Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Volume II
By Julian Hawthorne, 1884
IT is not probable that Hawthorne deceived himself as to the gravity of his condition; and when the New Year of 1864 came, he must have felt that it was his last year in this world. He did not, however, give way to despair, or even to dejection. On the contrary, there was a more than usual cheerfulness in his manner. The vein of arch playfulness, never long out of sight in him, appeared now with a touching and beautiful quality superadded; he seemed to admit his feebleness and physical decay, and to make a gentle sport of it. He bowed to the inevitable, not with a groan but with a smile. His face was pale and wasted, so that his great eyes, with their dark overhanging brows, looked like caverns with a gleam of blue in them; his figure had become much attenuated, and his once firm and strong stride was slow and uncertain. But his mind was awake, composed, and clear; and whenever he spoke,--in a voice that had now become very low,--it was to utter some pleasant and gracious thing. He professed to take a hopeful view of everything, and perhaps succeeded in concealing the extent of his illness from every one except his wife. I remember reading to him, some time during this winter, a passage from Longfellow's "Evangeline,"--where she, after long wandering, at last finds her lover on his death-bed, and holds him in her arms while his spirit passes. My father listened silently and intently; and, as I read the last verses, a feeling came upon me that there was something in the occasion more memorable than I had thought of, so that I could hardly conclude without a faltering of the voice. That was my fore-glimpse of the truth; but afterwards I persuaded myself that he must, after all, be well again.
In January, 1864, Una wrote to Hawthorne's sister that he seemed very unwell, and received the following in reply:--
MY DEAR UNA,--I was very glad to see your handwriting again; I was beginning to be a little anxious, because you said that your papa was not particularly well; and now, in your last letter, you say that General Pierce had heard of it, and came to see for himself. I want to know as much as General Pierce does, and you must tell me if he is seriously indisposed. But I infer that it is no more than a cold, and perhaps the influence of the weather, which has been unusually gloomy this winter. And there is no society in Concord that suits him. I enjoy winter more now than when young, because never could imagine the pleasure of skating, and sliding down hill, and amusing myself in the way other children did; and all I want is to sit quietly and read. If I am disposed to talk, it must be to myself,--to whom I do sometimes talk; indeed, it has become so much a habit with me, that when I go to meeting, in Salem, I am afraid to forget for an instant where I am, lest I should speak out loud. Think how terrible it would he if I did. So you see I am deprived of the benefit of my own meditations, and even of my own being, in such a situation. Fortunately it does not often happen that I am obliged so to stultify myself. My last visit to Salem was not very long. I came home Christmas day, bringing a cold with me, imbibed in that close atmosphere. I have been reading Bayard Taylor's "Hannah Thurston," and could not help saying, "Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having on a wedding garment?" The characters are people gathered from the highways and hedges of the outer world, but in no way fit for fiction; indeed, there is no atmosphere of fiction in the book, which is as dreary as actual life.
E. M. H.
In March it was decided that Hawthorne should make another journey southward with his faithful friend and publisher, W. D. Ticknor. The limits of the trip were not defined; they were to move or to pause, as the humor and occasion suited. Miss Hawthorne was apprised of this plan, and wrote in reply:--
". . . I feel very badly about your father being unwell, especially because his health has been so uniformly good. I am afraid I am hard-hearted towards confirmed invalids, but for a well person to become ill is a pity. I wish he could be prevailed upon to wear more clothes, an abundance of which are necessary to comfort in this climate. We hardly feel the changes if we are dressed warmly; but cold benumbs all the vital powers, and the stomach especially suffers. But perhaps he has not eaten animal food enough; he ate none when I was in Concord. You know the stomach needs to be exercised, else it will lose its vigor. I think people should habitually eat a good deal, and that a variety of food is good. He never had a great appetite, and perhaps now it needs to be tempted with delicacies. He ought to eat fruit, which is always wholesome. I am glad he is going away for a little while. When he went with Mr. Ticknor to Washington a year or two ago, I believe he enjoyed his journey and was benefited by it; and not only he, but the public, for then he wrote the best article that has ever appeared in the Atlantic Monthly,--'Chiefly about War Matters.' It is amusing to see how little time seems to mollify the wrath of the English, who continue to quote his description of the fat dowager, and would make a war matter of that, I think, if they dared. I have read 'The Marble Faun' again, lately, with even more interest than at first. . ."
--On the 27th or 28th of March Hawthorne went to Boston, and while there saw Dr. O. W. Holmes, who was to endeavor, without Hawthorne's suspecting it, to get an idea of his condition. His opinion, as reported afterwards, was unfavorable. He was startled at the change in Hawthorne's appearance, who seemed to him to be suffering from a gradual wasting or consumption of the bodily organs. There was not much to be hoped from the pharmacopoeia; a journey, with change of scene, and a succession of minor incidents, sufficient to keep the spirits awake, was about as good a prescription as could be made. And it was not thought at this time that all hope need be abandoned. Hawthorne was a man so peculiarly constituted--his mind and his body were so finely interwoven, as it were as almost to make it seem that he might live if he would firmly resolve to do so. But it is characteristic of a high organization not to cling strongly to life,--at any rate, to life under mortal conditions. The spirit uses the body, and uses it thoroughly, but never comes to look upon it as other than a hindrance to the full realization of its aims. Hawthorne could not "resolve to live" in this world, because he inevitably desired, and felt the need of, the greater scope and freedom of a life emancipated from material conditions. Nevertheless, for the sake of those he loved, and who loved him, he was willing to co-operate in whatever measures they saw fit to adopt for the improvement of his condition. He would have preferred, perhaps, to await the end quietly; but be would not let his friends have the pain of supposing, after he was dead, that any thing had been left undone that they could do. So he started on his journey with Ticknor, determined that it should not be his fault if it did not do him all the good that was anticipated from it. Mr. Ticknor was an admirable companion for such an emergency,--active, cheerful, careful and sagacious, and full of affectionate regard for his charge. Whatever a man can do for his friend, he was ready and eager to do for Hawthorne.
