Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume I
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
Boyhood and Bachelorhood
BEFORE going further, it will be necessary to examine the epistolary records which cover the period (between 1830 and 1837) during which Hawthorne began to become known as a man of letters. There are numerous communications from Goodrich and other publishers, and from Hawthorne's college friends, Horace Bridge, Franklin Pierce, and Cilley. They have reference to his early contributions to the "Token," the "Knickerbocker," and other periodicals; to his connection with the "Boston Bewick Company's Magazine" (which became insolvent), to a scheme of joining a South Polar expedition in the capacity of historian, and various incidental matters. The letters sufficiently explain themselves, and will be given in the order of their dates, without further comment.
HARTFORD, CONN., Jan. 19, 1830.
DEAR SIR,--I brought the MSS. which you sent me to this place, where I am spending a few weeks. I have read them with great pleasure. "The Gentle Boy" and "My Uncle Molineaux" I liked particularly; about "Alice Doane" I should be more doubtful as to the public approbation. On my return to Boston in April, I will use my influence to induce a publisher to take hold of the work, who will give it a fair chance of success. Had "Fanshawe" been in the hands of more extensive dealers, I do believe it would have paid you a profit. As a practical evidence of my opinion of the uncommon merit of these tales, I offer you $35 for the privilege of inserting "The Gentle Boy" in the "Token," and you shall be at liberty to publish it with your collection, provided it does not appear before the publication of the "Token." In this case I shall return "Roger Malvin's BuriaL" I will retain the MS. till your reply, which please address to this place.
Respectfully, S. G. GOODRICH.
BOSTON, May 31, 1831.
DEAR SIR,--I have made very liberal use of the privilege you gave me as to the insertion of your pieces in the "Token." I have already inserted four of them; namely, "The Wives of the Dead," "Roger Malvin's Burial," "Major Molineaux," and "The Gentle Boy." As they are anonymous, no objection arises from having so many pages by one author, particularly as they are as good, if not better, than anything else I get. My estimate of the pieces is sufficiently evinced by the use I have made of them, and I cannot doubt that the public will coincide with me.
S. G. GOODRICH
NEW YORK, Jan. 4, 1836.
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, Esq.
MY DEAR SIR,--I have only to-day found time to thank you for your truly beautiful article, "The Fountain of Youth," in the current number of the "Knickerbocker." I have rarely read anything which delighted me more. The style is excellent, and the keeping of the whole excellent. We should be glad to hear from you as often as your leisure will permit you to write; and you will please inform "Clark and Edson" when you desire the quid pro quo.
Among our contributions for next month will be a poem of forty stanzas by Robert Southey, that will make you laugh, I think; and other articles by Professor Wolff of Jena University, Mr. Galt, and Wordsworth. If you have a paper by you that we might have for the February number, it would appear among foreign and exotic plants of a good order.
Very truly, and with high regard,
S. GAYLORD CLARK.
HAVANNAH, Feb. 20, 1836.
DEAR HAWTHORNE,--It is now ten days since I received your letter in the country near Matanzas. Nothing has given me so much pleasure for many a day as the intelligence concerning your late engagement in active and responsible business. I have always known that whenever you should exert your self in earnest, that you could command respectability and independence and fame. As for your present situation, I do not regard it so much in itself--though it seems tolerably good to begin with--as I do for its being the introduction to other and better employment. Besides, it is no small point gained to get you out of Salem. Independently of the fact about "the prophet," etc., there is a peculiar dulness about Salem,--a heavy atmosphere which no literary man can breathe. You are now fairly embarked with the other literary men, and if you can't sail with any other, I'll be d----d. I hope you will write for the "New York Mirror." It has a great circulation, and its editor is a man of influence and standing in the literary world, although in my judgment he is not very deep. His good opinion will be of service to you. I am writing with my coat and hat off, doors and windows open, and mosquitoes biting my feet. My letter is neither long nor neat; such as it is, though, it is probably worth the postage.
With best wishes for your success and happiness, I am
Yours truly, HORACE BRIDGE.
WASHINGTON, March 5, 1836.
DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I could make a very tolerable apology for this long delay in answering your letter, but as they are usually unsatisfactory, as they sometimes are insincere, we will if you please dispense with them altogether. I was, as you supposed, trying to effect a negotiation with Blair at the time your letter was received; but I doubt whether I should have succeeded in accomplishing anything that would have been either agreeable or advantageous to you. And I congratulate you sincerely upon your installation in the editorial chair of the "American Magazine." I hope you will find your situation both pleasant and profitable. I wish you to enter my name as a subscriber to the magazine. Where do you board, and where is your office? I may be at Boston in three or four weeks, and I shall have no time to search out locations. If you do not write to me soon, Hath, I will never write a puff of the "American Magazine," or say a clever thing of its editor.
Ever and faithfully your friend,
AUGUSTA, May 14, 1836.
AM I not virtuous to-day? have I not refused an invitation to play cards with some friends, thereby compelling them to play each per se? This shows what a good effect your letter had upon my morals. But, after all, the worst accusation I can make against myself is that I have no settled plan of existence, even now, at the age of thirty. Meantime I keep my heart as warm and kindly as possible, and am happy enough in the friendship of a goodly number of warm and indulgent friends.
I have read the April number of your journal, and like it well. The other, which you say is best, has not come yet. There must be a great deal of labor necessary to conduct it, and I rejoice that you bear it so well. I fear that you may tire of your present situation too soon; but I think there is no danger of your wanting literary employment long in future. You are in for it, and are known. Goodrich has opened a heavy fire upon P. Benjamin, I see. I am glad that it is not you, and yet I should like to see you thoroughly angry and pouring it into that same fellow. I find that the Mill Dam is going on famously. From present appearances I shall be obliged to invest some twenty thousand dollars. You must publish an article descriptive of this work, when it is finished.
I shall try your advice with regard to the women some time when I am away from here, though I shall make a poor hand of it most certainly. I sometimes think seriously of matrimony for ten minutes together, and should perhaps perpetrate it if I did not like myself too well. My morals have improved exceedingly in the past year; your advice in a former letter was very efficient in this improvement, and Helen J-----'s fate has confirmed me. I take advice from you kindly. It seems divested of the presumption and intermeddling spirit with which advice is usually tinctured. I am a vain man, and a proud one; and I would spurn with scorn the interference of any one whom I suspected of giving me advice with any other than the most friendly feelings. But when I am sure of the purity and kindness of motive that dictates the advice of a real friend, I can and do feel grateful. But a little wickedness will not hurt one, especially if the sinner be of a retiring disposition. It stirs one up. and makes him like the rest of the world.
