Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume II
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
From the Lakes to London
EARLY in 1854 Hawthorne met a gentleman who was at that period somewhat distinguished in literature; and he gave the following account of him:----A Yankee boy who feels uneasy in his mind or finds his surroundings irksome is apt to pick up the first stick of wood he comes across, and try upon it how sharp his jack-knife is; and men like Hawthorne, when they become sensible of a deficiency of sympathy in their companions, are apt to turn upon the latter the sharp edge of their observation and criticism. Hawthorne was always very tender of the feelings of others; and though he could not help perceiving the oddities and frailties of those about him, the perception implied no uncharitableness on his part, and was recorded only for his private satisfaction. He apprehended the queer traits of his friends quite as keenly as those of indifferent persons. He once remarked of Mr. George Bradford, for instance,--than whom no man had a larger share of his respect and affection,--that "his conscientiousness seems to be a kind of itch, keeping him always uneasy and inclined to scratch!"
"Dined with Mr. Bramley Moore, to meet Mr. Warren, author of 'Ten Thousand a Year.' There were eight or ten gentlemen at dinner, principally lawyers now attending the assizes, and of no great interest. Mr. Warren is a man (on his own authority) of forty-six; not tall nor large, with a pale, rather thin, and intelligent face,--American more than English in its aspect, except that his nose is more prominent than ordinary American noses, as most English noses are. He is Recorder of Hull, an office which he says brings him but little; nor does he get much practice as a barrister on account of the ill-will of the attorneys, who consider themselves aggrieved by his depictures of Quick, Gammon, and Snap.
"On the whole, the dinner was not a very agreeable one. I led in Mrs. Bramley Moore (the only lady present). The family are violent tories, fanatics for the Established Church, and followers of Dr. McMill, who is the present Low-Church pope of Liverpool. I could see little to distinguish her from a rigidly orthodox and Calvinistic woman of New England; for they acquire the same characteristics from their enmity to the Puseyite movement and Roman Catholic tendencies of the present day. The eatables and the drinkables were very praiseworthy; and Mr. Bramley Moore circulated his wines more briskly than is customary at gentlemen's tables. He seems to be rich, has property in the Brazils (where he was at one time resident), has been Mayor of Liverpool, an unsuccessful candidate for Parliament, and now lives at a very pretty place. But he alludes to the cost of wines and of other things that he possesses,--a frailty which I have not observed in any other Englishman of good station. He is a moderately bulky and rather round-shouldered man, with a kindly face enough, and seems to be a passably good man; but I hope, on the whole, that be will not ask me to dinner any more,--though his dinners are certainly very good.
"Mr. Warren, nevertheless, turned out agreeably; he sat opposite to me, and I observed that he took champagne very freely, not waiting till Mr. Bramley Moore should suggest it, or till the servants should periodically offer it, but inviting his neighbors to a glass of wine. Neither did be refuse hock, nor anything else that came round. He was talkative, and mostly about himself and his writings,--which I have no objection to in a writer, knowing that if he talks little of himself, he perhaps thinks the more. It is a trait of simplicity that ought not to be so scouted as it generally is. Mr. Warren said nothing very brilliant; but yet there was occasionally a champagny frothiness of his spirits, that enlivened us more than anything else at table. He told a laughable story about an American who had seen a portrait of Warren's father, which was prefixed to an American edition of his works as his own, and was perplexed at the dissimilarity between this effigy of an old be-wigged clergyman and the dapper, youthful personage before him. He appears to feel very kindly towards the Americans, and says somebody has sent him some of the Catawba champagne. Warren has a talent of mimicry, and gave us some touches of Sergeant Wilkins whom I met, several months ago, at the Mayor's dinner.
"After Mrs. Bramley Moore had retired, Warren began an informal little talk to Mr. Bramley Moore, who sat between him and me, on my merits as a man and an author. Mr. Bramley Moore urged him to speak up, and give the company the privilege of hearing his remarks; and though I remonstrated, it gradually grew into almost a regular dinner-table speech, the audience crying,--in rather a gentle tone, however,--'Hear! hear!' I have forgotten what he said, and also what I responded; but we were very laudatory on both sides, and shook hands in most brotherly fashion across the table. Anon, after a good while at table, Mrs. Bramley Moore sent to announce coffee and tea; and adjourning to the drawing-room we looked. among other pretty things, at some specimens of bright autumnal leaves which Mr. Bramley Moore had brought with him from his recent visit to America. Warren admired them greatly. His vanity (which those who know him speak of as a very prominent characteristic) kept peeping out in everything he said."
The author of "Ten Thousand a Year" afterwards wrote him the following note:--
INNER TEMPLE, LONDON, 7th April, 1854.
