Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume I
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
THE forefathers of a distinguished man (especially in this country) are not of much practical use to him. What he is, outweighs what they can contribute. Instead of their augmenting his dignity, his own proper lustre is reflected back on them; and such interest as we take in them is for his sake. For his distinction--so far as it may have any relation to them at all--seems to be the culmination or flower of their prevailing traits and tendencies, added to that personal and forming quality in him, without which no mere accumulation even of the best material would be of avail. How much the material in question may amount to, and of how great importance it may be as a factor in the individual's character, is, indeed, still undetermined. It is not necessary, here, to enter upon a discussion of the merits of the theory of Heredity; but we may, perhaps, assume that faults and frailties are more readily and persistently reproduced than virtues,--since the former belong to a man's nature, as distinguished from that self-effected modification of his nature, which we call character. A tendency to drunkenness, for example, or to pocket-picking, is more easily traced in a man's ancestry than a tendency to love one's neighbor as one's self, or to feel as charitably disposed towards those who injure us as towards those who injure our enemies. In other words, nature is passive, and character is active; and activity is more apt than passivity to be original, or peculiar.
It might seem an ungracious task, however, to analyze this great reservoir of ancestry with a view to reveal the imperfections of an individual. If a man contrives to get through life respectably and honorably, why ferret out the weaknesses which he strove to conceal? Would not vice be encouraged by the knowledge that even the greatest figures of history partook of its infirmity? The present writer, for his own part, confesses to feeling no sympathy with those who answer these questions in the affirmative. If it be true that human nature is evil, we shall gain nothing by blinking the fact. If the truth be humiliating, so much the wholesomer for us who are humiliated; the complacency born of ignorance of--and still more of ignoring--that which exists, can have in it no health or permanence. Sooner or later it will be overthrown, and then, the greater the security has been, the more disastrous will be the catastrophe. We are too apt to forget that intellectual eminence can exist side by side with moral frailty or depravity; and we are prone to infer that because a man does right, he has felt no temptation to do wrong. But, in reality, the beauty, the pathos, and the power of the spectacle of humanity lies in the fact that it is a spectacle of a mortal struggle between two eternal forces,--a struggle more or less stubbornly and conspicuously maintained, but common and inevitable to every one of us. The greatest men, so far as we know anything about them, have not been those who were virtuous without effort. Ever since Christ was tempted in the wilderness, and prayed that the cup might pass from him, and accused God of forsaking him, character has been, not innate, but the issue of this endless conflict between the desire of good and the tendency to evil; and its strength has been in proportion to the weight of the tendency as well as to the intensity of the desire. Indeed, the desire can be intense only in so far as the tendency is weighty. The imminence of peril creates the faculty to analyze and overcome it. If Christ was greater than other men, it was not because he did right more easily than they, but, on the contrary, because he resisted in his own person the tendencies to evil of the whole human race. Good men are not monsters: they know, better than others, what it means to be human. no doubt, we seldom have an opportunity to perceive the painful and laboring steps by which goodness or greatness is achieved; only the result comes into our range of vision. The reason is, that strength is silent and calm, and has the reserve and humility of a conqueror who knows the cost of victory, and how precarious and incomplete all victory is. It cannot talk about itself; it cannot find anything in itself worth talking about. Looking at itself from within, as it were, it sees only its negative aspect. None the less it is well for outsiders to investigate the processes of the growth and development of heroes, not in order to console ourselves for our shortcomings, but to gain encouragement from the discovery that human weakness is the very essence and occasion of human strength.
Now, as regards the subject of this biography,--a man whose personal weight and influence was strongly impressed upon all who knew him, and whose private moral life was as free from degradation as his writings are,--there is no reason to doubt that he inherited, or at all events possessed in himself a full share of the faults and foibles of mankind in general. He was, moreover, hampered by certain inconveniences or misfortunes incident to the period and society in which he was placed,--such as Puritanism, Calvinism, narrow social and moral prejudices, the tyranny of local traditions and precedents, and very limited pecuniary resources. Furthermore, he was brought up (as will appear later on) under what might be considered special disadvantages. His mother, a woman of fine gifts but of extreme sensibility, lost her husband in her twenty-eighth year; and, from an exaggerated, almost Hindoo-like construction of the law of seclusion which the public taste of that day imposed upon widows, she withdrew entirely from society, and permitted the habit of solitude to grow upon her to such a degree that she actually remained a strict hermit to the end of her long life, or for more than forty years after Captain Hawthorne's death. Such behavior on the mother's part could not fail to have its effect on the children. They had no opportunity to know what social intercourse meant; their peculiarities and eccentricities were at least negatively encouraged; they grew to regard themselves as something apart from the general world. It is saying much for the sanity and healthfulness of the minds of these three children, that their loneliness distorted their judgment, their perception of the relations of things, so little as it did. Elizabeth, the eldest, had, indeed, an understanding in many respects as commanding and penetrating as that of her famous brother; a cold, clear, dispassionate common-sense, softened by a touch of humor such as few women possess. "The only thing I fear," her brother said once, "is the ridicule of Elizabeth." As for Louisa, the youngest of the three, she was more commonplace than any of them; a pleasant, refined, sensible, feminine personage. with considerable innate sociability of temperament.
