Nathaniel Hawthorne (born Nathaniel Hathorne; July 4, 1804 – May 19, 1864) was an American novelist and short story writer.
He was born as Nathaniel Hathorne in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts. Later, he would change his name to "Hawthorne", adding a "w" to dissociate from relatives including John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials. Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College and graduated in 1825; his classmates included future president Franklin Pierce and future poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 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 a Transcendentalist Utopian 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.
Much of Hawthorne's writing centers around New England and many feature moral allegories with a Puritan inspiration. His fiction works are considered part of the Romantic movement and, more specifically, dark romanticism. His 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 included novels, short stories, and a biography of his friend Franklin Pierce.
Nathaniel 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. There he became an important member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and held many political positions including magistrate and judge, becoming infamous for his harsh sentencing. William's son and the author's great-great-grandfather, John Hathorne, 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 him.
In the 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 Lake. 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. On the way to Bowdoin, at the stage stop in Portland, Hawthorne met future president Franklin Pierce 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 Bridge. Years after his graduation with the class of 1825, he would describe his college experience to Richard Henry Stoddard:
While at Bowdoin, Hawthorne had bet his friend Jonathan Cilley a bottle of Madeira wine that he would not be married in 12 years. 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 Peabody, he had become engaged in 1836 to 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. He 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 Romance. After three years of engagement, Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody on July 9, 1842, at a ceremony in the Peabody parlor. The couple moved to The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts, where they lived for three years. There he wrote most of the tales collected in Mosses from an Old Manse.
Like Hawthorne, Sophia was a reclusive person. Throughout her early life, she had frequent migraines and 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, who 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 writes: "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, and 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, Rose, was born in May 1851. Hawthorne called her "my autumnal flower".
Hawthorne returned to writing and published The Scarlet Letter in mid-March 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. The House of the Seven Gables (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 The Blithedale Romance (1852), his only work written in the first person, followed in quick succession. He also published in 1851 a collection of short stories retelling myths, A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys, a book he had been thinking about writing since 1846.
Hawthorne and his family moved to a small red farmhouse near Lenox, Massachusetts at the end of March 1850. Hawthorne became friends with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. 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 Literary World on August 17 and August 24. Melville, who was composing Moby-Dick at the time, wrote that these stories revealed a dark side to Hawthorne, "shrouded in blackness, ten times black". Melville dedicated Moby-Dick (1851) to Hawthorne: "In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne.
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 Wayside. 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 Pierce. 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". With 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. The role, 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 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 Faun, his first new book in seven years. Failing health prevented him from completing several more romances. Hawthorne died in his sleep on May 19, 1864, in Plymouth, New Hampshire while on a tour of the White Mountains with Pierce. Pierce sent a telegram to Elizabeth Peabody 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". Hawthorne was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts. 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.
Hawthorne's works belong to romanticism or, more specifically, dark romanticism, cautionary tales that suggest that guilt, sin, and evil are the most inherent natural qualities of humanity. His later writings would also reflect his negative view of the Transcendentalism movement.
Celebrating a great writer's roots ; Nathaniel Hawthorne's 200th birthday will be observed with festivities Saturday in Raymond
Jul 01, 2004; GISELLE GOODMAN Staff Writer Portland Press Herald (Maine) 07-01-2004 Celebrating a great writer's roots ; Nathaniel Hawthorne's...
Celebrating Nathaniel Hawthorne's Raymond chapter ; Little is known about Hawthorne's boyhood, but the house where he spent it will observe its bicentennial Saturday.
Jul 01, 2012; Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressheraldcom Staff Writer Portland Press Herald (Maine) 06-30-2012 Celebrating Nathaniel Hawthorne's...