MY DEAR MR. HAWTHORNE.--By this post I send you a copy of "The Intellectual and Moral Development of the Present Age," with divers manuscript corrections by myself. I hope you will like the book; for though small in bulk, it contains the results of many a long year's reflection. It gave me very great pleasure to meet, the other day, so distinguished an American brother in literature as yourself. I heartily wish you health and prosperity. I have an old--a very old--friend at Liverpool in Mr. Commissioner Perry, who lives at New Brighton. He occupies a highly honorable legal post, and is an amiable man, and also --gives charming little dinners! I have assured him that, if he called, you would like to see him. I hope this little book will reach you safely. Believe me, dear Mr. Hawthorne,
Yours very faithfully,
This day my gifted friend--that was--Professor Wilson, is buried, with public honors.
--As the spring advanced, Hawthorne, who was always a great walker, fell into the habit of taking occasional tramps about the country in the neighborhood of Rock Ferry and Liverpool, sometimes taking his son with him. On these expeditions he often talked quite freely, adapting his conversation, of course, to the calibre of his interlocutor. Among other matters which were discussed with animation, were the amazing adventures of a certain General Quattlebum,--a contemporary and rival of Baron Munchausen. and conversant with even greater marvels than came within the experience of that eminent nobleman. He was, in fact, a magician and enchanter of the first rank; and there was a kind of lofty and chivalrous hostility and emulation between him and Hawthorne, who was also a mighty wizard, and who in the constant trials of skill and power that took place between them generally contrived to gain the advantage. Some of these combats were more than Homeric; the struggles of Jupiter and the Titans were child's play in comparison. Unfortunately, none of the exploits of these two heroes were ever reduced to writing; and the particulars of their achievements have, in the course of thirty years, faded from the memory of him who heard them related. The recollection of one slight incident has, however, survived the general obliteration, and I will give. it here. Hawthorne and Quattlebum had intrenched themselves on opposite sides of a deep valley, about a mile in width, and all was ready for the bombardment to begin,--the cannon loaded and primed, and the aim taken. But the heroes, like two accomplished duellists about to engage with the small-sword, could not begin the conflict without having exchanged those graceful courtesies which should always accompany a truly heroic antagonism. Accordingly each mounted upon his largest cannon, and, standing at the very extremity of the muzzle, touched off the piece with the slow-match held in the left hand. As the missile left the gun, each leaped lightly upon it, and was borne through the air with the speed of lightning. In a few moments they met, just over the centre of the valley. Each lifted his hat, and made the other a grave salute, at the same instant springing off his own ball and alighting upon that of his adversary, which swiftly bore him back to the place whence he started. Hawthorne returned without mishap; but General Quattlebum had not paid sufficient attention to his centre of gravity: he fell from a vast height to the bottom of the valley, and his mighty carcass dammed up a river which flowed through it, so that before he could extricate himself the valley became a lake, which is known as Lake Quattlebum to this day.
There was an indescribable charm about the telling of these stories, which never can be reproduced in the written narration,--an archness, an emphasis, an atmosphere of awe and mystery, and exhaustless imaginative resources. Nor was General Quattlebum a mere figure of the past; he was even now alive and active, although, by the power of his enchantments, he rendered himself invisible to all eyes save Hawthorne's. If any unaccountable or absurd mishap occurred, it always turned out that the General was at the bottom of it. Even in the walks above mentioned, the younger pedestrian would occasionally feel the light stroke of a cane across his back ; looking round, no one would be there, and his father was walking at his side apparently in deep abstraction. "Father, somebody hit me with a stick." "Ah! it must have been Quattlebum!" And though the person thus attacked was sometimes inclined to suspect that Quattlebum had contrived to incarnate himself in Mr. Hawthorne's form,--for the latter also carried a cane,--he was never able to surprise him flagrante delictu.
In April, John O'Sullivan, his wife, and his mother made Hawthorne a visit at Rock Park; they were on their way to Lisbon, to which place O'Sullivan had been appointed American Minister. Their presence stimulated Hawthorne to somewhat more than his usual social activity; people were invited to meet them, and they were invited to meet people. Hawthorne's circle of English acquaintances was expanding in all directions. All who had read a book of his, or written one of their own, were ready to open relations with him. It was at about this period, I think, that a work appeared, and attracted attention in England, entitled "Land, Labor, and Gold," by Mr. William Howitt. It was descriptive of the state of things at the Australian gold-diggings, which had lately been discovered, and whither Mr. Howitt had betaken himself. Hawthorne, read the book, and was interested in it; and several little conspiring circumstances brought about an exchange of civilities between him and Mrs. Howitt. including this pleasant little letter:--
THE HERMITAGE, HIGHGATE RISE, May 14, 1854.
