Infomotions, Inc.Hawthorne (English Men of Letters Series) / James, Henry, 1843-1916



Author: James, Henry, 1843-1916
Title: Hawthorne (English Men of Letters Series)
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): hawthorne; blithedale romance
Contributor(s): Relander, Oskar, 1863-1930 [Translator]
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Title: Hawthorne
       (English Men of Letters Series)

Author: Henry James, Junr.

Release Date: June 12, 2006 [EBook #18566]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK HAWTHORNE ***




Produced by Barbara Tozier, Bill Tozier, Sankar Viswanathan,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
http://www.pgdp.net









                       English Men of Letters

                        EDITED BY JOHN MORLEY




                              HAWTHORNE

                                  BY

                          Henry James, JUNR.





                                London
                           MACMILLAN AND CO
                                 1879

       *       *       *       *       *




CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

EARLY YEARS

CHAPTER II.

EARLY MANHOOD

CHAPTER III.

EARLY WRITINGS

CHAPTER IV.

BROOK FARM AND CONCORD

CHAPTER V.

THE THREE AMERICAN NOVELS

CHAPTER VI.

ENGLAND AND ITALY

CHAPTER VII.

LAST YEARS

       *       *       *       *       *




HAWTHORNE.


CHAPTER I.

EARLY YEARS.


It will be necessary, for several reasons, to give this short sketch
the form rather of a critical essay than of a biography. The data for
a life of Nathaniel Hawthorne are the reverse of copious, and even if
they were abundant they would serve but in a limited measure the
purpose of the biographer. Hawthorne's career was probably as tranquil
and uneventful a one as ever fell to the lot of a man of letters; it
was almost strikingly deficient in incident, in what may be called the
dramatic quality. Few men of equal genius and of equal eminence can
have led on the whole a simpler life. His six volumes of Note-Books
illustrate this simplicity; they are a sort of monument to an
unagitated fortune. Hawthorne's career had few vicissitudes or
variations; it was passed for the most part in a small and homogeneous
society, in a provincial, rural community; it had few perceptible
points of contact with what is called the world, with public events,
with the manners of his time, even with the life of his neighbours.
Its literary incidents are not numerous. He produced, in quantity, but
little. His works consist of four novels and the fragment of another,
five volumes of short tales, a collection of sketches, and a couple of
story-books for children. And yet some account of the man and the
writer is well worth giving. Whatever may have been Hawthorne's
private lot, he has the importance of being the most beautiful and
most eminent representative of a literature. The importance of the
literature may be questioned, but at any rate, in the field of
letters, Hawthorne is the most valuable example of the American
genius. That genius has not, as a whole, been literary; but Hawthorne
was on his limited scale a master of expression. He is the writer to
whom his countrymen most confidently point when they wish to make a
claim to have enriched the mother-tongue, and, judging from present
appearances, he will long occupy this honourable position. If there is
something very fortunate for him in the way that he borrows an added
relief from the absence of competitors in his own line and from the
general flatness of the literary field that surrounds him, there is
also, to a spectator, something almost touching in his situation. He
was so modest and delicate a genius that we may fancy him appealing
from the lonely honour of a representative attitude--perceiving a
painful incongruity between his imponderable literary baggage and the
large conditions of American life. Hawthorne on the one side is so
subtle and slender and unpretending, and the American world on the
other is so vast and various and substantial, that it might seem to
the author of _The Scarlet Letter_ and the _Mosses from an Old Manse_,
that we render him a poor service in contrasting his proportions with
those of a great civilization. But our author must accept the awkward
as well as the graceful side of his fame; for he has the advantage of
pointing a valuable moral. This moral is that the flower of art blooms
only where the soil is deep, that it takes a great deal of history to
produce a little literature, that it needs a complex social machinery
to set a writer in motion. American civilization has hitherto had
other things to do than to produce flowers, and before giving birth to
writers it has wisely occupied itself with providing something for
them to write about. Three or four beautiful talents of trans-Atlantic
growth are the sum of what the world usually recognises, and in this
modest nosegay the genius of Hawthorne is admitted to have the rarest
and sweetest fragrance.

His very simplicity has been in his favour; it has helped him to
appear complete and homogeneous. To talk of his being national would
be to force the note and make a mistake of proportion; but he is, in
spite of the absence of the realistic quality, intensely and vividly
local. Out of the soil of New England he sprang--in a crevice of that
immitigable granite he sprouted and bloomed. Half of the interest that
he possesses for an American reader with any turn for analysis must
reside in his latent New England savour; and I think it no more than
just to say that whatever entertainment he may yield to those who know
him at a distance, it is an almost indispensable condition of properly
appreciating him to have received a personal impression of the
manners, the morals, indeed of the very climate, of the great region
of which the remarkable city of Boston is the metropolis. The cold,
bright air of New England seems to blow through his pages, and these,
in the opinion of many people, are the medium in which it is most
agreeable to make the acquaintance of that tonic atmosphere. As to
whether it is worth while to seek to know something of New England in
order to extract a more intimate quality from _The House of Seven
Gables_ and _The Blithedale Romance_, I need not pronounce; but it is
certain that a considerable observation of the society to which these
productions were more directly addressed is a capital preparation for
enjoying them. I have alluded to the absence in Hawthorne of that
quality of realism which is now so much in fashion, an absence in
regard to which there will of course be more to say; and yet I think I
am not fanciful in saying that he testifies to the sentiments of the
society in which he flourished almost as pertinently (proportions
observed) as Balzac and some of his descendants--MM. Flaubert and
Zola--testify to the manners and morals of the French people. He was
not a man with a literary theory; he was guiltless of a system, and I
am not sure that he had ever heard of Realism, this remarkable
compound having (although it was invented some time earlier) come into
general use only since his death. He had certainly not proposed to
himself to give an account of the social idiosyncrasies of his
fellow-citizens, for his touch on such points is always light and
vague, he has none of the apparatus of an historian, and his shadowy
style of portraiture never suggests a rigid standard of accuracy.
Nevertheless he virtually offers the most vivid reflection of New
England life that has found its way into literature. His value in this
respect is not diminished by the fact that he has not attempted to
portray the usual Yankee of comedy, and that he has been almost
culpably indifferent to his opportunities for commemorating the
variations of colloquial English that may be observed in the New
World. His characters do not express themselves in the dialect of the
_Biglow Papers_--their language indeed is apt to be too elegant, too
delicate. They are not portraits of actual types, and in their
phraseology there is nothing imitative. But none the less, Hawthorne's
work savours thoroughly of the local soil--it is redolent of the
social system in which he had his being.

This could hardly fail to be the case, when the man himself was so
deeply rooted in the soil. Hawthorne sprang from the primitive New
England stock; he had a very definite and conspicuous pedigree. He was
born at Salem, Massachusetts, on the 4th of July, 1804, and his
birthday was the great American festival, the anniversary of the
Declaration of national Independence.[1] Hawthorne was in his
disposition an unqualified and unflinching American; he found occasion
to give us the measure of the fact during the seven years that he
spent in Europe toward the close of his life; and this was no more
than proper on the part of a man who had enjoyed the honour of coming
into the world on the day on which of all the days in the year the
great Republic enjoys her acutest fit of self-consciousness. Moreover,
a person who has been ushered into life by the ringing of bells and
the booming of cannon (unless indeed he be frightened straight out of
it again by the uproar of his awakening) receives by this very fact an
injunction to do something great, something that will justify such
striking natal accompaniments. Hawthorne was by race of the clearest
Puritan strain. His earliest American ancestors (who wrote the name
"Hathorne"--the shape in which it was transmitted to Nathaniel, who
inserted the _w_,) was the younger son of a Wiltshire family, whose
residence, according to a note of our author's in 1837, was
"Wigcastle, Wigton." Hawthorne, in the note in question, mentions the
gentleman who was at that time the head of the family; but it does not
appear that he at any period renewed acquaintance with his English
kinsfolk. Major William Hathorne came out to Massachusetts in the
early years of the Puritan settlement; in 1635 or 1636, according to
the note to which I have just alluded; in 1630 according to
information presumably more accurate. He was one of the band of
companions of the virtuous and exemplary John Winthrop, the almost
life-long royal Governor of the young colony, and the brightest and
most amiable figure in the early Puritan annals. How amiable William
Hathorne may have been I know not, but he was evidently of the stuff
of which the citizens of the Commonwealth were best advised to be
made. He was a sturdy fighting man, doing solid execution upon both
the inward and outward enemies of the State. The latter were the
savages, the former the Quakers; the energy expended by the early
Puritans in resistance to the tomahawk not weakening their disposition
to deal with spiritual dangers. They employed the same--or almost the
same--weapons in both directions; the flintlock and the halberd
against the Indians, and the cat-o'-nine-tails against the heretics.
One of the longest, though by no means one of the most successful, of
Hawthorne's shorter tales (_The Gentle Boy_) deals with this pitiful
persecution of the least aggressive of all schismatic bodies. William
Hathorne, who had been made a magistrate of the town of Salem, where a
grant of land had been offered him as an inducement to residence,
figures in New England history as having given orders that "Anne
Coleman and four of her friends" should be whipped through Salem,
Boston, and Dedham. This Anne Coleman, I suppose, is the woman alluded
to in that fine passage in the Introduction to _The Scarlet Letter_,
in which Hawthorne pays a qualified tribute to the founder of the
American branch of his race:--

     "The figure of that first ancestor, invested by family
     tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my
     boyish imagination as far back as I can remember. It still
     haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past,
     which I scarcely claim in reference to the present, phase of
     the town. I seem to have a stronger claim to a residence
     here on account of this grave, bearded, sable-cloaked and
     steeple-crowned progenitor--who came so early, with his
     Bible and his sword, and trod the unworn street with such a
     stately port, and make so large a figure as a man of war and
     peace--a stronger claim than for myself, whose name is
     seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier,
     legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the church; he had all
     the Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a
     bitter persecutor, as witness the Quakers, who have
     remembered him in their histories, and relate an incident of
     his hard severity towards a woman of their sect which will
     last longer, it is to be feared, than any of his better
     deeds, though these were many."

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: It is proper that before I go further I should
acknowledge my large obligations to the only biography of our author,
of any considerable length, that has been written--the little volume
entitled _A Study of Hawthorne_, by Mr. George Parsons Lathrop, the
son-in-law of the subject of the work. (Boston, 1876.) To this
ingenious and sympathetic sketch, in which the author has taken great
pains to collect the more interesting facts of Hawthorne's life, I am
greatly indebted. Mr. Lathrop's work is not pitched in the key which
many another writer would have chosen, and his tone is not to my sense
the truly critical one; but without the help afforded by his elaborate
essay the present little volume could not have been prepared.]

William Hathorne died in 1681; but those hard qualities that his
descendant speaks of were reproduced in his son John, who bore the
title of Colonel, and who was connected, too intimately for his
honour, with that deplorable episode of New England history, the
persecution of-the so-called Witches of Salem. John Hathorne is
introduced into the little drama entitled _The Salem Farms_ in
Longfellow's _New England Tragedies_. I know not whether he had the
compensating merits of his father, but our author speaks of him, in
the continuation of the passage I have just quoted, as having made
himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their
blood may be said to have left a stain upon him. "So deep a stain,
indeed," Hawthorne adds, characteristically, "that his old dry bones
in the Charter Street burial-ground must still retain it, if they have
not crumbled utterly to dust." Readers of _The House of the Seven
Gables_ will remember that the story concerns itself with a family
which is supposed to be overshadowed by a curse launched against one
of its earlier members by a poor man occupying a lowlier place in the
world, whom this ill-advised ancestor had been the means of bringing
to justice for the crime of witchcraft. Hawthorne apparently found the
idea of the history of the Pyncheons in his own family annals. His
witch-judging ancestor was reported to have incurred a malediction
from one of his victims, in consequence of which the prosperity of the
race faded utterly away. "I know not," the passage I have already
quoted goes on, "whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves
to repent and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties, or whether
they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them in another
state of being. At all events, I, the present writer, hereby take
shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that any curse incurred by
them--as I have heard, and as the dreary and unprosperous condition of
the race for some time back would argue to exist--may be now and
henceforth removed." The two first American Hathornes had been people
of importance and responsibility; but with the third generation the
family lapsed into an obscurity from which it emerged in the very
person of the writer who begs so gracefully for a turn in its affairs.
It is very true, Hawthorne proceeds, in the Introduction to _The
Scarlet Letter_, that from the original point of view such lustre as
he might have contrived to confer upon the name would have appeared
more than questionable.

     "Either of these stern and black-browed Puritans would have
     thought it quite a sufficient retribution for his sins that
     after so long a lapse of years the old trunk of the family
     tree, with so much venerable moss upon it, should have
     borne, as its topmost bough, an idler like myself. No aim
     that I have ever cherished would they recognise as laudable;
     no success of mine, if my life, beyond its domestic scope,
     had ever been brightened by success, would they deem
     otherwise than worthless, if not positively disgraceful.
     'What is he?' murmurs one grey shadow of my forefathers to
     the other. 'A writer of story-books! What kind of a business
     in life, what manner of glorifying God, or being serviceable
     to mankind in his day and generation, may that be? Why, the
     degenerate fellow might as well have been a fiddler!' Such
     are the compliments bandied between my great grandsires and
     myself across the gulf of time! And yet, let them scorn me
     as they will, strong traits of their nature have intertwined
     themselves with mine."

In this last observation we may imagine that there was not a little
truth. Poet and novelist as Hawthorne was, sceptic and dreamer and
little of a man of action, late-coming fruit of a tree which might
seem to have lost the power to bloom, he was morally, in an
appreciative degree, a chip of the old block. His forefathers had
crossed the Atlantic for conscience' sake, and it was the idea of the
urgent conscience that haunted the imagination of their so-called
degenerate successor. The Puritan strain in his blood ran clear--there
are passages in his Diaries, kept during his residence in Europe,
which might almost have been written by the grimmest of the old Salem
worthies. To him as to them, the consciousness of _sin_ was the most
importunate fact of life, and if they had undertaken to write little
tales, this baleful substantive, with its attendant adjective, could
hardly have been more frequent in their pages than in those of their
fanciful descendant. Hawthorne had moreover in his composition
contemplator and dreamer as he was, an element of simplicity and
rigidity, a something plain and masculine and sensible, which might
have kept his black-browed grandsires on better terms with him than he
admits to be possible. However little they might have appreciated the
artist, they would have approved of the man. The play of Hawthorne's
intellect was light and capricious, but the man himself was firm and
rational. The imagination was profane, but the temper was not
degenerate.

The "dreary and unprosperous condition" that he speaks of in regard
to the fortunes of his family is an allusion to the fact that several
generations followed each other on the soil in which they had been
planted, that during the eighteenth century a succession of Hathornes
trod the simple streets of Salem without ever conferring any especial
lustre upon the town or receiving, presumably, any great delight from
it. A hundred years of Salem would perhaps be rather a dead-weight for
any family to carry, and we venture to imagine that the Hathornes were
dull and depressed. They did what they could, however, to improve
their situation; they trod the Salem streets as little as possible.
They went to sea, and made long voyages; seamanship became the regular
profession of the family. Hawthorne has said it in charming language.
"From father to son, for above a hundred years, they followed the sea;
a grey-headed shipmaster, in each generation, retiring from the
quarter-deck to the homestead, while a boy of fourteen took the
hereditary place before the mast, confronting the salt spray and the
gale which had blustered against his sire and grandsire. The boy also,
in due time, passed from the forecastle to the cabin, spent a
tempestuous manhood, and returned from his world-wanderings to grow
old and die and mingle his dust with the natal earth." Our author's
grandfather, Daniel Hathorne, is mentioned by Mr. Lathrop, his
biographer and son-in-law, as a hardy privateer during the war of
Independence. His father, from whom he was named, was also a
shipmaster, and he died in foreign lands, in the exercise of his
profession. He was carried off by a fever, at Surinam, in 1808. He
left three children, of whom Nathaniel was the only boy. The boy's
mother, who had been a Miss Manning, came of a New England stock
almost as long-established as that of her husband; she is described by
our author's biographer as a woman of remarkable beauty, and by an
authority whom he quotes, as being "a minute observer of religious
festivals," of "feasts, fasts, new-moons, and Sabbaths." Of feasts the
poor lady in her Puritanic home can have had but a very limited number
to celebrate; but of new-moons, she may be supposed to have enjoyed
the usual, and of Sabbaths even more than the usual, proportion.

In quiet provincial Salem, Nathaniel Hawthorne passed the greater part
of his boyhood, as well as many years of his later life. Mr. Lathrop
has much to say about the ancient picturesqueness of the place, and
about the mystic influences it would project upon such a mind and
character as Hawthorne's. These things are always relative, and in
appreciating them everything depends upon the point of view. Mr.
Lathrop writes for American readers, who in such a matter as this are
very easy to please. Americans have as a general thing a hungry
passion for the picturesque, and they are so fond of local colour that
they contrive to perceive it in localities in which the amateurs of
other countries would detect only the most neutral tints. History, as
yet, has left in the United States but so thin and impalpable a
deposit that we very soon touch the hard substratum of nature; and
nature herself, in the western world, has the peculiarity of seeming
rather crude and immature. The very air looks new and young; the light
of the sun seems fresh and innocent, as if it knew as yet but few of
the secrets of the world and none of the weariness of shining; the
vegetation has the appearance of not having reached its majority. A
large juvenility is stamped upon the face of things, and in the
vividness of the present, the past, which died so young and had time
to produce so little, attracts but scanty attention. I doubt whether
English observers would discover any very striking trace of it in the
ancient town of Salem. Still, with all respect to a York and a
Shrewsbury, to a Toledo and a Verona, Salem has a physiognomy in which
the past plays a more important part than the present. It is of course
a very recent past; but one must remember that the dead of yesterday
are not more alive than those of a century ago. I know not of what
picturesqueness Hawthorne was conscious in his respectable birthplace;
I suspect his perception of it was less keen than his biographer
assumes it to have been; but he must have felt at least that of
whatever complexity of earlier life there had been in the country, the
elm-shadowed streets of Salem were a recognisable memento. He has made
considerable mention of the place, here and there, in his tales; but
he has nowhere dilated upon it very lovingly, and it is noteworthy
that in _The House of the Seven Gables_, the only one of his novels of
which the scene is laid in it, he has by no means availed himself of
the opportunity to give a description of it. He had of course a filial
fondness for it--a deep-seated sense of connection with it; but he
must have spent some very dreary years there, and the two feelings,
the mingled tenderness and rancour, are visible in the Introduction to
_The Scarlet Letter_.

     "The old town of Salem," he writes,--"my native place,
     though I have dwelt much away from it, both in boyhood and
     in maturer years--possesses, or did possess, a hold on my
     affections, the force of which I have never realized during
     my seasons of actual residence here. Indeed, so far as the
     physical aspect is concerned, with its flat, unvaried
     surface, covered chiefly with wooden houses, few or none of
     which pretend to architectural beauty; its irregularity,
     which is neither picturesque nor quaint, but only tame; its
     long and lazy street, lounging wearisomely through the whole
     extent of the peninsula, with Gallows Hill and New Guinea at
     one end, and a view of the almshouse at the other--such
     being the features of my native town it would be quite as
     reasonable to form a sentimental attachment to a disarranged
     chequer-board."

But he goes on to say that he has never divested himself of the sense
of intensely belonging to it--that the spell of the continuity of his
life with that of his predecessors has never been broken. "It is no
matter that the place is joyless for him; that he is weary of the old
wooden houses, the mud and the dust, the dead level of site and
sentiment, the chill east wind, and the chilliest of social
atmospheres;--all these and whatever faults besides he may see or
imagine, are nothing to the purpose. The spell survives, and just as
powerfully as if the natal spot were an earthly paradise." There is a
very American quality in this perpetual consciousness of a spell on
Hawthorne's part; it is only in a country where newness and change and
brevity of tenure are the common substance of life, that the fact of
one's ancestors having lived for a hundred and seventy years in a
single spot would become an element of one's morality. It is only an
imaginative American that would feel urged to keep reverting to this
circumstance, to keep analysing and cunningly considering it.

The Salem of to-day has, as New England towns go, a physiognomy of its
own, and in spite of Hawthorne's analogy of the disarranged
draught-board, it is a decidedly agreeable one. The spreading elms in
its streets, the proportion of large, square, honourable-looking
houses, suggesting an easy, copious material life, the little gardens,
the grassy waysides, the open windows, the air of space and salubrity
and decency, and above all the intimation of larger antecedents--these
things compose a picture which has little of the element that painters
call depth of tone, but which is not without something that they would
admit to be style. To English eyes the oldest and most honourable of
the smaller American towns must seem in a manner primitive and rustic;
the shabby, straggling, village-quality appears marked in them, and
their social tone is not unnaturally inferred to bear the village
stamp. Village-like they are, and it would be no gross incivility to
describe them as large, respectable, prosperous, democratic villages.
But even a village, in a great and vigorous democracy, where there are
no overshadowing squires, where the "county" has no social existence,
where the villagers are conscious of no superincumbent strata of
gentility, piled upwards into vague regions of privilege--even a
village is not an institution to accept of more or less graceful
patronage; it thinks extremely well of itself, and is absolute in its
own regard. Salem is a sea-port, but it is a sea-port deserted and
decayed. It belongs to that rather melancholy group of old
coast-towns, scattered along the great sea-face of New England, and of
which the list is completed by the names of Portsmouth, Plymouth, New
Bedford, Newburyport, Newport--superannuated centres of the traffic
with foreign lands, which have seen their trade carried away from them
by the greater cities. As Hawthorne says, their ventures have gone "to
swell, needlessly and imperceptibly, the mighty flood of commerce at
New York or Boston." Salem, at the beginning of the present century,
played a great part in the Eastern trade; it was the residence of
enterprising shipowners who despatched their vessels to Indian and
Chinese seas. It was a place of large fortunes, many of which have
remained, though the activity that produced them has passed away.
These successful traders constituted what Hawthorne calls "the
aristocratic class." He alludes in one of his slighter sketches (_The
Sister Years_) to the sway of this class and the "moral influence of
wealth" having been more marked in Salem than in any other New England
town. The sway, we may believe, was on the whole gently exercised, and
the moral influence of wealth was not exerted in the cause of
immorality. Hawthorne was probably but imperfectly conscious of an
advantage which familiarity had made stale--the fact that he lived in
the most democratic and most virtuous of modern communities. Of the
virtue it is but civil to suppose that his own family had a liberal
share; but not much of the wealth, apparently, came into their way.
Hawthorne was not born to a patrimony, and his income, later in life,
never exceeded very modest proportions.

Of his childish years there appears to be nothing very definite to
relate, though his biographer devotes a good many graceful pages to
them. There is a considerable sameness in the behaviour of small boys,
and it is probable that if we were acquainted with the details of our
author's infantine career we should find it to be made up of the same
pleasures and pains as that of many ingenuous lads for whom fame has
had nothing in keeping.

The absence of precocious symptoms of genius is on the whole more
striking in the lives of men who have distinguished themselves than
their juvenile promise; though it must be added that Mr. Lathrop has
made out, as he was almost in duty bound to do, a very good case in
favour of Hawthorne's having been an interesting child. He was not at
any time what would be called a sociable man, and there is therefore
nothing unexpected in the fact that he was fond of long walks in which
he was not known to have had a companion. "Juvenile literature" was
but scantily known at that time, and the enormous and extraordinary
contribution made by the United States to this department of human
happiness was locked in the bosom of futurity. The young Hawthorne,
therefore, like many of his contemporaries, was constrained to amuse
himself, for want of anything better, with the _Pilgrim's Progress_
and the _Faery Queen_. A boy may have worse company than Bunyan and
Spenser, and it is very probable that in his childish rambles our
author may have had associates of whom there could be no record. When
he was nine years old he met with an accident at school which
threatened for a while to have serious results. He was struck on the
foot by a ball and so severely lamed that he was kept at home for a
long time, and had not completely recovered before his twelfth year.
His school, it is to be supposed, was the common day-school of New
England--the primary factor in that extraordinarily pervasive system
of instruction in the plainer branches of learning, which forms one of
the principal ornaments of American life. In 1818, when he was
fourteen years old, he was taken by his mother to live in the house of
an uncle, her brother, who was established in the town of Raymond,
near Lake Sebago, in the State of Maine. The immense State of Maine,
in the year 1818, must have had an even more magnificently natural
character than it possesses at the present day, and the uncle's
dwelling, in consequence of being in a little smarter style than the
primitive structures that surrounded it, was known by the villagers as
Manning's Folly. Mr. Lathrop pronounces this region to be of a "weird
and woodsy" character; and Hawthorne, later in life, spoke of it to a
friend as the place where "I first got my cursed habits of solitude."
The outlook, indeed, for an embryonic novelist, would not seem to have
been cheerful; the social dreariness of a small New England community
lost amid the forests of Maine, at the beginning of the present
century, must have been consummate. But for a boy with a relish for
solitude there were many natural resources, and we can understand that
Hawthorne should in after years have spoken very tenderly of this
episode. "I lived in Maine like a bird of the air, so perfect was the
freedom I enjoyed." During the long summer days he roamed, gun in
hand, through the great woods, and during the moonlight nights of
winter, says his biographer, quoting another informant, "he would
skate until midnight, all alone, upon Sebago Lake, with the deep
shadows of the icy hills on either hand."

In 1819 he was sent back to Salem to school, and in the following year
he wrote to his mother, who had remained at Raymond (the boy had found
a home at Salem with another uncle), "I have left school and have
begun to fit for college under Benjm. L. Oliver, Lawyer. So you are in
danger of having one learned man in your family.... I get my lessons
at home and recite them to him (Mr. Oliver) at seven o'clock in the
morning.... Shall you want me to be a Minister, Doctor, or Lawyer? A
Minister I will not be." He adds, at the close of this epistle--"O how
I wish I was again with you, with nothing to do but to go a-gunning!
But the happiest days of my life are gone." In 1821, in his
seventeenth year, he entered Bowdoin College, at Brunswick, Maine.
This institution was in the year 1821--a quarter of a century after
its foundation--a highly honourable, but not a very elaborately
organized, nor a particularly impressive, seat of learning. I say it
was not impressive, but I immediately remember that impressions depend
upon the minds receiving them; and that to a group of simple New
England lads, upwards of sixty years ago, the halls and groves of
Bowdoin, neither dense nor lofty though they can have been, may have
seemed replete with Academic stateliness. It was a homely, simple,
frugal, "country college," of the old-fashioned American stamp;
exerting within its limits a civilizing influence, working, amid the
forests and the lakes, the log-houses and the clearings, toward the
amenities and humanities and other collegiate graces, and offering a
very sufficient education to the future lawyers, merchants, clergymen,
politicians, and editors, of the very active and knowledge-loving
community that supported it. It did more than this--it numbered poets
and statesmen among its undergraduates, and on the roll-call of its
sons it has several distinguished names. Among Hawthorne's
fellow-students was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who divides with our
author the honour of being the most distinguished of American men of
letters. I know not whether Mr. Longfellow was especially intimate
with Hawthorne at this period (they were very good friends later in
life), but with two of his companions he formed a friendship which
lasted always. One of these was Franklin Pierce, who was destined to
fill what Hawthorne calls "the most august position in the world."
Pierce was elected President of the United States in 1852. The other
was Horatio Bridge, who afterwards served with distinction in the
Navy, and to whom the charming prefatory letter of the collection of
tales published under the name of _The Snow Image_, is addressed. "If
anybody is responsible at this day for my being an author it is
yourself. I know not whence your faith came; but while we were lads
together at a country college--gathering blueberries in study-hours
under those tall Academic pines; or watching the great logs as they
tumbled along the current of the Androscoggin; or shooting pigeons and
grey squirrels in the woods; or bat-fowling in the summer twilight; or
catching trout in that shadowy little stream which, I suppose, is
still wandering river-ward through the forest--though you and I will
never cast a line in it again--two idle lads, in short (as we need not
fear to acknowledge now), doing a hundred things the Faculty never
heard of, or else it had been worse for us--still it was your
prognostic of your friend's destiny that he was to be a writer of
fiction." That is a very pretty picture, but it is a picture of happy
urchins at school, rather than of undergraduates "panting," as
Macaulay says, "for one and twenty." Poor Hawthorne was indeed
thousands of miles away from Oxford and Cambridge; that touch about
the blueberries and the logs on the Androscoggin tells the whole
story, and strikes the note, as it were, of his circumstances. But if
the pleasures at Bowdoin were not expensive, so neither were the
penalties. The amount of Hawthorne's collegiate bill for one term was
less than 4_l._, and of this sum more than 9_s._ was made up of fines.
The fines, however, were not heavy. Mr. Lathrop prints a letter
addressed by the President to "Mrs. Elizabeth C. Hathorne," requesting
her co-operation with the officers of this college, "in the attempt to
induce your son faithfully to observe the laws of this institution."
He has just been fined fifty cents for playing cards for money during
the preceding term. "Perhaps he might not have gamed," the Professor
adds, "were it not for the influence of a student whom we have
dismissed from college." The biographer quotes a letter from Hawthorne
to one of his sisters, in which the writer says, in allusion to this
remark, that it is a great mistake to think that he has been led away
by the wicked ones. "I was fully as willing to play as the person he
suspects of having enticed me, and would have been influenced by no
one. I have a great mind to commence playing again, merely to show him
that I scorn to be seduced by another into anything wrong." There is
something in these few words that accords with the impression that the
observant reader of Hawthorne gathers of the personal character that
underlay his duskily-sportive imagination--an impression of simple
manliness and transparent honesty.

He appears to have been a fair scholar, but not a brilliant one; and
it is very probable that as the standard of scholarship at Bowdoin was
not high, he graduated none the less comfortably on this account. Mr.
Lathrop is able to testify to the fact, by no means a surprising one,
that he wrote verses at college, though the few stanzas that the
biographer quotes are not such as to make us especially regret that
his rhyming mood was a transient one.

    "The ocean hath its silent caves,
       Deep, quiet and alone.
    Though there be fury on the waves,
       Beneath them there is none."

That quatrain may suffice to decorate our page. And in connection with
his college days I may mention his first novel, a short romance
entitled _Fanshawe_, which was published in Boston in 1828, three
years after he graduated. It was probably also written after that
event, but the scene of the tale is laid at Bowdoin (which figures
under an altered name), and Hawthorne's attitude with regard to the
book, even shortly after it was published, was such as to assign it to
this boyish period. It was issued anonymously, but he so repented of
his venture that he annihilated the edition, of which, according to
Mr. Lathrop, "not half a dozen copies are now known to be extant." I
have seen none of these rare volumes, and I know nothing of _Fanshawe_
but what the writer just quoted relates. It is the story of a young
lady who goes in rather an odd fashion to reside at "Harley College"
(equivalent of Bowdoin), under the care and guardianship of Dr.
Melmoth, the President of the institution, a venerable, amiable,
unworldly, and henpecked, scholar. Here she becomes very naturally an
object of interest to two of the students; in regard to whom I cannot
do better than quote Mr. Lathrop. One of these young men "is Edward
Wolcott, a wealthy, handsome, generous, healthy young fellow from one
of the sea-port towns; and the other Fanshawe, the hero, who is a poor
but ambitious recluse, already passing into a decline through
overmuch devotion to books and meditation. Fanshawe, though the deeper
nature of the two, and intensely moved by his new passion, perceiving
that a union between himself and Ellen could not be a happy one,
resigns the hope of it from the beginning. But circumstances bring him
into intimate relation with her. The real action of the book, after
the preliminaries, takes up only some three days, and turns upon the
attempt of a man named Butler to entice Ellen away under his
protection, then marry her, and secure the fortune to which she is
heiress. This scheme is partly frustrated by circumstances, and
Butler's purpose towards Ellen thus becomes a much more sinister one.
From this she is rescued by Fanshawe, and knowing that he loves her,
but is concealing his passion, she gives him the opportunity and the
right to claim her hand. For a moment the rush of desire and hope is
so great that he hesitates; then he refuses to take advantage of her
generosity, and parts with her for a last time. Ellen becomes engaged
to Wolcott, who had won her heart from the first; and Fanshawe,
sinking into rapid consumption, dies before his class graduates." The
story must have had a good deal of innocent lightness; and it is a
proof of how little the world of observation lay open to Hawthorne, at
this time, that he should have had no other choice than to make his
little drama go forward between the rather naked walls of Bowdoin,
where the presence of his heroine was an essential incongruity. He was
twenty-four years old, but the "world," in its social sense, had not
disclosed itself to him. He had, however, already, at moments, a very
pretty writer's touch, as witness this passage, quoted by Mr. Lathrop,
and which is worth transcribing. The heroine has gone off with the
nefarious Butler, and the good Dr. Melmoth starts in pursuit of her,
attended by young Wolcott.

