Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts. His father was a sea captain and descendent of John Hawthorne, one of the judges in the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. He died when the young Nathaniel was four year old. Hawthorne grew up in seclusion with his widowed mother and he leaned on her for emotional support and vice versa, and this situation Hawthorne carried with him into adulthood. Hawthorne was educated at the Bowdoin College in Maine (1821-24). In the school among his friends were Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Franklin Pierce, who became the 14th president of the U.S.
Hawthorne became friends with a set of writers known as the Transcendentalists — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, but generally he did not have much confidence in intellectuals and artists. He married in 1842 Sophia Peapody and settled with her in Concord. A growing family and mounting debts compelled the family to return to Salem. Hawthorne was unable to earn a living as a writer and in 1846 he was appointed surveyor of the Port of Salem, where he worked for three years before finally finding success as a writer.
Hawthorne's best-known works include The Scarlet Letter (1850), The House of the Seven Gables (1851), and The Blithedale Romance (1852). During this productive period Hawthorne also established a warm friendship with Herman Melville, who dedicated Moby-Dick to him.
In 1853 Franklin Pierce became President and Hawthorne, who had written a campaign biography for him, was appointed the consulship in Liverpool, England. He lived there for four years and spent a year and half in Italy writing The Marble Faun (1860), a story about the conflicts between innocence and guilt. It was his last completed novel. In his Concord home, The Wayside, he wrote the essays contained in Our Old Home (1863). Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, in Plymouth, N.H. on a trip to the mountains with his friend Franklin Pierce. After his death his wife edited and published his notebooks. Modern editions of these works include many of the sections which she cut out or altered.
A number of writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, and Washington Irving, and Nathaniel Hawthorne drew on the Puritan origins of American history and Puritan styles of rhetoric to create a distinctive literary style and the first truly great works of American literature.
The Classical Library,