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Chapter 3


Chariots of delight--West Newton--Raw American life--Baby's
fingers--Our cousin Benjamin's untoward head--Our uncle Horace--His
vacuum--A reformer's bristles--Grace Greenwood's first tears--The
heralding of Kossuth--The decorated engine--The chief incident of the
reception--Blithedale and Brook Farm--Notes from real life--Rough
draughts--Paths of composition--The struggle with the
Pensioner--Hawthorne's method--The invitation of Concord--Four wooden
walls and a roof--Mr. Alcott's aesthetic carpentering--Appurtenances
of "The Wayside"--Franklin Pierce for President"--The most homeless
people in the world."

--

The sky that overhung Hawthorne's departure from Lenox was gray with
impending snow, and the flakes had begun to fall ere the vehicle in
which his family was ensconced had reached the railway station in
Pittsfield. Travel had few amenities in those days. The cars were all
plain cars, with nothing to recommend them except that they went
tolerably fast--from twenty to thirty miles an hour. They were
chariots of delight to the children, who were especially happy in
occupying the last car of the train, from the rear windows of which
they could look down upon the tracks, which seemed to slide
miraculously away from beneath them. The conductor collected the
tickets--a mysterious rite. The gradually whitening landscape fled
past, becoming ever more level as we proceeded; by-and-by there was a
welcome unpacking of the luncheon-basket, and all the while there were
the endless questions to be asked and faithfully answered. It was
already dark by the time we were bundled out at the grimy shed which
was called the depot, at West Newton, where we were met by the Horace
Manns, and somehow the transit to the latter's house, which we were to
occupy for the winter, was made. The scene was gloomy and unpleasant;
the change from the mountains of the west depressing; and, for my
part, I cannot remember anything agreeable in this raw little suburb.
American life half a century ago had a great deal of rawness about it,
and its external aspect was ugly beyond present belief. We may be a
less virtuous nation now than we were then, but we are indescribably
more good to look at. And the West Newton of to-day, as compared with
that of 1851, will serve for an illustration of this truth.

Horace Mann's house was a small frame dwelling, painted white, with
green blinds, and furnished with a furnace stiflingly hot. One of the
first things the baby did was to crawl under the sofa in the
sitting-room and lay her small fingers against the radiator or
register, or whatever it is called, through which the heat came. She
withdrew them with a bitter outcry, and on the tip of each was a
blister as big as the tip itself. We had no glorious out-door
playground in West Newton; it was a matter of back yards and sullen
streets. The snow kept piling up, week after week; but there was no
opportunity to put it to its proper use of coasting. The only
redeeming feature of the physical situation that I recall is the
momentous fact of a first pair of red-topped boots. They were very
uncomfortable, and always either wet or stiff as iron from
over-dryness; but they made their wearer as happy as they have made
all other boys since boots began. A boy of six with high boots is
bigger than most men.

