Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume II
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
First Months in England
WE ARE TOLD, truly enough, that goodness does not always command good fortune in this world, that just hopes are often deferred until it is too late to enjoy their realization, fame and honor only discover a man after he has ceased to value them; and a large and respectable portion of modern fiction is occupied in impressing these sober lessons upon us. It is pleasant, nevertheless, to believe that sometimes fate condescends not to be so unmitigable, and that a cloudy and gusty morning does occasionally brighten into a sunny and genial afternoon. Too long a course of apparently perverse and unreasonable accidents bewilders the mind, and the few and fleeting gleams of compensation seem a mockery. One source of the perennial charm of Goldsmith's "Vicar of Wakefield" is, I think, that in it the dividing line between the good and the bad fortune is so distinctly drawn. Just when man has done his utmost, and all seems lost, Providence steps in, brings aid from the most unexpected quarter, and kindles everything into brighter and ever brighter prosperity. The action and reaction are positive and complete, and we arise refreshed and comforted from the experience.
It was somewhat thus with Hawthorne, though the picture of his career is to be painted in a lower and more delicate tone than that of Goldsmith's brilliant little canvas. Up to the time of the publication of "The Scarlet Letter," his external circumstances had certainly been growing more and more unpromising; though, on the other hand, his inner domestic life had been full of the most vital and tender satisfactions. But the date of his first popular success in literature also marks the commencement of a worldly prosperity which, though never by any means splendid (as we shall presently see), at any rate sufficed to allay the immediate anxiety about to-morrow's bread-and-butter, from which he had not hitherto been free. The three American novels were written and published in rapid succession, and were reprinted in England,--the first two being pirated; but for the last, "The Blithedale Romance," two hundred pounds was obtained from Messrs. Chapman and Hall for advance sheets. There is every reason to believe that during the ensuing years other romances would have been written; and perhaps they would have been as good as, or better than, those that went before. But it is vain to speculate as to what might have been. What actually happened was, that Hawthorne was appointed United States Consul to Liverpool; and for six years to come his literary exercises were confined to his consular despatches and to the six or eight manuscript volumes of his English, French, and Italian Journals. It was a long abstinence; possibly it was a beneficent one. The production of such books as "The Scarlet Letter" and "The House of the Seven Gables" cannot go on indefinitely; though they seem to be easily written when they are written, they represent a great deal of the writer's spiritual existence. At all events, it is better to write too little than too much.
This outlet to Europe was for both Hawthorne and his wife the unlooked-for realization of the dreams of a lifetime. Few Americans ever journeyed thither better equipped than they for appreciating and enjoying what lay before them. They might have said of England or Italy what Tennyson's Prince says of the Princess,--"Ere seen I loved, and loved thee seen." What can be more agreeable than to be born with tastes which cannot be fully gratified in the land of your birth, and then, when the bustle and struggle of life are over, and your faculties and judgment are ripened, to find yourself all at once in actual contact with the things, the scenes, and the people that have so long constituted the substance of your meditations? Such enjoyment repays much waiting; indeed, it can hardly exist save on that condition. And yet, I suppose, the best part of the enjoyment was the immediate anticipation of it. If for no other reason than that the climate of England is depressing, and that of Italy treacherous, those countries fail quite to fulfil the best that one has expected of them.
On the other side, a number of people who had made his acquaintance through his books, as the phrase is, were looking forward with hospitable pleasure to Hawthorne's arrival. Four or five months before the date fixed for sailing, Mrs. Hawthorne in a letter to her father quotes the following passage from a letter written by Miss De Quincey:--
"We lately received a letter written to a friend by one of De Quincey's daughters, who expresses herself very warmly about Mr. Hawthorne. This is what she says: 'Your mention of Mr. Hawthorne puts me in mind to tell you what rabid admirers we are of his. I am sure it was worth while saving his manuscripts from the flames, if his only reward was gaining one family, not millions, of such adorers as ourselves. There is no prose writer of the present day in whom I have half the interest that I have in him. His style is in my mind so beautifully refined, and there is such exquisite pathos and quaint humor, and such an awfully deep knowledge of human nature,--not that hard, unloving, detestable, and (as it is purely one-sided or wrong-sided) false reading of it that one finds in Thackeray. He reminds me in many things of Charles Lamb, and of heaps of our rare old English humorists, with their deep, pathetic, natures. And one faculty he possesses beyond any writer I remember (not dramatic, for then I could certainly remember Shakspeare),--namely, that of exciting you to the highest pitch without ever, as I am aware of, making you feel by his catastrophe ashamed of having been so excited. What I mean is, if you have ever read it, such a case as occurs in the "Mysteries of Udolpho," where your disgust is beyond all expression at finding that all your fright about the ghostly creature that has haunted you throughout the volume has been caused by a pitiful wax image! I merely give this as an exaggerated case of what I feel in reading most books where any great passion is meant to be worked upon. And no author does work upon them more, apparently with no effort to himself. But it may be only his consummate art to succeed so effectually. I cannot satisfy myself as to whether I like his sort of essays contained in the "Twice-Told Tales" best, or his more finished works, such as "The Blithedale Romance." Every touch he adds to any character gives a higher interest to it, so that I should like the longer ones best; but there is a concentration of excellence in the shorter things, and passages that strike in force like daggers in their beauty and truth, so I generally end by liking that best which I have read last. Will you tell him how much we love and admire his gracious nature? There are other stars in your firmament, all of whom we admire, some greatly; but he outshines them all by infinite degrees.'"
--"This is very pleasant," adds Mrs. Hawthorne, and it is certainly as appreciative as one could wish, and, like most such eulogies, throws more light upon the eulogist than the eulogized.
