MoboReader > Literature > Memories of Hawthorne

   Chapter 4 LIFE IN SALEM

Memories of Hawthorne By Rose Hawthorne Lathrop Characters: 42963

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


The Hawthornes now moved to Salem, where they remained for several years.

Washington's Birthday, 1846.

TRUE MOTHER,-Through the howling storm your little box of benefits came safely. I was especially grateful to hear from you, because I had read in the paper of Mr. Mann's walking into the dock, and feared he might be very ill after it. I was exceedingly relieved to hear that he was none the worse for such an unexpected baptism. I thought that after getting tired and heated by lecturing, the transition might be almost mortal for his delicate frame. I, in my old-fashioned simplicity of faith, would have it that God saved him. My husband has found "The Christmas Banquet," and he has made up the second volume, which I send with this, for dear father to transmit to New York. The second volume must be printed first, because he has not long enough dreamed over the new tale or essay which is to commence the first volume. From all question as to what this precious web may be, last woven in the loom of his genius, I sacredly abstain till the fullness of time. Oh, I am so glad that these scattered jewels are now to be set together!

"Zuna" is spreading out her painted tea-set upon a little oval tray that came from beyond sea, in her father's childhood. She plays tea-drinking with infinite grace and skill. Last week Louisa Hawthorne and I spent the day with Mrs. Dike, and Una behaved like a consummate lady, although she frolicked like a child. Mrs. Dike gave her some beautiful silver playthings, with which she had a tea-party. Rebecca Manning [a little cousin] was there, and over their airy tea Una undertook to be agreeable, and began of her own accord to converse, and tell Rebecca about her life in Concord. She said, "In Tontord Zuna went out into the orchard and picked apples in her little basket, for papa and mamma to eat." And then, with a countenance and tone of triumph, she exclaimed, "And papa's boat!"

A long letter written by George William Curtis is a bright ray from a beautiful personality, containing these descriptions:-

ROME, January 14, 1847.

MY DEAR FRIENDS,-How often in the long sunny silence of that summer voyage, when in the Atlantic all day the sea rippled as gently about the ship as the waters of Walden pour against their shore, and in the Mediterranean the moon would have no other mirror, but entranced its waves to an oily calmness in which she shone unbroken, did I figure you gliding with us on our fairy way to France, Italy, and in the next summer, Switzerland! One day in our voyage we passed the Straits of Gibraltar-seeing land for the first time in twenty-eight days. We came so near and passed so rapidly, saw so distinctly the dusky gray olive foliage of Spain and the little round towers whence the old Spaniards looked for the Moors; and on the other side, so grim and lonely, the intricate mountain outline of Africa, so distinctly, and at night again, and for many days after, the same broad water; that it lies more dreamily in my memory than anything else. . . . On the forty-fifth day I stepped ashore in France; but not without more regret than I thought possible, for the ship; and one of the crew, of my own age, with whom I had seen the stars fade in the morning during his watch, had become very dear to me. Yet in Marseilles everything was quaint. . . . The same features I had always known in a city,-men, houses, streets, squares; but with an expression unknown before. At night, with my sailor friend, I threaded some of the narrower streets, which were like corridors in an unshapely Titan palace. At the doors of the smallest shops on each side sat the spinsters in the moonlight, gossiping and knitting; while over them bent old French tradesmen, in long yarn stockings and velvet knee-breeches. The street was barely wide enough for a carriage, and they talked across; and all was as gay and happy as Arcadia. Every day [in Florence], I was in the galleries, which are freely open to every one, and here saw the grandest works of Raphael in his middle and best style. Of the wonderful feminine grace and tenderness of these, of which no copy can give an idea, I cannot properly speak. From him only have I received the idea of the Immaculate Mother-the union of celestial superiority with human maternity. The innumerable other Madonnas are beautiful pictures; but they are either mere mothers or mere angels. It is the same union in kind with what you may observe in his portrait, where masculine character is so blended and tempered with feminine grace and flexibility. Raphael is the clear, deep, beautiful eye, in which and through which is seen the undoubted heaven. . . .

