Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Hawthorne, Nathaniel,

1804–64, American novelist and short-story writer, b. Salem, Mass., one of the great masters of American fiction. His novels and tales are penetrating explorations of moral and spiritual conflicts.

Early Life and Works

Descended from a prominent Puritan family, Hawthorne was the son of a sea captain who died when Nathaniel was 4 years old. When he was 14 he and his mother moved to a lonely farm in Maine. After attending Bowdoin College (1821–25), he devoted himself to writing. His first novel, Fanshawe (1829), published anonymously, was unsuccessful. His short stories won notice and were collected in Twice-Told Tales (1837; second series, 1842). Unable to support himself by writing and editing, he took a job at the Boston customhouse.

Later, Hawthorne lived at the experimental community Brook FarmBrook Farm,
1841–47, an experimental farm at West Roxbury, Mass., based on cooperative living. Founded by George Ripley, a Unitarian minister, the farm was initially financed by a joint-stock company with 24 shares of stock at $500 per share.
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 for about six months, but he did not share the optimism and idealism of the transcendentalist participants (see transcendentalismtranscendentalism
[Lat.,=overpassing], in literature, philosophical and literary movement that flourished in New England from about 1836 to 1860. It originated among a small group of intellectuals who were reacting against the orthodoxy of Calvinism and the rationalism of the
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), and he did not feel himself suited to communal life. In 1842 he married Sophia Peabody, a friend and follower of EmersonEmerson, Ralph Waldo
, 1803–82, American poet and essayist, b. Boston. Through his essays, poems, and lectures, the "Sage of Concord" established himself as a leading spokesman of transcendentalism and as a major figure in American literature.
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, ThoreauThoreau, Henry David
, 1817–62, American author, naturalist, social activist, and philosopher, b. Concord, Mass., grad. Harvard, 1837. Thoreau is considered one of the most influential figures in American thought and literature.
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, and Margaret FullerFuller, Margaret,
1810–50, American writer, lecturer, and public intellectual, b. Cambridgeport (now part of Cambridge), Mass. She was one of the most influential personalities in the American literary circles of her day.
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, and they settled in Concord. There he wrote the tales and sketches in the collection Mosses from an Old Manse (1846).

Later Life and Mature Work

In order to earn a livelihood Hawthorne served as surveyor of the port at Salem (1846–49), where he began writing his masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter (1850). Set in 17th-century Puritan New England, the novel delves deeply into the human heart, presenting the problems of moral evil and guilt through allegory and symbolism. It is often considered the first American psychological novel. Hawthorne's next novel, The House of the Seven Gables (1851), takes place in the New England of his own period but nevertheless also deals with the effects of Puritanism.

For a time the Hawthornes lived at "Tanglewood," near Lenox, Mass., where he wrote A Wonder Book (1852), based on Greek mythology, which became a juvenile classic, and Tanglewood Tales (1853), also for children. At this time he befriended his neighbor Herman MelvilleMelville, Herman,
1819–91, American author, b. New York City, considered one of the great American writers and a major figure in world literature. Early Life and Works
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, who was one of the first to appreciate Hawthorne's genius. Returning to Concord, Hawthorne completed The Blithedale Romance (1852), a novel based on his Brook Farm experience.

A campaign biography of his college friend Franklin PiercePierce, Franklin,
1804–69, 14th President of the United States (1853–57), b. Hillsboro, N.H., grad. Bowdoin College, 1824. Admitted to the bar in 1827, he entered politics as a Jacksonian Democrat, like his father, Benjamin Pierce, who was twice elected governor of
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 earned Hawthorne the post of consul at Liverpool (1853–57) after Pierce became President. Hawthorne's stay in England is reflected in the travel sketches of Our Old Home (1863), and a visit to Italy resulted in the novel The Marble Faun (1860). After returning to the United States, he worked on several novels that were never finished. He died during a trip to the White Mts. with Franklin Pierce.

Short Stories

Aside from his importance as a novelist, Hawthorne is justly celebrated as a short-story writer. He helped to establish the American short story as a significant art form with his haunting tales of human loneliness, frustration, hypocrisy, eccentricity, and frailty. Among his most brilliant stories are "The Minister's Black Veil," "Roger Malvin's Burial," "Young Goodman Brown," "Rappaccini's Daughter," "The Great Stone Face," and "Ethan Brand."


See the centenary edition of his complete works, ed. by W. Charvat et al. (16 vol., 1965–85); biographies by his son, Julian Hawthorne (2 vol., 1884, repr. 1968), A. Turner (1980), J. R. Mellow (1980), E. Miller (1991), and B. Wineapple (2003); studies by H. James (1879, repr. 1956), M. D. Bell (1971), N. Baym (1976), T. Stoehr (1978), T. Martin (1983), M. Colacurcio (1984), F. Crews (1989), and E. Miller (1991).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel


Born July 4, 1804, in Salem, Mass.; died May 19, 1864, in Plymouth, N.H. American writer.

Hawthorne graduated from Bowdoin College in 1825 and later worked in the customhouses in Boston and Salem. From 1853 to 1857 he was US consul in Great Britain. Hawthorne passed through a brief period of enchantment with Transcendentalism, and in 1841 he lived in the Fourierist commune at Brook Farm. He told the story of his disenchantment with Fourierism in the novel The Blithedale Romance (1852; Russian translation, 1913). Together with E. A. Poe, Hawthorne is a classic writer of the American short story; it is his short stories that form the most important part of his literary legacy, such as the collections Twice-Told Tales (1837 and 1842) and Mosses From an Old Manse (1846) and the collections of short stories and fairy tales for children.

