- For the virtuoso’s collection,–the pen with which Faust signed away his salvation, with a drop of blood dried in it.
- An article on newspaper advertisements,–a country newspaper, methinks, rather than a city one.
- 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.
- Personify the century,–talk of its present middle age, of its youth, and its adventures and prospects.
- 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.
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. Read More
- “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.
- Dialogues of the unborn, like dialogues of the dead,–or between two young children.
- 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.
- Some moderns to build a fire on Ararat with the remnants of the ark.
- Two little boats of cork, with a magnet in one and steel in the other.
- To have ice in one’s blood.
- To make a story of all strange and impossible things,–as the Salamander, the Phoenix.
Thursday, November 24th.–This is Thanksgiving Day, a good old festival, and we have kept it with our hearts, and, besides, have made good cheer upon our turkey and pudding, and pies and custards, although none sat at our board but our two selves. There was a new and livelier sense, I think, that we have at last found a home, and that a new family has been gathered since the last Thanksgiving Day. There have been many bright, cold days latterly,–so cold that it has required a pretty rapid pace to keep one’s self warm a-walking. Day before yesterday I saw a party of boys skating on a pond of water that has overflowed a neighboring meadow. Running water has not yet frozen. Vegetation has quite come to a stand, except in a few sheltered spots. In a deep ditch we found a tall plant of the freshest and healthiest green, which looked as if it must have grown within the last few weeks. We wander among the wood-paths, which are very pleasant in the sunshine of the afternoons, the trees looking rich and warm,–such of them, I mean, as have retained their russet leaves; and where the leaves are strewn along the paths, or heaped plentifully in some hollow of the hills, the effect is not without a charm. To-day the morning rose with rain, which has since changed to snow and sleet; and now the landscape is as dreary as can well be imagined,–white, with the brownness of the soil and withered grass everywhere peeping out. The swollen river, of a leaden hue, drags itself sullenly along; and this may be termed the first winter’s day.
- When scattered clouds are resting on the bosoms of hills, it seems as if one might climb into the heavenly region, earth being so intermixed with sky, and gradually transformed into it.
- A stranger, dying, is buried; and after many years two strangers come in search of his grave, and open it.
- The strange sensation of a person who feels himself an object of deep interest, and close observation, and various construction of all his actions, by another person.
- Letters in the shape of figures of men, etc. At a distance, the words composed by the letters are alone distinguishable. Close at hand, the figures alone are seen, and not distinguished as letters. Thus things may have a positive, a relative, and a composite meaning, according to the point of view.
- “Passing along the street, all muddy with puddles, and suddenly seeing the sky reflected in these puddles in such a way as quite to conceal the foulness of the street.”
- A young man in search of happiness,–to be personified by a figure whom he expects to meet in a crowd, and is to be recognized by certain signs. All these signs are given by a figure in various garbs and actions, but he does not recognize that this is the sought-for person till too late.
- If cities were built by the sound of music, then some edifices would appear to be constructed by grave, solemn tones,–others to have danced forth to light, fantastic airs.
- Familiar spirits, according to Lilly, used to be worn in rings, watches, sword-hilts. Thumb-rings were set with jewels of extraordinary size.
- A very fanciful person, when dead, to have his burial in a cloud.
- An ancient wineglass (Miss Ingersol’s), long-stalked, with a small, cup-like bowl, round which is wreathed a branch of grape-vine, with a rich cluster of grapes, and leaves spread out. There is also some kind of a bird flying. The whole is excellently cut or engraved.
- In the Duke of Buckingham’s comedy, “The Chances,” Don Frederic says of Don John (they are two noble Spanish gentlemen), “One bed contains us ever.”
- A person, while awake and in the business of life, to think highly of another, and place perfect confidence in him, but to be troubled with dreams in which this seeming friend appears to act the part of a most deadly enemy. Finally it is discovered that the dream-character is the true one. The explanation would be–the soul’s instinctive perception.
- Pandora’s box for a child’s story.
- Moonlight is sculpture; sunlight is painting.