But if the outward life was on the whole unprepossessing, inward
succulence was not lacking. We had the Manns, to begin with, and the
first real acquaintance between the two sets of children opened here.
Mary Peabody, my mother's elder sister, had married Horace Mann, whose
name is honorably identified with the development in this country of
common-school education. They had three children, of about our age,
all boys. A statue in bronze of Horace Mann stands in front of the
State-house in Boston, and the memory of the strenuous reformer well
merits the distinction. He took things seriously and rather grimly,
and was always emphatically in earnest. He was a friend of George
Combe, the phrenologist, after whom his second boy was named; and he
was himself so ardent a believer in the new science that when his
younger son, Benjamin, was submitted to him for criticism at a very
early age he declared, after a strict phrenological examination, that
he was not worth bringing up. But children's heads sometimes undergo
strange transformations as they grow up, and Benjamin lived to refute
abundantly his father's too hasty conclusion in his case. He became
eminent as an entomologist; George followed the example of his father
on educational lines. Horace, who died comparatively early, was an
enthusiastic naturalist, who received the unstinted praise and
confidence of the great Agassiz. My uncle Horace, as I remember him,
was a very tall man, of somewhat meagre build, a chronic sufferer from
headaches and dyspepsia. His hair was sandy, straight, rather long,
and very thick; it hung down uncompromisingly round his head. His face
was a long square, with a mouth and chin large and immitigably firm.
His eyes were reinforced by a glistening pair of gold-bowed
spectacles. He always wore a long-skirted black coat. His aspect was a
little intimidating to small people; but there were lovely qualities
in his nature, his character was touchingly noble and generous, and
the world knows the worth of his intellect. He was anxious, exacting,
and dogmatic, and was not always able to concede that persons who
differed from him in opinion could be morally normal. This was
especially noticeable when the topic of abolition happened to come up
for discussion; Horace Mann was ready to out-Garrison Garrison; he
thought Uncle Tom's Cabin a somewhat milk-and-water tract. He was
convinced that Tophet was the future home of all slave-holders, and
really too good for them, and he practically worshipped the negro. Had
he occupied a seat in Congress at that juncture, it is likely that the
civil war might have been started a decade sooner than it was. My
father and mother were much more moderate in their view of the
situation, and my mother used to say that if slavery was really so
evil and demoralizing a thing as the abolitionists asserted, it was
singular that they should canonize all the subjects of the
institution. But, as a rule, all controversy with the indignant zeal
of our relative was avoided; in his eyes any approach to a
philosophical attitude on the burning question was a crime. Nor were
his convictions less pronounced on the subject of total abstinence
from liquor and tobacco. Now, my father smoked an occasional cigar,
and it once came about that he was led to mention the fact in Horace
Mann's hearing. The reformer's bristles were set in a moment. "Do I
understand you to say, Mr. Hawthorne, that you actually use tobacco?"
"Yes, I smoke a cigar once in a while," replied my father,
comfortably. Horace Mann could not keep his seat; he started up and
paced the room menacingly. He had a high admiration for my father's
genius, and a deep affection for him as a man, and this infidelity to
the true faith seemed to him the more appalling. But he would be true
to his colors at all costs, and after a few moments he planted
himself, tall and tragic, before his interlocutor, and spoke, in a
husky voice, to this effect: "Then, Mr. Hawthorne, it is my duty to
tell you that I no longer have the same respect for you that I have
had." Then he turned and strode from the room, leaving the
excommunicated one to his reflections. Faithful are the wounds of a
friend, and my father was as much touched as he was amused by this
example of my uncle's candor. Of course, there was a great vacuum in
the place where my uncle's sense of humor might have been; but there
are a time and place for such men as he, and more than once the men
without sense of humor have moved the world.

In addition to the Manns, there were visitors--the succession of whom,
indeed, was henceforth to continue till the end of my father's earthly
pilgrimage. Among the earliest to arrive was Grace Greenwood, wading
energetically to our door through the December snow. She was one of
the first, if not the first, of the tribe of women correspondents; she
had lately returned, I think, from England, and the volume of her
letters from that strange country was in everybody's hands. She was
then a young woman, large and handsome, with dark hair and complexion,
and large, expressive eyes, harmonious, aquiline features, and a
picturesque appearance. She wore her hair in abundant curls; she
exhaled an atmosphere of romance, of graceful and ardent emotions, and
of almost overpowering sentiment. In fact, she had a genuine gift for
expression and description, and she made an impression in contemporary
letters. We might smile now--and, in truth, we sometimes did
then--over some of her pages; but much of her work would still be
called good, if resuscitated from the dusty book-shelves of the past.
I remember one passage in her English Letters which was often quoted
in our family circle as a typical illustration of the intensity of the
period: "The first tears," wrote Grace, "that I had shed since leaving
my dear native land fell fast into the red heart of an English rose!"
Nothing could be better than that; but the volume was full of similar
felicities. You were swimming in radiant tides of enthusiastic
appreciation, quotations from the poets and poetical rhapsodies;
incidents of travel, humorous, pathetic, and graphic; swirling eddies
of word-painting, of moral and ethical and historical reflection;
withal, an immense, amiable, innocent, sprawling temperament. And as
was her book, so was Grace herself; indeed, if any one could outdo the
book in personal conversation, Grace was that happy individual. What
she accomplished when she embarked, full-sailed, upon the topic of The
Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables may be pictured to
themselves by persons endowed with the rudiments of imagination; I
must not attempt to adorn this sober page with an attempted
reproduction of the scene. Mortal language reeled and cracked under
the strain of giving form to her admiration; but it was so honest and
well meant that it could not but give pleasure even in the midst of
bewilderment. My father bowed his head with a painful smile; but I
dare say it did him good when the ordeal was over.