     "'Alas, youth, these are strange times,' observed the
     President, 'when a doctor of divinity and an undergraduate
     set forth, like a knight-errant and his squire, in search of
     a stray damsel. Methinks I am an epitome of the church
     militant, or a new species of polemical divinity. Pray
     Heaven, however, there be no such encounter in store for us;
     for I utterly forgot to provide myself with weapons.'

     "'I took some thought for that matter, reverend knight,'
     replied Edward, whose imagination was highly tickled by Dr.
     Melmoth's chivalrous comparison.

     "'Aye, I see that you have girded on a sword,' said the
     divine. 'But wherewith shall I defend myself? my hand being
     empty except of this golden-headed staff, the gift of Mr.
     Langton.'

     "'One of these, if you will accept it,' answered Edward,
     exhibiting a brace of pistols, 'will serve to begin the
     conflict before you join the battle hand to hand.'

     "'Nay, I shall find little safety in meddling with that
     deadly instrument, since I know not accurately from which
     end proceeds the bullet,' said Dr. Melmoth. 'But were it not
     better, since we are so well provided with artillery, to
     betake ourselves, in the event of an encounter, to some
     stone wall or other place of strength?'

     "'If I may presume to advise,' said the squire, 'you, as
     being most valiant and experienced, should ride forward,
     lance in hand (your long staff serving for a lance), while I
     annoy the enemy from afar.'

     "'Like Teucer, behind the shield of Ajax,' interrupted Dr.
     Melmoth, 'or David with his stone and sling. No, no, young
     man; I have left unfinished in my study a learned treatise,
     important not only to the present age, but to posterity, for
     whose sake I must take heed to my safety. But, lo! who rides
     yonder?'"

On leaving college Hawthorne had gone back to live at Salem.

       *       *       *       *       *




CHAPTER II.

EARLY MANHOOD.


The twelve years that followed were not the happiest or most brilliant
phase of Hawthorne's life; they strike me indeed as having had an
altogether peculiar dreariness. They had their uses; they were the
period of incubation of the admirable compositions which eventually
brought him reputation and prosperity. But of their actual aridity the
young man must have had a painful consciousness; he never lost the
impression of it. Mr. Lathrop quotes a phrase to this effect from one
of his letters, late in life. "I am disposed to thank God for the
gloom and chill of my early life, in the hope that my share of
adversity came then, when I bore it alone." And the same writer
alludes to a touching passage in the English Note-Books, which I shall
quote entire:--

     "I think I have been happier this Christmas (1854) than ever
     before--by my own fireside, and with my wife and children
     about me--more content to enjoy what I have, less anxious
     for anything beyond it, in this life. My early life was
     perhaps a good preparation for the declining half of life;
     it having been such a blank that any thereafter would
     compare favourably with it. For a long, long while, I have
     occasionally been visited with a singular dream; and I have
     an impression that I have dreamed it ever since I have been
     in England. It is, that I am still at college, or,
     sometimes, even, at school--and there is a sense that I have
     been there unconscionably long, and have quite failed to
     make such progress as my contemporaries have done; and I
     seem to meet some of them with a feeling of shame and
     depression that broods over me as I think of it, even when
     awake. This dream, recurring all through these twenty or
     thirty years, must be one of the effects of that heavy
     seclusion in which I shut myself up for twelve years after
     leaving college, when everybody moved onward and left me
     behind. How strange that it should come now, when I may call
     myself famous and prosperous!--when I am happy too."

The allusion here is to a state of solitude which was the young man's
positive choice at the time--or into which he drifted at least under
the pressure of his natural shyness and reserve. He was not expansive,
he was not addicted to experiments and adventures of intercourse, he
was not, personally, in a word, what is called sociable. The general
impression of this silence-loving and shade-seeking side of his
character is doubtless exaggerated, and, in so far as it points to him
as a sombre and sinister figure, is almost ludicrously at fault. He
was silent, diffident, more inclined to hesitate, to watch and wait
and meditate, than to produce himself, and fonder, on almost any
occasion, of being absent than of being present. This quality betrays
itself in all his writings. There is in all of them something cold and
light and thin, something belonging to the imagination alone, which
indicates a man but little disposed to multiply his relations, his
points of contact, with society. If we read the six volumes of
Note-Books with an eye to the evidence of this unsocial side of his
life, we find it in sufficient abundance. But we find at the same time
that there was nothing unamiable or invidious in his shyness, and
above all that there was nothing preponderantly gloomy. The qualities
to which the Note-Books most testify are, on the whole, his serenity
and amenity of mind. They reveal these characteristics indeed in an
almost phenomenal degree. The serenity, the simplicity, seem in
certain portions almost child-like; of brilliant gaiety, of high
spirits, there is little; but the placidity and evenness of temper,
the cheerful and contented view of the things he notes, never belie
themselves. I know not what else he may have written in this copious
record, and what passages of gloom and melancholy may have been
suppressed; but as his Diaries stand, they offer in a remarkable
degree the reflection of a mind whose development was not in the
direction of sadness. A very clever French critic, whose fancy is
often more lively than his observation is deep, M. Emile Montegut,
writing in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, in the year 1860, invents for
our author the appellation of "Un Romancier Pessimiste." Superficially
speaking, perhaps, the title is a happy one; but only superficially.
Pessimism consists in having morbid and bitter views and theories
about human nature; not in indulging in shadowy fancies and conceits.
There is nothing whatever to show that Hawthorne had any such
doctrines or convictions; certainly, the note of depression, of
despair, of the disposition to undervalue the human race, is never
sounded in his Diaries. These volumes contain the record of very few
convictions or theories of any kind; they move with curious evenness,
with a charming, graceful flow, on a level which lies above that of a
man's philosophy. They adhere with such persistence to this upper
level that they prompt the reader to believe that Hawthorne had no
appreciable philosophy at all--no general views that were, in the
least uncomfortable. They are the exhibition of an unperplexed
intellect. I said just now that the development of Hawthorne's mind
was not towards sadness; and I should be inclined to go still further,
and say that his mind proper--his mind in so far as it was a
repository of opinions and articles of faith--had no development that
it is of especial importance to look into. What had a development was
his imagination--that delicate and penetrating imagination which was
always at play, always entertaining itself, always engaged in a game
of hide and seek in the region in which it seemed to him, that the
game could best be played--among the shadows and substructions, the
dark-based pillars and supports, of our moral nature. Beneath this
movement and ripple of his imagination--as free and spontaneous as
that of the sea surface--lay directly his personal affections. These
were solid and strong, but, according to my impression, they had the
place very much to themselves.

His innocent reserve, then, and his exaggerated, but by no means
cynical, relish for solitude, imposed themselves upon him, in a great
measure, with a persistency which helped to make the time a tolerably
arid one--so arid a one indeed that we have seen that in the light of
later happiness he pronounced it a blank. But in truth, if these were
dull years, it was not all Hawthorne's fault. His situation was
intrinsically poor--poor with a poverty that one almost hesitates to
look into. When we think of what the conditions of intellectual life,
of taste, must have been in a small New England town fifty years ago;
and when we think of a young man of beautiful genius, with a love of
literature and romance, of the picturesque, of style and form and
colour, trying to make a career for himself in the midst of them,
compassion for the young man becomes our dominant sentiment, and we
see the large dry village picture in perhaps almost too hard a light.
It seems to me then that it was possibly a blessing for Hawthorne that
he was not expansive and inquisitive, that he lived much to himself
and asked but little of his _milieu_. If he had been exacting and
ambitious, if his appetite had been large and his knowledge various,
he would probably have found the bounds of Salem intolerably narrow.
But his culture had been of a simple sort--there was little of any
other sort to be obtained in America in those days, and though he was
doubtless haunted by visions of more suggestive opportunities, we may
safely assume that he was not to his own perception the object of
compassion that he appears to a critic who judges him after half a
century's civilization has filtered into the twilight of that earlier
time. If New England was socially a very small place in those days,
Salem was a still smaller one; and if the American tone at large was
intensely provincial, that of New England was not greatly helped by
having the best of it. The state of things was extremely natural, and
there could be now no greater mistake than to speak of it with a
redundancy of irony. American life had begun to constitute itself from
the foundations; it had begun to _be_, simply; it was at an
immeasurable distance from having begun to enjoy. I imagine there was
no appreciable group of people in New England at that time proposing
to itself to enjoy life; this was not an undertaking for which any
provision had been made, or to which any encouragement was offered.
Hawthorne must have vaguely entertained some such design upon destiny;
but he must have felt that his success would have to depend wholly
upon his own ingenuity. I say he must have proposed to himself to
enjoy, simply because he proposed to be an artist, and because this
enters inevitably into the artist's scheme. There are a thousand ways
of enjoying life, and that of the artist is one of the most innocent.
But for all that, it connects itself with the idea of pleasure. He
proposes to give pleasure, and to give it he must first get it. Where
he gets it will depend upon circumstances, and circumstances were not
encouraging to Hawthorne.

He was poor, he was solitary, and he undertook to devote himself to
literature in a community in which the interest in literature was as
yet of the smallest. It is not too much to say that even to the
present day it is a considerable discomfort in the United States not
to be "in business." The young man who attempts to launch himself in a
career that does not belong to the so-called practical order; the
young man who has not, in a word, an office in the business-quarter of
the town, with his name painted on the door, has but a limited place
in the social system, finds no particular bough to perch upon. He is
not looked at askance, he is not regarded as an idler; literature and
the arts have always been held in extreme honour in the American
world, and those who practise them are received on easier terms than
in other countries. If the tone of the American world is in some
respects provincial, it is in none more so than in this matter of the
exaggerated homage rendered to authorship. The gentleman or the lady
who has written a book is in many circles the object of an admiration
too indiscriminating to operate as an encouragement to good writing.
There is no reason to suppose that this was less the case fifty years
ago; but fifty years ago, greatly more than now, the literary man must
have lacked the comfort and inspiration of belonging to a class. The
best things come, as a general thing, from the talents that are
members of a group; every man works better when he has companions
working in the same line, and yielding the stimulus of suggestion,
comparison, emulation. Great things of course have been done by
solitary workers; but they have usually been done with double the
pains they would have cost if they had been produced in more genial
circumstances. The solitary worker loses the profit of example and
discussion; he is apt to make awkward experiments; he is in the nature
of the case more or less of an empiric. The empiric may, as I say, be
treated by the world as an expert; but the drawbacks and discomforts
of empiricism remain to him, and are in fact increased by the
suspicion that is mingled with his gratitude, of a want in the public
taste of a sense of the proportions of things. Poor Hawthorne,
beginning to write subtle short tales at Salem, was empirical enough;
he was one of, at most, some dozen Americans who had taken up
literature as a profession. The profession in the United States is
still very young, and of diminutive stature; but in the year 1830 its
head could hardly have been seen above ground. It strikes the observer
of to-day that Hawthorne showed great courage in entering a field in
which the honours and emoluments were so scanty as the profits of
authorship must have been at that time. I have said that in the
United States at present authorship is a pedestal, and literature is
the fashion; but Hawthorne's history is a proof that it was possible,
fifty years ago, to write a great many little masterpieces without
becoming known. He begins the preface to the _Twice-Told Tales_ by
remarking that he was "for many years the obscurest man of letters in
America." When once this work obtained recognition, the recognition
left little to be desired. Hawthorne never, I believe, made large sums
of money by his writings, and the early profits of these charming
sketches could not have been considerable; for many of them, indeed,
as they appeared in journals and magazines, he had never been paid at
all; but the honour, when once it dawned--and it dawned tolerably
early in the author's career--was never thereafter wanting.
Hawthorne's countrymen are solidly proud of him, and the tone of Mr.
Lathrop's _Study_ is in itself sufficient evidence of the manner in
which an American story-teller may in some cases look to have his
eulogy pronounced.

Hawthorne's early attempt to support himself by his pen appears to
have been deliberate; we hear nothing of those experiments in
counting-houses or lawyers' offices, of which a permanent invocation
to the Muse is often the inconsequent sequel. He began to write, and
to try and dispose of his writings; and he remained at Salem
apparently only because his family, his mother and his two sisters,
lived there. His mother had a house, of which during the twelve years
that elapsed until 1838, he appears to have been an inmate. Mr.
Lathrop learned from his surviving sister that after publishing
_Fanshawe_ he produced a group of short stories entitled _Seven Tales
of my Native Land_, and that this lady retained a very favourable
recollection of the work, which her brother had given her to read. But
it never saw the light; his attempts to get it published were
unsuccessful, and at last, in a fit of irritation and despair, the
young author burned the manuscript.

There is probably something autobiographic in the striking little tale
of _The Devil in Manuscript_. "They have been offered to seventeen
publishers," says the hero of that sketch in regard to a pile of his
own lucubrations.

     "It would make you stare to read their answers.... One man
     publishes nothing but school-books; another has five novels
     already under examination;... another gentleman is just
     giving up business, on purpose, I verily believe, to avoid
     publishing my book. In short, of all the seventeen
     booksellers, only one has vouchsafed even to read my tales;
     and he--a literary dabbler himself, I should judge--has the
     impertinence to criticise them, proposing what he calls vast
     improvements, and concluding, after a general sentence of
     condemnation, with the definitive assurance that he will not
     be concerned on any terms.... But there does seem to be one
     righteous man among these seventeen unrighteous ones, and he
     tells me, fairly, that no American publisher will meddle
     with an American work--seldom if by a known writer, and
     never if by a new one--unless at the writer's risk."

But though the _Seven Tales_ were not printed, Hawthorne, proceeded to
write others that were; the two collections of the _Twice-Told Tales_,
and the _Snow Image_, are gathered from a series of contributions to
the local journals and the annuals of that day. To make these three
volumes, he picked out the things he thought the best. "Some very
small part," he says of what remains, "might yet be rummaged out (but
it would not be worth the trouble), among the dingy pages of fifteen
or twenty-years-old periodicals, or within the shabby morocco covers
of faded _Souvenirs_." These three volumes represent no large amount
of literary labour for so long a period, and the author admits that
there is little to show "for the thought and industry of that portion
of his life." He attributes the paucity of his productions to a "total
lack of sympathy at the age when his mind would naturally have been
most effervescent." "He had no incitement to literary effort in a
reasonable prospect of reputation or profit; nothing but the pleasure
itself of composition, an enjoyment not at all amiss in its way, and
perhaps essential to the merit of the work in hand, but which in the
long run will hardly keep the chill out of a writer's heart, or the
numbness out of his fingers." These words occur in the preface
attached in 1851 to the second edition of the _Twice-Told Tales_; _a
propos_ of which I may say that there is always a charm in Hawthorne's
prefaces which makes one grateful for a pretext to quote from them. At
this time _The Scarlet Letter_ had just made his fame, and the short
tales were certain of a large welcome; but the account he gives of the
failure of the earlier edition to produce a sensation (it had been
published in two volumes, at four years apart), may appear to
contradict my assertion that, though he was not recognised
immediately, he was recognised betimes. In 1850, when _The Scarlet
Letter_ appeared, Hawthorne was forty-six years old, and this may
certainly seem a long-delayed popularity. On the other hand, it must
be remembered that he had not appealed to the world with any great
energy. _The Twice-Told Tales_, charming as they are, do not
constitute a very massive literary pedestal. As soon as the author,
resorting to severer measures, put forth _The Scarlet Letter_, the
public ear was touched and charmed, and after that it was held to the
end. "Well it might have been!" the reader will exclaim. "But what a
grievous pity that the dulness of this same organ should have operated
so long as a deterrent, and by making Hawthorne wait till he was
nearly fifty to publish his first novel, have abbreviated by so much
his productive career!" The truth is, he cannot have been in any very
high degree ambitious; he was not an abundant producer, and there was
manifestly a strain of generous indolence in his composition. There
was a loveable want of eagerness about him. Let the encouragement
offered have been what it might, he had waited till he was lapsing
from middle-life to strike his first noticeable blow; and during the
last ten years of his career he put forth but two complete works, and
the fragment of a third.

It is very true, however, that during this early period he seems to
have been very glad to do whatever came to his hand. Certain of his
tales found their way into one of the annuals of the time, a
publication endowed with the brilliant title of _The Boston Token and
Atlantic Souvenir_. The editor of this graceful repository was S. G.
Goodrich, a gentleman who, I suppose, may be called one of the
pioneers of American periodical literature. He is better known to the
world as Mr. Peter Parley, a name under which he produced a multitude
of popular school-books, story-books, and other attempts to vulgarize
human knowledge and adapt it to the infant mind. This enterprising
purveyor of literary wares appears, incongruously enough, to have been
Hawthorne's earliest protector, if protection is the proper word for
the treatment that the young author received from him. Mr. Goodrich
induced him in 1836 to go to Boston to edit a periodical in which he
was interested, _The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining
Knowledge_. I have never seen the work in question, but Hawthorne's
biographer gives a sorry account of it. It was managed by the
so-called Bewick Company, which "took its name from Thomas Bewick, the
English restorer of the art of wood-engraving, and the magazine was to
do his memory honour by his admirable illustrations. But in fact it
never did any one honour, nor brought any one profit. It was a penny
popular affair, containing condensed information about innumerable
subjects, no fiction, and little poetry. The woodcuts were of the
crudest and most frightful sort. It passed through the hands of
several editors and several publishers. Hawthorne was engaged at a
salary of five hundred dollars a year; but it appears that he got next
to nothing, and did not stay in the position long." Hawthorne wrote
from Boston in the winter of 1836: "I came here trusting to Goodrich's
positive promise to pay me forty-five dollars as soon as I arrived;
and he has kept promising from one day to another, till I do not see
that he means to pay at all. I have now broke off all intercourse with
him, and never think of going near him.... I don't feel at all obliged
to him about the editorship, for he is a stockholder and director in
the Bewick Company ... and I defy them to get another to do for a
thousand dollars, what I do for five hundred."--"I make nothing," he
says in another letter, "of writing a history or biography before
dinner." Goodrich proposed to him to write a _Universal History_ for
the use of schools, offering him a hundred dollars for his share in
the work. Hawthorne accepted the offer and took a hand--I know not how
large a one--in the job. His biographer has been able to identify a
single phrase as our author's. He is speaking of George IV: "Even when
he was quite a young man this King cared as much about dress as any
young coxcomb. He had a great deal of taste in such matters, and it is
a pity that he was a King, for he might otherwise have made an
excellent tailor." The _Universal History_ had a great vogue and
passed through hundreds of editions; but it does not appear that
Hawthorne ever received more than his hundred dollars. The writer of
these pages vividly remembers making its acquaintance at an early
stage of his education--a very fat, stumpy-looking book, bound in
boards covered with green paper, and having in the text very small
woodcuts, of the most primitive sort. He associates it to this day
with the names of Sesostris and Semiramis whenever he encounters them,
there having been, he supposes, some account of the conquests of these
potentates that would impress itself upon the imagination of a child.
At the end of four months, Hawthorne had received but twenty
dollars--four pounds--for his editorship of the _American Magazine_.

There is something pitiful in this episode, and something really
touching in the sight of a delicate and superior genius obliged to
concern himself with such paltry undertakings. The simple fact was
that for a man attempting at that time in America to live by his pen,
there were no larger openings; and to live at all Hawthorne had, as
the phrase is, to make himself small. This cost him less, moreover,
than it would have cost a more copious and strenuous genius, for his
modesty was evidently extreme, and I doubt whether he had any very
ardent consciousness of rare talent. He went back to Salem, and from
this tranquil standpoint, in the spring of 1837, he watched the first
volume of his _Twice-Told Tales_ come into the world. He had by this
time been living some ten years of his manhood in Salem, and an
American commentator may be excused for feeling the desire to
construct, from the very scanty material that offers itself, a slight
picture of his life there. I have quoted his own allusions to its
dulness and blankness, but I confess that these observations serve
rather to quicken than to depress my curiosity. A biographer has of
necessity a relish for detail; his business is to multiply points of
characterisation. Mr. Lathrop tells us that our author "had little
communication with even the members of his family. Frequently his
meals were brought and left at his locked door, and it was not often
that the four inmates of the old Herbert Street mansion met in family
circle. He never read his stories aloud to his mother and sisters....
It was the custom in this household for the several members to remain
very much by themselves; the three ladies were perhaps nearly as
rigorous recluses as himself, and, speaking of the isolation which
reigned among them, Hawthorne once said, 'We do not even _live_ at our
house!'" It is added that he was not in the habit of going to church.
This is not a lively picture, nor is that other sketch of his daily
habits much more exhilarating, in which Mr. Lathrop affirms that
though the statement that for several years "he never saw the sun" is
entirely an error, yet it is true that he stirred little abroad all
day and "seldom chose to walk in the town except at night." In the
dusky hours he took walks of many miles along the coast, or else
wandered about the sleeping streets of Salem. These were his pastimes,
and these were apparently his most intimate occasions of contact with
life. Life, on such occasions, was not very exuberant, as any one will
reflect who has been acquainted with the physiognomy of a small New
England town after nine o'clock in the evening. Hawthorne, however,
was an inveterate observer of small things, and he found a field for
fancy among the most trivial accidents. There could be no better
example of this happy faculty than the little paper entitled "Night
Sketches," included among the _Twice-Told Tales_. This small
dissertation is about nothing at all, and to call attention to it is
almost to overrate its importance. This fact is equally true, indeed,
of a great many of its companions, which give even the most
appreciative critic a singular feeling of his own indiscretion--almost
of his own cruelty. They are so light, so slight, so tenderly trivial,
that simply to mention them is to put them in a false position. The
author's claim for them is barely audible, even to the most acute
listener. They are things to take or to leave--to enjoy, but not to
talk about. Not to read them would be to do them an injustice (to read
them is essentially to relish them), but to bring the machinery of
criticism to bear upon them would be to do them a still greater wrong.
I must remember, however, that to carry this principle too far would
be to endanger the general validity of the present little work--a
consummation which it can only be my desire to avert. Therefore it is
that I think it permissible to remark that in Hawthorne, the whole
class of little descriptive effusions directed upon common things, to
which these just-mentioned Night Sketches belong, have a greater
charm than there is any warrant for in their substance. The charm is
made up of the spontaneity, the personal quality, of the fancy that
plays through them, its mingled simplicity and subtlety, its purity
and its _bonhomie_. The Night Sketches are simply the light, familiar
record of a walk under an umbrella, at the end of a long, dull, rainy
day, through the sloppy, ill-paved streets of a country town, where
the rare gas-lamps twinkle in the large puddles, and the blue jars in
the druggist's window shine through the vulgar drizzle. One would say
that the inspiration of such a theme could have had no great force,
and such doubtless was the case; but out of the Salem puddles,
nevertheless, springs, flower-like, a charming and natural piece of
prose.

I have said that Hawthorne was an observer of small things, and indeed
he appears to have thought nothing too trivial to be suggestive. His
Note-Books give us the measure of his perception of common and casual
things, and of his habit of converting them into _memoranda_. These
Note-Books, by the way--this seems as good a place as any other to say
it--are a very singular series of volumes; I doubt whether there is
anything exactly corresponding to them in the whole body of
literature. They were published--in six volumes, issued at
intervals--some years after Hawthorne's death, and no person
attempting to write an account of the romancer could afford to regret
that they should have been given to the world. There is a point of
view from which this may be regretted; but the attitude of the
biographer is to desire as many documents as possible. I am thankful,
then, as a biographer, for the Note-Books, but I am obliged to
confess that, though I have just re-read them carefully, I am still at
a loss to perceive how they came to be written--what was Hawthorne's
purpose in carrying on for so many years this minute and often trivial
chronicle. For a person desiring information about him at any cost, it
is valuable; it sheds a vivid light upon his character, his habits,
the nature of his mind. But we find ourselves wondering what was its
value to Hawthorne himself. It is in a very partial degree a register
of impressions, and in a still smaller sense a record of emotions.
Outward objects play much the larger part in it; opinions,
convictions, ideas pure and simple, are almost absent. He rarely takes
his Note-Book into his confidence or commits to its pages any
reflections that might be adapted for publicity; the simplest way to
describe the tone of these extremely objective journals is to say that
they read like a series of very pleasant, though rather dullish and
decidedly formal, letters, addressed to himself by a man who, having
suspicions that they might be opened in the post, should have
determined to insert nothing compromising. They contain much that is
too futile for things intended for publicity; whereas, on the other
hand, as a receptacle of private impressions and opinions, they are
curiously cold and empty. They widen, as I have said, our glimpse of
Hawthorne's mind (I do not say that they elevate our estimate of it),
but they do so by what they fail to contain, as much as by what we
find in them. Our business for the moment, however, is not with the
light that they throw upon his intellect, but with the information
they offer about his habits and his social circumstances.

I know not at what age he began to keep a diary; the first entries in
the American volumes are of the summer of 1835. There is a phrase in
the preface to his novel of _Transformation_, which must have lingered
in the minds of many Americans who have tried to write novels and to
lay the scene of them in the western world. "No author, without a
trial, can conceive of the difficulty of writing a romance about a
country where there is no shadow, no antiquity, no mystery, no
picturesque and gloomy wrong, nor anything but a commonplace
prosperity, in broad and simple daylight, as is happily the case with
my dear native land." The perusal of Hawthorne's American Note-Books
operates as a practical commentary upon this somewhat ominous text. It
does so at least to my own mind; it would be too much perhaps to say
that the effect would be the same for the usual English reader. An
American reads between the lines--he completes the suggestions--he
constructs a picture. I think I am not guilty of any gross injustice
in saying that the picture he constructs from Hawthorne's American
diaries, though by no means without charms of its own, is not, on the
whole, an interesting one. It is characterised by an extraordinary
blankness--a curious paleness of colour and paucity of detail.
Hawthorne, as I have said, has a large and healthy appetite for
detail, and one is therefore the more struck with the lightness of the
diet to which his observation was condemned. For myself, as I turn the
pages of his journals, I seem to see the image of the crude and simple
society in which he lived. I use these epithets, of course, not
invidiously, but descriptively; if one desire to enter as closely as
possible into Hawthorne's situation, one must endeavour to reproduce
his circumstances. We are struck with the large number of elements
that were absent from them, and the coldness, the thinness, the
blankness, to repeat my epithet, present themselves so vividly that
our foremost feeling is that of compassion for a romancer looking for
subjects in such a field. It takes so many things, as Hawthorne must
have felt later in life, when he made the acquaintance of the denser,
richer, warmer-European spectacle--it takes such an accumulation of
history and custom, such a complexity of manners and types, to form a
fund of suggestion for a novelist. If Hawthorne had been a young
Englishman, or a young Frenchman of the same degree of genius, the
same cast of mind, the same habits, his consciousness of the world
around him would have been a very different affair; however obscure,
however reserved, his own personal life, his sense of the life of his
fellow-mortals would have been almost infinitely more various. The
negative side of the spectacle on which Hawthorne looked out, in his
contemplative saunterings and reveries, might, indeed, with a little
ingenuity, be made almost ludicrous; one might enumerate the items of
high civilization, as it exists in other countries, which are absent
from the texture of American life, until it should become a wonder to
know what was left. No State, in the European sense of the word, and
indeed barely a specific national name. No sovereign, no court, no
personal loyalty, no aristocracy, no church, no clergy, no army, no
diplomatic service, no country gentlemen, no palaces, no castles, nor
manors, nor old country-houses, nor parsonages, nor thatched cottages
nor ivied ruins; no cathedrals, nor abbeys, nor little Norman
churches; no great Universities nor public schools--no Oxford, nor
Eton, nor Harrow; no literature, no novels, no museums, no pictures,
no political society, no sporting class--no Epsom nor Ascot! Some such
list as that might be drawn up of the absent things in American
life--especially in the American life of forty years ago, the effect
of which, upon an English or a French imagination, would probably as a
general thing be appalling. The natural remark, in the almost lurid
light of such an indictment, would be that if these things are left
out, everything is left out. The American knows that a good deal
remains; what it is that remains--that is his secret, his joke, as one
may say. It would be cruel, in this terrible denudation, to deny him
the consolation of his national gift, that "American humour" of which
of late years we have heard so much.

