A Book of Autographs
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A Book of Autographs


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Project Gutenberg EBook, A Book of Autographs, by Nathaniel Hawthorne From "The Doliver Romance and OtherPieces: Tales and Sketches" #77 in our series by Nathaniel HawthorneCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloadingor redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do notchange or edit the header without written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of thisfile. Included is important information about your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You can alsofind out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts****EBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971*******These EBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers*****Title: A Book of Autographs (From: "The Doliver Romance and Other Pieces: Tales and Sketches")Author: Nathaniel HawthorneRelease Date: Nov, 2005 [EBook #9250] [This file was first posted on September 25, 2003] [Last updated on February6, 2007]Edition: 10Language: English*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK, A BOOK OF AUTOGRAPHS ***This eBook was produced by David WidgerTHE DOLIVER ROMANCE AND OTHER PIECESTALES AND SKETCHESBy ...



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TRitolem: aAn cBeo aonk do fO tAhuetro gPriaepchess :( FTraolems:  a"nTdh eS kDeotlicvheers")Author: Nathaniel HawthorneRelease Date: Nov, 2005 [EBook #9250] [This filewas first posted on September 25, 2003] [Lastupdated on February 6, 2007]Edition: 10Language: English*E**B OSTOAK,R TA  OBFO OTHK EO PF RAOUJTEOCGT RGAUPTHESN *B**ERGThis eBook was produced by David WidgerTRHOEM DAONLCIEV EARND OTHER
PIECESTALES AND SKETCHESBy Nathaniel HawthorneA BOOK OF AUTOGRAPHSWe have before us a volume of autograph letters,chiefly of soldiers and statesmen of the Revolution,and addressed to a good and brave man, GeneralPalmer, who himself drew his sword in the cause.They are profitable reading in a quiet afternoon,and in a mood withdrawn from too intimate relationwith the present time; so that we can glidebackward some three quarters of a century, andsurround ourselves with the ominous sublimity ofcircumstances that then frowned upon the writers.To give them their full effect, we should imaginethat these letters have this moment been broughtto town by the splashed and way- worn postrider,or perhaps by an orderly dragoon, who has riddenin a perilous hurry to deliver his despatches. Theyare magic scrolls, if read in the right spirit. The rollof the drum and the fanfare of the trumpet is latentin some of them; and in others, an echo of theoratory that resounded in the old halls of theContinental Congress, at Philadelphia; or the wordsmay come to us as with the living utterance of oneof those illustrious men, speaking face to face, in
friendly communion. Strange, that the mere identityof paper and ink should be so powerful. The samethoughts might look cold and ineffectual, in aprinted book. Human nature craves a certainmaterialism and clings pertinaciously to what istangible, as if that were of more importance thanthe spirit accidentally involved in it. And, in truth,the original manuscript has always somethingwhich print itself must inevitably lose. An erasure,even a blot, a casual irregularity of hand, and allsuch little imperfections of mechanical execution,bring us close to the writer, and perhaps conveysome of those subtle intimations for whichlanguage has no shape.There are several letters from John Adams, writtenin a small, hasty, ungraceful hand, but earnest,and with no unnecessary flourish. The earliest isdated at Philadelphia, September 26, 1774, abouttwenty days after the first opening of theContinental Congress. We look at this old yellowdocument, scribbled on half a sheet of foolscap,and ask of it many questions for which words haveno response. We would fain know what were theirmutual impressions, when all those venerablefaces, that have since been traced on steel, orchiselled out, of marble, and thus made familiar toposterity, first met one another's gaze! Did onespirit harmonize them, in spite of the dissimilitudeof manners between the North and the South,which were now for the first time brought intopolitical relations? Could the Virginian descendantof the Cavaliers, and the New-Englander with hishereditary Puritanism,—the aristocratic Southern
planter, and the self-made man fromMassachusetts or Connecticut,—at once feel thatthey were countrymen and brothers? What didJohn Adams think of Jefferson?—and SamuelAdams of Patrick Henry? Did not North and Southcombine in their deference for the sage Franklin,so long the defender of the colonies in England,and whose scientific renown was already world-wide? And was there yet any whispered prophecy,any vague conjecture, circulating among thedelegates, as to the destiny which might be inreserve for one stately man, who sat, for the mostpart, silent among them?—what station he was toassume in the world's history?—and how manystatues would repeat his form and countenance,and successively crumble beneath his immortality?The letter before us does not answer theseinquiries. Its main feature is the strong expressionof the uncertainty and awe that pervaded even thefirm hearts of the Old Congress, while anticipatingthe struggle which was to ensue. "Thecommencement of hostilities," it says, "isexceedingly dreaded here. It is thought that anattack upon the troops, even should it provesuccessful, would certainly involve the wholecontinent in a war. It is generally thought that theMinistry would rejoice at a rupture in Boston,because it would furnish an excuse to the people athome" [this was the last time, we suspect, thatJohn Adams spoke of England thus affectionately],"and unite them in an opinion of the necessity ofpushing hostilities against us."
