Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne in the 1860s
Born: July 4, 1804(1804-07-04)
Flag of United States Salem, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 19, 1864 (aged 59)
Flag of United States Plymouth, New Hampshire, United States
Occupation: Writer
Literary movement: Romanticism

Nathaniel Hawthorne (born Nathaniel Hathorne; July 4, 1804 – May 19, 1864) was a 19th century American novelist and short story writer. He is seen as a key figure in the development of American literature for his tales of the nation's colonial history.


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Writings
  • 3 Notable works of Nathaniel Hawthorne
    • 3.1 Novels
    • 3.2 Short story collections
    • 3.3 Selected short stories
    • 3.4 Nonfiction and other books
  • 4 References
  • 5 See also
  • 6 External links


Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts, where his birthplace is now a museum. William Hathorne, who emigrated from England in 1630, was the first of Hawthorne's ancestors to arrive in the colonies. After arriving, William persecuted Quakers. William's son John Hathorne was one of the judges who oversaw the Salem Witch Trials. (One theory is that having learned about this, the author added the "w" to his surname in his early twenties, shortly after graduating from college.[1]) Hawthorne's father, Nathaniel Hathorne, Sr., was a sea captain who died in 1808 of yellow fever, when Hawthorne was only four years old, in Raymond, Maine.

Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College at the expense of an uncle from 1821 to 1824, befriending classmates Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and future president Franklin Pierce. While there he joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Until the publication of his Twice-Told Tales in 1837, Hawthorne 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."[2] And yet it was this period of brooding and writing that had formed, as Malcolm Cowley was to describe it, "the central fact in Hawthorne's career," his "term of apprenticeship" that would eventually result in the "richly meditated fiction."

Hawthorne was hired in 1839 as a weigher and gauger at the Boston Custom House. He had become engaged in the previous year to the illustrator and transcendentalist Sophia Peabody. Seeking a possible home for himself and Sophia, he joined the transcendentalist utopian community at Brook Farm in 1841; later that year, however, he left when he became dissatisfied with farming and the experiment. (His Brook Farm adventure would prove an inspiration for his novel The Blithedale Romance.) He married Sophia in 1842; they 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. Hawthorne and his wife then moved to Salem and later to the Berkshires, returning in 1852 to Concord and a new home The Wayside, previously owned by the Alcotts. Their neighbors in Concord included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Like Hawthorne, Sophia was a reclusive person. She was bedridden with headaches 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. 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."[3]

In 1846, Hawthorne was appointed surveyor (determining the quantity and value of imported goods) at the Salem Custom House. 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's career as a novelist was boosted by The Scarlet Letter in 1850, in which the preface refers to his three-year tenure in the Custom House at Salem. The House of the Seven Gables (1851) and The Blithedale Romance (1852) followed in quick succession.

In 1852, he wrote the campaign biography of his old friend Franklin Pierce. With Pierce's election as president, Hawthorne was rewarded in 1853 with the position of United States consul in Liverpool. In 1857, his appointment ended and the Hawthorne family toured France and Italy. They returned to The Wayside in 1860, and that year saw the publication of The Marble Faun. Failing health (which biographer Edward Miller speculates was stomach cancer) 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. He was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts. Wife Sophia and daughter Una were originally buried in England. However, in June 2006, they were re-interred in plots adjacent to Nathaniel.

Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne had three children: Una, Julian, and Rose. Una was a victim of mental illness and died young. Julian moved out west, served a jail term for embezzlement and wrote a book about his father. Rose married George Parsons Lathrop and they became Roman Catholics. After George's death, Rose became a Dominican nun. She founded the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne to care for victims of incurable cancer.


Statue of Hawthorne in Salem, Massachusetts.
Statue of Hawthorne in Salem, Massachusetts.

Hawthorne is best-known today for his many short stories (he called them "tales") and his four major romances written between 1850 and 1860: The Scarlet Letter (1850), The House of the Seven Gables (1851), The Blithedale Romance (1852) and The Marble Faun (1860). Another novel-length romance, Fanshawe was published anonymously in 1828.

Before publishing his first collection of tales in 1837, Hawthorne wrote scores of short stories and sketches, publishing them anonymously or pseudonymously in periodicals such as The New England Magazine and The United States Magazine and Democratic Review. (The editor of the Democratic Review, John L. O'Sullivan, was a close friend of Hawthorne's.) Only after collecting a number of his short stories into the two-volume Twice-Told Tales in 1837 did Hawthorne begin to attach his name to his works.

