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Nathaniel Hawthorne by George E. Woodberry

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Hawthorne called, lamented that she should have to smooth her hair, and
dress, "while he was being wasted downstairs." She felt his attractive
power from the first, and was happy in his attentions, in the walks they
took, in their visits to Miss Burley's weekly meetings, in the picture
of Ilbrahim, "The Gentle Boy," which she made for him, in her story,
"Edward Randolph's Portrait," which he wrote for her, in the columbines
and tulips that strewed the way of love-making, and, in brief, in the
thousand trifles of the old story. Hawthorne, on his part, was equally
attracted in his different ways, and responded to the vivacity and
ebullience of this intense feminine nature disclosed to him in the live
woman who had met him, as if coming out of a vision, on life's road. The
spring budded and flowered into summer, and when he took his habitual
journey into the world,--this time into Berkshire and Vermont, from July
23 to September 24,--meaning, as he told her, to cut himself wholly away
from every one, so that even his mother should not know his whereabouts,
it is not unlikely that he was desirous of this solitude to think it all

They became engaged at the close of the year, though the matter was kept
a profound secret, there being apparently some apprehension that his
mother would not approve of it. His sister Elizabeth, was, perhaps, not
very cordial about it, also, but there was, as it proved, no occasion
for anxiety. It might well have seemed imprudent for Hawthorne, whose
worldly success had been slight, to marry an invalid wife. Fortune,
however, was not wholly unkind, and George Bancroft, whose attention had
been called to Hawthorne's needs, gave him an appointment at the Boston
Custom House as weigher and gauger, at a salary of twelve hundred
dollars. It was this opportunity, possibly, which emboldened Hawthorne
to take the final step; and marriage would be hoped for, should this
experiment of entering on a fixed employment prove successful.

During the progress of this courtship, to complete the chronicle of
Hawthorne's literary publications, he had written the carrier's address,
"Time's Portraiture," for "The Salem Gazette," January 2, 1838, the home
paper which had made him known to his fellow-townsmen by reprinting "The
Fountain of Youth," in the preceding March; and for the same paper he
wrote the address for the following year, January 1, 1839, "The Sister
Years." He had also contributed to "The American Monthly Magazine," for
January, 1838. an article under his own name on his friend, Thomas Green
Fessenden, a Maine politician who had recently died; and to the same
periodical, for March, "The Three-fold Destiny" under the old pseudonym
of Ashley Allen Royce. It was, however, "The Democratic Review" which
served as the principal channel of publication. It contained
successively "Footprints on the Beach," January; "Snowflakes," February;
"Howe's Masquerade," May; "Edward Randolph's Portrait," July; "Lady
Eleanore's Mantle," "Chippings with a Chisel," and a sketch of Jonathan
Cilley, his friend who had just been shot by Graves in a duel, all in
September; and these tales he signed as by The Author of "Twice-Told
Tales." The Province House series was concluded by "Old Esther Dudley,"
in this same periodical, April, 1839, and to this he affixed his own
name for the first time. "The Lily's Quest" had appeared, January 19,
1839. in "The Southern Rose," published at Charleston, South Carolina.
Here the first stage of his literary career ended.

He was now to leave that chamber under the eaves, in which these years,
lengthened to fourteen now, had been spent, but not without a farewell.
Here he had written, in 1835, "In this dismal chamber fame was won." A
dismal sort of fame he thought it then. It was on returning to it in
1840 that he penned the well-known passage:--

"Here I sit in my old, accustomed chamber, where I used to sit in days
gone by.... Here I have written many tales,--many that have been burned
to ashes, many that doubtless deserved the same fate. This claims to be
called a haunted chamber, for thousands upon thousands of visions have
appeared to me in it; and some few of them have become visible to the
world. If ever I should have a biographer, he ought to make great
mention of this chamber in my memoirs, because so much of my lonely
youth was wasted here, and here my mind and character were formed; and
here I have been glad and hopeful, and here I have been despondent. And
here I sat a long, long time, waiting patiently for the world to know
me, and sometimes wondering why it did not know me sooner, or whether it
would ever know me at all,--at least, till I were in my grave. And
sometimes it seemed as if I were already in the grave, with only life
enough to be chilled and benumbed. But oftener I was happy,--at least,
as happy as I then knew how to be, or was aware of the possibility of
being. By and by, the world found me out in my lonely chamber, and
called me forth,--not, indeed, with a loud roar of acclamation, but
rather with a still, small voice,--and forth I went, but found nothing
in the world that I thought preferable to my old solitude till now....
And now I begin to understand why I was imprisoned so many years in this
lonely chamber, and why I could never break through the viewless bolts
and bars; for if I had sooner made my escape into the world, I should
have grown hard and rough, and been covered with earthly dust, and my
heart might have become callous by rude encounters with the
multitude.... But living in solitude till the fullness of time was come,
I still kept the dew of my youth and the freshness of my heart.... I
used to think I could imagine all passions, all feelings, and states of
the heart and mind; but how little did I know!... Indeed, we are but
shadows; we are not endowed with real life, and all that seems most real
about us is but the thinnest substance of a dream,--till the heart be
touched. That touch creates us,--then we begin to be,--thereby we are
beings of reality and inheritors of eternity."

This sentiment always continued to play about this room, and whenever he
returned to it he was apt to set down some word of memory. In one
passage he even describes it as a shrine of literary pilgrimage, and
mentions, with that well-known touch, half fantastic, half grotesque,
its various articles of furniture,--the washstand, the mahogany-framed
glass, the pine table, the flag-bottomed chair, the old chest of
drawers, the closet, the worn-out shoe-brush, imagining the thoughts of
the pilgrim on beholding these relics. It was the type for him of the
old life of loneliness, of disappointment, of household gloom; but it
was also the place where he had spent those "tranquil and not unhappy
years," of which he afterwards said these early tales were the
memorials; and, however the room might darken in comparison with the
happiness of his married life, his last thought in regard to it was that
contained in a letter written late in life: "I am disposed to thank God
for the gloom and chill of my early life, in the hope that my share of
adversity came then, when I bore it alone."



Early in January, 1839, Hawthorne took up his new duties as weigher and
gauger in the Boston Custom House. He wrote very cheerfully to
Longfellow that he had no reason to doubt his capacity to fulfill his
duties, since he had not yet learned what they were, and he indulges his
humor in fancying imaginary little essays which he will write in the
unoccupied time he pleasantly anticipates will be his lot. He was glad
to have a material task to do, something with the stubbornness of fact
in its resistance, a practical duty such as belongs in the ordinary
lives of men. This desire to come out of his old way of existence, with
its preoccupation with the imaginary world, had become a strong and
rooted feeling, a fixed idea. "If I could only make tables," he said, "I
should feel myself more of a man." In the bustle of the wharves he felt
himself in touch with the world's business, and he took hold of his work
with interest and vigor as well as with that conscientious fidelity
which belonged to his character. Bancroft, a few months later, told
Emerson that he was "the most efficient and best of the Custom House
officers," and Mr. Lathrop says that he "used to make it a point in all
weathers to get to the wharf at the earliest possible hour," so that the
laborers, who were employed by the hour, might not lose their time. The
life he led is fully described in his own journals, with all its details
of shipping business, of the sailors and laborers and their tasks, of
the salt, salt fish, oil, iron, molasses, and other inelegant
merchandise, and the day's work in its various aspects of character,
things, and weather. Hawthorne's powers of observation, which he had
previously exercised in the taverns of New England and along his native
roadside and beaches, were now fully occupied and newly animated with
the novelty of the scene and his part in it. He made these careful notes
almost by instinct, but after all, they were of curiously little use to
him; it would seem rather that they gave his mind occupation in the
intervals of his imaginative creation; they were a resource to him like
the recreation of a walk; they represent the vacant and idle times of
his genius; and for this reason his observations, which are in the main
a kind of admirable reporting, afford a well-nigh complete setting for
his life, and constitute an external autobiography. He is hardly to be
truly seen apart from them.

At the end of six months he had begun to feel the wearisome drag upon
his spirits which was to be expected from toilsome days. Practical life
as a sort of vacation was welcome, but as it became the continuing
business of his time, and that other world of the artistic faculty was
now, in turn, known only by visiting glimpses, the look of the facts
changed. "I do not mean to imply," he writes, "that I am unhappy or
discontented, for this is not the case. My life only is a burden in the
same way that it is to every toilsome man; and mine is a healthy
weariness, such as needs only a night's sleep to remove it. But from
henceforth forever I shall be entitled to call the sons of toil my
brethren, and shall know how to sympathize with them, seeing that I
likewise have risen at the dawn, and borne the fervor of the midday sun,
nor turned my heavy footsteps homeward till eventide." At first, no
doubt, the outdoor occupation and the having to do with sea and harbor
life, for which he had an hereditary affection, were important elements
in his happiness; and the association with rough and hardy men, whose
contact with life was primitive and had the genuineness and health of
such occupations, was the kind of human companionship which he felt most
naturally and pleasurably. But the wearing in of the facts upon him is
seen in the way in which the blackness of coal and the whiteness of salt
begin to color the page, until it would seem as if he handled and saw no
other objects, and also in the comfort that the cold sea-wind, and
freshening waves, and the horizon of cloud and green are to him. At the
end of a year the signs of weariness come out clear in a well-known
passage of the "Note-Books," as a condensed picture of these two years
of life:--

"I have been measuring coal all day, on board of a black little British
schooner, in a dismal dock at the north end of the city. Most of the
time I paced the deck to keep myself warm; for the wind (northeast, I
believe) blew up through the dock, as if it had been the pipe of a pair
of bellows. The vessel lying deep between two wharves, there was no more
delightful prospect, on the right hand and on the left, than the posts
and timbers, half immersed in the water, and covered with ice, which the
rising and falling of successive tides had left upon them, so that they
looked like immense icicles. Across the water, however, not more than
half a mile off, appeared the Bunker Hill monument; and, what interested
me considerably more, a church-steeple, with the dial of a clock upon
it, whereby I was enabled to measure the march of the weary hours.
Sometimes I descended into the dirty little cabin of the schooner, and
warmed myself by a red-hot stove, among biscuit-barrels, pots and
kettles, sea-chests, and innumerable lumber of all sorts,--my
olfactories, meanwhile, being greatly refreshed by the odor of a pipe,
which the captain or some one of his crew was smoking. But at last came
the sunset, with delicate clouds, and a purple light upon the islands;
and I blessed it, because it was the signal of my release."

He soon began to "pray that in one year more I may find some way of
escaping from this unblest Custom House; for it is a very grievous
thralldom;" and beginning now to write again, he feels as if "the
noblest part of man had been left out of my composition or had decayed
out of it since my nature was given to my own keeping." Yet he tries to
be just to his experience, and adds what he thought the good of it had

"It is only once in a while that the image and desire of a better and
happier life makes me feel the iron of my chain; for, after all, a human
spirit may find no insufficiency of food fit for it, even in the Custom
House. And, with such materials as these, I do think and feel and learn
things that are worth knowing, and which I should not know unless I had
learned them there, so that the present portion of my life shall not be
quite left out of the sum of my real existence.... It is good for me, on
many accounts, that my life has had this passage in it. I know much more
than I did a year ago. I have a stronger sense of power to act as a man
among men. I have gained worldly wisdom, and wisdom also that is not
altogether of this world. And, when I quit this earthly cavern, where I
am now buried, nothing will cling to me that ought to be left behind."

The rebellion, nevertheless, continued, and as the spring came on the
Custom House is a "darksome dungeon," where he "murders the joyful young
day," quenching the sunshine; when he shall be free again, he thinks, he
will enjoy all things anew like a child of five, and "go forth and stand
in a summer shower, and all the worldly dust that has collected on me
shall be washed away at once, and my heart will be like a bank of fresh
flowers for the weary to rest upon." He goes to the Common, to the
highest point, where he could "see miles and miles into the country.
Blessed be God for this green tract, and the view which it affords,
whereby we poor citizens may be put in mind, sometimes, that all his
earth is not composed of blocks of brick houses, and of stone or wooden
pavements. Blessed be God for the sky, too, though the smoke of the city
may somewhat change its aspect,--but still it is better than if each
street were covered over with a roof. There were a good many people
walking the mall,--mechanics apparently, and shopkeepers' clerks, with
their wives; and boys were rolling on the grass, and I would have liked
to lie down and roll too."

