Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume I
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
Sophia Amelia Peabody
THE life of a man happily married cannot fail to be influenced by the character and conduct of his wife. Especially will this be the case when the man is of a highly organized and sensitive temperament, and most of all, perhaps, when his professional pursuits are sedentary. and imaginative rather than active and practical. Nathaniel Hawthorne was particularly susceptible to influences of this kind; and all the available evidence goes to show that the most fortunate event of his life was, probably, his marriage with Sophia Peabody. To attempt to explain and describe his career without taking this event into consideration would, therefore, be like trying to imagine a sun without heat, or a day without a sun. Nothing seems less likely than that he would have accomplished his work in literature independently of her sympathy and companionship. Not that she afforded him any direct and literal assistance in the composition of his books and stories; her gifts were wholly unsuited to such employment, and no one apprehended more keenly than she the solitariness and uniqueness of his genius, insomuch that she would have deemed it something not far removed from profanation to have offered to advise or sway him in regard to his literary productions. She believed in his inspiration; and her office was to promote, so far as in her lay, the favorableness of the conditions under which it should manifest itself. As food and repose nourish and refresh the body, so did she refresh and nourish her husband's mind and heart. Her feminine intuition corresponded to his masculine insight; she felt the truth that he saw; and his recognition of this pure faculty in her, and his reverence for it, endowed his perception with that tender humanity in which otherwise it might have been deficient. Her lofty and assured ideals kept him to a belief in the reality and veracity of his own. In the warmth and light of such companionship as hers, he could not fall into the coldness and gloom of a selfish intellectual habit. She revived his confidence and courage by the touch of her gentle humor and cheerfulness; before her unshakable hopefulness and serenity, his constitutional tendency to ill-foreboding and discouragement vanished away. Nor was she of less value to him on the merely intellectual side. Her mental faculties were finely balanced and of great capacity; her taste was by nature highly refined, and was rendered exquisitely so by cultivation. Her learning and accomplishments were rare and varied, and yet she was always childlike in her modesty and simplicity. She read Latin, Greek, and Hebrew: she was familiar with history; and in drawing, painting, and sculpture she showed a loving talent not far removed from original genius. Thus she was able to meet at all points her husband's meditative and theoretic needs with substantial and practical gratification. Awaking to her, he found in her the softened and humanized realization of his dreams. In all this she acted less of defined purpose than unconsciously and instinctively, following the natural promptings of her heart as moulded and enlightened by her love. What she did was done so well, because she could not do otherwise. Her husband appreciated her, but she had no appreciation of herself. She only felt what a privilege it was to love and minister to such a man, and to be loved by him. For he was not, as so many men are, a merely passive and complacent absorber of all this devotion. What she gave, he returned; she never touched him without a response; she never called to him without an echo. He never became so familiar with her ministrations, unceasing though these were, as to accept them as a matter of course. The springs of gratitude and recognition could not run dry in him; his wife always remained to him a sort of mystery of goodness and helpfulless. He protected her, championed her, and cherished her in all ways that a man may a woman; but, half playfully and all earnestly, he avouched her superiority over himself, and, in a certain class of questions relating to practical morality and domestic expediency, he always deferred to and availed himself of her judgment and counsel. This was no make-believe or hollow humility on his part; he believed, and was delighted to believe, in the higher purity and (as it were) angelic wisdom of her feminine nature; and if he ever ascribed wisdom to himself, it was on the ground that he accepted her views upon all matters as to which mere worldly experience and sagacity were uncertain guides. In comparing himself with her (supposing him to have done such a thing), he would leave entirely out of account his vast intellectual power and capacity. Intellect, in his opinion, was but an accident of organization or inheritance, aud could be almost entirely divorced from purity and elevation of character,--upon the basis of which only could a man's value as a creature of God be finally estimated. He deemed the cultivation and improvement of the intellect to be mainly selfish and instinctive; whereas goodness of character was the result of a purely Christian and regenerated effort. From this point of view, Hawthorne's attitude towards his wife becomes natural and comprehensible enough; and no doubt, as some writer has suggested, no one but he knew how great was his debt to her.
When I said that the life of Hawthorne could not be understood apart from that of his wife, I might have added that without her assistance it could not have been written. In fact, the almost continuous story of their married life is contained in her letters aud journals. While she was still a child, she acquired the habit of keeping a journal of her daily existence,--her doings, her seeings, and her thoughts; and during her visits of a week or a month at a time to friends in the vicinity of Salem, she wrote long letters home to her mother. After her marriage, these letters to her mother constitute a nearly uninterrupted narrative of the quiet but beautiful and profound experiences of her domestic career. No part of this narrative is without a value, literary as well as human,--for Mrs. Hawthorne had an unusual gift of expression, in writing as well as in conversation,--but only a small part of it can be brought within the limits of this volume. Enough, however, will be shown to furnish an adequate impression both of the writer and of what she wrote about. Her mother's share in the correspondence is also full of temptations to the biographer; but the extracts from it have been made mainly with an eye to the outward events which they help to explain, and only incidentally to the traits of character and morality which they illustrate. Taken altogether, the letters contain, in addition to their private interest, the revelation of a remarkable and perhaps unique state of society. Plain living and high thinking can seldom have been more fully united and exemplified than in certain circles of Boston and Salem during the first thirty or forty years of this century. The seed of democracy was bearing its first and (so far) its sweetest and most delicate fruit. Men and women of high refinement, education, and sensibilities thought it no derogation, not only to work for their living, but to tend a counter, sweep a room, or labor in the field. Religious feeling was deep and earnest, owing in part to the recent schism between the severe and the liberal interpretations of Christian destiny and obligations; and the development of commerce and other material interests had not more than foreshadowed its present proportions, nor distracted people's attention from less practical matters. Such a state of things can hardly he reproduced, and, in our brief annals, possesses some historic value.
Sophia Peabody was descended from an ancient and honorable stock. The American Peabodies are the posterity of a certain Francis Peabody, who came to this country in 1640. He was a North-of-England man,--a Yorkshireman. Whether he was married iu England or in New England, and whether his children were all born before his emigration or otherwise, we are not informed. But we know that he became the father of ten children, born somewhere; and the stock flourished exceedingly. For nearly a hundred years there were ten children in each generation in the line of direct descent, not to mention the offspring of the collateral sons and daughters, which accounts for the large number of persons now bearing the name of Peabody in New England. Dr. Andrew Peabody, who has for so many years preached to the students of Harvard College, and Mr. George Peabody, the millionnaire and philanthropist, sprung from this root. Dr. Nathaniel Peabody, the father of Sophia, practised dentistry in Salem and Boston, and was a man of much activity of nature, and versatility. He married Elizabeth Palmer, a granddaughter of General Palmer of the Revolutionary Army, who had married Miss Elizabeth Hunt of Watertown, Massachusetts.
