Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of America’s most well-known writers, was born on July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts.  He attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine from 1821-1825, becoming life-long friends with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who would himself become a writer, and with Franklin Pierce, who would become the 14th president of the United States.    Rejecting the three professions of most graduates (the ministry, medicine, and law), Hawthorne decided that he wanted to be a writer.  He read through hundreds of volumes in the Salem Athenaeum, including many volumes on New England’s Puritan history, and kept journals which provided source material for his later writings, including his best known work, The Scarlet Letter.  He wrote numerous un-acknowledged short stories, but it wasn’t until 1837, when Twice-Told Tales was published, that he became known as a writer.

In 1842, he married Sophia Peabody and moved into the “Old Manse” in Concord, Massachusetts, a house built by one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ancestors.  The Old Manse became an essay which he published in 1846.

The Old Manse Signed to the donor, H.M. Marvin, by Bruce Rogers.

The Old Manse
Signed to the donor, H.M. Marvin, by Bruce Rogers.

The Old Manse. RBR's Riverside Press edition.  From the Bruce Rogers Collection.

The Old Manse.
RBR’s Riverside Press edition. From the Bruce Rogers Collection.

In September 1849, Hawthorne began writing The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter. RBR's 1st edition from the Fugate Collection.

The Scarlet Letter.
RBR’s 1st edition from the Fugate Collection.

It was published in March of 1850 to brisk sales, and was hailed as a work of genius.  Hawthorne left Salem and moved to Lenox, Massachusetts in the spring of 1850, and soon wrote his second novel, The House of the Seven Gables,  followed by The Snow Image, a collection of short fiction.

Hawthorne’s last completed novel, The Marble Faun, written while he was in England, was published in 1860 and was well received both in Europe and in the United States.   He died on May 19, 1864, and has remained an important figure in the American literary canon.

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