A year or two later, when we were settled in England, this same Miss De Quincey wrote to Mr Hawthorne from Ireland, enclosing a note from her married sister, Mrs. Craig, at whose house she was staying. Although at the sacrifice of chronological order, I subjoin the letters here. So far as I am aware, Mr. Hawthorne never happened to meet either De Quincey himself or any of his family.
PEGSBORO, TIPPERARY, 1RELAND, Nov. 13, 1854.
MY DEAR MR. HAWTHORNE,--I received a letter to-day to forward to my father, with the Liverpool postmark, and "N. H." on the seal. Partly hoping and partly fearing it may be from you, I write to explain to you why it is not already answered, and why it may not be answered for some time longer. Papa retired early this summer to the wilds of an Edinburgh lodging-house, in order to be nearer his publishers, and to be rid of the interruptions to which he was liable at home; and my youngest sister and I have taken advantage of his absence to shut up our house for a month or two, and to come over here to visit my eldest sister, and to worship our first niece, a very lovely little atom not yet two months old. Papa's letters are sent to me here to be forwarded to him, which will account for your letter not yet being answered; and should it still continue unanswered, this too will be accounted for, should you have heard anything of papa's shortcomings in the way of letter-writing, and of letter-reading too, as he very often does not open his letters unless he knows he has one of us at hand to answer them. We are all very much afraid your letter may be to offer a visit while we are from home, which we have been looking forward to so long. Should this be the case, I can at least give you papa's address in Edinburgh, that he may not miss the pleasure of seeing you, which--as I shall feel particularly savage at our own misfortune in doing so--is a stretch of generous consideration that I hope you and he will recognize. I feel as if we knew you, or rather as if you knew us, so intimately and so tenderly in your works, that I cannot finish my letter but as
Your affectionate friend,
FLORENCE DE QUINCEY.
--Here is the enclosure:--
MY DEAR MR. HAWTHORNE,--Though I have given up my claim to be "Miss De Quincey," I hope 1 have not given up the chance of becoming acquainted with you. I was included in the promise of introduction to you; and if I, then my husband too, for we are "one flesh." Mr. Craig desires me to say how heartily he joins me in hoping we may have the pleasure of welcoming such guests in our Irish home. I have a private reason of my own for wishing it too. You are a baby-fancier, and I want to compare notes with you about our little "Puck" as we call her; being made by nature as nearly like a little angel as anything I ever saw, she chooses to make herself, when we want to show her off to any one, like Puck and those gargoyle faces on the g outside of churches,--all to put her poor parents in confusion. But I suppose I had better stop this subject. So with our kindest regards to you all, I beg to remain, dear sir,
--Mr. Hawthorne always enjoyed De Quincey's writings. I remember his reading the brown-covered volumes of Ticknor's American edition, as they came out one after another; and he often recurred to them afterwards. The music of the style pleased him, and the smoothness and finish of the thought. After the return of the family to Concord, in 1860, he gave his son a passage from the essay on "The Caesars" to learn for his first school-declamation. It was a very eloquent piece of writing; but there is no record of its having produced a deep impression on the school. On another occasion Mrs. Hawthorne, who shared her husband's fondness for the author, read aloud to her children the whole of the story, or historical sketch, entitled "Klosterheim." It was good reading,--I do not know when I have listened to better; and it fixed the tale forever in the memory of the auditors. Both Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne seem to have been born good readers; there were music, variety, and expression in every tone, and the charm of feeling that the reader was in sympathy with the reading. While we were in England, Mr. Hawthorne read to us Spenser's "Faerie Queene;" and his children were knights-errant and princesses for years afterwards. Again, two or three years before his death, he read aloud the whole of Walter Scott's novels, taking up the volumes night after night, until all were completed. That, too, was something to remember. All the characters seemed to live and move visibly before us. The expression of his face changed, as he read, in harmony with the speech or the passage. It was very pleasant to see him sitting with a book, he would settle himself comfortably in his chair, and hold the book open in his left hand, his fingers clasping it over the top; and as he read (whether aloud or to himself), there was a constantly recurrent forward movement of his head, which seemed somehow to give distinctness and significance to the sentences and paragraphs, and indicated the constant living rapport between him and the author. These movements were very slight and unobtrusive, but they were among the things which conveyed to the beholder that impression of unfailing spiritual vitality and intellectual comprehensiveness which always characterized Hawthorne.
What De Quincey thought of Hawthorne's writings, or whether he ever read them, we have no record. De Quincey's own countrymen do not seem, as a rule to have cared as much for him as his American admirers did. Mr. Henry Bright writes: "In 1854 I had written a review of De Quincey in the 'Westminster,' and Mr. Hawthorne wrote to me, quite indignant that I had not praised De Quincey more warmly." At this time, however, there was, I believe, no complete English edition of the man's writings, they were scattered through various reviews, and of course lost much of their collective effect.
But this is a digression. In February, 1853, Mrs. Hawthorne had more news of expectant English admirers to tell her father:--
"Mr. Hawthorne received the other day from Sheffield a very thick letter, and it contained one of his sketches, 'The White Old Maid,' rendered into verse; and with the poem, a letter from the poet, in which he expresses the greatest admiration and delight in his works. It is signed 'Henry Cecil.' He begins the letter 'My dear Brother;' and he says he attempted this poetical version because of a dispute that the spell of the tale could not be retained in rhyme. Lately Mr. Hawthorne also had a letter from Bennett, an English poet,--a very loving and admiring letter; and at the end he says his 'Baby May' bids him 'send Mr. Hawthorne a kiss for his promise of a Wonder Book, and her love to Una and Julian and little Rose-bud as she is. I am ordered too by Mrs. Bennett to be sure and tell you what an admirer you have in her.'"
