Sophia Peabody Hawthorne: A Life

By Patricia Dunlavy Valenti | Go to book overview

Chapter 13
The Lover of Uncontained
and Immortal Beauty

In the spring of 1838, Sophia wrote to her sister Elizabeth: “I never intend to have a husband. Rather I should say I never intend any one should have me for a wife.” For some reason, Sophia felt compelled to make this announcement at the moment “Mr. Hawthorne” was becoming a frequent visitor to the Peabody household. Despite her disclaimers about marriage, Sophia was glad to glimpse Nathaniel’s “celestial expression,” finding him a “manifestation of the divine in the human,” “brilliant,” and “rayonnant,” particularly so on the day he announced that “her story” (“Edward Randolph’s Portrait”) was soon to be concluded. Sophia was happily “surprised to have it so appropriated.” Once, when Nathaniel called after Sophia had removed the combs from her hair and was dishabille, she hurried to “arrange” herself so that together they might look at pictures, including one she had drawn of a flower in Cuba.1

Flowers, which figured so prominently in the Cuba Journal, naturally found their way into Sophia’s discourse with Nathaniel. Bunches of violets were exchanged, and Sophia thought Nathaniel looked particularly handsome wearing a “modest brooch” made out of a forget-me-not she had given him. But she did not approve of Elizabeth’s saccharin description, in her glowing review of Twice-told Tales, of Nathaniel as a “sweet story teller, with a flowery name.” Sophia must have delighted, however, in the felicitous homonym supplied by Nathaniel’s now public self-

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