Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry for September 1st, 1838

September 1st.–Last evening, during a walk, Graylock and the whole of Saddleback were at first imbued with a mild, half-sunshiny tinge, then grew almost black,–a huge, dark mass lying on the back of the earth and encumbering it. Stretching up from behind the black mountain, over a third or more of the sky, there was a heavy, sombre blue heap or ledge of clouds, looking almost as solid as rocks. The volumes of which it was composed were perceptible by translucent lines and fissures; but the mass, as a whole, seemed as solid, bulky, and ponderous in the cloud-world as the mountain was on earth. The mountain and cloud together had an indescribably stern and majestic aspect. Beneath this heavy cloud, there was a fleet or flock of light, vapory mists, flitting in middle air; and these were tinted, from the vanished sun, with the most gorgeous and living purple that can be conceived,–a fringe upon the stern blue. In the opposite quarter of the heavens, a rose-light was reflected, whence I know not, which colored the clouds around the moon, then well above the horizon, so that the nearly round and silver moon appeared strangely among roseate clouds,–sometimes half obscured by them.

A man with a smart horse, upon which the landlord makes laudatory remarks. He replies that he has “a better at home.” Dressed in a brown, bright-buttoned coat, smartly cut. He immediately becomes familiar, and begins to talk of the license law, and other similar topics, making himself at home, as one who, being much of his time upon the road, finds himself at ease at any tavern. He inquired after a stage agent, named Brigham, who formerly resided here, but nowhas gone to the West. He himself was probably a horse-jockey.

An old lady, stopping here over the Sabbath, waiting for to-morrow’s stage for Greenfield, having been deceived by the idea that she could proceed on her journey without delay. Quiet, making herself comfortable, taken into the society of the women of the house.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry for September 1st, 1838. From Passages from the American Note-Books.

Note on pigs (From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s August 31, 1838 journal entry)

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The ocean is to lose its saltness (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry for August 7, 1851)

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“Remarkable Characters” (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s July 29th, 1838 journal entry)

July 29th.–Remarkable characters:–A disagreeable figure, waning from middle age, clad in a pair of tow homespun pantaloons, and a very soiled shirt, barefoot, and with one of his feet maimed by an axe; also an arm amputated two or three inches below the elbow. His beard of a week’s growth, grim and grisly, with a general effect of black; altogether a disgusting object. Yet he has the signs of having been a handsome man in his idea, though now such a beastly figure that probably no living thing but his great dog would touch him without an effort. Coming to the stoop, where several persons were sitting, “Good morning, gentlemen,” said the wretch. Nobodyanswered for a time, till at last one said, “I don’t know whom you speak to: not to me, I’m sure” (meaning that he did not claim to be a gentleman). “Why I thought I spoke to you all at once,” replied the figure, laughing. So he sat himself down on the lower step of the stoop, and began to talk; and, the conversation being turned upon his bare feet by one of the company, he related the story of his losing his toes by the glancing aside of an axe, and with what great fortitude he bore it. Then he made a transition to the loss of his arm, and, setting his teeth and drawing in his breath, said that the pain was dreadful; but this, too, he seems to have borne like an Indian; and a person testified to his fortitude by saying that he did not suppose there was any feeling in him, from observing how he bore it. The man spoke of the pain of cutting the muscles, and the particular agony at one moment, while the bone was being sawed asunder; and there was a strange expression of remembered anguish, as he shrugged his half-limb, and described the matter. Afterwards, in a reply to a question of mine, whether he still seemed to feel the hand that had been amputated, he answered that he did always; and, baring the stump, he moved the severed muscles, saying, “There is the thumb, there the forefinger,” and so on. Then he talked to me about phrenology, of which he seems a firm believer and skilful practitioner, telling how he had hit upon the true character of many people. There was a great deal of sense and acuteness in his talk, and something of elevation in his expressions,–perhaps a studied elevation, and a sort of courtesy in his manner; but his sense had something out of the way in it; there was something wild and ruined and desperate in his talk, though I can hardlysay what it was. There was a trace of the gentleman and man of intellect through his deep degradation; and a pleasure in intellectual pursuits, and an acuteness and trained judgment, which bespoke a mind once strong and cultivated. “My study is man,” said he. And, looking at me, “I do not know your name,” he said, “but there is something of the hawk-eye about you, too.” Continue reading ““Remarkable Characters” (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s July 29th, 1838 journal entry)”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry, July 13th, 1838

