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Nathaniel Hawthorne by George E. Woodberry

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rather incurred the reproach of his party for not taking a partisan
course than deserved the criticism of his enemies. He was, however, very
angry; his wife writes to her father, "The lion was roused in him;" and
the numerous letters to his friends show that he was much disturbed, but
much more by what he regarded as the attack made secretly upon his
character than by the loss of the office. There was a small tempest in
the town, in which his friends male and female bore their part, and
plans of one kind and another were discussed to secure his retention;
but, as usually happens in such cases, the affair soon blew over. In a
political scuffle, Hawthorne was a man out of his element.

The most unfortunate thing in the whole incident was the effect it had
on Hawthorne's attachment to his native place. It turned his cold love
to a bitter feeling that he never overcame; and it also threw upon Salem
the reproach of having injured as well as neglected her most famous son.
Citizens of both parties joined in the movement by which he was ousted,
and no one of influence withstood them; but there was probably no enmity
in the matter, and the simple explanation, perhaps, was that the new
candidate had more cordial friends in the community on both sides, for
Hawthorne was not personally popular with the merchants as a class. He
kept them at a distance just as he did men of letters, and could not mix
with them on even and frank terms. Dr. Loring, in discussing the subject
of Hawthorne's treatment by his fellow townsmen, very justly says that
"Salem did not treat its illustrious son, at all, because he gave it no
opportunity." He was, so far as then appeared, an author, forty-five
years old, who had written two or three books of short tales and
sketches, not yet famous, and he held a not very lucrative public
office, which he had secured, not in the usual way, by party service,
but by the political influence of his old college mates, who were
strangers to the town. He was inoffensive, but he was not liked, and
took no pains to make himself one of the community; he was ignored by
the citizens of the place because he ignored them, and when his
Washington friends lost power, there was no one else interested in
keeping him in office, and he had no influence of his own on the spot.
In private life he was uncommonly solitary, and he was in no sense a
public man. What happened was perfectly natural, and might fairly have
been foreseen; for the notion of providing a government post for a man
because he was an author, and retaining him in it by a literary tenure,
must have seemed very novel to the gentlemen of the Essex district in
those days, as it would seem now. But Hawthorne had the sense of
superiority, the silent, suppressed pride, the susceptibility of a
solitary nature; and whatever might be the public side of the matter, of
which he was no very good judge, privately he felt aggrieved and
outraged; that irritability toward the general public which has already
been remarked upon, just because he was "for some years the most obscure
man of letters in America," was condensed, as it were, and discharged
upon Salem, which stood as the deaf and blind and hateful embodiment of
the unappreciative world that would have none of him, but rather took
away the little bread and salt he had contrived to earn for himself, and
would not give him room even in a paltry office among the old sea-dogs
he has described. "I mean as soon as possible," he writes two months
later, "to bid farewell forever to this abominable city."

Apart from the disagreeable circumstances of his removal and the
penniless condition in which it left him, there is no reason to think
that Hawthorne was anything but happy to leave office. His first thought
was of his poverty; before he had laid down the telegram he heard the
wolf at the door. He at once wrote the news to Hillard, and after saying
that he had paid his old debts but had saved nothing, requests his
friendly aid in words through which, brief and straight as they are, one
feels the stern grip of the fact as it immediately took hold on him, the
poor man's need:--

"If you could do anything in the way of procuring me some stated
literary employment, in connection with a newspaper, or as corrector of
the press to some printing establishment, etc., it could not come at a
better time. Perhaps Epes Sargent, who is a friend of mine, would know
of something. I shall not stand upon my dignity; that must take care of
itself. Perhaps there may be some subordinate office connected with the
Boston Athenaeum. Do not think anything too humble to be mentioned to
me.... The intelligence has just reached me, and Sophia has not yet
heard it. She will bear it like a woman,--that is to say, better than a

He went home at once to tell his wife, and as his son tells the story,
on his meeting her expression of pleasure at seeing him so soon with the
remark that "he had left his head behind him," she exclaimed, "Oh, then
you can write your book!" and when he smiled and answered that it "would
be agreeable to know where their bread and rice were to come from while
the story was writing," she brought forth from a hiding-place "a pile of
gold"--it appears to have been one hundred and fifty dollars--that she
had saved from the household weekly expenses. So for the time being
anxiety was lessened.

The fact that Hawthorne was glad at heart to be free again comes out in
many ways. Something may be due to his wife's bearing the news "better
than a man," perhaps, but on the same day it came she is found writing
to her mother, "I have not seen my husband happier than since this
turning out. He has felt in chains for a long time, and being a man he
is not alarmed at being set on his own feet again,--or on his
_head_ I might say, for that contains the available gold of a mine
scarcely yet worked at all." He himself, a few days later, writes to
Hillard, "I have come to feel that it is not good for me to be here. I
am in a lower moral state than I have been--a duller intellectual one.
So let me go; and, under God's providence, I shall arrive at something
better." It would not be long before he would be looking back to the
last three years, and saying, "The life of the Custom House lies like a
dream behind me," in almost the identical words that he used of Boston
wharfs and the Brook Farmers. The pendulum of temperament had swung
again to the other extreme, and he was now all for the imaginative world
once more.

There was, however, to be one sad experience before his new life began.
In the midst of these troubles, while he was still writing his vain
letters and receiving the vain sympathy of his friends in the injury he
had felt, his mother fell into serious illness, and it was plain that
the end of her long vigil was near. With that strange impulse which led
Hawthorne, out of his sensitive reserve and almost morbid seclusion, to
make an open book of his private life, writing it all at large in his
journals, he spent the hours of her last days in describing the scenes
and incidents of the house in its shadow of death. His wife had the main
care of the invalid, and to him was left the charge of the children, Una
and Julian, who played in the yard in the warm July weather and were
seized with the singular fancy of acting over in their play the scenes
of the sick chamber above, while their father watched them from the
window of his room and wrote down their prattle. Hawthorne was attached
to his mother, and had been a good son, but there was something now that
startled his nature, perhaps in the unusual nearness in which he found
himself to her life, and he was hardly prepared for the distress of the
circumstances. His wife wrote, "My husband came near a brain fever after
seeing her for an hour;" and the hour is the one which Hawthorne himself
recorded, in a passage vividly recalling the tone and character of those
scenes in which Carlyle painted the darker moments of his own
shadow-haunted life:--

"About five o'clock I went to my mother's chamber, and was shocked to
see such an alteration since my last visit. I love my mother; but there
has been, ever since boyhood, a sort of coldness of intercourse between
us, such as is apt to come between persons of strong feelings if they
are not managed rightly. I did not expect to be much moved at the
time,--that is to say, not to feel any overpowering emotion struggling
just then,--though I knew that I should deeply remember and regret her.
Mrs. Dike was in the chamber; Louisa pointed to a chair near the bed,
but I was moved to kneel down close by my mother, and take her hand. She
knew me, but could only murmur a few indistinct words; among which I
understood an injunction to take care of my sisters. Mrs. Dike left the
chamber, and then I found the tears slowly gathering in my eyes. I tried
to keep them down, but it would not be; I kept filling up, till, for a
few moments, I shook with sobs. For a long time I knelt there, holding
her hand; and surely it is the darkest hour I ever lived. Afterwards I
stood by the open window and looked through the crevice of the curtain.
The shouts, laughter, and cries of the two children had come up into the
chamber from the open air, making a strange contrast with the death-bed
scene. And now, through the crevice of the curtain, I saw my little Una
of the golden locks, looking very beautiful, and so full of spirit and
life that she was life itself. And then I looked at my poor dying
mother, and seemed to see the whole of human existence at once, standing
in the dusty midst of it."

The next day the children continued the play--they have never left it
off--of their grandmother's death-bed, and Hawthorne writes it all down
in his journal with minute realism. His genius felt some appeal in it
that let him go on unchecked in the transcript of baby-life mocking
death in all innocence and unwitting:--

"Now Una is transformed into grandmamma, and Julian is mamma taking care
of her. She groans, and speaks with difficulty, and moves herself feebly
and wearisomely; then lies perfectly still, as if in an insensible
state; then rouses herself and calls for wine; then lies down on her
back with clasped hands; then puts them to her head. It recalls the
scene of yesterday to me with frightful distinctness; and out of the
midst of it little Una looks at me with a smile of glee. Again, Julian
assumes the character. 'You're dying now,' says Una; 'so you must lie
still,'"--and so the journal goes on through the slow quarter-hours,
till it stops when Madame Hawthorne's heart ceased to beat.

The death of his mother removed the last and only reason for Hawthorne's
continuing to reside in Salem, but he remained there through the summer
and winter. He was hard at work on "The Scarlet Letter," perhaps being
more absorbed in it than he ever was in any other of his compositions.
It was a time of much trouble in every way. There was sickness in the
family, he was himself afflicted with pain, and his wife's sister
Elizabeth Peabody seems to have come to the rescue of domestic comfort
for the household. O'Sullivan, the kind-hearted editor of the defunct
"Democratic Review," bethought himself of his old debt to Hawthorne and
sent him a hundred dollars; so the purse was replenished. It was in
early winter that the cheerful personality of James T. Fields, the
publisher, appeared on the scene, and it was a fortunate hour for
Hawthorne that brought such an appreciative, enthusiastic, and faithful
friend to his door. Fields was just the man to warm Hawthorne's genius
into action,--cordial, whole-souled, and happily not so much a man of
letters as to repel him with that alienation which he certainly felt in
his contact with authors by profession like Emerson and his other
contemporaries. Fields was, too, in a very real sense, the messenger and
herald of fame standing at last in the humble doorway of the Mall Street
house that had latterly been the scene of such a tangle of human events.
The anecdote of what he found there is finely told in his own words:--

"I found him alone in a chamber over the sitting-room of the dwelling;
and as the day was cold, he was hovering near a stove. We fell into talk
about his future prospects, and he was, as I feared I should find him,
in a very desponding mood. 'Now,' said I, 'is the time for you to
publish, for I know during these years in Salem you must have got
something ready for the press.' 'Nonsense,' said he, 'what heart had I
to write anything, when my publishers have been so many years trying to
sell a small edition of the "Twice-Told Tales"?' I still pressed upon
him the good chances he would have now with something new. 'Who would
risk publishing a book for _me_, the most unpopular writer in
America?' 'I would,' said I, 'and would start with an edition of two
thousand copies of anything you write.' 'What madness!' he exclaimed;
'Your friendship for me gets the better of your judgment. No, no,' he
continued; 'I have no money to indemnify a publisher's losses on my
account.' I looked at my watch, and found that the train would soon be
starting for Boston, and I knew there was not much time to lose in
trying to discover what had been his literary work during these last few
years in Salem. I remember that I pressed him to reveal to me what he
had been writing. He shook his head, and gave me to understand that he
had produced nothing. At that moment I caught sight of a bureau or set
of drawers near where we were sitting; and immediately it occurred to me
that hidden away somewhere in that article of furniture was a story or
stories by the author of the 'Twice-Told Tales,' and I became so
positive of it that I charged him vehemently with the fact. He seemed
surprised, I thought, but shook his head again; and I rose to take my
leave, begging him not to come into the cold entry, saying I would come
back and see him again in a few days. I was hurrying down the stairs
when he called after me from the chamber, asking me to stop a moment.
Then quickly stepping into the entry with a roll of manuscript in his
hands, he said: 'How, in Heaven's name, did you know this thing was
there? As you found me out, take what I have written, and tell me, after
you get home and have time to read it, if it is good for anything. It is
either very good or very bad,--I don't know which.' On my way up to
Boston I read the germ of 'The Scarlet Letter.'"

The romance that was thus captured was not yet in the form which it
finally took. Hawthorne had conceived it as a rather longer tale of the
same sort that he had previously written, and designed to make it one
story in a new collection such as his former volumes had been. He
thought it was too gloomy to stand alone, and in fact did not suspect
that here was a new kind of work, such that it would put an end forever
to his old manner of writing. He intended to call the new volume
"Old-Time Legends: together with Sketches, Experimental and Ideal,"--a
title that is fairly ghostly with the transcendental nonage of his
genius, pale, abstract, ineffectual, with oblivion lurking in every
syllable. Fields knew better than that. But he gave him something more
than advice; he cheered him with his extravagant appreciation, as it
seemed to Hawthorne, and invigorated him by a true sympathy with his
success. Fields urged that the story be elaborated, filled out, and made
into a single volume; and, under this wise suggestion, Hawthorne went to
work upon it with renewed interest and with something probably of the
power of a new ambition.

