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A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art,
VOL. XXVI. - SEPTEMBER, 1870. - NO. CLV.
THE ENGLISH NOTE-BOOKS OF NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.
They received from his life-long friend, kept rust and mould from gathering President Pierce, the appointment of on his mind. If they postponed for a United States Consul at Liverpool, time the act of writing, they supplied then one of the most lucrative places ample material for literary work in the in the gift of the Executive. He held future. It may be well doubted whether the post for four years, but remained we should have had The Scarlet Letter in England two years longer, leaving and The House of the Seven Gables the country finally in 1859. Though but for the growth and discipline of the the duties of his office could not have previous years of uncongenial drudgery been much to his taste, he discharged and constrained contact with his kind. them with exemplary diligence, and, we The iron of compulsion which entered believe, to the satisfaction of all who into his soul became a tonic to his did business with him. His will was intellectual blood. strong, and his sense of duty was not Indeed, as a general rule, it is well less strong; and he had already been for a man of genius to give a portion trained to do disagreeable work, for he of every day to some regular employ-. had been for six years a measurer of ment, more or less mechanical in its coal and salt in the Boston Custom- nature, which does not task the higher House, and afterwards for three years faculties, and is followed as a duty, and surveyor of the port of Salem.
not from impulse merely. Coleridge But looking at the growth of his gives the same counsel in another form mind, these nine long years of enforced when, in his Biographia Literaria, he and against-the-grain work were pre- earnestly advises young men, who in cious to him. They took him out of early life feel themselves disposed to the world of dreams into the world of become authors, never to pursue literlife. They gave him subjects for re-, ature as a trade. As he justly remarks, flection. They sharpened his powers the necessity of earning one's bread by of observation. They braced and gave writing will, with most men of genius,
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by Fields, OsGOOD, & Co., in the Office of the
Librarian of Congress, at Washington. VOL. XXVI. NO. 155.
convert the stimulant into a narcotic. hair, and large dark eyes. Wherever Coleridge himself, that stately argosy he was he attracted attention by his so richly freighted with intellectual imposing presence. He looked like a wealth, but drifting to and fro over the man who might have held the stroke-, waters of life without the rudder of oar in a university boat. And his genwill, was a striking proof of the evils ius, as all the world knows, was of of being without a profession, or any masculine force and sweep. regular employment to which he might But, on the other hand, no man had have gone, day by day, as a merchant more of the feminine element than he. goes to his counting-room or a lawyer He was feminine in his quick percepto his office. Sir Walter Scott and tions, his fine insight, his sensibility to Charles Lamb, men very unlike in men- beauty, his delicate reserve, his purity tal structure, were both fortunate in of feeling. No man comprehended wohaving an occupation of this kind; and man more perfectly ; none has painted had a like lot been laid upon Byron, he woman with a more exquisite and ethewould have been a better and a happier real pencil. And his face was as moman, and none the less brilliant as a bile and rapid in its changes of exprespoet. To coin one's genius into bread sion as is the face of a young girl. His is to harness Pegasus into an express- lip and cheek heralded the word before wagon. To be sure, there are striking it was spoken. His eyes would darken exceptions to this general rule. Dick- visibly under the touch of a passing ens, for instance, gained wealth by the emotion, like the waters of a fountain exercise of a rare genius, but look at ruffled by the breeze of summer. So, the ill-requited toils and heart-break too, he was the shyest of men. The ing struggles of Hood ! And had Haw claims and courtesies of social life thorne himself earned nothing but by were terrible to him. The thought of his pen, he would have left no provis- making a call would keep him awake ion for his family.