Nathaniel, two years younger than Elizabeth and four years older than Louisa, had the advantage, in the first place, of being a boy. He could go out in the streets, play with other boys, fight with them. make friends with them. He was distinguished by a cool and discriminating judgment, with a perception of the ludicrous which, especially in his earlier years, manifested itself in a disposition to satire. Being more than a match, intellectually, for the boys of his own age with whom he came in contact, he had a certain ascendency over them, which could be enforced, at need, by his personal strength and pugnacity. He was daring, but never reckless; he did not confound courage with foolhardiness. These characteristics could hardly have failed to inspire in him a fair degree of self-complacency, which would probably continue until the deeper thoughts which succeed those of boyhood made him look more broadly, and therefore more humbly, upon the relations of things and men. But, at all events, he had a better chance than his sisters to escape from the pensive gloom of his mother's mode of existence into the daylight and breeze of common life. Her solitary habits, however, affected and stimulated his imagination, which was further nourished by the tales of the War of 1812 and of the Revolution related to him by his elders, and by the traditions of the witchcraft period,--in all of which episodes his own forefathers had borne a part; and his mother, who, in spite of her unworldliness, had some wise views as to education, gave him books to read of romance, poetry, and allegory, which largely aided to develop the ideal side of his mind. Too much weight can hardly be given to the value of this imaginative training in a boy who united a high and sensitive organization to robust bodily powers. It provided him with a world apart from the material world, in which he could find employment and exercise for all those vague energies and speculations of an active and investigating temperament, which has not yet acquired the knowledge and experience necessary to a discrimination between the sound and the unsound. If all imaginative resources had been closed to him, the impulse to live throughout the range of his capacities would doubtless have led him into mischief which could not afterwards have been repaired.
Such, slightly indicated, were some of the conditions under which Nathaniel Hawthorne began to live. But before proceeding further with his personal history, it may be useful to take a glance at the leading facts of his family annals, from the time of the landing in New England of the first emigrant, onwards. In so doing, the reader will be left to draw his own conclusions as to how much light, if any, the deeds and characters of his ancestors cast upon their descendant. The writer's province will be simply to present, without garbling or reservation, whatever may seem likely to illustrate the matter. In such an investigation nothing beyond plausible inference is possible; and of inferences, however plausible, it is my purpose, in this work, uniformly to decline the responsibility.
The family seat of the Hawthornes, at the time of the first emigration, is supposed to have been in Wiltshire. The father of the first emigrant was born about 1570, and was married near the beginning of the seventeenth century. The issue of this marriage was four children,--Robert, the eldest, who remained in England; William, the second son, born in 1607, who was the emigrant; a daughter, Elizabeth; and John, the youngest, who followed William to New England after an interval of some years, and died there in 1676, leaving behind him four sons and four daughters, from whom are probably descended the Hathornes and Hathorns whose names occasionally appear in newspapers and elsewhere, but concerning whom I am able to give no further information. I append, however, an extract from a letter written to Una Hawthorne by her aunt, the Miss Elizabeth Hawthorne already mentioned, which touches the subject. The suggestion as to the Welsh origin of the family is a novel one. The coat-of-arms, and Nathaniel Hawthorne's impression that the name "Hawthorne" was a translation of "de l'Aubépine," indicate a French descent.
"Mrs. Forrester was a Storey, and her husband, John Forrester, was a son of Rachel Hathorne, my father's sister. Mrs. Forrester likes to talk of the ancestral glories of the Hawthorne family. Several years ago she brought a copy of our coat-of-arms, drawn by one of her daughters. She had made researches in heraldry, but she could not tell what some figures upon it were. Nobody could, from that drawing. But our coat is the one attributed in the 'White Old Maid' to some great family: 'Azure, a lion's head erased, between three fleurs-de-lis.'
"I never heard of the English 'Admiral Hawthorne' you mention, living at Boulogne. In the Court-guide I find a Mr. George Hawthorne, wine-merchant, Bristol,--perhaps this gentleman's father. There are not a few who write themselves 'Hathorn,' but none of them, so far as I know, are in positions that make it desirable to claim kinship with them. They may be of the same blue blood, but we have a right to ignore them. That, I suppose, is the way every family, however lofty, maintains its superiority. Your father told me that he believed there were not many of the English nobility better born than ourselves. Mrs. Anne Savage told me that her mother, who was a Hawthorne, was convinced that we were of Welsh origin. She also said that she believed that Upham, in his 'History of Witchcraft,' had purposely and maliciously belittled John Hathorne, the witch judge. It is very possible; for Dr. Wheatland, who has investigated our history, thinks him an eminent man, in talent and weight of character not inferior to his father, William. William Hathorne came over with Winthrop, and first settled in Dorchester. I never heard of any insanity in the family. We are a remarkably 'hard-headed' race, not easily excited, not apt to be carried away by any impulse. The witch's curse is not our only inheritance from our ancestors; we have also an unblemished name, and the best brains in the world."