His friends, too, had come to his aid with material assistance, and
apart from the fact that he was thus enabled to go on with the labor of
composition, free from the immediate pressure of poverty and its trials
of the spirit, he was stimulated by their confidence and kindness to do
all he could for himself. Hillard was the medium of this friendliness,
and accompanied the considerable sum of money with a letter, January 17,

"It occurred to me and some other of your friends that, in consideration
of the events of the last year, you might at this time be in need of a
little pecuniary aid. I have therefore collected, from some of those who
admire your genius and respect your character, the enclosed sum of
money, which I send you with my warmest wishes for your health and
happiness. I know the sensitive edge of your temperament; but do not
speak or think of obligation. It is only paying, in a very imperfect
measure, the debt we owe you for what you have done for American
Literature. Could you know the readiness with which every one to whom I
applied contributed to this little offering, and could you have heard
the warm expressions with which some accompanied their gift, you would
have felt that the bread you had cast upon the waters had indeed come
back to you. Let no shadow of despondency, my dear friend, steal over
you. Your friends do not and will not forget you. You shall be protected
against 'eating cares,' which, I take it, mean cares lest we should not
have enough to eat."

Kindly as this letter was, it could only temper what was for Hawthorne a
rough and bitter experience; for he had, in intense form, that proud
independence in such matters which characterizes the old New England
stock. The words he wrote in reply came from the depths of his nature:--

"I read your letter in the vestibule of the Post Office; and it
drew--what my troubles never have--the water to my eyes; so that I was
glad of the sharply cold west wind that blew into them as I came
homeward, and gave them an excuse for being red and bleared.

"There was much that was very sweet--and something, too, that was very
bitter--mingled with that same moisture. It is sweet to be remembered
and cared for by one's friends--some of whom know me for what I am,
while others, perhaps, know me only through a generous faith--sweet to
think that they deem me worth upholding in my poor work through life.
And it is bitter, nevertheless, to need their support. It is something
else besides pride that teaches me that ill-success in life is really
and justly a matter of shame. I am ashamed of it, and I ought to be. The
fault of a failure is attributable--in a great degree at least--to the
man who fails. I should apply this truth in judging of other men; and it
behooves me not to shun its point or edge in taking it home to my
_own_ heart. Nobody has a right to live in the world unless he be
strong and able, and applies his ability to good purpose.

"The money, dear Hillard, will smooth my path for a long time to come.
The only way in which a man can retain his self-respect, while availing
himself of the generosity of his friends, is by making it an incitement
to his utmost exertion, so that he may not need their help again. I
shall look upon it so--nor will shun any drudgery that my hand shall
find to do, if thereby I may win bread."

Four days after this, on February 3, 1850, he finished "The Scarlet
Letter." He read the last scene to his wife, just after writing it, on
that evening,--"tried to read it, rather," he wrote to Bridge the next
day, "for my voice swelled and heaved, as if I were tossed up and down
on an ocean as it subsides after a storm. But I was in a very nervous
state then, having gone through a great diversity of emotion while
writing it for many months." He had, indeed, put his whole energy into
the book, writing "immensely," says his wife in the previous autumn, as
much as nine hours a day. He now felt the reaction, and besides he had a
less healthy regimen of life than hitherto, and had fallen into
middle-age habits of lowered physical tone, less active now in his
out-door life these last three or four years. He continues in the letter
to Bridge, just quoted: "I long to get into the country, for my health
latterly is not quite what it has been for many years past. I should not
long stand such a life of bodily inactivity and mental exertion as I
have lived for the last few months. An hour or two of daily labor in a
garden, and a daily ramble in country air, or on the sea-shore, would
keep all right. Here, I hardly go out once a week. Do not allude to this
matter in your letters to me, as my wife already sermonizes me quite
sufficiently on my habits; and I never own up to not feeling perfectly
well. Neither do I feel anywise ill; but only a lack of physical vigor
and energy, which reacts upon the mind." "The Scarlet Letter" [Footnote:
_The Scarlet Letter_. A Romance. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston:
Ticknor, Reed and Fields. 1850. 12mo. Pp. iv, 322.] was already in the
publisher's hands, before the last scene was written, and was rapidly
put through the press. It was issued early in April in an edition of
five thousand copies, which was soon exhausted; a new edition followed
at once, and Hawthorne's fame was at last established.

"The Scarlet Letter" is a great and unique romance, standing apart by
itself in fiction; there is nothing else quite like it. Of all
Hawthorne's works it is most identified with his genius in popular
regard, and it has the peculiar power that is apt to invest the first
work of an author in which his originality finds complete artistic
expression. It is seldom that one can observe so plainly the different
elements that are primary in a writer's endowment coalesce in the fully
developed work of genius; yet in this romance there is nothing either in
method or perception which is not to be found in the earlier tales; what
distinguishes it is the union of art and intuition as they had grown up
in Hawthorne's practice and had developed a power to penetrate more
deeply into life. Obviously at the start there is the physical object in
which his imagination habitually found its spring, the fantastically
embroidered scarlet letter on a woman's bosom which he had seen in the
Puritan group described in "Endicott and the Red Cross." It had been in
his mind for years, and his thoughts had centred on it and wandered out
from it, tracking its mystery. It has in itself that decorative quality,
which he sought in the physical object,--the brilliant and rich effect,
startling to the eye and yet more to the imagination as it blazes forth
with a secret symbolism and almost intelligence of its own. It
multiplies itself, as the tale unfolds, with greater intensity and
mysterious significance and dread suggestion, as if in mirrors set round
about it,--in the slowly disclosed and fearful stigma on the minister's
hidden heart over which he ever holds his hand, where it has become
flesh of his flesh; in the growing elf-like figure of the child, who,
with her eyes always fastened on the open shame of the letter on her
mother's bosom or the hidden secret of the hand on her father's breast,
has become herself the symbol, half revealed and half concealed, is
dressed in it, as every reader remembers, and fantastically embodies it
as if the thing had taken life in her; and, as if this were not enough,
the scarlet letter, at a climax of the dark story, lightens forth over
the whole heavens as a symbol of what cannot be hid even in the
intensest blackness of night. The continual presence of the letter seems
to have burnt into Hawthorne's own mind, till at the end of the
narrative he says he would gladly erase its deep print from the brain
where long meditation had fixed it. In no other work is the physical
symbol so absorbingly present, so reduplicated, so much alive in itself.
It is the brand of sin on life. Its concrete vividness leads the author
also by a natural compulsion as well as an artistic instinct to display
his story in that succession of high-wrought scenes, tableaux, in fact,
which was his characteristic method of narrative, picturesque,
pictorial, almost to be described as theatrical in spectacle. The
background, also, as in the early tales, is of the slightest, no more
than will suffice for the acting of the drama as a stage setting
sympathetic with the central scene,--a town, with a prison, a
meeting-house, a pillory, a governor's house, other habitations on a
street, a lonely cottage by the shore, the forest round about all; and
for occasion and accessories, only a woman's sentence, the incidental
death of Winthrop unmarked in itself, a buccaneering ship in the harbor,
Indians, Spanish sailors, rough matrons, clergy; this will serve, for
such was Hawthorne's fine economy, knowing that this story was one in
which every materialistic element must be used at its lowest tone.
Though the scene lay in this world, it was but transitory scaffolding;
the drama was one of the eternal life.

The characteristic markings of Hawthorne's genius are also to be found
in other points. He does not present the scene of life, the crowd of the
world with its rich and varied fullness of interest, complexity of
condition and movement, and its interwoven texture of character, event,
and fate, such as the great novelists use; he has only a few individual
figures, and these are simplified by being exhibited, not in their
complete lives, but only in that single aspect of their experience which
was absorbing to themselves and constituted the life they lived in the
soul itself. There are three characters, Hester, the minister, and the
physician; and a fourth, the child, who fulfills the function of the
chorus in the old drama, in part a living comment, in part a spectator
and medium of sympathy with the main actors. In all four of these that
trait of profound isolation in life, so often used before in the earlier
tales, is strongly brought out; about each is struck a circle which
separates not only one from another, but from all the world, and in the
midst of it, as in a separate orb, each lives an unshared life. It is
inherent, too, in such a situation that the mystery that had fascinated
Hawthorne in so many forms, the secrecy of men's bosoms, should be a
main theme in the treatment. He has also had recourse to that method of
violent contrast which has been previously illustrated; on the one hand
the publicity of detected wrongdoing, on the other the hidden and
unsuspected fact; here the open shame and there the secret sin, whose
sameness in a double life is expressed by the identity of the
embroidered letter and the flesh-wrought stigma. But it is superfluous
to illustrate further the genesis of this romance out of Hawthorne's art
and matter in his earlier work, showing how naturally it rose by a
concentration of his powers on a single theme that afforded them scope,
intensity, and harmony at once. The new thing here is the power of his
genius to penetrate, as was said above, deep into life.

The romance begins where common tales end. The crime has been committed;
in it, in its motives, circumstances, explanation, its course of passion
and human tide of life, Hawthorne takes no interest. All that is past,
and, whatever it was, now exists only as sin; it has passed from the
region of earthly fact into that of the soul, out of all that was
temporal into the world where eternal things only are. Not crime, not
passion, not the temptation and the fall, but only sin now staining the
soul in consequence is the theme; and the course of the story concerns
man's dealing with sin, in his own breast or the breasts of others. It
is a study of punishment, of vengeance if one will; this is the secret
of its gloom, for the idea of salvation, of healing, is but little
present and is not felt; there is no forgiveness in the end, in any
sense to dispel the darkness of evil or promise the dawn of new life in
any one of these tortured souls. The sin of the lovers is not the centre
of the story, but only its initial source; that sin breeds sin is the
real principle of its being; the minister is not punished as a lover,
but as the hypocrite that he becomes, and the physician is punished as
the revenger that he becomes. Hester's punishment is visibly from the
law, and illustrates the law's brutality, the coarse hand of man for
justice, the mere physical blow meant to hurt and crush; it is man's
social way of dealing with sin, and fails because it makes no connection
with the soul; the victim rises above it, is emancipated from its ideas,
transforms the symbol of disgrace into a message of mercy to all who
suffer, and annuls the gross sentence by her own higher soul-power. The
minister's punishment, also, is visibly from the physician, who
illustrates man's individual way of dealing with sin in another; but it
is not the minister's suffering under the hand of revenge working subtly
in secret that arrests our attention; it is the physician's own
degeneracy into a devil of hate through enjoyment of the sight and
presence of this punishment, that stamps him into the reader's mind as a
type of the failure of such a revenge. "Vengeance is mine, saith the
Lord" is the text here blazed forth. In the sphere of the soul human law
and private revenge have no place. It is in that sphere that Hester is
seen suffering in the touch of the child, being unable to adjust the
broken harmonies of life; her incapacity to do that is the ever-present
problem that keeps her wound open, not to be stanched, but rather
breaking with a more intimate pain with the unfolding of little Pearl's
wide-eyed soul. In that sphere, too, the minister is seen suffering--not
for the original sin, for that is overlaid, whelmed, forgotten, by the
second and heavier transgression of hypocrisy, cowardice,
desertion,--but merely from self-knowledge, the knowledge that he is a
living lie. The characters, so treated, become hardly more than types,
humanly outlined in figure, costume, and event, symbolic pictures of
states of the soul, so simplified, so intense, so elementary as to
belong to a phantasmagoric rather than a realistic world, to that mirror
of the soul which is not found in nature but in spiritual
self-consciousness, where the soul is given back to itself in its
nakedness, as in a secret place.

Yet it is in the sense of reality that this romance is most intense. It
is a truthful story, above all; and only its truth could make it
tolerable to the imagination and heart, if indeed it be tolerable to the
heart at all. A part of this reality is due to the fact that there is a
story here that lies outside of the moral scheme in which Hawthorne's
conscious thought would confine it; the human element in it threatens
from time to time to break the mould of thought and escape from bondage,
because, simple as the moral scheme is, human life is too complex to be
solved by it even in this small world of the three guilty ones and the
child. This weakness of the moral scheme, this rude strength of human
nature, this sense of a larger solution, are most felt when Hawthorne
approaches the love element, and throughout in the character of Hester,
in whom alone human nature retains a self-assertive power. The same
thing is felt vaguely, but certainly, in the lack of sympathy between
Hawthorne and the Puritan environment he depicts. He presents the
community itself, its common people, its magistrates and clergy, its
customs, temper, and atmosphere, as forbidding, and he has no good word
for it; harshness characterizes it, and that trait discredits its
ideals, its judgments, and its entire interpretation of life. Hester,
outcast from it, is represented as thereby enfranchised from its
narrowness, enlightened, escaped into a world of larger truth:--

"The world's law was no law for her mind. It was an age in which the
human intellect, newly emancipated, had taken a more active and a wider
range than for many centuries before. Men of the sword had overthrown
nobles and kings. Men bolder than these had overthrown and
rearranged--not actually, but within the sphere of theory, which was
their most real abode--the whole system of ancient prejudice, wherewith
was linked much of ancient principle. Hester Prynne imbibed this spirit.
She assumed a freedom of speculation, then common enough on the other
side of the Atlantic, but which our forefathers, had they known it,
would have held to be a deadlier crime than that stigmatized by the
scarlet letter. In her lonesome cottage, by the sea-shore, thoughts
visited her, such as dared to enter no other dwelling in New England;
shadowy guests, that would have been as perilous as demons to their
entertainer, could they have been seen so much as knocking at her door."

