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- The Dolliver Romance - 1/8 -











In "The Dolliver Romance," only three chapters of which the author lived to complete, we get an intimation as to what would have been the ultimate form given to that romance founded on the Elixir of Life, for which "Septimius Felton" was the preliminary study. Having abandoned this study, and apparently forsaken the whole scheme in 1862, Hawthorne was moved to renew his meditation upon it in the following year; and as the plan of the romance had now seemingly developed to his satisfaction, he listened to the publisher's proposal that it should begin its course as a serial story in the "Atlantic Monthly" for January, 1864--the first instance in which he had attempted such a mode of publication.

But the change from England to Massachusetts had been marked by, and had perhaps in part caused, a decline in his health. Illness in his family, the depressing and harrowing effect of the Civil War upon his sensibilities, and anxiety with regard to pecuniary affairs, all combined to make still further inroads upon his vitality; and so early as the autumn of 1862 Mrs. Hawthorne noted in her private diary that her husband was looking "miserably ill." At no time since boyhood had he suffered any serious sickness, and his strong constitution enabled him to rally from this first attack; but the gradual decline continued. After sending forth "Our Old Home," he had little strength for any employment more arduous than reading, or than walking his accustomed path among the pines and sweetfern on the hill behind The Wayside, known to his family as the Mount of Vision. The projected work, therefore, advanced but slowly. He wrote to Mr. Fields:--

"I don't see much probability of my having the first chapter of the Romance ready so soon as you want it. There are two or three chapters ready to be written, but I am not yet robust enough to begin, and I feel as if I should never carry it through."

The presentiment proved to be only too well founded. He had previously written:--

"There is something preternatural in my reluctance to begin. I linger at the threshold, and have a perception of very disagreeable phantasms to be encountered if I enter. I wish God had given me the faculty of writing a sunshiny book."

And again, in November, he says: "I foresee that there is little probability of my getting the first chapter ready by the 15th, although I have a resolute purpose to write it by the end of the month." He did indeed send it by that time, but it began to be apparent in January that he could not go on.

"Seriously," he says, in one letter, "my mind has, for the present, lost its temper and its fine edge, and I have an instinct that I had better keep quiet. Perhaps I shall have a new spirit of vigor if I wait quietly for it; perhaps not." In another: "I hardly know what to say to the public about this abortive Romance, though I know pretty well what the case will be. I shall never finish it.... I cannot finish it unless a great change comes over me; and if I make too great an effort to do so, it will be my death."

Finally, work had to be given over indefinitely. In April he went southward with Mr. Ticknor, the senior partner of his publishing house; but Mr. Ticknor died suddenly in Philadelphia, and Hawthorne returned to The Wayside more feeble than ever. He lingered there a little while. Then, early in May, came the last effort to recover tone, by means of a carriage-journey, with his friend Ex-President Pierce, through the southern part of New Hampshire. A week passed, and all was ended: at the hotel in Plymouth, New Hampshire, where he and his companion had stopped to rest, he died in the night, between the 18th and the 19th of May, 1864. Like Thackeray and Dickens, he was touched by death's "petrific mace" before he had had time to do more than lay the groundwork and begin the main structure of the fiction he had in hand; and, as in the case of Thackeray, the suddenness of his decease has never been clearly accounted for. The precise nature of his malady was not known, since with quiet hopelessness he had refused to take medical advice. His friend Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes was the only physician who had an opportunity to take even a cursory view of his case, which he did in the course of a brief walk and conversation in Boston before Hawthorne started with Mr. Pierce; but he was unable, with that slight opportunity, to reach any definite conclusion. Dr. Holmes prescribed and had put up for him a remedy to palliate some of the poignant symptoms, and this Hawthorne carried with him; but "I feared," Dr. Holmes writes to the editor, "that there was some internal organic--perhaps malignant--disease; for he looked wasted and as if stricken with a mortal illness."

The manuscript of the unfinished "Dolliver Romance" lay upon his coffin during the funeral services at Concord, but, contrary to the impression sometimes entertained on this point, was not buried with him. It is preserved in the Concord Public Library. The first chapter was published in the "Atlantic" as an isolated portion, soon after his death; and subsequently the second chapter, which he had been unable to revise, appeared in the same periodical. Between this and the third fragment there is a gap, for bridging which no material was found among his papers; but, after hesitating for several years, Mrs. Hawthorne copied and placed in the publishers' hands that final portion, which, with the two parts previously printed, constitutes the whole of what Hawthorne had put into tangible form.

Hawthorne had purposed prefixing a sketch of Thoreau, "because, from a tradition which he told me about this house of mine, I got the idea of a deathless man, which is now taking a shape very different from the original one." This refers to the tradition mentioned in the editor's note to "Septimius Felton," and forms a link in the interesting chain of evidence connecting that romance with the "Dolliver Romance." With the plan respecting Thoreau he combined the idea of writing an autobiographical preface, wherein The Wayside was to be described, after the manner of his Introduction to the "Mosses from an Old Manse"; but, so far as is known, nothing of this was ever actually committed to paper.

Beginning with the idea of producing an English romance, fragments of which remain to us in "The Ancestral Footstep," and the incomplete work known as "Doctor Grimshawe's Secret," he replaced these by another design, of which "Septimius Felton" represents the partial execution. But that elaborate study yielded, in its turn, to "The Dolliver Romance." The last- named work, had the author lived to carry it out, would doubtless have become the vehicle of a profound and pathetic drama, based on the instinctive yearning of man for an immortal existence, the attempted gratification of which would have been set forth in a variety of ways: First, through the selfish old sensualist, Colonel Dabney, who greedily seized the mysterious elixir and took such a draught of it that he perished on the spot; then, through the simple old Grandsir, anxious to live for Pansie's sake; and, perhaps, through Pansie herself, who, coming into the enjoyment of some ennobling love, would wish to defeat death, so that she might always keep the perfection of her mundane happiness,--all these forms of striving to be made the adumbration of a higher one, the shadow-play that should direct our minds to the true immortality beyond this world.

G. P. L.



Dr. Dolliver, a worthy personage of extreme antiquity, was aroused rather prematurely, one summer morning, by the shouts of the child Pansie, in an adjoining chamber, summoning old Martha (who performed the duties of nurse, housekeeper, and kitchen-maid, in the Doctor's establishment) to take up her little ladyship and dress her. The old gentleman woke with more than his customary alacrity, and, after taking a moment to gather his wits about him, pulled aside the faded moreen curtains of his ancient bed, and thrust his head into a beam of sunshine that caused him to wink and withdraw it again. This transitory glimpse of good Dr. Dolliver showed a flannel night-cap, fringed round with stray locks of silvery white hair, and surmounting a meagre and duskily yellow visage, which was crossed and criss-crossed with a record of his long life in wrinkles, faithfully written, no doubt, but with such cramped chirography of Father Time that the purport was illegible. It seemed hardly worth while for the patriarch to get out of bed any more, and bring his forlorn shadow into the summer day that was made for younger folks. The Doctor, however, was by no means of that opinion, being considerably encouraged towards the toil of living twenty-four hours longer by the comparative ease with which he found himself going through the usually painful process of bestirring his rusty joints (stiffened by the very rest and sleep that should have made them pliable) and putting them in a condition to bear his weight upon the floor. Nor was he absolutely disheartened by the idea of those tonsorial, ablutionary, and personally decorative labors which are apt to become so intolerably irksome to an old gentleman, after performing them daily and daily for fifty, sixty, or seventy years, and finding them still as immitigably recurrent as at first. Dr. Dolliver could nowise account for this happy condition of his spirits and physical energies, until he remembered taking an experimental sip of a certain cordial which was long ago prepared by his grandson, and carefully sealed up in a bottle, and had been reposited in a dark closet, among a parcel of effete medicines, ever since that gifted young man's death.

"It may have wrought effect upon me," thought the doctor, shaking his head as he lifted it again from the pillow. "It may be so; for poor Edward oftentimes instilled a strange efficacy into his perilous drugs. But I will rather believe it to be the operation of God's mercy, which may have temporarily invigorated my feeble age for little Pansie's sake."

A twinge of his familiar rheumatism, as he put his foot out of bed, taught

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