Hawthorne's work belongs to Romanticism, an artistic and intellectual movement characterized by an emphasis on individual freedom from social conventions or political restraints, on human imagination, and on nature in a typically idealized form. Romantic literature rebelled against the formalism of 18th century reason.

His writings were in the Romantic Period. Much of Hawthorne's work is set in colonial New England, and many of his short stories have been read as moral allegories influenced by his Puritan background. Ethan Brand (1850) tells the story of a lime-burner who sets off to find the Unpardonable Sin, and in doing so, commits it. One of Hawthorne's most famous tales, The Birth-Mark (1843), concerns a young doctor who removes a birthmark from his wife's face, an operation which kills her. Hawthorne based parts of this story on the penny press novels he loved to read. Other well-known tales include Rappaccini's Daughter (1844), My Kinsman, Major Molineux (1832), The Minister's Black Veil (1836), and Young Goodman Brown (1835). The Maypole of Merrymount (1836) recounts an encounter between the Puritans and the forces of anarchy and hedonism. A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys (1852) and Tanglewood Tales (1853) were re-tellings for children of some Greek myths, from which was named the Tanglewood estate and music venue.

Hawthorne is also considered among the first to experiment with alternate history as literary form. His 1845 short story "P.'s Correspondence" (a part of "Mosses from an Old Manse") is the first known complete English language alternate history and among the most early in any language. The story's protagonist is considered "a madman" due to his perceiving an alternative 1845 in which long-dead historical and literary figures are still alive; these delusions feature the poets Burns, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, the actor Edmund Kean, the British politician George Canning and even Napoleon Bonaparte.

Recent criticism has focused on Hawthorne's narrative voice, treating it as a self-conscious rhetorical construction, not to be conflated with Hawthorne's own voice. Such an approach complicates the long-dominant tradition of regarding Hawthorne as a gloomy, guilt-ridden moralist.

Hawthorne enjoyed a brief but intense friendship with American novelist Herman Melville beginning on August 5, 1850, when the two authors met at a picnic hosted by a mutual friend. Melville had just read Hawthorne's short story collection Mosses from an Old Manse, which Melville later praised in a famous review, "Hawthorne and His Mosses." Melville's letters to Hawthorne provide insight into the composition of Moby-Dick, which Melville dedicated to Hawthorne "in appreciation for his genius". Hawthorne's letters to Melville do not survive.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote important, though largely unflattering reviews of both Twice-Told Tales and Mosses from an Old Manse, mostly due to Poe's own contempt of allegory, moral tales, and his chronic accusations of plagiarism. However, even Poe admitted, "The style of Hawthorne is purity itself. His tone is singularly effective--wild, plaintive, thoughtful, and in full accordance with his themes." He concluded that, "we look upon him as one of the few men of indisputable genius to whom our country has as yet given birth."[4]

Notable works of Nathaniel Hawthorne


  • Fanshawe (published anonymously, 1828)[5]
  • The Scarlet Letter (1850)
  • The House of the Seven Gables (1851)
  • The Blithedale Romance (1852)
  • The Marble Faun (1860)
  • The Dolliver Romance (1863)
  • Septimius Felton; or, the Elixir of Life (Published in the Atlantic Monthly, 1872)
  • Doctor Grimshawe's Secret, with Preface and Notes by Julian Hawthorne (1882)

Short story collections

  • Twice-Told Tales (1837)
  • Mosses from an Old Manse (1846)
  • The Snow-Image, and Other Twice-Told Tales (1852)
  • A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys (1852)
  • The Dolliver Romance and Other Pieces (1876)
  • The Great Stone Face and Other Tales of the White Mountains (1889)
  • Tanglewood Tales (1906)

Selected short stories

  • My Kinsman, Major Molineux (Published The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, 1832)
  • "Young Goodman Brown" 1835
  • "The Gray Champion" (1835)
  • "The White Old Maid" (1835)
  • "The Ambitious Guest" (Published in New-England Magazine June 1835)
  • "The Minister's Black Veil" (Published in The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, 1836)
  • "The Man of Adamant" (Published in The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, 1837)
  • "The Maypole of Merry Mount" (1837)
  • "The Great Carbuncle" (1837)
  • "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" (1837)
  • "The Birth-Mark" (Published in The Pioneer, March 1843)
  • "Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent" (Published in The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, March 1843)
  • "The Artist of the Beautiful" (1844)
  • "P.'s Correspondence" (1845)
  • "Rappaccini's Daughter" (Published in The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, April 1846)
  • "Ethan Brand" (1850)
  • "Feathertop" (1854)

