IMMEDIATELY after General Pierce's election to the Presidency, in 1852, he offered Hawthorne the Liverpool consulate, an office then considered the most lucrative of all the foreign appointments in the Presidential gift, and soon after his inauguration he gave him that place.
With his family, Hawthorne sailed for England in July, 1853.
His European life has been fully described by other writers; yet it may be well to give here a few of his letters from abroad, which speak of his annoyances at the prospect, and subsequent realization, of the decrease of his offficial emoluments by legislation, of his solicitude for the welfare of our country, and of some other matters of public or private concern.
"LIVERPOOL, March 30, 1854.
"MY DEAR BRIDGE,--You are welcome home, and I heartily wish I could see Mrs. Bridge and yourself and little Marian by our English fireside.
"I like my office well enough, but any official
duties and obligations are irksome to me beyond expression. Nevertheless, the emoluments will be a sufficient inducement to keep me here, though they are not above a quarter part what some people suppose them.
"It sickens me to look back to America. I am sick to death of the continual fuss and tumult and excitement and bad blood which we keep up about political topics. If it were not for my children I should probably never return, but--after quitting office--should go to Italy, and live and die there. If Mrs. Bridge and you would go, too, we might form a little colony amongst ourselves, and see our children grow up together. But it will never do to deprive them of their native land, which I hope will be a more comfortable and happy residence in their day than it has been in ours. In my opinion, we are the most miserable people on earth.
"I wish you would send me the most minute particulars about Pierce--how he looks and behaves when you meet him, how his health and spirits are--and above all, what the public really thinks of him--a point which I am utterly unable to get at through the newspapers. Give him my best regards, and ask him whether he finds his post any more comfortable than I prophesied it would be.
"I have a great deal more to say, but defer
it to future letters. Mrs. Hawthorne sends her love to Mrs. Bridge. She is not very well, being unfavorably affected by this wretched climate. The children flourish, and will, I think, be permanently benefited by their residence here.
"Write me often, for I have now learned to know how valuable a friend's letters are in a foreign land.
"Most truly yours,
U. S. CONSULATE, LIVERPOOL, April 17, 1854.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--I trust you received my letter, written a fortnight or thereabouts ago.
"As you are now in Washington, and, of course, in frequent communication with Pierce, I want you to have a talk with him on my affairs. O'Sullivan, who arrived here a day or two ago, tells me that a bill is to be brought forward in relation to diplomatic and consular offices, and that, by some of its provisions, a salary is to be given to certain of the consulates. I trust, in Heaven's mercy, that no change will be made as regards the emoluments of the Liverpool consulate--unless indeed a salary is to be given in addition to the fees; in which case I should receive it very thankfully. This, however, is not to be expected; and if Liverpool is touched at all, it will be to limit its emoluments by a fixed salary--which will
render the office not worth any man's holding. It is impossible (especially for a man with a family and keeping any kind of an establishment) not to spend a vast deal of money here. The office, unfortunately, is regarded as one of great dignity, and puts the holder on a level with the highest society, and compels him to associate on equal terms with men who spend more than my whole income on the mere entertainments and other trimmings and embroidery of their lives. Then I feel bound to exercise some hospitality towards my own countrymen. I keep out of society as much as I decently can, and really practise as stern an economy as ever I did in my life; but, nevertheless, I have spent many thousands of dollars in the few months of my residence here, and cannot reasonably hope to spend less than six thousand per annum, even after all the expenditure of setting up an establishment is defrayed. All this is for the mere indispensable part of my living, and unless I make a hermit of myself, and deprive my wife and children of all the pleasures and advantages of our English residence, I must inevitably exceed the sum named above. Every article of living has nearly doubled in cost within a year. It would be the easiest thing in the world for me to run in debt, even taking my income at $15,000 (out of which all the clerks, etc., are to be paid), the largest sum that it ever reached in Crittenden's time. He had no family but a wife, and lived constantly at a boarding-house, and nevertheless went home, as he assured me, with an aggregate of only $25,000, derived from his official savings.