DEAR SIR,-- I thank you for sending the little package for me to Mr. Miller's. I have written to him about it) and I shall hope soon to receive it. If I were to meet you face to face, I should not say a word to you about the great pleasure we have derived from your works; but on paper may I not do so without offence? Of course you know the delight you have given to thousands, But you do not know how exquisite to our taste is all your minute detail,--your working out a character by Pre-Raphaelian touches, as it were,--if you understand my phrase; your delicate touch upon touch, which produces such a finished whole, so different from the slap-dash style of writing so common nowadays. Yes, I assure you that independently of the intrinsic interest with which we read your books at first, we now refer again and again to them as exquisite works of art, the elaborate finish and detail of which are never exhausted. When I say we, I mean myself and my husband--now an antipode--and my daughter. In September--please God--I hope for the great happiness of seeing my dear husband once more in England. Then I hope you will be coming to London, if not before. And if you will give us an opportunity of shaking hands with you, I promise you that we will not bore you about your books, nor will we lionize or torture you in any way; only be right glad to see you, as we would he to see any other good man.
I am, dear sir, yours sincerely,
--Hawthorne met Mr. Howitt in London a few months later, and seems not to have found him quite so genial as his books. Mention of him will be found in the "English Note-Books."
In July it was determined that Mrs. Hawthorne and the children should spend a fortnight at the Isle of Man, a small rock-bound spot midway between Liverpool and Dublin, in the Irish Channel. Hawthorne accompanied them thither on the Saturday, and spent the following Sunday, and came again the Sunday after that. The Isle of Man has the name of being a very rainy place; but during all the two weeks of our sojourn there, the sky was cloudless and the temperature delightful, though it did rain dismally both on the day of our arrival and on that of our departure. The island itself is a most picturesque and charming spot; the sea around it deep and clear, the cliffs abrupt and dark, and rendered additionally romantic by the ruined castles which surmount its tallest acclivities. A few hundred yards from shore, directly opposite the hotel, was a tiny islet, on which stood the ruin of a small tower, as if for the especial benefit of persons disposed to sketching. On the first Sunday a conveyance was hired, and the whole party drove about the island, which is of such limited extent that nearly all of it can be thus inspected in a single day. It turned out that the tradition that Manx cats have no tails is no more than the truth; and it was also discovered that Manx horses drink ale,--a bucketful of this beverage being furnished them at each halting-place. The pastures are grazed by great numbers of partly wild cattle, a drove of which, infuriated by the sight of a red shawl worn by one of the party, charged down upon us twenty strong, and had nearly swept us from the island before the offending garment could be stripped off and put out of sight. The most imposing ruin was Peel Castle, which also had a historic reputation for being haunted; one tradition being to the effect that a huge black demon in the shape of a dog infested the premises, and that a soldier of the garrison, who had undertaken to confront it, was found by his companions next morning in a speechless state, and died without having spoken a word.
Many of the remains on the island are of unknown antiquity,--as old as the Druids, or older; and the place has quite as distinct a character of its own (as regards its inhabitants, their speech and manners) as Jersey and Guernsey in the English Channel. Hawthorne was very much captivated by it; but he never had an opportunity of jotting down his impressions, except the short description of Kirk Madden in the Note-Books. On the second Sunday we embarked on board a small steamer, and completely circumnavigated the island; it was a calm, sunny day, and the changing aspects of the coast were like a prophetic vision of Doré. So quaint, unique, and lovable a little region as the Isle of Man seldom rewards the industry of travellers. But this was thirty years ago, and it may have become less primitive in the interim.
Hawthorne returned to Liverpool the next day, and on his arrival wrote the following letter to Mrs. Hawthorne. The Mr. Cecil alluded to therein is the same Mr. Henry Cecil whose brotherly overtures to the author of 'The White Old Maid,' have already been mentioned. It would seem that he had held out hopes of a personal renewal of fraternities.
LIVERPOOL, July 26, 1854.
DEAREST WIFE,-- We had the pleasantest passage, yesterday, that can be conceived of. How strange that the best weather I have ever known should have come to us on these English coasts
I enclose some letters from the O'Sullivans, whereby you will see that they have come to a true appreciation of Mr. Cecil's merits. They say nothing of his departure, but I shall live in daily terror of his arrival.
I hardly think it worth while for me to return to the Isle of Man this summer,--that is, unless you conclude to stay longer than a week from this time. Do so, by all means, if you think the residence will benefit either yourself or the children's. Or it would be easy to return thither, should it seem desirable, or to go somewhere else. Tell me what day you fix upon for leaving, and I will either await you in person at the landing-place or send Henry. Do not start unless the weather promises to be favorable, even though you should be ready to go on board.
I think you should give something to the servants,--those of them, at least, who have taken any particular pains with you. Michael asked me for something, but I told him that I should probably he back again; so you must pay him my debts, and your own too.
It is very lonesome at Rock Ferry, and I long to have you all back again. Give my love to the children.
--Much to the regret of the younger members of the party,--a regret scarcely modified by the steady down-pour of rain,--we bade farewell to the Isle of Man on the last day of the week, and reached Rock Park the same evening. There Mrs. Hawthorne found a letter from her father,--the last, I believe, that he wrote; for he died soon afterwards.