Hawthorne’s work shows the profound influence of the Puritan tradition of New England, the historic center of the first settlers. Although he rejected the blind fanaticism of the official Puritan ideology (as in the short story “The Gentle Boy”), he idealized some traits of the Puritan ethic, in which he saw the only guarantee of moral fortitude, purity, and a harmonious existence (in the short story “The Great Carbuncle”). The intellectual and artistic quality of Hawthorne’s short stories and novels derives from his interest in the relations between the past and the present and from an interweaving of reality and fancy, a romantic passion, a detailed portrayal of mores, and a sharp satirical sense. These traits are exhibited in The Scarlet Letter (1850; Russian translation, 1856) and The House of the Seven Gables (1851; Russian translation, 1852). A writer with a tragic perception of the world and a romantic critic of bourgeois civilization, Hawthorne reflected the painful search for a positive moral ideal and for an autonomous human personality.


The Complete Works, vols. 1–13. Boston-New York [1914].
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1912–13.
Novelly. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.


Istoriia amerikanskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Bruks, V. V. Pisatel’ i amerikanskaia zhizn’, vol. 1. Moscow, 1967.
Kauli, M. “Gotorn v uedinenii.” In his Dom so mnogimi oknami. Moscow, 1973.
Literaturnaia istoriia Soedinennykh Shtatov Ameriki, vol. 1. Moscow, 1977.
Hawthorne: The Critical Heritage. London [1970].
Browne, N. E. A Bibliography of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (b. Hathorne)

(1804–64) writer; born in Salem, Mass. A descendant of a judge in the Salem witch trials, he spent a solitary, bookish childhood with his widowed and reclusive mother. After graduating from Bowdoin College, he returned to Salem and prepared for a writing career with 12 years of solitary study and writing interrupted by summer tours through the Northeast. After privately publishing a novel, Fanshawe (1828), he began publishing stories in the Token and New England Magazine. These original allegories of New England Puritanism, including such classic stories as "The Minister's Black Veil," were collected in Twice-Told Tales (1837). A brief period of paid employment, including the compilation of popular children's works and a stint at the Boston Custom House (1839–41)—thanks to his friend, Senator Franklin Pierce—was followed by a half-year's residence at the transcendentalist community, Brook Farm. In 1842 he married Sophia Amelia Peabody, also a transcendentalist, and they moved to Concord, Mass., where he began a friendship with Henry David Thoreau. Financial pressures forced his return to Salem (1845–49) where he secured another political appointment, this time as surveyor of the port of Salem (1845–49). During these years he continued to publish Puritan tales ("Young Goodman Brown," "The Birthmark"); collections of his stories included Mosses from an Old Manse (1846) and The Snow Image (1851). His dismissal from the surveyorship initiated the brief period of his greatest novels: The Scarlet Letter (1850), The House of the Seven Gables (1851), and The Blithdale Romance (1852). He also wrote two children's classics: A Wonder-Book (1852) and Tanglewood Tales (1853). His campaign biography of Franklin Pierce (1852) was rewarded with the U.S. consulship at Liverpool (1853–58). He then went to live in Italy (1858–59) where he began The Marble Faun, which he published after returning to the U.S.A. in 1860. Back in Concord, he published his last major work, Our Old Home (1863), which drew on his experiences in England, but by then he was becoming ill and disillusioned.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
"Observing Manners in Hawthorne's Blithedale." Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, vol.
"Hawthorne as Cultural Theorist." The Cambridge Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Richard H.
Subsequent editors of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Notebooks agree with Stewart's later assessment.
Nathaniel Hawthorne agreed in principle, and that is why he decided to make his story The Marble Faun, set in Italy, a fantasy and why he took great pains to sidestep a realistic portrait of his Italian characters.
Nevertheless, this was the mien of Nathaniel Hawthorne. More an observer of life than a participant, the New Englander was morbidly shy and reclusive, and probably never would have married if not doggedly pursued by his wife.
In an age that brought forth the masterpieces of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Mark Twain, they advocated a genteel, rational humanism, quite out of step with their brilliant contemporaries.
Beigh Masters, the narrator, is descended from Hannah, whose neighbor John Hathorne is an ancestor of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Somewhere in the subtext the reader is supposed to see connection between India's romantic exuberance and New England's Puritan ethic.
While authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson were writing novels and essays that are still read and honored, other authors were publishing books of less than permanent quality.
To Nathaniel Hawthorne, haunted by the ghosts of his Puritan ancestors, the dark woods around Salem, Massachusetts, seemed gloomy and mysterious.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's third novel (1852) and his only one to deal closely and explicitly with issues and concerns of his own era and place.
(1852) A novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Blithedale, a Utopian community, is modeled on Brook Farm, the Transcendentalist experiment at West Roxbury, Massachusetts, in which Hawthorne had participated ten years before he wrote the novel.
It examines the four novels and one novella featuring Rabbit Angstrom (Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit at Rest, and Rabbit Remembered), his short fiction, Couples, the five novels influenced by Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (The Witches of Eastwick, A Month of Sundays, Roger's Version, The Widows of Eastwick, and S.), and the satirical Henry Bech collections (Bech: A Book, Bech Is Back, and Bech at Bay: A Quasi-Novel).