William Hawthorne, or Hathorne (the spelling was either way, but the pronunciation the same in both), was a passenger on board the "Arbella," and disembarked in Boston, in 1630, when he was twenty-three years of age. While still a resident of Dorchester, and before he had entered upon his thirtieth year, he twice acted as Representative; and after his removal to Salem, in 1637, he filled the position of Speaker during seven or eight years. His parliamentary activity seems to have been suspended for one year,--1643,--but in 1644 he was again Speaker and Deputy, and remained so until 1661, when he was fifty-four years old. Some echoes of his eloquence have come down to posterity; and it must have been of a sturdy and trenchant sort, to hold the ears of Puritan law-givers so long. Unquestionably, this William Hawthorne was a man of restless energy, as well as unusual powers of mind. He put his vigorous hand to every improvement and enterprise that was going forward in the new settlement; he cleared the woods, he fought the Indians and treated with them, he laid plans for the creation of a great Fur Company, he led adventurous expeditions into the untrodden wilderness,--the latest being made in his seventieth year, along with Captains Sill and Waldron; and in the same year, in his capacity as Magistrate, he caused the execution of one John Flint, for the crime of shooting an Indian. Justice, with him, does not seem to have been tempered with mercy. Quakers received the lash at his command, and itinerant preachers and vagabonds were happy if they escaped with the stocks or the pillory. He was Commissioner of Marriages in 1657; in 1681, a gray-headed old man, he led the opposition against Randolph. It was in this year, moreover, that he died, full of years and honors; for his life had been as successful as it was vigorous and versatile. There was scarcely any field of activity open to him, in which he had not exerted himself. Even religion received the benefit of his zeal and eloquence, as may appear from this passage in a letter written by Miss Elizabeth Hawthorne to her brother: "Perhaps you never heard that our earliest peculiar ancestor, whose remembrance you have made permanent in the Introduction to the 'Scarlet Letter,' preached, besides all his other great doings. Mr. Taylor, the minister at Manchester, a man addicted to antiquarian pursuits, called to ask me if I knew anything about it. He said he thought it possible I might have paid some attention to my ancestry, and told me that this old Major, with about a dozen others, whose names he mentioned, used to go by turns to Manchester to preach. He had the information from Mr. Felt,"--who, it may be observed, was the author of "The Annals of Salem," a painstaking work containing much curious information about the respectable old town and its inhabitants.
But the chief testimony in support of Major Hawthorne's claims to statesmanship and a prominent position among his fellow-colonists, is the document which he wrote under an assumed name, to Mr. Secretary Morrice, in the year 1666, at the age of fifty-nine. One cannot read it, and note the turns of argument and expression, without feeling that he has gained some insight into the character of its author. It is subtle, ingenious, politic, and audacious; indicating a keen understanding of human nature on the writer's part, as well as a wise and comprehensive grasp of the whole situation as between the Colonists and the King. The occasional ambiguity of the language calls to mind the speech which Scott puts into the mouth of Oliver Cromwell, in one of his romances; it seems to be an intentional ambiguity, as of an intrepid and resolute man, who yet prefers to resort to cunning and policy rather than to open defiance, when the former may gain his end. What Secretary Morrice thought of this communication is not known; but, at all events, Governor Bellingham and Major Hawthorne did not go to London at the King's command. Miss Hawthorne, in writing of this document, says:--
"Mr. Palfrey told Mr. Hawthorne that he felt certain the memorable letter referring to the order from England for Governor Bellingham and Major William Hathorne to repair thither, 'was written by our aforesaid ancestor.' 'The letter,' he adds, 'was a very bold and able one, controverting the propriety of the measure above indicated.' It was a greater honor to defy a king than to receive from him such nobility as so many great families owed to Charles Second. I cannot remember the time when I had not heard that the King sent for our forefather, William Hathorne to come to England, and that he refused to go. And I have always been pleased when monarchs have met with opposition."
The document is endorsed in Nathaniel Hawthorne's handwriting as follows: "Copy of a letter, supposed to have been written by Major William Hawthorne, of Massachusetts, defending that Colony against the accusations of the Commission of Charles II., and excusing the General Court for declining to send over Governor Bellingham and himself, in compliance with the King's orders. (From the State Paper Office, London. Rec'd July 24, 1856.)"
I give it below in full, with the alteration only of the spelling.
Account Of the Massachusetts Transaction.
From the MASSACHUSETTS COLONY IN NEW ENGLAND, October 26th, 1666.
SECRETARY MORRICE, RIGHT HONORABLE: That good character from sundry hands received of you, doth embolden to give you the trouble of these following lines, although not so meetly digested and disposed of as becomes your dignity and honor, yet hoping it may be a service to his Majesty, I shall venture the bearing of your just censure for my folly and ignorance, being here resident for some years past, and diligently observing the guise and temper of all sorts of people, I shall briefly give you this following account. And whereas, by a copy of a signification that came to your hands of the Governor and Magistrates of this place (as I am informed) referring to their actings with the Commissioners sent over to them by his Majesty the last year, they are charged with denying his Majesty's jurisdiction over them, the account of their actings with the said Commission being by the General Court at large sent over to England, and (as it is here said) lies on file with my Lord Chancellor, I shall not now insist on the particulars thereof; yet this I assuredly know, that the Commission had more kindness and respect shown them by the people and Government of this place, than from any other,--nay, I may truly say than from all the rest of his Majesty's Colonies in New England. This Colony being for their entertainment, and raising of soldiers for their assistance in reducing the Manhattoes, at a very considerable charge, and, would Colonel Cartwright speak his conscience, he very well knows it was the countenance this Colony gave them, and the assistance of their messengers in treating with the Dutch, that did greatly alleviate that undertaking. And as to that charge of denying the King his jurisdiction over them, I shall briefly acquaint your Honour with the more general answer of the people thereto, viz.: They thus say, that they left their native Country and dear relations there, not with any dislike of his Majesty then reigning, or of monarchical power, for they esteem it the best of Governments, and the laws of the land they highly honor and esteem; but it was, that they might, without offence to any, worship the Lord according to His own institutions, not being able to bear the yoke imposed upon them by the then prevailing Hierarchy. For the orderly effecting whereof, they obtained of the King's Majesty a Royal Charter for this place, his Majesty therein giving them liberty to transplant themselves, families, and substance, and, for their encouragement in their undertaking, gave them full power to elect all their own officers for rule and Government, from the least to the greatest; to make their own laws not repugnant to the laws of England, and absolute power of ruling and governing all the people of this place and all this, with sundry other immunities and privileges to them granted, is confirmed to them and their heirs forever, under the Broad Seal of England. In confidence whereof, they hither came to a waste and howling wilderness, where they have conflicted with difficulties and sorrows of all sorts, they finding both the French and Dutch nations possessed North and South of their Patent bounds, and with whom