Writing from Salem, Sophia describes her life as a new mother, complete with visits from family and the joys of watching her daughter’s first standing moments. As with many of the letters exchanged between Sophia and Nathaniel, the language is flowery and romantic, reflecting the deep love and affection they held for one another. Note that Sophia has signed the letter “Phoebe” – a favorite pet name between the two of them that may have been on Hawthorne’s mind when he created Phoebe Pyncheon in The House of the Seven Gables.
Letter from Sophia Peabody Hawthorne to Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1844
Transcribed by W.H. Demick
December 19th, 1844
Most beloved love,
If I asked myself
strictly whether I could write to thee this
evening, I should say absolutely NO; for
ten thousand different things demand the
precious moments while our baby sleeps:
but how am I to live unless I write to
thee, mine own husband, + what are
these ten thousand things in comparison
with even an expression of our love
when severed from each other’s vision?
At all events I must mend my broken
life with an actual tangible commu-
nication with thee, or I shall feel
as if I were but ‘sounding frass’ for I
can see, hear, feel nothing like thee
in this vortex of men + confines into
which I plunge when I descend from
this chamber into their midst below,
+ I want thee – oh how much I want thee.
How magnificent; how tender, how sweet
thou art, my husband! How came to
that I am enriched with the glory of thy
love. Ah when I think of going back to our
own home where I should see thee all day
+ no one but thee, my head swells with
oceanic might and I bless GOD for such a destiny
as mine. Thou satisfied me beyond all
things. In thee only do I find satisfaction.
Friday morning, dearest, out dear child waked
just as I was in the midst of pouring out my
soul into thine, + now there is no leisure
for refinement, because I cannot wait over
another mail, + Una is down stairs
with her Aunt Elizabeth, who has so much
to attend to that I cannot detain her
long. Beloved, on the first place in
matters of fact, we are both in rejoicing health.
Una transcends other common afformations[sic]
about being well. She shines with perfection
of well-being. Within three or four days she has
begun to stand alone of her own sweet will.
When she is near a chair with both hands,
resting upon it, she will suddenly let go the
chair, + for a few glorious seconds maintain
her equilibrium, + then down she sits upon
the floor. This is a new felicity of life
to her, + I suspect that she will in a week or
two step off on her own responsibility. She
now claps her hands on all joyful occasions,
+ even as an appeal to me without being
asked. When a new person she often
greets them with this accomplishment, as if she
could not do any thing more acceptable, though
not a hint is given her.
Caroline Sturgis has been to see her –
+ Anna Shaw came again on Sunday afternoon +
saw another air bath. Sir Caledore came
this morn to make a call upon her + approved
her highly. He thought she was equal to her name
so far. Yesterday afternoon I took her to
William Stoughs. He thought her eye marvelously
beautiful + said he had scarcely ever seen perfectly
gray eyes before, which were the finest eyes in
the world, capable of most expression. He said what
so many have said, that she looked like
pictures of babies, + that her eyes were very like
an exquisite child of Raphael which he had
seen in oils. Emmelyn brought her baby,
+ it was very homely, but bright + well.
My love, I have engaged an American
woman to go to Concord with us on the
second day after Christmas. She does not
wholly suit me, but we must try her.
So on that day, if there be not a wild storm,
we will return to our home. Oh blessed
day! How much sunshine has warmed in
vain that deserted nursery!
Poor Mr. Colden has been again to see
thee, + now has gone to Washington.
Perhaps it is quite fortunate that thou had
been guarded from an interview, since
thou couldn’t have refused his offer.
Dearest, when will thou come back?
Mr. Dillard said thou didn’t promise to go there
again. No more [ ]. Thou can
always come here.
Una’s + my love Forever thine immortal loving
to mother + sisterhood. wife, Phoebe – –