Nathaniel Hawthorne 1804 – 1864 was a novelist and a key figure in American literature. Much of Hawthorne’s writing centers around New England and many feature moral allegories with a Puritan inspiration. His work is considered part of the Romantic movement and includes novels, short stories, and a biography of his friend, the United States President Franklin Pierce.
Nathaniel was married to Sophia Peabody whose father was a homeopath. Sophia regularly consulted homeopaths William Wesselhoeft and Clarence Bartlett. Sophia also consulted homeopath Benjamin Edwards Sawyer and when in England in 1857, she consulted homeopath Dr. Rutherford, and James John Garth Wilkinson (Arthur Versluis, The esoteric origins of the American Renaissance, (Oxford University Press, 8 Mar 2001). Page 82. See also Julian Hawthorne, Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife: a biography, Volume 2, (Houghton, 1884). Page 150).
Ethan Allen Hitchcock (1798-1870), who was introduced to the works of Emanuel Swedenborg via Sophia Peabody, the wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Sophia Peabody was a patient of James John Garth Wilkinson. ‘… It was Sophia who had a ‘private talk with the Hermetic Philosopher’ on 14th August 1863…’ (Arthur Versluis Associate Professor of American Thought and Language Michigan State University, The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance, (Oxford University Press, 16 Feb 2001). Page 82).
Garth Wilkinson gave Hawthorne a letter of introduction to Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore at the British Museum. (Nathaniel Hawthorne, The centenary edition of the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Volumes 15-18, Center for textual studies (Columbus, Ohio) (Ohio State University Press, 1987). Page 134).
When Robert Wesselhoeft was viciously attacked by Oliver Wendell Holmes, an allopath who attacked homeopathy, but Oliver Wendell Holmes’s friend, author and homeopathic supporter Nathaniel Hawthorne lampooned the both of them in his novel Rappaccini’s Daughter.
Sophia Peabody Hawthorne‘s sister Elizabeth Palmer Peabody was a close friend of homeopathic supporters Caroline Wells Healey Dall and Mary Baker Eddy and homeopath Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Elizabeth Palmer Peabody wrote a biography of homeopath Robert Wesselhoeft. Sophia’s sister Mary Peabody was married to Horace Mann who was close friends with homeopaths Lucretia Mott and Hannah Myers Longshore.
Sophia and her two sisters Elizabeth and Mary were influential in the transcendentalist movement, abolitionists and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody‘s shop became a Foreign Library and lecture venue for many of the influential movers and shakers of the times, and it also sold homeopathic remedies. Nathaniel and Sophia Peabody Hawthorne were married there.
Hawthorne and the Peabody sisters were close to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, (neighbours of Nathaniel Hawthorne), Margaret Fuller, as well as Bronson Alcott, Orestes Brownson, Ellery Channing, Frederick Henry Hedge and George Palmer Putnam.
Theodore Parker also attended Transcendentalist meetings at Elizabeth Palmer Peabody’s home, and Elizabeth published Parker’s writings, as well as the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ellery Channing and Margaret Fuller.
Elizabeth Peabody’s Foreign Library quickly became a kind of salon for the New England Transcendentalists… Margaret Fuller’s famous “conversations” were held at West Street in late 1839 and the early 1840s.
William Ellery Channing, the “father of Unitarianism” and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody’s mentor, came to read the newspaper. George and Sophia Ripley, Orestes Brownson, Theodore Parker, James Freeman Clarke, John Sullivan Dwight and others talked over the reform of society and planned the Brook Farm community there, where Hawthorne would meet Charles Anderson Dana, Horace Greeley, George and Sophia Ripley, and many other homeopathic supporters.
In West Roxbury, the Brook Farm community was founded that same spring. Three directors were appointed: the Concord farmer Minot Pratt, the news reporter Charles Anderson Dana, and George Ripley.
In exchange for security and the basic necessities of life, Brook Farm members were asked to do their best and to contribute what they could. Labor was not compulsory.
This last principle had immediately attracted Nathaniel Hawthorne to the Farm. In winter, writing to his Sophia from a room in the bleak farm house, Hawthorne dreamed of Brook Farm’s being their future home, despite the lonely, snow-covered fields filling his heart with terrible foreboding. Sophia must get herself a polar bear skin, Hawthorne wrote, to make of it a very suitable summer dress for that region.