And now good-by to you till we meet, which I trust will be soon. By the way, I wish you would inquire of Earle, the tailor, if he has sent my clothes. I want them very much.
BOSTON, June 3, 1836.
DEAR Sir,--Yours of this date is at hand. In answer to your wish that the Company would pay you some money soon, I would say it is impossible to do so just now, as the Company have made an assignment of their property to Mr. Samuel Blake, Esq., for the benefit of their creditors. They were compelled to this course by the tightness of the money market, and losses which they had sustained. We would like to have you, when in the city, sign the assignment. We shall continue the magazine to the end of the volume. Your bills from the 27th May will be settled by the assignee promptly.
GEORGE A. CURTIS,
For Samuel Blake, assignee of B. Bewick Co.
BOSTON, Sept. 23, 1836.
DEAR SIR,--Your letter and the two folios of Universal History were received some days ago. I like the History pretty well,--I shall make it do,--I have requested Mr. Curtis to make you the earliest possible remittance. The "Token" is out; the publisher owes you $108 for what you have written,--shall it be sent to you? I shall want three or four sketches from you for the next volume, if you can finish them.
Yours, S. G. GOODRICH.
N. HAWTHORNE, Esq., Salem, Mass.
AUGUSTA, Sept. 25, 1836.
DEAR HATHORNE,--The "Token" is out, and I suppose you are getting your book ready for publication. What is the plan of operations? who the publishers, and when the time that you will be known by name as well as your writings are? I hope to God that you will put your name upon the title-page, and come before the world at once and on your own responsibility. You could not fail to make a noise and an honorable name, and something besides.
I've been thinking how singularly you stand among the writers of the day; known by name to very few, and yet your writings admired more than any others with which they are ushered forth. One reason of this is that you scatter your strength by fighting under various banners. In the same book you appear as the author of "The Gentle Boy," the author of "The Wedding Knell," "Sights from a Steeple," and, besides, throw out two or three articles with no allusion to the author, as in the case of "David Snow," and "The Prophetic Pictures," which I take to be yours. Your articles in the last "Token" alone are enough to give you a respectable name, if you were known as their author. But you must be aware of the necessity of coming out as you are, and have probably made some arrangements about the matter. I thought of writing a notice of the "Token;" and naming you as the author of several articles, with some candid remarks upon your merits as a writer. Would you have any objection to this? If not, I will do it.
I went to Boston this week, and saw Mrs. Fessenden, who told me that you were in Salem and had been since last winter; that you had taken your farewell in the last number of the magazine (which by the way does not come to me), and that the magazine had been sold out to some one who is to edit it. Who is it? Write me soon if it will not interfere with your book that is to come out. Don't flinch, nor delay to publish. Should there be any trouble in a pecuniary way with the publishers, let me know, and I can and will raise the needful with great pleasure.
AUGUSTA, Oct. 16, 1886.
DEAR HATH,--I have a thousand things to say to you, but can't say more than a hundredth part of them. You have the blues again. Don't give up to them, for God's sake and your own and mine and everybody's. Brighter days will come, and that within six months. It is lucky you didn't quarrel with Goodrich, he being a practical man who can serve you.
I should have been rejoiced to have been at Fresh Pond with you and Frank Pierce, and think I should have done honor to the good cheer. He is an honorable man, that Frank, and of kind feelings; and I rejoice that he likes me.
By all means cultivate the "Knickerbocker;" and I should think it good policy to write for the "New York Mirror," though it is rather of the namby-pamby order. See what I have written for the "Boston Post," and tell me is it best to send it: "It is a singular fact that of the few American writers by profession, one of the very best is a gentleman whose name has never yet been made public, though his writings are extensively and favorably known. We refer to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Esq., of Salem, the author of 'The Gentle Boy,' 'The Gray Champion,' etc., etc., all productions of high merit, which have appeared in the annuals and magazines of the last three or four years. Liberally educated, but bred to no profession, he has devoted himself exclusively to literary pursuits, with an ardor and success which will ere long give him a high place among the scholars of this country. His style is classical and pure; his imagination exceedingly delicate and fanciful, and through all his writings there runs a vein of sweetest poetry. Perhaps we have no writer so deeply imbued with the early literature of America, or who can so well portray the times and manners of the Puritans. Hitherto, Mr. Hawthorne has published no work of magnitude; but it is to be hoped that one who has shown such unequivocal evidence of talent will soon give to the world some production which shall place him in a higher rank than can be attained by one whose efforts are confined to the sphere of magazines and annuals." This is not satisfactory by any means, and yet it may answer the purpose of attracting attention to your book when it comes out. It is not what I wish it was, nor can I make it so.
Yours ever, H. BRIDGE.
NEW YORK, Oct. 17, 1836.
DEAR SIR,--In the midst of the "tempest and I may say whirlwind" of avocations, I have only time to say that I shall be glad to hear from you as soon as you can, agreeably to yourself, favor us with anything from your pen, and that I shall never heed postage in your case. In all cases, therefore, please send communications by mail.
Very truly, etc.,
S. GAYLORD CLARK.
NATH. HAWTHORNE, Esq.
AUGUSTA, Oct. 22, 1836.
DEAR HATH,--I have just received your last, and do not like its tone at all. There is a kind of desperate coolness in it that seems dangerous. I fear that you are too good a subject for suicide, and that some day you will end your mortal woes on your own responsibility. However, I wish you to refrain till next Thursday, when I shall be in Boston, Deo volente. I am not in a very good mood myself just now, and am certainly unfit to write or think. Be sure and come to meet me in Boston.
Yours truly, H. BRIDGE.
BOSTON, Nov. 7, 1836.
DEAR SIR,--I have seen Mr. Howes, who says he can give a definite answer Saturday. When I get it, I will communicate it to you. He seems pretty confident that he shall make the arrangement with a man who has capital, and will edit the book. I think your selection of the tales nearly right. Suppose you say, for title, "The Gray Champion, and other Tales, by N. H."
Yours truly, S. G. GOODRICH.
N. HAWTHORNE, Esq.
AUGUSTA, Nov. 17, 1886.