How glad I am that I have a right to send you a letter! I have left a small space into which to squeeze a large love, which I send to Mrs. H., with my thanks for her kind letter, which could not come too late, and which I am very sure highly gratified Mr. Crawford. He desires to make his especial regards to Mrs. H., and said that he should write her a note, if it were not too great a liberty, which he would send in a letter to Mrs. Howe. Mention my name to Una; for in some dim remembrance of Concord meadows I may then figure as a shadowy faun. A long, pleasant letter from George Bradford, the other day, gave me the last news from our old home, which is very placid and beautiful in my memory. I should love to see Ellery Channing's new book. But I am sure that he will never forgive himself for coming to Rome for sixteen days. I am sorry to say good-by. G. W. CURTIS.

While on a visit to her mother, Mrs. Hawthorne writes to her husband:-

BOSTON, July.

. . . I received your most precious letter yesterday. I do not need to stand apart from daily life to see how fair and blest our lot is. Every mother is not like me-because not every mother has such a father for her children; so that my cares are forever light. Am I not eminently well, round, and rubicund? Even in the very centre of simultaneous screams from both darling little throats, I am quite as sensible of my happiness as when the most dulcet sounds are issuing thence. I have suffered only for you, in my babydom. You ought not to be obliged to undergo the wear and tear of the nursery; it is contrary to your nature and your mood. You were born to muse, and through undisturbed dreams to enlighten the world. Una mourns for you. "Oh, I must go home to see my papa! Oh, when are we going to Salem?" Her little heart has enough of mine in it to feel widowed without you. Julian does not walk yet; but he understands everything, and talks a great deal.

There was a sharp contrast between Mrs. Hawthorne's earlier life of intercourse with trooping, charming friends, and devotion to art and literature, and the toils of motherhood in poverty which now absorbed her days. She refers to this new order of existence with joyful patience in the following letters to Mrs. Peabody:-

SALEM, September, 1848.

Dora Golden [Julian's nurse] takes this to you. She deferred her visit to Boston for my convenience, because Mr. Hawthorne thought of going to Temple, to visit General Miller; but he did not go. Mr. Hawthorne will contribute to Elizabeth's book, but not for pay. Mary Chase took Una and me to Nahant to see Rebecca Kinsman at her cottage. It was a dear little nest, on the brow of a hill commanding the boundless sea. Una flew around like a petrel; only that her hair floated golden in the sunshine, and the petrel's feathers are gray. You are quite right; I am so happy that I require nothing more. No art nor beauty can excel my daily life, with such a husband and such children, the exponents of all art and beauty. I really have not even the temptation to go out of my house to find anything better. Not that I enjoy less any specimen of earthly or heavenly grace when I meet it elsewhere; but I have so much in perpetual presence that I am not hungry for such things.

November 19, 1848.

I intended almost every day last week to go to Boston, but was detained by various circumstances. Among other things, Mr. Daniel Webster was to come to lecture, and I thought I must wait to hear him. I am glad I did, for it was a very useful lecture, and in some parts quite grand. It was upon the Constitution-a noble subject. You know he is particularly designated as the Expounder of the Constitution. He stood like an Egyptian column, solid and without any Corinthian grace, but with dignity and composed majesty. He gave a simple statement of facts concerning the formation of our united government; and towards the close, he now and then thundered, and his great cavernous eyes lightened, as he eloquently showed how noble and wonderful it was, and how astonishing the sagacity and insight of those young patriots had been in the memorable Congress. The old Lion walked the stage with a sort of repressed rage, when he referred to those persons who cried out, "Down with the Constitution!" "Madmen! Or most wicked if not mad!" said he, with a glare of fire, as he looked about him. He had risen with his hat in his hand, and held it all the time, making no gestures excepting once, when he referred to the American eagle and flag. He then raised his hand and pointed as if the eagle were cleaving the air; and he said, "Who calls this the Massachusetts eagle, the Illinois eagle,-or this the Virginia flag, or the New Hampshire flag? Are they not the American eagle and the American flag? And wherever the flag waves, let him touch it who dares!" His voice and glance as he pronounced these words were the artillery of a storm; and they were followed by tremendous rolls of applause. Mr. Hawthorne, who is one of the managers of the Lyceum (!) was deputed to go on Monday to West Newton, to see Mr. Mann about lecturing here.

Sophia writes to Mrs. Mann, then in Washington:-

"Is Congress behaving any worse than usual? The members are always giving the lie and seizing each other by the collar, ever since the grave and majestic days of the first Sessions, it seems to me. But we have not got to being quite such monkeys as the French are in their Assemblies. Mrs. George Peabody, a week or two ago, gave a great ball, to which she invited us. I heard that Mr. Peabody had put his magnificent Murillo picture in the finest light imaginable, having built a temporary oratory for it, on the piazza upon which the library opens. The library was dark as night, and as I entered it, the only object I could see was this divine Madonna at the end of the illuminated oratory. It is the Annunciation. There is not the smallest glory of color in the picture. The power, the wonder of the picture, is the beauty of the expression and features. Her eyes are lifted and her hands crossed upon her bosom. The features seem hardly material, such a fineness and spiritual light transfigure them. It is the greatest picture I ever saw."

