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Home > History > Nathaniel Hawthorne - Authors Series

Nathaniel Hawthorne - Authors Series

This page describes the life and times of Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is part of our authors series.

Nathaniel Hawthorne First Day Cover

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1804. His father was a sea captain. In 1808, Hawthorne’s father died at sea from yellow fever. The family moved in with his mother’s brothers. When Nathaniel was a young boy he injured his leg and was unable to walk for a few months. During this time, he spent his days reading and decided he wanted to become a writer.

In 1821 Nathaniel went to Bowdoin College. After graduating college, Nathaniel moved back home. He published The Hollow of the Three Hills and An Old Woman’s Tale. By 1832, he had written My Kinsman, Major Molineux and Roger Malvin’s Burial. IN 1835, he wrote Young Goodman Brown, a tale of witchcraft. Two years later, Twice Told Tales, a collection of short stories was published. The stories in this collection reflect his interest in Puritan New England. Nathaniel did not make enough money writing books to support himself, so he worked for the Boston Custom House weighing salt and coal.

Hawthorne moved to the Brook Farm community, where he met Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. While living here, he saved money for his marriage to a woman named Sophia Peabody. After the marriage, the two moved to Concord, Massachusetts, and rented Old Manse, which was owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The family moved to Salem, Massachusetts, as their debt started to increase. In 1846, Nathaniel started working as a surveyor in the Salem Custom House. Later, he was dismissed from this job. This gave him more time to write. He wrote the book The Scarlet Letter, which was about two people in love who went against Puritan morals. It was one of the first mass-produced publications in the United States, and the novel for which Hawthorne is most famous.

In 1850, Nathaniel moved the family to Lenox, Massachusetts. Here he met the author Herman Melville and the two became good friends. This was his most productive time as a writer. He published The House of the Seven Gables, Blithedale Romance and Tanglewood Tales.

In 1852, Nathaniel wrote a campaign biography for his friend Franklin Pierce. Pierce was elected president and he appointed Hawthorne an American Consul to Britain as a reward for his work. The Hawthorne family stayed in England from 1853-1857. The time he spent England was the inspiration for his novel called Our Old Home.

In 1860, Hawthorne finished his last novel called The Marble Faun. He also moved his family back to the United States in Concord, Massachusetts.

After 1860, Nathaniel struggled with productivity. He wrote many unfinished drafts. His health had started to fail, but he refused to get medical help for months. Nathaniel Hawthorne died in his sleep on May 19, 1864 in Plymouth, New Hampshire. 

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