They left Boston on the evening of the 28th, and arrived the next morning in New York. They put up at the Astor House, and remained there nearly a week, being imprisoned most of the time by rainy and inclement weather. Ticknor wrote repeatedly to Mrs. Hawthorne, describing Hawthorne's condition from day to day, and noting a slight but steady improvement. I subjoin these bulletins, the last of which was dated at Philadelphia,--the limit which destiny put to their travels together.
ASTOR HOUSE, NEW YORK, March 30, 1864.
MY DEAR MRS. HAWTHORNE,--I regret that I am too late for the afternoon mail, but that can't be helped now. A worse than a northeaster has prevailed here to-day. I have hardly been out of the house; Mr. Hawthorne not at all. But we have been very comfortable within. He needed the rest, and the storm seemed to say that both he and I must be content, and we have not complained. I do not think that Mr. Hawthorne suffered any inconvenience from the journey, but, on the contrary, I think he is better to-day than when we started. He is looking better, and says he feels very well. It will take a few days to see what effect this change will have upon him; but I can't but hope that it will prove the right medicine. I shall remain here two or three days, and perhaps more. The storm has prevented my doing what I intended to-day, and of course I cannot at once decide what shall be best to do. I can only say that I hope the trip may accomplish what we all desire; and I have great faith. I will keep you advised.
W. D. TICKNOR.
MARCH 31, 1864.
DEAR MRS. HAWTHORNE,--The storm of yesterday continues, but not as violent. Mr. Hawthorne is improving, I trust The weather makes everything very gloomy; notwithstanding, we took a short walk this morning. I hope the sun will appear to-morrow, so that we may see something of New York. Mr. Hawthorne left me, saying that he proposed to sleep an hour before dinner. He seems afraid that he shall eat too much, as he says his appetite is good. I assure him he is very prudent, and there is no fear of his eating too much. He slept well last night, and is evidently gaining strength. But it will take time to restore him.
W. D. T.
P. S. Mr. Hawthorne said this morning that he thought he must write home to-day; but I hardly think he will do so.
ASTOR HOUSE, NEW YORK, April 3,1864.
12 o'clock, noon.
MY DEAR MRS. HAWTHORNE,--Your letter has just arrived. The mail was very late. I handed it to our "King," and he read it with interest and delight, and is now writing an answer. I assure you he is much improved, but he is yet very weak. The weather has been as bad as possible, and of course we have not been out much. I intended to have left New York yesterday, but I thought it not best to leave in a driving storm. We took quite a long walk this morning, and Mr. Hawthorne does not seem fatigued. I cannot now say where we go next, as I shall be governed by what shall seem best for him. We shall float along for a while. Probably to Philadelphia to-morrow. I will keep you posted, though at this time I do not feel like laying out any definite plan. I shall be much disappointed if our friend does not return in much better health than when he left Boston. We have been very quiet here, and this, I am satisfied, was the right thing at first. He slept well last night. I write this short note now, as you will have from him his own account.
Sincerely and truly yours,
W. D. TICKNOR.
ASTOR HOUSE, NEW YORK, April 4, 1864. 7 A. M.
MY DEAR MRS. HAWTHORNE,--I wrote you a short note yesterday upon the receipt of your letter. I have not much to add. The fact that we have a bright sun to greet us this morning is most cheering. Yesterday afternoon we went to Central Park, in spite of the weather. Mr. Hawthorne seemed to enjoy the drive, and was not much fatigued on our return. We had a good cheerful evening in his room. He retired as usual at nine, and I hope to find him bright this morning. He is gaining strength, but very slow]y. I think we may go to Philadelphia to-day, but am not certain. We could n't have had more unpleasant weather; but I tell him we will make it up by staying so much longer. Hearing from home did him much good. He reads the papers, moderately to be sure, but at first he declined entirely. His appetite is very good, but he eats very moderately. Perhaps it is as well, at present.
W. D. TICKNOR.
PHILADELPHIA, April 7, 1864.
DEAR MRS. HAWTHORNE,--You will be glad to hear that our patient continues to improve. He wrote to you yesterday. He reads the papers, and sleeps well. The first real sunshine since we left Boston came upon us yesterday. On Tuesday it rained and blew furiously. Mr. Hawthorne did not go out; I only for an hour--by his permission; but was glad to return and keep within doors. It was too blue a day even to write. I hardly know how we got through the day. The bright sun of yesterday was a relief. We improved it. Made calls on some of the publishers, then on Mr. John Grigg, a retired rich bookseller. After dinner a gentleman called and invited us to drive. We had a pleasant drive to Fairmount, Girard College, etc. Mr. Hawthorne seemed somewhat fatigued. Retired before nine. This morning he is bright, and said at breakfast he was feeling much better. Now, I don't know exactly what next, but, if he is inclined, I shall go to Baltimore. But it is not best to lay out a business plan, or feel that so much must be done in a given time. I tell him we will float along and see what "turns up." One thing is certain, it has been altogether too stormy to try the sea.
Sincerely and truly yours,
W. D. TICKNOR.
--Matters were looking thus far favorable, when, without warning, the fair prospect was made dark by Ticknor's sudden death. Such a calamity would have been a poignant shock to Hawthorne at the best of times, but it smote the very roots of his life now. From the patient, assisted and guided in every movement, he was all at once compelled to become responsible and executive; to make and to carry out all arrangements, and this among strangers, and when weighed down not only by physical weakness, but by heavy grief for the loss of his friend. A more untoward event--one more fatal in its consequences upon him--could scarcely have occurred. He found strength to perform the duties that had devolved upon him, but it was the last strength he had. He telegraphed home the news, had the body prepared for transportation, and after its departure in charge of a son of Mr. Ticknor, who had come on for the purpose, he returned to Boston,--a melancholy and grievous journey. When, at last, he reached home, his wife was appalled at his aspect. He showed the traces of terrible agitation; his bodily substance seemed to have evaporated. He appeared to feel that there had been a ghastly mistake,--that he, and not Ticknor, should have died. There was pain in his glance, and heart-breaking recollections. He brooded over what had passed, and could not rouse himself. The image of death that he had witnessed would not be banished.