A fragment of a letter suggests a lecture and a great innovation.

"My husband bought a ticket for himself, and went with me!! Mr. Alcott spent an evening with us a week or more ago, and was very interesting; telling, at my request, about his youth, and peddling, etc. There were six ladies and six gentlemen present last Monday evening. They assembled at Mr. Stone's. Miss Hannah Hodges, Mrs. J. C. Lee, and two ladies whom I did not know, besides Mrs. Stone and myself; Mr. Frothingham, Mr. William Silsbee, Mr. Shackford, of Lynn, Mr. Pike, Mr. Streeter, and my husband, besides Mr. Stone and his son. Mr. Alcott said he would commence with the Nativity, and first read Milton's Hymn. Then he retreated to his corner, and for about an hour and three quarters kept up an even flow of thought, without a word being uttered by any other person present. Then Mr. Stone questioned him upon his use of the word 'artistic;' which provoked a fine analysis from him of the word 'artist' as distinguished from 'artisan.' I thought the whole monologue very beautiful and clear. This evening Mr. Thoreau is going to lecture, and will stay with us. His lecture before was so enchanting; such a revelation of nature in all its exquisite details of wood-thrushes, squirrels, sunshine, mists and shadows, fresh, vernal odors, pine-tree ocean melodies, that my ear rang with music, and I seemed to have been wandering through copse and dingle! Mr. Thoreau has risen above all his arrogance of manner, and is as gentle, simple, ruddy, and meek as all geniuses should be; and now his great blue eyes fairly outshine and put into shade a nose which I once thought must make him uncomely forever."

Several letters from Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne break in upon the usual quietude with allusions to the real hardship of public misapprehension; yet no false statements and judgments were ever more coolly received. Still, Mrs. Hawthorne writes with an excited hand:-

June 8, 1849.

MY DEAR FATHER,-Mr. Hawthorne received news by telegraph to-day that he is turned out of office headlong. I have written to mother, and told her, fearing she would hear of it accidentally. We are not cast down at all, and do not be anxious for us. You will see by my letter to mother how we are hopeful and cheerful about it, and expect better things. The cock is crowing the noon of night and I must to bed. I have written a long letter to mother. We are all well. Your affectionate daughter,

SOPHIA.

The letter to her mother has not been completely preserved, but runs:-

. . . The telegraph to-day brought us news that would have made the cottage [at Lenox] particularly acceptable, because we could have lived there upon our own responsibility-for the Old General has turned Mr. Hawthorne out of the Surveyorship. Do not be troubled; for we are not.

Mr. Hawthorne never liked the office at all, and is rather relieved than otherwise that it is taken out of his hands, and has an inward confidence that something much better and more suitable for him will turn up. As for me, you know I am composed of Hope and Faith, and while I have my husband and the children I feel as if Montezuma's diamonds and emeralds were spiritually in my possession. But we look forward with a kind of rapture to the possibility of now going into the country somewhere this summer, and setting Una down in a field, where she so pines to go. Meantime, the newly appointed Surveyor's commission has not arrived, and so Mr. Hawthorne is not yet out of office.

I have not seen my husband happier than since this turning out. He has felt in chains for a long time, and being a MAN, he is not alarmed at being set upon his own feet again,-or on his head, I might say,-for that contains the available gold, of a mine scarcely yet worked at all. As Margaret [Fuller] truly said once, "We have had but a drop or so from that ocean." We are both perfectly well, too, and brave with happiness, and "a credence in our hearts, and esperance so absolutely strong, as doth outvie the attest of eyes and ears." (So Shakespeare somewhere speaks for us, somewhat so-but not verbatim, for I forget one or two words.)

Above all, it has come in the way of an inevitable Providence to us (whatever knavery some people may have to answer for, who have been the agents in the removal), and I never receive inevitable Providences with resignation merely; but with joy, as certainly, undoubtedly, the best possible events that can happen for me-and immediately I begin to weave the apparent straw into gold, like the maiden in the fairy tale.

