SeacoastNH Home

FRESH STUFF DAILY
Seacoast New Hampshire
& South Coast Maine

facebook logo


facebook logo

Header_flag
SEE ALL SIGNED BOOKS by J. Dennis Robinson click here
Hawthorne on the Isles of Shoals

Isles of Shoals
ISLES OF SHOALS
September 1852

We knew that American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne had stayed at the Isles of Shoals. But we had no idea he left a 10,000 word journal of his visit. Plymouth State College student Craig Brown suggested we take a deeper look. So we added Hawthorne's compelte 1852 journal with unique tales of ghosts, buried treasure, Shoalers and the Appledore Hotel.

 

 

PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
OF NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE
Introduction by Craig Brown

READ: WHo Saved the Scarlet Letter?
JUMP to the original Hawthorne Journal
Hawthorne
He remains one of New England’s favorite sons. More than a century after his death Nathaniel Hawthorne is among America’s best known and most read authors. Born in Salem, Mass. on July 4th, 1804 and schooled in Maine, he developed a love and passion for writing. But in September of 1852 the author of The Scarlet Letter and House of Seven Gables was a tourist on the Isles of Shoals.

Hawthorne recorded his initial impressions in his notebooks, published after his death by his wife Sophia.

"The Isles of Shoals, Monday, August 30th.— Left Concord at a quarter of nine A.M. Friday, September 3, set sail at about half past ten to the Isles of Shoals. The passengers were an old master of a vessel; a young, rather genteel man from Greenland, N. H.; two Yankees from Hamilton and Danvers; and a country trader (I should judge) from some inland town of New Hampshire. The old sea-captain, preparatory to sailing, bought a bunch of cigars (they cost ten cents), and occasionally puffed one. The two Yankees had brought guns on board, and asked questions about the fishing of the Shoals. They were young men, brothers, the youngest a shopkeeper in Danvers, the other a farmer, I imagine, at Hamilton, and both specimens of the least polished kind of Yankee, and therefore proper to those localities. They were at first full of questions, and greatly interested in whatever was going forward; but anon the shopkeeper began to grow, first a little, then very sick, till he lay along the boat, longing, as he afterwards said, for a little fresh water to be drowned in. His brother attended him in a very kindly way, but became sick himself before he reached the end of the voyage."

Hawthorne Hawthorne was an avid journal writer, capturing his journeys, first in America and then in Europe, with a writer’s eye to detail. His Passages from the American Note-Books, excerpted here, were written between 1835 and 1853. The largest portion of his 1852 journal is devoted to time spent on the Isles of Shoals. That entire section, about 10,000 words, follows this introduction.

Upon his arrival to the Isles of Shoals Hawthorne stopped at the hotel on Appledore Island where he was shown his room and unloaded his belongings. Hawthorne offers us a rare glimpse at the Appledore Hotel, managed at the time by young Celia Laighton Thaxter’s father Thomas, whom Hawthorne appears to admire.

"We landed at Appledore, on which is Laighton's Hotel,--a large building with a piazza or promenade before it, about an hundred and twenty feet in length, or more,--yes, it must be more. It is an edifice with a centre and two wings, the central part upwards of seventy feet. At one end of the promenade is a covered veranda, thirty or forty feet square, so situated that the breeze draws across it from the sea on one side of the island to the sea on the other, and it is the breeziest and comfortablest place in the world on a hot day. There are two swings beneath it, and here one may sit or walk, and enjoy life, while all other mortals are suffering."

After dinner Hawthorne was introduced to Mr. Laighton and Mr. Thaxter who showed the author around the Islands. Here Hawthorne encounters the John Smith monument and meets locals from Portsmouth. He also describes the terrain and people of Star Island.

Appledore Hotel"On the highest point of Star Island stands the church,--a small, wooden structure; and, sitting in its shadow, I found a red-baize-shirted fisherman, who seemed quite willing to converse. He said that there was a minister here, who was also the schoolmaster; but that he did not keep school just now, because his wife was very much out of health. The school-house stood but a little way from the meeting-house, and near it was the minister's dwelling; and by and by I had a glimpse of the good man himself, in his suit of black, which looked in very decent condition at the distance from which I viewed it. His clerical air was quite distinguishable, and it was rather curious to see it, when everybody else wore red-baize shirts and fishing-boots, and looked of the scaly genus. He did not approach me, and I saw him no nearer. I soon grew weary of Gosport, and was glad to reëmbark, although I intend to revisit the island with Mr. Thaxter, and see more of its peculiarities and inhabitants. I saw one old witch-looking woman creeping about with a cane, and stooping down, seemingly to gather herbs. On mentioning her to Mr. Thaxter, after my return, he said that it was probably "the bearded woman." I did not observe her beard; but very likely she may have had one."

Later accounts tell of a meeting with young Celia, more lazy days on the Isles, tales of the shipwrecked Spaniards, the annoyance of tourists, longing for letters from home, the arrival of his Bowdoin classmate Franklin Pierce -- soon to become Presidnet of the United States. Hawthorne tours Star, White, Lunging and Smuttynose and offers fascinating accounts of the islands and the people he meets.

Hawthorne offers one of the least read, yet rich descriptions of life at the Appledore in its early days and life in Gosport Harbor. For fans of Hawthorne and fans of the Isles of Shoals, his journals a unique, highly personal bit of history -- memoirs that are well worth the read. Hawthorne was 48 years old when he visited the Isles of Shoals. He passed away at the age of 60 in Plymouth, New Hampshire in1864 while visiting the mountains for his health.

PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
Edited by Sophia Hawthorne,
Copyright 1883 by Houghton, Mifflin & Co, Boston, MA.
Vol. IX of the Riverside Edition
For the complete PASSAGES, go here.

READ THE COMPLETE SHOALS JOURNALS
By Nathaniel Hawthorne
(Click each summary to read entire day's journal)

Friday, September 3:
Voyage from Seacoast, NH to Appledore Hotel. Hawthorne meets Thomas Laighton and Levi Thaxter, takes a short tour and plays whist with a woman from Portsmouth.

Saturday, September 4
Hawthorne visits Star Island and observes the native Shoalers. He talks with Levi Thaxter and meets his wife Celia. They drink hot toddies and have a sing-along.

Sunday, September 5
Hawthorne lazes about the island waiting for the arrival of Franklin Pierce, attempts fishing. Laighton says Phillip Bab haunts the island and talks more about the Shoalers on Star.

Monday, September 6
Pierce arrives and they again tour Star Island, including the grave of Rev. Tucke. They meet Joe Caswell and look at the Gosport Records, visit Betty Moody’s Cave and learn about Miss Underhill. Hawthorne learns about local superstitions among those who dig for buried treasure in the Seacoast.

Tuesday, September 7
The author hangs around the hotel, walks on Appledore, discusses the appearance of the island and grabs a green snake.

Wednesday. September 8
Hawthorne describes the Isles in detail, and visits the John Smith cairn. Oscar fires at a shark in the cove and a few unwelcome guests arrive at the hotel. Mr. Laighton tells of a huge wave that hit the island years before. Hot weather continues.

Thursday, September 9
Levi rows Hawthorne to White Island where the lighthouse keeper is harvesting his garden. They stop briefly at Lunging. Hawthorne discusses the poor manners of the other guests and one sickly woman.