AMHERST, Friday, July 14, 1854.
DEAR SOPHIA,-- I did not receive your letter of June 22 till last Wednesday, the 12th. I had given up hearing from you by the last steamer, and feared you might be too sick to write. Nat delayed sending it. I was very glad to receive it, and was entertained with your account of the splendid palaces you described. I hope when you write again to hear that your cough is going off. What a sad time you have had with your servants! I received a letter from Elizabeth, who expected to be in Brattleboro this week. She has been everywhere. I had a very pleasant interview with Mr. Hawthorne last night, after I had gone to sleep. He was on here from Liverpool, and appeared very well. Thank Una for her letter, and Julian for his nice letter. There is nothing to communicate from here. Horace Mann junior is very fond of chemistry, and makes gunpowder, and got his eyebrows and eyelashes burnt off and his face burnt by its igniting accidentally,--a good lesson for all the boys. We had a very quiet time on the Fourth of July, only a few straggling guns fired, and a few crackers. I keep along as usual, but the hot weather operates upon me very sensibly. I have nothing here to stimulate my mind. I have a good appetite, however. To revert to your descriptions of the splendid places you mentioned in your last, how do you remember to describe them so minutely? It seems you must take notes as you go along.
Your uncle is building a new house. He is going to sell his present house and a large part of his land. I wish I had something interesting to write, but I have no genius and imagination to supply anything of the kind. So, with my love to you all, I subscribe myself as ever
Your affectionate father, N. P.
Don't let Rose forget me.
--The "cough" above spoken of was an attack of whooping-cough, which had seized upon the entire family several weeks before. and partly to promote convalescence from which it was that the visit to the Isle of Man had been projected. Mrs. Hawthorne had been afflicted with bronchial troubles soon after her arrival in England, and was never free from them so long as she remained there; and they led to her making a prolonged visit to Lisbon and Madeira during part of the two following years; taking her two daughters with her, and leaving the boy with his father.
The next month (August) Hawthorne and his wife saw the cricket-match of Liverpool vs. Derbyshire, and Mrs. Hawthorne wrote to her father the following amusing description of it. No doubt cricket must seem a very abstruse game to those who behold it for the first time.
"The last thing that happened was Mr. Hawthorne's and my going to see a cricket match between Liverpool and Derbyshire. We sat in the carriage, and looked out upon a perfectly level plain of eight or nine acres,--a smooth, sunny, velvet lawn. In the midst of it the two wickets were erected at the distance apart of twenty or thirty feet, each composed of three sticks, with another stick laid transversely. The cricketers were all dressed in pale buff wash-leather or felt doublet and hose, with boots of duck and buff leather in strips over the instep; and those who stood before each wicket with a bat in hand were guarded from the severe blows of the ball by a peculiar coat-of-mail reaching from the ankles above the knee. This shin-guard was made of buff leather) very much like a child's sun-bonnet; but instead of pasteboard sewed in, it is thickly padded with wool, and I do not know but a thin wooden board or whale-bone besides,--making the limb look very clumsy. At each wicket stood, therefore, a well-padded man with a bat. Behind him and each wicket stood another man who threw the ball and tried to knock down the wicket, which the man with the bat was studious to prevent. In a vast circle from these four stood, I believe, eight men,--at exact distances from one another, who were to catch the ball when a bat sent it off from either wicket. If the man with the bat was so fortunate as to drive it to a great distance, he and the other batman ran from one wicket to another; and just as many times as they could exchange places, so much the better for them, f-or each time counts one in the game. We alighted from the carriage, and went into the plain, and finally sat down under a tent, where were some ladies and gentlemen, or, more properly, respectable men and women; for in England there is great discrimination used in this nomenclature. If a batman hits the ball before it reaches the ground, and strikes it into the air, and it is caught by one of the outstanders, there is a loss. Once a young man who had been a bat-man and had failed to defend his wicket exclaimed near me, as an outstander caught the ball from the clouds, "Ah, what a shame,--and one of our own men too!" So it seemed that this man was obliged to play against himself in such circumstances. I was astonished, all the time, to see the want of animation in the players. They lounged along after the ball upon the ground, as if they were taking an evening stroll, with a sort of Oriental languor."
--Here is another passage which should gratify English people, though it may be surmised that few of them could lay their hands upon their hearts and swear that Mrs. Hawthorne bad not been exceptionally fortunate in her experience of the native English orthoepy.
". . .I am constantly struck here with the correct English which persons talk who are below the first rank, and even below the second rank. I very seldom hear a slang expression, and every word is well pronounced, well articulated and accented. It is only the very first circle with us who ever speak so well, and even with them one sometimes hears the wrong word or bad contractions. I do not believe that on English ground you would hear a person say "ain't" in any rank of life. "Had n't ought" is also an enormity never dreamed of in this island. I was always exceedingly annoyed by any incorrectness of language; but I never realized, till I lived in the mother country, what careless ways the daughter had contracted, what perpetual cold-blooded murders are perpetrated hourly on the Queen's English in the United States, by writers as well as talkers. I understand now why the English make so much account of Mr. Hawthorne's language, as being the only faultless English written by an American. Miss Wetherell, Mrs. Stowe, Grace Greenwood, all write slang a great deal. They ought all to be put upon a strict diet of old English prose-writers before they are allowed to use the pen any more.". . .
