At Salem, for company, he had “the sea-flushed shipmaster, just in port, with his vessel’s papers under his arm in a tarnished tin box,” the cheerful or sullen owner, the smart young clerk already sending adventures in his master’s ships, the outward bound sailor in quest of a protection, and captains of rusty little schooners bringing firewood from the British provinces. And here his colleagues were “ancient sea-captains, for the most part, who after being tost on every sea … had finally drifted into this quiet nook,” to sit out the lag-end of their lives. (quoting from Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Custom House,” The Scarlet Letter)
Posted here (PDF file above) is a fascinating article — containing hitherto unknown anecdotes and information about both writers that was discovered by the author — by Melville scholar Harrison Hayford:
Hawthorne, Melville, and the Sea
By Harrison Hayford
The New England Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 4 (December 1946), pp. 435-452
A personal note.
Apropos the seafaring and merchant heritage of Nathaniel Hawthorne (his father was captain of a trading vessel out of Salem, Massachusetts), I am a direct descendant on my father’s side of Capt. Livermore Whittredge, Jr. (1739-1803) of the adjoining town of Beverly.
Capt. Livermore was a wealthy merchant. An inventory of his estate of was taken May 26, 1804 and sworn to July 3, 1804. It consisted of substantial real estate including land at the water’s edge (a wharf) and a farm situated in the part of Beverly called Montserrat containing about 115 acres. The total value of his real estate was $12,300. His personal estate was worth $18,915.68. This means that the total value of his estate was over $31,000, a remarkable sum for the times.
From his inventory (including schooners; shipping appurtenances such as riggings, and large quantities of various items such as fish, molasses, coffee, and salt that would be obtained in trade) and the fact that his real estate included a wharf, it is evident that Capt. Livermore, Jr. was involved in mercantile commerce.
He was a well read man, as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s father was. Capt. Livermore’s library included a large Bible and several other books, among them: Matthew Henry, An exposition of the Old and New Testament; Job Orton, Six discourses on Family Worship; Edward Wells, An historical geography of the New Testament and John Willison, Sacramental Meditations and Advices.
— posted by Roger W. Smith