In fact, Brook Farmers were equipped with smocks like those worn by French peasants, Hawthorne noted, except except for their being sewed from flowered chintz, in which they paraded in the streets of Boston, announcing their emancipation from all things staid and stodgy.
The community in which the Hawthorne’s lived and worked was very closely intertwined:
Elizabeth Palmer Peabody had recently moved to Boston from New Bedford, where she’d been a volunteer under the charismatic William Henry Channing. Elizabeth’s sister Mary, later Mrs. Horace Mann, had left the family home in Salem to join Elizabeth in Boston. Their sister Sophia, later Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne, had remained in Salem….
In 1842 the Hawthorne’s moved into The Old Manse… The Old Manse had been built in 1765 (by Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s grandfather). In 1776, it had been passed on to William Emerson’s widow, who two years later married Ezra Ripley.
The course of the highway was changed, the old North Bridge was removed, and the abandoned road became a field belonging to the Manse. Dr. Ripley had felt pride in his possessing the legendary ground. In 1836, however, he had given back the ancient roadway to the town for the dedication of a monument, the occasion for which Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dr. Ripley’s step-grandson, wrote the verse inscribed at the base of the Minuteman statue.
Upon the death of Dr. Ripley, the Hawthornes began renting the legendary house. Nathaniel was attracted to it not only for its elegance, but for its seclusion. The Hawthornes would stay three years.. (In February, they bought The Hillside, a home previously owned by the Alcotts).
That summer Henry David Thoreau gave Hawthorne his boat. Ellery Channing would later inherit the boat from Hawthorne. When it finally began go to pieces, Ellery Channing took it to the village blacksmith, Mr. Farrar, a quiet man fond of roaming in the woods and pastures. Farrar was said to be, with Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Ellery Channing, among Concord’s Fraternity of Walkers…
Concord newcomer George William Curtis went with his brother Burrill to live on a farm, a mile north of the town. The brothers lived in a small cottage adjoining Captain Nathan Barrett‘s farm-house atop Punkatasset hill. The Captain put the boys to work.
With whatever free time he could find, George would call on local authors, in order to write about them in his diary. He spent part of a day with Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose life, he said, was harmonious with the picture-perfect antique repose of his house, redeemed into the present by his and Mrs. Hawthorne’s infant and the wife’s tenderness and respect for her husband.
He noted Mr. Emerson’s long address — nearly two hours — before the Antislavery Friends on August 1st, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the emancipation of the negroes in the British West Indies….
One of Nathaniel’s classmates from the Bowdoin Banner Class of 1825, Richard Bradford (actually Richmond Bradford) was an orthodox doctor who converted to homeopathy.
In writing The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne chose to tell a New England version of the legend of The Sleeping Beauty, or Little Briar-Rose. The brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm were only twenty years older than Hawthorne and had collected their household tales in Germany when the American writer was still a child.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” as a response to the epistemological and spiritual claims of the medical doctrine of homeopathy.
While other critics have noted that Hawthorne’s portrayal of the story’s two quarrelling doctors, Rappaccini and Baglioni, was influenced by the growing controversy between regular and homeopathic physicians in the 1840s, I argue here that Hawthorne’s engagement with homeopathy was much more searching than has been previously acknowledged.
For Hawthorne, homeopathy’s claims to operate on the body’s “vital force” and its links to Emanuel Swedenborg‘s theories of correspondence made it an ideal surrogate for a covert attack on Emerson’s “Nature.”
Moreover, Hawthorne uses the story’s relationship between Beatrice and Giovanni to explore the dynamics of his new marriage with Sophia Peabody, an invalid and homeopathic patient whom he claimed to have cured with his love.
In 1837 Sophia met her neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne as he came to call on Elizabeth, who had identified his talent early and who would eventually draw the attention of the Ralph Waldo Emerson circle to Hawthorne.
Sophia and Nathaniel were married by James Freeman Clarke on July 9, 1842, in the back room of Elizabeth’s West Street Bookstore. Despite one miscarriage and her mother’s dire predictions about her frailty, the Hawthorne’s first child Una was born on March 3, 1844, to be followed by a brother, Julian and a sister, Rose.