He looks out over the waters. "The footsteps of May can be traced upon
the islands in the harbor, and I have been watching the tints of green
upon them gradually deepening, till now they are almost as beautiful as
they ever can be." He is convinced that "Christian's burden consisted of
coal," and he takes comfort in salt: "Salt is white and pure--there is
something holy in salt." Yet this tone was not constant, and from time
to time he shows something of his first appreciation and enjoyment of
the element of labor and reality in the experience. Almost at the end of
his life on the wharf, after more than two years of it, he exemplifies
his later feeling perhaps most justly:--

"I have been busy all day, from early breakfast-time till late in the
afternoon; and old Father Time has gone onward somewhat less heavily
than is his wont when I am imprisoned within the walls of the Custom
House. It has been a brisk, breezy day, an effervescent atmosphere, and
I have enjoyed it in all its freshness,--breathing air which had not
been breathed in advance by the hundred thousand pairs of lungs which
have common and invisible property in the atmosphere of this great city.
My breath had never belonged to anybody but me. It came fresh from the
wilderness of ocean.... It was exhilarating to see the vessels, how they
bounded over the waves, while a sheet of foam broke out around them. I
found a good deal of enjoyment, too, in the busy scene around me; for
several vessels were disgorging themselves (what an unseemly figure is
this,--'disgorge,' quotha, as if the vessel were sick) on the wharf, and
everybody seemed to be working with might and main. It pleased me to
think that I also had a part to act in the material and tangible
business of this life, and that a portion of all this industry could not
have gone on without my presence. Nevertheless, I must not pride myself
too much on my activity and utilitarianism. I shall, doubtless, soon
bewail myself at being compelled to earn my bread by taking some little
share in the toils of mortal men."

The truth was that Hawthorne led a life apart in his own genius, and
this life of the spirit rose out of his daily and habitual existence, or
flowed through it like a hidden stream, and did not mingle with the tide
of the hours as they passed. He felt the need of a fuller, earthly,
practical life, a real life, as he would have called it by contrast with
the impalpable things of his genius, and sought it in outward
employments; but in these, when his spirit awoke, he felt himself a
captive, and defrauded of that higher life of the soul; and after the
day's work or the year's labor was over, he could not be content with
the fact that it had been, and had served its purpose, and was gone, but
he still was compelled to ask how it had served this higher life, in
what ways it had fed the spirit which should be master of all the days
of one's life, and he found no satisfactory answer except the crude one
that possibly his experience and observation might be useful, though
doubtfully, as material for the books that were to be. After all he was
not content with practical life as an end; it was a means only, such was
the necessity of his constitution; he felt its interference with his
creative faculty and he was far from being convinced that he had gained
anything from it which would be fruitful when he should find time and
strength to write again. The leisure he had fondly anticipated was only
a dream. He had to work too hard.

During these two years, from January, 1839, to April, 1841, the other
part of Hawthorne's life lay in his companionship with Sophia Peabody.
At first, communication was mostly by letters; but the Peabodys removed
from Salem to Boston in 1840, and after that the two lovers--for they
were lovers in the most simple sense--met constantly. The memorials of
the time, touching as they are in their intimacy of feeling, have that
essential privacy which best bespeaks a noble nature. The exchanges of
confidences, the little gifts, such as the two pictures which she sent
him and which he always held so preciously in his affection, the trifles
of lovers' talk, like his confession that he always washed his hands
before reading her letters, the quiet, firm advice, the consolations,
the happy praise he renders her,--all these belong to the love-story, if
it must needs be told. But, besides this, Hawthorne felt toward this
love of his married life in a peculiar way not often so purely
disclosed; there were touches of solemnity in it, something not of this
world; there was that sense of what can be described only as sacredness,
which he intimates and in part reveals as a thing never absent from his
heart, whether with her or away from her. Love had come to him, not in
his youth, but after the years of solitude had ripened both heart and
imagination,--a man's love; it filled his whole nature, and with it went
a feeling of glad release from the past, of the coming of a freeing
power bringing new life, which gave something of heavenly gratitude to
his bosom. How deep, serious, truly sacred, his love was, can be read in
all the lines of his writing that even remotely allude to it; and at
this time he gave expression to it with a sincerity so unconscious that
in reading his letters--and there are many of them, though happily he
destroyed his wife's--one looks straight into his heart. It is strange,
he thinks, that "such a flower as our affection should have blossomed
amid snow and wintry winds;" and in all ways this love had the
singularity that deep natures feel in their own experiences. "I never
till now," writes Hawthorne, "had a friend who could give me repose; all
have disturbed me, and whether for pleasure or pain, it was still
disturbance. But peace overflows from your heart into mine." So one
might weave the chain of lovers' phrases, linking the old words over;
but here, at least, it will be enough to let one or two separate
passages stand for his abiding mood. In June, 1840, he writes to her
when she is at Concord:--

"My heart thirsts and languishes to be there, away from the hot sun, and
the coal-dust, and the steaming docks, and the thick-pated, stubborn,
contentious men, with whom I brawl from morning till night, and all the
weary toil that quite engrosses me, and yet occupies only a small part
of my being, which I did not know existed before I became a measurer. I
do think I should sink down quite disheartened and inanimate if you were
not happy, and gathering from earth and sky enjoyment for both of us;
but this makes me feel that my real, innermost soul is apart from all
these unlovely circumstances, and that it has not ceased to exist, as I
might sometimes suspect, but is nourished and kept alive through you.
You know not what comfort I have in thinking of you amid those beautiful
scenes and amid those sympathizing hearts. If you are well and happy, if
your step is light and joyous there, and your cheek is becoming rosier,
and if your heart makes pleasant music, then is it not better for you to
stay there a little longer? And if better for you, is it not so for me
likewise? Now, I do not press you to stay, but leave it all to your
wisdom; and if you feel it is now time to come home, then let it be so."

Similarly, in the fall of the same year, from Boston, and again from
Salem, he sums in memory what this new life had been to him now for
nearly two years:--

"Sometimes, during my solitary life in our old Salem house, it seemed to
me as if I had only life enough to know that I was not alive; for I had
no wife then to keep my heart warm. But, at length, you were revealed to
me, in the shadow of a seclusion as deep as my own. I drew nearer and
nearer to you, and opened my heart to you, and you came to me, and will
remain forever, keeping my heart warm and renewing my life with your
own. You only have taught me that I have a heart,--you only have thrown
a light, deep downward and upward, into my soul. You only have revealed
me to myself; for without your aid my best knowledge of myself would
have been merely to know my own shadow,--to watch it flickering on the
wall, and mistake its fantasies for my own real actions....

"Whenever I return to Salem, I feel how dark my life would be without
the light that you shed upon it,--how cold, without the warmth of your
love. Sitting in this chamber, where my youth wasted itself in vain, I
can partly estimate the change that has been wrought. It seems as if the
better part of me had been born since then. I had walked those many
years in darkness, and might so have walked through life, with only a
dreamy notion that there was any light in the universe, if you had not
kissed my eyelids and given me to see. You, dearest, have always been
positively happy. Not so I,--I have only not been miserable."

To turn to other matters, the preoccupation of Hawthorne's mind with his
business, together with the distraction of his courtship, proved
unfavorable to imaginative work. It may be, too, that the impulse to
create had been somewhat exhausted by the rapid production of his later
tales in the year or two preceding. Only one original story appeared in
this period of labor and love, "John Inglefield's Thanksgiving," which
was published in the "Democratic Review" for March, 1840, as by the Rev.
A. A. Royce. An interesting edition of "The Gentle Boy," [Footnote:
_The Gentle Boy._ A Thrice Told Tale. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. With
an Original Illustration. Boston: Weeks, Jordan & Co., 121 Washington
Street. New York & London: Wiley & Putnam. 1839. 4to. Pp. 20.] under
Hawthorne's name, had been issued in 1839 at his own expense; it
contained the original sketch of Ibrahim, by Sophia Peabody, engraved by
J. Andrews, and was evidently intended only as a kind of lover's gift to
her, to whom it was dedicated. He gave his attention now to writing some
children's books, partly under the influence of his old "Peter Parley"
instruction and experience, and partly, no doubt, under the
encouragement and advice of Elizabeth Peabody, who was interested in
such literature. The Peabodys, on removing to Boston, had opened a shop,
a library and book-store and homoeopathic drug-store, all in one, of
which she was the head, and with her name Hawthorne associated his new
ventures. He had contemplated writing children's books, as a probable
means of profit, before he received his appointment in the Custom House,
as he said in his letter to Longfellow; and he merely stuck to the plan
under the new conditions. The result was three volumes of historical
tales for young people, drawn from New England in the colonial and
revolutionary times, under different titles, but making one series:
"Grandfather's Chair," [Footnote: _Grandfather's Chair._ A History
for Youth. By Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of Twice-Told Tales. Boston:
E. P. Peabody. New York: Wiley & Putnam. 1841. 32mo. Pp. vii, 140. The
preface is dated Boston, November, 1840.] "Famous Old People,"
[Footnote: _Famous Old People._ Being the Second Epoch of
Grandfather's Chair. By Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of Twice-Told Tales.
Boston: E. P. Peabody, 13 West St. 1841. 32mo. Pp. vii, 158. The preface
is dated December 30, 1840.] and "Liberty Tree." [Footnote: _Liberty
Tree._ With the Last Words of Grandfather's Chair. By Nathaniel
Hawthorne, author of Twice-Told Tales. Boston: E. P. Peabody, 13 West
St. 1841. 32mo. Pp. vii, 160. The preface is dated Boston, February 27,
1841.] They appeared in rapid succession in 1841, and were successful.
But notwithstanding the high character of these little books as
entertainment for children, it will hardly be thought that literature
had profited much by the devotion of genius to coal and salt and the
oversight of day laborers.

In the spring of 1841, immediately after the change of administration in
March, Hawthorne lost his place in the Custom House, and he at once
betook himself to Brook Farm, in Roxbury, a suburb of Boston, or, to
give its full name, "The Brook Farm Institute of Agriculture and
Education." The place, the celebrities who gathered there in their
youth, and their way of life, have all been many times described, so
that there is no occasion to renew a detailed account, especially as
Hawthorne's interest in the scheme was purely incidental. He must have
had his plans already made in preparation for a change in his life. The
shop of the Peabodys in Boston was a centre of transcendentalism, "The
Dial" being published there; and Hawthorne's attention may have been
drawn to the movement for a practical application of the new social
ideas by this circumstance, and he may well have made the acquaintance
of Ripley, the chief projector, through these family friends. It is to
be remembered, too, that he had been interested previously in the
community idea, in the case of the Shakers, and had twice written tales
on motives suggested by their life. But an experiment in the
regeneration of society by a group of radicals would hardly have given
him much practical concern, had it not fallen in with some peculiarities
of his private position. Something, it is true, is to be allowed for the
infection of the time, which would touch a morally speculative mind such
as Hawthorne's to some degree; he would have observed these dreamers,
breaking out new paths in the hardened old world of custom and
inheritance, and would have followed the fortunes of the dream in its
effects on individual lives, for it would appeal to the moral
imagination and to his general sentiment about human life; but to become
one of the promoters would require, in a man so wary, so hard-headed and
cool as he naturally was in one half of his brain at least, a certain
pressure of fact upon him. No man was less of a reformer than Hawthorne;
he was constitutionally phlegmatic about society, a party man in
politics, and an ironical critic of all "come-outers," as these people
were then popularly named; and, in this instance, which is the only
apparently freakish action of his life, he was certainly swayed by what
he supposed to be his own interest. He was merely prospecting for a home
in which to settle. He was anxious to be married; he was thirty-seven
years old, and Sophia was thirty, and the engagement had already lasted
two years and more. In this new community hopes were held out that there
would be cottages for families, and the whole business of supporting a
family was to be simplified and made easier by the joint arrangements of
the community, in an economical sense; moreover, that blessed union of
manual toil with intellectual labor was a prime part of the enterprise,
and something akin to this Hawthorne still very much desired in his own
mind. To have some material work to do, to sustain a practical relation
with men and their general life, to have daily contact with matter of
fact as a means of escape from the old life of shadows, were still very
definite and prized ends with him. He was fairly possessed with this
idea for some years. It may fairly be believed that he had no ulterior
purpose or belief in the affair, but merely for his personal convenience
desired on the one hand to solve the old problem of living in the world
while not of it, and to provide a house for his wife to come to. He was
willing to try the new scheme, nothing else seeming so feasible at the
time to accomplish his immediate purpose; and he put into it all his
savings, one thousand dollars, but with the idea of withdrawing this
capital in case he was dissatisfied with the results, and should return
to the ordinary ways of the world.

Hawthorne arrived at the farm among the first of the new settlers, in an
April snowstorm, on the twelfth of the month, and began at once to make
the acquaintance of the barnyard. He was entirely destitute of
agricultural talents, original or acquired, a green hand in every sense
of the word, with that muscular willingness to learn which exhibits
itself by unusual destructive capacity upon implements of toil and the
docility of patient farm animals. He had physical strength, and after
attempting to chop, hay, and milk, he was given a dung-fork and set to
work at a pile of manure. He writes about these details with a softening
of the raw facts by elegancies of language, and much gentle fun, but
from the start he shows a playfulness of disposition in regard to the
whole affair, like a great boy on a vacation, as if the sense of it all
being, so far as he was concerned, a surprising joke on a novel scale
were in his mind and attitude all the time; and it is this humor,
interlacing on the page like sunshine, that makes the life of his
narrative. Occasionally there is the touch of true enjoyment out of
doors, as when, under the clear blue sky on the hillside, it seemed as
if he "were at work in the sky itself," and he notices the wild flowers
coming into the chill world; but, as before at the wharf, so now at his
farming, doubts assail his mind whether this manual labor is a
satisfactory solution of his difficulties in adjusting himself to the
world and opening communication with his fellow-men. The disillusion, if
there really had ever been any true hope on his part, was effected even
more quickly than before. Six weeks of manuring had brought him to
enthusiastic thankfulness that it was near done:--

"That abominable gold-mine! Thank God, we anticipate getting rid of its
treasures in the course of two or three days! Of all hateful places that
is the worst, and I shall never comfort myself for having spent so many
days of blessed sunshine there. It is my opinion that a man's soul may
be buried and perish under a dung-heap, or in a furrow of the field,
just as well as under a pile of money."

