“The Gentle Boy” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

“The Gentle Boy”

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

In the course of the year 1656 several of the people called Quakers—led, as they professed, by the inward movement of the spirit—made their appearance in New England. Their reputation as holders of mystic and pernicious principles having spread before them, the Puritans early endeavored to banish and to prevent the further intrusion of the rising sect. But the measures by which it was intended to purge the land of heresy, though more than sufficiently vigorous, were entirely unsuccessful. The Quakers, esteeming persecution as a divine call to the post of danger, laid claim to a holy courage unknown to the Puritans themselves, who had shunned the cross by providing for the peaceable exercise of their religion in a distant wilderness. Though it was the singular fact that every nation of the earth rejected the wandering enthusiasts who practised peace toward all men, the place of greatest uneasiness and peril, and therefore in their eyes the most eligible, was the province of Massachusetts Bay.

The fines, imprisonments and stripes liberally distributed by our pious forefathers, the popular antipathy, so strong that it endured nearly a hundred years after actual persecution had ceased, were attractions as powerful for the Quakers as peace, honor and reward would have been for the worldly-minded. Every European vessel brought new cargoes of the sect, eager to testify against the oppression which they hoped to share; and when shipmasters were restrained by heavy fines from affording them passage, they made long and circuitous journeys through the Indian country, and appeared in the province as if conveyed by a supernatural power. Their enthusiasm, heightened almost to madness by the treatment which they received, produced actions contrary to the rules of decency as well as of rational religion, and presented a singular contrast to the calm and staid deportment of their sectarian successors of the present day. The command of the Spirit, inaudible except to the soul and not to be controverted on grounds of human wisdom, was made a plea for most indecorous exhibitions which, abstractedly considered, well deserved the moderate chastisement of the rod. These extravagances, and the persecution which was at once their cause and consequence, continued to increase, till in the year 1659 the government of Massachusetts Bay indulged two members of the Quaker sect with the crown of martyrdom.

An indelible stain of blood is upon the hands of all who consented to this act, but a large share of the awful responsibility must rest upon the person then at the head of the government. He was a man of narrow mind and imperfect education, and his uncompromising bigotry was made hot and mischievous by violent and hasty passions; he exerted his influence indecorously and unjustifiably to compass the death of the enthusiasts, and his whole conduct in respect to them was marked by brutal cruelty. The Quakers, whose revengeful feelings were not less deep because they were inactive, remembered this man and his associates in after-times. The historian of the sect affirms that by the wrath of Heaven a blight fell upon the land in the vicinity of the “bloody town” of Boston, so that no wheat would grow there; and he takes his stand, as it were, among the graves of the ancient persecutors, and triumphantly recounts the judgments that overtook them in old age or at the parting-hour. He tells us that they died suddenly and violently and in madness, but nothing can exceed the bitter mockery with which he records the loathsome disease and “death by rottenness” of the fierce and cruel governor. Continue reading

Six Notes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

Imitators of original authors might be compared to plaster casts of marble statues, or the imitative book to a cast of the original marble.

 

For a child’s story,–the voyage of a little boat made of a chip, with a birch-bark sail, down a river.

 

Fourier states that, in the progress of the world, the ocean is to lose its saltness, and acquire the taste of a peculiarly flavored lemonade.

 

How pleasant it is to see a human countenance which cannot be insincere,–in reference to baby’s smile.

 

The best of us being unfit to die, what an inexpressible absurdity to put the worst to death!

 

“Is that a burden of sunshine on Apollo’s back?” asked one of the children,–of the chlamys on our Apollo Belvedere.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

Happiness comes incidentally (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it; but likely enough it is gone the moment we say to ourselves, “Here it is!” like the chest of gold that treasure-seekers find.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

An article on cemeteries, and other ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

The spells of witches have the power of producing meats and viands that have the appearance of a sumptuous feast, which the Devil furnishes: But a Divine Providence seldom permits the meat to be good, but it has generally some bad taste or smell,–mostly wants salt,–and the feast is often without bread.

