Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume I
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
"IN 1811 and onwards," writes Miss E. P. Peabody,
"when we lived in Herbert Street, Salem, we used to play with the Hawthorne children, who lived in Union Street,--their yard stretching between the two streets. Elizabeth Hawthorne, the eldest of the children, used to do her lessons with me. I vividly remember her; she was a brilliant little girl, and I thought her a great genius. Nathaniel Hawthorne I remember as a broad-shouldered little boy, with clustering locks, springing about the yard. Madame Hawthorne was a recluse, and was not in the habit of receiving her husband's relations, or many of her own; it was considered, at that time, a mark of piety and good taste for a widow to withdraw herself from the world. About 1816 to 1820 the Hawthornes were, most of the time, living in Raymond, Maine, and we lost sight of them. But in the latter year I heard that they had returned to Salem, and that Miss Elizabeth now secluded herself in like manner as her mother did, spending most of her time in reading and in solitary walks. People said it was a love-disappointment; but that was merely hearsay.
"Between 1830 and 1836 some stories in the 'New England Magazine' arrested my attention. I thought they were probably written by some 'new-light' Quaker, who had outgrown his sectarianism; arid I actually wrote (but never sent) a letter to the supposed old man, asking him how he knew that 'sensitive natures are especially apt to be malicious.' It was not until 1837 that I discovered that these stories were the work of Madame Hawthorne's son. It was a difficult matter to establish visiting relations with so eccentric a household; and another year passed away before Mr. Hawthorne and his sisters called on us. It was in the evening. I was alone in the drawing-room; but Sophia, who was still an invalid, was in her chamber. As soon as I could, I ran upstairs to her and said, 'O Sophia, you must get up and dress and come down! The Hawthornes are here, and you never saw anything so splendid as he is,--he is handsomer than Lord Byron!' She laughed, but refused to come, remarking that since he had called once, he would call again. So I went down to them again, and we passed a very pleasant evening. Elizabeth, with her black hair in beautiful natural curls, her bright, rather shy eyes, and a rather excited, frequent, low laugh, looked full of wit and keenness, as if she were experienced in the world; there was not the least bit of sentiment about her, but she was strongly intellectual. There was nothing peculiar about Louisa; she seemed like other people. Mr. Hawthorne was very nicely dressed; but he looked, at first, almost fierce with his determination not to betray his sensitive shyness, which he always recognized as a weakness. But as he became interested in conversation, his nervousness passed away; and the beauty of the outline of his features, the pure complexion, the wonderful eyes, like mountain lakes reflecting the sky,--were quite in keeping with the 'Twice-Told Tales.'
"He did call again, as Sophia had predicted, not long afterwards; and this time she came down, in her simple white wrapper, and sat on the sofa. As I said 'My sister, Sophia,' be rose and looked at her intently,--he did not realize how intently. As we went on talking, she would frequently interpose a remark, in her low, sweet voice. Every time she did so, he would look at her again, with the same piercing, indrawing gaze. I was struck with it, and thought, 'What if he should fall in love with her!' and the thought troubled me; for she had often told me that nothing would ever tempt her to marry, and inflict on a husband the care of an invalid. When Mr. Hawthorne got up to go, he said he should come for me in the evening to call on his sisters, and he added, 'Miss Sophia, won't you come too?' But she replied, 'I never go out in the evening, Mr. Hawthorne.' 'I wish you would!' he said, in a low, urgent tone. But she smiled, and shook her head, and he went away."
It may be remarked here, that Mrs. Hawthorne, in telling her children, many years afterwards, of these first meetings with their father, used to say that his presence, from the very beginning, exercised so strong a magnetic attraction upon her, that instinctively, and in self-defence as it were, she drew back and repelled him. The power which she felt in him alarmed her; she did not understand what it meant, and was only able to feel that she must resist. By degrees, however, her resistance was overcome; and in the end, she realized that they had loved each other at first sight.
"Mr. Hawthorne told me," continues Miss Peabody,
"that his sisters lived so completely out of the world that they hardly knew its customs. 'But my sister Elizabeth is very witty and original, and knows the world, in one sense, remarkably well, seeing that she has learned it only through books. But she stays in her den, and I in mine: I have scarcely seen her in three months. After tea, my mother and Louisa come down and sit with me in the little parlor; but both Elizabeth and my mother take their meals in their rooms, and my mother has eaten alone ever since my father's death.'
"Mr. Hawthorne was never a ready talker; but every word was loaded with significance, and his manner was eminently suggestive, though there was nothing oracular in it. I never saw any one who listened so comprehendingly as he; and he was by nature profoundly social. I was always especially struck by his observations of nature. Nature reappeared in his conversation humanized; and he spoke of the office of nature's forms in building up the individual mind.
"Whenever, after this, he called at our house, he generally saw Sophia. One day she showed him her illustration of 'The Gentle Boy,' saying,' I want to know if this looks like your Ilbrahim?' He sat down and looked at it, and then looked up and said, 'He will never look otherwise to me.' He had remarked to me long before, 'What a peculiar person your sister is!' And again, a year later, he wrote to me, 'She is a flower to be worn in no man's bosom, but was lent from Heaven to show the possibilities of the human soul.' In return, I had talked to him about her freely, and had described to him her rare childhood. I also told him of her chronic headaches, and how the pain did not imbitter or even sadden the unspoiled imagination of her heart. I showed him her letters from Cuba, which we had had bound as a book; and by these means he became quite intimately acquainted with her spirit and inner character.
"When I left Salem to live in West Newton, he saw a great deal of Sophia, who, having grown up with the feeling that she never was to be married, looked upon herself as practically a child; and she would sometimes go over to Madame Hawthorne's, in this way forming an acquaintance with her and with Louisa. It afterwards transpired that Madame Hawthorne became very fond of her. Madame Hawthorne always looked as if she had walked out of an old picture, with her antique costume, and a face of lovely sensibility and great brightness,--for she did not seem at all a victim of morbid sensibility, not withstanding her all but Hindoo self-devotion to the manes of her husband. She was a woman of fine understanding and very cultivated mind. But she had very sensitive nerves, and appears not to have been happily affected by her husband's relatives, the Hawthornes being of a very sharp and stern individuality, and oddity of temper. Old Captain Knights had once said to Mr. Manning, 'I hear your darter is going to marry the son of Captain Hathorne?' 'I believe she is,' replied Mr. Manning. 'I knowed him,' continued Captain Knights,--'I knowed the Captain; and he was the sternest man that ever walked a deck!' Mr. Hawthorne used to say that he inherited the granite that was in this ancestor of his, and which contrasted so strongly with the Manning sensibility. It is such contrasts of parents that bring forth the greatest geniuses,--provided, of course, that they are in some degree harmonized and placed in equipoise by culture."
It was previous to the opening of the acquaintance between the Peabodies and the Hawthornes, that Wellington Peabody, as has already been mentioned, died in New Orleans; and it was at about that time that the second brother, George, returned thence, to die of his lingering disease. His death occurred in 1839; and during the preceding eighteen months he lay on his bed, in the house in Charter Street, Salem (the home of Dr. Grimshawe), awaiting the inevitable end with a noble patience, courage, and cheerfulness. Miss Elizabeth Peabody spent the spring and summer of 1838 with her brother Nathaniel, in West Newton, a village near Boston; and this was the occasion of letters (whereof some extracts follow) being written to her by Sophia. Besides the allusions which they contain to well-known persons, and the descriptions of Hawthorne himself, which creep in more often than the writer was probably aware of, they show the growth and advancement of her mind since the period of the Dedham Journal (1830), already given. The extracts close with Hawthorne's starting on the journey to Western Massachusetts, the record of which appears in his published Note-Books,--July 27 to September 24, 1838.
"What a proof of the divinity of our nature is it, that, by merely being true to it, we may attain to all things. It is the simplest and the grandest command uttered by the oracle within, and every human being has capacity enough to obey it. Whenever my wing is ready to droop in endeavoring to reach the upper regions, it immediately grows buoyant again at the thought that I can every moment get onward if I remember this. How simple as a unit is the whole problem of life, sometimes, to the mind; and I suppose it is always to the absolutely single-eyed. Oh, let not the light within me be darkness! . .
"Last night I was left in darkness,--soft, grateful darkness,--and my meditations turned upon my habit of viewing things through the 'couleur de rose' medium, and I was questioning what the idea of it was,--for since it was real, there must be some good explanation of it,--when suddenly, like a night-blooming cereus, my mind opened, and I read in letters of paly golden-green words to this effect: The beautiful and good and true are the only real and abiding things,--the only proper use of the soul and nature. Evil and ugliness and falsehood are abuses, monstrous and transient. I do not see what is not, but what is, through the passing clouds. Therefore, why is not my view more correct than the other?