Tradition relates that the Peabody clan were descendants of no less a personage than Boadicea, Queen of the Britons. After her death, her son fled to the Welsh mountains, where he and his posterity for many hundred years bore the title of Pe-boadie, which, being interpreted, means Men of the Peak (Pe, peak, or hill; Boadie, man). Among the distinguished offshoots of this race was Owen Glendower, who was wont, according to Shakspeare, to call spirits from the vasty deep. After Sophia Peabody was married and had children of her own, she often used to amuse them with these and similar wondrous tales of their maternal lineage, which had just sufficient possibility of truth in them to render them captivating to a child's imagination. There was no definite reason why Boadicea should not have been their indefinitely great-grandmother; and therefore it was their pleasure to regard her in that pious light, and somewhat to resent Hotspur's unsympathetic attitude towards Mr. Glendower's supernatural feats.
Mrs. Hawthorne was connected with the Hunts of Watertown through her mother, in the manner following: John Hunt, of Watertown, was the only son of Samuel Hunt, of Boston, and Mary Langdon. He graduated from Harvard College in 1734, and four years later married Ruth Fessenden. He had been designed for the ministry; but inherited property and left the pulpit. He was a very popular man, and his wife was a beauty; they kept open house for the American officers during the Revolution. The marriage was blessed by many children. One of the sons (Samuel) was master of the Boston Latin School for thirty-six-years. The youngest, Thomas, left college and joined the army at the time of the battle of Bunker Hill. One of the daughters, named Elizabeth, married Joseph B. Palmer, whose father was General Palmer of the Revolutionary army. Their daughter, also named Elizabeth, a gentle, ladylike person, highly cultivated, a student, and a most estimable character, married Dr. Nathaniel Peabody, of Salem, and thus became the mother of Sophia Amelia Peabody, the wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Hunts were Tory cavaliers in England, and the first emigrant was a refugee from Marston Moor. Leigh Hunt is said to have been of this same stock; but I do not know that there is any confirmation of the saying.
Dr. Peabody had three daughters and three sons; of the latter, only one lived to maturity. The eldest daughter, Miss Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, is still in the vigor of an honored and useful old age, as is, likewise, the second daughter, Mary, who became the wife of Horace Mann. Sophia, the youngest, born in 1809, on the 21st of September, died at the age of sixty years. She inherited, however, the full strength of the family constitution. She is said to have been a fine and healthy baby; but her teething was difficult, and, by way of relieving her, she was incontinently dosed with drugs, from the harmful effects of which she never recovered, and which subjected her, among other things, to an acute nervous headache, which lasted uninterruptedly from her twelfth to her thirty-first year, and, of course, shortened her life by an unknown quantity. It is very possible, on the other hand, that both her character and her mind may have been materially uplifted, enlightened, and enlarged by this long and fierce discipline of her youth. There is no doubt that such was her own view of the matter. The pain was of such a nature as to sharpen rather than obscure her mental faculties; and in process of time she was enabled in a manner to stand apart from it (as to her spiritual part) and study its significance and effect upon herself. The wisdom and resignation she drew from it were worth many years of ordinary experience to her, and the lesson was probably of a kind peculiarly adapted to her temperament. For she was a child of frolicsome spirits, inclined to playful mischief, high-strung, quick-witted, and quick-tempered. She was enthusiastic, prone to extremes, and to make sweeping judgments of people and things, founded upon intuitive impressions. Her mind was independent and intrepid; she was high-spirited, generous without limit, and, above all, profound and vital in her affections. For a nature like this, what better training and restraining power could be devised than pain? It controlled her without making her feel that her liberty was invaded; it withdrew her into a region apart, where much that would have grieved and shocked her was necessarily unknown. Constantly reminding her of the sensitiveness of her own feelings, it made her tender and thoughtful of the feelings of others; and it stimulated the tenderness and love of all with whom she came in contact. In proportion as it made her physical world a torture and a weariness, it illuminated and beautified the world of her spirit. It taught her endurance, charity, self-restraint, and brought her acquainted with the extent and wealth of her internal resources. In respect of innocence, simplicity, and ideal beliefs, it kept her a child all her life long; it drew around her, as it were, an enchanted circle, across which no evil thing could come. She was disciplined and instructed by pain, as others are by sin and its consequences; and thus she could become strong and yet remain without stain. What seems more remarkable is, that all her suffering never tempted her, even for a moment, into a self-pitying or morbid frame of mind. She was always happy, and fertile in strength and encouragement for others; her voice was joyful music, and her smile a delicate sunshine. Natures apparently far sturdier and ruder than hers depended upon her, almost abjectly, for support. She was a blessing and an illumination wherever she went; and no one ever knew her without receiving from her far more than could be given in return. Her pure confidence created what it trusted in. He who writes this is not well disposed to eulogy; but he asserts less than he knows. In person she was small, graceful, active, and beautifully formed. Her face was so alive and translucent with lovely expressions that it was hard to determine whether or not it were physically lovely; but I incline to think that a mathematical survey would have pronounced her features plain; only, no mathematical survey could have taken cognizance of her smile. Her head was nobly shaped; her forehead high and symmetrically arched; her eyebrows strongly marked; her eyes, gray, soft, and full of gentle light; her mouth and chin at once tender, winning, and resolute. Beautiful or not, I have never seen a woman whose countenance better rewarded contemplation.