Good-by now, dear mother. Do not be anxious. I should not have told you this now-fearing you might be troubled-but I was afraid you might see the removal in the papers, or hear of it; and I thought it best to let you know just how it is with us, so that you might not have a shock. Your most affectionate child,

SOPHIA.

MY DEAR FATHER,-Here is a pretty business, discovered in an unexpected manner to Mr. Hawthorne by a friendly and honorable Whig. Perhaps you know that the President said before he took the chair that he should make no removals, except for dishonesty and unfaithfulness. So that all who voted for him after that declaration pledged themselves to the same course. You know also doubtless that there has never been such a succession of removals of honorable and honest men since we were a nation as since the accession of President Taylor,-not even under Jackson,-who, however, always removed people because they were Whigs, without any covert implication of character. This has been Democratic conduct-to remove for political reasons.

This conduct the Whigs always disapproved, and always said that no one ought to be removed but from disability or dishonesty. So that now when any one is removed, it is implied that the person is either a shiftless or a dishonest man. It is very plain that neither of these charges could be brought against Mr. Hawthorne. Therefore a most base and incredible falsehood has been told-written down and signed and sent to the Cabinet in secret. This infamous paper certifies among other things (of which we have not heard)-that Mr. Hawthorne has been in the habit of writing political articles in magazines and newspapers!

This he has never done, as every one knows, in his life-not one word of politics was ever written by him. His townsfolk, of course, know it well. But what will surprise you more than this fact is to hear who got up this paper, and perjured his soul upon it; who followed his name with their signatures, and how it was indorsed. It was no less a person than Mr. C. W. U.!!! who has thus proved himself a liar and a most consummate hypocrite; for he has always professed himself the warmest friend. He certifies the facts of the paper; and thirty other gentlemen of Salem sign their names! Among whom are G. D. and young N. S., and Mr. R. R.! Can you believe it? Not one of these gentlemen knew this to be true, because it is not true; and yet, for party ends, they have all perjured themselves to get away this office, and make the President believe there were plausible pretexts; they had no idea it could be found out. But the District Attorney saw the paper. He is a Whig, but friendly to Mr. Hawthorne, on literary grounds; and the District Attorney told a Salem gentleman, also a Whig and a personal friend of Mr. Hawthorne's. Thus, the "murder" is out, through better members of the same party.

Mr. Hawthorne took the removal with perfect composure and content, having long expected it on account of his being a Democrat. But yesterday, when he went to Boston and found out this, the lion was roused in him. He says it is a cowardly attack upon his character, done in such secrecy; and that he shall use his pen now in a way he never has done, and expose the lie, addressing the public. Your child,

SOPHIA.

June 17.

MY BLESSED MOTHER,-Your most welcome and beautiful letter of the 11th I very gladly received. You take our reverse of fortune in the way I hoped you would. I feel "beyond the utmost scope and vision of calamity" (as Pericles said to Aspasia), while my husband satisfies my highest ideal, and while the graces of heaven fill the hearts of my children. Everything else is very external. This is the immortal life which makes flowers of asphodel bloom in my path, and no rude step can crush them. I exult in my husband. He stands upon a table-land of high behavior which is far above these mean and false proceedings, with which a party of intriguers are now concerning themselves, and covering themselves with the hopeless mud of Dante's Inferno. The more harm they try to do, deeper down they plunge into the mire; and I doubt if ever in this world some of them will be able to wash their faces clean again. My husband supposed he was removed because he was a Democrat (and you know very well how he has always been a Democrat, not a Locofoco-if that means a lucifer match). Therefore he took it as a matter of course in the way of politics; though it surprised me, because General Taylor had pledged himself not to remove any person for political opinions, but only for dishonesty and inefficiency. This was why all Mr. Hawthorne's Whig as well as Democrat friends were sure he would not be disturbed. He could not even have provoked hostility by having taken any active part in politics,-never writing, never speaking, never moving for the cause. But these intriguers secretly carried out their plan. They wrote in letters false charges which they sent to Washington, and thirty gentlemen signed their names to a paper requesting the appointment of Mr. Putnam.

June 21, Thursday.