"All day yesterday, my head raged, and I sat a passive subject for the various corkscrews, borers, pinchers, daggers, squibs, and bombs to effect their will upon it. Always I occupy myself with trying to penetrate the mystery of pain. Towards night my head was relieved, and I seemed let down from a weary height full of points into a quiet green valley, upon velvet turf. It was as if I had fought a fight all day and got through. After tea I lay down; but scarcely touched my cheek to the pillow, when the bell rang, and I was just as sure it was Mr. Hawthorne as if I had seen him. I descended, armed with a blue, odorous violet. Mr. Hawthorne would not take off his coat or stay, because he had the headache and an engagement. He said be had written to you, and that it was a great thing for him to write a letter. He looked very brilliant notwithstanding his headache. I showed him a little temple mosaic I had begun to make, and he thought it very pretty. He said he was going to Boston next week, and should have the little forget-me-not I painted set. Mary invited him to come with his sister on Saturday and read German; but it seems to me he does not want to go on with German. I had a delightful night, and this morning feel quite lark-like, or like John of Bologna's Mercury. Mr. Hawthorne said he wished he could have intercourse with some beautiful children,--beautiful little girls; he did not care for boys. What a beautiful smile he has! You know, in 'Annie's Ramble,' he says that if there is anything he prides himself upon, it is on having a smile that children love. I should think they would, indeed. There is the innocence and purity and frankness of a child's soul in it. I saw him better than I had ever before. He said he had imagined a story, of which the principal incident is my cleaning that picture of Fernandez. To be the means, in any way, of calling forth one of his divine creations, is no small happiness, is it? How I do long to read it! He did not stay more than an hour. Father came in, and he immediately got up and said he must go. He has a celestial expression. It is a manifestation of the divine in human. . .
"I have been reading of the ruins of Persepolis. Shall I ever stand upon the Imperial Palace of Persepolis? Who knows but when I am dried to an atomy like Mrs. Kirkland, I too may go to the East? And when I go, perhaps my husband will not be a paralytic. Oh I forget. I never intend to have a husband. Rather, I should say, I never intend any one shall have me for a wife.
"I read 'Persia' all day yesterday. The account of Zoroaster is deeply interesting. Alas, me how little I know! It will indeed take an Eternity to satisfy this thirst for knowledge. Whenever my mind gets into a bustle about it, this thought of Eternity can alone quiet it. How natural it is for the mind to generalize! It seems to me sometimes as if every material object and every earthly event were only signs of something higher signified; and at such times all particulars are merged into one grand unit. Then I feel as if I could read a minute portion of the universe. How everything hurries into its place the moment we are high enough to catch the central light! All factitious distinctions hide their diminished heads. Conventionalities disappear. I suppose Mr. Emerson holds himself in that lofty region all the time. I wonder not at the sublimity of his aspect, the solemnity of his air. I have read the second volume of Miss Martineau's 'Retrospect.' I admire her picture of Mr. Emerson. I think Mr. Emerson is the greatest man that ever lived. As a whole he is satisfactory. Everything has its due with him. In all relations he is noble. He is a unit. His uncommon powers seem used for right purposes. It is often said, 'Oh, such an one must not be expected to do thus and thus,--so gifted!' Such nonsense Mr. Emerson proves it to be, does he not ? Because he is gifted, therefore he cannot be excused from doing everything and being equal to everything. He is indeed a 'Supernal Vision.' For the rest, I think a great deal more fuss is made over Miss Martineau's books than there is any reason for. After all, what great matter is it what she says? She is not the Pope. . . . I have read Carlyle's 'Miscellanies' with deep delight. The complete manner in which he presents a man is wonderful. He is the most impartial of critics, I think, except Mr. Emerson. Every subject interesting to the soul is touched in these essays. Such a reach of thought produced no slight stir within me. I am rejoiced that Carlyle is coming to America. But I cannot help feeling that Emerson is diviner than he. Mr. Emerson is Pure Tone.
"I have not told you of my Farm. A fortnight ago, mother brought me some Houstonias in their own bit of earth, those meek blue starry flowers which cover our hills and fields all summer. I put them in a glass saucer, with some beautiful moss, and, by degrees, have added violets and a periwinkle and a delicious aromatic lavender. Several blades of grass sprang up, and tiny clover. So you see I have grass for cattle, and herb for the service of man, and flowers to rejoice his heart, all growing and flourishing within my little farm. I am constantly amazed at the unfailing stores of that bit of earth. The Houstonias say as plainly as flowers can speak, 'Be humble and win love;' and if one may infer the importance of the injunction from its repetition, surely the angels never wrote a truth upon this earth so important. . . .
"Live forever, Captain Pillsbury! Even on this earth I would have you live a thousand years. prisons and prisoners have been to me, ever since I could reflect, the subjects of the deepest interest. I always believed in that way of trusting even the greatest criminals. I always believed that real confidence and love could win even the hardest heart. Captain Pillsbury proves it. I always wished prisoners could be more visited by persons who honor humanity. Our Saviour's command to visit prisoners seems very little regarded. The sick in body obtain more attention and need it less than the sick in soul. One of my dearest visions is getting well enough to go into prisons and tell felons I have sympathy for them, especially women; though I should fear a corrupt woman more than a corrupt man. . . .
"After dinner I was lost in a siesta, when Mr. Hawthorne came. I was provoked that I should have to smooth my hair and dress, while he was being wasted downstairs. He looked extremely handsome, with sufficient sweetness in his face to supply the rest of the world with and still leave the ordinary share to himself. He took from his pocket the 'Forget-me-not,' set in elegant style beneath block crystal, gold all over the back, so that it is enshrined from every possible harm. He said he would leave it for inspection, and I have it on at this moment. 'It is beautiful, isn't it?' he said. He thought it too fine for himself to wear; but I am sure it is as modest as a brooch could be.
"This afternoon I went to the Hawthornes' house in Herbert Street. Louisa came to the door, and took me upstairs. As Elizabeth did not know I was coming, I thought I should not see her. It would be an unprecedented honor if she should come. I asked for her immediately, and Louisa said that she would be there in a few minutes There, now! Am not I a privileged mortal? She received me very affectionately, and seemed very glad to see me; and I all at once fell in love with her. I think her eyes are very beautiful, and I liked the expression of her taper hands. I stayed in the house an hour! I could not get away; she urged me to stay so much, as if she wanted me. She asked whether you were not always cheerful, for you seemed so to her. She spoke of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and surprised me by saying she admired Pope. We talked about the sea, and the winds, and various things. Now, what think you of my triumph? I think I should love her very much. I believe it is extreme sensibility which makes her a hermitess. It was difficult to meet her eyes; and I wanted to, because they are uncommonly beautiful. She said tulips were her favorite flower, and she did not wonder that a thousand pounds had formerly been given for a bulb! So I determined that she should have a gorgeous bunch of them as soon as I could procure any. . . . The next day Mr. Hawthorne came here, and I was glad he seemed a little provoked he was not at home yesterday. He asked for his pin, and when I brought it, said that if 'he did not like it so much he could wear it better.' I inquired whether the story of the picture were written yet, and he replied, 'No, but this week I am going about it.' He had promised to get up at dawn from the 1st May. Mary asked if he had remembered to do so. 'No, I have not,' he said. 'I have not slept well; but I will certainly begin to-morrow morning, if the sun rises, I mean, if it shines,' he added, laughing. . . .
"Our brother George has been very ill all day. This week I have realized his pain as I had not before. It is a new trial to me, and unimagined with all my imagination. I never have thought, you know, that it was any trial to bear my own pain, I could arrange that in the grand economy of events; but I must yet learn to be patient and serene at the sight and consciousness of his. His slow and ever-increasing suffering is an appalling prospect. For myself, after using all human means to be in the best condition of health, I am utterly content if they fail. I am happy because first my heart, and daily, more and more, my reason, assure me that there is a God. But George's pain added to my own weakness seems to obliterate me. The sublimity of his patience and demeanor impresses me more and more. The idea that he may die has not been fully presented to me before. There is something in the family tie that is different from any other. There is no reasoning about it; it exists, and that is the whole matter. The void made in my life by Wellington's departure can never be filled till I meet him again. He is a part of my being, and I cannot be complete without him. It seems as if I could not bear another rending; but I know, of course, it would be George's immeasurable gain. I would not withhold him for a moment, yet, with all this, there is the pang! It cannot be helped,--it is the way I am made. God knows that my heart says, 'Thy will be done,' and therefore He will forgive the irrepressible sorrow. Remember, when the hour comes, that I do not despond or question or complain, but that I love, and that I am sadly weakened in the organs by which I might manifest repose. My body is one, and my mind is another; and disease has in part destroyed their connection. . . .
"Since the furor scribendi has been upon Mr. Hawthorne, we have not seen him. I carried your packet and the flowers there on Saturday. I supposed the flowers were for him; but I received a note from Elizabeth yesterday, in which she says, 'The flowers which E. sent, so sweet and so tastefully arranged' (Mary arranged them), 'I thought would be unworthily bestowed upon my brother, who professes to regard the love of flowers as a feminine taste. So I permitted him to look at them, but considered them as a gift to myself, and beg you to thank her in my name, when you write.' Now, I am a little provoked at this, aren't you? I do not believe he does not care for flowers. Mary has sent him word that he may write for to-morrow's packet, and I hope he will bring a letter for you this evening. . . . He came the next morning for a take-leave call, looking radiant. He said he was not going to tell any one where he should be for the next three months; that he thought he should change his name, so that if he died no one would be able to find his gravestone. He should not tell even his mother where he could be found,--that he intended neither to write to any one nor to be written to. He seems determined to be let alone. He said he wished he could read German, but could not take the trouble. It seems he talked a little of me to Miss Rawlins, and paid me a splendid compliment,--that I was the Queen of Journalizers! I shall ever thank my stars that I have given him so much pleasure. He looked like the sun shining through a silver mist when he turned to say good-by. It is a most wonderful face. Mary asked him to write a journal while he was gone. He at first said he should not write anything, but finally concluded it would suit very well for hints for future stories. I feel as if he were a born brother. I never, hardly, knew a person for whom I had such a full and at the same time perfectly quiet admiration. I do not care about seeing him often; but I delight to remember that he is, and that from time to time I shall have intercourse with him. I feel the most entire ease with him, as if I had always known him. He converses a great deal with me when you are not present,--just as he talks more to you when we are not present. He said of Helen Barstow, that he thought she was not natural; but he expressed a sense of her brilliant powers, her wit and acuteness, and then said he thought 'women were always jealous of such a kind of remarkability' (that was his word) 'in their own sex,' and endeavored to deprecate it. I wonder what has given him such a horrid opinion of us women. But enough of Mr. Hawthorne." . . . .