Ten weeks more finished the matter. "Joyful thought! in a little more
than a fortnight I shall be free from my bondage, ... free to enjoy
Nature,--free to think and feel!... Even my Custom House experience was
not such a thraldom and weariness; my mind and heart were free. Oh,
labor is the curse of the world, and nobody can meddle with it without
becoming proportionably brutified! Is it a praiseworthy matter that I
have spent five golden months in providing food for cows and horses? It
is not so."

Shortly after this outburst he made a visit to his home at Salem, where
he had been much missed. The few letters that his sister Louisa wrote to
him after he first went to the farm afford the pleasantest, and almost
the only glimpse of his place in the family. His experiment was plainly
not welcome to them; his mother "groaned over it;" but, apart from that,
in which there may have been some family pride, though there was also
real personal solicitude, it is noticeable how his sister counts the
weeks he has been gone, and expresses their vehement desires for his
return, and shows the thoughtfulness of the family for him in many ways.
"Mother apostrophizes your picture because you do not come home," she
writes, after "nine weeks" of absence,--"a great deal too long." In that
secluded home he must indeed have been missed, and doubtless it seemed
to them day by day more certain that he had really gone out from them
into another world of his own. When he was in Salem in September,
however, he no sooner crossed the threshold than he felt the old
deserted life fall on him again like an evil spirit. "How immediately
and irrecoverably," he writes to Sophia, "should I relapse into the way
of life in which I spent my youth! If it were not for you, this present
world would see no more of me forever. The sunshine would never fall on
me, no more than on a ghost. Once in a while people might discern my
figure gliding stealthily through the dim evening,--that would be all. I
should be only a shadow of the night; it is you that give me reality,
and make all things real for me. If, in the interval since I quitted
this lonely old chamber, I had found no woman (and you were the only
possible one) to impart reality and significance to life, I should have
come back hither ere now, with a feeling that all was a dream and a

Brook Farm seems to him now only another dream, and he gives his final
judgment on that matter:--

"Really I should judge it to be twenty years since I left Brook Farm;
and I take this to be one proof that my life there was an unnatural and
unsuitable, and therefore an unreal one. It already looks like a dream
behind me. The real Me was never an associate of the community; there
has been a spectral Appearance there, sounding the horn at daybreak, and
milking the cows, and hoeing potatoes, and raking hay, toiling in the
sun, and doing me the honor to assume my name. But this spectre was not
myself. Nevertheless, it is somewhat remarkable that my hands have,
during the past summer, grown very brown and rough, insomuch that many
people persist in believing that I, after all, was the aforesaid
spectral horn-sounder, cow-milker, potato-hoer, and hay-raker. But such
people do not know a reality from a shadow. Enough of nonsense."

Nevertheless he went back for a while, not now as a farmhand, but
apparently as a boarder, though he was made a trustee of the association
and chairman of the committee on finance. He took, from this time,
little part in the working life of the community. He had made up his
mind that there was to be no home for him there, though "weary, weary,
thrice weary of waiting so many ages." He turns his mind to other plans
of book-making, but does not have the seclusion he had found necessary
for composition, and rather mournfully writes that he "must observe, and
think, and feel, and content myself with catching glimpses of things
which may be wrought out hereafter." He did observe with his habitual
closeness the people who came and went, and the life of the inmates,
sitting himself apart a good deal with a book before his face. He made
friends with a few, a very few, of whom George Bradford and Frank Farley
remained to him in later times; but he was, as always, averse to
literary society, and came nearer to men of a different type in his
human intercourse. Sophia, who had seen him there amid the fraternity,
described his relationship to the others accurately, one of "courtesy
and conformableness and geniality;" but, she tells him, the expression
of his countenance was "that of a witness and hearer rather than of
comradeship." In the fall weather he spent much of his time rambling
about, and the scarlet color of the pastures, the warmth of the autumn
woods, and the fading of the blue-fringed gentian, last blossom of the
year, made up the texture of his notable life, just as similar things
had earlier done by the Salem shore. In the spring he left the
community, and made ready to go to Concord, where a place had been found
for him to settle.

In the production of literature, life at Brook Farm had proved as barren
as the years on Long Wharf. He had contributed one story, "A Virtuoso's
Collection," to "The Boston Miscellany" for May, 1842, and had added one
more to his little books, "Biographical Stories [Footnote:
_Biographical Stories for Children._ Benjamin West, Sir Isaac
Newton, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Cromwell, Benjamin Franklin, Queen
Christina. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. Author of Historical Tales for Youth,
Twice-Told Tales, etc. Boston: Tappan and Dennet, 114 Washington St.
1842. 18mo. Pp. v, 161. "Historical Tales for Youth" was made up by
binding the three Grandfather's Chair books in the 18mo second edition,
1842, together with this volume, and issued as four volumes in two, so
labeled on the back.] for Children." The volume was added to the
"Grandfather's Chair" series, which was brought out in a new edition in
1842. To the same year belongs the enlarged edition of "Twice-Told
Tales," [Footnote: _Twice-Told Tales._ By Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Boston: James Munroe and Company. 1842. 2 vols. 12mo. Pp. 331, 356. The
first volume contained the same tales as the former edition, with The
Toll-Gatherer's Day added. The second volume contained the following:
Howe's Masquerade, Edward Randolph's Portrait, Lady Eleanore's Mantle,
Old Esther Dudley, The Haunted Mind, The Village Uncle, The Ambitious
Guest, The Sister Years, Snowflakes, The Seven Vagabonds, The White Old
Maid, Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure, Chippings with a Chisel, The Shaker
Bridal, Night Sketches, Endicott and the Red Cross, The Lily's Quest,
Footprints on the Sea-Shore, Edward Fane's Rosebud, The Threefold
Destiny.] in two volumes, in which the number of stories was doubled,
but the collection still left out many titles which were afterwards

Hawthorne had now been practically idle, so far as his genius was
concerned, for three years, and had experimented to his heart's content
in other modes of life. He had decided on immediate marriage. Sophia had
recovered from her invalidism, and the lifelong headache she had
experienced disappeared. It remained only to inform Madam Hawthorne of
the engagement which had been so long concealed. He felt some
trepidation, since, he says, "almost every agitating circumstance of her
life had cost her a fit of illness." But his fears were groundless; she
came out of her chamber to meet him as soon as he arrived, looking
better and more cheerful than usual, and full of kindness. "Foolish me,"
he writes happily to Sophia, "to doubt that my mother's love could be
wise, like all other genuine love!... It seems that our mother had seen
how things were a long time ago; at first her heart was troubled,
because she knew that much of outward as well as inward fitness was
requisite to secure our peace; but gradually and quietly God has taught
her that all is good, and so we shall have her fullest blessing and
concurrence. My sisters, too, begin to sympathize as they ought, and all
is well. God be praised! I thank Him on my knees, and pray Him to make
me worthy of the happiness you bring me." The quiet marriage took place
on July 9, 1842, at the home of the Peabodys in Boston, and Hawthorne
and his wife went to Concord to reside at the Old Manse.



The life upon which the Hawthornes now entered for a period of three
years and more was one of village quiet and country happiness. Concord
was a characteristic town of eastern Massachusetts, with woodland,
pasture, and hill lying unevenly in a diversified landscape, and in the
midst the little river winding its slow way along by the famous bridge.
The neighbors were few, and for the most part were members of the
literary group of residents or visitors which gave Concord its later
distinction. Yet even here, amid this rural peace and in so restricted a
society, life at the Old Manse had a still deeper seclusion, as of a
place of retreat and inviolable privacy; there was an atmosphere of
solitude about it, wrapping it round, a sense of life with nature, and
only slight and distant contact with the world, the privacy of a house
that is snow-bound, lasting on as if by enchantment through July heats
as well as February drifts. Hawthorne enjoyed this freedom in the place
that first seemed to him like real home; and he and his wife pleased
their fancy with thinking of it as a native paradise, with themselves as
the new Adam and Eve, a thought which he had held in prospect before
marriage and now clung to with a curious tenacity, pursuing it through
many changes of idea; and, on the level of fact, he used to write that
he had never lived so like a boy since he really was a boy in the old
days in Maine.

The situation of the house lent itself to his tastes and inclinations.
It was set back from the street, toward which an avenue of trees led
out, and in the rear was the apple orchard with the river on its edge.
He could look from his windows on the life of the road, with its
occasional passers-by, for it was seldom that any one turned up the
avenue to call; and he could go down to the stream to bathe and fish in
summer, and to skate in winter on the black ice. He would wander out
over the fields and into the woods with Ellery Channing, and go boating
with Thoreau, both of whom were companions he liked to be with; or if he
met Margaret Fuller in the paths of Sleepy Hollow, he could spend an
hour or two in such half transcendental, half-sentimental talk as he
records from such a chance encounter. Emerson came, also, to talk and
walk with a man who was so firm-set in his own ways, being attracted to
him by the subtleties of personality, for he never could read
Hawthorne's tales then or afterwards, so profound was the opposition of
their genius. If visitors stayed at the manse, it would be George
Bradford, whom Hawthorne respected in the highest degree which his
appreciation of others ever reached, or Frank Farley, the half-crazy
Brook Farmer, whom he gave himself to in a more self-sacrificing way to
aid and comfort in his bewildered and imperfect state; or else Hillard
would arrive, with much cheerfulness and news from Longfellow or others
of the Cambridge men. But Hawthorne still kept the social world at a
distance from his private and intimate self; these men, though he
maintained kindly intercourse with them, never penetrated the shell of
his true reserve; the contact was but superficial; and though they were
good for company, he was often glad when they were gone and he was again
alone with nature and his dreams, and the ways and things of household

In doors, and out doors, too, the new life was full of happiness. The
gentle felicity of the literary recluse breathes through the description
he gave of the place and time and habits of existence in the Manse,
which he wrote out for his readers in the pleasantest of his
autobiographical papers; and as for details to supply a more complete
picture,--are they not written at large in the family letters? His wife
worshiped him, and named him all the names of classic mythology and
history,--Endymion, Epaminondas, Apollo,--glorying in his physical
kinghood, as she saw it, when he glided skating in the rose-colored air
of twilight, and also in the divine qualities of his spirit in doors,
where he, on occasion--and the occasion grew more and more
frequent--would wash the dishes, do the chores, cook the meals even,
relieving her of every care of this kind in servant matters. He read to
her in the evenings Macaulay, all of Shakspere, the Sermon on the Mount
for Sunday, and generally the old books over, Thomson's "Castle,"
Spenser's faeryland, and the rest. She rejoiced in him and all that was
his; and she painted and modeled a good deal and worked out her artistic
instincts very happily for herself, and much to her husband's
sympathetic pleasure. Una, the first child, was born March 3, 1844, and
with this new revelation life went on in deeper and sweeter ways of
feeling, thought, and service. The home is easily to be seen now, though
it was then so private a place,--a home essentially not of an uncommon
New England type, where refined qualities and noble behavior flourished
close to the soil of homely duties and the daily happiness of natural
lives under whatever hardships; a home of friendly ties, of high
thoughts within, and of poverty bravely borne.

