Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Hawthorne’s Way with Words

Nathaniel Hawthorne, upon his return to America after an approximately six year stay in first Liverpool, England, acting as the U.S. Consulate there, and then in Italy, sat down to put his impressions of “Our Old Home” into book form. Here is my copy of that book.

100_2826 100_2828

100_2831

Printed in 1863 – very fragile but precious to me.

Hawthorne has a way with words, and his description of the wild and natural beauty of the countryside going from Leamington to Stratford-on-Avon is poetry indeed.

At one point in his recounting of these observations, he says “The English should send us photographs of portions of the trunks of trees, the tangled and various products of a hedge, and a square foot of an old wall.” If only he could have seen ahead to today when photographs abound of just the kind of natural beauty he was observing about the English country side some one hundred fifty years ago.

In Our Old Home, taken from the first portion of “Recollections of a Gifted Woman,” here is Hawthorne’s entry:

“From Leamington to Stratford-on-Avon the distance is eight or nine miles, over a road that seemed to me most beautiful. Not that I can recall any memorable peculiarities; for the country, most of the way, is a succession of the gentlest swells and subsidences, affording wide and far glimpses of champaign scenery here and there, and sinking almost to a dead level as we draw near Stratford.

Any landscape in New England, even the tamest, has a more striking outline, and besides would have its blue eyes open in those lakelets that we encounter almost from mile to mile at home, but of which the Old Country is utterly destitute; or it would smile in our faces through the medium of the wayside brooks that vanish under a low stone arch on one side of the road, and sparkle out again on the other.

Neither of these pretty features is often to be found in an

English scene. The charm of the latter consists in the rich verdure of the fields, in the stately wayside trees and carefully kept plantations of wood, and in the old and high cultivation that has humanized the very sods by mingling so much of man’s toil and care among them.

To an American there is a kind of sanctity even in an English turnip-field, when he thinks how long that small square of ground has been known and recognized as a possession, transmitted from father to son, trodden often by memorable feet, and utterly redeemed from savagery by old acquaintanceship with civilized eyes.

The wildest things in England are more than half tame. The trees, for instance, whether in hedge-row, park, or what they call forest, have nothing wild about them. They are never ragged; there is a certain decorous restraint in the freest outspread of their branches, though they spread wider than any self-nurturing tree; they are tall, vigorous, bulky, with a look of age-long life, and a promise of more years to come, all of which will bring them into closer kindred with the race of man. Somebody or other has known them from the sapling upward; and if they endure long enough, they grow to be traditionally observed and honored, and connected with the fortunes of old families, till, like Tennyson’s Talking Oak, they babble with a thousand leafy tongues to ears that can understand them.

An American tree, however, if it could grow in fair competition with an English one of similar species, would probably be the more picturesque object of the two. The Warwickshire elm has not so beautiful a shape as those that overhang our village street;

and as for the redoubtable English oak, there is a certain John Bullism in its figure, a compact rotundity of foliage, a lack of irregular and various outline, that make it look wonderfully like a gigantic cauliflower. Its leaf, too, is much smaller than that of most varieties of American oak; nor do I mean to doubt that the latter, with free leave to grow, reverent care and cultivation, and immunity from the axe, would live out its centuries as sturdily as its English brother, and prove far the nobler and more majestic specimen of a tree at the end of them.

Still, however one’s Yankee patriotism may struggle against the admission, it must be owned that the trees and other objects of an English landscape take hold of the observer by numberless minute tendrils, as it were, which, look as closely as we choose, we never find in an American scene.

The parasitic growth is so luxuriant, that the trunk of the tree, so gray and dry in our climate, is better worth observing than the boughs and foliage; a verdant messiness coats it all over; so that it looks almost as green as the leaves; and often, moreover, the stately stem is clustered about, high upward, with creeping and twining shrubs, the ivy, and sometimes the mistletoe, close-clinging friends, nurtured by the moisture and never too fervid sunshine, and supporting themselves by the old tree’s abundant strength. We call it a parasitical vegetation; but, if the phrase imply any reproach, it is unkind to bestow it on this beautiful affection and relationship which exist in England between one order of plants and another: the strong tree being always ready to give support to the trailing shrub, lift it to the sun, and feed it out of its own heart, if it crave such food; and the shrub, on its part, repaying its foster-father with an ample luxuriance of beauty, and adding Corinthian grace to the tree’s lofty strength. No bitter winter nips these tender little sympathies, no hot sun burns the life out of them; and therefore they outlast the longevity of the oak, and, if the woodman permitted, would bury it in a green grave, when all is over.

