Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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In 1828, three years after graduating from Bowdoin College, Hawthorne
published his first romance, "Fanshawe." It was issued at Boston by Marsh
& Capen, but made little or no impression on the public. The motto on the
title-page of the original was from Southey: "Wilt thou go on with me?"

Afterwards, when he had struck into the vein of fiction that came to be
known as distinctively his own, he attempted to suppress this youthful
work, and was so successful that he obtained and destroyed all but a few
of the copies then extant.

Some twelve years after his death it was resolved, in view of the interest
manifested in tracing the growth of his genius from the beginning of his
activity as an author, to revive this youthful romance; and the reissue of
"Fanshawe" was then made.

Little biographical interest attaches to it, beyond the fact that Mr.
Longfellow found in the descriptions and general atmosphere of the book a
decided suggestion of the situation of Bowdoin College, at Brunswick,
Maine, and the life there at the time when he and Hawthorne were both
undergraduates of that institution.

Professor Packard, of Bowdoin College, who was then in charge of the study
of English literature, and has survived both of his illustrious pupils,
recalls Hawthorne's exceptional excellence in the composition of English,
even at that date (1821-1825); and it is not impossible that Hawthorne
intended, through the character of Fanshawe, to present some faint
projection of what he then thought might be his own obscure history. Even
while he was in college, however, and meditating perhaps the slender
elements of this first romance, his fellow-student Horatio Bridge, whose
"Journal of an African Cruiser" he afterwards edited, recognized in him
the possibilities of a writer of fiction - a fact to which Hawthorne
alludes in the dedicatory Preface to "The Snow-Image."

G. P. L.


* * * * *


"Our court shall be a little Academe." - SHAKESPEARE.

In an ancient though not very populous settlement, in a retired corner of
one of the New England States, arise the walls of a seminary of learning,
which, for the convenience of a name, shall be entitled "Harley College."
This institution, though the number of its years is inconsiderable
compared with the hoar antiquity of its European sisters, is not without
some claims to reverence on the score of age; for an almost countless
multitude of rivals, by many of which its reputation has been eclipsed,
have sprung up since its foundation. At no time, indeed, during an
existence of nearly a century, has it acquired a very extensive fame; and
circumstances, which need not be particularized, have, of late years,
involved it in a deeper obscurity. There are now few candidates for the
degrees that the college is authorized to bestow. On two of its annual
"Commencement Days," there has been a total deficiency of baccalaureates;
and the lawyers and divines, on whom doctorates in their respective
professions are gratuitously inflicted, are not accustomed to consider the
distinction as an honor. Yet the sons of this seminary have always
maintained their full share of reputation, in whatever paths of life they
trod. Few of them, perhaps, have been deep and finished scholars; but the
college has supplied - what the emergencies of the country demanded - a set
of men more useful in its present state, and whose deficiency in
theoretical knowledge has not been found to imply a want of practical

The local situation of the college, so far secluded from the sight and
sound of the busy world, is peculiarly favorable to the moral, if not to
the literary, habits of its students; and this advantage probably caused
the founders to overlook the inconveniences that were inseparably
connected with it. The humble edifices rear themselves almost at the
farthest extremity of a narrow vale, which, winding through a long extent
of hill-country, is wellnigh as inaccessible, except at one point, as the
Happy Valley of Abyssinia. A stream, that farther on becomes a
considerable river, takes its rise at, a short distance above the college,
and affords, along its wood-fringed banks, many shady retreats, where
even study is pleasant, and idleness delicious. The neighborhood of the
institution is not quite a solitude, though the few habitations scarcely
constitute a village. These consist principally of farm-houses, of rather
an ancient date (for the settlement is much older than the college), and
of a little inn, which even in that secluded spot does not fail of a
moderate support. Other dwellings are scattered up and down the valley;
but the difficulties of the soil will long avert the evils of a too dense
population. The character of the inhabitants does not seem - as there was,
perhaps, room to anticipate - to be in any degree influenced by the
atmosphere of Harley College. They are a set of rough and hardy yeomen,
much inferior, as respects refinement, to the corresponding classes in
most other parts of our country. This is the more remarkable, as there is
scarcely a family in the vicinity that has not provided, for at least one
of its sons, the advantages of a "liberal education."