"Now the American public can never be made to understand such a statement as the above, and they would grumble awfully if more than six thousand per annum were allowed for a consul's salary; yet it would not be worth my keeping at ten thousand dollars. I beg and pray, therefore, that Pierce will look at the reason and common sense of this business, and not let Mr. Dudley Mann shave off so much as a half-penny from my official emoluments. Neither do I believe that we have a single consulship in any part of the world, the net emoluments of which overpay the trouble and responsibility of the office. If these are lessened, the incumbent must be compelled to turn his official position to account by engaging in commerce--a course which ought not to be permitted, and which no Liverpool consul has ever adopted.
"After all, it is very possible that no change is contemplated as regards the large consulships. If so, I beg Mr. Dudley Mann's pardon.
"Tell the President that I was a guest at a public entertainment the other day, where his health was drunk standing, immediately after
those of the Queen and the Royal family. When the rest of the party sat down, I remained on my legs and returned thanks in a very pretty speech, which was received with more cheering and applause than any other during the dinner. I think it was altogether the most successful of my oratorical efforts--of which I have made several since arriving here.
"I wish you would get some of your Congressional friends to send me whatever statistical documents are published by Congress, and also any others calculated to be of use. I am daily called upon for information respecting America, which I do not always possess the materials to give in a reliable shape.
"Your friend in haste,
April 18, 1854.
* * * * * *
"To drop the subject of my official emoluments and take up your own affairs, I must say, after due thought, I feel somewhat desirous that you should remain at Washington, not on your own account, but on Pierce's. I feel a sorrowful sympathy for the poor fellow (for God's sake don't show him this), and hate to have him left without one true friend, or one man who will speak
a single word of truth to him. There is no truer man in the world than yourself, and unless you have let him see a coolness on your part, he will feel the utmost satisfaction in having you near him. You will soon find, if I mistake not, that you can exercise a pretty important influence over his mind; and such is my confidence in your good judgment, and perfect faith in your honesty, that I doubt not your influence would be for his good. Of course it requires a good deal of tact to fill such an office as I suggest, but upon my honor, so far as actual power goes, I would as lief have it as that of Secretary of State. At all events, if you did nothing else, you might do his heart good. . . . Regards to Mrs. Bridge.
U. S. CONSULATE, LIVERPOOL, Dec. 8, 1854.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--I send the leaves from an almanac showing the British consular salaries, as mentioned in my last. Of course these are in addition to the official fees, which are mainly similar to our own.
"Do you know Captain G---- , the claimant on the Dutch Government? I endorsed a draft of 30 pounds sterling for him in order to enable him to take passage by one of the Cunard steamers; and he writes me that he has been unable to provide for
its payment. I have directed Ticknor to pay the draft, and have requested G---- to hand the amount to you as soon as he may be able--which, I fear, will not be in a hurry. He is a good fellow and of honorable intentions, but seems to be involved in great difficulties. He is at present in or about Washington. I do not wish you to suggest to him the payment of the 30 pounds; but only to stand ready to receive the money should he offer it. I do not doubt his honorable purposes, but very much doubt his ability.
"I should really be ashamed to tell you how much my income is taxed by the assistance which I find it absolutely necessary to render to American citizens who come to me in difficulty or distress. Every day there is some new claimant for whom the Government makes no provision, and whom the consul must assist, if at all, out of his own pocket.
"It is impossible (or at any rate very disagreeable) to leave a countryman to starve in the streets, or to hand him over to the charities of an English work-house; so I do my best for these poor devils. But I doubt whether they will meet with quite so good treatment after the passage of the Consular bill. If the Government chooses to starve the consul, a good many will starve with him.
