Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume II
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
The Wayside and the War
IT was a hot day towards the close of June, 1860, when Hawthorne alighted from the train at Concord station, and drove up in tbe railway wagon to the Wayside. The fields looked brown, the trees were dusty, and the sun white and brilliant. At certain seasons in Concord the heat in summer stagnates and simmers, until it seems as if nothing but a grasshopper could live. The water in the river is so warm that to bathe in it is merely to exchange one kind of heat for another. The very shadow of the trees is torrid; and I have known the thermometer to touch 112 degrees in the shade. No breeze stirs throughout the long, sultry day; and the feverish nights bring mosquitoes, but no relief. To come from the salt freshness of the Atlantic into this living oven is a startling change, especially when one has his memory full of green England. Such was America's first greeting to Hawthorne, on his return from a seven years' absence; it was to this that he had looked forward so lovingly and so long. As be passed one little wooden house after another, with their white clapboards and their green blinds, perhaps be found his thoughts not quite so cloudless as the sky. It is dangerous to have a home; too much is required of it.
The Wayside, however, was not white; it was painted a dingy buff color. The larches and Norway pines, several hundred of which had been sent out from England, were planted along the paths, and were for the most part doing well. The well-remembered hillside, with its rude terraces, shadowed by apple-trees, and its summit green with pines, rose behind the house; and in front, on the other side of the highway, extended a broad meadow of seven acres, bounded by a brook, above which hung drooping willows. It was, upon the whole, as pleasant a place as any in the village, and much might be done to enhance its beauty. It had been occupied, during our absence, by a brother of Mrs. Hawthorne; and the house itself was in excellent order, and looked just the same as in our last memory of it. A good many alterations have been made since then; another story was added to the western wing, the tower was built up behind, and two other rooms were put on in the rear. These changes, together with some modifications about the place, such as the opening up of paths, the cutting down of some trees, and the planting of others, were among the last things that engaged Hawthorne's attention in this life.
The John Brown episode had just taken place, and Mr. Frank Sanborn, a citizen of Concord, and the principal of a private school there, had taken a prominent part in connection with it. It was to this school that Hawthorne sent his son, being specially moved thereto by the following letter from Ellery Channing:
CONCORD, Sept. 3, 1860.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--In numbering over the things that had been added to the town, t' other day, I left out the first and best, which is, the school for girls and boys, under the charge of Mr. Sanborn. No words that I could use on this occasion could do justice to his happy influence on the characters of those confided to him, and more especially of the girls. He has supplied a want long felt here, and, by having a school for young children, leaves nothing to be desired. His scholars are from desirable families, and many of them are very attractive and pleasing persons. The mere fact of associating with him and those he has drawn about him I should regard as a matter of first importance. I have never heard of a school before where there was so much to please and so little to offend, and in this country, to every one who purposes to take the least part in any social affairs, the value of a good school is unquestioned. Our school-days are the days of our life; it is then we learn all we ever know, and without these mimic contests, these services, sports, and petty grievances, what were all the after days! If you were as intimate with Mr. Sanborn as I have the good fortune to be, I think nothing would give you so much satisfaction as to have such nice girls as yours seem to be directly under his charge. Nothing seems to me more unfortunate in this land of activity than to bring up children in seclusion, without the invaluable discipline that a good school presents. Forgive me for dwelling a little on this, out of regard to Mr. Sanborn, who deserves to be sustained. I was greatly pleased with the success of your last book, "The Marble Faun." It seemed to me at first, until I got well a-going, a little difficult to seize the thread; hut when I once found it, I went rapidly forward unto the end. I always consider the rapidity with which I can read a story the test of its merit, at least for me. Many others have spoken to me of its effect on them. I greatly enjoyed the Italian criticism. As a matter of art, there is possibly always a certain danger in combining didactic and dramatic situations; but if any field is open to this, it should be Italy. "Corinne," I think, deals in character rather than criticism. I should be ashamed to tell you how often I have read "The Marble Faun," or "The Blithedale Romance." The latter is, I think, of all your pieces the one I like the best. No book was ever printed containing better effects for illustration. I also have often read over the sorrows of Aunt Hepzibah.
I am a little late in welcoming you back to the stern and simple fields of this ancient Puritan land; but a traveller is like coffee, and needs to be well settled.
With regards to Mrs. Hawthorne, believe me
Ever faithfully yours,
W. ELLERY CHANNING.
--Hawthorne and his wife had themselves borne the chief part in the instruction of their children hitherto. The former had grounded his son carefully in Latin, and had introduced him to Greek, his own acquaintance with these languages being sound, if not critical. French and Italian had been added by Mrs. Hawthorne and Miss Shepard; and during his mother's absence in Lisbon, the boy had received the benefit of training in drawing from an eminent artist in Liverpool. He also took many "quarters'" lessons in the small-sword from a certain Corporal Blair, of the Fourth Dragoon Guards, the most amiable and unexceptionable of British soldiers, gently imperturbable of manner, courteous of speech, six feet in height, erect as a mast, and with the chest and shoulders of a Greek athlete. I also cherish tender recollections of an old Peninsula veteran, Major Johnstone, who trained me in the use of the broadsword, and who, during the pauses of the encounter, used to regale us with anecdotes of Spain, Waterloo, and Wellington. The thorough education of his children was, in short, Hawthorne's one extravagance; he spared neither pains nor money to that end. His own patience and conscientiousness as a teacher seem more and more wonderful to me, as time goes on: nothing escaped him; he shirked nothing, nor did he ever speak a harsh word, no matter how trying the circumstances,--and they must often have been very trying! Were all instructors like him, the world would soon be wise.