But in helping us to measure what remains, our author's Diaries, as I
have already intimated, would give comfort rather to persons who might
have taken the alarm from the brief sketch I have just attempted of
what I have called the negative side of the American social situation,
than to those reminding themselves of its fine compensations.
Hawthorne's entries are to a great degree accounts of walks in the
country, drives in stage-coaches, people he met in taverns. The
minuteness of the things that attract his attention and that he deems
worthy of being commemorated is frequently extreme, and from this fact
we get the impression of a general vacancy in the field of vision.
"Sunday evening, going by the jail, the setting sun kindled up the
windows most cheerfully; as if there were a bright, comfortable light
within its darksome stone wall." "I went yesterday with Monsieur S----
to pick raspberries. He fell through an old log-bridge, thrown over a
hollow; looking back, only his head and shoulders appeared through the
rotten logs and among the bushes.--A shower coming on, the rapid
running of a little barefooted boy, coming up unheard, and dashing
swiftly past us, and showing us the soles of his naked feet as he ran
adown the path and up the opposite side." In another place he devotes
a page to a description of a dog whom he saw running round after its
tail; in still another he remarks, in a paragraph by itself--"The
aromatic odor of peat-smoke, in the sunny autumnal air is very
pleasant." The reader says to himself that when a man turned thirty
gives a place in his mind--and his inkstand--to such trifles as these,
it is because nothing else of superior importance demands admission.
Everything in the Notes indicates a simple, democratic,
thinly-composed society; there is no evidence of the writer finding
himself in any variety or intimacy of relations with any one or with
anything. We find a good deal of warrant for believing that if we add
that statement of Mr. Lathrop's about his meals being left at the door
of his room, to rural rambles of which an impression of the temporary
phases of the local apple-crop were the usual, and an encounter with
an organ-grinder, or an eccentric dog, the rarer, outcome, we
construct a rough image of our author's daily life during the several
years that preceded his marriage. He appears to have read a good deal,
and that he must have been familiar with the sources of good English
we see from his charming, expressive, slightly self-conscious,
cultivated, but not too cultivated, style. Yet neither in these early
volumes of his Note-Books, nor in the later, is there any mention of
his reading. There are no literary judgments or impressions--there is
almost no allusion to works or to authors. The allusions to
individuals of any kind are indeed much less numerous than one might
have expected; there is little psychology, little description of
manners. We are told by Mr. Lathrop that there existed at Salem during
the early part of Hawthorne's life "a strong circle of wealthy
families," which "maintained rigorously the distinctions of class,"
and whose "entertainments were splendid, their manners magnificent."
This is a rather pictorial way of saying that there were a number of
people in the place--the commercial and professional aristocracy, as
it were--who lived in high comfort and respectability, and who, in
their small provincial way, doubtless had pretensions to be exclusive.
Into this delectable company Mr. Lathrop intimates that his hero was
free to penetrate. It is easy to believe it, and it would be difficult
to perceive why the privilege should have been denied to a young man
of genius and culture, who was very good-looking (Hawthorne must have
been in these days, judging by his appearance later in life, a
strikingly handsome fellow), and whose American pedigree was virtually
as long as the longest they could show. But in fact Hawthorne appears
to have ignored the good society of his native place almost
completely; no echo of its conversation is to be found in his tales or
his journals. Such an echo would possibly not have been especially
melodious, and if we regret the shyness and stiffness, the reserve,
the timidity, the suspicion, or whatever it was, that kept him from
knowing what there was to be known, it is not because we have any very
definite assurance that his gains would have been great. Still, since
a beautiful writer was growing up in Salem, it is a pity that he
should not have given himself a chance to commemorate some of the
types that flourished in the richest soil of the place. Like almost
all people who possess in a strong degree the storytelling faculty,
Hawthorne had a democratic strain in his composition and a relish for
the commoner stuff of human nature. Thoroughly American in all ways,
he was in none more so than in the vagueness of his sense of social
distinctions and his readiness to forget them if a moral or
intellectual sensation were to be gained by it. He liked to fraternise
with plain people, to take them on their own terms, and put himself if
possible into their shoes. His Note-Books, and even his tales, are
full of evidence of this easy and natural feeling about all his
unconventional fellow-mortals--this imaginative interest and
contemplative curiosity--and it sometimes takes the most charming and
graceful forms. Commingled as it is with his own subtlety and
delicacy, his complete exemption from vulgarity, it is one of the
points in his character which his reader comes most to appreciate--that
reader I mean for whom he is not as for some few, a dusky and malarious
genius.

But even if he had had, personally, as many pretensions as he had few,
he must in the nature of things have been more or less of a consenting
democrat, for democracy was the very key-stone of the simple social
structure in which he played his part. The air of his journals and his
tales alike are full of the genuine democratic feeling. This feeling
has by no means passed out of New England life; it still flourishes in
perfection in the great stock of the people, especially in rural
communities; but it is probable that at the present hour a writer of
Hawthorne's general fastidiousness would not express it quite so
artlessly. "A shrewd gentlewoman, who kept a tavern in the town," he
says, in _Chippings with a Chisel_, "was anxious to obtain two or
three gravestones for the deceased members of her family, and to pay
for these solemn commodities by taking the sculptor to board." This
image of a gentlewoman keeping a tavern and looking out for boarders,
seems, from the point of view to which I allude, not at all
incongruous. It will be observed that the lady in question was shrewd;
it was probable that she was substantially educated, and of reputable
life, and it is certain that she was energetic. These qualities would
make it natural to Hawthorne to speak of her as a gentlewoman; the
natural tendency in societies where the sense of equality prevails,
being to take for granted the high level rather than the low. Perhaps
the most striking example of the democratic sentiment in all our
author's tales, however, is the figure of Uncle Venner, in _The House
of the Seven Gables_. Uncle Venner is a poor old man in a brimless hat
and patched trousers, who picks up a precarious subsistence by
rendering, for a compensation, in the houses and gardens of the good
people of Salem, those services that are know in New England as
"chores." He carries parcels, splits firewood, digs potatoes, collects
refuse for the maintenance of his pigs, and looks forward with
philosophic equanimity to the time when he shall end his days in the
almshouse. But in spite of the very modest place that he occupies in
the social scale, he is received on a footing of familiarity in the
household of the far-descended Miss Pyncheon; and when this ancient
lady and her companions take the air in the garden of a summer
evening, he steps into the estimable circle and mingles the smoke of
his pipe with their refined conversation. This obviously is rather
imaginative--Uncle Venner is a creation with a purpose. He is an
original, a natural moralist, a philosopher; and Hawthorne, who knew
perfectly what he was about in introducing him--Hawthorne always knew
perfectly what he was about--wished to give in his person an example
of humorous resignation and of a life reduced to the simplest and
homeliest elements, as opposed to the fantastic pretensions of the
antiquated heroine of the story. He wished to strike a certain
exclusively human and personal note. He knew that for this purpose he
was taking a licence; but the point is that he felt he was not
indulging in any extravagant violation of reality. Giving in a letter,
about 1830, an account of a little journey he was making in
Connecticut, he says, of the end of a seventeen miles' stage, that "in
the evening, however, I went to a Bible-class with a very polite and
agreeable gentleman, whom I afterwards discovered to be a strolling
tailor of very questionable habits."

Hawthorne appears on various occasions to have absented himself from
Salem, and to have wandered somewhat through the New England States.
But the only one of these episodes of which there is a considerable
account in the Note-Books is a visit that he paid in the summer of
1837 to his old college-mate, Horatio Bridge, who was living upon his
father's property in Maine, in company with an eccentric young
Frenchman, a teacher of his native tongue, who was looking for pupils
among the northern forests. I have said that there was less psychology
in Hawthorne's Journals than might have been looked for; but there is
nevertheless a certain amount of it, and nowhere more than in a number
of pages relating to this remarkable "Monsieur S." (Hawthorne,
intimate as he apparently became with him, always calls him
"Monsieur," just as throughout all his Diaries he invariably speaks
of all his friends, even the most familiar, as "Mr." He confers the
prefix upon the unconventional Thoreau, his fellow-woodsman at
Concord, and upon the emancipated brethren at Brook Farm.) These pages
are completely occupied with Monsieur S., who was evidently a man of
character, with the full complement of his national vivacity. There is
an elaborate effort to analyse the poor young Frenchman's disposition,
something conscientious and painstaking, respectful, explicit, almost
solemn. These passages are very curious as a reminder of the absence
of the off-hand element in the manner in which many Americans, and
many New Englanders especially, make up their minds about people whom
they meet. This, in turn, is a reminder of something that may be
called the importance of the individual in the American world; which
is a result of the newness and youthfulness of society and of the
absence of keen competition. The individual counts for more, as it
were, and, thanks to the absence of a variety of social types and of
settled heads under which he may be easily and conveniently
pigeon-holed, he is to a certain extent a wonder and a mystery. An
Englishman, a Frenchman--a Frenchman above all--judges quickly,
easily, from his own social standpoint, and makes an end of it. He has
not that rather chilly and isolated sense of moral responsibility
which is apt to visit a New Englander in such processes; and he has
the advantage that his standards are fixed by the general consent of
the society in which he lives. A Frenchman, in this respect, is
particularly happy and comfortable, happy and comfortable to a degree
which I think is hardly to be over-estimated; his standards being the
most definite in the world, the most easily and promptly appealed to,
and the most identical with what happens to be the practice of the
French genius itself. The Englishman is not-quite so well off, but he
is better off than his poor interrogative and tentative cousin beyond
the seas. He is blessed with a healthy mistrust of analysis, and
hair-splitting is the occupation he most despises. There is always a
little of the Dr. Johnson in him, and Dr. Johnson would have had
woefully little patience with that tendency to weigh moonbeams which
in Hawthorne was almost as much a quality of race as of genius; albeit
that Hawthorne has paid to Boswell's hero (in the chapter on
"Lichfield and Uttoxeter," in his volume on England), a tribute of the
finest appreciation. American intellectual standards are vague, and
Hawthorne's countrymen are apt to hold the scales with a rather
uncertain hand and a somewhat agitated conscience.

       *       *       *       *       *




CHAPTER III.

EARLY WRITINGS.


The second volume of the _Twice-Told Tales_ was published in 1845, in
Boston; and at this time a good many of the stories which were
afterwards collected into the _Mosses from an Old Manse_ had already
appeared, chiefly in _The Democratic Review_, a sufficiently
flourishing periodical of that period. In mentioning these things I
anticipate; but I touch upon the year 1845 in order to speak of the
two collections of _Twice-Told Tales_ at once. During the same year
Hawthorne edited an interesting volume, the _Journals of an African
Cruiser_, by his friend Bridge, who had gone into the Navy and seen
something of distant waters. His biographer mentions that even then
Hawthorne's name was thought to bespeak attention for a book, and he
insists on this fact in contradiction to the idea that his productions
had hitherto been as little noticed as his own declaration that he
remained "for a good many years the obscurest man of letters in
America," might lead one, and has led many people, to suppose. "In
this dismal chamber FAME was won," he writes in Salem in 1836. And we
find in the Note-Books (1840), this singularly beautiful and touching
passage:--

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

There is something exquisite in the soft philosophy of this little
retrospect, and it helps us to appreciate it to know that the writer
had at this time just become engaged to be married to a charming and
accomplished person, with whom his union, which took place two years
later, was complete and full of happiness. But I quote it more
particularly for the evidence it affords that, already in 1840,
Hawthorne could speak of the world finding him out and calling him
forth, as of an event tolerably well in the past. He had sent the
first of the _Twice-Told_ series to his old college friend,
Longfellow, who had already laid, solidly, the foundation of his great
poetic reputation, and at the time of his sending it had written him a
letter from which it will be to our purpose to quote a few lines:--

     "You tell me you have met with troubles and changes. I know
     not what these may have been; but I can assure you that
     trouble is the next best thing to enjoyment, and that there
     is no fate in the world so horrible as to have no share in
     either its joys or sorrows. For the last ten years I have
     not lived, but only dreamed of living. It may be true that
     there may have been some unsubstantial pleasures here in the
     shade, which I might have missed in the sunshine, but you
     cannot conceive how utterly devoid of satisfaction all my
     retrospects are. I have laid up no treasure of pleasant
     remembrances against old age; but there is some comfort in
     thinking that future years may be more varied, and therefore
     more tolerable, than the past. You give me more credit than
     I deserve in supposing that I have led a studious life. I
     have indeed turned over a good many books, but in so
     desultory a way that it cannot be called study, nor has it
     left me the fruits of study.... I have another great
     difficulty in the lack of materials; for I have seen so
     little of the world that I have nothing but thin air to
     concoct my stories of, and it is not easy to give a
     life-like semblance to such shadowy stuff. Sometimes,
     through a peephole, I have caught a glimpse of the real
     world, and the two or three articles in which I have
     portrayed these glimpses please me better than the others."

It is more particularly for the sake of the concluding lines that I
have quoted this passage; for evidently no portrait of Hawthorne at
this period is at all exact which, fails to insist upon the constant
struggle which must have gone on between his shyness and his desire to
know something of life; between what may be called his evasive and his
inquisitive tendencies. I suppose it is no injustice to Hawthorne to
say that on the whole his shyness always prevailed; and yet,
obviously, the struggle was constantly there. He says of his
_Twice-Told Tales_, in the preface, "They are not the talk of a
secluded man with his own mind and heart (had it been so they could
hardly have failed to be more deeply and permanently valuable,) but
his attempts, and very imperfectly successful ones, to open an
intercourse with the world." We are speaking here of small things, it
must be remembered--of little attempts, little sketches, a little
world. But everything is relative, and this smallness of scale must
not render less apparent the interesting character of Hawthorne's
efforts. As for the _Twice-Told Tales_ themselves, they are an old
story now; every one knows them a little, and those who admire them
particularly have read them a great many times. The writer of this
sketch belongs to the latter class, and he has been trying to forget
his familiarity with them, and ask himself what impression they would
have made upon him at the time they appeared, in the first bloom of
their freshness, and before the particular Hawthorne-quality, as it
may be called, had become an established, a recognised and valued,
fact. Certainly, I am inclined to think, if one had encountered these
delicate, dusky flowers in the blossomless garden of American
journalism, one would have plucked them with a very tender hand; one
would have felt that here was something essentially fresh and new;
here, in no extraordinary force or abundance, but in a degree
distinctly appreciable, was an original element in literature. When I
think of it, I almost envy Hawthorne's earliest readers; the sensation
of opening upon _The Great Carbuncle_, _The Seven Vagabonds_, or _The
Threefold Destiny_ in an American annual of forty years ago, must have
been highly agreeable.

Among these shorter things (it is better to speak of the whole
collection, including the _Snow Image_, and the _Mosses from an Old
Manse_ at once) there are three sorts of tales, each one of which has
an original stamp. There are, to begin with, the stories of fantasy
and allegory--those among which the three I have just mentioned would
be numbered, and which on the whole, are the most original. This is
the group to which such little masterpieces as _Malvin's Burial_,
_Rappacini's Daughter_, and _Young Goodman Brown_ also belong--these
two last perhaps representing the highest point that Hawthorne reached
in this direction. Then there are the little tales of New England
history, which are scarcely less admirable, and of which _The Grey
Champion_, _The Maypole of Merry Mount_, and the four beautiful
_Legends of the Province House_, as they are called, are the most
successful specimens. Lastly come the slender sketches of actual
scenes and of the objects and manners about him, by means of which,
more particularly, he endeavoured "to open an intercourse with the
world," and which, in spite of their slenderness, have an infinite
grace and charm. Among these things _A Rill from the Town Pump_, _The
Village Uncle_, _The Toll-Gatherer's Day_, the _Chippings with a
Chisel_, may most naturally be mentioned. As we turn over these
volumes we feel that the pieces that spring most directly from his
fancy, constitute, as I have said (putting his four novels aside), his
most substantial claim to our attention. It would be a mistake to
insist too much upon them; Hawthorne was himself the first to
recognise that. "These fitful sketches," he says in the preface to the
_Mosses from an Old Manse_, "with so little of external life about
them, yet claiming no profundity of purpose--so reserved even while
they sometimes seem so frank--often but half in earnest, and never,
even when most so, expressing satisfactorily the thoughts which they
profess to image--such trifles, I truly feel, afford no solid basis
for a literary reputation." This is very becomingly uttered; but it
may be said, partly in answer to it, and partly in confirmation, that
the valuable element in these things was not what Hawthorne put into
them consciously, but what passed into them without his being able to
measure it--the element of simple genius, the quality of imagination.
This is the real charm of Hawthorne's writing--this purity and
spontaneity and naturalness of fancy. For the rest, it is interesting
to see how it borrowed a particular colour from the other faculties
that lay near it--how the imagination, in this capital son of the old
Puritans, reflected the hue of the more purely moral part, of the
dusky, overshadowed conscience. The conscience, by no fault of its
own, in every genuine offshoot of that sombre lineage, lay under the
shadow of the sense of _sin_. This darkening cloud was no essential
part of the nature of the individual; it stood fixed in the general
moral heaven, under which he grew up and looked at life. It projected
from above, from outside, a black patch over his spirit, and it was
for him to do what he could with the black patch. There were all sorts
of possible ways of dealing with it; they depended upon the personal
temperament. Some natures would let it lie as it fell, and contrive to
be tolerably comfortable beneath it. Others would groan and sweat and
suffer; but the dusky blight would remain, and their lives would be
lives of misery. Here and there an individual, irritated beyond
endurance, would throw it off in anger, plunging probably into what
would be deemed deeper abysses of depravity. Hawthorne's way was the
best, for he contrived, by an exquisite process, best known to
himself, to transmute this heavy moral burden into the very substance
of the imagination, to make it evaporate in the light and charming
fumes of artistic production. But Hawthorne, of course, was
exceptionally fortunate; he had his genius to help him. Nothing is
more curious and interesting than this almost exclusively _imported_
character of the sense of sin in Hawthorne's mind; it seems to exist
there merely for an artistic or literary purpose. He had ample
cognizance of the Puritan conscience; it was his natural heritage; it
was reproduced in him; looking into his soul, he found it there. But
his relation to it was only, as one may say, intellectual; it was not
moral and theological. He played with it and used it as a pigment; he
treated it, as the metaphysicians say, objectively. He was not
discomposed, disturbed, haunted by it, in the manner of its usual and
regular victims, who had not the little postern door of fancy to slip
through, to the other side of the wall. It was, indeed, to his
imaginative vision, the great fact of man's nature; the light element
that had been mingled with his own composition always clung to this
rugged prominence of moral responsibility, like the mist that hovers
about the mountain. It was a necessary condition for a man of
Hawthorne's stock that if his imagination should take licence to amuse
itself, it should at least select this grim precinct of the Puritan
morality for its play-ground. He speaks of the dark disapproval with
which his old ancestors, in the case of their coming to life, would
see him trifling himself away as a story-teller. But how far more
darkly would they have frowned could they have understood that he had
converted the very principle of their own being into one of his toys!

It will be seen that I am far from being struck with the justice of
that view of the author of the _Twice-Told Tales_, which is so happily
expressed by the French critic to whom I alluded at an earlier stage
of this essay. To speak of Hawthorne, as M. Emile Montegut does, as a
_romancier pessimiste_, seems to me very much beside the mark. He is
no more a pessimist than an optimist, though he is certainly not much
of either. He does not pretend to conclude, or to have a philosophy of
human nature; indeed, I should even say that at bottom he does not
take human nature as hard as he may seem to do. "His bitterness," says
M. Montegut, "is without abatement, and his bad opinion of man is
without compensation.... His little tales have the air of confessions
which the soul makes to itself; they are so many little slaps which
the author applies to our face." This, it seems to me, is to
exaggerate almost immeasurably the reach of Hawthorne's relish of
gloomy subjects. What pleased him in such subjects was their
picturesqueness, their rich duskiness of colour, their chiaroscuro;
but they were not the expression of a hopeless, or even of a
predominantly melancholy, feeling about the human soul. Such at least
is my own impression. He is to a considerable degree ironical--this is
part of his charm--part even, one may say, of his brightness; but he
is neither bitter nor cynical--he is rarely even what I should call
tragical. There have certainly been story-tellers of a gayer and
lighter spirit; there have been observers more humorous, more
hilarious--though on the whole Hawthorne's observation has a smile in
it oftener than may at first appear; but there has rarely been an
observer more serene, less agitated by what he sees and less disposed
to call things deeply into question. As I have already intimated, his
Note-Books are full of this simple and almost child-like serenity.
That dusky pre-occupation with the misery of human life and the
wickedness of the human heart which such a critic as M. Emile Montegut
talks about, is totally absent from them; and if we may suppose a
person to have read these Diaries before looking into the tales, we
may be sure that such a reader would be greatly surprised to hear the
author described as a disappointed, disdainful genius. "This marked
love of cases of conscience," says M. Montegut, "this taciturn,
scornful cast of mind, this habit of seeing sin everywhere and hell
always gaping open, this dusky gaze bent always upon a damned world
and a nature draped in mourning, these lonely conversations of the
imagination with the conscience, this pitiless analysis resulting from
a perpetual examination of one's self, and from the tortures of a
heart closed before men and open to God--all these elements of the
Puritan character have passed into Mr. Hawthorne, or to speak more
justly, have _filtered_ into him, through a long succession of
generations." This is a very pretty and very vivid account of
Hawthorne, superficially considered; and it is just such a view of the
case as would commend itself most easily and most naturally to a hasty
critic. It is all true indeed, with a difference; Hawthorne was all
that M. Montegut says, _minus_ the conviction. The old Puritan moral
sense, the consciousness of sin and hell, of the fearful nature of our
responsibilities and the savage character of our Taskmaster--these
things had been lodged in the mind of a man of Fancy, whose fancy had
straightway begun to take liberties and play tricks with them--to
judge them (Heaven forgive him!) from the poetic and aesthetic point of
view, the point of view of entertainment and irony. This absence of
conviction makes the difference; but the difference is great.

Hawthorne was a man of fancy, and I suppose that in speaking of him it
is inevitable that we should feel ourselves confronted with the
familiar problem of the difference between the fancy and the
imagination. Of the larger and more potent faculty he certainly
possessed a liberal share; no one can read _The House of the Seven
Gables_ without feeling it to be a deeply imaginative work. But I am
often struck, especially in the shorter tales, of which I am now
chiefly speaking, with a kind of small ingenuity, a taste for
conceits and analogies, which bears more particularly what is called
the fanciful stamp. The finer of the shorter tales are redolent of a
rich imagination.

     "Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only
     dreamed a wild dream of witch-meeting? Be it so, if you
     will; but, alas, it was a dream of evil omen for young
     Goodman Brown! a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a
     distrustful, if not a desperate, man, did he become from the
     night of that fearful dream. On the Sabbath-day, when the
     congregation were singing a holy psalm, he could not listen,
     because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear and
     drowned all the blessed strain. When the minister spoke from
     the pulpit, with power and fervid eloquence, and with his
     hand on the open Bible of the sacred truth of our religion,
     and of saint-like lives and triumphant deaths, and of future
     bliss or misery unutterable, then did Goodman Brown grow
     pale, dreading lest the roof should thunder down upon the
     gray blasphemer and his hearers. Often, awaking suddenly at
     midnight, he shrank from the bosom of Faith; and at morning
     or eventide, when the family knelt down at prayer, he
     scowled and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his
     wife, and turned away. And when he had lived long, and was
     borne to his grave a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an
     aged woman, and children, and grandchildren, a goodly
     procession, besides neighbours not a few, they carved no
     hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was
     gloom."

There is imagination in that, and in many another passage that I might
quote; but as a general thing I should characterise the more
metaphysical of our author's short stories as graceful and felicitous
conceits. They seem to me to be qualified in this manner by the very
fact that they belong to the province of allegory. Hawthorne, in his
metaphysical moods, is nothing if not allegorical, and allegory, to my
sense, is quite one of the lighter exercises of the imagination. Many
excellent judges, I know, have a great stomach for it; they delight in
symbols and correspondences, in seeing a story told as if it were
another and a very different story. I frankly confess that I have as a
general thing but little enjoyment of it and that it has never seemed
to me to be, as it were, a first-rate literary form. It has produced
assuredly some first-rate works; and Hawthorne in his younger years
had been a great reader and devotee of Bunyan and Spenser, the great
masters of allegory. But it is apt to spoil two good things--a story
and a moral, a meaning and a form; and the taste for it is responsible
for a large part of the forcible-feeble writing that has been
inflicted upon the world. The only cases in which it is endurable is
when it is extremely spontaneous, when the analogy presents itself
with eager promptitude. When it shows signs of having been groped and
fumbled for, the needful illusion is of course absent and the failure
complete. Then the machinery alone is visible, and the end to which it
operates becomes a matter of indifference. There was but little
literary criticism in the United States at the time Hawthorne's
earlier works were published; but among the reviewers Edgar Poe
perhaps held the scales the highest. He at any rate rattled them
loudest, and pretended, more than any one else, to conduct the
weighing-process on scientific principles. Very remarkable was this
process of Edgar Poe's, and very extraordinary were his principles;
but he had the advantage of being a man of genius, and his
intelligence was frequently great. His collection of critical sketches
of the American writers flourishing in what M. Taine would call his
_milieu_ and _moment_, is very curious and interesting reading, and
it has one quality which ought to keep it from ever being completely
forgotten. It is probably the most complete and exquisite specimen of
_provincialism_ ever prepared for the edification of men. Poe's
judgments are pretentious, spiteful, vulgar; but they contain a great
deal of sense and discrimination as well, and here and there,
sometimes at frequent intervals, we find a phrase of happy insight
imbedded in a patch of the most fatuous pedantry. He wrote a chapter
upon Hawthorne, and spoke of him on the whole very kindly; and his
estimate is of sufficient value to make it noticeable that he should
express lively disapproval of the large part allotted to allegory in
his tales--in defence of which, he says, "however, or for whatever
object employed, there is scarcely one respectable word to be said....
The deepest emotion," he goes on, "aroused within us by the happiest
allegory _as_ allegory, is a very, _very_ imperfectly satisfied sense
of the writer's ingenuity in overcoming a difficulty we should have
preferred his not having attempted to overcome.... One thing is clear,
that if allegory ever establishes a fact, it is by dint of overturning
a fiction;" and Poe has furthermore the courage to remark that the
_Pilgrim's Progress_ is a "ludicrously overrated book." Certainly, as
a general thing, we are struck with the ingenuity and felicity of
Hawthorne's analogies and correspondences; the idea appears to have
made itself at home in them easily. Nothing could be better in this
respect than _The Snow-Image_ (a little masterpiece), or _The Great
Carbuncle_, or _Doctor Heidegger's Experiment_, or _Rappacini's
Daughter_. But in such things as _The Birth-Mark_ and _The
Bosom-Serpent_, we are struck with something stiff and mechanical,
slightly incongruous, as if the kernel had not assimilated its
envelope. But these are matters of light impression, and there would
be a want of tact in pretending to discriminate too closely among
things which all, in one way or another, have a charm. The charm--the
great charm--is that they are glimpses of a great field, of the whole
deep mystery of man's soul and conscience. They are moral, and their
interest is moral; they deal with something more than the mere
accidents and conventionalities, the surface occurrences of life. The
fine thing in Hawthorne is that he cared for the deeper psychology,
and that, in his way, he tried to become familiar with it. This
natural, yet fanciful familiarity with it, this air, on the author's
part, of being a confirmed _habitue_ of a region of mysteries and
subtleties, constitutes the originality of his tales. And then they
have the further merit of seeming, for what they are, to spring up so
freely and lightly. The author has all the ease, indeed, of a regular
dweller in the moral, psychological realm; he goes to and fro in it,
as a man who knows his way. His tread is a light and modest one, but
he keeps the key in his pocket.

His little historical stories all seem to me admirable; they are so
good that you may re-read them many times. They are not numerous, and
they are very short; but they are full of a vivid and delightful sense
of the New England past; they have, moreover, the distinction, little
tales of a dozen and fifteen pages as they are, of being the only
successful attempts at historical fiction that have been made in the
United States. Hawthorne was at home in the early New England history;
he had thumbed its records and he had breathed its air, in whatever
odd receptacles this somewhat pungent compound still lurked. He was
fond of it, and he was proud of it, as any New Englander must be,
measuring the part of that handful of half-starved fanatics who formed
his earliest precursors, in laying the foundations of a mighty empire.
Hungry for the picturesque as he always was, and not finding any very
copious provision of it around him, he turned back into the two
preceding centuries, with the earnest determination that the primitive
annals of Massachusetts should at least _appear_ picturesque. His
fancy, which was always alive, played a little with the somewhat
meagre and angular facts of the colonial period and forthwith
converted a great many of them into impressive legends and pictures.
There is a little infusion of colour, a little vagueness about certain
details, but it is very gracefully and discreetly done, and realities
are kept in view sufficiently to make us feel that if we are reading
romance, it is romance that rather supplements than contradicts
history. The early annals of New England were not fertile in legend,
but Hawthorne laid his hands upon everything that would serve his
purpose, and in two or three cases his version of the story has a
great deal of beauty. _The Grey Champion_ is a sketch of less than
eight pages, but the little figures stand up in the tale as stoutly,
at the least, as if they were propped up on half-a-dozen chapters by a
dryer annalist, and the whole thing has the merit of those cabinet
pictures in which the artist has been able to make his persons look
the size of life. Hawthorne, to say it again, was not in the least a
realist--he was not to my mind enough of one; but there is no genuine
lover of the good city of Boston but will feel grateful to him for his
courage in attempting to recount the "traditions" of Washington
Street, the main thoroughfare of the Puritan capital. The four
_Legends of the Province House_ are certain shadowy stories which he
professes to have gathered in an ancient tavern lurking behind the
modern shop-fronts of this part of the city. The Province House
disappeared some years ago, but while it stood it was pointed to as
the residence of the Royal Governors of Massachusetts before the
Revolution. I have no recollection of it, but it cannot have been,
even from Hawthorne's account of it, which is as pictorial as he
ventures to make it, a very imposing piece of antiquity. The writer's
charming touch, however, throws a rich brown tone over its rather
shallow venerableness; and we are beguiled into believing, for
instance, at the close of _Howe's Masquerade_ (a story of a strange
occurrence at an entertainment given by Sir William Howe, the last of
the Royal Governors, during the siege of Boston by Washington), that
"superstition, among other legends of this mansion, repeats the
wondrous tale that on the anniversary night of Britain's discomfiture
the ghosts of the ancient governors of Massachusetts still glide
through the Province House. And last of all comes a figure shrouded in
a military cloak, tossing his clenched hands into the air and stamping
his iron-shod boots upon the freestone steps, with a semblance of
feverish despair, but without the sound of a foot-tramp." Hawthorne
had, as regards the two earlier centuries of New England life, that
faculty which is called now-a-days the historic consciousness. He
never sought to exhibit it on a large scale; he exhibited it indeed on
a scale so minute that we must not linger too much upon it. His vision
of the past was filled with definite images--images none the less
definite that they were concerned with events as shadowy as this
dramatic passing away of the last of King George's representatives in
his long loyal but finally alienated colony.

I have said that Hawthorne had become engaged in about his
thirty-fifth-year; but he was not married until 1842. Before this
event took place he passed through two episodes which (putting his
falling in love aside) were much the most important things that had
yet happened to him. They interrupted the painful monotony of his
life, and brought the affairs of men within his personal experience.
One of these was moreover in itself a curious and interesting chapter
of observation, and it fructified, in Hawthorne's memory, in one of
his best productions. How urgently he needed at this time to be drawn
within the circle of social accidents, a little anecdote related by
Mr. Lathrop in connection with his first acquaintance with the young
lady he was to marry, may serve as an example. This young lady became
known to him through her sister, who had first approached him as an
admirer of the _Twice-Told Tales_ (as to the authorship of which she
had been so much in the dark as to have attributed it first,
conjecturally, to one of the two Miss Hathornes); and the two Miss
Peabodys, desiring to see more of the charming writer, caused him to
be invited to a species of _conversazione_ at the house of one of
their friends, at which they themselves took care to be punctual.
Several other ladies, however, were as punctual as they, and Hawthorne
presently arriving, and seeing a bevy of admirers where he had
expected but three or four, fell into a state of agitation, which is
vividly described by his biographer. He "stood perfectly motionless,
but with the look of a sylvan creature on the point of fleeing
away.... He was stricken with dismay; his face lost colour and took
on a warm paleness ... his agitation was-very great; he stood by a
table and, taking up some small object that lay upon it, he found his
hand trembling so that he was obliged to lay it down." It was
desirable, certainly, that something should occur to break the spell
of a diffidence that might justly be called morbid. There is another
little sentence dropped by Mr. Lathrop in relation to this period of
Hawthorne's life, which appears to me worth quoting, though I am by no
means sure that it will seem so to the reader. It has a very simple
and innocent air, but to a person not without an impression of the
early days of "culture" in New England, it will be pregnant with
historic meaning. The elder Miss Peabody, who afterwards was
Hawthorne's sister-in-law and who acquired later in life a very
honourable American fame as a woman of benevolence, of learning, and
of literary accomplishment, had invited the Miss Hathornes to come to
her house for the evening, and to bring with them their brother, whom
she wished to thank for his beautiful tales. "Entirely to her
surprise," says Mr. Lathrop, completing thereby his picture of the
attitude of this remarkable family toward society--"entirely to her
surprise they came. She herself opened the door, and there, before
her, between his sisters, stood a splendidly handsome youth, tall and
strong, with no appearance whatever of timidity, but instead, an
almost fierce determination making his face stern. This was his
resource for carrying off the extreme inward tremor which he really
felt. His hostess brought out Flaxman's designs for Dante, just
received from Professor Felton, of Harvard, and the party made an
evening's entertainment out of them." This last sentence is the one I
allude to; and were it not for fear of appearing too fanciful I
should say that these few words were, to the initiated mind, an
unconscious expression of the lonely frigidity which characterised
most attempts at social recreation in the New England world some forty
years ago. There was at that time a great desire for culture, a great
interest in knowledge, in art, in aesthetics, together with a very
scanty supply of the materials for such pursuits. Small things were
made to do large service; and there is something even touching in the
solemnity of consideration that was bestowed by the emancipated New
England conscience upon little wandering books and prints, little
echoes and rumours of observation and experience. There flourished at
that time in Boston a very remarkable and interesting woman, of whom
we shall have more to say, Miss Margaret Fuller by name. This lady was
the apostle of culture, of intellectual curiosity, and in the
peculiarly interesting account of her life, published in 1852 by
Emerson and two other of her friends, there are pages of her letters
and diaries which narrate her visits to the Boston Athenaeum and the
emotions aroused in her mind by turning over portfolios of engravings.
These emotions were ardent and passionate--could hardly have been more
so had she been prostrate with contemplation in the Sistine Chapel or
in one of the chambers of the Pitti Palace. The only analogy I can
recall to this earnestness of interest in great works of art at a
distance from them, is furnished by the great Goethe's elaborate study
of plaster-casts and pencil-drawings at Weimar. I mention Margaret
Fuller here because a glimpse of her state of mind--her vivacity of
desire and poverty of knowledge--helps to define the situation. The
situation lives for a moment in those few words of Mr. Lathrop's. The
initiated mind, as I have ventured to call it, has a vision of a
little unadorned parlour, with the snow-drifts of a Massachusetts
winter piled up about its windows, and a group of sensitive and
serious people, modest votaries of opportunity, fixing their eyes upon
a bookful of Flaxman's attenuated outlines.

