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Nathaniel Hawthorne Biography

Updated on February 5, 2013

Life and times of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 on Independence Day. His hometown, Salem Massachusetts, was on the same type of decline as his family. His sea captain father died in 1808 in Dutch Guiana. His mother’s three brothers educated him. During his teenage years Hawthorne lived as free as a bird at Sebago Lake in Maine. It was during this time that he acquired a love for tramping that he never got rid of. He also began reading eighteenth-century and contemporary writers; this made him want to become a writer. He attended Bowdoin College, where he was very shy at first, but later made friends in the clubs. He then became friends with Franklin Pierce who later became President of the United States. Longfellow also went to college with Hawthorne. At graduation in 1825 Longfellow spoke optimistically about “Our Native Writers”, and the possibility of it achieving lasting fame. Hawthorne found it difficult to achieve fame as a writer when he returned home.

Hawthorne’s life between 1825 and 1837 seem to be sensational to most biographers. He seemed to want everyone to know that he lived as a hermit who never left his room except for midnight strolls. It does seem as if he spent much of these years writing. He wrote his first true apprentice work during this time, “Fanshawe” a historical novel.

Over the next couple of years Hawthorne sought to have his writings published, but no one was willing to publish them. Disheartened he burned the “Seven Tales of My Native Land”. He was able to write a few stories for mall magazines, but he still truly longed to be published. He traveled all over New England telling his stories in public places.

In 1837 Hawthorne’s public literary career truly began. A woman named Elizabeth Peabody, a sale mite, sought him out. Her sister Sophia was an invalid. Hawthorne fell in love with her and they were engaged a few months after meeting. In July of 1842 they were married and his life was focused on marriage instead of writing. He wrote many works during their first few years of marriage. After long service to local Democrats, Hawthorne was named surveyor of the Port of Salem in 1846. He did not write much during this time; thankfully he was thrown out in June of 1849 by the new Whig administration. It was also during this summer that his mother died. In September he began working on “The Scarlet Letter”. This was his most famous literary work.

He then spent a year and a half in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Here became neighbors with Melville. He also wrote “The House of the Seven Gables” while living there. He now had a son and two daughters. He and his family moved to Liverpool for a brief period, but in June of 1860 they returned home to find that he was gaining much fame. He started four romances but finished none of them before his death in May of 1864 while traveling with Pierce. He is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery at Concord.


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