You, the ordinary reader, may not be privileged to know so much about ‘The Scarlet Letter’s’ author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, aside from the fact that he published the aforementioned book. But that’s the reason this article exists in the first place – to inform readers about the author, beyond the surface facts that everyone already knows. Below is a listicle that outlines top facts about Nathaniel Hawthorne that you might find interesting to know.
Hawthorne was immobile for a considerable amount of his childhood
During his early days, young Hawthorne spent most of his time around Maine and Salem with family, mostly with his mother and his two sisters – who loved and were very fond of him as he was the only son.
However, during this period, young Hawthorne, unfortunately, sustained an injury to his leg – the cause of which remains uncertain – and had to stay mostly fixed in one place. He, however, used this to his advantage and capitalized on it by reading and educating himself. This period of his life marked the start of his interest in a literary career.
He added a ‘W’ to his surname to escape a bad legacy
Nathaniel Hawthorne came from a family that had a history of the involvement in Puritanism revolution in the Salem area of Massachusetts. Part of that history wasn’t a very bright one, particularly the one involving his ancestor John Hathorne’s hand in the famous witches’ trial of the late 17th century.
Unlike his ancestors and their absolute belief in the puritan practice, Hawthorne shared a very critical opinion and was mostly anti-Puritanism in his writings – as he often questioned certain aspects of it such as its deprivation of free will and violation of certain human rights.
For this personal reason and others such as a bad public reputation and denial of public favor causing a dwindling family fortune, Hawthorne would later add a ‘W’ to his surname to try and dissociate himself from the forefathers and the disturbing legacy they had built.
He went to school with President Franklin Pierce
Through the help of his affluent maternal uncles, The Mannings, Hawthorne went to Bowdoin College, where he majored in English composition and Latin.
The Bowdoin college was a small but prestigious school at the time, and there were a lot of bright youngsters who were in the class of 1825 as Hawthorne – and all would later become important people of their generation.
Of such people were authors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Franklin Pierce – who would a few years later become the president of the country. Hawthorne and these lads all kept close, lifelong relationships as they were like-minded.
He served as American ambassador to Liverpool
After they graduated from Bowdoin, the friends went their separate ways but still kept in touch with each other. Pierce pursued a political career, while Longfellow and Hawthorne follow the literary path (separately).
Many years later after Hawthorne had published several of his short stories – including his masterpiece ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ he got senate approval to become an American ambassador to Liverpool, England, and this was all thanks to his friend Franklin Pierce – who had just been ushered in as the president.
His best book, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ sold out in 10 days
Nathaniel Hawthorne published ‘The Scarlet Letter’ in 1850 with an initial circulation volume of 2,500 copies. It only took ten days for all copies to be sold out following an influx of demand that his marketing team received immediately after putting the book out.
The success of Hawthorne’s book was a bit surprising – given the volatility of his reputation at the time and fueled by the disappointment of his last job experience. ‘The Scarlet Letter’ has since been reprinted into millions of copies and is still being printed to date because of its ever-increasing popularity and demand.
He was friends with fellow transcendentalists Thoreau and Emerson
Following his marriage to Sophia, Hawthorne and his wife left Salem, relocating to Old Manse, Concord, which was a former base of Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the pioneers of the New England transcendentalist movement.
While he was there, another remarkable figure of the movement, Henry David Thoreau, tended his vegetation for a short while in Old Manse. Hawthorne spent at least a decade in Old Manse before moving to another area.
Hawthorne has a daughter who was chosen for sainthood
Hawthorne and his spouse Sophia had a daughter called Rose, she was the youngest daughter of the house, and was born in 1851 – a year after he published ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and the same year in which he released ‘The House of the Seven Garbles.’
Rose wanted to be like her father so she pursued a writing career, met and married her husband, and they had a son – and the whole family converted to the Catholic faith. The unfortunate happened and she lost her hand and child (then five years old).
After a disillusioning and devastating period of mourning, Rose decided to channel whatever was left of her into charity and goodwill. She started by looking out for indigent cancer patients in the slum of New York City before becoming a reverend sister and adopting the name Mother Mary Alphonse.
Years later she helped establish the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne to help spread her charitable exploits, and after her passing the good work continued. In 2003, Rose Hawthorne became one of the nominees for sainthood, following a recommendation from the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan.
He was a descendant of one of the key figures in the famous 1692 Salem witch trial
The 1692 Salem witch trial is remembered as one of the most brutal and hard-hearted judicial proceedings in the whole of history, resulting in the lynching of at least 19 persons convicted of witchcraft, including a few others who had died under custody.
Hawthorne’s great grandfather, John Hathorne, was one of the judges who championed the trial and execution of several persons – including some of his relatives like John Proctor, who was his relative-in-law.
The trial included several of Hawthorne’s ancestral family members, some of who were acquitted and a few who were killed. The narrative served as a huge inspiration for his 1851 novel, ‘The House of the Seven Garbles.’
President Franklin was the first to confirm his death
Following the end of his service as a United States consul to Liverpool, Hawthorne returned home with his wife and children but appeared to have been heavily battered health-wise.
The author managed to put together the final piece of his would-be last novel, ‘The Marble Faun,’ and then embarked on a trip with his friend President Franklin Pierce – as both looked to enjoy the pristineness of one of Pierce’s old country houses.
As they passed the night in one of the nearby hotels, it was the last for Hawthorne. Pierce checked on him shortly afterward and confirmed that he had died.
More than a hundred years passed before Hawthorne reunited with his wife in death
Following Hawthorne’s death in May of 1864, his body was interred back home in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord. A few years later, his wife, Sophia, who was based in The Uk, passed and was buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery in London – and was later joined by her daughter Una, who died six years later.
After nearly a generation and a half, both bodies were exhumed, transported, and buried next to Hawthorne in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord.
Which prominent person was with Hawthorne when he died?
Pierce Franklin, who was the 14th president of the United States, was with Hawthorne during his final hours and was the first person to confirm the death of the acclaimed author.
What did Nathaniel Hawthorne die from?
Through the years, Hawthorne’s health gradually deteriorated from a chronic gastrointestinal illness. He eventually gave in to it in 1864 – while touring the old countryside with his friend, President Franklin Pierce.
Was Hawthorne friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau?
Hawthorne, Emerson, and Thoreau lived at the same time and were close to each other – although they may not have been very close friends. After his marriage to Sophia, Hawthorne moved from Salem to Old manse, Concord, the former home of Emerson, and had young Thoreau come work in his garden at the time.