At the beginning of the year 1839 he received, through political
interest, an appointment as weigher and gauger in the Boston
Custom-house. Mr. Van Buren then occupied the Presidency, and it
appears that the Democratic party, whose successful candidate he had
been, rather took credit for the patronage it had bestowed upon
literary men. Hawthorne was a Democrat, and apparently a zealous one;
even in later years, after the Whigs had vivified their principles by
the adoption of the Republican platform, and by taking up an honest
attitude on the question of slavery, his political faith never
wavered. His Democratic sympathies were eminently natural, and there
would have been an incongruity in his belonging to the other party. He
was not only by conviction, but personally and by association, a
Democrat. When in later years he found himself in contact with
European civilisation, he appears to have become conscious of a good
deal of latent radicalism in his disposition; he was oppressed with
the burden of antiquity in Europe, and he found himself sighing for
lightness and freshness and facility of change. But these things are
relative to the point of view, and in his own country Hawthorne cast
his lot with the party of conservatism, the party opposed to change
and freshness. The people who found something musty and mouldy in his
literary productions would have regarded this quite as a matter of
course; but we are not obliged to use invidious epithets in describing
his political preferences. The sentiment that attached him to the
Democracy was a subtle and honourable one, and the author of an
attempt to sketch a portrait of him, should be the last to complain of
this adjustment of his sympathies. It falls much more smoothly into
his reader's conception of him than any other would do; and if he had
had the perversity to be a Republican, I am afraid our ingenuity would
have been considerably taxed in devising a proper explanation of the
circumstance. At any rate, the Democrats gave him a small post in the
Boston Custom-house, to which an annual salary of $1,200 was attached,
and Hawthorne appears at first to have joyously welcomed the gift. The
duties of the office were not very congruous to the genius of a man of
fancy; but it had the advantage that it broke the spell of his cursed
solitude, as he called it, drew him away from Salem, and threw him,
comparatively speaking, into the world. The first volume of the
American Note-Books contains some extracts from letters written during
his tenure of this modest office, which indicate sufficiently that his
occupations cannot have been intrinsically gratifying.

     "I have been measuring coal all day," he writes, during the
     winter of 1840, "on board of a black little British
     schooner, in a dismal dock at the north end of the city.
     Most of the time I paced the deck to keep myself warm; for
     the wind (north-east, I believe) blew up through the dock as
     if it had been the pipe of a pair of bellows. The vessel
     lying deep between two wharves, there was no more delightful
     prospect, on the right hand and on the left, than the posts
     and timbers, half immersed in the water and covered with
     ice, which the rising and falling of successive tides had
     left upon them, so that they looked like immense icicles.
     Across the water, however, not more than half a mile off,
     appeared the Bunker's Hill Monument, and what interested me
     considerably more, a church-steeple, with the dial of a
     clock upon it, whereby I was enabled to measure the march of
     the weary hours. Sometimes I descended into the dirty little
     cabin of the schooner, and warmed myself by a red-hot stove,
     among biscuit-barrels, pots and kettles, sea-chests, and
     innumerable lumber of all sorts--my olfactories meanwhile
     being greatly refreshed with the odour of a pipe, which the
     captain, or some one of his crew, was smoking. But at last
     came the sunset, with delicate clouds, and a purple light
     upon the islands; and I blessed it, because it was the
     signal of my release."

A worse man than Hawthorne would have measured coal quite as well, and
of all the dismal tasks to which an unremunerated imagination has ever
had to accommodate itself, I remember none more sordid than the
business depicted in the foregoing lines. "I pray," he writes some
weeks later, "that in one year more I may find some way of escaping
from this unblest Custom-house; for it is a very grievous thraldom. I
do detest all offices; all, at least, that are held on a political
tenure, and I want nothing to do with politicians. Their hearts wither
away and die out of their bodies. Their consciences are turned to
india-rubber, or to some substance as black as that and which will
stretch as much. One thing, if no more, I have gained by my
Custom-house experience--to know a politician. It is a knowledge which
no previous thought or power of sympathy could have taught me; because
the animal, or the machine rather, is not in nature." A few days later
he goes on in the same strain:--

     "I do not think it is the doom laid upon me of murdering so
     many of the brightest hours of the day at the Custom-house
     that makes such havoc with my wits, for here I am again
     trying to write worthily ... yet with a sense as if all the
     noblest part of man had been left out of my composition, or
     had decayed out of it since my nature was given to my own
     keeping.... Never comes any bird of Paradise into that
     dismal region. A salt or even a coal-ship is ten million
     times preferable; for there the sky is above me, and the
     fresh breeze around me, and my thoughts having hardly
     anything to do with my occupation, are as free as air.
     Nevertheless ... it is only once in a while that the image
     and desire of a better and happier life makes me feel the
     iron of my chain; for after all a human spirit may find no
     insufficiency of food for it, even in the Custom-house. And
     with such materials as these I do think and feel and learn
     things that are worth knowing, and which I should not know
     unless I had learned them there; so that the present
     position of my life shall not be quite left out of the sum
     of my real existence.... It is good for me, on many
     accounts, that my life has had this passage in it. I know
     much more than I did a year ago. I have a stronger sense of
     power to act as a man among men. I have gained worldly
     wisdom, and wisdom also that is not altogether of this
     world. And when I quit this earthy career where I am now
     buried, nothing will cling to me that ought to be left
     behind. Men will not perceive, I trust, by my look or the
     tenor of my thoughts and feelings, that I have been a
     Custom-house officer."

He says, writing shortly afterwards, that "when I shall be free again,
I will enjoy all things with the fresh simplicity of a child of five
years old. I shall grow young again, made all over anew. I will go
forth and stand in a summer shower, and all the worldly dust that has
collected on me shall be washed away at once, and my heart will be
like a bank of fresh flowers for the weary to rest upon."

This forecast of his destiny was sufficiently exact. A year later, in
April 1841, he went to take up his abode in the socialistic community
of Brook Farm. Here he found himself among fields and flowers and
other natural products--as well as among many products that could not
very justly be called natural. He was exposed to summer showers in
plenty; and his personal associations were as different as possible
from, those he had encountered in fiscal circles. He made acquaintance
with Transcendentalism and the Transcendentalists.

       *       *       *       *       *




CHAPTER IV.

BROOK FARM AND CONCORD.


The history of the little industrial and intellectual association
which formed itself at this time in one of the suburbs of Boston has
not, to my knowledge, been written; though it is assuredly a curious
and interesting chapter in the domestic annals of New England. It
would of course be easy to overrate the importance of this ingenious
attempt of a few speculative persons to improve the outlook of
mankind. The experiment came and went very rapidly and quietly,
leaving very few traces behind it. It became simply a charming
personal reminiscence for the small number of amiable enthusiasts who
had had a hand in it. There were degrees of enthusiasm, and I suppose
there were degrees of amiability; but a certain generous brightness of
hope and freshness of conviction pervaded the whole undertaking and
rendered it, morally speaking, important to an extent of which any
heed that the world in general ever gave to it is an insufficient
measure. Of course it would be a great mistake to represent the
episode of Brook Farm as directly related to the manners and morals of
the New England world in general--and in especial to those of the
prosperous, opulent, comfortable part of it. The thing was the
experiment of a coterie--it was unusual, unfashionable, unsuccessful.
It was, as would then have been said, an amusement of the
Transcendentalists--a harmless effusion of Radicalism. The
Transcendentalists were not, after all, very numerous; and the
Radicals were by no means of the vivid tinge of those of our own day.
I have said that the Brook Farm community left no traces behind it
that the world in general can appreciate; I should rather say that the
only trace is a short novel, of which the principal merits reside in
its qualities of difference from the affair itself. _The Blithedale
Romance_ is the main result of Brook Farm; but _The Blithedale
Romance_ was very properly never recognised by the Brook Farmers as an
accurate portrait of their little colony.

Nevertheless, in a society as to which the more frequent complaint is
that it is monotonous, that it lacks variety of incident and of type,
the episode, our own business with which is simply that it was the
cause of Hawthorne's writing an admirable tale, might be welcomed as a
picturesque variation. At the same time, if we do not exaggerate its
proportions, it may seem to contain a fund of illustration as to that
phase of human life with which our author's own history mingled
itself. The most graceful account of the origin of Brook Farm is
probably to be found in these words of one of the biographers of
Margaret Fuller: "In Boston and its vicinity, several friends, for
whose character Margaret felt the highest-honour, were earnestly
considering the possibility of making such industrial, social, and
educational arrangements as would simplify economies, combine leisure
for study with healthful and honest toil, avert unjust collisions of
caste, equalise refinements, awaken generous affections, diffuse
courtesy, and sweeten and sanctify life as a whole." The reader will
perceive that this was a liberal scheme, and that if the experiment
failed, the greater was the pity. The writer goes on to say that a
gentleman, who afterwards distinguished himself in literature (he had
begun by being a clergyman), "convinced by his experience in a
faithful ministry that the need was urgent for a thorough application
of the professed principles of Fraternity to actual relations, was
about staking his all of fortune, reputation, and influence, in an
attempt to organize a joint-stock company at Brook Farm." As Margaret
Fuller passes for having suggested to Hawthorne the figure of Zenobia
in _The Blithedale Romance_, and as she is probably, with one
exception, the person connected with the affair who, after Hawthorne,
offered most of what is called a personality to the world, I may
venture to quote a few more passages from her Memoirs--a curious, in
some points of view almost a grotesque, and yet, on the whole, as I
have said, an extremely interesting book. It was a strange history and
a strange destiny, that of this brilliant, restless, and unhappy
woman--this ardent New Englander, this impassioned Yankee, who
occupied so large a place in the thoughts, the lives, the affections,
of an intelligent and appreciative society, and yet left behind her
nothing but the memory of a memory. Her function, her reputation, were
singular, and not altogether reassuring: she was a talker, she was
_the_ talker, she was the genius of talk. She had a magnificent,
though by no means an unmitigated, egotism; and in some of her
utterances it is difficult to say whether pride or humility
prevails--as for instance when she writes that she feels "that there
is plenty of room in the Universe for my faults, and as if I could not
spend time in thinking of them when so many things interest me more."
She has left the same sort of reputation as a great actress. Some of
her writing has extreme beauty, almost all of it has a real interest,
but her value, her activity, her sway (I am not sure that one can say
her charm), were personal and practical. She went to Europe, expanded
to new desires and interests, and, very poor herself, married an
impoverished Italian nobleman. Then, with her husband and child, she
embarked to return to her own country, and was lost at sea in a
terrible storm, within sight of its coasts. Her tragical death
combined with many of the elements of her life to convert her memory
into a sort of legend, so that the people who had known her well, grew
at last to be envied by later comers. Hawthorne does not appear to
have been intimate with her; on the contrary, I find such an entry as
this in the American Note-Books in 1841: "I was invited to dine at Mr.
Bancroft's yesterday, with Miss Margaret Fuller; but Providence had
given me some business to do; for which I was very thankful!" It is
true that, later, the lady is the subject of one or two allusions of a
gentler cast. One of them indeed is so pretty as to be worth
quoting:--

     "After leaving the book at Mr. Emerson's, I returned through
     the woods, and, entering Sleepy Hollow, I perceived a lady
     reclining near the path which bends along its verge. It was
     Margaret herself. She had been there the whole afternoon,
     meditating or reading, for she had a book in her hand with
     some strange title which I did not understand and have
     forgotten. She said that nobody had broken her solitude, and
     was just giving utterance to a theory that no inhabitant of
     Concord ever visited Sleepy Hollow, when we saw a group of
     people entering the sacred precincts. Most of them followed
     a path which led them away from us; but an old man passed
     near us, and smiled to see Margaret reclining on the ground
     and me standing by her side. He made some remark upon the
     beauty of the afternoon, and withdrew himself into the
     shadow of the wood. Then we talked about autumn, and about
     the pleasures of being lost in the woods, and about the
     crows, whose voices Margaret had heard; and about the
     experiences of early childhood, whose influence remains upon
     the character after the recollection of them has passed
     away; and about the sight of mountains from a distance, and
     the view from their summits; and about other matters of high
     and low philosophy."

It is safe to assume that Hawthorne could not on the whole have had a
high relish for the very positive personality of this accomplished and
argumentative woman, in whose intellect high noon seemed ever to
reign, as twilight did in his own. He must have been struck with the
glare of her understanding, and, mentally speaking, have scowled and
blinked a good deal in conversation with her. But it is tolerably
manifest, nevertheless, that she was, in his imagination, the
starting-point of the figure of Zenobia; and Zenobia is, to my sense,
his only very definite attempt at the representation of a character.
The portrait is full of alteration and embellishment; but it has a
greater reality, a greater abundance of detail, than any of his other
figures, and the reality was a memory of the lady whom he had
encountered in the Roxbury pastoral or among the wood-walks of
Concord, with strange books in her hand and eloquent discourse on her
lips. _The Blithedale Romance_ was written just after her unhappy
death, when the reverberation of her talk would lose much of its
harshness. In fact, however, very much the same qualities that made
Hawthorne a Democrat in polities--his contemplative turn and absence
of a keen perception of abuses, his taste for old ideals, and
loitering paces, and muffled tones--would operate to keep him out of
active sympathy with a woman of the so-called progressive type. We may
be sure that in women his taste was conservative.

It seems odd, as his biographer says, "that the least gregarious of
men should have been drawn into a socialistic community;" but although
it is apparent that Hawthorne went to Brook Farm without any great
Transcendental fervour, yet he had various good reasons for casting
his lot in this would-be happy family. He was as yet unable to marry,
but he naturally wished to do so as speedily as possible, and there
was a prospect that Brook Farm would prove an economical residence.
And then it is only fair to believe that Hawthorne was interested in
the experiment, and that though he was not a Transcendentalist, an
Abolitionist, or a Fourierite, as his companions were in some degree
or other likely to be, he was willing, as a generous and unoccupied
young man, to lend a hand in any reasonable scheme for helping people
to live together on better terms than the common. The Brook Farm
scheme was, as such things go, a reasonable one; it was devised and
carried out by shrewd and sober-minded New Englanders, who were
careful to place economy first and idealism afterwards, and who were
not afflicted with a Gallic passion for completeness of theory. There
were no formulas, doctrines, dogmas; there was no interference
whatever with private life or individual habits, and not the faintest
adumbration of a rearrangement of that difficult business known as
the relations of the sexes. The relations of the sexes were neither
more nor less than what they usually are in American life, excellent;
and in such particulars the scheme was thoroughly conservative and
irreproachable. Its main characteristic was that each individual
concerned in it should do a part of the work necessary for keeping the
whole machine going. He could choose his work and he could live as he
liked; it was hoped, but it was by no means demanded, that he would
make himself agreeable, like a gentleman invited to a dinner-party.
Allowing, however, for everything that was a concession to worldly
traditions and to the laxity of man's nature, there must have been in
the enterprise a good deal of a certain freshness and purity of
spirit, of a certain noble credulity and faith in the perfectibility
of man, which it would have been easier to find in Boston in the year
1840, than in London five-and-thirty years later. If that was the era
of Transcendentalism, Transcendentalism could only have sprouted in
the soil peculiar to the general locality of which I speak--the soil
of the old New England morality, gently raked and refreshed by an
imported culture. The Transcendentalists read a great deal of French
and German, made themselves intimate with George Sand and Goethe, and
many other writers; but the strong and deep New England conscience
accompanied them on all their intellectual excursions, and there never
was a so-called "movement" that embodied itself, on the whole, in
fewer eccentricities of conduct, or that borrowed a smaller licence in
private deportment. Henry Thoreau, a delightful writer, went to live
in the woods; but Henry Thoreau was essentially a sylvan personage and
would not have been, however the fashion of his time might have
turned, a man about town. The brothers and sisters at Brook Farm
ploughed the fields and milked the cows; but I think that an observer
from another clime and society would have been much more struck with
their spirit of conformity than with their _dereglements_. Their
ardour was a moral ardour, and the lightest breath of scandal never
rested upon them, or upon any phase of Transcendentalism.

A biographer of Hawthorne might well regret that his hero had not been
more mixed up with the reforming and free-thinking class, so that he
might find a pretext for writing a chapter upon the state of Boston
society forty years ago. A needful warrant for such regret should be,
properly, that the biographer's own personal reminiscences should
stretch back to that period and to the persons who animated it. This
would be a guarantee of fulness of knowledge and, presumably, of
kindness of tone. It is difficult to see, indeed, how the generation
of which Hawthorne has given us, in _Blithedale_, a few portraits,
should not at this time of day be spoken of very tenderly and
sympathetically. If irony enter into the allusion, it should be of the
lightest and gentlest. Certainly, for a brief and imperfect chronicler
of these things, a writer just touching them as he passes, and who has
not the advantage of having been a contemporary, there is only one
possible tone. The compiler of these pages, though his recollections
date only from a later period, has a memory of a certain number of
persons who had been intimately connected, as Hawthorne was not, with
the agitations of that interesting time. Something of its interest
adhered to them still--something of its aroma clung to their garments;
there was something about them which seemed to say that when they
were young and enthusiastic, they had been initiated into moral
mysteries, they had played at a wonderful game. Their usual mark (it
is true I can think of exceptions) was that they seemed excellently
good. They appeared unstained by the world, unfamiliar with worldly
desires and standards, and with those various forms of human depravity
which flourish in some high phases of civilisation; inclined to simple
and democratic ways, destitute of pretensions and affectations, of
jealousies, of cynicism, of snobbishness. This little epoch of
fermentation has three or four drawbacks for the critic--drawbacks,
however, that may be overlooked by a person for whom it has an
interest of association. It bore, intellectually, the stamp of
provincialism; it was a beginning without a fruition, a dawn without a
noon; and it produced, with a single exception, no great talents. It
produced a great deal of writing, but (always putting Hawthorne aside,
as a contemporary but not a sharer) only one writer in whom the world
at large has interested itself. The situation was summed up and
transfigured in the admirable and exquisite Emerson. He expressed all
that it contained, and a good deal more, doubtless, besides; he was
the man of genius of the moment; he was the Transcendentalist _par
excellence_. Emerson expressed, before all things, as was extremely
natural at the hour and in the place, the value and importance of the
individual, the duty of making the most of one's self, of living by
one's own personal light and carrying out one's own disposition. He
reflected with beautiful irony upon the exquisite impudence of those
institutions which claim to have appropriated the truth and to dole it
out, in proportionate morsels, in exchange for a subscription. He
talked about the beauty and dignity of life, and about every one who
is born into the world being born to the whole, having an interest and
a stake in the whole. He said "all that is clearly due to-day is not
to lie," and a great many other things which it would be still easier
to present in a ridiculous light. He insisted upon sincerity and
independence and spontaneity, upon acting in harmony with one's
nature, and not conforming and compromising for the sake of being more
comfortable. He urged that a man should await his call, his finding
the thing to do which he should really believe in doing, and not be
urged by the world's opinion to do simply the world's work. "If no
call should come for years, for centuries, then I know that the want
of the Universe is the attestation of faith by my abstinence.... If I
cannot work, at least I need not lie." The doctrine of the supremacy
of the individual to himself, of his originality and, as regards his
own character, _unique_ quality, must have had a great charm for
people living in a society in which introspection, thanks to the want
of other entertainment, played almost the part of a social resource.

In the United States, in those days, there were no great things to
look out at (save forests and rivers); life was not in the least
spectacular; society was not brilliant; the country was given up to a
great material prosperity, a homely _bourgeois_ activity, a diffusion
of primary education and the common luxuries. There was therefore,
among the cultivated classes, much relish for the utterances of a
writer who would help one to take a picturesque view of one's internal
possibilities, and to find in the landscape of the soul all sorts of
fine sunrise and moonlight effects. "Meantime, while the doors of the
temple stand open, night and day, before every man, and the oracles of
this truth cease never, it is guarded by one stern condition; this,
namely--it is an intuition. It cannot be received at second hand.
Truly speaking, it is not instruction but provocation that I can
receive from another soul." To make one's self so much more
interesting would help to make life interesting, and life was
probably, to many of this aspiring congregation, a dream of freedom
and fortitude. There were faulty parts in the Emersonian philosophy;
but the general tone was magnificent; and I can easily believe that,
coming when it did and where it did, it should have been drunk in by a
great many fine moral appetites with a sense of intoxication. One
envies, even, I will not say the illusions, of that keenly sentient
period, but the convictions and interests--the moral passion. One
certainly envies the privilege of having heard the finest of Emerson's
orations poured forth in their early newness. They were the most
poetical, the most beautiful productions of the American mind, and
they were thoroughly local and national. They had a music and a magic,
and when one remembers the remarkable charm of the speaker, the
beautiful modulation of his utterance, one regrets in especial that
one might not have been present on a certain occasion which made a
sensation, an era--the delivery of an address to the Divinity School
of Harvard University, on a summer evening in 1838. In the light,
fresh American air, unthickened and undarkened by customs and
institutions established, these things, as the phrase is, told.

Hawthorne appears, like his own Miles Coverdale, to have arrived at
Brook Farm in the midst of one of those April snow-storms which,
during the New England spring, occasionally diversify the inaction of
the vernal process. Miles Coverdale, in _The Blithedale Romance_, is
evidently as much Hawthorne as he is any one else in particular. He is
indeed not very markedly any one, unless it be the spectator, the
observer; his chief identity lies in his success in looking at things
objectively and spinning uncommunicated fancies about them. This
indeed was the part that Hawthorne played socially in the little
community at West Roxbury. His biographer describes him as sitting
"silently, hour after hour, in the broad old-fashioned hall of the
house, where he could listen almost unseen to the chat and merriment
of the young people, himself almost always holding a book before him,
but seldom turning the leaves." He put his hand to the plough and
supported himself and the community, as they were all supposed to do,
by his labour; but he contributed little to the hum of voices. Some of
his companions, either then or afterwards, took, I believe, rather a
gruesome view of his want of articulate enthusiasm, and accused him of
coming to the place as a sort of intellectual vampire, for purely
psychological purposes. He sat in a corner, they declared, and watched
the inmates when they were off their guard, analysing their
characters, and dissecting the amiable ardour, the magnanimous
illusions, which he was too cold-blooded to share. In so far as this
account of Hawthorne's attitude was a complaint, it was a singularly
childish one. If he was at Brook Farm without being of it, this is a
very fortunate circumstance from the point of view of posterity, who
would have preserved but a slender memory of the affair if our
author's fine novel had not kept the topic open. The complaint is
indeed almost so ungrateful a one as to make us regret that the
author's fellow-communists came off so easily. They certainly would
not have done so if the author of _Blithedale_ had been more of a
satirist. Certainly, if Hawthorne was an observer, he was a very
harmless one; and when one thinks of the queer specimens of the
reforming genus with which he must have been surrounded, one almost
wishes that, for our entertainment, he had given his old companions
something to complain of in earnest. There is no satire whatever in
the _Romance_; the quality is almost conspicuous by its absence. Of
portraits there are only two; there is no sketching of odd figures--no
reproduction of strange types of radicalism; the human background is
left vague. Hawthorne was not a satirist, and if at Brook Farm he was,
according to his habit, a good deal of a mild sceptic, his scepticism
was exercised much more in the interest of fancy than in that of
reality.

There must have been something pleasantly bucolic and pastoral in the
habits of the place during the fine New England summer; but we have no
retrospective envy of the denizens of Brook Farm in that other season
which, as Hawthorne somewhere says, leaves in those regions, "so large
a blank--so melancholy a deathspot--in lives so brief that they ought
to be all summer-time." "Of a summer night, when the moon was full,"
says Mr. Lathrop, "they lit no lamps, but sat grouped in the light and
shadow, while sundry of the younger men sang old ballads, or joined
Tom Moore's songs to operatic airs. On other nights there would be an
original essay or poem read aloud, or else a play of Shakspeare, with
the parts distributed to different members; and these amusements
failing, some interesting discussion was likely to take their place.
Occasionally, in the dramatic season, large delegations from the farm
would drive into Boston, in carriages and waggons, to the opera or the
play. Sometimes, too, the young women sang as they washed the dishes
in the Hive; and the youthful yeomen of the society came in and helped
them with their work. The men wore blouses of a checked or plaided
stuff, belted at the waist, with a broad collar folding down about the
throat, and rough straw hats; the women, usually, simple calico gowns
and hats." All this sounds delightfully Arcadian and innocent, and it
is certain that there was something peculiar to the clime and race in
some of the features of such a life; in the free, frank, and stainless
companionship of young men and maidens, in the mixture of manual
labour and intellectual flights--dish-washing and aesthetics,
wood-chopping and philosophy. Wordsworth's "plain living and high
thinking" were made actual. Some passages in Margaret Fuller's
journals throw plenty of light on this. (It must be premised that she
was at Brook Farm as an occasional visitor; not as a labourer in the
Hive.)

     "All Saturday I was off in the woods. In the evening we had
     a general conversation, opened by me, upon Education, in its
     largest sense, and on what we can do for ourselves and
     others. I took my usual ground:--The aim is perfection;
     patience the road. Our lives should be considered as a
     tendency, an approximation only.... Mr. R. spoke admirably
     on the nature of loyalty. The people showed a good deal of
     the _sans-culotte_ tendency in their manners, throwing
     themselves on the floor, yawning, and going out when they
     had heard enough. Yet as the majority differ with me, to
     begin with--that being the reason this subject was
     chosen--they showed on the whole more interest and
     deference than I had expected. As I am accustomed to
     deference, however, and need it for the boldness and
     animation which my part requires, I did not speak with as
     much force as usual.... Sunday.--A glorious day; the woods
     full of perfume; I was out all the morning. In the afternoon
     Mrs. R. and I had a talk. I said my position would be too
     uncertain here, as I could not work. ---- said 'they would
     all like to work for a person of genius.' ... 'Yes,' I told
     her; 'but where would be my repose when they were always to
     be judging whether I was worth it or not?.... Each day you
     must prove yourself anew.' ... We talked of the principles
     of the community. I said I had not a right to come, because
     all the confidence I had in it was as an _experiment_ worth
     trying, and that it was part of the great wave of inspired
     thought.... We had valuable discussion on these points. All
     Monday morning in the woods again. Afternoon, out with the
     drawing party; I felt the evils of the want of conventional
     refinement, in the impudence with which one of the girls
     treated me. She has since thought of it with regret, I
     notice; and by every day's observation of me will see that
     she ought not to have done it. In the evening a husking in
     the barn ... a most picturesque scene.... I stayed and
     helped about half an hour, and then took a long walk beneath
     the stars. Wednesday.... In the evening a conversation on
     Impulse.... I defended nature, as I always do;--the spirit
     ascending through, not superseding, nature. But in the scale
     of Sense, Intellect, Spirit, I advocated the claims of
     Intellect, because those present were rather disposed to
     postpone them. On the nature of Beauty we had good talk.
     ---- seemed in a much more reverent humour than the other
     night, and enjoyed the large plans of the universe which
     were unrolled.... Saturday,--Well, good-bye, Brook Farm. I
     know more about this place than I did when I came; but the
     only way to be qualified for a judge of such an experiment
     would be to become an active, though unimpassioned,
     associate in trying it.... The girl who was so rude to me
     stood waiting, with a timid air, to bid me good-bye."

     The young girl in question cannot have been Hawthorne's
     charming Priscilla; nor yet another young lady, of a most
     humble spirit, who communicated to Margaret's biographers
     her recollections of this remarkable woman's visits to Brook
     Farm; concluding with the assurance that "after a while she
     seemed to lose sight of my more prominent and disagreeable
     peculiarities, and treated me with affectionate regard."

Hawthorne's farewell to the place appears to have been accompanied
with some reflections of a cast similar to those indicated by Miss
Fuller; in so far at least as we may attribute to Hawthorne himself
some of the observations that he fathers upon Miles Coverdale. His
biographer justly quotes two or three sentences from _The Blithedale
Romance_, as striking the note of the author's feeling about the
place. "No sagacious man," says Coverdale, "will long retain his
sagacity if he live exclusively among reformers and progressive
people, without periodically returning to the settled system of
things, to correct himself by a new observation from that old
standpoint." And he remarks elsewhere that "it struck me as rather odd
that one of the first questions raised, after our separation from the
greedy, struggling, self-seeking world, should relate to the
possibility of getting the advantage over the outside barbarians in
their own field of labour. But to tell the truth, I very soon became
sensible that, as regarded society at large, we stood in a position of
new hostility rather than new brotherhood." He was doubtless oppressed
by the "sultry heat of society," as he calls it in one of the jottings
in the Note-Books. "What would a man do if he were compelled to live
always in the sultry heat of society, and could never bathe himself
in cool solitude?" His biographer relates that one of the other Brook
Farmers, wandering afield one summer's day, discovered Hawthorne
stretched at his length upon a grassy hillside, with his hat pulled
over his face, and every appearance, in his attitude, of the desire to
escape detection. On his asking him whether he had any particular
reason for this shyness of posture--"Too much of a party up there!"
Hawthorne contented himself with replying, with a nod in the direction
of the Hive. He had nevertheless for a time looked forward to
remaining indefinitely in the community; he meant to marry as soon as
possible and bring his wife there to live. Some sixty pages of the
second volume of the American Note-Books are occupied with extracts
from his letters to his future wife and from his journal (which
appears however at this time to have been only intermittent),
consisting almost exclusively of descriptions of the simple scenery of
the neighbourhood, and of the state of the woods and fields and
weather. Hawthorne's fondness for all the common things of nature was
deep and constant, and there is always something charming in his
verbal touch, as we may call it, when he talks to himself about them.
"Oh," he breaks out, of an October afternoon, "the beauty of grassy
slopes, and the hollow ways of paths winding between hills, and the
intervals between the road and wood-lots, where Summer lingers and
sits down, strewing dandelions of gold and blue asters as her parting
gifts and memorials!" He was but a single summer at Brook Farm; the
rest of his residence had the winter-quality.