Having thus described the present state of Harley College, we must proceed
to speak of it as it existed about eighty years since, when its foundation
was recent, and its prospects flattering. At the head of the institution,
at this period, was a learned and Orthodox divine, whose fame was in all
the churches. He was the author of several works which evinced much
erudition and depth of research; and the public, perhaps, thought the more
highly of his abilities from a singularity in the purposes to which he
applied them, that added much to the curiosity of his labors, though
little to their usefulness. But, however fanciful might be his private
pursuits, Dr. Melmoth, it was universally allowed, was diligent and
successful in the arts of instruction. The young men of his charge
prospered beneath his eye, and regarded him with an affection that was
strengthened by the little foibles which occasionally excited their
ridicule. The president was assisted in the discharge of his duties by two
inferior officers, chosen from the alumni of the college, who, while they
imparted to others the knowledge they had already imbibed, pursued the
study of divinity under the direction of their principal. Under such
auspices the institution grew and flourished. Having at that time but two
rivals in the country (neither of them within a considerable distance), it
became the general resort of the youth of the Province in which it was
situated. For several years in succession, its students amounted to nearly
fifty, - a number which, relatively to the circumstances of the country,
was very considerable.

From the exterior of the collegians, an accurate observer might pretty
safely judge how long they had been inmates of those classic walls. The
brown cheeks and the rustic dress of some would inform him that they had
but recently left the plough to labor in a not less toilsome field; the
grave look, and the intermingling of garments of a more classic cut, would
distinguish those who had begun to acquire the polish of their new
residence; and the air of superiority, the paler cheek, the less robust
form, the spectacles of green, and the dress, in general of threadbare
black, would designate the highest class, who were understood to have
acquired nearly all the science their Alma Mater could bestow, and to be
on the point of assuming their stations in the world. There were, it is
true, exceptions to this general description. A few young men had found
their way hither from the distant seaports; and these were the models of
fashion to their rustic companions, over whom they asserted a superiority
in exterior accomplishments, which the fresh though unpolished intellect
of the sons of the forest denied them in their literary competitions. A
third class, differing widely from both the former, consisted of a few
young descendants of the aborigines, to whom an impracticable philanthropy
was endeavoring to impart the benefits of civilization.

If this institution did not offer all the advantages of elder and prouder
seminaries, its deficiencies were compensated to its students by the
inculcation of regular habits, and of a deep and awful sense of religion,
which seldom deserted them in their course through life. The mild and
gentle rule of Dr. Melmoth, like that of a father over his children, was
more destructive to vice than a sterner sway; and though youth is never
without its follies, they have seldom been more harmless than they were
here. The students, indeed, ignorant of their own bliss, sometimes wished
to hasten the time of their entrance on the business of life; but they
found, in after-years, that many of their happiest remembrances, many of
the scenes which they would with least reluctance live over again,
referred to the seat of their early studies. The exceptions to this remark
were chiefly those whose vices had drawn down, even from that paternal
government, a weighty retribution.

