There is at least one error in the Symmes diary, which is however explainable, and need not vitiate the whole of it. It has been ascertained that the drowning of Henry Jackson in Songo River by being kicked in the mouth by another boy while swimming, took place in 1828, so that the statement to that effect in the diary, must have been interpolated. As it happened, however, another Henry Jackson was drowned in the Songo River, so Mr. Pickard says, more than twenty years before that, and it is quite possible that young Hawthorne overheard some talk about that catastrophe, and mistook it for a recent event; and that Symmes afterwards confounding the two Jacksons and the difference in time, amended Hawthorne’s statement as we now have it. Mr. Pickard says in a recent letter:
“This item alone led me to doubt. But I cannot doubt, the more I reflect upon it, that H. himself had a hand in most, if not all, the other items. Who but his uncle could have written that inscription? The negro Symmes could not have composed that — only a man of culture.” . . . “The sketch of the sail on Sebago Lake surely was written by some one who was in that party. Symmes might have been there, but he was a genius deserving the fame of a Chatterton if he really did this. Three of that party I personally knew — one (Sawyer) was a cousin of my grandfather. His sleight of hand, his skill with rifle, his being a ‘votary of chance,’ are traditions in my family.”
This does not differ essentially from the opinion I have already expressed in Chapter II. F. B. Sanborn, who is one of the best-informed of living men in regard to Hawthorne, takes a similar view.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51