After Ticknor's funeral it speedily became evident that Hawthorne must not remain in Concord, or he would sink into the grave at once. Nothing, indeed, could have saved him now; but we could only feel that nothing must be left untried. Pierce immediately arranged with him for an excursion through Northern New England. No man was better fitted than Pierce to be of use to him. Of widely different natures, and of not less divergent tastes, pursuits, and experience, these two men had been life-long friends. They loved, understood, and believed in each other. They could afford each other, in the fullest sense, companionship; they could converse without words. The quiet, masculine charm of Pierce's manner, his knowledge of men and the world, his strength, and his tenderness were, moreover, precious qualities in such nursing as was needed now. There was no man with whom Hawthorne would more willingly have passed the last hours of his life; and perhaps it was for this reason that he consented to go with him. He must have known that the journey was to be his final one, and that the farewell to his wife was probably the last farewell of all. And though to say good-by to the beloved woman who for more than twenty years had been nearest and dearest to him of anything in the world, must have been the worst pang of death, he could bear it, in the conviction he felt that he was thereby saving her from the lingering anguish of seeing him fade out of existence before her eyes. It was better for her that the blow should be dealt suddenly; that she should not know he was going, but only that he had gone. He had always dreaded the slow parting scenes that precede death, and had often expressed the hope that he might die in his sleep, and unawares. And it was according to his wish that the end came to him.
A few days before he and Pierce set forth, I came up to Concord from Cambridge to make some request of him. I remained only an hour, having to take the afternoon train back to the college. He was sitting in the bedroom upstairs; my mother and my two sisters were there also. It was a pleasant morning in early May. I made my request (whatever it was), and, after listening to the ins and outs of the whole matter, he acceded to it. I had half anticipated refusal, and was the more gratified. I said good-by, and went to the door, where I stood a moment, looking back into the room. He was standing at the foot of the bed, leaning against it, and looking at me with a smile. He had on his old dark coat; his hair was almost wholly white, and he was very pale. But the expression of his face was full of beautiful kindness,--the gladness of having given his son a pleasure, and perhaps something more, that I did not then know of. His aspect at that moment, and the sun-shine in the little room, are vivid in my memory. I never saw my father again.
The friends started about the middle of May, and, travelling leisurely, reached Plymouth, New Hampshire, on the 18th of the month. There is a little memorandum book, in which are jotted down, in a small and almost illegible handwriting, a few words as to the results of each day's journey; but there is no entry after the 17th. They put up at the Pemigewasset House, and Hawthorne went to bed early. Pierce's room communicated with Hawthorne's; the door was open between, and once or twice during the night Pierce went in to see whether his friend were resting easily. Hawthorne breathed quietly, and lay in a natural position, on his right side. Some time after midnight Pierce, who had been disturbed by the persistent howling of a dog in the courtyard of the hotel, went to Hawthorne's bedside again. He still lay in precisely the same position as when he first fell asleep; but no breathing was now perceptible. Pierce quickly laid his hand on the sleeper's heart, and found that it had stopped beating.
By noon of that day the news of Hawthorne's death was known to his family and immediate friends. On the 20th I met General Pierce in Boston, and heard from him the details of the event. In the afternoon I took the train to Concord, and found my mother and sisters at the Wayside. The next day Hawthorne's body arrived. It was taken to the Unitarian Church, and the coffin was there decorated with flowers by Mrs. Hawthorne and her daughters. They showed that exalted kind of composure which is created by a grief too tender and profound for tears. But, indeed, he did not seem dead; we could only feel that a great change had come to pass, in the depths of which was a peace too sacred to be invaded by the common shows of mourning.
The funeral took place on the 23d, and was conducted by the Rev. James Freeman Clarke, who had performed Hawthorne's marriage service two-and-twenty years before. The church was filled with a great crowd of people, most of them personal strangers to us, though not to Hawthorne's name. It was a mild, sunny afternoon,--"The one bright day in the long week of rain," as Longfellow has said; and the cemetery at Sleepy Hollow was full of the fragrance and freshness of May. The grave was dug at the top of the little hill, beneath a group of tall pines, where Hawthorne and his wife had often sat in days gone by, and planned their pleasure-house. When the rites at the grave were over, the crowd moved away, and at last the carriage containing Mrs. Hawthorne followed. But at the gates of the cemetery stood, on either side of the path, Longfellow, Holmes, Whittier, Lowell, Pierce, Emerson, and half a dozen more; and as the carriage passed between them, they uncovered their honored heads in honor of Hawthorne's widow.
Miss Hawthorne had written as follows on receipt of the news of her brother's death:--
MY DEAR UNA,--Rebecca is going to write to you to tell you that I cannot come. I do not think you will be surprised. The shock was so terrible that I am too ill to make the necessary preparations. Happy are those who die, and can be at rest When I look forward, I can anticipate nothing but sorrow; few people are so completely left alone as I am,--all have gone before me. It is sad to hear, as we sometimes do, of whole families being swept away by disease; but it is far sadder to be the only survivor. I cannot tell you how much I feel for you all. I suppose you were no better prepared for what has happened than I am. I have been anxious all the week to hear about Dr. Holmes's opinion, but I hoped everything from travelling. Perhaps it would have been an effectual rernedy if poor Mr. Ticknor's unfortunate death had not occurred. But now your father will never know old age and infirmity. I shall always think of him as I saw him in Concord, when he seemed to be in the prime of manhood. It is not desirable to live to be old. Dear Una, do let me know, as soon as you feel as if you could write, whatever there is to tell.
E. M. HAWTHORNE.
--When the news reached England, Henry Bright wrote to Longfellow, asking particulars, and received this answer. The "lines" referred to are, of course, the well-known ones which Longfellow wrote soon after the funeral.
NAHANT, July 16, 1864.
MY DEAR MR. BRIGHT,--I have had the pleasure of receiving your very friendly letter, and make all haste to answer your affectionate inquiries about Hawthorne's illness. I first heard of it in the winter. He suddenly withdrew from the publisher the introductory chapter of the "The Dolliver Romance," saying he was too unwell to go on with it. Later, he came to town, much worn and wasted, and discouraged about himseif. Soon after came his journey to Philadelphia with Mr. Ticknor, who suddenly died there, as you have read in the papers, doubtless; and then his last journey with General Pierce to the White Mountains, from which he came no more back. This you will find, more in detail, in the July number of the "Atlantic" magazine; and in the August number some lines by me on the funeral, which I will send you if I can get a copy in season.