DEAR HATH,--Have you obtained the magazine again? How does the book come on? I am anxious to see the effect it will produce, though nothing doubting of its success. I fear you will hurt your self by puffing Goodrich undeservedly,--for there is no doubt in my mind of his selfishness in regard to your work and yourself. I am perfectly aware that he has taken a good deal of interest in you, but when did he ever do anything for you without a quid pro quo? The magazine was given to you for $100 less than it should have been. The "Token" was saved by your writing. What compensation you received I do not know,--probably the same with the others. And now he proposes to publish your book because he thinks it will be honorable and lucrative to he your publisher now and hereafter, and perhaps because he dares not lose your aid in the "Token." Unless you are already committed, do not mar the prospects of your first book by hoisting Goodrich into favor.
On the " 15th November, 1836," I opened the package so long since sealed, and forthwith notified Cilley that he had lost the bet, sending him also a copy of it, and of the agreement to pay within a month. I think you will hear from him soon, and that he will pay promptly. He is a candidate for Congress, and would not like his Democratic friends at the seat of governinent to think him dishonorable. By all means accept the wine if he sends it. He is able to pay, and would have exacted it if you had lost. I think the odds were decidedly against you. It is doubtful whether to rejoice or be sad at the result. Anyhow, I hope to taste the liquor.
Yours ever, H. BRIDGE.
THOMASTON, Nov. 17, 1836
FRIEND HATHORNE,--I have this day received a letter from our classmate, Horace Bridge, containing copies of a matrimonial wager made by us and left with him twelve years ago last Monday. "Tempus fugit." Now to the question. Have I won or lost? Are you single or double ? Were you, on the fourteenth day of November last past, and to the uttermost limits of said day, double or single? or hast thou, since the day and date above-named, ever tasted the bliss of double-trouble blessedness? Please answer truly and 'pon honor, as you love "the best old Madeira wine." I see, by the articles signed and scaled, that one month's grace is allowed the loser.
Bridge informs me that "you are about to publish a book, and are coming into repute as a writer very fast." I am gratified to hear it; but just now it would have pleased me more to have heard that you were about to become the author and father of a legitimate and well-begotten boy than book. What! suffer twelve years to pass away, and no wife, no children, to soothe your care, make you happy, and call you blessed. Why, in that time I have begotten sons and daughters to the number of half a dozen, more or less; though I mourn that some of them are not. Peace be with them!
Now you are indeed a writer of great repute, and soon to be the author of a book. I did not mistake your vein in that particular, if I did in the line matrimonial. Damn that barrel of old Madeira: who cares if I have lost it! If only you and Frank Pierce and Joe Drummer and Sam Boyd and Bridge and Bill Hale were together with me, we would have a regular drunk, as my chum in college used to call it, on that same barrel of wine.
What sort of a book have you written, Hath? I hope and pray it is nothing like the damned ranting stuff of John Neal, which you, while at Brunswick, relished so highly. Send me a copy, and I'll review it for you. If I can't make a book, my partisan friends call me good at a political harangue or stump speech. Don't turn up your aristocratic nose, for it is a pathway to fame and honor, as well as the course you have marked out, and attended with more stimulus, noise, and clatter, if not eclat, than that of a book author and writer for immortality, who bides himself from his own generation in a study or garret, and neglects in the spring-time of life to plant and maintain that posterity to which he looks for praise and commendation.
Don't fail to send me your hook, on pain of my not paying the barrel of wine. Is it a novel or poem?--has it a moral or religious tendency? If not, Cheever will be down upon it in the "Review." I have no doubt it will be good. but I assure you I'll find fault with it if I can.
I am, dear sir, very truly
Your obedient servant,
Mr. NATH. HATHORNE.
BOSTON, Dec. 12, 1836.
DEAR SIR,--Owing to peculiar circumstances, we shall not be able to engage a good printer on your book till next week. I thought it best to drop you a line to this effect, that you might not think it unreasonably delayed or neglected.
J. B. RUSSELL.
N. HAWTHORNE, Esq.
BOSTON, Dec. 13, 1836.
DEAR SIR,--I will with pleasure supply the copies of the "Token" for the edition of the Tales. I believe the work is to go forward next week.
If you are disposed to write a volume of six hundred small l2mo pages on the manner, customs, and civilities of all countries,--for $300, I could probably arrange it with you. I should want a mere compilation from books that I would furnish. It might be commenced immediately. Let me know your views. It would go in old Parley's name.
Yours in haste,
S. G. GOODRICH.
AUGUSTA, Dec. 25, 1836.
DEAR HAWTHORNE,--On this Christmas day and Sunday I am writing up my letters. Yours comes first. I am sorry that you didn't get the magazine; because you wanted it, not that I think it very important to you. You will have the more time for your book. I rejoice that you have determined to leave Goodrich to his fate. I do not like him. Whether your book will sell extensively may be doubtful, but that is of small importance in the first book you publish. At all events, keep up your spirits till the result is ascertained; and my word for it, there is more honor and emolument in store for you from your writings than you imagine. The bane of your life has been self-distrust. This has kept you back for many years, which, if you had improved by publishing, would have long ago given you what you must now wait a short time for. It may be for the best, but I doubt it.
I have been trying to think what you are so miserable for. Although you have not much property, you have good health and powers of writing, which have made and can still make you independent. Suppose you get but $300 per annum for your writings. You can with economy live upon that, though it would he a d----d tight squeeze. You have no family dependent on you, and why should you "borrow trouble"? This is taking the worst view of your case that it can possibly bear. It seems to me that you never look at the bright side with any hope or confidence. It is not the philosophy to make one happy. I expect next summer to be full of money, a part of which shall be heartily at your service if it comes. I doubt whether you ever get your wine from Cilley. His inquiring of you whether he had really lost the bet is suspicious; and he has written me in a manner inconsistent with an intention of paying promptly; and if a bet grows old it grows cold. He wished me to propose to you to have it paid at Brunswick next Commencement, and to have as many of our classmates as could be mustered to drink it. Though a bet of wine, it does not seem to me like a bet of a bottle or a gallon even, which are to be drunk by all concerned. A bet of a barrel can only be intended for the individual's use who wins. It may be Cilley's idea to pay over the balance after taking a strong pull at it; if so, it is well enough. But still it should be tendered within the month. Cilley says to me that if you answer his interrogatories satisfactorily, he shall hand over the barrel of old Madeira.