But if he returned to solitude, it was henceforth to be as the French
say, a _solitude a deux_. He was married in July 1842, and betook
himself immediately to the ancient village of Concord, near Boston,
where he occupied the so-called Manse which has given the title to one
of his collections of tales, and upon which this work, in turn, has
conferred a permanent distinction. I use the epithets "ancient" and
"near" in the foregoing sentence, according to the American
measurement of time and distance. Concord is some twenty miles from
Boston, and even to day, upwards of forty years after the date of
Hawthorne's removal thither, it is a very fresh and well-preserved
looking town. It had already a local history when, a hundred years
ago, the larger current of human affairs flowed for a moment around
it. Concord has the honour of being the first spot in which blood was
shed in the war of the Revolution; here occurred the first exchange of
musket-shots between the King's troops and the American insurgents.
Here, as Emerson says in the little hymn which he contributed in 1836
to the dedication of a small monument commemorating this
circumstance--

    "Here once the embattled farmers stood,
      And fired the shot heard round the world."

The battle was a small one, and the farmers were not destined
individually to emerge from obscurity; but the memory of these things
has kept the reputation of Concord green, and it has been watered,
moreover, so to speak, by the life-long presence there of one of the
most honoured of American men of letters--the poet from whom I just
quoted two lines. Concord is indeed in itself decidedly verdant, and
is an excellent specimen of a New England village of the riper sort.
At the time of Hawthorne's first going there it must have been an even
better specimen than to-day--more homogeneous, more indigenous, more
absolutely democratic. Forty years ago the tide of foreign immigration
had scarcely begun to break upon the rural strongholds of the New
England race; it had at most begun to splash them with the salt
Hibernian spray. It is very possible, however, that at this period
there was not an Irishman in Concord; the place would have been a
village community operating in excellent conditions. Such a village
community was not the least honourable item in the sum of New England
civilisation. Its spreading elms and plain white houses, its generous
summers and ponderous winters, its immediate background of promiscuous
field and forest, would have been part of the composition. For the
rest, there were the selectmen and the town-meetings, the town-schools
and the self-governing spirit, the rigid morality, the friendly and
familiar manners, the perfect competence of the little society to
manage its affairs itself. In the delightful introduction to the
_Mosses_, Hawthorne has given an account of his dwelling, of his
simple occupations and recreations, and of some of the characteristics
of the place. The Manse is a large, square wooden house, to the
surface of which--even in the dry New England air, so unfriendly to
mosses and lichens and weather-stains, and the other elements of a
picturesque complexion--a hundred and fifty years of exposure have
imparted a kind of tone, standing just above the slow-flowing Concord
river, and approached by a short avenue of over-arching trees. It had
been the dwelling-place of generations of Presbyterian ministers,
ancestors of the celebrated Emerson, who had himself spent his early
manhood and written some of his most beautiful essays there. "He
used," as Hawthorne says, "to watch the Assyrian dawn, and Paphian
sunset and moonrise, from the summit of our eastern hill." From its
clerical occupants the place had inherited a mild mustiness of
theological association--a vague reverberation of old Calvinistic
sermons, which served to deepen its extra-mundane and somnolent
quality. The three years that Hawthorne passed here were, I should
suppose, among the happiest of his life. The future was indeed not in
any special manner assured; but the present was sufficiently genial.
In the American Note-Books there is a charming passage (too long to
quote) descriptive of the entertainment the new couple found in
renovating and re-furnishing the old parsonage, which, at the time of
their going into it, was given up to ghosts and cobwebs. Of the little
drawing-room, which had been most completely reclaimed, he writes that
"the shade of our departed host will never haunt it; for its aspect
has been as completely changed as the scenery of a theatre. Probably
the ghost gave one peep into it, uttered a groan, and vanished for
ever." This departed host was a certain Doctor Ripley, a venerable
scholar, who left behind him a reputation of learning and sanctity
which was reproduced in one of the ladies of his family, long the most
distinguished woman in the little Concord circle. Doctor Ripley's
predecessor had been, I believe, the last of the line of the Emerson
ministers--an old gentleman who, in the earlier years of his
pastorate, stood at the window of his study (the same in which
Hawthorne handled a more irresponsible quill) watching, with his hands
under his long coat-tails, the progress of Concord fight. It is not by
any means related, however, I should add, that he waited for the
conclusion to make up his mind which was the righteous cause.

Hawthorne had a little society (as much, we may infer, as he desired),
and it was excellent in quality. But the pages in the Note-Books which
relate to his life at the Manse, and the introduction to the _Mosses_,
make more of his relations with vegetable nature, and of his customary
contemplation of the incidents of wood-path and way-side, than of the
human elements of the scene; though these also are gracefully touched
upon. These pages treat largely of the pleasures of a kitchen-garden, of
the beauty of summer-squashes, and of the mysteries of apple-raising.
With the wholesome aroma of apples (as is indeed almost necessarily the
case in any realistic record of New England rural life) they are
especially pervaded; and with many other homely and domestic emanations;
all of which derive a sweetness from the medium of our author's
colloquial style. Hawthorne was silent with his lips; but he talked with
his pen. The tone of his writing is often that of charming
talk--ingenious, fanciful, slow-flowing, with all the lightness of
gossip, and none of its vulgarity. In the preface to the tales written
at the Manse he talks of many things and just touches upon some of the
members of his circle--especially upon that odd genius, his
fellow-villager, Henry Thoreau. I said a little way back that the New
England Transcendental movement had suffered in the estimation of the
world at large from not having (putting Emerson aside) produced any
superior talents. But any reference to it would be ungenerous which
should omit to pay a tribute in passing to the author of _Walden_.
Whatever question there may be of his talent, there can be none, I
think, of his genius. It was a slim and crooked one; but it was
eminently personal. He was imperfect, unfinished, inartistic; he was
worse than provincial--he was parochial; it is only at his best that he
is readable. But at his best he has an extreme natural charm, and he
must always be mentioned after those Americans--Emerson, Hawthorne,
Longfellow, Lowell, Motley--who have written originally. He was
Emerson's independent moral man made flesh--living for the ages, and not
for Saturday and Sunday; for the Universe, and not for Concord. In fact,
however, Thoreau lived for Concord very effectually, and by his
remarkable genius for the observation of the phenomena of woods and
streams, of plants and trees, and beasts and fishes, and for flinging a
kind of spiritual interest over these things, he did more than he
perhaps intended toward consolidating the fame of his accidental human
sojourn. He was as shy and ungregarious as Hawthorne; but he and the
latter appear to have been sociably disposed towards each other, and
there are some charming touches in the preface to the _Mosses_ in regard
to the hours they spent in boating together on the large, quiet Concord
river. Thoreau was a great voyager, in a canoe which he had constructed
himself, and which he eventually made over to Hawthorne, and as expert
in the use of the paddle as the Red men who had once haunted the same
silent stream. The most frequent of Hawthorne's companions on these
excursions appears, however, to have been a local celebrity--as well as
Thoreau a high Transcendentalist--Mr. Ellery Channing, whom I may
mention, since he is mentioned very explicitly in the preface to the
_Mosses_, and also because no account of the little Concord world would
be complete which should omit him. He was the son of the distinguished
Unitarian moralist, and, I believe, the intimate friend of Thoreau, whom
he resembled in having produced literary compositions more esteemed by
the few than by the many. He and Hawthorne were both fishermen, and the
two used to set themselves afloat in the summer afternoons. "Strange and
happy times were those," exclaims the more distinguished of the two
writers, "when we cast aside all irksome forms and strait-laced
habitudes, and delivered ourselves up to the free air, to live like the
Indians or any less conventional race, during one bright semicircle of
the sun. Rowing our boat against the current, between wide meadows, we
turned aside into the Assabeth. A more lovely stream than this, for a
mile above its junction with the Concord, has never flowed on
earth--nowhere indeed except to lave the interior regions of a poet's
imagination.... It comes flowing softly through the midmost privacy and
deepest heart of a wood which whispers it to be quiet; while the stream
whispers back again from its sedgy borders, as if river and wood were
hushing one another to sleep. Yes; the river sleeps along its course and
dreams of the sky and the clustering foliage...." While Hawthorne was
looking at these beautiful things, or, for that matter, was writing
them, he was well out of the way of a certain class of visitants whom he
alludes to in one of the closing passages of this long Introduction.
"Never was a poor little country village infested with such a variety of
queer, strangely-dressed, oddly-behaved mortals, most of whom took upon
themselves to be important agents of the world's destiny, yet were
simply bores of a very intense character." "These hobgoblins of flesh
and blood," he says in a preceding paragraph, "were attracted thither by
the wide-spreading influence of a great original thinker who had his
earthly abode at the opposite extremity of our village.... People that
had lighted on a new thought or a thought they fancied new, came to
Emerson, as the finder of a glittering gem hastens to a lapidary, to
ascertain its quality and value." And Hawthorne enumerates some of the
categories of pilgrims to the shrine of the mystic counsellor, who as a
general thing was probably far from abounding in their own sense (when
this sense was perverted), but gave them a due measure of plain
practical advice. The whole passage is interesting, and it suggests that
little Concord had not been ill-treated by the fates--with "a great
original thinker" at one end of the village, an exquisite teller of
tales at the other, and the rows of New England elms between. It
contains moreover an admirable sentence about Hawthorne's
pilgrim-haunted neighbour, with whom, "being happy," as he says, and
feeling therefore "as if there were no question to be put," he was not
in metaphysical communion. "It was good nevertheless to meet him in the
wood-paths, or sometimes in our avenue, with that pure intellectual
gleam diffused about his presence, like the garment of a shining one;
and he so quiet, so simple, so without pretension, encountering each man
alive as if expecting to receive more than he could impart!" One may
without indiscretion risk the surmise that Hawthorne's perception, of
the "shining" element in his distinguished friend was more intense than
his friend's appreciation of whatever luminous property might reside
within the somewhat dusky envelope of our hero's identity as a collector
of "mosses." Emerson, as a sort of spiritual sun-worshipper, could have
attached but a moderate value to Hawthorne's cat-like faculty of seeing
in the dark.

"As to the daily coarse of our life," the latter writes in the spring
of 1843, "I have written with pretty commendable diligence, averaging
from two to four hours a day; and the result is seen in various
magazines. I might have written more if it had seemed worth while, but
I was content to earn only so much gold as might suffice for our
immediate wants, having prospect of official station and emolument
which would do away with the necessity of writing for bread. These
prospects have not yet had their fulfilment; and we are well content
to wait, for an office would inevitably remove us from our present
happy home--at least from an outward home; for there is an inner one
that will accompany us wherever we go. Meantime, the magazine people
do not pay their debts; so that we taste some of the inconveniences of
poverty. It is an annoyance, not a trouble." And he goes on to give
some account of his usual habits. (The passage is from his Journal,
and the account is given to himself, as it were, with that odd,
unfamiliar explicitness which marks the tone of this record
throughout.) "Every day I trudge through snow and slosh to the
village, look into the post-office, and spend an hour at the
reading-room; and then return home, generally without having spoken a
word to any human being.... In the way of exercise I saw and split
wood, and physically I was never in a better condition than now." He
adds a mention of an absence he had lately made. "I went alone to
Salem, where I resumed all my bachelor habits for nearly a fortnight,
leading the same life in which ten years of my youth flitted away like
a dream. But how much changed was I! At last I had got hold of a
reality which never could be taken from me. It was good thus to get
apart from my happiness for the sake of contemplating it."

These compositions, which were so unpunctually paid for, appeared in
the _Democratic Review_, a periodical published at Washington, and
having, as our author's biographer says, "considerable pretensions to
a national character." It is to be regretted that the practice of
keeping its creditors waiting should, on the part of the magazine in
question, have been thought compatible with these pretensions. The
foregoing lines are a description of a very monotonous but a very
contented life, and Mr. Lathrop justly remarks upon the dissonance of
tone of the tales Hawthorne produced under these happy circumstances.
It is indeed not a little of an anomaly. The episode of the Manse was
one of the most agreeable he had known, and yet the best of the
_Mosses_ (though not the greater number of them) are singularly dismal
compositions. They are redolent of M. Montegut's pessimism. "The
reality of sin, the pervasiveness of evil," says Mr. Lathrop, "had
been but slightly insisted upon in the earlier tales: in this series
the idea bursts up like a long-buried fire, with earth-shaking
strength, and the pits of hell seem yawning beneath us." This is very
true (allowing for Mr. Lathrop's rather too emphatic way of putting
it); but the anomaly is, I think, on the whole, only superficial. Our
writer's imagination, as has been abundantly conceded, was a gloomy
one; the old Puritan sense of sin, of penalties to be paid, of the
darkness and wickedness of life, had, as I have already suggested,
passed into it. It had not passed into the parts of Hawthorne's nature
corresponding to those occupied by the same horrible vision of things
in his ancestors; but it had still been determined to claim this
later comer as its own, and since his heart and his happiness were to
escape, it insisted on setting its mark upon his genius--upon his most
beautiful organ, his admirable fancy. It may be said that when his
fancy was strongest and keenest, when it was most itself, then the
dark Puritan tinge showed in it most richly; and there cannot be a
better proof that he was not the man of a sombre _parti-pris_ whom M.
Montegut describes, than the fact that these duskiest flowers of his
invention sprang straight from the soil of his happiest days. This
surely indicates that there was but little direct connection between
the products of his fancy and the state of his affections. When he was
lightest at heart, he was most creative, and when he was most
creative, the moral picturesqueness of the old secret of mankind in
general and of the Puritans in particular, most appealed to him--the
secret that we are really not by any means so good as a well-regulated
society requires us to appear. It is not too much to say, even, that
the very condition of production of some of these unamiable tales
would be that they should be superficial, and, as it were, insincere.
The magnificent little romance of _Young Goodman Brown_, for instance,
evidently means nothing as regards Hawthorne's own state of mind, his
conviction of human depravity and his consequent melancholy; for the
simple reason that if it meant anything, it would mean too much. Mr.
Lathrop speaks of it as a "terrible and lurid parable;" but this, it
seems to me, is just what it is not. It is not a parable, but a
picture, which is a very different thing. What does M. Montegut make,
one would ask, from the point of view of Hawthorne's pessimism, of
the singularly objective and unpreoccupied tone of the Introduction to
the _Old Manse_, in which the author speaks from himself, and in which
the cry of metaphysical despair is not even faintly sounded?

We have seen that when he went into the village he often came home
without having spoken a word to a human being. There is a touching
entry made a little later, bearing upon his mild taciturnity. "A
cloudy veil stretches across the abyss of my nature. I have, however,
no love of secrecy and darkness. I am glad to think that God sees
through my heart, and if any angel has power to penetrate into it, he
is welcome to know everything that is there. Yes, and so may any
mortal who is capable of full sympathy, and therefore worthy to come
into my depths. But he must find his own way there; I can neither
guide nor enlighten him." It must be acknowledged, however, that if he
was not able to open the gate of conversation, it was sometimes
because he was disposed to slide the bolt himself. "I had a purpose,"
he writes, shortly before the entry last quoted, "if circumstances
would permit, of passing the whole term of my wife's absence without
speaking a word to any human being." He beguiled these incommunicative
periods by studying German, in Tieck and Buerger, without apparently
making much progress; also in reading French, in Voltaire and
Rabelais. "Just now," he writes, one October noon, "I heard a sharp
tapping at the window of my study, and, looking up from my book (a
volume of Rabelais), behold, the head of a little bird, who seemed to
demand admittance." It was a quiet life, of course, in which these
diminutive incidents seemed noteworthy; and what is noteworthy here
to the observer of Hawthorne's contemplative simplicity, is the fact
that though he finds a good deal to say about the little bird (he
devotes several lines more to it) he makes no remark upon Rabelais. He
had other visitors than little birds, however, and their demands were
also not Rabelaisian. Thoreau comes to see him, and they talk "upon
the spiritual advantages of change of place, and upon the _Dial_, and
upon Mr. Alcott, and other kindred or concatenated subjects." Mr.
Alcott was an arch-transcendentalist, living in Concord, and the
_Dial_ was a periodical to which the illuminated spirits of Boston and
its neighbourhood used to contribute. Another visitor comes and talks
"of Margaret Fuller, who, he says, has risen perceptibly into a higher
state since their last meeting." There is probably a great deal of
Concord five-and-thirty years ago in that little sentence!

       *       *       *       *       *




CHAPTER V.

THE THREE AMERICAN NOVELS.


The prospect of official station and emolument which Hawthorne
mentions in one of those paragraphs from his Journals which I have
just quoted, as having offered itself and then passed away, was at
last, in the event, confirmed by his receiving from the administration
of President Polk the gift of a place in the Custom-house of his
native town. The office was a modest one, and "official station" may
perhaps appear a magniloquent formula for the functions sketched in
the admirable Introduction to The _Scarlet Letter_. Hawthorne's duties
were those of Surveyor of the port of Salem, and they had a salary
attached, which was the important part; as his biographer tells us
that he had received almost nothing for the contributions to the
_Democratic Review_. He bade farewell to his ex-parsonage and went
back to Salem in 1846, and the immediate effect of his ameliorated
fortune was to make him stop writing. None of his Journals of the
period from his going to Salem to 1850 have been published; from which
I infer that he even ceased to journalise. _The Scarlet Letter_ was
not written till 1849. In the delightful prologue to that work,
entitled _The Custom-house_, he embodies some of the impressions
gathered during these years of comparative leisure (I say of leisure
because he does not intimate in this sketch of his occupations that
his duties were onerous). He intimates, however, that they were not
interesting, and that it was a very good thing for him, mentally and
morally, when his term of service expired--or rather when he was
removed from office by the operation of that wonderful "rotatory"
system which his countrymen had invented for the administration of
their affairs. This sketch of the Custom-house is, as simple writing,
one of the most perfect of Hawthorne's compositions, and one of the
most gracefully and humorously autobiographic. It would be interesting
to examine it in detail, but I prefer to use my space for making some
remarks upon the work which was the ultimate result of this period of
Hawthorne's residence in his native town; and I shall, for
convenience' sake, say directly afterwards what I have to say about
the two companions of _The Scarlet Letter_--_The House of the Seven
Gables_ and _The Blithedale Romance_. I quoted some passages from the
prologue to the first of these novels in the early pages of this
essay. There is another passage, however, which bears particularly
upon this phase of Hawthorne's career, and which is so happily
expressed as to make it a pleasure to transcribe it--the passage in
which he says that "for myself, during the whole of my Custom-house
experience, moonlight and sunshine, and the glow of the fire-light,
were just alike in my regard, and neither of them was of one whit more
avail than the twinkle of a tallow candle. An entire class of
susceptibilities, and a gift connected with them--of no great richness
or value, but the best I had--was gone from me." He goes on to say
that he believes that he might have done something if he could have
made up his mind to convert the very substance of the commonplace that
surrounded him into matter of literature.

     "I might, for instance, have contented myself with writing
     out the narratives of a veteran shipmaster, one of the
     inspectors, whom I should be most ungrateful not to mention;
     since scarcely a day passed that he did not stir me to
     laughter and admiration by his marvellous gift as a
     story-teller.... Or I might readily have found a more
     serious task. It was a folly, with the materiality of this
     daily life pressing so intrusively upon me, to attempt to
     fling myself back into another age; or to insist on creating
     a semblance of a world out of airy matter.... The wiser
     effort would have been, to diffuse thought and imagination
     through the opaque substance of to-day, and thus make it a
     bright transparency ... to seek resolutely the true and
     indestructible value that lay hidden in the petty and
     wearisome incidents and ordinary characters with which I was
     now conversant. The fault was mine. The page of life that
     was spread out before me was dull and commonplace, only
     because I had not fathomed its deeper import. A better book
     than I shall ever write was there.... These perceptions came
     too late.... I had ceased to be a writer of tolerably poor
     tales and essays, and had become a tolerably good Surveyor
     of the Customs. That was all. But, nevertheless, it is
     anything but agreeable to be haunted by a suspicion that
     one's intellect is dwindling away, or exhaling, without your
     consciousness, like ether out of phial; so that at every
     glance you find a smaller and less volatile residuum."

As, however, it was with what was left of his intellect after three
years' evaporation, that Hawthorne wrote _The Scarlet Letter_, there
is little reason to complain of the injury he suffered in his
Surveyorship.

His publisher, Mr. Fields, in a volume entitled _Yesterdays with
Authors_, has related the circumstances in which Hawthorne's
masterpiece came into the world. "In the winter of 1849, after he had
been ejected from the Custom-house, I went down to Salem to see him
and inquire after his health, for we heard he had been suffering from
illness. He was then living in a modest wooden house.... 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." His visitor urged him to bethink himself of
publishing something, and Hawthorne replied by calling his attention
to the small popularity his published productions had yet acquired,
and declaring that he had done nothing and had no spirit for doing
anything. The narrator of the incident urged upon him the necessity of
a more hopeful view of his situation, and proceeded to take leave. He
had not reached the street, however, when Hawthorne hurried to
overtake him, and, placing a roll of MS. in his hand, bade him take it
to Boston, read it, and pronounce upon it. "It is either very good or
very bad," said the author; "I don't know which." "On my way back to
Boston," says Mr. Fields, "I read the germ of _The Scarlet Letter_;
before I slept that night I wrote him a note all aglow with admiration
of the marvellous story he had put into my hands, and told him that I
would come again to Salem the next day and arrange for its
publication. I went on in such an amazing state of excitement, when we
met again in the little house, that he would not believe I was really
in earnest. He seemed to think I was beside myself, and laughed sadly
at my enthusiasm." Hawthorne, however, went on with the book and
finished it, but it appeared only a year later. His biographer quotes
a passage from a letter which he wrote in February, 1850, to his
friend Horatio Bridge. "I finished my book only yesterday; one end
being in the press at Boston, while the other was in my head here at
Salem, so that, as you see, my story is at least fourteen miles
long.... My book, the publisher tells me, will not be out before
April. He speaks of it in tremendous terms of approbation, so does
Mrs. Hawthorne, to whom I read the conclusion last night. It broke her
heart, and sent her to bed with a grievous headache--which I look
upon, as a triumphant success. Judging from the effect upon her and
the publisher, I may calculate on what bowlers call a ten-strike. But
I don't make any such calculation." And Mr. Lathrop calls attention,
in regard to this passage, to an allusion in the English Note-Books
(September 14, 1855). "Speaking of Thackeray, I cannot but wonder at
his coolness in respect to his own pathos, and compare it to my
emotions when I read the last scene of _The Scarlet Letter_ to my
wife, just after writing it--tried to read it rather, 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."

The work has the tone of the circumstances in which it was produced.
If Hawthorne was in a sombre mood, and if his future was painfully
vague, _The Scarlet Letter_ contains little enough of gaiety or of
hopefulness. It is densely dark, with a single spot of vivid colour in
it; and it will probably long remain the most consistently gloomy of
English novels of the first order. But I just now called it the
author's masterpiece, and I imagine it will continue to be, for other
generations than ours, his most substantial title to fame. The
subject had probably lain a long time in his mind, as his subjects
were apt to do; so that he appears completely to possess it, to know
it and feel it. It is simpler and more complete than his other novels;
it achieves more perfectly what it attempts, and it has about it that
charm, very hard to express, which we find in an artist's work the
first time he has touched his highest mark--a sort of straightness and
naturalness of execution, an unconsciousness of his public, and
freshness of interest in his theme. It was a great success, and he
immediately found himself famous. The writer of these lines, who was a
child at the time, remembers dimly the sensation the book produced,
and the little shudder with which people alluded to it, as if a
peculiar horror were mixed with its attractions. He was too young to
read it himself, but its title, upon which he fixed his eyes as the
book lay upon the table, had a mysterious charm. He had a vague belief
indeed that the "letter" in question was one of the documents that
come by the post, and it was a source of perpetual wonderment to him
that it should be of such an unaccustomed hue. Of course it was
difficult to explain to a child the significance of poor Hester
Prynne's blood-coloured _A_. But the mystery was at last partly
dispelled by his being taken to see a collection of pictures (the
annual exhibition of the National Academy), where he encountered a
representation of a pale, handsome woman, in a quaint black dress and
a white coif, holding between her knees an elfish-looking little girl,
fantastically dressed and crowned with flowers. Embroidered on the
woman's breast was a great crimson _A_, over which the child's
fingers, as she glanced strangely out of the picture, were maliciously
playing. I was told that this was Hester Prynne and little Pearl, and
that when I grew older I might read their interesting history. But the
picture remained vividly imprinted on my mind; I had been vaguely
frightened and made uneasy by it; and when, years afterwards, I first
read the novel, I seemed to myself to have read it before, and to be
familiar with its two strange heroines, I mention this incident simply
as an indication of the degree to which the success of _The Scarlet
Letter_ had made the book what is called an actuality. Hawthorne
himself was very modest about it; he wrote to his publisher, when
there was a question of his undertaking another novel, that what had
given the history of Hester Prynne its "vogue" was simply the
introductory chapter. In fact, the publication of _The Scarlet Letter_
was in the United States a literary event of the first importance. The
book was the finest piece of imaginative writing yet put forth in the
country. There was a consciousness of this in the welcome that was
given it--a satisfaction in the idea of America having produced a
novel that belonged to literature, and to the forefront of it.
Something might at last be sent to Europe as exquisite in quality as
anything that had been received, and the best of it was that the thing
was absolutely American; it belonged to the soil, to the air; it came
out of the very heart of New England.

It is beautiful, admirable, extraordinary; it has in the highest
degree that merit which I have spoken of as the mark of Hawthorne's
best things--an indefinable purity and lightness of conception, a
quality which in a work of art affects one in the same way as the
absence of grossness does in a human being. His fancy, as I just now
said, had evidently brooded over the subject for a long time; the
situation to be represented had disclosed itself to him in all its
phases. When I say in all its phases, the sentence demands
modification; for it is to be remembered that if Hawthorne laid his
hand upon the well-worn theme, upon the familiar combination of the
wife, the lover, and the husband, it was after all but to one period
of the history of these three persons that he attached himself. The
situation is the situation after the woman's fault has been committed,
and the current of expiation and repentance has set in. In spite of
the relation between Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, no story of
love was surely ever less of a "love story." To Hawthorne's
imagination the fact that these two persons had loved each other too
well was of an interest comparatively vulgar; what appealed to him was
the idea of their moral situation in the long years that were to
follow. The story indeed is in a secondary degree that of Hester
Prynne; she becomes, really, after the first scene, an accessory
figure; it is not upon her the _denoument_ depends. It is upon her
guilty lover that the author projects most frequently the cold, thin
rays of his fitfully-moving lantern, which makes here and there a
little luminous circle, on the edge of which hovers the livid and
sinister figure of the injured and retributive husband. The story goes
on for the most part between the lover and the husband--the tormented
young Puritan minister, who carries the secret of his own lapse from
pastoral purity locked up beneath an exterior that commends itself to
the reverence of his flock, while he sees the softer partner of his
guilt standing in the full glare of exposure and humbling herself to
the misery of atonement--between this more wretched and pitiable
culprit, to whom dishonour would come as a comfort and the pillory as
a relief, and the older, keener, wiser man, who, to obtain
satisfaction for the wrong he has suffered, devises the infernally
ingenious plan of conjoining himself with his wronger, living with
him, living upon him, and while he pretends to minister to his hidden
ailment and to sympathise with his pain, revels in his unsuspected
knowledge of these things and stimulates them by malignant arts. The
attitude of Roger Chillingworth, and the means he takes to compensate
himself--these are the highly original elements in the situation that
Hawthorne so ingeniously treats. None of his works are so impregnated
with that after-sense of the old Puritan consciousness of life to
which allusion has so often been made. If, as M. Montegut says, the
qualities of his ancestors _filtered_ down through generations into
his composition, _The Scarlet Letter_ was, as it were, the vessel that
gathered up the last of the precious drops. And I say this not because
the story happens to be of so-called historical cast, to be told of
the early days of Massachusetts and of people in steeple-crowned hats
and sad coloured garments. The historical colouring is rather weak
than otherwise; there is little elaboration of detail, of the modern
realism of research; and the author has made no great point of causing
his figures to speak the English of their period. Nevertheless, the
book is full of the moral presence of the race that invented Hester's
penance--diluted and complicated with other things, but still
perfectly recognisable. Puritanism, in a word, is there, not only
objectively, as Hawthorne tried to place it there, but subjectively as
well. Not, I mean, in his judgment of his characters, in any
harshness of prejudice, or in the obtrusion of a moral lesson; but in
the very quality of his own vision, in the tone of the picture, in a
certain coldness and exclusiveness of treatment.

The faults of the book are, to my sense, a want of reality and an
abuse of the fanciful element--of a certain superficial symbolism. The
people strike me not as characters, but as representatives, very
picturesquely arranged, of a single state of mind; and the interest of
the story lies, not in them, but in the situation, which is
insistently kept before us, with little progression, though with a
great deal, as I have said, of a certain stable variation; and to
which they, out of their reality, contribute little that helps it to
live and move. I was made to feel this want of reality, this
over-ingenuity, of _The Scarlet Letter_, by chancing not long since
upon a novel which was read fifty years ago much more than to-day, but
which is still worth reading--the story of _Adam Blair_, by John
Gibson Lockhart. This interesting and powerful little tale has a great
deal of analogy with Hawthorne's novel--quite enough, at least, to
suggest a comparison between them; and the comparison is a very
interesting one to make, for it speedily leads us to larger
considerations than simple resemblances and divergences of plot.

