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Letter to Horace (Connolly) Ingersoll from Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850

Date: June 1850

Type: Letter

Categories: , ,


Nathaniel Hawthorne and Horace Connolly had been close friends years before Hawthorne famously wrote to him about visiting Susanna Ingersoll in the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion. This letter shows the nature of that friendship – both the good and the bad of it – and helps shed some light on Hawthorne’s thinking after the release of The Scarlet Letter. As the note accompanying the letter describes, the copy in our archives is a handwritten copy of the original letter sent to Connolly (named here as Horace Ingersoll) from Hawthorne.

The title “Ex Cardinal” is a reference to Hawthorne and Connolly’s falling out regarding his position at the Custom House, as Connally was once endearingly called “The Cardinal” by his friend Hawthorne. The “duchess” mentioned in the letter is Susanna Ingersoll.


Letter from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Horace Ingersoll, June 1850
Copied by George B. Curwen for Horace Ingersoll
Transcribed by W.H. Demick

[Page One]

Lenox June 17th 1850
Mr. Ex Cardinal
I don’t care a d— who is Surveyor of Salem,
and shall give myself no trouble about making or
unmaking him. One thing I am determined upon –
never to be Surveyor, nor any other kind of Custom
House Officer, in my own person. If you had
any chance of getting the Surveyorship[sic] for yourself,
I might take some little trouble to promote it, to
reward you for getting me out, and to punish you
for your misdeeds generally. But as you seem to
desire it only from your natural instinct for
mischief, you must excuse me for meddling with
the matter, especially as I cannot very well eat my own
words, in a letter to Bradbury, in which I expressed
a kindly feeling towards Putnam, and desired his
confirmation. He may be a knave and a Jackass –
indeed I have very little doubt of it, but he
treated me in rather a gentlemanly way: and
I am inclined to think, in spite of your opinion,
that his confirmation will plague more than
it pleases. If I had not interfered, he must
have been rejected to a dead certainty. As the
case stands, both the surveyor and naval Officer
will doubtless by confirmed.
Who would have thought of our ever
corresponding again, and wat a meeting that

[Page Two]

was in Boston: It is almost too incredible to be put
into a romance. Certainly I must say it for myself
there is the least gall and animosity in my nature,
and the greatest and sweetest quantity of the milk
of human kindness, that ever existed in any son
of Adam. I am a true Christian and the only one
I ever met with. Here have you been slandering
and backbiting and stabbing me in the dark for
years past, both before and after our break, you
dug me out of office, and do your best to starve
me – and at the [   ] of all I find myself eating
bread and salt and getting corned with you, and
just as kindly as if nothing had happened, and
friendly. I sit down to write you, with pretty much
the same feelings as ten years ago when you used
to bother me with your infernal drafts from
Philadelphia. There is one Christian in the
world and I am he.
But the truth is, as happened to [   ] some-
body in the Bible, whom I forget but perhaps you
will remember – you have blessed where you
meant to curse. If I had stayed four years longer
in the Custom House, I should have rusted utterly
away, and never have been heard of more,
but being kicked out (through your good offices)
just at the nick of time, I came forth as fresh as
if I had been just made, and went to walk as if

[Page Three]

the devil were in me, if it were only to put my
enemies to the blush. I don’t reckon you among my
enemies, nor ever have. You are a kind of pet
serpent, and must be allowed to bite now and
then; that eing the nature of the critter, not
but what there are good qualities in you too.
If it had not been for that meeting in Boston,
I do believe I should have put you into me
next book, not with any unkindness, but
developing, as well as I could, your good and
your evil, and showing about as queer a combi-
nation as the world has ever witnessed. I
suppose I must not do it now as we have shaken
hands again, for though I should have done the
business in a perfectly good natured way, I doubt
whether the result would have been altogether
satisfactory to yourself.
By the way what an influence you have
exerted on our literature. The seed of Evangeline
was yours, and the Scarlet Letter would not have
existed, unless you had set your mischief making
faculties to work. If not a literary man yourself
you are certainly the cause of literature in other
Goodbye. Imitate my Christian virtues,
and as I take nothing amiss which you have
done, so do you take in good part all the rough

[Page Four]

things which my pen lets drop in writing to you
as naturally as a bee distills honey. Whatever I
may say, I doubt whether anybody (except perhaps
the duchess) feels a greater kindness for you, or
would be more sorry to have your come to harm.
Try to be a better boy than you have been. Say your
prayers. Leave off cigars. Eschew evil, make the
most of what good you find in yourself. Stick
to your friends, forgive your enemies, and leave
that wretched old town of Salem, the moment you
are your own man.    NH


The following is a transcription of the note accompanying the above letter.

This is a letter from Hawthorne to
Horace Ingersoll. The original was
sold for one dollar by Ingersoll to Geo.
B. Curwen + is now in Curwen’s possession.
This copy was made for Ingersoll by Curwen
+ was given to me by Ingersoll.
Geo. H. Holden
Providence March 3/96