--The rest of the summer was spent in little excursions of a day or so each,--once to Conway, in Wales, with Henry Bright; and once to Eaton Hall, near Chester, when Hawthorne was accompanied by his wife and George Bradford. These expeditions are fully described in the Note-Books. About the middle of September lodgings were taken at Rhyl, a small town on the Welsh coast; and the family remained there for six or eight weeks, making occasional visits to places in the neighborhood. Hawthorne had previously made the acquaintance of Lord Houghton (at that time Mr. Richard Monckton Milnes), and had met with very appreciative treatment at his hands. A few years ago, the present writer saw Lord Houghton in London, when that nobleman remarked, somewhat regretfully, that Hawthorne had never liked him. So far as I am aware, there was no ground for this impression. With one or two exceptions, Hawthorne liked all the Englishmen with whom he had more than passing intercourse. He was not a gushing man, but he was a uniformly genial and kindly one. He was reserved: and Englishmen do not seem to understand reserve in any one except themselves. But English reserve is not like the reserve of such a man as Hawthorne. The former is an external matter, connected with caste and conventionality; the latter is innate. One is factitious; the other genuine.
Mr. Milnes used to write courteous little notes, like the following:--
CREWE HALL, CREWE, Nov. 7 1854.
DEAR MR. HAWTHORNE,-- I must have the pleasure of showing you this place before I go to Yorkshire. Lord Crewe begs me to say that he will be very happy if you can come here on Monday for a day or two ; or if you are too busy to absent yourself from Liverpool on a week day, from Saturday to Monday. Do just which is most convenient for you. The rail brings you to the Crewe station in an hour and a half, and we will send to meet you there. You will probably find us all sole alone in either case; but as I am lately returned from Scot-land and am soon to go away again, I do not like to lose this opportunity of seeing you. With Mrs. Milnes' best compliments, I remain
Yours very truly,
RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES.
--No doubt Hawthorne seldom accepted such invitations; but he was fully sensible of their kind intention, and never failed to make a suitable acknowledgment.
Rhyl is a region of illimitable sands, which at low tide are left bare beyond anticipation. Hawthorne enjoyed walking upon them, and gazing out upon the expanse, though they were very different from the hard white beaches to which he had been accustomed in New England; hut there was always the horizon, and he preferred the long sweep of meeting sea and sky to most kinds of prospects. One night, during a gale, a vessel came ashore opposite the town, and lay careened over on her beam ends, a fell mile distant from the Parade. The crew, with one exception, were rescued and brought ashore,--a forlorn and bedraggled group. The next day there was a thin stream of visitors going and coming between the wreck and the shore. Hawthorne did not go; but as he walked along the coast with his son that afternoon, he spoke of other wrecks that he had seen, and suggested the awful possibility of our coming upon the corpse of the drowned sailor in some inlet of the sands.
After a visit to Conway Castle, where Mrs. Hawthorne came near being lost forever in the secret passages of the walls, which are of indefinite extent and perfectly dark, the family returned to Rock Park for the winter. Winter in this part of England is a dreary and depressing affair, and it did no good to Mrs. Hawthorne's cough. The only episode that broke the monotony was a brief visit from Miss Sarah Clarke, sister of James Freeman Clarke and an old friend of Mrs. Hawthorne. She was on her way to Rome, and was the occasion of the following communication from Mr. Russell Sturgis, who had known Mrs. Hawthorne before her marriage:--
LONDON, Dec. 19, 1854.
MY DEAR MRS. HAWTHORNE,-- The Pope will not let us prepay letters to Rome, as be prefers to collect there; but we shall tell your friend Miss Sarah Clarke, that we credit her postage account with two shillings received from you, and she will get the benefit of your thoughtful regularity. "Rock Park" I take to be the pretty place where I saw you; but to be sure, I direct my letter to Liverpool. When we were running about in the rain, trying to find your whereabouts, the commander of the little steamboat could tell us nothing of "Hawthorne;" but the dignity of the "American Consul" had made its full impression, and he knew well where he lived. So much for fame, you see I did not know when I saw you that your boy had the same name as mine. Where did you get it? With regards to Mr. Hawthorne,
Yours very truly and affectionately,
--Early in the summer of the following year (1855) was held in Liverpool a meeting of the "Provincial Assembly of Lancashire and Cheshire." This assembly was a relic of the Presbyterian organization established by the Parliament of 1647; but, like other Presbyterian institutions, it had become entirely Unitarian. To the meeting in question Hawthorne was invited; and the letter he wrote, declining the invitation, has more than ordinary interest, owing to the reference it contains to religious matters:--
LIVERPOOL, June 15, 1855.