Dr. Melmoth, at the time when he is to be introduced to the reader, had
borne the matrimonial yoke (and in his case it was no light burden) nearly
twenty years. The blessing of children, however, had been denied him, - a
circumstance which he was accustomed to consider as one of the sorest
trials that checkered his pathway; for he was a man of a kind and
affectionate heart, that was continually seeking objects to rest itself
upon. He was inclined to believe, also, that a common offspring would have
exerted a meliorating influence on the temper of Mrs. Melmoth, the
character of whose domestic government often compelled him to call to mind
such portions of the wisdom of antiquity as relate to the proper endurance
of the shrewishness of woman. But domestic comforts, as well as comforts
of every other kind, have their drawbacks; and, so long as the balance is
on the side of happiness, a wise man will not murmur. Such was the opinion
of Dr. Melmoth; and with a little aid from philosophy, and more from
religion, he journeyed on contentedly through life. When the storm was
loud by the parlor hearth, he had always a sure and quiet retreat in his
study; and there, in his deep though not always useful labors, he soon
forgot whatever of disagreeable nature pertained to his situation. This
small and dark apartment was the only portion of the house to which, since
one firmly repelled invasion, Mrs. Melmoth's omnipotence did not extend.
Here (to reverse the words of Queen Elizabeth) there was "but one master
and no mistress"; and that man has little right to complain who possesses
so much as one corner in the world where he may be happy or miserable, as
best suits him. In his study, then, the doctor was accustomed to spend
most of the hours that were unoccupied by the duties of his station. The
flight of time was here as swift as the wind, and noiseless as the
snow-flake; and it was a sure proof of real happiness that night often
came upon the student before he knew it was midday.

Dr. Melmoth was wearing towards age (having lived nearly sixty years),
when he was called upon to assume a character to which he had as yet been
a stranger. He had possessed in his youth a very dear friend, with whom
his education had associated him, and who in his early manhood had been
his chief intimate. Circumstances, however, had separated them for nearly
thirty years, half of which had been spent by his friend, who was engaged
in mercantile pursuits, in a foreign country. The doctor had,
nevertheless, retained a warm interest in the welfare of his old
associate, though the different nature of their thoughts and occupations
had prevented them from corresponding. After a silence of so long
continuance, therefore, he was surprised by the receipt of a letter from
his friend, containing a request of a most unexpected nature.

Mr. Langton had married rather late in life; and his wedded bliss had been
but of short continuance. Certain misfortunes in trade, when he was a
Benedict of three years' standing, had deprived him of a large portion of
his property, and compelled him, in order to save the remainder, to leave
his own country for what he hoped would be but a brief residence in
another. But, though he was successful in the immediate objects of his
voyage, circumstances occurred to lengthen his stay far beyond the period
which he had assigned to it. It was difficult so to arrange his extensive
concerns that they could be safely trusted to the management of others;
and, when this was effected, there was another not less powerful obstacle
to his return. His affairs, under his own inspection, were so prosperous,
and his gains so considerable, that, in the words of the old ballad, "He
set his heart to gather gold"; and to this absorbing passion he sacrificed
his domestic happiness. The death of his wife, about four years after his
departure, undoubtedly contributed to give him a sort of dread of
returning, which it required a strong effort to overcome. The welfare of
his only child he knew would be little affected by this event; for she was
under the protection of his sister, of whose tenderness he was well
assured. But, after a few more years, this sister, also, was taken away by
death; and then the father felt that duty imperatively called upon him to
return. He realized, on a sudden, how much of life he had thrown away in
the acquisition of what is only valuable as it contributes to the
happiness of life, and how short a tune was left him for life's true
enjoyments. Still, however, his mercantile habits were too deeply seated
to allow him to hazard his present prosperity by any hasty measures; nor
was Mr. Langton, though capable of strong affections, naturally liable to
manifest them violently. It was probable, therefore, that many months
might yet elapse before he would again tread the shores of his native

But the distant relative, in whose family, since the death of her aunt,
Ellen Langton had remained, had been long at variance with her father, and
had unwillingly assumed the office of her protector. Mr. Langton's
request, therefore, to Dr. Melmoth, was, that his ancient friend (one of
the few friends that time had left him) would be as a father to his
daughter till he could himself relieve him of the charge.

The doctor, after perusing the epistle of his friend, lost no time in
laying it before Mrs. Melmoth, though this was, in truth, one of the very
few occasions on which he had determined that his will should be absolute
law. The lady was quick to perceive the firmness of his purpose, and would
not (even had she been particularly averse to the proposed measure) hazard
her usual authority by a fruitless opposition. But, by long disuse, she
had lost the power of consenting graciously to any wish of her husband's.