- “A person to look back on a long life ill-spent, and to picture forth a beautiful life which he would live, if he could be permitted to begin his life over again. Finally to discover that he had only been dreaming of old age,–that he was really young, and could live such a life as he had pictured.”
- A newspaper, purporting to be published in a family, and satirizing the political and general world by advertisements, remarks on domestic affairs,–advertisement of a lady’s lost thimble, etc.
- L. H—-. She was unwilling to die, because she had no friends to meet her in the other world. Her little son F. being very ill, on his recovery she confessed a feeling of disappointment, having supposed that he would have gone before, and welcomed her into heaven!
- H. L. C—- heard from a French Canadian a story of a young couple in Acadie. On their marriage day, all the men of the Province were summoned to assemble in the church to hear a proclamation. When assembled, they were all seized and shipped off to be distributed through New England,–among them the new bridegroom. His bride set off in search of him,–wandered about New England all her lifetime, and at last, when she was old, she found her bridegroom on his death-bed. The shock was so great that it killed her likewise.
September 23d.–I have gathered the two last of our summer-squashes to-day. They have lasted ever since the 18th of July, and have numbered fifty-eight edible ones, of excellent quality. Last Wednesday, I think, I harvested our winter-squashes, sixty-three in number, and mostly of fine size. Our last series of green corn, planted about the 1st of July, was good for eating two or three days ago. We still have beans; and our tomatoes, though backward, supply us with a dish every day or two. My potato-crop promises well; and, on the whole, my first independent experiment of agriculture is quite a successful one.
This is a glorious day,–bright, very warm, yet with an unspeakable gentleness both in its warmth and brightness. On such days it is impossible not to love Nature, for she evidently loves us. At other seasons she does not give me this impression, or only at very rare intervals; but in these happy, autumnal days, when she has perfected the harvests, and accomplished every necessary thing that she had to do, she overflows with a blessed superfluity of love. It is good to be alive now. Thank God for breath,–yes, for mere breath! when it is made up of such a heavenly breeze as this. It comes to the cheek with a real kiss; it would linger fondly around us, if it might; but, since it must be gone, it caresses us with its whole kindly heart, and passes onward, to caress likewise the next thing that it meets. There is a pervading blessing diffused over all the world. I look out of the window and think, “O perfect day! O beautiful world! O good God!” And such a day is the promise of a blissful eternity. Our Creator would never have made such weather, and given us the deep heart to enjoy it, above and beyond all thought, if he had not meant us to be immortal. It opens the gates of heaven and gives us glimpses far inward.
Bless me! this flight has carried me a great way; so now let me come back to our old abbey. Our orchard is fast ripening; and the apples and great thumping pears strew the grass in such abundance that it becomes almost a trouble–though a pleasant one–to gather them. This happy breeze, too, shakes them down, as if it flung fruit to us out of the sky; and often, when the air is perfectly still, I hear the quiet fall of a great apple. Well, we are rich in blessings, though poor in money. . . .
From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.
My Dear Hawthorne, — People think that if a man has undergone any hardship, he should have a reward; but for my part, if I have done the hardest possible day’s work, and then come to sit down in a corner and eat my supper comfortably — why, then I don’t think I deserve any reward for my hard day’s work — for am I not now at peace? Is not my supper good? My peace and my supper are my reward, my dear Hawthorne. So your joy-giving and exultation-breeding letter is not my reward for my ditcher’s work with that book, but is the good goddess’s bonus over and above what was stipulated — for for not one man in five cycles, who is wise, will expect appreciative recognition from his fellows, or any one of them. Appreciation! Recognition! Is love appreciated? Why, ever since Adam, who has got to the meaning of this great allegory — the world? Then we pygmies must be content to have our paper allegories but ill comprehended. I say your appreciation is my glorious gratuity. In my proud, humble way, — a shepherd-king, — I was lord of a little vale in the solitary Crimea; but you have now given me the crown of India. But on trying it on my head, I found it fell down on my ears, notwithstanding their asinine length — for it’s only such ears that sustain such crowns.