And so Frank Pierce is elected Senator. There is an instance of what a man can do for himself by trying. With no very remarkable talents, he, at the age of thirty-four, fills one of the highest stations in the nation. He is a good fellow, and I rejoice at his success. He can do something for you perhaps. The inclination he certainly has. Have you heard from him lately?
AUGUSTA, Feb. 1, 1837.
DEAR HAWTHORNE,--The Legislature is here in session. I have not met Cilley yet, but probably shall in a week or two, his election coming on again February 6; and of course he will come here immediately after. The probability is that he will be successful this third time.
So your book is in press, and will soon be out. Thank God that the plunge will be made at last. I am sure it will be for good. It is a good omen that you and Park Benjamin are reconciled, though I should fear to trust him or Goodrich, particularly the last. I believe them both selfish and unscrupulous.
I coincide perfectly with you touching the disparity of profit between a writer's labor and a publisher's. It is hard that you should do so much and receive so little for the 'Token." You say an editorship would save you. I tell you that within six months you may have an editorship in any magazine in the country if you wish it. I wish to God that I could impart to you a little of my own brass. You would dash into the contest of literary men, and do honor to yourself and country in a short time. But you never will have confidence enough in your self, though you will have fame. You must send Frank Pierce a copy of your book by mail. He will have no postage to pay, and will be gratified. Frank's whole energies have been exerted for years in building up himself and with surprising success. Hence he has not been able to think or act for others, as be would have done had he been less engrossed with self. And yet I do not think him a selfish man. He has been. in a measure, driven forward by circumstances, and obliged to obey his destiny. He will be a good friend to you.
By next fall you and I will both have settled our destiny in no small degree. Write soon.
Yours truly, HORACE.
BOSTON, Feb. 9, 1837.
MY DEAR SIR,--If you have any articles written for the "Token," I should be glad to get them soon, as I am about putting the work into the hands of the printers. The "Twice-Told Tales" will be ready for the public eye in about ten days. It will be a handsome book,--as to the interior, I know it will take.
Yours, S. G. GOODRICH.
N. HAWTHORNE, Esq., Salem.
BOSTON, March 4, 1837.
DEAR SIR,--We shall publish your book next Monday. I am directing the presentation copies, as you directed, and have sent you twelve herewith, all which shall be charged at cost.
In haste, yours truly,
J. B. RUSSELL.
N. HAWTHORNE, Esq.
BOSTON, March 17, 1887.
DEAR SIR,--I have sent all the copies of your book as you desired. It may he gratifying to you to know that, in addition to the favorable opinions expressed by the newspapers, your book is spoken of in the highest terms by discriminating gentlemen here and at Cambridge.
Yours truly, J. B. RUSSELL.
AUGUSTA, March 19, 1837.
DEAR HATH,--The "Twice-Told Tales," came yesterday, to my especial joy. The appearance of the book is decidedly good. The name is excellent. I have begun to write a notice which shall be published as soon as our booksellers here receive any copies. One of them ordered a dozen on my recommendation. Has Goodrich kept his faith with you, and done everything to promote the success of the book which is usual in such cases? I have never read "The Gentle Boy" till to-day, when it had the credit of making me blubber a dozen times at least during the two readings which I have given it. I like it very much, and think it better than any other in the book. "Little Annie's Ramble" is also new to me, and very pleasant. It must be that you had some particular child in your mind's eye, and perhaps did actually take the walk. How was it? Have you a smile that is more winning to children than other men's? I don't remember to have heard you say anything about your partiality for children.
It is not unlikely that the "Mirror" man may, upon reading your book, try to engage your services as editor, unless the "Mirror" clique should have some interest in keeping you back, such as the glorification of Willis. Two Nats cannot have their reflections in one Mirror, perhaps. Your first name bids fair to stand high in the literary catalogue. There is yourself, Willis, and Nat Deering,--which idea shall be wrought into a puff of you, under the heading of "The Three Nats," which title will probably take enough to cause its republication.
As for me, I shall probably go to New York for several weeks, if my "Mill Dam" continues to look as well as it does now. Though I have forty or fifty thousand at stake, I do not sleep the worse for it. If I lose, I shall try for the appointment of Purser in the Navy, and with a good chance of success. This is a profound secret at present. Good times for both of us are coming. You have broken the ice; the ice can't break me.
Your ancient friend, HORACE.
AUGUSTA, March 26, 1837.
DEAR HATH,--I am delighted to hear that you are likely to succeed in your wishes regarding the South Sea, and would to God that I could go with you, ruined or not Maybe I may, yet. I forwarded a copy of your book to Cilley, telling him that his assistance would be needed to get your situation. What is the situation you want? I only wait to know this before procuring some letters for you. I think I can do something with men of influence in this State, and perhaps in yours also. For instance, j am well acquainted with George Bancroft. Hodgson, our Land Agent, goes to-morrow to New Hampshire and will see Pierce; and if you will give Pierce a hint, the thing may be managed easily. I will answer for the whole Maine delegation. But, after all, it will still be very doubtful if you succeed. Therefore do not set your heart too thoroughly upon it.
You seem to think that Pierce and I had some mutual understanding upon this subject; but I assure you that not a syllable has passed between us about it. Your book will do good, if the papers are cold about it. Most of the coldness is due to the fact that the stories are "Twice-Told;" and this I know from remarks of some of my friends, who declined buying because the book was not original! But your fame here has become respectable, and I derive some credit from being your friend.
Is it true that the man who was appointed Historian is sick and likely to resign? I hope so.
Yours ever, H. BRIDGE.
HILLSBORO, March 28, 1837.
DEAR HATHORNE,--Yours of the 22d inst., with the enclosure, came this morning, and you will learn from the copy herewith enclosed what disposition I propose to make of the latter. You will perhaps be surprised that I seem to depend so much on Reynolds. I think my letter in this respect is judicious; the reasons I will explain to you when we meet. I presume he will induce Camberling to write a letter to the President and enclose the articles, which I now forward to him. I have taken the liberty further to presume that it is important to you, on account of other arrangements, to know as soon as practicable what is to be the issue of this project. I shall now remain quiet until I hear from Reynolds; then communicate with you and take our measures accordingly. Should anything, in the present posture of affairs, occur to you as important, not contained in my letter, I will supply its deficiency without delay on being apprised of it. You will receive herewith a copy of so much of my letter to Mr. Reynolds as relates to the subject of your appointment.
