HAWTHORNE, Nathaniel (1804-1864). Autograph letter signed ("Nath. Hawthorne") to George S. Hillard, Esq., (1808-1879) of Boston; Lenox [Massachusetts], 21 May 1867.
1 full page, 4to, integral address leaf in Hawthorne's hand, address leaf tipped to a larger sheet, with related letters of James T. Fields and George Bancroft (see provenance below), plus an envelope addressed in Hawthorne's hand to James T. Fields, signed in one corner "From N. Hawthorne," and an unmounted albumen portrait photograph.
"I HAVE NO GREAT FAITH IN THE PUBLIC, NOR DO I THINK THE BETTER OF MYSELF WHEN I FIND FAVOR IN ITS EYES": AN IMPORTANT LETTER OF HAWTHORNE ON "THE HOUSE OF SEVEN GABLES AND "THE SCARLET LETTER"
A fine, letter--optimistic, relaxed and playful in tone, but subtly tinged with Hawthorne's ever-present fatalism--to Hillard, a successful attorney, Whig politician and amateur man of letters. The letter is from Hawthorne's mos t productive period as a writer. After leaving his unrewarding post in the Salem Custom House, Hawthorne had moved to rural Lenox and devoted himself entirely to his writing. In the early 1850s he published The Scarlet Letter (1850), The House of Seven Gables (1851); The Snow-Image and Other Twice-Told Tales, and The Blithedale Romance (1852); a campaign biography of his Bowdoin College classmate, Ihe Life of Franklin Pierce (1852); and two collections of stories for children, A Wonder Book (1852) and Tanglewood Tales (1853). Here he expresses pleasure that Hillard has enjoyed The House of Seven Gables, comments on the books and compared it to The Scarlet Letter, confesses his ambivalence about the public reception of his work, and humorously announces a new addition to his family ("published" by his wife "in one small volume"):
"Dear Hillard, No man's praise could be sweeter to me than yours. I am truly glad that you like the Seven Gables so much, but am a little apprehensive that, if I have shot high enough to hit your taste, my arrow has struck above the bull's eye of the target. I myself feel that my last book [The House of Seven Gables] is better than the preceding one [The Scarlet Letter]; if I am capable of doing anything well, there must be proof of it there. But I have no great faith in the public, nor do I think the better of myself when I find favor in its eyes."
Then, Hawthorne passes on news of the birth of the family's third child: "Yesterday morning, at three o'clock Sophie [Sophie Peabody, Hawthorne's wife] published a complete edition of Human Nature, in one small volume which I hope will live longer than any work of mine is likely to do. She called it, for the present, Rosebud; -when it expands it will be Rose Hawthorne - certainly a very pretty name. I think my heart warms to this little [illegible] far more than to either of my other children - more, I mean, than it did at first. She is to be the daughter of my age, that is, if I live to be an old man - which, I think, is not to be my destiny. I am happy in my life - happier than most men - yet not unwilling to see the end of it; if I could leave my family without harm to them. Sometimes I think it better to sleep than to be at the trouble even of being happy."
"I wish very much to come to Boston, and hope to do so, in the course of the summer. These mountains and woods are good to live on [?] but there is a great weight and shadow in them, nevertheless. Don't you mean to come out and see me, sometime or other? Our house is of the smallest and humblest, but there will be a room for you, when this flurry of the new birth has a little subsided[?]. October would be a beautiful month to come, or you might come earlier, and spend a day or two on your way to, or return from, Saratoga. I wish very much indeed to see you. Your friend..."
While Hawthorne and his family remained in the relatively wild Berkshire countryside at Lenox, a number of other literary acquaintances settled or stayed in the area, including Herman Melville, James Russell Lowell, Henry James, Sr., Edwin P. Whipple, Frederika Bremer, and the publisher J. T. Fields. Hawthorne's description of the forbidding "great weight and shadow" of the Berkshire forests provocatively parallels his description of the thick forest in A Scarlet Letter. Letters of Hawthorne of literary content are uncommon.
1. George Hillard (1808-1879) see DAB
2. James T. Fields (1817-1881), Hawthorne's publisher. In a letter to George Bancroft, Boston, 21 September 1864, Fields writes: "I send you for your English friend Hawthorne's letter to Genl. Pierce...The envelope in which it came...has his autograph signature in a corner."
3. Frederick Locker-Lampson (1821-1895), English poet and bibliophile, gift of the historian George Bancroft (1800-1891). In a 3-page ALS of Bancroft (New York, 6 January 1865) which accompanies Hawthorne's letter, Bancroft praises a volume sent by Locker-Lampson and adds that "my friends dropped a hint that you are a great collector of autographs & had none of Hawthorne; so I made my friend who is Hawthorne's publisher rummage his chests of papers, for the best autograph of our lamented novelist; and I had better results than I dared to anticipate. I should not know where to find so good a specimen of the handwriting of the man who in the Scarlet Letter has reproduced the old Times of New England with a truth and vividness wholly unequalled."
4. The present owner (5)