Mrs. Hawthorne still remains in Concord, and people begin to find out what a loss they have suffered. I am glad to know how deeply you feel this loss; for I know, having heard it from his own lips, that he liked you more than any man in England. He always spoke of you with great warmth of friendship. I like very much your remarks in the "Examiner," and shall send them to Mrs. Hawthorne.
With kindest regards, yours truly,
H. W. LONGFELLOW.
--Mr. Bright himself wrote to me within the past year:--
". . .Your father's death was a great shock to me. I had hoped that our friendship might continue for years to come. I have beautiful letters from your mother and Una, but they are too sacred to publish. I need hardly say with what a feeling of affection I always regarded your father. He was almost the best man I ever knew,--and quite the most interesting. Nothing annoys me more than the 'morbid' as applied to him,--he was the least morbid of men, with a singularly sweet temper, and a very far-reaching charity; he was reserved and (in a sense) a proud man, who did not care to be worried or bored by people he was not fond of. But he was, I am sure, a singularly happy man,--happy in all his domestic relations, happy in his own wonderful imaginative faculty, and in the fame which he had achieved. He was full of a quiet common-sense, which contrasted strangely with the weird nature of his 'genius.' He had a strong sense of fun, too, and it was delightful when anything called out the low chuckle of his laughter. And then again I always felt with your father as Lord Carlisle once said he felt with Dr. Channing,--'that you were in a presence in which nothing that was impure, base, or selfish could breathe at ease.'
"Justice has never yet been done to your mother. Of course she was overshadowed by him,--but she was a singularly accomplished woman, with a great gift of expression, and a most sympathetic nature; she was, too, an artist of no mean quality. Her 'Notes in England and Italy' contain much that is valuable, and much that is beautifully written. Dear Una, too, you will no doubt speak of her. Her memory must ever he very dear to all who knew her.
"You will (but you will know all this) find various allusions to my friendship with your father in various of his writings,--in the first chapter of ' Our Old Home,' twice within the last pages of the 'French and Italian Note-Books,' and often in the 'English Note-Books.' Here there may be some confusion: another Mr. B. (Mr. Bennoch, I think), also a third Mr. B. (Mr. Barber of Poulton), also a fourth Mr. B. (of the American Chamber of Commerce), are there mentioned. . ."
--The present writer does not feel disposed to make a final summing-up of his subject's character, such as customarily closes a biography; but will append here a passage from a letter of Mrs. Hawthorne, which contains all that the occasion calls for. It was written soon after Hawthorne's death.
". . . Everything noble, beautiful, and generous in his action Mr. Hawthorne hid from himself, even more cunningly than he hid himself from others. He positively never contemplated the best thing he could do as in the slightest degree a personal matter; but somehow as a small concordance with God's order,--a matter of course. It was almost impossible to utter to him a word of commendation. He made praise show absurd and out of place, and the praiser a mean blunderer; so perfectly did everything take its true place before him. The flame of his eyes consumed compliment, cant, sham, and falsehood, while the most wretched sinners--so many of whom came to confess to him--met in his glance a pity and sympathy so infinite, that they ceased to be afraid oo God, and began to return to Him. In his eyes, as Tennyson sings, 'God and Nature met in Light.' So that he could hardly be quarrelled with for veiling himself from others, since he veiled himself from himself. His own soul was behind the wings of the cherubim,--sacred, like all souls which have not been desecrated by the world. I never dared to gaze at him, even I, unless his lids were down. It seemed an invasion into a holy place. To the last, he was in a measure to me a divine mystery; for he was so to himself. I have an eternity, thank God, in which to know him more and more, or I should die in despair. Even now I progress in knowledge of him, for he informs me constantly."
--Hawthorne's family remained at the Wayside until the autumn of 1868, when it was decided to go to Germany. We went first to New York, and after a week's stay there, sailed on a Bremen steamer on the 20th of October. We remained in Dresden until the summer of 1869, when I went back to America for a visit, leaving my mother and sisters in Dresden, whither I purposed to return again before winter. Circumstances, however, prevented this; and soon after, the outbreak of the Franco-German war constrained Mrs. Hawthorne to take her daughters to London. Here they dwelt, amid a circle of pleasant friends, for two years.
Before leaving America Mrs. Hawthorne had suffered from a severe attack of typhoid pneumonia, which came near proving fatal; and during the winter of 1870-71, in London, she had a return of the disease, and this time she did not recover. Her daughter Una, who tended her throughout, has left an account of this last illness, which may be quoted here:--
"On Saturday, the 11th of February, Mr. Channing was to lecture at the Royal Institution rooms, and mamma and I agreed to meet there at the appointed time. It proved to be the last thing I ever did with her. I arrived first. She was quite late, but at last I saw the darling little black figure at the door, her face looking very pale and tired; but it lighted up when she saw me, and she said, 'Oh, there you are, my darling! I have been waiting for you downstairs.' The lecture was somewhat of a disappointment to us, and the next day mamma felt very tired. But she had an invitation to take tea with Mr. and Mrs. Tom Hughes, and looked forward to it with so much pleasure that she made an effort to go. She came downstairs looking lovely, as she always did when dressed to go out, with delicate black lace on her white hair, and fastened under her chin, and a jet coronet; and she said, as always, 'Do you like my looks?' with her radiant, caressing smile. She came home very early, and could hardly wait to get upstairs before she exclaimed, 'Whom do you think I have seen? whom do you think?--Mr. Browning!' Then she gave us a glowing account of how delightedly he came forward to meet her; how he said he had been most anxious to see her, and was only waiting to hear we were settled in order to call; and how charming her talk with him was altogether. He was the only other guest; and Mrs. Hughes made tea on the parlor hob, and called their pretty children down for mamma to see; and Mr. Hughes was beaming, and she felt so glad she had not stayed at home.
