; July 4, 1804 – May 19, 1864) was an American
novelist and short story
Hathorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem,
Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and Elizabeth Clarke Manning
He later changed his name to "Hawthorne", adding a
"w" to dissociate from relatives including John Hathorne
, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials
. Hawthorne attended
College, was elected to Phi Beta
Kappa in 1824, and graduated in 1825; his classmates included
future president Franklin Pierce and
future poet Henry Wadsworth
Hawthorne anonymously published his first
work, a novel titled Fanshawe
, in 1828. He published
several short stories in various periodicals which he collected in
1837 as Twice-Told Tales
The next year, he became engaged to Sophia Peabody
. He worked at a
Custom House and joined Brook Farm, a transcendentalist community, before
marrying Peabody in 1842. The couple moved to The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts, later moving to Salem, the Berkshires, then to The Wayside in Concord. The Scarlet Letter
was published in
1850, followed by a succession of other novels. A political
appointment took Hawthorne and family to Europe before their return
to The Wayside in 1860. Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, leaving
behind his wife and their three children.
Hawthorne's writing centers around New England, many works featuring moral allegories with a Puritan
His fiction works are considered part of the
specifically, dark romanticism
themes often center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and
his works often have moral
messages and deep
psychological complexity. His published works include novels, short
stories, and a biography of his friend Franklin Pierce
Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts; his birthplace is preserved and
open to the public. William Hathorne, the author's
great-great-great-grandfather, a Puritan,
was the first of the family to emigrate from England, first
settling in Dorchester, Massachusetts before moving to Salem.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1841
There he became an
important member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
many political positions including magistrate and judge, becoming
infamous for his harsh sentencing. William's son and the author's
, was one of the judges who oversaw the Salem Witch Trials
. Having learned about
this, the author may have added the "w" to his surname in his early
twenties, shortly after graduating from college, in an effort to
dissociate himself from his notorious forebears. Hawthorne's father,
Nathaniel Hathorne, Sr., was a sea captain who died in 1808 of
yellow fever in Suriname.
After his death, young Nathaniel, his
mother and two sisters moved in with maternal relatives, the
Mannings, in Salem, where they lived for ten years. During this
time, on November 10, 1813, young Hawthorne was hit on the leg
while playing "bat and ball" and became lame and bedridden for a
year, though several physicians could find nothing wrong with
summer of 1816, the family lived as boarders with farmers before
moving to a home recently built specifically for them by
Hawthorne's uncles Richard and Robert Manning in Raymond, Maine, near Sebago
Years later, Hawthorne looked back at his
time in Maine fondly: "Those were delightful days, for that part of
the country was wild then, with only scattered clearings, and nine
tenths of it primeval woods". In 1819, he was sent back to Salem
for school and soon complained of homesickness and being too far
from his mother and sisters. In spite of his homesickness, for fun,
he distributed to his family seven issues of The Spectator
in August and September 1820. The homemade newspaper was written by
hand and included essays, poems, and news utilizing the young
author's developing adolescent humor.
Hawthorne's uncle Robert Manning insisted, despite Hawthorne's
protests, that the boy attend college. With the financial
support of his uncle, Hawthorne was sent to Bowdoin
College in 1821, partly because of family connections in
the area, and also because of its relatively inexpensive tuition
On the way to Bowdoin, at the stage stop in Portland,
Hawthorne met future president Franklin
and the two became fast friends. Once at the school, he
also met the future poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
future congressman Jonathan Cilley
and future naval reformer Horatio
. Years after his graduation with the class of 1825, he
would describe his college experience to Richard Henry Stoddard
was offered an appointment as weighter and gauger at the Boston Custom House at a
salary of $1,500 a year, which he accepted on January 17,
During his time there, he rented a room from George Stillman Hillard
partner of Charles Sumner
wrote in the comparative obscurity of what he called his "owl's
nest" in the family home. As he looked back on this period of his
life, he wrote: "I have not lived, but only dreamed about living".
He contributed short stories, including "Young Goodman Brown
" and "The Minister's Black Veil
various magazines and annuals, though none drew major attention to
the author. Horatio Bridge
cover the risk of collecting these stories in the spring of 1837
into one volume, Twice-Told
, which made Hawthorne known locally.
Marriage and family
Salem Custom-House where Hawthorne
While at Bowdoin, Hawthorne had bet his friend Jonathan Cilley a
bottle of Madeira wine
that he get
married before him. By 1836 he had won the wager, but did not
remain a bachelor for life. After public flirtations with local
women Mary Silsbee and Elizabeth
, he had begun pursuing the latter's sister, illustrator
and transcendentalist Sophia Peabody
. Seeking a possible
home for himself and Sophia, he joined the transcendentalist Utopian community at Brook
Farm in 1841 not because he agreed with the experiment
but because it helped him save money to marry Sophia.
paid a $1,000 deposit and was put in charge of shoveling the hill
of manure referred to as "the Gold Mine". He left later that year,
though his Brook Farm adventure would prove an inspiration for his
novel The Blithedale
. Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody on July 9, 1842,
at a ceremony in the Peabody parlor on West Street in Boston.