Adam Blair, like Arthur Dimmesdale, is a Calvinistic minister who
becomes the lover of a married woman, is overwhelmed with remorse at
his misdeed, and makes a public confession of it; then expiates it by
resigning his pastoral office and becoming a humble tiller of the
soil, as his father had been. The two stories are of about the same
length, and each is the masterpiece (putting aside of course, as far
as Lockhart is concerned, the _Life of Scott_) of the author. They
deal alike with the manners of a rigidly theological society, and even
in certain details they correspond. In each of them, between the
guilty pair, there is a charming little girl; though I hasten to say
that Sarah Blair (who is not the daughter of the heroine but the
legitimate offspring of the hero, a widower) is far from being as
brilliant and graceful an apparition as the admirable little Pearl of
_The Scarlet Letter_. The main difference between the two tales is the
fact that in the American story the husband plays an all-important
part, and in the Scottish plays almost none at all. _Adam Blair_ is
the history of the passion, and _The Scarlet Letter_ the history of
its sequel; but nevertheless, if one has read the two books at a short
interval, it is impossible to avoid confronting them. I confess that a
large portion of the interest of _Adam Blair_, to my mind, when once I
had perceived that it would repeat in a great measure the situation of
_The Scarlet Letter_, lay in noting its difference of tone. It threw
into relief the passionless quality of Hawthorne's novel, its element
of cold and ingenious fantasy, its elaborate imaginative delicacy.
These things do not precisely constitute a weakness in _The Starlet
Letter_; indeed, in a certain way they constitute a great strength;
but the absence of a certain something warm and straightforward, a
trifle more grossly human and vulgarly natural, which one finds in
_Adam Blair_, will always make Hawthorne's tale less touching to a
large number of even very intelligent readers, than a love-story told
with the robust, synthetic pathos which served Lockhart so well. His
novel is not of the first rank (I should call it an excellent
second-rate one), but it borrows a charm from the fact that his
vigorous, but not strongly imaginative, mind was impregnated with the
reality of his subject. He did not always succeed in rendering this
reality; the expression is sometimes awkward and poor. But the reader
feels that his vision was clear, and his feeling about the matter very
strong and rich. Hawthorne's imagination, on the other hand, plays
with his theme so incessantly, leads it such a dance through the
moonlighted air of his intellect, that the thing cools off, as it
were, hardens and stiffens, and, producing effects much more
exquisite, leaves the reader with a sense of having handled a splendid
piece of silversmith's work. Lockhart, by means much more vulgar,
produces at moments a greater illusion, and satisfies our inevitable
desire for something, in the people in whom it is sought to interest
us, that shall be of the same pitch and the same continuity with
ourselves. Above all, it is interesting to see how the same subject
appears to two men of a thoroughly different cast of mind and of a
different race. Lockhart was struck with the warmth of the subject
that offered itself to him, and Hawthorne with its coldness; the one
with its glow, its sentimental interest--the other with its shadow,
its moral interest. Lockhart's story is as decent, as severely draped,
as _The Scarlet Letter_; but the author has a more vivid sense than
appears to have imposed itself upon Hawthorne, of some of the
incidents of the situation he describes; his tempted man and tempting
woman are more actual and personal; his heroine in especial, though
not in the least a delicate or a subtle conception, has a sort of
credible, visible, palpable property, a vulgar roundness and relief,
which are lacking to the dim and chastened image of Hester Prynne.
But I am going too far; I am comparing simplicity with subtlety, the
usual with the refined. Each man wrote as his turn of mind impelled
him, but each expressed something more than himself. Lockhart was a
dense, substantial Briton, with a taste for the concrete, and
Hawthorne was a thin New Englander, with a miasmatic conscience.

In _The Scarlet Letter_ there is a great deal of symbolism; there is,
I think, too much. It is overdone at times, and becomes mechanical; it
ceases to be impressive, and grazes triviality. The idea of the mystic
_A_ which the young minister finds imprinted upon his breast and
eating into his flesh, in sympathy with the embroidered badge that
Hester is condemned to wear, appears to me to be a case in point. This
suggestion should, I think, have been just made and dropped; to insist
upon it and return to it, is to exaggerate the weak side of the
subject. Hawthorne returns to it constantly, plays with it, and seems
charmed by it; until at last the reader feels tempted to declare that
his enjoyment of it is puerile. In the admirable scene, so superbly
conceived and beautifully executed, in which Mr. Dimmesdale, in the
stillness of the night, in the middle of the sleeping town, feels
impelled to go and stand upon the scaffold where his mistress had
formerly enacted her dreadful penance, and then, seeing Hester pass
along the street, from watching at a sick-bed, with little Pearl at
her side, calls them both to come and stand there beside him--in this
masterly episode the effect is almost spoiled by the introduction of
one of these superficial conceits. What leads up to it is very
fine--so fine that I cannot do better than quote it as a specimen of
one of the striking pages of the book.

     "But before Mr. Dimmesdale had done speaking, a light
     gleamed far and wide over all the muffled sky. It was
     doubtless caused by one of those meteors which the
     night-watcher may so often observe burning out to waste in
     the vacant regions of the atmosphere. So powerful was its
     radiance that it thoroughly illuminated the dense medium of
     cloud, betwixt the sky and earth. The great vault
     brightened, like the dome of an immense lamp. It showed the
     familiar scene of the street with the distinctness of
     midday, but also with the awfulness that is always imparted
     to familiar objects by an unaccustomed light. The wooden
     houses, with their jutting stories and quaint gable-peaks;
     the doorsteps and thresholds, with the early grass springing
     up about them; the garden-plots, black with freshly-turned
     earth; the wheel-track, little worn, and, even in the
     marketplace, margined with green on either side;--all were
     visible, but with a singularity of aspect that seemed to
     give another moral interpretation to the things of this
     world than they had ever borne before. And there stood the
     minister, with his hand over his heart; and Hester Prynne,
     with the embroidered letter glimmering on her bosom; and
     little Pearl, herself a symbol, and the connecting-link
     between these two. They stood in the noon of that strange
     and solemn splendour, as if it were the light that is to
     reveal all secrets, and the daybreak that shall unite all
     that belong to one another."

That is imaginative, impressive, poetic; but when, almost immediately
afterwards, the author goes on to say that "the minister looking
upward to the zenith, beheld there the appearance of an immense
letter--the letter _A_--marked out in lines of dull red light," we
feel that he goes too far and is in danger of crossing the line that
separates the sublime from its intimate neighbour. We are tempted to
say that this is not moral tragedy, but physical comedy. In the same
way, too much is made of the intimation that Hester's badge had a
scorching property, and that if one touched it one would immediately
withdraw one's hand. Hawthorne is perpetually looking for images which
shall place themselves in picturesque correspondence with the
spiritual facts with which he is concerned, and of course the search
is of the very essence of poetry. But in such a process discretion is
everything, and when the image becomes importunate it is in danger of
seeming to stand for nothing more serious than itself. When Hester
meets the minister by appointment in the forest, and sits talking with
him while little Pearl wanders away and plays by the edge of the
brook, the child is represented as at last making her way over to the
other side of the woodland stream, and disporting herself there in a
manner which makes her mother feel herself, "in some indistinct and
tantalising manner, estranged from Pearl; as if the child, in her
lonely ramble through the forest, had strayed out of the sphere in
which she and her mother dwelt together, and was now vainly seeking to
return to it." And Hawthorne devotes a chapter to this idea of the
child's having, by putting the brook between Hester and herself,
established a kind of spiritual gulf, on the verge of which her little
fantastic person innocently mocks at her mother's sense of
bereavement. This conception belongs, one would say, quite to the
lighter order of a story-teller's devices, and the reader hardly goes
with Hawthorne in the large development he gives to it. He hardly goes
with him either, I think, in his extreme predilection for a small
number of vague ideas which are represented by such terms as "sphere"
and "sympathies." Hawthorne makes too liberal a use of these two
substantives; it is the solitary defect of his style; and it counts as
a defect partly because the words in question are a sort of specialty
with certain writers immeasurably inferior to himself.

I had not meant, however, to expatiate upon his defects, which are of
the slenderest and most venial kind. _The Scarlet Letter_ has the
beauty and harmony of all original and complete conceptions, and its
weaker spots, whatever they are, are not of its essence; they are mere
light flaws and inequalities of surface. One can often return to it;
it supports familiarity and has the inexhaustible charm and mystery of
great works of art. It is admirably written. Hawthorne afterwards
polished his style to a still higher degree, but in his later
productions--it is almost always the case in a writer's later
productions--there is a touch of mannerism. In _The Scarlet Letter_
there is a high degree of polish, and at the same time a charming
freshness; his phrase is less conscious of itself. His biographer very
justly calls attention to the fact that his style was excellent from
the beginning; that he appeared to have passed through no phase of
learning how to write, but was in possession of his means from the
first of his handling a pen. His early tales, perhaps, were not of a
character to subject his faculty of expression to a very severe test,
but a man who had not Hawthorne's natural sense of language would
certainly have contrived to write them less well. This natural sense
of language--this turn for saying things lightly and yet touchingly,
picturesquely yet simply, and for infusing a gently colloquial tone
into matter of the most unfamiliar import, he had evidently cultivated
with great assiduity. I have spoken of the anomalous character of his
Note-Books--of his going to such pains often to make a record of
incidents which either were not worth remembering or could be easily
remembered without its aid. But it helps us to understand the
Note-Books if we regard them as a literary exercise. They were
compositions, as school boys say, in which the subject was only the
pretext, and the main point was to write a certain amount of excellent
English. Hawthorne must at least have written a great many of these
things for practice, and he must often have said to himself that it
was better practice to write about trifles, because it was a greater
tax upon one's skill to make them interesting. And his theory was
just, for he has almost always made his trifles interesting. In his
novels his art of saying things well is very positively tested, for
here he treats of those matters among which it is very easy for a
blundering writer to go wrong--the subtleties and mysteries of life,
the moral and spiritual maze. In such a passage as one I have marked
for quotation from _The Scarlet Letter_ there is the stamp of the
genius of style.

     "Hester Prynne, gazing steadfastly at the clergyman, felt a
     dreary influence come over her, but wherefore or whence she
     knew not, unless that he seemed so remote from her own
     sphere and utterly beyond her reach. One glance of
     recognition she had imagined must needs pass between them.
     She thought of the dim forest with its little dell of
     solitude, and love, and anguish, and the mossy tree-trunk,
     where, sitting hand in hand, they had mingled their sad and
     passionate talk with the melancholy murmur of the brook. How
     deeply had they known each other then! And was this the man?
     She hardly knew him now! He, moving proudly past, enveloped
     as it were in the rich music, with the procession of
     majestic and venerable fathers; he, so unattainable in his
     worldly position, and still more so in that far vista in
     his unsympathising thoughts, through which she now beheld
     him! Her spirit sank with the idea that all must have been a
     delusion, and that vividly as she had dreamed it, there
     could be no real bond betwixt the clergyman and herself. And
     thus much of woman there was in Hester, that she could
     scarcely forgive him--least of all now, when the heavy
     footstep of their approaching fate might be heard, nearer,
     nearer, nearer!--for being able to withdraw himself so
     completely from their mutual world, while she groped darkly,
     and stretched forth her cold hands, and found him not!"

_The House of the Seven Gables_ was written at Lenox, among the
mountains of Massachusetts, a village nestling, rather loosely, in one
of the loveliest corners of New England, to which Hawthorne had
betaken himself after the success of _The Scarlet Letter_ became
conspicuous, in the summer of 1850, and where he occupied for two
years an uncomfortable little red house which is now pointed out to
the inquiring stranger. The inquiring stranger is now a frequent
figure at Lenox, for the place has suffered the process of
lionisation. It has become a prosperous watering-place, or at least
(as there are no waters), as they say in America, a summer-resort. It
is a brilliant and generous landscape, and thirty years ago a man of
fancy, desiring to apply himself, might have found both inspiration
and tranquillity there. Hawthorne found so much of both that he wrote
more during his two years of residence at Lenox than at any period of
his career. He began with _The House of the Seven Gables_, which was
finished in the early part of 1851. This is the longest of his three
American novels, it is the most elaborate, and in the judgment of some
persons it is the finest. It is a rich, delightful, imaginative work,
larger and more various than its companions, and full of all sorts of
deep intentions, of interwoven threads of suggestion But it is not so
rounded and complete as _The Scarlet Letter_; it has always seemed to
me more like a prologue to a great novel than a great novel itself. I
think this is partly owing to the fact that the subject, the _donnee_,
as the French say, of the story, does not quite fill it out, and that
we get at the same time an impression of certain complicated purposes
on the author's part, which seem to reach beyond it. I call it larger
and more various than its companions, and it has indeed a greater
richness of tone and density of detail. The colour, so to speak, of
_The House of the Seven Gables_ is admirable. But the story has a sort
of expansive quality which never wholly fructifies, and as I lately
laid it down, after reading it for the third time, I had a sense of
having interested myself in a magnificent fragment. Yet the book has a
great fascination, and of all of those of its author's productions
which I have read over while writing this sketch, it is perhaps the
one that has gained most by re-perusal. If it be true of the others
that the pure, natural quality of the imaginative strain is their
great merit, this is at least as true of _The House of the Seven
Gables_, the charm of which is in a peculiar degree of the kind that
we fail to reduce to its grounds--like that of the sweetness of a
piece of music, or the softness of fine September weather. It is
vague, indefinable, ineffable; but it is the sort of thing we must
always point to in justification of the high claim that we make for
Hawthorne. In this case of course its vagueness is a drawback, for it
is difficult to point to ethereal beauties; and if the reader whom we
have wished to inoculate with our admiration inform us after looking a
while that he perceives nothing in particular, we can only reply
that, in effect, the object is a delicate one.

_The House of the Seven Gables_ comes nearer being a picture of
contemporary American life than either of its companions; but on this
ground it would be a mistake to make a large claim for it. It cannot
be too often repeated that Hawthorne was not a realist. He had a high
sense of reality--his Note-Books super-abundantly testify to it; and
fond as he was of jotting down the items that make it up, he never
attempted to render exactly or closely the actual facts of the society
that surrounded him. I have said--I began by saying--that his pages
were full of its spirit, and of a certain reflected light that springs
from it; but I was careful to add that the reader must look for his
local and national quality between the lines of his writing and in the
_indirect_ testimony of his tone, his accent, his temper, of his very
omissions and suppressions. _The House of the Seven Gables_ has,
however, more literal actuality than the others, and if it were not
too fanciful an account of it, I should say that it renders, to an
initiated reader, the impression of a summer afternoon in an
elm-shadowed New England town. It leaves upon the mind a vague
correspondence to some such reminiscence, and in stirring up the
association it renders it delightful. The comparison is to the honour
of the New England town, which gains in it more than it bestows. The
shadows of the elms, in _The House of the Seven Gables_, are
exceptionally dense and cool; the summer afternoon is peculiarly still
and beautiful; the atmosphere has a delicious warmth, and the long
daylight seems to pause and rest. But the mild provincial quality is
there, the mixture of shabbiness and freshness, the paucity of
ingredients. The end of an old race--this is the situation that
Hawthorne has depicted, and he has been admirably inspired in the
choice of the figures in whom he seeks to interest us. They are all
figures rather than characters--they are all pictures rather than
persons. But if their reality is light and vague, it is sufficient,
and it is in harmony with the low relief and dimness of outline of the
objects that surround them. They are all types, to the author's mind,
of something general, of something that is bound up with the history,
at large, of families and individuals, and each of them is the centre
of a cluster of those ingenious and meditative musings, rather
melancholy, as a general thing, than joyous, which melt into the
current and texture of the story and give it a kind of moral richness.
A grotesque old spinster, simple, childish, penniless, very humble at
heart, but rigidly conscious of her pedigree; an amiable bachelor, of
an epicurean temperament and an enfeebled intellect, who has passed
twenty years of his life in penal confinement for a crime of which he
was unjustly pronounced guilty; a sweet-natured and bright-faced young
girl from the country, a poor relation of these two ancient
decrepitudes, with whose moral mustiness her modern freshness and
soundness are contrasted; a young man still more modern, holding the
latest opinions, who has sought his fortune up and down the world,
and, though he has not found it, takes a genial and enthusiastic view
of the future: these, with two or three remarkable accessory figures,
are the persons concerned in the little drama. The drama is a small
one, but as Hawthorne does not put it before us for its own
superficial sake, for the dry facts of the case, but for something in
it which he holds to be symbolic and of large application, something
that points a moral and that it behoves us to remember, the scenes in
the rusty wooden house whose gables give its name to the story, have
something of the dignity both of history and of tragedy. Miss
Hephzibah Pyncheon, dragging out a disappointed life in her paternal
dwelling, finds herself obliged in her old age to open a little shop
for the sale of penny toys and gingerbread. This is the central
incident of the tale, and, as Hawthorne relates it, it is an incident
of the most impressive magnitude and most touching interest. Her
dishonoured and vague-minded brother is released from prison at the
same moment, and returns to the ancestral roof to deepen her
perplexities. But, on the other hand, to alleviate them, and to
introduce a breath of the air of the outer world into this long
unventilated interior, the little country cousin also arrives, and
proves the good angel of the feebly distracted household. All this
episode is exquisite--admirably conceived, and executed with a kind of
humorous tenderness, an equal sense of everything in it that is
picturesque, touching, ridiculous, worthy of the highest praise.
Hephzibah Pyncheon, with her near-sighted scowl, her rusty joints, her
antique turban, her map of a great territory to the eastward which
ought to have belonged to her family, her vain terrors and scruples
and resentments, the inaptitude and repugnance of an ancient
gentlewoman to the vulgar little commerce which a cruel fate has
compelled her to engage in--Hephzibah Pyncheon is a masterly picture.
I repeat that she is a picture, as her companions are pictures; she is
a charming piece of descriptive writing, rather than a dramatic
exhibition. But she is described, like her companions too, so subtly
and lovingly that we enter into her virginal old heart and stand with
her behind her abominable little counter. Clifford Pyncheon is a still
more remarkable conception, though he is perhaps not so vividly
depicted. It was a figure needing a much more subtle touch, however,
and it was of the essence of his character to be vague and
unemphasised. Nothing can be more charming than the manner in which
the soft, bright, active presence of Phoebe Pyncheon is indicated,
or than the account of her relations with the poor dimly sentient
kinsman for whom her light-handed sisterly offices, in the evening of
a melancholy life, are a revelation of lost possibilities of
happiness. "In her aspect," Hawthorne says of the young girl, "there
was a familiar gladness, and a holiness that you could play with, and
yet reverence it as much as ever. She was like a prayer offered up in
the homeliest beauty of one's mother-tongue. Fresh was Phoebe,
moreover, and airy, and sweet in her apparel; as if nothing that she
wore--neither her gown, nor her small straw bonnet, nor her little
kerchief, any more than her snowy stockings--had ever been put on
before; or if worn, were all the fresher for it, and with a fragrance
as if they had lain among the rose-buds." Of the influence of her
maidenly salubrity upon poor Clifford, Hawthorne gives the prettiest
description, and then, breaking off suddenly, renounces the attempt in
language which, while pleading its inadequacy, conveys an exquisite
satisfaction to the reader. I quote the passage for the sake of its
extreme felicity, and of the charming image with which it concludes.

     "But we strive in vain to put the idea into words. No
     adequate expression of the beauty and profound pathos with
     which it impresses us is attainable. This being, made only
     for happiness, and heretofore so miserably failing to be
     happy--his tendencies so hideously thwarted that some
     unknown time ago, the delicate springs of his character,
     never morally or intellectually strong, had given way, and
     he was now imbecile--this poor forlorn voyager from the
     Islands of the Blest, in a frail bark, on a tempestuous sea,
     had been flung by the last mountain-wave of his shipwreck,
     into a quiet harbour. There, as he lay more than half
     lifeless on the strand, the fragrance of an earthly rose-bud
     had come to his nostrils, and, as odours will, had summoned
     up reminiscences or visions of all the living and breathing
     beauty amid which he should have had his home. With his
     native susceptibility of happy influences, he inhales the
     slight ethereal rapture into his soul, and expires!"

I have not mentioned the personage in _The House of the Seven Gables_
upon whom Hawthorne evidently bestowed most pains, and whose portrait is
the most elaborate in the book; partly because he is, in spite of the
space he occupies, an accessory figure, and partly because, even more
than the others, he is what I have called a picture rather than a
character. Judge Pyncheon is an ironical portrait, very richly and
broadly executed, very sagaciously composed and rendered--the portrait
of a superb, full blown hypocrite, a large-based, full-nurtured
Pharisee, bland, urbane, impressive, diffusing about him a "sultry"
warmth of benevolence, as the author calls it again and again, and
basking in the noontide of prosperity and the consideration of society;
but in reality hard, gross, and ignoble. Judge Pyncheon is an elaborate
piece of description, made up of a hundred admirable touches, in which
satire is always winged with fancy, and fancy is linked with a deep
sense of reality. It is difficult to say whether Hawthorne followed a
model in describing Judge Pyncheon; but it is tolerably obvious that
the picture is an impression--a copious impression--of an individual. It
has evidently a definite starting-point in fact, and the author is able
to draw, freely and confidently, after the image established in his
mind. Holgrave, the modern young man, who has been a Jack-of-all-trades
and is at the period of the story a daguerreotypist, is an attempt to
render a kind of national type--that of the young citizen of the United
States whose fortune is simply in his lively intelligence, and who
stands naked, as it were, unbiased and unencumbered alike, in the centre
of the far-stretching level of American life. Holgrave is intended as a
contrast; his lack of traditions, his democratic stamp, his condensed
experience, are opposed to the desiccated prejudices and exhausted
vitality of the race of which poor feebly-scowling, rusty-jointed
Hephzibah is the most heroic representative. It is perhaps a pity that
Hawthorne should not have proposed to himself to give the old
Pyncheon-qualities some embodiment which would help them to balance more
fairly with the elastic properties of the young daguerreotypist--should
not have painted a lusty conservative to match his strenuous radical. As
it is, the mustiness and mouldiness of the tenants of the House of the
Seven Gables crumble away rather too easily. Evidently, however, what
Hawthorne designed to represent was not the struggle between an old
society and a new, for in this case he would have given the old one a
better chance; but simply, as I have said, the shrinkage and extinction
of a family. This appealed to his imagination; and the idea of long
perpetuation and survival always appears to have filled him with a kind
of horror and disapproval. Conservative, in a certain degree, as he was
himself, and fond of retrospect and quietude and the mellowing
influences of time, it is singular how often one encounters in his
writings some expression of mistrust of old houses, old institutions,
long lines of descent. He was disposed apparently to allow a very
moderate measure in these respects, and he condemns the dwelling of the
Pyncheons to disappear from the face of the earth because it has been
standing a couple of hundred years. In this he was an American of
Americans; or rather he was more American than many of his countrymen,
who, though they are accustomed to work for the short run rather than
the long, have often a lurking esteem for things that show the marks of
having lasted. I will add that Holgrave is one of the few figures, among
those which Hawthorne created, with regard to which the absence of the
realistic mode of treatment is felt as a loss. Holgrave is not sharply
enough characterised; he lacks features; he is not an individual, but a
type. But my last word about this admirable novel must not be a
restrictive one. It is a large and generous production, pervaded with
that vague hum, that indefinable echo, of the whole multitudinous life
of man, which is the real sign of a great work of fiction.

After the publication of _The House of the Seven Gables_, which
brought him great honour, and, I believe, a tolerable share of a more
ponderable substance, he composed a couple of little volumes, for
children--_The Wonder-Book_, and a small collection of stories
entitled _Tanglewood Tales_. They are not among his most serious
literary titles, but if I may trust my own early impression of them,
they are among the most charming literary services that have been
rendered to children in an age (and especially in a country) in which
the exactions of the infant mind have exerted much too palpable an
influence upon literature. Hawthorne's stories are the old Greek
myths, made more vivid to the childish imagination by an infusion of
details which both deepen and explain their marvels. I have been
careful not to read them over, for I should be very sorry to risk
disturbing in any degree a recollection of them that has been at rest
since the appreciative period of life to which they are addressed.
They seem at that period enchanting, and the ideal of happiness of
many American children is to lie upon the carpet and lose themselves
in _The Wonder-Book_. It is in its pages that they first make the
acquaintance of the heroes and heroines of the antique mythology, and
something of the nursery fairy-tale quality of interest which
Hawthorne imparts to them always remains.

I have said that Lenox was a very pretty place, and that he was able
to work there Hawthorne proved by composing _The House of the Seven
Gables_ with a good deal of rapidity. But at the close of the year in
which this novel was published he wrote to a friend (Mr. Fields, his
publisher,) that "to tell you a secret I am sick to death of
Berkshire, and hate to think of spending another winter here.... The
air and climate do not agree with my health at all, and for the first
time since I was a boy I have felt languid and dispirited.... O that
Providence would build me the merest little shanty, and mark me out a
rood or two of garden ground, near the sea-coast!" He was at this time
for a while out of health; and it is proper to remember that though
the Massachusetts Berkshire, with its mountains and lakes, was
charming during the ardent American summer, there was a reverse to
the medal, consisting of December snows prolonged into April and May.
Providence failed to provide him with a cottage by the sea; but he
betook himself for the winter of 1852 to the little town of West
Newton, near Boston, where he brought into the world _The Blithedale
Romance_.

This work, as I have said, would not have been written if Hawthorne
had not spent a year at Brook Farm, and though it is in no sense of
the word an account of the manners or the inmates of that
establishment, it will preserve the memory of the ingenious community
at West Roxbury for a generation unconscious of other reminders. I
hardly know what to say about it save that it is very charming; this
vague, unanalytic epithet is the first that comes to one's pen in
treating of Hawthorne's novels, for their extreme amenity of form
invariably suggests it; but if on the one hand it claims to be
uttered, on the other it frankly confesses its inconclusiveness.
Perhaps, however, in this case, it fills out the measure of
appreciation more completely than in others, for _The Blithedale
Romance_ is the lightest, the brightest, the liveliest, of this
company of unhumorous fictions.

The story is told from a more joyous point of view--from a point of
view comparatively humorous--and a number of objects and incidents
touched with the light of the profane world--the vulgar, many-coloured
world of actuality, as distinguished from the crepuscular realm of the
writer's own reveries--are mingled with its course. The book indeed is
a mixture of elements, and it leaves in the memory an impression
analogous to that of an April day--an alternation of brightness and
shadow, of broken sun-patches and sprinkling clouds. Its denoument is
tragical--there is indeed nothing so tragical in all Hawthorne, unless
it be the murder-of Miriam's persecutor by Donatello, in
_Transformation_, as the suicide of Zenobia; and yet on the whole the
effect of the novel is to make one think more agreeably of life. The
standpoint of the narrator has the advantage of being a concrete one;
he is no longer, as in the preceding tales, a disembodied spirit,
imprisoned in the haunted chamber of his own contemplations, but a
particular man, with a certain human grossness.

Of Miles Coverdale I have already spoken, and of its being natural to
assume that in so far as we may measure this lightly indicated
identity of his, it has a great deal in common with that of his
creator. Coverdale is a picture of the contemplative, observant,
analytic nature, nursing its fancies, and yet, thanks to an element of
strong good sense, not bringing them up to be spoiled children; having
little at stake in life, at any given moment, and yet indulging, in
imagination, in a good many adventures; a portrait of a man, in a
word, whose passions are slender, whose imagination is active, and
whose happiness lies, not in doing, but in perceiving--half a poet,
half a critic, and all a spectator. He is contrasted, excellently,
with the figure of Hollingsworth, the heavily treading Reformer, whose
attitude with regard to the world is that of the hammer to the anvil,
and who has no patience with his friend's indifferences and
neutralities. Coverdale is a gentle sceptic, a mild cynic; he would
agree that life is a little worth living--or worth living a little;
but would remark that, unfortunately, to live little enough, we have
to live a great deal. He confesses to a want of earnestness, but in
reality he is evidently an excellent fellow, to whom one might look,
not for any personal performance on a great scale, but for a good deal
of generosity of detail. "As Hollingsworth once told me, I lack a
purpose," he writes, at the close of his story. "How strange! He was
ruined, morally, by an over plus of the same ingredient the want of
which, I occasionally suspect, has rendered my own life all an
emptiness. I by no means wish to die. Yet were there any cause in this
whole chaos of human struggle, worth a sane man's dying for, and which
my death would benefit, then--provided, however, the effort did not
involve an unreasonable amount of trouble--methinks I might be bold to
offer up my life. If Kossuth, for example, would pitch the
battle-field of Hungarian rights within an easy ride of my abode, and
choose a mild sunny morning, after breakfast, for the conflict, Miles
Coverdale would gladly be his man, for one brave rush upon the
levelled bayonets. Further than that I should be loth to pledge
myself."

The finest thing in _The Blithdale Romance_ is the character of
Zenobia, which I have said elsewhere strikes me as the nearest
approach that Hawthorne has made to the complete creation of a
_person_. She is more concrete than Hester or Miriam, or Hilda or
Phoebe; she is a more definite image, produced by a greater
multiplicity of touches. It is idle to inquire too closely whether
Hawthorne had Margaret Fuller in his mind in constructing the figure
of this brilliant specimen of the strong-minded class and endowing her
with the genius of conversation; or, on the assumption that such was
the case, to compare the image at all strictly with the model. There
is no strictness in the representation by novelists of persons who
have struck them in life, and there can in the nature of things be
none. From the moment the imagination takes a hand in the game, the
inevitable tendency is to divergence, to following what may be called
new scents. The original gives hints, but the writer does what he
likes with them, and imports new elements into the picture. If there
is this amount of reason for referring the wayward heroine of
Blithedale to Hawthorne's impression of the most distinguished woman
of her day in Boston, that Margaret Fuller was the only literary lady
of eminence whom there is any sign of his having known, that she was
proud, passionate, and eloquent, that she was much connected with the
little world of Transcendentalism out of which the experiment of Brook
Farm sprung, and that she had a miserable end and a watery grave--if
these are facts to be noted on one side, I say; on the other, the
beautiful and sumptuous Zenobia, with her rich and picturesque
temperament and physical aspects, offers many points of divergence
from the plain and strenuous invalid who represented feminine culture
in the suburbs of the New England metropolis. This picturesqueness of
Zenobia is very happily indicated and maintained; she is a woman, in
all the force of the term, and there is something very vivid and
powerful in her large expression of womanly gifts and weaknesses.
Hollingsworth is, I think, less successful, though there is much
reality in the conception of the type to which he belongs--the
strong-willed, narrow-hearted apostle of a special form of redemption
for society. There is nothing better in all Hawthorne than the scene
between him and Coverdale, when the two men are at work together in
the field (piling stones on a dyke), and he gives it to his companion
to choose whether he will be with him or against him. It is a pity,
perhaps, to have represented him as having begun life as a blacksmith,
for one grudges him the advantage of so logical a reason for his
roughness and hardness.

     "Hollingsworth scarcely said a word, unless when repeatedly
     and pertinaciously addressed. Then indeed he would glare
     upon us from the thick shrubbery of his meditations, like a
     tiger out of a jungle, make the briefest reply possible, and
     betake himself back into the solitude of his heart and
     mind.... His heart, I imagine, was never really interested
     in our socialist scheme, but was for ever busy with his
     strange, and as most people thought, impracticable plan for
     the reformation of criminals through an appeal to their
     higher instincts. Much as I liked Hollingsworth, it cost me
     many a groan to tolerate him on this point. He ought to have
     commenced his investigation of the subject by committing
     some huge sin in his proper person, and examining the
     condition of his-higher instincts afterwards."

The most touching element in the novel is the history of the grasp
that this barbarous fanatic has laid upon the fastidious and
high-tempered Zenobia, who, disliking him and shrinking, from him at a
hundred points, is drawn into the gulf of his omnivorous egotism. The
portion of the story that strikes me as least felicitous is that which
deals with Priscilla and with her mysterious relation to Zenobia--with
her mesmeric gifts, her clairvoyance, her identity with the Veiled
Lady, her divided subjection to Hollingsworth and Westervelt, and her
numerous other graceful but fantastic properties--her Sibylline
attributes, as the author calls them. Hawthorne is rather too fond of
Sibylline attributes--a taste of the same order as his disposition, to
which I have already alluded, to talk about spheres and sympathies. As
the action advances, in _The Blithdale Romance_, we get too much out
of reality, and cease to feel beneath our feet the firm ground of an
appeal to our own vision of the world, our observation. I should have
liked to see the story concern itself more with the little community
in which its earlier scenes are laid, and avail itself of so excellent
an opportunity for describing unhackneyed specimens of human nature. I
have already spoken of the absence of satire in the novel, of its not
aiming in the least at satire, and of its offering no grounds for
complaint as an invidious picture. Indeed the brethren of Brook Farm
should have held themselves slighted rather than misrepresented, and
have regretted that the admirable genius who for a while was numbered
among them should have treated their institution mainly as a perch for
starting upon an imaginative flight. But when all is said about a
certain want of substance and cohesion in the latter portions of _The
Blithedale Romance_, the book is still a delightful and beautiful one.
Zenobia and Hollingsworth live in the memory, and even Priscilla and
Coverdale, who linger there less importunately, have a great deal that
touches us and that we believe in. I said just now that Priscilla was
infelicitous; but immediately afterwards I open the volume at a page
in which the author describes some of the out-of-door amusements at
Blithedale, and speaks of a foot-race across the grass, in which some
of the slim young girls of the society joined. "Priscilla's peculiar
charm in a foot-race was the weakness and irregularity with which she
ran. Growing up without exercise, except to her poor little fingers,
she had never yet acquired the perfect use of her legs. Setting
buoyantly forth therefore, as if no rival less swift than Atalanta
could compete with her, she ran falteringly, and often tumbled on the
grass. Such an incident--though it seems too slight to think of--was a
thing to laugh at, but which brought the water into one's eyes, and
lingered in the memory after far greater joys and sorrows were wept
out of it, as antiquated trash. Priscilla's life, as I beheld it, was
full of trifles that affected me in just this way." That seems to me
exquisite, and the book is full of touches as deep and delicate.