The little episode about the flowers sent to Hawthorne, which his sister Elizabeth quietly appropriated, is amusing; and there can be no doubt that the latter took an unwarrantable and characteristic liberty. No one was more sensible than Hawthorne of the beauty and charm of flowers; but the truth was, that his sister was jealous of any attentions paid to him, and was apt to offer at least a passive resistance to them. Her letter, referred to above, is here subjoined entire.
MY DEAR MISS SOPHIA,--For many days I have wished to write and tell you how much I regretted not having thanked you immediately for those beautiful tulips; but, as Mary supposed, I was ashamed to appear before you, either in person or by note. I have not seen so great a variety for several years, and I kept them as long as possible, and looked at them almost continually, till, in defiance of my efforts to preserve them, they faded. The flowers which Elizabeth sent, so sweet and so tastefully arranged, I thought would be unworthily bestowed upon my brother, who professes to regard the love of flowers as a feminine taste ; so I permitted him to look at them, but consider them as a gift to myself, and beg you to thank her, in my name, when you write. I hope this warm weather agrees with you, and that next week it will be cool enough for Mary and me to walk. I wished to go this afternoon; but the thermometer stands at 98 degreees in the shade, though it is after four o'clock. I did not know until last evening that your brother wished for Mr. Payne's Letters. I send them now, with the book of fruits, which your mother said she would like to see; and the "Quarterly Review." I do not know whether you can read this scrawl, but I have forgotten how to write.
Believe me yours, E. M. H.
We now come to the critical period of the Hawthorne Romance,--the Romance that he lived, not wrote. In 1837 he had remarked in his journal, "My circumstances cannot long continue as they are and have been;" but herein he referred rather to his worldly condition than to the state of his affections, for he adds that "Bridge, too, stands between high prosperity and utter ruin," and "Fate seems preparing changes for both of us." In fact, Hawthorne felt that he had tried the experiment of seclusion long enough, and that no further benefit was to be expected from it. He was fast growing to be as a shadow, walking in a shadowy world, and losing all sense of reality in either himself or his surroundings. The feeling crops out here and there in his journal:
"A man tries to be happy in love," he writes; "he cannot sincerely give his heart, and the affair seems all a dream. In domestic life, the same; in politics, a seeming patriot;--all seems like a theatre." The work which he had done in literature had not brought him satisfaction; it had failed to put him into vital and tangible relations with the world. He was awakened to the urgent necessity of acting as a man among men, of shouldering in with the crowd, of measuring himself and weighing himself against all comers. Precisely how he was to set about producing this change in his habits and circumstances, he knew not; but rather than not have a change, he would have been willing to become a blacksmith, or push a huckster's hand-cart through the streets. It was the instinctive impulse of a healthy nature to guard against the imminent peril of morbidness. "I want to have something to do with this material world," he said to Miss Peabody. Martin Van Buren was in the Presidential chair at this time, and George Bancroft was Collector at Boston. It came to the ears of the latter gentleman that Nathaniel Hawthorne stood ready to put his hand to any respectable and arduous employment; whereupon Mr. Bancroft got him appointed weigher and gauger in the Boston Custom House. Here was hard work enough to do, and of a kind, too, to afford the strongest possible contrast to his previous existence. It lasted but a couple of years, that is to say, during the remainder of the Democratic regime; but it enabled Hawthorne to realize his ambition of being entitled to call the sons of toil his brethren. And after this spell of rough and grimy work was over, he could take up his pen once more with a new stimulus and appreciation, and with the certainty that mankind was a solid reality and that he himself was not a dream.
And yet the Custom House was only one, and not the most important, of the causes which produced this wholesome state of affairs. Sophia Peabody was Hawthorne's true guardian and recreating angel. The acknowledgment between them of their mutual love took place about the time of the Custom House appointment, and furnished an object and a spur for his labors. A strict secrecy was maintained by them respecting their engagement during nearly the entire three years of its continuance; and the reason of this concealment was a somewhat singular one. Enough has been said about the extreme impressibility of Madame Hawthorne; and it appears that her son was led to imagine that the news of his relations with Miss Sophia would give her a shock that might endanger her life. What, then, was Madame Hawthorne's objection to Miss Sophia supposed to be, since, as has already been shown, she was personally very fond of her? It was owing to what was assumed to be the latter's hopeless state of invalidism. Madame Hawthorne (her son was assured) could never endure the thought of his marrying a woman who was a victim to constant nervous headaches; and were he, nevertheless, to do so, the most lamentable consequences were to be anticipated. Now, any other conceivable obstacle than this would have influenced Hawthorne not a whit; but he was not prepared to face the idea of defying and perhaps "killing" his mother. All this time, be it observed, he and his mother had never exchanged a single word, good or bad, on the subject of Miss Sophia Peabody. This was owing partly to the apprehension on his part as to the issue of such a discussion, and partly to the habit of mutual undemonstrativeness (so to say) which had grown up between them during a lifetime. He had never spoken freely and unrestrainedly to her about any matter which deeply concerned him, nor had she ever invited such a confidence; and this despite the fact that the mother and son entertained a profound love and respect for each other. But for the sort of people who build up these viewless barriers, nothing seems to be so difficult and apparently impossible as to break them down again. Be that as it may, Hawthorne delayed to speak, and thereby laid up for himself a good deal of unnecessary anxiety.
But who put it into his head to think that his mother would adopt this attitude? I fear it must be confessed that the Machiavelli in question was none other than his own sister Elizabeth. This bright-eyed and brilliant little lady saw plainly enough how matters were likely to go between her brother and Miss Sophia, and was resolved to do what she could to prevent it. She was quite sincere, moreover, in her belief that Sophia would never be strong enough properly to fulfil the duties of married life and this added substance to the dislike she felt to the idea of her brother's marrying at all. ("He will never marry," she had once remarked: "he will never do anything; be is an ideal person." The wish was father to the assertion.) But though she thus found herself provided with a good ground for opposing the marriage, she was wise enough to perceive that Hawthorne was not likely to pay much heed to her opposition. The time when brothers are most sensible of their fraternal obligations is not, as a general rule, precisely the time when they are in love. It was necessary, therefore, for Elizabeth to seek some reinforcement. She knew how great was Hawthorne's reverence and tenderness for his mother, and she saw that by simply intimating to him that such and such a possible event would dangerously agitate Madame Hawthorne, she would be enlisting in her cause the very most powerful auxiliary that could have been selected. This, accordingly, she did; and let all indignant lovers do her the justice to believe that, in representing her mother in this light, she was not conscious of unduly emphasizing what might probably turn out to be the truth.
Indeed, Hawthorne himself, and Sophia not less than he, felt the weight of the pathological objection; and Sophia consented to let the engagement continue only upon the stipulation that their marriage was to be strictly contingent upon her own recovery from her twenty years' illness. "If God intends us to marry," she said to him, "He will let me be cured; if not, it will be a sign that it is not best." The likelihood of a cure taking place certainly did not seem great; in fact, it would be little less than a miracle. Miracle or not, however, the cure was actually accomplished; and the lovers were justified in believing that Love himself was the physician. When Sophia Peabody became Sophia Hawthorne, in 1842, she was, for the first time since her infancy, in perfect health; nor did she ever afterwards relapse into her previous condition of invalidism. Meanwhile, however, there was a period of suspense to be lived through. There is reason to believe, on the other hand, that the secrecy which was now, perforce, a condition of their communion, may not have been without its charm. Elizabeth and Louisa may probably have suspected that their brother's apparent acquiescence in the general opinion as to Sophia's unmarriageableness was apparent only; but they could not do more than they had done. Hawthorne had taken up his residence in Boston, in order to attend to his business, and saw them not oftener than once a fortnight; and it may easily be imagined that, on those occasions, Miss Peabody was not the subject of conversation. They at all events, would not venture to introduce a subject on which he chose to be silent. But the lovers, aided by Miss E. P. Peabody, maintained a constant correspondence by letter; they enjoyed occasional walks and talks together; and when, after George Peabody's death, the Peabodies moved to Boston, and lived at No. 13 West Street, the two were able to have almost daily interviews. It is likely, therefore, that the course of their love was only just not smooth enough to keep them constantly mindful of its sweetness.