--Hawthorne met both of these gentlemen after his arrival in England. I do not remember what became of Mr. Henry Cecil, and have found no letters of his, but Mr. Bennett became, and remained to the last, among the most cordial and agreeable friends of the American author.
The months preceding departure were occupied in preparations, whereof there seemed never to be an end. And yet Hawthorne did not anticipate so prolonged an absence as proved to be before him; and it was moreover intended to "run home" occasionally, and so break the spell of exile. But an ocean voyage is even now something of an undertaking, and was still more so then. Besides, Time is fertile in deceptions; he never gives us a fourth part as much leisure as he promises us. Furthermore, Atlantic journeys cost money, and the Liverpool Consulate turned out to be very much less of a gold-mine than it was thought to be. In a certain sense, too, all partings in this world are final: we never find on our return the same thing or person that we left; at any rate, we never bring the same person back. Certainly the Concord of 1860 was a very different place, to Hawthorne, from the Concord of 1853. But fortunately we perceive this sober truth only in the retrospect; the outlook forward is much more agreeable, as may be judged from this letter to Dr. Peabody from his daughter, written in May,--six weeks before sailing:--
"...I very much hope you are more glad than sorry at the turning up of our wheel of Fortune. I hope to come back from England and make you a visit before our final return to America, and show you the children before they are grown too big. Ericsson's caloric ships will soon be crossing the Atlantic; and they will as safe as a parlor, you know, and so people can make calls across the ocean with composure of mind. The two older children are filled with delighted wonder and hope; as to Rosebud, what matters it to her whether she stand on one hemisphere or the other, so long as Papa, Mamma, Oona, and Dulan are within sight? I do not intend to bid any one farewell. There is really no distance now. I do not feel as if Liverpool were far off. I can write to you by every steamer, and you will know exactly about us, as if you were in Newton and we in Concord. And soon the telegraph will take news by lightning between the Old and the New Worlds, and we can be well advised of one another.
"We receive the pleasantest and most cordial assurances from all quarters upon this Consulate. It was a very noble act of General Pierce; for the office is second in dignity only to the Embassy in London, and is more sought for than any other, and is nearly the most lucrative, and General Pierce might have made great political capital out of it if that were his way. But he acts from the highest and not lowest motives, and would make any sacrifice to the right. Mr. Charles Sumner sent a note written in the Senate Chamber at the moment of confirmation, that fairly shouted as with a silver trumpet, it was so cordial and stron, in joy. So from all sides. Mr. Hawthorne seems chosen by acclamation, as General Pierce was.
"Mr. Hawthorne got back from Washington last Thursday. He says he should have seen and learned much that was desirable for him to know and see it he had stayed three weeks longer; but he was tired out with even so much of it, being lionized to a painful degree everywhere he went. He received fifty letters while there, I forget how many telegraphic despatches, and a vast number of cards, and was introduced to everybody of any note. He had the satisfaction of accomplishing a good deal for others, and it proved a most fortunate moment for himself to be there. Many things he told me that teach me a great deal about the difficulty and delicacy of judging men in high positions, with wide responsibilities, justly.
"Mr. Hawthorne says he was very glad to look at the country from a central point. I can conceive how much he could gain from the right point, with his harvesting eye, generalizing and concentrating, all things. When he had once turned homeward, he came as fast as steam could bring him, though he had intended to remain in New York and then in Boston. This strong tendency towards home saved him from that terrific accident on Friday,--which he escaped so narrowly that it makes me shiver to think of it, though, to be sure, I cannot believe in chances. He arrived at noon. Julian was out of doors. Mary Herne, our cook, was sewing under the pine shrubbery. Julian rushed past her with a face of red fire, shouting 'Father! Papa!' with such a tremendous emphasis that everybody in and out of the house heard him at once. The stage drove up. Baby was asleep; and when she waked, she was dressed and put into the room, and unexpectedly saw Papa. It was too much for her. Her eyes twinkled and closed exactly as if a dazzling sun had blazed upon her; and when her father moved towards her, she burst into tears and clung to me and hid her face. It took a good while to tranquillize her; but finally, when she could manage her emotions, she shook hands with him, and then got up in his lap with an expression of the utmost satisfaction--
"Monday Morning. .--I was interrupted yesterday by Mr. Alcott coming, and he stayed to tea; so I send my letter this morning as it is."
--On a hot July morning Hawthorne, with his wife and children, left Concord and went by train to Boston, where they embarked on the Cunard steamer "Niagara," which was commanded by Captain Leitch. The captain was a very charming personage, as the children soon found out; he was rather below the medium height, slender, with a handsome countenance, bushy black whiskers, and very quiet and courteous manners. It so happened that he commanded the vessel on which, seven years later, Hawthorne made the return trip to Boston. That vessel, however, was not the "Niagara:" the latter was chartered by the British Government, during the Crimean war, to convey soldiers to the Black Sea; and Hawthorne took his son down to the Liverpool wharves to see her depart on that occasion, loaded down with red-coated heroes,--very few of whom, by the by, ever saw Liverpool again. The "Niagara" was, of course, a paddle-wheel steamer, and must have been something less than three hundred feet in length, though her beam was scarcely less than that of the great screw-propellers of the present day. She was a palace of wonder and delight to the young people; and she carried, as part of her crew, an amiable cow and a brood of clucking hens. The weather, at starting; was very fine; we passed several ships becalmed, outside Boston Harbor, their crews lounging over the bulwarks and giving us a parting cheer as we steamed seaward. Some of us were in high spirits, and longed to see the last headland of America vanish beneath the horizon; but Hawthorne, standing on the deck with his hands behind him, rebuked this unsentimental mood, and intimated that we should view with regret the disappearance of the land that we might never see again. After we were fairly at sea, however, his gravity lightened, and he gave himself up to the free enjoyment of the ocean he so dearly loved. Though his forefathers followed the sea, and he himself had scarce ever lived out of sight of blue water, this was the first extended voyage that Hawthorne had ever made, and he found the fullest satisfaction in it and was sorry when it was over. He never enjoyed such good health as when he was afloat, was never sea-sick, spent all his days on deck, and was never weary of watching the dance and rush of the waves and the changing hues and the lights and shadows of sea and sky. The voyage was, comparatively, an uneventful one; with the exception of one sharp squall, a few days before reaching Liverpool, it was fine weather nearly all the way. The only journalizing done during the voyage is comprised in a brief passage in Mrs. Hawthorne's note-book, which I subjoin.