Should there be nothing else along the road to look at, an English hedge might well suffice to occupy the eyes, and, to a depth beyond what he would suppose, the heart of an American. We often set out hedges in our own soil, but might as well set out figs or pineapples and expect to gather fruit of them. Something grows, to be sure, which we choose to call a hedge; but it lacks the dense, luxuriant variety of vegetation that is accumulated into the English original, in which a botanist would find a thousand shrubs and gracious herbs that the hedgemaker never thought of planting there. Among them, growing wild, are many of the kindred blossoms of the very flowers which our pilgrim fathers brought from England, for the sake of their simple beauty and associations, and which we have ever since been cultivating in gardens. There is not a softer trait to be found in the character of those stern men than that they should have been sensible of these flower-roots clinging among the fibres of their rugged hearts, and have felt the necessity of bringing them over sea and making them hereditary in the new land, instead of trusting to what rarer beauty the wilderness might have in store for them.

Or, if the roadside has no hedge, the ugliest stone fence (such as, in America, would keep itself bare and unsympathizing till the end of time) is sure to be covered with the small handiwork of Nature; that careful mother lets nothing go naked there, and if she cannot provide clothing, gives at least embroidery. No sooner is the fence built than she adopts and adorns it as a part of her original plan, treating the hard, uncomely construction as if it had all along been a favorite idea of her own. A little sprig of ivy may be seen creeping up the side of the low wall and clinging fast with its many feet to the rough surface;

a tuft of grass roots itself between two of the stones, where a pinch or two of wayside dust has been moistened into nutritious soil for it; a small bunch of fern grows in another crevice; a deep, soft, verdant moss spreads itself along the top and over all the available inequalities of the fence; and where nothing else will grow, lichens stick tenaciously to the bare stones and variegate the monotonous gray with hues of yellow and red.

Finally, a great deal of shrubbery clusters along the base of the stone wall, and takes away the hardness of its outline; and in due time, as the upshot of these apparently aimless or sportive touches, we recognize that the beneficent Creator of all things, working through his handmaiden whom we call Nature, has deigned to mingle a charm of divine gracefulness even with so earthly an institution as a boundary fence. The clown who wrought at it little dreamed what fellow-laborer he had.

The English should send us photographs of portions of the trunks of trees,

the tangled and various products of a hedge,

and a square foot of an old wall.

They can hardly send anything else so characteristic. Their artists, especially of the later school, sometimes toil to depict such subjects, but are apt to stiffen the lithe tendrils in the process.

The poets succeed better, with Tennyson at their head, and often produce ravishing effects by dint of a tender minuteness of touch, to which the genius of the soil and climate artfully impels them: for, as regards grandeur, there are loftier scenes in many countries than the best that England can show; but, for the picturesqueness of the smallest object that lies under its gentle gloom and sunshine, there is no scenery like it anywhere.”

And just because you can never get too much of the English landscape, one more for the road…

Cheers for the written word but for the visual arts, as well!

Bex, From-the-Hawtorne-Tree

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Check out my other blog, Check out my main Blog here.

Advertisements

He Got Away With It…

1853. Liverpool, England

An interesting entry in the journal of Nathaniel Hawthorne, American Consul to England, in his first year in this situation.

Times were hard, and especially a life on the sea was very hard, indeed. Imagine, if you will, being one of the seamen who find themselves marooned on a ship, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, under a captain who is a less-than-wholesome individual. In the words of Nataniel Hawthorne….

“September 22d.- . . . Some days ago an English captain came to the office, and said he had shot one of his men, shortly after sailing from New Orleans, and while the ship was still in the river. As he described the event, he was in peril of his life from this man, who was an Irishman; and he fired his pistol only when the man was coming upon him, with a knife in one hand, and some other weapon of offence in the other, while he himself was struggling with one or two more of the crew. He was weak at the time, having just recovered from the yellow fever. The shots struck the man in the pit of the stomach, and he lived only about a quarter of an hour.

