Salem, September 14th.–. . . Master Cheever is a very good subject for a sketch, especially if he be portrayed in the very act of executing judgment on an evil-doer. The little urchin may be laid across his knee, and his arms and legs, and whole person indeed, should be flying all abroad, in an agony of nervous excitement and corporeal smart. The Master, on the other hand, must be calm, rigid, without anger or pity, the very personification of that immitigable law whereby suffering follows sin. Meantime the lion’s head should have a sort of sly twist on one side of its mouth, and a wink of one eye, in order to give the impression that, after all, the crime and the punishment are neither of them the most serious things in the world. I could draw the sketch myself, if I had but the use of —-‘s magic fingers.
Then the Acadians will do very well for the second sketch. They might be represented as just landing on the wharf; or as presenting themselves before Governor Shirley, seated in the great chair. Another subject might be old Cotton Mather, venerable in a three-cornered hat and other antique attire, walking the streets of Boston, and lifting up his hands to bless the people, while they all revile him. An old dame should be seen, flinging water, or emptying some vials of medicine, on his head from the latticed window of an old-fashioned house; and all around must be tokens of pestilence and mourning,–as a coffin borne along,–a woman or children weeping on a doorstep. Can the tolling of the Old South bell be painted?
If not this, then the military council, holden at Boston by the Earl of Loudon and other captains and governors, might be taken,–his lordship in the great chair, an old-fashioned, military figure, with a star on his breast. Some of Louis XV.’s commanders will give the costume. On the table, and scattered about the room, must be symbols of warfare,–swords, pistols, plumed hats, a drum, trumpet, and rolled-up banner in one heap. It were not amiss to introduce the armed figure of an Indian chief, as taking part in the council,–or standing apart from the English, erect and stern.
Now for Liberty Tree. There is an engraving of that famous vegetable in Snow’s History of Boston. If represented, I see not what scene can be beneath it, save poor Mr. Oliver, taking the oath. He must have on a bag-wig, ruffled sleeves, embroidered coat, and all such ornaments, because he is the representative of aristocracy and an artificial system. The people may be as rough and wild as the fancy can make them; nevertheless, there must be one or two grave, puritanical figures in the midst. Such an one might sit in the great chair, and be an emblem of that stern, considerate spirit which brought about the Revolution. But this would be a hard subject.
But what a dolt am I to obtrude my counsel, . . .
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry for September 14th, 1841. From Passages from the American Note-Books.