Sometimes, at her children's solicitation, she would tell them anecdotes of "when I was a little girl;" and many of these are remembered. One dream she was fond of relating was of a dark cloud, which suddenly arose in the west and obscured the celestial tints of a splendid sunset. But while she was deploring this eclipse, and the cloud spread wider and gloomier, all at once it underwent a glorious transformation; for it consisted of countless myriads of birds, which by one movement turned their rainbow-colored breasts to the sun, and burst into a rejoicing chorus of heavenly song. This dream was doubtless interpreted symbolically by the dreamer; and the truth which it symbolized was always among the firmest articles of her faith. Illustrative of her mischievous tendency was the story of how she cured her sister Lizzie of biting her finger tips while reading or studying. It seems that various expedients had been tried to break the young student of this habit; among others, that of obliging her to wear gloves: but her preoccupation was so great that nothing availed with her; and when she could do nothing else, she would roll up bits of paper, or anything else that happened to be within reach, and put them in her mouth. Noticing this, Sophia one day went out in the garden and gathered a quantity of the herb known as bitter-sweet, which has a most disheartening flavor. This she rolled up in a number of little bunches, and quietly substituted them for the scraps of paper upon which her sister was feeding. The result appears to have fulfilled her most sanguine expectations; Lizzie remembered the bitter-sweet, and never again was guilty of the objectionable practice.
But instead of multiplying these anecdotes, there shall here be inserted some reminiscences of her earliest years, expressed in her own language. They were written in 1859, shortly before leaving England for America, and were designed, of course, solely to afford entertainment to her children. Only a beginning was made; after a few pages the narrative breaks off, and was never resumed. Enough is given, however, to justify a regret that there is no more for, as the writer warmed to her work, it would evidently have increased in minuteness and suggestiveness. The full names of the dramatis personae are not given, nor are they important to the matter in hand.
"When I was four or five years old, I was sent away, for the first time, from home and from my mother, to visit my grandmamma. My mother was the tenderest and loveliest mother in the world, and I do not understand how I could have borne to be separated from her for a day. The journey I entirely forget, and also my arrival; but after I was there, I remember a scene in the sunny courtyard as plainly as if it were yesterday. I was playing with two tiny puppies, belonging to my aunt Alice, and I was endeavoring to take up one of them in my small, in-adequate hands. It struggled vigorously and squealed, and was so hard and fat, I could not get a firm hold of it; so I dropped it on the pavement, which caused it to squeal louder than before. Hereupon, out rushed my aunt, and violently shook me by the arm, uttering some severe words, that have entirely gone out of my mind. She was tall, stately, and handsome, and very terrible in her wrath. I felt like a criminal; and as it had never yet occurred to me that a grown person could do wrong, but that only children were naughty, I took the scolding, and the earthquake my aunt made of my little body, as a proper penalty for some fault which she saw, though I did not. I only intended to caress her unmanageable pet, not to hurt it; but innocence is unconscious, and not quick to defend itself. I was forbidden ever to touch the dogs again, and was sent into the house out of the bright sunshine. I can see now, as then, that bright sunshine, as it flooded the grass and shrubbery; the clear, fresh appearance of every object, as if lately washed and then arrayed in gold; the great trees, spreading forth innumerable branches, with leaves glistening and fluttering in the wind. I forget how I found my way to my grandmother's room upstairs; but I was soon looking out of her window into a street. I saw, sitting on a doorstep directly opposite, a beggar-girl; and when she caught sight of me, she clenched her fist and uttered a sentence which I never forgot, though I did not in the least comprehend it. 'I 'll maul you!' said the beggar-girl, with a scowling, spiteful face. I gazed at her in terror, feeling scarcely safe, though within four walls and half-way to the sky--as it seemed to me. I was convinced that she would have me at last, and that no power could prevent it; but I did not appeal to grandmamma for aid, nor utter a word of my awful fate to any one. Children seldom communicate their deepest feelings or greatest troubles to those around them. What tragedies are often enacted in their poor little hearts, without even the mother's suspecting it! It may, perhaps, partly be caused by their small vocabulary; and, besides, they are seldom individually conscious, but take it for granted that their own experience is that of all other children. How can a child of three years old find language to express its inward emotions? A child's dim sense of almightiness in events that happen, overpowers its faculty of representation. My aunt Alice's anger was, to my mind, a very insignificant matter beside this peril; and as I fixed my eyes intently upon the girl, I recognized with dismay the fearful creature who had once met me when I had escaped out of the garden-gate at home, and was taking my first independent stroll. No nurse nor servant was near me on that happy day. It was glorious. My steps were winged, and there seemed more space on every side than I had heretofore supposed the world contained. The sense of freedom from all shackles was intoxicating. I had on no hat, no out-door dress, no gloves. What exquisite fun I really think every child that is born ought to have the happiness of running away once in their lives at least. I went up a street that gradually ascended, till, at the summit, I believed I stood at the top of the earth. But, alas! at that acme of success my joy ended; for there I was suddenly confronted by this beggar-girl,--the first ragged, begrimed human being I had ever seen. She seized my wrist and said, 'Make me a curtsy!' All the blood in my veins tingled with indignation: 'No, I will not!' I said. How I got away, and home again, I cannot tell; but as I did not obey the insolent command, I constantly expected revenge in some form, and yet never told my mother anything about it. A short time after the grievous encounter, my hobgoblin passed along when I was standing at the door, and muttered threats, and frowned; and now here she was again, so far from where I first met her, evidently come for me, and I should fall into her hands and be mauled! What was that? Something, doubtless, unspeakably dreadful. The new, strange word cast an indefinite horror over the process to which I was to be subjected. Where could the creature have got the expression? I have never heard it since, I believe. Neither did I ever see or hear the beggar-girl again in all my life.
"Other memories of that visit to my grandmamma are neither rich nor sweet, but so indelibly engraven on my memory that I can discern them well. My aunt Alice had two sisters, who were unkind and tyrannical to such a degree that she seemed quite angelic in comparison with them. My uncle George was my mamma's beloved brother, and radiant with benevolence and all the gracious amenities. I did not think, however, of taking refuge in him, or even of speaking to him. He came into view, sometimes, like a gleam of sunshine, and passed away I knew not whither,--a kind of inaccessible blessing, or, rather, an unavailable one to me. I perceive now that he was the only amiable individual in the house. The favorite pastime of my aunts Emily and Matilda was to torment me; and whenever they could take me captive, I was led off for cruel sport. The mischievous gleam of their dark eyes, and the wonderful rivulets of dark curls flowing over their crimson cheeks, are painted on my inner tablets in fixed colors. Sometimes they opened a great book (which I now fear was the Bible) and commanded me to read a lesson. If I miscalled the letters in trying to spell the words, they shouted in derision. My sensitiveness doubtless incited them to ingenious devices to mortify and frighten me. One day they asked me if I would like to see the most beautiful of gardens, blooming with the sweetest, gayest flowers; and when I gratefully and joyfully assented, trusting them with-out misgiving, they opened a door and gave me a sudden push, which sent me falling down several steps into utter darkness. Another time they took me into a courtyard full of turkeys, and drove the creatures, gobbling like so many fiends, towards me. I expected to be devoured at once, and my distress was immeasurable; and the enjoyment of the young ladies was complete. Their mocking laughter made me feel ashamed of being miserable. My loving mamma, in the unknown distance, seemed a Heaven to which I should return at last; but there was nothing like her here, except perhaps the visionary uncle George.