“No magistrate in England has a right to arrest or examine the captain, unless by a warrant from the Secretary of State, on the charge of murder. After his statement to me, the mother of the slain man went to the police officer, and accused him of killing her son.

“Two or three days since, moreover, two of the sailors came before me, and gave their account of the matter; and it looked very differently from that of the captain. According to them, the man had no idea of attacking the captain, and was so drunk that he could not keep himself upright without assistance. One of these two men was actually holding him up when the captain fired two barrels of his pistol, one immediately after the other, and lodged two balls in the pit of his stomach. The man sank down at once, saying, “Jack, I am killed,” – and died very shortly. Meanwhile the captain drove this man away, under threats of shooting him likewise. Both the seamen described the captain’s conduct, both then and during the whole voyage, as outrageous, and I do not much doubt that it was so. They gave their evidence like men who wished to tell the truth, and were moved by no more than a natural indignation at the captain’s wrong.

“I did not much like the captain from the first, – a hard, rough man, with little education, and nothing of the gentleman about him, a red face and a loud voice. He seemed a good deal excited, and talked fast and much about the event, but yet not as if it had sunk deeply into him. He observed that he “would not have had it happen for a thousand dollars,” that being the amount of detriment which he conceives himself to suffer by the ineffaceable blood-stain on his hand.

“In my opinion it is little short of murder if at all; but what would be murder on shore is almost a natural occurrence when done in such a hell on earth as one of these ships, in the first hours of the voyage. The men are then all drunk,- some of them often in delirium tremens; and the captain feels no safety for his life except in making himself as terrible as a fiend. It is the universal testimony that there is a worse set of sailors in these short voyages between Liverpool and America than in any other trade whatever.

“There is no probability that the captain will ever be called to account for this deed. He gave, at the time, his own version of the affair in his log-book; and this was signed by the entire crew, with the exception of one man, who had hidden himself in the hold in terror of the captain. His mates will sustain his side of the question; and none of the sailors would be within reach of the English courts, even should they be sought for.

So, it appears, if you believe in the instincts of Mr. Hawthorne, that this captain has gotten away with murder. Pure and simple. At sea. Still, the remaining seamen probably had to spend a little time ashore and then board the next ship heading out to some remote foreign port, never really knowing if they might be the next victim of a man such as this captain who, most probably, got away with it.

And so it goes,

Bex, from the Hawthorne Tree

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Check out my other blog, “Thoughts from Crow Cottage” here.

Archives:

2014 Archives at JournalScape

The following entries were from Hawthorne’s English Note Books dated 1853 in Liverpool, England, where he served as American Consul.

It’s interesting the duties that befall the American Consul back then, to go out to a deceased Captain’s home and go thru his belongings, make note of them, see to his finances, smooth things over with any debtors, and such.

On the 22nd of August he inspected the home of the deceased Capt. Auld and then on the 24th, went to his funeral. After reading these entries, I feel as though I’d been there with him the whole time.

August 22d.– A Captain Auld, an English, having died here yesterday, I went with my clerk and an English shipmaster to take the inventory of his effects. His boarding-house was in a mean street, an old dingy house, with narrow entrance, — the class of boarding-house frequented by mates of vessels, and inferior to those generally patronized by masters. A fat elderly landlady, of respectable and honest aspect, and her daughter, a pleasing young woman enough, received us, and ushered us into the deceased’s bed-chamber. It was a dusky backroom, plastered and painted yellow; its one window looking into the very narrowest of backyards or courts, and out on a confused multitude of back buildings, appertaining to other houses, most of them old, with rude chimneys of wash-rooms and kitchens, the bricks of which seemed half loose.

The chattels of the dead man were contained in two trunks, a chest, a sail-cloth bag, and a barrel, and consisted of clothing, suggesting a thickset, middle-sized man; papers relative to ships and business, a spyglass, a loaded iron pistol, some books of navigation, some charts, several great pieces of tobacco, and a few cigars; some little plaster images, that he had probably bought for his children, a cotton umbrella, and other trumpery of no great value. In one of the trunks we found about twenty pounds’ worth of English and English gold and silver, and some notes of hand, due in America. Of all these things the clerk made an inventory; after which we took possession of the money, and affixed the consular seal to the trunks, bag, and chest.

