Nathaniel Hawthorne/Chapter 2
THE CHAMBER UNDER THE EAVES.
In the summer of 1825 Hawthorne returned to Salem, going back to the old house on Herbert Street,—the home of his childhood, where his mother, disregarding his boyish dissuasions, had again taken up her abode three years before. He occupied a room on the second floor in the southwest sunshine under the eaves, looking out on the business of the wharf-streets; and in it he spent the next twelve years, a period which remained in his memory as an unbroken tract of time preserving a peculiar character. The way of his life knew little variation from the beginning to the end. He lived in an intellectual solitude deepened by the fact that it was only an inner cell of an outward seclusion almost as complete, for the house had the habits of a hermitage. His mother, after nearly a score of years of widowhood, still maintained her separation even from her home world; she is said to have seen none of her husband's relatives and few of her own, and a visitor must have been a venturesome person. The custom of living apart spread through the household. The elder sister, Elizabeth, who was of a strong and active mind capable of understanding and sympathizing with her brother, and the younger sister, Louisa, who was more like other people, stayed in their rooms. The meals of the family, even, which usually go on when everything else fails in the common life of house-mates, had an uncertain and variable element in their conduct, as was not unnatural where the mother never came to the table. The recluse habits of all doubtless increased with indulgence, and after a while Hawthorne himself, who was plainly the centre of interest there, fell into the common ways of isolation. "He had little communication," writes Mr. Lathrop, "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, as might be imagined from the picture which Mr. Fields draws of the young author reciting his new productions to his listening family; though, when they met, he sometimes read older literature to them. 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!'" He seldom went out by day, unless for long excursions in the country; an early sea bath on summer mornings and a dark walk after supper, longer in the warm weather, shorter in the winter season, were habitual, and a bowl of thick chocolate with bread crumbed into it, or a plate of fruit, on his return prepared him for the night's work. Study in the morning, composition in the afternoon, and reading in the evening, are described as his routine, but it is unlikely that any such regularity ruled where times and seasons were so much at his own command. He had no visitors and made no friends; hardly twenty persons in the town, he thought, were aware of his existence; but he brought home hundreds of volumes from the Salem Athenaeum, and knew the paths of the woods and pastures and the way along the beaches and rocky points, and he had the stuff of his fantasy with which to occupy himself when nature and books failed to satisfy him. At first there must have been great pleasure in being at home, for he had not really lived a home life since he was fifteen years old, and he was fond of home; and, too, in the young ambition to become a writer and his efforts to achieve success, if not fame, in fiction, and in the first motions of his creative genius, there was enough to fill his mind, to provide him with active interest and occupation, and to abate the sense of loneliness in his daily circumstances: but as youth passed and manhood came, and yet fortune lagged with her gifts, this existence became insufficient for him,—it grew burdensome as it showed barren, and depression set in upon him like a chill and obscure fog over the marshes where he walked. This, however, year dragging after year, was a slow process; and the kind of life he led, its gray and deadening monotone, sympathetic though it was with his temperament, was seen by him better in retrospect than in its own time.
It is singular that Hawthorne should have undertaken to live by his pen, or been allowed to do so by his friends, as a practical way of life, but he was indulged at home, the young lord of the family. "We were in those days," says Elizabeth, "almost absolutely obedient to him." Occasionally he thought of going into his uncle's counting-room and so obtaining a business and place in the world, but he never took this step. He probably drifted, more or less, into authorship, partly through a dilatory reluctance to do anything else, and partly led on by the hope of a success with some one of his tales which would justify him.
The first attempts he made in the craft are involved in some obscurity. He may have merely carried over from college days what he then had in hand. At all events his sister Elizabeth, from whom the information comes in respect to these details, remembered a little collection which he had prepared for publication with the title "Seven Tales of my Native Land," and she says that she read it in the summer of 1825; in that case these stories must have been written at college, but her memory may have erred. She gives the names of two of them as "Alice Doane" and "Susan Grey," and adds that he told her, while the volume was still in the stage of being offered to publishers, that he would first "write a story which would make a smaller book, and get it published immediately if possible, before the arrangements for bringing out the 'Tales' were completed." This was presumably "Fanshawe," which may also have been the novel she recollected his writing to her about while at college.
"Fanshawe"  was published in 1828 by Marsh and Capen, at Boston, without the author's name but at his expense, one hundred dollars being the sum paid; it failed, and Hawthorne looked on it with so much subsequent displeasure that he called in all the copies he could find and destroyed them, and thus nearly succeeded in sinking the book in oblivion, but the few copies which survived secured its republication after his death. The novel is brief, with a melodramatic plot, well-marked scenes, and strongly contrasted character; the style flows on pleasantly; but the book is without distinction. Like many a just graduated collegian, Hawthorne had recourse to his academic experience in lieu of anything else, and in the setting of the story and some of its delineation of character Longfellow recognized the strong suggestion of Bowdoin days; in the same way the hero, Fanshawe, borrowed something from Hawthorne's own temperament. The figure of the villain, too, adumbrates, though faintly, the type which engaged Hawthorne's mind in later years. "Fanshawe" as a whole in all its scenes, whether in the house of the old President, the tavern, the hut, or the outdoor encounters of the lovers and rivals, is strongly reminiscent of Scott, the management being entirely in his manner; its low-life tragedy, its romantic scenery, and its bookish humor, as well as the characterization in general, are also from Scott; in fact, notwithstanding what Hawthorne had taken from his own observation and feelings, this provincial sketch, for it is no more, is a Scott story, done with a young man's clever mastery of the manner, but weak internally in plot, character, and dramatic reality. It is as destitute of any brilliant markings of his genius as his undergraduate life itself had been, and is important only as showing the serious care with which he undertook the task of authorship. It is the only relic, except the shadowy "Seven Tales," of his literary work in the first three years after leaving college. The "Tales" he is said to have burned; no better publisher appearing, a young Salem printer, Ferdinand Andrews, undertook to bring them out, but as he delayed the matter through lack of capital, Hawthorne, growing impatient and exasperated, recalled the manuscript and destroyed it.
The example of Scott was, perhaps, the potent influence in fixing Hawthorne's attention on a definite object, and incited him to seek in the history of his own country, and especially in the colonial tradition of New England, which was so near at hand, the field of fiction. He stored his mind, certainly, with the story of his own people during the two centuries since the settlement, and prepared himself to describe its stirring events and striking characters under the veil of imaginative history. The nature of his reading shows that this was a conscious aim; and, besides, it was an opinion, loudly proclaimed and widely shared in that decade, that American writers should look to their own country for their themes; Cooper was doing so in fiction, and Longfellow felt this predilection in his choice of subject for verse. Salem was a true centre of the old times; and a young imagination in that town and neighborhood, already disposed to writing prose romance, would feel the charm of historical association and naturally catch impulse from the past, especially if, as in the case of Hawthorne, the history of his ancestors was inwoven with its good and evil. It is not surprising therefore that, as Hawthorne had begun, though unsuccessfully, with tales of his native land, he should continue to work the vein; and, to adopt what seems to be a reasonable inference, he now gathered from his materials a new series which he knew as "Provincial Tales," in which it remains doubtful how much of the old survived, for the burnt manuscripts of youth have something of the phoenix in their ashes.
The first trace of these is "The Young Provincial," Provincial," an anonymous piece, ascribed to him on internal evidence and contributed to "The Token," an annual published at Boston, for its issue of 1830. The story relates the adventures of a youthful Revolutionary soldier who had handed down to his descendants a "grandfather's gun;" it tells of Bunker Hill, of imprisonment at Halifax and of escape, and it may be from Hawthorne's pen. It must have been written early in 1829, if not before, and it is noticed in the review of "The Token" in Willis's Boston periodical, "The American Monthly Magazine" for September, 1829, where it is described as a "pleasing story, told quite inartificially," and is illustrated by a brief extract. It may not be irrelevant to observe that a similar "provincial tale" appeared in this number of the magazine, "The Downer's Banner," and if it was not by the same youthful author, it shows that the same kind of subject had singularly interested two writers in that neighborhood. It is, however, only in "The Token" that Hawthorne can be further traced.