they had some scuffling at their first entrance on this place. And the wild natives, whom they found to be very numerous, being for some time pricks in their sides, and thorns in their eyes, and when weak, made a prey of their lives and estates, sundry of them losing their dear relations; to this very day the salvage tortures and cruelties that sundry of them suffered, being cruelly murdered, not being forgotten by the survivors. The extremity of summer heat and winter cold and barrenness of the land discouraging some others, causing them to repent their design and desert the place. And those that remained, having, by the Blessing of God on their indefatigable labors, accompanied with many wants and straits, wrestled through the difficulties of their first plantings, and here sown the seeds of man and beast, so that now they are grown up to a considerable body of people and some small beginnings of a Common Weal, and all this at their own proper charges, not one penny being disbursed out of his Majesty's Exchequer. Now, thus they reason with themselves, viz.: That whiles they own his Majesty's charter which comprehends the conditions on which they transplanted themselves, they cannot justly be charged with denying his jurisdiction over them, for thereby they acknowledge themselves to be his Majesty's liege subjects; their power of Government, executive and legislative, proceeding from, and is according with, his Majesty's appointment, and all Courts of Justice constituted by his authority and appointment; their writs and processes of law going forth in his Majesty's name. Now, while they thus act, they apprehend they cannot justly be charged with denying his authority and jurisdiction over them. And in case they may not be confident in their Royal Grant, so orderly obtained, so long enjoyed and often confirmed, they apprehend they can have no certainty of their lives, estates, houses, and lands, and much less of that liberty which hitherto they have had in the free passage of the Gospel, far dearer to them than all their other comforts, whether natural or civil; they well knowing that if the wall of the civil government be pulled down, the wild boar will soon destroy the Lord's vineyard, and that it is impossible for them to keep the Waters of the Sanctuary, when that Venice glass which holds them is broken in pieces; there not wanting many sectaries and profane persons that are sprung up among themselves, who do long for such an opportunity. And whereas they are charged with denying his Majesty's jurisdiction, because they refuse to submit to the mandates of his Commission, requiring the General Court of this Colony to answer at their tribunal,--to this they answer as followeth, viz.: That the Commissioners by interpreting of and acting upon color of their Commission contrary to the Charter granted by his Majesty, as it was a great abuse of his Majesty's power granted unto them, so also an injury to his subjects, thereby violating their liberty, and was repugnant to the instructions given them by his Majesty, to the due observance of which the power granted them by their Commission is expressly limited, and had the people here submitted to them therein, they had destroyed themselves by their voluntary acting to the utter ruin of their Government and liberties, so legally secured to them by Charter, confirmed by his Majesty's letters, and indemnified by that power of the said Commissioners by his Majesty's special instructions given, as above said; all which will fully appear, reference to the said Commission and their instructions from his Majesty being had and perused. This people here planted, having purchased their liberty at so dear a rate, and being in so orderly a way removed from their native Country, thereby losing the benefit of those privileges in the Parliament of England, and laws under which they and their fathers were born, all that they crave of his Majesty is, that they may stand among the rest of his Majesty's dominions and plantations as the shrub among the cedars, growing upon their own root, and not be forced to be the slaves of rulers imposed upon them contrary to the rule of their Charter. Honored Sir, I may not further enlarge, lest I should too much abuse your patience, but the truth is, it is great pity that so hopeful a plantation should he now lost through the malice of those whose design it is to beget a misunderstanding in his Majesty of this people. It is in his Majesty's power easily to crush them by the breath of his nostrils; their best weapons are prayers and tears; they are afraid to multiply their supplications to his Majesty, lest they should thereby further provoke; their hope is in God, who hath the hearts of Kings in His hand. They have long been laboring how they might express their duty of good affection and loyalty to his Majesty, at last have ordered a present of masts of large dimensions, such as no other of his Majesty's dominions can produce, to be presented to his Majesty; they are not without hope of a favorable acceptance, which will be to their souls as a cloud of latter rain. This I clearly see, that the body of the people have a higher esteem of their liberties, sacred and civil, than of their lives; they will know they are such twins as God and not nature have joined together; and are resolved to bury their estates and liberties in the same grave. Should the Lord be pleased to move the heart of the King (of His gracious disposition and clemency) to smile upon them and speak comfortably to them, as I have reason to be confident his Majesty hath no subjects more faithful to him in all his dominions, so he will still gain more and more of their hearts and affections towards him. And this poor Colony, if it may be accounted any small addition to his Majesty's dominions, by the blessing of God upon their endeavors will be daily increased, and his Majesty's interest here by them maintained, to the great advance of his Majesty's customs) which have already by that Colony been considerably augmented; the whole product of their manufacture by land and trading by sea being so improved, as that it is constantly returned to England. Whereas, on the other hand, should the malicious accusations of their adversaries prevail with his Majesty to impose hard measure upon them, as their dwellings are not desirable for luxurious minds, so they would not be long inhabited by them, the country being large and wide. And what great pity is it, that a hopeful plantation, so suddenly raised without any expense to his Majesty, should now be made a prey to foreign enemies; the French waiting for such an opportunity, and are much fleshed by their prevailing in Christopher's Island: and the French King (as is here reported by some Rochellers) designing to secure those parts of America for himself; and for that purpose, in '65, as also this last summer, hath sent sundry ships with soldiers to a considerable number, that he may thereby strengthen his interest here; who, arriving in Canada, from thence the last winter took the advantage of the frost, and travelled across the great lake, quite across the Massachusetts patent, as far as Fort Albany, formerly in the possession of the Dutch, and now under his Highness the Duke of York. The more particular account whereof I doubt not but his Highness have received from Colonel Nicols. It is credibly reported by the Indians that about seven hundred Frenchmen are building and fortifying on this side the lake, above our plantations, and have already built two Forts, intending there to settle some plantations of their own; their further design being to the people here unknown. The English of this colony in their frontier towns, more remote from Boston, have already been so alarmed by reports of neighboring Indians, so as that they were forced to stand upon their watch this last summer, although disabled from giving them any offence by reason of their great distance from these parts, and the unpassableness through the country for any considerable force, as also want of powder and ammunition; and how acceptable will it be to French and Dutch to see this people frowned on by their King, your Honor may easily judge. The thoughts whereof I do undoubtedly believe would be an utter abhorrency to all, good and bad. But what extremity may force them to, that God only knows, who is wonderful in counsel and mighty in working, whose thoughts are not as man's, and His counsel only shall stand.
