February 13, 2010

Hawthorne resigns from Consulship

Nathaniel Hawthorne had few close friends but one of his closest was someone he met while a student at Bowdoin College: Franklin Pierce. When Pierce ran for President of the United States, Hawthorne wrote his campaign biography. After Pierce won the election, Hawthorne was rewarded with the role of Consul to Liverpool. He uprooted his family and moved to England, where he stayed for about four years.

However, Hawthorne and his family became homesick very quickly. As for the job itself, Hawthorne wrote:

The duties of the office carried me to prisons, police-courts, hospitals, lunatic asylums, coroner's inquests, death-beds, funerals, and brought me in contact with insane people, criminals, ruined speculators, wild adventurers, diplomatists, brother-consuls, and all manner of simpletons and unfortunates, in greater number and variety than I had ever dreamed of as pertaining to America.

Hawthorne also found his role just as oppressive to his creativity as his earlier role at the Salem Custom-House, a role he lost when political power changed hands. When Pierce did not win the nomination from his own party for re-election, Hawthorne expected the same to happen. So, on February 13, 1857, Hawthorne offered his letter of resignation to the new president, James Buchanan, effective at the end of August (Buchanan, who had not even taken office yet, had most recently served as Minister to the Court of St. James).

Hawthorne took his family to Italy and France (some time during these travels, he grew his trademark mustache). The Hawthornes returned to their home in Concord, Massachusetts in 1860. That year, he published The Marble Faun — his first new book in seven years.

Exactly 40 years before he wrote his resignation letter, a 12-year old Hawthorne dabbled in poetry. Dated "Salem, February 13, 1817," his poem, "Moderate Views," reads:

With passions unruffled, untainted by pride,
  By reason my life let me square;
The wants of my nature are cheaply supplied,
  And the rest are but folly and care.
How vainly through infinite trouble and strife,
  The many their labours employ,
Since all, that is truly delightful in life,
  Is what all if they please may enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. I never knew Hawthorne was also a poet. Thanks for this.