Throughout the marriage Sophia proudly encouraged Hawthorne’s work, both when money was exceedingly tight and later when she accompanied him to Europe during his diplomatic career.
Her fidelity to Hawthorne came at some cost to her relationship with Elizabeth and Mary in later years when Hawthorne’s laudatory campaign biography of Franklin Pierce alienated her two vigorously anti-slavery sisters.
Hawthorne was mentored by Washington Irving who recommended homeopathy to his friends, including John Pendleton Kennedy. Irving assisted homeopathic supporter William Cullen Bryant in his career and Bryant won recognition as America’s leading poet. Irving also mentored homeopathic supporters Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Edgar Allan Poe.
His literary salon was packed with the influential people of the time, including Louisa May Alcott, John Greenleaf Whittier, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, James Russell Lowell, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Julia Ward Howe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Bret Harte, Bayard Taylor, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edwin Thomas Booth, and Nathaniel Parker Willis who described Parnassus Corner as ‘the hub in which every spoke of the radiating wheel of Boston intellect had a socket.. ‘
Hawthorne’s daughter Una consulted a homeopath in 1860. In Rome, Una was once again attended by a homeopath:
A few days afterwards, Una showed symptoms of chills and fever, and the attacks returned intermittently. It was evident that she had caught the Roman fever, but for a time the attack seemed to be slight. Dr. Franco, the most prominent homeopathic physician in Rome, was in attendance; and the youth of the patient and the unimpaired vigor of her constitution were in her favor.
The disease held on, however, gradually becoming more severe, and undermining her strength. After a month or two she was no longer able to leave her bed in the intervals of her attacks as formerly; and the matter began to look serious.
Mrs. Hawthorne was, from the first, constantly beside her daughter, and a better nurse–more self-possessed, cheerful, tender, and exact–could not probably have been found in Europe. She was also unweariable so long as there was any need for nursing; and it would be difficult to say how little sleep she had during the four months that Una’s illness was critical.
It became very critical at length; and one morning Dr. Franco came out of the room looking unusually serious, and spoke privately to Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne. After he had gone, we knew that Una was not only ill, but that the chances were now against her recovery.
Mrs. Hawthorne said afterwards that Hawthorne had never taken a hopeful view of the case. The grief he felt at the idea that perhaps his daughter might die was so keen that he could not endure the alternations of hope and fear, and therefore had settled with himself not to hope at all.
Indeed, he was at no period of his life of a sanguine temperament; and whether from philosophic determination or by force of nature, he uniformly chose to anticipate the darker alternative of whatever event was developing.
But when the physician was obliged to admit that his skill had done all it could, and that the rest must be left to fate, the shock found Hawthorne scarcely prepared. He had been grave before, but now a positive darkness seemed to gather over his face.
He said nothing, emotion never found verbal expression with him; but no one who looked in his eyes would have felt that there was any need of speech.
All this time, the card playing had been going on, evening after evening, just as usual. At the accustomed hour we would take our places at the table, even Mrs. Hawthorne and Una occasionally taking hands, before the latter was wholly confined to her bed; and Hawthorne always sat in his chair at the head.
The rest of us laughed and enjoyed ourselves pretty much as before, and scarcely noticed how seldom Hawthorne contrived to smile. We thought that, so long as he could play cards, there was no danger of an evil issue of the fever.
And this, of course, was precisely his object in continuing the practice. Until concealment was no longer of use, he was resolved to keep us from suspecting any danger. At what cost to his own nerves and patience he had persevered in this daily infliction, one can imagine now, but we had no suspicion of it then.
And so it went on, until Dr. Franco made the communication above mentioned. We did not expect to have any game that evening; but at seven o’clock Hawthorne produced the cards, and we sat down. The game was whist, and certainly it was silent enough to satisfy the most exacting disciple.
One hand was played; and then Hawthorne put down his cards. He had gone to the limit of his possibility. “We won’t play any more,” said he. And neither at that nor at any future time was that rubber of whist decided.
Gloomy days followed, without and within. The winter was peculiarly dark and depressing, and there was nothing to lighten it in the sick-chamber. Mrs. Hawthorne, who, at the other extreme from her husband, never gave up hope until there was absolutely nothing left to hope for, had gathered herself up after the blow, and gone back to her patient with unfaltering strength and energy.
