Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne


NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, a distinguished American author, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804. He was educated at Bowdoin College, where he graduated in 1825, Longfellow being one of his class-mates. He published in 1832, an anonymous romance, which he never claimed, and which has not been identified by the public. In 1837, he published a collection of Twice told Tales, so called because they had previously appeared in annuals or other periodicals. In 1843, Hawthorne removed to Concord, and resided for some time in an old manse or parsonage, from the windows of which its inmates looked, it is said, upon the first battle of the revolution (April 19th, 1775). In 1846, he gave to the world a delightful volume of sketches and tales, entitled "Mosses from an old Manse." The same year, he was appointed surveyor in the custom-house at Salem, and held office there for three years. In 1850, appeared his Scarlet Letter, a strange and singularly fascinating story of early New England life, which at once raised its author to the first rank among American writers of fiction. In 1851, he published the House of the Seven Gables; in 1852, appeared his Blithedale Romance, and in 1859, Transformation. In 1853, he was appointed, by President Pierce, United States consul at Liverpool, which office he held for four years. All critics concede Hawthorne's power to awaken in his readers an intense, sustained, and almost painful interest; but it has been objected that the tone of some of his works is unhealthful. "The fire with which the Scarlet Letter glows," observes a critic, "is not the glow of natural life, but the fever of disease, which burns up the cheeks of its actors." Another doubts whether passions and tragedies like those introduced into the last named romance are legitimate subjects for fiction, but adds: "If sin and sorrow in their most fearful forms are to be presented in any work of art, they have rarely been treated with a loftier severity, purity and sympathy, than in Mr. Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter." He died in 1864.