The present of masts above mentioned, containing two great ones, now aboard Captain Pierce, fitting to accommodate the building another "Prince Royal," and a shipload containing twenty-eight large masts, prepared for his Majesty's service against next year,--may I tell you with what difficulty this small business of masts is by the poor planters here effected; for (although some few merchants and traders among them have acquired to themselves considerable estates) yet I can assure you for the generality of the people 't is all (if not more than all) that they can do, by hard labor and great prudence in the improvement of the summer season, to get bread and clothing for their necessary supply and relief in the winter season. True it is, every man generally hath a little house and small . . . parcel in dimension from twenty-six to thirty-eight inches, which they have now bargained for, that they may be . parcel of land with some few cattle; but all will not purchase five pounds' worth of clothing in England. And, for sundry years past, God hath much frowned on their crops, so that for attaining this small present for his Majesty they are forced to take up money at interest, and for the payment thereof particular persons stand obliged; yet may it find acceptance with his Majesty, they will be more refreshed at the news thereof than at the reaping of a plentiful harvest. Honored Sir, my interest is only to inform, assuring you these foregoing lines are words of truth, and such as I shall not be ashamed of, when I shall stand before the Judgment seat of Him who judgeth not by the seeing of the eye (as to the verity thereof, I mean).
There came to the hands of the Governor and General Court here assembled this winter, a writing, being a copy of a signification from his Majesty requiring the Governor and some others to appear in England. But the very truth is, the Governor is an ancient gentleman near eighty years old, and is attended with many infirmities of age, as stone-colic, deafness, etc., so that to have exposed him to such an undertaking had been extreme cruelty. And for the further alleviating, please to be informed that the writing which came to their hands was neither original nor duplicate, but only a copy without any seal or notification that his Majesty had appointed the exhibition thereof to the Colony. Also the answer of the General Court to the mandates of the Commissioner by them denied to be observed, being fully and at large sent over last year, and is on file as they are informed, and no particulars nominated to which they are to answer. All these aforesaid considerations put together, the General Court and people here do generally hope that the King's Majesty will favorably interpret them herein.
Honored Sir, how can your unfeigned loyalty to his Majesty better appear than by your love to the peace of his subjects wherever scattered, although in the remotest of his dominions? I need not tell your Honor the meaning of these lines; what you do for the interest of God's people, God Himself will own, and Jesus Christ His Son will own you for it, when He shall appear in all His glory with his saints and holy angels to judge the world. If in your wisdom you shall perceive it will do no good to this people your declaring the contents hereof, I do humbly for Christ's sake beg that favor of your Honor that it may not be improved to any provocation; this being privately done by my own hand, without the privity of the authority or advice of any other person whatsoever; against whom, whiles I have been here resident, I see no just grounds of complaint.
The truth is, the acting of the late Commissioner in this place, putting the spurs too hard to the horses sides, before they were got into the saddle; and there being added thereto the vigorous dealing of Lord Willoughby on Barbadoes Island, so uncivilly and inhumanely carrying it towards sundry gentlemen of his Council, and cruelly towards all sorts, have greatly alarmed the people here, making the name of a Commission odious to them. And whereas the Commissioners have informed his Majesty that the obstruction given them here was by the Magistrates and leading men and not by the people, your Honor may easily take a demonstration of the falseness thereof. The Government being popular, and election of all public officers, Governor and Magistrates, being annually made by the people, were they divertly minded from their rulers, they have advantage enough to attain their desires.
And had the Governor and all the leading men of the Colony adhered to the Commissioners' mandates, the people were so resolved, that they would, for the generality of them (some discontents, Quakers, and others excepted), have utterly protested against their concession.
Honored Sir, I take leave, and am
Your humble servant,
This must suffice for this notable old statesman, warrior, and priest, whose steel head-piece, bluff uncompromising visage, and resolute figure seem to stand forth quite distinctly through the mists of two hundred and fifty years. His successor was his son John, the fifth of eight children, who lived to enjoy the sinister renown of having, in his capacity of Judge, examined and condemned to death certain persons accused of witchcraft,--one of whom, according to tradition, invoked a heavy curse upon him and upon his children's children. In the book of Court records of that period, under date of the 24th of March, 1691, there is entered a transcript of the examination of "Rebekah Nurse, at Salem village," from which I extract the following dialogue between John Hathorne, Rebekah, and others:--
"Mr. Hathorne.--'What do you say?' (speaking to one afflicted.) 'Have you seen this woman hurt you?'