His next letter bears on the superscription,"Favored by General Washington." The date isJune 20, 1775, three days after the battle ofBunker Hill, the news of which could not yet havearrived at Philadelphia. But the war, so muchdreaded, had begun, on the quiet banks ofConcord River; an army of twenty thousand menwas beleaguering Boston; and here wasWashington journeying northward to take thecommand. It seems to place us in a nearer relationwith the hero, to find him performing the littlecourtesy of leaving a letter between friend andfriend, and to hold in our hands the very documentintrusted to such a messenger. John Adams sayssimply, "We send you Generals Washington andLee for your comfort"; but adds nothing in regardto the character of the Commander-in-Chief. Thisletter displays much of the writer's ardenttemperament; if he had been anywhere but in thehall of Congress, it would have been in theintrenchment before Boston."I hope," he writes, "a good account will be given ofGage, Haldiman, Burgoyne, Clinton, and Howe,before winter. Such a wretch as Howe, with astatue in honor of his family in Westminster Abbey,erected by the Massachusetts, to come over withthe design to cut the throats of the Massachusettspeople, is too much. I most sincerely, coolly, anddevoutly wish that a lucky ball or bayonet maymake a signal example of him, in warning to allsuch unprincipled, unsentimental miscreants forthe future!"
He goes on in a strain that smacks somewhat ofaristocratic feeling: "Our camp will be an illustriousschool of military virtue, and will be resorted to andfrequented, as such, by gentlemen in greatnumbers from the other colonies." The term"gentleman" has seldom been used in this sensesubsequently to the Revolution. Another letterintroduces us to two of these gentlemen, Messrs.Acquilla Hall and Josias Carvill, volunteers, who arerecommended as "of the first families in Maryland,and possessing independent fortunes."After the British had been driven out of Boston,Adams cries out, "Fortify, fortify; and never letthem get in again!" It is agreeable enough toperceive the filial affection with which John Adams,and the other delegates from the North, regardNew England, and especially the good old capital ofthe Puritans. Their love of country was hardly yetso diluted as to extend over the whole thirteencolonies, which were rather looked upon as alliesthan as composing one nation. In truth, thepatriotism of a citizen of the United States is asentiment by itself of a peculiar nature, andrequiring a lifetime, or at least the custom of manyyears, to naturalize it among the other possessionsof the heart.The collection is enriched by a letter dated"Cambridge, August 26, 1775" from Washingtonhimself. He wrote it in that house,—now sovenerable with his memory,—in that very room,where his bust now stands upon a poet's table;from this sheet of paper passed the hand that held
the leading-staff! Nothing can be more perfectly inkeeping with all other manifestations of Washingtonthan the whole visible aspect and embodiment ofthis letter. The manuscript is as clear as daylight;the punctuation exact, to a comma. There is acalm accuracy throughout, which seems theproduction of a species of intelligence that cannoterr, and which, if we may so speak, would affect uswith a more human warmth, if we could conceive itcapable of some slight human error. Thechirography is characterized by a plain and easygrace, which, in the signature, is somewhatelaborated, and becomes a type of the personalmanner of a gentleman of the old school, butwithout detriment to the truth and clearness thatdistinguish the rest of the manuscript. The lines areas straight and equidistant as if ruled; and frombeginning to end, there is no physical symptom—as how should there be?