Friday, September 10
Levi and Hawthorne talk about birds, ghosts and shipwrecks. A thick fog rolls in. A number of guests come and go and the author receives a shipment of pears from the mainland.

Saturday, September 11
Rainy weather and mosquitoes. Hawthorne and Levi Thaxter visit Smuttynose. They see the Spaniards and Haley graves and wander to the end of the island in bad weather. Hawthorne offers character sketches of a Prussian man running the small island hotel and of a visiting sea captain. Hawthorne is getting homesick.

Sunday, September 12
Hawthorne waxes poetic in a powerful description of the Shoals as he waits in bad weather to view a rising storm that does not arrive.

Monday, September 13
The author enjoys time with Levi and Celia Thaxter discussing ghosts, then talks again with Thomas Laighton on the piazza. He again describes the Shoals, visits a fresh water spring and offers descriptions of the rocky view.

 Hampshire trader said not a word, or hardly one, all the way. A Portsmouth youth (whom I forgot to mention) sat in the stern of the boat, looking very white. The skipper of the boat is a Norwegian, a good-natured fellow, not particularly intelligent, and speaking in a dialect somewhat like Irish. He had a man with him, a silent and rather sulky fellow, who, at the captain's bidding, grimly made himself useful.

The wind not being favorable, we had to make several tacks before reaching the islands, where we arrived at about two o'clock. We landed at Appledore, on which is Laighton's Hotel,--a large building with a piazza or promenade before it, about an hundred and twenty feet in length, or more,--yes, it must be more. It is an edifice with a centre and two wings, the central part upwards of seventy feet. At one end of the promenade is a covered veranda, thirty or forty feet square, so situated that the breeze draws across it from the sea on one side of the island to the sea on the other, and it is the breeziest and comfortablest place in the world on a hot day. There are two swings beneath it, and here one may sit or walk, and enjoy life, while all other mortals are suffering.

As I entered the door of the hotel, there met me a short, corpulent, round, and full-faced man, rather elderly, if not old. He was a little lame. He addressed me in a hearty, hospitable tone, and, judging that it must be my landlord, I delivered a letter of introduction from Pierce. Of course it was fully efficient in obtaining the best accommodations that were to be had. I found that we were expected, a man having brought the news of our intention the day before. Here ensued great inquiries after the General, and wherefore he had not come. I was looked at with considerable curiosity on my own account, especially by the ladies, of whom there were several, agreeable and pretty enough. There were four or five gentlemen, most of whom had not much that was noteworthy.

After dinner, which was good and abundant, though somewhat rude in its style, I was introduced by Mr. Laighton to Mr. Thaxter, his son-in-law, and Mr. Weiss, a clergyman of New Bedford, who is staying here for his health. They showed me some of the remarkable features of the island, such as a deep chasm in the cliffs of the shore, towards the southwest; also a monument of rude stones, on the highest point of the island, said to have been erected by Captain John Smith before the settlement at Plymouth. The tradition is just as good as truth. Also, some ancient cellars, with thistles and other weeds growing in them, and old fragmentary bricks scattered about. The date of these habitations is not known; but they may well be the remains of the settlement that Cotton Mather speaks about; or perhaps one of them was the house where Sir William Pepperell was born, and where he went when he and somebody else set up a stick, and travelled to seek their fortunes in the direction in which it fell.

In the evening, the company at the hotel made up two whist parties, at one of which I sat down,--my partner being an agreeable young lady from Portsmouth. We played till I, at least, was quite weary. It had been the beautifullest of weather all day, very hot on the mainland, but a delicious climate under our veranda.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

Saturday, September 4th.--Another beautiful day, rather cooler than the preceding, but not too cool. I can bear this coolness better than that of the interior. In the forenoon, I took passage for Star Island, in a boat that crosses daily whenever there are passengers. My companions were the two Yankees, who had quite recovered from yesterday's sickness, and were in the best of spirits and the utmost activity of mind of which they were capable. Never was there such a string of questions as they directed to the boatman,--questions that seemed to have no gist, so far as related to any use that could be made of the answers. They appear to be very good young men, however, well-meaning, and with manners not disagreeable, because their hearts are not amiss. Star Island is less than a mile from Appledore. It is the most populous island of the group,--has been, for three or four years, an incorporated township, and sends a representative to the New Hampshire legislature. The number of voters is variously represented as from eighteen to twenty-eight. The inhabitants are all, I presume, fishermen. Their houses stand in pretty close neighborhood to one another, scattered about without the slightest regularity or pretence of a street, there being no wheel-carriages on the island. Some of the houses are very comfortable two-story dwellings. I saw two or three, I think, with flowers. There are also one or two trees on the island. There is a strong odor of fishiness, and the little cove is full of mackerel-boats, and other small craft for fishing, in some of which little boys of no growth at all were paddling about. Nearly in the centre of this insular metropolis is a two-story house, with a flag-staff in the yard. This is the hotel.

 

On the highest point of Star Island stands the church,--a small, wooden structure; and, sitting in its shadow, I found a red-baize-shirted fisherman, who seemed quite willing to converse. He said that there was a minister here, who was also the schoolmaster; but that he did not keep school just now, because his wife was very much out of health. The school-house stood but a little way from the meeting-house, and near it was the minister's dwelling; and by and by I had a glimpse of the good man himself, in his suit of black, which looked in very decent condition at the distance from which I viewed it. His clerical air was quite distinguishable, and it was rather curious to see it, when everybody else wore red-baize shirts and fishing-boots, and looked of the scaly genus. He did not approach me, and I saw him no nearer. I soon grew weary of Gosport, and was glad to reëmbark, although I intend to revisit the island with Mr. Thaxter, and see more of its peculiarities and inhabitants. I saw one old witch-looking woman creeping about with a cane, and stooping down, seemingly to gather herbs. On mentioning her to Mr. Thaxter, after my return, he said that it was probably "the bearded woman." I did not observe her beard; but very likely she may have had one.

The larger part of the company at the hotel returned to the mainland to-day. There remained behind, however, a Mr. T---- from Newburyport,--a man of natural refinement, and a taste for reading that seems to point towards the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, and men of that class. I have had a good deal of talk with him, and at first doubted whether he might not be a clergyman; but Mr. Thaxter tells me that he has made his own way in the world,--was once a sailor before the mast, and is now engaged in mercantile pursuits. He looks like nothing of this kind, being tall and slender, with very quiet manners, not beautiful, though pleasing from the refinement that they indicate. He has rather a precise and careful pronunciation, but yet a natural way of talking.