GENTLEMEN,-- I regret that a long-contemplated and unavoidable absence from town will deprive me of the great pleasure of being present on the interesting occasion in the enjoyment of which you kind]y invite me to participate. Few things have been more delightful to me, during my residence in England, than to find here the descendants (spiritually at least, and in many instances, I believe, the descendants by lineage and name) of that revered brotherhood a part of whose mission it was to plant the seeds of liberal Christianity in America. Some of that brotherhood sought freedom of worship on the other side of the Atlantic, while others reserved themselves to the perhaps more difficult task of keeping their religious faith pure and full of genial life beneath the shadow of English churches and cathedrals. And it seems to me a noble and beautiful testimony to the truth of our religious convictions, that after so long a period, coming down from the past with an ocean between us, the liberal churches of England and America should nevertheless have arrived at the same results; that an American, an offspring of Puritan sires, still finds himself in brotherly relations with the posterity of those free-minded men who exchanged a parting pressure of the hand with his forefathers more than two centuries ago; and that we can all unite in one tone of religions sentiment, whether uttered by the lips of the friend whom you have summoned from my native land (Rev. W. H. Channing), or by the lips of your honored guests whose faith has ripened in the mother country. With great respect,
--This letter expressed the writer's genuine sentiments, as far as it went; but it was in some sense a public document (it was, I believe, published in the Liverpool newspapers of that date), and it has somewhat of the formality and style of a speech. No doubt his speech, had he been present to make one, would have been on the lines of the letter. Meanwhile it need not be forgotten that he was not a frequenter of his friend Mr. Channing's church; and it may be surmised that the above expression of his views was none the less cordial because it was written with the consciousness that circumstances would prevent him from delivering it in person.
On the 18th of June the "long-contemplated" departure from Rock Park took place. The journey was in the first place to Leamington. "Leamington," he writes,
"seems to be made chiefly of lodging-houses, and to be built with a view to a continually shifting population. It is a very beautiful town, with regular streets of stone or stuccoed houses, very broad pavements, and much shade of noble trees, in many parts of the town; parks and gardens, too, of delicious verdure; and throughout all, an aspect of freshness and cleanness that I despaired of ever seeing in England. The town seems to be almost entirely new. The principal street has elegant shops; and the scene is very lively, with throngs of people more gayly dressed than one is accustomed to see in this country; soldiers, too, lounging at the corners, and officers, who appear less shy of showing themselves in their regimentals than it is the fashion to be elsewhere.
"In the forenoon we took a walk through what looked like a park, but seemed to be a sort of semi-public tract on the outskirts of the town,--hill and glade, with a fair gravel-path through it, and most stately and beautiful trees overshadowing it. Here and there benches were set beneath the trees. These old, vigorous, much-nurtured trees are fine beyond description, and in this leafy month of June they certainly surpass my recollections of American trees,--so tall, and with such an aspect of age-long life. But the fact that these English trees are traditional, and connected with the fortunes of old families,--such moral considerations inevitably enter into physical admiration of them. They are individuals,--which few American trees have the happiness to be. Julian compared an oak, which we saw on our journey, to a cauliflower; and its shape--its regular, compact rotundity--makes it very like one: there is a certain John-Bullism about it. I have never anywhere enjoyed weather so delightful as such a day as yesterday; so warm and genial, and yet not oppressive,--the sun a very little too warm while walking beneath it, but only enough too warm to assure us that it was warm enough. And, after all, there was an unconquered freshness in the atmosphere, which each little motion of the air made evident to us. I suppose there is still latent in us Americans (even of two centuries' date and more, like myself) an adaptation to the English climate, which makes it like native soil and air to us."
--About a month was spent in Leamington on this first visit; but Hawthorne returned there more than once, and seemed to conceive for it a more homelike feeling than for almost any other place in England. The environs, easily accessible, were indeed more interesting than Leamington itself; and Hawthorne never walked so much or with so much pleasure, while in England, as during his various sojournings at this pretty town.
One of the last days of June was spent in an excursion to Stratford-on-Avon, described in "Our Old Home;" and after a run up to Liverpool, and a visit to Lichfield and Uttoxeter, the family set forth, in the early part of July, for a fortnight among the English Lakes. Just before that event, however, the law had been passed by Congress, reducing the emoluments of the Consulate by a serious amount. Mr. Wilding had written to Hawthorne, under date of June 29, that it would be "put in force on Monday. What war-vessels," he adds, "are now in, must of course come under the old law. Under the Attorney-General's construction, I think the Consuls--here, at all events--may manage to make their expenses." Of course this put an end to all possibility of laying up any considerable sum of money against the future. With economy, there would be enough to get through with, and no more. It took away from the Consulate the only feature that could render it tolerable, and Hawthorne began to grow restive in the traces. He wrote under date of July 5:--
DEAR MR. BRIGHT, I have come back (only for a day or two) to this black and miserable hole.