"U. S. CONSULATE, LIVERPOOL, Dec. 14, 1854.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--The real and substantial argument against the passage of the Consular bill is, that it is an ill-considered and badly contrived one. It was drawn up, I presume, by Mr. Dudley Mann, whom--from what little I know of his doings--I do not greatly respect as a public officer. Just think of a man sitting in his office at Washington and arranging salaries all over the world, of his own mere motion; without a single inquiry into the peculiar circumstances, the expenses, the labor, etc., attending the different positions! At many consulates to which he assigns a less sum than to mine, there would be a much greater balance accruing to the consul on account of his smaller expenditure in clerk-hire and office-rent. A thorough preliminary investigation should be made, and, after ascertaining the necessities of each office, the whole might be arranged in a manner similar to the custom-houses and to every other department of public business. This would have the effect of making the consular clerks the servants and subordinates of the State Department instead of hangers-on of the consul, as they now are. Should the proposed bill pass, it cannot possibly stand for any length of time, because it is really not on a right principle; but it would be very little comfort to me to see it altered a year or two after I go out
of office. I apprehend that the necessity of making some addition to the emoluments of diplomatic officers may carry through these consular measures--both being included in one bill. If they could be separated there would be little hazard of the passage of a consular bill, during this session at least.
"Finally, if the bill must pass, I trust, in Heaven's mercy, that it will not take effect from the signature of the act, but from the beginning of the next fiscal year.
"I admire the English practice in these matters. When an office is suppressed, they pay a liberal compensation to the incumbent, or pension him off; and they never diminish the income of an office except prospectively--to take effect on the appointment of a new man.
"My best regards to your wife. I wish our children could know one another; but this does not seem very probable at present. Whether I resign the consulship or not, I am likely to spend a long time abroad; for I can live economically in Italy, and can pursue my literary avocations as well there as elsewhere.
"P.S.--Write me about Pierce, and how his health and spirits are. I ought to write to him, but it is a devilish sight harder to write to the
President of the United States (especially when he has been an intimate friend) than to a private man. It is my instinct to turn the cold shoulder on persons in his position."
"U. S. CONSULATE, LIVERPOOL, March 23, 1855.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--I thank you for all your efforts against this bill, but Providence is wiser than we are, and, doubtless, it will all turn out for the best.
"All through my life I have had occasion to observe that what seemed to be misfortunes have proved in the end to be the best things that could possibly have happened to me; and so it will be with this--even though the mode in which it benefits me should never be made clear to my apprehension. It would seem to be a desirable thing enough that I should have had a sufficient income to live comfortably upon for the rest of my life, without the necessity of labor; but, on the other hand, I might have sunk prematurely into intellectual sluggishness--which now there will be no danger of my doing; though, with a house and land of my own, and a good little sum at interest beside, I need not be under very great anxiety for the future. When I contrast my present situation with what it was five years ago, I see a vast deal to be thankful for; and I still hope to thrive by my legitimate instrument--the pen.
"One consideration, which goes very far towards reconciling me to quitting the office, is my wife's health, with which the English climate does not agree, and which I hope will be greatly benefited by a winter in Italy. In short, we have wholly ceased to regret the action of Congress (which nevertheless was most unjust and absurd), and are looking at matters on the bright side.
* * * * *
"I don't see how the next consul is to get along here, unless he be either a rich man or a rogue. God knows he will find temptations enough to be the latter.
"Give our best regards to Mrs. Bridge. How I wish you could spend the next two years with us in Italy.
"Truly your friend,
"LIVERPOOL, April 13, 1855.
* * * * *
"We are in good spirits--my wife and I--about official emoluments. I shall have about as much money as will be good for me. Enough to educate Julian, and portion off the girls in a moderate way, that is, reckoning my pen as good for something. And, if I die, or am brain-stricken, my family will not be beggars, the dread of which has often troubled me in times past.
"I pray Heaven that your little girl is doing
well. We have been rather alarmed about her ever since you wrote that she had a congestion of the lungs, at least my wife has, and she alarmed me. But we hope and pray for the best.
