Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

LouAnn Gaeddert’s A New England Love Story: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Peabody is a romantic story of the wonderful love shared by Hawthorne and Peabody and how their lives converged. In addition, Gaeddert’s book gives young readers a view of an important period of American cultural history sometimes known as the American Renaissance. The great nineteenth century figures of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville, Margaret Fuller, Horace Mann, and others were all part of the same New England literary circle.

The book begins with a prologue capturing the atmosphere of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1837, about the time when Hawthorne and Peabody became aware of each other. Gaeddert imagines the delight that the ghosts of the women hanged there for witchcraft more than a century earlier would have taken in the sight of a decaying Salem. Ironically, it was this drab atmosphere that produced one of the brightest of American writers.

The first chapter, called “The Recluse of Herbert Street,” gives Hawthorne’s family history, traced back to sixteenth century England. Gaeddert recounts the familiar story of Hawthorne’s ancestor, Judge John Hawthorne, who played a central role in the Salem witch trials and whose infamous history and times influenced much of Hawthorne’s writing. This chapter touches on Hawthorne’s boyhood days, his college days at Bowdoin, and his twelve...

(The entire section is 501 words.)