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Letter to Elizabeth Peabody from Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, March 1852

Date: March 1852

Type: Letter

Categories: ,


One of the topics that concerned the Peabody family was Hawthorne’s inability to stay in one place for long. Between 1850 and 1853 Hawthorne uprooted his family three times: first from Salem to Lenox, then east back to West Newton, and finally to Liverpool, England. In this letter we read the stress and concern of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, his mother-in-law, caused by Hawthorne’s roaming ways.


Letter to Elizabeth Peabody from Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, March 1852

Several annotations were made after the creation of the letter in a different hand. They will be bracketed { } where they appear in the text.

[Page One]
{This letter was written by Elizabeth Peabodys mother} March 31, 1852
My dear Elizabeth, {(Peabody)}
When shall I know what I ought
to do, what is wisest and best? If I had shown Nathaniel
that letter of yours which interested my so deeply
which gave me a phase of your character, that
did what I thought to be impossible, endeared you to
me more than ever, and assured me that your
triumph over the trials of this life was sure, it might have
saved his misunderstanding of the feeling which dic
tated[sic] your letter to him. It was my first impulse to show it to
your Father and to him; but I queried whether I had a right
to lay bare your heart to others as you had done to me.
I wrote to you, as you know, to ask if I should communicate
the letter, even to Sophia. When you expressed your willingness
to have it seen I hastened to show it to Sophia; but still
hesitate about shewing it farther. Sophy was greatly
moved by it, she fully understood you – and I confess I
was reluctant that any one else, should read it, who would
have less faith in the reality of all you said. So I laid it bye, as
a peculiar treasure. Nat, I know, would gladly escape
reading a letter, except on business. I believe the feeling
in him has its source in want of faith in the out
-pourings of the heart. My letters never give him
{regarding Nathaniel Hawthorne (unfavorable comment)}
pleasure, and I have long sinse[sic] prefered[sic] not to give
him my views on any subject in writing. He loses much
pleasure by his notions.
I never was so perplexed as about this
house. N. has said decidedly he would not move till
October, if so soon, and I am not willing to renew the
subject. I must leave him to settle with you about it.
Has any one a right to hurry him out of a house
[              ] whether he will or not? If he cannot

[Page Two]

get a shelter elsewhere he must stay home. I know
he is desirous to leave this house, on account of
the inconvenient arrangement of its rooms, its
lowness its leaky state, and great consumption of
Fuel. Therefore he will spare no effort. I cannot
say any more to him, and am morally certain that
as he knows fully what we desire him to do he
will do it all the sooner, if he is not teased about it.
His long arrear of obligations to you, he know
never can be returned, but the whole comfort of his
life, and what he believes duty to his family seems
to him too great a scene for to make, even
to enable him to discharge a part (for it would
be but a part) of his obligations to you. The
several plans you suggested in your last letters to
him never can be acceded to, I know, tho’ he has
not said a word on the subject. The only question
no is. Can he get a house so as to leave this in
season for management? I long to have it answered.
The subject harasses me exceedingly. It involves the
convenience and happiness of two darling children,
both too old to be dictated to by me, whatever may
be my opinion. Why cannot we all make a happy
family under one roof? I have But I must not
write all I think or feel and better stop lest I do
mischief by giving through the imperfection of
language a wrong colouring[sic] to something while
meaning to say the exact truth [                 ]