July 13th.–A show of wax-figures, consisting almost wholly of murderers and their victims,–Gibbs and Hansley, the pirates, and the Dutch girl whom Gibbs murdered. Gibbs and Hansley were admirably done, as natural as life; and many people who had known Gibbs would not, according to the showman, be convinced that this wax-figure was not his skin stuffed. The two pirates were represented with halters round their necks, just ready to be turned off; and the sheriff stood behind them, with his watch, waiting for the moment. The clothes, halter, and Gibbs’s hair were authentic. E. K. Avery and Cornell,–the former a figure in black, leaning on the back of a chair, in the attitude of a clergyman about to pray; an ugly devil, said to be a good likeness. Ellen Jewett and R. P. Robinson, she dressed richly, in extreme fashion, and very pretty; he awkward and stiff, it being difficult to stuff a figure to look like a gentleman. The showman seemed very proud of Ellen Jewett, and spoke of her somewhat as if this wax-figure were a real creation. Strong and Mrs. Whipple, who together murdered the husband of the latter. Lastly the Siamese twins. The showman is careful to call his exhibition the “Statuary.” He walks to and fro before the figures, talking of the history of the persons, the moral lessons to be drawn therefrom, and especially of the excellence of the wax-work. He has for sale printed histories of the personages. He is a friendly, easy-mannered sort of a half-genteel character, whose talk has been moulded by the persons who most frequent such a show; an air of superiority of information, a moral instructor, with a great deal of real knowledge of the world. He invites his departing guests to call again and bring their friends, desiring to know whether they are pleased; telling that he had a thousand people on the 4th of July, and that they were all perfectly satisfied. He talks with the female visitors, remarking on Ellen Jewett’s person and dress to them, he having “spared no expense in dressing her; and all the ladies say that a dress never set better, and he thinks he never knew a handsomer female.” He goes to and fro, snuffing the candles, and now and then holding one to the face of a favorite figure. Ever and anon, hearing steps upon the staircase, he goes to admit a new visitor. The visitors,–a half-bumpkin, half country-squire-like man, who has something of a knowing air, and yet looks and listens with a good deal of simplicity and faith, smiling between whiles; a mechanic of the town; several decent-looking girls and women, who eye Ellen herself with more interest than the other figures,–women having much curiosity about such ladies; a gentlemanly sort of person, who looks somewhat ashamed of himself for being there, and glances at me knowingly, as if to intimate that he was conscious of being out of place; a boy or two, and myself, who examine wax faces and faces of flesh with equal interest. A political or other satire might be made by describing a show of wax-figures of the prominent public men; and by the remarks of the showman and the spectators, their characters and public standing might be expressed. And the incident of Judge Tyler as related by E—- might be introduced.

A series of strange, mysterious, dreadful events to occur, wholly destructive of a person’s happiness. He to impute them to various persons and causes, but ultimately finds that he is himself the sole agent. Moral, that our welfare depends on ourselves.

The strange incident in the court of Charles IX. of France: he and five other maskers being attired in coats of linen covered with pitch and bestuck with flax to represent hairy savages. They entered the hall dancing, the five being fastened together, and the king in front. By accident the five were set on fire with a torch. Two were burned to death on the spot, two afterwards died; one fled to the buttery, and jumped into a vessel of water. It might be represented as the fate of a squad of dissolute men.

A perception, for a moment, of one’s eventual and moral self, as if it were another person,–the observant faculty being separated, and looking intently at the qualities of the character. There is a surprise when this happens,–this getting out of one’s self,–and then the observer sees how queer a fellow he is.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

If it is not known how and when a man dies, it makes a ghost of him for many years thereafter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

June 30th.–If it is not known how and when a man dies, it makes a ghost of him for many years thereafter, perhaps for centuries. King Arthur is an example; also the Emperor Frederick, and other famous men, who were thought to be alive ages after their disappearance. So with private individuals. I had an uncle John, who went a voyage to sea about the beginning of the War of 1812, and has never returned to this hour. But as long as his mother lived, as many as twenty years, she never gave up the hope of his return, and was constantly hearing stories of persons whose description answered to his. Some people actually affirmed that they had seen him in various parts of the world. Thus, so far as her belief was concerned, he still walked the earth. And even to this day I never see his name, which is no very uncommon one, without thinking that this may be the lost uncle.

Thus, too, the French Dauphin still exists, or a kind of ghost of him; the three Tells, too, in the cavern of Uri.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry of June 30th, 1854; collected in Passages from the English Note-Books.

On further inquiry, the snake is described as plaided with brown and black (Hawthorne’s diary, June 9, 1853)

June 9th.–Cleaning the attic to-day, here at the Wayside, the woman found an immense snake, flat and outrageously fierce, thrusting out its tongue. Ellen, the cook, killed it. She called it an adder, but it appears to have been a striped snake. It seems a fiend, haunting the house. On further inquiry, the snake is described as plaided with brown and black.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry, June 6th, 1844

Concord, June 6th.–. . . Mr. F—- arrived yesterday, and appeared to be in most excellent health, and as happy as the sunshine. About the first thing he did was to wash the dishes; and he is really indefatigable in the kitchen, so that I am quite a gentleman of leisure. Previous to his arrival, I had kindled no fire for four entire days, and had lived all that time on the corned beef, except one day, when Ellery and I went down the river on a fishing excursion. Yesterday, we boiled some lamb, which we shall have cold for dinner to-day. This morning, Mr. F—- fried a sumptuous dish of eels for breakfast. Mrs. P. —- continues to be the instrument of Providence, and yesterday sent us a very nice plum-pudding.

I have told Mr. F—- that I shall be engaged in the forenoons, and he is to manage his own occupations and amusements during that time, . . .