"Grandmamma was a severe disciplinarian. I was always sent to bed at six o'clock, without liberty of appeal in any case; and this was right and proper enough. But I was put into an upper room, alone in the dark, and left out of reach of help, as I supposed, from any human being. It was my first trial of darkness and loneliness; for my blessed mother never inflicted needless misery on her children. Every night I lay in terror at street noises as long as I was awake. I am not aware of having derived any benefit from that Spartan severity, and I have always been careful that my children should have the light and society they desired in their tender age. At table, food was sometimes given me which I did not fancy; and I was sternly told that I must eat and drink whatever was placed before me, or go without any food at all. In consequence of this absurd decree, I hate even now some of those things that were forced upon me then. A sense of injustice turned my stomach. On one memorable occasion I utterly refused a saucer of chocolate prepared for me, and so stoutly set my will against it, that in all the rest of my life I have not been able to tolerate the taste of chocolate.
"I was subjected to grandmamma's unenlightened religious zeal, and taken to church elaborately dressed in very tight frocks, and made to sit still; and after infinite weariness in the long church service, I was led into the sacristy, and, with other unfortunate babies, tortured with catechism, of which I understood not a word. I see myself sitting on a high bench, my feet dangling uncomfortably in the air, while I was put to the question; and I pity me very much. Grown people forget that the Lord has said, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice.'
"I remember one more circumstance of this unhappy visit. My aunt Alice had a large party, an afternoon party,--and I was arrayed carefully for the occasion. Oh, shall I ever forget the torture of the little satin boots and of the pantalets, to which I was doomed, besides the utter general sense of discomfort and bondage! I was fetched into the salon, where the bevy of fine ladies were sitting, in clouds of white muslin and bright silks,--to be passed round like a toy, as one of the entertainments, I suppose. But being in great bodily pain from my dress, as soon as I was released from their caresses, I escaped, and darted up the staircase, and fled into a room where I thought I should be undisturbed. There I untied the cruel strings that fastened the pantalets round my ankles, and somehow managed to pull them wholly off, though I could do nothing with the dainty little boots. However, glad to be released so far, I gayly returned to the drawing-room. Alas for it! My aunt Alice was immediately down upon me, like a broad-winged vulture on an innocent dove. I see her white robe swirling about her as she swooped me up, and consigned me to a servant, to be put to bed in the middle of the afternoon. I dare say there was a bright scarlet line round my wretched little ankles, where the strings had cut into the tender flesh. I wonder I do not remember the relief of being freed from boots and frock; but that solace has passed into oblivion, and the memory of the pain alone survives.
"The time at last arrived for me to go home. I can recall no joy at the announcement or at the preparations for the return, and probably I was told nothing about it. The idea of giving me pleasure seemed to enter none of their heads or hearts. But I found myself in a carriage, on a wide seat,--so wide that my two feet were in plain sight, horizontally stuck out before me, at the edge of the cushion. By my side sat a stately gentleman, who was very grave and silent; and I looked up at him with awe. It was my uncle Edward; and, with the enthusiastic delight in perfect form that was born in me, I gazed at the noble outline of his face, the finely chiselled profile, so haughty and so delicate. I adored him because he was handsome, though he did not speak to me or seem aware of my presence. When the carriage stopped at a hotel for refreshment and rest, I was lifted out by a servant as black as ebony, and deposited on a sofa in the parlor, where cake and wine were placed on the table. I was well content with the golden cake so politely offered me by my uncle, as if I were a grown-up lady; but when he put a glass of wine into my hand, I did not drink, and was inclined to rebel. His commanding eye was upon me, however, so that I tried to taste it; but, choking and shuddering being the only consequence of my efforts, he kindly smiled and took it away, saying, 'You do not like wine, then?' These were the only words spoken during the whole journey; and I had no more voice to answer him than if I had been dumb. I wonder where children's voices go to, when reverence and love fill their hearts? They are often scolded for not speaking, when it is physically and morally impossible for them to do so. I had worshipped my uncle for his beauty, and now his gentleness made me love him with all the ardor of my nature. A smile and a kind word cause little loss to the giver, but what riches they often are to the recipient! My uncle's smile was pleasanter to me than the sunshine; and the next thing I remember is being perfectly happy with my mother."
The relations of Sophia Peabody and her mother were always of the tenderest and most intimate description; and one of the former's letters, written towards the close of the latter's life, bears eloquent and moving testimony to this fact. The two were in all respects worthy of each other. The three sons of the family--Wellington, George, and Nathaniel--were, like other boys, the occasion sometimes of anxiety and sometimes of pride to their parents and sisters. Wellington was a high-spirited youth, impulsive, a favorite among his fellows, at once generous and selfish, with a warm and affectionate heart. He was difficult to manage and control; and the severe, old-fashioned discipline to which his father subjected him seems to have done him little good. He and his brothers attended the Salem Latin School, and Wellington somewhat forfeited his father's confidence by his escapades. He was afterwards sent to college; but, in spite of his fine abilities, he was unable to complete his course there. It then became a problem what to do for him. He went to sea for a time; but in a few years he repented of his boyish follies, and went to the South to pursue a business career. Here however, just as his promise was becoming performance, he was attacked by yellow fever, and died. George, of a more sedate and solid character, had meanwhile been serving his apprenticeship at business, and was following it up with every prospect of success. He was an athletic and handsome youth, with a fine aquiline profile, and great charm of character and manner. About 1836 or 1837 he took part in a foot-race from Boston to Roxbury, in which he came in first, but at the cost of a strain which, though it was thought little of at first, ultimately cost him his life, by consumption of the spinal marrow; he died, after a long and wearying illness, patiently and heroically borne, in 1839. Nathaniel, the third son, with many fine gifts and an almost excessive conscientiousness, had not the qualities which command success. He married comparatively young, and adopted the calling of a homoeopathic pharmacist, and enjoyed the reputation of making the purest medicines in Boston. He died but a year or two since, leaving a widow and two daughters.