The editor of this annual, which was intended as a literary gift-book for Christmas, was S. G. Goodrich, famous as "Peter Parley" in after days, and to him belongs the honor of being Hawthorne's first literary friend, and he always remained a faithful one. He was a promoter of publishers' enterprises, in that part of the field of literature which is distinctly pervaded with business; and in it he was successful, as the millions of the Peter Parley books abundantly attest. At this time he was sincerely interested, it must be believed, in furthering the interests of American writers and artists, according to his lights and means, and Griswold, who was a good judge, said of him, "It is questionable whether any other person has done as much to improve the style of the book manufacture or to promote the arts of engraving." With such ambitions he had begun, in 1828, the issue of the annual, which is now best remembered, and which in its own day longest survived the changes of public taste. The nature of these volumes, of which there were many in different publishing centres, is well described by a writer in Willis's "Magazine" for 1829: "A few years ago, an elegant taste, joined, perhaps, to a love of 'filthy lucre,' induced some English publishers to give to the world the first specimens of those souvenirs and 'Forget Me Nots' which are now so common through our country. How beautiful they were at their first appearance, the eagerness with which they were read will testify. How rapid was their increase, may be seen by referring to the counters of every book-store. America, ready and willing as she ever is to acknowledge the excellence, and imitate the example of the parent country in every good thing, has imitated and improved upon the plan. We can now boast of a species of literature, which is conducted almost wholly by young men, and which has merited the affection, because it has developed the power of our native genius. Those who have made their first essays in literature, through the medium of the pages of a Souvenir, will gain confidence in proportion as they have tested their own strength. The American annuals do not profess to be the works of the most finished or most accomplished writers of this country. They should not be taken as specimens of what our literature is, but as indications of what it may one day be. They are not the matured fruits, but the bright promise and blossoming of genius; and thus far they have been an honor to the taste and talent of American writers, and monuments of the swift progress of our artists towards excellence in their profession."
Such was the contemporary view of the annuals, and it is justified, perhaps, by the fact that Longfellow, for example, was then contributing to the "Atlantic Souvenir" of Philadelphia, the first of the brood, and that Hawthorne found in "The Token" the principal opportunity to obtain a hearing for himself in his first productive years.
Mr. Goodrich, in his "Recollections," states that he sought out Hawthorne. "I had seen," he says, "some anonymous publications which seemed to me to indicate extraordinary powers. I inquired of the publishers as to the writer, and through them a correspondence ensued between me and 'N. Hawthorne.' This name I considered a disguise, and it was not till after many letters had passed, that I met the author, and found it to be a true title, representing a very substantial personage." This correspondence began, as nearly as can be judged, in 1829, and in the course of it Hawthorne had already sent to Goodrich "The Young Provincial," if that is to be accepted as by him, and also "Roger Malvin's Burial," and, apparently later than this last, at least three other tales, "The Gentle Boy," "My Uncle Molineaux," and "Alice Doane." He had presented these as specimens of the "Provincial Tales," for which he desired a publisher. Goodrich acknowledges these, January 19, 1830, from Hartford, Connecticut, where he lived, and promises in the note to endeavor to find a publisher for the book when he returns to Boston in April. He adds, "Had 'Fanshawe' been in the hands of more extensive dealers, I do believe it would have paid you a profit;" from which it may be inferred that "Fanshawe" was the anonymous work which had attracted Goodrich's attention. He praises the tales, and offers thirty-five dollars for "The Gentle Boy" to be used in "The Token." The first letter from Hawthorne, in respect to the matter, which has come to light, is on May 6, 1830, and is given in Derby's "Fifty Years."
"I send you the two pieces for 'The Token.' They were ready some days ago, but I kept them in expectation of hearing from you. I have complied with your wishes in regard to brevity. You can insert them (if you think them worthy a place in your publication) as by the author of 'Provincial Tales,'—such being the title I propose giving my volume. I can conceive no objection to your designating them in this manner, even if my tales should not be published as soon as 'The Token,' or, indeed, if they never see the light at all. An unpublished book is not more obscure than many that creep into the world, and your readers will suppose that the 'Provincial Tales' are among the latter." The "two pieces" to which he refers were clearly not members of the series he proposed to publish in the book, and perhaps they should be identified as "Sights from a Steeple," certainly, and for the other either "The New England Village" or "The Haunted Quack," both which, besides the first, were published in "The Token" for 1831, and have been ascribed to Hawthorne on internal evidence of the same sort as that on which "The Young Provincial" has been accepted.
Goodrich did not find a publisher for the "Provincial Tales," and Hawthorne allowed him to use such as he desired for "The Token" for 1832. The publication of this annual, it should be observed, was prepared for early in the preceding year, and the tales which it contained must be regarded as at least a year old when issued. Thus, in respect to the issue for 1832, just mentioned, Goodrich writes May 31, 1831: "I have made a very liberal use of the privilege you gave me as to the insertion of your pieces in 'The Token.' I have already inserted four of them; namely, 'The Wives of the Dead,' 'Roger Malvin's Burial,' 'Major Molineaux,' and 'The Gentle Boy;'" and he adds that they are as good if not better than anything else he gets; and in a later note, written on the publication of the volume, in October, he says, "I am gratified to find that all whose opinion I have heard agree with me as to the merit of the various pieces from your pen." In this issue, besides the four mentioned, the story "My Wife's Novel" has also been attributed to Hawthorne.
The project of the "Provincial Tales" had by this time been abandoned, temporarily at least, and the author's mind turned to other kinds of writing. He had already opened new veins in attempting to sketch contemporary scenes, either after the fashion of the pleasant meditative essay, such as "Sights from a Steeple," or else in the way of humorous description. The scenes he looked down on, in fancy, in this first paper, were the roof-tops and streets and horizon of Salem; but he had wandered in other parts of his native land also, though not widely, and he used these journeys in his compositions. It is noticeable that Hawthorne always used all his material, consumed it, and made stories, essays, and novels of it, except the slag. It was his characteristic from youth. There is the same dubiousness about these journeys, his earliest ventures in the world, as about his first attempts in the field of authorship. He himself says, in the autobiographical notes he furnished to Stoddard, that he left Salem "once a year or thereabouts," for a few weeks; and in his sketches there are traces of these excursions, as at Martha's Vineyard, for example; but their times and localities are verifiable only to a slight degree. It is stated that the fact that his uncles, the Mannings, were interested in stage-lines gave him some privileges as a traveller, or perhaps this only gave occasion for a journey now and then, in which he joined his uncles on some convenient business; thus, it was in company with his uncle Samuel, that he was in New Hampshire in 1831, and visited the Shaker community at Canterbury. Another known journey was in 1830, and took him through Connecticut; and it is said, probably on conjecture, that it was at this time that he went on, by the canal, to Niagara, and visited Ticonderoga on his return. If his writings, in which he described these places, are to be taken literally, he even embarked for Detroit; but information in respect to the whole Niagara excursion is of the scantiest. All that is known is that in some way, during his long stay at Salem in these years, he made himself acquainted with portions of Connecticut, Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire, to add to his knowledge of Massachusetts and Maine; within this rather limited circle his wanderings were confined; and the period when he went about with most freedom and vivacity of impression was the summer of 1830 and, perhaps, the next year or two.
These experiences gave him the suggestion and in part the scene of his next compositions, "The Canterbury Pilgrims" and "The Seven Vagabonds," the one a New Hampshire, the other a Connecticut tale, and in Connecticut, too, is laid "The Bald Eagle," a humorous sketch of a reception of Lafayette which failed to come off, attributed to Hawthorne on the same grounds as the other doubtful pieces of these years; these three appeared in "The Token" for 1833, "The Seven Vagabonds" as by the author of "The Gentle Boy," the others anonymously, and, in addition, that issue also contained the historical sketch, "Sir William Pepperell," described as by the author of "Sights from a Steeple." If "The Haunted Quack," which had already appeared in 1831, be regarded as Hawthorne's, the journey by the canal which it records must have taken place as early as 1829, in order for the manuscript to have been ready in time for publication. The particular times and stories, however, are of less importance; nor are these provincial travels noteworthy except for the fact that Hawthorne found in them, whenever or wherever they occurred, suggestions for his pen.
The idea which was the germ of his next conception for a book arose out of this country rambling before the days of railroads. At the end of "The Seven Vagabonds," he represented himself as taking up the character of an itinerant story-teller on the impulse of the moment. To this he now returned, and proposed to write a series of tales on the thread of the adventures of this vagrant, and call it "The Story-Teller." The work, such as he here conceived it, exists only as a fragment, "Passages from a Relinquished Work," though he doubtless used elsewhere the stories he intended to incorporate into it. In the young man as he is sketched in the opening passage there is, notwithstanding the affectation of levity, a touch of Hawthorne's own position:—
"I was a youth of gay and happy temperament, with an incorrigible levity of spirit, of no vicious propensities, sensible enough, but wayward and fanciful. What a character was this, to be brought in contact with the stern old Pilgrim spirit of my guardian! We were at variance on a thousand points; but our chief and final dispute arose from the pertinacity with which he insisted on my adopting a particular profession; while I, being heir to a moderate competence, had avowed my purpose of keeping aloof from the regular business of life. This would have been a dangerous resolution, anywhere in the world; it was fatal, in New England. There is a grossness in the conceptions of my countrymen; they will not be convinced that any good thing may consist with what they call idleness; they can anticipate nothing but evil of a young man who neither studies physic, law, nor gospel, nor opens a store, nor takes to farming, but manifests an incomprehensible disposition to be satisfied with what his father left him. The principle is excellent, in its general influence, but most miserable in its effect on the few that violate it. I had a quick sensitiveness to public opinion, and felt as if it ranked me with the tavern-haunters and town-paupers,—with the drunken poet, who hawked his own Fourth of July odes, and the broken soldier who had been good for nothing since the last war. The consequence of all this was a piece of light-hearted desperation."