MY OWN DEAR MOTHER,-I am truly disappointed that you have not had this letter before, but the tide of events has hurried me away from it. Now I must write a few words. You never heard of such a time about any one as there has been about Mr. Hawthorne. The whole country is up in arms, and will not allow Mr. Hawthorne to be removed. And now I have the good news to tell you that his removal is suspended at Washington, and he is either to be reinstated if he will consent, or to be presented with a better office. At Washington the Government was deceived, and were not told that the person to be removed was Mr. Hawthorne-so secret and cunning were these four gentlemen of Salem! I cannot tell you all the abominable story now; and it is no matter, since they are caught in their own toils, and defeated. Mr. Hawthorne's name is ringing through the land. All the latent feeling about him no

w comes out, and he finds himself very famous. Mr. Samuel Hooper has been very active for him. Mr. Howes has done nothing else for ten days but go back and forth to Boston, and come here to see my husband, upon the subject. It has wholly roused him out of his deep affliction for the death of Frederic [his brother], for whom he feels as if he were acting now, so deep was Frederic's love and admiration for Mr. Hawthorne. I wrote the above on my lap, following Julian about, this hottest day. Now I can only say good-by, and implore you to stay through July among the mountains. It is too hot in West Street for you. We are all well, here, and there. When I see you, I will tell you this long story about the removal, which has proved no removal, as Mr. Hawthorne has not left the Custom House, and the commission of the new officer has not arrived.

Your loving child,

SOPHIA.

P. S. Just to show to what a detail of meanness and cunning the reverend person descends, I must tell you that he brought from Washington a paper which he copied from the original memorial there; which memorial was a testimony of the merchants of Salem in favor of Colonel Miller's being Collector. This memorial Mr. Hawthorne, in official capacity as Surveyor of the Port, and acquainted therefore with the merchants, indorsed,-saying that, "to the best of his recollection," these were all the principal merchants, and that they were responsible persons. In the copy which Mr. U. made he left out "to the best of his recollection," and made it read that these were all the merchants of Salem. Stephen C. Phillips's name was not signed. And so Mr. U. brings this to prove that Mr. Hawthorne is impeachable for want of veracity! He tried hard to find that my husband acted politically with regard to Colonel Miller's appointment; and as this was impossible, he thought he would try to prove him a false witness. Did you ever know of such pitiful evasions? But there is no language to describe him. He is, my husband says, the most satisfactory villain that ever was, for at every point he is consummate. The Government had decided to reinstate Mr. Hawthorne before Mr. U.'s arrival at Washington, and his representations changed the purpose. I trust Mr. Everett will be enlightened about the latter, so as to see what an unjust act he has committed by retracting his first letter. "What!" said Charles Sumner of Mr. U., "that smooth, smiling, oily man of God!"

Hawthorne has occasion to write to the

HON. HORACE MANN, M. C., WEST NEWTON, MASS.

SALEM, June 26, 1849.

MY DEAR SIR,-I have just received your note, in which you kindly offer me your interest towards reinstating me in the office of Surveyor.

I was perfectly in earnest in what I told Elizabeth, and should still be very unwilling to have you enter into treaty with Mr. K., Mr. U., or other members of the local party, in my behalf. But, on returning here, after an absence of two or three days, I found a state of things rather different from what I expected, the general feeling being strongly in my favor, and a disposition to make a compromise, advantageous to me, on the part of some, at least, of those who had acted against me. "The Essex Register," of yesterday, speaks of an intention to offer me some better office than that of which I have been deprived. Now, I do not think that I can, preserving my self-respect, accept of any compromise. No other office can be offered me that will not have been made vacant by the removal of a Democrat; and, even if there were such an office, still, as charges have been made against me, complete justice can be done only by placing me exactly where I was before. This also would be the easiest thing for the Administration to do, as they still hold my successor's commission suspended. A compromise might indeed be made, not with me, but with Captain Putnam, by giving him a place in this Custom House-which would be of greater emolument than my office; and I have reason to believe that the Collector would accede to such an arrangement. Perhaps this idea might do something towards inducing Mr. Meredith to make the reinstatement.

I did not intend to involve you in this business; nor, indeed, have I desired any friend to take up my cause; but if, in view of the whole matter, you should see fit to do as Mr. Mills advises, I shall feel truly obliged. Of course, after consenting that you should use your influence in my behalf, I should feel myself bound to accept the reinstatement, if offered. I beg you to believe, also, that I would not allow you to say a word for me, if I did not know that I have within my power a complete refutation of any charges of official misconduct that have been, or may be, brought against me.

Sophia and the children are well. The managers of the Lyceum desire to know if you will deliver two lectures for them, before the session of Congress.

Very truly yours,

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.

SALEM, July 2, 1849.