In much haste, ever and truly your friend,
NATH. HAWTHORNE, Esq., Salem.
J. N. REYNOLDS, Esq.
DEAR SIR,--Since we parted I have thought much of the subject of our Sabbath evening conversation, and am exceedingly desirous that my friend Hawthorne should accompany you on the South Sea expedition. He is, as I remarked to you, extremely modest, perhaps diffident,--a diffidence, in my judgment, having its origin in a high and honorable pride; but he is a man of decided genius, without any whims or caprices calculated to impair his efficiency or usefulness in any department of literature.
I was with him a day or two in Boston on my way home; and after full consideration, and consultation with a few literary friends, he is disposed to accept a situation, if tendered, though I was unable to inform him precisely what would be the scope and character of his duties, or what the compensation,--it ought to be $1,500 at least. His recent publication ("Twice-Told Tales") has been most favorably noticed by many of the periodicals of the day. I should have sent you a copy of the book, but had no opportunity. Now, how is our object to be attained? What is the precise situation to apply for? To whom should the application be made? To the Secretary of the Navy, or directly to the President? What testimonials with regard to him will be useful, and from whom? These are questions upon which I desire your opinion in order that our efforts may be promptly and efficiently seconded by his friends. I hope you will converse with Messrs. Camberling, Lee, McKean, and Moore upon this subject, if you have a convenient opportunity while in New York. Perhaps you may enlist sufficient interest to address a letter to the President; however, I would indicate no particular course, but leave all to your better discretion. Hawthorne is very desirous of seeing you. Shall you be in Boston before you visit Ohio ? If so, address a letter to him at Salem, stating at what time and where in that city he may expect to meet you. In any event, he will be happy to receive a letter from you on the subject. I hope to hear from you soon, as it is important for my friend, on account of other arrangements, that the probability of his becoming attached to the expedition should be ascertained as soon as practicable. I have before stated that Mr. Hawthorne is not subject to any of those whims and eccentricities which are supposed to characterize men of genius, and which might disqualify him for any solid and steady business; but as the articles I send refer only to his abilities as a romance-writer, it may be proper for me to add that he has been hardly less successful in other departments. He edited for some time the Boston Bewick Company's "Magazine of Useful Knowledge," with great diligence and success,--more, I believe, to the satisfaction of the proprietors and the public than any previous editors. You will perceive that I am in earnest upon this subject; it would be singular if it were otherwise. I know Hawthorne's worth, and am sure you would admire him as a man of genius, and love him as a companion and friend.
AUGUSTA, April 7, 1837.
DEAR HATH,--I wrote George Bancroft, yesterday, in your behalf, requesting a letter to the Secretary of the Navy to be sent under cover to Pierce. I don't know whether he will comply, but I think I tickled him in the right place. He can't well help doing the handsome thing by you. Has any one interested Alexander Everett in your favor? Pierce might get him interested by a word, for he is ambitious of office and honors. Pierce has not as yet written me, nor am I certain that he will. If he has not written Cilley, he ought at once; for Cilley's having been a classmate may have much weight. It looks favorable for you now, but I must say again that it is not good policy to set your heart wholly upon this cast. You may not succeed, and what then? Why, you will be no worse off than now; on the other hand, you will be much better; for having made interest among many of the high officers and high privates in the land, your reputation will be of course extended, and the same men will feel bound to help you again, if called upon. Pierce will not rest until he does something for your permanent benefit. In short, you now stand decidedly higher as a writer than you would have done had not the post you seek been thought of. It is absolute folly to think of despairing, should you fail in this. There is many a good day in store for you yet, if you never go to the South Seas, of which, however, I have little doubt. You must write often to Pierce; every letter will stimulate him to action, whether you push him or not.
Yours truly, HORACE.
BOSTON, April 8, 1837.
DEAR SIR,--The book is selling well, and making its way to the hearts of many. It will prove decidedly successful. I wish you could send me one or two more stories for the "Token" within a week or fortnight. What say you?
Yours, S. G. GOODRICH.
AUGUSTA, April 14, 1837.
DEAR HAWTHORNE--I am rejoiced that you seem to think that the disappointment can be borne, even if you do not succeed in getting the post of Historian, the more because it looks very doubtful to me whether you succeed. The disagreement between Reynolds, who holds your destiny in this respect, and the Secretary will be a hard stumbling-block to get over.
Are you seriously thinking of getting married? If you are, nothing that I could say would avail to deter you. I am in doubt whether you would be more happy in this new mode of life than yon are now. This I am sure of, that unless you are fortunate in your choice, you will be wretched in a tenfold degree. I confess that, personally, I have a strong desire to see you attain a high rank in literature. Hence my preference would be that you should take the voyage if you can. And after taking a turn round the world, and establishing a name that will be worth working for, if you choose to marry you can do it with more advantage than now.
I hope Longfellow will review the book, for I think him a man of good taste and kindly feelings. Good-by, and God bless us.
Yours ever, HORACE.
APRIL 19, 1887.
THE editors of the "United States Magazine and Democratic Review," a new literary and political periodical about to be commenced at Washington City, knowing and highly appreciating Mr. Hawthorne's style of writing (as shown in a few sketches and tales that have met their eye, such as "David Snow," "Fancy's Show-Box," etc.), would be happy to receive frequent contributions from him. This magazine is designed to be of the highest rank of magazine literature, taking ton of the first class in England for model. The compensation to good writers will be on so liberal a scale as to command the best and most polished exertions of their minds. It is therefore intended that nothing but matter of distinguished excellence shall appear in its pages, and that will be very handsomely remunerated. Many of the finest writers of the country are engaged for contribution, as some will also be from England; and as nothing will be accepted which shall be worth a less price than three dollars per page, in the judgment of the editors, Mr. Hawthorne will perceive the general tone of superiority to the common magazine writing of this country, at which they aim. In many cases they propose to give five dollars per page, depending on the kind and merit of the writing. As this magazine will have a vast circulation throughout the Union, and as it will occupy so elevated a literary rank, it will afford to Mr. Hawthorne what he has not had before, a field for the exercise of his pen, and the acquisition of distinction worthy of the high promise which the editors of the "United States Magazine" see in what he has already written. The first number appearing in July, any communication must be sent in by the end of May. Please address "Langtree and O'Sullivan, Washington City, D. C."