The youth then takes up the character of the writer of "The Seven Vagabonds," saying, "The idea of becoming a wandering story-teller had been suggested, a year or two before, by an encounter with several merry vagabonds in a showman's wagon, where they and I had sheltered ourselves, during a summer shower;" and he announces that he determined to follow that life, the account of which he proceeds to give with this preliminary word of explanation:—
"The following pages will contain a picture of my vagrant life, intermixed with specimens, generally brief and slight, of that great mass of fiction to which I gave existence, and which has vanished like cloud-shapes. Besides the occasions when I sought a pecuniary reward, I was accustomed to exercise my narrative faculty, wherever chance had collected a little audience, idle enough to listen. These rehearsals were useful in testing the strong points of my stories; and, indeed, the flow of fancy soon came upon me so abundantly, that its indulgence was its own reward; though the hope of praise, also, became a powerful incitement. Since I shall never feel the warm gush of new thought, as I did then, let me beseech the reader to believe, that my tales were not always so cold as he may find them now. With each specimen will be given a sketch of the circumstances in which the story was told. Thus my air-drawn pictures will be set in frames, perhaps more valuable than the pictures themselves, since they will be embossed with groups of characteristic figures, amid the lake and mountain scenery, the villages and fertile fields, of our native land. But I write the book for the sake of its moral, which many a dreaming youth may profit by, though it is the experience of a wandering story-teller."
He makes the acquaintance of another itinerant, a preacher, Eliakim Abbott, drawn after the fashion of that crude grotesque which is found in Hawthorne's early work, and is not without a reminiscence of Scott in the literary handling; and the two become fellows of the road, the one with a sermon, the other with a story, and their fortune with their audiences is related. The only adventure of note, however, is the appearance of the Story-Teller as an attraction of a traveling theatrical company, by special engagement, announced by posters, which also bear on a pasted slip of paper a notice of Eliakim Abbott's religious meeting. On this occasion he recited with great applause the tale of "Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe." With this the fragment ends.
It is plain that Hawthorne intended by this scheme to unite with his stories sketches of country life and scenes as he had noticed their features in his wayside travels, and use the latter as the background for his imaginative and fanciful work. These were the two sides of his literary faculty, so far as he had tried his hand, and he would have the benefit of both in one work, which would thereby gain variety and unity. The success of the experiment cannot be thought striking, and it is doubtful how far he carried the actual composition of the intervening scenes. He confided the plan to Goodrich, who did not encourage it, so far as can be judged, but took the opening chapters to the editors of "The New England Magazine" on Hawthorne's behalf. This periodical, which had three years before absorbed Willis's "Magazine," had been conducted on somewhat grave and serious lines, as a kind of Boston cousin, as it were, of the "North American," and was now in a state of change. Mr. Buckingham relinquished the editorship, and the magazine went into the hands of Dr. Samuel G. Howe and John O. Sargent. It was at this favorable moment that Goodrich appeared with Hawthorne's manuscript; the piece was accepted; and it was published, half in the first and half in the second number issued by the new editors, in November and December, 1834. The connection proved a fortunate one for Hawthorne, and "The New England Magazine" now became equally with "The Token" a constant medium for the publication of his writings of all sorts. Park Benjamin, who was soon associated with Howe and Sargent in the editorship, took sole charge in March, 1835, and was from the first, and always remained, a firm admirer of the new author's genius. To him, next to Goodrich, Hawthorne owed his introduction to such readers as he then had.
If Hawthorne made any effort to break a way for himself in reaching the public, it has not been traced, except that one letter exists, January 27, 1832, in which he offers his pen to the "Atlantic Souvenir" of Philadelphia; but that annual was bought out by Goodrich the same year and merged with "The Token," so that Hawthorne's venture only brought him back to the old stand. In 1833 his connection with Goodrich appears to have been temporarily broken, as "The Token" for 1834, which appeared that fall, contains nothing by him. For 1835 he contributed to it "The Haunted Mind" and "The Mermaid, A Revery," now known as "The Village Uncle," anonymously, and "Alice Doane's Appeal" as by the author of "The Gentle Boy." In "Youth's Keepsake" for the same year appeared "Little Annie's Ramble." These stories were published in the fall of 1834, before the venture of "The Story-Teller." Early in 1835 he furnished for the next year's "Token," 1836, "The Wedding Knell" and "The Minister's Black Veil" as by the author of "Sights from a Steeple," and "The May-pole of Merry Mount" as by the author of "The Gentle Boy." What there was left in his hands must have gone almost as a block to "The New England Magazine," and perhaps his stock of unused papers was thus exhausted. To complete the record, he published in this magazine "The Gray Champion" as by the author of "The Gentle Boy," in January; "Old News" anonymously, in February, March, and May; "My Visit to Niagara," in February; "Young Goodman Brown," in April; "Wakefield," in May; "The Ambitious Guest," in June, and in the same month, anonymously in both instances, "Graves and Goblins" and "A Bill from the Town Pump;" "The Old Maid in the Winding Sheet," now known as "The White Old Maid," in July; "The Vision of the Fountain," in August; "The Devil in Manuscript" as by "Ashley A. Royce," in November; "Sketches from Memory" as by "A Pedestrian," in November and December. All these pieces, except as stated above, are given as by the author of "The Gray Champion." It may fairly be thought that he had emptied his desk of its accumulations, though a few tales may have been reserved for Goodrich.
Hawthorne had now been before the public with increasing frequency for five years, but he had made little impression, and his success as an author must have remained as doubtful to him as at the start. Goodrich, in the passage already quoted from his "Recollections," went on to describe him during this early time of their acquaintance, and shows how slight was his progress in winning attention:—
"At this period he was unsettled as to his views; he had tried his hand in literature, and considered himself to have met with a fatal rebuff from the reading world. His mind vacillated between various projects, verging, I think, toward a mercantile profession. I combated his despondence, and assured him of triumph if he would persevere in a literary career. He wrote numerous articles which appeared in 'The Token;' occasionally an astute critic seemed to see through them, and to discover the soul that was in them; but in general they passed without notice. Such articles as 'Sights from a Steeple,' 'Sketches beneath an Umbrella,' 'The Wives of the Dead,' 'The Prophetic Pictures,' now universally acknowledged to be productions of extraordinary depth, meaning, and power, extorted hardly a word of either praise or blame, while columns were given to pieces since totally forgotten. I felt annoyed, almost angry, indeed, at this. I wrote several articles in the papers, directing attention to these productions, and finding no echo to my views, I recollect to have asked John Pickering to read some of them, and give me his opinion of them. He did as I requested; his answer was that they displayed a wonderful beauty of style, with a kind of double vision, a sort of second sight, which revealed, beyond the outward forms of life and being, a sort of Spirit World."
Park Benjamin, in a notice of "The Token" for 1836 published in "The New England Magazine," October, 1835, gave a single line to the author, speaking of him as "the most pleasing writer of fanciful prose, except Irving, in the country;" and in November of the same year, in a review of the same work, Chorley, the critic of the London "Athenaeum," commended his tales and gave extracts from them. This was the first substantial praise of a nature to encourage the author.
In Hawthorne's own eyes the stories and sketches had become a source of depression, and the difficulties he had met with in getting out a book had especially irritated him. It might be thought, perhaps, that he had destroyed a good deal of his work, to judge by his own words, but this seems unlikely, although he may have rewritten some of the earlier pieces. The tale of "The Devil in Manuscript" is taken to be the autobiographical parable, at least, commemorating the burning of the "Seven Tales of my Native Land;" but it was written some years later, and reflects his general experience as a discouraged storyteller, and it contains touches of bitterness more marked than occur elsewhere. Its personal character is emphasized by the hero's name, "Oberon," a familiar signature Hawthorne used in his letters to his old college friend, Bridge. The following passages are distinctly autobiographical, and afford the most vivid view of the young author's inner life:—
"You cannot conceive what an effect the composition of these tales has had on me. I have become ambitious of a bubble, and careless of solid reputation. I am surrounding myself with shadows, which bewilder me, by aping the realities of life. They have drawn me aside from the beaten path of the world, and led me into a strange sort of solitude,—a solitude in the midst of men,—where nobody wishes for what I do, nor thinks nor feels as I do. The tales have done all this. When they are ashes, perhaps I shall be as I was before they had existence. Moreover, the sacrifice is less than you may suppose, since nobody will publish them....
"But the devil of the business is this. These people have put me so out of conceit with the tales, that I loathe the very thought of them, and actually experience a physical sickness of the stomach, whenever I glance at them on the table. I tell you there is a demon in them! I anticipate a wild enjoyment in seeing them in the blaze; such as I should feel in taking vengeance on an enemy, or destroying something noxious....
