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´╗┐Title: "Browne's Folly" - (From: "The Doliver Romance and Other Pieces: Tales and Sketches")
Author: Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book ""Browne's Folly" - (From: "The Doliver Romance and Other Pieces: Tales and Sketches")" ***

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                         TALES AND SKETCHES

                       By Nathaniel Hawthorne

                          "BROWNE'S FOLLY."

The Wayside, August 28, 1860.

MY DEAR COUSIN:--I should be very glad to write a story, as you request,
for the benefit of the Essex Institute, or for any other purpose that
might be deemed desirable by my native townspeople.  But it is now many
years since the epoch of the "Twice-Told Tales," and the "Mosses from an
Old Manse"; and my mind seems to have lost the plan and measure of those
little narratives, in which it was once so unprofitably fertile.  I can
write no story, therefore; but (rather than be entirely wanting to the
occasion) I will endeavor to describe a spot near Salem, on which it was
once my purpose to locate such a dreamy fiction as you now demand of me.

It is no other than that conspicuous hill (I really know not whether it
lies in Salem, Danvers, or Beverly) which used in my younger days to be
known by the name of "Brown's Folly."  This eminence is a long ridge
rising out of the level country around, like a whale's back out of a
calm sea, with the head and tail beneath the surface.  Along its base
ran a green and seldom-trodden lane, with which I was very familiar in
my boyhood; and there was a little brook, which I remember to have
dammed up till its overflow made a mimic ocean.  When I last looked for
this tiny streamlet, which was still rippling freshly through my memory,
I found it strangely shrunken; a mere ditch indeed, and almost a dry
one.  But the green lane was still there, precisely as I remembered it;
two wheel-tracks, and the beaten path of the horses' feet, and grassy
strips between; the whole overshadowed by tall locust-trees, and the
prevalent barberry-bushes, which are rooted so fondly into the
recollections of every Essex man.

From this lane there is a steep ascent up the side of the hill, the
ridge of which affords two views of very wide extent and variety.  On
one side is the ocean, and Salem and Beverly on its shores; on the other
a rural scene, almost perfectly level, so that each man's metes and
bounds can be traced out as on a map.  The beholder takes in at a glance
the estates on which different families have long been situated, and the
houses where they have dwelt, and cherished their various interests,
intermarrying, agreeing together, or quarrelling, going to live,
annexing little bits of real estate, acting out their petty parts in
life, and sleeping quietly under the sod at last.  A man's individual
affairs look not so very important, when we can climb high enough to get
the idea of a complicated neighborhood.

But what made the hill particularly interesting to me, were the traces
of an old and long-vanished edifice, midway on the curving ridge, and at
its highest point.  A pre-revolutionary magnate, the representative of a
famous old Salem family, had here built himself a pleasure house, on a
scale of magnificence, which, combined with its airy site and difficult
approach, obtained for it and for the entire hill on which it stood, the
traditionary title of "Browne's Folly."  Whether a folly or no, the
house was certainly an unfortunate one.  While still in its glory, it
was so tremendously shaken by the earthquake of 1755 that the owner
dared no longer reside in it; and practically acknowledging that its
ambitious site rendered it indeed a Folly, he proceeded to locate it
on--humbler ground.  The great house actually took up its march along the
declining ridge of the bill, and came safely to the bottom, where it
stood till within the memory of men now alive.

The proprietor, meanwhile, had adhered to the Royalist side, and fled to
England during the Revolution.  The mansion was left under the care of
Richard Derby (an ancestor of the present Derby family), who had a claim
to the Browne property through his wife, but seems to have held the
premises precisely as the refugee left them, for a long term of years,
in the expectation of his eventual return.  The house remained, with all
its furniture in its spacious rooms and chambers, ready for the exile's
occupancy, as soon as he should reappear.  As time went on, however, it
began to be neglected, and was accessible to whatever vagrant, or idle
school-boy, or berrying party might choose to enter through its
ill-secured windows.

But there was one closet in the house, which everybody was afraid to
enter, it being supposed that an evil spirit--perhaps a domestic Demon
of the Browne family--was confined in it.  One day, three or four score
years ago, some school-boys happened to be playing in the deserted
chambers, and took it into their heads to develop the secrets of this
mysterious closet.  With great difficulty and tremor they succeeded in
forcing the door.  As it flew open, there was a vision of people in
garments of antique magnificence,--gentlemen in curled wigs and
tarnished gold-lace, and ladies in brocade and quaint head-dresses,
rushing tumultuously forth and tumbling upon the floor.  The urchins
took to their heels, in huge dismay, but crept back, after a while, and
discovered that the apparition was composed of a mighty pile of family
portraits.  I had the story, the better part of a hundred years
afterwards, from the very school-boy who pried open the closet door.

After standing many years at the foot of the hill, the house was again
removed in three portions, and was fashioned into three separate
dwellings, which, for aught I know, are yet extant in Danvers.

The ancient site of this proud mansion may still be traced (or could
have been ten years ago) upon the summit of the hill.  It consisted of
two spacious wings, connected by an intermediate hall of entrance, which
fronted lengthwise upon the ridge.  Two shallow and grass-grown cavities
remain, of what were once the deep and richly stored cellars under the
two wings; and between them is the outline of the connecting hall, about
as deep as a plough furrow, and somewhat greener than the surrounding
sod.  The two cellars are still deep enough to shelter a visitor from
the fresh breezes that haunt the summit of the hill; and barberry-hushes
clustering within them offer the harsh acidity of their fruits, instead
of the rich wines which the colonial magnate was wont to store there for
his guests.  There I have sometimes sat and tried to rebuild, in my
imagination, the stately house, or to fancy what a splendid show it must
have made even so far off as in the streets of Salem, when the old
proprietor illuminated his many windows to celebrate the King's

I have quite forgotten what story I once purposed writing about "Brown's
Folly," and I freely offer the theme and site to any of my young
townsmen, who may be addicted with the same tendency towards fanciful
narratives which haunted me in my youth and long afterwards.

Truly yours,


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