MY DEAR SIR,-I am inclined to think, from various suspicious indications that I have noticed or heard of, between the Whigs and one or two of my subordinate officers, that they are concocting, or have already concocted, a new set of charges against me. Would it not be a judicious measure for you to write to the Department, requesting a copy of these charges, that I may have an opportunity of answering them? There can be nothing (setting aside the most direct false testimony, if even that) which I shall not have it in my power either to explain, defend, or disprove. I had some idea of calling for these charges through the newspapers, but it would bring on a controversy which might be interminable, and would only, however clearly I should prove my innocence, make my reinstatement the more difficult; so that I judge it best to meet the charges in this way-always provided that there are any.

It grieves me to give you so much trouble; but you must recollect that it was your own voluntary kindness, and not my importunity, that involves you in it. Very truly yours,

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.

The following letter is fragmentary, because of the demands of some autograph-hunter.

. . . It occurred to me, after sending off those documents, yesterday, that I ought to have given you some particulars as to the political character and standing of the gentlemen who signed them. B. Barstow, Esq., is Vice-President of the Hickory Club, and a member of the Democratic Town Committee. William B. Pike is Chairman of the Democratic County Committee. T. Burchmore, Jr., Esq., is Chairman of the Democratic Congressional District Committee. Dr. B. E. Browne signs in his own official character as a member of the Democratic State Committee. They have all been active in our local politics, and thoroughly acquainted with the political . . . [mutilated for autograph signature].

As respects the letter from T. Burchmore, Jr., to myself, I wish to say a few words. Mr. Burchmore has, for twenty-five years past, occupied a situation in the Custom House; and for a long time past, though nominally only head clerk, has been the actual head of the establishment, owing to his great business talent and thorough acquaintance with all matters connected with the revenue. He is an upright and honorable . . . [mutilated] . . . in my behalf; and I would wish, therefore, in communicating with the Department, that you would use him as tenderly as possible. Of course, his letter may be sent on, but it would be best not to advert to his being connected with the Custom House; and as he holds his office from the Collector, it is very probable that the Department may not know him in an official character.

My successor's commission has not yet arrived.

The enemy is very quiet, and I know little or nothing about their motions.

Mrs. Mann's letter to Sophia arrived this morning.

P. S. The gentlemen above mentioned have a high social standing, as well as a political one. Mr. Barstow, for instance, you may recollect as Vice-President of the Salem Lyceum, where he was introduced to you.

SALEM, August 8, 1849.

MY DEAR SIR,-My case is so simple, and the necessary evidence comes from so few sources, and is so direct in its application, that I think I cannot mistake my way through it; nor do I see how it can be prejudiced by my remaining quiet, for the present. I will sketch it to you as briefly as possible.

Mr. U. accuses me of suspending one or more inspectors for refusing to pay party subscriptions, and avers that I sent them a letter of suspension by a messenger, whom he names, and that-I suppose after the payment of the subscription-I withdrew the suspension.

I shall prove that a question was referred to me-as chief executive officer of the Custom House-from the Collector's office, as to what action should be taken on a letter from the Treasury Department, requiring the dismissal of our temporary inspectors. We had two officers in that position. They were Democrats, men with large families and no resources, and irreproachable as officers; and for these reasons I was unwilling that they should lose their situations. In order, therefore, to comply with the spirit of the Treasury order, without ruining these two men, I projected a plan of suspending them from office during the inactive season of the year, but without removing them, and in such a manner that they might return to duty when the state of business should justify it. I wrote an order (which I still have in my possession) covering these objects, which, however, was not intended to be acted on immediately, but for previous consultation with the Deputy Collector and the head clerk. On consulting the latter gentleman, he was of opinion, for various reasons which he cited, that the two inspectors might be allowed to remain undisturbed until further orders from the Treasury; to which, as the responsibility was entirely with the Collector's Department, I made no objection. And here, so far as I had any knowledge or concern, the matter ended.

But it is said that I notified the inspectors of their suspension by a certain person, who is named. I have required an explanation of this person, and he at once avowed that, being aware of this contemplated movement, and being in friendly relations with these two men, he thought it his duty to inform them of it; but he most distinctly states that he did it without my authority or knowledge, and that he will testify to this effect whenever I call upon him so to do. I did not inquire what communication he had with the two inspectors, or with either of them; for I look upon his evidence as clearing me, whatever may have passed between him and them. But my idea is (I may be mistaken, but it is founded on some observation of the manoeuvres of small politicians, and knowing the rigid discipline of custom houses as to party subscriptions) that there really was an operation, to squeeze an assessment out of the recusant inspectors, under the terror of an impending removal or suspension; that one of the inspectors turned traitor, and was impelled, by the threats and promises of Mr. U. and his coadjutors, to bring his evidence to a pretty direct point on me; and that Mr. U., in his memorial to the Treasury Department, defined and completed the lie, in such shape as I have given it above. But I do not see how it can stand for a moment against my defense.