[I must say that the above strikes me as being the most amusing document of this whole batch. The man who wrote it might have been retained as Head Composer of Prospectuses for that famous speculative enterprise in "Martin Chuzzlewit." He was, as a matter of fact, John O'Sullivan, at this time about eight-and-twenty years of age, a cosmopolitan of Irish parentage on his father's side, and one of the most charming companions in the world. He was always full of grand and world-embracing schemes, which seemed to him, and which he made appear to others, vastly practicable and alluring, but which invariably miscarried by reason of some oversight which had escaped notice for the very reason that it was so fundamental a one. He lived in the constant anticipatory enjoyment of more millions than the Adelantado of the Seven Cities ever dreamed of; and yet he was not always able to make his income cover his very modest and economical expenditure. Under disappointments which would have crushed (one might suppose) hope itself, be remained still hopeful and inventive; and it was difficult to resist the contagion of his eloquent infatuation. He and Hawthorne became very dear friends; and he was godfather to Hawthorne's first child.]
BOSTON, April 28, 1837.
DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I saw Goodrich yesterday, and had a long talk about you and your affairs. I like him very much better than before. He told me that the book was successful. It seemed that he was inclined to take too much credit to himself for your present standing, on the ground of having early discovered and brought you forward. But on the whole, I like him much. I have also received a strong letter of recommendation from Pierce in my behalf, accompanied by a kind letter to me, in which he speaks of you in terms of warmest friendship. He says that he has written Reynolds in your behalf, and not yet received an answer. Still, I am glad that you seem more disposed to stay at home than awhile ago, for there is certainly much doubt of your success. What has become of your matrimonial ideas? Are you in a good way to bring this about?
I want you to spend two or three mouths this summer with me in my bachelor lodgings at Augusta. We can be all to ourselves, and I am a famous cooker of breakfast and tea. And then we will make an excursion or two. Think of this seriously, and let me know when I return.
Yours ever, HORACE.
AUGUSTA, May 17, 1837.
DEAR HAWTHORNE,--Have you heard anything more of the Exploring Expedition? It seems to me that your chance of employment is as small almost as mine. I am told that there is to be but one historiographer, and that Colton, the chaplain, has consented to perform that duty. My views of the expedition have been materially changed since I went to Washington. It is predicted by many of the wise ones that it will be a decided failure, and bring ridicule upon those who are connected with it. If so, we had better keep out of it, especially if you can marry a fortune, and I finish my Mill Dam. I wish you would tell me if you were in earnest about marrying. Goodrich told me that the book had sold between six and seven hundred copies already, and received high praise from some of the most eminent literati of Boston and Cambridge. This is an earnest of future eminence that cannot be mistaken. It seems, however, as if all the reviewers in a small way were determined to let you make your own way, without giving the least assistance. Well, let them take that course, and see who will come out brightest. If the "North American" gives a good review of the book, it will be worth the whole of these twopenny critics' praise. Are you writing another book? You ought to follow up so good a beginning, if beginning this may be called. I wish you would come to Augusta and write all summer in my poor domicile. I expect to take my French master into my house, if he will come. God knows whether there will be another opportunity, after this summer, for you and me to be together again. My Mill Dam looks well, in spite of the blue times.
BOSTON, May 20, 1837.
Mr. NATHANIEL HAWTHORN.
SIR,--Mr. J. L. O'Sullivan, of Washington City, wishes me to ask you if you have received a letter from him. Having sent it by private hand, he is doubtful whether you received it.
Very respectfully yours,
MAY 24, 1837.
DEAR HAWTHORNE,--I am rejoiced that your last gives reason to expect that you will pay me a visit soon. When you come, make your arrangements so that you can stay two or three months here. I have a great house to myself; and you shall have the run of it. As for old acquaintances, rely upon it they will not trouble you. No one but Eveleth and Bradbury are here. The first is ruined and moping; the other prosperous, but does not darken my doors. We are not friends.
I received a letter two days ago from Pierce, dated May 2d, requesting me to ascertain exactly how matters were relating to the Exploring Expedition. I have written to Pierce advising him to inquire of the Secretary if there is any vacancy, and recommending you for it. It might be well to put your papers on file in his office, in case you are hereafter a candidate for one of the editors of the magazine. It is no use for you to feel blue. I tell you that you will be in a good situation next winter, instead of "under a sod." Pierce is interested for you, and can make some arrangement, I know. An editorship or clerkship at Washington he can and will obtain. So courage, and au diable with your sods! I have something to say to you upon marriage, and about Goodrich, and a thousand other things. I shall be inclined to quarrel with you if you do not come, and that would be a serious business for you, for my wrath is dreadful. Good-by till I see you here.
P.S. Before I commenced this letter I put three eggs into my teakettle to boil for dinner; and it was not till I had signed my name that the thought of my eggs occurred to me. You see that I must have been interested, and I shall see that the eggs are sufficiently hard.