"On Monday she felt very weary again; but Mr. Channing was to lecture once more, and she said she felt she ought to go, hecause so few people went, and he must feel so discouraged; so she dragged herself there, and afterwards to call on Lady Amberly by appointment. The next day, Tuesday, a man came who was to finish hanging the pictures under mamma's directions, and do various other little jobs; and she wanted to oversee everything herself, and got dreadfully tired. As I was bidding her good-night, she said, 'I have a sort of defenceless feeling, as if I had no refuge.' It struck a chill to my heart; for they were the exact words she used the night before she was stricken with her dreadful illness in America. She did not, and indeed hardly could, look more pale and tired than she had often done during the last month or more; but she would never spare herself, and was always going beyond her strength, and I had been feeling very anxious about her, without seeing any possible way to make a change.
"The next morning when Louisa, the servant, brought my warm water, she said, 'I think your mamma seems very poorly, Miss.' It seems she had had nausea during the night, and when I went down she was looking wretchedly,--very feverish, lying with closed eyes, and other symptoms I knew too well. I wrote at once to the doctor; but then, fearing the note would be delayed, I sent Louisa in a cab with another note, and the doctor came. This was Wednesday, February 15, and during the following week she constantly spit blood. The nausea was almost unabated, and she had severe headache and much fever. The left lung was congested until the last three or four days, when it began to clear, and pleurisy came on. The tongue and lips were parched, so that speech was difficult, and her words hard to catch, and her breathing was very short and hard, and terribly fatiguing; so that she often said, 'Oh, if I could rest from this a little while!' I made my bed on the couch every night, but there was little to do except to give her medicine every hour. Her continued sickness made her loathe food, and she would take only a little milk and water. At first the doctor was not anxious about her; and having inquired particularly about her former illness, and learned that it was worse, he said he could feel no doubt of her getting well. But when her strength decreased day by day, I saw that his anxiety was growing; and I, seeing how a few days had brought mamma where it took several weeks to bring her before, began to feel most terribly anxious indeed. She was very unwilling to yield to her weakness, and at first she would say, 'Now you can go to sleep, dear, and put the watch near me, and the medicine to take.' But she made no rejoinder when I would not consent.
"One day I had left Rose with her for a little while, and when I came back was utterly astonished to see her sitting up almost straight; and then I first realized how ill she looked. She said she wanted to ease her head. Of course she soon sank back, for she would not let me hold her, having a strange dislike of being touched in this illness. She wandered slightly, though she always answered a question clearly; but she would sometimes think she was in the rush and noise of Piccadilly, or doing some wearisome and difficult thing. At other times the spheres of people she knew would seem to haunt her. Once she said, speaking of a friend of ours in Dresden,--Edward Hosmer,--'I think he was a good, true man,--kind-hearted.'
"A letter came from her old Boston friend, Mrs. Augustus Hemmenway, which gave her much pleasure, though she was only able to hear from me the chief news in it. Then one came from Fanny Cammann, with a photograph of herself. Mamma was very anxious to see the photograph, and I gave it to her with a large magnifying-glass, and she held them for a long time, opening her eyes to look every now and then. At last she dropped them, and said, 'I can't see much, but it is very handsome.' Another letter came from Annie Bright, enclosing some snowdrops, which I put in water and they opened out beautifully; and I held them up to mamma and told her about them, and she was much pleased.
"The least noise was most distressing to her, and we had the door-knocker taken off; and sent away every hand-organ in the vicinity. There was a persistent church-bell which rang a long time, twice a day, and annoyed mamma excessively. I sent several times to ask them to ring only a few minutes; but they made scarcely any change.
"She liked the doctor, and his visits were always a pleasure to her. The only time she opened her eyes with her own starry smile was at one of his visits; and another time she held out both her bands. 'My good, cold doctor!' she called him, for his bands were always cool, and she liked to have him put them on her head. He had a soothing influence upon her. He was much touched by her regard, and by her always inquiring after his wife and children.
The least start or emotion was so liable to make her cough, that I seldom ventured to talk to her; and it was a day or two after a long letter from Julian came, that I told her of it. She smiled brightly, but did not speak till a good while after. She then said, 'Julian.' So then I gave her a sketch of the letter, and told her about Julian's arrangements in New York, and of his love for her. She was very happy in his marriage.
"On Monday, the 20th, she was very ill, and I began to feel as if the responsibility and care were wearing out my strength; and yet I did not know which way to turn for just the help I needed, when Mrs. Bennoch's Ellen walked in, and said, if I would let her, she would be most glad to stay with me. I felt at once she was the only person I should be glad to have; mamma also was fond of her, and now needed all we could both do. Ellen had so many nice little ways, and was so tender. The next two days mamma seemed a little better; we could lift her from one side of the bed to the other, which was a great refreshment. It was sweet to me always to notice how conscious mamma was of my presence, through her closed eyes. She was glad to have Ellen relieve me, but she wanted me to be there just the same. Once Ellen and Louisa were lifting her and she said, 'What is Una doing?' 'Oh, I am moving the pillows, mamma.' And then she smiled.
"We had a rubber hot-water bottle which was a great comfort to her; but once, in the middle of the night, when we wanted it very much, the stopper would not unscrew. Ellen, Louisa, and I all tried in vain. At last, as I was sitting before the fire, hopelessly turning it, it suddenly came off. We did not know mamma was aware of what was going on; but when we put it in the bed, she said, 'Who got the stopper out at last?' 'I did, mamma.' And though she did not say anything, I knew she was glad I did it. I sent for an air-pillow, which was a great rest to her. She asked, 'Oh, who thought of this?' I told her that I did, and she said, 'Just like my darling. She always thinks of the best things. There is nobody like her in the world!' I told her how many people came to inquire after her, and how dearly everybody loved her; and the sweet, deprecating look showed faintly on her face again.
"On one of these two comparatively happy days, when mamma was looking a little brighter, Lady Hardy sent up a loving message to her, and a request that I might go for a half-hour's drive with her. Mamma was delighted to have me go, and I shall never forget how sweet Lady Hardy was. She took me in Kensington Gardens, by the water and it was one of those exquisite, prophetic days, when all spring seems in the sunny air and the returning birds; and she watched the freshening of my face, and my enjoyment of it, with a sympathy that went to my heart. And I did feel, for a little while, as if my fears might be lightened after all.
