[Boston—Sunday, 6 December 1863]

Sunday Mr Hawthorne returned to us. He had found Gen. Pierce overwhelmed with sadness at the death of his wife and greatly needing his companionship, therefore he accompanied him the whole distance to Concord N.H. He said he could not generally look at such things but he was obliged to look at the body of Mrs Pierce. It was like a carven image laid in its richly embossed enclosure and there was a remote expression about it as if the whole had nothing to do with things present. Harriet Prescott was there. He had some talk with her and liked her. He more deeply impressed than ever with the exquisite courtesy of his friend Gen. Pierce. Even at the grave while overwhelmed with grief he drew up the collar of Mr Hawthorne’s coat to keep him from the cold.

We went to walk in the morning and left Mr Hawthorne to read in the library. He found a book called “Dealings with the Dead” which he liked—indeed he said he liked no house to stay in better than this. He thought the old edition of Boccac[c]io which belonged to Leigh Hunt a poor translation.

He has already written the first chapter of a new romance but he thought so little of the work himself as to make it impossible for him to continue until Mr Fields had read it and expressed his sincere admiration for the work. This has given him better heart to go on with it.

He talked of the magazine with Mr F; told him he thought it was the most ably edited magazine in the world and was bound to be a success, with this exception he said “I fear its politics—beware! what will you do when in a year or two the politics of the country change?”

“I will quietly wait for that time to come” said J.T.F. “then I can tell you.”

As the sunset deepened Mr Hawthorne talked of his early life. His grandfather bought a township in Maine and at the early age of eleven years he accompanied his mother and sister down there to live upon the land. From that moment the happiest period of his life began and lasted until he was thirteen when he was sent to school in Salem. While in Maine he lived like a bird of the air so perfect was the freedom he enjoyed. During the moonlight nights of winter he would skate until midnight alone upon the icy face of Sebago Lake with all its ineffable beauty stretched before him and the deep shadows of the hills on either hand. When he was weary he could take refuge sometimes in a log cabin, (there were several in this region) where half a tree would be burning on the broad hearth and he could sit by that and see the stars up through the chimney. All the long summer days he roamed at will, gun in hand through the woods and there he learned a nearness to Nature and a love for free life which has never left him and made all other existence in a measure insupportable. His suffering began with that Salem school and his knowledge of his relatives who were all distasteful to him. He said, how sad middle life looks to people of erratic temperaments. Everything is beautiful in youth—all things are allowed to it.

We gave him “Pet Marjorie” to read in the evening a little story by John Brown. He thought it so beautiful that he read it carefully twice until every word was grasped by his powerful memory.

Dr Holmes came in for a few moments and talked of Renan’s book which he appreciates. “A long time ago, I said, Rome or Reason, now I am half inclined to put it Rome or Renan.” “I would write a new novel if you were not in the field Mr Hawthorne.” Said Hawthorne, “I am not, and I wish you would do it.” Professor Holmes said, “I wish you would come to the Club oftener.” “I should like to said N.H. but I can’t drink”—“Neither can I was the reply”—“Well, but I can’t eat.”

“Nevertheless we should like to see you”—“but I can’t talk either” at which we all laughed immoderately and O.W.H. said “You can listen though and I wish you would come.”

Then I was called away by Mr Bartol and was obliged to lose a theologic talk I should much like to have heard. Mr Bartol came to bring a message from Julia Ward Howe asking us to forget an article she wrote in the “Commonwealth” which was an unpleasant piece of business on her part.

Talking of England Hawthorne said she was not a powerful empire. The extent over which her dominion extended led her to fancy herself powerful. She is much like a squash vine which runs over a whole garden but cut at the root and it is gone at once.

We talked and laughed about Boswell whom he thinks one of the most remarkable men who ever lived and J.T.F. recalled that story of Johnson who upon being told of a man who had committed some misdemeanor and was upon the verge of committing suicide in consequence, said, “Why does not the man go somewhere where he is not known, instead of to the devil where he is known?”

Hawthorne was in the same class at college with Longfellow whom he says he could not appreciate at that time. L. was always finely dressed and was a tremendous student. Hawthorne was careless in dress and no student but always reading desultorily right and left. Now they are deeply appreciative of each other.

Hawthorne says he wants the North to beat now ’tis the only way to save the country from destruction. He has been strangely inert and remote upon the subject of the war; partly from his deep hatred of everything sad—he seems to feel as if he could not live and face it.

He was intensely witty but his wit is of so ethereal a texture that the fine essence has vanished and I can remember nothing now of his witty things!—perhaps they will return.

J.T.F. has no end of trouble with his invaluable Mr Nichols. He is the finest proof-reader living & take[s] such an interest in the “Atlantic” that its editor always says, “No Nichols no Fields,” but he can’t take a joke which is inconvenient to say the least. He even carried this so far as to alter that word made famous by Artemas Wardgoak” to “joak.” He cannot understand Harriet Prescott and we often have a long smile over his eccentricities.


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