Your letter was handed me last night on the road going to Mr. Morewood’s, and I read it there. Had I been at home, I would have sat down at once and answered it. In me divine maganimities are spontaneous and instantaneous — catch them while you can. The world goes round, and the other side comes up. So now I can’t write what I felt. But I felt pantheistic then — your heart beat in my ribs and mine in yours, and both in God’s. A sense of unspeakable security is in me this moment, on account of your having understood the book. I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb. Ineffable socialities are in me. I would sit down and dine with you and all the gods in old Rome’s Pantheon. It is a strange feeling — no hopefulness is in it, no despair. Content — that is it; and irresponsibility; but without licentious inclination. I speak now of my profoundest sense of being, not of an incidental feeling.
Whence come you, Hawthorne? By what right do you drink from my flagon of life? And when I put it to my lips — lo, they are yours and not mine. I feel that the Godhead is broken up like the bread at the Supper, and that we are the pieces. Hence this infinite fraternity of feeling. Now, sympathizing with the paper, my angel turns over another page. you did not care a penny for the book. But, now and then as you read, you understood the pervading thought that impelled the book — and that you praised. Was it not so? You were archangel enough to despise the imperfect body, and embrace the soul. Once you hugged the ugly Socrates because you saw the flame in the mouth, and heard the rushing of the demon, — the familiar, — and recognized the sound; for you have heard it in your own solitudes.
My dear Hawthorne, the atmospheric skepticisms steal into me now, and make me doubtful of my sanity in writing you thus. But, believe me, I am not mad, most noble Festus! But truth is ever incoherent, and when the big hearts strike together, the concussion is a little stunning. Farewell. Don’t write a word about the book. That would be robbing me of my miserly delight. I am heartily sorry I ever wrote anything about you — it was paltry. Lord, when shall we be done growing? As long as we have anything more to do, we have done nothing. So,now, let us add Moby Dick to our blessing, and step from that. Leviathan is not the biggest fish; — I have heard if Krakens.
This is a long letter, but you are not at all bound to answer it. Possibly, if you do answer it, and direct it to Herman Melville, you will missend it — for the very fingers that now guide this pen are not precisely the same that just took it up and put it on this paper. Lord, when shall we be done changing? Ah! it’s a long stage, and no inn in sight, and night coming, and the body cold. But with you for a passenger, I am content and can be happy. I shall leave the world, I feel, with more satisfaction for having come to know you. Knowing you persuades me more than the Bible of our immortality.
What a pity, that, for your plain, bluff letter, you should get such gibberish! Mention me to Mrs. Hawthorne and to the children, and so, good-by to you, with my blessing.
P.S. I can’t stop yet. If the world was entirely made up of Magians, I’ll tell you what I should do. I should have a paper-mill established at one end of the house, and so have an endless riband of foolscap rolling in upon my desk; and upon that endless riband I should write a thousand — a million — billion thoughts, all under the form of a letter to you. The divine magnet is on you, and my magnet responds. Which is the biggest? A foolish question — they are One.
P.P.S. Don’t think that by writing me a letter, you shall always be bored with an immediate reply to it — and so keep both of us delving over a writing-desk eternally. No such thing! I sh’n’t always answer your letters, and you may do just as you please.
- All the dead that had ever been drowned in a certain lake to arise.
- Character of a man who, in himself and his external circumstances, shall be equally and totally false: his fortune resting on baseless credit,–his patriotism assumed,–his domestic affections, his honor and honesty, all a sham. His own misery in the midst of it,–it making the whole universe, heaven and earth alike, an unsubstantial mockery to him.
- Dr. Johnson’s penance in Uttoxeter Market. A man who does penance in what might appear to lookers-on the most glorious and triumphal circumstance of his life. Each circumstance of the career of an apparently successful man to be a penance and torture to him on account of some fundamental error in early life.
- A person to catch fire-flies, and try to kindle his household fire with them. It would be symbolical of something.
- Thanksgiving at the Worcester Lunatic Asylum. A ball and dance of the inmates in the evening,–a furious lunatic dancing with the principal’s wife. Thanksgiving in an almshouse might make a better sketch.