couple moved to The Old
Manse in Concord, Massachusetts, where they lived for three years.
wrote most of the tales collected in Mosses from an Old
Like Hawthorne, Sophia was a reclusive person. Throughout her early
life, she had frequent migraines
underwent several experimental medical treatments. She was mostly
bedridden until her sister introduced her to Hawthorne, after which
her headaches seem to have abated. The Hawthornes enjoyed a long
marriage, often taking walks in the park. Of his wife, whom he
referred to as his "Dove", Hawthorne wrote that she "is, in the
strictest sense, my sole companion; and I need no other—there is no
vacancy in my mind, any more than in my heart... Thank God that I
suffice for her boundless heart!" Sophia greatly admired her
husband's work. In one of her journals, she wrote: "I am always so
dazzled and bewildered with the richness, the depth, the ... jewels
of beauty in his productions that I am always looking forward to a
second reading where I can ponder and muse and fully take in the
miraculous wealth of thoughts".
Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne had three children. Their first, a
daughter, was born March 3, 1844. She was named Una, a reference to
The Faerie Queene
, to the
displeasure of family members. In 1846, their son Julian
was born. Hawthorne wrote to his
sister Louisa on June 22, 1846, with the news: "A small troglodyte
made his appearance here at ten minutes to six o'clock this
morning, who claimed to be your nephew". Their final child,
, was born in May 1851.
Hawthorne called her "my autumnal flower".
In April 1846, Hawthorne was officially appointed as the "Surveyor
for the District of Salem and Beverly and Inspector of the Revenue
for the Port of Salem" at an annual salary of $1,200. He had
difficulty writing during this period, as he admitted to
Longfellow: "I am trying to resume my pen... Whenever I sit alone,
or walk alone, I find myself dreaming about stories, as of old; but
these forenoons in the Custom House undo all that the afternoons
and evenings have done. I should be happier if I could write". Like
his earlier appointment to the custom house in Boston, this
employment was vulnerable to the politics of the spoils system
. A Democrat, Hawthorne lost this
job due to the change of administration in Washington after the
presidential election of 1848. Hawthorne wrote a letter of protest
to the Boston Daily Advertiser
which was attacked by the
Whigs and supported by the Democrats, making Hawthorne's dismissal
a much-talked about event in New England. Hawthorne was deeply
affected by the death of his mother shortly thereafter in late
July, calling it, "the darkest hour I ever lived". Hawthorne was
appointed the corresponding secretary of the Salem Lyceum in 1848.
Guests that came to speak that season included Emerson, Thoreau,
and Theodore Parker
Hawthorne returned to writing and published The Scarlet Letter
1850, including a preface which refers to his three-year tenure in
the Custom House and makes several allusions to local politicians,
who did not appreciate their treatment. One of the first
mass-produced books in America, it sold 2,500 volumes within ten
days and earned Hawthorne $1,500 over 14 years. The book became an
immediate best-seller and initiated his most lucrative period as a
writer. One of Hawthorne's friends, the critic Edwin Percy Whipple
, objected to the
novel's "morbid intensity" and its dense psychological details,
writing that the book "is therefore apt to become, like Hawthorne,
too painfully anatomical in his exhibition of them", though 20th
century writer D. H. Lawrence
said that there could be no more perfect work of the American
imagination than The Scarlet Letter
and his family moved to a small red farmhouse near Lenox,
Massachusetts at the end of March 1850.
friends with Oliver Wendell
and Herman Melville
beginning on August 5, 1850, when the authors met at a picnic
hosted by a mutual friend. Melville had just read Hawthorne's short
story collection Mosses
from an Old Manse
, and his unsigned review of the
collection, titled "Hawthorne and His Mosses", was printed in the
on August 17 and August 24. Melville, who
was composing Moby-Dick
time, wrote that these stories revealed a dark side to Hawthorne,
"shrouded in blackness, ten times black". Melville dedicated
(1851) to Hawthorne: "In token of my admiration
for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel
Hawthorne's time in The Berkshires was very productive. The House of the Seven
(1851), which poet and critic James Russell Lowell
said was better
than The Scarlet Letter
and called "the most valuable
contribution to New England history that has been made" and
(1852), his only work written in the first person,
were written here. He also published in 1851 a collection of short
stories retelling myths, A Wonder-Book for Girls and
, a book he had been thinking about writing since
1846. Though the family enjoyed the scenery of The Berkshires,
Hawthorne did not enjoy the winters in their small red house. They
left on November 21, 1851.
The Wayside and Europe
In 1852, the Hawthornes returned to Concord. In February, they
bought The Hillside, a home previously inhabited by Amos Bronson Alcott and his family, and
renamed it The
Their neighbors in Concord included
Ralph Waldo Emerson
and Henry David Thoreau
. That year Hawthorne
wrote the campaign biography of his friend Franklin Pierce
, depicting him as "a man of
peaceful pursuits" in the book The Life of Franklin
. Horace Mann said, "If he makes out Pierce to be a
great man or a brave man, it will be the greatest work of fiction
he ever wrote". In the biography, Hawthorne left out Pierce's
drinking habits despite rumors of his alcoholism and emphasized
Pierce's belief that slavery could not "be remedied by human
contrivances" but would, over time, "vanish like a dream".
Pierce's election as President, Hawthorne was rewarded in 1853 with
the position of United States consul in Liverpool shortly after the publication of Tanglewood Tales.
considered the most lucrative foreign service position at the time,
was described by Hawthorne's wife as "second in dignity to the
Embassy in London". In 1857, his appointment ended at the close of
the Pierce administration and the Hawthorne family toured France
and Italy. During his time in Italy, the previously clean-shaven
Hawthorne grew a bushy mustache.
The family returned to The Wayside in 1860, and that year saw the
publication of The Marble
, his first new book in seven years.
Later years and death
Grave of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Failing health prevented him from completing several more romances.
Suffering from pain in his stomach, Hawthorne insisted on a
recuperative trip with his friend Franklin Pierce, though his
neighbor Bronson Alcott was concerned Hawthorne was too ill.
a tour of the White Mountains, Hawthorne died in his sleep on May 19, 1864, in
Pierce sent a telegram
to inform Hawthorne's wife in person; she was too
saddened by the news to handle the funeral arrangements herself.
Longfellow wrote a tribute poem to Hawthorne, published in 1866,
called "The Bells of Lynn
was buried in Sleepy
Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.
Pallbearers included Longfellow, Emerson,
Holmes, Alcott, James Thomas
, and Edwin Percy
. Emerson wrote of the funeral: "I thought there was a
tragic element in the event, that might be more fully rendered,—in
the painful solitude of the man, which, I suppose, could no longer
be endured, & he died of it."
After their respective deaths, wife Sophia and daughter Una were
originally buried in England. However, in June 2006, they were
re-interred in plots adjacent to Hawthorne.
Statue of Hawthorne in Salem,
Hawthorne had a particularly close relationship with his publishers
and James Thomas Fields
. Hawthorne once told
Fields, "I care more for your good opinion than for that of a host
of critics". In fact, it was Fields who convinced Hawthorne to turn
The Scarlet Letter
into a novel rather than a short story.
Ticknor handled many of Hawthorne's personal matters, including the
purchase of cigars, overseeing financial accounts, and even
purchasing clothes. Ticknor died with Hawthorne at his side in
Philadelphia in 1864; Hawthorne was left, according to a friend,
Literary style and themes
Hawthorne was predominantly a short
writer in his early career. Upon publishing
, however, he noted, "I do not think much
of them", and he expected little response from the public. His four
were written between
1850 and 1860: The Scarlet
(1850), The House of the Seven
(1852) and The Marble Faun
novel-length romance, Fanshawe
was published anonymously in
1828. Hawthorne defined a romance as being radically different from
a novel by not being concerned with the possible or probable course
of ordinary experience. Many of his works are inspired by Puritan
England, combining historical romance loaded with symbolism
and deep psychological themes, bordering on
Hawthorne's works belong to romanticism
or, more specifically, dark
, cautionary tales that suggest that guilt, sin, and
evil are the most inherent natural qualities of humanity. Many of
his tales and novels focus on a type of historical fiction, though
Hawthorne's depiction of the past is used only as a vehicle to
express themes of ancestral sin, guilt and retribution. His later
writings would also reflect his negative view of the Transcendentalism
Hawthorne also wrote nonfiction. In 2008, The Library of America
Hawthorne's "A Collection of Wax Figures" for inclusion in its
two-century retrospective of American True Crime.
Edgar Allan Poe
, wrote important and
somewhat unflattering reviews of both Twice-Told Tales
Mosses from an Old Manse
. Poe's negative assessment was
partly due to his own contempt of allegory and moral tales, and his
chronic accusations of plagiarism, though he admitted, "The style
of Hawthorne is purity itself. His tone is singularly
effective—wild, plaintive, thoughtful, and in full accordance with
his themes... We look upon him as one of the few men of
indisputable genius to whom our country has as yet given birth".
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Nathaniel Hawthorne's reputation as a writer is a very pleasing
fact, because his writing is not good for anything, and this is a
tribute to the man". Henry James
Hawthorne, saying, "The fine thing in Hawthorne is that he cared
for the deeper psychology, and that, in his way, he tried to become
familiar with it". Poet John
wrote that he admired the "weird and subtle
beauty" in Hawthorne's tales. Evert Augustus Duyckinck
Hawthorne, "Of the American writers destined to live, he is the
most original, the one least indebted to foreign models or literary
precedents of any kind".
Contemporary response to Hawthorne's work praised his
sentimentality and moral purity while more modern evaluations focus
on the dark psychological complexity. Beginning in the 1950s,
critics have focused on symbolism and didacticism.
Short story collections
Selected short stories
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