"But how many recollections throng upon me, as I turn over these leaves! This scene came into my fancy as I walked along a hilly road, on a starlight October evening; in the pure and bracing air, I became all soul, and felt as if I could climb the sky, and run a race along the Milky Way. Here is another tale, in which I wrapt myself during a dark and dreary night-ride in the month of March, till the rattling of the wheels and the voices of my companions seemed like faint sounds of a dream, and my visions a bright reality. That scribbled page describes shadows which I summoned to my bedside at midnight: they would not depart when I bade them; the gray dawn came, and found me wide awake and feverish, the victim of my own enchantments!...
"Sometimes my ideas were like precious stones under the earth, requiring toil to dig them up, and care to polish and brighten them; but often a delicious stream of thought would gush out upon the page at once, like water sparkling up suddenly in the desert; and when it had passed, I gnawed my pen hopelessly, or blundered on with cold and miserable toil, as if there were a wall of ice between me and my subject."
"Do you now perceive a corresponding difference," inquired I, "between the passages which you wrote so coldly, and those fervid flashes of the mind?"
"No," said Oberon, tossing the manuscripts on the table. "I find no traces of the golden pen with which I wrote in characters of fire. My treasure of fairy coin is changed to worthless dross. My picture, painted in what seemed the loveliest hues, presents nothing but a faded and indistinguishable surface. I have been eloquent and poetical and humorous in a dream,—and behold! it is all nonsense, now that I am awake....
"I will burn them! Not a scorched syllable shall escape! Would you have me a damned author—To undergo sneers, taunts, abuse, and cold neglect, and faint praise, bestowed, for pity's sake, against the giver's conscience! A hissing and a laughing-stock to my own traitorous thoughts! An outlaw from the protection of the grave,—one whose ashes every careless foot might spurn, unhonored in life, and remembered scornfully in death! Am I to bear all this, when yonder fire will insure me from the whole? No! There go the tales! May my hand wither when it would write another!"
These extracts set forth the mixed emotions of young authorship in a life-like manner. They have the stamp of personal experience. A supplement to them is found in one of his more obscure pieces, "The Journal of a Solitary Man," in which Hawthorne bids farewell to that eidolon of himself which he had embodied as "Oberon." He describes the character as an imaginary friend, from whose journals he gives extracts; but the veil thrown over his own personality is transparent.
"Merely skimming the surface of life, I know nothing, by my own experience, of its deep and warm realities. I have achieved none of those objects which the instinct of mankind especially prompts them to pursue, and the accomplishment of which must therefore beget a native satisfaction. The truly wise, after all their speculations, will be led into the common path, and, in homage to the human nature that pervades them, will gather gold, and till the earth, and set out trees, and build a house. But I have scorned such wisdom. I have rejected, also, the settled, sober, careful gladness of a man by his own fireside, with those around him whose welfare is committed to his trust, and all their guidance to his fond authority. Without influence among serious affairs, my footsteps were not imprinted on the earth, but lost in air; and I shall leave no son to inherit my share of life, with a better sense of its privileges and duties, when his father should vanish like a bubble; so that few mortals, even the humblest and the weakest, have been such ineffectual shadows in the world, or die so utterly as I must. Even a young man's bliss has not been mine. With a thousand vagrant fantasies, I have never truly loved, and perhaps shall be doomed to loneliness throughout the eternal future, because, here on earth, my soul has never married itself to the soul of woman.
"Such are the repinings of one who feels, too late, that the sympathies of his nature have avenged themselves upon him. They have prostrated, with a joyless life and the prospect of a reluctant death, my selfish purpose to keep aloof from mortal disquietudes, and be a pleasant idler among care-stricken and laborious men. I have other regrets, too, savoring more of my old spirit. The time has been when I meant to visit every region of the earth, except the poles and Central Africa. I had a strange longing to see the Pyramids. To Persia and Arabia, and all the gorgeous East, I owed a pilgrimage for the sake of their magic tales. And England, the land of my ancestors! Once I had fancied that my sleep would not be quiet in the grave unless I should return, as it were, to my home of past ages, and see the very cities, and castles, and battle-fields of history, and stand within the holy gloom of its cathedrals, and kneel at the shrines of its immortal poets, there asserting myself their hereditary countryman. This feeling lay among the deepest in my heart. Yet, with this homesickness for the fatherland, and all these plans of remote travel,—which I yet believe that my peculiar instinct impelled me to form, and upbraided me for not accomplishing,— the utmost limit of my wanderings has been little more than six hundred miles from my native village. Thus, in whatever way I consider my life, or what must be termed such, I cannot feel as if I had lived at all.
"I am possessed, also, with the thought that I have never yet discovered the real secret of my powers; that there has been a mighty treasure within my reach, a mine of gold beneath my feet, worthless because I have never known how to seek for it; and for want of perhaps one fortunate idea, I am to die
'Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.'"
"Oberon" is represented as in the position of the "Story-Teller," and leaves home because of some fancied oppression; he visits Niagara, of which he gives some scenes as well as other anecdotes of his pedestrian journey, but he falls ill and determines to return home to die. As he approaches his birthplace he pleases himself with the fancy that there is some youth there whom he can teach by the lesson of his life, and he moralizes in a vein in which self-criticism may be read between the lines:—
"He shall be taught by my life, and by my death, that the world is a sad one for him who shrinks from its sober duties. My experience shall warn him to adopt some great and serious aim, such as manhood will cling to, that he may not feel himself, too late, a cumberer of this overladen earth, but a man among men. I will beseech him not to follow an eccentric path, nor, by stepping aside from the highway of human affairs, to relinquish his claim upon human sympathy. And often, as a text of deep and varied meaning, I will remind him that he is an American."
Finally he describes the power he has obtained by the use of his imagination, in the view of life:—
"I have already a spiritual sense of human nature, and see deeply into the hearts of mankind, discovering what is hidden from the wisest. The loves of young men and virgins are known to me, before the first kiss, before the whispered word, with the birth of the first sigh. My glance comprehends the crowd, and penetrates the breast of the solitary man. I think better of the world than formerly, more generously of its virtues, more mercifully of its faults, with a higher estimate of its present happiness, and brighter hopes of its destiny."
These passages from "The Devil in Manuscript" and "The Journal of a Solitary Man" may fairly be taken as a contemporary general account of Hawthorne's secret life in the years before his own "Note-Books" begin. The latter afford rather a view of his existence, from day to day. The earliest of them which has survived opens in the summer of 1835, and while containing scraps of information that he had jotted down as in a commonplace book, and also brief memoranda of ideas for tales and sketches, it also keeps record of his observations in his walks and drives, and thus pictures his outward life. He lived at Salem still, in the habits of seclusion that had always obtained in the house, and saw little of mankind. Society, if he sought it at all, was found for him among common people at the tavern or by the wayside, and was of the sort that he enjoyed on his summer journeys. But solitude was his normal state. This was indulged in his own room; or else he took a morning or afternoon to wander out to the near Salem beaches and points, or to the pleasant lanes of Danvers or across the river to the upland or seashore of Beverly. He occasionally drove a dozen miles or more to Ipswich, Nahant, or Andover. What he saw, however, was only rustic life of the countryside, or the natural views of wood and sky and sea, with the nearer objects to attract particular attention, of which he has left so many minute descriptions. His observation at such times, though without the naturalist's preoccupation,— rather with the poet's or novelist's,—was as keen and detailed as Thoreau's. These Note-Books, however, do not open his familiar life except as a record of changing seasons and of detached thoughts to be worked up in fiction. Many of his later tales are found here in the germ, in 1835 and for the year or two after; but the diary is not so much a confidant as it afterward became.
The time had now come when he must make some further step in establishing himself in some means of livelihood. He never showed much power of initiative, and at every stage was materially aided by his friends in obtaining employment and position. In this instance it was Goodrich again who gave him opportunity. It was not a great chance, but it was doubtless all Goodrich had to offer. He procured for him the editorship of a small publication which undertook to disseminate popular information, called "The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge," and published by the Bewick Company, at Boston, with which Goodrich had some connection through his interests in engraving. His salary was to be five hundred dollars, and he entered on his duties about the beginning of 1836. The change was welcomed by his friends, or such of them as were still near enough to him to know of his affairs; and from this time his college mates, Pierce, Cilley, and especially Bridge, interested themselves in his fortunes. Bridge, writing from Havana, February 20, 1836, congratulated him, as did also Pierce from Washington, on the intelligence concerning his "late engagement in active and responsible business," and particularly on his having got "out of Salem," which he credits with "a peculiar dulness;" and in later letters he continues to hearten him, subscribes for his magazine, reads and praises it, in the most cordial and cheering way. But the event did not justify these hopes and prognostications of a better fortune. The magazine was, after all, the merest hack-work. Hawthorne, with the aid of his sister Elizabeth, wrote most of it, compiling the matter from books or utilizing his own notes of travel. In it appeared, of such pieces as have found a place in his works, "An Ontario Steamboat," "The Duston Family," "Nature of Sleep," "Bells," besides much that has been suffered to repose in its scarce pages. The material, though conscientiously dealt with according to the measure of time at his disposal, is the slightest in interest, and the least re-worked from the raw state, of any of his writings. He had, however, little temptation to do more for the magazine than its limited scope required. He found great difficulty in collecting his salary, and for this he blames Goodrich, who had made promises of pay which he kept very imperfectly. Hawthorne states that of forty-five dollars he was to receive on coming to Boston he got only a small part, and on June 3, 1836, he received a notice, in answer to a dunning letter, that the Bewick Company had made an assignment, and he would have to wait until the settlement. Shortly after this he gave up the editorship, and returned to Salem. The incident was unfortunate, as in the course of it he developed a great deal of irritation toward Goodrich, who was his best friend in practical ways, and broke off communication with him. This, however, did not last long; and Goodrich offered him the job of compiling a "Peter Parley" book, for one hundred dollars. He wrote this, also with the aid of his sister Elizabeth, and gave her the money. The volume was "Peter Parley's Universal History on the basis of Geography," and was published in 1837, and had a very large sale, amounting finally, it is said, to more than a million copies.