He did not fall in with his friend Channing's opinion as to the expediency of sending his daughters to the school; which, however, it may be remarked in passing, fully bore out Mr. Channing's recommendation. But Rose was still very young, and Una was delicate and, besides, Hawthorne was always very chary of his daughters. But the school was not more excellent as a school than in its social aspects; every week there was a school-dance, and, twice or thrice a year, a grand picnic, not to mention other jollifications; and in these Hawthorne's girls took part. Mr. Emerson's house was also a centre of polite and intellectual amenities; and another unfailing spring of hospitable entertainment was always to be found at the Alcotts', our next-door neighbors. Altogether, it may be surmised that there never was and never will be such a genial Concord--for young people at least--as that which existed from 1859 to 1865, or thereabouts; and several marriages were among the happy results of the experience.
Hawthorne, meanwhile, was taking counsel with Mr. Wetherbee and Mr. Watts, the Concord carpenters, as to the best way of augmenting the Wayside's commodiousness; the estimates were made out, and the work was begun. For many months thereafter the sound of hammering and sawing was heard every day; boards were piled up on the lawn, and the barn was full of shavings and sawdust. Hawthorne had always wanted a tower to write in. There was a tower at Montauto; but unfortunately it contained accommodations only for a couple of owls and a ghostly monk. The present tower was a less picturesque and gloomy affair, built of American deal boards, and haunted by nothing but the smell of new wood. A staircase, narrow and steep, ascends through the floor, the opening being covered by a sort of gabled structure, to one end of which a standing-desk was affixed; a desk-table was placed against the side. The room was about twenty feet square, with four gables; and the ceiling, instead of being flat, was a four-sided vault, following the conformation of the roof. There were five windows, the southern and eastern ones opening upon a flat tin roof upon which one might walk or sit in suitable weather. The walls were papered with paper of a pale golden hue, without figures. There was a closet for books on each side of the northern window, which looked out upon the hill. A small fireplace, to which a stove was attached, was placed between the two southern windows. The room was pleasant in autumn and spring; but in winter the stove rendered the air stifling, and in summer the heat of the sun was scarcely endurable. Hawthorne, however, spent several hours of each day in his study, and it was here that the "Old Home" was written, and "Septimius Felton," and "Dr. Grimshawe," and the Dolliver fragment. But in the afternoon he was in the habit of strolling about the grounds with his wife; and about sunset he generally ascended the hill alone, and paced to and fro along its summit, wearing a narrow path between the huckleberry and sweet-fern bushes and beneath the pines, of which some traces, I believe, still remain. In the evenings he sat in the library,--the room in the western wing, which had formerly been the study; and here he either read to himself or aloud to the assembled family. Messrs. Ticknor and Fields published a complete edition of Walter Scott's works about this time, and sent him a handsomely bound copy; and, beginning at the beginning, he read all those admirable romances to his children and wife. There was no conceivable entertainment which they would not have postponed in favor of this presentation of Scott through the medium of Hawthorne. I have never since ventured to open the Waverley Novels.
He took few or no long walks after his return to America: Walden Pond (about two miles distant) was the limit of his excursions; and he generally confined himself to his own grounds, except on Sundays, when we all strolled together about the neighboring fields and wood-paths. His physical energy was on the wane, and he lost flesh rapidly. The first winter, with its drifting snows, imprisoned him much in the house, and the ensuing spring found him languid and lacking in enterprise. Meantime the war had broken out; and he, in common with the rest of his countrymen, perused the bulletins with great diligence.
Among his son's earliest recollections are the lessons of vigorous patriotism which Hawthorne used to inculcate upon him. He told him the story of the Revolution until it was the most vivid and familiar part of the boy's life, and the latter went to England almost with the idea of carrying fire and sword into a hostile country. There was an innate love of battle and of warlike emprise in Hawthorne's nature; and except when he took pains to make his reason supersede his instinct, his expressions of enthusiasm against the Southern pretensions were as rousing and hearty as any utterances of the time. "I hope," he used to say, "that we shall give them a terrible thrashing, and then kick them out." He did not hope for the preservation of the Union; because, if it came peacefully, it would sooner or later involve the extension of slavery over the Northern States, and if by war, it seemed to him it would be only superficial and temporary. The essence of all true union being mutual good-will, it would follow that compulsion could effect nothing worth having. At the same time the prospect of the dissolution of that mighty nation which had embodied the best hopes of mankind was a deep pain to him; it seemed likely to be the death of that old spirit of patriotism which had come down to us from the Revolution. A civil war, in the Republic of the Future, was a sorry thing, no matter what the pretext for it; nor was it easy to discover what the real pretext was In wars between countries foreign to each other, there is seldom either opportunity or desire to investigate the moral attitude of the opposing party; but it was otherwise in our civil war. It was impossible not to hear the arguments of the other side, or not to understand that those arguments might seem unanswerable to the men whose geographical and traditional accidents had brought them under their influence. The conflict, in short, appeared to be less moral than irrepressible,--the result of spontaneous and inevitable natural tendencies; and, if this were so, then so much the less hope was there that it would fail to destroy whatever was most imposing and majestic in our national life. As for abolition, considered as a motive for battle, Hawthorne rejected all belief in it. He regarded slavery as an evil, and would have made any personal sacrifice to be rid of it, as an element in the national existence; but to maintain that we were ready to imperil our life merely out of regard for the liberation of the negroes was, in his opinion, to utter sentimental nonsense. The best reason that he could give himself for going to war was, that the arrogance of the slave-holders would otherwise reach such a pitch that the Republic would in effect be transformed into an oligarchy, or possibly something worse. There must be a limit to Northern concession, and, "if compelled to choose," he said, "I go for the North." But the choice was between two evils,-not between an undoubted good and its opposite.