Thursday, September 1st.–Mr. Thoreau dined with us yesterday. . . . He is a keen and delicate observer of nature,–a genuine observer,–which, I suspect, is almost as rare a character as even an original poet; and Nature, in return for his love, seems to adopt him as her especial child, and shows him secrets which few others are allowed to witness. He is familiar with beast, fish, fowl, and reptile, and has strange stories to tell of adventures and friendly passages with these lower brethren of mortality. Herb and flower, likewise, wherever they grow, whether in garden or wildwood, are his familiar friends. He is also on intimate terms with the clouds, and can tell the portents of storms. It is a characteristic trait, that he has a great regard for the memory of the Indian tribes, whose wild life would have suited him so well; and, strange to say, he seldom walks over a ploughed field without picking up an arrow-point, spear-head, or other relic of the red man, as if their spirits willed him to be the inheritor of their simple wealth.
With all this he has more than a tincture of literature,–a deep and true taste for poetry, especially for the elder poets, and he is a good writer,–at least he has written a good article, a rambling disquisition on Natural History, in the last “Dial,” which, he says, was chiefly made up from journals of his own observations. Methinks this article gives a very fair image of his mind and character,–so true, innate, and literal in observation, yet giving the spirit as well as letter of what he sees, even as a lake reflects its wooded banks, showing every leaf, yet giving the wild beauty of the whole scene. Then there are in the article passages of cloudy and dreamy metaphysics, and also passages where his thoughts seem to measure and attune themselves into spontaneous verse, as they rightfully may, since there is real poetry in them. There is a basis of good sense and of moral truth, too, throughout the article, which also is a reflection of his character; for he is not unwise to think and feel, and I find him a healthy and wholesome man to know.
After dinner (at which we cut the first watermelon and muskmelon that our garden has grown), Mr. Thoreau and I walked up the bank of the river, and at a certain point he shouted for his boat. Forthwith a young man paddled it across, and Mr. Thoreau and I voyaged farther up the stream, which soon became more beautiful than any picture, with its dark and quiet sheet of water, half shaded, half sunny, between high and wooded banks. The late rains have swollen the stream so much that many trees are standing up to their knees, as it were, in the water, and boughs, which lately swung high in air, now dip and drink deep of the passing wave. As to the poor cardinals which glowed upon the bank a few days since, I could see only a few of their scarlet hats, peeping above the tide. Mr. Thoreau managed the boat so perfectly, either with two paddles or with one, that it seemed instinct with his own will, and to require no physical effort to guide it. He said that, when some Indians visited Concord a few years ago, he found that he had acquired, without a teacher, their precise method of propelling and steering a canoe. Nevertheless he was desirous of selling the boat of which he was so fit a pilot, and which was built by his own hands; so I agreed to take it, and accordingly became possessor of the Musketaquid. I wish I could acquire the aquatic skill of the original owner.
From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.
August 27th.–I have been stationed all day at the end of Long Wharf, and I rather think that I had the most eligible situation of anybody in Boston. I was aware that it must be intensely hot in the midst of the city; but there was only a short space of uncomfortable heat in my region, half-way towards the centre of the harbor; and almost all the time there was a pure and delightful breeze, fluttering and palpitating, sometimes shyly kissing my brow, then dying away, and then rushing upon me in livelier sport, so that I was fain to settle my straw hat more tightly upon my head. Late in the afternoon, there was a sunny shower, which came down so like a benediction that it seemed ungrateful to take shelter in the cabin or to put up an umbrella. Then there was a rainbow, or a large segment of one, so exceedingly brilliant and of such long endurance that I almost fancied it was stained into the sky, and would continue there permanently. And there were clouds floating all about,–great clouds and small, of all glorious and lovely hues (save that imperial crimson which was revealed to our united gaze),–so glorious, indeed, and so lovely, that I had a fantasy of heaven’s being broken into fleecy fragments and dispersed through space, with its blest inhabitants dwelling blissfully upon those scattered islands.
