Nathaniel Hawthorne

Born: 1804

Birthplace: Massachusetts

Died: 1864

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a successful American author who was known for both his short stories and novels.

Hawthorne had the ability to weave a fictional story that included symbolism and moral lessons. He is most well-known for “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of Seven Gables.”

  • Hawthorne came from a long line of family members that had resided in Salem, Massachusetts, from the 17th The family name was “Hawthorn,” and when he began to write, he added the “e” to the end of his name. One of his ancestors was a direct participant that sentenced a public whipping for a Quaker woman. His family history included many members that followed the Puritan belief system and their requirement of an austere lifestyle. One of the members of his family was also involved in the 1692 Salem witch trials.
  • Hawthorne’s father captain of a ship and died at sea, leaving his widow to care for two daughters and four-year-old Nathaniel. Their family moved in with the mother’s wealthier brother, and he grew up in Salem. Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College in Maine and spent about twelve years trying to develop his writing abilities.
  • While in college Hawthorne’s works were unnoticed, and his first attempts were rather bad. He soon found his style in writing fictional stories and published “The Hollow of the Three Hills,” “And Old Woman’s Tale,” “My Kinsman,” “Major Molineaux,” and “Roger Malvin’s Burial.” His “Young Goodman Brown” is still thought to be one of the greatest witchcraft stories.
  • Although his books were a success, he didn’t make a lot of money, and Hawthorne decided to take a number of jobs to support himself. It wasn’t until 1842 that he began to make a good enough income from his books, and he married Sophia Peabody.
  • Concord had become a center for philosophy with many of the day’s well-known thinkers, including Henry Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. This was a time of more enlightened thinking and encouraged the transcendental philosophies. Emerson enjoyed having so many in the area but didn’t spend any time with them. He did enjoy the company of his former classmate and friend, Franklin Pierce. Pierce would go on to become President of the United States.
  • Hawthorne’s works continued to be popular but brought in very little money, including his 1846 collection of short stories “Mosses from an Old Manse.”  Hawthorne took on jobs to support his growing family and, thanks to his political friends, was given the position of surveyor of the Custom House. Within three years, politics changed, and he lost that job, but it was then that he wrote one of his masterpieces, “The Scarlet Letter.”
  • This book launched complete fame for Hawthorne and was destined to be recognized as one of the great novels in America. He relocated to the mountains and wrote “The House of the Seven Gables” in 1851. Living in Lenox also allowed him to be friends with Herman Melville, who inspired Hawthorne in person and in his reviews of Hawthorne’s work. Melville dedicated his famous novel, “Moby Dick,” to Hawthorne. Unfortunately, they fell out of friendship.
  • Hawthorne moved his family to an area near Boston, where he wrote “The Blithedale Romance.” The novel wasn’t a success, and he once again had to turn to other work to support his family. His friend Franklin Pierce won the presidency and rewarded Hawthorne’s efforts of writing a biography for him with a Liverpool, Lancashire consulship.
  • From a writing standpoint, Hawthorne’s last years were rather unimpressive. He worked on his duties, lost his job, and then toured Italy. He then went to England to write “The Marble Faun.” His return to Wayside in 1860 let him devote himself to his writing, but he had many unfinished works. He also began to have both physical and mental health failures, and he died in his sleep in 1864.


What type of writer was Nathaniel Hawthorne?
Fictional short stories and novels

What was the name of the book that Hawthorne wrote that was recognized as one of the best in American?
The Scarlet Letter

What was the name of a college friend that Hawthorne went to school with that ended up being an American President?
Franklin Pierce

What author dedicated his book to Hawthorne?
Herman Melville

What shameful family history did Hawthorne have?
One member had whipped a Quaker woman, and another was involved in the Salem witch trials

Unlike other successful authors, Hawthorne’s first works may have gained fame but lacked in what?
Financial success