There is no other word for it. Into this paradise of the Manse at
Concord, set in the very heart of outer and inward peace so complete,
poverty had come. Hawthorne had never had any superfluity in the things
that give comfort and ease to life even on a small scale. The years at
Salem had been marked by strict economies always, it is plain; there was
no more than enough in that house, and thence arose in part its proud
instinct of isolation; and Bridge, it may be recalled, had cheered up
Hawthorne's doubting spirits on one occasion by telling him that the
three hundred dollars he earned, at the age of thirty, was sufficient to
support him. On such a scale, he would not have called himself poor. But
he was poor now, with that frank meaning that the word has to a man
willing to do without, who cannot pay his small debts; in fact the
smallness of the debt gives its edge to the misery. Hawthorne's whole
New England nature rebelled against it; for there is nothing so
deep-grained in the old New England character as the dislike to be
"dependent," as the word is used. Hawthorne had gone through his
training, too, in boyhood; he had never contracted debts till he had the
money to pay them; and now he had miscalculated the "honesty"--as he
doubtless named it in his thoughts--of other men. He had expected to
draw out the thousand dollars invested at Brook Farm, and he supposed he
would get it, especially if he really needed it, so unbusiness-like were
his ideas; but as a matter of fact, he had lost that money in the
speculation as much as if he had risked it in any other way. There was
more to justify his irritation in the fact that "The Democratic Review,"
which had begun by paying five dollars a page, and had dropped to twenty
dollars an article independent of length, had practically failed. He
could not get paid for his work, and so he could not pay the small bills
of household expenses. They were insignificant, in one sense, but the
fact that they were not paid was independent of the amount. Emerson told
him, so his wife writes, "to whistle for it, ... everybody was in debt,
... all worse than he was." There had been hardship almost from the
first, as appears from Hawthorne's anger at Mr. Upham for telling tales
in Salem of their "poverty and misery," on which his most significant
comment, perhaps, is, "We never have been quite paupers." This was in
March, 1843, and it is not unlikely that the modest ways of the house,
and possibly that disregard for regular meals in which Hawthorne had
long been experienced, may have given an impression of greater economy
than there was need of; but, for all Hawthorne's natural disclaimer, the
family plainly spent as little as possible, and he found the kitchen
garden, whose fortunes he follows with such interest, gave him food as
well as exercise. The "Paradisaical dinner," on Christmas Day, 1843, "of
preserved quince and apple, dates, and bread and cheese, and milk,"
though of course its simplicity was only due to the cook's absence in
Boston, indicates other difficulties of housekeeping, as also do a
hundred half-amusing details of the household life. But the time of
trouble came in dead earnest in the course of 1845, and in the fall of
that year extremity is seen nigh at hand when Mrs. Hawthorne writes to
her mother: "He and Una are my perpetual Paradise, and I besieged heaven
with prayers that we might not find it our duty to separate, whatever
privations we must outwardly suffer in consequence of remaining

The way out of all this trouble was found for Hawthorne by the same
friends who had formerly rescued him in the time of his bitter
discouragement before his engagement. In the spring of 1845, Bridge and
Frank Pierce appeared on the scene, and finding Hawthorne at his daily
task of chopping wood in the shed, they had a meeting of the old
college-boy sort that brightens the page with one of those human scenes
that, occurring seldom in Hawthorne's life, have such realistic effect.

"Mr. Bridge caught a glimpse of him, and began a sort of waltz towards
him. Mr. Pierce followed; and when they reappeared, Mr. Pierce's arm was
encircling my husband's old blue frock. How his friends do love him! Mr.
Bridge was perfectly wild with spirits. He danced and gesticulated and
opened his round eyes like an owl.... My husband says Mr. Pierce's
affection for and reliance upon him are perhaps greater than any other
person's. He called him 'Nathaniel,' and spoke to him and looked at him
with peculiar tenderness."

The friends agreed that something should be done for Hawthorne through
political influence, and in the course of the succeeding months there
was much discussion of one and another office without immediate result;
and meanwhile Hawthorne prepared to remove to Salem again, where he
would so arrange matters that his mother and sisters should live in the
same house with him. He had occasionally visited them during his married
life, and on one of these short stays at home an incident occurred that
should be recorded, not only for its singularity, but for its glimpse of
his mother in a new light.

"For the first time since my husband can remember, he dined with his
mother! This is only one of the miracles which the baby is to perform.
Her grandmother held her on her lap till one of us should finish dining,
and then ate her own meal. She thinks Una is a beauty, and, I believe,
is not at all disappointed in her. Her grandmother also says she has the
most perfect form she ever saw in a baby."

It was a year later than this anecdote that the family was reunited in
Salem, but before following Hawthorne in his return to his native,
though never very well loved town, his literary work in these years at
Concord should be looked at.

When Hawthorne came to live at the Old Manse it was some time since he
had produced any imaginative work, or, indeed, written anything except
the stories for children in "Grandfather's Chair," which hardly rise
above the class of hack work. Since leaving Salem in January, 1840, he
had published but one paper that is remembered in his better writings,
and that, "A Virtuoso's Collection," was of a peculiar character, being
no more than a play of fancy, a curiosity of literary invention. After
the lapse of two years and a half, during which his imagination was
uncreative, it might have been anticipated that, under the new
conditions of tranquillity and private happiness, in the favorable
surroundings of the Manse, he would have shown unusual fruitfulness; but
such was not the case. In the additional three years and a half that had
now passed since he settled at Concord, he gave to the world only
eighteen papers. They did not begin until 1843, and were distributed,
for the most part, evenly over the next two years. "Little
Daffydowndilly" appeared in "The Boys' and Girls' Magazine" in 1843.
Lowell's periodical, "The Pioneer," which lived only through the first
three months of that year, contained "The Hall of Fantasy," in the
February, and "The Birthmark," in the March number. "The Democratic
Review," which was still edited by O'Sullivan, a warm friend though
editorially impecunious, received the remaining tales and sketches with
a few exceptions. It published them as follows: in 1843, "The New Adam
and Eve," February; "Egotism, or The Bosom Serpent," March; "The
Procession of Life," April; "The Celestial Railroad," May; "Buds and
Bird Voices," June; "Fire Worship," December; in 1844, "The Christmas
Banquet," January; "The Intelligence Office," March; "The Artist of the
Beautiful," June; "A Select Party," July; "Rappaccini's Daughter,"
December; in 1845, "P.'s Correspondence," April. "Earth's Holocaust" had
appeared in "Graham's Magazine," March, 1844, apparently on Griswold's
invitation; and two tales, "Drowne's Wooden Image," and "The Old Apple
Dealer," were published, if at all, in some unknown place. All of these
appeared under the author's own name, except that he once relapsed into
his old habit by sending forth "Rappaccini's Daughter" as a part of the
writings of Aubepine, a former pseudonym. "The Celestial Railroad"
[Footnote: _The Celestial Railroad._ By Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Boston: published by Wilder & Co., No. 46 Washington Street. 1843. 82mo,
paper. Pp. 32.] was published separately as a pamphlet. He had edited
for "The Democratic Review" also the "Papers of an old Dartmoor
Prisoner;" and, in 1845, he assisted his friend Bridge to appear as an
author by arranging and revising his "Journal of an African Cruiser."
[Footnote: _Journal of an African Cruiser._ Comprising Sketches of
the Canaries, The Cape de Verdes, Liberia, Madeira, Sierra Leone, and
Other Places of Interest on the West Coast of Africa. By an Officer of
the U. S. Navy. Edited by Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York & London: Wiley
and Putnam. 1845. 12mo. Pp. 179.] This amount of literary work, taken
altogether, is not considerable, and it is noticeable that in the last
year, 1845, he seems to have practically ceased writing. He may have
been a slow, and possibly an infrequent writer; such, in fact, is the
inference to be drawn also from his earlier years, when he does not seem
to have been a rapid producer except at the time of the issue of
"Twice-Told Tales," when he had the strongest spur of ambition and most
felt the need of succeeding. He had written, in all, about ninety tales
and sketches in twenty years, so far as is known, of which thirty-nine
had been collected in the "Twice-Told Tales." He now took all his new
tales and, adding to them five others from his earlier uncollected
stock, wrote the introductory sketch of his Concord life, and issued
them as "Mosses from an Old Manse" [Footnote: _Mosses from an Old
Manse_. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. In two parts. New York: Wiley and
Putnam. 1846. 12mo. Pp. 211. The volume, the two parts bound as one,
contained The Old Manse, The Birthmark, A Select Party, Young Goodman
Brown, Rappaccini's Daughter, Mrs. Bullfrog, Fire Worship, Buds and Bird
Voices, Monsieur du Miroir, The Hall of Fantasy, The Celestial Railroad,
The Procession of Life.] in Wiley and Putnam's Library of American
Books, New York. The work appeared in the earlier part of 1846. Later he
was to gather up the yet uncollected papers of the first period, and add
the very few tales afterwards written; but, in fact, Hawthorne's
activity as a writer of tales practically ended with his leaving
Concord. His work of that kind was done; and some idea of what he had
accomplished, some analysis of his temperament and art as disclosed in
these tales that were the only enduring fruits of the score of years
since he left college and began the literary life, may now fairly be
built on the total result.

These hundred tales and sketches of Hawthorne, broadly speaking, embody
the literary results of his life, especially from his thirtieth to his
fortieth year, and represent all its activities. In comparison with his
later romances on the larger scale of life, they are studies, the
'prentice work of his learning hand, and they disclose successively the
varieties and modes of his growth, which was one of slow and almost
imperceptible gradations, until his method was fully formed, perhaps
unconsciously, and became the artistic mould of his genius. In his first
attempts there was little, if anything, more than in the instinctive
motions of a bird's wings,--the disposition for flight. He had the
faculty of literary expression, which had been nourished within and
outwardly shaped in manner by constant contact with the English classic
authors, and especially with good prose, clear, simple, and direct, from
which melodious cadence had not yet been eliminated. He was touched,
also, by some vague literary ambition, not well defined, but predisposed
to fiction; and he had a physically indolent habit, which kept him
disengaged from practical affairs and led him more and more into
meditative ways. He did not have any inspiration from within, any
enthusiasm of sympathy or purpose, any life of his own, seeking
expression; nor did he find easily a definite subject outside himself to
observe, describe, and animate. He turned, in his early tales, to the
local traditions and memories of his native place, and his stories were
no more than sketched history, provincial in atmosphere; nor did his
genius show even faintly in them any of its characteristic lines. Scott,
undoubtedly, was the author who had most affected his mental habit, and
with this exception, notwithstanding what some critics have alleged of
his so-called "American predecessors," Charles Brockden Brown and the
author of "Peter Rugg," there is no trace of any other literary
influence upon him either in this preparatory time or later in life; but
something of Scott is to be found permanently in his creative work,--in
the figure-grouping, the high speeches, the oddities of character
humorously treated, and especially in the use of set scenes individually
elaborated to give the high lights and to advance the story. But Scott's
method was at first inadequately applied, nor is there any sign that the
young author yet appreciated the artistic capabilities of the material
he was using.

Hawthorne's instinct was always right in the preferences he showed among
his works, of which he was an excellent critic. It was not merely by
accident that he was first known as the author of "Sights from a
Steeple," though accident may have had its share in the matter; and he
long continued to use this signature. This little essay is very
carefully written, and displays in remarkable perfection one quality
that became so characteristic of his work that he has no rival in it
except Poe; it has that harmony of tone which is known as keeping a
unity of design and development so pervasive that the heavens above and
the earth below are seen from the little steeple as from a centre, and
nature and life seem to revolve around the eye at that altitude with
complete breadth as well as smallness of proportion. It is the simplest
of trifles, as a composition; and, like much of Hawthorne's writing, has
a curious accent of the school reader, as if it were meant for that, so
well is it adjusted to ready comprehension, so mild is its interest, so
matter-of-fact yet playful in fancy is its substance, and so immediate
is its village charm. He was proud of it as a piece of writing, and
justly enough, for though it may seem like one of the books of Lilliput,
it perfectly accomplishes its little life. The type once struck out in
this clear way, Hawthorne returned to it again and again, and always
with the same happiness in execution and the same delight in the thing
itself. In such a frame he would set the miniature of a day, as in "The
Toll-Gatherer's Day," or "Footprints on the Sea-Shore," or "Sunday at
Home;" or he would enclose a portrait, of Dutch faithfulness in detail,
and suggestive also of the school in other ways, as in "The Old Apple
Dealer," or with greater breadth of life, in "The Village Uncle." "A
Rill from the Town Pump" and "Main Street" belong to the same kind of
writing; and most akin to it, at least, are such mingled nature and home
pieces as "Snowflakes," "Buds and Bird Voices," and "Fire Worship."
These titles cover the whole period of the tales, but there is no change
in the manner or quality,--they are all of one kind.

To make sketches so slight as these interesting, much more to embalm
them in literature, requires some magical touch either in the hand of
the author or the heart of the reader. They are the thistledown of
literature, creatures of a contemplative idleness as pure as childhood's
own, the sun's impartial photography on the film of a rambler's eye; yet
in these few pages are condensed some thousands, probably, of
Hawthorne's days. The life they depict has been called barren, and the
literary product has been described as thin. "What triviality, what
monotony, what emptiness!" the critics exclaim. It is, indeed,
provincial; rusticity is its element. Hawthorne, however, did not choose
it, as a topic, for that reason, with a conscious intention to exploit
it. He could not have been aware, he could not have half known even, how
provincial it was, for he had never gone out of this countryside in
which he was bred, or become acquainted with a different world; even on
his journeys in stage-coaches he had not got free of it. The sketches
made no artificial appeal; they have the true flavor of the soil, and
are written for those who sprang from it and dwelt upon it and would be
buried in it. This is the charm that still clings to them, and indeed
pervades them like an aromatic odor in East Indian wood. They are true
transcripts of life, though vanished now from its place at least in that
region, which then enjoyed the seclusion of a nest of villages uninvaded
by railroads, and was nearer perhaps to Calcutta and Sumatra and the
Gold Coast than to New York. He was not so solitary and alone in this
life, after all. That part of New England was not far from being a
Forest of Arden, when Emerson might be met any day with a pail berrying
in the pastures, or Margaret Fuller reclining by a brook, or Hawthorne
on a high rock throwing stones at his own shadow in the water. There was
a Thoreau--there still is--in every New England village, usually
inglorious. The lone fisherman of the Isaak Walton type had become, in
the New World, the wood-walker, the flower-hunter, the bird-fancier, the
berry-picker, and many another variety of the modern ruralist. Hawthorne
might easily have found a companion or two of similar wandering habits
and half hermit-like intellectual life, though seldom so fortunate as to
be able to give themselves entirely up to vagrancy of mind, like
himself. Thoreau is, perhaps, the type, on the nature side; and
Hawthorne was to the village what Thoreau was to the wild wood.