P.S. I don't mean to apply the above two disparaging adjectives merely to my Consulate, but to all Liverpool and its environs,--except Sandheys and Norris Green [these places being the residences, respectively, of Mr. Bright and Mr. Heywood].
--But the vacation among the Lakes compensated for a great deal of Liverpool. The weather was, for the most part, favorable, and the scenery wore its loveliest aspect. Our headquarters were made at the Newby Bridge Hotel, on Lake Windermere, whence every part of the Lake district lies within the limits of a comfortable excursion. The combination of mountain, water, and forest with reminiscences of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, and the others of that conclave, was peculiarly grateful to the American man of letters; possibly, indeed, he more enjoyed the calm imaginative delight of this spiritual communion with the spots which their memory made famous, than he would have cared for their concrete living companionship. It is among the most valuable qualities of places associated with famous names, that you find therein more of what you wish to find of the personages in question, and have it more at your leisure and according to your humor, than they themselves could ever furnish you withal. Wordsworth's grave had--what the poet himself did not always have--a charm worthy of his poetry; and the cataract of Lodore gave to our conception of Southey a freshness and beauty which might have failed to discover themselves in the man. But the tour has been amply treated of in the Note-Books and need not be further commented upon here.
For a time Hawthorne entertained some idea of handing in his resignation as Consul, and, after a short visit to Italy, returning to America. There were several arguments in favor of such a step. He had been in England long enough to obtain a distinct impression of it; and he could, in the course of a month or two, visit such places of especial interest in the island as he had not already seen. A longer tenure of office would not materially increase his pecuniary resources; and, finally, his wife's health made it necessary that she, at any rate, should not pass another winter in the English climate. He seems to have spoken of this intention to persons outside his immediate circle; for I find the poet William Allingham writing to him from Ireland
"That Liverpool should be distasteful to you seems no marvel, and you are doubtless right to leave it. Men make much of their misery by what they call 'sticking to business,'--becoming human limpets. In England, at least, we are over-adhesive in our habits. Myself, I still laud (though relapsed) the virtue of Official Resignation; and I wish I could afford to practise it in my humble way."
But before the project could take definite shape, something occurred to materially modify it. John O'Sullivan was now United States Minister to the Court of Lisbon; and be wrote to propose that Mrs. Hawthorne should, with her children, spend the ensuing winter there. This would not only give her the advantage of the kind of climate most favorable to her complaint, but would effect some saving in expense. Hawthorne might then finish his term at the Consulate, and the visit to Italy would be only postponed, not abandoned. This plan, upon due consideration, appeared to combine so many advantages that it could not easily be put aside. The main objection to it was, of course, that it involved a separation which would certainly be prolonged, and might--having in view the uncertainties of life--be final. The husband and wife had never, since their marriage, been apart from each other more than a few weeks at a time, and the prospect of so grave an interruption of their companionship was hard to contemplate. It was at length decided that Mrs. Hawthorne should proceed to Lisbon in the autumn, taking with her her two daughters; while the son should remain in England with his father.
Hawthorne returned to Liverpool about the end of July, and took rooms at the Rock Ferry Hotel, whither his family followed him a few days later, and where they remained during the mouth of August. In the first week of that month Henry Bright took his friend to witness the launch of the "Royal Charter," which is described in detail in the Journal. This large and superb vessel was afterwards wrecked disastrously, with great loss of life, off the coast of Anglesea. The only other event of importance, of this date, was the visit to Smithell's Hall, which was made in fulfilment of an old engagement. It is to this Hall that the legend of the Bloody Footstep belongs, which haunted Hawthorne ever afterwards. I am inclined to think that the legend was more of a nuisance than a pleasure to him, after all. From a literary point of view, the idea is one of those which seem very alluring at first sight, but, when one comes to deal with them, prove strangely difficult and impracticable. Having once made up his mind to use the incident, in some form, in a romance, Hawthorne would not easily forego his purpose and nothing can be more interesting and instructive to would-be romancers than the repeated efforts he made to lick the incident into shape and harmony. But it is too fantastic to be made impressive,--at least, when incorporated in a narrative of any length. The symbol of the Scarlet Letter will be memorable and fearful while our literature lasts; but the Bloody Footstep is a comparatively crude and shallow idea,--not fine and subtile enough to be properly assimilated by a genius so pure and profound as Hawthorne's.