—of a varying mood, ofjets of emotion, or any of those fluctuating feelingsthat pass from the hearts into the fingers ofcommon men. The paper itself (like most of thoseRevolutionary letters, which are written on fabricsfit to endure the burden of ponderous and earnestthought) is stout, and of excellent quality, andbears the water-mark of Britannia, surmounted bythe Crown. The subject of the letter is a statementof reasons for not taking possession of PointAlderton; a position commanding the entrance ofBoston Harbor. After explaining the difficulties ofthe case, arising from his want of men andmunitions for the adequate defence of the lineswhich he already occupies, Washington proceeds:"To you, sir, who are a well-wisher to the cause,
and can reason upon the effects of such conduct, Imay open myself with freedom, because noimproper disclosures will be made of our situation.But I cannot expose my weakness to the enemy(though I believe they are pretty well informed ofeverything that passes), by telling this and thatman, who are daily pointing out this, and that, andt' other place, of all the motives that govern myactions; notwithstanding I know what will be theconsequence of not doing it,—namely, that I shallbe accused of inattention to the public service, andperhaps of want of spirit to prosecute it. But thisshall have no effect upon my conduct. I will steadily(as far as my judgment will assist me) pursue suchmeasures as I think conducive to the interest of thecause, and rest satisfied under any obloquy thatshall be thrown, conscious of having dischargedmy duty to the best of my abilities."The above passage, like every other passage thatcould be quoted from his pen, is characteristic ofWashington, and entirely in keeping with the calmelevation of his soul. Yet how imperfect a glimpsedo we obtain of him, through the medium of this, orany of his letters! We imagine him writing calmly,with a hand that never falters; his majestic faceneither darkens nor gleams with any momentaryebullition of feeling, or irregularity of thought; andthus flows forth an expression precisely to theextent of his purpose, no more, no less. Thusmuch we may conceive. But still we have notgrasped the man; we have caught no glimpse ofhis interior; we have not detected his personality. Itis the same with all the recorded traits of his daily
life. The collection of them, by different observers,seems sufficiently abundant, and strictlyharmonizes with itself, yet never brings us intointimate relationship with the hero, nor makes usfeel the warmth and the human throb of his heart.What can be the reason? Is it, that his great naturewas adapted to stand in relation to his country, asman stands towards man, but could notindividualize itself in brotherhood to an individual?There are two from Franklin, the earliest dated,"London, August 8, 1767," and addressed to "Mrs.Franklin, at Philadelphia." He was then in England,as agent for the colonies in their resistance to theoppressive policy of Mr. Grenville's administration.The letter, however, makes no reference to politicalor other business. It contains only ten or twelvelines, beginning, "My dear child," and conveying animpression of long and venerable matrimony whichhas lost all its romance, but retained a familiar andquiet tenderness. He speaks of making a littleexcursion into the country for his health; mentionsa larger letter, despatched by another vessel;alludes with homely affability to "Mrs. Stevenson,""Sally," and "our dear Polly"; desires to beremembered to "all inquiring friends"; and signshimself, "Your ever loving husband." In thisconjugal epistle, brief and unimportant as it is,there are the elements that summon up the past,and enable us to create anew the man, hisconnections and circumstances. We can see thesage in his London lodgings,—with his wig castaside, and replaced by a velvet cap,—penning thisvery letter; and then can step across the Atlantic,