In the afternoon I walked round a portion of the island that I had not previously visited, and in the evening went with Mr. Titcomb to Mr. Thaxter's to drink apple-toddy. We found Mrs. Thaxter sitting in a neat little parlor, very simply furnished, but in good taste. She is not now, I believe, more than eighteen years old, very pretty, and with the manners of a lady,--not prim and precise, but with enough of freedom and case. The books on the table were "Pre-Raphaelitism," a tract on spiritual mediums, etc. There were several shelves of books on one side of the room, and engravings on the walls. Mr. Weiss was there, and I do not know but he is an inmate of Mr. Thaxter's. By and by came in Mr. Thaxter's brother, with a young lady whose position I do not know,--either a sister or the brother's wife. Anon, too, came in the apple-toddy, a very rich and spicy compound; after which we had some glees and negro melodies, in which Mr. Thaxter sang a noble bass, and Mrs. Thaxter sang like a bird, and Mr. Weiss sang, I suppose, tenor, and the brother took some other part, and all were very mirthful and jolly. At about ten o'clock Mr. Titcomb and myself took leave, and emerging into the open air, out of that room of song, and pretty youthfulness of woman, and gay young men, there was the sky, and the three-quarters waning moon, and the old sea moaning all round about the island.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

 

Sunday, September 5th.--To-day I have done little or nothing except to roam along the shore of the island, and to sit under the piazza, talking with Mr. Laighton or some of his half-dozen guests; and about an hour before dinner I came up to my room, and took a brief nap. Since dinner I have been writing the foregoing journal. I observe that the Fanny Ellsler, our passenger and mail boat, has arrived from Portsmouth, and now lies in a little cove, moored to the rocky shore, with a flag flying at her main-mast. We have been watching her for some hours, but she stopped to fish, and then went to some other island, before putting in here. I must go and see what news she has brought.

"What did you fire at?" asked one of the Yankees just now of a boy who had been firing a gun. "Nothing," said the boy. "Did you hit it?" rejoined the Yankee.

The farmer is of a much ruder and rougher mould than his brother,--heavier in frame and mind, and far less cultivated. It was on this account, probably, that he labored as a farmer, instead of setting up a shop. When it is warm, as yesterday, he takes off his coat, and, not minding whether or no his shirt-sleeves be soiled, goes in this guise to meals or wherever else,--not resuming his coat as long as he is more comfortable without it. His shoulders have a stoop, and altogether his air is that of a farmer in repose. His brother is handsome, and might have quite the aspect of a smart, comely young man, if well dressed.

This island is said to be haunted by a spectre called "Old Bab." He was one of Captain Kidd's men, and was slain for the protection of the treasure. Mr. Laighton said that, before he built his house, nothing would have induced the inhabitant of another island to come to this after nightfall. The ghost especially haunts the space between the hotel and the cove in front. There has, in times past, been great search for the treasure.

Mr. Thaxter tells me that the women on the island are very timid as to venturing on the sea,--more so than the women of the mainland,--and that they are easily frightened about their husbands. Very few accidents happen to the boats or men,--none, I think, since Mr. Thaxter has been here. They are not an enterprising set of people, never liking to make long voyages. Sometimes one of them will ship on a voyage to the West Indies, but generally only on coast-wise trips, or fishing or mackerel voyages. They have a very strong local attachment, and return to die. They are now generally temperate, formerly very much the contrary.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

September 6th.--A large part of the guests took their departure after an early breakfast this morning, including Mr. Titcomb, Mr. Weiss, the two Yankees, and Mr. Thaxter,--who, however, went as skipper or supercargo, and will return with the boat. I have been fishing for cunners off the rocks, but with intolerably poor success. There is nothing so dispiriting as poor fishing, and I spend most of the time with my head on my hands, looking at the sea breaking against the rocks, shagged around the bases with seaweed. It is a sunny forenoon, with a cool breeze from the south-west. The mackerel craft are in the offing. Mr. Laighton says that the Spy (the boat which went to the mainland this morning) is now on her return with all her colors set; and he thinks that Pierce is on board, he having sent Mr. Thaxter to invite him to come in this boat.

6--A large part of the guests took their departure after an early breakfast this morning, including Mr. Titcomb, Mr. Weiss, the two Yankees, and Mr. Thaxter,--who, however, went as skipper or supercargo, and will return with the boat. I have been fishing for cunners off the rocks, but with intolerably poor success. There is nothing so dispiriting as poor fishing, and I spend most of the time with my head on my hands, looking at the sea breaking against the rocks, shagged around the bases with seaweed. It is a sunny forenoon, with a cool breeze from the south-west. The mackerel craft are in the offing. Mr. Laighton says that the Spy (the boat which went to the mainland this morning) is now on her return withall her colors set; and he thinks that Pierce is on board, he having sent Mr. Thaxter to invite him to come in this boat.

Pierce arrived before dinner in the Spy, accompanied by Judge Upham and his brother and their wives, his own wife, Mr. Furness, and three young ladies. After dinner some of the gentlemen crossed over to Gosport, where we visited the old graveyard, in which were monuments to Rev. Mr. Tucke (died 1773, after forty years' settlement) and to another and later minister of the island. They were of red freestone, lying horizontally on piles of the granite fragments, such as are scattered all about. There were other graves, marked by the rudest shapes of stones at head and foot. And so many stones protruded from the ground, that it was wonderful how space and depth enough was found between them to cover the dead. We went to the house of the town clerk of Gosport (a drunken fisherman, Joe Caswell by name), and there found the town records, commencing in 1732, in a beautiful style of penmanship. They. are imperfect, the township having been broken up, probably at the time of the Revolution. Caswell, being very drunk, immediately put in a petition to Pierce to build a sea-mole for the protection of the navigation of the island when he should be President. He was dressed in the ordinary fisherman's style,--red-baize shirt, trousers tucked into large boots, which, as he had just come ashore, were wet with salt water.

He led us down to the shore of the island, towards the east, and showed us Betty Moody's Hole. This Betty Moody was a woman of the island in old times. The Indians came off on a depredating excursion, and she fled from them with a child, and hid herself in this hole, which is formed by several great rocks being lodged so as to cover one of the fissures which are common along these shores. I crept into the hole, which is somewhat difficult of access, long, low, and narrow, and might well enough be a hiding-place. The child, or children, began to cry; and Betty, fearful of discovery, murdered them to save herself. Joe Caswell did not tell the latter part of the story, but Mr. Thaxter did.

Not far from the spot there is a point of rocks extending out farther into the ocean than the rest of the island. Some four or five years ago there was a young woman residing at Gosport in the capacity of school-teacher. She was of a romantic turn, and used to go and sit on this point of rock to view the waves. One day, when the wind was high, and the surf raging against the rocks, a great wave struck her, as she sat on the edge, and seemed to deprive her of sense; another wave, or the reflex of the same one, carried her off into the sea, and she was seen no more. This happened, I think, in 1846.

Passing a rock near the centre of the island, which rose from the soil about breast-high, and appeared to have been split asunder, with an incalculably aged and moss-grown fissure, the surfaces of which, however, precisely suited each other, Mr. Hatch mentioned that there was an idea among the people, with regard to rocks thus split, that they were rent asunder at the time of the Crucifixion. Judge Upham observed that this superstition was common in all parts of the country.