The truth of these sketches is their prime quality, for Hawthorne wrote
them with the familiar affection and home-attachment of one who had
fleeted the golden time of his youth amid these scenes of common day,
and prolonged it far into manhood, and should never quite lose its glow
of mere existence, its kindliness for humble things, its generous
leisure for the perishable beauty of nature dotted here and there with
human life. It is a countrified scene that is disclosed, but this truth
which characterizes it, this fidelity of fact and sentiment and mood,
suggests new and deeper values,--a charm, a health, even a power comes
to the surface as one gazes, the power of peace in quiet places; and
even a cultivated man, if he be not callous with culture, may feel its
attractiveness, a sense that the tide of life grows full in the still
coves as well as on all the sounding beaches of the world; and an
existence in which the smell of peat-smoke is an event, and the sight of
some children paddling in the water is a day's memory, and the mere
drawing in of the salt sea wind is life itself, may seem as important in
its simplicity as the varied impressions of a day in the season. This
was Hawthorne's life; was it after all so valueless? He was well aware
that even the native moralist, though unenlightened, would call him to
account for wasting his time; and he made his apology after having
obeyed his mood:--

"Setting forth at my last ramble on a September morning, I bound myself
with a hermit's vow to interchange no thoughts with man or woman, to
share no social pleasure, but to derive all that day's enjoyment from
shore and sea and sky,--from my soul's communion with these, and from
fantasies and recollections, or anticipated realities. Surely here is
enough to feed a human spirit for a single day. Farewell, then, busy
world! Till your evening lights shall shine along the street,--till they
gleam upon my sea-flushed face as I tread homeward,--free me from your
ties, and let me be a peaceful outlaw.

"... But grudge me not the day that has been spent in seclusion, which
yet was not solitude, since the great sea has been my companion, and the
little sea-birds my friends, and the wind has told me his secrets, and
airy shapes have flitted around me in my hermitage. Such companionship
works an effect upon a man's character, as if he had been admitted to
the society of creatures that are not mortal. And when, at noontide, I
tread the crowded streets, the influence of this day will still be felt;
so that I shall walk among men kindly and as a brother, with affection
and sympathy, but yet shall not melt into the indistinguishable mass of
humankind. I shall think my own thoughts, and feel my own emotions, and
possess my individuality unviolated."

The apology seems adapted to the comprehension of the native moralist,
it must be confessed, and is only an afterthought; for Hawthorne enjoyed
his out-door life for its own sake, with little reference to its
ameliorating influence on his social behavior. It is his own life,
nothing more or less, that he thus describes, in the surroundings that
heaven vouchsafed to him for better or worse in the Salem streets, in
the Danvers lanes, by the coves of Marblehead, and along the western
river uplands or the winding seashore of Beverly beside the islands. If
he went far afield to Nantucket, he returned with "Chippings with a
Chisel;" if he took an umbrella for a walk in the rain at home, he
brought back "Night Sketches." Such was his place. His own delight in
this existence is noticeable, for it fitted his nature; in none of his
works is the pleasure of the author in writing them so marked a trait,
and in none does one come nearer to his natural self. They are complete
and intimate revelations of the life of his senses, the sounds and
sights and happenings of daily life. They pleased the readers he had at
that time in New England, because they were a faithful reproduction of
the commonplace, played upon by sentiment and slightly moralized, but
quite in the tone of the community; and all men like to see themselves
and their ways reflected in the mirror of words. They continue to yield
the same mild pleasure now, perhaps rather by virtue of a reminiscent
charm, for this life still exists on the horizons of memory as a part of
the days gone by. They belong with the literature of the old red
schoolhouse, the moss-covered bucket, and the barefoot boy,--they are of
a past that was countrified and old-fashioned, and are its best record;
and even in the style, the mode of conception, they have the look of
antiquated things. Their nearness to the school has been adverted to;
the cognate piece, "A Bell's Biography," has the completeness of a boy's
composition; there is a touch of nonage in them all, intellectually. In
this, too, they are true to the time. Things provincial seen by a
provincial mind and set forth by a provincial art,--such are these
delicately minute sketches; and unless one takes them so, he misses
their excellence, their virtue, the vitality they have. Life in the
provinces, however, is also a divine gift, and its values have seldom
been better portrayed, its breadth, its narrowness, its shadings through
sunshine and nightfall, its sentiment, its miscellaneousness, its
weariness; but its controlling characteristic is its rural peace, such
as one likes to see in a painting on the wall for year-long
contemplation, and if this be broken, it is with real tragedy, disasters
of the sea, or such an inland story as the drowning of the young woman
at Concord so accurately told in the "Note-Books." Hawthorne's
personality counts for much, too, in these pieces, as Irving's also does
in his sketches. The sense of a kindly temperament, hospitable to all
that lives and is in the dusty world, is felt like a touch of nature
making us akin to the writer; the classic quality of the prose itself
gilds all with sunshine; and one only needs love of the soil to complete
the charm.

These records of memory and sentiment, however, belong to Hawthorne's
ocular observation, in the main, and to the exterior sphere of his art.
It is in the historical tales that his imagination first acts with
seeing power; and here, too, the story by which he preferred to be
known, "The Gentle Boy," stands out, though its prominence is rather a
matter of priority than of distinction, for it is the fruit of his
sympathies more than of his imagination. The remembrance of his
ancestor's share in the persecution of the Quakers may have suggested
the theme, and specially drawn out his own gentleness in the treatment.
The singularity of the tale is partly due to the fascination of the
child's name, Ilbrahim, which brings before the mind an eastern
background, emphasizes his loneliness, and gives a suggestion of
Scriptural charm to the narrative. One almost expects to see palm-trees
growing up over him. He is, however, not individualized,--he is the
universal orphan child; nor does it require any stretch of fancy to see
in him the Christchild that St. Christopher bore over the river, for so
might that Child have come into this wilderness preaching the eternal
lesson. The pathetic story is a fable of piety, in fact, and is somewhat
nervelessly handled for reality; the figures seem to glide in their
motions, they are not quite set on the earth, they are impalpable except
in their emotions. The facts lack firmness, though the feeling is
wrought out with truth and refinement and makes an irresistible appeal
of pity. It is, however, rather in the second historical tale which
Hawthorne chose to stand as his pseudonym of authorship, "The Gray
Champion," that he finds the type whose method he afterward repeats
while developing it more richly. This tale is a picture, a scene, ending
in a tableau; the surrounding stir of life, excitement, and atmosphere
is first prepared, then the procession comes down the street, and is
arrested, challenged, and thrown back by the venerable figure of the old
Puritan who stands alone, like a prophet come back from the dead to
deliver the people. The composition, the development, the focusing are
in Scott's manner; it is from him that this dramatic presentation of
history in a single scene, as here, or by a succession of scenes
carrying on a story, is derived; partly pictorial, partly theatrical,
always dramatic, this is the method which Hawthorne applied, the art of
"The Author of Waverley," who was its great master in English fiction.
"Endicott and the Red Cross" is a small study of the same sort; and in
that sketch, and elsewhere, it is noticeable that in bearing and
language the characters resemble the Covenanters, as Scott fixed the
type in literature, more than they recall the real New England Puritans.
Hawthorne's interest in colonial history found its most complete early
expression in the "Tales of the Province House," in which he for once
succeeded in grouping a series in a natural and effective way so as to
make a larger whole. "Sir William Howe's Masquerade" is told by a
succession of scenes, quite in the manner described, and the suggestion
of mystery, the supernatural intention felt in the incident though not
explicitly present in the fact, which in this story attends the last
descending figure of the line of royal governors, as it also attended
the figure of the Gray Champion, is also in Scott's manner, though more
subtly effected. In "Edward Randolph's Portrait" the appearance of the
picture on the faded canvas is mechanically accounted for, but at the
moment of its discovery this same supernatural expectancy, as it were,
is aroused in the beholders; the incident itself recalls the appearance
of the portrait of old Lord Ravenswood at the marriage ball of "The
Bride of Lammermoor," though the analogy may very likely never have
occurred to Hawthorne. "Old Esther Dudley" is hardly more than a
character portrait,--the memory of the Province House and all it stood
for preserved in the devotion of the old servant into whose life it had
passed and whose spirit it occupied like a reliquary of old time. The
best of these four tales is "Lady Eleanore's Mantle," and it is so
because in it Hawthorne's genius passed out of the sphere of history and
touched on that universal moral world where his most original creation
was to lie. It is necessary here only to observe that in this tale he
has fully seized the power of the physical object, plainly sensible to
all as matter of fact, to serve as the medium for moral suggestion often
difficult to put into words, of that sort whose effect is rather in the
feelings than in thought; and this, without turning the object into an
express symbol. The mantle of Lady Eleanore is a garment of pride, and
also a garment of death in its dread form of pestilence; the story
continually returns to it, as its physical theme, and the imagination
fixes upon it by a kind of fascination, as through it the double aspect
of Lady Eleanore's isolation is sensibly clothed, her haughtiness and
her contagion, whose fatal bond is in this mantle, which finally seems
not only to express her life but to rule her tragedy. Here one feels a
new power, because while Hawthorne still retains the method of narration
he had adopted, he has enriched it with an art and genius distinctly his
own. In another tale,--which is provincial if not historical, and which
was one of his earlier pieces,--"Roger Malvin's Burial," there is also a
noticeable beginning in his art, for in this he uses undesigned
coincidence to give that impression of a guided accomplishment of fate,
which is so dramatically effective to the moral sense. From these few
instances it will be observed that Hawthorne reached artistic
consciousness, and a mastery of aim and method, slowly and along no one
line of development; rather his genius seemingly put forth many
tendrils, seeking direction and support and growth, and gradually in
these hundred tales he found himself and his art.

History assisted Hawthorne's imagination in its operation by affording
that firmness and distinctness of outline which was most needed in his
work; it gave body to his creations, but in his most characteristic and
original tales this body was not to be one of external fact, but of
moral thought. His genius contained a primary element of reflection, of
meditation on life, of the abstract; and while his imagination might
take its start and find an initial impulse, an occasion, in some
concrete object on which it fastened, its course in working itself out
was governed by this abstract moral intention. In dealing with life
directly, and not through history, the tales which are at the least
remove from mere observation are those that were immediately suggested
by his journeys and embody these experiences in their background if not
in the whole; such are "The Seven Vagabonds" and the two Shaker
episodes, "The Canterbury Pilgrims" and "A Shaker Bridal." His
experiments in the grotesque style, "Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe" and
"Mrs. Bullfrog," can be left one side, for they never passed the stage
of amateurish weakness, and led to nothing. His meditation on life
sometimes centres about an individual, but this is only seeming; his
real interest was always in collective life or in the atmosphere round
about all lives. To take a simple case, but one typical of his point of
view and method, "The Haunted Mind" is a study in the night-atmosphere
of the human soul, in a certain state, and is rendered with the
vividness of personal experience. "Fancy's Show-Box" is a more
individualized variant of the same motive, and yet its substance is the
frankly abstract question of responsibility for guilt which is not acted
but only entertained; and as in this tale the story is of the sins that
hover round the soul waiting to be born, so in "David Swan" the story is
of the events that might happen to an unsuspecting man, but pass by
innocuous after merely shadowing his sleep like a threat. To this
atmosphere of life also belongs the elaborate shadow sketch, "Monsieur
de Miroir," a motive often treated in literature and here more lightly
handled than one would have anticipated, and hence more ineffectively,
for Hawthorne's power did not lie in his playfulness of fancy so much as
in its darker workings. Hawthorne let his mind brood over these
possibilities of life, these half-vital acts, thoughts, and beings, like
fears in an anxious mind, things that have only partial being, but are
real enough at times to trouble the mind's eye. A touch of this
atmosphere of unreality is found, also, in such a tale as "Wakefield,"
the story of the man who disappeared from his place in life though he
remained in the neighborhood unknown; the main theme is rather the man
cut off from life, which Hawthorne so often recurred to, but the element
of life's contingency, the nearness of an event that might happen but
never does, is what makes the strangeness of this curious study.