While this was going on, we heard a great noise of men quarrelling in an adjoining court; and, altogether, it seemed a squalid and ugly place to live in, and a most undesirable one to die in. At the conclusion of our labors, the young woman asked us if we would not go into another chamber, and look at the corpse, and appeared to think that we should be rather glad than otherwise of the privilege. But, never having seen the man during his lifetime, I declined to commence his acquaintance now.

His bills for board and nursing amount to about the sum which we found in his trunk; his funeral expenses will be ten pounds more; the surgeon has sent in a bill of eight pounds, odd shillings; and the account of another medical man is still to be rendered. As his executor, I shall pay his landlady and nurse; and for the rest of the expenses, a subscription must be made (according to the custom in such cases) among the shipmasters, headed by myself. The funeral pomp will consist of a hearse, one coach, four men, with crape hatbands, and a few other items, together with a grave at five pounds, over which his friends will be entitled to place a stone, if they choose to do so, within twelve months.

As we left the house, we looked into the dark and squalid dining-room, where a lunch of cold meat was set out; but having no associations with the house except through this one dead man, it seemed as if his presence and attributes pervaded it wholly. He appears to have been a man of reprehensible habits, though well advanced in years. I ought not to forget a brandy-flask (empty) among his other effects. The landlady and daughter made a good impression on me, as honest and respectable persons.

August 24th.– Yesterday, in the forenoon, I received a note, and shortly afterwards a call at the Consulate, from Miss H—-, whom I apprehend to be a lady of literary tendencies. She said that Miss L. had promised her an introduction, but that, happening to pass through Liverpool, she had snatched the opportunity to make my acquaintance. She seems to be a mature lady, rather plain, but with an honest and intelligent face. It was rather a singular freedom, methinks, to come down upon a perfect stranger in this way,– to sit with him in his private office an hour or two, and then walk about the streets with him as she did; for I did the honors of Liverpool, and showed her the public buildings. Her talk was sensible, but not particularly brilliant nor interesting; a good, solid personage, physically and intellectually. She is an English woman.

In the afternoon, at three o’clock, I attended the funeral of Captain Auld. Being ushered into the dining-room of his boarding-house, I found brandy, gin, and wine set out on a tray, together with some little spice-cakes. By and by came in a woman, who asked if I were going to the funeral; and then proceeded to put a mourning-band on my hat,–a black-silk band, covering the whole hat, and streaming nearly a yard behind. After waiting the better part of an hour, nobody else appeared, although several shipmasters had promised to attend. Hereupon, the undertaker was anxious to set forth; but the landlady, who was arrayed in shining black silk, thought it a shame that the poor man should be buried with such small attendance. So we waited a little longer, during which interval I heard the landlady’s daughter sobbing and wailing in the entry; and but for this tender-heartedness there would have been no tears at all. Finally we set forth,–the undertaker, a friend of his, and a young man, perhaps the landlady’s son, and myself, in the black-plumed coach, and the landlady, her daughter, and a female friend, in the coach behind. Previous to this, however, everybody had taken some wine or spirits; for it seemed to be considered disrespectful not to do so.

Before us went the plumed hearse, a stately affair, with a bas-relief of funereal figures upon its sides. We proceeded quite across the city to the Necropolis, where the coffin was carried into a chapel, in which we found already another coffin, and another set of mourners, awaiting the clergyman. Anon he appeared,– a stern, broad-framed, large, and bald-headed man, in a black-silk gown. He mounted his desk, and read the service in quite a feeble and unimpressive way, though with no lack of solemnity. This done, our four bearers took up the coffin, and carried it out of the chapel; but descending the steps, and, perhaps, having taken a little too much brandy, one of them stumbled, and down came the coffin,– not quite to the ground, however; for they grappled with it, and contrived, with a great struggle, to prevent the misadventure. But I really expected to see poor Captain Auld burst forth among us in his grave-clothes.