Mr. Hatch said that he was professionally consulted the other day, by a man who had been digging for buried treasure at Dover Point, up the Piscataqua River; and, while he and his companions were thus engaged, the owner of the land came upon them, and compelled Hatch's client to give him a note for a sum of money. The object was to inquire whether this note was obligatory. Hatch says that there are a hundred people now resident in Portsmouth, who, at one time or another, have dug for treasure. The process is, in the first place, to find out the site of the treasure by the divining-rod. A circle is then described with the steel rod about the spot, and a man walks around within its verge, reading the Bible, to keep off the evil spirit while his companions dig. If a word is spoken, the whole business is a failure. Once, the person who told him the story reached the lid of the chest, so that the spades plainly scraped upon it, when one of the men spoke, and the chest immediately moved sideways into the earth. Another time, when he was reading the Bible within the circle, a creature like a white horse, but immoderately large, came from a distance towards the circle, looked at him, and then began to graze about the spot. He saw the motion of the jaws, but heard no sound of champing. His companions saw the gigantic horse precisely as he did, only to them it appeared bay instead of white.

The islanders stared with great curiosity at Pierce. One pretty young woman appeared inclined to engross him entirely to herself.

There is a bowling-alley on the island, at which some of the young fishermen were rolling.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

September 7th.--. . . I have made no exploration to-day, except a walk with the guests in the morning, but have lounged about the piazza and veranda. It has been a calm, warm, sunny day, the sea slumbering against the shores, and now and then breaking into white foam.

The surface of the island is plentifully overgrown with whortleberry and bayberry bushes. The sheep cut down the former, so that few berries are produced; the latter gives a pleasant fragrance when pressed in the hand. The island is one great ledge of rock, four hundred acres in extent, with a little soil thrown scantily over it; but the bare rock everywhere emerging, not only in points, but still more in flat surfaces. The only trees, I think, are two that Mr. Laighton has been trying to raise in front of the hotel, the taller of which looks scarcely so much as ten feet high. It is now about sunset, and the Fanny, with the mail, is just arrived at the moorings. So still is it, that the sounds on board (as of throwing oars into a small boat) are distinctly heard, though a quarter of a mile off. She has the Stars and Stripes flying at the main-mast. There appear to be no passengers.

The only reptile on the island is a very vivid and beautiful green snake, which is exceedingly abundant. Yesterday, while catching grasshoppers for fish-bait, I nearly griped one in my hand; indeed, I rather think I did gripe it. The snake was as much startled as myself, and, in its fright, stood an instant on its tail, before it recovered presence of mind to glide away. These snakes are quite harmless.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

 

September 8th.--Last evening we could hear the roaring of the beaches at Hampton and Rye, nine miles off. The surf likewise swelled against the rocky shores of the island, though there was little or no wind, and, except for the swell, the surface was smooth. The sheep bleated loudly; and all these tokens, according to Mr. Laighton, foreboded a storm to windward. This morning, nevertheless, there were no further signs of it; it is sunny and calm, or only the slightest breeze from the westward; a haze sleeping along the shore, betokening a warm day; the surface of the sea streaked with smoothness, and gentle ruffles of wind. It has been the hottest day that I have known here, and probably one of the hottest of the season ashore; and the land is now imperceptible in the haze.

Smith's monument is about seven feet high, and probably ten or twelve in diameter at its base. It is a cairn, or mere heap of stones, thrown together as they came to hand, though with some selection of large and flat ones towards the base, and with smaller ones thrown in. At the foundation, there are large rocks, naturally imbedded in the earth. I see no reason to disbelieve that a part of this monument may have been erected by Captain Smith, although subsequent visitors may have added to it. Laighton says it is known to have stood upwards of a hundred years. It is a work of considerable labor, and would more likely have been erected by one who supposed himself the first discoverer of the island than by anybody afterwards for mere amusement. I observed in some places, towards the base, that the lichens had grown from one stone to another; and there is nothing in the appearance of the monument that controverts the supposition of its antiquity. It is an irregular circle, somewhat decreasing towards the top. Few of the stones, except at the base, are bigger than a man could easily lift,--many of them are not more than a foot across. It stands towards the southern part of the island; and all the other islands are visible from it, Smutty Nose, Star Island, and White Island,--on which is the light-house,--much of Laighton's island (the proper name of which is Hog, though latterly called Appledore), and Duck Island, which looks like a mere reef of rocks, and about a mile farther into the ocean, easterly of Hog Island.

Laighton's Hotel, together with the house in which his son-in-law resides, which was likewise built by Laighton, and stands about fifty yards from the hotel, occupies the middle of a shallow valley, which passes though the island from east to west. Looking from the veranda, you have the ocean opening towards the east, and the bay towards Rye Beach and Portsmouth on the west. In the same storm that overthrew Minot's Light, a year or two ago, a great wave passed entirely through this valley; and Laighton describes it, when it came in from the sea, as toppling over to the height of the cupola of his hotel. It roared and whitened though, from sea to sea, twenty feet abreast, rolling along huge rocks in its passage. It passed beneath his veranda, which stands on posts, and probably filled the valley completely. Would I had been here to see!

The day has been exceedingly hot. Since dinner, the Spy has arrived from Portsmouth, with a party of half a dozen or more men and women and children, apparently from the interior of New Hampshire. I am rather sorry to receive these strangers into the quiet life that we are leading here; for we had grown quite to feel ourselves at home, and the two young ladies, Mr. Thaxter, his wife and sister, and myself, met at meal-times like one family. The young ladies gathered shells, arranged them, laughed gently, sang, and did other pretty things in a young-lady-like way. These new-comers are people of uncouth voices and loud laughter, and behave themselves as if they were trying to turn their expedition to as much account as possible in the way of enjoyment.

John's boat, the regular passenger-boat, is now coming in, and probably brings the mail.

In the afternoon, while some of the new-comers were fishing off the rocks, west of the hotel, a shark came close in shore. Hearing their outcries, I looked out of my chamber window, and saw the dorsal fin and the fluke of his tail stuck up out of the water, as he moved to and fro. He must have been eight or ten feet long. He had probably followed the small fish into the bay, and got bewildered, and, at one time, he was almost aground.

Oscar, Mr. Laighton's son, ran down with a gun, and fired at the shark, which was then not more than ten yards from the shore. He aimed, according to his father's directions, just below the junction of the dorsal fin with the body; but the gun was loaded only with shot, and seemed to produce no effect. Oscar had another shot at him afterwards; the shark floundered a little in the water, but finally got off and disappeared, probably without very serious damage. He came so near the shore that he might have been touched with a boat-hook.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

September 9th.--Mr. Thaxter rowed me this morning, in his dory, to White Island, on which is the lighthouse. There was scarcely a breath of air, and a perfectly calm sea; an intensely hot sunshine, with a little haze, so that the horizon was indistinct. Here and there sail-boats sleeping on the water, or moving almost imperceptibly over it. The lighthouse island would be difficult of access in a rough sea, the shore being so rocky. On landing, we found the keeper peeling his harvest of onions, which he had gathered prematurely, because the insects were eating them. His little patch of garden seemed to be a strange kind of soil, as like marine mud as anything; but he had a fair crop of marrow squashes, though injured, as he said, by the last storm; and there were cabbages and a few turnips. I recollect no other garden vegetables. The grass grows pretty luxuriantly, and looked very green where there was any soil; but he kept no cow, nor even a pig nor a hen. His house stands close by the garden,--a small stone building, with peaked roof, and whitewashed. The lighthouse stands on a ledge of rock, with a gulley between, and there is a long covered way, triangular in shape, connecting his residence with it. We ascended into the lantern, which is eighty-seven feet high. It is a revolving light, with several great illuminators of copper silvered, and colored lamp-glasses. Looking downward, we had the island displayed as on a chart, with its little bays, its isthmus of shingly beach connecting two parts of the island, and overflowed at high tide; its sunken rocks about it, indicated by the swell, or slightly breaking surf. The keeper of the light-house was formerly a writing-master. He has a sneaking kind of look, and does not bear a very high character among his neighbors. Since he kept the light, he has lost two wives,--the first a young creature whom he used to leave alone upon this desolate rock, and the gloom and terror of the situation were probably the cause of her death. The second wife, experiencing the same kind of treatment, ran away from him, and returned to her friends. He pretends to be religious, but drinks. About a year ago he attempted to row out alone from Portsmouth. There was a head wind and head tide, and he would have inevitably drifted out to sea, if Mr. Thaxter had not saved him.

