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Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Mass. on July 4, 1804 to Elizabeth Manning and Capt. Nathaniel Hathorne. The family lived on Union Street in Salem until 1808, when his father died of yellow fever at sea. After his death, Nathaniel, his mother, and two sisters—Elizabeth, and Maria Louisa—moved into the Manning family home on Herbert Street.

At age 9, Hawthorne injured his leg and was confined to the home for two years. It was during this time that he developed a love of books and reading. At age 14, the family left Salem for Raymond, Maine, but Hawthorne would return just one year later to begin his preparation for college entrance. In 1821, he was admitted to Bowdoin College. His classmates included Franklin Pierce and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He graduated in 1825 and moved back to Salem. It is then that he starts to visit his cousin Susanna at the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, which would later be the back drop for his famed novel, The House of the Seven Gables.

Hawthorne worked a number of jobs while also focusing on publishing his early works. In 1828, his first novel, Fanshawe was published anonymously at his own expense. He later recalled the book and dramatically burned the copies. Nearly 10 years later, Twice Told Tales was published.

In 1837, he would meet his future wife Sophia Amelia Peabody. Sophia and her sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, would prove to be influential for the rest of Hawthorne’s life and career. In 1839, he received his first political appointment as a “weigher and gauger” at the Boston Custom House. During this time he also published The Gentle Boy and Grandfather’s Chair.

Hawthorne was influenced by the growing popularity Transcendentalism. In 1841, he joined Brook Farm in West Roxbury and in 1842 moved into the Old Manse in Concord with Sophia. His friends and neighbors included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Bronson Alcott.

By 1846, the Hawthorne family was living back in Salem with Una (1844) and Julian (1846). Hawthorne is appointed a surveyor at the Salem Custom House. It was during this time that he would begin to write The Scarlet Letter—his first critically acclaimed success in publishing.

After the book’s publication in 1850, the Hawthorne family would leave Salem once again for Lenox, Mass. It is here that his relationship with Herman Melville would blossom. While living in Lenox, Hawthorne wrote A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys as well as the famed Gothic novel, The House of the Seven Gables.

Nathaniel and Sophia welcomed their final child, Rose in 1851. In 1852, The Blithedale Romance, which focused on his days at Brook Farm, was published as well as a presidential biography for his longtime friend, Franklin Pierce. Hawthorne’s literary success affords him the opportunity to purchase the Alcotts’ house in Concord which he renames “The Wayside.”

In 1853, Hawthorne was appointed the American Consul to England. He lived in Liverpool for four years and kept a journal related to his travels and observations in England. When his appointment was complete, he toured Italy. His reflections on these travels were published in his fictional work, The Marble Faun. Around the time of publication, the Hawthorne family returned to The Wayside.

Hawthorne continued to write into his later years, including a report about his 1862 visit to Washington D.C. in which he met President Lincoln and visited the Civil War Battlefields in Virginia. His final publication was Our Old Home (1863) which was a series of essays about England and Anglo-American relations. In 1864, Hawthorne travelled to New Hampshire with President Franklin Pierce. He died on May 19 and is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, MA.

To learn more about Nathaniel Hawthorne and his time in Salem, consider the Essex National Heritage Hawthorne Walking Tour. This is available for purchase at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site Visitor Center and includes admission for a tour at The House of the Seven Gables.