The foregoing information will put the reader in a position to understand what follows. Miss E. P. Peabody has kindly contributed the ensuing resume of the family annals up to about 1835:--
"The religious controversies that ended in changing all the old Puritan churches of Boston and Salem from Calvinism to Liberal and Unitarian Christianity, were raging in 1818, and divided all families. Some of our relatives became Calvinists; our own family, and especially our mother, who was very devout, remained Liberal. Sophia was an instance, if ever there was one in the world, of a child growing up full of the idea of God and the perfect man Jesus, and of the possibility as well as duty (but rather privilege than duty) of growing up innocent and forever improving, with the simple creed that everything that can happen to a human being is either for enjoyment in the present or instruction for the future; and that even our faults, and all our sufferings from others' faults, are means of development into new forms of good and beauty.
"When I was sixteen and Sophia eleven, I took my school in Lancaster in the house; and Mary and Sophia were among my scholars. They never went to any other school. I taught history as a chief study,--the History of the United States,--not in textbooks, but Miss Hannah Adams's History of New England, and Rollins's Ancient History, and Plutarch's Lives. Sophia was intensely interested, and liked to have in the recitations the part of comparing the heroes, that occurs in Plutarch, and summing up their heroic deeds, as occurs constantly in Rollins; and I remember with what enthusiasm she would do this. I remember she would give me accounts of a volume of Fawcett's sermons, which she read with great delight, 'not because it was Sunday,' I remember her saying, 'but because they were beautiful and sublime.'
"When the family went to Salem in 1828, they lived in a house near the water at the end of Court Street, and had to suffer many hardships. We had formerly, in 1812 and thereafter, lived in Union Street, very near Herbert Street. Sophia had been a very sick child on account of teething, and was made a life-long invalid by the heroic system of medicine which was then in vogue. After moving into this Court Street house, her headaches increased, and she became unable to bear the noise of knives and forks, and was obliged to take her food upstairs, and also often had to retreat in the evening when her three brothers were at home. They went to the Salem Latin School, and had terrible lessons under old Eames, who was a most severe master, flogging for mistakes in recitation; so that Mary, and Sophia when she could, would have them learn all their lessons perfectly and say them in the evening, so as to prevent those cruel punishments. M. Louvoisier, a Frenchman, taught Sophia French; he was a wonderful teacher, and required enormous study and writing of French, and carried her all through the classic facts of France, and much of the literature besides. In addition to this, and in spite of her suffering, she studied Italian, and, for the sake of learning to draw, she undertook to teach a little class of children in Miss Davis's school. Her drawing was so perfect that it looked like a model. But the exertion was too much for her, and she was thrown into a sickness from which she never rose into the possibility of so much exertion again; and a slight accident disabled her band, so that she could not draw. Shortly afterwards, she was invited down to Hallowell, to the Gardiners', whom she interested immensely. It was her first visit into the world, and her last for a long time; for she went home and grew worse.
"We afterwards moved to Boston; and the Boston physicians, one after another, tried their hands at curing her, and she went through courses of their poisons, each one bringing her to death's door, and leaving her less able to cope with the pain they did not reach. But the endurance of her physical constitution defied all the poisons of the materia medica,--mercury, arsenic, opium, hyoscyamus, and all. Her last allopathic physician was Dr. Walter Channing, who limited himself to fighting the pain without attempting a radical cure. He was a delightful friend; and during the four years she remained in Boston she enjoyed the élite of Boston society, who admired and loved her for the exquisite character she showed, and her unvarying sweetness. All these years her mother was her devoted nurse,--watching in the entries that no door should be shut hard, and so forth. Sophia was never without pain; but there were times when it was not so extreme but that she could read. She read Degerando, and translated it for me to read to my pupils; and Plato. Sometimes my scholars (I kept my school in the house) would go up to see her in her room; and the necessity of their keeping still so as not to disturb her was my means of governing my school, for they all spontaneously governed themselves for Sophia's sake. I never knew any human creature who had such sovereign power over everybody--grown or child--that came into her sweet and gracious presence. Her brothers reverenced and idolized her. She was for some years the single influence that tamed Ellery Channing.
"In 1830, when she was living on hyoscyamus, which did her less harm than any other drug, she was able to come downstairs occasionally and into the schoolroom on drawing-days; and one day--it was four years after the practice in drawing above-mentioned, during which time she had not touched a pencil--she undertook to copy a little pastoral landscape. After this she did a good deal of drawing. Then the painter Doughty came to Boston, and opened a school of painting. He gave the lessons by making his pupils look on while he was painting; and then they would take canvases and, in his absence, imitate what they had seen him do; and then he would come and paint some more on his picture: but he never explained anything, or answered questions. It occurred to me that Doughty might come and paint a picture in her sight, and I brought this about. She would lie on the bed, and he had his easel close by. Every day, in the interval of his lessons, she would imitate on another canvas what he had done. And her copy of his landscape was even better than the original, so that when they were displayed side by side, everybody guessed her copy to be the one that Doughty painted. She then, by herself, copied one of Salmon's sea-pieces perfectly, and did two or three pieces by coloring copies which she made from uncolored engravings. Then I succeeded in borrowing a highly finished landscape of Allston's, which she copied so perfectly that, being framed alike, when the two pictures were seen together, even Franklin Dexter did not at once know which was which. She sold all her pictures at good prices.
"At the end of our Boston residence, Sophia went to Lowell on a visit to her friends, Mr. and Mrs. Sam. Haven. She had been very much cast down at the idea of leaving Boston and all her interesting life there ; but it was a transient mood: she always met every event with victorious faith. After the Havens she visited Mrs. Rice's, where she painted a number of other pictures. While there, Mr. Allston, who had heard of her successful copy of his picture, went to see her, and began to speak of her going to Europe and devoting herself to art. She told him she was an invalid; and he then said that she ought to copy only masterpieces,--nothing second-rate. She said she had tried to get his Spanish Maiden to copy; but Mr. Clarke, its owner, had told her that Allston exacted a promise from those who purchased his pictures, never to permit them to be copied. At this Allston flushed with indignation, and said gentlemen had no right to make him partner of their meanness. He should be proud to have her copy everything he had painted, and he claimed no right over his pictures after he had sold them.