--The following passage from a letter to Miss E. M. Hawthorne, from Miss E. P. Peabody, belongs to a period a few months subsequent to the above, but has its significance here nevertheless: --
MY DEAR MISS HAWTHORNE,-... I saw how much your brother was suffering on Thursday evening, and am glad you think it was not a trial, but rather the contrary, to hear my loquaciousness. I talked because I thought it was better than to seem to claim entertainment from him, whose thoughts must be wandering to the so frightfully bereaved. There seems so little for hope and memory to dwell on in such a case (though I hope everything always from the Revelation of Death), that I thought perhaps it would be better if he could divert himself with the German.. .. Even your brother, studying the Pattern Student of the World, may be enabled to take such a view of a literary life as will fill his desire of action, and connect him with society more widely than any particular office under Government could do. If, as you say, he has been so long uneasy - however, perhaps he had better go; only, may he not bind himself long, only be free to return to freedom. In general, I think it is better for a man to be harnessed to a draycart to do his part in transporting "the commodity" of the world; for man is weak, and needs labor to tame his passions and train his mind to order and method. But the most perilous season is past for him. If, in the first ten years after leaving college, a man has followed his own fancies, without being driven by the iron whip of duty, and yet has not lost his moral or intellectual dignity, but rather consolidated them, there is good reason for believing that he is one of Nature's ordained priests, who is consecrated to her higher biddings. I see that you both think me rather enthusiastic; but I believe I say the truth when I say that I do not often overrate, and I feel sure that this brother of yours has been gifted and kept so choice in her secret places by Nature thus far, that he may do a great thing for his country. And let me tell him what a wise man said to me once (that Mr. J. Phillips of whom I once spoke to you): "The perilous time for the most highly gifted is not youth. The holy sensibilities of genius--for all the sensibilities of genius are holy--keep their possessor essentially unhurt as long as animal spirits and the idea of being young last; but the perilous season is middle age, when a false wisdom tempts them to doubt the divine origin of the dreams of their youth; when the world comes to them, not with the song of the siren, against which all books warn us, but as a wise old man counselling acquiescence in what is below them." I have no idea that any such temptation has come to your brother yet; but no being of a social nature can be entirely beyond the tendency to fall to the level of his associates. And I have felt more melancholy still at the thought of his owing anything to the patronage of men of such thoughtless character as has lately been made notorious. And it seems to me they live in too gross a region of selfishness to appreciate the ambrosial moral aura which floats around our ARIEL,--the breath that he respires. I, too, would have him help govern this great people; but I would have him go to the fountains of greatness and power,--the unsoiled souls,--and weave for them his "golden web," as Miss Burley calls it,--it may be the web of destiny for this country. In every country some one man has done what has saved it. It was one Homer that made Greece, one Numa that made Rome, and one Wordsworth that has created the Poetry of Reflection. How my pen runs on,--but I can write better than I can speak.
Here or hereabouts it was that Hawthorne met with an experience that carried with it serious results. If there be any hidden cause for what seems the premature reserve and gravity of his early manhood, it will not, perhaps, be necessary to look further for it than this. For a man such as he has been shown to be, it was enough; and it might, indeed, have left deep traces upon a nature less sensitive and a conscience less severe than his.
Among the young ladies of good family and Social standing that formed what were then the "best circles of Salem and Boston, there was one who, for convenience sake, shall be designated as Mary. As a child, she had been the victim of an abnormal and almost diseased sensitiveness, which often caused her to behave oddly and unaccountably. A distorted vanity, or craving for admiration, was perhaps at the bottom of this behavior; the child was passionately desirous of producing an impression or a sensation, and indifference or ridicule was an agony to her. The success of her performance was tripped up by the very intensity of her desire, and she had intelligence enough to be keenly aware of her own shortcomings and awkwardness. She was sent to dancing-school, but suffered so much from the real or fancied slights and raillery of her companions, that it was found necessary to take her home again. Later on, a violent ambition to become learned took possession of her; she imagined that she could win by the power of intellect that conspicuousness and homage which were to her as the breath of her life. Her mind, however, was not of the calibre of a De Stael or even of a Margaret Fuller; she was clever, subtle, and cunning, but possessed no real mental weight or solidity. Nor did this yearning after the fruits of wisdom long abide with her; she was now growing out of her hobbledehoyhood, and was developing a certain kind of glancing beauty, slender, piquant, ophidian, Armida-like. Instead of a prophetess or sibyl, she now aimed to become a social enchantress; and everything favored her purpose. She had learnt how to conceal her true feelings and sentiments, or to let only so much of them appear as might enhance the complexity of her fascinations. She had a considerable share of the dramatic instinct,--the art of the actress; and it was her constant delight to devise combinations and surprises wherein, in a manner seemingly the most involuntary and unconscious, she should appear as the centre and culmination of interest. The alertness and rapidity of her mental operations and perceptions enabled her to produce, upon persons whom she wished to dazzle or captivate, an impression not only of intellectual brilliance, but of a strange and flattering sympathy with and understanding of their most intimate prepossessions and aspirations. In this way she secured the regard, confidence, and occasionally the devotion, of persons who were in every high respect her immeasurable superiors. For she was, in reality, a creature of unbounded selfishness, wantonly mischievous, an inveterate and marvellously skilful liar; she was coarse in thought and feeling, and at times seemed to be possessed by a sort of moral insanity, which prompted her to bring about all manner of calamities upon innocent persons, with no other motive than the love of exercising a secret and nefarious power. Thus, on one occasion, a certain very agreeable young lady, a cousin of hers, happened to meet an English nobleman, who fell violently in love with her. She returned his affection, and their marriage was already arranged, when Mary stepped between them, and, by means of a series of anonymous letters, devised with diabolical ingenuity, succeeded in breaking off the match. The nobleman returned to England heart-broken, and remained a bachelor the rest of his life; the cousin, some fifteen years later, made a marriage of friendship with an elderly and unromantic gentleman. As for Mary, she had the benefit of whatever enjoyment is to be derived from the disinterested torture of one's fellow-creatures.
While this notable personage was in the full tide of her social triumph and fascination, a gentleman, whom I will call Louis, and who was on terms of familiar intercourse with her, happened to speak to her of his friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The report thus given of the handsome and mysterious young author aroused Mary's curiosity and ambition; she resolved to add him to her museum of victims. At her request, Louis brought him to her house and introduced him. She at once perceived how great his value would be to her, as a testimony to the potency of her enchantments, and set herself to ensnare him. In order to encourage his confidence, she regaled him with long extracts from the most private passages of her own autobiography, all of which were either entirely fictitious, or such bounteous embroideries on the bare basis of reality, as gave to what was mean and sordid an appearance of beauty and a winning charm. Hawthorne, who was himself above all things truthful, and who had never considered the possibility of a lady being a deliberate and gratuitous liar, accepted her confidences with sympathetic interest, and allowed her to decoy him into assuming towards her the attitude of a protecting friend and champion, - the rather, since she assured him that he was the only human being to whom she could reveal the secrets of her inmost soul.