The head clerk (the same Mr. Burchmore whose letter I transmitted to you) was turned out a week ago, and will gladly give his evidence at any moment, proving the grounds on which I acted. The other person who is said to have acted as messenger is still in office, a weigher and gauger, at a salary of $1500 per annum. He is a poor man, having been in office but two years, and expended all his income in paying debts for which he was an indorser, and he now wishes to get a few hundred dollars to carry him to California, or give him some other start in life. Still, he will come forward if I call upon him, but, of course, would rather wait for his removal, which will doubtless take place before the session of Congress. Meantime, I have no object to obtain, worth purchasing at the sacrifice which he must make. My surveyorship is lost, and I have no expectation, nor any desire, of regaining it. My purpose is simply to make such a defense to the Senate as will insure the rejection of my successor, and thus satisfy the public that I was removed on false or insufficient grounds. Then, if Mr. U. should give me occasion,-or perhaps if he should not,-I shall do my best to kill and scalp him in the public prints; and I think I shall succeed.

I mean soon to comply with your kind invitation to come and see you, not on the above business, but because I think of writing a schoolbook,-or, at any rate, a book for the young,-and should highly prize your advice as to what is wanted, and how it should be achieved. I mean, as soon as possible,-that is to say, as soon as I can find a cheap, pleasant, and healthy residence,-to remove into the country, and bid farewell forever to this abominable city; for, now that my mother is gone, I have no longer anything to keep me here.

Sophia and the children are pretty well. With my best regards to Mrs.

Mann, I am, Very truly yours,

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.

P. S. Do pardon me for troubling you with this long letter: but I am glad to put you in possession of the facts, in case of accidents.

I will insert here some letters that relate to this time, though written in 1884:-

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND, September 15.

DEAR MRS. LATHROP, . . . That matter of the memorial fountain, or monument [in honor of "The Town Pump "], which the death of Mrs. Brooks prevented our going on with, I trust may yet in the fullness of time be accomplished. I have a plan which may fructify, although some years may intervene before any decided steps can be taken. Perhaps it will be just as well to wait, after all, until some of those wretches who delight in vilifying your father perish from the face of the earth. Let us have patience. They are fast becoming superannuated, and the "venom of their spleen" will perish with them. They comprehend him not, and are willfully blind and deaf. Dr. Wheatland estimates that less than a score of these strange malignants are now to be met with on the streets of Salem. But he has not like me

"Unaware,

Ranging the woods to start a hare,

Come to the mouth of the dark lair,

Where growling low, a fierce old bear,

Lies amid bones and blood."

By the bye, I found once that Miss Savage had wholly forgotten Hawthorne's reference to the Town Pump which closes his Custom House chapter, and so I put "The Scarlet Letter" into my valise (she having lost her copy), and two or three weeks ago I called at her house and read her the passage. Afterwards, I dropped in to see Mullet, and I left the book with him, as he had not read it for many years. I think you will like to see a note he has written me, so I inclose it.

Faithfully yours,

GEORGE H. HOLDEN.

February 5.

MY DEAR MRS. LATHROP,-Rummaging among my papers, last evening, I ran across another letter from our "bright-eyed" and noble-hearted friend Mullet, which I think you will be glad to read, because Mullet wrote it. I therefore inclose the letter. Mullet is very hard of hearing, and on that account goes out but little. During the twelve years that I lived in Salem I am sure I never once met him on the street. In fact, I think I never heard of him, even, till after I moved to Providence. I heard of him one day at the "Gazette" office, and forthwith dug him out. He is a great reader. The Harpers have sent me all of Rolfe's Shakespeare, and I found that I have duplicate copies of three or four of the Plays. These duplicates I shall ask Mullet to oblige me by accepting. Mullet is not the chap who bored your father so fearfully by endless talk about Shakespeare and Napoleon, but he is a prodigious admirer of the great dramatist. He has the Plays in one huge, unwieldy volume, and for that reason reads them less than he would if they were in a more handy form. Mullet is a great reader of the old English poets (I don't mean so far back as Chaucer and Spenser), and I suppose he can repeat from memory thousands of lines. I have found no chance to call upon him since I fruitlessly rang his doorbell, as stated in his letter.