The Necropolis is quite a handsome burial-place, shut in by high walls, so overrun with shrubbery that no part of the brick or stone is visible. Part of the space within is an ornamental garden, with flowers and green turf; the rest is strewn with flat gravestones, and a few raised monuments; and straight avenues run to and fro between. Captain Auld’s grave was dug nine feet deep. It is his own for twelve months; but, if his friends do not choose to give him a stone, it will become a common grave at the end of that time; and four or five more bodies may then be piled upon his. Every one seemed greatly to admire the grave; the undertaker praised it, and also the dryness of its site, which he took credit to himself for having chosen. The grave-digger, too, was very proud of its depth, and the neatness of his handiwork. The clergyman, who had marched in advance of us from the chapel, now took his stand at the head of the grave, and, lifting his hat, proceeded with what remained of the service, while we stood bareheaded around. When he came to a particular part, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the undertaker lifted a handful of earth, and threw it rattling on the coffin, — so did the landlady’s son, and so did I. After the funeral the undertaker’s friend, an elderly, coarse-looking man, looked round him, and remarked that “the grass had never grown on the parties who died in the cholera year”; but at this the undertaker laughed in scorn.

As we returned to the gate of the cemetery, the sexton met us, and pointed to a small office, on entering which we found the clergyman, who was waiting for his burial-fees. There was now a dispute between the clergyman and the undertaker; the former wishing to receive the whole amount for the gravestone, which the undertaker, of course, refused to pay. I explained how the matter stood; on which the clergyman acquiesced, civilly enough; but it was very strange to see the worldly, business-like way in which he entered into this squabble, so soon after burying poor Captain Auld.

During our drive back in the mourning-coach, the undertaker, his friend, and the landlady’s son still kept descanting on the excellence of the grave,–“Such a fine grave,” — “Such a nice grave,” — “Such a splendid grave,” — and, really, they seemed almost to think it worth while to die, for the sake of being buried there. They deemed it an especial pity that such a grave should ever become a common grave. “Why,” said they to me, “by paying the extra price you may have it for your own grave, or for your family!” meaning that we should have a right to pile ourselves over the defunct Captain. I wonder how the English ever attain to any conception of a future existence, since they so overburden themselves with earth and mortality in their ideas of funerals. A drive with an undertaker, in a sable-plumed coach! — talking about graves! — and yet he was a jolly old fellow, wonderfully corpulent, with a smile breaking out easily all over his face,– although, once in a while, he looked professionally lugubrious.

* * * * *

All the time the scent of that horrible mourning-coach is in my nostrils, and I breathe nothing but a funeral atmosphere.

I have to say that reading these Note Books has been incredibly illuminating to me. The author paints such a vivid and complete picture of the events taking place, it’s almost like being there, almost like feeling the dark damp atmosphere of the boarding house of the deceased Capt. Auld, and then the making light of the local people’s interest in the lovely graveyard.

You may have noticed, also, that Hawthorne does not use short-cuts in his writing; there are no contractions which the modern author seems fully desirous of using in today’s prose. Little thinks like this lend to my opinion of Hawthorne’s thought process and make his writing even more enjoyable to me.

Hawthorne statue in Salem, MA

Well, the golf has started and Rory is on the tube so I’m off!

Cheers for the world of writing, then and now,

Bex

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Check out my other blog:

“Thoughts from Crow Cottage”

Archives:

2014 Archives at JournalScape

Nathaniel Hawthorne, the American author, kept notes of most things he did and saw and experienced. We are lucky enough to have these notes published and made available to his followers in the public. Some of them are quite interesting and may be enjoyable for you to read in snippets here.

The following excerpt is from Hawthorne’s English Note Books and is entered under “1857” in the Contents page.

As you may or may not know/remember, I am related to Hawthorne, being from the Ingersolls on my mother’s side and Hawthorne’s cousin, Susannah Ingersoll, being the daughter of the owner of what would later be called The House of the Seven Gables. So we are cousins, Nathaniel and I.

I’ve just obtained Vol. I and Vol. II of his “English Note Books” published in Boston in 1876. I’ve just started reading them but find I am hopping all over the place in the books, picking out various dates to read about; it’s like a diary to read and Hawthorne was quite diligent at keeping up with his journals.

100_2700

Just FYI, his three children were Unna, Julian, and Rose.

In the entry below, you will see that he relates the time when his home in Liverpool, England (he was the American consulate there from 1853-1858) was burgled, and I found his description of the whole affair just lovely! Especially the last sentence in it!