In 1841, Hawthorne (not much to his regret, evidently) was turned out of office by the Whig administrahon, and resolved to try what virtue there might be, for him and his future wife, in the experiment of Brook Farm. The subject of this Community has been so exhaustively and exhaustingly canvassed of late, and it seems to be intrinsically so barren of interest and edification, save only for the eminent names that were at first connected with it, that the present writer has pleasure in passing over it without further remark. The chief advantage it brought to Hawthorne was, that it taught him how to plant corn and squashes, and to buy and sell at the produce market; and that it provided him with an invaluable background for his "Blithedale Romance," written about ten years afterwards. He did his share of the farm work like a man,--indeed, with the vigor and fidelity of two or three men,--and he was elected to certain responsible offices in the board of management. Meantime he was able to do very little writing; though the "True Stories" were on the stocks at this time, and Miss Sophia was drawing illustrations for some of them. His pecuniary prospects were not reassuring; for he had sunk most of his Custom House savings in the Community, and his publishers seem to have betrayed an illiberal tendency happily unknown in that guild at the present day. But rents were low in New England forty years ago, and domestic life could be managed at little cost. Hawthorne, at all events, was not the man to wait until he was a millionnaire before he began to be happy. He married in the summer of 1842, and took up his first abode in Concord. His wife, as has been said, had got rid of her infirmities; and the family opposition which he had dreaded had melted away at the first touch. For when it became necessary to acquaint his mother with his matrimonial intentions, she received the intelligence not only without agitation, but with a sympathetic cordiality that not a little amazed her son. "What you tell me is not a surprise to me," she said; "I already knew it." "How long have you known it?" he demanded. "Almost ever since you knew it yourself," was her reply; "and Sophia Peabody is the wife of all others whom I would have chosen for you." The moral of this anecdote is obvious. As for the wicked sisters, Elizabeth and Louisa, they seem altogether to have failed to maintain the consistency of their role. They shamelessly rejoiced in their brother's happiness, and loved his wife quite as much as if they had never cherished any dark designs against the alliance.
The foregoing narrative owes its existence chiefly to the necessity of making the following batch of letters intelligible. They are Hawthorne's love-letters, or so much of them as may properly be made public. Some of the elements of greatest beauty in them are necessarily suppressed; but, after all excisions, they are beautiful enough. The pure, spontaneous style in which they are expressed; their tone, at once tender, playful, and profound; and the testimony they bear to the possibility of a passion not less delicate and magnanimous than it was ardent,--these qualities are not without value and significance in times like ours. The single-hearted love and reverence which marks these letters, written before marriage, are, moreover, just as conspicuous in every letter that Hawthorne wrote to his wife, up to the end of their wedded existence on earth. No cloud or change ever passed over their affection, even for a moment but every succeeding year found their union more exquisitely complete.
BOSTON, April 17, 1839.
MY DEAREST,--I feel pretty secure against intruders, for the bad weather will defend me from foreign Invasion; and as to Cousin Haley, he and I had a bitter political dispute last evening, at the close of which he went to bed in high dudgeon, and probably will not speak to me these three days. Thus you perceive that strife and wrangling, as well as eastwinds and rain, are the methods of a kind Providence to promote my comfort,--which would not have been so well secured in any other way. Six or seven hours of cheerful solitude! But I will not be alone. J invite your spirit to be with me,--at any hour and as many hours as you please,--but especially at the twilight hour, before I light my lamp. I bid you at that particular time, because I can see visions more vividly in the dusky glow of firelight than either by daylight or lamplight. Come, and let me renew my spell against headache and other direful effects of the east-wind. How I wish I could give you a portion of my insensibility! and yet I should be almost afraid of some radical transformation, were I to produce a change in that respect. If you cannot grow plump and rosy and tough and vigorous without being changed into another nature, then I do think, for this short life, you had better remain just what you are. Yes; but you will be the same to me, because we have met in Eternity, and there our intimacy was formed. So get well as soon as you possibly can, and I shall never doubt that you are the same Sophie who have so often leaned upon my arm and needed its superfluous strength. I never, till now, had a friend who could give me repose; all have disturbed me, and, whether for pleasure or pain, it was still disturbance. But peace overflows from your heart into mine. Then I feel that there is a Now, and that Now must be always calm and happy, and that sorrow and evil are but phantoms that seem to flit across it.
You must never expect to see my sister Elizabeth in the daytime, unless by previous appointment or when she goes to walk. So unaccustomed am I to daylight interviews with her, that I never imagine her in sunshine; and I really doubt whether her faculties of life and intellect begin to be exercised till dusk, unless on extraordinary occasions. Their noon is at midnight. I wish you could walk with her; but you must not, because she is indefatigable, and always wants to walk half round the world when once she is out of doors.
When this week's first letter came, I held it a long time in my band, marvelling at the superscription. How did you contrive to write it? Several times since I have pored over it, to discover how much of yourself mingled with my share of it; and certainly there is grace flung over the fac-simile, which never was seen in my harsh, uncouth autograph, and yet none of the strength is lost. You are wonderful.
What a beautiful day! and I had a double enjoyment of it--for your sake and my own. I have been to walk, this afternoon, to Bunker's Hill and the Navy Yard, and am tired, because I had not your arm to support me.
God keep you from east-winds and every other evil.
Your own friend, N. H.
. . . .It is very singular (but I do not suppose I can express it) that, while I love you so dearly, and while I am so conscious of the deep union of our spirits, still I have an awe of you that I never felt for anybody else. Awe is not the word, either, because it might imply something stern in you; whereas--but you must make it out for yourself. I do wish I could put this into words,--not so much for your satisfaction (because I believe you will understand) as for my own. I suppose I should have pretty much the same feeling if an angel were to come from Heaven and be my dearest friend,--only the angel could not have the tenderest of human natures too, the sense of which is mingled with this sentiment. Perhaps it is because, in meeting you, I really meet a spirit, whereas the obstructions of earth have prevented such a meeting in every other case. But I leave the mystery here. Some time or other it may be made plainer to me. But methinks it converts my love into religion. And then it is singular, too, that this awe (or whatever it be) does not prevent me from feeling that it is I who have the charge of you. And will not you rebel? Oh, no; because I possess the power to guide only so far as I love you. My love gives me the right, and your love consents to it.
Since writing the above, I have been asleep; and I dreamed that I had been sleeping a whole year in the open air, and that while I slept, the grass grew around me. It seemed, in my dream, that the bed-clothes were spread beneath me; and when I awoke (in my dream) I snatched them up, and the earth under them looked black, as if it had been burnt,--a square place, exactly the size of the bed-clothes. Yet there were grass and herbage scattered over this burnt space, looking as fresh and bright and dewy as if the summer rain and the summer sun had been cherishing them all the time. Interpret this for me; but do not draw any sombre omens from it. What is signified by my nap of a whole year (it made me grieve to think that I had lost so much of eternity? --and what was the fire that blasted the spot of earth which I occupied, while the grass flourished all around? --and what comfort am I to draw from the fresh herbage amid the burnt space ? But it is a silly dream, and you cannot expound any sense out of it.
BOSTON, Monday eve, July 15, 1839.
MY DEAREST,--Your letter was brought to me at East Cambridge, this afternoon; otherwise I know not when I should have received it, for I am so busy that I know not whether I shall be at the Custom House these two or three days. I put it in my pocket, and did not read it till just now, when I could be quiet in my own chamber; for I always feel as if your letters were too sacred to be read in the midst of people, and (you will smile) I never read them without first washing my hands.
And so you have been ill, and I cannot take care of you. Oh, my dearest, do let our love be powerful enough to make you well. I will have faith in its efficacy,--not that it will work an immediate miracle, but it shall make you so well at heart that you cannot possibly be ill in the body. Partake of my health and strength, my beloved. Are they not your own, as well as mine? Yes,--and your illness is mine as well as yours; and, with all the pain it gives me, the whole world should not buy my right to share in it.
My dearest, I will not be much troubled, since you tell me (and your word is always truth) that there is no need. But, oh, be careful of yourself, remembering how much earthly happiness depends on your health. Be tranquil,--let me be your Peace, as you are mine. Do not write to me, unless your heart be unquiet, and you think that you can quiet it by writing. May God bless you!
NOVEMBER 15, 1839.
DEAREST,--Your yesterday's letter was received, and gave me comfort; yet, oh, be prepared for the worst,--if that may be called worst which is in truth best for all, and, more than all, for George. I cannot help trembling for you, dearest. God bless you and keep you!
DEAREST,--I pray you, for some little time to come, not to muse too much upon your brother, even though such musings should be untinged with gloom and should appear to make you happier. In the eternity where he now dwells, it has doubtless become of no importance to himself whether he died yesterday or a thousand years ago. He is already at home in the Celestial city,--more at home than ever he was in his mother's house. Then let us leave him there for the present; and if the shadows and images of this fleeting time should interpose between us and him, let us not seek to drive them away, for they are sent of God. By and by it will be good and profitable to commune with your brother's spirit; but so soon after his release from mortal infirmity, it seems even ungenerous towards himself to call him back by yearnings of the heart and too vivid picturings of what he was.
DEAREST,--I wish I had the gift of making rhymes, for methinks there is poetry in my head and heart since I have been in love with you. You are a Poem. Of what sort, then? Epic? Mercy on me, no A sonnet? No; for that is too labored and artificial. You are a sort of sweet, simple, gay, pathetic ballad, which Nature is singing, sometimes with tears, sometimes with smiles, and sometimes with intermingled smiles and tears.
DECEMBER 31, 1839.
BEST BELOVED,--I send you some allumettes wherewith to kindle the taper. There are very few, but my second finger could no longer perform extra duty. These will serve till the wounded one be healed, however. How beautiful is it to provide even this slightest convenience for you, dearest! I cannot tell you how much I love you, in this backhanded style. My love is not in this attitude,--it rather bends forward to meet you.
What a year has this been to us! My definition of Beauty is, that it is love, and therefore includes both truth and good. But those only who love as we do can feel the significance and force of this.
My ideas will not flow in these crooked strokes. God be with you. I am very well, and have walked far in Danvers this cold morning. I am full of the glory of the day. God bless you this night of the old year. It has proved the year of our nativity. Has not the old earth passed away from us?--are not all things new?