At this time the reverberations of the European revolutionary year,
1848, were still breaking upon our shores. President Polk had given
mortal offence to Austria by sending over a special commissioner to
determine whether the seceding state of Hungary might be recognized as
a belligerent. In 1850 the Austrian representative, Baron Huelsmann,
had entered upon a correspondence with our own Daniel Webster. The
baron remonstrated, and Daniel mounted upon the national bird and
soared in the patriotic empyrean. The eloquence of the Secretary of
State perhaps aroused unwarranted expectations in the breasts of the
struggling revolutionists, and the Hungarian man of eloquence set out
for the United States to take the occasion by the forelock. Not since
the visit of Lafayette had any foreigner been received here with such
testimonials of public enthusiasm, or listened to by such applausive
audiences: certainly none had ever been sent home again with less wool
to show for so much cry. In 1851, the name of Kossuth was the most
popular in the country, and when it was learned that he had accepted
an invitation to speak in our little West Newton, we felt as if we
were almost embarked upon a campaign--upon an altruistic campaign of
emancipation against the Hapsburg oppressor. The excitement was not
confined to persons of mature age and understanding; it raged among
the smaller fry, and every boy was a champion of Kossuth. The train
conveying the hero from New York to Boston (whence he was to return to
West Newton after the reception there) was timed to pass through our
midst at three o 'clock in the afternoon, and our entire population
was at the track-side to see it go by. After one or two false alarms
it came in sight round the curve, the smokestack of the engine swathed
in voluminous folds of Old Glory. The smoke-stacks of those days were
not like our scientific present-day ones; they were huge, inverted
cones, affording ample surface for decoration. The train did not stop
at our station; but Kossuth no doubt looked out of the window as he
flew past and bowed his acknowledgments of our cheers. He was to
return to us the next day, and, meanwhile, the town-hall, or the
church, or whatever building it was that was to be the scene of his
West Newton triumph was put in order for his reception. The person who
writes these words, whose ears had eagerly devoured the story of the
Hungarian revolt, wished to give the august visitor some personal
assurance of his distinguished consideration, and it was finally
agreed by his indulgent parents that he should print upon a card the
legend, "GOD BLESS YOU, KOSSUTH," and be afforded an opportunity
personally to present it to the guest of the nation. Many cards had
been used and cast aside before the scribe, his fingers tremulous with
emotion, had produced something which the Hungarian might be
reasonably expected to find legible. Then, supported by his father and
mother, and with his uncles, aunts, and cousins doubtless not far off,
he proceeded proudly but falteringly to the scene of the presentation.
He dimly recalls a large interior space, profusely decorated with
stars and stripes, and also the colors of Hungary. At the head of the
room was a great placard with "WELCOME, KOSSUTH" inscribed upon it.
There was a great throng and press of men and women, a subdued,
omnipresent roar of talk, and a setting of the tide towards the place
where the patriot stood to receive our personal greetings. The scribe
whom I have mentioned, being as yet brief of stature, was unable to
see anything except coat-tails and petticoats, until of a sudden there
was a breaking away of these obstacles and he found himself in close
proximity to a gentleman of medium height, strongly built, with a mop
of dark hair framing a handsome, pale, smiling face, the lower parts
of which were concealed by a thick brown beard. It was Kossuth, and
there was that in his countenance and expression which satisfied all
the dreams of his admirer. He was chatting and shaking hands with the
elder persons; and in a minute we were moving on again, and the
printed card, for which the whole function had been created, had not
been presented. At the last moment, in an agony of apprehension, the
boy pulled at his mother's skirt and whispered piteously, "But my
card!" She heard and remembered; but need was for haste; we had
already passed the vantage-point. She snatched it from the tightly
gripping fingers of the bearer, handed it to Kossuth, and at the same
moment, with a gesture, directed his attention to her small companion.
The Hungarian read the inscription at a glance, looked me in the eyes
with a quick smile of comprehension, and, stepping towards me, laid
his hand upon my head. It was a great moment for me; but as I went
away I suddenly dissolved in tears, whether from the reaction of
emotion, or because I had not myself succeeded in delivering my gift,
I cannot now determine. But Kossuth thereby became, and for years he
continued to be, the most superb figure in my political horizon.