-Mr. Thaxter rowed me this morning, in his dory, to White Island, on which is the lighthouse. There was scarcely a breath of air, and a perfectly calm sea; an intensely hot sunshine, with a little haze, so that the horizon was indistinct. Here and there sail-boats sleeping on the water, or movingalmost imperceptibly over it. The lighthouse island would be difficult of access in a rough sea, the shore being so rocky. On landing, we found the keeper peeling his harvest of onions, which he had gathered prematurely, because the insects were eating them. His little patch of garden seemed to be a strange kind of soil, as like marine mud as anything; but he had a fair crop of marrow squashes, though injured, as he said, by the last storm; and there were cabbages and a few turnips. I recollect no other garden vegetables. The grass grows pretty luxuriantly, and looked very green where there was any soil; but he kept no cow, nor even a pig nor a hen. His house stands close by the garden,--a small stone building, with peaked roof, and whitewashed. The lighthouse stands on a ledge of rock, with a gulley between, and there is a long covered way, triangular in shape, connecting his residence with it. We ascended into the lantern, which is eighty-seven feet high. It is a revolving light, with several great illuminators of copper silvered, and colored lamp-glasses. Looking downward, we had the island displayed as on a chart, with its little bays, its isthmus of shingly beach connecting two parts of the island, and overflowed at high tide; its sunken rocks about it, indicated by the swell, or slightly breaking surf. The keeper of the light-house was formerly a writing-master. He has a sneaking kind of look, and does not bear a very high character among his neighbors. Since he kept the light, he has lost two wives,--the first a young creature whom he used to leave alone upon this desolate rock, and the gloom and terror of the situation were probably the cause of her death. The second wife, experiencing the same kind of treatment, ran away from him, andreturned to her friends. He pretends to be religious, but drinks. About a year ago he attempted to row out alone from Portsmouth. There was a head wind and head tide, and he would have inevitably drifted out to sea, if Mr. Thaxter had not saved him.

While we were standing in his garden-patch, I heard a woman's voice inside the dwelling, but know not whose it was. A light-house nine miles from shore would be a delightful place for a new-married couple to spend their honeymoon, or their whole first year.

On our way back we landed at another island called Londoner's Rock, or some such name. It has but little soil. As we approached it, a large bird flew away. Mr. Thaxter took it to be a gannet; and, while walking over the island, an owl started up from among the rocks near us, and flew away, apparently uncertain of its course. It was a brown owl, but Mr. Thaxter says that there are beautiful white owls, which spend the winter here, and feed upon rats. These are very abundant, and live amidst the rocks,--probably having been brought hither by vessels.

The water to-day was not so transparent as sometimes, but had a slight haze diffused though it, somewhat like that of the atmosphere.

The passengers brought by the Spy, yesterday, still remain with us. They consist of country traders, a country doctor, and such sorts of people, rude, shrewd, and simple, and well-behaved enough; wondering at sharks, and equally at lobsters; sitting down to table with their coats off; helping themselves out of the dish with their own forks; taking pudding on the plates off which they have eaten meat. People at just this stage of manners are more disagreeable than at any other stage. They are aware of some decencies, but not so deeply aware as to make them a matter of conscience. They may be heard talking of the financial affairs of the expedition, reckoning what money each has paid. One offers to pay another three or four cents, which the latter has overpaid. "It's of no consequence, sir," says his friend, with a tone of conscious liberality, "that's near enough." This is a most tremendously hot day.

There is a young lady staying at the hotel, afflicted with what her friends call erysipelas, but which is probably scrofula. She seems unable to walk, or sit up; but every pleasant day, about the middle of the forenoon, she is dragged out beneath the veranda, on a sofa. To-day she has been there until late in the decline of the afternoon. It is a delightful place, where the breezes stir, if any are in motion. The young girls, her sisters or cousins, and Mr. Thaxter's sister, sat round her, babbling cheerfully, and singing; and they were so merry that it did not seem as if there could be an incurably sick one in the midst of them.

The Spy came to-day, with more passengers of no particular character. She still remains off the landing, moored, with her sails in the wind.

The mail arrived to-day, but nothing for me.

Close by the veranda, at the end of the hotel, is drawn up a large boat, of ten or twelve tons, which got injured in some gale, and probably will remain there for years to decay, and be a picturesque and characteristic object.

The Spy has been lying in the broad track of golden light, thrown by the sun, far down towards the horizon, over the rippling water, her sails throwing distinct, dark shadows over the brightness. She has now got under way, and set sail on a northwest course for Portsmouth; carrying off, I believe, all the passengers she brought to-day.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

September 10th.--Here is another beautiful morning, with the sun dimpling in the early sunshine. Four sail-boats are in sight, motionless on the sea, with the whiteness of their sails reflected in it. The heat-haze sleeps along the shore, though not so as quite to hide it, and there is the promise of another very warm day. As yet, however, the air is cool and refreshing. Around the island, there is the little ruffle of a breeze; but where the sail-boats are, a mile or more off, the sea is perfectly calm. The crickets sing, and I hear the chirping of birds besides.

At the base of the light-house yesterday, we saw the wings and feathers of a decayed little bird, and Mr. Thaxter said they often flew against the lantern with such force as to kill themselves, and that large quantities of them might be picked up. How came these little birds out of their nests at night? Why should they meet destruction from the radiance that proves the salvation of other beings?

Mr. Thaxter had once a man living with him who had seen "Old Bab," the ghost. He met him between the hotel and the sea, and describes him as dressed in a sort of frock, and with a very dreadful countenance.

Two or three years ago, the crew of a wrecked vessel, a brigantine, wrecked near Boon Island, landed on Hog Island of a winter night, and found shelter in the hotel. It was from the eastward. There were six or seven men, with the mate and captain. It was midnight when they got ashore. The common sailors, as soon as they were physically comfortable, seemed to be perfectly at ease. The captain walked the floor, bemoaning himself for a silver watch which he had lost; the mate, being the only married man, talked about his Eunice. They all told their dreams of the preceding night, and saw in them prognostics of the misfortune.

There is now a breeze, the blue ruffle of which seems to reach almost across to the mainland, yet with streaks of calm; and, in one place, the glassy surface of a lake of calmness, amidst the surrounding commotion.