March 1st, 1857.–On the night of last Wednesday week, our house was broken into by robbers. They entered by the back window of the breakfast-room, which is the children’s school-room, breaking or cutting a pane of glass, so as to undo the fastening. I have a dim idea of having heard a noise through my sleep; but if so, it did not more than slightly disturb me. U– heard it, she being at watch with R—; and J—–, having a cold, was also wakeful, and thought the noise was of servants moving about below. Neither did the idea of robbers occur to U–. J—–, however, hearing U– at her mother’s door, asking for medicine for R—, called out for medicine for his cold, and the thieves probably thought we were bestirring ourselves, and so took flight. In the morning the servants found the hall door and the breakfast-room window open; some silver cups and some other trifles of plate were gone from the sideboard, and there were tokens that the whole lower part of the house had been ransacked; but the thieves had evidently gone off in a hurry, leaving some articles which they would have taken, had they been more at leisure.

We gave information to the police, and an inspector and constable soon came to make investigations, taking a list of the missing articles, and informing themselves as to all particulars that could be known. I did not much expect ever to hear any more of the stolen property; but on Sunday a constable came to request my presence at the police-office to identify the lost things. The thieves had been caught in Liverpool, and some of the property found upon them, and some of it at a pawnbroker’s where they had pledged it. The police-office is a small dark room, in the basement story of the Town Hall of Southport; and over the mantel-piece, hanging one upon another, there are innumerable advertisements of robberies in houses, and on the highway,–murders, too, and garrotings; and offences of all sorts, not only in this district, but wide away, and forwarded from other police-stations. Being thus aggregated together, one realizes that there are a great many more offences than the public generally takes note of. Most of these advertisements were in pen and ink, with minute lists of the articles stolen; but the more important were in print; and there, too, I saw the printed advertisement of our own robbery, not for public circulation, but to be handed about privately, among police-officers and pawnbrokers. A rogue has a very poor chance in England, the police being so numerous, and their system so well organized.

In a corner of the police-office stood a contrivance for precisely measuring the heights of prisoners; and I took occasion to measure J—–, and found him four feet seven inches and a half high . A set of rules for the self-government of police-officers was nailed on the door, between twenty and thirty in number, and composing a system of constabulary ethics. The rules would be good for men in almost any walk of life; and I rather think the police-officers conform to them with tolerable strictness. They appear to be subordinated to one another on the military plan. The ordinary constable does not sit down in the presence of his inspector, and this latter seems to be half a gentleman; at least, such is the bearing of our Southport inspector, who wears a handsome uniform of green and silver, and salutes the principal inhabitants, when meeting them in the street, with an air of something like equality. Then again there is a superintendent, who certainly claims the rank of a gentleman, and has perhaps been an officer in the army. The superintendent of this district was present on this occasion.

The thieves were brought down from Liverpool on Tuesday, and examined in the Town Hall. I had been notified to be present, but, as a matter of courtesy, the police-officers refrained from calling me as a witness, the evidence of the servants being sufficient to identify the property. The thieves were two young men, not much over twenty,–James and John Macdonald, terribly shabby, dirty, jail-bird like, yet intelligent of aspect, and one of them handsome. The police knew them already, and they seemed not much abashed by their position. There were half a dozen magistrates on the bench,–idle old gentlemen of Southport and the vicinity, who lounged into the court, more as a matter of amusement than anything else, and lounged out again at their own pleasure; for these magisterial duties are a part of the pastime of the country gentlemen of England. They wore their hats on the bench. There were one or two of them more active than their fellows; but the real duty was done by the Clerk of the Court. The seats within the bar were occupied by the witnesses, and around the great table sat some of the more respectable people of Southport; and without the bar were the commonalty in great numbers; for this is said to be the first burglary that has occurred here within the memory of man, and so it has caused a great stir.

There seems to be a strong case against the prisoners. A boy attached to the railway testified to having seen them at Birchdale on Wednesday afternoon, and directed them on their way to Southport; Peter Pickup recognized them as having applied to him for lodgings in the course of that evening; a pawnbroker swore to one of them as having offered my top-coat for sale or pledge in Liverpool; and my boots were found on the feet of one of them,–all this in addition to other circumstances of pregnant suspicion. So they were committed for trial at the Liverpool assizes, to be holden some time in the present month. I rather wished them to escape.

