Nathaniel Hawthorne

(1804-1864), American

Hawthorne was born in Salem – which was a place his four fathers had settled and flourished since the 1600s. However, through the generations to his birth in 1804, his family’s legacy and fortune had diminished to a troubling low, especially given that the other previously economically lesser families were now bearing more relevance and integrity than the Hawthornes. This article will lay down important biographical timelines on the life of Nathaniel Hawthorne, publisher of ‘The Scarlet Letter.’


Life Facts

    • Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804 to Elizabeth Clarke Manning and Nathaniel Hathorne.

    • He was the only male child in the house and had two sibling sisters.

    • His father, Nathaniel Hathorne was a voyager who often spent time in the sea. He died in 1808 after falling to a sea fever at the time when Hawthorne was only four years old.

    • His family had a tougher survival to life – especially in terms of making ends meet – after his father’s passing.

    • Moving in with his wealthy maternal uncles – The Mannings – meant that Hawthorne now had the opportunity to afford to get an education from the Bowdoin institute.

Interesting Facts

    • Hawthorne’s interest in becoming a literary author came from a much early age, effectively following some complications with his legs which impeded his mobility. For this reason, he finds himself spending so much time indoors, and the only worthwhile this to do was read avidly, and creatively write.

    • When Hawthorne had come of age and learned about the history of his ancestors and their involvement in the famous Salem Witch trial and the Quaker woman verdict, he wasn’t pleased with a such family legacy so he decided to add a ‘W’ to his surname to dissociate himself from the narrative.

    • At Bowdoin university, Hawthorne met and became friends with several people, one of which was Franklin Pierce – who would later become the future president of the United States of America.

    • After Bowdoin, Hawthorne, who had been homesick, went back home to his mother and two sisters and stayed at the family house for twelve years. During this time, he read a lot and published several short stories among which were one of his hits ‘Roger Malvin’s Burial’ and ‘Young Goodman Brown.’

    • Before publishing his bestseller, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ Hawthorne found himself constantly in financial situations as the benefits from his short stories were hardly enough to support him. Bessie of this, he did a couple of menial jobs – one of which was measuring and scaling of salt for the Boston Custom House.


Famous Books by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hawthorne wrote several famous books that stayed relevant through the centuries till this day, and his style for most of these books is typically the same; a dark, gothic narrative that teaches morality by examining some core religious subjects such as sin, guilt, the supernatural and spirituality among other similar subjects.

Before finding his voice in novel writing, Hawthorne spent twelve years learning the art, but within these durations, the author was also putting out notoriously good short stories until 1850, the year he released his legacy book ‘The Scarlet Letter.’ The success of the book gave him confidence in novel writing as he went on and published other important future works in that regard. A recap of some of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous books will be highlighted.

The Scarlet Letter,’ published by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850, becomes the author’s greatest legacy which is still widely acclaimed after all these years. The book’s narrative is based on the puritan history of the American people – which effectively drowned out other preexisting cultures of several towns around Bay Colony, Massachusetts, before the 1630s.

The book follows the story of Hester Prynne, a young woman who undergoes a public punishment for committing adultery. Hester is forced to wear a dress with the letter ‘A’ boldly sewn off the chest area – as she stands over a platform for three hours and receives public shaming. But Hester is strong and resilient, and with a contrite heart, she searches for a better life for herself and her Pearl, her girl child born out of wedlock.

The House of the Seven Garbles’ is another novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne which had a great reception from book lovers following its publication. The book was published in 1851, a year after ‘The Scarlet Letter’ was published, and written partly on the inspiration of the author’s family history and exploits in Salem, Massachusetts.

The novel proves a pure work of romance and gothic fiction as it explores a narrative appearing to be haunted, filled with dark and gloomy scenes, death, witches, and the supernatural, among other things. Set in Salem, the city of Hawthorne’s ancestors, the book analyzed a supposed generational curse on Hawthorne’s family placed by a witch following his ancestor’s involvement in the execution of a woman in the 1600s.

Young Goodman Brown’ is a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of his earliest works released around 1835 – during which time the author was still observing self-isolation at his family house.

The book is set in a classical puritan society and headlines the tale of a man called Goodman Brown. Having recently got married, an adventure takes him into the wild one faithful night, where he is forced to see and interact with unnatural things that get him to question everything he’s ever known and believed in.


Early Life and Education

Born to Nathaniel Hathorne and Elizabeth Clarke Manning, Hawthorne became the only male child sandwiched between two sister siblings – older sister Elizabeth and Maria Louisa, his junior. His family wasn’t as rich as a few others after having managed a dwindling fortune and a bad name over the years. Still, he had a normal life.

However, in 1808, the year that Maria was born, his father lost his life following a fall to a sickness he caught while out in the sea. Hawthorne was only four years at the time. Things quickly went from normal to bad, and his mother had to move them in to stay with her rich brothers – The Mannings.

With their money and influence, Hawthorne attended the Bowdoin university, a fairly prestigious school at the time. The author spent four years there and studied English and Latin, and also met and became friends with some important people – including later authors and the future president of the country, Franklin Pierce.


Literary Career

The foundation of Hawthorne’s literary career may well have been laid during his time as a little boy who couldn’t walk due to health complications and had to stay indoors reading and writing stuff on his own. But at full peak, his literary career got off properly by the time he was out of college and spent time with his mother and sisters at home – effectively during his twelve years of isolation (from 1825 – 1837).

During this time, he published several short stories, including ‘Young Goodman Brown’ and ‘The Hollow of the Three Hills.’ He continued putting out good short stories until 1850, the year when he published his trademark book, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ to unprecedented success. Having found his voice, Hawthorne didn’t stop and went on to publish a few other books until his death in 1864.


Literature by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Explore literature by Nathaniel Hawthorne below, created by the team at Book Analysis.