"'Yes, she beat me this morning.'
"'Abigail, have you been hurt by this woman?'
"Ann Putnam in a grievous fit cried out that she hurt her.
"Mr. H.--'Goody Nurse, here are now Ann Putnam, the child, and Abigail Williams complains of your hurting them. What do you say to it?'
"Nurse.--'I can say before my Eternal Father I am innocent, and God will clear my innocency.'
"Mr. H.--'You do know whether you are guilty, and have familiarity with the Devil; and now when you are here present to see such a thing as these testify,--a black man whispering in your ear, and devils about you,--what do you say to it?'
"N.--'It is all false. I am clear.'
"Mr. H.--'Is it not an unaccountable thing, that when you are examined, these persons are afflicted?'
"N.--'I have got nobody to look to but God."'
This passage in the Judge's career has thrown the rest of his life into the shade; but he was almost as able a man as his father, if less active and versatile. He began with being Representative; during the witchcraft cases he was "Assistant Judge," Jonathan Curwin being with him on the bench; ten years later; he was made Judge of the Supreme Court, and held that position until within two years of his death, which happened in 1717, in his seventy-seventh year. He also bore the title of Colonel, which was not, perhaps, a dignity so easily won then as now. In his will he describes himself as simply a "merchant." His brother William was a sea-captain, and the Judge probably invested a large part of his capital in commercial enterprises. He seems to have been an austere, painstaking, conscientious man, liable to become the victim of lamentable prejudices and delusions, but capable, also, of bitterly repenting his errors. He was a narrower man than his father, but probably a more punctiliously righteous person, according to the Puritan code of morality. He ended a poorer man than he began,--the witch's curse having taken effect on the worldly prosperity of the family. The site of the present town of Raymond, in Maine, once belonged to the Hathornes; but the title-deeds were in some unaccountable way lost, and were not recovered until the lapse of time had rendered the claim obsolete. Something similar to this is related of the Pyncheon family, in the "House of the Seven Gables." The Judge married Ruth, the daughter of Lieutenant George Gardner, and had by her six children, the eldest of whom seems to have died abroad, as may be gathered, along with other details of the testator's history, from his will, which is here subjoined:--
In the name of God Amen. I, John Hathorne of Salem in the County of Essex in New England, Merchant, being weak and infirm of Body but of perfect mind and Memory, do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking all former Wills by me at any time heretofore made.
Impis: I Resign my Soul to God that gave it, and my Body to the Earth to be decently buried at the Discretion of my Executors hereafter named: and for my Worldly Estate that God hath given me, I Dispose thereof as followeth.
Item. I will that all my just Debts and funeral charges be paid and discharged by my Executors, and particularly that they pay to the Orders of Mr. Nathaniel Higginson late of London, Merchant, deceased, the sum of Fifty-three pounds Seventeen shillings, which the said Higginson furnished my Son John Hathorne with and paid for his Sickness and Funeral; and that my son Ebenezer be paid for Money he lent me and that I had out of his Estate in my hands, about four hundred pounds (viz.) so much as may be due to him as pr. account. And that my son Joseph be paid the sum of twenty-five pounds which I had of him towards repairing the house, and twenty-four pounds more which I had of him.
Item.. I give to my Grandson John Hathorne, the Son of my Son Nathl. Hathorne Decd., if he live to the age of twenty-one years, the sum of twenty-five pounds to be paid by my Executors in passable money of New England or Province Bills of Credit.
I give to my Daughter Ruth, the Wife of James Ticknam (sic), the sum of ten pounds besides what I have already given her.
I give to Anne Foster, that lived with me many years and was a faithful servant, the sum of five pounds in passable Money or Bills of Credit; and also I give her the great Rugg she made for me.
Item. I give to the poor of this [Parish] the sum of five pounds to be distributed by my executors.
I give to my three sons, Ebenezer, Joseph, and Benjamin, all the Remainder of my Estate both Real and Personal, whatsoever and wheresoever it may be, to be equally divided betwixt them, to be to them and their Heirs forever.
Lastly I appoint and Constitute my Sons Ebenezer and Joseph Hathorne Executors of this my last will and Testament. But in case I should die when they are both at Sea, then I Desire and appoint Captain William Bowditch Executor in trust, and Direct about my funeral, and to take care of the Improvement of my Estate until one of my forenamed Executors shall return home.
In Testimony and Confirmation of what is above written I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal this second day of February, anno Domini 1716.
Signed, Sealed, published and declared in presence of
JOHN HATHORNE. SEAL.
Executed before Judge John Appleton Esq. June 27: 1717.
