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.
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.