So far all was well; but when it came to taking the next step,--to beguiling him into exchanging confidence for confidence, autobiography for autobiography,--Armida began to meet with difficulties. Hawthorne intimated to her, in the gentlest and most considerate manner, that it was impossible for him to regard himself as an object of so much interest as to warrant his dissecting himself for her benefit. Mary had the tact not to seem put out by this rebuff, and greatly augmented Hawthorne's kindly feelings towards her by forbearing to urge him any further in this direction. She did not, however, entertain any idea of giving up her purpose. She merely resigned herself to the necessity of changing her mode of attack; and after due meditation she hit upon a scheme which more than sustained her unhallowed reputation for ingenuity. She summoned Hawthorne to a private and mysterious interview, at which, after much artful preface and well-contrived hesitation and agitated reluctance, she at length presented him with the startling information that his friend Louis, presuming upon her innocence and guilelessness, had been guilty of an attempt to practise the basest treachery upon her; and she passionately adjured Hawthorne, as her only confidential and trusted friend and protector, to champion her cause. This story, which was devoid of a vestige of truth, but which was nevertheless so cunningly interwoven with certain circumstances known to her auditor as to appear like truth itself, so kindled Hawthorne's indignation and resentment, that, without pausing to make proper investigations, he forthwith sent Louis a challenge.
Mischief was now afoot; and Mary was charmed at the prospect of seeing two men, who had always been dear and cordial friends, engage in a duel on her account. Fortunately, however, Louis was not such a fool as most young fellows would have been under the circumstances; and he was, moreover, cognizant of instances in which this baleful young personage had played a similar game. Accordingly, instead of at once accepting the challenge, he made himself acquainted with all the details of the matter, and then wrote Hawthorne a frank and generous letter, in which, after fully and punctually explaining to him the ins and outs of the deception which had been practised upon him, and completely establishing his own guiltlessness of the charge against him, he refused the challenge, and claimed the renewal of Hawthorne's friendship.
Hawthorne immediately called upon him, overwhelmed both by the revelation of the woman's falsehood and by his own conduct in so nearly bringing destruction upon a man he loved. He could scarcely bring himself to believe, however, that Mary had knowingly, and with full comprehension of what she was about, contrived a plot of such wanton malice; and perhaps his self-esteem made him reluctant to admit that the tender and confidential conduct she had maintained towards him was nothing more than the selfish artifice of a coquette. Howbeit, Louis left his vanity not a leg to stand upon; and finally, to use the expression of one who was cognizant of these events at the time, Hawthorne went to Mary and "crushed her."
If the matter had ended here, it would have remained in Hawthorne's memory only as a rash and regrettable episode of his impetuous youth, from the worst consequences of which he had been providentially preserved. But it is at this point that the story takes a tragic turn. While the duel was still a topic of conversation among the few of Hawthorne's friends who knew anything about it, one of those friends--Cilley--received the challenge of Graves. Now, Cilley belonged to a knot of young Northern men who had resolved to put down the tyranny of the fire-eating Southerners. Nevertheless, he hesitated some time before accepting this challenge, the subject in dispute being unimportant, and his position with regard to it being such that the "code of honor" did not necessitate a meeting. At length, however, some one said, "If Hawthorne was so ready to fight a duel without stopping to ask questions, you certainly need not hesitate;" for Hawthorne was uniformly quoted by his friends as the trustworthy model of all that becomes a man in matters of honorable and manly behavior. This argument, at all events, put an end to Cilley's doubts; he accepted the challenge, the antagonists met, and Cilley was killed.
When Hawthorne was told of this, he felt as if he were almost as much responsible for his friend's death as was the man who shot him. He said little; but the remorse that came upon him was heavy, and did not pass away. He saw that it was Cilley's high esteem for him which had led him to his fatal decision; and he was made to realize, with unrelenting clearness, how small a part of the consequences of a man's deeds can be monopolized by the man himself. "Had I not aimed at my friend's life," was the burden of his meditation, "this other friend might have been still alive." And if the reproach be deemed fanciful, it would not on that account be easier for Hawthorne to shake off. He had touched hands with crime; and all the rest was but a question of degrees.
In the first volume of "Twice-Told Tales" there is a short story, or "morality," as the author styles it, which, if read in the light of the foregoing narrative, will be found to have a peculiar interest. In it the question is discussed, whether the soul may contract the stains of guilt, in all their depth and flagrancy, from deeds which may have been plotted and resolved upon, but which physically have never had an existence. The conclusion is reached that "it is not until the crime is accomplished, that guilt clinches its gripe upon the guilty heart and claims it for its own. . . . There is no such thing, in man's nature, as a settled and full resolve, either for good or evil, except at the very moment of execution." Nevertheless, "man must not disclaim his brotherbood with the guiltiest, since, though his band be clean, his heart has surely been polluted by the flitting phantoms of iniquity. He must feel that, when he shall knock at the gate of Heaven, no semblance of an unspotted life can entitle him to entrance there. Penitence must kneel, and Mercy come from the footstool of the throne, or that golden gate will never open!"
Those who wish to obtain more than a superficial glimpse into Hawthorne's heart cannot do better than to ponder every part of this little story, which is comprised within scarcely more than a half-dozen pages. It was written about the time of Cilley's unhappy death, and contains more than its due proportion of "sad and awful truths."
I will append here a list of most of Hawthorne's contributions to various periodicals from 1832 to 1838, inclusive.
In the "Token" for 1832 appeared: Wives of the Dead, My Kinsman, Major Molineaux; Roger Malvin's Burial; The Gentle Boy. In the "Token" for 1833, The Seven Vagabonds; Sir William Pepperell; The Canterbury Pilgrims. In the "New England Magazine" for 1834 (vol. vii.), The Story-Teller;--in vol. viii. of the same periodical, Visit to Niagara Falls; Old News; Young Goodman Brown; Ambition's Guest;--in vol. ix., Graves and Goblins; The Old Maid in the Winding-Sheet; Sketches from Memory; The Devil in Manuscript. In the "Token" for 1835, The Mermaid (afterwards called The Viilage Uncle); Alice Doane's Appeal; The Haunted Mind. In the "American Magazine of Knowledge" (which he edited at this period, 1836-38, and pretty much all of the contents of which be wrote and prepared) will be found the following in particular: The Ontario Steamboat; The Boston Tea Party; Preservation of the Dead; April Fools; Martha's Vineyard; The Duston Family; Nature of Sleep; Bells; etc. In the "Token" for 1837, The Man of Adamant; and in 1838, The Shaker Bridal; Sylph Etheredge; Endicott and his Men; Peter Goldthwaite; Night Thoughts under an Umbrella. In the "Knickerbocker," 1836, Edward Fane's Rosebud; A Bell's Biography. In the "Democratic Review," 1838-39, Memoir of Jonathan Cilley; Toll-Gatherer's Day; Footprints on the Seashore; Snow-Flakes; Chippings with a Chisel; and the four Tales of the Province House.