After writing it, Hawthorne went back to live in Concord, where he had
bought a small house in which, apparently, he expected to spend a
large portion of his future. This was in fact the dwelling in which he
passed that part of the rest of his days that he spent in his own
country. He established himself there before going to Europe, in 1853,
and he returned to the Wayside, as he called his house, on coming back
to the United States seven years later. Though he actually occupied
the place no long time, he had made it his property, and it was more
his own home than any of his numerous provisional abodes. I may
therefore quote a little account of the house which he wrote to a
distinguished friend, Mr. George Curtis.

     "As for my old house, you will understand it better after
     spending a day or two in it. Before Mr. Alcott took it in
     hand, it was a mean-looking affair, with two peaked gables;
     no suggestiveness about it, and no venerableness, although
     from the style of its construction it seems to have survived
     beyond its first century. He added a porch in front, and a
     central peak, and a piazza at each end, and painted it a
     rusty olive hue, and invested the whole with a modest
     picturesqueness; all which improvements, together with its
     situation at the foot of a wooded hill, make it a place that
     one notices and remembers for a few moments after passing.
     Mr. Alcott expended a good deal of taste and some money (to
     no great purpose) in forming the hillside behind the house
     into terraces, and building arbours and summer-houses of
     rough stems and branches and trees, on a system of his own.
     They must have been very pretty in their day, and are so
     still, although much decayed, and shattered more and more by
     every breeze that blows. The hillside is covered chiefly
     with locust trees, which come into luxuriant blossom in the
     month of June, and look and smell very sweetly, intermixed
     with a few young elms, and white pines and infant oaks--the
     whole forming rather a thicket than a wood. Nevertheless,
     there is some very good shade to be found there. I spend
     delectable hours there in the hottest part of the day,
     stretched out at my lazy length, with a book in my hand, or
     some unwritten book in my thoughts. There is almost always a
     breeze stirring along the sides or brow of the hill. From
     the hill-top there is a good view along the extensive level
     surfaces and gentle hilly outlines, covered with wood, that
     characterise the scenery of Concord.... I know nothing of
     the history of the house except Thoreau's telling me that it
     was inhabited, a generation or two ago, by a man who
     believed he should never die. I believe, however, he is
     dead; at least, I hope so; else he may probably reappear and
     dispute my title to his residence."

As Mr. Lathrop points out, this allusion to a man who believed he
should never die is "the first intimation of the story of _Septimius
Felton_." The scenery of that romance, he adds, "was evidently taken
from the Wayside and its hill." _Septimius Felton_ is in fact a young
man who, at the time of the war of the Revolution, lives in the
village of Concord, on the Boston road, at the base of a woody hill
which rises abruptly behind his house, and of which the level summit
supplies him with a promenade continually mentioned in the course of
the tale. Hawthorne used to exercise himself upon this picturesque
eminence, and, as he conceived the brooding Septimius to have done
before him, to betake himself thither when he found the limits of his
dwelling too narrow. But he had an advantage which his imaginary hero
lacked; he erected a tower as an adjunct to the house, and it was a
jocular tradition among his neighbours, in allusion to his attributive
tendency to evade rather than hasten the coming guest, that he used to
ascend this structure and scan the road for provocations to retreat.

In so far, however, as Hawthorne suffered the penalties of celebrity
at the hands of intrusive fellow-citizens, he was soon to escape from
this honourable incommodity. On the 4th of March, 1853, his old
college-mate and intimate friend, Franklin Pierce, was installed as
President of the United States. He had been the candidate of the
Democratic party, and all good Democrats, accordingly, in conformity
to the beautiful and rational system under which the affairs of the
great Republic were carried on, begun to open their windows to the
golden sunshine of Presidential patronage. When General Pierce was put
forward by the Democrats, Hawthorne felt a perfectly loyal and natural
desire that his good friend should be exalted to so brilliant a
position, and he did what was in him to further the good cause, by
writing a little book about its hero. His _Life of Franklin Pierce_
belongs to that class of literature which is known as the "campaign
biography," and which consists of an attempt, more or less successful,
to persuade the many-headed monster of universal suffrage that the
gentleman on whose behalf it is addressed is a paragon of wisdom and
virtue. Of Hawthorne's little book there is nothing particular to
say, save that it is in very good taste, that he is a very fairly
ingenious advocate, and that if he claimed for the future President
qualities which rather faded in the bright light of a high office,
this defect of proportion was essential to his undertaking. He dwelt
chiefly upon General Pierce's exploits in the war with Mexico (before
that, his record, as they say in America, had been mainly that of a
successful country lawyer), and exercised his descriptive powers so
far as was possible in describing the advance of the United States
troops from Vera Cruz to the city of the Montezumas. The mouthpieces
of the Whig party spared him, I believe, no reprobation for
"prostituting" his exquisite genius; but I fail to see anything
reprehensible in Hawthorne's lending his old friend the assistance of
his graceful quill. He wished him to be President--he held afterwards
that he filled the office with admirable dignity and wisdom--and as
the only thing he could do was to write, he fell to work and wrote for
him. Hawthorne was a good lover and a very sufficient partisan, and I
suspect that if Franklin Pierce had been made even less of the stuff
of a statesman, he would still have found in the force of old
associations an injunction to hail him as a ruler. Our hero was an
American of the earlier and simpler type--the type of which it is
doubtless premature to say that it has wholly passed away, but of
which it may at least be said that the circumstances that produced it
have been greatly modified. The generation to which he belonged, that
generation which grew up with the century, witnessed during a period
of fifty years the immense, uninterrupted material development of the
young Republic; and when one thinks of the scale on which it took
place, of the prosperity that walked in its train and waited on its
course, of the hopes it fostered and the blessings it conferred, of
the broad morning sunshine, in a word, in which it all went forward,
there seems to be little room for surprise that it should have
implanted a kind of superstitious faith in the grandeur of the
country, its duration, its immunity from the usual troubles of earthly
empires. This faith was a simple and uncritical one, enlivened with an
element of genial optimism, in the light of which it appeared that the
great American state was not as other human institutions are, that a
special Providence watched over it, that it would go on joyously for
ever, and that a country whose vast and blooming bosom offered a
refuge to the strugglers and seekers of all the rest of the world,
must come off easily, in the battle of the ages. From this conception
of the American future the sense of its having problems to solve was
blissfully absent; there were no difficulties in the programme, no
looming complications, no rocks ahead. The indefinite multiplication
of the population, and its enjoyment of the benefits of a
common-school education and of unusual facilities for making an
income--this was the form in which, on the whole, the future most
vividly presented itself, and in which the greatness of the country
was to be recognised of men. There was indeed a faint shadow in the
picture--the shadow projected by the "peculiar institution" of the
Southern States; but it was far from sufficient to darken the rosy
vision of most good Americans, and above all, of most good Democrats.
Hawthorne alludes to it in a passage of his life of Pierce, which I
will quote not only as a hint of the trouble that was in store for a
cheerful race of men, but as an example of his own easy-going
political attitude.

     "It was while in the lower house of Congress that Franklin
     Pierce took that stand on the Slavery question from which he
     has never since swerved by a hair's breadth. He fully
     recognised by his votes and his voice, the rights pledged to
     the South by the Constitution. This, at the period when he
     declared himself, was an easy thing to do. But when it
     became more difficult, when the first imperceptible murmur
     of agitation had grown almost to a convulsion, his course
     was still the same. Nor did he ever shun the obloquy that
     sometimes threatened to pursue the Northern man who dared to
     love that great and sacred reality--his whole united
     country--better than the mistiness of a philanthropic
     theory."

This last invidious allusion is to the disposition, not infrequent at
the North, but by no means general, to set a decisive limit to further
legislation in favour of the cherished idiosyncrasy of the other half of
the country. Hawthorne takes the license of a sympathetic biographer in
speaking of his hero's having incurred obloquy by his conservative
attitude on the question of Slavery. The only class in the American
world that suffered in the smallest degree, at this time, from social
persecution, was the little band of Northern Abolitionists, who were as
unfashionable as they were indiscreet--which is saying much. Like most
of his fellow-countrymen, Hawthorne had no idea that the respectable
institution which he contemplated in impressive contrast to humanitarian
"mistiness," was presently to cost the nation four long years of
bloodshed and misery, and a social revolution as complete as any the
world has seen. When this event occurred, he was therefore
proportionately horrified and depressed by it; it cut from beneath his
feet the familiar ground which had long felt so firm, substituting a
heaving and quaking medium in which his spirit found no rest. Such was
the bewildered sensation of that earlier and simpler generation of which
I have spoken; their illusions were rudely dispelled, and they saw the
best of all possible republics given over to fratricidal carnage. This
affair had no place in their scheme, and nothing was left for them but
to hang their heads and close their eyes. The subsidence of that great
convulsion has left a different tone from the tone it found, and one may
say that the Civil War marks an era in the history of the American mind.
It introduced into the national consciousness a certain sense of
proportion and relation, of the world being a more complicated place
than it had hitherto seemed, the future more treacherous, success more
difficult. At the rate at which things are going, it is obvious that
good Americana will be more numerous than ever; but the good American,
in days to come, will be a more critical person than his complacent and
confident grandfather. He has eaten of the tree of knowledge. He will
not, I think, be a sceptic, and still less, of course, a cynic; but he
will be, without discredit to his well-known capacity for action, an
observer. He will remember that the ways of the Lord are inscrutable,
and that this is a world in which everything happens; and eventualities,
as the late Emperor of the French used to say, will not find him
intellectually unprepared. The good American of which Hawthorne was so
admirable a specimen was not critical, and it was perhaps for this
reason that Franklin Pierce seemed to him a very proper President.

The least that General Pierce could do in exchange for so liberal a
confidence was to offer his old friend one of the numerous places in
his gift. Hawthorne had a great desire to go abroad and see something
of the world, so that a consulate seemed the proper thing. He never
stirred in the matter himself, but his friends strongly urged that
something should be done; and when he accepted the post of consul at
Liverpool there was not a word of reasonable criticism to be offered
on the matter. If General Pierce, who was before all things
good-natured and obliging, had been guilty of no greater indiscretion
than to confer this modest distinction upon the most honourable and
discreet of men of letters, he would have made a more brilliant mark
in the annals of American statesmanship. Liverpool had not been
immediately selected, and Hawthorne had written to his friend and
publisher, Mr. Fields, with some humorous vagueness of allusion to his
probable expatriation.

     "Do make some inquiries about Portugal; as, for instance, in
     what part of the world it lies, and whether it is an empire,
     a kingdom, or a republic. Also, and more particularly, the
     expenses of living there, and whether the Minister would be
     likely to be much pestered with his own countrymen. Also,
     any other information about foreign countries would be
     acceptable to an inquiring mind."

It would seem from this that there had been a question of offering him
a small diplomatic post; but the emoluments of the place were justly
taken into account, and it is to be supposed that those of the
consulate at Liverpool were at least as great as the salary of the
American representative at Lisbon. Unfortunately, just after
Hawthorne had taken possession of the former post, the salary attached
to it was reduced by Congress, in an economical hour, to less than
half the sum enjoyed by his predecessors. It was fixed at 7,500
dollars (L1,500); but the consular fees, which were often copious,
were an added resource. At midsummer then, in 1853, Hawthorne was
established in England.

       *       *       *       *       *




CHAPTER VI.

ENGLAND AND ITALY.


Hawthorne was close upon fifty years of age when he came to Europe--a
fact that should be remembered when those impressions which he
recorded in five substantial volumes (exclusive of the novel written
in Italy), occasionally affect us by the rigidity of their point of
view. His Note-Books, kept during his residence in England, his two
winters in Rome, his summer in Florence, were published after his
death; his impressions of England, sifted, revised, and addressed
directly to the public, he gave to the world shortly before this
event. The tone of his European Diaries is often so fresh and
unsophisticated that we find ourselves thinking of the writer as a
young man, and it is only a certain final sense of something
reflective and a trifle melancholy that reminds us that the simplicity
which is on the whole the leading characteristic of their pages, is,
though the simplicity of inexperience, not that of youth. When I say
inexperience, I mean that Hawthorne's experience had been narrow. His
fifty years had been spent, for much the larger part, in small
American towns--Salem, the Boston of forty years ago, Concord, Lenox,
West Newton--and he had led exclusively what one may call a
village-life. This is evident, not at all directly and superficially,
but by implication and between the lines, in his desultory history of
his foreign years. In other words, and to call things by their names,
he was exquisitely and consistently provincial. I suggest this fact
not in the least in condemnation, but, on the contrary, in support of
an appreciative view of him. I know nothing more remarkable, more
touching, than the sight of this odd, youthful--elderly mind,
contending so late in the day with new opportunities for learning old
things, and on the whole profiting by them so freely and gracefully.
The Note-Books are provincial, and so, in a greatly modified degree,
are the sketches of England, in _Our Old Home_; but the beauty and
delicacy of this latter work are so interwoven with the author's air
of being remotely outside of everything he describes, that they count
for more, seem more themselves, and finally give the whole thing the
appearance of a triumph, not of initiation, but of the provincial
point of view itself.

I shall not attempt to relate in detail the incidents of his residence
in England. He appears to have enjoyed it greatly, in spite of the
deficiency of charm in the place to which his duties chiefly confined
him. His confinement, however, was not unbroken, and his published
journals consist largely of minute accounts of little journeys and
wanderings, with his wife and his three children, through the rest of
the country; together with much mention of numerous visits to London,
a city for whose dusky immensity and multitudinous interest he
professed the highest relish. His Note-Books are of the same cast as
the two volumes of his American Diaries, of which, I have given some
account--chiefly occupied with external matters, with the accidents
of daily life, with observations made during the long walks (often
with his son), which formed his most valued pastime. His office,
moreover, though Liverpool was not a delectable home, furnished him
with entertainment as well as occupation, and it may almost be said
that during these years he saw more of his fellow-countrymen, in the
shape of odd wanderers, petitioners, and inquirers of every kind, than
he had ever done in his native land. The paper entitled "Consular
Experiences," in _Our Old Home_, is an admirable recital of these
observations, and a proof that the novelist might have found much
material in the opportunities of the consul. On his return to America,
in 1860, he drew from his journal a number of pages relating to his
observations in England, re-wrote them (with, I should suppose, a good
deal of care), and converted them into articles which he published in
a magazine. These chapters were afterwards collected, and _Our Old
Home_ (a rather infelicitous title), was issued in 1863. I prefer to
speak of the book now, however, rather than in touching upon the
closing years of his life, for it is a kind of deliberate _resume_ of
his impressions of the land of his ancestors. "It is not a good or a
weighty book," he wrote to his publisher, who had sent him some
reviews of it, "nor does it deserve any great amount of praise or
censure. I don't care about seeing any more notices of it."
Hawthorne's appreciation of his own productions was always extremely
just; he had a sense of the relations of things, which some of his
admirers have not thought it well to cultivate; and he never
exaggerated his own importance as a writer. _Our Old Home_ is not a
weighty book; it is decidedly a light one. But when he says it is not
a good one, I hardly know what he means, and his modesty at this
point is in excess of his discretion. Whether good or not, _Our Old
Home_ is charming--it is most delectable reading. The execution is
singularly perfect and ripe; of all his productions it seems to be the
best written. The touch, as musicians say, is admirable; the
lightness, the fineness, the felicity of characterisation and
description, belong to a man who has the advantage of feeling
delicately. His judgment is by no means always sound; it often rests
on too narrow an observation. But his perception is of the keenest,
and though it is frequently partial, incomplete, it is excellent as
far as it goes. The book gave but limited satisfaction, I believe, in
England, and I am not sure that the failure to enjoy certain
manifestations of its sportive irony, has not chilled the appreciation
of its singular grace. That English readers, on the whole, should have
felt that Hawthorne did the national mind and manners but partial
justice, is, I think, conceivable; at the same time that it seems to
me remarkable that the tender side of the book, as I may call it,
should not have carried it off better. It abounds in passages more
delicately appreciative than can easily be found elsewhere, and it
contains more charming and affectionate things than, I should suppose,
had ever before been written about a country not the writer's own. To
say that it is an immeasurably more exquisite and sympathetic work
than any of the numerous persons who have related their misadventures
in the United States have seen fit to devote to that country, is to
say but little, and I imagine that Hawthorne had in mind the array of
English voyagers--Mrs. Trollope, Dickens, Marryat, Basil Hall, Miss
Martineau, Mr. Grattan--when he reflected that everything is relative
and that, as such books go, his own little volume observed the
amenities of criticism. He certainly had it in mind when he wrote the
phrase in his preface relating to the impression the book might make
in England. "Not an Englishman of them all ever spared America for
courtesy's sake or kindness; nor, in my opinion, would it contribute
in the least to any mutual advantage and comfort if we were to besmear
each other all over with butter and honey." I am far from intending to
intimate that the vulgar instinct of recrimination had anything to do
with the restrictive passages of _Our Old Home_; I mean simply that
the author had a prevision that his collection of sketches would in
some particulars fail to please his English friends. He professed,
after the event, to have discovered that the English are sensitive,
and as they say of the Americans, for whose advantage I believe the
term was invented; thin-skinned. "The English critics," he wrote to
his publisher, "seem to think me very bitter against their countrymen,
and it is perhaps natural that they should, because their self-conceit
can accept nothing short of indiscriminate adulation; but I really
think that Americans have much more cause than they to complain of me.
Looking over the volume I am rather surprised to find that whenever I
draw a comparison between the two people, I almost invariably cast the
balance against ourselves." And he writes at another time:--"I
received several private letters and printed notices of _Our Old Home_
from England. It is laughable to see the innocent wonder with which
they regard my criticisms, accounting for them by jaundice, insanity,
jealousy, hatred, on my part, and never admitting the least suspicion
that there may be a particle of truth in them. The monstrosity of
their self-conceit is such that anything short of unlimited admiration
impresses them as malicious caricature. But they do me great injustice
in supposing that I hate them. I would as soon hate my own people."
The idea of his hating the English was of course too puerile for
discussion; and the book, as I have said, is full of a rich
appreciation of the finest characteristics of the country. But it has
a serious defect--a defect which impairs its value, though it helps to
give consistency to such an image of Hawthorne's personal nature as we
may by this time have been able to form. It is the work of an
outsider, of a stranger, of a man who remains to the end a mere
spectator (something less even than an observer), and always lacks the
final initiation into the manners and nature of a people of whom it
may most be said, among all the people of the earth, that to know them
is to make discoveries. Hawthorne freely confesses to this constant
exteriority, and appears to have been perfectly conscious of it. "I
remember," he writes in the sketch of "A London Suburb," in _Our Old
Home_, "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 mantel-piece, 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." The same note is struck in
an entry in his journal, of the date of October 6th, 1854.

     "The people, for several days, have been in the utmost
     anxiety, and latterly in the highest exultation, about
     Sebastopol--and all England, and Europe to boot, have been
     fooled by the belief that it had fallen. This, however, now
     turns out to be incorrect; and the public visage is somewhat
     grim in consequence. I am glad of it. In spite of his actual
     sympathies, it is impossible for an American to be otherwise
     than glad. Success makes an Englishman intolerable, and
     already, on the mistaken idea that the way was open to a
     prosperous conclusion of the war, the _Times_ had begun to
     throw out menaces against America. I shall never love
     England till she sues to us for help, and, in the meantime,
     the fewer triumphs she obtains, the better for all parties.
     An Englishman in adversity is a very respectable character;
     he does not lose his dignity, but merely comes to a proper
     conception of himself.... I seem to myself like a spy or
     traitor when I meet their eyes, and am conscious that I
     neither hope nor fear in sympathy with them, although they
     look at me in full confidence of sympathy. Their heart
     'knoweth its own bitterness,' and as for me, being a
     stranger and an alien, I 'intermeddle not with their joy.'"

This seems to me to express very well the weak side of Hawthorne's
work--his constant mistrust and suspicion of the society that surrounded
him, his exaggerated, painful, morbid national consciousness. It is, I
think, an indisputable fact that Americans are, as Americans, the most
self-conscious people in the world, and the most addicted to the belief
that the other nations of the earth are in a conspiracy to undervalue
them. They are conscious of being the youngest of the great nations, of
not being of the European family, of being placed on the circumference
of the circle of civilisation rather than at the centre, of the
experimental element not having as yet entirely dropped out of their
great political undertaking. The sense of this relativity, in a word,
replaces that quiet and comfortable sense of the absolute, as regards
its own position in the world, which reigns supreme in the British and
in the Gallic genius. Few persons, I think, can have mingled much with
Americans in Europe without having made this reflection, and it is in
England that their habit of looking askance at foreign institutions--of
keeping one eye, as it were, on the American personality, while with the
other they contemplate these objects--is most to be observed. Add to
this that Hawthorne came to England late in life, when his habits, his
tastes, his opinions, were already formed, that he was inclined to look
at things in silence and brood over them gently, rather than talk about
them, discuss them, grow acquainted with them by action; and it will be
possible to form an idea of our writer's detached and critical attitude
in the country in which it is easiest, thanks to its aristocratic
constitution, to the absence of any considerable public fund of
entertainment and diversion, to the degree in which the inexhaustible
beauty and interest of the place are private property, demanding
constantly a special introduction--in the country in which, I say, it is
easiest for a stranger to remain a stranger. For a stranger to cease to
be a stranger he must stand ready, as the French say, to pay with his
person; and this was an obligation that Hawthorne was indisposed to
incur. Our sense, as we read, that his reflections are those of a shy
and susceptible man, with nothing at stake, mentally, in his
appreciation of the country, is therefore a drawback to our confidence;
but it is not a drawback sufficient to make it of no importance that he
is at the same time singularly intelligent and discriminating, with a
faculty of feeling delicately and justly, which constitutes in itself
an illumination. There is a passage in the sketch entitled _About
Warwick_ which is a very good instance of what was probably his usual
state of mind. He is speaking of the aspect of the High Street of the
town.

     "The street is an emblem of England itself. What seems new
     in it is chiefly a skilful and fortunate adaptation of what
     such a people as ourselves would destroy. The new things are
     based and supported on sturdy old things, and derive a
     massive strength from their deep and immemorial foundations,
     though with such limitations and impediments as only an
     Englishman could endure. But he likes to feel the weight of
     all the past upon his back; and moreover the antiquity that
     overburdens him has taken root in his being, and has grown
     to be rather a hump than a pack, so that there is no getting
     rid of it without tearing his whole structure to pieces. In
     my judgment, as he appears to be sufficiently comfortable
     under the mouldy accretion, he had better stumble on with it
     as long as he can. He presents a spectacle which is by no
     means without its charm for a disinterested and unincumbered
     observer."

There is all Hawthorne, with his enjoyment of the picturesque, his
relish of chiaroscuro, of local colour, of the deposit of time, and
his still greater enjoyment of his own dissociation from these things,
his "disinterested and unincumbered" condition. His want of
incumbrances may seem at times to give him a somewhat naked and
attenuated appearance, but on the whole he carries it off very well. I
have said that _Our Old Home_ contains much of his best writing, and
on turning over the book at hazard, I am struck with his frequent
felicity of phrase. At every step there is something one would like to
quote--something excellently well said. These things are often of the
lighter sort, but Hawthorne's charming diction lingers in the
memory--almost in the ear. I have always remembered a certain
admirable characterisation of Doctor Johnson, in the account of the
writer's visit to Lichfield--and I will preface it by a paragraph
almost as good, commemorating the charms of the hotel in that
interesting town.

     "At any rate I had the great, dull, dingy, and dreary
     coffee-room, with its heavy old mahogany chairs and tables,
     all to myself, and not a soul to exchange a word with except
     the waiter, who, like most of his class in England, had
     evidently left his conversational abilities uncultivated. No
     former practice of solitary living, nor habits of reticence,
     nor well-tested self-dependence for occupation of mind and
     amusement, can quite avail, as I now proved, to dissipate
     the ponderous gloom of an English coffee-room under such
     circumstances as these, with no book at hand save the county
     directory, nor any newspaper but a torn local journal of
     five days ago. So I buried myself, betimes, in a huge heap
     of ancient feathers (there is no other kind of bed in these
     old inns), let my head sink into an unsubstantial pillow,
     and slept a stifled sleep, compounded of the night-troubles
     of all my predecessors in that same unrestful couch. And
     when I awoke, the odour of a bygone century was in my
     nostrils--a faint, elusive smell, of which I never had any
     conception before crossing the Atlantic."

The whole chapter entitled "Lichfield and Uttoxeter" is a sort of
graceful tribute to Samuel Johnson, who certainly has nowhere else
been more tenderly spoken of.

     "Beyond all question I might have had a wiser friend than
     he. The atmosphere in which alone he breathed was dense; his
     awful dread of death showed how much muddy imperfection was
     to be cleansed out of him, before he could be capable of
     spiritual existence; he meddled only with the surface of
     life, and never cared to penetrate further than to
     ploughshare depth; his very sense and sagacity were but a
     one-eyed clear-sightedness. I laughed at him, sometimes
     standing beside his knee. And yet, considering that my
     native propensities were toward Fairy Land, and also how
     much yeast is generally mixed up with the mental sustenance
     of a New Englander, it may not have been altogether amiss,
     in those childish and boyish days, to keep pace with this
     heavy-footed traveller and feed on the gross diet that he
     carried in his knapsack. It is wholesome food even now! And
     then, how English! Many of the latent sympathies that
     enabled me to enjoy the Old Country so well, and that so
     readily amalgamated themselves with the American ideas that
     seemed most adverse to them, may have been derived from, or
     fostered and kept alive by, the great English moralist.
     Never was a descriptive epithet more nicely appropriate than
     that! Doctor Johnson's morality was as English an article as
     a beef-steak."

And for mere beauty of expression I cannot forbear quoting this
passage about the days in a fine English summer:--

     "For each day seemed endless, though never wearisome. As far
     as your actual experience is concerned, the English summer
     day has positively no beginning and no end. When you awake,
     at any reasonable hour, the sun is already shining through
     the curtains; you live through unnumbered hours of Sabbath
     quietude, with a calm variety of incident softly etched upon
     their tranquil lapse; and at length you become conscious
     that it is bedtime again, while there is still enough
     daylight in the sky to make the pages of your book
     distinctly legible. Night, if there be any such season,
     hangs down a transparent veil through which the bygone day
     beholds its successor; or if not quite true of the latitude
     of London, it may be soberly affirmed of the more northern
     parts of the island that To-morrow is born before its
     Yesterday is dead. They exist together in the golden
     twilight, where the decrepit old day dimly discerns the face
     of the ominous infant; and you, though a mere mortal, may
     simultaneously touch them both, with one finger of
     recollection and another of prophecy."

The Note-Books, as I have said, deal chiefly with, the superficial
aspect of English life, and describe the material objects with which
the author was surrounded. They often describe them admirably, and the
rural beauty of the country has never been more happily expressed. But
there are inevitably a great many reflections and incidental
judgments, characterisations of people he met, fragments of psychology
and social criticism, and it is here that Hawthorne's mixture of
subtlety and simplicity, his interfusion of genius with what I have
ventured to call the provincial quality, is most apparent. To an
American reader this later quality, which is never grossly manifested,
but pervades the Journals like a vague natural perfume, an odour of
purity and kindness and integrity, must always, for a reason that I
will touch upon, have a considerable charm; and such a reader will
accordingly take an even greater satisfaction in the Diaries kept
during the two years Hawthorne spent in Italy; for in these volumes
the element I speak of is especially striking. He resigned his
consulate at Liverpool towards the close of 1857--whether because he
was weary of his manner of life there and of the place itself, as may
well have been, or because he wished to anticipate supersession by the
new government (Mr. Buchanan's) which was just establishing itself at
Washington, is not apparent from the slender sources of information
from which these pages have been compiled. In the month of January of
the following year he betook himself with his family to the
Continent, and, as promptly as possible, made the best of his way to
Rome. He spent the remainder of the winter and the spring there, and
then went to Florence for the summer and autumn; after which he
returned to Rome and passed a second season. His Italian Note-Books
are very pleasant reading, but they are of less interest than the
others, for his contact with the life of the country, its people and
its manners, was simply that of the ordinary tourist--which amounts to
saying that it was extremely superficial. He appears to have suffered
a great deal of discomfort and depression in Rome, and not to have
been on the whole in the best mood for enjoying the place and its
resources. That he did, at one time and another, enjoy these things
keenly is proved by his beautiful romance, _Transformation_, which
could never have been written by a man who had not had many hours of
exquisite appreciation of the lovely land of Italy. But he took It
hard, as it were, and suffered himself to be painfully discomposed by
the usual accidents of Italian life, as foreigners learn to know it.
His future was again uncertain, and during his second winter in Rome
he was in danger of losing his elder daughter by a malady which he
speaks of as a trouble "that pierced to my very vitals." I may
mention, with regard to this painful episode, that Franklin Pierce,
whose presidential days were over, and who, like other ex-presidents,
was travelling in Europe, came to Rome at the time, and that the
Note-Books contain some singularly beautiful and touching allusions to
his old friend's gratitude for his sympathy, and enjoyment of his
society. The sentiment of friendship has on the whole been so much
less commemorated in literature than might have been expected from
the place it is supposed to hold in life, that there is always
something striking in any frank and ardent expression of it. It
occupied, in so far as Pierce was the object of it, a large place in
Hawthorne's mind, and it is impossible not to feel the manly
tenderness of such lines as these:--

     "I have found him here in Rome, the whole of my early
     friend, and even better than I used to know him; a heart as
     true and affectionate, a mind much widened and deepened by
     the experience of life. We hold just the same relation to
     one another as of yore, and we have passed all the
     turning-off places, and may hope to go on together, still
     the same dear friends, as long as we live. I do not love him
     one whit the less for having been President, nor for having
     done me the greatest good in his power; a fact that speaks
     eloquently in his favour, and perhaps says a little for
     myself. If he had been merely a benefactor, perhaps I might
     not have borne it so well; but each did his best for the
     other, as friend for friend."