This is the foregleam of the next age, felt in her mind, the coming of a
larger day. Hawthorne does not develop this or justify it; he only
states it as a fact of life. And in the motive of the story, the love of
Hester and Arthur, much is left dim; but what is discerned threatens to
be unmanageable within the limits of the scheme. Did Hester love her
lover, and he love her, through those seven years in silence? Did either
of them ever repent their passion for its own sake? And when Hester's
womanhood came back in its bloom and her hair fell shining in the forest
sunlight, and she took her lover, hand and head and form, in all his
broken suffering to her affectionate care and caress, and planned the
bold step that they go out together across the seas and live in each
other's lives like lovers in truth and reality,--was this only the
resurrection of a moment or the firm vital force of a seven years'
silent passion? Had either of them ever repented, though one was a
coward and the other a condemned and public criminal before the law, and
both had suffered? Was not the true sin, as is suggested, the source of
all this error, the act of the physician who had first violated Hester's
womanhood in a loveless marriage as he had now in Arthur's breast
"violated in cold blood the sanctity of a human heart"? "Thou and I,"
says Arthur, "never did so." The strange words follow, strange for
Hawthorne to have written, but better attesting his truth to human
nature than all his morality:--

"Never, never!" whispered she. "What we did had a consecration of its
own. We felt it so! We said so to each other! Hast thou forgotten it?"

"Hush, Hester!" said Arthur Dimmesdale, rising from the ground. "No; I
have not forgotten!"

That confession is the stroke of genius in the romance that humanizes it
with a thrill that is felt through every page of the stubborn, dark,
harsh narrative of misery. It was not a sin against love that had been
committed; it was a sin against the soul; and the sin against the soul
lay in the lack of confession, which becomes the cardinal situation of
the romance solved in the minister's dying acknowledgment. But the love
problem is never solved, just as the hate problem in the physician is
never solved; both Hester and Roger Chillingworth, one with her mystery
of enduring love, the other with his mystery of insatiable hatred, are
left with the issue, the meaning of their lives inexplicable, untold.
Yet it is from the presence of these elements in the story that
something of its intense reality comes.

It remains true, however, that the essential reality lies in the vivid
sense of sin, and its experience in conscience. Hawthorne has not given
a historical view of New England life; such a village, with such a
tragedy, never existed, in that environing forest of the lone seacoast;
but he has symbolized historical New England by an environment that he
created round a tragedy that he read in the human heart, and in this
tragedy itself he was able also to symbolize New England life in its
internal features. One thing stood plainly out in our home
Puritanism,--spirituality; the transcendent sense of the reality of the
soul's life with God, its conscience, its perils, and its eternal issue.
Spirituality remained the inheritance of the New England blood; and
Hawthorne, who was no Puritan in doctrine or sympathy even, was Puritan
in temperament, and hence to him, too, spirituality in life was its main
element. He took that sin of passion which has ever been held typical of
sin against the purity of the soul's nature, and transformed it into the
symbol of all sin, and in its manifestation revolved the aspects of sin
as a presence in the soul after the act,--the broken law disturbing
life's external harmonies but working a worse havoc within, mining all
with corruption there, while it infects with disease whatever approaches
it from without. It is by its moral universality that the romance takes
hold of the imagination; the scarlet letter becomes only a pictorial
incident, but while conscience, repentance, confession, the modes of
punishment, and the modes of absolution remain instant and permanent
facts in the life of the soul, many a human heart will read in this book
as in a manual of its own intimate hours.

The romance is thus essentially a parable of the soul's life in sin; in
its narrower scope it is the work of the moral intellect allegorizing
its view of life; and where creative genius enters into it, in the
Shakespearean sense of life in its own right, it tends to be a larger
and truer story breaking the bonds of its religious scheme. It has its
roots in Puritanism, but it is only incidentally a New England tale; its
substance is the most universal experience of human nature in religious
life, taking its forms only, its local habitation and name, from the
Puritan colony in America, and these in a merely allegorical, not
historical manner. Certain traits, however, ally it more closely to New
England Puritanism. It is a relentless tale; the characters are
singularly free from self-pity, and accept their fate as righteous; they
never forgave themselves, they show no sign of having forgiven one
another; even God's forgiveness is left under a shadow in futurity. They
have sinned against the soul, and something implacable in evil remains.
The minister's dying words drop a dark curtain over all.

"Hush, Hester, hush!" said he, with tremulous solemnity. "The law we
broke!--the sin here so awfully revealed!--let these alone be in thy
thoughts! I fear! I fear! It may be that, when we forgot our God,--when
we violated our reverence each for the other's soul,--it was thenceforth
vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an everlasting and pure

Mercy is but a hope. There is also a singular absence of prayer in the
book. Evil is presented as a thing without remedy, that cannot change
its nature. The child, even, being the fruit of sin, can bring, Hester
and Arthur doubt, no good for others or herself. In the scheme of
Puritan thought, however, the atonement of Christ is the perpetual
miracle whereby salvation comes, not only hereafter but in the holier
life led here by grace. There is no Christ in this book. Absolution, so
far as it is hinted at, lies in the direction of public confession, the
efficacy of which is directly stated, but lamely nevertheless; it
restores truth, but it does not heal the past. Leave the dead past to
bury its dead, says Hawthorne, and go on to what may remain; but life
once ruined is ruined past recall. So Hester, desirous of serving in her
place the larger truth she has come to know, is stayed, says Hawthorne,
because she "recognized the impossibility that any mission of divine and
mysterious truth should be confided to a woman stained with sin, bowed
down with shame, or even burdened with a life-long sorrow." That was
never the Christian gospel nor the Puritan faith. Indeed, Hawthorne here
and elsewhere anticipates those ethical views which are the burden of
George Eliot's moral genius, and contain scientific pessimism. This
stoicism, which was in Hawthorne, is a primary element in his moral
nature, in him as well as in his work; it is visited with few touches of
tenderness and pity; the pity one feels is not in him, it is in the
pitiful thing, which he presents objectively, sternly, unrelentingly. It
must be confessed that as an artist he appears unsympathetic with his
characters; he is a moral dissector of their souls, minute, unflinching,
thorough, a vivisector here; and he is cold because he has passed
sentence on them, condemned them. There is no sympathy with human nature
in the book; it is a fallen and ruined thing suffering just pain in its
dying struggle. The romance is steeped in gloom. Is it too much to
suggest that in ignoring prayer, the atonement of Christ, and the work
of the Spirit in men's hearts, the better part of Puritanism has been
left out, and the whole life of the soul distorted? Sin in the soul, the
scarlet flower from the dark soil, we see; but, intent on that, has not
the eye, and the heart, too, forgotten the large heavens that ensphere
all--even this evil flower--and the infinite horizons that reach off to
the eternal distance from every soul as from their centre? This romance
is the record of a prison-cell, unvisited by any ray of light save that
earthly one which gives both prisoners to public ignominy; they are
seen, but they do not see. These traits of the book, here only
suggested, have kinship with the repelling aspects of Puritanism, both
as it was and as Hawthorne inherited it in his blood and breeding; so,
in its transcendent spirituality, and in that democracy which is the
twin-brother of spirituality in all lands and cultures, by virtue of
which Hawthorne here humiliates and strips the minister who is the type
of the spiritual aristocrat in the community, there is the essence of
New England; but, for all that, the romance is a partial story, an
imperfect fragment of the old life, distorting, not so much the Puritan
ideal--which were a little matter--but the spiritual life itself. Its
truth, intense, fascinating, terrible as it is, is a half-truth, and the
darker half; it is the shadow of which the other half is light; it is
the wrath of which the other half is love. A book from which light and
love are absent may hold us by its truth to what is dark in life; but,
in the highest sense, it is a false book. It is a chapter in the
literature of moral despair, and is perhaps most tolerated as a
condemnation of the creed which, through imperfect comprehension, it

With this book Hawthorne came into fame; but his fellow townsmen were
ill pleased to find some disrepute of their own accompanying his
success. It is surely to be regretted that this was the case; and,
effective as his sketch of the Custom House is, one feels that Hawthorne
stooped in taking his literary revenge on his humble associates by
holding them up to personal ridicule. The tone of pleasantry veils ill
feeling, which is expressed without cover in a letter he wrote to Bridge
a day or two before he left the town:--

"As to the Salem people, I really thought that I had been exceedingly
good-natured in my treatment of them. They certainly do not deserve good
usage at my hands after permitting me to be deliberately lied down--not
merely once, but at two several attacks, on two false indictments--
without hardly a voice being raised on my behalf; and then sending one
of the false witnesses to Congress, others to the Legislature, and
choosing another as the mayor.

"I feel an infinite contempt for them--and probably have expressed more
of it than I intended--for my preliminary chapter has caused the
greatest uproar that has happened here since witch-times. If I escape
from town without being tarred and feathered, I shall consider it good
luck. I wish they would tar and feather me; it would be such an entirely
novel kind of distinction for a literary man. And, from such judges as
my fellow-citizens, I should look upon it as a higher honor than a
laurel crown."

He had said his farewell in the too famous sketch, with an ill grace,
shaking the dust of his native place from his feet, and frankly taking
upon himself the character of the unappreciated genius, which is seldom
a becoming one. The passage fitly closes this chapter in which his
nativity, for better or worse, is most apparent.

"Soon my old native town will loom upon me through the haze of memory, a
mist brooding over and around it, as if it were no portion of the real
earth, but an overgrown village in cloud-land, with only imaginary
inhabitants to people its wooden houses, and walk its homely lanes, and
the unpicturesque prolixity of its main street. Henceforth it ceases to
be a reality of my life. I am a citizen of somewhere else. My good
townspeople will not much regret me; for--though it has been as dear an
object as any, in my literary efforts, to be of some importance in their
eyes, and to win myself a pleasant memory in this abode and burial-place
of so many of my forefathers--_there_ has never been, for me, the
genial atmosphere which a literary man requires, in order to ripen the
best harvest of his mind. I shall do better amongst other faces; and
these familiar ones, it need hardly be said, will do just as well
without me."



In the late spring of 1850 Hawthorne removed his family and household
goods to the little red cottage amid the Berkshire Hills which was to be
a nature's hermitage to him for the next year and a half. It was a
story-and-a-half building, rude and simple, on a great hillside,
commanding a view of a small lake below and of beautiful low mountain
horizons. Here began again that secluded happy family life which had
belonged to the Old Manse, and he was perhaps happier than he had ever
been. The home had the same internal look as of old, for he had brought
with him the relics of family furniture, the oriental objects from over
sea that were heirlooms from his father, and the Italian Madonnas, the
casts and paintings with which his wife delighted to surround the
home-life in an atmosphere of artistic adornment and suggestion; and, as
the quarters were very small, the effect was one of mingled homeliness
and refinement. Bridge soon joined them, and devoted himself in a
practical way to making things shipshape, providing necessary closets
and shelves out of packing boxes, and generally eking out the interior
arrangements with a sailor's ready ingenuity. Outside there was a
barnyard, and a two-story hencoop to be put to rights, with its brood of
pet chickens each with its name,--Snowdrop, Crown Imperial, Queenie,
Fawn, and the like decorative appellations. The two children, Una and
Julian, were in a paradise. Other friends came, too, to visit or to
call. Mrs. Hawthorne soon remarked that they seemed to see more society
than ever before. Herman Melville lived near by, at Pittsfield, and
became a welcome guest and companion, with his boisterous genuine
intellectual spirits and animal strength. Fanny Kemble made an
interesting figure on her great black horse at the gate. The Sedgwick
neighbors were thoughtful and serviceable. O'Sullivan reappeared for a
moment in all his Celtic vivacity, and Fields, Holmes, Duyckinck, and
others of the profession came and went in the summer days. Hawthorne
breathed the air of successful authorship at last, and knew its vanities
and its pleasures. The mail brought him new acquaintances, and now and
then a hero-worshiper lingered at the gate for a look. But as the warm
days went by, and the frosts came, he found himself in his old
sheltering nook, in a place removed from the world, living practically
alone with his wife and children, though the increasing sense of
friendliness in the world cheered and warmed him.