"Returning to Salem, Sophia was the sunshine in our house. Our mother was likewise in much better health than she had heretofore been, and this made Sophia very happy. In 1832 she and Mary went to Cuba; but it was not until the following August that the heat even of the tropics gave Sophia her first relief from the pain that, during twelve years, had never remitted entirely for one hour. They returned in the spring of 1835, but had a long, terrible voyage of storms and cold, which undid the good she had obtained and brought back her headaches."
In order that the reader may realize a little more clearly the nature of the family relations, and the manner in which the members of it regarded one another, I append passages from three letters written to Sophia by her mother during the year 1827-28.
MY DEAR SOPHIA,--We think that your stay at your aunt Tyler's must not exceed six weeks. She is kind, hospitable, and likes to see you enjoy yourself; but you have not health enough to make yourself useful in the family or in the school; and, besides, I must acknowledge that the kind and cheering tones of your voice and your mirth-inspiring laugh and affectionate smile would be cordials to me. As Nat expressively has it, "We feel desolate." You will have many delightful scenes to reflect upon, and many pleasant events to amuse and instruct your brothers with. You may make a visit of a week in Lancaster, if you leave Brattleborough seasonably; and that will lessen the fatigue of your journey home. The high state of excitement you are in is not exactly the thing for your head. I am delighted to see you alive to the simple pleasures of nature. That heart must be the least corrupt that can enjoy them most; but you enjoy too fervently for your strength. Come home now, and live awhile upon the past. Something, ere many months, must be planned out for your future support. To be independent, so far as money is concerned, of every one, is very desirable; of love and kind offices you may receive and give as liberally as you please. Do not let any considerations induce you to exceed much the time mentioned.
WELL, darling of my heart, how are you? Well enough to enjoy the delightful friends who have called you to their fireside? I want you to be happy, but I want you to find happiness a sober certainty; that is, I want you to remember that the millennium is not yet,--that the very best among us are fallible, very fallible beings. Admire and love with the whole warmth of your nature, but let the eye of prudence keep strict watch; hide it in the depths of your heart, lest the evil-minded call it suspicion, but never let it go from you. It will preserve you from bitter heartaches, for it will tell you that you must be prepared to meet, to guard against, and to forgive errors, nay, even faults, in the highest and noblest characters. It will tell you that the most disinterested are sometimes selfish, and suffer themselves to enjoy the present without reflecting whether or not evil may result to those they most value, from this selfish indulgence. It will tell you that the love which settles down on the household circle, though more quiet, is deeper, steadier, more efficient, than any other love. Sickness never wearies it; it forgives waywardness; it hopes all things;--I had almost said that crime, even, only draws the wanderer closer to hearts that watched over the days of innocence,--and I may say it, for so it would he with me. But to preach a sermon was not my intention; though when I think of your vivid imagination, your confiding affection, your admiration of excellence, and your instinctive shrinking from the idea that those you love, and who really have such claims upon your love, can err in judgment, can misinterpret your high-minded and pure actions, looks, and words,--when I think of your sensitive nature, your shattered nerves, your precarious health,--can I do less than long, by precept upon precept, by caution upon caution, to try to induce you to arm yourself at all points against disappointment, or, rather, to prevent disappointment by thinking more soberly of the good among us, by remembering that as yet there are no unmixed characters on earth? I never shall forget the heartache I one day had, when Elizabeth came from Squire Savage's, whither she had gone with a heart glowing, to seek sympathy on some subject, and met a cold reception, that sent her home bathed in tears. I would shield you from this by telling you that every individual has absorbing interests known to no other mind, and, without the least abatement of affection, may be unprepared to meet your affectionate greetings with sympathy. You have experienced this, for I have seen your lip quiver at this apparent coldness in not very intimate friends (Mr. Gardner, for instance). Since you are thus constituted, and since you have no physical strength, gird up the loins of your mind,--be strong in faith,--be candid,--anchor your soul on domestic love, at the same time that you open your warm, affectionate heart to receive the kindness and love of the excellent of the earth, to whom your kindred nature attaches you; never forgetting that they may speak harshly, look coldly, censure what you do with the purest intentions, and yet have a deep and strong affection for you, and even admiration. Such is man, and must be, while we all do and say wrong and ill-judged things. . .
MY DARLING,--How can I, how can any of us, be grateful enough for the peace of mind, the just views, the exalted feelings, with which you are blessed! If anything could be added to the high and holy motives for perseverance in duty, it would be the power given to you thus to support years of pain. My beloved child, your mother feels it all deeply; and, as the still more afflicted Mrs. Prescott said to me a few days since, " we live for our dear invalids; our happiness is to devote time and talents for their comfort."
Dear Wellington, my heart aches for him. But God is his Father too; and it may be, indeed it must be, that all will tend to his perfection at last. If he were callous, if he cared not for the good or ill opinion of his friends, I should despair. But while I see him so sensitive, while I see the tears flow at the idea that his father and sisters have no confidence in him, I hope all things. Cannot you write to your father, and state the expediency of expressing more hope of Wellington's future conduct ? His last interview with him was painful,--he again told him that he expected he would be expelled from college. The poor boy felt heart-stricken. I doubt not your father's motives, but I know he has no knowledge of human nature; and if Wellington is not better managed, he will be driven from society, or, what is still worse, seek happiness away from home, in reckless dissipation. It is almost cruel to trouble your poor head by such a request; but really, dear, I believe you may be an instrument of much good, and that will reward you. Wellington was nurtured in the most agonized period of my life; and I solemnly believe that the state of the mother's mind, while nursing, has an essential effect on the character of the child. Elizabeth has the firmest constitution; and she was born and nursed while my heart was at rest, and my hopes all of happiness.
