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Archive for September, 2014

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.

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2014 Archives at JournalScape

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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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

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