Hawthorne was born in 1804 on July 4th in Salem, Massachusetts in America.
His parents were Nathaniel Hathorne who was a US navy captain and his mother was Elizabeth Clarke Manning. Nathaniel’s father died when he was four years old leaving him under the care of his mother and sisters. His great ancestors were among the first puritans to emigrate from England and settled down in the area around New England (The Literature Network, 2007). His great grandfather who had helped in officiating the witch trials in Salem, made Nathaniel very guilty and this provided a theme for most of the stories that he wrote.
Hawthorne attended the Bowdoin College, Brunswick in Maine during the duration of 1821 to1824. He met Henry Wadsworth who was a fellow poet in college and the Franklin Pierce who became an American president later on. In 1852, he wrote a biography on Franklin Pierce. Hawthorne had no interest in the traditional professions as he was an avid reader who boasted of having written short stories of his own and published many magazines. His novel known as Fanshawe was anonymously published in 1828 (The Literature Network, 2007).
After graduating from college, he continued writing sketches and stories which he later on included in his Twice Told Tales Collection of 1837. Writing was not a lucrative pursuit and thus Hawthorne was an employee of the customs house in Salem, which helped him a lot in augmenting his income. Hawthorne lived in a transcendentalist experimental community for a whole year. Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody who was a transcendentalist and a painter in 1842 on 9th July in Boston (The Literature Network, 2007). The couple had three children named Una who was born in 1844, Rose born in 1851 and Julian Hawthorne who was born in 1846 and later on became an author.
Hawthorne Literary Works
Hawthorne is a re-known fiction writer in the literature of America and most of his work is applauded to be superb. Most of Hawthorne’s works had the New England setting. In the Scarlet Letter the protagonist was known as Hester Prynne who was adulterous and comfortably provided for psychological exploration of the morality, sin and repentance themes. Hawthorne had hoped that the Scarlet Letter would push him to the limelight in literary works and compared it to a ten strike by the bowlers (Campbell, 2007).
Hawthorne had written for twenty five years while patiently waiting to be awarded for his work. In 1850 when he wrote the Scarlet Letter at the age of 46 years, he hoped to win the fortune and fame (Hawthorne et al., 1994). His high expectations were both right and wrong since the scarlet letter held the place of one of the many American masterworks and it continues to do so up to date. However, only approximately 7800 copies were sold during the lifetime of Hawthorne and netted him around $ 1500. Although this might look like a lot of money during those times, it did not translate in the wealth he had hoped for.
Consequently, this made the author to be very disappointed as his hopes of striking a ten were dashed and his goals of becoming popular and successful were never realized (Hawthorne et al., 1994). Authorship during Hawthorne‘s time was meant to be a profession which rewarded the author with riches and a reputation. Hawthorne stuck to writing despite the many challenges that he faced during his career. He later on wrote another romantic novel in 1851 known as the House of Seven Gables which was critically acclaimed to be better than the Scarlet Letter by James Russell who was a poet and a critic. Hawthorne wrote the Blithedale Romance in 1952, using the first persona making it this only work to be written in this form (Hawthorne and Lathrop, 1870). He later on wrote the Marble Faun in 1860, which was a romantic novel too. He retold the Tanglewood Tales for Girls and Boys from the Greek myths in 1853. Hawthorne set out to serve as a consul of the US in Liverpool and thus his family left with him for England.
The family traversed Europe during their stay and they lived in Italy and France for some time. During their stay in these countries, they met with other authors such as Elizabeth Barrett and the husband Robert Browning. It was while he was in Italy that Hawthorne wrote the Marble Faun. Herman Melville in 1851 dedicated his Moby Dick to Hawthorne which was a great honor. Hawthorne befriended and neighbored some of the Americans great intellectuals such as Louisa may, Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau and Branson Alcott.
Living in America was tumultuous since the civil war had broken out and Hawthorne was really troubled by this war which erupted a few years before his death (The Literature Network, 2007). He met Abraham Lincoln who was the president at that time in Washington DC and also toured the battle fields. This tour resulted to the writing of an essay by Hawthorne titled, Chiefly About War Matters by a Peaceable Man which was published in 1862 on July issue of the Atlantic monthly. When Hawthorne returned from Europe he continued writing about his travels in the Passages from Notebooks Volume. His last publication prior to his death was, Our Old Home which was published in 1868.
Nathaniel Hawthorne untimely death occurred in 1864 on May 19th. His funeral was attended by many prominent people among them James Russell, Franklin Pierce, Henry Wadsworth and Oliver Wendell (The Literature Network, 2007). These are just but a few of the prominent people who gathered to mourn he loss of a writer and a friend. Hawthorne remains are buried in Author’s Ridge in Concord in the sleepy hollow cemetery along with other famous authors such as Thoreau, Emerson and Alcott. Sophia dedicated her remaining life to editing the notebooks from her husband in order for them to be published. She eventually died in 1871 and Julian became an author like his father (The Literature Network, 2007).
Nathaniel Hawthorne was a great writer who pursued his profession with a lot of courage and patience. He was never able to achieve the great fame and wealth that was associated with authorship during his times. However, this did not prevent him from producing great literary pieces which are still highly appreciated in America today. Hawthorne made his literary contribution to the history of America and his work will be read by many generations. Hawthorne pursued his dream of being a writer from when he was young until the time of his death.
Campbell, D. (2007). Nathaniel Hawthorne. Retrieved on June 19, 2009 from http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/hawthor.htm
Hawthorne, N. & Lathrop, G. (1870). The Blithedale Romance. Kessinger publishing, pp 11-13
Hawthorne, N. et al. (1994). The Scarlet letter. Penguin classics, pp 1
The Literature Network (2007). Nathaniel Hawthorne. Retrieved on June 19, 2009 from http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/
From Scarlet Letter
In a moment, however, wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another, she took the baby on her arm, and with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbors.
On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter.
In the Haunted Mind he wrote
In the depths of every heart there is a tomb and a dungeon, though the lights, the music, and revelry above may cause us to forget their existence, and the buried ones, or prisoners whom they hide.
But sometimes, and oftenest at midnight, these dark receptacles are flung wide open. In an hour like his….pray that your griefs may slumber.
The House of Seven Gables
The old counter, shelves, and other fixtures of the little shop remained just as he had left them. It used to be affirmed, that the dead shop-keeper, in a white wig, a faded velvet coat, an apron at his waist, and his ruffles carefully turned back from his wrists, might be seen through the chinks of the shutters, any night of the year, ransacking his till, or poring over the dingy pages of his day-book.
From the look of unutterable woe upon his face, it appeared to be his doom to spend eternity in a vain effort to make his accounts balance.
The Marble Faun
More than that,” rejoined Hilda; “for there is a class of spectators whose sympathy will help them to see the perfect through a mist of imperfection. Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed.
Their highest merit is suggestiveness
The Blithedale Romance
The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one may not be going to prove one’s self a fool; the truest heroism is to resist the doubt; and the profoundest wisdom, to know when it ought to be resisted, and when it be obeyed.