"But the shadow came down again when I entered that hushed room, and mamma looked so much more ill in contrast with the bright air and the singing birds. I had hitherto worn a black dress, which I thought mamma liked; and at night I was robed in a blue dressing-gown. To my surprise, mamma now said, 'I wish you would n't wear that old thing: why don't you wear the purple one I bought for you?' I said I would; and, thinking her dear eyes might enjoy brightness of color, I wore in the day time a purple merino, prettily made, and purple ribbons in my hair. The first time, I said, 'See, mamma, I have put on my nicest gown, and made myself look as pretty as I could.' It took several openings of her eyes to examine me all over, and then she said, 'Yes, that is very nice; you do look very pretty.' And I noticed the first time I came to her in the night, she looked to see if I had on the right dressing-gown.
"Until the 23d, I had always sent Ellen to bed about ten, having myself taken a sleep before; and I did the night nursing myself. But that night (Thursday) Ellen begged me to go regularly to bed in my own room; and mamma seemed quiet, and Ellen felt quite able to take care of her. So I went, rather unwillingly; but when I fairly got to bed, the first time for nine nights, I remember nothing more, until Ellen's voice roused me, to ask about a lotion; for she said mamma had a pain in her chest, and wanted it. If I had not been so heavy with sleep, I should have gone down at once; but I hardly knew where I was for a moment, and mechanically gave Ellen the direction. It seemed but a moment after that Ellen came again, and said, 'You must come, please, Miss Una. Your mamma thinks nobody else can do anything for her.'
"I was wide awake in a second, then, and flew downstairs in an agony to think I had ever consented to leave her; but, indeed, I could not have foreseen the dreadful pain in which I found her. I think I must understand something of the agony of love with which a mother would rush to her child, for our positions seemed reversed; and I saw that Ellen's unwillingness to wake me had made her try things herself, when what mamma really wanted was to have me.
"'Oh,' she said, 'Ellen is so kind; but she doesn't know what I wanted. I have such a terrible pain, it seems as if I could n't bear it; and I 'm sure the lotion will make it better.' It seems she had felt this pain beginning before I went upstairs, but had not said anything about it, because she thought nothing could be done for it. I put the lotion on her chest, but after a few moments she said it did not burn at all; and then, that her chest suddenly felt terribly cold. I heated some of the lotion almost boiling hot, and put it on again, and even laid the bottle of boiling water over it, without the slightest effect. The pain became so excruciating that every breath was a cry; and Ellen and I, after trying every conceivable thing, were at our wit's end indeed; and I was most seriously alarmed, for the pain was in an entirely new place, and the doctor had told me the congestion was clearing which had encouraged me very much. I think in this world I can never pass such awful hours again. Mamma, I am sure, thought she was dying, and once in a while she gasped, 'Oh, how long can this last! Oh, I cannot draw another breath!' And then every breath began to be a rattle in her throat, and tossed her about the bed; and I, knowing what her weakness really was, expected almost every moment would be the last. It was awful to think of her dying in such an agony; but I did pray from my heart that this might be the last time she would ever suffer so. And so the night wore away like weary years, and I hung over her broken-hearted, thinking, 'O Lord, how long, how long!' About six o'clock she became quiet, but hardly had strength to draw her breath; and I did nothing but listen for the doctor.
"The moment he saw her his face fell, and he said, 'Oh, what has happened!' and he was quite overcome for a moment. She smiled faintly as he took her hand, and said, 'Oh, such a bad night!' He stayed a long time, rubbing her chest with oil, soothing her head, giving her brandy, and ordering various comforting things. When I followed him out of the room, he said he was very much alarmed about her, the exhaustion was so complete, and the disease had taken a turn for which he was not in the least prepared; and he said he would come again very soon, with another physician. Then the cold certainty came over me that hope was really gone; and when the door closed on him I sat down in the dining-mom and shed a few bitter tears. Louisa came up to me, and, crying herself, said, 'Don't give way, Miss Una; while there's life there's hope.' I went back, quiet and cheerful again, and the hours seemed to pass very slowly till the doctors came.
"After talking together awhile they came into mamma's room, and our doctor said, bending over her, 'I have brought a friend of mine to see you, Mrs. Hawthorne.' She made a slight, consenting motion witli her head, and opened her eyes to look at the new face. It was a kind, careful face; and he was quite an elderly man. He examined and questioned her very closely, and I interpreted the faint answers that no one else could understand. At last he bent over her, and said gently, 'You are very, very ill; but I see cause for some encouragement, and, please God, I hope you will get well.' Again she moved her head, and said, 'Yes.' After a long talk in another room they called me, and I saw by Dr. Wyld's agitated face that he, at least. had little hope. The other doctor was spokesman, and told me that it was typhoid pneumonia, complicated with some other congestion; but still there were encouraging symptoms, if mamma could only rally from her excessive prostration; but this, he felt, was very doubtful. Still, I must not lose hope. If she could be kept from the least cough or disturbance, and with constant stimulants and nourishment, she might get through.
"When I went back, mamma asked me what they thought, and I said, 'They think you are dangerously ill, mamma, but you have so much vitality there is a hope still.' She said, 'I know the other doctor did not think I would live.' This I disclaimed, and talked to her cheerfully. She was very quiet all the afternoon, and who can tell how breathlessly Ellen and I watched her! And there was now the consolation of having little things to do for her constantly, and seeing her take nourishment in tiny quantities. She hated the taste of the brandy, and always made a face at it. When the doctor came in the evening, he stayed for several hours, going into her room two or three times to see how she got on. The last time, he said, 'Mrs. Hawthorne, I have now come to see how you feel, and to say good-night.' After he had gone, mamma said, 'I know the doctor thinks I am very ill.' 'Yes, mamma,' I said, 'he is very anxious, but we have great hope still.'