Thus his deeper feeling could not but be one of depression and misgiving. Let us fight the South and conquer her, since so it must be, but let us not rejoice too much at our victory; for victory will cost us almost as much as defeat. As the war continued, however, and luck went uniformly against us, he postponed more and more all speculations as to the ultimate result, and allowed the grim spirit of battle to take possession of him. Had we conquered the South more easily, Hawthorne would never have found it in his heart to feel so hardly towards her, and would have advocated all possible leniency. As it was, the utmost restraint his conscience could impose upon him was to abstain from stimulating and inflaming, by any public utterance, the public hatred against our fellow-countrymen, which was already more than enough aroused. In what little he has written having reference to the struggle, he has adopted a colder and more dispassionate tone than he actually felt, lest, by yielding to the animosity of the moment, he should be found to have swerved from the permanent truth. This course brought upon him some local odium at the time; but he was of course then, as always, utterly unmoved by anything of that kind.
For more than a year after the outbreak of hostilities, however, he made no serious attempt to resume the habit of imaginative composition. Every morning brought fresh news, of hope or of disaster, from the seat of war, and there was no escape therefrom into calm regions of meditation. As he wrote in the preface of "Our Old Home:""The Present, the Immediate, the Actual, has proved too potent for me. It takes away not only my scanty faculty, but even my desire for imaginative composition, and leaves me sadly content to scatter a thousand peaceful fantasies upon the hurricane that is sweeping us all along with it, possibly, into a limbo where our nation and its polity may be as literally the fragments of a shattered dream as my unwritten romance."
He could not sit calmly inventing stories, while the fate of his country was in suspense; he must wait either until war had become our second nature, or until the issue was beyond doubt. And though he struggled hard to overcome this disinclination, indeed, his circumstances could ill afford that he should be idle,--the effort was too much for him. The seclusion of his tower was not secluded enough. Among other of Hawthorne's correspondents at this period was a young poet, possessing his full share of the suspicious sensitiveness of the poetic fraternity, though not, perhaps, overburdened with genius. The two following specimens of his epistolary style will be found entertaining:--
GREENFIELD, April 4, 1S61.
NATH'L HAWTHORNE, Esq.
DEAR SIR,--I have just sent to your address, through my sister now in Rome, a little volume of poems (the same that you will find herewith), supposing that you were still abroad. Please accept it as an acknowledgment of deep indebtedness for very great pleasure and instruction that I have received from your writings; indeed, so great that it has run into my blood and bones, and perhaps out of my fingers' ends. I had the pleasure not long since of sending to Alfred Tennyson (whom I knew in England) your "Mosses," as he wanted to see more New England poetry from the pen of the author of "The Scarlet Letter." But it seems almost irreverent to speak passingly of your works, or in terms of compliment; and I beg you will pardon my having spoken of them at all, but will accept this little volume as a very slight return of what I cannot in any way repay. With the hope that you may find something that will reward perusal, and that you will pardon what may seem a liberty in a stranger,
I remain with great respect, yours,
F. G. TUCKERMAN.
N. B. Will you permit me to ask, before sending the book, whether it will be acceptable? As in one instance such an act has received no acknowledgment from the recipient.
--Hawthorne replied to the young poet, whose faith in human nature had been so cruelly betrayed, in terms as encouraging as the circumstances admitted, and got this answer:--
GREENFIELD, April 10, 1861.
MY DEAR SIR,--Your kind note has just reached me, and I hasten to avail myself of your permission to send my little volume. If I had only waited one day more, I should have had no occasion for insisting upon a manifestation of willingness from yourself, for the acknowledgment, and a graceful one, came at last. For the book, which I offer with a certain tremor to yourself, I claim little, but that it is New Englandy (I hope), was not written to please anybody, and is addressed to those only who understand it,--and this latter clause, because the other day I had a line from a clerical critic who, after reading the "Sonnets," gravely accuses the author of "idolatry," and then goes on to remark that "Margites" would have been much better employed in some work of Christian usefulness. Pardon this, and let me hope that you will find something that may deserve your favorable opinion, which I shall be proud to know of. My hope is to have the book published in England (if it seem worthy), as here I fancy it would be but coldly received, even with that proviso. Thank you for receiving so pleasantly what I said about yourself, or rather what I did not say; only your own audience know the value of your benefactions, hardly to be communicated; and many a time have I laid down your volume with the conviction "that only silence suiteth best." Still I cannot promise, should we ever meet, to be always so discreet. Please pardon a few corrections and emendations that I have made in the margin of my book, and many that I should, but have not, made; and believe me, dear sir,
Both warmly and gratefully yours,
F. G. TUCKERMAN.
--There were various inducements to social activity held out to him by his friends in Boston at this time; especially the meetings of the famous club of which Emerson Holmes, Lowell, Whittier, and others were members; but he uniformly declined the invitations. He had tried the experiment of such things pretty thoroughly on the other side of the Atlantic, and was doubtful of his ability either to give or to receive much benefit from them. Besides, he was not in the physical or mental humor for general social intercourse; and probably wished to avoid the political discussions which would be apt to arise, and in which he might be compelled to oppose the views of those with whom his friendly relations were most agreeable. He reserved the expression of his opinions on those matters for his letters to Bright and Bennoch in England, and to Horatio Bridge in this country. The following, written to the latter not long after the outbreak of hostilities, has, I think, already found its way into print, but should be preserved here as a part of the history of his thoughts at this juncture:--
CONCORD, May 26, 1861.
