Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, the
descendent of a long line of Puritan ancestors, including John Hathorne, a
presiding magistrate in the Salem witch trials. After his father was lost at sea
when he was only four, his mother became overly protective and pushed him toward
more isolated pursuits. Hawthorne's childhood left him overly shy and bookish,
and molded his life as a writer. Hawthorne turned to writing after his
graduation from Bowdoin College. His first novel, Fanshawe, was unsuccessful and

Hawthorne himself disavowed it as amateurish. However, he wrote several
successful short stories, including "My Kinsman, Major Molyneaux,"
"Roger Malvin's Burial" and "Young Goodman Brown." However,
insufficient earnings as a writer forced Hawthorne to enter a career as a Boston

Custom House measurer in 1839. However, after three years Hawthorne was
dismissed from his job with the Salem Custom House. By 1842, however, his
writing amassed Hawthorne a sufficient income for him to marry Sophia Peabody
and move to The Manse in Concord, which was at that time the center of the

Transcendental movement. Hawthorne returned to Salem in 1845, where he was
appointed surveyor of the Boston Custom House by President James Polk, but was
dismissed from this post when Zachary Taylor became president. Hawthorne then
devoted himself to his most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. He zealously
worked on the novel with a determination he had not known before. His intense
suffering infused the novel with imaginative energy, leading him to describe it
as the "hell-fired story." On February 3, 1850, Hawthorne read the
final pages to his wife. He wrote, "It broke her heart and sent her to bed
with a grievous headache, which I look upon as a triumphant success." The

Scarlet Letter was an immediate success and allowed Hawthorne to devote himself
to his writing. He left Salem for a temporary residence in Lenox, a small town
the Berkshires, where he completed the romance The House of the Seven Gables in

1851. While in Lenox, Hawthorne became acquainted with Herman Melville and
became a major proponent of Melville's work, but their friendship became
strained. Hawthorne's subsequent novels, The Blithedale Romance, based on his
years of communal living at Brook Farm, and the romance The Marble Faun, were
both considered disappointments. Hawthorne supported himself through another
political post, the consulship in Liverpool, which he was given for writing a
campaign biography for Franklin Pierce. Hawthorne passed away on May 19, 1864 in

Plymouth, New Hampshire after a long period of illness in which he suffered
severe bouts of dementia.. Emerson described his life with the words
"painful solitude." Hawthorne maintained a strong friendship with

Franklin Pierce, but otherwise had few intimates and little engagement with any
sort of social life. His works remain notable for their treatment of guilt and
the complexities of moral choices.