in his bed. At breakfast, he could not But if Hawthorne's life in England lay a piece of butter upon a lady's plate were not entirely to his taste, it was without a little trembling of the hand : profitable, and bore good fruit; for we this is a fact, and not a phrase. He owe to it two remarkable books, - Our was so shy that in the presence of two Old Home, published in 1863, and the intimate friends he would be less easy Passages from English Note - Books, and free-spoken than in that of only one. now before us. We say if his life were And yet the presence of his kind was not entirely to his taste, for the mere cordial, and in some sense necessary fact that two such books grew out of to him. If his shyness held him back, the soil of his English experience his sympathies drew him out with a proves that such experience could not force nearly as strong. And, unlike have been all distasteful. No man
most men who are at once intellectual ever makes a book out of what he de- and shy, he was not a lover, or a stusires utterly to forget. And there were dent, of books. He read books as elements in his nature which were in they came in his way, or for a particuharmony with the duties of his official lar purpose, but he made no claim to life, and which would lighten the bur the honors of learning or scholarship. den of its drudgeries and disgusts. A great library had no charms for him. For he was a man as peculiar in char He rarely bought a book, and the larger acter as he was unique in genius. In part of his small collection had come him opposite qualities met, and were to him by gift. His mind did not feed happily and harmoniously blended ; and upon the printed page. It will be nothis was true of him physically as ticed that in his writings he very selwell as intellectually. He was tall and dom introduces a quotation, or makes strongly built, with broad shoulders, any allusion to the writings of others. deep chest, a massive head, black The raptures of the bibliomaniac, fond
ling his tall copies, his wide margins, who had left their country for their his unique specimens, his vellum pages, country's good or their own, the stepwere as strange to him as are the move- children and outcasts of the land, poor ments of a violin-player's arm to the waifs and strays of humanity, floating deaf man's eye. In the summer of social sea-weeds with no root to grasp 1859 the writer of this notice — who anything with a firm hold, forlorn wanconfesses to an insatiable passion for derers over the face of the earth, althe possession of books, and an omniv- ways needy and sometimes ragged and orous appetite for their contents — saw starving. Not without gifts, faculties, him at Leamington, and was invited by and accomplishments are these vagahim into his study, the invitation being bonds; sometimes many-tongued, alaccompanied with one of his peculiar ways fluent of speech, plausible in and indescribable smiles, in which manner, with marked individual traits there lurked a consciousness of his which stand bare to the eye, with no friend's weakness. The study was a rags of reserve or self-restraint to cover small, square room, with a table and them. Without doubt these social outchair, but absolutely not a single book. laws were better subjects for a literary He liked writing better than reading. limner than the sleek children of prosThe volumes he studied with the most perity, just as a ruined and ivy-grown satisfaction were the faces of men and cottage is a more picturesque object women ; provided always that the vol- than a smart suburban villa.
That umes did not know him. But a gleam Hawthorne improved his opportunities of recognition was enough to turn aside need not be said to any one who has his glance of observation. Without read the first essay in Our Old Home, doubt, some of his happiest hours were entitled Consular Experiences, passed in long rambles through the of the best specimens in all his writpopulous solitudes of Liverpool and ings of what may be called the prose London, where no man greeted him, side of his genius. In minute detail where the human beings he saw were and vigorous portraiture it is a sort of like trees in a wood, where faces could combination of Teniers and Rembrandt. be studied like shells in a drawer or For keen insight, sharp observation, stuffed birds in a cage.
shrewd common sense, knowledge of To a man with such powers of obser- man, and a mingling of humor and tenvation as Hawthorne, and such taste derness, it can hardly be surpassed. for using them, the post of American Little did the originals of these sketches Consul in a large commercial city like suspect that an eye like a blind man's Liverpool must have had some decided finger was all the time fixed upon them! attractions. He was an artist to whom Little did they dream of the anonyall sorts of picturesque subjects were mous immortality that was awaiting constantly sitting for their portraits. them at the hands of the dark-browed And no man can know what strange man that said so little and heard so beasts are produced by the soil of much! His account of the reprobate America, until he goes to Europe. At doctor of divinity is painfully interesthome, a man of Hawthorne's pursuits ing; a powerful delineation of a repuland position would have seen only the sive subject, but made tragic by gleams normal growth of his countrymen, of light from the central caverns of pasmen resembling each other as marbles sion and sin in the human heart. How in a boy's pocket, prosperous and re- singular it was that Hawthorne in his spectable men, graduates of colleges, official capacity should thus have had who sit down to three meals a day, who revealed to him a man in whom the draw checks to pay their bills, and lock lowest and grossest propensities were their front doors at the same hour every covered over by a thin veneering of night. But in Liverpool he would see respectability and self-restraint, shatAmericans of a different class, – men tered by the first touch of temptation,
thus presenting a combination so much have felt to be their own in the last in harmony with the creations of his resort." Our Old Home, p. 13. own genius!
