Nathaniel Hawthorne (July 4, 1804 - May 19, 1864) was an early 19th century American novelist and short story author. He was born in Salem, Massachusetts and died in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Hawthorne's father was a sea captain and descendant of John Hawthorne who was one of the judges who oversaw the salem witch trials. Hawthorne's father died at sea in 1808 when Hawthorne was only four years old,and was raised secluded from the world by his mother.
Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College in Maine from 1821-1824 where he became friends with Longfellow and future president Franklin Pierce.
In 1842 he married illustrator and transcendentalist Sophia Peabody who, like Hawthorne, was a great homebody. Sophia, in fact, was bedridden with headaches until her sister introduced her to Hawthorne after which her headaches seem to have abated. They had a long and loving marriage, and Sophia was greatly enamored with her Husband's work. Writing in one of her journals "I am always so dazzled and bewildered with the richness, the depth, the...jewels of beauty in his productions that I am always looking for foward to a second reading where I can ponder and muse and fully take in the miraculous wealth of thoughts." (Jan 14th 1951, Journal of Sophia Hawthorne. Berg Collection NY Public Library).
The two had three children Una, Julian, and Rose. Una died young and suffered from mental illness. Julian moved out west and wrote a book about his father.
Hawthorne had a short friendship with Herman Melville; the letters of the two provide a fascinating manuscript. The Friendship began 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" and would in a few weeks write an effusive review of it.
Much of Hawthorne's work regards morality, metaphysics, and his Puritan ancestry. "The Blithedale Romance" for instance involves a serum of eternal youth, while "Ethan Brand" is about a lime-burner who set off to find the Unpardonable Sin, and in doing so commits it, the "Birth Mark" concerns a young doctor who removes a birthmark from his wife's face, an operation from which she dies. He discovers that it is the birthmark, the unscientificly imperfect blemish itself, that kept her alive.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's most famous works include:
- Young Goodman Brown (1835)
- Mosses from an Old Manse (1846)
- The Scarlet Letter (1850)
- The House of Seven Gables (1851)
- The Blithedale Romance (1852)
- The Marble Faun (1860)
- Eric Eldred's excellent Hawthorne site at Eldritch Press contains all of Hawthorne's works, notes on the writings, annotated editions,and lots of other information.
- 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.