In approaching life itself in its individual forms, the slightness of
Hawthorne's attempt in the earlier pieces is very marked. A good example
of it is "The Wives of the Dead." Two wives, who suppose their husbands
have been lost at sea, are told separately at different hours of the
night, in the house they occupy together, that the lost has been saved;
each believing the other a widow leaves her to sleep. Here are merely
two dramatic moments described and opposed, a perfect example of
likeness in difference on a small scale, done with great truth to
nature; the sketch is finely wrought, and gains by its intense
condensation of situation and its brief single mood. Two such moments,
in his simpler tales, Hawthorne was accustomed to take, and treat by
opposition; the power lies in the contrast. Such, to give examples, are
"The White Old Maid," "Edward Fane's Rosebud," and with less
distinctness, "The Wedding Knell," where the contrast goes back to lost
youth for effect. In the very artificial fable, which has elements of
the fairy story in it, "The Three-fold Destiny," there is this simple
construction, and it is found also in "The Prophetic Pictures," though
that tale is primarily a study in the idea of fate, a subject seldom
touched by Hawthorne, the notion of an inevitable destiny foreseen by
the painter's intuition and forecast on the canvas, but implicit from
the beginning in character. In all these tales scene, situation, and
character, as well as the dialogue, are handled with little variation;
pictorial and dramatic effects are sought, and the slight plot is
developed, by the means usual to Hawthorne's hand. The allegorizing
method, it should be observed, though it appears with greater or less
influence, is not employed with any exclusiveness, but takes its place
with other resources of his art. In "The Great Carbuncle," however, and
in "The Man of Adamant," the allegory is predominant and absorbs the
tale. Perhaps it is as an offshoot of this allegorizing mood that the
tales of pure fancy should be regarded, those masque-like inventions, "A
Select Party" and "The Hall of Fantasy," together with "The Intelligence
Office" and "A Virtuoso's Collection," also remnants of old-fashioned
ingenuity. In such fantasy Hawthorne found a better channel for that
play of his mind which had earlier sought expression in the grotesque;
oddity of thought he had in plenty, and the sense of oddity was often as
far as his humorous faculty reached, for it was perceptive rather than

Of collective life, frankly so treated, Hawthorne wrote frequently,--the
group is an important one. The crowd attracted him by its polarity to
his own solitude, and it is curious to observe how fond he was of the
processional in his work. The simple illustration of this sort is "The
Procession of Life;" here he marshals mankind, as with the power of a
magician's rod, in hordes. In "The New Adam and Eve" he reviews society
in its institutions and its garniture of civilization; and the
conception is a happy device by which to obtain the requisite distance
and wholeness for a single point of view. "Earth's Holocaust," though
superficially different, is a variant of the same theme, presenting the
product of life in masses; its inclusion of the indestructibility of the
good is noticeable as a philosophical idea such as he rarely introduced
in an explicit way. The felicitous allegory of "The Celestial Railroad"
satirizes human nature without bitterness; but, while the universality
of Bunyan's emblems is strikingly shown by the ease with which they are
adapted to the new age of steam, the tale is, as it were, music
transposed; the cleverness is Hawthorne's, but Bunyan wrote the piece.
These four tales, admirable as they are in breadth, are nevertheless
essentially reflective. The imaginative group of the same scope is of a
higher rank. In it the general life is set forth with more
individuality, though life in the abstract still occupies the
foreground. To set aside such a moral parable as "The Lily's Quest," or
such an illustration of the power of love to raise a man above himself
temporarily as "Drowne's Wooden Image," or such a study of isolation as
"The Man of Adamant," in all of which the didacticism is rather nakedly
felt, there are two tales that equally exemplify this class, "Dr.
Heidegger's Experiment" and "The Christmas Banquet." In the first the
ghastliness of the reversal of the course of life backward, as the
guests drink the elixir of youth, while it suggests the paltriness of
our pleasures, is a powerful lesson in the beneficence of that daily
death whereby we resign the past; this rejuvenation violates nature, and
so shocks us, and by the very shock we are reconciled with nature, from
which we had parted in thought. "The Christmas Banquet" is one of the
most artistically conceived of all the tales, though its subject repels
us; the wretchedness of life is shown in the persons of numerous guests
through a succession of years, with the effect of a multiplicity of
instances; yet at the end it is found that the worst wretch of all is
the constant guest with the cold, unfeeling heart,--the climax of misery
is not to have lived at all. The tale is carefully composed, especially
in those points of keeping, balance, and contrast in which Hawthorne was
expert, yet by some misadventure it fails to interpret itself clearly.
In proportion, however, as imagination enters into these stories under
the impulse of the artistic faculty, it will be seen that they lend
themselves less readily to such definite classification as has thus far
been attempted; the various elements of Hawthorne's genius and art draw
together and combine, and in the group that remains to be noticed his
originality is most conspicuous, and this requires a more flexible
treatment, though without exception these tales fall under the head of
the general life set forth reflectively in the forms of concrete

Probably in no one point is Hawthorne's peculiarity so obviously marked
as in the persistency with which he clings to a physical image, vividly
impressing it upon the mind, like a text which gathers atmosphere and
discloses significance under the special treatment of the preacher. It
is said that he had, artistically, the allegorizing temperament, and he
in fact did use all those forms of imagery--the fable, apologue,
parable--which belong to this mode of presentation; but in his most
effective work the allegory is more subtly embodied,--it exists in
suggestion, and its appeal is as much emotional as didactic. The nucleus
of this new mystery is the physical object that he seizes upon and in
which his imagination works as if it were clay, recreating it so that it
becomes more than pure symbol, as has been illustrated in "Lady
Eleanore's Mantle;" and sometimes it is almost vitalized into a life of
its own. This power of such an object to become the medium of thought
and emotion as well as to convey merely allegorical meaning he gradually
discovered; and doubtless he especially valued its function to afford by
its crude definiteness a balance to the tenuous and impalpable, the
vagueness, refinement, and mystery, to which it is the complement, in
his art; he gains reality by its presence for what else, as a whole,
might seem too insubstantial, too much a part of that shadow world in
which he dreaded to dwell altogether.

Such an object is, at all events, a necessity for him in his greater
work. A crude form of it is the snake, in the tale of "The Bosom
Serpent," one of those "allegories of the heart" which he apparently
meant to write in a series of which he never found the key. The idea is
an old one; the man with a snake in his bosom is a hypochondriac, who by
centring his thoughts on himself has developed this fancy and is
tortured by it. The cure is wrought when he forgets himself in returning
to the love of his wife. The almost physical dismissal of the serpent
into the fountain, which is neither averred nor denied, like a devil
cast out as in old times, is puerile; but Hawthorne was, in other tales,
not averse to a naturalistic explanation of his mysteries, as if a basis
of matter of fact, however irrelevant essentially, gave more
plausibility to their truth. If the snake is "egotism," if it is the
torture of self in a man, if its cure is the loss of self in love, then
making the snake real and physical is absurdity; medicine and morals are
confounded; the scientific fact has nothing to do with the artistic
meaning and is a concession to the gross senses of the reader. The story
illustrates the method, rather than its successful application; for the
physical horror is really greater here than the moral revulsion. In "The
Minister's Black Veil" the object is more happily dealt with. It is to
be noticed that Hawthorne did not invent these objects, he found them;
and, in this case, he has used the tradition of an old Puritan minister
of the past age. He uses the veil to typify man's concealment of himself
from others, even the nearest; and while it visibly isolates the
minister among his fellow-men, it finally unites him with them in a
single lot; for to the mind's eye, educated by this image to a new power
of seeing, all men wear this veil; humanity is clothed with it in life,
and moulders away beneath it in the grave, whither its secrets are
carried. The seeming exception is found to be the rule; the horror
attaching to the one unseen face is now felt in all faces; the race is
veiled, and the bit of crape has fallen like the blackness of night upon
all life, for life has become a thing of darkness, a concealment. Here
the moral idea is predominant, and in it the symbol issues into its full

Hawthorne's art became always, not only more vividly symbolized, but
more deeply moralized. The secrecy of men's bosoms was a matter that
interested him very much; the idea had a fascination for him. It is the
substance of the tale of "Young Goodman Brown," who goes to the witches'
Sabbath in the Essex woods and there sees those who have taught him
religion, the righteous and the good, men and women, and his own
wife,--sees them or their devil-brewed phantasms; he calls on heaven,
and finds himself suddenly alone; but when he returns to the village,
and looks again on the venerable fathers and mothers of his childhood
and his own tender and loving wife, he cannot free his mind from the
doubt,--were they what they seemed or had he indeed beheld them there in
the woods at their orgy? It is as if for him the veil were lifted, and
he alone saw, like omniscience, into the bosoms of all. Suspicion,
arising from his own contact with evil, though he escaped, has imparted
the look of hypocrisy to all life; this is his bedevilment. Here the
place of the physical object is taken by the incident of the woods, and
the moral idea is less clearly stated; the story is one of those whose
significance is felt to contain mystery which Hawthorne meant to remain
in its dark state.

In "The Birthmark" the physical object is again found as the initial
point of the tale and the guiding clue of the imagination in working it
out. The situation presents the opposition of the love of science to
human love, but no conflict is described, because the first is the
master passion from the beginning, and, being indulged, leads to the
loss of the second in the death of the wife, who perishes in having the
birthmark removed. The moral idea, as not unfrequently happens, seems to
flake off from the tale, like the moral of the old fable, and is to the
effect that imperfection belongs to mortal life, and if it is removed
wholly mortality must go with it; and the lesson is of the acceptance of
imperfection in what men love, as a permanent condition, and indeed
almost as the humanizing feature, of earthly life. It is noticeable that
the clergyman, the physician, and the artist are the only specific types
that attracted Hawthorne; he held them all romantically, and science he
conceived as alchemy. This same predisposition appears in "Rappaccini's
Daughter;" she was the experiment of her father in creating a live
poison-woman, a vitalized flower, the Dryad as it were of the
poison-tree humanized in mortal shape; the physical object is here the
flowering tree, with its heavy fragrance; and the plot lies only in the
gradual transformation of the young man by continuous and unconscious
inoculation until he is drawn into the circle of death to share the
woman's isolation as a lover, both being shut off from their kind by the
poison atmosphere that exhales from them; the catastrophe lies in the
moral idea that for such poison there is no antidote but death, and the
lady dies in drinking the draught that should free her. The fact that
Hawthorne, when writing the story, said he did not know how it would
end, is interesting as indicating that his literary habit was to let the
story tell itself from within according to its impulses, and not to
shape it from without by his own predetermined purpose; a pure
allegorist, it may be observed, would have followed naturally the latter
method. This may account for the indefiniteness and mystery of effect
often felt, as well as for the inartistic didacticism in the concluding
sentences, frequently to be observed, where it appears as one or more
afterthoughts possibly to be drawn from the story, but not exhausting
its moral significance. In this case, powerful as the tale is, the moral
intention is left vague, though except as a parable the invention is

In the last story to be instanced, "The Artist of the Beautiful," the
lucidity of the parable is complete. The physical object is the
butterfly; on its wings the tale moves, and perishes in its destruction.
The moral idea lies in the exposition of achievement as a freeing of the
artist's soul so that his work has become a thing of indifference to
him, let its fortunes be what they will,--it is the dead chrysalis from
which he has escaped; and the isolation of the artist's life is set
forth pathetically but with no suggestion of evil in it, for though the
world has rejected him he lives in his own world in the calm of victory.
No tale is so delicately wrought as this; in it the symbolism, which is
carried out in minute and precise detail, the moral significance, which
is as clear as it is deep, and the presence of a spiritual world in life
for which a visible language is found, are all present, in harmonious
blending; and it has the added and rare charm of happiness without loss
of truth. It is unique; and if one were to choose a single tale, best
representing Hawthorne's powers, methods, and successes, technically and
temperamentally as well as in imaginative reach and spiritual appeal, it
is by this he should be known.

In these six tales in which Hawthorne's originality is most
characteristically expressed, the idea of isolation is common to all;
like the secrecy of men's bosoms, this solitude in life is a fixed idea
in his imagination, an integral part of life as it was viewed by him,
and he seldom freed his attention from it even temporarily. On the other
hand, sin, conscience, evil, though their realm is felt to be a
neighboring province, are not here directly dealt with. His probings in
that sphere belong to a later time. These tales, like the others, are
studies of life, not of the evil principle by itself as a thing of
special interest; they view life as lying under a shadow, it is true,
but this shadow is their atmosphere, not their world. The point should
be defined, perhaps more explicitly: the Calvinism of New England, its
interest in the perversion of man's will, his sinful state, and the
mysterious modes of salvation, is not the region of Hawthorne's
imagination, as here disclosed. It is enough to note this, here, as
bearing on his representative character. The most surprising thing,
however, is that his genius is found to be so purely objective; he
himself emphasized the objectivity of his art. From the beginning, as
has been said, he had no message, no inspiration welling up within him,
no inward life of his own that sought expression. He was not even
introspective. He was primarily a moralist, an observer of life, which
he saw as a thing of the outside, and he was keen in observation, cool,
interested. If there was any mystery in his tales, it was in the object,
not in the author's breast; he makes no confessions either direct or
indirect,--he describes the thing he sees. He maintained that his tales
were perfectly intelligible, and he meant this to apply not only to
style but to theme. It is best to cite his own testimony. His personal
temper is indicated in the fragmentary phrase in the "Note-Books;" "not
that I have any love of mystery, but because I abhor it," he writes; and
again in the oft-quoted passage, he describes perfectly the way in which
his nature cooperated with his art to give the common ground of human
sympathy, but without anything peculiar to himself being called into

"A cloudy veil stretches over the abyss of my nature. I have, however,
no love of secrecy and darkness. I am glad to think that God sees
through my heart, and, if any angel has power to penetrate into it, he
is welcome to know everything that is there. Yes, and so may any mortal
who is capable of full sympathy, and therefore worthy to come into my
depths. But he must find his own way there. I can neither guide nor
enlighten him. It is this involuntary reserve, I suppose, that has given
the objectivity to my writings; and when people think that I am pouring
myself out in a tale or an essay, I am merely telling what is common to
human nature, not what is peculiar to myself. I sympathize with them,
not they with me."