"STEAMER NIAGARA, July 8, 1853.--This morning at one o'clock we left Halifax; and we are now careering on to England on a lovely summer sea, with summer air. Yesterday it was very cold. We entered the harbor of Halifax at eleven last night, and Mr. Hawthorne and Mr. Ticknor and I remained on deck to see all we could by the light of stars and lamps. The blue lights that were burned on the prow and on shore kindled up the rigging and fine ropes in the forepart of the vessel, and against the black-blue sky they looked like spun glass, glittering and white and wholly defined. The most brilliant stars, with a fine sharp twinkle, penetrated the dark; and the many faces, appearing and disappearing as the torchlight waved to and fro, were very picturesque. The salute of four cannon greeted the Queen's dominions, and Mr. Ticknor said that two were for my husband. There was no fog, which is very uncommon, for the fogs usually delay the steamers both in entering and leaving the harbor. Out of our smoke-stack poured a column of steam like a procession of snowy plumes waving off into the distance; relieved against the deep-toned sky, it was wonderfully beautiful. I wished to go towards the gangway of the steamer, in and out of which many people were passing (for we landed fourteen and received seventeen, I believe); and, behold my husband pressed on to the pier and on and on up into the streets of Halifax, till I was quite alarmed, and feared we should not get back. But I have really been to Halifax now! Her Majesty's subjects stood about the streets and on the pier. Then we went to our state-rooms; but I did not sleep till nearly morning, and heard the parting salute. I was very sorry not to see Halifax by day, or at least by moonlight, though it was very picturesque by starlight and torchlight. This morning it is milder weather, and there is a fair breeze. We have lost the British Minister Plenipotentiary, who landed at Halifax; and I do not see our unknown friend yet this morning, though I thought he was going to England. I miss the fine presence of Mr. Crampton, the Ambassador, very much; and I liked much to talk with him. This deep blue circle of sea is untiringly beautiful and satisfactory. We still... [illegible]...the motion makes it not possible to write."
--On the 18th of July, or thereabouts, the "Niagara" came to anchor in the Mersey, and it was a rainy day. Our first resting-place on English soil was at a hotel in one of the lower streets of the city,--gloomy, muddy, and grimy, but with the charm that belongs to the first experience of a foreign land. The most interesting objects to the children were, however, two or three gigantic turtles lying half immersed in a large tank in the basement of the hotel; it did not seem credible that such creatures could be made into soup, which we were assured was their destiny. They were very different from the little creatures with variegated carapaces which we used to find in the Concord ditches at home. A few days later we left the hotel, and went to Mrs. Blodgett's boarding-house, in Duke Street,--unquestionably the most comfortable, reasonable, hospitable, and delightful boarding-house that ever existed before or since; nor has nature been able to afford such another boarding-house keeper as Mrs. Blodgett,--so kind, so hearty, so generous, so unobtrusive, so friendly, so motherly. Never, certainly, has the present writer consumed so much food (in proportion to his weight and size) or of better quality than it was his good fortune to do during his sojourn beneath this excellent lady's roof. She was stout and rotund of figure, rosy and smiling of countenance, with brown curls on each side of her face, a clean white cap, a black dress, and (for the most part) a white apron. She also wore spectacles. Her cuisine was superb; her servants perfectly disciplined, everything went with the regularity and certainty of the solar system; she loved all her boarders, and they all loved her. Her house was the rallying-point of the better class of American captains who made voyages to Liverpool; and to her care some good friend of Hawthorne recommended him. We stayed there only a month on this first occasion; but afterwards, when Mrs. Hawthorne and her daughters visited Portugal and Madeira, Hawthorne returned to Mrs. Blodgett's with his son; and they lived there, in great comfort and plenty, the better part of a year.
Meanwhile he had made acquaintance with the Consulate, and with his duties there, which are sufficiently described in "Our Old Home." The windows of the Consul's office were on the left as you entered the room; the large double desk-table was placed against the wall between them; and Hawthorne sat facing the door. The opposite side of the desk was unoccupied, except when (as occasionally happened) the Consul had taken his son to the office with him. On those days a couple of volumes of Congressional Proceedings were placed in the seat of the chair, and the boy mounted upon them, thus bringing his head at an elevation above the table sufficient to admit of his using paper and pencil, scrawling letters to his relatives in America, staring out of the window at the cotton bales going up the sides of the opposite warehouse on long ropes,--an unfailing resource from ennui,--and pestering his father with questions. The latter generally had a book with him; and often it was a book-catalogue, a species of literature which he was very fond of reading. He had been elected a member of the Liverpool Book Society, to which Roscoe and g Sheppard had once belonged, and which circulated all its books among its members. Sometimes he would take paper and write, driving the pen rapidly, with brief intermittent pauses, and making corrections by smearing out the wrong word with his finger. At other times he would pace to and fro across the little room, with his head bent forward and his hands behind him; or, still with his hands behind him, he would stand in front of the fireplace, his feet apart, now swaying forward slightly on the front part of his feet and back again, now giving his body a sidewise movement. This had always been a habit of his, and is connected with his son's earliest memories of him. It was before the fireplace that he usually stood when receiving a deputation of sailors or captains. One day a captain--a dark, short, thickset man--came in to make a complaint against a sailor who had assaulted him with a marlin-spike, or some such nautical weapon. He brought with him the hat he had worn on the occasion,--a dilapidated "stove-pipe," with a hole crushed through the crown. "First," said he, "there's my hat!" Hawthorne glanced at it and said, "H'm!" "Next," continued the captain, "there's my head!" and stooping forward he parted aside his hair with his hands, and exhibited a bloody wound on the scalp. "H'm!" said Hawthorne; but instead of looking at the wound he turned his face quite away, and kept it averted until the captain, satisfied that he had been sufficiently inspected, regained his perpendicular. The boy (who did see the head) never forgot the incident, because it was for many years incomprehensible to him how his father could have had the self-denial voluntarily to abstain from examining a wound in a man's scalp.
