Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
Hawthorne was a novelist of the Dark Romantic period, as well as a magazine
editor, surveyor, and diplomatic consul, and is considered one of ’s
greatest writers. America
v He finished his first novel, Fenshawe, at 24, although he later tried to suppress it, feeling it wasn’t good enough.
v He wrote several famous novels, including The Scarlet Letter, and The House of the Seven Gables.
v He wrote many famous short stories, including “Young Goodman Brown” and “The Minister’s Black Veil.”
v The story of Young Goodman Brown is about a man in a small, Puritan village who is visited by the devil. Mr. Brown resists temptation only to discover that everyone he’s ever known, his wife, his minister, his Bible-studies teacher, they all worship at the devil’s altar. Seeing the hypocrisy and evil of his town, he becomes bitter and cynical.
v In 1862,
wrote the essay “Chiefly About War Matters”, protesting
the American Civil War. Published in The Atlantic Monthly, it was highly
controversial, partly because of Hawthorne ’s
description of President Abraham Lincoln. But mostly, it criticized both the
ignorant, slave-holding South, and the censorious, self-righteous North. Hawthorne
the Civil War because he was pessimistic about success, and because he didn’t
see the need to fight. “…heaven was heaven still, as Milton sings, after
Lucifer and a third part of the angels had seceded from its golden
palaces,––and perhaps all the more heavenly, because so many gloomy brows, and
soured, vindictive hearts, had gone to plot ineffectual schemes of mischief
v He also wrote a biography of Franklin Pierce,
14th president, often considered the worst in history. They were life-long
friends. After Pierce became president, he gave US Hawthorne
a job as consul in . Liverpool,
v Herman Melville dedicated his novel, Moby Dick, to
, “In token of my admiration for his genius.” Hawthorne
v Even Edgar Allan Poe, who didn’t like
work, called him, “…one of
the few men of indisputable genius to whom our country has as yet given birth.” Hawthorne
Nathaniel was the great-great-grandson of John Hathorne, the only judge of the Salem Witch Trials who didn’t repent from his judgment. Nathaniel added the ‘w’ in his last name to hide the relation, because he was embarrassed. His father, also Nathaniel, was a sea captain who died of yellow fever (Malaria), when young Nathaniel was four.
As a teen, studying away from home, he wrote his own newspaper, The Spectator, which he sent to his family. It included his news, essays, and poems. At 17 he started college at Bowdoin, and met the young Franklin Pierce at a stage stop, starting a lifelong friendship. He also met the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and, more importantly, a young woman named Sophia Peabody, with whom he fell in love.
Seeking a home for himself and Sophia, and hoping to save some money for a wedding, he joined the transcendentalist utopian community at Brook Farm in 1841. He was put in charge of shoveling the hill of manure referred to as “the Gold Mine”. His experience at Brook Farm was an inspiration for his novel The Blithedale Romance.
Nathaniel and Sophia moved to many different towns, and were at one point neighbors to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau, and Herman Melville. When Pierce was elected, the
Hawthornes moved to ,
where Nathaniel was made consul. When Pierce’s term ended, Nathaniel lost his
position. He and his family travelled around Liverpool, England Europe,
before heading home.
At the start of the Civil War, Nathaniel and his wife travelled to
frontlines to witness events. Nathaniel soon complained
of stomach pains. As he grew
ill, Nathaniel and Pierce took a trip to the White Mountains in Washington . He died
in his sleep. At his funeral pallbearers included Longfellow, Emerson, Alcott,
and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. New Hampshire