Monday, August 22d.–
I took a walk through the woods yesterday afternoon, to Mr. Emerson’s, with a book which Margaret Fuller had left, after a call on Saturday eve. I missed the nearest way, and wandered into a very secluded portion of the forest; for forest it might justly be called, so dense and sombre was the shade of oaks and pines. Once I wandered into a tract so overgrown with bushes and underbrush that I could scarcely force a passage through. Nothing is more annoying than a walk of this kind, where one is tormented by an innumerable host of petty impediments. It incenses and depresses me at the same time. Always when I flounder into the midst of bushes, which cross and intertwine themselves about my legs, and brush my face, and seize hold of my clothes, with their multitudinous grip,–always, in such a difficulty, I feel as if it were almost as well to lie down and die in rage and despair as to go one step farther. It is laughable, after I have got out of the moil, to think how miserably it affected me for the moment; but I had better learn patience betimes, for there are many such bushy tracts in this vicinity, on the margins of meadows, and my walks will often lead me into them. Escaping from the bushes, I soon came to an open space among the woods,–a very lovely spot, with the tall old trees standing around as quietly as if no one had intruded there throughout the whole summer. A company of crows were holding their Sabbath on their summits. Apparently they felt themselves injured or insulted by my presence; for, with one consent, they began to Caw! caw! caw! and, launching themselves sullenly on the air, took flight to some securer solitude. Mine, probably, was the first human shape that they had seen all day long,–at least, if they had been stationary in that spot; but perhaps they had winged their way over miles and miles of country, had breakfasted on the summit of Graylock, and dined at the base of Wachusett, and were merely come to sup and sleep among the quiet woods of Concord. But it was my impression at the time, that they had sat still and silent on the tops of the trees all through the Sabbath day, and I felt like one who should unawares disturb an assembly of worshippers. A crow, however, has no real pretensions to religion, in spite of his gravity of mien and black attire. Crows are certainly thieves, and probably infidels. Nevertheless, their voices yesterday were in admirable accordance with the influences of the quiet, sunny, warm, yet autumnal afternoon. They were so far above my head that their loud clamor added to the quiet of the scene, instead of disturbing it. There was no other sound, except the song of the cricket, which is but an audible stillness; for, though it be very loud and heard afar, yet the mind does not take note of it as a sound, so entirely does it mingle and lose its individuality among the other characteristics of coming autumn. Alas for the summer! The grass is still verdant on the hills and in the valleys; the foliage of the trees is as dense as ever, and as green; the flowers are abundant along the margin of the river, and in the hedge-rows, and deep among the woods; the days, too, are as fervid as they were a month ago; and yet in every breath of wind and in every beam of sunshine there is an autumnal influence. I know not how to describe it. Methinks there is a sort of coolness amid all the heat, and a mildness in the brightest of the sunshine. A breeze cannot stir without thrilling me with the breath of autumn, and I behold its pensive glory in the far, golden gleams among the long shadows of the trees. The flowers, even the brightest of them,–the golden-rod and the gorgeous cardinals,–the most glorious flowers of the year,–have this gentle sadness amid their pomp. Pensive autumn is expressed in the glow of every one of them. I have felt this influence earlier in some years than in others. Sometimes autumn may be perceived even in the early days of July. There is no other feeling like that caused by this faint, doubtful, yet real perception, or rather prophecy, of the year’s decay, so deliciously sweet and sad at the same time.