"Ellen would not consent to leave me, and after a while mamma noticed we were both there, and said, 'I don't see why you are both sitting up; I think one would do.' I said, 'Well, I am going to lie down by you now, mamma.' So I made Ellen lie down on the sofa, and placed myself on one side of mamma's broad bed, with the medicines and other things within my reach. And so the night passed peacefully; and on the next day (Saturday) I felt hope reviving again.
". . . In the course of the afternoon she said suddenly, 'Have you telegraphed to Julian?'--'Why, no, mamma, I never thought of it.' She said reproachfully, 'Oh, you should have telegraphed.' '--But you know, mamma, we hope you will get better.' I felt great sorrow that she should have thought of this, yet I could not but think it would have been a great mistake, and unnecessary pain to Julian.
"Mamma had been very fond of our kitten, which was a remarkably bright and pretty one, and used to come and lie on her bed, and cuddle up under her chin in the mornings. But the day she was taken ill kitty had disappeared, and we never saw her again. On this afternoon I happened to say, 'We have lost kitty, mamma;' and she said, 'Oh, I have wondered where she was, and why she did not come to see me. I know if she would lie on my chest it would make it warm.'
"It was near eleven o'clock that night, as Ellen and I were preparing to lie down, and were feeling quite cheerful, that mamma suddenly cried out, 'Send for the doctor!' I glanced at her face, on which there was a deathly change, and I flew downstairs to call Louisa. She ran out of her room, and seized my hands, sobbing, and exclaiming, 'Oh, Miss Una, I could not go to bed, for I knew you'd want to send!' In a moment she was gone, with orders to drive at utmost speed; and she was no sooner gone, than I remembered, with perfect misery, that I had directed her to the doctor's house, instead of to the place he told me. This occasioned some delay, though it was not more than an hour before he arrived. But poor mamma kept saying, 'Why does n't he come? Why does n't he come?.' She complained of most deathly faintness and sinking; 'Oh, I never felt anything like this before!' and she eagerly took brandy, and asked for ammonia to smell, and said, 'I know when these things are needed. I never needed them before.' She said, 'There was silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. I know now how long half an hour can be!' I had told Rose, and she sat on the stairs till after the doctor came, and then she came into mamma's room, and did not go out again. She had been hysterical and frightened, but now she was perfectly calm and sweet. I was kneeling by the bed, and holding up mamma in my arms, when the doctor came in; and there was no need of words between us. He gave stronger stimulants than I had dared to use,--even spoonfuls of ammonia, with scarcely any water; but with hardly perceptible effect. After that mamma said 'I pinned my faith on the ammonia; now I know nothing can be done.' Her breathing became very labored, and she said, 'Oh, can't you give me something to make me sleep?' Dr. Wyld took me aside, and said it could only be a question of a few hours, that there was absolutely no hope; but that if he gave her chloroform, it might hasten the end. It was very hard for me to say yes; but suddenly mamma said, 'Why do you wait? Can't you give me anything?' And I said, 'Yes, anything to give her a moment's ease.' So the chloroform was sent for; but even that only rendered her partially unconscious, and the deathlike rattle in her throat came all the time.
"Then I had the relief, for a little while, of passionate tears, down on the floor beside her, sobbing, and calling for Julian--Julian! It seemed as if I could not bear to have him away. And yet almost at once the revulsion came, 'Oh, I am so glad this agony is spared him! He could be of no use to her.' But oh, how I longed for him, to feel I had some one to do more than I! There was the bitter sense that mamma would never need my self-control or tender care again.
"Then I went out and sat by the doctor, and he told me that he did not think anything could have been done to save her, and, at the best, it could have been but for a very little while. She was too delicate, and unable to bear the slightest shock. Otherwise, she would not have failed so rapidly, for the actual conplaint she began with was not sufficient to account for it.
"After a while the doctor went home to sleep; Rose and Ellen also lay down. I never expected to hear mamma's voice again, and it was as if she spoke after death, when she suddenly exclaimed that she wanted more air. Again the agony of losing her woke up fully in my heart, and also a wild hope that, if she could rally so wonderfully, she might get over it after alL We kindled the fire up brightly, and then opened the window wide, and the cold air from the starless night rushed in. We raised mamma upon pillows. She said she hoped Rose had gone to bed, and told Ellen to lie down; and then she said, 'Una, come here!' I got on the outside of the bed, and crept close up behind her, as she lay on her side; and so the rest of the night passed in a sort of dream, that was not rest nor sleep, but more a conscious holding of one's breath to hear the end.
"When the gray dawn came, she said she was very cold. We heated flannel and bottles, and put cotton wool all about her face and neck. The upper part of her face looked already exquisite in its pale peace; but there was an expression of intense pain and laboring for breath about her mouth. She frequently opened her eyes partially, and seemed to take a yearning, fading look, that became more and more dim. We offered some nourishment, but she shook her' head. 'No--no more--that is past!' And then I knew it was only a question of how long her unaided strength would flicker to the end. She had been very sensitive to touch throughout the illness; but now I sat down close by the bed, where she could see me whenever she opened her eyes, and laid my hand close beside hers. In a few moments she grasped it, and held it with so tight a grasp, that, for hours after her death, I felt as if her hand were still in mine. Then I knew I was beginning the last precious office I could do for her on earth,--to make her conscious of my love and strength while she trod with her own sweet patience through the valley of the shadow of death.
"With my other hand I fanned her all the time with a slow, regular motion, hour after hour, hoping--praying that my strength might last while she lived. When her eyes were closed, the tears would pour over my face, and Ellen or Rose would wipe them away. They wanted me to let them take my place, but, if I had known I should die, I would not have left it. I felt as if my hand spoke to her all the words of cheer and comfort that I could not say, and to which doubtless she could not have listened. I was not sure she could see me, but whenever her eyes were partly open, I could smile brightly at her; and I answered a good many things that I knew she might be thinking about, if she could think at all, as I do not doubt she did. Once she said, very slowly, 'I am tired--too tired--I am--glad to go--I only--wanted to live--for you--and Rose.' Another time she said, 'Flowers--flowers--,' and I told them to bring an exquisite white hyacinth; and she smiled. Rose had brought in a little yellow crocus, early in the morning, the first that had come up; and I told her about it, and it was laid on the bed beside her. The sweet church-bells sounded, and the sun shone brightly. 'It is Sunday morning, mamma, and a very lovely day.' Towards noon, I saw that the little crocus had opened wide upon the quilt,--a perfect sun. Presently Mrs. Bennoch came in, and knelt down at the head of the bed. The doctor came in, and mamma seemed to know it, and, with a great effort, stretched out her other hand, and he knelt down, and hid his face upon it. I rose up, still holding her precious hand, and Rose came and stood behind me. Some one at the foot of the bed was sobbing; but I did not want to cry, then. I did not look at her face any more when I heard the last struggle for breath, but held her hand tighter. Then a breathless stillness and silence. I laid her hand gently down, still without looking, and Rose and I went upstairs together....