MY DEAR BRIDGE,--. . . The war, strange to say, has had a beneficial effect upon my spirits, which were flagging wofully before it broke out. But it was delightful to share in the heroic sentiment of the time, and to feel that I had a country,--a consciousness which seemed to make me young again. One thing as regards this matter I regret, and one thing I am glad of. The regrettable thing is that I am too old to shoulder a musket myself and the joyful thing is that Julian is too young. He drills constantly with a company of lads, and means to enlist as soon as he reaches the minimum age. But I trust we shall either be victorious or vanquished before that time. Meantime, though I approve the war as much as any man, I don't quite understand what we are fighting for, or what definite result can be expected. If we pummel the South ever so hard, they will love us none the better for it; and even if we subjugate them, our next step should be to cut them adrift. If we are fighting for the annihilation of slavery, to be sure it may be a wise object, and offer a tangible result, and the only one which is consistent with a future union between North and South. A continuance of the war would soon make this plain to us, and we should see the expediency of preparing our black brethren for future citizenship by allowing them to fight for their own liberties, and educating them through heroic influences. Whatever happens next, I must say that I rejoice that the old Union is smashed. We never were one people, and never really had a country since the Constitution was formed. .
--Two letters from Henry Bright, though written a couple of years apart, may be placed together here, as there is nothing in them of especially chronological importance. The second one refers to the renowned passage about Englishwomen in "Our Old Home," which retains to this day a ludicrous power to make the great nation gnash its teeth with resentment.
. . . I went to the opening of the Exhibition. It was a dull sight, and rather a sad one: the ghost of the poor Prince would not be laid! and then, too, one thought of the Exhibition of 1851, with its charmmg gayety; its freshness, its beauty, and the dream of lasting peace and good-will among men, which lingered about it, and half hallowed it. Now, that dream could not come again; and the Exhibition seems but some big bazaar,--and the friendship of nations is only the buying and selling of luxuries,--and everywhere there seems to be a spirit of self-seeking and greed and hollow pretence of lofty purpose. Beautiful things of course there are in all the courts, but they are beautiful in detail, not as parts of one grand whole. Most beautiful are the pictures) though even here I for one remember the art-galleries of Manchester still more pleasantly, and would readily give up French galleries and Belgian galleries for that head of Fra Angelico, the Murillo, the Rubens Rainbow, and others, which you will at once call up again.--Then, some of the sculpture here is good. First and best is Story's "Cleopatra," which you it was, who told us of. It is a noble statue, and every one admires it,--every one thinks it the finest statue there. How good your description is (I read it over again yesterday) ; and how wise you were to recognize the power of Story's work. It is curious that both in 1851 and now America should carry off the palm of Phidias. As for Gibson's "Venus," I hate and despise her. So meretricious a lady should not venture into decent company. How cruel too she looks,--with that blue, stony eye, with no particle of light to give it life. She is a goddess of Corinth in the worst days,--or the Venus of the Tannhaueser!
I saw a good deal of Milnes. He is more Northern in his sympathies than any one I met except Hughes (I suspect Tom Brown wishes to avenge the death of his kinsman "Old John"), and the editor of "Macmillan's Magazine." I spent one pleasant evening at the "Cosmopolitan;"--Milnes was there, Sir John Simeon, Captain Bruce, and one or two others whom you will remember. I had also a pleasant talk with Millais, Woolner the sculptor, and Hughes. Another night I was at a soirée at Milnes's,--such a den of lions! Du Chaillu, the gorilla; Jules Gérard, the lion-slayer; Rupell of the "Times;" Theodore Martin; an exiled Prince; certain grandees, and certain unknown characters. Milnes is really the kindest, most lovable man, and is a perfectly fearless Daniel in the midst of it all. Synge you certainly remember. I went to Thackeray's new house, where he was staying, to bid him good-by. . . .
MY DEAR MR. HAWTHORNE,--Thank you most warmly, most heartily, for all your kindness,--for sending me your book,--and for the too generous words of friendship in which you speak of me. It is one of the best things of my life to have made a friend of you. With this I send a review of mine, in the "Examiner," of "Our Old Home." Don't think me very ungrateful for my abuse of your abuse of English ladies. You see I positively could not help it. An inevitable lance had to be broken, both for the fun of it and the truth of it. It really was too bad, some of the things you say. You talk like a cannibal. Mrs. Heywood says to my mother, "I really believe you and I were the only ladies he knew in Liverpool, and we are not like beefsteaks." So all the ladies are furious. Within the last day or two I also have become more intolerant, for I am the happy father of a little girl who promises to be a typical Englishwoman; and were I again to write a review, my lance, for her sake, must needs be sharper, and my thrust more vigorous!