Franco afterwards said that the girl would undoubtedly have died under any other hands than her mother’s. There is a sympathy that does by intuition what no medical skill can advise. Mrs. Hawthorne had at least her duties to support her, but Hawthorne had nothing; there was no distraction for his thoughts, from day to day.
At length the crisis in the disease came. Unless Una’s fever abated before morning, she would die.
With this sentence in her ears, the mother confronted her night’s work. She had not slept for eight-and-forty hours, and had lain down but for a few minutes at a time. As she thought of what might be to come, she was conscious of a strong rebellion in her heart. She could not resign herself to losing her daughter.
Una was the first-born, and on many accounts perhaps the dearest of the children. She had the finest mind of any, the most complex and beautiful character, and in various ways most strongly resembled her father. She was just emerging from childhood, and becoming a young woman.
The struggle had been so prolonged that it seemed impossible to surrender now. And yet death or life lay in the beating of a pulse. For the first time in her life, the mother found herself at odds with Providence.
Una had been wandering in her mind for several days, and was continually talking in a vague unintelligible murmur, and recognized no one. If she were now to die, there could be no farewell,–no comprehension on her part of the end.
As the night deepened, and the hour drew near which was to decide all, she ceased her mutterings, and lay quite still. Her mother was alone in the room with her. Hawthorne, whether awake or not, was lying on his bed in an adjoining chamber.
Mrs. Hawthorne went to the window and looked out on the piazza. It was dark and silent; no one was abroad. The sky, too, was heavy with clouds. She looked up at the clouds, and said to herself that she could not bear this loss.
All at once, however, her feeling changed. It was one of those apparently miraculous transformations that sometimes come over faithful and loving hearts.
“Why should I doubt the goodness of God?” she asked herself. “Let Him take her, if He sees best. I can give her to Him. I will not fight against Him any more.”
Her spirits were lighter than at any time since the illness began; she had made the sacrifice, and found herself not sadder but happier. She went back to the bedside, and put her hand on Una’s forehead; it was cool and moist. Her pulse was slow and regular, and she was sleeping naturally. The crisis had passed, favorably.
One can imagine the wife going to the husband, and telling him
“She will live!”
Such a moment would atone for many months of suffering.
In 1852 Hawthorne wrote about homeopathy in The Blithedale Romance:
They fed me on water-gruel, and I speedily became a skeleton above ground. But, after all, I have many precious recollections connected with that fit of sickness. Hollingsworth’s more than brotherly attendance gave me inexpressible comfort.
Once upon a time–but whether in the time past or time to come is a
matter of little or no moment–this wide world had become so
overburdened with an accumulation of worn-out trumpery, that the
inhabitants determined to rid themselves of it by a general bonfire.
The site fixed upon at the representation of the insurance
companies, and as being as central a spot as any other on the globe,
was one of the broadest prairies of the West, where no human
habitation would be endangered by the flames, and where a vast
assemblage of spectators might commodiously admire the show.
Having a taste for sights of this kind, and imagining, likewise, that the
illumination of the bonfire might reveal some profundity of moral
truth heretofore hidden in mist or darkness, I made it convenient to
journey thither and be present.
At my arrival, although the heap of condemned rubbish was as yet comparatively small, the torch had already been applied.
Amid that boundless plain, in the dusk of the evening, like a far off star alone in the firmament, there was merely visible one tremulous gleam, whence none could have anticipated so fierce a blaze as was destined to ensue….
A little boy of five years old, in the premature manliness of the present epoch, threw in his playthings; a college graduate, his diploma; an apothecary, ruined by the spread of homeopathy, his whole stock of drugs and medicines; a physician, his library; a parson, his old sermons; and a fine gentleman of the old school, his code of manners, which he had formerly written down for the benefit of the next generation.
A widow, resolving on a second marriage, slyly threw in her dead husband’s miniature. A young man, jilted by his mistress, would willingly have flung his own desperate heart into the flames, but could find no means to wrench it out of his bosom.
An American author, whose works were neglected by the public, threw his pen and paper into the bonfire and betook himself to some less discouraging occupation.
It somewhat startled me to overhear a number of ladies, highly respectable in appearance, proposing to fling their gowns and petticoats into the flames, and assume the garb, together with the manners, duties, offices, and responsibilities, of the opposite sex.