--The above letter is the only surviving one of those which Sophia Peabody wrote in answer to Hawthorne's. It will be remembered that in the "American Note-Books" he says that, before going to England, he burned "great heaps of old letters and other papers. . . . Among them were hundreds of Sophia's letters. The world has no more such, and now they are all dust and ashes." This letter was written with the left hand, and has a backward inclination, very different from the usual graceful flow of her chirography.
JANUARY 1, 1840
BELOVED, My heart was exceedingly touched by that little back-handed note, and likewise by the bundle of allumettes. Nurse that finger well, dearest; for no small portion of my comfort and cheeriness of heart depends upon that beloved finger. If it he not well within a few days, do not be surprised if I send down the best surgeon in Boston to effect its speedy cure.
I have a mind, some day, to send you a journal of all my doings and sufferings, my whole external life, from the time I awake at dawn till I close my eyes at night. What a dry, dull history would it be! But then, apart from this, I would write another journal, of my inward life throughout the self-same day,--my fits of pleasant thought, and those likewise which are shadowed by passing clouds,--the desires of my heart towards you, - my pictures of what we are to enjoy together. Nobody would think that the same man could live two such different lives simultaneously. But then the grosser life is a dream, and the spiritual life is a reality.
Dearest, I wish you would make out a list of books that you would like to be in our library; for I intend, whenever the cash and the opportunity occur together, to buy enough to fill up our new bookcase, and I want to feel that I am buying them for both of us. The bookcase will hold about two hundred volumes ; but we will collect it in small lots, and then we shall prize every volume, and receive a separate pleasure from the acquisition of it.
JANUARY 3, 1840.
. . . You cannot think how much delight those pictures you are painting are going to give me. I never owned a picture in my life ; yet pictures have been among the earthly possessions (and they are spiritual possessions too) which I most coveted. They will be incomparably more precious to me than all the productions of all the painters since Apelles. When we live in our own house, we will paint pictures together,--that is, our minds and hearts shall unite to form the conception, to which your hand shall give external existence. I have often felt that I could be a painter, only I am sure that I could never handle a brush; now you will show me the images of my inward life, beautified and etherealized by the mixture of your own spirit. I think I shall get these two pictures put into mahogany frames, because they will harmonize better with the furniture of our parlor than gilt frames would.
How strange that such a flower as our affection should have blossomed amid snow and wintry winds,--accompaniments which no poet or novelist, that I know of, has ever introduced into a love-tale. Nothing like our story was ever written, or ever will be; but if it could be told, methinks it would be such as the angels might take delight to hear. . . .
. . . .I came home as soon as I possibly could, and there was the package! I actually trembled as I undid it, so eager was I to behold them. There was never anything so lovely and precious in this world! They are perfect. So soon as the dust and smoke of my fire had evaporated, I put them on the mantelpiece, and sat a long time before them, painting a fac-simile of them in my heart, in whose most sacred chamber they shall keep a place forever and ever. I was not long in finding out the little white figure in the Menaggio. In fact, she was the very first object that my eyes rested on. She came straight to my heart, and yet she remains just where you placed her. If it had not been for your strict injunctions that nothing must touch the pictures, I do believe that my lips would have touched that Sophie, as she stands on the bridge. Do you think the pensive little damsel would have vanished beneath my kiss? What a misfortune would that have been to her poor lover,--to find that he had kissed away his mistress! However, I shall refrain from all endearments, till you tell me they may be hazarded without fear of her taking it in ill part and absenting herself without leave.
My dearest, it is a very noble-looking cavalier with whom Sophie is standing on the bridge. Are you quite sure that he is the right person? Yet I need not ask; for there is Sophie to bear witness to his identity. Yes, it must be my very self: it is not my picture, but the very I; and as my inner self belongs to you, there is no doubt that you have caused my soul to pervade this figure.
I have put the pictures into my bedroom for the present, being afraid to trust them on the mantel-piece; but I cannot help going to feast my eyes upon them, every little while. I have determined not to hang them up now, for fear of the dust and of the fingers of the chambermaid. Whenever I am away, they will be safely locked up. I shall want your express directions as to the height at which they ought to be hung, and the width of the space between them, and other minutest particulars. We will discuss these matters when I come home to you. . . .
DEARISSIMA,--I have put the Isola picture on the mantel-piece, and the Menaggio on the opposite wall. I sit before them with something of the quiet and repose which your own beloved presence is wont to impart to me. I gaze at them by all sorts of lights,--daylight, twilight, and candle-light; and when the lamps are extinguished, and before going to bed, I sit looking at these pictures by the flickering firelight. They are truly an infinite enjoyment.
BOSTON, March 15, 1840.
DEAREST,--What an ugly day is this My heart is heavy; or, no, it is not heaviness,--not the heaviness, like a great lump of ice, which I used to feel when I was alone in the world,--but--but -in short, dearest, where you are not, there it is a sort of death,--a death, however, in which there is still hope, and assurance of a joyful life to come. Methinks, if my spirit were not conscious of yours, this dreary snow-storm would chill me to torpor; the warmth of my fireside would be quite powerless to counteract it. Most absolute little Sophie, didst thou expressly command me to go to Father Taylor's church this very Sabbath? Now, it would not be an auspicious day for me to hear the aforesaid Son of Thunder. I have a cold, though, indeed, I fear I have partly conjured it up to serve my naughty purpose. Some sunshiny day, when I am wide awake and warm and genial, I will go and throw myself open to his blessed influence; but now there is only one thing that I feel anywise inclined to do, and that is to go to sleep. But indeed, dearest, I feel somewhat afraid to hear this divine Father Taylor, lest my sympathy with your admiration of him be colder and feebler than you look for. Our souls are in happiest unison, but we must not disquiet ourselves if every tone be not re-echoed from one to the other,--if every slightest shade be not reflected in the alternate mirror. Our broad and general sympathy is enough to secure our bliss, without our following it into minute details. Will you promise not to be troubled, should I be unable to appreciate the excellence of Father Taylor? Promise me this, and at some auspicious hour, which I trust will soon arrive, Father Taylor shall have an opportunity to make music with my soul. But I forewarn you, dearest, that I am a most unmalleable man; you are not to suppose, because my spirit answers to every touch of yours, that therefore every breeze, or even every whirlwind, can upturn me from my depths. Well, I have said my say in this matter. And now, here are the same snow-flakes in the air that were descending when I began. Would that there were an art of making sunshine! Do you know any such art? Truly you do, and have often thrown a heavenly sunshine round my spirit, when all things else were full of gloom. What a woe, what a cloud, it is, to be away from you!
BOSTON, April 21.
I DO trust, my dearest, that you have been employing this bright day for both of us; for I have spent it in my dungeon, and the only light that broke upon me was when I opened your letter. I am sometimes driven to wish that you and I could mount upon a cloud (as we used to fancy in those heavenly walks of ours), and be borne quite out of sight and hearing of all the world; for now all the people in the world seem to come between us. How happy were Adam and Eve! There was no third person to come between them, and all the infinity around them only served to press their hearts closer together. We love one another as well as they; but there is no silent and lovely garden of Eden for us. Will you sail away with me to discover some summer island? Do you not think that God has reserved one for us, ever since the beginning of the world? Foolish that I am to raise a question of it, since we have found such an Eden--such an island sacred to us two--whenever we have been together! Then, we are the Adam and Eve of a virgin earth. Now, good-by; for voices are babbling around me, and I should not wonder if you were to hear the echo of them while you read this letter.
I HAVE met with an immense misfortune. Do you sympathize from the bottom of your heart? Would you take it upon yourself, if possible? Yes, I know you would, even without asking the nature of it; and, truth to tell, I would be selfish enough to wish that you might share it with me. Now art thou all in a fever of anxiety? Shall I tell thee? No--yes; I will. I have received an invitation to a party at General McNeil's next Friday evening. Why will not people let poor persecuted me alone? What possible good can it do for me to thrust my coal-begrimed visage and salt-befrosted locks into good society? What claim have I to be there,--a humble measurer, a subordinate Custom House officer, as I am? I cannot go; I will not go. I intend to pass that evening with you,--that is, in musing and dreaming of you; and moreover, considering that we love each other, methinks it is an exceeding breach of etiquette that you were not invited! How strange it is, tender and fragile little Sophie, that your protection should have become absolutely necessary to such a great, rough, burly, broad-shouldered personage as I! I need your support as much as you need mine.
MY DEAREST,--I know not what counsel to give you about calling on my sisters, and therefore must leave the matter to your own exquisite sense of what is right and delicate. We will talk it over at an early opportunity. I think I can partly understand wby they feel cool towards you; but it is for nothing in yourself personally, nor from any unkindness towards you, whom everybody must feel to be the lovablest being in the world. But there are some untoward circumstances. Nevertheless, I have faith that all will he well, and that they will receive Sophia Hawthorne into their heart of hearts. So let us wait patiently on Providence, as we always have, and see what time will bring forth. And, my dearest, whenever you feel disquieted about things of this sort,--if ever that he the case,--speak freely to me; for these are matters in which words may be of use, because they concern the relations between ourselves and others.
I have bought a very good edition of Milton (his poetry) in two octavo volumes, and I saw a huge new London volume of his prose works; but it seemed to me that there was but a small portion of it that you and I would ever care to read; so I left it on the shelf. I have bought some lithographic prints at another store, which I mean to send you, that you may show them to me the next afternoon you permit me to spend with you. You are not to expect anything very splendid; for I did not enter the auction room till a large part of the collection was sold, so that my choice was limited. Perhaps there are one or two not altogether unworthy to be put on the walls of our sanctuary; but this I leave to your finer judgment. I would you could peep into my room and see your own pictures. There is no telling how much brighter and cheerfuller the parlor looks now, whenever I enter it.