I will not write politics to you, for I have nothing new to say. "Fraternization or death" is no doubt a good and eminently logical cry, and no doubt the result will prove its admirable expediency. When all the men are killed, the women and children will be left, and "fraternization," or more intimate relationship, will of course be possible. I 'm glad you 're not to fight us about these "rams;" but perhaps Jeff Davis will: it is so very difficult to please every one. I went over one of the "rams" the other day. It looks formidable enough: two revolving turrets, immense iron plates, huge battering-prow. One is sorry for the intending punchatees,--so nearly ready as she was--and now the "broad arrow" is upon her, and she must not stir. Mr. Ward Beecher has been lecturing here. I regret to say that some one was unmannerly enough to placard the walls with "sensation" placards in black and red, quoting from a speech of his (Ward Beecher's) on the Trent affair, in which he was pleased to remark that "the best blood of England must flow" in consequence. I 'm afraid that Mr. Beecher found a portion of his audience inattentive, and given to groans and stamps; however, there was no regular row; and Mr. Beecher's audacity in lecturing at all had a touch of sublimity in it. Mr. Channing has also been lecturing in Leeds and elsewhere. I am very sorry to have seen so little of him, but I am afraid he has not a strictly philosophic mind, and would resent any expression of opinion adverse to his own.
Your affectionate friend,
H. A. BRIGHT.
--During the summer the "beneficial effect" of the war upon Hawthorne's spirits sensibly diminished, and the severe heat contributed to render him uncomfortable. Still, he was not actually ill, and was very far from admitting any need of change of scene. That was a medicine which he had tried (he thought) more than enough. His wife, however, was very anxious to get him off to the seaside; but it was vain to urge him to take any such step on his own account. As good luck would have it, his son Julian was enabled to become the deus ex machina of the predicament. In swimming across Concord River under water (during a competitive contest with his school-fellows) he had contrived to produce a congestion of blood to the brain, which laid him up for several days with a smart illness, and made it possible for his mother to insist upon his being immediately taken to the seaside by his father, to obtain the necessary rest and refreshment. This was in July, 1861, and is alluded to by Hawthorne in a letter to Lowell. "I am to start, in two or three days," he says, "on an excursion with Julian, who has something the matter with him, and seems to need sea-air and change. If I alone were concerned, I would most gladly put off my trip till after your dinner; but, as the case stands, I am compelled to decline. Speaking of dinner, last evening's news [of the first battle of Bull Run] will dull the edge of many a Northern appetite; but if it puts all of us into the same grim and bloody humor that it does me, the South had better have suffered ten defeats than won this victory."
We started, accordingly, on the morning of Saturday, July 25th, and proceeded to an out-of-the-way place called Pride's Crossing, some miles out of Salem. The following letter from Mrs. Hawthorne gives a good picture of the domestic situation at the time:--
SATURDAY EVENING, July 25, 1861.
MY DEAREST HUSBAND,--My babies are a-bed, and I must write down my day to you, or it will not be rounded in. I do not know how to impress you with adequate force concerning the absolutely inspiring effect of thy absence! I have been weighed to the earth by my sense of your depressed energies and spirits, in a way from which I tried in vain to rally. I could not sit down in the house and think about it, and so I kept out as much as possible, at work. For in the house a millstone weighed on my heart and head, and I had to struggle to keep off the bed, where I only fell into a half--a stupid and an unrefreshing sleep. Of all the trials, this is the heaviest to me,--to see you so apathetic, so indifferent, so hopeless, so unstrung. Rome has no sin to answer for so unpardonable as this of wrenching off your wings and hanging lead upon your arrowy feet. Rome--and all Rome caused to you. What a mixed cup is this to drink! My heart's desire has been, ever since the warm days, to get you to the sea under pleasant auspices, in a free and unencumbered way,--the sea only, and no people. I saw no way, until this plan of taking Julian occurred to you; and devoutly I blessed God for it, and do now bless Him. I felt so sure that Julian would be only a comfort and a pleasure to you, and am easier to have him with you. It is good for him to be out of the fret of common routine, and it is good for you to have a change from river-damps and sand-heats to ocean fogs and cool sands,--and also from the usual days. You especially need change of scene and air. I can flourish like purslain anywhere if my heart is at peace. I cannot flourish anywhere if it be not at peace,--not in any imaginable Paradise. Well, beloved, you were no sooner fairly gone,-- it was no sooner half-past eight o'clock,--than a great thick cloud rose off my heart and head. I had a thousand things which I meant to do in the house; but Rose wanted me to weed the paths with her while she weeded the beds. So I took advantage of the shaded sun and went out. First she took a small basket and I took a big one, and we went down into the garden to get potatoes and squashes. I gathered four squashes, and she got a basket nearly full of potatoes. Then we weeded. At ten, Mary Ellen Bull came to draw, and I set her to work, and continued to weed the paths, feeling better than I had for months,--feeling an endless energy and a new joy quite intoxicating. I went on weeding till after twelve! Rose and Joanna wheeling off wheelbarrows full of my spoils, and leaving such delightful order as would rejoice your eyes to see. Una went down for the mail, and thereby caught a history lesson from Aunt Lizzie Peabody. She brought a letter from London for you, from Miss Adelaide Procter, probably the lovely daughter of Barry Cornwall. I shall send you the letter to amuse you, for I hope it will not bore you to receive such a request. If it do, I shall wish the Society Victoria Regia abolished. "Hawthorne, Nathaniel" need only say that he cannot write now, but will in some future time,--unless he choose to send an extract from his journals. After dinner, instead of being obliged to lie down, as usual, I felt a new lease of life and awakeness. Una became a "blue being" and sat to sew, and Rose and I returned to our muttons,--that is, weeds. Presently the Blue Being came out to nail up vines, and Rose cut her thumb with the sickle, and had to leave off work. . . .