"I see your heart is set upon this matter," she observed; "and, in truth,
I fear we cannot decently refuse Mr. Langton's request. I see little good
of such a friend, doctor, who never lets one know he is alive till he has
a favor to ask."

"Nay; but I have received much good at his hand," replied Dr. Melmoth;
"and, if he asked more of me, it should be done with a willing heart. I
remember in my youth, when my worldly goods were few and ill managed (I
was a bachelor, then, dearest Sarah, with none to look after my
household), how many times I have been beholden to him. And see - in his
letter he speaks of presents, of the produce of the country, which he has
sent both to you and me."

"If the girl were country-bred," continued the lady, "we might give her
house-room, and no harm done. Nay, she might even be a help to me; for
Esther, our maid-servant, leaves us at the mouth's end. But I warrant she
knows as little of household matters as you do yourself, doctor."

"My friend's sister was well grounded in the _re familiari_" answered
her husband; "and doubtless she hath imparted somewhat of her skill to
this damsel. Besides, the child is of tender years, and will profit much
by your instruction and mine."

"The child is eighteen years of age, doctor," observed Mrs. Melmoth, "and
she has cause to be thankful that she will have better instruction than

This was a proposition that Dr. Melmoth did not choose to dispute; though
he perhaps thought that his long and successful experience in the
education of the other sex might make him an able coadjutor to his wife in
the care of Ellen Langton. He determined to journey in person to the
seaport where his young charge resided, leaving the concerns of Harley
College to the direction of the two tutors. Mrs. Melmoth, who, indeed,
anticipated with pleasure the arrival of a new subject to her authority,
threw no difficulties in the way of his intention. To do her justice, her
preparations for his journey, and the minute instructions with which she
favored him, were such as only a woman's true affection could have
suggested. The traveller met with no incidents important to this tale;
and, after an absence of about a fortnight, he and Ellen alighted from
their steeds (for on horseback had the journey been performed) in safety
at his own door.

If pen could give an adequate idea of Ellen Langton's loveliness, it would
achieve what pencil (the pencils, at least, of the colonial artists who
attempted it) never could; for, though the dark eyes might be painted, the
pure and pleasant thoughts that peeped through them could only be seen and
felt. But descriptions of beauty are never satisfactory. It must,
therefore, be left to the imagination of the reader to conceive of
something not more than mortal, nor, indeed, quite the perfection of
mortality, but charming men the more, because they felt, that, lovely as
she was, she was of like nature to themselves.

From the time that Ellen entered Dr. Melmoth's habitation, the sunny days
seemed brighter and the cloudy ones less gloomy, than he had ever before
known them. He naturally delighted in children; and Ellen, though her
years approached to womanhood, had yet much of the gayety and simple
happiness, because the innocence, of a child. She consequently became the
very blessing of his life, - the rich recreation that he promised himself
for hours of literary toil. On one occasion, indeed, he even made her his
companion in the sacred retreat of his study, with the purpose of entering
upon a course of instruction in the learned languages. This measure,
however, he found inexpedient to repeat; for Ellen, having discovered an
old romance among his heavy folios, contrived, by the charm of her sweet
voice, to engage his attention therein till all more important concerns
were forgotten.

With Mrs. Melmoth, Ellen was not, of course, so great a favorite as with
her husband; for women cannot so readily as men, bestow upon the offspring
of others those affections that nature intended for their own; and the
doctor's extraordinary partiality was anything rather than a pledge of his
wife's. But Ellen differed so far from the idea she had previously formed
of her, as a daughter of one of the principal merchants, who were then, as
now, like nobles in the land, that the stock of dislike which Mrs. Melmoth
had provided was found to be totally inapplicable. The young stranger
strove so hard, too (and undoubtedly it was a pleasant labor), to win her
love, that she was successful to a degree of which the lady herself was
not, perhaps, aware. It was soon seen that her education had not been
neglected in those points which Mrs. Melmoth deemed most important. The
nicer departments of cookery, after sufficient proof of her skill, were
committed to her care; and the doctor's table was now covered with
delicacies, simple indeed, but as tempting on account of their intrinsic
excellence as of the small white hands that made them. By such arts as
these, - which in her were no arts, but the dictates of an affectionate
disposition, - by making herself useful where it was possible, and
agreeable on all occasions, Ellen gained the love of everyone within the
sphere of her influence.

