Student Spotlight: The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne, by Miranda
Nathaniel Hawthorne was just one of early America’s great writers. He wrote many classic books over the years and published one of the first mass-produced books in the United States.
Nathaniel Hawthorn, Jr. was born on July 4, 1804, to Nathaniel Hawthorn and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. They lived in Salem, Massachusetts, at the time, where their ancestor, John Hawthorn, had once lived. John was the sole judge in the tragic Salem witch trials. Later in life, Nathaniel added an “e” to the end of his last name to keep the relation to John a secret.
They soon moved to Raymond, Maine, near Sebago Lake in the summer of 1816. Nathaniel loved living on the farm, but at age 17 he was sent back to Salem for school. He missed his family and sent them a handmade newspaper, The Spectator, that included essays, news, poems, and much more.
Nathaniel almost did not attend college. His parents could not afford it, and he did not have the desire to go. But a rich uncle from his mother’s side wanted Nathaniel to go to school and could afford to pay for the education. Nathaniel was sent to Bowdoin College in 1821. He learned a lot and ended up joining Phi Beta Kappa, a liberal arts and science fraternity, in 1824.
After college Nathaniel went to Boston and became the editor of the American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge. He stayed with a friend while he was working. In 1828 he published his first book, Fanshawe, which he later suppressed because he did not feel it was good enough. Nathaniel wrote many short stories but none of them brought any publicity to his writing abilities. In 1837, Horatio Bridge collected all of Nathaniel’s short stories into one volume, called Twice-Told Tales, and published it, making him a locally known name.
A year after Twice-Told Tales was published, Nathaniel became engaged to Sophia Peabody. To save money to get married, Hawthorne got a new job at a custom house as a weigher and gauger. Three years later he moved to Brook Farm, a utopian community based on the idea of equal labor. While he did not believe in the utopian ideas, he worked there in order to gain more money. Nathaniel’s job was to scoop manure from a hill called “the Gold Mine.” While his time at Brook Farm was unpleasant, it did prove useful later when Nathaniel used his experiences to help write The Blithedale Romance. He left after less than a year and then married Sophia Peabody.
After marriage, Nathaniel and Sophia moved to The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts. There they had their first child, a girl named Una, in 1844. Nathaniel wrote most of Mosses from an Old Manse while there. Two years after Una was born they moved back to Salem where Nathaniel worked as a surveyor. Shortly after the move their son Julian was born. While in Salem, Nathaniel had a hard time writing. His job was lost after the presidential election of 1848, but soon he was re-employed as the corresponding secretary of the Salem Lyceum.
In 1850 Hawthorne finally got back into writing, and The Scarlet Letter was published. It was extremely popular and 2,500 copies were bought in the first ten days. The Scarlet Letter was one of the first mass-produced books in America.
In 1850 Nathaniel and his family moved to the Berkshires near Lenox, Massachusetts. The two years that they lived there, Nathaniel wrote three books: The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, and A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys. The House of the Seven Gables was very popular and almost as famous as The Scarlet Letter. The Blithedale Romance took inspiration from many places and events during Hawthorne’s life. It was also the only book that Nathaniel wrote in first person. He worked on A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys for six years before it was finally published in 1851. It was a collection of short stories that contained rewritten myths and legends. While at the Berkshires, Hawthorne also wrote The Life of Franklin Pierce for Franklin Pierce himself. He helped Pierce get into office and in 1853 was rewarded for his work.
After he published the Tanglewood Tales, he became the United States consul in Liverpool, England. While his time at the Berkshires was productive, Nathaniel did not like it very much and was glad to move to the Wayside in 1852. The Wayside, located in Concord, was originally called the Hillside and was owned by Amos Bronson Alcott, a fellow writer.
After Pierce’s term was over in 1857, Nathaniel and his family toured the rest of England and Italy. They did this for three years and then returned to the Wayside in 1860. During his seven years in Europe, Hawthorne had a hard time writing. When they finally returned to America he got back into it and published The Marble Faun.
In 1862 Nathaniel went to Washington D.C. with William D. Ticknor, one of his publishers. They met many important people while there, including Abraham Lincoln. Hawthorne wrote about his adventure in 1862 in a book called Chiefly About War Matters. At this point Nathaniel knew that his days were drawing to a close.
Hawthorne tried to work on new romances but never got to finish them because of stomach pain and his failing health. He decided to go on a vacation with Franklin Pierce to the White Mountains. Nathaniel died in his sleep on the trip in 1864. Franklin sent Sophia Hawthorne a telegram to inform her of her husband’s death. Nathaniel was 60 years old.
Miranda Elise–Miranda is 15 years old, is one of three sisters and has been homeschooled since the third grade. She is an avid photographer, loves to cook, and helps run the sound booth at church. In addition to learning at home, Miranda also takes courses through a local co-op once a week. She is looking forward to graduating in 2017, and is considering going into video production.