Please remind me to tell you about an African fetich which Mullet gave me one day, and a reminiscence of your father linked therewith. Ever faithfully,

GEORGE H. HOLDEN.

SALEM, September 10, 1884.

DEAR MR. HOLDEN,-It was my good fortune during the year 1850 to be presented with a copy of "The Scarlet Letter," together with "the compliments of the author." Of course, the gift was highly prized; but its fate was that of many other volumes, borrowed and never returned. A volume of the same, from the late edition issued last year, proved a most welcome visitor to my enforced seclusion. After the lapse of many years I once more had the real pleasure of reading over that popular work. The enjoyment derived from a fresh perusal of the introductory chapter on the Custom House was great indeed. It seemed like living over that period of my existence again. The scenes described in such a masterly manner were vividly before me; and while reading I frequently stopped to laugh at the scrupulously nice delineation. The zest with which I read was heightened by the reproduction of the characters in that superlative picture of word-painting, for they together with the artist were vividly-I had almost said palpably-before me, as though it were a thing of yesterday. How real the "patriarchal body of veterans" appeared, "tipped back in chairs," and "at times asleep; but occasionally might be heard talking together in voices between speech and a snore. There was no more vivacity than in the drowsy drone of so many bumblebees." However much others may be entertained by reading that chapter of exquisite humor, those who were the daily witnesses of the scenes for several years can best appreciate its nicety and drollery. The "veteran shipmaster," concerning whom Hawthorne says, "scarcely a day passed that he did not stir me to laughter and admiration by his marvelous gift as a story-teller," was Captain Stephen Burchmore, the public storekeeper. The stories of themselves were generally extravagant and grotesque. It was "the marvelous gift" of narration that carried people off their legs. I have known the company present to roar with laughter, and not one more convulsed than Mr. Hawthorne. Truly yours,

GEORGE W. MULLET.

SALEM, October 1, 1883.

DEAR MR. HOLDEN,-You request me to "write the particulars about the good turn I had done Hawthorne in sacrificing my own interests in his behalf."

Mr. Hawthorne had not been thought of in connection with any office in the Custom House until after arrangements were made to have them filled with others. Richard Lindsay was supported for the surveyorship and myself for the naval office. All necessary documents had been forwarded to Washington, duly authenticated, and tidings of the appointments daily looked for.

At this late stage Hawthorne was first suggested for Surveyor. The matter was urgently pushed. To accomplish it, Lindsay must be prevailed upon to withdraw. All were agreed that I was the one to engineer the matter, Lindsay and myself being fast friends, and our relations uninterruptedly pleasant. That he would willingly consent was not expected, and indeed it was problematical if he would at all. I felt exceedingly delicate about suggesting the business, as I had in person been through the country obtaining signatures from resident committees favoring his appointment. I therefore voluntarily offered to withdraw my application for the naval office in favor of Hawthorne, but that found no favor.

Finally, to secure the desideratum, I proposed that Lindsay and self both withdraw, and have the offices filled with others. I desired my friend should understand that I asked for no sacrifice I was not willing to share. My withdrawal was stoutly opposed as entirely unnecessary, but it was my ultimatum; on no other condition would I move in the matter. The business was then broken by me to Lindsay, and it required all the persuasion I could exercise to reconcile him to the arrangement. The expedient of my own withdrawal brought it about; otherwise it would not have been accomplished.

It now only remained for us to write to Washington, withdrawing our candidatures, and transferring all our support to the applications of Hawthorne for Surveyor and Howard for Naval Officer. Soon their commissions came, and Lindsay and myself were subsequently appointed as inspectors under Hawthorne.

At that time I regarded Hawthorne's appointment as decidedly popular with the party, with men of letters, and with the increasing multitude who admired him as one of the brightest stars in the literary firmament.

Never have I experienced the least regret for waiving my own advantage to bring the pleasing result about. For nearly four years it brought me almost daily into proximity with him, either officially or casually. The recollection well repays the little sacrifice made. His port, his placidity, his hours of abstraction, his mild, pleasant voice,-no sweeter ever uttered by mortal lips,-are all readily recalled. Truly yours,

G. W. MULLET.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares