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Hawthorne on the Isles of Shoals


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.

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