The wind, in the early morning, was from the west, and the aspect of the sky seemed to promise a warm and sunny day. But all at once, soon after breakfast, the wind shifted round to the eastward; and great volumes of fog, almost as dense as cannon-smoke, came sweeping from the eastern ocean, through the valley, and past the house. It soon covered the whole sea, and the whole island, beyond a verge of a few hundred yards. The chilliness was not so great as accompanies a change of wind on the mainland. We had been watching a large ship that was slowly making her way between us and the land towards Portsmouth. This was now hidden. The breeze is still very moderate; but the boat, moored near the shore, rides with a considerable motion, as if the sea were getting up.

Mr. Laighton says that the artist who adorned Trinity Church, in New York, with sculpture wanted some real wings from which to imitate the wings of cherubim. Mr. Thaxter carried him the wings of the white owl that winters here at the Shoals, together with those of some other bird; and the artist gave his cherubim the wings of an owl.

This morning there have been two boat-loads of visitors from Rye. They merely made a flying call, and took to their boats again,--a disagreeable and impertinent kind of people.

The Spy arrived before dinner, with several passengers. After dinner, came the Fanny, bringing, among other freight, a large basket of delicious pears to me, together with a note from Mr. B. B. Titcomb. He is certainly a man of excellent taste and admirable behavior. I sent a plateful of pears to the room of each guest now in the hotel, kept a dozen for myself, and gave the balance to Mr. Laighton.

The two Portsmouth young ladies returned in the Spy. I had grown accustomed to their presence, and rather liked them; one of them being gay and rather noisy, and the other quiet and gentle. As to new-comers, I feel rather a distaste to them; and so, I find, does Mr. Laighton,--a rather singular sentiment for a hotel-keeper to entertain towards his guests. However, he treats them very hospitably when once within his doors.

The sky is overcast, and, about the time the Spy and the Fanny sailed, there were a few drops of rain. The wind, at that time, was strong enough to raise white-caps to the eastward of the island, and there was good hope of a storm. Now, however, the wind has subsided, and the weather-seers know not what to forebode.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

September 11th.--The wind shifted and veered about, towards the close of yesterday, and later it was almost calm, after blowing gently from the northwest,--notwithstanding which it rained. There being a mistiness in the air, we could see the gleam of the light-house upon the mist above it, although the light-house itself was hidden by the highest point of this island, or by our being in a valley. As we sat under the piazza in the evening, we saw the light from on board some vessel move slowly through the distant obscurity,--so slowly that we were only sensible of its progress by forgetting it and looking again. The plash and murmur of the waves around the island were soothingly audible. It was not unpleasantly cold, and Mr. Laighton, Mr. Thaxter, and myself sat under the piazza till long after dark; the former at a little distance, occasionally smoking his pipe, and Mr. Thaxter and I talking about poets and the stage. The latter is an odd subject to be discussed in this stern and wild scene, which has precisely the same characteristics now as two hundred years ago. The mosquitoes were very abundant last night, and they are certainly hardier race than their inland brethren.

This morning there is a sullen sky, with scarcely any breeze. The clouds throw shadows of varied darkness upon the sea. I know not which way the wind is; but the aspect of things seems to portend a calm drizzle as much as anything else.

About eleven o'clock, Mr. Thaxter took me over to Smutty Nose in his dory. A sloop from the eastward, laden with laths, bark, and other lumber, and a few barrels of mackerel, filled yesterday, and was left by her skipper and crew. All the morning we have seen boats picking up her deck-load, which was scattered over the sea, and along the shores of the islands. The skipper and his three men got into Smutty Nose in the boat; and the sloop was afterwards boarded by the Smutty Noses and brought into that island. We saw her lying at the pier,--a black, ugly, rotten old thing, with the water half-way over her decks. The wonder was, how she swam so long. The skipper, a man of about thirty-five or forty, in a blue pilot-cloth overcoat, and a rusty, high-crowned hat jammed down over his brow, looked very forlorn; while the islanders were grouped about, indolently enjoying the matter.

I walked with Mr. Thaxter over the island, and saw first the graves of the Spaniards. They were wrecked on this island a hundred years ago, and lie buried in a range about thirty feet in length, to the number of sixteen, with rough, moss-grown pieces of granite on each side of this common grave. Near this spot, yet somewhat removed, so as not to be confounded with it, are other individual graves, chiefly of the Haley family, who were once possessors of the island. These have slate gravestones. There is also, within a small enclosure of rough pine boards, a white marble gravestone, in memory of a young man named Bekker, son of the person who now keeps the hotel on Smutty Nose. He was buried, Mr. Thaxter says, notwithstanding his marble monument, in a rude pine box, which he himself helped to make.

We walked to the farthest point of the island, and I have never seen a more dismal place than it was on this sunless and east-windy day, being the farthest point out into the melancholy sea which was in no very agreeable mood, and roared sullenly against the wilderness of rocks. One mass of rock, more than twelve feet square, was thrown up out of the sea in a storm, not many years since, and now lies athwart-wise, never to be moved unless another omnipotent wave shall give it another toss. On shore, such a rock would be a landmark for centuries. It is inconceivable how a sufficient mass of water could be brought to bear on this ponderous mass; but, not improbably, all the fragments piled upon one another round these islands have thus been flung to and fro at one time or another.

There is considerable land that would serve tolerably for pasture on Smutty Nose, and here and there a little enclosure of richer grass, built round with a strong stone-wall. The same kind of enclosure is prevalent on Star Island,--each small proprietor fencing off his little bit of tillage or grass. Wild-flowers are abundant and various on these islands; the bayberry-bush is plentiful on Smutty Nose, and makes the hand that crushes it fragrant.

The hotel is kept by a Prussian, an old soldier, who fought at the Battle of Waterloo. We saw him in the barn,--a gray, heavy, round-skulled old fellow, troubled with deafness. The skipper of the wrecked sloop had, apparently, just been taking a drop of comfort, but still seemed downcast. He took passage in a fishing-vessel, the Wave, of Kittery, for Portsmouth; and I know not why, but there was something that made me smile in his grim and gloomy look, his rusty, jammed hat, his rough and grisly beard, and in his mode of chewing tobacco, with much action of the jaws, getting out the juice as largely as possible, as men always do when disturbed in mind. I looked at him earnestly, and was conscious of something that marked him out from among the careless islanders around him. Being as much discomposed as it was possible for him to be, his feelings individualized the man and magnetized the observer. When he got aboard the fishing-vessel, he seemed not entirely at his ease, being accustomed to command and work amongst his own little crew, and now having nothing to do. Nevertheless, unconsciously perhaps, he lent a hand to whatever was going on, and yet had a kind of strangeness about him. As the Wave set sail, we were just starting in our dory, and a young fellow, an acquaintance of Mr. Thaxter, proposed to take us in tow; so we were dragged along at her stern very rapidly, and with a whitening wake, until we came off Hog Island. Then the dory was cast loose, and Mr. Thaxter rowed ashore against a head sea.

The day is still overcast, and the wind is from the eastward; but it does not increase, and the sun appears occasionally on the point of shining out. A boat--the Fanny, I suppose, from Portsmouth--has just come to her moorings in front of the hotel. A sail-boat has put off from her, with a passenger in the stern. Pray God she bring me a letter with good news from home; for I begin to feel as if I had been long enough away.