Belovedest, I love thee very especially much to-day. Rut it is now breakfast-time, and I have an appetite. What did you eat for breakfast?--but I know well enough that you never eat anything but bread and milk and chickens. Do you love pigeons in a pie? I am fonder of Dove than any thing else,--it is my heart's food and sole sustenance.
God bless us. YOUR OWN.
JUNE 22, 1840.
BELOVEDEST, what a letter! Never was so much beauty poured out of any heart before; and to read it over and over is like bathing my brow in a fresh fountain, and drinking draughts that renew the life within me. Nature is kind and motherly to you, and takes you into her inmost heart and cherishes you there, because you look on her with holy and loving eyes. How can you say that I have ever written anything beautiful, being yourself so potent to reproduce whatever is loveliest? If I did not know that you loved me, I should even be ashamed before you. Worthy of you I am not; but you will make me so, for there will be time or eternity enough for your blessed influence to work on me. Would that we could build our cottage this very summer, amid these scenes of Concord which you describe. My heart thirsts and languishes to be there, away from the hot sun, and the coal-dust, and the steaming docks, and the thick-pated, stubborn, contentious men, with whom I brawl from morning till night, and all the weary toil that quite engrosses me, and yet occupies only a small part of niy being, which I did not know existed before I became a measurer. I do think I should sink down quite disheartened and inanimate if you were not happy, and gathering from earth and sky enjoyment for both of us; but this makes me feel that my real, innermost soul is apart from all these unlovely circumstances, and that it has not ceased to exist, as I might sometimes suspect, but is nourished and kept alive through you. You know not what comfort I have in thinking of you amid those beautiful scenes and amid those sympathizing hearts. If you are well and happy, if your step is light and joyous there, and your cheek is becoming rosier, and if your heart makes pleasant music, then is it not better for you to stay there a little longer? And if better for you, is it not so for me likewise? Now, I do not press you to stay, but leave it all to your wisdom; and if you feel it is now time to come home, then let it be so.
I meant to have written to you yesterday; but, dearest, on that day Hillard and I took a walk into the country. We set out over the Western Avenue, a dreary, fierce-sunshiny, irksome route; but after journeying four or five miles, we came to some of the loveliest rural scenery--yes, the very loveliest--that ever I saw in my life. The first part of the road was like the life of toil and weariness that I am now leading; the latter part was like the life that we will lead hereafter. Would that I had your pen, and I would give you pictures of beauty to match your own; but I should only mar my remembrance of them by the attempt. Not a beautiful scene did I behold, but I imaged you in the midst of it;--you were with me in all the walk, and when I sighed it was for you, and when I smiled it was for you, and when I trusted in future happiness it was for you; and if I did not doubt and fear, it was altogether because of you. What else than happiness can God intend for you? and if your happiness, then mine also. On our return we stopped at Braman's swimming-baths, and plunged in, and washed away all stains of earth and became new creatures. I am not entirely satisfied with any more contracted bath than the illimitable ocean; and to plunge into it is the next thing to soaring into the sky.
This morning I rose early, to finish measuring a load of coal; which being accomplished, and Colonel Hall perceiving that my energies were somewhat exhausted by the heat and by much brawling with the coal-people, did send me home immediately for dinner. So then I took a nap, with a volume of Spenser in my hand, and, awaking at four, I re-re-re-perused your letter, and sat down to pour myself out to thee; and in so doing, dearest, I have had great comfort. I must not forget to thank Mr. Emerson for his invitation to Concord, but really it will not be in my power to accept it. Now, good-by. You have our whole treasure of happiness in your keeping. Keep it safe, and add to it continually. God bless you.
BOSTON, July 10, 1840.
DEAREST,--My days have been so busy and my evenings so invaded with visitants, that I have not had a moment's time to talk with you. Scarcely till this morning have I been able to read your letter quietly. Night before last came Mr. Jones Very; and you know he is somewhat unconscionable as to the length of his calls. The next afternoon came Mr. Hillard's London brother, and wasted my precious hours with a dull talk of nothing; and in the evening I was sorely tried with Mr. Conolly, and a Cambridge law-student, who came to do homage to my literary renown. So you were put aside for these idle people. I do wish the blockheads, and all other blockheads in this world, could comprehend how inestimable are the quiet hours of a busy man, especially when that man has no native impulse to keep him busy, but is continually forced to battle with his own nature, which yearns for seclusion (the solitude of a united two) and freedom to think and dream and feel.
Well, dearest, I am in perfect health this morning, and good spirits; and much do I rejoice that you are so soon to be near me. But do not you make yourself ill in the bustle of removing; for I think that there is nothing more trying, even to a robust frame and rugged spirit, than the disturbance of such an occasion. Now, good-by.
YOUR OWN DE l'AUBÉPINE.
BOSTON, October, 1840.
. . . . Sometimes, during my solitary life in our old Salem house, it seemed to me as if I had only life enough to know that I was not alive; for I had no wife then to keep my heart warm. But, at length, you were revealed to me, in the shadow of a seclusion as deep as my own. I drew nearer and nearer to you, and opened my heart to you, and you came to me, and will remain forever, keeping my heart warm and renewing my life with your own. You only have taught me that I have a heart,--you only have thrown a light, deep downward and upward, into my soul. You only have revealed me to myself; for without your aid my best knowledge of myself would have been merely to know my own shadow,--to watch it flickering on the wall, and mistake its fantasies for my own real actions. Do you comprehend what you have done for me? And is it not a somewhat fearful thought, that a few slight circumstances might have prevented us from meeting, and then I should have returned to my solitude, sooner or later (probably now, when I have thrown down my burden of coal and salt), and never should have been created at all! But this is an idle speculation. If the whole world had stood between us, we must have met; if we had been born in different ages, we could not have been sundered!
When we shall be endowed with spiritual bodies, I think they will be so constituted that we may send thoughts and feelings any distance, in no time at all, and transfuse them warm and fresh into the consciousness of those we love. Oh, what happiness it would be, at this moment, if I could be conscious of some purer feeling, some more delicate sentiment, some lovelier fantasy, than could possibly have had its birth in my own nature, and therefore be aware that you were thinking through my mind and feeling through my heart! Perhaps you possess this power already.
SALEM, Nov. 27, 1840.
DEAREST,--I pity you now; for I apprehend that by this time you have got my dullest of old books to read. And how many pages can you read without falling asleep? Well is it for you that you have adopted the practice of extending yourself on the sofa while at your studies; for now I need be under no apprehension of your sinking out of a chair. I would, for your sake, tbat you could find something laudable in this awful little volume, because you would like to tell me that I have done well. Dearest, I am utterly ashamed of my handwriting. I wonder how you can anywise tolerate what is so ungraceful. being yourself all grace. But I think I seldom write so shamefully as in this epistle.
Whenever I return to Salem, I feel how dark my life would be without the light that you shed upon it,--how cold, without the warmth of your love. Sitting in this chamber, where my youth wasted itself in vain, I can partly estimate the change that has been wrought. It seems as if the better part of me had been born since then. I had walked those many years in darkness, and might so have walked through life, with only a dreamy notion that there was any light in the universe, if you had not kissed my eyelids and given me to see. You, dearest, have always been positively happy. Not so I,--I have only not been miserable. Then which of us has gained the most? I, assuredly! When a beam of heavenly sunshine incorporates itself with a dark cloud, is not the cloud benefited more than the sunshine? Nothing at all has happened to me since I left you. It puzzles me to conceive how you meet with so many more events than I. You will have a volume to tell me, when we meet, and you will pour your beloved voice into my ears in a long stream; at length you will pause and say, "But what has your life been?" and then will stupid I look back upon what I call my life, for three or four days past, and behold, a blank! You live ten times as much as I, because your spirit takes so much more note of things.
I am enduring my banishment here as best I may methinks, all enormous sinners should be sent on pilgrimage to Salem, and compelled to spend a length of time there, proportioned to the enormity of their offences. Such punishment would be suited to crimes that do not quite deserve hanging, yet are too aggravated for the State's Prison. Oh, naughty I! If it be a punishment, I deserve to suffer a life-long infliction of it, were it only for slandering my native town so vilely. But any place is strange and lonesome to me where you are not; and where you are, any place will be home. I ought to love Salem better than I do; for the people have always had a pretty generous faith in me, ever since they knew me at all. I fear I must be undeserving of their praise, else I should never get it. What an ungrateful blockhead am I!
Now I think of it, it does not please you to hear me spoken slightingly of. Well, then you should not have loved such a vulnerable person. But, to your comfort be it said, some people have a much more exalted opinion of me than I have. The Rev. Mr. Gannet delivered a lecture, at the Lyceum here, the other evening, in which he introduced an enormous eulogium on whom do you think? Why, on my respectable self! Thereupon all the audience gave a loud hiss! Now is my mild little Sophie exceedingly enraged, and will plot some mischief and all involving calamity against the Salem people. Well, then, they did not actually hiss at the praises bestowed on me,--the more geese they!
God bless you, you sinless Eve!
SALEM, Jan. 13, 1841.
