Nathaniel Hawthorne Biography

One of the finest American novelists of the 19th century, Nathaniel Hawthorne was known for his works on fiction. Explore this biography to learn more about his profile, childhood, life and timeline.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Quick Facts

Gender: Male
Birthday: 04 July 1804
Died: 19 May 1864
Nationality: American
Sun Sign: Cancer
Spouse/Ex-: Sophia Hawthorne
Children: Julian Hawthorne, Mother Mary Alphonsa
Education: Bowdoin College

Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of the greatest fiction writers of his time. He was known as the master of allegory and symbolism which reflected in some of his greatest works, ‘Scarlett Letter’ and ‘The House of the Seven Gables’. His writings were mainly inspired by Puritanism and Dark Romanticism and often spread moral messages of deep psychosomatic complexity. From short stories to novels and biographies, Hawthorne stories were typically set in the backdrop of New England and were woven around the themes of sin, repentance and morality. His works went on to inspire a number of writers such as Herman Melville, who marbled his novel, ‘Moby Dick’ on Hawthorne’s styles. He was friends with some of England’s finest intellectuals such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott, who were also inspired by his themes and creative expressions. One of his last publications before death was ‘Our Old Home’, which left a lasting impact on all his readers. Aside his career, Hawthorne was an avid reader and often wrote essays which were published in a number of magazines and newspapers. He also lived at the new transcendentalist community, ‘Brook Farm’, but stayed only a year. If you would like to learn more about him, scroll further.

Childhood & Early Life

Nathaniel Hawthorne, initially Nathaniel Hathorne, was born on July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts and was the great-great-great-grandson of William Hathorne; a distinguished author and one of the most influential men in England.
He lived with his family in Salem for a decade before they lived with farmers as boarders near Sebago Lake. In 1819, he was sent back to school in Salem, but soon became homesick without his mother and sisters.
He came up with his own edition of a home newspaper titled, ‘The Spectator’, which included news, poems, essays and other strips, showcasing the young boy’s talent and humor.
He was sent to Bowdoin College in 1821, financed by his uncle, where he befriended Franklin Pierce, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Jonathan Cilley. He graduated from college in 1825.


In 1836, Hawthorne became the editor of the ‘American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge’.
On January 17, 1839, he was appointed as weigher and gauger at the Boston Custom House for a salary of $1,500 per year. During this time, he contributed short stories, essays and poems to various annuals and magazines. However, none of his works drew any attention.
In 1837, his friend, Horatio Bridge, offered to publish his works into a single volume titled, ‘Twice-Told Tales’, which made him famous locally.
In 1846, he was appointed as Surveyor of Salem and Inspector of the Revenue for the Port of Salem for a salary of $1,200. He soon lost his job due to the change of administration in Washington after the presidential election in 1848.
Following this dismissal, he was appointed as corresponding secretary of the Salem Lyceum in 1848.
Hawthorne began writing once again and ‘The Scarlet Letter’, one of his best-known works, was published in the beginning of 1850. The book became an immediate best-seller in the United States. It was around this time, he befriended Herman Melville, who dedicated his novel, ‘Moby-Dick’ to Hawthorne.
He moved to The Berkshires and was at his productive best. ‘The House of the Seven Gables’ (1851), was considered even better than ‘The Scarlett Letter’ and became one of the best-sellers in New England. Around the same time, he wrote ‘The Blithedale Romance’ (1852).
He was also known for his collection of short-stories, one of his best known works being, ‘A Wonder-Book for Girls’ and Boys’.
Towards the end of 1852, he began writing a biography on his close friend Franklin Pierce titled, ‘The Life of Franklin Pierce’. Shortly after, ‘Tanglewood Tales’ was published in 1853.
Towards the end of his career, Hawthorne spent much of his time travelling and he was appointed as the United States consul in Liverpool. However, this appointment ended in 1857 and Hawthorne went back to writing. This time, ‘The Marble Faun’ was published.
Many of his essays and writings were inspired by his meetings with famous personalities such as Abraham Lincoln, whom he had the privilege to meet during the American Civil War. He wrote the essay, ‘Chiefly about War Matters’ in 1862 before his retirement.


The Scarlett Letter
The House of the Seven Gables
Doctor Grimshawe’s Secret: A Romance

Short Stories

Twice-Told Tales
Mosses from an Old Manse
A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys
Tanglewood Tales
The Great Stone Face and Other Tales of the White Mountains
Ethan Brand


A Collection of Wax Figures


Chiefly about War Matters
The New Atlantis

Personal Life & Legacy

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a flirt in his younger days and was publicly fraternized with Mary Silsbee and Elizabeth Peabody. However, he ended up marrying Sophia Peabody on July 9, 1842 in Boston. They had three children.
He was a very shy man like his wife and the duo preferred to stay away from social gatherings.
Towards the end of his life, he complained of recurrent stomach pain and while on a tour with a friend to the White Mountains, he passed away on May 19, 1864. His wife and children arranged for the funeral and he was interred at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Massachusetts.
Longfellow wrote a poem in the honor of his friend titled ‘The Bells of Lynn’, which was published in 1866.

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Nathaniel Hawthorne Biography

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Last Updated

May 24, 2019

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