

"DEAR BRIDGE,--I have this moment received your letter, and answer it in the post-office. I know not whether you can do anything for us in New York, but should be glad to have you call on O'Sullivan. He has written me a letter which my wife mailed for me at Salem after reading it, but which has not yet reached me. It referred to an offer by Bancroft of an office (a clerkship, I suspect) connected with the Charlestown Navy Yard--the salary $900. This offer I shall not accept; and I wish you to tell O'Sullivan so, and request him to inform Bancroft. Perhaps it would be well to let O'Sullivan into the whole business of our late canvass, so that he may be aware of the strength with which we shall take the field at the next session of Congress.

"Do come and see us on your return.

"In great haste

"Your friend,


"HORATIO BRIDGE, Esq., Astor House, N. Y."


[note 1]: The storm here spoken of refers to a violent gale and blinding snow-storm off the coast of New Hampshire (as mentioned on an earlier page), in which the Saratoga (on her way from Portsmouth to New York, previous to the African cruise) was in imminent peril, and only escaped total shipwreck by our cutting away the masts and anchoring on a rocky lee-shore.

[note 2]: The "war" referred to in this letter hardly rose to the dignity of a skirmish, consisting, as it did, in the landing of a detachment of sailors and marines, with their officers, from the ships of the squadron, and the burning of five native villages. This destruction was effected for the purpose of punishing the natives for plundering and burning an American vessel and murdering the captain and the crew.

King Krako, the leader of these five tribes, showed fight, his men firing upon us from the woods, but doing no damage except the wounding of a marine with a copper slug, presumably made of a spike from the luckless Mary Carver.

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