The visit to Cuba, referred to in Miss E. P. Peabody's communication, was the occasion of a series of letters which were afterwards bound together in a manuscript volume, and which give a vivid and delightful picture of life on a plantation there fifty years ago. Justice could hardly be done to these letters by quotations, however, and they are too voluminous to be printed here entire. The Cuban experiences, as related by Mrs. Hawthorne, were of inexhaustible interest to her children; she had the faculty of seizing upon the picturesque or humorous side of an occurrence, and bringing it memorably before the mind. The voyage was made in a small sailing-vessel, and lasted some weeks. Miss Sophia was at first a victim to seasickness, but felt better as long as she could remain in sight of the horizon line; and she was therefore furnished with a sort of bed on the deck, where she lay whenever the weather permitted. One day, when she was feeling very badly, she told the captain that she thought, if a rope could be made fast to the mainmast, and the other end placed in her hands, so that she could raise herself up by it, she would be cured. The captain laughed at this novel prescription; but, being an amiable gentleman, and very courteous to ladies, he consented to let the experiment be tried. It was done accordingly; Miss Sophia raised herself from her sick-bed, and, to every one's surprise, never afterwards suffered from the malady. The captain declared that he would henceforth recommend the rope's end to all his patients but whether its exhibition was attended with the same good results in other cases, I know not.
There was a sow on board the vessel, and during the voyage she gave birth to a litter. Among the passengers was a stout French lady, much addicted to gormandizing; and she pursued the captain with persistent entreaties to have "yon leetle pig" for dinner. At length he consented, and, much to her delight, one of the infant swine was killed and roasted. She appeared at the dinner-table attired in a rich silk dress, in honor of the occasion; the captain sat at the head of the table, and her place was at his right hand. It happened that a stiff breeze had arisen, and the ship was pitching very heavily. As the captain raised the carving-knife to begin upon the pig, the latter, impelled by a sudden lurch of the vessel, rose lightly from its dish, and, all streaming with gravy as it was, alighted plump in the French lady's silken lap. She screamed; and the captain, laying down his knife, said gravely, with a courteous wave of the hand, "Madame, you have your leetle pig!" And it is on record that she devoured the whole of it, but never asked for another.
Arrived at the plantation, Miss Sophia was able to indulge to her heart's content in her favorite exercise of horseback-riding. The time for her excursions was in the early dawn, while the sun was still below, or only just above, the cloudless tropical horizon. She rode down long avenues of orange-trees, plucking and eating the fruit as she passed beneath. In Cuba, only the sunny side of the orange is eaten, the rest is thrown away; and even the negroes will not deign to pick up the fruit that has fallen from the branches. Ladies in Cuba ride--or, at that epoch, they rode--in a saddle something like a basket; it was very easy, and admitted of their standing up in it, if necessary, but, on the other hand, it allowed them comparatively little firmness of seat. One morning Miss Sophia had sallied forth as usual, on a horse which she especially affected,--a noble and beautiful animal, but extremely sensitive. At length she came to an orange-tree where there was a particularly fine orange, hanging from a lofty bough. She reined in her horse, and, finding it impossible to reach the orange as she sat, she stood up in the basket and grasped the bough. At that moment the horse, whether startled at something or unmindful of the situation, moved gently forward, leaving his rider, like some strange fruit, suspended in the air. Having placed her in this predicament, he turned his head and contemplated her with a most sympathetic and compassionate expression, as if he would have given worlds to relieve her from her embarrassment, but was at a loss how to do so. After hanging as long as was reasonable, she was forced to drop a considerable distance to the ground; and I forget how the adventure ended, but I think a servant came up and reinstated her in the saddle.
One evening, when a number of ladies and gentlemen were assembled in the drawing-room of the planter (Mr. Morrell), one of the ladies expressed a desire to see a scorpion. Mr. Morrell sent one of his slaves to bring one in a bucket. The slave in question had been chastised, by his master's orders, some time before, and seems to have harbored resentment. At all events, he came hack with his bucket brimming full of live scorpions, and turned them out upon the polished floor. Hereupon ensued much outcry and consternation, and climbing upon chairs and sofas; and luckily no one was hurt,--except the slave, who caught another whipping. But he probably laid it to the account of profit and loss, and was sullenly content.
This, however, must be the limit of the Cuban reminiscences, which would make a delightful little volume by themselves. The concluding pages of this chapter shall be devoted to extracts from a journal written in the autumn of 1830 (two years previous to the above tropical experiences), at a country retreat near Salem. It is good reading in itself, and exhibits much of the writer's character and mental habits, though out of the sixty or more pages only some half-dozen are given. The Havens referred to, were a Mr. Samuel Haven, a Salem lawyer and his young wife,--intimate and dear friends of Miss Sophia and her family.
"The Lord is in His holy temple
Let the earth keep silence before Him."
DEDHAM, August to October, 1830. --Here I am in the holy country, alone with the trees and birds,--my first retreat into solitude. The day has been perfectly beautiful; and my ride out was delightful, save and except the grasp of the iron hand upon my poor brain, which was more excruciating than almost ever. It is not any better yet, but I hope to-morrow for relief in a degree. I have been reading a part of Addison's critique upon Milton to-day, and since have endeavored to master two or three of Degerando's first chapters. I feel quite independent of all things when I am reading this book. The Havens drove over to see me, and to make sure that I was comfortable in my new abode; and while they were here, I made a discovery that turned my heart quite over. It was, of the River! --the merest glimpse, but still a glimpse; and now I am satisfied with my view. I have hill, vale, forest, plain, almost mountain, and River,--a sweep of sky and earth. . . My landlady came up after tea, and indulged her Yankee curiosity by finding out where I lived, how many sisters I had, etc. I cannot sympathize with such idle curiosity, but I answered her questions. Then there was an amusing little incident under my window. I heard a boy's voice saying, "Give me every one of those peaches, or go into the house, - one or t' other, come!" The other boy began to cry, "Cry yourself to death, if you 're mind to; but give me those peaches, or go into the house." "I don't want to go into the house," stammered the other; "I got some on t' other side,--all them in my hat, I got t' other side." "Come," replied the first, "you need n't lie so, you must give me the peaches, and mind and not steal." The other cried the more violently. "Cry away,--but be quiet: I must have them." Here the little thief proceeded to empty his pockets of dozens of stolen peaches, crying, and insisting all the while that he got those in his hat "on t'other side." The first boy begged him not to lie so, and kept his hand extended for the fruit. He emptied his pockets, and then began upon his hat very reluctantly. The first boy softened as he came to the last, and told him he might "keep those." Another little urchin was present at the scene, and every time the culprit said he got those in his hat "on t' other side," he exclaimed, "Well, that's all the same,--it's stealing just as much, ain't it, Joe?"