"With our kindest regards to Mrs. Bridge,
"Your friend, N. H."
"LIVERPOOL, April 26, 1855.
"My DEAR BRIDGE,--May God support you and your wife in this great affliction. I hardly feel as if so old a friend as myself could venture a word of consolation; but, some time or other, I trust you will be able to feel that, though it is good to have a dear child on earth, it is likewise good to have one safe in Heaven. She will await you there, and it will seem like home to you now. My wife joins with me in the deepest sympathy for you and yours.
The health of Mrs. Hawthorne, always delicate, being unfavorably affected by the English climate, the President, in 1855, considerately thought it might be beneficial to her, as well as gratifying to her husband, if he were transferred to a post where the climate was milder, and where Hawthorne himself would hold a diplomatic instead of a consular position.
As I was then stationed in Washington, the President authorized me to offer, in a private letter to Hawthorne, the appointment of Chargé-d'Affaires at Lisbon.
The subjoined letters show the considerations that governed the decision arrived at.
"U. S. CONSULATE, LIVERPOOL, August 24, 1855.
"MY DEAR BRIDGE,--I do not find it easy to come to any conclusion as respects the matter broached in your last. Many objections occur to me; for instance, my unacquaintance with diplomacy, and my dislike of the forms and ceremonies amid which diplomatists spend their time; also that I do not understand the Portuguese lingo, and have not any practice in French as a spoken language. Furthermore, it is a question whether Pierce can show me any further favors without exciting the remark that he is doing too much for a private friend. It is also a question with me whether I can afford to take the office, it being still, according to Cushing's opinion, a mere chargé-ship with only $4500 salary; and such it must remain for some months to come. I am inclined to think, therefore, that I had better hold on for another year to my consulship, and suffer the forfeiture of salary during my absence on the Continent, since it cannot be helped. I should not wish to keep the Portuguese mission
more than a year, and I think it would not pay its expenses for that time. But it was a most kind and generous thing in the President to entertain the idea of transferring me thither, and you must express to him my sense of his kindness. My stay on the Continent will not probably be very long. I shall merely establish Mrs. Hawthorne there, and return.
"On the other hand, it will be so delightful to carry her to a delicious climate, and to remain there with her, that I feel no small hesitation in absolutely deciding to refuse the Portuguese place, should it be offered me. I hope Pierce will not offer it, for I cannot answer for myself that I shall do what really seems to me the wisest thing--that is, refuse it.
"You will observe that the higher rank and position of a minister, as compared with a consul, have no weight with me. This is not the kind of honor of which I am ambitious.
"With best regards to Mrs. Bridge,
"U. S. CONSULATE, LIVERPOOL, August 31, 1855.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--I wrote you per last steamer, in reference to what you suggested about the Lisbon mission. My ideas have not changed as respects the inexpediency of my taking that post,
should it be offered me. I shall act more wisely to remain here, where I have gained some facility in transacting the business; and (unless Congress interferes unfavorably with the present arrangement) I think this consulate will be as good as the Lisbon mission, in a pecuniary way.
"But, though I conclude not to go thither myself, I am going to send Mrs. Hawthorne to Lisbon in my stead. The O'Sullivans have earnestly invited her to come; and as they spent a considerable time with us in England, she is on the most affectionate terms with them, and has consented to go. This relieves me of a very great care and anxiety. It is not improbable that I shall wish to pay her a short visit before spring, but I might go and come in a fortnight or three weeks. Julian remains with me in England. Mrs. Hawthorne and the other two children will probably sail in the course of a month. If O'Sullivan goes to Vienna he can convoy my wife to Malta, or to any part of Italy. Her health is better than it was, but I think it best to be on the safe side by sending her out of England.
"I made a blunder in my last letter to you. A new appointment to Lisbon would, at once, enable me to receive the increased salary of $7500. I don't want it, however.
LIVERPOOL, June 6, 1856.