It was the Judge's third son, Joseph, born in 1691 who was destined to carry on the family name. John had died early, as aforesaid, and Ebenezer appears to have fallen a victim to the small-pox in 1717; at all events, he has the credit of having brought the disease into Salem in that year. Of the other children, nothing important is known. Joseph was a quiet, home-keeping personage; he did not share the general family craving for a seafaring life, but established himself upon a farm in Salem township, and, having taken to wife a daughter of Captain William Bowditch, he passed the better part of his threescore years and twelve in agricultural pursuits, and acquired the nickname of "Farmer Joseph." His ambition was towards crops and cattle, instead of towards war, statesmanship, and adventure; and inasmuch as less is known of him than of any of his predecessors or descendants, it is fair to assume that his existence was peaceful and happy. He was blessed with five sons and two daughters, all of whom, save one,--Joseph,--lived to be married. The fifth son, born in 1731, was named Daniel; and he, in addition to the distinction of being the great-grandfather of Nathaniel Hawthorne, made a figure in the war of the Revolution. He had been bred to the sea, and his operations against the British were conducted upon that element; at one time he was commander of a privateer, the "Fair America," which was the occasion of more or less inconvenience to English vessels, and the exploits of which were celebrated in a quaint ballad, written, apparently, by some poet who had found his way into the crew. "Bold Daniel," as he was called, was probably rather a wild fellow in his youth. A miniature of him, preserved in the family (and of which an engraving is here given), shows him to have been a robust man, of fair, sanguine complexion, with strong, sharply cut features, and large blue eyes. The expression of his ruddy countenance is open and pleasant; but one sees that he was of a temperament easily moved to wrath or passion. A romantic and rather strange story is connected with his younger days, which, although the dénouement of it occurred more than sixty years after his death, may be inserted here. In the year 1858 Nathaniel Hawthorne was living with his family in the Villa Montauto, just outside the walls of Florence. Among his near neighbors during that summer--the summer of Donati's comet--were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Browning; and they were often visitors at Montauto. Mrs. Browning was at that time deeply interested in spiritualism; and in the course of some discussions on the subject, it was accidentally discovered that the governess in Mr. Hawthorne's family, a young American lady of great attainments and lovely character, was a medium,--the manifestation of her capacities in this direction being by writing. If she held a pencil over a sheet of paper for a minute or so, her hand would seem to be seized, or inspired with motion, and words, sentences, or pages would be written down, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly, and in various totally dissimilar styles of handwriting, none of which bore any resemblance to the lady's own. She herself had no belief in the spiritual source of the phenomenon; she ascribed it to some obscure and morbid action of the minds of the spectators upon her own mind; and the process was so distasteful to her, that, after experimenting a week or two, the matter was finally abandoned, with the cordial concurrence of Mr. Hawthorne and Mr. Browning, who had both abominated it from the beginning. The medium used to say that she never knew beforehand what the communication was going to be, but that, if she fixed her attention upon what was going forward, she could generally tell each word just before it was written down. The names which were signed to the communications were limited in number, and almost all of them belonged to deceased friends of one or other of the persons present. It was soon possible to distinguish each of the visitants, the moment he or she began to write (through the medium), by the character of the chirography, the style of thought and expression, and even the peculiar physical movement by which the writing was effected.
One day, in the midst of some heavenly-minded disquisition from the dead mother of one of the onlookers, the medium's hand seemed to be suddenly arrested, as by a violent though invisible grasp, and, after a few vague dashes of the pencil, the name of "Mary Rondel" was written across the paper in large, bold characters. Nothing followed the name, which was unknown to every one present; and at last somebody put the question, who Mary Rondel was? Hereupon the medium's hand was again seized as before, and some sentences were rapidly dashed off to the effect that Mary Rondel had no rest, and demanded the sympathy of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Subsequent inquiries elicited from Mary Rondel the information that she had been, in her lifetime, connected in some way with the Hawthorne family; that she had died in Boston about a hundred years previous, and that nothing could give her any relief but Nathaniel Hawthorne's sympathy. Mr. Hawthorne was amused, and perhaps somewhat impressed, by this reiterated and vehement appeal, and assured Mary Rondel that although, so far as he could remember, he had never heard of her before, she was welcome to as much of his sympathy as she could avail herself of.
From this time forth, Mary Rondel, violent, headstrong, often ungrammatical, and uniformly eccentric in her spelling, was the chief figure among the communicants from the other world. She would descend upon the circle like a whirlwind, at the most unexpected moments, put all the other spirits unceremoniously to flight, and insist upon regaling her audience with a greater or less number of her hurried, confused, and often obscure utterances. But the burden of them all was, that at last, after her long century of weary wandering, she was to find some relief and consolation in the sympathy of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The other spirits resented Mary's intrusion, and would denounce her as a disorderly, mischievous person, in whom it was impossible to place confidence, inasmuch as she was an inveterate liar, and, in general, no better than she should be. Nevertheless, and whatever the frailty of her moral character,--which, indeed, she never attempted to defend,--there was something so genuine, so human, and so pathetically forlorn about poor Mary Rondel, that nobody could help regarding her with a certain compassionate kindliness. Liar though she doubtless was, she produced a more real and consistent impression upon her mortal audience than did any of her disembodied associates; and though she was often unruly and troublesome, and occasionally even deficient in propriety, we forgave her for the sake of the strong infusion of human nature which characterized her even in her spiritual state.