 

An article on cemeteries, with fantastic ideas of monuments; for instance, a sundial;–a large, wide carved stone chair, with some such motto as “Rest and Think,” and others, facetious or serious.

 

“Mamma, I see a part of your smile,”–a child to her mother, whose mouth was partly covered by her hand.

 

“The syrup of my bosom,”–an improvisation of a little girl, addressed to an imaginary child.

 

“The wind-turn,” “the lightning-catch,” a child’s phrases for weathercock and lightning-rod.

 

“Where’s the man-mountain of these Liliputs?” cried a little boy, as he looked at a small engraving of the Greeks getting into the wooden horse.

 

When the sun shines brightly on the new snow, we discover ranges of hills, miles away towards the south, which we have never seen before.

 

To have the North Pole for a fishing-pole, and the Equinoctial Line for a fishing-line.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

Five Ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

  1. For the virtuoso’s collection,–the pen with which Faust signed away his salvation, with a drop of blood dried in it.
  2. An article on newspaper advertisements,–a country newspaper, methinks, rather than a city one.
  3. An eating-house, where all the dishes served out, even to the bread and salt, shall be poisoned with the adulterations that are said to be practised. Perhaps Death himself might be the cook.
  4. Personify the century,–talk of its present middle age, of its youth, and its adventures and prospects.
  5. An uneducated countryman, supposing he had a live frog in his stomach, applied himself to the study of medicine in order to find a cure for this disease; and he became a profound physician. Thus misfortune, physical or moral, may be the means of educating and elevating us.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

“Fancy’s Show-Box” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Fancy’s Show-Box”

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

What is guilt? A stain upon the soul. And it is a point of vast interest whether the soul may contract such stains in all their depth and flagrancy from deeds which may have been plotted and resolved upon, but which physically have never had existence. Must the fleshly hand and visible frame of man set its seal to the evil designs of the soul, in order to give them their entire validity against the sinner? Or, while none but crimes perpetrated are cognizable before an earthly tribunal, will guilty thoughts—of which guilty deeds are no more than shadows,—will these draw down the full weight of a condemning sentence in the supreme court of eternity? In the solitude of a midnight chamber or in a desert afar from men or in a church while the body is kneeling the soul may pollute itself even with those crimes which we are accustomed to deem altogether carnal. If this be true, it is a fearful truth.

Let us illustrate the subject by an imaginary example. A venerable gentleman—one Mr. Smith—who had long been regarded as a pattern of moral excellence was warming his aged blood with a glass or two of generous wine. His children being gone forth about their worldly business and his grandchildren at school, he sat alone in a deep luxurious arm-chair with his feet beneath a richly-carved mahogany table. Some old people have a dread of solitude, and when better company may not be had rejoice even to hear the quiet breathing of a babe asleep upon the carpet. But Mr. Smith, whose silver hair was the bright symbol of a life unstained except by such spots as are inseparable from human nature—he had no need of a babe to protect him by its purity, nor of a grown person to stand between him and his own soul. Nevertheless, either manhood must converse with age, or womanhood must soothe him with gentle cares, or infancy must sport around his chair, or his thoughts will stray into the misty region of the past and the old man be chill and sad. Wine will not always cheer him. Continue reading

“To have ice in one’s blood” (And other ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books)

  1. “A story there passeth of an Indian king that sent unto Alexander a fair woman, fed with aconite and other poisons, with this intent complexionally to destroy him!” –Sir T. Browne.
  2. Dialogues of the unborn, like dialogues of the dead,–or between two young children.
  3. A mortal symptom for a person being to lose his own aspect and to take the family lineaments, which were hidden deep in the healthful visage. Perhaps a seeker might thus recognize the man he had sought, after long intercourse with him unknowingly.
  4. Some moderns to build a fire on Ararat with the remnants of the ark.
  5. Two little boats of cork, with a magnet in one and steel in the other.
  6. To have ice in one’s blood.
  7. To make a story of all strange and impossible things,–as the Salamander, the Phoenix.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.