* * * *
"You will see by the newspapers that John Bull is in a pretty high state of excitement in relation to American affairs; but, in my opinion, Frank Pierce has taken the right course to bring matters to an amicable settlement. The recognition of Walker was a prudent measure as well as a decided one. It has angered the British, and has mortified them to the heart's core; but it has satisfied them that we are in earnest, and that their further action will be in peril of a war, which they would be very loath to encounter. They show unmistakable tokens of backing out. I should have been glad if intelligence of Grafton's dismissal had accompanied that of the recognition, for it seems impossible that our Government can mean to retain him there, and any delay only serves to keep the sore open.
"I am expecting Mrs. Hawthorne back from Madeira in about ten days. The last accounts of her health have been encouraging, but I see little reason to think that she will be able to encounter another English winter. Unless she proves to be perfectly cured of her cough, I shall make arrangements to give up the consulate in the latter part of autumn, and we will be off for Italy. I wish I were a little richer; but when I
compare my situation with what it was before the publication of the 'Scarlet Letter,' I have reason to be satisfied with my run of luck. And, to say the truth, I had rather not be too prosperous. It may be superstition, but it seems to me that the bitter is very apt to come with the sweet; and bright sunshine casts a dark shadow. So I content myself with a moderate portion of sugar, and about as much sunshine as that of an English summer's day. In this view of the matter I am disposed to thank God for the gloom and chill of my early life, in the hope that my share of adversity came then, when I bore it alone, and therefore it need not come now, when the cloud would involve those whom I love.
"I make my plans to return to America in about two years from this time. For my own part, I should be willing to stay abroad much longer, and perhaps even to settle permanently in Italy; but the children must not be kept away so long as to lose their American characteristics, otherwise they would be exiles and outcasts through life.
"Give my most sincere regards to Mrs. Bridge. I shall have few pleasanter anticipations when I return to America than that of seeing you both.
"LIVERPOOL, June 20, 1856.
* * *
"You pain me by your gloomy view of political affairs, but I have great hope and faith that all will turn out well. As regards our relations with England, the course of our Government deserves all praise, and the result is a triumph that will be felt and recognized long hereafter. Frank has brought us safely and honorably through a great crisis; and England begins now to understand her own position and ours, and will never again assume the tone which hitherto she has always held towards us.
"Mrs. Hawthorne arrived at Southampton about a fortnight since, in much better health than I expected to see her, with little or no cough, or other disorder of any kind. She thinks, with great certainty, that she can safely spend another winter in England, and, if so, I shall not resign until the next Administration comes in. She is now staying at a country-house near Southampton, but I shall establish her in the neighborhood of London in the beginning of July.
"I am sorry Frank has not the nomination if he wished it. Otherwise I am glad he is out of the scrape.
"With best regards to Mrs. Bridge,
"LIVERPOOL, Dec. 19, 1856.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--Your being located at Washington may, perhaps, enable you to assist me in a matter which I wish to have suitably arranged. I do not wish to retain the consulate for any long period under the next Administration; and I intend to leave England for the Continent early in the ensuing autumn, unless Mr. Buchanan should take it into his head to remove me (which I do not see why he should, as we are personally friends, and there are no official grounds against me). I shall resign, to take effect on the thirty-first of August; at furthest; and I wish the fact to be communicated to him at the proper time, as he will doubtless be glad to have the office at his disposal. If he wishes for it sooner than the time above mentioned, he will have to make the vacancy; and in view of the possibility that he may choose to do so, I do not like to do what, in effect, would be asking for a few months of official tenure; but I authorize you to let my purpose be known in the proper quarter, and I shall consider myself bound in honor to resign at the time stated. God knows I am weary of the office, and would not have kept it a great while longer under any circumstances.