In the mean time, Hawthorne had found cause of complaint also in his relations with "The New England Magazine." This periodical had come to an end in 1835, and at the close of that year was merged in "The American Monthly Magazine" of New York, whither Park Benjamin, its editor, went. It paid, according to its own statement, only one dollar a page for contributions, but it appears to have been in arrears with Hawthorne at the time of the change. Bridge states that when Hawthorne, in consequence, stopped writing for it, the editor "begged for a mass of manuscript in his possession, as yet unpublished, and it was scornfully bestowed. 'Thus,' wrote Hawthorne, 'has this man, who would be considered a Mæcenas, taken from a penniless writer material incomparably better than any his own brain can supply.'" In this Hawthorne, if correctly reported, was scarcely just. Park Benjamin, who had a violent quarrel with Goodrich, exempted Hawthorne from any adverse criticism, even when writing a short notice of "The Token," and always spoke well of him. The manuscripts he carried to New York could have been but few and slight, unless they were burned in the fire which destroyed the archives of the "American Monthly Magazine" not long afterwards. At all events, the only paper by Hawthorne in that magazine appears to have been "Old Ticonderoga," a note of travel, published in February, 1836, unless "The Journal of a Solitary Man," which did not appear till July, 1837, be added as one of the left-over manuscripts, and also a paper, never yet attributed to him but which seems clearly from his pen, "A Visit to the Clerk of the Weather," anonymously published in May, 1836. Whatever the coolness was between Hawthorne and Benjamin, it was overcome by the end of the year, and the quarrel was made up. In 1836, too, he kept his temper with Goodrich sufficiently to allow him to contribute to "The Token" of 1837, published in the preceding fall, a group of tales, eight in number: "Monsieur du Miroir," as by the author of "Sights from a Steeple;" "Mrs. Bullfrog," as by the author of "The Wives of the Dead;" "Sunday at Home" and "The Man of Adamant," both as by the author of "The Gentle Boy," "David Swan, A Fantasy," "Fancy's Show Box, A Morality," and "The Prophetic Pictures," all anonymously; and "The Great Carbuncle," as by the author of "The Wedding Knell." These papers constituted one third of the volume, and for them he was paid a dollar a page, or one hundred and eight dollars, which may be regarded therefore as the normal price he received from Goodrich. Two of these tales are on subjects set down in his "Note-Book" of 1835; the others are perhaps earlier in conception. These tales were his substantial work for the year.
They gave occasion for what appears to have been the first public mention of Nathaniel Hawthorne as the author who had hitherto disguised himself under so many descriptions. It is not surprising that his name was unknown, for he had sedulously suppressed it. His sister, referring to these years, said, "He kept his very existence a secret so far as possible." He had never signed an article in the twelve years since leaving college. He had preferred to become known in "the author of Waverley" style, but the charm did not work. In "The Token" he was, in the main, the author of "Sights from a Steeple" or "The Gentle Boy;" in "The New England Magazine" he was the author of " The Gray Champion." But now his anonymity was to be dissipated in a friendly if rude way. It was, doubtless, Park Benjamin, in New York, who wrote thus of these last tales in "The Token," in "The American Monthly Magazine" for October, 1836:—
"The author of 'Sights from a Steeple,' of 'The Gentle Boy,' and of 'The Wedding Knell,' we believe to be one and the same individual. The assertion may sound very bold, yet we hesitate not to call this author second to no man in this country, except Washington Irving. We refer simply to romance writing; and trust no wise man of Gotham will talk of Dewey, and Channing, and Everett, and Verplanck. Yes, to us the style of NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE is more pleasing, more fascinating, than any one's except their dear Geoffry Crayon! This mention of the real name of our author may be reprobated by him. His modesty is the best proof of his true excellence. How different does such a man appear to us from one who anxiously writes his name on every public post! We have read a sufficient number of his pieces to make the reputation of a dozen of our Yankee scribblers; and yet how few have heard the name above written! He does not even cover himself with the same anonymous shield at all times; but liberally gives the praise, which, concentrated on one, would be great, to several unknowns. If Mr. Hawthorne would but collect his various tales and essays into one volume, we can assure him that their success would be brilliant—certainly in England, perhaps in this country."
It was in this way that the world began to hear of Mr. Nathaniel Hawthorne, of Salem; but it was still long before the public knew him. Meanwhile, at the very moment of the disclosure, he was in the lowest ebb of discouragement, in spirits, that he ever knew. It is to this time that his gloomiest memories attached themselves. He had tried to enter the world, he had even tried to earn a living, and had failed. Cilley, his old college mate, was just elected to Congress from Maine, Pierce was just elected Senator from New Hampshire, and Longfellow had found the ways of literature as smooth as the primrose path to the everlasting bonfire. Hawthorne was of a noble disposition, and glad of the fortunes that came to these of his circle in boyhood at Bowdoin; but it was not in human nature to be oblivious of the difference in his own lot. To this mood must be referred the dream he described afterwards as one that recurred through life:—
"For a long, long while I have been occasionally 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."
Under another picture, he describes this same state in the preface to "The Snow Image," dedicated to Bridge:—
"I sat down by the wayside of life, like a man under enchantment, and a shrubbery sprung up around me, and the bushes grew to be saplings, and the saplings became trees, until no exit appeared possible, through the entangling depths of my obscurity. And there, perhaps, I should be sitting at this moment, with the moss on the imprisoning tree-trunks, and the yellow leaves of more than a score of autumns piled above me, if it had not been for you. For it was through your interposition—and that, moreover, unknown to himself—that your early friend was brought before the public, somewhat more prominently than heretofore, in the first volume of 'Twice-Told Tales.'"
Bridge had been, in fact, his only confidant from boyish days. To him he showed the misery of "hope deferred" that then was in his heart, and to him allowed himself to speak in words that went beyond his steady sense of the situation, though representing moments of low courage. "I'm a doomed man," he wrote to him, "and over I must go."
It was under the impulse of the sight of this deep discouragement in Hawthorne, in 1836, that this cheerful and sanguine friend made up his mind to find out why Hawthorne could not get a volume of tales published. He applied to Goodrich for information, and received an answer, October 20, 1836, in which it was stated that if a guarantee of two hundred and fifty dollars were furnished by Bridge, an edition of one thousand copies, costing four hundred and fifty dollars and paying Hawthorne a royalty of ten per cent, would be issued. Goodrich was not himself a publisher, at that time, and he elsewhere says that he had previously attempted to have the Stationers' Company, which now undertook the volume on Bridge's guarantee, publish it, but without success; he adds that he relinquished his own rights to Hawthorne, who had sold the tales to him so far as they had appeared in "The Token," and that he also joined in the bond given by Bridge; but in these remarks he seems to be taking credit to himself, for the tales were valueless to him and his property in them was of a sort not often claimed by an editor, while Bridge took the real risk. This transaction was unknown to Hawthorne at the time, and Bridge felt obliged to warn him not to be too grateful to Goodrich. A glance at the other letters of this month shows that Bridge was almost alarmed by Hawthorne's depression, and endeavoring in thoughtful ways to reassure him, as well as to bring him forward in public. "I have just received your last," he writes, October 22, 1836, "and do not like its tone at all. There is a kind of desperate coolness about it that seems dangerous. I fear you are too good a subject for suicide, and that some day you will end your mortal woes on your own responsibility." The prospect of the book, even, was not wholly an undoubted blessing to Hawthorne, now he had come to its realization, and in December, on Christmas Day, the work being then in proofs, Bridge writes to him again:—
"Whether your book will sell extensively may be doubtful; but that is of small importance in the first one you publish. At all events, keep up your spirits till the result is ascertained; and, my word for it, there is more honor and emolument in store for you, from your writings, than you imagine. The bane of your life has been self-distrust. This has kept you back for many years; which, if you had improved by publishing, would long ago have given you what you must now wait a short time for. It may be for the best, but I doubt it.
"I have been trying to think what you are so miserable for. Although you have not much property, you have good health and powers of writing, which have made, and can still make, you independent.
