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Hawthorne on the Isles of Shoals

September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

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.

The young Greenlander talked politics, or rather discussed the personal character of Pierce. The New 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.


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