In the preface to "Twice-Told Tales," which however was prefixed to a
late edition and may be fairly held to cover his view of his tales in
general, he directs attention to their objectivity in another form:--

"The sketches are not, it is hardly necessary to say, profound; but it
is rather more remarkable that they so seldom, if ever, show any design
on the writer's part to make them so. They have none of the abstruseness
of idea or obscurity of expression which mark the written communications
of a solitary mind with itself. They never need translation. It is, in
fact, the style of a man of society. Every sentence, so far as it
embodies thought or sensibility, may be understood and felt by anybody
who will give himself the trouble to read it, and will take up the book
in a proper mood."

A little further on he adds his statement of what the sketches both are
and are not:--

"They are not the talk of a secluded man with his own mind and heart
(had it been so, they could hardly have failed to be more deeply and
permanently valuable), but his attempts, and very imperfectly successful
ones, to open an intercourse with the world."

To Hawthorne himself these tales seemed so external; and his analysis,
however much may be allowed for modesty in the statement, appears to be

Hawthorne left himself out of his work, so far as a man can. Indeed, his
own life was neither vigorous nor one of much variety of faculty,
outside of his art. He had the indolence of the meditative habit, or of
the artistic nature, if one chooses to call it so. He clearly spent a
great deal of time doing nothing in particular; he read, observed the
world of the passing seasons, made long memoranda of nature and human
nature and short notes of ideas for tales and sketches, and had in fact
large leisure, except in the years when he was in the Boston Custom
House, and he was not without leisure even then. He shows no inclination
toward scholarship, but was a desultory reader of English, with some
French; he had no intellectual interests, apparently, of a philosophical
kind; the aloofness in which he stood from Longfellow and Emerson, for
example, was not shyness of nature wholly, but stood for the real
aloofness of his mind from their ways of life, from the things that
absorbed them in their poetic and speculative activity; it is but
another example, if it is added that he took no interest in public
affairs, truly speaking. He was a Democrat, but that does not fully
account for his indifference to those philanthropies which his literary
friends shared; for, as a party man, he was not zealous. His nature was
torpid in all these ways; there was dullness of temperament,
indifference to all except the one thing in which he truly lived, his
artistic nature; and here he was an observer, using an objective method
with as little indebtedness to personal experience as ever artist had.
His reserve amounted to suppression; and, in fact, his personal life was
not of the sort that must find a voice. He seemed to feel that the
"Twice-Told Tales," at least, which he described as "memorials of
tranquil and not unhappy years," had contracted some faintness of life
from their author's mind, as if a low vital tone characterized them,
owing to his incapacity to yield himself with fullness of power even to
this reflective or creative art:--

"They have the pale tint of flowers that blossomed in too retired a
shade,--the coolness of a meditative habit, which diffuses itself
through the feeling and observation of every sketch. Instead of passion
there is sentiment; and, even in what purport to be pictures of actual
life, we have allegory, not always so warmly dressed in its habiliments
of flesh and blood as to be taken into the reader's mind without a
shiver. Whether from lack of power, or an unconquerable reserve, the
Author's touches have often an effect of tameness; the merriest man can
hardly contrive to laugh at his broadest humor; the tenderest woman, one
would suppose, will hardly shed warm tears at his deepest pathos. The
book, if you would see anything in it, requires to be read in the clear,
brown, twilight atmosphere in which it was written; if opened in the
sunshine, it is apt to look exceedingly like a volume of blank pages."

This is, of course, the natural overstatement of an author whose work
has gone from him and seems less vital because he has outlived it; but
nevertheless it contains sound judgment as to the limitations of his

But notwithstanding Hawthorne's objectivity and reserve, of which he
justly makes so much, and the low vital tone of his work, resulting from
whatever cause, he did not altogether escape from himself in his art;
his shadow followed him into that world. The "clear brown twilight
atmosphere" of which he speaks was an affair of temperament; it exhaled
from his personality. That recurring idea of isolation, the sense of the
secrecy of men's bosoms, the perception of life as always lying in the
shadow that falls on it, proceeded from predilections of his own,
differentiating him from other men; there may have been no very perilous
stuff in his breast, nothing to confess or record peculiar to himself in
act or experience, no intensity of self-life, but there was this
temperament of the solitary brooder upon life. In that common fund of
human nature which he said was the basis of sympathy between himself and
the world, there was also some specialization, which is rightly ascribed
to his race qualities. He took practically no interest in life except as
seen under its moral aspects as a life of the soul; and this absorption
in the moral sphere was due to his being a child of New England. It was
his inheritance from Puritanism. What distinguished Puritan life and the
people who grew up under its influences was an intense self-
consciousness of life in the soul,--in a word, spirituality of life;
and Hawthorne, as he came to find himself in his growth, disclosed
one form of this spirituality both reflectively and imaginatively in his
writings, the form that lived in him. The moral world, the supremacy of
the soul's interests, how life fared in the soul, was his region; he
thought about nothing else. He desired to present what he saw through
the medium of romantic art, but he was never able to be wholly content
with this medium; he desired to make assurance doubly sure by expressing
it in its abstract moral terms also, either explicitly in an idea which
shows through the story, or else imperfectly in an allegory or symbol
where the moral element should be definitely felt in its intellectual,
its unartistic form. The fact that this abstract element really
outvalues the tale and its characters is shown, for example, by the lack
of interest one feels in the future of his characters, in what becomes
of them at the end of the story; they are lost from the mind, because
their function is fulfilled in illustrating an idea; and, that once
conveyed, the characters cease to have life,--they disappear, like the
man of science or the artist of the beautiful, into the background of
the general world; they fade out. It is by this abstract moral element
that Hawthorne's art is universalized.

His manner, it must be acknowledged, retains provinciality; in the best
of the tales, just as in those sketches of observation in Salem, there
is something countrified in the mode of handling, something archaic and
stiff in the literary mould, something awkward, cramped, and bare in the
way his art works in its main motions, however felicitous in word and
fall is the garment of prose as language. There is a lack of urban ease,
certainty, and perfection of manner. The limitation, however, stops
there. The world in which the artist works is the universal world of
man's nature, just as much as is Shakespeare's. He escapes from
provincialism here, in the substance, because he was a New Englander,
not in spite of that fact; for the spirituality which is the central
fact of New England life itself escapes from provincialism, being a pure
expression of that Christianity in which alone true cosmopolitanism is
found, of that faith which presents mankind as one and indivisible.
Hence arises in Hawthorne a second distinctly Puritan trait, his
democracy. He looks only at the soul; all outward distinctions of rank
and place, fortune, pride, poverty, disappear as unconcerning things; he
sees all men as in the light of the judgment day. He does this
naturally, too, almost without knowing it, so inbred in him is that
preconception of the Christian soul, whose moral fortune constitutes
alone the significance of life. In these ways the race element, the New
England element, is shown; from it springs the moral prepossession of
his art, its universal quality, and its democratic substance. This was
the nucleus of inheritance and breeding, which together with his
temperament governs his art from within, even amid all its personal
reserve and its objectivity. The gradually increasing power of these
elements gave his tales greater intensity and reach, and was to lift his
romances to another level; for what was inchoate and experimental in the
tales, in many ways, was to receive a new and greater development in his
later work, on which his world-wide fame rests. The tales had not
brought him fame; as yet, his audience was small, and confined to New
England. He had advanced so far as to seem like one talking to his
friends, instead of, as at first, one talking to himself in a dark
place, as he said; but recognition, such as he desired, he had not
obtained. There is certainly some irritation in his repeated references
to the early neglect he felt from the public, at the time when, as he
says, he "was for a good many years the obscurest man of letters in
America." He thought this lack of appreciation palsied his efforts, so
that he did not do what he might have done, and it may have been the
case; but before the days when he wrote "The Artist of the Beautiful" he
must have learned that one must serve the Muses for themselves alone.



Amid the hard conditions of his life at Concord Hawthorne had decided to
place himself again under the aegis of his political friends to earn his
living as a public officer. He had no confidence in his literary
capacity as a means of livelihood. He found himself, he says, unable to
write more than a third of the time, and he composed slowly and with
difficulty; he refers more than once to that hatred of the pen which
belongs to a tired writer, and he was frequently indisposed to
composition for long periods; and, in any event, he thought that what he
wrote must appeal necessarily to so small an audience that, should he
continue to devote himself exclusively to a literary career, he must do
so as a professional hack-writer of children's books, translations,
newspaper essays, and such miscellaneous drudgery. His habits, formed in
his years at Salem, included an element of large leisure, an indulgence
of one's self in times and seasons of mental activity, a certain
lethargy of life; and he had not shown any power of sustained production
in the monotony of daily work for bread. He felt a dread of such
necessity. "God keep me," he writes to Hillard before this time, "from
ever being really a writer for bread!" The only alternative for him was

The election of Polk to the Presidency gave his friends the opening, and
the campaign to secure an appointment was begun. Bridge, then living in
bachelor quarters at Portsmouth Navy Yard, conceived the rather daring
idea of a sailor house-party with Hawthorne as its centre, for the
purpose of making him acquainted with the political group in whose hands
influence lay; and, if it be remembered that the Hawthornes had not
spent an evening out for years, and still continued their seclusive
life, the proposition may well seem a bold stroke. The party, however,
gathered in the summer of 1845; Franklin Pierce and his wife, Senator
Atherton and his wife, of New Hampshire, and Senator Fairfield of Maine,
to mention the notables, were the principal guests, and there were
several others, making a greater company than Hawthorne had been thrown
with since he lodged at Brook Farm. It was an informal naval picnic,
apparently, of two or three weeks, and Bridge thought that its main
object of popularizing Hawthorne with the Senators was attained. The
point of attack was the Salem Post Office, but this proved
impracticable, and attention was turned to the Custom House, where
either the surveyorship or the naval office might be got. Meanwhile
Bancroft offered him a clerkship in the Charlestown Navy Yard, which he
declined. He was sufficiently sure of success to make him remove from
Concord to Salem to reside, and early in October he was established
again in the old chamber of his youth, having decided to share his
mother's house for the present. He spent his time in writing the
introductory sketch of the Old Manse, and in seeing the "Mosses" through
the press. The appointment lagged, owing to local complications in the
party, but an arrangement was finally made which was agreeable to all
concerned, so that Hawthorne took office without enmity from
disappointed candidates who would have benefited if he had not appeared
upon the scene backed by what must have been locally regarded as outside
interference. He received notice of his nomination as surveyor on March
23, 1846, and it was described "as decidedly popular with the party," as
well as with men of letters and the community; he soon took charge of
the office, those who had made way for him were appointed inspectors
under him, and he entered on the enjoyment of a salary of twelve hundred

It was indeed a singular chance of life that had transformed the recluse
romancer of the silent Herbert Street house, where for all the years of
early manhood he had lived unnoticed and almost unknown, into the high
business official of the Custom House, the lofty neighbor of that humble
dwelling, on whose wide granite steps, columned portico, and emblematic
eagle, with the flag over all, he must have looked so often with never a
thought that there was to be his distinguished place in the world of
men; and yet Hawthorne, on coming into this office, seems to have been
pleased with a sense of making a part of Salem as his ancestors had done
in the old days. He did not love Salem, but genuine truth gives body to
those passages of autobiography in which he claims his parentage and
kinship and seems writing the obituary of his race there, in connection
with his memories of the Custom House. He knew himself a story-teller
whom these ancestors would little approve, for all his mask as the
surveyor, but in his official place he felt himself a Salemite with some
peculiar thoroughness; and, familiar as the passage is, no other words
can take the place of his own expression of this sense of rootedness in
the soil, which is so close to the secret of his genius:--

"This old town of Salem--my native place, though I have dwelt much away
from it, both in boyhood and maturer years--possesses, or did possess, a
hold on my affections, the force of which I have never realized during
my seasons of actual residence here. Indeed, so far as its physical
aspect is concerned, with its flat, unvaried surface, covered chiefly
with wooden houses, few or none of which pretend to architectural
beauty,--its irregularity, which is neither picturesque nor quaint, but
only tame,--its long and lazy street lounging wearisomely through the
whole extent of the peninsula, with Gallows Hill and New Guinea at one
end, and a view of the almshouse at the other,--such being the features
of my native town, it would be quite as reasonable to form a sentimental
attachment to a disarranged checkerboard. And yet, though invariably
happiest elsewhere, there is within me a feeling for old Salem, which,
in lack of a better phrase, I must be content to call affection. The
sentiment is probably assignable to the deep and aged roots which my
family has struck into the soil. It is now nearly two centuries and a
quarter since the original Briton, the earliest emigrant of my name,
made his appearance in the wild and forest-bordered settlement, which
has since become a city. And here his descendants have been born and
died, and have mingled their earthly substance with the soil, until no
small portion of it must necessarily be akin to the mortal frame
wherewith, for a little while, I walk the streets. In part, therefore,
the attachment which I speak of is the mere sensuous sympathy of dust
for dust. Few of my countrymen can know what it is; nor, as frequent
transplantation is perhaps better for the stock, need they consider it
desirable to know.