But there were other and better men We will, however, bring Hawthorne that crossed his path. The masters of himself to testify as to the character of the American vessels trading to Liverthe persons with whom his consular life pool are, as a general rule, persons brought him in contact. Our readers worth knowing and talking to. They may have read the passage before, but are intelligent men, fairly well eduit will bear a second perusal :
cated, sometimes not ignorant of books, “ Hither, in the course of my incum- shrewd observers of men, with plain bency, came a great variety of visitors, but good manners, and with a manly principally Americans, but including heartiness about them like a bracing almost every other nationality on earth, breeze from the sea. The many temespecially the distressed and downfallen pests that have shaken their beards ones like those of Poland and Hungary, have given force to their characters and Italian bandits (for so they looked), a keen edge to their faculties. A mind proscribed conspirators from old Spain, like Hawthorne's would find more satSpanish Americans, Cubans who pro- isfaction in communion with men like fessed to have stood by Lopez and these than with men of more cultivanarrowly escaped his fate, scarred tion, finer fibre, but less strength and French soldiers of the Second Repub- flavor. Without doubt, he was somelic, - in a word, all sufferers, or pre- times bored by respectable dulness in tended ones, in the cause of liberty, broadcloth and fine linen, by pompous all people homeless in the widest emptinesses in the shape of great men sense, those who never had a country in small places, by callers that had no or had lost it, those whom their native due sense of the brevity of human life : land had impatiently flung off for plan- but who in this melancholy world is not ning a better system of things than bored ? He who would never be bored they were born to, - a multitude of must bolt his door and break his lookthese, and, doubtless, an equal number ing-glass. of jail-birds, outwardly of the same His official duties were, for the most feather, sought the American Consu- part, matters of routine, neither good late in hopes of at least a bit of bread, nor bad, and certainly not worse than and, perhaps, to beg a passage to the what he had experienced in Boston and blessed shores of Freedom. In most Salem. We suppose that Hawthorne cases there was nothing, and in any found no part of his official life so little case distressingly little, to be done for to his taste as those ceremonials and them ; neither was I of a proselyting parade occasions which would have disposition, nor desired to make my been so congenial to most of his counconsulate a nucleus for the vagrant trymen. For he was one of those discontents of other lands. And yet it exceptional Americans, - would there was a proud thought, a forcible appeal were more of them ! - who have no to the sympathies of an American, that power of public speech, and recoil with these unfortunates claimed the privi- horror and alarm from anything which leges of citizenship in our Republic on may call upon them to display their inthe strength of the very same noble capacity. But the American Consul at misdemeanors that had rendered them Liverpool is a public personage, and outlaws to their native despotisms. So thus his presence is a necessity someI gave them what small help I could. times at public gatherings, and espeMethinks the true patriots and martyr- cially at those civic banquets wherein spirits of the whole world should have the municipal dignitaries of so rich a been conscious of a pang near the city are wont to seek relief from the heart, when a deadly blow was aimed austere cares of government and adat the vitality of a country which they ministration. The dinner in England,
as everyone knows who has been dilemma I turned to one of my three there, rises to the dignity of an insti- friends, a gentleman whom I knew to tution. It is — not to speak it profane- possess an enviable flow of silver ly—a sort of secular sacrament. It speech, and obtested him, by whatever takes its place among the choicest jew- he deemed holiest, to give me at least els of the Englishman's soul, — with the an available thought or two to start memory of Alfred, with Magna Charta with, and, once afloat, I would trust to and the Revolution of 1688, with fox- my guardian angel for enabling me to hunting and the Times newspaper. flounder ashore again. He advised me The Englishman is willing to speak to begin with some remarks compliand to hear speaking, but he prefers to mentary to the Lord Mayor, and exhave them dressed with bread and beef pressive of the hereditary reverence in sauce. If the tongue and the ear are to which his office was held at least, be busy, the teeth must not be idle. A my friend thought that there would be dry-lipped entertainment like an Ameri- no harm in giving his lordship this litcan caucus, where the guests are treated tle sugar-plum, whether quite the fact to nothing more savory or nutritious — was held by the descendants than the east wind, is not at all to the of the Puritan forefathers. Thence, if Anglican taste. And thus it happened I liked, getting flexible with the oil of that Hawthorne, who was no eater, no my own eloquence, I might easily slide drinker, and no speech-maker, was of- off into the momentous subject of the ten called upon to take a conspicuous relations between England and Ameripart at entertainments where there ca, to which his lordship had made was nothing but eating, drinking, and such weighty allusion. Seizing this speech-making. Indeed, these were handful of straw with a death grip, and sad days to him ; when the summons bidding my three friends bury me honcame, he smote his breast like the wed- orably, I got upon my legs to save both ding guest in The Ancient Mariner countries, or perish in the attempt. The when he heard the loud bassoon. With tables roared and thundered at me, and many dollars would he have purchased suddenly were silent again. But, as I exemption ; but in his case, too, there have never happened to stand in a powas a “glittering eye” which con- sition of greater dignity and peril, I strained him, — the eye of the American deem it a stratagem of sage policy here eagle at home, three thousand miles off. to close these sketches, leaving myself
And so he went, with a little speech still erect in so heroic an atțitude.”. in his head, and perhaps in his pocket; Our Old Home, p. 397. and he survived the operation, and lived How delightfully provoking this is ! to tell us how he felt when under the Never shall we know how he got out knife. Both in Our Old Home and in his of the scrape. There he stands forever English Note-Books he alludes to what on his feet, with a listening table around he endured in these postprandial exhi- and his lips pregnant with an undelivbitions of himself. Though the reader of ered speech. He is like the young the former work can hardly have forgot- lover in Keats's delicious Ode to a ten its closing passages, we will refresh Grecian Urn:his recollection by quoting them :
“ Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss, “As soon as the Lord Mayor began
Though winning near the goal.” to speak, I rapped upon my mind, and Never shall we know whether his it gave forth a hollow sound; being speech was “ neat and appropriate," absolutely empty of appropriate ideas. whether it was received with shouts I never thought of listening to the of applause," or whether, after gasping speech, because I knew it all before- and choking, he ignominiously broke hand in twenty repetitions from other down, resuming his seat with drops of lips, and was aware that it would not agony on his brow, a humming sound in offer a single suggestive point. In this his ears, a sense of faintness and suffo