Before long, however, the seances were discontinued, as above stated. Mr. Hawthorne moved his family to Rome, where other interests soon put Mary Rondel and the rest of her tribe out of their heads. In 1859 Hawthorne returned to England, whence, after a year's sojourn, he sailed for America; and there, in 1864, he died. The governess (whose acquaintance, by the way, we had made for the first time in 1857) had left us while we were still in England, to marry the man to whom she had been for several years betrothed. All this while, Mary Rondel's name had not been mentioned, and she was practically forgotten. But after Nathaniel Hawthorne's death his son came into possession of a number of letters, documents, manuscripts, books, and other remains, some of which had all along been in possession of the family, while others were forwarded to him by near relatives in Salem and elsewhere. Among these was a large, old-fashioned folio volume, bound in brown leather, and much defaced in binding and paper by the assiduous perusal of half a dozen generations. It was a copy of an early edition of Sir Philip Sidney's "Arcadia," and had been brought to New England for Major William Hathorne, whose autograph appeared upon the margin of one or two pages. In turning over these venerable leaves, brown with age and immemorial thumb-marks, there appeared, written in faded ink, the name of Mary Rondel; and opposite to it, in the same chirography, that of Daniel Hathorne. This unexpected discovery interested the finder not a little; and his interest was increased when, on coming to the latter part of the volume, which is mainly taken up with love-sonnets and other amatory versification, he found certain verses underlined, or surrounded by a wavy mark in ink, together with such inscriptions (also in bold Daniel's handwriting) as "Lucke upon this as if I my on self spacke it," "Pray mistris read this," and so forth. Two of the verses thus indicated contained fond allusions to fair hair and blue eyes; the tenor of the lines was warm, though not unduly so; and in one instance, where the poem comprises the appeal of the lover to his beloved, and her answer to him, certain passages of the latter were also marked out, as if the lady upon whom Daniel had centred his affections had taken this method of replying to his solicitations. Upon the whole, it seemed reasonable to infer that two young people, who had conceived a fancy for each other, had been in a position to peruse Sir Philip's romance at or about the same time, and that they had adopted this rather shy and retiring device to make each other aware of their sentiments. Conceiving that some information on the subject might be forthcoming from certain elder connections of the family, resident in Salem, application was made to them, but without saying anything about the spiritualistic communications in Florence. The following facts were elicited: that, in 1755 or thereabouts, when Daniel was over twenty-one years old, he fell in love with a young woman named Mary Rondel, who lived in Boston. She returned his love; but, somehow or other, the affair ended unhappily, and Mary soon after died. No more than this was known; but this was enough to complete a singular and unaccountable story. Mr. Hawthorne may have been acquainted with it when he was a young man; but he could not have read the "Arcadia" for twenty years previous to the Florentine episode, and it is impossible to suppose that there was any collusion between him and the medium on that occasion. The name of Mary Rondel is not a common one; the present writer does not recollect ever to have met with it, except in this instance. But, at all events, these are the facts, and the reader is free to deal with them according to the best of his belief or incredulity.
Bold Daniel, in due course of time, wedded Rachel Phelps, and they had seven children; the witch's curse seeming to take no effect upon the prosperity of the Hawthorne marriages as regarded offspring. The first son, Daniel, died in infancy; the first daughter, Sarah, was married to John Crowninshield; the fourth daughter, Ruth, died an old maid in 1847; Rachel, the fifth daughter, became the wife of Simon Forrester; and Nathaniel, the third son, who was born in 1775, married, about the beginning of this century, Elizabeth Clarke Manning, a beautiful and highly gifted young lady, five years his junior. Nathaniel was a silent, reserved, severe man, of an athletic and rather slender build, and habitually of a rather melancholy cast of thought; but the marriage was a very happy one. It did not last long; he was a captain in the merchant marine, and in 1808, while at Surinam, he died of yellow fever, at the age of thirty-three. His wife had previously given birth to the three children already mentioned, one of whom was Nathaniel Hawthorne the romancer.
Madame Hawthorne came of a family who seem to have been as reserved and peculiar in their own way as the Hawthornes were in theirs; they possessed more than the Hawthorne sensibility, without sharing the latter's Puritan sternness and bodily strength. They were descendants of the stout-hearted widow of Richard Manning, of St. Petrox Parish, Dartmouth, England, who sailed for the New World with her seven children--four sons and three daughters--in the ship "Hannah and Elizabeth," in 1679. Her son Thomas married a Miss Mary Giddings, and had six children; of whom the fifth, John (whose twin brother Joseph died a bachelor at the age of eighty-one), more than maintained the matrimonial average of the family, by becoming the husband of three wives in succession: Jane Bradstreet being the first, Elizabeth Wallis the second, and Ruth Potter the third. Only the last marriage, however, was fruitful; it produced six children. The youngest son, Richard, born in 1775, married, at the age of twenty-one, Miss Miriam Lord, of Salem, and had by her nine children, of whom Elizabeth Clarke was the third. Robert, born in 1784, was the uncle who paid Hawthorne's way through college; and it was he who built the house in Raymond, which afterwards passed into the hands of his brother Richard. William Manning, born in 1778, employed Hawthorne as his private secretary, in the latter's boyhood; and this good gentleman continued to be alive down to 1864, when he expired at the age of eighty-six. A similar, or even greater, age was attained by Mr. John Dike, who married the fourth daughter, Priscilla Miriam; and the younger generation of the family are at this day respected citizens of the town in which they and their forefathers have lived for more than two hundred years.
This much must suffice concerning the ancestry of Nathaniel Hawthorne; and certainly it amounts to little more than an outline. But, for manifest reasons it is difficult to obtain vivid and lifelike portraits of persons who have so seldom been in contact with the historical events of their time, and whose characters, therefore, have not developed in the daylight of public recognition. They kept their own counsel, and it is now too late to question them. Miss Elizabeth P. Peabody, the sister-in-law of Nathaniel Hawthorne, writes of them that they "were unsocial in their temper, and the family ran down in the course of the two centuries, in fortune and manners and culture. But Mr. Hathorne of Herbert Street was a gentleman whom I knew, and who was an exception. He was a neighbor of ours in 1819, and I have dined at his table. He died without children, before I knew your father, who told me he never knew personally any of the name. You alone bear up the name, I think."
This Hathorne of Herbert Street was probably Nathaniel Hawthorne's uncle Daniel,--the second son of that name born to Daniel the Privateersman. His birth took place in 1768, and he lived to be about sixty years old. Another relative, Ebenezer Hathorne, mentioned in the "American Note-Books," must have belonged to a collateral branch of the family, since there is no Ebenezer in the direct line of descent later than 1725.