But the maiden's conquests were not confined to the members of Dr.
Melmoth's family. She had numerous admirers among those whose situation
compelled them to stand afar off, and gaze upon her loveliness, as if she
were a star, whose brightness they saw, but whose warmth they could not
feel. These were the young men of Harley College, whose chief
opportunities of beholding Ellen were upon the Sabbaths, when she
worshipped with them in the little chapel, which served the purposes of a
church to all the families of the vicinity. There was, about this period
(and the fact was undoubtedly attributable to Ellen's influence,) a
general and very evident decline in the scholarship of the college,
especially in regard to the severer studies. The intellectual powers of
the young men seemed to be directed chiefly to the construction of Latin
and Greek verse, many copies of which, with a characteristic and classic
gallantry, were strewn in the path where Ellen Langton was accustomed to
walk. They, however, produced no perceptible effect; nor were the
aspirations of another ambitious youth, who celebrated her perfections in
Hebrew, attended with their merited success.

But there was one young man, to whom circumstances, independent of his
personal advantages, afforded a superior opportunity of gaining Ellen's
favor. He was nearly related to Dr. Melmoth, on which account he received
his education at Harley College, rather than at one of the English
universities, to the expenses of which his fortune would have been
adequate. This connection entitled him to a frequent and familiar access
to the domestic hearth of the dignitary, - an advantage of which, since
Ellen Langton became a member of the family, he very constantly availed

Edward Walcott was certainly much superior, in most of the particulars of
which a lady takes cognizance, to those of his fellow-students who had
come under Ellen's notice. He was tall; and the natural grace of his
manners had been improved (an advantage which few of his associates could
boast) by early intercourse with polished society. His features, also,
were handsome, and promised to be manly and dignified when they should
cease to be youthful. His character as a scholar was more than
respectable, though many youthful follies, sometimes, perhaps, approaching
near to vices, were laid to his charge. But his occasional derelictions
from discipline were not such as to create any very serious apprehensions
respecting his future welfare; nor were they greater than, perhaps, might
be expected from a young man who possessed a considerable command of
money, and who was, besides, the fine gentleman of the little community of
which he was a member, - a character which generally leads its possessor
into follies that he would otherwise have avoided.

With this youth Ellen Langton became familiar, and even intimate; for he
was her only companion, of an age suited to her own, and the difference of
sex did not occur to her as an objection. He was her constant companion on
all necessary and allowable occasions, and drew upon himself, in
consequence, the envy of the college.


"Why, all delights are vain, but that most vain,
Which, with pain purchased, doth inherit pain:
As painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth, while truth, the while,
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look."

On one of the afternoons which afforded to the students a relaxation from
their usual labors, Ellen was attended by her cavalier in a little
excursion over the rough bridle-roads that led from her new residence. She
was an experienced equestrian, - a necessary accomplishment at that period,
when vehicles of every kind were rare. It was now the latter end of
spring; but the season had hitherto been backward, with only a few warm
and pleasant days. The present afternoon, however, was a delicious
mingling of spring and summer, forming in their union an atmosphere so
mild and pure, that to breathe was almost a positive happiness. There was
a little alternation of cloud across the brow of heaven, but only so much
as to render the sunshine more delightful.

The path of the young travellers lay sometimes among tall and thick

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Online LibraryNathaniel HawthorneFanshawe → online text (page 1 of 10)