All this while The Blithedale Romance was being written. Inasmuch as
it was finished on the last day of April, 1852, it could not have
occupied the writer more than five months in the composition. Winter
was his best time for literary work, and there was winter enough that
year in West Newton. In the middle of April came the heaviest
snowstorm of the season. Brook Farm (modified in certain respects to
suit the conditions) was the scene of the story, and Brook Farm was
within a fair walk of West Newton. I visited the place some thirty
years later, and found the general topographical features
substantially as described in the book. In 1852 it was ten years since
Hawthorne had lived there, and though he might have renewed his
acquaintance with it while the writing was going on, there is no
record of his having done so; and considering the unfavorable weather,
and the fact that the imaginative atmosphere which writers seek is
enhanced by distance in time, just as the physical effect of a
landscape is improved by distance of space, makes it improbable that
he availed himself of the opportunity. His note-books contain but few
comments upon the routine of life of the community; his letters to his
wife (then Sophia Peabody) are somewhat fuller; one can trace several
of these passages, artistically metamorphosed, in the romance. The
episode of the masquerade picnic is based on fact, and the scene of
the recovery of Zenobia's body from the river is a tolerably close
reproduction of an event in Concord, in which, several years before,
Hawthorne had been an actor.

The portrayal in the story of city life from the back windows of the
hotel, is derived from notes made just before we went to Lenox;
there are the enigmatic drawing-room windows, the kitchen, the
stable, the spectral cat, and the emblematic dove; the rain-storm; the
glimpse of the woman sewing in one of the windows. There is also a
passage containing a sketch of the personage who served as the
groundwork for Old Moody. "An elderly ragamuffin, in a dingy and
battered hat, an old surtout, and a more than shabby general aspect; a
thin face and a red nose, a patch over one eye, and the other half
drowned in moisture. He leans in a slightly stooping posture on a
stick, forlorn and silent, addressing nobody but fixing his one moist
eye on you with a certain intentness. He is a man who has been in
decent circumstances at some former period of his life, but, falling
into decay, he now haunts about the place, as a ghost haunts the spot
where he was murdered. The word ragamuffin," he adds, with
characteristic determination to be exact, "does not accurately express
the man, because there is a sort of shadow or delusion of
respectability about him, and a sobriety, too, and a kind of dignity
in his groggy and red-nosed destitution." Out of this subtle
correction of his own description arose the conception of making Old
Moody the later state of the once wealthy and magnificent Fauntleroy.
But one of the most striking and imaginative touches in the passage,
likening the old waif to a ghost haunting the spot (Parker's
liquor-bar) where he was murdered, is omitted in the book, because,
striking though it was, it was a little too strong to be in keeping
with the rest of the fictitious portrait. How many writers, having hit
upon such a simile, would have had conscience and self-denial enough,
not to mention fine enough artistic sense, to delete it!

The craftsman's workmanship may occasionally be traced in this way;
but, as a rule, it is difficult to catch a glimpse of him in his
creative moments. If he made rough draughts of his stories, he must
have destroyed them after the stories themselves were completed; for
none such, in the case of his finished products, was left. I have seen
the manuscripts of all his tales except The Scarlet Letter, which was
destroyed by James T. Fields's printers--Fields having at that time no
notion of the fame the romance was to achieve, or of the value that
would attach to every scrap of Hawthorne's writing. All the extant
manuscripts are singularly free from erasures and interlineations;
page after page is clear as a page of print. He would seem to have
taught himself so thoroughly how to write that, by the time the series
of his longer romances began, he was able to say what he wished to say
at a first attempt. He had the habit, undoubtedly, of planning out the
work of each day on the day previous, generally while walking in
solitude either out-of-doors or, if that were impracticable, up and
down the floor of his study. It was this habit which created the
pathway along the summit of the ridge of the hill at Wayside, in
Concord; it was a deeply trodden path, in the hard, root-inwoven soil,
hardly nine inches wide and about two hundred and fifty yards in
length. The monotonous movement of walking seemed to put his mind in
the receptive state favorable for hearing the voices of imagination.
The external faculties were quiescent, the veil of matter was lifted,
and he was able to peruse the vision beyond.

