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    Ch. 4 - Brook Farm and Concord

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    Chapter 4
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    The history of the little industrial and intellectual association
    which formed itself at this time in one of the suburbs of Boston has
    not, to my knowledge, been written; though it is assuredly a curious
    and interesting chapter in the domestic annals of New England. It
    would of course be easy to overrate the importance of this ingenious
    attempt of a few speculative persons to improve the outlook of
    mankind. The experiment came and went very rapidly and quietly,
    leaving very few traces behind it. It became simply a charming
    personal reminiscence for the small number of amiable enthusiasts who
    had had a hand in it. There were degrees of enthusiasm, and I suppose
    there were degrees of amiability; but a certain generous brightness of
    hope and freshness of conviction pervaded the whole undertaking and
    rendered it, morally speaking, important to an extent of which any
    heed that the world in general ever gave to it is an insufficient
    measure. Of course it would be a great mistake to represent the
    episode of Brook Farm as directly related to the manners and morals of
    the New England world in general--and in especial to those of the
    prosperous, opulent, comfortable part of it. The thing was the
    experiment of a coterie--it was unusual, unfashionable, unsuccessful.
    It was, as would then have been said, an amusement of the
    Transcendentalists--a harmless effusion of Radicalism. The
    Transcendentalists were not, after all, very numerous; and the
    Radicals were by no means of the vivid tinge of those of our own day.
    I have said that the Brook Farm community left no traces behind it
    that the world in general can appreciate; I should rather say that the
    only trace is a short novel, of which the principal merits reside in
    its qualities of difference from the affair itself. _The Blithedale
    Romance_ is the main result of Brook Farm; but _The Blithedale
    Romance_ was very properly never recognised by the Brook Farmers as an
    accurate portrait of their little colony.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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