But there were other and more agreeable visitors; most welcome among whom was Mr. Henry Bright, who had been introduced to Hawthorne in Concord, by Emerson, in the autumn of 1802, and who came to be perhaps the most intimate of his English friends. "Bright," says Hawthorne, in the "Consular Experiences," playing upon his friend's name,--"Bright was the illumination of my dusky little apartment as often as he made his appearance there." Mr. Bright seldom used to sit down, but stood erect on the hearth-rug; tall, slender, good-humored, laughing, voluble; with his English eyeglass, his English speech, and his English prejudices; arguing, remonstrating, asserting, contradicting,--certainly one of the most delightful, and delightfully English, Englishmen that ever lived. And Hawthorne would launch at him such appalling and unsparing home truths of democracy and republicanism as would utterly have choked and smothered any other subject of her Majesty; but they only served to make Mr. Bright laugh, and declare that it was impossible anybody should seriously entertain such opinions. I doubt if the American Consul ever expressed himself to any one else so forcibly, explicitly, and fluently as he did to this English friend; and the consequence of it all was, that they never could see enough of each other.
At one o'clock Hawthorne would sometimes put on his hat and take his son through one or two narrow back-streets to a certain baker's shop, where there was a lunch-counter at which one could stand and eat excellent bread and butter and cheese. Or, if the day were fine, and there were nothing going on at the office, they would go to the museum, or the Zoological Gardens, or to some other place of amusement; or take the ferry-boat and steam over to New Brighton, and stroll about on the beach. The last incident of the official day would be the entrance into the little office of old Mr. Pearce or young Mr. Wilding, with a paper full of coin, the proceeds of the day's labor. The gold and the silver Hawthorne would put in his pocket; but if there were any coppers, he would hand them over to the little boy, who used to wish that copper had been the only current coinage of the realm. Then they would walk home to Duke Street; or, after the final change of residence, go down to the steamboat landing, and get into the "Bee" or the "Wasp," and be steam-paddled over to Rock Ferry, about two miles up the muddy river. On Sundays Mrs. Hawthorne, with the two elder children, would go to the Unitarian Chapel in Renshaw Street, and listen to eloquent sermons from the Rev. W. H. Channing, the American; but Hawthorne himself never attended church, that I remember.
Rock Ferry was a pretty, green, quiet be-villa'd little suburb, consisting of one large hotel and a number of small private residences. Hawthorne first moved to the hotel; but on the 1st of September he took up his permanent abode in a villa in "Rock Park," a house (writes Mrs. Hawthorne in her journal) "in castellated form, of stone, with large pleasant rooms, a pretty, trim garden, and tolerably furnished." But it is time to insert the following batch of letters. The first is from Henry Bright.
CONISTON, Sept. 1, 1853.
MY DEAR SIR,--You see I am taking you at your word, and am about to inflict a letter upon you. However, should your patience fail before getting to the end of it, why, then consign it to the river Mersey as you recross in the evening to Rock Ferry, and exonerate me from my promise. We are delighted with our quarters here,--a most comfortable hotel, with the calm, clear lake in front of us, and such a grand, weather-worn old mountain behind. Nothing could be better, if only--a sadly too important "if"--it would stop raining. With the exception of Monday, it's rained for a blessed week, and we are boxed up, the whole day and the whole family, in one hotel parlor. This is not the most exhilarating existence in the world, as you may imagine. Our chief amusements are letter-writing and oat-cake eating; my sisters sketch out of window, and I read up for an article I'm contemplating on De Quincey for the "Westminster." Post-time is of course particularly welcome,--I need hardly say how welcome, were you some day to spare me some few lines, if only to say how you all are, and how the mayoral hospitalities went off, and whether you have yet found a house. By the way, I heard from one of my American friends the other day,--Charles Morton; he gives a very poor account of his father's health, I am sorry to say. The Professor must now, I suppose, be an old man; but still it grieves one to hear of the increasing weakness of one whose writings we English Unitarians (at least) hold in such esteem, and for whose character we have so great respect.
Among the drawbacks of this wretched weather is that I have not yet been able to get to Ambleside to see Miss Martineau. When she has dined with us, or been at all to Liverpool, I have always missed her by being at Cambridge; and I own myself a little curious to hear from her, viva voce, some of her experiences. Her latest "craze" (to use a word of De Quincey's) is the establishment of a shop in London for the sale of--in plain English--infidel literature. She complained most bitterly the other day to my brother-in-law that whenever her book on "Man's Nature and Development" is inquired for, the shopman pulls it stealthily out from under the counter, as if ashamed of selling it, and fearful lest some bystander be scandalized; so that there's to be a shop in a central situation full of Miss Martineau and Auguste Comte, and Froude, who wrote the "Nemesis of Faith," and Frank Newman, who wrote "Phases of Faith;" and (as Clough said) the world is to receive the unbiassed truth "that there's no God, and Harriet is his prophet."