But there is an important exception to this rule to be noted in the
matter of his fictitious narratives which were posthumously published.
These, as I have elsewhere said, are all concerned with a single
theme--the never-dying man. There are two complete versions of
Septimius, of about equal length, and many passages in the two are
identical. There is a short sketch on somewhat different lines, called
(by the editor) The Bloody Footstep; and there is still another, and a
much more elaborate attempt to embody the idea in the volume which I
have entitled Doctor Grimshawe's Secret. All these, in short, are
studies of one subject, and they were all unsatisfactory to the
author. The true vein of which he had been in search was finally
discovered in The Dolliver Romance, but the author's death prevented
its completion.

In this series of posthumous manuscripts there is a unique opportunity
for making a study of the esoteric qualities of my father's style and
methods, and on a future occasion I hope to present the result of my
investigations in this direction. There is, furthermore, in connection
with them, a mass of material of a yet more interesting and interior
character. While writing the Grimshawe, he was deeply perplexed by
certain details of the plot; the meaning of the Pensioner, and his
proper function in the story, was one of these stumbling-blocks. But
the prosperity of the tale depended directly upon the solution of this
problem. Constantly, therefore, in the midst of the composition, he
would break off and enter upon a wrestling-match with the difficulty.
These wrestling-matches are of an absorbing significance; they reveal
to us the very inmost movements of the author's mind. He tries, and
tries again, to get at the idea that continues to elude him; he forms
innumerable hypotheses; he sets forth on the widest excursions; he
gets out of patience with himself and with his Pensioner, and often
damns the latter in good set terms; but he will not give up the
struggle; his resolve to conquer is adamantine, and the conflict is
always renewed. And there it all stands in black and white; one of
the most instructive chapters in literary criticism in the world--the
battle of a great writer with himself. The final issue, after all,
was hardly decisive, for although a tolerable modus vivendi was
reached and a truce declared, it is evident that Hawthorne regarded
the entire scheme of the story as a mistake, and it is concluded in a
perfunctory and indifferent manner.

But it may be doubted whether anything of this sort ever took place in
the making of any of the other stories. These depend but in a
subordinate degree upon what is called technically plot interest. The
author's method was to take a natural, even a familiar incident, and
to transmute it into immortal gold by simply elucidating its inner
spiritual significance. The Scarlet Letter is a mere plain story of
love and jealousy; there is no serious attempt to hide the identity of
Roger Chillingworth or the guilt of the minister. The only surprise in
The House of the Seven Gables consists in the revelation of the fact
that Maule reappears after several generations in the person of his
modern descendant. The structure of The Blithedale Romance appears
more complicated; but that is mainly because, in a masterly manner,
the author keeps the structural lines out of sight and concentrates
attention upon the interplay of character. The scaffolding upon which
are hung the splendid draperies of The Marble Faun is, again, of the
simplest formation, though the nature of the materials is unfamiliar.

This is a digression; the present volume, as I have already stated, is
not designed to include--except incidentally-anything in the way of
literary criticism.

Blithedale having been finished and published, the question of where
to settle down permanently once more came up for an answer. Of course,
our sojourn at Mr. Mann's house had been a temporary expedient only;
and for that matter, the Manns, following the example of most
Americans before and since, had rented the place merely as a
stepping-stone to something else. My father's eyes again turned with
longing towards the sea-shore; but the fitting nook for him there
still failed to offer itself. People are naturally disposed to return
to places in which they have formerly lived, and Concord could not but
suggest itself to one who had passed some of the happiest years of his
life among its serene pastures and piney forests. This suggestion,
moreover, was supplemented by the urgent invitations of his old
friends there, and Mr. Emerson, who was a practical man as well as a
philosopher, substantiated his arguments by throwing into the scale a
concrete dwelling. It was an edifice which not even the most
imaginative and optimistic of house-agents would have found it easy to
picture as a sumptuous country-seat; it was just four wooden walls and
a roof, and they had been standing for a hundred years at least. The
occupants of this house had seen the British march past from Boston on
the l9th of April, 1775, and a few hours later they had seen them
return along the same dusty highway at a greatly accelerated pace and
under annoying circumstances. There was a legend that a man had once
lived there who had announced that death was not an indispensable
detail of life, and that he for his part intended never to die; but
after many years he had grown weary of the monotony of his success, or
had realized that it would take too long a time to prove himself in
the right, and rather than see the thing through he allowed himself to
depart. The old structure, in its original state, consisted of a big,
brick chimney surrounded by four rooms and an attic, with a kitchen
tacked on at the rear. It stood almost flush with the side-path along
the highway; behind it rose a steep hill-side to a height of about one
hundred feet; in front, on the other side of the road, stretched broad
meadows with a brook flowing through the midst of them. Such
conditions would not seem altogether to favor a man wedded to
seclusion.