There is a bowling-alley on Smutty Nose, at which some of the Star-Islanders were playing, when we were there. I saw only two dwelling-houses besides the hotel. Connected with Smutty Nose, by a stone-wall there is another little bit of island, called Malaga. Both are the property of Mr. Laighton.

Mr. Laighton says that the Spanish wreck occurred forty-seven years ago, instead of a hundred. Some of the dead bodies were found on Malaga, others on various parts of the next island. One or two had crept to a stone-wall that traverses Smutty Nose, but were unable to get over it. One was found among the bushes the next summer. Mr. Haley had been buried at his own expense.

The skipper of the wrecked sloop, yesterday, was unwilling to go to Portsmouth until he was shaved, --his beard being of several days' growth. It seems to be the impulse of people under misfortune to put on their best clothes, and attend to the decencies of life.

The Fanny brought a passenger,--a thin, stiff, black-haired young man, who enters his name as Mr. Tufts, from Charlestown. He, and a country trader, his wife, sister, and two children (all of whom have been here several days), are now the only guests besides myself.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

September 12th.--The night set in sullen and gloomy, and morning has dawned in pretty much the same way. The wind, however, seems rising somewhat, and grumbles past the angle of the house. Perhaps we shall see a storm yet from the eastward; and, having the whole sweep of the broad Atlantic between here and Ireland, I do not see why it should not be fully equal to a storm at sea.

It has been raining more or less all the forenoon, and now, at twelve o'clock, blows, as Mr. Laighton says, "half a gale" from the southeast. Through the opening of our shallow valley, towards the east, there is the prospect of a tumbling sea, with hundreds of white-caps chasing one another over it. In front of the hotel, being to leeward, the water near the shore is but slightly ruffled; but farther the sea is agitated, and the surf breaks over Square Rock. All around the horizon, landward as well as seaward, the view is shut in by a mist. Sometimes I have a dim sense of the continent beyond, but no more distinct than the thought of the other world to the unenlightened soul. The sheep bleat in their desolate pasture. The wind shakes the house. A loon, seeking, I suppose, some quieter resting-place than on the troubled waves, was seen swimming just now in the cove not more than a hundred yards from the hotel. Judging by the pother which this "half a gale "makes with the sea, it must have been a terrific time, indeed, when that great wave rushed and roared across the islands.

Since dinner, I have been to the eastern shore to look at the sea. It is a wild spectacle, but still, I suppose, lacks an infinite deal of being a storm. Outside of this island there is a long and low one (or two in a line), looking more like a reef of rocks than an island, and at the distance of a mile or more. There the surf and spray break gallantly,--white-sheeted forms rising up all at once, and hovering a moment in the air. Spots which, in calm times, are not discernible from the rest of the ocean, now are converted into white, foamy breakers. The swell of the waves against our shore makes a snowy depth, tinged with green, for many feet back from the shore. The longer waves swell, overtop, and rush upon the rocks; and, when they return, the waters pour back in a cascade. Against the outer points of Smutty Nose and Star Island, there is a higher surf than here; because, the wind being from the southeast, these islands receive it first, and form a partial barrier in respect to this. While I looked, there was moisture in the air, and occasional spats of rain. The uneven places in the rocks were full of the fallen rain.

It is quite impossible to give an idea of these rocky shores,--how confusedly they are tossed together, lying in all directions; what solid ledges, what great fragments thrown out from the rest. Often the rocks are broken, square and angular, so as to form a kind of staircase; though, for the most part, such as would require a giant stride to ascend them. 

Sometimes a black trap-rock runs through the bed of granite; sometimes the sea has eaten this away, leaving a long, irregular fissure. In some places, owing to the same cause perhaps, there is a great hollow place excavated into the ledge, and forming a harbor, into which the sea flows; and, while there is foam and fury at the entrance, it is comparatively calm within. Some parts of the crag are as much as fifty feet of perpendicular height, down which you look over a bare and smooth descent, at the base of which is a shaggy margin of seaweed. But it is vain to try to express this confusion. As much as anything else, it seems as if some of the massive materials of the world remained superfluous, after the Creator had finished, and were carelessly thrown down here, where the millionth part of them emerge from the sea, and in the course of thousands of years have become partially bestrewn with a little soil.

The wind has changed to southwest, and blows pretty freshly. The sun shone before it set; and the mist, which all day has overhung the land, now takes the aspect of a cloud,--drawing a thin veil between us and the shore, and rising above it. In our own atmosphere there is no fog nor mist.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

September 13th.--I spent last evening, as well as part of the evening before, at Mr. Thaxter's. It is certainly a romantic incident to find such a young man on this lonely island; his marriage with the pretty Miranda is true romance. In our talk we have glanced over many matters, and, among the rest, that of the stage, to prepare himself for which was his first motive in coming hither. He appears quite to have given up any dreams of that kind now. What he will do on returning to the world, as his purpose is, I cannot imagine; but, no doubt, through all their remaining life, both he and she will look back to this rocky ledge, with its handful of soil, as to a Paradise.

Last evening we (Mr., Mrs., and Miss Thaxter) sat and talked of ghosts and kindred subjects; and they told me of the appearance of a little old woman in a striped gown, that had come into that house a few months ago. She was seen by nobody but an Irish nurse, who spoke to her, but received no answer. The little woman drew her chair up towards the fire, and stretched out her feet to warm them. By and by the nurse, who suspected nothing of her ghostly character, went to get a pail of water; and, when she came back, the little woman was not there. It being known precisely how many and what people were on the island, and that no such little woman was among them, the fact of her being a ghost is incontestable. I taught them how to discover the hidden sentiments of letters by suspending a gold ring over them. Ordinarily, since I have been here, we have spent the evening under the piazza, where Mr. Laighton sits to take the air. He seems to avoid the within-doors whenever he can. So there he sits in the sea-breezes, when inland people are probably drawing their chairs to the fire-side; and there I sit with him,--not keeping up a continual flow of talk, but each speaking as any wisdom happens to come into his mind.

The wind, this morning, is from the northwestward, rather brisk, but not very strong. There is a scattering of clouds about the sky; but the atmosphere is singularly clear, and we can see several hills of the interior, the cloud-like White Mountains, and, along the shore, the long white beaches and the dotted dwellings, with great distinctness. Many small vessels spread their wings, and go seaward.

I have been rambling over the southern part of the island, and looking at the traces of habitations there. There are several enclosures,--the largest, perhaps, thirty yards square,--surrounded with a rough stone-wall of very mossy antiquity, built originally broad and strong, two or three large stones in width, and piled up breast-high or more, and taking advantage of the extending ledge to make it higher. Within this enclosure there is almost a clear space of soil, which was formerly, no doubt, cultivated as a garden, but is now close cropt by the sheep and cattle, except where it produces thistles, or the poisonous weed called mercury, which seems to love these old walls, and to rot itself in or near them. These walls are truly venerable, gray, and mossy; and you see at once that the hands that piled the stones must have been long ago turned to dust. Close by the enclosure is the hollow of an old cellar, with rocks tumbled into it, but the layers of stone at the side still to be traced, and bricks, broken or with rounded edges, scattered about, and perhaps pieces of lime; and weeds and grass growing about the whole. Several such sites of former human homes may be seen there, none of which can possibly be later than the Revolution, and probably they are as old as the settlement of the island. The site has Smutty Nose and Star opposite, with a road (that is, a water-road) between, varying from half a mile to a mile. Duck Island is also seen on the left; and, on the right, the shore of the mainland. Behind, the rising ground intercepts the view. Smith's monument is visible. I do not see where the inhabitants could have kept their boats, unless in the chasms worn by the sea into the rocks. 