--Pride's Crossing, as I remember it in those days, consisted of a farm-house standing near the railway, and surrounded by woods. We ate and slept in the farm-house, and tramped through the woods, which, traversed in an easterly direction, led to the sea-shore, where there was an agreeable alternation of sands and rocks. We used to spend most of our days on the beach, and in the evenings Hawthorne would generally go in swimming. Fishing, likewise, was our daily diversion, and we caught every day sea-perch and bass enough to serve for our supper. The people at the farm-house were quiet and uninquisitive; but newspapers found their way there, as they did to every other place in the States at that epoch, and we were obliged to remember that the civil war was still going on. Hawthorne, however, merely glanced at the "Latest News" column, and let the rest go; and in the course of a week or so he had recovered somewhat of his elasticity. Our conversation had little relation to war-matters; but be had been familiar with this part of the coast in his boyhood and youth. and used to tell tales of those early days, and recall various old local traditions of the neighborhood. He had begun to show himself to me as a friend, as well as a father, and sometimes spoke to me about my possible future,--my approaching college days, and what was to come after. "I suppose, when you are grown up, you will do so and so," he would say,--usually suggesting something so preposterous or distasteful as to stimulate me to define an alternative, which he would then criticise. But he always carefully avoided forcing upon his companion any wishes or expectations of his own; he would suggest, and then observe and perhaps modify the effect of his suggestions.
Before the end of the week, Mrs. Hawthorne wrote again :--
JULY 30, 1861.
. . While Rose drew, I read aloud to her the "Miraculous Pitcher." It is the divinest exposition of hospitality that ever was written or thought. It is altogether perfect in every way. You only can use language, or have adequate ideas to clothe with it. This is my multum-in-parvo criticism upon your works. After dinner we made a settlement with chairs and a table and crickets out by the acacia path, in a delicious shade on thick grass, hard by the tomato-bed. It was delightful out there, and the air nectar; and we all thought how you and Julian were enjoying the fine weather. We had early tea, and soon after--it being Wednesday, our reception-day--a stream of ladies appeared from the Alcott path,--the larch path,--which gradually was resolved into Mrs. Emerson, Mrs. Brown, and Elizabeth. They made a long call, and then Mrs. Emerson and Mrs. Brown left, and E. P. P. remained. At seven she said, "Why, do you have no tea?" and I exclaimed we had finished tea an hour and a half ago! But we ran and found some bread and butter and cheese, and she ate a sorry supper. All I can boast of in the way of Baucis is, that she was saved from water-porridge and unleavened bread. When she had gone, Rose and I went on a sentimental journey up the acacia path to the hill-top, and to your winding foot-track; and we sat down under your tree, and I rejoiced that you were not there! I had no need of sleep to-day again, so restored am I by your absence. We saw the sunset glory, and then descended. Upon dressing at the glass this morning, I was really attracted by the immense change in my own face, such a relief, such a serenity, such a health! and Una remarked the entire difference of my look: it seemed miraculous. So you perceive that the only way to restore me is for you to remain at the sea, having thrown care into Walden Pond as you steamed away. You will surely stay as long as possible for my sake. Do not grudge money for it. It is better to spend money so than to give it to doctors,--and I shall have to go to Dr. Esterbrook if you come back pretty soon. Yours and Julian's shirts and collars can be washed by the divine Mrs. Pierce when they fail; but stay--stay--stay, at Pride's Crossing, or somewhere where there is sea, with a happy and easy mind; and we shall all be better in health for it. It is far better than if I went to the sea, or to anywhere. It restores my life to have you breathing in the salt. I hope you will have sea-bathing as well as Julian, and do always have towels to rub dry the skin. So now good~night, and God bless thee ever.
--Hawthorne had written, a day or two before, to his daughter Una (whom he called "Onion," for love). The "Aunt Lizzie" mentioned was Miss Elizabeth Hawthorne, whose abode was but two or three miles from our farm-house.
WEST BEACH (or somewhere else), July 28, 1861.
DEAR ONION,--We arrived duly, yesterday after-noon, and find it a tolerably comfortable place. Indeed, Julian seems to like it exceedingly, and I am not much more discontented than with many other spots in this weary world. It is a little, black, old house, on the edge of the railroad, and close by a wood which intervenes between it and the sea, and in which Julian finds high-bush blueberries, and blackberries half ripened. The host and hostess are two uncouth specimens of New England yeomanry, very unobtrusive, however, and as attentive as they know how to be. Julian was delighted with flie supper-table, inasmuch as it afforded him a pie made of dried apples, and some tarts of barberry stewed in molasses; and he seemed to think it princely fare. In the way of literature, we have half a dozen religious books, such as "The Life of Christ, with a Portrait" (from an original photograph, I suppose), "Solomon's Proverbs, illustrated," "Pearls of Grace from the Depths of Divine Love," and several others of the same stamp. We have abundant accommodations of every kind,--one bowl and pitcher between us, there being no other in the house, and everything on a similar scale. Nevertheless, if the weather is favorable, we shall have little to do with the inside of this house, but shall haunt the woods and the sea-shore. I shall thank Heaven when we get back. Aunt Lizzie came to see us yesterday after tea.
I don't know what is the direction of this place, but am of opinion that a letter sent to "West Beach, Beverly," would reach the nearest post-office. Julian is redundantly well.
Love to all. N. H.
P.S. Monday Morning. We went yesterday afternoon to see Aunt Lizzie, and had a very pleasant ramble through the woods, gathering berries all the way. Julian enjoys himself very much, and I do not think we shall come home so soon as Saturday, as I at first intended. I forgot to mention that I was recognized in some inscrutable way by a gentleman in the train, who brought us to the door in his carriage, and put his house, his beach, and everything else, at our disposal. O ye Heavens! How absurd that a man should spend the best of his years in getting a little mite of reputation, and then immediiately find the annoyance of it more than the profit. I hope you keep mamma in good order, and do not let her do anything imprudent. Aunt Lizzie wants Rosebud to come and stay with her.