"Mrs. Hawthorne and the children are now residing in Southport, a little watering-place in this vicinity, and I am happy to say that her
health is essentially improved. A year or two in Italy will, with God's blessing, entirely set her up. "Remember me kindly to Frank when you see him. With my best regards to Mrs. Bridge,
"LIVERPOOL, Jan. 15, 1857.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--Yours of the 23d ult. is received, and I have read it with much interest. I regret that you think so doubtfully (or, rather, despairingly) of the prospects of the Union; for I should like well enough to hold on to the old thing. And yet I must confess that I sympathize to a large extent with the Northern feeling, and think it is about time for us to make a stand. If compelled to choose, I go for the North. At present we have no country--at least, none in the sense an Englishman has a country. I never conceived, in reality, what a true and warm love of country is till I witnessed it in the breasts of Englishmen. The States are too various and too extended to form really one country. New England is quite as large a lump of earth as my heart can really take in.
"Don't let Frank Pierce see the above, or he would turn me out of office, late in the day as it is. However, I have no kindred with, nor leaning towards, the Abolitionists.
* * *
"To return to Frank Pierce, is it true that he thinks of returning into the Senate? I see nothing better to be done. He must have an occupation, and this would give him one, as well as dignified and useful position. And it would afford him an opportunity to explain himself to the country, and to win a better fame than he now retires with. But could he be elected?
"I wrote to you a short time since, communicating my purpose to resign at an early date, under Buchanan's Administration, and authorizing you to communicate the purpose to the President-elect. I think by next steamer (or very soon, at any rate) I had better write a formal letter of resignation, and send it to your care, to be delivered as soon as the new Administration comes in. My successor could then be nominated before the Senate adjourns, and, on many accounts, I should like to know who it will be. He will have a difficult post, and not a lucrative one, for my English clerks will retire with me, and he cannot supply their places with Americans at twice the expense. The new consul should be a hard-working man of business, for the emoluments of the office will no longer admit of his devolving its duties on subordinates. It is really a pity that such a comfortable berth should have been spoiled, but it has served my turn pretty well.
"Mrs. Hawthorne is tolerably well, and the children perfectly so. With kindest regards to Mrs. Bridge,
"Most truly yours,
"LIVERPOOL, Feb. 13, 1857.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--I enclose a letter to the President (viz. Buchanan, but I cannot address him as such by name until after the fourth of March) resigning my office, to take effect on and after the 31st of August next. This I wish you to deliver as soon as you think proper after the Inauguration. If he wants the office sooner, he is welcome to remove me; but I should suppose, as it could not be done without some slight odium, that he would prefer my offered resignation.
"Mrs. Hawthorne and the children are all pretty well, and still continue at Southport. Mrs. H. and myself intend to travel about England and Scotland quite extensively between now and August, and we shall leave the children at Southport under the care of the governess until we all go to the Continent together.
"It will be a great relief to me to find myself a private citizen again; and I think the old literary instincts and habits will begin to revive in due season. I doubt, however, whether I
publish a book until after my return to the United States, which probably will not be in less than two years. I expect to live beyond my income while on the Continent, but hope to bring myself up again after my return with my literary labor, and the economy of living on my own homestead.
* * * * *
"I wish you would see Pierce, and beg him, from me, to say one word to Buchanan in reference to O'Sullivan. He has spent more than his income during all the time that he has been at Lisbon, until since the commencement of the present year. If turned out now he is irremediably ruined. He is (as Pierce well knows) a most excellent Minister; and I do entreat him, by all the love I feel for him (Pierce, I mean), to do O'Sullivan this kindness.
"My best regards to Mrs. Bridge.
Early in the third year of Hawthorne's residence at Liverpool he became weary of his position, and contemplated resigning it. He had realized enough to live upon "with comfortable economy"; his income from his literary work was considerable and increasing; and he wished to travel about England and Scotland, and to spend some years upon the Continent before returning
to America. The consulate had become less profitable, and, more than all, the climate of England had proved injurious to Mrs. Hawthorne's health. This last and weightiest consideration was obviated for a time by an invitation from Mr. and Mrs. O'Sullivan to spend the winter with them in Lisbon and Madeira. So great benefit to Mrs. Hawthorne's health resulted from the visit that the contemplated resignation was deferred until after the election of President Buchanan. At length Hawthorne determined to resign, and he authorized me to inform the President of his purpose, at the same time enclosing to me his, resignation, which was duly delivered.
