Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne is often associated with a cringe and a memory: Reading The Scarlet Letter in high school.  However, there are so many more aspects to Hawthorne than a book you never read:

He was born in Salem, Massachusetts on July 4th 1804 to Nathaniel Hathorne and Elizabeth Clarke Manning.  His father died of yellow fever in Suriname leaving his family to find refuge with the maternal side whom Hawthorne lived amongst for ten years.  During this time, Hawthorne displayed varied degrees of odd behavior. Simple injuries often translated into long periods of time bedridden, even after doctors dismissed his symptoms.  As he neared adulthood his uncle, Robert Manning put Nathaniel in college despite his objections.  Often he would complain of his loneliness and desire to return home.

It was during his time in college that Hawthorne began to write (at least with the intent of sharing with others).  He published locally several essays and poems and soon found himself amongst friends: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Jonathan Cilley, and Horatio Bridge.  It is believed that during this time much of his family’s history was revealed to him:

 His  great-great-great grandfather William Hathorne first established the Hathorne name in America with the Massachusetts Bay Colony and become known as a harsh jude and magistrate.   His great-great grandfather, John, was left in history as the only judge not to repent for the cruelties of the Salem Witch Trials.  

In 1825 Hawthorne graduated and shortly after added the “w” in his name in order to disassociate from his ancestors.   He attained a job with the Boston Custom House and released ‘Twice Told Tales’ which cemented him as a writer locally. He fell in love with Sophia Peabody after failing to court her sister Elizabeth and took numerous jobs in prospect of marrying Sophia. After a year of working at Brook Farm to save money Hawthorne married Sophia and moved to The Old Manse.  Soon after, the pair began having children: Una, Jullian, and Rose.

It was during their upbringing that Hawthorne became the “Surveyor for the District of Salem and Beverly and Inspector of the Revenue for the Port of Salem”.  Hawthorne felt trouble by this position and often wrote to Longfellow that “I should be happier if I could write.”   Soon his wish was granted as political spoils left him out of a job.  The couple and their children moved from The Old Manse to a small red farm house in Lenox.  It is here that Hawthorne became the corresponding secretary of The Salem Lyceum.  The Scarlet Letter was published and ushered in the most lucrative time in Hawthorne’s career.   Though known to be pathologically shy, Hawthorne acquired many admirers.  From poets, to politicians, to gardeners.  Herman Melville even dedicated Moby Dick to Hawthorne noting: “In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne.”

After many years of happy marriage, career success, and authorial soul-searching Nathaniel Hawthorne died on May 19th, 1864 while touring The White Mountains.

His books border on surrealism and cement the human condition into fine print.

“I have not lived, but only dreamed about living.”

Selected Works:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s