OH, beloved, what a weary week is this Never did I experience the like. Will you know my face when we meet again? Are you much changed by the flight of years, my poor little Sophie? Is your hair turned gray? Do you wear a day-cap as well as a night-cap? How long since did you begin to wear spectacles? Perhaps you will not like to have me see you, now that time has done his worst to mar your beauty; but fear not, for what I have loved and admired in you is eternal. I shall look through the envious mist of age, and discern your immortal grace, as perfectly as in the light of Paradise. As for me, I am grown quite bald and gray, and have very deep wrinkles across my brow, and crowsfeet and furrows all over my face. My eyesight fails me, so that I can only read the largest print in the broadest day light; but it is a singular circumstance that I make out to decipher the pygmy characters of your epistles, even by the faintest twilight. The secret is, that they are characters of light to me, so that I could undoubtedly read them in midnight darkness. . . .
--At this point, chronologically if not sentimentally, comes in the following letter from Hawthorne to his sister Louisa, with three from her to him. If they interrupt for a few moments the flow of lovers' talk, they do so in a pleasant fashion, and incidentally afford a glimpse worth having of the way these invisible and problematical Hawthornes felt towards one another.
BROOK FARM, WEST ROXBURY, May 8, 1841.
As the weather precludes all possibility of ploughing, hoeing, sowing, and other such operations, I bethink me that you may have no objections to bear something of my whereabout and whatabout. You are to know, then, that I took up my abode here on the 12th ultimo, in the midst of a snow-storm, which kept us all idle for a day or two. At the first glimpse of fair weather, Mr, Ripley summoned us into the cow-yard, and introduced me to an instrument with four prongs, commonly entitled a dung-fork. With this tool I have already assisted to load twenty or thirty carts of manure, and shall take part in loading nearly three hundred more. Besides, I have planted potatoes and pease, cut straw and hay for the cattle, and done various other mighty works: This very morning I milked three cows, and I milk two or three every night and morning. The weather has been so unfavorable that we have worked comparatively little in the fields; but, nevertheless, I have gained strength wonderfully, --grown quite a giant, in fact,--and can do a day's work without the slightest inconvenience. In short, I am transformed into a complete farmer.
This is one of the most beautiful places I ever saw in my life, and as secluded as if it were a hundred miles from any city or village. There are woods, in which we can ramble all day without meeting anybody or scarcely seeing a house. Our house stands apart from the main road, so that we are not troubled even with passengers looking at us. Once in a while we have a transcendental visitor, such as Mr. Alcott; but generally we pass whole days without seeing a single face, save those of the brethren. The whole fraternity eat together; and such a delectable way of life has never been seen on earth since the days of the early Christians. We get up at half-past four, breakfast at half-past six, dine at half-past twelve, and go to bed at nine.
The thin frock which you made for me is considered a most splendid article, and I should not wonder if it were to become the summer uniform of the Community. I have a thick frock, likewise; but it is rather deficient in grace, though extremely warm and comfortable. I wear a tremendous pair of cowhide hoots, with soles two inches thick,--of course, when I come to see you I shall wear my farmer's dress.
We shall be very much occupied during most of this month, ploughing and planting; so that I doubt whether you will see me for two or three weeks. You have the portrait by this time, I suppose; so you can very well dispense with the original. When you write to me (which I beg you will do soon), direct your letter to West Roxbury, as there are two post-offices in the town. I would write more) but William Mien is going to the village, and must have this letter. So good-by.
NATH. HAWTHORNE, Ploughman
SALEM, May 10, 1841.
MY DEAR BROTHER,--I am very glad you did bethink yourself that we might want to hear from you; for we had looked for you so long in vain, that we were very impatient to know in wbat quarter of the world you had bestowed yourself What a delightful beginning of your farmer's life that snowstorm was! I could not help thinking all day how dreary it must look to you. You do give a wonderful account of your works. Elizabeth does not seem to have entire faith in it, it passes her comprehension; she says she knows you will spoil the cows if you attempt to milk them, and she thinks William Allen will have the hardest time of all, it being his province to direct you. What an event it will be when the potatoes you have planted come up I should like to see you at work; what a figure you must cut after a day's ploughing, or labor in the barnyard! Your carpet will suffer this summer if you tread upon it with your cowhide boots. Do not work too hard; I have more faith in your working than Elizabeth has, and I am afraid you will take it too hard. Mother groans over it, and wishes you would come home. The portrait came home a fortnight ago, and gives great delight. Mother says it is perfect; and if she is satisfied with the likeness, it must be good. The color is a little too high, to be sure; but perhaps it is a modest blush at the compliments which are paid you to your face. Mrs. Cleveland says it is bewitching, and Miss Carlton says it only wants to speak. Elizabeth says it is excellent. It has one advantage over the original,--I can make it go with me where I choose! But good as it is, it does not by any means supply the place of the original, and you are not to think that you can stay away any longer than before we had it. If you only knew how we anticipated your coming home, and how impatient we are when you do not come at the usual time, you would not think you could be spared. It is a comfort to look at the picture, to be sure; but I am tempted to speak to it sometimes, and it answers never a word; and when mother looks at it, she takes up a lamentation because you stay away so long and work so hard. I wonder if they would not take me into the Community for a week this summer. I should like to get into the country and ramble in the woods. I won't work much, though; neither, I hope, will you when the hot weather comes,--which does not seem likely to be very soon. Do you see the newspapers, so as to know what is going on among the world's people? What a sweep there is among your old friends at the Custom House!
You do not tell us what you eat. I should like to know what your farmer's fare is. What a loaded table you must want, so many of you, after a hard day's work! I should think you would bring us home a box of butter, if your dairy-woman is very nice. Do you know, when Sunday comes now, I think among so many ministers you might have preaching! Shall not you be at home by next Friday,--the National Fast? It is five weeks to-morrow since you went away, and we do so want to see you. I am glad your frock gives satisfaction; I suppose that is your Sunday dress. You can wear that when you are at home; but Beelzebub begs that you will leave your thick boots behind you, as her nerves are somewhat delicate and she could not bear them. She came into the room the other night, and looked all round for you, and uplifted her voice. She will not take the least notice of the picture; she wants the real, not the imitation. She is rather conceited just now, as she has been told that there is a canary bird named for her, which has added to her vanity. I have written a very long letter; but if it continues to rain, you will have time to read it. If you do not come home this week, do write,--but do come.
Your affectionate sister,
M. L. HAWTHORNE.
SALEM, June 11, 1841.
DEAR NATTY,--We received your letter, and were yery glad to hear from you, although we should have been much better pleased to have had you come yourself. I had not written before, because we had been looking for you every day; and we do most seriously object to your staying away from home so long. Do you know that it was nine weeks last Tuesday since you left home? --a great deal too long. I do not see how you manage to work this hot weather without your thin clothes; and I do not like your working so hard at all. I am sure it cannot be good for your health to work from half-past four till seven; and I cannot bear to think that this hot sun is beating upon your head. You could but work hard if you could do nothing else; as it is, you can do a great deal better. What is the use of burning your brains out in the sun, when you can do anything better with them? Ebe says she thought you were only to work three hours a day for your board, and she cannot understand your keeping at it all day.
I am bent upon coming up to see you this summer. Do not you remember how you and I used to go a-fishing together in Raymond? Your mention of wild-flowers and pickerel has given me a longing for the woods and waters again; and I want to wander about as I used to in old times; and I mean to come! Who are the four young ladies who give you so much trouble? They ought to work as well as you. I should think so much company would hinder you very much. I only wish you were near enough to Salem to be visited. Elizabeth Cleveland says she saw Mr. George Bradford in Lowell last winter, and he told her he was going to be associated with you; but they say his mind misgave him terribly when the time came for him to go to Roxbury, and whether to take such a desperate step or not, he could not tell. Mrs. Cleveland saw a young lady who had seen you in your frock, and they told her you carried milk into Boston every morning; so she says she stared at every milk-cart she met to see if the milkman resembled the picture, but she was disappointed in her hopes of seeing you. I hope you were dressed in your best frock at the fete in Brook Farm. I should think your clothes were in a very dilapidated condition by this time, and I am glad of it; for then you will have to come home. We have sent that frock-coat to be dyed, and it is to be done to-morrow; your stocks are in progress, and mother is this afternoon putting buttons on your thin pantaloons, of which you have three pairs, which you must want very much. I wish you had said if you wanted any more of those working-shirts; they are pretty thick for this weather. Mother apostrophizes your picture because you do not come home. Elizabeth walked over to Marblehead the other day, and got plenty of violets and columbines. I went to Harmony Grove last week; it looked pretty enough. We saw in the Boston Post a notice of that article of yours, and part of it was copied into the "Gazette." If you have the magazine do bring it home with you, that we may see the whole article. I shall he g]ad when you renew your acquaintance with the person therein mentioned, and recommend you to do it speedily. Mother says she shall look for you sometime tomorrow; if you do not come then, do not defer it longer than next week We do want to see you, and you must not stay any longer; only think, it is more than two months since you went away, and my patience is exhausted. Beelzebub is very well, but she had the misfortune to set herself on fire the other day, which improves her beauty by contrast. She wants one of those partridges you tell of. I am writing in your chamber. Do come very soon.
Your affectionate sister,
M. L. HAWTHORNE.
SALEM, Aug. 3, 1841.