In the September next ensuing, a new consul was sent to relieve Hawthorne, and he gladly returned to the condition of a private citizen. He had, at different times, held three offices under the United States Government, viz., those of Weigher and Gauger in the Boston Customhouse, of Surveyor in the Salem Custom-house, and, finally, of Consul at Liverpool. In all these places he for the time subordinated his finer and higher faculties to his matter-of-fact duties, and applied his common-sense to the prosaic tasks that those commercial offices imposed. In all of them he performed his obligations faithfully, and to the entire satisfaction of the Government
and of those persons with whom he had official intercourse. I received the following letter from Hawthorne after his successor had been appointed:
"LIVERPOOL, Sept. 17, 1857.
"DEAR BRIDGE,--I have received your letter and the not unwelcome intelligence that there is another Liverpool consul now in existence. It is a pity you did not tell me how soon he will be here, for that is a point which must have a good deal of influence on my own movements. I am going to set out for Paris in a day or two with my wife and children, and shall leave them there while I return to await my successor. Poor fellow! being such as you describe him, he will soon find the resources of the consulate too narrow for him.
* * * * *
"I expect great pleasure and improvement during my stay on the Continent, and shall come home at last somewhat reluctantly. Your pledge in my behalf of a book shall be honored in due time if God pleases; but I doubt much whether I do anything more than observe and journalize while I remain abroad. It would be a crowning pleasure to Mrs. Hawthorne and me if Mrs. Bridge and you could join us in Italy. It is within the bounds of possibility that we may yet meet there.
"Mrs. H. and the children are now a hundred miles off, at Leamington, in the centre of England, or she would cordially join me in regards and remembrances to yourself and wife.
In the story of Hawthorne's life in England, there is nothing more characteristic, nothing more noble, than his care for those Americans who came to him for advice or aid. Besides numerous instances of generosity never heard of by the public, there was a notable one in the case of Miss Delia Bacon, casually mentioned in "Our Old Home," under the head of "Recollections of a Gifted Woman."
Without assuming any credit for his action in the case, or even mentioning his disinterested aid to one who had no other claim upon him than that she was a lonely and friendless countrywoman, he describes her patient labor in pursuit of what she devoutly believed to be the true secret of Shakespeare's identity.
Whether her theories were wholly visionary or not, she had the courage of her convictions, opposed as they were to the settled belief of the rest of the world, and she lived and died a martyr to the truth of history, as she regarded it.
When this singular woman had exhausted all her financial means, when her family and friends declined to assist her unless she would give up her chimerical pursuit and return to America, she--almost despairingly--appealed to Hawthorne; and he responded in a manner that displayed his nobleness of heart, by the way in which he aided the forlorn enthusiast in her direst need. It gives one a higher estimate of human nature to hear of such unselfishness, such unwearied patience, and such rare delicacy as were exhibited by Hawthorne in extending the moral and material aid which she was too proud to solicit.
The interesting "Life of Delia Bacon," by Theodore Bacon, published in 1888, contains some twenty letters of Hawthorne--therein for the first time made public--which charmingly display, in the words of Mr. Bacon, "the noble generosity, the unwearying patience, the exquisite considerateness with which for two years he (Hawthorne) gave unstinted help, even of that material sort which she would not ask for, to this lonely countrywoman."
In a postscript to one of these letters to Miss Bacon, Hawthorne writes, in almost apologetic terms: "You say nothing about the state of your funds. Pardon me for alluding to the subject, but you promised to apply to me in case of
need. I am ready." Could an offer of assistance be more delicately expressed?
If there were no other proof of Hawthorne's appreciative regard for the friendless, it shines forth brightly in these private letters.