I love that last line! It says so much about the author.

Cheers for our long-gone cousins!

Bex

Nathaniel Hawthorne, the American author, kept notes of most things he did and saw and experienced. We are lucky enough to have these notes published and made available to his followers in the public. Some of them are quite interesting and may be enjoyable for you to read in snippets here.

The following excerpt is from Hawthorne’s English Note Books and is entered under “1857” in the Contents page.

As you may or may not know/remember, I am related to Hawthorne, being from the Ingersolls on my mother’s side and Hawthorne’s cousin, Susannah Ingersoll, being the daughter of the owner of what would later be called The House of the Seven Gables. So we are cousins, Nathaniel and I.

I’ve just obtained Vol I and Vol. II of his “English Note Books” published in Boston in 1876. I’ve just started reading them but find I am hopping all over the place in the books, picking out various dates to read about; it’s like a diary to read and Hawthorne was quite diligent at keeping up with his journals.

100_2700

Just FYI, his three children were Unna, Julian, and Rose.

In the entry below, you will see that he relates the time when his home in Liverpool, England (he was the American consulate there from 1853-1858) was burgled, and I found his description of the whole affair just lovely! Especially the last sentence in it!

March 1st, 1857.–On the night of last Wednesday week, our house was broken into by robbers. They entered by the back window of the breakfast-room, which is the children’s school-room, breaking or cutting a pane of glass, so as to undo the fastening. I have a dim idea of having heard a noise through my sleep; but if so, it did not more than slightly disturb me. U– heard it, she being at watch with R—; and J—–, having a cold, was also wakeful, and thought the noise was of servants moving about below. Neither did the idea of robbers occur to U–. J—–, however, hearing U– at her mother’s door, asking for medicine for R—, called out for medicine for his cold, and the thieves probably thought we were bestirring ourselves, and so took flight. In the morning the servants found the hall door and the breakfast-room window open; some silver cups and some other trifles of plate were gone from the sideboard, and there were tokens that the whole lower part of the house had been ransacked; but the thieves had evidently gone off in a hurry, leaving some articles which they would have taken, had they been more at leisure.

We gave information to the police, and an inspector and constable soon came to make investigations, taking a list of the missing articles, and informing themselves as to all particulars that could be known. I did not much expect ever to hear any more of the stolen property; but on Sunday a constable came to request my presence at the police-office to identify the lost things. The thieves had been caught in Liverpool, and some of the property found upon them, and some of it at a pawnbroker’s where they had pledged it. The police-office is a small dark room, in the basement story of the Town Hall of Southport; and over the mantel-piece, hanging one upon another, there are innumerable advertisements of robberies in houses, and on the highway,–murders, too, and garrotings; and offences of all sorts, not only in this district, but wide away, and forwarded from other police-stations. Being thus aggregated together, one realizes that there are a great many more offences than the public generally takes note of. Most of these advertisements were in pen and ink, with minute lists of the articles stolen; but the more important were in print; and there, too, I saw the printed advertisement of our own robbery, not for public circulation, but to be handed about privately, among police-officers and pawnbrokers. A rogue has a very poor chance in England, the police being so numerous, and their system so well organized.

In a corner of the police-office stood a contrivance for precisely measuring the heights of prisoners; and I took occasion to measure J—–, and found him four feet seven inches and a half high . A set of rules for the self-government of police-officers was nailed on the door, between twenty and thirty in number, and composing a system of constabulary ethics. The rules would be good for men in almost any walk of life; and I rather think the police-officers conform to them with tolerable strictness. They appear to be subordinated to one another on the military plan. The ordinary constable does not sit down in the presence of his inspector, and this latter seems to be half a gentleman; at least, such is the bearing of our Southport inspector, who wears a handsome uniform of green and silver, and salutes the principal inhabitants, when meeting them in the street, with an air of something like equality. Then again there is a superintendent, who certainly claims the rank of a gentleman, and has perhaps been an officer in the army. The superintendent of this district was present on this occasion.

