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To A Friend

I have not asked your consent, my dear General, to the foregoing
inscription, because it would have been no inconsiderable disappointment
to me had you withheld it; for I have long desired to connect your name
with some book of mine, in commemoration of an early friendship that has
grown old between two individuals of widely dissimilar pursuits and
fortunes. I only wish that the offering were a worthier one than this
volume of sketches, which certainly are not of a kind likely to prove
interesting to a statesman in retirement, inasmuch as they meddle with no
matters of policy or government, and have very little to say about the
deeper traits of national character. In their humble way, they belong
entirely to aesthetic literature, and can achieve no higher success than
to represent to the American reader a few of the external aspects of
English scenery and life, especially those that are touched with the
antique charm to which our countrymen are more susceptible than are the
people among whom it is of native growth.

I once hoped, indeed, that so slight a volume would not be all that I
might write. These and other sketches, with which, in a somewhat rougher
form than I have given them here, my journal was copiously filled, were
intended for the side-scenes and backgrounds and exterior adornment of a
work of fiction of which the plan had imperfectly developed itself in my
mind, and into which I ambitiously proposed to convey more of various
modes of truth than I could have grasped by a direct effort. Of course,
I should not mention this abortive project, only that it has been utterly
thrown aside and will never now be accomplished. The Present, the
Immediate, the Actual, has proved too potent for me. It takes away not
only my scanty faculty, but even my desire for imaginative composition,
and leaves me sadly content to scatter a thousand peaceful fantasies upon
the hurricane that is sweeping us all along with it, possibly, into a
Limbo where our nation and its polity may be as literally the fragments
of a shattered dream as my unwritten Romance. But I have far better
hopes for our dear country; and for my individual share of the
catastrophe, I afflict myself little, or not at all, and shall easily
find room for the abortive work on a certain ideal shelf, where are
reposited many other shadowy volumes of mine, more in number, and very
much superior in quality, to those which I have succeeded in rendering

To return to these poor Sketches; some of my friends have told me that
they evince an asperity of sentiment towards the English people which I
ought not to feel, and which it is highly inexpedient to express. The
charge surprises me, because, if it be true, I have written from a
shallower mood than I supposed. I seldom came into personal relations
with an Englishman without beginning to like him, and feeling my
favorable impression wax stronger with the progress of the acquaintance.
I never stood in an English crowd without being conscious of hereditary
sympathies. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that an American is
continually thrown upon his national antagonism by some acrid quality in
the moral atmosphere of England. These people think so loftily of
themselves, and so contemptuously of everybody else, that it requires
more generosity than I possess to keep always in perfectly good-humor
with them. Jotting down the little acrimonies of the moment in my
journal, and transferring them thence (when they happened to be tolerably
well expressed) to these pages, it is very possible that I may have said
things which a profound observer of national character would hesitate to
sanction, though never any, I verily believe, that had not more or less
of truth. If they be true, there is no reason in the world why they
should not be said. Not an Englishman of them all ever spared America
for courtesy's sake or kindness; nor, in my opinion, would it contribute
in the least to our mutual advantage and comfort if we were to besmear
one another all over with butter and honey. At any rate, we must not
judge of an Englishman's susceptibilities by our own, which, likewise, I
trust, are of a far less sensitive texture than formerly.

And now farewell, my dear friend; and excuse (if you think it needs any
excuse) the freedom with which I thus publicly assert a personal
friendship between a private individual and a statesman who has filled
what was then the most august position in the world. But I dedicate my
book to the Friend, and shall defer a colloquy with the Statesman till
some calmer and sunnier hour. Only this let me say, that, with the
record of your life in my memory, and with a sense of your character in
my deeper consciousness as among the few things that time has left as it
found them, I need no assurance that you continue faithful forever to
that grand idea of an irrevocable Union, which, as you once told me, was
the earliest that your brave father taught you. For other men there may
be a choice of paths,--for you, but one; and it rests among my
certainties that no man's loyalty is more steadfast, no man's hopes or
apprehensions on behalf of our national existence more deeply heartfelt,
or more closely intertwined with his possibilities of personal happiness,
than those of FRANKLIN PIERCE.

THE WAYSIDE, July 2, 1863.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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