"The next day we drove out and got flowers, the whitest and most fragrant, and put them around her on the bed, and they were kept there, fresh and fragrant, until the next Friday; and we would come in, from the sad business we were obliged to attend to, and gather peace and strength. Her face looked more and more like an angel's; a delicate color stayed upon the cheeks, a lovely smile upon the slightly parted lips; her beautiful white hair was brushed a little back from her face, under a pretty cap, and her waxen hands lay softly folded against each other upon her breast; the last day we took off her wedding ring and I wore it. The Friday was my birthday, and I sat beside her a long time, and her presence seemed to bless me, as she had always done upon my birth-day.
"On Saturday we followed her to Kensal Green, and she was laid there on a sunny hillside looking towards the east. We had a head and foot stone of white marble, with a place for flowers between, and Rose and I planted some ivy there that I had brought from America, and a periwinkle from papa's grave. The inscription is,--Sophia, wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne; and on the foot-stone, 'I am the Resurrection and the Life.'"
--Sophia Hawthorne had been loved by every one who knew her. She had given happiness and emancipation to one of the foremost men of his time. Apart from her blessed influence, he could never have become the man he was. Greater humility, tenderness, enlightenment, and strength have not been combined in a woman. She lived for her husband; and when he died, her love of life died also; but her children remained, and she stayed in this world for their sake. Their love and support was the very breath of her existence had these failed, or had she felt that they no longer needed her, she would have vanished at once. Her every act and thought had reference to them; it was almost appalling to be the object of such limitless devotion and affection.
During these closing years of her life she had cccupied much of her time in transcribing her husband's journals for publication. This work was a great pleasure to her, for much of the material she had never till then read, and much of it recalled scenes and events in which they had participated; so that it seemed as if they were still conversing together. Indeed, from a short time after his departure until the hour came for her to rejoin him, she always had a feeling that he was near her,--that their separation was of the senses only, not spiritual. After the journals were published, she turned to the posthumous novels and had begun the transcription of "Grimshawe" when her earthly career ceased. Afterwards, her daughter Una, assisted by Robert Browning, deciphered the manuscript of "Septimius," and it was published in the "Atlantic Monthly," and then in book form in England and America. Meanwhile "Grimshawe" was lost sight of, and only came to light again recently.
The preceding transcript from Una's journal has a double interest,--in respect of its subject, and in respect of the light it throws upon the writer's character. The first-born child of Hawthorne and his wife was in every way worthy of her parents. Whatever they had hoped and prayed for was fulfilled in her character. Her short life was acquainted with more than enough of sadness; but no occasion for the manifestation of truth, charity, generosity, self-sacrifice ever found her wanting. After her mother's death she lived in London, and devoted herself for several years to the care of orphan and destitute children. Her great heart longed to love and benefit all poor and unhappy persons, and she brought succor and happiness to many. Her intellect was active and capacious, and at one period of her life took a radical turn, questioning and testing all things with a boldness and penetration, combined with a sound impartiality, rare in the feminine mind. But at length the lofty religious bias of her nature triumphed over all doubts, and she was confirmed in the Church of England. After leaving London, she lived for a time with her brother in Dresden; and then made a visit to her married sister in New York, where she became acquainted with Albert Webster, a young writer who bade fair to do great things for American literature. When I moved to London, she rejoined me there; and Webster wrote, offering her marriage. She accepted him. His health was delicate, and, in order to strengthen it, he started on a voyage to the Sandwich Islands. He died on the passage; and a friend wrote to Una, announcing the news. The letter came one afternoon, as we were all sitting in our little library. She began to read, but after a moment quickly turned over the page and glanced on the other side. "Ah--yes!" she said slowly, with a slight sigh. She made no complaint, nor gave way to any passion of grief; but she seemed to become spiritualized,--to relinquish the world along with her hopes of happiness in it. She made no change in her daily life and occupations. She was a "district visitor" in the church, and she continued to make her regular rounds as usual. But before the end of the year her dark auburn hair had become gray, and her vital functions and organs were quite (as the physician afterwards told me) those of an old woman. In the summer of 1877 I went to Hastings with my family; but Una preferred to pay a visit to some friends of hers in a sort of Protestant convent at the little town of Clewer, near Windsor. We had no suspicion--nor, I think, had she--that her health was even precarious. But ten days after our parting I received a telegram from Clewer stating that Una was dangerously ill. Leaving Hastings immediately, I arrived at Clewer at midnight. The lady who met me at the railway-station said, "You are too late." We drove to the convent, and there, in the little cell-like room, on a narrow bed, she lay. She had died within an hour after the telegram was sent. We laid her in Kensal Green Cemetery, close beside her mother.
Hawthorne's nature was so large, vigorous, and in many respects unprecedented, and his objective activity was at the same time so disproportionately small, that it would be impossible to give his portrait relief and solidity without the aid of such reflections and partial reproductions of himself as were presented in those nearest and dearest to him. They serve to humanize and define what would else seem vague and obscure. He was a man who easily and indeed inevitably produced an impression upon the observer, but whom it was very difficult to know. Superficial men are readily described and understood; but men like Hawthorne can never he touched and dissected, because the essence of their character is never concretely manifested. They must be studied more in their effects than in themselves; and, at last, the true revelation will be made only to those who have in themselves somewhat of the same mystery they seek to fathom.