“When I met Hawthorne in Boston a week ago, it was apparent that he was much more feeble and more seriously diseased than I had supposed him to be. We came from Centre Harbor yesterday afternoon, and I thought he was on the whole brighter than he was the day before. Through the week he had been inclined to somnolency during the day, but restless at night. He retired last night soon after nine o’clock, and soon fell into a quiet slumber. In less than half an hour changed his position, but continued to sleep. I left the door open between his bedroom and mine,—our beds being opposite to each other,—and was asleep myself before eleven o’clock. The light continued to burn in my room. At two o’clock, I went to H——’s bedside; he was apparently in a sound sleep, and I did not place my hand upon him. At four o’clock I went into his room again, and, as his position was unchanged, I placed my hand upon him and found that life was extinct. I sent, however, immediately for a physician, and called Judge Bell and Colonel Hibbard, who occupied rooms upon the same floor and near me. He lies upon his side, his position so perfectly natural and easy, his eyes closed, that it is difficult to realize, while looking upon his noble face, that this is death. He must have passed from natural slumber to that from which there is no waking without the slightest movement.
“I cannot write to dear
Mrs. Hawthorne, and you must exercise your
judgment with regard to sending this and the unfinished note,
enclosed, to her.
Hawthorne’s lifelong desire that the end might be a sudden one was gratified. Often and often he has said to me, “What a blessing to go quickly!” So the same swift angel that came as a messenger to Allston, Irving, Prescott, Macaulay, Thackeray, and Dickens was commissioned to touch his forehead, also, and beckon him away.
The room in which death fell upon him,
a shadow thrown
Softly and lightly from a passing cloud,”
looks toward the east; and standing in it, as I have frequently done, since he passed out silently into the skies, it is easy to imagine the scene on that spring morning which President Pierce so feelingly describes in his letter.
On the 24th of May we carried Hawthorne through the blossoming orchards of Concord, and laid him down under a group of pines, on a hillside, overlooking historic fields. All the way from the village church to the grave the birds kept up a perpetual melody. The sun shone brightly, and the air was sweet and pleasant, as if death had never entered the world. Longfellow and Emerson, Channing and Hoar, Agassiz and Lowell, Greene and Whipple, Alcott and Clarke, Holmes and Hillard, and other friends whom he loved, walked slowly by his side that beautiful spring morning. The companion of his youth and his manhood, for whom he would willingly, at any time, have given up his own life, Franklin Pierce, was there among the rest, and scattered flowers into the grave. The unfinished Romance, which had cost him so much anxiety, the last literary work on which he had ever been engaged, was laid on his coffin.