William Gray is also at the lakes; he is busily occupied in an article on "Madame de Stael" for (I think) the "North British;" and another on the "New Reform Bill" for the "Edinburgh," which is to feel the public's pulse on the question, for the Government's guidance.
The only author--and she is now all but forgotten--who ever dwelt at Coniston was a Miss Elizabeth Smith, friend of Hannah More, and mentioned in all books about British authoresses or the English Lakes, as the female Mezzofanti of her time, "a living polyglot." She only wrote translations of Job and such like, and is known chiefly through the kind offices of others, and their fond memory of her as a woman. Tennyson, however, sometimes visits Coniston, staying with a Mr. Marshall who owns a beautiful place at the head of the lake. The Marshalls are now from home; so last evening we strolled through their grounds (last evening having actually three rainless hours of its own). These grounds are nearly perfect; the park with its fine park trees is backed by hills covered with larch wood, and topped by mountains of bare gray crag, with some few purple patches of heather coloring them every here and there. As we came back from our walk, about eight o'clock, we found a party of miners from the coppermines above, rowing along in front of the hotel, and playing on some half-dozen wind instruments in most capital time and tune; and whenever they stopped for a moment, the "Old Man" mountain sent back upon the lake the most jubilant of echoes, repeating and vying with the music of the horns. But now I spare you any more,--indeed, I've but little more to tell, for I could not, "an I would," describe the spot which we visited on Monday, and which is immortalized in "Christabel." It is a gloriously wild fell!--and since Monday we have done nothing. Pray remember me most kindly to Mrs. Hawthorne, and tell the children that they are not to forget me.
Believe me, dear sir, yours very faithfully,
HENRY A. BRIGHT.
Is the English edition of "Tanglewood Tales" out yet?
--The next extracts are from Mrs. Hawthorne to her father.
MY DEAREST FATHER,--I was afraid I should not have time to write to you by the "Canada" and Mr. Ticknor; but accidentally he has not arrived from Chester so early as I expected, so I have time to say a few words. We were all to go to Chester together to-day; but the weather was so threatening that the rest of us stayed behind, and only Mr. Hawthorne and Mr. Ticknor went. On Wednesday Mr. Henry Bright came over to dine. He visited Miss Martineau at Ambleside, and found her very entertaining, and a very singular state of doctrine,--for she now professes to believe and declare that there is no God and no future life! He says it is wholly impossible to argue with her, because she is so opinionative and dogmatical, and has such a peculiar advantage in putting down her ear-trumpet when she does not choose to hear any reply to her assertions. She has been making some beautiful designs for the windows of her brother's church in Liverpool, which are accepted and to be painted thereupon; but she is at enmity with her brother, and has no intercourse with hirn. Tennyson often visites Coniston, but was not to be seen at that time, and seldom is to be seen at any time, being "vox et praeterea nihil." Mr. Bright says that he and his family were imprisoned a great deal in the hotel by rain, but yet enjoyed themselves; and his sisters sketched out of window. Mr. Ticknor has been to see Mr. De Quincey, and says he is a noble old man and eloquent, and wins hearts in personal intercourse. His three daughters, Margaret, Florence, and Emily, are also very attractive and cultivated, and they are all most impatient to see Mr. Hawthorne.
We feel pretty much in order now in our house. My dinner-party on Wednesday went off quite elegantly. When the gentlemen joined me in the drawing-room, I had some tea ready for them, and Una requested to be the Hebe of the banquet. Mr. Bright thought it was lovely to have such an attendant.
He told us all about the gayeties of Liverpool,--the splendid balls and concerts. There is one ball given by the Roman Catholic nobility and gentry, which is a dazzling display of old family diamonds. So I can go there and see a galaxy of stars, as well as if I went to the prorogation of Parliarment. He says the old dowagers blaze with jewels. But there is something more interesting than balls and jewels to be told of England now. The nation seems awakened to the importance of reform in several important matters. One is the state of the gaols, which is frightful. The torture and cruelty are lately discovered to be awful, and the governors and minor officers are brought for trial before the courts. The revelations are appalling; and as light breaks in upon the diabolical practices, they must be put an end to. The "Times" also is now full of the extortion of hotelkeepers, and hundreds of letters from private individuals are printed to show how dishonest the charges are and have been. The pent-up wrath and indignation of all the victims of this high rate of charge seem to burst forth at this first chance, and it will not cease till there is a change. The customs and railroads are also under a keen inspection, for many accidents on railroads happen here also,--loss of life from carelessness; and the shareholders complain much that though the receipts are enormous, they get no dividends, and want to know where the money is. A great many new and old abuses seem to be undergoing repairs on a sudden. The Queen's visit to Ireland is considered of great moment. Ireland is reviving from various causes; and one cause is the potato-blight itself! The immense immigration has thinned the population, and the Irish in America have sent really vast sums of money to their friends; and this Mr. Dargon rises up all at once like a savior to the land. It will be deeply interesting to watch on the spot all these progressive movements; and the "Times" is an extraordinary organ of expression for all good things. It is very just generally, I think (it is not of much importance what I think, however), and seems full of humanity and wisdom.
Last week Mr. Hawthorne was invited to dine with the magistrate in West Derby, and he met there a gentleman who wishes to introduce him to the two sons of Burns, and to-morrow evening is the time appointed. I expect another dinner-party this evening, and must now go and dress. Mr. Ticknor came from London rich in gifts: to Julian, a superb book, called "The Country Year Book," with a hundred and forty fine engravings; to Una, a green and gold morocco portfolio with "Una" in gilt letters impressed upon it, and quires of note paper and envelopes; to Rosebud, a real waxen doll; to Mr. Hawthorne, a pair of superfine razors, made to order in Sheffield, with ivory handles, and "N. Hawthorne" finely marked in the steel of the blades; and to me, a case of scissors made for me in Sheffield, with my name on the blade of each, and a very superb book of Flowers...
