Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: With a series of short stories and novels which bring to life New England’s Puritan past, Hawthorne achieved one of the most distinguished literary careers of the nineteenth century.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. His great-great-grandfather, John Hathorne, was one of the three judges in the Salem witchcraft trials in 1692; his father, Nathaniel Hathorne, was a sea captain who died in Dutch Guinea when Nathaniel was four years old. Hawthorne added the “w” to his name when he was a young man. Hawthorne’s mother, née Elizabeth Manning, came from a Massachusetts family prominent in business. Her brother, Robert Manning, was a well-known pomologist who assumed much of the responsibility for Hawthorne’s care after the death of his father.
Hawthorne spent much of his adolescence in Raymond, Maine, where his Manning uncles owned property, and attended Bowdoin College in nearby Brunswick. He was a Bowdoin classmate of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Franklin Pierce (who would later become President of the United States). As a student, Hawthorne was adept in Latin and English, but was disciplined for gambling and faulty chapel attendance. He was a handsome young man of slender build, with dark hair and eyes. Although quiet, he had a reputation for conviviality and joining friends in clubs and outdoor sports.
Hawthorne took his degree in 1825—he stood eighteenth in a class of thirty-eight—and spent the next twelve years in Salem, where he read extensively and taught himself to write. The product of these twelve years was the indifferent novel Fanshawe: A Tale (1828) and more than forty stories and sketches, including such well-known pieces as “The Gentle Boy,” “Roger Malvin’s Burial,” and “My Kinsman, Major Molineux.” It was a rewarding apprenticeship in terms of his artistic accomplishment, and although it did not bring him much immediate fame or income, the publication of Twice-Told Tales in 1837 successfully launched his career.
In 1838, Hawthorne fell in love with Sophia Peabody of Boston, whom he married in 1842. During their courtship, he spent two years working at the Boston Custom House, and he joined the utopian community at Brook Farm for several months. Both of these experiences later proved fruitful for him as a writer. Hawthorne took his bride to live in the Old Manse in Concord, and there began a life as a happy and devoted husband and father of three children.
A second edition of Twice-Told Tales appeared in 1842, and in 1846, the year he left the Old Manse, Hawthorne published Mosses from an Old Manse. With these volumes, he began to receive high critical recognition. Edgar Allan Poe praised the second edition of Twice-Told Tales in a review that has become famous for its perceptive commentary on Hawthorne’s “invention, creation, imagination, originality.” When he left the Old Manse, Hawthorne was a mature artist, ready to write the novels for which he became famous.
With the help of influential friends, Hawthorne received in 1846 an appointment as surveyor of the Salem Custom House. He was dismissed from this position in 1849, a victim of the political spoils system, and then wrote his greatest work, The Scarlet Letter (1850). In the introduction to The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne settled what he perceived as some old injustices at the customhouse and invented the fiction of having found his story in an old manuscript in the customhouse.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne develops his most powerful theme of the hardening of the heart in what he called the Unpardonable Sin. This theme, essentially an expansion of Saint Paul’s admonition in I Corinthians 13 to practice charity, is dramatized in miniature in “Ethan Brand: A Chapter from an Abortive Romance” (1850). Ethan Brand has sought knowledge tirelessly, searching for the Unpardonable Sin, and when he learns that in his quest he has allowed his heart to atrophy, he realizes that he has found the answer in himself: The Unpardonable Sin is the cultivation of the intellect at the expense of one’s humanity.
Thus, the Unpardonable Sin in The Scarlet Letter is not the very human adultery of Hester Prynne and the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, a sin that takes place before the novel opens and which results in Hester’s scarlet letter “A” that she has to wear on her bosom, but the relentless, unforgiving persecution of Dimmesdale by Hester’s cuckolded husband, Roger...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Although Hawthorne seems preoccupied with sin and guilt, he was far from being a fire-and-brimstone preacher. He believed that God is a spirit pervading all creation and that human failings are punished by natural processes. He did not believe in Heaven and Hell except as symbols of the happiness or suffering that people produce through their own actions. Hawthorne’s ghosts and demons are merely psychological symbols with interesting dramatic and artistic potentialities. This shy, hypersensitive writer had an iron will which enabled him to endure loneliness, discouragement, and financial hardship for the sake of his art. His life and work set a lasting example for American writers.
