Nathaniel Hawthorne


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Alfred Bendixen

Editors paid little at best and often delayed or defaulted on their payments, and Hawthorne could not recover his Brook Farm investment or money he had loaned friends. Yet he never stopped working. He became surveyor of the Salem Custom House in April Yet his routine duties stifled his imagination. In September, still frustrated by his dismissal and anguished by her death, he began writing his novel The Scarlet Letter.


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That November James T. The Scarlet Letter appeared in March , a story of a proud adulteress sentenced by her stern Puritan judges to wear a scarlet A on her breast, the hypocritical minister who was her lover, her beautiful, unruly child, and her revenge-obsessed husband.

Its sales were brisk. In his day as in ours, readers struggle to understand its main characters in the context of a repressive society.

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Nathaniel Hawthorne Books - Biography and List of Works - Author of '20 Tales'

Leaving Salem forever in the spring of , Hawthorne moved his family to a small house in Lenox, Massachusetts, and soon wrote his second novel, The House of the Seven Gables , centering on a Salem family burdened by, but finally extricating themselves from, ancestral guilt. In this most novelistic of his romances, Hawthorne dealt with mid-nineteenth-century social change but also with older themes: the persistence of the past in public and personal life and the healing power of love. To support his growing family his third child, Rose [ Rose Hawthorne Lathrop ], was born in May , Hawthorne also produced a volume of Greek myths titled A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys , which recast the protagonists as children.

That June the Hawthornes moved in, though their initial occupancy would last little more than a year. They would remain abroad for seven years.


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But predictably his creative imagination was stultified. Except for his detailed notebook entries, letters, and official reports, he wrote nothing. The novel was published during the winter of and won critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. As in The Blithedale Romance , Hawthorne followed the permutations and variations of intimacy among two couples, this time two Americans the sculptor Kenyon and the copyist Hilda and two Italians the painter Miriam and the count Donatello.

In June Hawthorne returned to Concord and tried to resume his career as a romancer. He brought none to completion. On 12 May he left Boston with his friend Franklin Pierce for a leisurely trip through New Hampshire, which even the devoted Sophia only faintly believed would restore him to health. New historians move beyond questions of how he used history to ask how the social construction of gender and family constellations shaped him and how marketplace values affected his career.

Feminists in particular say that through sympathetic characters such as Beatrice Rappaccini and Hester Prynne, Hawthorne indicted patriarchal society by showing how it victimizes women. Whatever their disagreements, most of his critics and biographers continue to regard Hawthorne as his distinguished contemporaries Fields and Melville did—as a shrewd and large-minded writer who read widely and pondered deeply about the human condition and about American identity from Puritan times to his own. Though afflicted by self-doubt and constrained by a materialistic society that did not adequately reward serious artists, he created texts whose power, profundity, and artistry command our attention.

The particularly strong influence of The Scarlet Letter has also been manifested through its numerous adaptations, as operas, plays, films, and a television miniseries. Hawthorne requires his readers to probe beneath surface appearances, and he permits no simplistic judgments. Characters are not simply good or bad but mixed, and we evaluate them in terms of their interfusion of mind, heart, and imagination, and what they nurture or destroy. But interpretation of his work is never simple.

By writing about his own society and its antecedents, he wrote about ours.

1804 - 1864

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New England's Most Prominent Novelist Focused on Dark Themes

Individuals Law and crime Manufacture and trade Media and performing arts Medicine and health. Music Politics Religion and belief Science and technology Social welfare and reform. Sign In Article Navigation. Subscriber sign in. Forgot password? Hawthorne's father died at sea in of yellow fever when Hawthorne was only four years old, so Nathaniel was raised secluded from the world by his mother.

Until the publication of his Twice-Told Tales in , Hawthorne wrote in the comparative obscurity of what he called his "owl's nest," a garret in the family home. Looking back on this period of his life, he wrote: "I have not lived, but only dreamed about living" letter to Longfellow, June 4, 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 his "richly meditated fiction.

Hawthorne was hired in 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 ; later that year, however, he left when he became dissatisfied with the experiment. Hawthorne and his wife then moved to The Wayside, previously a home of the Alcotts. Like Hawthorne, Sophia was a reclusive person. She was, in fact, bedridden with headaches until her sister introduced her to Hawthorne, after which her headaches seem to have abated.

Nathaniel Hawthorne Holes up in His Bedroom for 12 Years

The Hawthornes enjoyed a long marriage, and Sophia was greatly enamored of 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" January 14, , Journal of Sophia Hawthorne.

In 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 time.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Due to the common practice of the spoils system, he lost this job due to the change of administration in Washington following the presidential election of In he wrote the campaign biography of his old friend, Franklin Pierce. With Pierce's election as president, Hawthorne was rewarded in with the position of United States consul in Liverpool, England. In he resigned from this post and traveled in France and Italy.

He and his family returned to The Wayside in Failing health which biographer Edward Miller speculates was stomach cancer began to prevent him from completing new writings. Una may have suffered from mental illness and died young. Julian moved westward, served a jail term for embezzlement, and wrote a book about his father.

Rose married George Parsons Lathrop, converted to Roman Catholicism and took her vows following Lathrop's death as a nun in the Dominican order. She founded a religious order , The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, to care for victims of incurable cancer. Hawthorne is best-known today for his many short stories he called them "tales" and his four major romances of — The Scarlet Letter , The House of the Seven Gables , The Blithedale Romance , and The Marble Faun A previous book-length romance, Fanshawe, was published anonymously in Hawthorne would disown it in later life, going so far as to implore friends who still owned copies to burn it.

Before publishing his first collection of tales in , 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 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 did Hawthorne begin to attach his name to his works. 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.

Tanglewood Tales was a re-writing some of the most famous of the ancient Greek myths in a volume for children, for which the Tanglewood estate in Stockbridge and music venue was named. 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 recognizes the artistry of the writer, complicating the long-dominant tradition of regarding Hawthorne as a gloomy moralist. Hawthorne enjoyed a brief but intense friendship with Herman Melville beginning on August 5, , 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 how Melville developed his story of the great white whale and its nemesis Captain Ahab, but Hawthorne's letters to Melville did not survive. The correspondence ended shortly after Moby-Dick was published by Harper and Brothers.

The long lost responses to Melville would surely shed more light on this comparison. Hawthorne's opinions of Poe's work remains unknown. The Scarlet Letter , published in , is one of the few American world classics. It is generally considered to be Hawthorne's masterpiece. Set in Puritan New England in the seventeenth century, the novel tells the story of Hester Prynne, who gives birth after committing adultery, refusing to name the father.

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