But the thing was not at this juncture quite so bad as it had been.
Mr. Alcott, whose unselfish devotion to the welfare of the human race
made it incumbent upon his friends to supply him with the means of
earthly subsistence, had been recently domiciled in the house by Mr.
Emerson (how the latter came into possession of it I have forgotten,
if ever I knew), and he had at once proceeded to wreak upon it his
unique architectural talent. At any rate, either he himself or
somebody in his behalf had set up a small gable in the midst of the
front, thrown out a double bow-window, and added a room on the west
side. This interrupted the deadly, four-square uniformity, and
suggested further improvements. Mr. Alcott certainly built the
summer-house on the hill-side, and terraced the hill, which was also
planted with apple-trees. Another summer-house arose in the meadow
opposite, which went with the property, and rustic fences separated
the domain from the road. The dwelling was now fully as commodious as
the red house at Lenox, though it had no Monument Mountain and
Stockbridge Bowl to look out upon.

The estate, comprising, I think, forty-two acres, all told, including
upward of twenty acres of second-growth woodland above the hill,
perfectly useless except for kindling-wood and for the sea-music which
the pine-trees made, was offered to my father at a reasonable enough
figure, to be his own and his heirs' forever. He came over and looked
at the place, thought "The Wayside" would be a good name for it, and
was perhaps helped to decide upon taking it by the felicity of this
appellation. It was close upon the highway, undeniably; but then the
highway was so little travelled that it might almost as well not have
been there. One might, also, plant a high hedge in place of the fence
and make shift to hide behind it. One could enlarge the house as need
demanded; an affluent vegetable garden could be laid out in the
meadow, and fruit and ornamental trees could be added to the slopes of
the hill-side. The village was removed to a distance of a trifle over
a mile, so that the roar of its traffic would not invade this retreat;
and Mr. Emerson sat radiating peace and wisdom between the village and
"The Wayside"; while Mr. Alcott shone with ancillary lustre only a
stone's-throw away. Thoreau and Ellery Channing were tramping about
in the neighborhood, and Judge Hoar and his beautiful sister dispensed
sweetness and light in the village itself. Walden Pond, still secluded
as when only the Indians had seen the sky and the trees reflected in
it, was within a two-mile walk, and the silent Musketaquid stole on
its level way beyond the hill on the other side. Surely, a man might
travel far and not find a spot better suited for work and meditation
and discreet society than Concord was.

But, of course, the necessity of settling down somewhere was a main
consideration. Concord, was inviting in itself, but it was also
recommended by the argument of exclusion; no other place so desirable
and at the same time so easy of attainment happened to present itself.
It did not lie within sound and sight of the ocean; but that was the
worst that could be urged against it. A man must choose, and Concord
was, finally, Hawthorne's choice.

At this epoch he had not contemplated, save in day-dreams, the
possibility of visiting the Old World. His friend, Franklin Pierce,
had just become President-elect, but that fact had not suggested to
his mind the change in his own fortunes which it was destined to bring
about. He was too modest a critic of his own abilities to think that
his work would ever bring him money enough for foreign travel, and,
therefore, in accepting Concord as his home, he believed that he was
fixing the boundaries of his future earthly experience. It was not his
ideal; no imaginative man can ever hope to find that; but as soon as
we have called a place our Home, it acquires a charm that has nothing
to do with material conditions. The best-known song in American poesy
has impressed that truth upon Americans--who are the most homeless
people in the world.

Julian Hawthorne

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