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
It is fitting that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birth in 1804 came on the Fourth of July, for, if American writers of his youth were attempting a literary declaration of independence to complement the successful political one of 1776, Hawthorne’s fiction of the 1830’s, along with Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry and fiction and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays and lectures of the same decade, rank as the fruition of that ambition.
Undoubtedly his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, exerted a powerful shaping influence on his work, even though his sea-captain father died when Nathaniel, the second of three children, was only four and even though Nathaniel did not evince much interest in the sea. No one could grow up in Salem...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1804. On his father’s side, Hawthorne was descended from William Hathorne, who settled in Massachusetts in 1630 and whose son, John, was one of the judges in the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials. Hawthorne’s father, a sea captain, married Elizabeth Clarke Manning in 1801. His mother’s English ancestors immigrated to the New World in 1679; her brother, Robert, a successful businessman, assumed responsibility for her affairs after Captain Hathorne died of yellow fever in Suriname in 1808.
After his father’s death, Hawthorne, his two sisters, Elizabeth Manning and Maria Louisa, and his mother moved into the populous Manning household, a move that on one...
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Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Nathaniel Hawthorne grew up surrounded by reminders of the town’s infamous past and his own family’s role in the Quaker persecutions and witch trials of the seventeenth century. By the time he was graduated from Bowdoin College in 1825, he had resolved to return to Salem, become a writer, and investigate the influence of the Puritan past on nineteenth century New England.
Hawthorne was a fundamentally reclusive person who avoided revealing himself to others except through the masks of his fiction. His persistent brooding over the historical sins of New England and his fascination...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the greatest of all American fiction writers, was descended from William Hathorne (the w was added by Nathaniel himself while he was in college), who came to Massachusetts Bay from England with John Winthrop in 1630 and as a magistrate ordered the whipping of a Quaker woman in Salem. William’s son John was one of the three judges who presided over the Salem witch trials in 1692. These men were important figures in the early history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; they were also guilty of great crimes. The family fortunes had declined since those early days—Nathaniel’s father was a ship captain who died in a distant port when the boy was only four years old—and Nathaniel, who was...
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Born in Salem, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1804, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestors were some of the first Puritans to settle in New England. His great-grandfather had officiated at the Salem Witch Trials, causing feelings of guilt that provided a theme for many of his stories. Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine (1821–1824), along with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and at this time he began writing short stories for magazines, including some in his first collection, Twice-Told Tales (1837). Not earning sufficient money by writing, Hawthorne had several jobs, including working at the Salem Custom House. For one year, he lived at the experimental transcendentalist community Brook Farm, along with Ralph Waldo...
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Biography (eNotes Publishing)
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1804. He attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine (1821-1824), and at this time began writing short stories for magazines, including some of them in his first collection, Twice Told Tales (1837). Although he is sometimes considered by critics as an “antitranscendentalist” because of his preoccupation with evil, the dangers of sexuality, and the hypocrisy of human beings, he did live for one year at the experimental transcendentalist community Brook Farm along with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Although his work does not celebrate nature as theirs does, it often does use it as a vehicle to explore issues of art and human behavior....
(The entire section is 244 words.)
Hawthorne was an American fiction writer best known for his novel The Scarlet Letter. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804, he was one of those rare writers who drew critical acclaim during his lifetime. Today, readers still appreciate Hawthorne's work for its storytelling qualities and for the moral and theological questions it raises.
Throughout his lifetime, Hawthorne felt guilt over certain actions of his ancestors. Critics view his literary preoccupation with Puritanism as an outgrowth of these roots. The first Hawthorne to immigrate to Massachusetts from England was William, a magistrate who once ordered the public whipping of a Quaker woman. Shortly thereafter, William's son, John, served as a judge in the Salem witch trials of 1692. Hawthorne's own father was a ship's captain who died when Hawthorne was only four years old. As a result of his family history, Hawthorne filled much of his work, including ''Young Goodman Brown,'' with themes exploring the evil actions of humans and the idea of original sin.
After graduating from Bowdoin College in Brunsick, Maine, in 1825, Hawthorne moved back to Salem where he lived with his mother and served a twelve-year literary apprenticeship. Though he wrote regularly, he destroyed most of his early work. Only the unsuccessful Fanshawe was published in 1828. Hawthorne later sought out and burned every available copy. It was during this bout of obscurity and insecurity that Hawthorne first published ''Young Goodman Brown." Critics have since recognized it as one of his most successful short stories. In 1846 Hawthorne published it again as part of a collection of stories titled Mosses from an Old Manse.
Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody, a neighbor who admired his work, in 1842. The couple had two daughters and a son. In their first year of marriage they moved to the Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts, a community known for its liberal atmosphere and for being the home of other several other famous writers and philosophers. Hawthorne worked diligently there for three straight years, producing American Notebooks and the essay ''The Old Manse." He later described this period as the happiest of his life.
Family debts forced Hawthorne and his family to move back to Salem in 1945, where he filled the first of two presidentially-appointed posts. Under James K. Polk, he served as Custom House surveyor, but was discharged four years later by the Whig Administration. After losing his job, Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter. Controversy surrounding his discharge, and the content of the book itself, boosted sales. In 1851, the Hawthornes moved back to Concord, where they purchased and remodeled the childhood homestead of Louisa May Alcott the author of Little Women.
When his college friend Franklin Pierce was elected president in 1853, Hawthorne was offered the U.S. Consulship to Liverpool, England. That term ended in 1857, and he and his family moved again, this time to a seaside village in England where Hawthorne wrote The Marble Faun, a book about his experiences abroad. During the last four years of his life, Hawthorne's health failed. He did write a well-received collection of essays titled Our Old Home, but his passion for writing faded. Hawthorne died in Plymouth, New Hampshire, in 1864, at the age of 59.
IntroductionNathaniel Hawthorne decided to become a writer after graduating from college, but he had to take a number of “regular” jobs during his lifetime to make ends meet. He feared his time in the labor force might compromise his writing ability, but in fact, toil seems to have stimulated his authorship. His work environment during a stint as measurer in the Boston Customhouse is described in the preface to The Scarlet Letter, and his time spent working on an experimental farm resulted in the novel The Blithedale Romance. Despite years laboring at jobs other than those that involved his pen, Hawthorne managed to marry, raise three children, and, most important to the literary world, create a treasury of novels, histories, and story collections before he died at age 60.
- Hawthorne’s great-grandfather was a magistrate during the 1692 Salem witch trials; he was instrumental in decrying the guilt of a number of victims.
- Among Hawthorne’s many illustrious classmates at Bowdoin College were the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and future president Franklin Pierce.
- The author’s last name was originally spelled “Hathorne.” He changed it after graduating from college so that the spelling would more closely match the pronunciation.
- Hawthorne was a friend with a number of Transcendentalists, including Emerson and Thoreau, though he never fully embraced their views. But that didn’t create any bad blood. Emerson was a pallbearer at Hawthorne’s funeral.
- Herman Melville dedicated his great novel Moby Dick to Hawthorne, his good friend.
Nathaniel Hawthorne Biography (Young Goodman Brown: Literary Touchstone Classic)
Considered one of the greatest American writers, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 – 1864), is a direct product of his New England background. His father was a sea captain, who died when the boy was only four. Reared in a reclusive setting, Hawthorne became an avid reader, as recorded by the huge number of books he borrowed from the local lending library in Salem, Massachusetts. His uncle sent him to Bowdoin College, where Hawthorne became good friends with the future president, Franklin Pierce, and future poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Hawthorne wrote, but destroyed most of his early writings; however, by the time he was 33, his writing style and content had matured. Critics credit Hawthorne with making the short story acceptable literature in America, especially after his Twice Told Tales was published in 1837.
Haunted by his Puritan past, including a grandfather who was a judge at the Salem Witch Trials, Hawthorne wrote many of his novels and short stories, including The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, and “Young Goodman Brown” with deeply Puritan backgrounds. His contributions to American literature include his meticulous style, intriguing themes, complex symbolism, and psychological insights into human nature.
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Nathaniel Hawthorne was descended from Puritan colonists responsible for persecuting the accused witches of seventeenth century Massachusetts. His sense of guilt over the superstitious cruelty of his ancestors is reflected in much of his writing. His father, a sea captain, died when Nathaniel was only four years old. That the writer grew up without a male role model and was surrounded by adoring female relatives helps to account for his personality, which has been consistently described by biographers as shy, inhibited, narcissistic, and introverted. Ironically, he was an exceptionally handsome young man who was much sought after by the young ladies.
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