Last night I jumped up once or twice to see how the moonlight went on, for it looked too spiritually fair to leave. I dreamed that George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, stabbed me in the bosom; and I awoke with a tremendous start, and trembled for an hour. It was because I had been reading Shakspeare, I suppose. The moon rose, and conquered the clouds, and became again enveloped, but tingeing them so magically that you could hardly wish her free. Once the queen became embedded in a mass of fleecy clouds, and around her spread the brightest halo of a pale crimson, softened gradually into white; and the heavens seemed wrinkled,--furrowed. In the east rose fiery Mars, uncommonly red and large, because, I suppose, France is going to declare war; and a snowy wreath of mist told where Wiggam Pond wound itself among the meadows. This morning the world is full of wind; and I have been reading the Bible and Fénelon. I cannot understand the Lesser Prophets, and do believe they are translated very unintelligibly.
Rain and clouds. I read Degerando, Feénelon, St Luke and Isaiah, Young, the Spectator, and Shakspeare's "Comedy of Errors," "Taming of the Shrew," "All's Well that Ends Well," and "Love's Labor's Lost," besides doing some sewing, to-day. No Havens came. .
"Clouds, and ever-during dark." Last night, mid. night, I was wakened by a tremendous crash of thunder; and I went to sleep again to dream of all kinds of horrors. But at two o'clock this afternoon, ye Powers, what did I see? A blue space in the heavens! Even so. My heart gave such a bound towards it, that I verily thought it had forever left my body desolate. About five came Samuel Haven; and while he was here, the Sun's most excellent Majesty actually threw out a glance of fire over the hills and vales, and the clouds began to wear marvellous beauty. And how nature did rejoice from the past deluge! One cannot but sympathize with such visible delight, - audible, too. Oh, how much I do enjoy here! . . .
A day without a cloud! The dewy freshness and life of this sweet prospect were reviving. My whole inward being was in a wilderness of melody as I gazed. I fed upon the air. But let me tell of the sun-rising. When I first opened my eyes, I found the eastern and northern horizon blushing deeply at the coming glory. Just above the soft orange and celestial green lay a long, heavy cloud, which I knew would become illuminated very soon. I had a short nap between, and dreamed of watching a sunrise, and that the sky was covered with clouds shaped like coffins! When I awoke, I could not help shouting. That dun mass was a magnificent pile of wrought gold and amethyst, fretted, quivering, gorgeous. The east looked like a wreck of precious stones, only the dyes were not of earth. Below, deep orange and that tender green melted into one another; just above, rolled out this dazzling fold of unimaginable glory, and, higher still, floated soft fleecy clouds in the pale, infinite azure. Not the slightest shroud of mist lay upon anything. As soon as the Sun's crowned head rose up (and I watched it rise), it seemed as if myriads of diamonds were at that moment flung upon the earth, for the dew-drops each reflected the smile of the mighty Alchemist. Truly he turns everything into gold!
My pain clung to me like a faithful friend; but I made up my mind to walk to Havenwood and surprise them all. So, at one, I began my journey. I felt so grand and elated, as I found myself actually on the way, that I could not help laughing to myself. I went quite fast, because it was cool, and, slyly entering the avenue gate, burst upon the family, all unforeseen. They were duly astonished, and seemed glad to see me. . . . I have been reading Combe; I admire the book exceedingly, and feel very much inclined to believe in Phrenology Just before five, the beauty of the scene outdoors so worked upon me that, unwilling as my body was, Ideality led me out. I went to my noble wood, where the shadows were overwhelmingly beautiful. At a corner of the road I found a cedar that had been felled, and I stopped and sung a requiem over it after this fashion, "It is a shame--abominable--wicked!" I came home and read Combe, and manufactured a terrific headache; and just then Lydia came in, and her hurried manner so completed the discumgarigumfrigation of my wits that she said I looked perfectly crazy, and so I felt. She wanted me to come the next day and see old Mr. and Mrs. Howes; and at the appointed time we walked to their most picturesque and convenient cottage. They are two patriarchs, of unsullied simplicity and purity. We found them in the midst of exquisite neatness. The old man, originally tall, was now bowed and thin, obliged to walk with crutches, his venerable head nearly bald, only a few gray locks lying on his shoulders; his face was placid as an infant's. He was dressed in primitive style,--small-clothes and buckled shoes,--with perfect nicety. But the old lady called upon my admiration, as well as respect and love. There was an ease, dignity, and graciousness in her air and manner that might become a queen. The majesty of spotless virtue gave it to her. Her large eyes were full and tender and bright, and her whole countenance had an open, beaming expression or benevolence and sweetness which melted my whole heart. They both and she especially were once remarkable for personal beauty. Hers must have been captivating, since age and the smallpox have not obliterated it; but nothing could obliterate such a divine expression,--for what is it but the soul looking out of its prison-house? How my heart bows down before the virtuous old and the innocent young! There is a sympathy in the emotions. She is very lame, but there is nothing infirm or feeble in her appearance. Her strong and sweet spirit sits enthroned above decay. When we left them, I instinctively went to the old man and took his hand, feeling as if I had always known him; and he gently pressed it with a smile and a broken "Good-by,--I hope ye'll get better." "God bless you!" was on my lips, but unuttered. I took her hand, and she cordially shook mine, and said with such grace and so affectionately that she hoped I should be benefited by the country, that I was in a confusion of the purest pleasure. I left them with a lesson learned that I shall not soon forget,--a good lesson to be learned on my birthday. .
In the evening we all went over to see the new Court House by moonlight. Just as we were near it, I called to Kate to tell her of a little circumstance about Dr. Boyle, when Sam said he was immediately behind us My very heart stopped beating; and I felt at once all my wrongfulness, my want of thought and delicacy and consideration. All my happiness faded, and tears thronged to my eyes, remorse to my heart. But I believe Sam was mistaken, and that it was Judge Ware instead of Dr. Boyle. This comforted me only as it spared him. My trouble was the same. O Heaven! how hard it is to follow the straight and narrow way that leads to Life Eternal! I never can forget this warning.
. . . Sam Haven told us to-day about a Mr. Lovering, a most singular being. He thought it was of great importance to REFLECT, and so set about systematically to cultivate his reflection; and whenever the simplest question was proffered to him, he would immediately wrinkle his brow and screw up his eyes and shake his head, in the agony of exercising his whole powers of reflection. I have written a long letter to Miss Loring this evening, with the moon all the while in my face. This is revelry!