"But the sentiment has likewise its moral quality. The figure of that
first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and dusky
grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination, as far back as I can
remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with
the past, which I scarcely claim in reference to the present phase of
the town. I seem to have a stronger claim to a residence here on account
of this grave, bearded, sable-cloaked and steeple-crowned
progenitor,--who came so early, with his Bible and his sword, and trode
the unworn street with such a stately port, and made so large a figure,
as a man of war and peace,--a stronger claim than for myself, whose name
is seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier, legislator,
judge; he was a ruler in the Church; he had all the Puritanic traits,
both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter persecutor, as witness the
Quakers, who have remembered him in their histories, and relate an
incident of his hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will
last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds,
although these were many. His son, too, inherited the persecuting
spirit, and made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches,
that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him. So
deep a stain, indeed, that his old dry bones, in the Charter Street
burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly
to dust!... Let them scorn me as they will, strong traits of their
nature have intertwined themselves with mine.

"Planted deep, in the town's earliest infancy and childhood, by these
two earnest and energetic men, the race has ever since subsisted here,--
always, too, in respectability; never, so far as I have known, disgraced
by a single unworthy member; but seldom or never, on the other hand,
after the first two generations, performing any memorable deed, or so
much as putting forward a claim to public notice. Gradually, they have
sunk almost out of sight, as old houses, here and there about the
streets, get covered halfway to the eaves by the accumulation of new
soil. From father to son, for above a hundred years, they followed the
sea; a gray-headed shipmaster, in each generation, retiring from the
quarter-deck to the homestead, while a boy of fourteen took the
hereditary place before the mast, confronting the salt spray and the
gale, which had blustered against his sire and grandsire. The boy, also,
in due time, passed from the forecastle to the cabin, spent a
tempestuous manhood, and returned from his world-wanderings, to grow
old, and die, and mingle his dust with the natal earth. This long
connection of a family with one spot, as its place of birth and burial,
creates a kindred between the human being and the locality, quite
independent of any charm in the scenery or moral circumstances that
surround him. It is not love, but instinct. The new inhabitant--who came
himself from a foreign land, or whose father or grandfather came--has
little claim to be called a Salemite; he has no conception of the
oysterlike tenacity with which an old settler, over whom his third
century is creeping, clings to the spot where his successive generations
have been imbedded. It is no matter that the place is joyless for him;
that he is weary of the old wooden houses, the mud and dust, the dead
level of site and sentiment, the chill east wind, and the dullest of
social atmospheres,--all these, and whatever faults besides he may see
or imagine, are nothing to the purpose. The spell survives, and just as
powerfully as if the natal spot were an earthly paradise. So has it been
in my case. I felt it almost as a destiny to make Salem my home; so that
the mould of features and cast of character which had all along been
familiar here--ever, as one representative of the race lay down in his
grave, another assuming, as it were, his sentry-march along the main
street--might still in my little day be seen and recognized in the old
town.... On emerging from the Old Manse, it was chiefly this strange,
indolent, unjoyous attachment for my native town that brought me to fill
a place in Uncle Sam's brick edifice, when I might as well, or better,
have gone somewhere else. My doom was on me."

Long as this extract is, it dispenses with pages of critical analysis,
and the hundred details requisite to build up such an impression of
ancestry from the soil, of the way in which the New England past had
entered into the fibre of Hawthorne's nature, of the sort of historic
consciousness that was latent, like clairvoyance, in his imagination.
Here, too, it serves to give Hawthorne a natural right in his new public
place in the community. He did not feel himself a stranger there; the
floor of the Custom House was as much home to his feet as a ship's deck.
He made, it is said, a good surveyor, as in Boston previously he had
been an excellent under officer. His duties were not arduous; they
consumed about three hours and a half of his day, leaving him ample
leisure. He has himself made of his stay at the Custom House a half
humorous story by drawing the characters of his associates and setting
forth the general atmosphere of the place with such lifelike drollery as
only genius can achieve. He does it with no kindly hand. He was capable
of great irritation, at times; and, as was shown on rare occasions, he
had outbursts of anger. Dr. Loring describes him as "tempestuous and
irresistible when aroused," and tells the anecdote of one dismayed
captain who "fled up the wharf and took refuge in the office, inquiring,
'What in God's name have you sent on board my ship as an inspector?'" In
writing of his old associates satirically, he was not indulging in any
rage of anger, but he would hardly have felt the impulse to give his pen
such liberty unless grievances had still rankled in his memory. The
scene he sets forth is one of burlesque, done like fiction. "On
ascending the steps you would discern," he says, "a row of venerable
figures, sitting in old-fashioned chairs, which were tipped on their
hind legs back against the wall. Oftentimes they were asleep, but
occasionally might be heard talking together, in voices between speech
and a snore, and with that lack of energy that distinguishes the
occupants of almshouses, and all other human beings who depend for
subsistence on charity, on monopolized labor, or anything else but their
own independent exertions. These old gentlemen--seated, like Matthew, at
the receipt of customs, but not very liable to be summoned thence, like
him, for apostolic errands--were Custom House officers." When he comes
to the details, in this style, the portrait approaches--if it does not
realize--caricature. There was another side, we may be sure, to the
lives and characters of these men whom Hawthorne has portrayed as if
human nature existed to be the pigment of an artist's brush and should
laugh or weep, look silly or solemn, at the whim of his temperament and
will. All the time he got on with them very amiably, and if he found
some of them in his own silent thoughts rather foolish and superfluous,
doubtless it would have been the same in any other group among whom his
lot might have been thrown. With others of his associates, whatever he
thought of them and their ways, he was friendly and tolerant, if not
sociable; it was in connection with these that the gossip circulated of
his "loafing about with hard drinkers." Dr. Loring describes them to the
life as "a group of men all of whom had remarkable characteristics, not
of the best many times, but original, strong, highly-flavored, defiant
democrats, with whom he was officially connected, who made no appeal to
him, but responded to the uncultivated side of his nature, and to whose
defects he was blind on account of their originality." This picture must
be added to that which Hawthorne gave, and between the two, if some
allowance, also, be made for the unfavorable temper in which he wrote,
it will appear, perhaps, that in the Custom House he found human nature
about as it is always in an office having to do with sea business, in
which naturally a rough, racy, unpolished, original, sturdy stock took a
leading part, and a place was found for the retired old hulks of the
profession to enjoy a comfortable anchorage.

Hawthorne, in fact, repeated in the Custom House the experience he had
formerly had on the Boston wharf and at Brook Farm. At first, the change
was a pleasure and a relief to him. He had once more escaped, if not
from the dreamland of his own solitary fancy, at least from the
unreality which the literary life seems always to have had for him, and
which he now associated particularly with the character of his
friendships. The tone of relief is unmistakable:--

"After my fellowship of toil and impracticable schemes with the dreamy
brethren of Brook Farm; after living for three years within the subtile
influence of an intellect like Emerson's; after those wild, free days on
the Assabeth, indulging fantastic speculations, beside our fire of
fallen boughs, with Ellery Channing; after talking with Thoreau about
pine-trees and Indian relics, in his hermitage at Walden; after growing
fastidious by sympathy with the classic refinement of Hillard's culture;
after becoming imbued with poetic sentiment at Longfellow's
hearth-stone,--it was time, at length, that I should exercise other
faculties of my nature, and nourish myself with food for which I had
hitherto had little appetite. Even the old inspector was desirable, as a
change of diet, to a man who had known Alcott. I look upon it as an
evidence, in some measure, of a system naturally well balanced, and
lacking no essential part of a thorough organization, that, with such
associates to remember, I could mingle at once with men of altogether
different qualities, and never murmur at the change."

So he mixed in the new scene, laughed with the others at the old
sea-yarns and jokes, joined in with his associates on more even terms
than was his habit with the literary friends of Concord, and was once
more a part of this material world. But it was not long before the old
disgust and restlessness came over him; he felt his imaginative nature
deadened; this after all was not his own life, and the figures that
moved in it, the business they were concerned with, the existence they
led round about him took on the same shabby color of fact that had
formerly spread over the coal and salt of the wharf, and the manure of
Brook Farm; and that feeling of repulsion from it all, which came to
involve also a half-contempt for the people and their affairs, grew in
him. He describes the torpor that fell upon his faculties; he ceased to
write, just as in the earlier time; he could not create, and though he
had time enough, and the sea and the woods and the winter moonlight were
all there, they did not unlock his magical power as of old. He laments
over it, but confesses it; he had temporarily ceased to be a man of

Domestic affairs contributed to withhold him from his pen. The old
Herbert Street house had proved an inconvenient domicile for the two
families, and they had removed to a dwelling in Chestnut Street. For a
while Mrs. Hawthorne had been absent in Boston, and there a boy, Julian,
had been born, so that there were two children in the nursery. It was in
this room that Hawthorne spent his afternoons, for he had no study, and
there for a year his desk stood, says his wife, without having been once
opened. They moved again to another house, more easily adapted to the
needs of both households, in Mall Street, and here Hawthorne again had a
study "high from all noise," and Madame Hawthorne was provided for with
a suite wholly separate. She and her two daughters still maintained the
lifelong habit of isolation. "Elizabeth," says Mrs. Hawthorne, "is an
invisible entity. I have seen her but once in two years; and Louisa
never intrudes;" and she adds her satisfaction in knowing that Madame
Hawthorne would have the pleasure of her son's and the children's
company for the rest of her life. "I am so glad to win her out of that
Castle Dismal, and from the mysterious chamber into which no mortal ever
peeped till Una was born, and Julian,--for they alone have entered the
_penetralia_. Into that chamber the sun never shines. Into these
rooms in Mall Street it blazes without stint." Mrs. Hawthorne was very
happy in this life with her husband, though they were still retired in
their habits. He had, however, become an officer of the Lyceum, and they
attended the lectures. They went out very seldom, only on such an
occasion as when Emerson was visiting a neighbor, for example. The
happiness was all indoors and in their hearts. "No art nor beauty," the
wife writes, "can excel my daily life, with such a husband and such
children, the exponents of all art and beauty. I really have not even
the temptation to go out of my house to find anything better." The
husband expresses the same felicity, in his turn, repeatedly, as on one
occasion during a visit of Mrs. Hawthorne in Boston. "Oh, Phoebe," he
writes to her, "I want thee much. Thou art the only person in the world
that ever was necessary to me. Other people have occasionally been more
or less agreeable; but I think I was always more at ease alone than in
anybody's company, till I knew thee. And now I am only myself when thou
art within my reach. Thou art an unspeakably beloved woman."

They still spent their evenings together, mostly in reading. He never
wrote at night, and for a year and a half seems not to have written at
all, except some slight unremembered article, it might be, for a Salem
newspaper. In November, 1847, he began to compose regularly every
afternoon. In the year following he produced "The Snow Image," "The
Great Stone Face," "Main Street," and possibly "Ethan Brand," but these,
with the exception of the third, which appeared in Elizabeth Peabody's
"Aesthetic Papers," 1849, remained unpublished. He had exhausted himself
as a writer of short tales and sketches; the kind no longer appealed to
him, and he wrote with much difficulty and against the grain. "At
length," he writes in a letter of literary business, December 14, 1848,
"by main strength I have wrenched and torn an idea out of my miserable
brain; or rather, the fragment of an idea, like a tooth ill-drawn, and
leaving the roots to torture me." His imagination had, in fact, begun to
work upon a larger scale and in a higher world of art, though he
apparently did not know the change in scope that he was undergoing, and
thought of his new story only as a longer tale; the idea of "The Scarlet
Letter," after lying for some years in his brain, was unfolding in the
form of a great romance. It was to be his resource when the Custom House

It was on June 8, 1849, that the news of his dismissal from office came.
Tyler's Whig administration had come in, and Democratic heads would
naturally fall; but Hawthorne, having obtained office, as he conceived
it, as a literary man provided for by government, had not expected to be
turned out on the change of parties, especially as he was not a partisan
or in fact a politician at all. He resented the action, even when it was
only threatened, as unjust, and took some steps to secure himself in
place by suggesting an appeal to men in Boston, among whom he mentions
Rufus Choate, "whose favorable influence," he says, "would make it
impossible to remove me, and whose support and sympathy might fairly be
obtained on my behalf,--not on the ground that I am a very good writer,
but because I gained my position, such as it is, by my literary
character, and have done nothing to forfeit that tenure." When he found,
however, that he had been removed, ostensibly at least, on the ground of
a paper forwarded from Salem and charging him with political
partisanship, both as a writer for the newspaper press and in his
official capacity, his resentment became a much warmer feeling. The
story of a removal from office is usually unedifying, and there is no
occasion to go into all the details. It appears that one man, Charles W.
Upham, was especially singled out by Hawthorne as the principal mover,
and on him he deliberately avenged himself at a later time. The charges
Hawthorne met very fully and specifically, and showed that he had indeed

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