"...It takes a great while every day to keep so large a house as this of ours in proper order. The children dine and sup at separate hours from ours. They have their supper after our dinner; so the table has to be laid four times. Mr. Hawthorne eats a biscuit in his consulate office at noon, and I eat a morsel of bread at the children's dinner. But oh, no, dear father, we do not 'live in grand style,' neither do we intend to have much company. We could not afford it; for, though so many persons at home, who might be supposed to know, account the consular income here to be so great, and the arrival of ships so abundant, they are sadly mistaken. Elizabeth wrote me last week that the number of ships that arrived from the United States to Liverpool was nearly ten thousand, from each one of which Mr. Hawthorne must receive four dollars, making at once forty thousand dollars a year. So far is this from the truth, that it is really funny and melancholy at the same time. Instead of ten thousand ships, not quite seven hundred arrive yearly from the United States here; and so, instead of the income from the vessels being forty thousand dollars, it is not quite twenty-eight hundred dollars. Most of the income comes from the invoices of the great steamers. Ten and twelve thousand dollars has been hitherto the amount of the whole yearly income from whatever source,--about a quarter part of the estimate made of it. It is hoped that the business may increase; but perhaps it will be too late for us. And Mr. Hawthorne must lay aside a good part of this income, or we shall return ruined, not benefited, by this office; for he cannot write, and all that would remain for us would be the 'Wayside,' which would be a home, but not bread and butter and clothes and means of educating the children. Living is much more expensive here than at home: meat never below fourteen cents, and some kinds twenty cents; potatoes thirty cents a peck; no tea below a dollar a pound; grapes are a penny apiece, and the fruit here is not good. England cannot grow fruit, with a sun crying its eyes out every day.
"We gain one thing here, and that is an open fireplace. Coal is comparatively cheap, and it blazes delightfully, and we can really sit round a glowing hearth. Mr. Hawthorne truly enjoys it. It is what he always wanted. It is certainly a gloomy custom to bury the fire in tombstones, and then set up the graves on our very hearths. Over our marble mantelpiece hangs Mr. John Campbell, the former occupant of this house, now dead. He was Scotch, and perhaps of the family of the noble Campbells. He was a gentleman of fortune. He is not a very lovely looking person, but yet angelic compared to his brother, who hangs opposite him, and who looks as if he would keep his mother on very short allowance. In the recesses on each side the fireplace are pictures,--one a Magdalene in an oval frame, and the other an Italian scene in a hexagon frame. Opposite the two tall windows, which open to the floor, hang two fruit pieces and a landscape with figures. Not one of any of these pictures is good. Beneath Mr. William Campbell is the sideboard, upon which stands a pretty tea urn, which you may one day see, as we shall take it home. I am writing at a great central table, at which we dine. It is as heavy as a small planet; for in England things are made solid, not half pine. The chairs are also solid, and cost much pain to lift. Two or three lounging-chairs, a light mahogany stand for the dinner-tray, and a very rich Brussels carpet of dark blue, brown, and rose colors complete the furnishing of the dining-room. There are full blue and orange damask curtains to the windows, hanging from a broad gilded cornice with a valance and fringe, which set off the room very well. There are, besides, an alabaster vase beneath Mr. John Campbell's picture, a bronze vase in which is always a rose, two bronze candlesticks, and just now our new Taylor's moderator lamp, which is as tall as Bunker Hill Monument, and looks like a lighthouse."
--It takes some time to get accustomed to the rain and clouds in England; and as to the people, Hawthorne's acquaintance with them was not as yet extensive; he had seen them for the most part only superficially. He wandered about Liverpool streets, and saw the shops and the public buildings, the well-to-do population and the poor; he ate dinners with the mayor, and made speeches; he visited hospitals and asylums in the interests of American seamen (genuine or spurious); and once in a while he went on little excursions with Henry Bright, or spent a night at the latter's house (Sandheys), or at Norris Green, the residence of the Heywoods, relatives of Mr. Bright. But he did not like Liverpool, and he had not as yet made up his mind whether or not to like the English people. Speaking of Grace Greenwood's departure for America, after a year spent in England, he says: "Her health seemed not good, nor her spirits buoyant. This doubtless is partly due to her regret in leaving England, where she has met with great kindness, and the manners and institutions of which she likes rather better, I suspect, than an American ought. She speaks rapturously of the English hospitality and warmth of heart. I likewise have already experienced something of this, and apparently have a good deal more of it at my option. I wonder how far it is genuine, and in what degree it is better than the superficial good-feeling with which Yankees receive foreigners,--a feeling not calculated for endurance, but a good deal like a brushwood fire. We shall see!"
One gloomy winter's day, Mr. Francis Bennoch (who tells the story) called on Hawthorne at Rock Park, and found him in a chair before the fire in the sitting-room, prodding the black coals in a disheartened fashion with the poker. "Give me the poker, my dear sir!" exclaimed Mr. Bennoch, "and I'll give you a lesson." He seized the implement from Hawthorne s hand, and delivered two or three vigorous and well-aimed thrusts straight to the centre of the dark smouldering mass, which straightway sent forth a rustling luxuriance of brilliant flame. "That's the way to get the warmth out of an English fire," cried Mr. Bennoch, "and that's the way to get the warmth out of an English heart too! Treat us like that, my dear sir, and you 'll find us all good fellows!" Hereupon Hawthorne brightened up as jovially as the fire, and (Mr. Bennoch thinks) thought better of England ever after.