West Beach, Beverly Farms, I think.
--We remained another week, and then Hawthorne wrote, "I suppose we shall come home Saturday. I am very well, which is a wonder, considering how I am daily fried in the sun. I do really sizzle, sometimes; but I guzzle more than I sizzle!"
Some correspondence, chiefly about war-matters, took place between Hawthorne and his friends Bright and Bennoch, during the ensuing months. Hawthorne's letter has already appeared in a newspaper; the letters of the two Englishmen are worth preserving, as voicing the attitude of a very large and intelligent part of the British nation during the time of our greatest need.
MY DEAR BENNOCH,--. . . We also have gone to war, and we seem to have little, or at least a very misty idea of what we are fighting for. It depends upon the speaker; and that, again, depends upon the section of the country in which his sympathies are enlisted. The Southern man will say, "We fight for State rights, liberty, and independence." The Middle Western man will avow that he fights for the Union; while our Northern and Eastern man will swear that from the beginning his only idea was liberty to the blacks and the annihilation of slavery. All are thoroughly in earnest, and all pray for the blessing of Heaven to rest upon the enterprise. The appeals are so numerous, fervent, and yet so contradictory, that the Great Arbiter to whom they so piously and solemnly appeal must be sorely puzzled how to decide. One thing is indisputable,--the spirit of our young men is thoroughly aroused. Their enthusiasm is boundless, and the smiles of our fragile and delicate women cheer them on. When I hear their drums beating, and see their colors flying, and witness their steady marching, I declare, were it not for certain silvery monitors hanging by my temples, suggesting prudence, I feel as if I could catch the infection, shoulder a musket, and be off to the war myself! Meditating on these matters, I begin to think our custom as to war is a mistake. Why draw from our young men in the bloom and heyday of their youth the soldiers who are to fight our battles? Had I my way, no man should go to war under fifty years of age, such men having already had their natural share of worldly pleasures and life's enjoyments. And I don't see how they could make a more creditable or more honorable exit from the world's stage than by becoming food for powder, and gloriously dying in defence of their home and country. Then I would add a premium in favor of recruits of threescore years and upward, as, virtually with one foot in the grave, they would not be likely to run away. I apprehend that no people ever built up the skeleton of a warlike history so rapidly as we are doing. What a fine theme for the poet! If you were not a born Britisher, from whose country we expect no help and little sympathy, I would ask you for a martial strain,--a song to be sung by our camp-fires, to soothe the feelings and rouse the energies of our troops, inspiring them to meet like men the great conflict that awaits them, resolved to conquer or die--if dying, still to conquer. Ten thousand poetasters have tried, and tried in vain, to give us a rousing "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled." If we fight no better than we sing, may the Lord have mercy upon us and upon the nation!
LONDON, Aug. 1, 1861.
MY DEAR HAWTHORNE,--. . . It would be easy to write a thrilling trumpet-blast which should rouse almost the dead to action. But I cannot feel savage enough or indignant enough with these Southerners. Whenever I attempt it, some blatant folly (such as was published at Paris by your precious foreign representatives, among whom was Burlingame, who ought to have known better) on the part of the North rushes into our system, and condenses what was becoming patriotic steam into a few drops of tainted water; and so I, and millions more, remain quiescent, almost impassive, being unable to find out from any speech or statement what the principle involved really is.
The President argues in favor of secession, and permits it, if he does not treacherously encourage it; the succeeding President ignores it, pooh-poohs it, and then fights it. If the second is right, the first should be arraigned for treason against the State, and be treated according to law. The obnoxious members of your body politic wish to slough off and be independent. The stigma of the North, and the scandal of the world, wishes to be amputated, and leave the Northern system a purer and more healthy constitution. The North rebels against the rebels, and so they get to fisticuffs. Europe, and especially England, is warned against intermeddling; she has no wish to intermeddle, and warns her subjects against having anything to do with the quarrel. Then she is accused of lukewarmness, and of being untrue to her principles of abolition of slavery, which is the real aim of the North! We don't believe a bit of it. We don't think that the Northerners desire to liberate the slave by the violence now in action. We feel that this was merely a ruse to excite fury and rouse the passions, while it wins the support of genuine Northern abolitionists. Altogether, the absence of a distinct, well-defined object to be settled by the fight bewilders not only our public men, but also our public writers. To me, it has been partly plain that, first, the Union must, by peace or war, by cajoling, coercion, or imagination, be held unbroken. Next, how keep the South, or how let them go? If held, must slavery be extended, or the slave emancipated? If the former, what becomes of the principle so loudly proclaimed? and if the latter, is it to be done piratically, or honorably, by giving compensation to the owners? Altogether, your statesmen, at first, did not believe in war, but by considerable ingenuity excited the South to strike (see Lincoln's message), and then "cry havoc and let slip," etc. Having begun, I have failed to discover the precise grounds on which or principles for which they are fighting. The money voted for the war, which is not one fourth of the loss sustained by the people, would have bought every slave and set him free. We are persuaded that the end is near, and we believe that the South will attain all they wanted,--extension and security to slavery; while the North will give up all for which it has vaunted it was fighting. If so, an everlasting stigma will remain on the names of your present rulers, while the hated South will rise with the consciousness of triumph. My dear Hawthorne, I may be mistaken in all this. I alinost hope I am; it has humbled us all greatly; to think that our high-spirited and highly moral friends and dear cousins should have exhibited such a desire to imitate the blood-spilling propensities of despots, has touched our conceit not a little.