The Note-Books are chiefly taken up with descriptions of the regular
sights and "objects of interest," which we often feel to be rather
perfunctory and a little in the style of the traditional tourist's
diary. They abound in charming touches, and every reader of
_Transformation_ will remember the delightful colouring of the
numerous pages in that novel, which are devoted to the pictorial
aspects of Rome. But we are unable to rid ourselves of the impression
that Hawthorne was a good deal bored by the importunity of Italian
art, for which his taste, naturally not keen, had never been
cultivated. Occasionally, indeed, he breaks out into explicit sighs
and groans, and frankly declares that he washes his hands of it.
Already, in England, he had made the discovery that he could, easily
feel overdosed with such things. "Yesterday," he wrote in 1856, "I
went out at about twelve and visited the British Museum; an
exceedingly tiresome affair. It quite crushes a person to see so much
at once, and I wandered from hall to hall with a weary and heavy
heart, wishing (Heaven forgive me!) that the Elgin marbles and the
frieze of the Parthenon were all burnt into lime, and that the granite
Egyptian statues were hewn and squared into building stones."

The plastic sense was not strong in Hawthorne; there can be no better
proof of it than his curious aversion to the representation of the
nude in sculpture. This aversion was deep-seated; he constantly
returns to it, exclaiming upon the incongruity of modern artists
making naked figures. He apparently quite failed to see that nudity is
not an incident, or accident, of sculpture, but its very essence and
principle; and his jealousy of undressed images strikes the reader as
a strange, vague, long-dormant heritage of his straight-laced Puritan
ancestry. Whenever he talks of statues he makes a great point of the
smoothness and whiteness of the marble--speaks of the surface of the
marble as if it were half the beauty of the image; and when he
discourses of pictures, one feels that the brightness or dinginess of
the frame is an essential part of his impression of the work--as he
indeed somewhere distinctly affirms. Like a good American, he took
more pleasure in the productions of Mr. Thompson and Mr. Brown, Mr.
Powers and Mr. Hart, American artists who were plying their trade in
Italy, than in the works which adorned the ancient museums of the
country. He suffered greatly from the cold, and found little charm in
the climate, and during the weeks of winter that followed his arrival
in Rome, he sat shivering by his fire and wondering why he had come
to such a land of misery. Before he left Italy he wrote to his
publisher--"I bitterly detest Rome, and shall rejoice to bid it
farewell for ever; and I fully acquiesce in all the mischief and ruin
that has happened to it, from Nero's conflagration downward. In fact,
I wish the very site had been obliterated before I ever saw it."
Hawthorne presents himself to the reader of these pages as the last of
the old-fashioned Americans--and this is the interest which I just now
said that his compatriots would find in his very limitations. I do not
mean by this that there are not still many of his fellow-countrymen
(as there are many natives of every land under the sun,) who are more
susceptible of being irritated than of being soothed by the influences
of the Eternal City. What I mean is that an American of equal value
with Hawthorne, an American of equal genius, imagination, and, as our
forefathers said, sensibility, would at present inevitably accommodate
himself more easily to the idiosyncrasies of foreign lands. An
American as cultivated as Hawthorne, is now almost inevitably more
cultivated, and, as a matter of course, more Europeanised in advance,
more cosmopolitan. It is very possible that in becoming so, he has
lost something of his occidental savour, the quality which excites the
goodwill of the American reader of our author's Journals for the
dislocated, depressed, even slightly bewildered diarist. Absolutely
the last of the earlier race of Americans Hawthorne was, fortunately,
probably far from being. But I think of him as the last specimen of
the more primitive type of men of letters; and when it comes to
measuring what he succeeded in being, in his unadulterated form,
against what he failed of being, the positive side of the image quite
extinguishes the negative. I must be on my guard, however, against
incurring the charge of cherishing a national consciousness as acute
as I have ventured to pronounce his own.

Out of his mingled sensations, his pleasure and his weariness, his
discomforts and his reveries, there sprang another beautiful work.
During the summer of 1858, he hired a picturesque old villa on the
hill of Bellosguardo, near Florence, a curious structure with a
crenelated tower, which, after having in the course of its career
suffered many vicissitudes and played many parts, now finds its most
vivid identity in being pointed out to strangers as the sometime
residence of the celebrated American romancer. Hawthorne took a fancy
to the place, as well he might, for it is one of the loveliest spots
on earth, and the great view that stretched itself before him contains
every element of beauty. Florence lay at his feet with her memories
and treasures; the olive-covered hills bloomed around him, studded
with villas as picturesque as his own; the Apennines, perfect in form
and colour, disposed themselves opposite, and in the distance, along
its fertile valley, the Arno wandered to Pisa and the sea. Soon after
coming hither he wrote to a friend in a strain of high satisfaction:--

     "It is pleasant to feel at last that I am really away from
     America--a satisfaction that I never really enjoyed as long
     as I stayed in Liverpool, where it seemed to be that the
     quintessence of nasal and hand-shaking Yankeedom was
     gradually filtered and sublimated through my consulate, on
     the way outward and homeward. I first got acquainted with my
     own countrymen there. At Rome too it was not much better.
     But here in Florence, and in the summer-time, and in this
     secluded villa, I have escaped out of all my old tracks,
     and am really remote. I like my present residence
     immensely. The house stands on a hill, overlooking Florence,
     and is big enough to quarter a regiment, insomuch that each
     member of the family, including servants, has a separate
     suite of apartments, and there are vast wildernesses of
     upper rooms into which we have never yet sent exploring
     expeditions. At one end of the house there is a moss-grown
     tower, haunted by owls and by the ghost of a monk who was
     confined there in the thirteenth century, previous to being
     burnt at the stake in the principal square of Florence. I
     hire this villa, tower and all, at twenty-eight dollars a
     month; but I mean to take it away bodily and clap it into a
     romance, which I have in my head, ready to be written out."

This romance was _Transformation_, which he wrote out during the
following winter in Rome, and re-wrote during the several months that
he spent in England, chiefly at Leamington, before returning to
America. The Villa Montauto figures, in fact, in this tale as the
castle of Monte-Beni, the patrimonial dwelling of the hero. "I take
some credit to myself," he wrote to the same friend, on returning to
Rome, "for having sternly shut myself up for an hour or two every day,
and come to close grips with a romance which I have been trying to
tear out of my mind." And later in the same winter he says--"I shall
go home, I fear, with a heavy heart, not expecting to be very well
contented there.... If I were but a hundred times richer than I am,
how very comfortable I could be! I consider it a great piece of good
fortune that I have had experience of the discomforts and miseries of
Italy, and did not go directly home from England. Anything will seem
like a Paradise after a Roman winter." But he got away at last, late
in the spring, carrying his novel with him, and the book was
published, after, as I say, he had worked it over, mainly during some
weeks that he passed at the little watering-place of Redcar, on the
Yorkshire coast, in February of the following year. It was issued
primarily in England; the American edition immediately followed. It is
an odd fact that in the two countries the book came out under
different titles. The title that the author had bestowed upon it did
not satisfy the English publishers, who requested him to provide it
with another; so that it is only in America that the work bears the
name of _The Marble Fawn_. Hawthorne's choice of this appellation is,
by the way, rather singular, for it completely fails to characterise
the story, the subject of which is the living faun, the faun of flesh
and blood, the unfortunate Donatello. His marble counterpart is
mentioned only in the opening chapter. On the other hand Hawthorne
complained that _Transformation_ "gives one the idea of Harlequin in a
pantomime." Under either name, however, the book was a great success,
and it has probably become the most popular of Hawthorne's four
novels. It is part of the intellectual equipment of the Anglo-Saxon
visitor to Rome, and is read by every English-speaking traveller who
arrives there, who has been there, or who expects to go.

It has a great deal of beauty, of interest and grace; but it has to my
sense a slighter value than its companions, and I am far from
regarding it as the masterpiece of the author, a position to which we
sometimes hear it assigned. The subject is admirable, and so are many
of the details; but the whole thing is less simple and complete than
either of the three tales of American life, and Hawthorne forfeited a
precious advantage in ceasing to tread his native soil. Half the
virtue of _The Scarlet Letter_ and _The House of the Seven Gables_ is
in their local quality; they are impregnated with the New England air.
It is very true that Hawthorne had no pretension to pourtray
actualities and to cultivate that literal exactitude which is now the
fashion. Had this been the case, he would probably have made a still
graver mistake in transporting the scene of his story to a country
which he knew only superficially. His tales all go on more or less "in
the vague," as the French say, and of course the vague may as well be
placed in Tuscany as in Massachusetts. It may also very well be urged
in Hawthorne's favour here, that in _Transformation_ he has attempted
to deal with actualities more than he did in either of his earlier
novels. He has described the streets and monuments of Rome with a
closeness which forms no part of his reference to those of Boston and
Salem. But for all this he incurs that penalty of seeming factitious
and unauthoritative, which is always the result of an artist's attempt
to project himself into an atmosphere in which he has not a
transmitted and inherited property. An English or a German writer (I
put poets aside) may love Italy well enough, and know her well enough,
to write delightful fictions about her; the thing has often been done.
But the productions in question will, as novels, always have about
them something second-rate and imperfect. There is in _Transformation_
enough beautiful perception of the interesting character of Rome,
enough rich and eloquent expression of it, to save the book, if the
book could be saved; but the style, what the French call the _genre_,
is an inferior one, and the thing remains a charming romance with
intrinsic weaknesses.

Allowing for this, however, some of the finest pages in all Hawthorne
are to be found in it. The subject, as I have said, is a particularly
happy one, and there is a great deal of interest in the simple
combination and opposition of the four actors. It is noticeable that
in spite of the considerable length of the story, there are no
accessory figures; Donatello and Miriam, Kenyon and Hilda, exclusively
occupy the scene. This is the more noticeable as the scene is very
large, and the great Roman background is constantly presented to us.
The relations of these four people are full of that moral
picturesqueness which Hawthorne was always looking for; he found it in
perfection in the history of Donatello. As I have said, the novel is
the most popular of his works, and every one will remember the figure
of the simple, joyous, sensuous young Italian, who is not so much a
man as a child, and not so much a child as a charming, innocent
animal, and how he is brought to self-knowledge and to a miserable
conscious manhood, by the commission of a crime. Donatello is rather
vague and impalpable; he says too little in the book, shows himself
too little, and falls short, I think, of being a creation. But he is
enough of a creation to make us enter into the situation, and the
whole history of his rise, or fall, whichever one chooses to call
it--his tasting of the tree of knowledge and finding existence
complicated with a regret--is unfolded with a thousand ingenious and
exquisite touches. Of course, to make the interest complete, there is
a woman in the affair, and Hawthorne has done few things more
beautiful than the picture of the unequal complicity of guilt between
his immature and dimly-puzzled hero, with his clinging, unquestioning,
unexacting devotion, and the dark, powerful, more widely-seeing
feminine nature of Miriam. Deeply touching is the representation of
the manner in which these two essentially different persons--the woman
intelligent, passionate, acquainted with life, and with a tragic
element in her own career; the youth ignorant, gentle, unworldly,
brightly and harmlessly natural--are equalised and bound together by
their common secret, which insulates them, morally, from the rest of
mankind. The character of Hilda has always struck me as an admirable
invention--one of those things that mark the man of genius. It needed
a man of genius and of Hawthorne's imaginative delicacy, to feel the
propriety of such a figure as Hilda's and to perceive the relief it
would both give and borrow. This pure and somewhat rigid New England
girl, following the vocation of a copyist of pictures in Rome,
unacquainted with evil and untouched by impurity, has been
accidentally the witness, unknown and unsuspected, of the dark deed by
which her friends, Miriam and Donatello, are knit together. This is
_her_ revelation of evil, her loss of perfect innocence. She has done
no wrong, and yet wrongdoing has become a part of her experience, and
she carries the weight of her detested knowledge upon her heart. She
carries it a long time, saddened and oppressed by it, till at last she
can bear it no longer. If I have called the whole idea of the presence
and effect of Hilda in the story a trait of genius, the purest touch
of inspiration is the episode in which the poor girl deposits her
burden. She has passed the whole lonely summer in Rome, and one day,
at the end of it, finding herself in St. Peter's, she enters a
confessional, strenuous daughter of the Puritans as she is, and pours
out her dark knowledge into the bosom of the Church--then comes away
with her conscience lightened, not a whit the less a Puritan than
before. If the book contained nothing else noteworthy but this
admirable scene, and the pages describing the murder committed by
Donatello under Miriam's eyes, and the ecstatic wandering, afterwards,
of the guilty couple, through the "blood-stained streets of Rome," it
would still deserve to rank high among the imaginative productions of
our day.

Like all of Hawthorne's things, it contains a great many light threads
of symbolism, which shimmer in the texture of the tale, but which are
apt to break and remain in our fingers if we attempt to handle them.
These things are part of Hawthorne's very manner--almost, as one might
say, of his vocabulary; they belong much more to the surface of his
work than to its stronger interest. The fault of _Transformation_ is
that the element of the unreal is pushed too far, and that the book is
neither positively of one category nor of another. His "moonshiny
romance," he calls it in a letter; and, in truth, the lunar element is
a little too pervasive. The action wavers between the streets of Rome,
whose literal features the author perpetually sketches, and a vague
realm of fancy, in which quite a different verisimilitude prevails.
This is the trouble with Donatello himself. His companions are
intended to be real--if they fail to be so, it is not for want of
intention; whereas he is intended to be real or not, as you please. He
is of a different substance from them; it is as if a painter, in
composing a picture, should try to give you an impression of one of
his figures by a strain of music. The idea of the modern faun was a
charming one; but I think it a pity that the author should not have
made him more definitely modern, without reverting so much to his
mythological properties and antecedents, which are very gracefully
touched upon, but which belong to the region of picturesque conceits,
much more than to that of real psychology. Among the young Italians of
to-day there are still plenty of models for such an image as Hawthorne
appears to have wished to present in the easy and natural Donatello.
And since I am speaking critically, I may go on to say that the art of
narration, in _Transformation_, seems to me more at fault than in the
author's other novels. The story straggles and wanders, is dropped and
taken up again, and towards the close lapses into an almost fatal
vagueness.

       *       *       *       *       *




CHAPTER VII.

LAST YEARS.


Of the four last years of Hawthorne's life there is not much to tell
that I have not already told. He returned to America in the summer of
1860, and took up his abode in the house he had bought at Concord
before going to Europe, and of which his occupancy had as yet been
brief. He was to occupy it only four years. I have insisted upon the
fact of his being an intense American, and of his looking at all
things, during his residence in Europe, from the standpoint of that
little clod of western earth which he carried about with him as the
good Mohammedan carries the strip of carpet on which he kneels down to
face towards Mecca. But it does not appear, nevertheless, that he
found himself treading with any great exhilaration the larger section
of his native soil upon which, on his return, he disembarked. Indeed,
the closing part of his life was a period of dejection, the more acute
that it followed directly upon seven years of the happiest
opportunities he was to have known. And his European residence had
been brightest at the last; he had broken almost completely with those
habits of extreme seclusion into which he was to relapse on his return
to Concord. "You would be stricken dumb," he wrote from London,
shortly before leaving it for the last time, "to see how quietly I
accept a whole string of invitations, and, what is more, perform my
engagements without a murmur.... The stir of this London life, somehow
or other," he adds in the same letter, "has done me a wonderful deal
of good, and I feel better than for months past. This is strange, for
if I had my choice I should leave undone almost all the things I do."
"When he found himself once more on the old ground," writes Mr.
Lathrop, "with the old struggle for subsistence staring him in the
face again, it is not difficult to conceive how a certain degree of
depression would follow." There is indeed not a little sadness in the
thought of Hawthorne's literary gift, light, delicate, exquisite,
capricious, never too abundant, being charged with the heavy burden of
the maintenance of a family. We feel that it was not intended for such
grossness, and that in a world ideally constituted he would have
enjoyed a liberal pension, an assured subsistence, and have been able
to produce his charming prose only when the fancy took him.

The brightness of the outlook at home was not made greater by the
explosion of the Civil War in the spring of 1861. These months, and
the three years that followed them, were not a cheerful time for any
persons but army-contractors; but over Hawthorne the war-cloud appears
to have dropped a permanent shadow. The whole affair was a bitter
disappointment to him, and a fatal blow to that happy faith in the
uninterruptedness of American prosperity which I have spoken of as the
religion of the old-fashioned American in general, and the
old-fashioned Democrat in particular. It was not a propitious time for
cultivating the Muse; when history herself is so hard at work,
fiction has little left to say. To fiction, directly, Hawthorne did
not address himself; he composed first, chiefly during the year 1862,
the chapters of which our _Our Old Home_ was afterwards made up. I
have said that, though this work has less value than his purely
imaginative things, the writing is singularly good, and it is well to
remember, to its greater honour, that it was produced at a time when
it was painfully hard for a man of Hawthorne's cast of mind to fix his
attention. The air was full of battle-smoke, and the poet's vision was
not easily clear. Hawthorne was irritated, too, by the sense of being
to a certain extent, politically considered, in a false position. A
large section of the Democratic party was not in good odour at the
North; its loyalty was not perceived to be of that clear strain which
public opinion required. To this wing of the party Franklin Pierce
had, with reason or without, the credit of belonging; and our author
was conscious of some sharpness of responsibility in defending the
illustrious friend of whom he had already made himself the advocate.
He defended him manfully, without a grain of concession, and described
the ex-President to the public (and to himself), if not as he was,
then as he ought to be. _Our Old Home_ is dedicated to him, and about
this dedication there was some little difficulty. It was represented
to Hawthorne that as General Pierce was rather out of fashion, it
might injure the success, and, in plain terms, the sale of his book.
His answer (to his publisher), was much to the point.

     "I find that it would be a piece of poltroonery in me to
     withdraw either the dedication or the dedicatory letter. My
     long and intimate personal relations with Pierce render the
     dedication altogether proper, especially as regards this
     book, which would have had no existence without his
     kindness; and if he is so exceedingly unpopular that his
     name ought to sink the volume, there is so much the more
     need that an old friend should stand by him. I cannot,
     merely on account of pecuniary profit or literary
     reputation, go back from what I have deliberately felt and
     thought it right to do; and if I were to tear out the
     dedication I should never look at the volume again without
     remorse and shame. As for the literary public, it must
     accept my book precisely as I think fit to give it, or let
     it alone. Nevertheless I have no fancy for making myself a
     martyr when it is honourably and conscientiously possible to
     avoid it; and I always measure out heroism very accurately
     according to the exigencies of the occasion, and should be
     the last man in the world to throw away a bit of it
     needlessly. So I have looked over the concluding paragraph
     and have amended it in such a way that, while doing what I
     know to be justice to my friend, it contains not a word that
     ought to be objectionable to any set of readers. If the
     public of the North see fit to ostracise me for this, I can
     only say that I would gladly sacrifice a thousand or two
     dollars, rather than retain the goodwill of such a herd of
     dolts and mean-spirited scoundrels."

The dedication was published, the book was eminently successful, and
Hawthorne was not ostracised. The paragraph under discussion stands as
follows:--"Only this let me say, that, with the record of your life in
my memory, and with a sense of your character in my deeper
consciousness, as among the few things that time has left as it found
them, I need no assurance that you continue faithful for ever to that
grand idea of an irrevocable Union which, as you once told me, was the
earliest that your brave father taught you. For other men there may be
a choice of paths--for you but one; and it rests among my certainties
that no man's loyalty is more steadfast, no man's hopes or
apprehensions on behalf of our national existence more deeply
heartfelt, or more closely intertwined with his possibilities of
personal happiness, than those of Franklin Pierce." I know not how
well the ex-President liked these lines, but the public thought them
admirable, for they served as a kind of formal profession of faith, on
the question of the hour, by a loved and honoured writer. That some of
his friends thought such a profession needed is apparent from the
numerous editorial ejaculations and protests appended to an article
describing a visit he had just paid to Washington, which Hawthorne
contributed to the _Atlantic Monthly_ for July, 1862, and which,
singularly enough, has not been reprinted. The article has all the
usual merit of such sketches on Hawthorne's part--the merit of
delicate, sportive feeling, expressed with consummate grace--but the
editor of the periodical appears to have thought that he must give the
antidote with the poison, and the paper is accompanied with several
little notes disclaiming all sympathy with the writer's political
heresies. The heresies strike the reader of to-day as extremely mild,
and what excites his emotion, rather, is the questionable taste of the
editorial commentary, with which it is strange that Hawthorne should
have allowed his article to be encumbered. He had not been an
Abolitionist before the War, and that he should not pretend to be one
at the eleventh hour, was, for instance, surely a piece of consistency
that might have been allowed to pass. "I shall not pretend to be an
admirer of old John Brown," he says, in a page worth quoting, "any
further than sympathy with Whittier's excellent ballad about him may
go; nor did I expect ever to shrink so unutterably from any
apophthegm of a sage whose happy lips have uttered a hundred golden
sentences"--the allusion here, I suppose, is to Mr. Emerson--"as from
that saying (perhaps falsely attributed to so honoured a name), that
the death of this blood-stained fanatic has 'made the Gallows as
venerable as the Cross!' Nobody was ever more justly hanged. He won
his martyrdom fairly, and took it fairly. He himself, I am persuaded
(such was his natural integrity), would have acknowledged that
Virginia had a right to take the life which he had staked and lost;
although it would have been better for her, in the hour that is fast
coming, if she could generously have forgotten the criminality of his
attempt in its enormous folly. On the other hand, any common-sensible
man, looking at the matter unsentimentally, must have felt a certain
intellectual satisfaction in seeing him hanged, if it were only in
requital of his preposterous miscalculation of possibilities." Now
that the heat of that great conflict has passed away, this is a
capital expression of the saner estimate, in the United States, of the
dauntless and deluded old man who proposed to solve a complex
political problem by stirring up a servile insurrection. There is much
of the same sound sense, interfused with light, just appreciable
irony, in such a passage as the following:--

     "I tried to imagine how very disagreeable the presence of a
     Southern army would be in a sober town of Massachusetts; and
     the thought considerably lessened my wonder at the cold and
     shy regards that are cast upon our troops, the gloom, the
     sullen demeanour, the declared, or scarcely hidden, sympathy
     with rebellion, which are so frequent here. It is a strange
     thing in human life that the greatest errors both of men
     and women often spring from their sweetest and most generous
     qualities; and so, undoubtedly, thousands of warmhearted,
     generous, and impulsive persons have joined the Rebels, not
     from any real zeal for the cause, but because, between two
     conflicting loyalties, they chose that which necessarily lay
     nearest the heart. There never existed any other Government
     against which treason was so easy, and could defend itself
     by such plausible arguments, as against that of the United
     States. The anomaly of two allegiances, (of which that of
     the State comes nearest home to a man's feelings, and
     includes the altar and the hearth, while the General
     Government claims his devotion only to an airy mode of law,
     and has no symbol but a flag,) is exceedingly mischievous in
     this point of view; for it has converted crowds of honest
     people into traitors, who seem to themselves not merely
     innocent but patriotic, and who die for a bad cause with a
     quiet conscience as if it were the best. In the vast extent
     of our country--too vast by far to be taken into one small
     human heart--we inevitably limit to our own State, or at
     farthest, to our own little section, that sentiment of
     physical love for the soil which renders an Englishman, for
     example, so intensely sensitive to the dignity and
     well-being of his little island, that one hostile foot,
     treading anywhere upon it, would make a bruise on each
     individual breast. If a man loves his own State, therefore,
     and is content to be ruined with her, let us shoot him, if
     we can, but allow him an honourable burial in the soil he
     fights for."

To this paragraph a line of deprecation from the editor is attached;
and indeed from the point of view of a vigorous prosecution of the war
it was doubtless not particularly pertinent. But it is interesting as
an example of the way an imaginative man judges current events--trying
to see the other side as well as his own, to feel what his adversary
feels, and present his view of the case.

But he had other occupations for his imagination than putting himself
into the shoes of unappreciative Southerners. He began at this time
two novels, neither of which he lived to finish, but both of which
were published, as fragments, after his death. The shorter of these
fragments, to which he had given the name of _The Dolliver Romance_,
is so very brief that little can be said of it. The author strikes,
with all his usual sweetness, the opening notes of a story of New
England life, and the few pages which have been given to the world
contain a charming picture of an old man and a child.

The other rough sketch--it is hardly more--is in a manner complete; it
was unfortunately deemed complete enough to be brought out in a
magazine as a serial novel. This was to do it a great wrong, and I do
not go too far in saying that poor Hawthorne would probably not have
enjoyed the very bright light that has been projected upon this
essentially crude piece of work. I am at a loss to know how to speak
of _Septimius Felton, or the Elixir of Life_; I have purposely
reserved but a small space for doing so, for the part of discretion
seems to be to pass it by lightly. I differ therefore widely from the
author's biographer and son-in-law in thinking it a work of the
greatest weight and value, offering striking analogies with Goethe's
_Faust_; and still more widely from a critic whom Mr. Lathrop quotes,
who regards a certain portion of it as "one of the very greatest
triumphs in all literature." It seems to me almost cruel to pitch in
this exalted key one's estimate of the rough first draught of a tale
in regard to which the author's premature death operates, virtually,
as a complete renunciation of pretensions. It is plain to any reader
that _Septimius Felton_, as it stands, with its roughness, its gaps,
its mere allusiveness and slightness of treatment, gives us but a
very partial measure of Hawthorne's full intention; and it is equally
easy to believe that this intention was much finer than anything we
find in the book. Even if we possessed the novel in its complete form,
however, I incline to think that we should regard it as very much the
weakest of Hawthorne's productions. The idea itself seems a failure,
and the best that might have come of it would have been very much
below _The Scarlet Letter_ or _The House of the Seven Gables_. The
appeal to our interest is not felicitously made, and the fancy of a
potion, to assure eternity of existence, being made from the flowers
which spring from the grave of a man whom the distiller of the potion
has deprived of life, though it might figure with advantage in a short
story of the pattern of the _Twice-Told Tales_, appears too slender to
carry the weight of a novel. Indeed, this whole matter of elixirs and
potions belongs to the fairy-tale period of taste, and the idea of a
young man enabling himself to live forever by concocting and imbibing
a magic draught, has the misfortune of not appealing to our sense of
reality or even to our sympathy. The weakness of _Septimius Felton_ is
that the reader cannot take the hero seriously--a fact of which there
can be no better proof than the element of the ridiculous which
inevitably mingles itself in the scene in which he entertains his
lady-love with a prophetic sketch of his occupations during the
successive centuries of his earthly immortality. I suppose the answer
to my criticism is that this is allegorical, symbolic, ideal; but we
feel that it symbolises nothing substantial, and that the
truth--whatever it may be--that it illustrates, is as moonshiny, to
use Hawthorne's own expression, as the allegory itself. Another fault
of the story is that a great historical event--the war of the
Revolution--is introduced in the first few pages, in order to supply
the hero with a pretext for killing the young man from whose grave the
flower of immortality is to sprout, and then drops out of the
narrative altogether, not even forming a background to the sequel. It
seems to me that Hawthorne should either have invented some other
occasion for the death of his young officer, or else, having struck
the note of the great public agitation which overhung his little group
of characters, have been careful to sound it through the rest of his
tale. I do wrong, however, to insist upon these things, for I fall
thereby into the error of treating the work as if it had been cast
into its ultimate form and acknowledged by the author. To avoid this
error I shall make no other criticism of details, but content myself
with saying that the idea and intention of the book appear, relatively
speaking, feeble, and that even had it been finished it would have
occupied a very different place in the public esteem from the writer's
masterpieces.

The year 1864 brought with it for Hawthorne a sense of weakness and
depression from which he had little relief during the four or five
months that were left him of life. He had his engagement to produce
_The Dolliver Romance_, which had been promised to the subscribers of
the _Atlantic Monthly_ (it was the first time he had undertaken to
publish a work of fiction in monthly parts), but he was unable to
write, and his consciousness of an unperformed task weighed upon him,
and did little to dissipate his physical inertness. "I have not yet
had courage to read the Dolliver proof-sheet," he wrote to his
publisher in December, 1863; "but will set about it soon, though with
terrible reluctance, such as I never felt before. I am most grateful
to you," he went on, "for protecting me from that visitation of the
elephant and his cub. If you happen to see Mr.----, of L----, a young
man who was here last summer, pray tell him anything that your
conscience will let you, to induce him to spare me another visit,
which I know he intended. I really am not well, and cannot be
disturbed by strangers, without more suffering than it is worth while
to endure." A month later he was obliged to ask for a further
postponement. "I am not quite up to writing yet, but shall make an
effort as soon as I see any hope of success. You ought to be thankful
that (like most other broken-down authors) I do not pester you with
decrepit pages, and insist upon your accepting them as full of the old
spirit and vigour. That trouble perhaps still awaits you, after I
shall have reached a further stage of decay. Seriously, my mind has,
for the time, lost its temper and its fine edge, and I have an
instinct that I had better keep quiet. Perhaps I shall have a new
spirit of vigour if I wait quietly for it; perhaps not." The winter
passed away, but the "new spirit of vigour" remained absent, and at
the end of February he wrote to Mr. Fields that his novel had simply
broken down, and that he should never finish it. "I hardly know what
to say to the public about this abortive romance, though I know pretty
well what the case will be. I shall never finish it. Yet it is not
quite pleasant for an author to announce himself, or to be announced,
as finally broken down as to his literary faculty.... I cannot finish
it unless a great change comes over me; and if I make too great an
effort to do so, it will be my death; not that I should care much for
that, if I could fight the battle through and win it, thus ending a
life of much smoulder and a scanty fire, in a blaze of glory. But I
should smother myself in mud of my own making.... I am not
low-spirited, nor fanciful, nor freakish, but look what seem to me
realities in the face, and am ready to take whatever may come. If I
could but go to England now, I think that the sea-voyage and the 'old
Home' might set me all right."

But he was not to go to England; he started three months later upon a
briefer journey, from which he never returned. His health was
seriously disordered, and in April, according to a letter from Mrs.
Hawthorne, printed by Mr. Fields, he had been "miserably ill." His
feebleness was complete; he appears to have had no definite malady,
but he was, according to the common phrase, failing. General Pierce
proposed to him that they should make a little tour together among the
mountains of New Hampshire, and Hawthorne consented, in the hope of
getting some profit from the change of air. The northern New England
spring is not the most genial season in the world, and this was an
indifferent substitute for the resource for which his wife had, on his
behalf, expressed a wish--a visit to "some island in the Gulf Stream."
He was not to go far; he only reached a little place called Plymouth,
one of the stations of approach to the beautiful mountain scenery of
New Hampshire, when, on the 18th of May, 1864, death overtook him. His
companion, General Pierce, going into his room in the early morning,
found that he had breathed his last during the night--had passed away,
tranquilly, comfortably, without a sign or a sound, in his sleep. This
happened at the hotel of the place--a vast white edifice, adjacent to
the railway station, and entitled the Pemigiwasset House. He was
buried at Concord, and many of the most distinguished men in the
country stood by his grave.

He was a beautiful, natural, original genius, and his life had been
singularly exempt from worldly preoccupations and vulgar efforts. It
had been as pure, as simple, as unsophisticated, as his work. He had
lived primarily in his domestic affections, which were of the
tenderest kind; and then--without eagerness, without pretension, but
with a great deal of quiet devotion--in his charming art. His work
will remain; it is too original and exquisite to pass away; among the
men of imagination he will always have his niche. No one has had just
that vision of life, and no one has had a literary form that more
successfully expressed his vision. He was not a moralist, and he was
not simply a poet. The moralists are weightier, denser, richer, in a
sense; the poets are more purely inconclusive and irresponsible. He
combined in a singular degree the spontaneity of the imagination with
a haunting care for moral problems. Man's conscience was his theme,
but he saw it in the light of a creative fancy which added, out of its
own substance, an interest, and, I may almost say, an importance.

THE END.

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Colophon

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