He dined at Smithell's Hall, and made one or two reflections not given in the Note-Books. "Mrs. Ainsworth," he says,
"talked rather copiously, but not particularly well. She seems to have pretensions to a knowledge of literature, and to take an interest in literary people; but her talk is quite superficial, and I must say I think her a silly woman. One anecdote which she told was very characteristic, not of the hero of it, but of herself and of the English people generally, as showing what their tone and feeling is respecting Americans. Mr. Bancroft, while minister here, was telling somebody about the effect of the London atmosphere on his wife's health. 'She is now very delicate,' said he, 'whereas, when she lived in New York, she was one of the most indelicate women in the city!' And Mrs. Ainsworth had the face to tell this foolish story for truth, and as indicating the mistakes into which Americans are liable to fall in the use of the English language. In other instances I have heard stories equally ridiculous about our diplomatic people, whom the English seem determined to make butts of, reason or none. It is very queer, the resolute quizzing of our manners, when we are really and truly much better figures, and with much better capacity of polish, for drawing-room or dining-room, than they themselves are. I bad been struck, on my arrival at Smithell's Hall, by the very rough aspect of these John Bulls in morning-garb,--their coarse frock coats, gray hats, checked trousers, and stout shoes. At dinner-table it was not at first easy to recognize the same individuals, in their white waistcoats, muslin cravats, thin black coats, with silk facings perhaps, as old Squire Ainsworth himself had. But after a while you see the same rough figure through all the finery, and become sensible that John Bull cannot make himself fine, whatever he may put on. He is a rough animal, and his female is well adapted to him."
--That is a frank and explicit bit of criticism, well calculated to augment the cordial understanding between the two countries. I have the more pleasure in quoting it, because the English have less to amend in their attitude towards our countrymen than was the case thirty years ago; and on the other hand, Mr. Lowell does, I believe, speak English with tolerable accuracy.
Leaving Liverpool on the 1st of September, Hawthorne took his family to London (pausing on the way at Shrewsbury), and hired lodgings at No. 24 George Street, Hanover Square. And now ensued a month of as great enjoyment as Hawthorne had hitherto known in England. No American better qualified than he to appreciate its sights, its historic and literary associations, its antiquities and its immensity had ever before lost himself in its streets. lie rejoiced in the human ocean that flooded its thorough-fares and eddied through its squares and courts; be greeted as old friends its cathedrals, its river, its bridges, its Tower, its inns, its Temple, its alleys and chop-houses,--so strange were they, and yet so familiar; so old, and so full of novelty. He cast himself adrift upon the great city, and cruised whithersoever the current took him; and when he could keep his feet no longer, he would hail a hansom and trundle homeward in happy weariness, to begin his exertions afresh the next morning. His appetite for London, which had been growing during his lifetime, was almost as big as London itself; he could not gratify it enough. He enjoyed the vague and irresponsible wandering even more than the deliberate and premeditated sight-seeing; but he was always ready for either. London seemed to fulfil his expectations better than any other city,--better than Paris, or even Rome.
His son accompanied him in many of his other-wise solitary rambles, and noticed a marked difference between his demeanor then and in their country walks. On the latter occasions his expression was generally meditative and introspective, and therefore grave; but in the London streets his glance struck outward, gathering in all external impressions, and his face wore a look of subdued pleasure. Sometimes he would pause in front of some famous edifice or momument, and gaze up at it,--seldom for longer than a minute or so, yet with an inspection so comprehensive and searching that one felt sure he carried the complete image of it away with him, In a few words he would tell his companion the event or the association that made the place memorable; but in a way so simple and yet vivid, that the latter would not have felt surprised to meet the burly form of Dr. Johnson rolling along beneath Temple Bar, or to behold Addison and Steele chatting in the famous coffee-house.
The month passed away very quickly; and in the second week of October we started for Southampton whence the steamer which was to convey Mrs. Hawthorne and her daughters to Lisbon was to sail. The night was spent at the Castle Hotel, not far from the steamship landing. By noon of the next day we were all on board. "My wife behaved heroically," Hawthorne wrote;
"Una was cheerful, and Rosebud seemed only anxious to get off. Poor Fanny, our nurse, was altogether cast down, and shed tears, either from regret at leaving her native land, or dread of sickness, or general despondency,--being a person of no hope, or spring of spirits. Julian bore the separation from his mother well, but took occasion to remind me that he had now no one hut myself to depend upon, and therefore suggested that I should be very kind to him. There is more tenderness in his own manner towards me than ordinary, since the great event. For my own part, I was not depressed (trusting in God's mercy that we shall all meet again); but yet the thought was not without a good deal of pain, that we were to be so long separated,--so long a gap in life, during which Una will quite have passed out of her childhood, and Rosebud out of her babyhood; for I shall not find them exactly such as I leave them, even if we are apart only two or three months. This will be a kind of era in their lives. My wife, I hope and pray, will meet me in better health and strength than for two years past."
The vessel steamed away; and the two who were left behind walked to the railway station, and took the train for Worcester. Spending the next night there, they proceeded to Liverpool the following day, where they were met by a driving rain-storm, complicated by rejoicings for the surrender of Sebastopol. It was comforting to get at last to Mrs. Blodgett's, and sit down, at nine o'clock, to a hearty supper.