He had, however, begun to age. He was forty-six years old, and the last
year had told upon him, with its various anxieties, excitement, and hard
labor with the pen. He was more easily fatigued, he was less robust and
venturesome, less physically confident. He showed the changes of time.
On his arrival, "weary and worn," says his wife, "with waiting for a
place to be, to think, and to write in," he gave up with something like
nervous fever; "his eyes looked like two immense spheres of troubled
light; his face was wan and shadowy, and he was wholly uncomfortable."
He soon recovered tone; but though he pleaded that his mind never worked
well till the frosts brought out the landscape's autumnal colors and had
some similar alchemy for his own brain, it was a needed rest that he
enjoyed while giving and receiving these early hospitalities in a new
country. He even found the broad mountain view, with the lake in its
bosom, a distraction which made it hard for him to write in its
presence. He had always been used to narrow outlooks from his windows;
even at the Old Manse the scene was small though open. With the coming
of the fall days, however, he again took up his writing, and showed how
stimulating to his ambition and energies the first taste of popularity
had been. Indeed from this time he was more productive than at any other
period, and wrote regularly and successfully as he had never before
done. The scale of the novel gave more volume to his work of itself, and
its mere continuity sustained his effort; moreover the excitement of a
new kind of work was a strong stimulus. He now began to write novels,
differently studied and composed from his earlier stories, more akin to
the usual narrative of fiction. "The Scarlet Letter," a work of pure
imagination, was the climax of his tales, the furthest reach of his
romantic allegorizing moral art in creation; but he now undertook to
utilize his experience and observation in the attempt to delineate life
in its commoner and more realistic aspects of character and scene. He
began "The House of the Seven Gables" in September and finished it early
in January. He wrote regularly, but the story went on more slowly than
he had hoped, requiring more care and thought than "The Scarlet Letter,"
because the latter was all in one tone, while here there was variety. He
had to wait for the mood, at times; but the composition was really
rapid, and seemed slow only because he was used to the smaller scale of
effort. The book was at once sent to press and published in the spring.
[Footnote: _The House of The Seven Gables_. A Romance. By Nathaniel
Hawthorne. Boston: Ticknor, Reed and Fields. 1851. 12mo. Pp. vi, 344.]

"The House of the Seven Gables" is a succession of stories bound
together to set forth the history of a family through generations under
the aspect of an inherited curse which inheres in the house itself. The
origin of the curse and of the plot lies in the founder of the family,
Colonel Pyncheon, whose character, wrong-doing, and death make the first
act; the second, which is no more than an illustrative episode and
serves to fill out the history of the house itself, is the tale of
Alice, the mesmerized victim of a later generation, in which the
witchcraft element of the first story is half rationalized; the third
part, which these two lead up to and explain, is the body of the novel,
and contains the working out of the curse and its dissipation in the
marriage of the descendants of the Colonel and the old wizard Maule,
from whose dying lips it had come. The curse itself, "God will give him
blood to drink," is made physical by the fact that death comes to the
successive heirs by apoplexy, an end which lends itself to an atmosphere
of secrecy, mysteriousness, and judgments; but the permanence of those
traits which made the Colonel's character harsh and harmful, his
ambition, will-power, and cruelty, gives moral probability to the curse
and secures its operation as a thing of nature. There is, nevertheless,
a lax unity in the novel, owing to this dispersion of the action; and
its somewhat thin material in the contemporary part needs the
strengthening and enrichment that it derives from the historical
elements. The series is united by the uncut thread of a vengeful
punishment that must continue until the original wrong itself shall
disappear; but when that happens, the Indian deed hidden behind the
portrait is worthless, the male line is extinct, and the house itself a
thing of the past. The presence of the past in life, both as inheritance
and environment, is the moral theme, and here it is an evil past
imparting misery to whomever it touches. The old house is its physical
sign and habitation; the inhabitants are its victims, and in the later
story they are innocent sufferers, as Alice had been in the intermediate

Such a canvas is one which Hawthorne loved to fill up with the shadowed
lights, the melodramatic coloring and fantastic decorativeness of his
fancies. The characters are, as always, few. There are but five of them,
Hepzibah, Clifford, Phoebe, the daguerreotypist, and the Judge, with the
contributory figures of Uncle Venner and little Ned Higgins. They have
also the constant Hawthorne trait of great isolation, and live entirely
within the world of the story. In sketching them Hawthorne had recourse
to real life, to observation, as also in all the contemporary background
and atmosphere. The substance and attraction of the novel lie in this
fidelity to the life he knew so minutely; for the plot, the crime, the
curse, except in their own historical atmosphere, in the Colonel and in
Alice's story, interest us but little and languidly. It is, perhaps, not
refining too much to see in the novel a closer relationship to those
earlier tales and sketches which drew their matter from observation,
were less imaginative, more realistic, and belong to a less purely
creative art. If "The Scarlet Letter" was the culmination of the finer
tales, "The House of the Seven Gables" is the climax of this less
powerful, but more every-day group of the familiar aspect of country
life. It was, possibly, with some vague sense of this that Hawthorne
preferred this novel as one "more characteristic of my mind, and more
proper and natural for me to write;" it came from his more familiar
self. He was able to introduce into it that realistic detail concerning
trifles which he delighted to record in his journals; and the minute
analysis which in the great romance he gave to the feelings and inner
life of pain, he here gives rather to the elaboration of the scene, to
external things, to the surface and texture of the physical elements. He
has succeeded consequently in delineating and coloring a picture of New
England conditions with Dutch faithfulness, and this is the charm of the
work. It appeals, like life and memory themselves, to the people of that
countryside, and goes to their hearts like the sight of home. To others
it can be only a provincial study, with the attraction of such life in
any land, and for them more dependent on its romantic setting, its moral
suggestion, and general human truth. Those who have the secret and are
of kin to New England, however, find in the mere description something
that endears the book. The life of the little back street, as it revives
in Clifford's childishly pleased senses, with its succession of morning
carts, its scissor-grinder, and other incidents of the hour; the garden
of flowers and vegetables, with the Sunday afternoon in the ruinous
arbor, the loaf of bread and the china bowl of currants; the life of the
immortal cent-shop, with its queer array, and its string of customers
jingling the bell; the hens, evidently transported from the great coop
of the Berkshire cottage, but with the value of an event in the
novel,--all these things, with a hundred other features that are each
but a trifle, make up a glamour of reality that grows over the whole
book like the mosses on the house. In the characters themselves this
local realism is carried to the highest degree of truth, especially in
Hepzibah, who in her half-vital state, with her faded gentility and
gentle, heroic heart of patient love, in all her outer queerness and
grotesquely thwarted life, is the most wholly alive of all of
Hawthorne's characters; in Phoebe, too, though in a different way, is
the same truth, a life entirely real; and, on the smaller scale, Uncle
Venner is also to be reckoned a character perfectly done. Clifford is
necessarily faint, and does not interest one on his own account; he is
pitiable, but his love of the beautiful is too much sentimentalized to
engage sympathy in the special way that Hawthorne attempts, and one sees
in him only the victim of life, the prisoner whom the law mistook and
outraged and left ruined; and Holgrave is no more than a spectator,
mechanically necessary to the action and useful in other ways, but he
does not affect us as a character. There remains Judge Pyncheon, on whom
Hawthorne evidently exhausted his skill in the effort to make him
repellent. He is studied after the gentleman who was most active in the
removal of Hawthorne from the Custom House, and was intended to be a
recognizable portrait of him in the community. Perhaps the knowledge of
this fact interferes with the proper effect of the character, since it
makes one doubt the truth of it. The practice of introducing real
persons into literature as a means of revenge by holding them up to
detestation is one that seldom benefits either fiction or truth; it was
the ugliest feature of Pope's character, and it always affects one as
unhandsome treatment. In this instance it detracts from the sense of
reality, inasmuch as one suspects caricature. But taken without
reference to the original, Judge Pyncheon is somewhat of a stage
villain, a puppet; his villainy is presented mainly in his physique, his
dress and walk, his smile and scowl, and generally in his demeanor; it
is not actively shown, though the reader is told many sad stories of his
misbehaviour; even at the end, in the scene in which he comes nearest to
acting, the plot never gets further than a threat to do a cruel thing.
In other words it is a portrait that is drawn, not a character that is
shown in its play of evil power actually embodying itself in life. He is
the bogy of the house, the Pyncheon type incarnated in each generation;
and when he sits dead in the old chair, he seems less an individual than
the Pyncheon corpse. In the long chapter which serves as his requiem,
and in which there is the suggestion of Dickens not in the best phase of
his art, the jubilation is somewhat diabolic; it affects one as if
Hawthorne's thoughts were executing a dance upon a grave. The character
is too plainly hated by the author, and it fails to carry conviction of
its veracity. Yet in certain external touches and aspects it suggests
the hypocrite who everywhere walks the streets, placid, respectable,
sympathetic in salutations, but bearing within a cold, gross, cruel,
sensual, and selfish nature which causes a shudder at every casual
glimpse that betrays its lurking hideousness. The character is
thoroughly conceived, but being developed by description instead of
action, seems overdone; prosperity has made him too flabby to act, and
kills him with a fit as soon as he works himself up to play the role.

After all, the story in its contemporary phase is but a small part of
the novel, which does not much suffer even if the Judge in his youthful,
hard-hearted, cowardly crime and the victim in his aesthetic delicacy
are both ineffective in making the impression the author aimed at. The
real scene is the singularly trivial and barren life of the old house,
where nothing takes place but the purchase of a Jim Crow, a breakfast of
mackerel, a talk about chickens, gossip with Uncle Venner, and the
passing of a political procession in the street; and one too easily
forgets the marvelous art which could make such a life interesting and
stimulating and engaging to the affections, even with the aid of
Hepzibah and Phoebe in their simpleness. What makes the happiness of the
story is to be found in these details, and in the century-old atmosphere
which Hawthorne has generated about them, compounding into one element
the witchcraft memories, the foreign horizons, the curse in the house,
the threadbare gentility, the decay material and spiritual, the odor of
time, all of which he had absorbed from his Salem life; thence it came
that he was able to give to New England its only imaginative work that
has ancestral quality. All this, too, is distilled from the soil.
Hawthorne felt in his own life the weight of this past; its elements
were familiar and near to him, so that his own family legend imparts
coloring to the tale and gives him sympathy with it; and in leaving
Salem it was from such a past that he desired to be free. He expresses
himself, in these matters, through Holgrave, in his democratic new life
urging Hepzibah to abandon gentility and be proud of her cent shop as a
genuine thing in a practical and real world,--she would begin to live
now at sixty, such was his narrowness of youthful view; but the
democratic sentiment is Hawthorne's. So, too, in his rhetorical
impeachment of the past, though the passage is meant to summarize the
point of view of reform, there is an emphasis such as sincerity gives:--

"'Shall we never, never get rid of this Past?' cried he, keeping up the
earnest tone of his preceding conversation. 'It lies upon the Present
like a giant's dead body! In fact, the case is just as if a young giant
were compelled to waste all his strength in carrying about the corpse of
the old giant, his grandfather, who died a long while ago, and only
needs to be decently buried. Just think a moment, and it will startle
you to see what slaves we are to bygone times,--to Death, if we give the
matter the right word!'

"'But I do not see it,' observed Phoebe.

"'For example, then,' continued Holgrave, 'a dead man, if he happen to
have made a will, disposes of wealth no longer his own; or, if he die
intestate, it is distributed in accordance with the notions of men much
longer dead than he. A dead man sits on all our judgment-seats; and
living judges do but search out and repeat his decisions. We read in
dead men's books! We laugh at dead men's jokes, and cry at dead men's
pathos! We are sick of dead men's diseases, physical and moral, and die
of the same remedies with which dead doctors killed their patients! We
worship the living Deity according to dead men's forms and creeds.
Whatever we seek to do, of our own free motion, a dead man's icy hand
obstructs us! Turn our eyes to what point we may, a dead man's white,
immitigable face encounters them, and freezes our very heart! And we
must be dead ourselves before we can begin to have our proper influence
on our own world, which will then be no longer our world, but the world
of another generation, with which we shall have no shadow of a right to
interfere. I ought to have said, too, that we live in dead men's houses;
as, for instance, in this of the Seven Gables!'"

This is in the form of dialogue; but Hawthorne's own attitude toward
reform is clearly disclosed in the analytic passages in which he
discusses Holgrave, though it is observable that he embodies no adverse
criticism upon it in the character itself, as he was to do in his next
novel. He appears to take the same view of reform that is sometimes
found in respect to prayer, that it has great subjective advantages and
is good for the soul, but is futile in the world of fact. It was well
for Holgrave, he says, to think as he did; this enthusiasm "would serve
to keep his youth pure and make his aspirations high," and he goes on
with his own judgment on the matter:--

"And when, with the years settling down more weightily upon him, his
early faith should be modified by inevitable experience, it would be
with no harsh and sudden revolution of his sentiments. He would still
have faith in man's brightening destiny, and perhaps love him all the
better, as he should recognize his helplessness in his own behalf; and
the haughty faith, with which he began life, would be well bartered for
a far humbler one at its close, in discerning that man's best directed
effort accomplishes a kind of dream, while God is the sole worker of

This may be profound truth, as it is intended to be; but it needs no
penetration to see here a man whose sympathies with all kinds of those
"come-outers" who then multiplied exceedingly in his neighborhood, would
be infinitesimal. He had not, however, yet engaged with this problem so
closely as he was to do. So far one would discern only that fatalistic
and pessimistic trait indicated by "The Scarlet Letter" and found in
"The House of the Seven Gables" in the hard conclusion that there was no
remedy for the harm that had been done in the long past. The curse was
done with now, it is true, by the marriage of Phoebe and Holgrave, but
for Clifford and Hepzibah there was no amends for the lives the dead
Judge had ruined by the aid of an imperfect and blundering human law;
they were wrecks, so Hawthorne represents it,--they had missed life's
happiness and were now in hospital, as it were, till they should die;
but in their lives evil had been triumphant, had made them innocent
victims, and for this there was neither help nor compensation. The
irremediableness of the breach that sin makes in the soul had been
preached in "The Scarlet Letter;" here is the other half of the truth,
as Hawthorne saw it, the irremediableness of the injury done to others.
So far as the book has ethical meaning it lies in the implacability of
the uncanceled wrong lingering as a curse, destroying the bad and
blasting the good descendants of the house, and presenting the mystery
of evil as something positive, persisting, and unchecked in its career.
The moral element, nevertheless, lies well in the background and is
overlaid with romantic and legendary features; its hatefulness in the
main story is not the principal theme; and the novel pleases and
succeeds, not by these traits, but by its humble realism, its delicate
character-drawing, and that ancestral power which makes it the story of
a house long lived in.

