A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Hawthorne, Nathaniel

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Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1804-1864). -- Novelist, b. at Salem, Massachusetts, s.. of a sea captain, who d. in 1808, after which his mother led the life of a recluse. An accident when at play conduced to an early taste for reading, and from boyhood he cherished literary aspirations. His education was completed at Bowdoin Coll., where he had Longfellow for a fellow-student. After graduating, he obtained a post in the Custom-House, which, however, he did not find congenial, and soon gave up, betaking himself to literature, his earliest efforts, besides a novel, Fanshawe, which page 181had no success, being short tales and sketches, which, after appearing in periodicals, were coll. and pub. as Twice-told Tales (1837), followed by a second series in 1842. In 1841 he joined for a few months the socialistic community at Brook Farm, but soon tired of it, and in the next year he m. and set up house in Concord in an old manse, formerly tenanted by Emerson, whence proceeded Mosses from an Old Manse (1846). It was followed by The Snow Image (1851), The Scarlet Letter (1850), his most powerful work, The House of Seven Gables, and The Blithedale Romance (1852), besides his children's books, The Wonder Book, and The Tanglewood Tales. Such business as he had occupied himself with had been in connection with Custom-House appointments at different places; but in 1853 he received from his friend Franklin Pierce, on his election to the Presidency, the appointment of United States Consul at Liverpool, which he retained for four years, when, in consequence of a threatened failure of health, he went to Italy and began his story of The Marble Faun, pub. in England in 1860 under the title of The Transformation. The last of his books pub. during his lifetime was Our Old Home (1863), notes on England and the English. He had returned to America in 1860, where, with failing health and powers, he passed his remaining four years. After his death there were pub. The Ancestral Footstep, Septimus Felton, Dr. Grimshawe's Secret, and The Dolliver Romance, all more or less fragmentary. Most of H.'s work is pervaded by a strong element of mysticism, and a tendency to dwell in the border-land between the seen and the unseen. His style is characterised by a distinctive grace and charm, rich, varied, suggestive, and imaginative. On the whole he is undoubtedly the greatest imaginative writer yet produced by America.

There are several ed. of the Works, e.g. Little Classics, 25 vols.; Riverside, 15 vols.; Standard Library, 15 vols.; the two last have biographies. Lives by his son Julian, H. James (English Men of Letters, 1850), M.D. Conway (Great Writers, 1890), etc.