Mr. Bright and Mr. Bennoch were, at all events, the men of all others to bring him acquainted with the brighter and more genial aspects of the Old Country; they were overflowing with activity and energy, and insisted upon making Hawthorne do things which he would never have undertaken of his own accord, but which, being done, he was very glad to have accomplished, On one occasion he dined in company with the two sons of the poet Burns "Late in the evening," he writes, "Mr. Aikin and most of the gentlemen retired to the smoking-room, where we found brandy, whiskey, and some good cigars. The sons of the poet showed, I think, an hereditary appreciation of good liquor, both at the dinner-table (where they neglected neither sherry, port, hock, champagne, nor claret) and here in the smoking-room. Both of them, however, drank brandy, instead of the liquor which their father has immortalized. The Colonel smoked cigars; the Major filled and refilled a German pipe. Neither of them (nor, in fact, anybody else) was at all the worse for liquor; but I thought I saw a little of the coarser side of Burns in the rapturous approbation with which the Major responded to a very good, but rather indecorous story from one of the gentlemen. But I liked them both, and they liked me." And, in general, his conclusion was that the worst of an Englishman is his outside, and that to know him better is to like him better too.
Of course, the chief ostensible bonds of sympathy between him and his English friends were wrought from his literary achievements; they were never tired of telling him how much they admired his books. "I have to-day received," writes Mary Russell Mitford, "a copy of another of those charming books by which, in addition to that walk of prose poetry which is so peculiarly your own and which reproduces in so exquisite a manner the history, you have contrived to blend your own name with some of those lovely classical fables which are among the most valuable bequests of the Greek poets. How many thousands will think of you as the name of some glorious old classical legend comes across them! It is a fine thing, to make a holiday book of that which to schoolboys has too often been a dry lesson; and the popularity which is sure to follow it was never more richly earned.... Very little of me is now available, except the head and the heart; but I hope next spring, if not before, to have the great pleasure of making the personal acquaintance of one whom I can never think of except as a friend."
There were many similar assurances of good feeling continually coming in from all sides; and Hawthorne was far from being insensible to such kindness. He even seems to have desired to bring some of his own countrymen into similar pleasant relations with the British public. "I send you," he writes to Henry Bright, "an American book, 'Up-Country Letters,' which I beg you to read, and hope you will like. It would gratify me much if you would talk about it or write about it, and get it into some degree of notice in this country. England, within two or three years past, has read and praised a hundred American books that do not deserve it half so well; but I somewhat question whether the English mind is not rather too bluff and beefy to appreciate the peculiar charm of these letters. Yet we have produced nothing more original nor more genuine."
I will conclude this chapter with extracts from Mrs. Hawthorne's letters to her father.
Yesterday and to-day summer has made us in England a flying visit. There was lovely sunshine this afternoon, and this morning the birds were in full chorus. In two weeks we shall have snowdrops and crocuses; and to-day we found in the garden a fullblown pansy! An English lady, who called here, said it was "very close" out of doors, as if it were a dog-day; but yet it was agreeable to me to sit by the fire. One might imagine that the angry Czar had sent his snow and cold as Christmas presents to the rest of Europe, however. To-day has come the news of his rejection of the note, and therefore it is War; and we shall probably be witnesses of the greatest revolution that has ever yet convulsed the world. The English seem to be in some puzzle how to man their ships of war, and how to contrive to have commanding officers to rule them, who are of fit age and prowess. But I suppose Parliament will arrange all the difficulties. The Emperor Nicholas has spies all over Europe,--noble ladies as well as men in every society, in every court, who sow any kind of rumor and listen to everything. I never heard of such extraordinary espionage. The ladies accept his diamonds in return for being eavesdroppers and tools; but I suspect his vast network of gold and jewels will be early rent asunder. Somehow or other, I could never feel that the Czar was potent or fearful. He is a great north wind,--a northeast wind for Europe,--but a wind is emptiness when bravely met. Russia always seemed to me mere brute force. I have read lately such appalling accounts of the suffering and oppression of the people, that I think it Is probably the hour for God to send his judgments down. It is anomalous, I hear, for a Russian to speak the truth, and a matter of course for him to cheat and deceive.
Julian returned with papa from Liverpool the other day with four masks, with which we made merry. One was the face of a simpleton; and that was very funny upon papa,--such a transformation! Mary Herne frightened Emily (cook) nearly out of her wits, by putting one on one morning in the early dusk and sitting down quietly in the kitchen. Emily came along with her candle, and stumbled upon this glaring face of forlornness. "Oh, I'm dead!" said Emily.
Mr. Henry Bright entertained us with an account of a magnificent fancy ball which came off at Liverpool last Friday. He himself personated his ancestor, Sir Kenelm Digby, and nearly died beneath a heavy, long, curled black wig, and a hat upon the top of it; heated besides as he was by dancing nineteen times. His sword tore a lady's dress and assailed various persons while standing out straight in the whirling waltz. He had a distracting headache, and did not get home till five o'clock in the mowing. People were powdered and rouged and patched so as to be quite disguised. He said he had not the slightest idea who the Earl of Sefton's son was, even when he spoke to him, though he knows him very well indeed. One of the Ladies Mainwaring was there, blazing with diamonds, and Nebuchadnezzar, and Sardanapalus, and all kinds of past worthies and dignitaries. He said his aunt Heywood, of Norris, was to have another fancy ball at her house to-morrow, and she wanted us to go to it. But 1 cannot leave home, and Mr. Hawtllorne will not rig himself up in any strange finery. Mrs. Heywood is a very warm admirer of Mr. Hawthorne's books, and though her law is that no one shall enter her drawing-rooms that night except in fancy dress, she said Mr. Hawthorne should go just as he liked, in a black coat if he preferred it. But he will not.