On finishing this work Hawthorne took that rest which he always required
after any great intellectual exertion, and spent the time with his
children and wife. His second daughter, Rose, was born in the spring. A
happier childhood seldom gets into books than that which appears in the
reminiscences of this small family, whether they were in Salem, or
Berkshire, or Liverpool. Hawthorne lived much with his children, and he
had the habit of observing them minutely and writing down the history of
their little lives in his journals. All winter their play and
recreation, their sayings and adventures and habits, diversified the
Berkshire days; they thrived on "the blue nectared air," and had rosy
cheeks and abounding spirits, and their heads were stuffed with fairy
tales. The year was a glorious one in Julian's memory, and the page he
makes of it may be taken as a leaf of his father's life at home,
disclosing his daily life and home-nature, as it was through years of
domestic happiness. Hawthorne, indeed, is never so attractive as when
seen with the light of his children's eyes upon him:--

"He made those spring days memorable to his children. He made them boats
to sail on the lake, and kites to fly in the air; he took them fishing
and flower-gathering, and tried (unsuccessfully for the present) to
teach them swimming. Mr. Melville used to ride or drive up, in the
evenings, with his great dog, and the children used to ride on the dog's
back. In short, the place was made a paradise for the small people. In
the previous autumn, and still more in the succeeding one, they all went
nutting, and filled a certain disused oven in the house with such bags
upon bags of nuts as not a hundred children could have devoured during
the ensuing winter. The children's father displayed extraordinary
activity and energy on these nutting expeditions; standing on the ground
at the foot of a tall walnut-tree, he would bid them turn their backs
and cover their eyes with their hands; then they would hear, for a few
seconds, a sound of rustling and scrambling, and, immediately after, a
shout, whereupon they would uncover their eyes and gaze upwards; and lo!
there was their father--who but an instant before, as it seemed, had
been beside them--swaying and soaring high aloft on the topmost
branches, a delightful mystery and miracle. And then down would rattle
showers of ripe nuts, which the children would diligently pick up, and
stuff into their capacious bags. It was all a splendid holiday; and they
cannot remember when their father was not their playmate, or when they
ever desired or imagined any other playmate than he."

The spirit of such a fatherhood, and all this delight in the children's
world, was distilled for the great multitude of other children in "The
Wonder-Book" and its sequel "Tanglewood Tales." From very early in his
career he had written charming childhood sketches, of which "Little
Annie's Ramble" and "Little Daffydown-dilly" are easily recalled; and
his association with his wife's sister, Elizabeth Peabody, had directed
his attention particularly to literature for children, and
"Grandfather's Chair" had been the result. Whenever he fell into
discouragement in respect to the earning capacity of his pen, his first
thought was that he would write children's books for a living. For some
time he had meditated a volume which should adapt the classical tales of
mythology to the understanding and interests of such children as his
own, and he now put the plan in execution. He began "The Wonder-Book"
with the summer, and finished it at one effort in six weeks of June and
July; the ease with which he accomplished the task indicates how
pleasurable it was, and well adapted to his sympathies and powers; and
the result was very successful, a book of sunshine from cover to cover.
It [Footnote: _A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys_. By Nathaniel
Hawthorne, with Engravings by Baker from designs by Billings. Boston:
Ticknor, Reed and Fields. 1852. 16mo. Pp. vi. 256.] was published in the
fall, and was followed after an interval by its second part, "Tanglewood
Tales." [Footnote: _Tanglewood Tales for Girls and Boys_. Being a
Second Wonder-Book. By Nathaniel Hawthorne, with Fine Illustrations.
Boston: Ticknor, Reed and Fields. 1853. 16mo. Pp. 336.]

A multitude of children have loved these books, for whom their very
names are a part of the golden haze of memory; and, in view of the
association of Hawthorne's genius and temperament with quite other
themes and the darker element in grown lives, this band of children make
a kind of halo round his figure. Whether the thing done should have been
so done, whether Greek should have been turned into Gothic, is a foolish
matter. To please a child is warrant enough for any work; and here
romantic fancy plays around the beautiful forms and noble suggestion of
old heroic and divine life, and marries them to the hillside and
fireside of New England childhood with the naturalness of a fairy
enchantment; these tales are truly transplanted into the minds of the
little ones with whose youngest tendrils of imagination they are
intertwined. To tear apart such tender fibres were a poor mode of
criticism, for the living fact better speaks for itself; and, in the
case of the present writer, whose earliest recollection of the great
world of literature, his first dawn-glimpse of it, lying in dreamy
beauty, was Bellerophon's pool, the memory is potent and yields an
appreciation not to be distilled in any other alembic. Few facts are
more fixed in his memory than that he was the child who watched the pool
for the tall boy with the shining bridle who was his strange friend from
another world. If to wake and feed the imagination and charm it, and
fill the budding mind with the true springtime of the soul's life in
beautiful images, noble thoughts, and brooding moods that have in them
the infinite suggestion, be success for a writer who would minister to
the childish heart, few books can be thought to equal these; and the
secret of it lies in the wondering sense which Hawthorne had of the
mystical in childhood, of that element of purity in being which is felt
also in his reverence for womanhood, and which, whether in child or
woman, was typical of the purity of the soul itself,--in a word, the
spiritual sense of life. His imagination, living in the child-sphere,
pure, primitive, inexperienced, found only sunshine there, the freshness
of the early world; nor are there any children's books so dipped in
morning dews.

On finishing "The Wonder-Book" Hawthorne devoted himself to life with
Julian for three weeks, during the absence of the rest of the family on
a visit, and wrote a daily account of it with such fullness that this
history would fill a hundred pages of print. Some passages have been
published, and they illustrate how this amusement had taken the place of
the earlier note-books which recorded his observations of ordinary and
even trivial life round about him. There may be some wonder that a mind
of Hawthorne's powers should find its play in such literary
journalizing, and the inference is ready that, when not at work in
imagination, he was mentally unoccupied; his intellectual interests
were, however, always limited in scope, and his readings in the evening
to his wife were confined to pure literature; outside of such books he
apparently had no intellectual life, and his thoughts and affections
found their exercise in the domestic circle just as his eyes were
engaged with the look of the landscape, the incidents of the road, and
the changes of the weather. His capacity for idleness was great, and as
his vigor had already somewhat waned his periods of repose were long. He
undertook no new work during the summer, but prepared for the press a
new volume of tales, "The Snow Image," [Footnote: _The Snow Image and
other Twice-Told Tales_. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston: Ticknor,
Reed and Fields. 1852. 12mo, brown cloth. Pp. 273. The contents and
source of the tales were as follows: The Snow Image, _International
Review_, November, 1850; The Great Stone Face, _National Era_,
January 24, 1850; Main Street, _AEsthetic Papers_, 1849; Ethan
Brand, _Dollar Magazine_, May, 1851; A Bell's Biography,
_Knickerbocker Magazine_, March, 1837; Sylph Etherege, Boston
_Token_, 1838; The Canterbury Pilgrims, Boston _Token_, 1833;
No. I, Old News, _New England Magazine_, February, 1835; No. II,
The Old French War, March, 1835; No. III, The Old Tory, May, 1835; The
Man of Adamant, Boston _Token_, 1837; The Devil in Manuscript,
_New England Magazine_, May, 1835; John Inglefield's Thanksgiving,
_Democratic Review_, March, 1840; Old Ticonderoga, _Democratic
Review_, February, 1836; The Wives of the Dead, Boston _Token_,
1832; Little Daffydowndilly, _Boys' and Girls' Magazine_, Boston,
1843; Major Molineux, Boston _Token_, 1832.] which was ready by the
first of November and was soon afterwards issued. It is made up of
stories and sketches out of old periodicals, which had not been gathered
in the former collection, some of them dating from the beginning of his
career. Three, however, were later in composition, and were perhaps
among those which he had thought of binding up with "The Scarlet
Letter," had that been issued according to his original plan as one of
several new tales. These three were "The Great Stone Face," from "The
National Era," January 24, 1850, "The Snow Image" from "The
International Magazine," November, 1850, and "Ethan Brand; a Chapter
from an Abortive Romance," from "Holden's Dollar Magazine," May, 1851;
they were all published with the author's name. These stories require no
comment, as the types to which they belong are well marked. They were,
in reality, his last trials of his art as a teller of tales.

Late in November, the family again removed to a new dwelling-place. The
inland air had proved, it was thought, less favorable to health than was
expected, and except in the bracing months of mid-winter Hawthorne found
it enervating. He had been, however, very happy in Berkshire, as happy
probably as it was in his nature to be, and the distant beauty and near
wildness of the country had been attractive; the house, nevertheless,
was very small, and he fretted at its inconveniences, not in a
disagreeable way, but desiring to have a house and home of his own among
more familiar scenes and within reach of the sea; he regarded the new
move as a makeshift, and settled in West Newton, a suburb of Boston,
where his wife's family lived, until he should purchase a place of his
own. The change from the winter picturesqueness of Berkshire was marked,
but the village was of the usual New England type and his surroundings
were not essentially different from those he was accustomed to at
Concord and Salem.

West Newton was near to Roxbury and the scenes of his rural experience
at Brook Farm; but he hardly needed to refresh his memory of the places
and persons that had been so much a part of his life ten years before.
Brook Farm, as an experiment in the regeneration of society, had run its
course, and was gone; but much that was characteristic of it externally
was now to be transferred to the novel Hawthorne had in hand as his next
work. "The Blithedale Romance" [Footnote: The Blithedale Romance, By
Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston: Ticknor, Reed and Fields. 1852. 12mo,
cloth. Pp. viii, 288.] was written during the winter, and was finished
as early as May, 1852, when it was at once issued. It is the least
substantial of any of his longer works. It lacks the intensity of power
that distinguishes "The Scarlet Letter," and the accumulated richness of
surface that belongs to "The House of the Seven Gables," due to the
overlaying of story on story in that epitome of a New England family
history. "The Blithedale Romance," on the contrary, has both less depth
and less inclusiveness; and much of its vogue springs from the fact of
its being a reflection of the life of Brook Farm, which possesses an
interest in its own right. Hawthorne used his material in the direct way
that was his custom, and transferred bodily to his novel, to make its
background and atmosphere, what he had preserved in his note-books or
memory from the period of his residence with the reformers. The April
snowstorm in which he arrived at the farm, his illness there, the
vine-hung tree that he made his autumnal arbor, the costume and habits,
the fancy-dress party, the Dutch realism of the figure of Silas Foster,
and many another detail occur at once to the mind as from this origin;
his own attitude is sketched frankly in Miles Coverdale, and the germs
of others of the characters, notably Priscilla, are to be found in the
same experience. The life of the farmhouse, however, is not of
sufficient interest in itself to hold attention very closely, and the
socialistic experiment, after all, is not the theme of the story; these
things merely afford a convenient and appropriate ground on which to
develop a study of the typical reformer, as Hawthorne conceived him, the
nature, trials, temptations, and indwelling fate of such a man; and to
this task the author addressed himself. In the way in which he worked
out the problem, he revealed his own judgment on the moral type brought
so variously and persistently under his observation by the wave of
reform that was so strongly characteristic of his times.