August 10th.– The natural taste of man for the original Adam’s occupation is fast developing itself in me. I find that I am a good deal interested in our garden, although, as it was planted before we came here, I do not feel the same affection for the plants that I should if the seed had been sown by my own hands. It is something like nursing and educating another person’s children. Still, it was a very pleasant moment when I gathered the first string-beans, which were the earliest esculent that the garden contributed to our table. And I love to watch the successive development of each new vegetable, and mark its daily growth, which always affects me with surprise. It is as if something were being created under my own inspection, and partly by my own aid. One day, perchance, I look at my bean-vines, and see only the green leaves clambering up the poles; again, to-morrow, I give a second glance, and there are the delicate blossoms; and a third day, on a somewhat closer observation, I discover the tender young beans, hiding among the foliage. Then, each morning, I watch the swelling of the pods and calculate how soon they will be ready to yield their treasures. All this gives a pleasure and an ideality, hitherto unthought of, to the business of providing sustenance for my family. I suppose Adam felt it in Paradise; and, of merely and exclusively earthly enjoyments, there are few purer and more harmless to be experienced. Speaking of beans, by the way, they are a classical food, and their culture must have been the occupation of many ancient sages and heroes. Summer-squashes are a very pleasant vegetable to be acquainted with. They grow in the forms of urns and vases,–some shallow, others deeper, and all with a beautifully scalloped edge. Almost any squash in our garden might be copied by a sculptor, and would look lovely in marble, or in china; and, if I could afford it, I would have exact imitations of the real vegetable as portions of my dining-service. They would be very appropriate dishes for holding garden-vegetables. Besides the summer-squashes, we have the crook-necked winter-squash, which I always delight to look at, when it turns up its big rotundity to ripen in the autumn sun. Except a pumpkin, there is no vegetable production that imparts such an idea of warmth and comfort to the beholder. Our own crop, however, does not promise to be very abundant; for the leaves formed such a superfluous shade over the young blossoms, that most of them dropped off without producing the germ of fruit. Yesterday and to-day I have cut off an immense number of leaves, and have thus given the remaining blossoms a chance to profit by the air and sunshine; but the season is too far advanced, I am afraid, for the squashes to attain any great bulk, and grow yellow in the sun. We have muskmelons and watermelons, which promise to supply us with as many as we can eat. After all, the greatest interest of these vegetables does not seem to consist in their being articles of food. It is rather that we love to see something born into the world; and when a great squash or melon is produced, it is a large and tangible existence, which the imagination can seize hold of and rejoice in. I love, also, to see my own works contributing to the life and well-being of animate nature. It is pleasant to have the bees come and suck honey out of my squash-blossoms, though, when they have laden themselves, they fly away to some unknown hive, which will give me back nothing in return for what my garden has given them. But there is much more honey in the world, and so I am content. Indian corn, in the prime and glory of its verdure, is a very beautiful vegetable, both considered in the separate plant, and in a mass in a broad field, rustling and waving, and surging up and down in the breeze and sunshine of a summer afternoon. We have as many as fifty hills, I should think, which will give us an abundant supply. Pray Heaven that we may be able to eat it all! for it is not pleasant to think that anything which Nature has been at the pains to produce should be thrown away. But the hens will be glad of our superfluity, and so will the pigs, though we have neither hens nor pigs of our own. But hens we must certainly keep. There is something very sociable and quiet, and soothing, too, in their soliloquies and converse among themselves; and, in an idle and half-meditative mood, it is very pleasant to watch a party of hens picking up their daily subsistence, with a gallant chanticleer in the midst of them. Milton had evidently contemplated such a picture with delight.
I find that I have not given a very complete idea of our garden, although it certainly deserves an ample record in this chronicle, since my labors in it are the only present labors of my life. Besides what I have mentioned, we have cucumber-vines, which to-day yielded us the first cucumber of the season, a bed of beets, and another of carrots, and another of parsnips and turnips, none of which promise us a very abundant harvest. In truth, the soil is worn out, and, moreover, received very little manure this season. Also, we have cabbages in superfluous abundance, inasmuch as we neither of us have the least affection for them; and it would be unreasonable to expect Sarah, the cook, to eat fifty head of cabbages. Tomatoes, too, we shall have by and by. At our first arrival, we found green peas ready for gathering, and these, instead of the string-beans, were the first offering of the garden to our board.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry for August 10, 1842. From The American Note-Books.
- Punishment of a miser,–to pay the drafts of his heir in his tomb.
- 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.
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
From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.