Leo, I regret to say, has fallen under suspicion of a very great crime,–nothing less than murder,–a fowl crime it may well be called, for it is the slaughter of one of Mr. Hayward’s hens. He has been seen to chase the hens, several times, and the other day one of them was found dead. Possibly he may be innocent, and, as there is nothing but circumstantial evidence, it must be left with his own conscience.

Meantime, Mr. Hayward, or somebody else, seems to have given him such a whipping that he is absolutely stiff, and walks about like a rheumatic old gentleman. I am afraid, too, that he is an incorrigible thief. Ellery says he has seen him coming up the avenue with a calf’s whole head in his mouth. How he came by it is best known to Leo himself. If he were a dog of fair character, it would be no more than charity to conclude that he had either bought it, or had it given to him; but with the other charges against him, it inclines me to great distrust of his moral principles. Be that as it may, he managed his stock of provisions very thriftily, burying it in the earth, and eating a portion of it whenever he felt an appetite. If he insists upon living by highway robbery, it would be well to make him share his booty with us. . . .

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

The face of nature can never look more beautiful than now (May 23, 1851 entry from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books)

May 23d.–I think the face of nature can never look more beautiful than now, with this so fresh and youthful green,–the trees not being fully in leaf, yet enough so to give airy shade to the woods. The sunshine fills them with green light. Monument Mountain and its brethren are green, and the lightness of the tint takes away something from their massiveness and ponderosity, and they respond with livelier effect to the shine and shade of the sky. Each tree now within sight stands out in its own individuality of hue. This is a very windy day, and the light shifts with magical alternation. In a walk to the lake just now with the children, we found abundance of flowers,–wild geranium, violets of all families, red columbines, and many others known and unknown, besides innumerable blossoms of the wild strawberry, which has been in bloom for the past fortnight. The Houstonias seem quite to overspread some pastures, when viewed from a distance. Not merely the flowers, but the various shrubs which one sees,–seated, for instance, on the decayed trunk of a tree,–are well worth looking at, such a variety and such enjoyment they have of their new growth. Amid these fresh creations, we see others that have already run their course, and have done with warmth and sunshine,–the hoary periwigs, I mean, of dandelions gone to seed.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

May 11, 1838 entry from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

May 11, 1838.–At Boston last week. Items:–A young man, with a small mustache, dyed brown, reddish from its original light color. He walks with an affected gait, his arms crooked outwards, treading much on his toes. His conversation is about the theatre, where he has a season ticket,–about an amateur who lately appeared there, and about actresses, with other theatrical scandal.–In the smoking-room, two checker and backgammon boards; the landlord a great player, seemingly a stupid man, but with considerable shrewdness and knowledge of the world.– F—-, the comedian, a stout, heavy-looking Englishman, of grave deportment, with no signs of wit or humor, yet aiming at both in conversation, in order to support his character. Very steady and regular in his life, and parsimonious in his disposition,–worth $50,000, made by his profession.–A clergyman, elderly, with a white neck-cloth, very unbecoming, an unworldly manner, unacquaintance with the customs of the house, and learning them in a childlike way. A ruffle to his shirt, crimped.–A gentleman, young, handsome, and sea-flushed, belonging to Oswego, New York, but just arrived in port from the Mediterranean: he inquires of me about the troubles in Canada, which were first beginning to make a noise when he left the country,–whether they are all over. I tell him all is finished, except the hanging of the prisoners. Then we talk over the matter, and I tell him the fates of the principal men,–some banished to New South Wales, one hanged, others in prison, others, conspicuous at first, now almost forgotten.–Apartments of private families in the hotel,–what sort of domesticity there may be in them; eating in public, with no board of their own. The gas that lights the rest of the house lights them also, in the chandelier from the ceiling.–A shabby-looking man, quiet, with spectacles, at first wearing an old, coarse brown frock, then appearing in a suit of elderly black, saying nothing unless spoken to, but talking intelligently when addressed. He is an editor, and I suppose printer, of a country paper. Among the guests, he holds intercourse with gentlemen of much more respectable appearance than himself, from the same part of the country.–Bill of fare; wines printed on the back, but nobody calls for a bottle. Chairs turned down for expected guests. Three-pronged steel forks. Cold supper from nine to eleven P.M. Great, round, mahogany table, in the sitting-room, covered with papers. In the morning, before and soon after breakfast, gentlemen reading the morning papers, while others wait for their chance, or try to pick out something from the papers of yesterday or longer ago. In the forenoon, the Southern papers are brought in, and thrown damp and folded on the table. The eagerness with which those who happen to be in the room start up and make prize of them. Play-bills, printed on yellow paper, laid upon the table. Towards evening comes the “Transcript.”

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

Cupid, caresses, fire and death (Three notes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books)

Caresses, expressions of one sort or another, are necessary to the life of the affections, as leaves are to the life of a tree. If they are wholly restrained, love will die at the roots.

Cupid in these latter times has probably laid aside his bow and arrows, and uses fire-arms,–a pistol,–perhaps a revolver.

I burned great heaps of old letters, and other papers, a little while ago, preparatory to going to England. Among them were hundreds of letters. The world has no more such, and now they are all dust and ashes. What a trustful guardian of secret matters is fire! What should we do without fire and death?

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.