Novelist and short story writer, a central figure in the
American Renaissance. Nathaniel Hawthorne's best-known works
include THE SCARLET LETTER (1850) and THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN
GABLES (1851). Like Edgar Allan Poe, Hawthorne took a dark view of
Not to be deficient in this particular,
the author has provided himself with a moral - the truth,
namely, that the wrongdoing of one generation lives into the
successive ones. (from The House of the Seven
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts. His
father, also Nathaniel, was a sea captain and descendent of John
Hawthorne, one of the judges in the Salem witchcraft trials of
1692. He died when the young Nathaniel was four year old.
Hawthorne grew up in seclusion with his widowed mother Elizabeth--
and for the rest of her life they relied on each other for
emotional solace. Later he wrote to his friend
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "I have locked myself in a
dungeon and I can't find the key to get out." Hawthorne was
educated at the Bowdoin College in Maine (1821-24). In the school
among his friends were Longfellow and Franklin Pierce, who became
the 14th president of the U.S.
Between the years 1825 and 1836 Hawthorne worked as a writer
and contributor to periodicals. Among Hawthorne's friends was John
L. O'Sullivan, whose magazine the Democratic Review
published two dozen stories by him. According to a story,
Hawthorne burned his first short-story collection, Seven Tales
of My Native Land, after publishers rejected it. Hawthorne's
first novel, FANSHAWE, appeared anonymously at his own expense in
1828. The work was based on his college life. It did not receive
much attention and the author burned the unsold copies. However,
the book initiated a friendship between Hawthorne and the
publisher Samuel Goodrich. He edited in 1836 the American
Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge in Boston, and
compiled in 1837 PETER PARLEY'S UNIVERSAL HISTORY for children. In
was followed by a series of books for children - GRANDFATHER'S
CHAIR (1841), FAMOUS OLD PEOPLE (1841), LIBERTY TREE (1841), and
BIOGRAPHICAL STORIES FOR CHILDREN (1842). The second, expanded
edition of TWICE TOLD TALES (1837), was praised by Edgar Allan Poe
in Graham's Magazine.
In 1842 Hawthorne became friends with the Transcendentalists in
Concord, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who also
drew on the Puritan legacy. However, generally he did not have
much confidence in intellectuals and artists, and eventually he
had to admit, that "the treasure of intellectual gold"
did not provide food for his family. In 1842 Hawthorne married
Peabody, an active participant in the Transcendentalist movement,
and settled with her in Concord. A growing family and mounting
debts compelled their return to Salem. Hawthorne was unable to
earn a living as a writer and in 1846 he was appointed surveyor of
the Port of Salem. He worked there for three years until he was
fired. "I detest this town so much," Hawthorne said,
"that I hate to go out into the streets, or to have people
The Scarlet Letter was a critical and popular success.
The illicit love affair of Hester Prynne with the Reverend Arhur
Dimmesdale and the birth of their child Pearl, takes place before
the book opens. In Puritan New England, Hester, the mother of an
illegitimate child, wears the scarlet A (for adulteress, named in
the book by this initial) for years rather than reveal that her
lover was the saintly young village minister. Her husband, Roger
Chillingworth, proceeds to torment the guiltstricken man, who
confesses his adultery before dying in Hester's arms. Hester plans
to take her daughter Pearl to Europe to begin a new life. Toward
the end of the dark romance Hawthorne wrote: "Be true! Be
true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait
whereby the worst may be inferred!" - Hester Prynne has been
seen as a pioneer feminist in the line from Anne Hutchinson to
Margaret Fuller, a classic nurturer, a sexually autonomous woman,
and an American equivalent of Anna Karenina. The influence of the
novel is apparent in Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady
(1881), in Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1899), and in
William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying (1930). Hawthorne's
daughter Una served as the model for Pearl.
Hawthorne was one of the first American writers to explore the
hidden motivations of his characters. Among his allegorical
stories is 'The Artist of the Beautiful' (1844) in which his
protagonist creates an insect, perhaps a steam-driven butterfly. A
girl he admires asks whether he made it, and he answers:
"Wherefore ask who created it, so it be beautiful?"
Eventually the insect is killed by an unfeeling child. Hawthorne
once wrote of his workroom: "This deserves to be called a
haunted chamber, for thousands and thousands of visions have
appeared to me in it."
"The Custom-House" sketch, prefatory to The
Scarlet Letter, was based partly on his experiences in Salem.
The novel appeared in 1850 and told a story of the earliest
victims of Puritan obsession and spiritual intolerance. The
central theme is the effect of guilt, anxiety and sorrow.
Hawthorne's picture of the sin-obsessed Puritans has subsequently
been criticized - they were less extreme than presented in the
works of Hawthorne, Arthur Miller, Steven King, and many others. The
House of the Seven Gables was published the following year.
The story is based on the legend of a curse pronounced on
Hawthorne's own family by a woman, who was condemned to death
during the Salem witchcraft trials. The curse is mirrored in the
decay of the Pyncheons' seven-gabled mansion. Finally the
descendant of the killed woman marries a young niece of the
family, and the hereditary sin ends.
THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE (1852), set in a utopian New England
community, examines the flaws inherent in practical utopianism.
Hawthorne had earlier invested and lived in the Brook Farm
Commune, West Roxbury. This led to speculations that the doomed
heroine was a portrait of the transcendentalist Margaret Fuller.
During his productive period Hawthorne also established a warm
friendship with Herman
Melville, who dedicated Moby-Dick to him.
In 1853 Franklin Pierce became President. Hawthorne, who had
written a campaign biography for him, was appointed as consul in
Liverpool, England. He lived there for four years, and then spent
a year and half in Italy writing THE MARBLE FAUN (1860), a story
about the conflict between innocence and guilt. It was his last
completed novel. In his Concord home, The Wayside, he wrote the
essays contained in OUR OLD HOME (1863). Hawthorne died on May 19,
1864, in Plymouth, N.H. on a trip to the mountains with his friend
Franklin Pierce. After his death his wife edited and published his
notebooks. Modern editions of these works include many of the
sections which she cut out or altered. The authors' son Julian was
convicted in 1912 of defrauding the public.
For further reading: Hawthorne's
Fiction by Richard Harter Fogle
(1964); The Shape of Hawthorne's Career
by Nina Baym (1976); New
Essays on "The Scarlet Letter,"
ed. by Michael J. Colacurcio (1985); Nathaniel
Hawthorne, ed. by Harold Bloom (1986);
by Charles Swann (1991); Hawthorne's Narrative Strategies
by Michael Dunne (1995); Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda
Wineapple (2003) - See also:
King - Note: Julian
the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who began publishing short
fiction in 1870. Many of JH's novellas and short stories are
weird tales of curses and apparitions, some drawing inspiration
from his Swedenborgian
faith. His career was interrupted by a jail term. He moved to
California, where he wrote for newspapers, pulp magazine All-Story
Weekly, and edited series of
anthologies. His daughter Hildegarde (1871-1952) also wrote some
fantasy, which can be found in Faded
Garden (1985, ed. Jessica Amanda
Salmonson) - Suom.: Kirjailijalta on myös suomennettu
novellivalikoima Paholainen käsikirjoituksessa..