“The Toll-Gatherer’s Day”
Methinks, for a person whose instinct bids him rather to pore over the current of life than to plunge into its tumultuous waves, no undesirable retreat were a toll-house beside some thronged thoroughfare of the land. In youth, perhaps, it is good for the observer to run about the earth, to leave the track of his footsteps far and wide, to mingle himself with the action of numberless vicissitudes, and, finally, in some calm solitude to feed a musing spirit on all that he has seen and felt. But there are natures too indolent or too sensitive to endure the dust, the sunshine or the rain, the turmoil of moral and physical elements, to which all the wayfarers of the world expose themselves. For such a man how pleasant a miracle could life be made to roll its variegated length by the threshold of his own hermitage, and the great globe, as it were, perform its revolutions and shift its thousand scenes before his eyes without whirling him onward in its course! If any mortal be favored with a lot analogous to this, it is the toll-gatherer. So, at least, have I often fancied while lounging on a bench at the door of a small square edifice which stands between shore and shore in the midst of a long bridge. Beneath the timbers ebbs and flows an arm of the sea, while above, like the life-blood through a great artery, the travel of the north and east is continually throbbing. Sitting on the aforesaid bench, I amuse myself with a conception, illustrated by numerous pencil-sketches in the air, of the toll-gatherer’s day. Read More
Tremont, Boston, June 16th.–Tremendously hot weather to-day. Went on board the Cyane to see Bridge, the purser. Took boat from the end of Long Wharf, with two boatmen who had just landed a man. Row round to the starboard side of the sloop, where we pass up the steps, and are received by Bridge, who introduces us to one of the lieutenants,–Hazard. Sailors and midshipmen scattered about,–the middies having a foul anchor, that is, an anchor with a cable twisted round it, embroidered on the collars of their jackets. The officers generally wear blue jackets, with lace on the shoulders, white pantaloons, and cloth caps. Introduced into the cabin,–a handsome room, finished with mahogany, comprehending the width of the vessel; a sideboard with liquors, and above it a looking-glass; behind the cabin, an inner room, in which is seated a lady, waiting for the captain to come on board; on each side of this inner cabin, a large and convenient state-room with bed,–the doors opening into the cabin. This cabin is on a level with the quarter-deck, and is covered by the poop-deck. Going down below stairs, you come to the ward-room, a pretty large room, round which are the state-rooms of the lieutenants, the purser, surgeon, etc. A stationary table. The ship’s main-mast comes down through the middle of the room, and Bridge’s chair, at dinner, is planted against it. Wine and brandy produced; and Bridge calls to the Doctor to drink with him, who answers affirmatively from his state-room, and shortly after opens the door and makes his appearance. Other officers emerge from the side of the vessel, or disappear into it, in the same way. Forward of the wardroom, adjoining it, and on the same level, is the midshipmen’s room, on the larboard side of the vessel, not partitioned off, so as to be shut up. On a shelf a few books; one midshipman politely invites us to walk in; another sits writing. Going farther forward, on the same level, we come to the crew’s department, part of which is occupied by the cooking-establishment, where all sorts of cooking is going on for the officers and men. Through the whole of this space, ward-room and all, there is barely room to stand upright, without the hat on. The rules of the quarterdeck (which extends aft from the main-mast) are, that the midshipmen shall not presume to walk on the starboard side of it, nor the men to come upon it at all, unless to speak to an officer. The poop-deck is still more sacred,–the lieutenants being confined to the larboard side, and the captain alone having a right to the starboard. A marine was pacing the poop-deck, being the only guard that I saw stationed in the vessel,–the more stringent regulations being relaxed while she is preparing for sea. While standing on the quarter-deck, a great piping at the gangway, and the second cutter comes alongside, bringing the consul and some other gentleman to visit the vessel. After a while, we are rowed ashore with them, in the same boat. Its crew are new hands, and therefore require much instruction from the cockswain. We are seated under an awning. The guns of the Cyane are medium thirty-two pounders; some of them have percussion locks.
