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    Ch. 1 - Early Years

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    Chapter 1
    It will be necessary, for several reasons, to give this short sketch
    the form rather of a critical essay than of a biography. The data for
    a life of Nathaniel Hawthorne are the reverse of copious, and even if
    they were abundant they would serve but in a limited measure the
    purpose of the biographer. Hawthorne's career was probably as tranquil
    and uneventful a one as ever fell to the lot of a man of letters; it
    was almost strikingly deficient in incident, in what may be called the
    dramatic quality. Few men of equal genius and of equal eminence can
    have led on the whole a simpler life. His six volumes of Note-Books
    illustrate this simplicity; they are a sort of monument to an
    unagitated fortune. Hawthorne's career had few vicissitudes or
    variations; it was passed for the most part in a small and homogeneous
    society, in a provincial, rural community; it had few perceptible
    points of contact with what is called the world, with public events,
    with the manners of his time, even with the life of his neighbours.
    Its literary incidents are not numerous. He produced, in quantity, but
    little. His works consist of four novels and the fragment of another,
    five volumes of short tales, a collection of sketches, and a couple of
    story-books for children. And yet some account of the man and the
    writer is well worth giving. Whatever may have been Hawthorne's
    private lot, he has the importance of being the most beautiful and
    most eminent representative of a literature. The importance of the
    literature may be questioned, but at any rate, in the field of
    letters, Hawthorne is the most valuable example of the American
    genius. That genius has not, as a whole, been literary; but Hawthorne
    was on his limited scale a master of expression. He is the writer to
    whom his countrymen most confidently point when they wish to make a
    claim to have enriched the mother-tongue, and, judging from present
    appearances, he will long occupy this honourable position. If there is
    something very fortunate for him in the way that he borrows an added
    relief from the absence of competitors in his own line and from the
    general flatness of the literary field that surrounds him, there is
    also, to a spectator, something almost touching in his situation. He
    was so modest and delicate a genius that we may fancy him appealing
    from the lonely honour of a representative attitude--perceiving a
    painful incongruity between his imponderable literary baggage and the
    large conditions of American life. Hawthorne on the one side is so
    subtle and slender and unpretending, and the American world on the
    other is so vast and various and substantial, that it might seem to
    the author of _The Scarlet Letter_ and the _Mosses from an Old Manse_,
    that we render him a poor service in contrasting his proportions with
    those of a great civilization. But our author must accept the awkward
    as well as the graceful side of his fame; for he has the advantage of
    pointing a valuable moral. This moral is that the flower of art blooms
    only where the soil is deep, that it takes a great deal of history to
    produce a little literature, that it needs a complex social machinery
    to set a writer in motion. American civilization has hitherto had
    other things to do than to produce flowers, and before giving birth to
    writers it has wisely occupied itself with providing something for
    them to write about. Three or four beautiful talents of trans-Atlantic
    growth are the sum of what the world usually recognises, and in this
    modest nosegay the genius of Hawthorne is admitted to have the rarest
    and sweetest fragrance.

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

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

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

    FOOTNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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