"Suppose you get 'but $300 per annum for your writings. You can, with economy, live upon that, though it would be a tight squeeze. You have no family dependent upon you, and why should you 'borrow trouble'?
"This is taking the worst view of your case that it can possibly bear. It seems to me that you never look at the bright side with any hope or confidence. It is not the philosophy to make one happy.
"I expect, next summer, to be full of money, a part of which shall be heartily at your service, if it comes."
Before the new volume went to press Hawthorne had made a connection, apparently on the editor's initiative, with S. Gaylord Clark's "Knickerbocker Magazine," and contributed to it, in the January number, "The Fountain of Youth," now known as "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"; and in the opening months of the year he was engaged in preparing his usual group of articles for the next "Token." Goodrich had also offered to him a new "Peter Parley" book, on the manners and customs of all nations, for three hundred dollars, but this Hawthorne seems to have declined.
"Twice-Told Tales" appeared, under the author's name, from the press of the Boston American Stationers' Co., early in March, 1837. It contained eighteen pieces only, out of the thirty-six undoubtedly by Hawthorne published up to this time, to neglect all others which have been ascribed to him during this period; and it must reflect his own judgment of what was best in his work. Far as it was from being a complete collection, it was large and varied enough to afford an adequate experiment of the public taste, and it included all those articles, whether tale or essay, which had made him known in the circle of his readers. The reception of the volume was, he thought, cool, but it sold somewhat from the first, and within two months six or seven hundred copies had been disposed of. Goodrich states that it "was deemed a failure for more than a year, when a breeze seemed to rise and fill its sails, and with it the author was carried on to fame and fortune." Bridge was much pleased with the success of his venture, and when he met Goodrich, in April, some of his good feeling overflowed upon him: "I like him very much better than before," he wrote. "He told me that the book was successful. It seemed that he was inclined to take too much credit to himself for your present standing,
on the ground of having early discovered and brought you forward. But, on the whole, I like him much." Hawthorne's view of Goodrich is contained in a letter written to his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Peabody, twenty years later:—
"As regards Goodrich's accounts of the relations between him and me, it is funny enough to see him taking the airs of a patron; but I do not mind it in the least, nor feel the slightest inclination to defend myself or be defended. I should as soon think of controverting his statement about my personal appearance (of which he draws no very lovely picture) as about anything else that he says. So pray do not take up the cudgels on my behalf; especially as I perceive that your recollections are rather inaccurate. For instance, it was Park Benjamin, not Goodrich, who cut up the 'Storyteller.' As for Goodrich, I have rather a kindly feeling towards him, and he himself is a not unkindly man, in spite of his propensity to feed and fatten himself on better brains than his own. Only let him do that, and he will really sometimes put himself to some trouble to do a good-natured act. His quarrel with me was, that I broke away from him before he had quite finished his meal, and while a portion of my brain was left; and I have not the slightest doubt that he really felt himself wronged by my so doing. Really, I half think so too. He was born to do what he did, as maggots to feed on rich cheese."
There is something too little generous in this. The record shows beyond any cavil that Goodrich was the first and most constant friend of Hawthorne in the way of helping him to get his work before the public; he was also interested in him, thoughtful for him, and gave him hack work to do, which, though it be a lowly is a true service, however unwelcome the task may be in itself; and he used such influence as he had in introducing Hawthorne to other employers and to publishers. During these twelve years it may fairly be said that Goodrich was the only person, not a relative, who cared for Hawthorne's genius or did anything for him until Park Benjamin appeared as a second in the periodical world and Horatio Bridge came to the rescue as a business friend. It is true that Goodrich did not succeed in exploiting his author; but he paid him the market price and gave him his chance, and after all those days were not for Goodrich what our days have since become for men of his calibre. Advertisement was not then the tenth Muse.
If the papers were "cool," as Hawthorne thought, there was a word of comfort here and there in the periodicals. "The American Monthly Magazine," recalling its announcement of Hawthorne as the author of these tales in the preceding fall, took occasion in a notice of "The Token" for 1838 to flatter itself that the new volume was due to its own suggestion; and the writer, who is presumably Park Benjamin, renews his old praise. A later notice of the book itself, ascribed by Mr. Lathrop to Charles Fenno Hoffman, appeared in March, 1838, and, while somewhat ineffective and sentimental, discovers at the end the right new word to say: "His pathos we would call New England pathos, if we were not afraid it would excite a smile; it is the pathos of an American, of a New Englander. It is redolent of the images, objects, thoughts, and feelings that spring up in that soil and nowhere else." It was, however, to Longfellow that both Bridge and Hawthorne looked to help his old college mate's book with the criticism that would have the accent of good taste and literary authority, and would carry weight in those higher social circles where fame was lost and won, at least as was then believed. Hawthorne sent him the volume as soon as it was issued, with a note regretting that they were not better acquainted at college and expressing his gladness in Longfellow's success as a writer, author of "Outre-Mer," and also in obtaining his Harvard professorship; and some three months later he followed this with a letter, so characteristic and valuable autobiographically that it cannot be passed over, and interesting also as beginning that easy and amiable friendliness which continued between them unbroken thereafter:—
"Not to burden you with my correspondence, I have delayed a rejoinder to your very kind and cordial letter, until now. It gratifies me that you have occasionally felt an interest in my situation; but your quotation from Jean Paul about the 'lark's nest' makes me smile. You would have been much nearer the truth if you had pictured me as dwelling in an owl's nest; for mine is about as dismal, and like the owl I seldom venture abroad till after dusk. By some witchcraft or other—for I really cannot assign any reasonable why and wherefore—I have been carried apart from the main current of life, and find it impossible to get back again. Since we last met, which you remember was in Sawtell's room, where you read a farewell poem to the relics of the class,—ever since that time I have secluded myself from society; and yet I never meant any such thing, nor dreamed what sort of life I was going to lead. I have made a captive of myself, and put me into a dungeon, and now I cannot find the key to let myself out,—and if the door were open, I should be almost afraid to come out. You tell me that 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 this 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 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 can hardly fail to 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. As to my literary efforts, I do not think much of them, neither is it worth while to be ashamed of them. They would have been better, I trust, if written under more favorable circumstances. I have had no external excitement,—no consciousness that the public would like what I wrote, nor much hope nor a passionate desire that they should do so. Nevertheless, having nothing else to be ambitious of, I have been considerably interested in literature; and if my writings had made any decided impression, I should have been stimulated to greater exertions; but there has been no warmth of approbation, so that I have always written with benumbed fingers. 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 lifelike semblance to such shadowy stuff. Sometimes through a peep-hole 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.
"I have now, or shall soon have, a sharper spur to exertion, which I lacked at an earlier period; for I see little prospect but that I shall have to scribble for a living. But this troubles me much less than you would suppose. I can turn my pen to all sorts of drudgery, such as children's books, etc., and by and by I shall get some editorship that will answer my purpose. Frank Pierce, who was with us at college, offered me his influence to obtain an office in the Exploring Expedition; but I believe that he was mistaken in supposing that a vacancy existed. If such a post were attainable, I should certainly accept it; for, though fixed so long to one spot, I have always had a desire to run round the world.... I intend in a week or two to come out of my owl's nest, and not return till late in the summer,—employing the interval in making a tour somewhere in New England. You who have the dust of distant countries on your 'sandal-shoon' cannot imagine how much enjoyment I shall have in this little excursion."
Longfellow's notice of "Twice-Told Tales" appeared in the July number of "The North American Review," and gave perhaps more pleasure to Hawthorne than he had hoped for; and in acknowledging it he mentions, with a home-touch that carries more gratitude than a score of golden phrases, the happiness that "my mother, my two sisters, and my old maiden aunt" have had in it. The notice itself is elegant, kindly, warm even, with the old-fashioned academic distinction of manner, through which the young poet's picturesque fancy keeps playing, like a flutter of light; it gives one a strange sense of old-world youthfulness to read it now. Its characteristic passages, apart from this glamour, are its praise of the lucid style and of the home-bred quality, "the nationality" of the Tales: "The author has chosen his themes among the traditions of New England, the dusty legends of 'the good old colony times when we lived under a king.' This is the right material for story." But, notwithstanding the good-will of Hawthorne's few friends, and this handsome treatment by that one of them who had the greatest opportunity to applaud him, his place was not yet won.
Meanwhile, his political friends had not been idle. The problem of a livelihood, of an active share in the world's business, which Hawthorne now sincerely desired, was not likely to be much advanced by the publication of this volume. In any case, it would seem that Hawthorne's friends were agreed that what he needed was to be got into an entirely different set of surroundings, to have a change of scene. It was, perhaps, with some such idea that Pierce suggested to him to join the South Sea Exploring Expedition, then being planned by Reynolds, as historian. There is something humorous, unconscious though it was, in sending Hawthorne from the monotony and loneliness of Salem to seek society in the polar regions, though no hint of it appears in the correspondence. The scheme appealed to Hawthorne, however, and he was desirous to go; but though his friends were active in his interest, and brought the Maine and New Hampshire delegations to support his candidacy, success was doubtful, and, the expedition being temporarily abandoned, the plan came to nothing. On its failure Hawthorne went to visit Bridge at his home in Augusta, Maine, and passed the month of July with him very happily, as he tells at large in his Note-Books of that period.
On his return to Salem at midsummer he could hardly have flattered himself on any perceptible change in his position. He fell into the old life of rambling about the country and writing new tales; and, except that he was in communication with his old friends, Bridge, Pierce, and Cilley, and occasionally saw them in Boston, he was as much isolated and without prospects as ever. The connection he had established with "The Knickerbocker Magazine" he had kept up by contributing to it "A Bell's Biography" as by the author of "Twice-Told Tales," in March, and he now published, in the September issue, "Edward Fane's Rosebud" anonymously. The publication of the book had attracted to him the notice of the new "Democratic Review," edited by John O'Sullivan, a young fellow of enterprise, spirits, and an Irish charm, who had solicited Hawthorne to contribute to it, early in April. In reply to this application, presumably, "A Toll Gatherer's Day," as by the author of "Twice-Told Tales," appeared in the October number. The stories which Hawthorne had prepared in the spring for "The Token" of 1838 now came out in the fall of 1837, five in number: two of them, "Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure" and "The Shaker Bridal" as by the author of the "Twice-Told Tales," and three anonymously, "Night Scenes under an Umbrella," "Endicott and the Red Cross," and "Sylph Etheredge." He still persistently neglected to put his own name to his work. There was a reason for his anonymity in "The Token," but elsewhere he continued his old custom, and was to be known habitually only under the style "The Author of 'Twice-Told Tales,'" which he adopted henceforth. To this time belong some further traces of a more varied mixing with society in Salem than he had hitherto shown. He attended the meetings of a club at Miss Burley's, where the transcendental group appears to have gathered, and among them Jones Very. The most singular episode of the time, however, is one that would hardly be credited, had it not been mentioned by those who should have known the truth. It is said that Hawthorne's sympathies were so engaged by a lady who confided to him the injurious treatment she alleged she had suffered from an acquaintance that he challenged the man to a duel; he went to Washington for the purpose, and was only withdrawn from the affair, under the advice of Cilley and Pierce, by the discovery that he had been practiced upon by the lady, who had been led on by a spirit of mischief or malice to deceive him, there being no basis for the affair. A dark turn is given to the incident by the suggestion that it was the citing of this example of Hawthorne's to his friend Cilley which persuaded the latter to enter on the duel with Graves, in which he lost his life not long after these events. Bridge, however, denies that this was the case, and he should have known. Just when this incident occurred is not stated; but Hawthorne's solitude in Salem must have been less complete than has been represented in order for it to occur at all; and it must be believed that he had at all times associates, whom he met in one way and another, both men and women, however small the circle.
The period of twelve years which he used to refer to as the time of his isolation in Salem had now come to an end; but he remained in the old house for some time longer, though with a difference in his mood and life. The habit of seclusion and the sense of separation from the world had been somewhat broken up by the rally that his college friends, led by Bridge, had made for him and the feeling of renewed companionship with them, as well as by his appearance before the public in his own right as the author of "Twice-Told Tales;" the old state of affairs, however, was not ended by these things, but by a more vital matter. There can be no doubt that in his own mind the acquaintance and growing intimacy which now sprang up between himself and Sophia Peabody coincided with the disappearance of the solitary depression of these years,—for him the twelve years ended when he first saw this small, graceful, intensely alive invalid, dressed in a simple white wrapper, who had come down from her room to meet him in the family parlor. She might seem, indeed, like himself, rather a "visitant" than an inhabitant of this planet, and their courtship not unlike one of his own stories of half immaterial lovers who go hand in hand, with sentiments for sentences and great heedlessness of mortal matters, to an idyllic union of hearts. He rose, on her entrance, to greet her, and looked at her with great intentness; and it immediately occurred to her sister that he would fall in love with her.
The narrative of this love-making has been very fully told, and in the most lifelike way, since the characters have been allowed to speak for themselves in their diaries and letters. It is a story so touched with delicacies, and with such shades of humor, too, as to defy any re-telling; even to outline it seems crude, because the effect lies all in the details of trifles, phrases, and spontaneous things. The Peabody family was of a type that flourished in that period, as good as was ever produced on this soil, with the most sterling qualities, and blending an intellectual culture of transcendental kinship with practical and hospitable duties. The home, which was one of very moderate means, was characterized by a moral high-mindedness pervading its life, and by those literary and artistic tastes then spreading in the community, which, though it is easy to smile at them in a vein of latter-day superiority, were everywhere the signs of a nascent intellectual life among our people. In this case, the fruits are the best comment on the home, for of the three daughters, the eldest, Elizabeth, passed a much honored and long life as a teacher in Boston, the friend of every good cause; the second, Mary, became the wife of Horace Mann; and the third, Sophia, the wife of Hawthorne. The Peabodys had been neighbors of the Hawthornes in much earlier years, and the elder children had been little playmates together; but the family had removed from Salem, and came back again in 1828. It was not, however, till 1837, on the publication of "Twice-Told Tales," that Elizabeth Peabody recognized in the author the same person she had known as a child. She took steps to renew the acquaintance with his sisters, and so to meet him again, till by many little attentions, notes, books, walks, flowers, and whatever she could invent, she succeeded in establishing an interchange of social civility between the two houses. She affords, in her recollections, the best glimpse of Hawthorne's mother. "Madame Hawthorne," she says, "always looked as if she had walked out of an old picture, with her antique costume, and a face of lovely sensibility and great brightness—for she did not seem at all a victim of morbid sensibility, notwithstanding her all but Hindoo self-devotion to the manes of her husband. She was a woman of fine understanding and very cultivated mind. But she had very sensitive nerves." Elizabeth, Hawthorne's sister, was strong-minded but abnormally retired, jealous of her brother, and not much disposed to have him stolen out of the house. Louisa was more companionable, and with his mother would sit with Hawthorne after tea; and there was an old maiden aunt flitting about in the little garden, apparently as recluse as the rest. With these feminine members of the household Elizabeth Peabody made friends, and though a year elapsed in the process, she then had her reward in receiving Hawthorne and his sisters, who one evening came to call. She ran upstairs to her sister, exclaiming, "Oh, Sophia, you must get up and dress and come down! The Hawthornes are here, and you never saw anything so splendid as he is,—he is handsomer than Lord Byron!" But Sophia did not come down, and it was only on the second call that the two met as has been described.
Sophia Peabody was at this time twenty-six years old, having been born in 1811, and had been an invalid through her girlhood; she was afflicted with an acute nervous headache which lasted uninterruptedly, says her son, from her twelfth to her thirty-first year, though the pain was not so severe, her sister remarks, but that she could sometimes read. She had received her education at home, mainly from her sister, who kept a school in the house, and in spite of her ill-health had many and varied acquisitions. She read Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and was somewhat familiar with history. Passages in her journal show the character and range of her reading, which was of that strangely mixed sort that belonged to the notion of culture in those days; thus, for instance, in her twentieth year, she records having read on one day De Gérando, Fénelon, St. Luke and Isaiah, Young, Addison, and four comedies of Shakspere, besides doing some sewing. She was a good French and Italian scholar. Filled with intellectual enthusiasm and ambition as she was, her sensibilities seem rather to have been roused by natural beauty, effects of sky and weather and color, and her active powers took the direction of art; she sketched, painted, and modeled in clay. In 1832 she had gone to Cuba with her mother for three years, and received some benefit from the climate. She had especially practiced horseback-riding there, of which she was fond. No permanent improvement, however, had followed, on her return to Salem in 1835. When Hawthorne came to know her, she was living a half-invalid life, taking her meals in her own room, which she had fitted up with artistic prettiness, and yet suffering the full transcendental tide of culture and emotion. Perhaps no single passage can better illustrate her mind and feelings than a description of Emerson's call in the spring of 1838, which she writes to her sister, whom, at an earlier time, he had taught Greek:—
"We had an exquisite visit from Waldo. It was the warbling of the Attic bird. The gleam of his diffused smile; the musical thunder of his voice; his repose, so full of the essence of life; his simplicity—just think of all these, and of my privilege in seeing and hearing him. He enjoyed everything we showed him so much! He talked so divinely to Raphael's Madonna del Pesce! I vainly imagined I was very quiet all the while, preserving a very demure exterior, and supposed I was sharing his oceanic calm. But the next day I was aware that I had been in a very intense state. I told Mary, that night after he had gone, that I felt like a gem; that was the only way I could express it. I don't know what Mary hoped to get from him, but I was sure of drinking in that which would make me paint Cuban skies better than even my recollections could have made me, were they as vivid as the rays of the sun in that sunniest of climates. He made me feel as Eliza Dwight did once, when she looked uncommonly beautiful and animated. I felt as if her beauty was all about the room, and that I was in it, and therefore beautiful too. It seemed just so with Waldo's soul-beauty."
She had been in communication with others of the leading spirits of that day besides Emerson. Dr. Channing and Allston sent her messages, kindly and flattering, about her drawings and painting. She had copied some of Allston's pictures. Her studio was the centre of her life; and there her friends "glided in," to use her phrase, with roses and columbines, little girls came to take peeps at its wonders, and from it came the sunshine of the house. Here, to give some further trifling indications, she described herself, after a visit of Hawthorne, as feeling "quite lark-like, or like John of Bologna's Mercury;" or she indulged one of her "dearest visions," which was "to get well enough to go into prisons and tell felons I have sympathy for them, especially women;" or, when Hawthorne called, lamented that she should have to smooth her hair, and dress, "while he was being wasted downstairs." She felt his attractive power from the first, and was happy in his attentions, in the walks they took, in their visits to Miss Burley's weekly meetings, in the picture of Ilbrahim, "The Gentle Boy," which she made for him, in her story, "Edward Randolph's Portrait," which he wrote for her, in the columbines and tulips that strewed the way of love-making, and, in brief, in the thousand trifles of the old story. Hawthorne, on his part, was equally attracted in his different ways, and responded to the vivacity and ebullience of this intense feminine nature disclosed to him in the live woman who had met him, as if coming out of a vision, on life's road. The spring budded and flowered into summer, and when he took his habitual journey into the world,—this time into Berkshire and Vermont, from July 23 to September 24,—meaning, as he told her, to cut himself wholly away from every one, so that even his mother should not know his whereabouts, it is not unlikely that he was desirous of this solitude to think it all over.
They became engaged at the close of the year, though the matter was kept a profound secret, there being apparently some apprehension that his mother would not approve of it. His sister Elizabeth, was, perhaps, not very cordial about it, also, but there was, as it proved, no occasion for anxiety. It might well have seemed imprudent for Hawthorne, whose worldly success had been slight, to marry an invalid wife. Fortune, however, was not wholly unkind, and George Bancroft, whose attention had been called to Hawthorne's needs, gave him an appointment at the Boston Custom House as weigher and gauger, at a salary of twelve hundred dollars. It was this opportunity, possibly, which emboldened Hawthorne to take the final step; and marriage would be hoped for, should this experiment of entering on a fixed employment prove successful.
During the progress of this courtship, to complete the chronicle of Hawthorne's literary publications, he had written the carrier's address, "Time's Portraiture," for "The Salem Gazette," January 2, 1838, the home paper which had made him known to his fellow-townsmen by reprinting "The Fountain of Youth," in the preceding March; and for the same paper he wrote the address for the following year, January 1, 1839, "The Sister Years." He had also contributed to " The American Monthly Magazine," for January, 1838. an article under his own name on his friend, Thomas Green Fessenden, a Maine politician who had recently died; and to the same periodical, for March, "The Three-fold Destiny" under the old pseudonym of Ashley Allen Royce. It was, however, "The Democratic Review" which served as the principal channel of publication. It contained successively "Footprints on the Beach," January; "Snowflakes," February; "Howe's Masquerade," May; "Edward Randolph's Portrait," July; "Lady Eleanore's Mantle," "Chippings with a Chisel," and a sketch of Jonathan Cilley, his friend who had just been shot by Graves in a duel, all in September; and these tales he signed as by The Author of "Twice-Told Tales." The Province House series was concluded by "Old Esther Dudley," in this same periodical, April, 1839, and to this he affixed his own name for the first time. "The Lily's Quest" had appeared, January 19, 1839. in "The Southern Rose," published at Charleston, South Carolina. Here the first stage of his literary career ended.
He was now to leave that chamber under the eaves, in which these years, lengthened to fourteen now, had been spent, but not without a farewell. Here he had written, in 1835, "In this dismal chamber fame was won." A dismal sort of fame he thought it then. It was on returning to it in 1840 that he penned the well-known passage:—
"Here I sit in my old, accustomed chamber, where I used to sit in days gone by.... Here I have written many tales,—many that have been burned to ashes, many that doubtless deserved the same fate. This claims to be called a haunted chamber, for thousands upon thousands of visions have appeared to me in it; and some few of them have become visible to the world. If ever I should have a biographer, he ought to make great mention of this chamber in my memoirs, because so much of my lonely youth was wasted here, and here my mind and character were formed; and here I have been glad and hopeful, and here I have been despondent. And here I sat a long, long time, waiting patiently for the world to know me, and sometimes wondering why it did not know me sooner, or whether it would ever know me at all,—at least, till I were in my grave. And sometimes it seemed as if I were already in the grave, with only life enough to be chilled and benumbed. But oftener I was happy,—at least, as happy as I then knew how to be, or was aware of the possibility of being. By and by, the world found me out in my lonely chamber, and called me forth,—not, indeed, with a loud roar of acclamation, but rather with a still, small voice,—and forth I went, but found nothing in the world that I thought preferable to my old solitude till now.... And now I begin to understand why I was imprisoned so many years in this lonely chamber, and why I could never break through the viewless bolts and bars; for if I had sooner made my escape into the world, I should have grown hard and rough, and been covered with earthly dust, and my heart might have become callous by rude encounters with the multitude.... But living in solitude till the fullness of time was come, I still kept the dew of my youth and the freshness of my heart.... I used to think I could imagine all passions, all feelings, and states of the heart and mind; but how little did I know!... Indeed, we are but shadows; we are not endowed with real life, and all that seems most real about us is but the thinnest substance of a dream,—till the heart be touched. That touch creates us,—then we begin to be,—thereby we are beings of reality and inheritors of eternity."
This sentiment always continued to play about this room, and whenever he returned to it he was apt to set down some word of memory. In one passage he even describes it as a shrine of literary pilgrimage, and mentions, with that well-known touch, half fantastic, half grotesque, its various articles of furniture,—the washstand, the mahogany-framed glass, the pine table, the flag-bottomed chair, the old chest of drawers, the closet, the worn-out shoe-brush, imagining the thoughts of the pilgrim on beholding these relics. It was the type for him of the old life of loneliness, of disappointment, of household gloom; but it was also the place where he had spent those "tranquil and not unhappy years," of which he afterwards said these early tales were the memorials; and, however the room might darken in comparison with the happiness of his married life, his last thought in regard to it was that contained in a letter written late in life: "I am disposed to thank God for the gloom and chill of my early life, in the hope that my share of adversity came then, when I bore it alone."
- Fanshawe. A Tale. Boston: Marsh & Capen, 362 Washington St. Press of Putnam and Hunt, 1828. 12mo. Pp. 141.
- It is unquestionable that Hawthorne contributed to annuals and periodicals anonymous tales and sketches that he never claimed, as he states in the preface to Twice-Told Tales and in a letter to Fields in which he beseeches him not to revive them. The identification of such work, however, is beset with much temptation to find a tale genuine, if it can be plausibly so represented, and in few cases can the proof be conclusive. Mr. F. B. Sanborn presents the fullest list, all from The Token, which he accepts as genuine, as follows: The Adventures of a Raindrop, 1828, The Young Provincial, 1830, The Haunted Quack and The New England Village, 1831, My Wife's Novel, 1832, The Bald Eagle, 1833, The Modern Job, or The Philosopher's Stone, 1834. The correspondence with Goodrich does not indicate that Hawthorne contributed to The Token before the issue for 1831. The Young Provincial seems to be the same sort of a tale as The Downer's Banner, as has been intimated above: yet it would, perhaps, be more readily accepted, together with The Haunted Quack and The Modern Job. The latest edition of Hawthorne includes all of these tales, given above, except the first and last, but its editor does not vouch for their authenticity.
- In the Riverside edition of Hawthorne's works a paper, Hints to Young Ambition, which appeared in The New England Magazine, 1832, signed "H.," is included. The piece is one of several, with the same signature, and there can he little hesitation in rejecting it, as Goodrich would hardly have needed to introduce Hawthorne to a magazine to which he already contributed. The other pieces are not in his vein, and "H." is a common signature in the periodicals of the time. At all events, Hawthorne would have gone further afield for a pseudonym than the initial of his own name, which he is not known ever to have used.
- Peter Parley's Universal History on the basis of Geography. For the Use of Families. Illustrated by Maps and Engravings. Boston: American Stationers' Company. John B. Russell, 1837. 12mo, cloth. 2 vols., pp. 380, 374.
- Twice-Told Tales. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston: American Stationers' Co. John B. Russell, 1837. 12mo, cloth. Pp. 334. It contained the following tales: The Gray Champion, Sunday at Home, The Wedding Knell, The Minister's BlackVeil, The May-Pole of Merry Mount, The Gentle Boy, Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe, Little Annie's Ramble, Wakefield, A Rill from the Town Pump, The Great Carbuncle, The Prophetic Pictures, David Swan, Sights from a Steeple, The Hollow of the Three Hills, The Vision of the Fountain, Fancy's Show Box, Dr. Heidegger's Experiment.