The characters are, as usual, few, and they have that special trait of
isolation which is the birthmark of Hawthorne's creations. Zenobia,
Priscilla, and Hollingsworth are the trio, who, each in an environment
of solitude, make the essence of the plot by their mutual relations.
Zenobia is set apart by her secret history and physical nature, and
Priscilla by her magnetic powers and enslavement to the mesmerist;
Hollingsworth is absorbed in his mission. It is unlikely that Hawthorne
intended any of these as a portrait of any real person, though as the
seamstress of Brook Farm gave the external figure of Priscilla, it may
well be that certain suggestions of temperament were found for the other
two characters among his impressions of persons whom he met. Neither
Zenobia nor Priscilla, notwithstanding the latter's name, are
essentially New England characters; in each of them there is something
alien to the soil, and they are represented as coming from a different
stock. Hollingsworth, on the other hand, is meant as a native type. The
unfolding of the story, and the treatment of the characters, are not
managed with any great skill. Hawthorne harks back to his old habits,
and does so in a feebler way than would have been anticipated. He
interjects the short story of The Veiled Lady, for example, in the
middle of the narrative, as he had placed the tale of Alice in "The
House of the Seven Gables," but very ineffectively; it is a pale
narrative and does not count visibly in the progress of the novel, but
only inferentially. He uses also the exotic flower, which Zenobia wears,
as a physical symbol, but it plays no part and is only a relic of his
old manner. The description of the performance in the country hall seems
like an extract from one of the old annuals of the same calibre as the
Story-Teller's Exhibition. Mesmerism is the feebler substitute for the
old witchcraft element. In a word, the work is not well knit together,
and the various methods of old are weakly combined. One comes back to
the moral situation as the centre of interest; and in it he exhibits the
reformer as failing in the same ways in which other egotists fail, for
he perceives in the enthusiasm of the humanitarian only selfishness,
arrogance, intolerance in another form. Hollingsworth, with the best of
motives apparently, since his cause is his motive, as he believes, is
faithless to his associates and willing to wreck their enterprise
because it stands in his way and he is out of sympathy with it; he is
faithless to Priscilla in so far as he accepts Zenobia because she can
aid him with her wealth, and on her losing her wealth he is faithless to
her in returning to Priscilla; he has lost the power to be true, in the
other relations of life, through his devotion to his cause. One feels
that Hollingsworth is the victim of Hawthorne's moral theory about him.
It is true that at the end Hawthorne has secured in the character that
tragic reversal which is always effective, in the point that
Hollingsworth, who set out to be the friend and uplifter and saviour of
the criminal classes, sees at last in himself the murderer of Zenobia;
but this is shown almost by a side-light, and not as the climax of the
plot, perhaps because the reader does not hold him guilty in any true
sense of the disaster which overtakes Zenobia. In its main situation,
therefore, the plot, while it suggests and illustrates the temptations
and failures of a nature such as Hollingsworth's, does not carry
conviction. Description takes the place of action; much of Zenobia's
life and of Hollingsworth's, also, is left untold in the time after
Coverdale left them; as in the case of Judge Pyncheon, the wrong-doing
is left much in the shadow, suggested, hinted at, narrated finally, but
not shown in the life; and such wrong-doing loses the edge of villainy.
It might be believed that Hollingsworth as a man failed; but as a
typical man, as that reformer who is only another shape of the selfish
and heartless egotist sacrificing everything wrongfully to his
philanthropic end, it is not so easily believed that he must have
failed; it is the absence of this logical necessity that discredits him
as a type, and takes out of his character and career the universal
quality. This, however, may be only a personal impression. The truth of
the novel, on the ethical side, may be plainer to others; it presents
some aspects of moral truth, carefully studied and probably observed,
but they seem very partial aspects, and too incomplete to allow them,
taken all together, to be called typical. The power of the story lies
rather in its external realism, and especially in that last scene, which
was taken from Hawthorne's experience at Concord on the night when he
took part in rescuing the body of the young woman who had drowned
herself; but with the exception of this last scene, and of some of the
sketches that reproduce most faithfully the life and circumstances of
Brook Farm, the novel does not equal its predecessors in the ethical or
imaginative value of its material, in romantic vividness, or in the
literary skill of its construction. The elements of the story are
themselves inferior; and perhaps Hawthorne made the most of them that
they were capable of; but his mind was antipathetic to his main theme.
His representation of the New England reformer is as partial as that of
the Puritan minister; both are depraved types, and in the former there
is not that vivid truth to general human nature which makes the latter
so powerful a revelation of the sinful heart.

Hawthorne had purchased at some time during the winter, while at work
upon this novel, the house at Concord that he named The Wayside. It had
belonged to Mr. Alcott, and was an ordinary country residence with about
twenty acres of ground, part of which was a wooded hillside rising up
steeply back of the house, which itself stood close to the road. The
family took possession of this new home early in June, and it soon took
on the habitual look of their domicile, which, wherever it might be, had
a character of its own. Mrs. Hawthorne, as usual, was much pleased with
everything, and wrote an enthusiastic account of its prettiness and
comfort, though no important changes were then made in the house itself.
She describes the "Study," and the passage, which is in a letter to her
mother, gives the very atmosphere of the place:--

"The study is the pet room, the temple of the Muses and the Delphic
shrine. The beautiful carpet lays the foundation of its charms, and the
oak woodwork harmonizes with the tint in which Endymion is painted. At
last I have Endymion where I always wanted it--in my husband's study,
and it occupies one whole division of the wall. In the corner on that
side stands the pedestal with Apollo on it, and there is a
fountain-shaped vase of damask and yellow roses. Between the windows is
the Transfiguration [given by Mr. Emerson]. (The drawing-room is to be
redeemed with one picture only,--Correggio's Madonna and Christ.) On
another side of the Study are the two Lake Comos. On another, that
agreeable picture of Luther and his family around the Christmas-tree,
which Mr. George Bradford gave to Mr. Hawthorne. Mr. Emerson took Julian
to walk in the woods, the other afternoon. I have no time to think what
to say, for there is a dear little mob around me. Baby looks fairest of
fair to-day. She walks miles about the house."

No words but her own do justice to the happiness of her married life.
She worshiped her husband, who always remained to her that combination
of adorable genius and tender lover and strong man that he had been ten
years before when they were wedded. He had been on his part as devoted
to her, and especially he had never allowed the burden of poverty to
fall upon her in any physical hardship. In the absence of servants, for
example, he himself did the work, and would not permit her to task
herself with it. He was never a self-indulgent man, except toward his
genius; he had early learned the lesson of "doing without," as the
phrase is, and she describes him as being "as severe as a Stoic about
all personal comforts" and says he "never in his life allowed himself a
luxury." Her testimony to his household character is a remarkable
tribute, nor does it detract from it to remember that it is an encomium
of love:--

"He has perfect dominion over himself in every respect, so that to do
the highest, wisest, loveliest thing is not the least effort to him, any
more than it is to a baby to be innocent. It is his spontaneous act, and
a baby is not more unconscious in its innocence. I never knew such
loftiness, so simply borne. I have never known him to stoop from it in
the most trivial household matter, any more than in a larger or more
public one. If the Hours make out to reach him in his high sphere, their
wings are very strong. But I have never thought of him as in time, and
so the Hours have nothing to do with him. Happy, happiest is the wife
who can bear such and so sincere testimony to her husband after eight
years' intimate union. Such a person can never lose the prestige which
commands and fascinates. I cannot possibly conceive of my happiness,
but, in a blissful kind of confusion, live on. If I can only be so
great, so high, so noble, so sweet, as he in any phase of my being, I
shall be glad."

This was written in the Berkshire days, but it represents her habitual
feeling at all times; and now, in the pleasant society of Concord and
among the scenes which were endeared to their memory as those of their
early married life, this strain of happiness often overflows in her
letters like a flood of sunshine. "All that ground," she writes of the
neighborhood of the Old Manse, "is consecrated to me by unspeakable
happiness; yet not nearly so great happiness as I now have, for I am ten
years happier in time, and an uncounted degree happier in kind. I know
my husband ten years better, and I have not arrived at the end; for he
is still an enchanting mystery, beyond the region I have discovered and
made my own. Also, I know partly how happy I am, which I did not well
comprehend ten years ago."

One scene, out of scores that are contained in her correspondence, is
too pretty and characteristic to miss, and, besides, serves by a single
glimpse to give the home life of this new Concord sojourn with great
vividness, yielding--what is the hardest of all to obtain in such
intimate views--its quality, like a tone of color. It describes
Hawthorne's return from a three weeks' absence at the Isles of Shoals
during which he had also attended his class reunion at Bowdoin:--

"I put the vase of delicious rosebuds, and a beautiful China plate of
peaches and grapes, and a basket of splendid golden Porter apples on his
table; and we opened the western door and let in a flood of sunsetting.
Apollo's 'beautiful disdain' seemed kindled anew. Endymion smiled richly
in his dream of Diana. Lake Como was wrapped in golden mist. The divine
form in the Transfiguration floated in light. I thought it would be a
pity if Mr. Hawthorne did not come that moment. As I thought this, I
heard the railroad-coach--and he was here. He looked, to be sure, as he
wrote in one of his letters, 'twice the man he was.'"

Earlier in the summer this happy home had been shadowed by the tragedy
of the death of Hawthorne's sister, Louisa, who was lost in a steamship
disaster on the Hudson. Like all such natures, Hawthorne took his griefs
hard and in loneliness; but in such a home healing influences were all
about him, and even such a sorrow, which he deeply felt, could only add
another silence to his life. His summer work, to which he had turned
with reluctance and had rapidly finished by the end of August, was the
campaign biography of Franklin Pierce, his life-long friend, who was now
a candidate for the Presidency. It is a brief but sufficient book,
[Footnote: _Life of Franklin Pierce_. By Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Boston: Ticknor, Reed and Fields. 1852. Pp. 144. 12mo.] done well though
without distinction, and it holds no real place among his works. Much
adverse criticism has, however, been made upon him for writing it at
all. It is thought that as a man of letters he lost dignity by using his
skill for a political end, and also that as a Northerner he placed
himself upon the wrong side in the important public questions then
coming to a great national crisis. This is an unjust view. It has
already become plain, in the course of the story of his life, that he
was not a reformer nor in any real sympathy with reform. He was not only
not an abolitionist, which in itself, in view of the closeness of his
association with the friends of the cause, argues great immobility in
his character; he was, on the contrary, a Democrat in national politics,
and took the party view of the slavery question, not with any energy,
but placidly and stolidly, so far as one can judge. In fact he took
little or no interest in the matter. There was no objection in his mind
to writing the biography because of Pierce's political position; he did
not hesitate on that score. He did not hang back, on the other hand,
because he felt that he could not tell the truth about his friend in a
book pledged to see only the good in him. He was as honest as the
granite, so far as that is concerned; and he respected as well as loved
his friend, and was quite willing to serve him by showing his life and
character as he knew them. He had no intention to deceive any one by a
eulogy. He indulged in no illusions about Pierce, nor about any of his
other friends. He was, in fact, an unsparing critic of men's characters,
and he had a trait, not rare in New England,--a willingness to underrate
men and minimize them. His fellow-citizens are not natural
hero-worshipers; to them "a man is a man, for a' that," with an accent
that levels down as well as up. Hawthorne had to the full this
democratic, familiar, derogatory temper. Pierce was to him a politician,
just as Cilley had been, and for politicians as a class he had a
well-defined contempt. He believed Pierce to be a man of honor,
sagacity, and tact, a true man, not great in any way, but quite the
equal of other men in the country and fit in ability, experience, and
character to be President, if his fellow-citizens desired him to serve
in that office. The biography Hawthorne wrote contains no conscious
untruth. It cannot be thought that Hawthorne compromised with himself
either with regard to the national question involved or to the personal
character of the candidate. His reluctance to write the book had no
deeper root than a dislike to seem to be paid for doing it by an office.
He knew that Pierce would provide him with a lucrative post in any case;
and the public would say that office was his pay. The prospect of this
situation was so irksome to him that he decided beforehand to refuse the
office, since he preferred rather to do that than to decline the request
of his friend to oblige him with his literary service at such a crisis
of his career. It is unjust to Hawthorne to suppose that the act had any
political complexion, or was anything else than a mere piece of
friendliness, natural and proper in itself; his association with the
political group, of which Pierce was one, did not proceed from
principle, but was an accident of college companionship; the fact is,
however strange it may seem, he had no politics, but stood apart from
the great antislavery cause just as he did from the transcendental
philosophy; neither of these two main movements in the life of his times
touched him at all in a personal way. It belongs to the shallowness of
his objection to undertake the biography, his dislike to take office as
a kind of pay, that it was easily removed. Fields very sensibly
persuaded him that he should not neglect so favorable an opportunity to
provide for his wife and children, who had no support but his life. When
the newly elected President, therefore, offered him the best office in
his gift, the Liverpool consulate, Hawthorne decided to take it. The
nomination was confirmed March 26, 1853; and, after sending "Tanglewood
Tales" to the press, which had been his winter's work, he prepared to
leave Concord for a long residence abroad.



Hawthorne left the Wayside home with a good deal of regret for its quiet
happiness, and yet with pleasant anticipations of the opportunity of
seeing foreign countries. He had the roaming instinct; and, though he
had almost completed fifty years of life, its satisfaction had been of
the slightest. It is necessary to recall how very little he had seen of
the world in order to appreciate at all the way in which England and
Italy looked to his middle-aged eyes, the points in which they failed to
appeal to him as well as those in which they arrested his interest. With
all his love, or at least sentiment, for the sea, this was the first
voyage he had made, and finding himself a good sailor he enjoyed it
immensely. It was the next thing to commanding a ship himself upon his
ancestral element, and he felt the mystery and distance and that vague
impression of indefinite time that belong to the ocean atmosphere,--the
wish to sail on and on forever. In Liverpool, where he arrived in July,
he was plunged at once into a confused mass of new impressions and also
into the very mundane duties and surroundings of the consulate.