The thieves were brought down from Liverpool on Tuesday, and examined in the Town Hall. I had been notified to be present, but, as a matter of courtesy, the police-officers refrained from calling me as a witness, the evidence of the servants being sufficient to identify the property. The thieves were two young men, not much over twenty,–James and John Macdonald, terribly shabby, dirty, jail-bird like, yet intelligent of aspect, and one of them handsome. The police knew them already, and they seemed not much abashed by their position. There were half a dozen magistrates on the bench,–idle old gentlemen of Southport and the vicinity, who lounged into the court, more as a matter of amusement than anything else, and lounged out again at their own pleasure; for these magisterial duties are a part of the pastime of the country gentlemen of England. They wore their hats on the bench. There were one or two of them more active than their fellows; but the real duty was done by the Clerk of the Court. The seats within the bar were occupied by the witnesses, and around the great table sat some of the more respectable people of Southport; and without the bar were the commonalty in great numbers; for this is said to be the first burglary that has occurred here within the memory of man, and so it has caused a great stir.

There seems to be a strong case against the prisoners. A boy attached to the railway testified to having seen them at Birchdale on Wednesday afternoon, and directed them on their way to Southport; Peter Pickup recognized them as having applied to him for lodgings in the course of that evening; a pawnbroker swore to one of them as having offered my top-coat for sale or pledge in Liverpool; and my boots were found on the feet of one of them,–all this in addition to other circumstances of pregnant suspicion. So they were committed for trial at the Liverpool assizes, to be holden some time in the present month. I rather wished them to escape.

I love that last line! It says so much about the author.

Cheers for long-gone-cousins!

Bex

Coming back here to WordPress is a trip – one that I’m not exactly willing to take. I started this blog about my connection to Nathaniel Hawthorne a long time ago and it never got going. My fault.

It is now the 8th of June in the year 2014. Today, a Sunday, I have a tennis match on TV, the men’s final French Open, and it is being used by me as background noise – I am not paying much attention to it – especially seeing as how my guy is behind 5-3 in the first set!

But aside from all that, I’ve just stumbled, this morning, into a new (for me) area of discovery and learning. As this relates to my cousin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, I offer this page for you here… it’s a short description of him and his life’s story… for anyone who may know of him but just not the details… it also opens up a whole world of ideas and thoughts and information that you, like me, are finding immensely interesting.

Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Spirit of Science.

In the short time that I’ve been reading here this morning, I have traveled into so many different topics I’d like to share with you, but this is the start. I may revert back to my regular blog over at THOUGHTS FROM CROW COTTAGE at JournalScape because that is where I am most comfortable posting. Here at WordPress it is a bit too much for me, the editing process is more complicated, and I just don’t need this right now.

See you at JournalScape! And if you do go to the site above, have fun! I think you will enjoy your time there.

Cheers,

Bex

I am beginning to read a book I got long ago called “Hawthorne’s Lost Notebook 1835-1841”, transcript and preface by Barbara S. Mouffe. 

This book is quite interesting to the Hawthorne afficionado like myself because through it, on the left-hand pages are featured the facsimile (photocopy) of his actual handwritten  notes from the notebook that was missing for so long and only discovered in the 1970’s by Ms. Mouffe at her home.  On the right-hand facing page there is typed the transcription of the left-hand page.  

This notebook contains little jottings and thoughts of Nathaniel Hawthorne for these six years while he was living here in Salem.  He would travel around the city and environs, jotting down observations and ideas for future stories.  In that regard, there is a sentence that got me thinking.  On page 27 of the Introduction of this book, the author says:

“What traits of imagination prompted him to set down the following idea for a story that was never written: 

(Hawthorne wrote) “To contrive some very great calamity for unsuspecting people, and then, while it is rolling inevitably onward, calmly to watch the result”?

This was in the early to middle part of the 1800’s.  But imagine, if you will, this idea put into today’s reference.  Can you think of something that has happened that would be almost verbatim to his idea of a future story?

Nine-Eleven.

That is what hit me about that sentence.  His idea played out in reality a hundred and sixty years later.  The great calamity for unsuspecting people? Almost 3,000 of them!  and while it is rolling onward (that dreadful morning in 2001) we, across the nation and the world, sat by our TV’s and watched the result, albeit not calmly but anxiously and horrified.  But we were the outsiders, viewing a catastrophe in real time, watching as it happened but not really being there to participate in it. 

I wonder what the story would have been had Hawthorne been here in 2001 to witness his idea coming true. 

Bex, From The Hawthorne Tree