Nonfiction and other books

  • The Gentle Boy: A Thrice-Told Tale (1839)
  • Famous Old People (1841)
  • Grandfather's Chair (1841)
  • Liberty Tree (1841)
  • Biographical Stories for Children (1842)
  • A Visit to the Celestial City (1844)
  • Journal of an African Cruiser (1845)
  • The Life of Franklin Pierce (1852)
  • Feathertop (1852)
  • A Rill from the Town Pump (1857)
  • Our Old Home: A Series of English Sketches (1863)
  • Pansie, a Fragment (1864)
  • The Ancestral Footstep (Outline of an unfinished romance novel, 1882)
  1. ^ McFarland, Philip, Hawthorne in Concord, p. 18. Grove Press, 2004.
  2. ^ Letter to Longfellow, June 4, 1837.
  3. ^ January 14, 1851, Journal of Sophia Hawthorne. Berg Collection NY Public Library.
  4. ^ McFarland, Philip, Hawthorne in Concord, pp. 88-89. Grove Press, 2004.
  5. ^ Publication info on books from Editor's Note to the The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Page by Page Books, accessed June 11, 2007.

See also

  • Dark romanticism
  • Gothic literature
  • The Snow-Image, and Other Twice-Told Tales
  • The Hawthorne in Salem Website was funded in May of 2000 by a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is a collaborative effort of North Shore Community College in Danvers, Massachusetts, and three Salem, Massachusetts museums with important Hawthorne collections.
  • Herman Melville's appreciation, "Hawthorne and His Mosses" (1851)
  • Henry James's book-length study, Hawthorne (1879)
    • Second copy at Project Gutenberg
  • The Wayside The only home Hawthorne ever owned.
  • WBUR's celebration of Nathaniel Hawthorne at 200, with links to NPR's "The Connection" on Hawthorne's birthday, as well as an interview with author Phillip McFarland
  • Legends of the Province House and Other Twice Told Tales, text and images
  • Works by Nathaniel Hawthorne at Project Gutenberg
  • American literary couple reunited after 150 years
  • WorldCat Identities page for 'Hawthorne, Nathaniel 1804-1864'

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne

    The Blithedale RomanceDoctor Grimshaw's SecretThe Dolliver RomanceFanshaweThe House of the Seven GablesThe Marble FaunThe Scarlet Letter

    Twice-Told TalesThe Gray ChampionSundays at HomeThe Wedding-KnellThe Minister's Black VeilThe May-Pole of Merry MountThe Gentle BoyMr. Higginbotham's CatastropheLittle Annie's RambleWakefieldA Rill from the Town-PumpThe Great CarbuncleThe Prophetic PicturesDavid SwanSights from a SteepleThe Hollow of the Three HillsThe Toll-Gatherer's DayThe Vision of the FountainFancy's Show BoxDr. Heidegger's ExperimentLegends of the Province-HouseThe Haunted MindThe Village UncleThe Ambitious GuestThe Sister YearsSnow-FlakesThe Seven VagabondsThe White Old MaidPeter Goldthwaite's TreasureChippings with a ChiselThe Shaker BridalNight SketchesEndicott and the Red CrossThe Lily's QuestFoot-prints on the Sea-shoreEdward Fane's RosebudThe Threefold Destiny
    The Snow-Image, and Other Twice-Told TalesThe Snow-ImageThe Great Stone FaceMain-streetEthan BrandA Bell's BiographySylph EtheregeThe Canterbury PilgrimsOld NewsThe Man of AdamantThe Devil in ManuscriptJohn Inglefield's ThanksgivingOld TiconderogaThe Wives of the DeadLittle DaffydowndillyMy Kinsman, Major Molineux
    Mosses from an Old ManseThe Old ManseThe Birth-MarkA Select PartyYoung Goodman BrownRappaccini's DaughterMrs. BullfrogFire-WorshipBuds and Bird-VoicesMonsieur du MiroirThe Hall of FantasyThe Celestial Rail-roadThe Procession of LifeFeathertopThe New Adam and EveEgotism; or, The Bosom-SerpentThe Christmas BanquetDrowne's Wooden ImageThe Intelligence OfficeRoger Malvin's BurialP.'s CorrespondenceEarth's HolocaustPassages from a Relinquished WorkSketches from MemoryThe Old Apple-DealerThe Artist of the BeautifulA Virtuoso's Collection
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    NAME Hawthorne, Nathaniel
    ALTERNATIVE NAMES Hathorne, Nathaniel
    SHORT DESCRIPTION American writer
    DATE OF BIRTH July 4, 1804
    PLACE OF BIRTH Salem, Massachusetts, United States
    DATE OF DEATH May 19, 1864
    PLACE OF DEATH Plymouth, New Hampshire, United States
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