The narrative of his European experiences in every aspect is fully told
in the book of reminiscences "Our Old Home," which he published after
his return, and in the voluminous note-books kept in his English,
French, and Italian sojourns; and this long story is still further
enlarged and varied by the letters of the family, and the recollections
of his friends. It can be read in detail, and except as a story of
detail it has very little interest. The essential point which belongs to
his biography is to see how Hawthorne bore himself, the general
impression made on him, the ways in which his character came out, in
these novel circumstances. At first, he found the office itself very
much an old story. In fact, as a matter of routine and a part of daily
external affairs, the life of the consulate was that of the Boston coal
wharf and the Salem Custom House over again. He repeated the history of
these early experiences to the letter, except that he was no longer
ridden with the idea that he must go to work in a material, every-day
task in order to be a man among men; he was free from that delusion, but
at the same time he welcomed the change of life. Politics had already
begun to take on that unpleasantness for a Northern man of his
affiliations which could make even so dull a participant as he was, in
his sluggish conservatism, very uncomfortable; he had felt its rude
censures and misapprehensions of delicate personal relations--such as
existed between himself and President Pierce--disagreeably near at
hand; and he was glad to get away from his native land, upon which
before a year had passed he looked back with the feeling that he never
desired to return to it. He did not enjoy England so much, however, as
this might seem to indicate; and, especially, he did not enjoy his work,
for, notwithstanding his philosophy of the usefulness of manual toil and
regular occupation of an unliterary kind, the touch of work always
disenchanted his mind at once. He liked it no better than on the two
previous occasions at Boston and Salem; it bored and wearied him, and
just as before, though he does not now complain of the fact, it put an
end to his literary activity, paralyzed and sterilized his genius as
completely as if it had blasted him with a curse. The difficulty of
serving two masters, though it is sometimes thought to be a service
peculiarly fitted for men of letters, was illustrated in Hawthorne's
career in many ways and on several occasions, but nowhere more plainly
than in the period of his five years of atrophy from the time he entered
the consulate till the composition of "The Marble Faun." He wrote
vigorously in his note-books, from time to time, but such composition
was the opiate it had always been for his higher imaginative and moral
powers, and exercised only his faculty of observation. The fact that he
does not complain of this state of affairs is due probably to his
growing weariness of higher literary effort, the true power of his
genius, which now had only an ebbing physical force for its basis. He
was too much engaged in affairs, and too tired, to write; but he was not
displeased to have so good an excuse, and perhaps his ambition was
already really satisfied by the success he had achieved, and he felt the
spur less.

Altogether, the first and lasting impression made by his account of his
life at Liverpool is that he was the same discontented employee who had
chafed against circumstances before, and had not changed his mind with
the skies over him. The expression of his moods has the old touch of
irritability, too, in its excess of language, its air of confiding
something that one would not say aloud, its half-conscious pettishness.
In March, 1854, he writes to Bridge, in this character, though here
possibly it is the presence of politics that is the disturbing factor:--

"I like my office well enough, but any official duties and obligations
are irksome to me beyond expression. Nevertheless, the emoluments will
be a sufficient inducement to keep me here, though they are not above a
quarter part what some people suppose them.

"It sickens me to look back to America. I am sick to death of the
continual fuss and tumult and excitement and bad blood which we keep up
about political topics. If it were not for my children I should probably
never return, but--after quitting office--should go to Italy, and live
and die there. If Mrs. Bridge and you would go, too, we might form a
little colony amongst ourselves, and see our children grow up together.
But it will never do to deprive them of their native land, which I hope
will be a more comfortable and happy residence in their day than it has
been in ours. In my opinion, we are the most miserable people on earth.

"I wish you would send me the most minute particulars about Pierce--how
he looks and behaves when you meet him, how his health and spirits
are--and above all, what the public really thinks of him--a point which
I am utterly unable to get at through the newspapers. Give him my best
regards, and ask him whether he finds his post any more comfortable than
I prophesied it would be."

Another year's experience completed his dissatisfaction, and it had
reached the familiar acute stage, as early as July, 1855, when he
indited that well-known note to Mr. Bright, "the tall, slender,
good-humored, laughing, voluble" English friend, who had done everything
in the world to make him happy:--

Dear Mr. Bright,--I have come back (only for a day or two) to this black
and miserable hole.

Truly yours, Nath. Hawthorne.

There spoke the man, as if the sun had photographed him. It is true that
he had a particular occasion for black spirits at the moment, inasmuch
as the law reducing the emoluments of the office had just gone into
effect, in consequence of which the wages of his slavery were much
reduced. He was now very much disposed to resign. He had saved enough
money to free his mind from any anxiety for the future, since he thought
he could live on what he had with the exercise of economy; the health of
Mrs. Hawthorne was somewhat impaired, and it was necessary to arrange a
change of residence for her; and he was thoroughly weary of his English
surroundings. The President offered him a post in the American Legation
at Lisbon, but he declined to consider it; and finally the matter was
settled by Mrs. Hawthorne spending the winter at Lisbon with O'Sullivan,
who was minister there, while Hawthorne himself retained the consulate
and remained in Liverpool, keeping Julian with him while the other two
children accompanied their mother. Mrs. Hawthorne, after a delightful
visit, returned much improved in health, and it was not until the autumn
of 1857 that Hawthorne retired from office, after Buchanan became

As a consul Hawthorne discharged his duties with fidelity and
efficiency, and was in every way a satisfactory officer. He was diligent
and attentive in business affairs, and he was especially considerate of
the numbers of distressed citizens who naturally drifted into his care
and notice, and was always conscientious and generous in dealing with
them, while the burden was a heavy charge. The only matter that stands
out notably in his official action is his interest in the inhumane
treatment of sailors on American ships, and just before he left office
he sent a long dispatch to his government in respect to it. His
reflections on the subject, which are apposite and sensible enough, are
of less interest biographically than a few sentences upon himself in
this philanthropic character, which he wrote to his sister-in-law:--

"I do not know what Sophia may have said about my conduct in the
Consulate. I only know that I have done no good,--none whatever.
Vengeance and beneficence are things that God claims for Himself. His
instruments have no consciousness of His purpose; if they imagine they
have, it is a pretty sure token that they are _not_ His
instruments. The good of others, like our own happiness, is not to be
attained by direct effort, but incidentally. All history and observation
confirm this. I am really too humble to think of doing good! Now, I
presume you think the abolition of flogging was a vast boon to seamen. I
see, on the contrary, with perfect distinctness, that many murders and
an immense mass of unpunishable cruelty--a thousand blows, at least, for
every one that the cat-of-nine-tails would have inflicted--have resulted
from that very thing. There is a moral in this fact which I leave you to
deduce. God's ways are in nothing more mysterious than in this matter of
trying to do good."

This is the same voice that was heard in "The House of the Seven Gables"
and "The Blithedale Romance," and shows how deep-seated was Hawthorne's
antipathy to conscious philanthropy, and doubtless he meant Elizabeth
Peabody as she read it to lay it to heart as an abolitionist.

If Hawthorne observed much cruelty among the crews of American ships, he
must have accepted it as a part of the general misery of the world with
as much philosophy as he was master of, while he did his duty with
regard to it according to his opportunities. He was well liked by the
sea captains who came in contact with him. He had, indeed, a good
previous training, inasmuch as his terms of service in the Custom House
had made him familiarly acquainted with this seafaring type, to which he
was also akin. He met the American captains not only at his office, but
at the boarding-house of Mrs. Blodgett, where they resorted in numbers,
and where he himself lived at various times, and during the whole period
of his wife's absence in Portugal. This house is described by himself as
strongly impregnated with tar and bilge-water, and the men as very much
alive. He admired them, and thought they contrasted very favorably with
Englishmen in vitality, and he liked to be with them. Just as he had
associated happily and on equal terms with similar men whom he had known
in his own country, and made good-fellowship with them at Salem, he now
was a welcome and companionable member of this hardy group, which his
son Julian remembered in its general look and quality, and describes in
a smoking-room scene that makes this side of Hawthorne more lifelike
than it appears elsewhere:--

"The smoking-room was an apartment barely twenty feet square, though of
a fair height; but the captains smoked a great deal, and by nine o'clock
sat enveloped in a blue cloud. They played euchre with a jovial
persistence that seems wonderful in the retrospect, especially as there
was no gambling. The small boys in the house (there were two or three)
soon succeeded in mastering the mysteries of the game, and occasionally
took a hand with the captains. Hawthorne was always ready to play, and
used to laugh a great deal at the turns of fortune. He rather enjoyed
card-playing, and was a very good hand at whist; and knew, besides, a
number of other games, many of which are now out of fashion, but which
he, I suppose, had learned in his college days. Be the diversion or the
conversation what it might, he was never lacking in geniality and
good-fellowship; and sparkles of wit and good humor continually came
brightening out of his mouth, making the stalwart captains haw-haw
prodigiously, and wonder, perhaps, where his romances came from.
Nevertheless, in his official capacity, he sometimes made things (in
their own phrase) rather lively for them; and it is a tribute to his
unfailing good sense and justice, that his enforcement of the law never
made him unpopular."

Christmas Day was an occasion of special festivity at this
boarding-house, and that of 1855 was unusually distinguished in its
annals by the presence of Hawthorne and the legend of the merry-making
about him which his friend Bright put into his clever rhymes of the
"Song of Consul Hawthorne." Whether in his office, or at the
boarding-house, or going about the docks at Liverpool, "Consul
Hawthorne" was evidently a very typical New Englander abroad, and
popular with his own people. He had laid the author off, and was as
purely a practical man of nautical affairs as would be found in any
shipping office in the city; and it needed no close observer to see that
the native element in him was of a very obstinate and unmalleable

It has been suggested that Hawthorne was afraid of liking English people
better than an American ought, as he says he suspects Grace Greenwood

"She speaks rapturously of the English hospitality and warmth of heart.
I likewise have already experienced something of this, and apparently
have a good deal more of it at my option. I wonder how far it is
genuine, and in what degree it is better than the superficial good
feeling with which Yankees receive foreigners,--a feeling not calculated
for endurance, but a good deal like a brushwood fire. We shall see!"

He had abundant opportunity to see, for he was very kindly received by
the society which it was natural for him to mingle with, and several of
his hosts were untiring in their efforts to please him and render him
comfortable. He was by no means incapable of social intercourse,
notwithstanding his retired habits; the capacity had never been
developed by early breeding or by later necessity, and though on his
return home, the change in him was noticeable, even under the influence
of his foreign travels he remained a silent, difficult, and evasive
person in society. When he was among his own old and familiar friends,
such as Bridge or Pierce, or with new companions whom he accepted into
his circle, such as Fields, he was open enough and took his share
genially and sometimes jovially, as well as when he was with the
American sea captains or his old associates in Salem; but the touch of
social formality, the presence of a stranger, the ways and habits of
conventionality shut him up in impenetrable reserve and made him
temporarily miserable. In England, however, he was compelled to meet and
be met in the ordinary intercourse of men and women, and he fared much
better than might have been anticipated. Very greatly to the surprise of
his friends he proved an excellent after-dinner speaker, not only on the
public occasions where the sense of his official station as a
representative of his country would have spurred him to acquit himself
well, but also at private parties and in purely personal relations. Like
many silent men he was a good listener, and his sensitiveness and mental
alertness gave the impression of more sympathy than perhaps he felt. He
made himself agreeable, at all events, and he submitted to an amount of
human fellowship that was astonishing to himself. The novelty of the
society he entered, doubtless, attracted him, and fed his curiosity, as
it certainly was an excitement to his wife. They had lived all their
lives in a community so much simpler in all the furnishings of refined
living, so much less characterized by the material luxuries of wealth,
than this in which they now found themselves, that the mere sight of the
houses, dinners, and liveries was a new experience, and they observed
them like country cousins. The manners of this society, also, arrested
their attention. It was inevitable that Hawthorne should maintain an
aloofness from all this, nevertheless, with the natural democratic
questioning of the reality of the courtesy, the propriety of the system,
the kind and quality of the social results. He felt the appeal that this
life made, he perceived its fitness to the soil, he saw it as a growth
that belonged in its place; but he was thoroughly glad that there was
nothing like it in his own country. There is not the slightest hint in
any word of his that he regarded himself as an ambassador of friendship
in a foreign country or thought that it was any part of his duty to
cultivate international good feeling: he felt himself politically,
socially, fundamentally, an alien in England, and he preferred to be so;
what first struck him were those obvious differences that distinguish
the two peoples, and these remained most prominently in his mind. He was
a stranger when he landed at Liverpool, and he never suffered the least
tincture of naturalization while he was in the country.