What a terrible catastrophe that is that has befallen poor Longfellow! I wish he would come to us for a few weeks. Try and persuade him to do so. Love to all.
I am ever yours, F. BENNOCH.
--The allusion to Longfellow recalls the tragical death of his wife, which occurred this year.
The next two extracts are from Henry Bright's letters; the omitted portions being charming descriptions of his new-married life,--too intimate and lovable to be published.
. . . Your thoughts no doubt are all taken up with your own country; and so indeed are many of our thoughts too. What is to. come of it all? Here in England, among those who have known and loved America best (and I have loved America, though you and I used to break a lance or two in not unfriendly tilt!), there is but one feeling,--of great sadness and great regret. We do not know whose is the fault,--whose the crime, --but we do feel that we cannot endure this dreadful civil war, and that any separation would be better. Still, we can understand how you, who are on the spot, may be carried away by the hot tide of battle, and we don't blame or reproach you; we only do regret most deeply the saddest event which has taken place this half-century.
What are you writing now? Is Longfellow writing anything? Don't let him forget me. Have you seen Norton lately, or Mr. Ticknor? Can you tell me anything about a Mr. Holland, who has written a poem called" Bitter-Sweet"? It is very clever. Mimes admires it immensely. The excitement of this year's London season is a countryman of yonrs,--Mr. Paul du Chaillu.
H. A. BRIGHT
SEPTEMBER 10, 1861.
I don't know what you are thinking about this most frightful war; I can only hope that somehow or other it will soon be ended. Here, we cannot but feel that the end is inevitable. The South must and will be independent of the Union,-- as the United States would be independent of this country. Why, then, this cruel waste of blood and treasure? In your last letter, I remember you said, "We shall be better off without the South,--better and nobler than hitherto,--without them." Is not this still true? Let them go; they will suffer for it. You cannot hold them as conquered provinces. You cannot compel them to become sister States again. A fraternity brought about by the cry of "Fraternity or death," will not be verycordiaL But perhaps you will think all this indifferent and heartless. Indeed, indeed it is not. It is because I feel so very strongly every horror of this civil war,--because I know men on both sides,--that I have said these few words. My personal feelings must of course always be with dear old Massachusetts; but my reason and conscience are clear as to the wrong and uselessness of this most dreadful struggle You will forgive me, if you disagree with me.
--All this goes to confirm the old saying that, in politics as in other things, it is not safe to prophesy unless you know. A calmer, more sympathetic, and more penetrating view of the situation is contained in the following letter from another Englishman, Henry Wilding, Hawthorne's former clerk at the Liverpool Consulate, and at this time holding the rank of vice--consul:--
MY DEAR SIR,--. . . I often think of you, and wonder what your feelings are with regard to the fearful events now happening. On this side, "the American Civil War" is the prevailing topic, and the commercial and manufacturing classes, at all events, are decidedly Southern in their sympathies, and I believe a great majority of the leading men in politics also are. It is not easy to see why this is so, after what appeared to be the feeling in England against slavery. The anti-slavery people profess to believe that slavery has nothing to do with the struggle; that the Federal Government are no more contending for the abolition of slavery than are the Confederates. They won't see that the contest is for the abolition of slavery in the only way that reasonable men in America have ever supposed it possible, by confining It to its present limits; and that the South, rather than submit to that, will, if they can, destroy the Union. There are many reasons for this feeling in England. In the first place, I believe Englishmen instinctively sympathize with rebels--if the rebellion be not against England. A great many also desire to see the American Union divided, supposing that it will be less powerful, and less threatening to England. All the enemies of popular government--and there are plenty even in England--rejoice to see what they suppose to be the failure of Republican institutions. The ship-owning community dislike the United States on account of the coasting navigation laws, and believe the Southern profession of free trade. Merchants and manufacturers want cotton, and are mad with the United States because she won't make peace on any terms so as to let cotton come. Then there is the multitude who are habitually led by the "Times," and the "Times" has been Secession all along. There is no doubt great suffering will be felt among the working classes of England this winter on account of the war. I feel that if the North be in earnest, and the leaders honest, she will succeed; and I hope success may come soon. Thinking men are in great perplexity, and watch with intense interest this struggle of popular liberty with its old enemy, oligarchy,--the government of the few. If it emerge successful, and its own master,--well for free institutions in Europe! If unsuccessful, or under the yoke of military despotism; then woe for them They will be in the dust, but not subdued. Passing events will indeed depress one, but--for the hope in Christ of a peaceful hereafter, when the selfish and unchristian passions of men will no more have place. . .
Ever yours, H. WILDING.
--I will bring this chapter, and the year 1861, to a close, with this note from an old friend of Hawthorne. It would appear, from the mention of "gray-head spiders," that Hawthorne had begun to turn his thoughts in the direction of Dr. Grimshawe.
OLD SALT HOUSE, LONG WHARF, BOSTON,
Monday, Oct. 28, 1861.
MY DEAR SIR,--I took the liberty of sending you this morning a paper containing a view of the exterior of my old store, but forgot to tell you that I have been on Long Wharf forty years!--thirty-one of which have I been an occupant of the old store. There are old gray-head spiders still here with whom I have been acquainted for nearly twenty years, and you can well understand that we have become well acquainted with each other. Pray drop in and see the old fellows. I doubt not they will recognize you as an old friend.
Always sincerely yours,
NATH. HAWTHORNE, Esq.