At the Tremont, I had Bridge to dine with me: iced champagne, claret in glass pitchers. Nothing very remarkable among the guests. A wine-merchant, French apparently, though he had arrived the day before in a bark from Copenhagen: a somewhat corpulent gentleman, without so good manners as an American would have in the same line of life, but good-natured, sociable, and civil, complaining of the heat. He had rings on his fingers of great weight of metal, and one of them had a seal for letters; brooches at the bosom, three in a row, up and down; also a gold watch-guard, with a seal appended. Talks of the comparative price of living, of clothes, etc., here and in Europe. Tells of the prices of wines by the cask and pipe. Champagne, he says, is drunk of better quality here than where it grows.–A vendor of patent medicines, Doctor Jaques, makes acquaintance with me, and shows me his recommendatory letters in favor of himself and drugs, signed by a long list of people. He prefers, he says, booksellers to druggists as his agents, and inquired of me about them in this town. He seems to be an honest man enough, with an intelligent face, and sensible in his talk, but not a gentleman, wearing a somewhat shabby brown coat and mixed pantaloons, being ill-shaven, and apparently not well acquainted with the customs of a fashionable hotel. A simplicity about him that is likable, though, I believe, he comes from Philadelphia.–Naval officers, strolling about town, bargaining for swords and belts, and other military articles; with the tailor, to have naval buttons put on their shore-going coats, and for their pantaloons, suited to the climate of the Mediterranean. It is the almost invariable habit of officers, when going ashore or staying on shore, to divest themselves of all military or naval insignia, and appear as private citizens. At the Tremont, young gentlemen with long earlocks,–straw hats, light, or dark-mixed.–The theatre being closed, the play-bills of many nights ago are posted up against its walls.
From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.
A letter, written a century or more ago, but which has never yet been unsealed.
A partially insane man to believe himself the Provincial Governor or other great official of Massachusetts. The scene might be the Province House.
A dreadful secret to be communicated to several people of various characters,–grave or gay, and they all to become insane, according to their characters, by the influence of the secret.
Stories to be told of a certain person’s appearance in public, of his having been seen in various situations, and of his making visits in private circles; but finally, on looking for this person, to come upon his old grave and mossy tombstone.
The influence of a peculiar mind, in close communion with another, to drive the latter to insanity.
To look at a beautiful girl, and picture all the lovers, in different situations, whose hearts are centred upon her.
From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.
“The Maypole of Merry Mount” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
There is an admirable foundation for a philosophic romance in the curious history of the early settlement of Mount Wollaston, or Merry Mount. In the slight sketch here attempted the facts recorded on the grave pages of our New England annalists have wrought themselves almost spontaneously into a sort of allegory. The masques, mummeries and festive customs described inthe text are in accordance with the manners of the age. Authority on these points may be found in Strutt’s Book of English Sports and Pastimes.
Bright were the days at Merry Mount when the Maypole was the banner-staff of that gay colony. They who reared it, should their banner be triumphant, were to pour sunshine over New England’s rugged hills and scatter flower-seeds throughout the soil. Jollity and gloom were contending for an empire. Midsummer eve had come, bringing deep verdure to the forest, and roses in her lap of a more vivid hue than the tender buds of spring. But May, or her mirthful spirit, dwelt all the year round at Merry Mount, sporting with the summer months and revelling with autumn and basking in the glow of winter’s fireside. Through a world of toil and care she flitted with a dream-like smile, and came hither to find a home among the lightsome hearts of Merry Mount.
Never had the Maypole been so gayly decked as at sunset on Midsummer eve. This venerated emblem was a pine tree which had preserved the slender grace of youth, while it equalled the loftiest height of the old wood-monarchs. From its top streamed a silken banner colored like the rainbow. Down nearly to the ground the pole was dressed with birchen boughs, and others of the liveliest green, and some with silvery leaves fastened by ribbons that fluttered in fantastic knots of twenty different colors, but no sad ones. Garden-flowers and blossoms of the wilderness laughed gladly forth amid the verdure, so fresh and dewy that they must have grown by magic on that happy pine tree. Where this green and flowery splendor terminated the shaft of the Maypole was stained with the seven brilliant hues of the banner at its top. On the lowest green bough hung an abundant wreath of roses—some that had been gathered in the sunniest spots of the forest, and others, of still richer blush, which the colonists had reared from English seed. O people of the Golden Age, the chief of your husbandry was to raise flowers! Read More