DEAR NATTY,--I have waited for a letter from you till I am tired and cannot wait any longer. And I have been to the post-office and received the same answer so often, that I am ashamed to go any more. What do you mean by such conduct, neither coming, nor writing to us? It is six weeks to-day since you left us, and in all that time we have heard nothing from you. We do not like it at all. It was a great deal better, and, I am sure, a great deal pleasanter and happier, when you came home once a fortnight at least; that was quite long enough to stay away. Mother is very vehement about it. I take for granted you would like to hear from us; we are all pretty well. Susan Giddings says they frequently heard from you by way of Mr. Farley, whose sister-in-law lives in the house with them, and to whom he writes frequently. She was very much amazed at the idea of your working so hard. By the way, I hope you do not work very hard this hot weather. I have been troubled about it when the sun was so hot that I could not step out of doors. How did you get through haying? I was glad to hear of your going to Plymouth, because it seemed as if your hurry was over. Elizabeth walked to Marblehead the other day. Poor Beelzebub is very unfortunate: she has been lame this three weeks; whether it is the gout, or a sprain, or fighting, we cannot tell; but she bobbles on three legs in a most pitiable manner, though I suppose you might be wicked enough to laugh at her. I doubt very much if she ever walks on four legs again. Mr. George Bradford, one of your brethren, has paid a visit in Lowell, where I understand his hands excited great wonderment. I can imagine how they looked, having seen yours. Healy Barstow has been walking round town this week, dressed in a black velvet coat, looking very much like a play-actor. It is said that you are to do the travelling in Europe for the Community. Mrs. Sparks is boarding at Nahant for her health. I hope you will come home very soon; we do want to see you. You do not know how long it seems since you went away. But if you are not coming immediately, you must write and let us hear from you at least. Mother takes up such a lamentation for you, and then she scolds about you; and Beelzebub comes into the room and hops round it, looking for you; and Ebe is troubled about your working; so you must pacify us all. If you write, say if you want any clothes got ready.
Your affectionate sister,
M. L. HAWTHORNE.
--Here ends Miss Louisa's contribution, and Hawthorne resumes. It is probably not necessary to remark that Beelzebub, in this connection, signifies only the family cat; but it may be as well to explain that "Ebe" stands for Miss Elizabeth. When Hawthorne was a baby, the sound he made in attempting to pronounce his sister's name is represented by these letters; and it became her family appellation. Hawthorne's children, in after years, always spoke of Miss Elizabeth Hawthorne as "Aunt Ebe."
BROOK FARM, Aug. 12, 1841.
DEAREST UNUTTERABLY,--Mrs. Ripley is going to Boston to Miss Slade's wedding, so I sit down to write a word to you, not knowing whither to direct it. My heart searches for you, but wanders about vaguely and is strangely dissatisfied. Where are you? I would that I were with you. It seems as if all evil things had more power over you when I am away. Then you are exposed to noxious winds and to pestilence and to death-like weariness; and, moreover, nobody knows how to take care of you but I. Everybody else thinks it of importance that you should paint and sculpture; but it would be no trouble to me if you should never touch clay or canvas again. It is not what you do, but what you are, that I concern myself about. And if your mighty works are to be wrought only by the anguish of your head, and weariness of your frame, and sinking of your heart, then I do never desire to see another. And this should be the feeling of all your friends. Especially ought it to be yours, for my sake. . . .
BROOK FARM, Aug. 22, 1841.
. . . .When am I to see you again? The first of September comes a week from Tuesday next; but I think I shall compel it to begin on Sunday. Will you consent? Then, on Saturday afternoon, I will come to you, and remain in the city till Monday. Thence I shall go to Salem, and spend a week there, longer or shorter according to the intensity of the occasion for my presence. I do long to see our mother and sisters; and I should not wonder if they felt some slight desire to see me. I received a letter from Louisa a week or two since, scolding me most pathetically for my long absence. Indeed, I have been rather naughty in this respect; but I knew that it would be unsatisfactory to them and myself if I came only for a single day, and that has been the largest space that I could command. . . .
SALEM, Sept. 3, 1841.
. . . .You do not expect a letter from me; and yet, perhaps, you will not be absolutely displeased should one come to you to-morrow. At all events, I feel moved to write, though the haze and sleepiness which always settles upon me here, will be perceptible in every line. But what a letter you wrote to me--it is like one angel writing to another angel. But alas, the letter has miscarried, and has been delivered to a most unworthy mortal. Now will you exclaim against my naughtiness And indeed I am very naughty. Well, then, the letter was meant for me, and could not possibly belong to any other being, mortal or immortal. I will trust that your idea of me is truer than my own consciousness of myself.
I have been out only once, in the daytime, since my arrival. How immediately and irrecoverably (if you did not keep me out of the abyss) should I relapse into the way of life in which I spent my youth! If it were not for you, this present world would see no more of me forever. The sunshine would never fall on me, no more than on a ghost. Once in a while people might discern my figure gliding stealthily through the dim evening,--that would be all. I should be only a shadow of the night; it is you that give me reality, and make all things real for me. If, in the interval since I quitted this lonely old chamber, I had found no woman (and you were the only possible one) to impart reality and significance to life, I should have come back hither ere now, with a feeling that all was a dream and a mockery. Do you rejoice that you have saved me from such a fate? Yes; it is a miracle worthy even of you, to have converted a life of shadows into the deepest truth by your magic touch.
BOSTON, May 27, 1842.
DEAREST HEART,--Your letter to my sisters was most beautiful,--sweet, gentle, and magnanimous; such as no one but you could have written. If they do not love you, it must be because they have no hearts to love with,--and even if this were the case, I should not despair of your planting the seeds of hearts in their bosoms. They will love you, all in good time, dearest; and we will be very happy. I am so at this moment. I see more to admire and love in you every day of my life, and shall see more and more as long as I live, else it will be because my own nature retrogrades, instead of advancing. But you will make me better and better, till I am worthy to be your husband.
Three evenings without a glimpse of you; and I know not whether I am to come at six or seven o'clock, or scarcely, indeed, whether I am to come at all. But, unless you order me to the contrary, I shall come at seven o'clock. I saw Mr. Emerson at the Atheneum yesterday, and he tells me that our garden, etc., make progress. Would that we were there!
SALEM, June 9, 1842
DEAREST,--Scarcely had I arrived here, when our mother came out of her chamber, looking better and more cheerful than I have seen her this some time, and inquired about your health and well-being. Very kindly, too. Then was my heart much lightened; for I know that almost every agitating circumstance of her life had hitherto cost her a fit of sickness, and I knew not but it might be so now. Foolish me, to doubt that my mother's love could be wise, like all other genuine love And foolish again, to have doubted your instinct,--whom, henceforth (if never before) I take for my unerring guide and counsellor in all matters of the heart and soul. Yet if, sometimes, I should perversely follow my own follies, do not you be discouraged. I shall always acknowledge your superior wisdom in the end. Now, I am happier than my naughtiness deserves. It seems that our mother had seen how things were, a long time ago; at first her heart was troubled, because she knew that much of outward as well as inward fitness was requisite to secure our peace; but, gradually and quietly, God has taught her that all is good, and so we shall have her fullest blessing and concurrence. My sisters, too, begin to sympathize as they ought; and all is well. God be praised I thank Him on my knees, and pray Him to make me worthy of the happiness you bring me.
Time and space, and all other finite obstructions, are fast flitting away from between us. We can already measure the interval by days and hours. What happiness! and what awe is intermingled with it--no fear nor doubt, but a holy awe, as when an immortal spirit is drawing near to the gates of Heaven. I cannot tell what I feel, but you know it all.
I shall be with you on Friday at seven o'clock. I have no more words, but a heart full of love.
SALEM, June 20, 1842.
TRUE AND HONORABLE,--You have not been out of my mind a moment since I saw you last,--and never will you be, so long as we exist. Can you say as much? Dearest, do you know that there are but ten days more in this blessed month of June? And do you remember what is to happen within those ten days? Poor little Sophie. Now you begin to tremble and shrink back, and fear that you have acted too rashly in this matter. Now you say to yourself, "Oh that I could prevail upon this wretched person to allow me a month or two longer to make up my mind; for, after all, he is but an acquaintance of yesterday, and unwise am I to give up father, mother, and sisters for the sake of such a questionable stranger!" Ah, it is too late! Nothing can part us now; for God himself hath ordained that we shall be one. So nothing remains, but to reconcile yourself to your destiny. Year by year we shall grow closer to each other; and a thousand ages hence, we shall be only in the honeymoon of our marriage. But I cannot write to you. The time for that species of communion is past.
DEAREST,--Your sister Mary told me that it was her opinion you and I should not be married for a week longer. I had hoped, as you know, for an earlier day; but I cannot help feeling that Mary is on the safe and reasonable side, and should you feel that this postponement is advisable, you will find me patient beyond what you think me capable of. I will even be happy, if you will only keep your heart and mind at peace. I will go to Concord tomorrow or next day, and see about our affairs there.
P.S. I love you! I love you! I love you!
P.S. 2. Do you love me at all?
On the 9th of July, 1842, the marriage took place at the house of Dr. Peabody, No. 13 West Street, Boston. The ceremony was performed by Rev. James Freeman Clarke, who, by a singular chance, never afterwards met Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne until, on the 23d of May, 1864, he preached the funeral sermon, at Concord church, over Mr. Hawthorne's dead body. The spectators of the wedding were very few; but, such as they were, they looked on with loving and praying hearts. The imagination lingers over this scene, with its simplicity, its deep but happy emotion, its faith, its promise, and its courage. The future that lay before the married lovers had in it its full proportion of joy, of sorrow, of honor, and of loss; but there was, in the chapter of their life which had just closed, an ethereal bloom of loveliness which can come but once even to the pure in heart, and which to many comes not at all.