One of these chasms has a spring of fresh water in the gravelly base, down to which the sea has worn out. The chasm has perpendicular, though irregular, sides, which the waves have chiselled out very square. Its width varies from ten to twenty feet, widest towards the sea; and on the shelves, up and down the sides, some soil has been here and there accumulated, on which grow grass and wild-flowers,--such as goldenrod, now in bloom, and raspberry-bushes, the fruit of which I found ripe,--the whole making large parts of the sides of the chasm green, its verdure overhanging the strip of sea that dashes and foams into the hollow. Sea-weed, besides what grows upon and shags the submerged rocks, is tossed into the harbor, together with stray pieces of wood, chips, barrel-staves, or (as to-day) an entire barrel, or whatever else the sea happens to have on hand. The water rakes to and fro over the pebbles at the bottom of the chasm, drawing back, and leaving much of it bare, then rushing up, with more or less of foam and fury, according to the force and direction of the wind; though, owing to the protection of the adjacent islands, it can never have a gale blowing right into its mouth. The spring is situated so far down the chasm, that, at half or two thirds tide, it is covered by the sea. Twenty minutes after the retiring of the tide suffices to restore to it its wonted freshness.

In another chasm, very much like the one here described, I saw a niche in the rock, about tall enough for a person of moderate stature to stand upright. It had a triangular floor and a top, and was just the place to hold the rudest statue that ever a savage made.

Many of the ledges on the island have yellow moss or lichens spread on them in large patches. The moss of those stone walls does really look very old. 

"Old Bab," the ghost, has a ring round his neck, and is supposed either to have been hung or to have had his throat cut, but he steadfastly declines telling the mode of his death. There is a luminous appearance about him as he walks, and his face is pale and very dreadful.

The Fanny arrived this forenoon, and sailed again before dinner. She brought, as passenger, a Mr. Balch, brother to the country trader who has been spending a few days here. On her return, she has swept the islands of all the non-residents except myself. The wind being ahead, and pretty strong, she will have to beat up, and the voyage will be anything but agreeable. The spray flew before her bows, and doubtless gave the passengers all a thorough wetting within the first half-hour.

The view of Star Island or Gosport from the north is picturesque,--the village, or group of houses, being gathered pretty closely together in the centre of the island, with some green about them; and above all the other edifices, wholly displayed, stands the little stone church, with its tower and belfry. On the right is White Island, with the light-house; to the right of that, and a little to the northward, Londoner's Rock, where, perhaps, of old, some London ship was wrecked. To the left of Star Island, and nearer Hog, or Appledore, is Smutty Nose. Pour the blue sea about these islets, and let the surf whiten and steal up from their points, and from the reefs about them (which latter whiten for an instant, and then are lost in the whelming and eddying depths), the northwest-wind the while raising thousands of white-caps, and the evening sun shining solemnly over the expanse,--and it is a stern and lovely scene. 

The valleys that intersect, or partially intersect, the island are a remarkable feature. They appear to be of the same formation as the fissures in the rocks, but, as they extend farther from the sea, they accumulate a little soil along the irregular sides, and so become green and shagged with bushes, though with the rock everywhere thrusting itself through. The old people of the isles say that their fathers could remember when the sea, at high tide, flowed quite through the valley in which the hotel stands, and that boats used to pass. Afterwards it was a standing pond; then a morass, with cat-tail flags growing in it. It has filled up, so far as it is filled, by the soil being washed down from the higher ground on each side. The storms, meanwhile, have tossed up the shingle and paving-stones at each end of the valley, so as to form a barrier against the passage of any but such mighty waves as that which thundered through a year or two ago.

The old inhabitants lived in the centre or towards the south of the island, and avoided the north and east because the latter were so much bleaker in winter. They could moor their boats in the road, between Smutty Nose and Hog, but could not draw them up. Mr. Laighton found traces of old dwellings in the vicinity of the hotel, and it is supposed that the principal part of the population was on this island. I spent the evening at Mr. Thaxter's, and we drank a glass of his 1820 Scheidam. The northwest-wind was high at ten o'clock, when I came home, the tide full, and the murmur of the waves broad and deep.

CONTINUE HAWTHORNE's JOURNAL



PASSAGES FROM THE AMERICAN NOTE-BOOKS
September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

September14th.--Another of the brightest of sunny mornings. The wind is not nearly so high as last night, but it is apparently still from the north-west, and serves to make the sea look very blue and cold. The atmosphere is so transparent that objects seem perfectly distinct along the mainland. To-day I must be in Portsmouth; to-morrow, at home. A brisk west or northwest-wind, making the sea so blue, gives a very distinct outline in its junction with the sky.

September 16th.--On Tuesday, the 14th, there was no opportunity to get to the mainland. Yesterday morning opened with a southeast rain, which continued all day. The Fanny arrived in the forenoon, with some coal for Mr. Laighton, and sailed again before dinner, taking two of the maids of the house; but as it rained pouring, and as I could not, at any rate, have got home to-night, there would have been no sense in my going. It began to clear up in the decline of the day; the sun shot forth some golden arrows a little before his setting and the sky was perfectly clear when I went to bed, after spending the evening at Mr. Thaxter's. This morning is clear and bright; but the wind is northwest, making the sea look blue and cold, with little breaks of white foam. It is unfavorable for a trip to the mainland; but doubtless I shall find an opportunity of getting ashore before night.

The highest part of Appledore is about eighty feet above the sea. Mr. Laighton has seen whales off the island,--both on the eastern side and between it and the mainland; once a great crowd of them, as many as fifty. They were drawn in by pursuing their food,--a small fish called herring-bait, which came ashore in such abundance that Mr. Laighton dipped up basketfuls of them. No attempt was made to take the whales. 

There are vague traditions of trees on these islands. One of them, Cedar Island, is said to have been named from the trees that grew on it. The matter appears improbable, though, Mr. Thaxter says, large quantities of soil are annually washed into the sea; so that the islands may have been better clad with earth and its productions than now.

Mrs. Thaxter tells me that there are several burial-places on this island; but nobody has been buried here since the Revolution. Her own marriage was the first one since that epoch, and her little Karl, now three months old, the first-born child in all those eighty years.

[Then follow Extracts from the Church Records of Gosport.]

This book of the church records of Gosport is a small folio, well bound in dark calf, and about an inch thick; the paper very stout, with a water-mark of an armed man in a sitting posture, holding a spear . . . over a lion, who brandishes a sword; on alternate pages the Crown, and beneath it the letters G. R. The motto of the former device Pro Patria. The book is written in a very legible hand, probably by the Rev. Mr. Tucke. The ink is not much faded.

Please visit these SeacoastNH.com ad partners.

News about Portsmouth from Fosters.com

Monday, December 18, 2017 
 
Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.

Copyright ® 1996-2016 SeacoastNH.com. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Site maintained by ad-cetera graphics