This attitude determines the point of view in his notes and
reminiscences. He was an observer, close and accurate and interested;
but he had not that sympathy which seeks to understand, to interpret, to
justify what one sees, and to put one's self in accord with it. He had
his standards already well fixed, and his limitations which he was not
sufficiently aware of to desire to escape. He had, too, the critical
spirit which is a New England trait, and with this went its natural
attendant, the habit of speaking his mind. In writing down his
impressions of English manners and institutions and people, he behaved
exactly as he had done in his records of similar things at home; there
was no difference in his method or in the character of what he said; he
was telling what he saw with that indifference to how it would strike
other people which comes near to being unconsciousness. He was a good
deal surprised when he discovered that the English did not relish what
he said; he protested that he had done them more than justice, that they
were too easily hurt, and as for hating them, he adds, "I would as soon
hate my own people." There is no ill-nature in "Our Old Home;" there is
only the clearly expressed, bare, unsympathetic statement of what he had
seen, touched here and there with that irony and humor which were apt to
mix with his view of men and things. So the people at Salem had thought
he did them injustice in his sketch of his native home, and he in turn
had told them that he had treated them very considerately, without
enmity or ill feeling of any kind, and in fact what he had written
"could not have been done in a better or kindlier spirit nor with a
livelier effect of truth." He had written of England in precisely the
same way, with that remorseless adherence to his own impression which
was second nature to him, and with that willingness to see the wrong
side of things that he disliked, to minimize human nature when it bored
him, and to get a grim humor out of his victims, which was also a part
of his endowment. In all this, as in some other parts of Hawthorne's
personality, there is a reminder of Carlyle. The hard judgment he wrote
down of Margaret Fuller, for example, and the humorous extravagance of
his visit to Martin Tupper, are not to be paralleled except in Carlyle's
reminiscences; there was the same unflinching rigor, the same cold
obtuseness, the same half-wearied contempt for what excited their humor
in both men. In his vexation of spirit Hawthorne is especially
suggestive of some discomfortable cousinship between them; and he was
often vexed in spirit. He was, it would seem, especially burdened by the
material comfort of England, in which he found a grossness but little
consonant with his own taste and spirit, and he made of this the type of
things English, as it is easy to do:--

"The best thing a man born in this island can do is to eat his beef and
mutton and drink his porter, and take things as they are; and think
thoughts that shall be so beefish, muttonish, portish, and porterish,
that they shall be matters rather material than intellectual. In this
way an Englishman is natural, wholesome, and good; a being fit for the
present time and circumstances, and entitled to let the future alone!"

The ascetic and intellectual element, which was large in his ideal past,
was revolted by these things, just as the democratic instincts of his
nature were shocked by the aristocratic system of society with its
social results. He was, too, always in a certain sense homesick; not
that he was anxious to go home or looked forward to his return with
great pleasure, but he was a man out of place, and had lost the natural
harmonies between the outer and the inner life. He had taken a house at
Rock Park, a suburb of Liverpool, but he could not make a home out of
it, and his account of his residence there gives the whole interior
atmosphere of his English stay.

"I remember to this day the dreary feeling with which I sat by our first
English fireside and watched the chill and rainy twilight of an autumn
day darkening down upon the garden, while the preceding occupant of the
house (evidently a most unamiable personage in his lifetime) scowled
inhospitably from above the mantelpiece, as if indignant that an
American should try to make himself at home there. Possibly it may
appease his sulky shade to know that I quitted his abode as much a
stranger as I entered it."

It is plain to see that he rather endured than enjoyed English life,
notwithstanding the true pleasures he found and the kind friends he
made. He was a stranger, taking a stranger's view and with much
suspicion of his surroundings, anticipating something hostile in them
and forestalling it with his own defenses not too friendly in aspect; in
a word he was a foreigner, and he never lost the sense of being in a
country not his own, to which he felt superior in all essential matters.

Some regret has been expressed that he did not come into closer contact
with English literary life, and especially with the more famous writers
of the day. He did not even make the acquaintance of Dickens, Thackeray,
Tennyson, Carlyle, George Eliot, to name the most important, nor was he
really introduced to the best intellectual life of England at all. He
met several second-rate writers, and he knew the Brownings more
particularly in Italy. It is not likely, however, that much was lost by
this failure to get into touch with the great masters of his own art or
with English thinkers and poets in general. Hawthorne had never cared
for such society in his own country, and it was probably by his own
choice that he missed the literary sets in London. The distaste that he
felt for society seems to have taken an aggravated form where his own
craft was concerned, whether through self-consciousness, or the memory
of his years of obscurity, or for whatever reason; perhaps he had known
authors enough at Concord and had no spirit of adventure left in that
direction. His own genius was solitary, and in his friendships literary
sympathy had no share, for he neither received nor gave it; in fact, if
he became familiar with an author, such as Thoreau or Ellery Channing or
Herman Melville, it was with the man, not the author. The terms on which
he stood with Longfellow and Emerson are those on which, at the
happiest, he might have met Thackeray, Tennyson, or Carlyle; but, though
speculation must be vain, it is far more probable that he would have
found little congeniality with any one of the three. Lord Houghton
appears to have made an effort to take him about, but with so little
success that he thought Hawthorne had taken a dislike to him. As it was,
Hawthorne saw quite enough, and more than he desired, of literary
England; it was mostly weariness to him.

It must be acknowledged that the manners and institutions of the
country, and its people for the most part, were little to Hawthorne's
taste, and he showed this in his book about them; but, for all that, he
found the country interesting and often lovely in its picturesque
antiquity and softnesses of light and color, and he appreciated to the
full the literary and historical sentiment that most appeals to
Americans of like education and breeding. He made many excursions in
different parts of England, and visited Scotland and the Isle of Man,
and he lingered in many towns and villages and was disposed to haunt old
places with a pilgrim devotion. He loved the face of the country, too,
and notwithstanding its misted and dreary skies, especially over
Liverpool, he found some good words for its weather, its seasons, its
long days, and all its out-door look. He went about with the mind and
senses of a tourist, satiating his instincts for minute and detailed
observation and writing it all down; in a spirit, too, of enjoyment and
discovery; and out of this satisfaction of his inveterate habits of
observing and noting and walking about with no other end in view, just
as if he were taking an autumn stroll in Salem, came the felicity of the
English notes, which after all deductions is very great in its own field
of delicate sentiment and realistic grasp and the atmosphere of a mind.
Hawthorne was thoroughly happy in indulging his wandering propensity in
such voyages of discovery; especially in London he found a city that
satisfied his idea of it, and he seems to have busied himself there for
days and weeks in merely going about from point to point and seeing the
spectacle of its vast and varied life. Hawthorne's English experiences
will, perhaps, be best realized, if he is thought of apart from
literature, as a man much identified with the shipping interests and
commercial society of Liverpool, and attending to this business rather
doggedly and wearily, not especially liking the place or the people,
whose ways and notions he was instinctively against, being himself a
settled New Englander of a strong race type; and yet, besides this, a
man who managed in his four years' residence to see a great deal of the
length and breadth of England, as a summer tourist might visit its
shrines on pilgrimage. This describes his life, nevertheless, only from
the outside; as soon as one opens his note-books, his personality
changes the impression, and pervades even his least sympathetic pages
with a human quality that wins on the reader in spite of all
reservations, and one sees how in the face of his prejudices and
limitations England was saved to him by his literary faculty, the
interests, susceptibilities, and powers that were his as a man of
letters. One finds in his experience, too, besides the consul and the
man of letters, a kindly and simple manhood of a more primitive element,
the human heart in its own original right, as in the well-known incident
of the workhouse child who was so strangely drawn to him. Of the humane
actions, however, of which any record remains, none is so honorable as
his considerateness, generosity, and conscientiousness in his
correspondence with Delia Bacon, whom he endured and befriended with
infinite patience and delicacy; the letters which he wrote to her show
his character in a very noble light, and bring out one side of his life
which has little illustration, his habitual thoughtfulness for the weak.
One recalls his care for his Brook Farm friend Farley at Concord, for
example; and all his relations with what one may call the wayside
acquaintance of life were to his honor.

One other incident must also find a place here, which completes an
earlier story and rounds out his own conception of integrity. On coming
to Liverpool he had incurred heavy expenses, but six months of his more
fortunate days had not gone by before he sent to Hillard the money which
his friends had given to him in his sore need at Salem while he was
writing "The Scarlet Letter." His own words best express the feelings
which led him to make this restitution:--

Liverpool, _December 9, 1853._

Dear Hillard,--I herewith send you a draft on Ticknor for the sum (with
interest included) which was so kindly given me by unknown friends,
through you, about four years ago.

I have always hoped and intended to do this, from the first moment when
I made up my mind to accept the money. It would not have been right to
speak of this purpose before it was in my power to accomplish it; but it
has never been out of my mind for a single day, nor hardly, I think, for
a single working hour. I am most happy that this loan (as I may fairly
call it, at this moment) can now be repaid without the risk on my part
of leaving my wife and children utterly destitute. I should have done it
sooner; but I felt that it would be selfish to purchase the great
satisfaction for myself, at any fresh risk to them. We are not rich, nor
are we ever likely to be; but the miserable pinch is over.

The friends who were so generous to me must not suppose that I have not
felt deeply grateful, nor that my delight at relieving myself from this
pecuniary obligation is of any ungracious kind. I have been grateful all
along, and am more so now than ever. This act of kindness did me an
unspeakable amount of good; for it came when I most needed to be assured
that anybody thought it worth while to keep me from sinking. And it did
me even greater good than this, in making me sensible of the need of
sterner efforts than my former ones, in order to establish a right for
myself to live and be comfortable. For it is my creed (and was so even
at that wretched time) that a man has no claim upon his
fellow-creatures, beyond bread and water and a grave, unless he can win
it by his own strength or skill. But so much the kinder were those
unknown friends whom I thank again with all my heart.

* * * * *

This money must have been the first he had saved, and he could now spare
it from his income. In the four years that he held the consulate he had
held to his main purpose of laying by a competency, and when he
resigned, on August 31, 1857, his mind was at ease with regard to the
future for himself and his family. His gratitude for this late won
independence, humble as it was, must have been deeply felt, as is
apparent from his letters at the time; a great weight had been lifted
from his spirit, and his happiness was such as only a man with his ideas
of personal independence could realize. He proposed now to linger in
Europe for some time longer; and when he was relieved from his duties in
the fall he went with the family through France to Italy, hoping that
the southern winter would be of benefit to Mrs. Hawthorne's still
uncertain health.

Life in Italy proved far more agreeable than it had been in England, and
there were periods in it when Hawthorne enjoyed as great happiness in
the placid course of the days as he ever experienced. For the first time
in his life he was free from the necessity of labor, and he had recently
escaped from that practical business of affairs and daily duties which
was always irksome to him. The change, too, from the dark skies of
England and its grimy Liverpool materialism to an atmosphere of sun and
warmth and artistic beauty was itself enough to reanimate his spirit;
and he found at once some congenial society, and not a few who seemed to
him like old friends. He appears for the first time in his life really
to live with other people, not as an occasional visitant coming out of
his hermitage, but as one of themselves. He sought out Story, who was an
old neighbor at Salem, though he had known him only slightly, and under
his guidance he mixed with the American artists then in Rome,--Miss
Hosmer, Thompson, Kopes, and Miss Lander,--as well as with others of the
foreigners resident there, Miss Bremer, Mrs. Jameson, and Bryant among
the rest; and he became good friends with Motley and his family, whose
companionship he enjoyed in a very natural, frank way. The picturesque
ruins of Home, its gardens and fountains and the sky and air appealed to
him, as if to new senses or at least to senses newly awakened and
developed; and he was sensibly attracted by the artistic works on every
hand. He was not wholly uncultivated in art, though his aesthetic sense
had been rather a hope than a reality all through his life. He had
written to his wife before marriage, nearly twenty years ago, "I never
owned a picture in my life; yet pictures have been among the earthly
possessions (and they are spiritual ones too) which I most coveted;" and
in his tales there is a recurring reference to pictures as a part of his
imaginative world. The influence of his wife's artistic tastes in his
home life had also been a kind of preparation for appreciation of the
masterpieces, many of which had long been familiar to his eyes and
thoughts in reproductions. In his Boston days he use to visit such
collections of pictures as were accessible to him, and he knew sculpture
somewhat through casts. Such cultivation, however, was at best a very
limited and incomplete preparation, and did not preserve him from the
tourist's weariness of galleries. He had wished in London that the Elgin
marbles had all been reduced to lime. There was something pictorial in
his genius, but painting was slower to give up its secrets to him than
sculpture, which, being a more abstract art and simpler in intention, as
well as nearer to the living form, made the easier appeal to him. He did
not respond to Italian painting very perfectly at the best, and his
education hardly proceeded farther than an appreciation of the softer
and brighter works of Guido and Raphael, nor did he ever free himself
from the intellectual prepossessions of his mind. He did not become even

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