Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, thedescendent of a long line of Puritan ancestors, including John Hathorne, apresiding magistrate in the Salem witch trials. After his father was lost at seawhen he was only four, his mother became overly protective and pushed him towardmore isolated pursuits. Hawthorne’s childhood left him overly shy and bookish,and molded his life as a writer. Hawthorne turned to writing after hisgraduation from Bowdoin College. His first novel, Fanshawe, was unsuccessful andHawthorne himself disavowed it as amateurish.
However, he wrote severalsuccessful short stories, including “My Kinsman, Major Molyneaux,””Roger Malvin’s Burial” and “Young Goodman Brown.” However,insufficient earnings as a writer forced Hawthorne to enter a career as a BostonCustom House measurer in 1839. However, after three years Hawthorne wasdismissed from his job with the Salem Custom House. By 1842, however, hiswriting amassed Hawthorne a sufficient income for him to marry Sophia Peabodyand move to The Manse in Concord, which was at that time the center of theTranscendental movement. Hawthorne returned to Salem in 1845, where he wasappointed surveyor of the Boston Custom House by President James Polk, but wasdismissed from this post when Zachary Taylor became president.
Hawthorne thendevoted himself to his most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. He zealouslyworked on the novel with a determination he had not known before. His intensesuffering infused the novel with imaginative energy, leading him to describe itas the “hell-fired story.” On February 3, 1850, Hawthorne read thefinal pages to his wife. He wrote, “It broke her heart and sent her to bedwith a grievous headache, which I look upon as a triumphant success.” TheScarlet Letter was an immediate success and allowed Hawthorne to devote himselfto his writing. He left Salem for a temporary residence in Lenox, a small townthe Berkshires, where he completed the romance The House of the Seven Gables in1851.
While in Lenox, Hawthorne became acquainted with Herman Melville andbecame a major proponent of Melville’s work, but their friendship becamestrained. Hawthorne’s subsequent novels, The Blithedale Romance, based on hisyears of communal living at Brook Farm, and the romance The Marble Faun, wereboth considered disappointments. Hawthorne supported himself through anotherpolitical post, the consulship in Liverpool, which he was given for writing acampaign biography for Franklin Pierce. Hawthorne passed away on May 19, 1864 inPlymouth, New Hampshire after a long period of illness in which he sufferedsevere bouts of dementia.. Emerson described his life with the words”painful solitude.
” Hawthorne maintained a strong friendship withFranklin Pierce, but otherwise had few intimates and little engagement with anysort of social life. His works remain notable for their treatment of guilt andthe complexities of moral choices.English Essays