Portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne by
, 1841 (Peabody Essex Museum)
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in
his birthplace is preserved and open to the public.
William Hathorne, the author's great-great-great-grandfather, a
Puritan, was the first of the family to emigrate from England, first settling in
Dorchester, Massachusetts, before moving to Salem. There he became an important member of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony and held many political positions including magistrate and judge, becoming infamous for his harsh sentencing.
 William's son and the author's great-great-grandfather,
John Hathorne, was one of the judges who oversaw the
Salem witch trials. Having learned about this, the author probably added the "w" to his surname in his early twenties, shortly after graduating from college, in an effort to dissociate himself from his notorious forebears.
 Hawthorne's father, Nathaniel Hathorne, Sr., was a sea captain who died in 1808 of
yellow fever in
 he had been a member of the
East India Marine Society.
 After his death, young Nathaniel, his mother, and two sisters moved in with maternal relatives, the Mannings, in Salem,
 where they lived for 10 years. During this time, on November 10, 1813, young Hawthorne was hit on the leg while playing "bat and ball"
 and became lame and bedridden for a year, though several physicians could find nothing wrong with him.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's childhood home in Raymond, ME
In the summer of 1816, the family lived as boarders with farmers
 before moving to a home recently built specifically for them by Hawthorne's uncles Richard and Robert Manning in
Raymond, Maine, near
 Years later, Hawthorne looked back at his time in Maine fondly: "Those were delightful days, for that part of the country was wild then, with only scattered clearings, and nine tenths of it primeval woods."
 In 1819, he was sent back to Salem for school and soon complained of homesickness and being too far from his mother and sisters.
 In spite of his homesickness, for the sake of having fun, he distributed seven issues of The Spectator to his family in August and September 1820. The homemade newspaper was written by hand. It included essays, poems, and news utilizing the young author's developing adolescent humor.
 Hawthorne's uncle Robert Manning insisted, despite Hawthorne's protests, that the boy attend college.
 With the financial support of his uncle, Hawthorne was sent to
Bowdoin College in 1821, partly because of family connections in the area, and also because of its relatively inexpensive tuition rate.
 On the way to Bowdoin, at the stage stop in Portland, Hawthorne met future president
Franklin Pierce and the two became fast friends.
 Once at the school, he also met the future poet
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, future congressman
Jonathan Cilley, and future naval reformer
 Years after his graduation with the class of 1825, he would describe his college experience to
Richard Henry Stoddard:
I was educated (as the phrase is) at Bowdoin College. I was an idle student, negligent of college rules and the Procrustean details of academic life, rather choosing to nurse my own fancies than to dig into Greek roots and be numbered among the learned Thebans.
In 1836, Hawthorne served as the editor of the
American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge. During this time, he boarded with the poet
Thomas Green Fessenden on Hancock Street in Beacon Hill in
 He was offered an appointment as weigher and gauger at the
Boston Custom House at a salary of $1,500 a year, which he accepted on January 17, 1839.
 During his time there, he rented a room from
George Stillman Hillard, business partner of
 Hawthorne wrote in the comparative obscurity of what he called his "owl's nest" in the family home. As he looked back on this period of his life, he wrote: "I have not lived, but only dreamed about living."
 He contributed short stories, including "
Young Goodman Brown" and "
The Minister's Black Veil", to various magazines and annuals, though none drew major attention to the author.
Horatio Bridge offered to cover the risk of collecting these stories in the spring of 1837 into one volume,
Twice-Told Tales, which made Hawthorne known locally.
Marriage and family
Sophia Peabody Hawthorne (1809–1871)
While at Bowdoin, Hawthorne bet his friend Jonathan Cilley a bottle of
Madeira wine that Cilley would get married before he did.
 By 1836, he had won the wager, but did not remain a bachelor for life. After public flirtations with local women Mary Silsbee and
 he began pursuing the latter's sister,
Sophia Peabody. Seeking a possible home for himself and Sophia, he joined the
Utopian community at
Brook Farm in 1841, not because he agreed with the experiment but because it helped him save money to marry Sophia.
 He paid a $1,000 deposit and was put in charge of shoveling the hill of manure referred to as "the Gold Mine".
 He left later that year, though his Brook Farm adventure would prove an inspiration for his novel
The Blithedale Romance.
 Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody on July 9, 1842, at a ceremony in the Peabody parlor on West Street in Boston.
 The couple moved to
The Old Manse in
 where they lived for three years. His neighbor,
Ralph Waldo Emerson, invited him into his social circle, but Hawthorne was almost pathologically shy and stayed silent when at gatherings.
 At the Old Manse, Hawthorne wrote most of the tales collected in
Mosses from an Old Manse.
Una, Julian, and Rose ca. 1862
Like Hawthorne, Sophia was a reclusive person. Throughout her early life, she had frequent
migraines and underwent several experimental medical treatments.
 She was mostly bedridden until her sister introduced her to Hawthorne, after which her headaches seem to have abated. The Hawthornes enjoyed a long and happy marriage. Of his wife, whom he referred to as his "Dove", Hawthorne wrote that she "is, in the strictest sense, my sole companion; and I need no other—there is no vacancy in my mind, any more than in my heart... Thank God that I suffice for her boundless heart!"
 Sophia greatly admired her husband's work. In one of her journals, she wrote:
I am always so dazzled and bewildered with the richness, the depth, the ... jewels of beauty in his productions that I am always looking forward to a second reading where I can ponder and muse and fully take in the miraculous wealth of thoughts.
On the first anniversary of the Hawthornes' marriage, the poet
Ellery Channing came to the Old Manse for help. A local teenager named Martha Hunt had drowned herself in the river and Hawthorne's boat, Pond Lily, was needed to find her body. Hawthorne helped recover the corpse, which he described as "a spectacle of such perfect horror ... She was the very image of death-agony".
 The incident later inspired a scene in his novel, The Blithedale Romance.
Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne had three children. Their first, a daughter, was born March 3, 1844. She was named Una, a reference to
The Faerie Queene, to the displeasure of family members.
 Hawthorne wrote to a friend, "I find it a very sober and serious kind of happiness that springs from the birth of a child ... There is no escaping it any longer. I have business on earth now, and must look about me for the means of doing it."
 In October 1845, the Hawthornes moved to Salem.
 In 1846, their son
Julian was born. Hawthorne wrote to his sister Louisa on June 22, 1846, with the news: "A small troglodyte made his appearance here at ten minutes to six o'clock this morning, who claimed to be your nephew."
 Their final child,
Rose, was born in May 1851. Hawthorne called her his "autumnal flower".
In April 1846, Hawthorne was officially appointed as the "Surveyor for the District of Salem and Beverly and Inspector of the Revenue for the Port of Salem" at an annual salary of $1,200.
 He had difficulty writing during this period, as he admitted to Longfellow:
I am trying to resume my pen ... Whenever I sit alone, or walk alone, I find myself dreaming about stories, as of old; but these forenoons in the Custom House undo all that the afternoons and evenings have done. I should be happier if I could write.
Like his earlier appointment to the custom house in Boston, this employment was vulnerable to the politics of the
spoils system. A Democrat, Hawthorne lost this job due to the change of administration in Washington after the presidential election of 1848. Hawthorne wrote a letter of protest to the Boston Daily Advertiser, which was attacked by the
Whigs and supported by the Democrats, making Hawthorne's dismissal a much-talked about event in New England.
 Hawthorne was deeply affected by the death of his mother shortly thereafter in late July, calling it, "the darkest hour I ever lived".
 Hawthorne was appointed the corresponding secretary of the Salem Lyceum in 1848. Guests that came to speak that season included Emerson, Thoreau,
Louis Agassiz, and
Hawthorne returned to writing and published
The Scarlet Letter in mid-March 1850,
 including a preface that refers to his three-year tenure in the Custom House and makes several allusions to local politicians, who did not appreciate their treatment.
 One of the first mass-produced books in America, it sold 2,500 volumes within ten days and earned Hawthorne $1,500 over 14 years.
 The book was immediately pirated by booksellers in London and became an immediate best-seller in the United States;
 it initiated his most lucrative period as a writer.
 One of Hawthorne's friends, the critic
Edwin Percy Whipple, objected to the novel's "morbid intensity" and its dense psychological details, writing that the book "is therefore apt to become, like Hawthorne, too painfully anatomical in his exhibition of them",
 though 20th-century writer
D. H. Lawrence said that there could be no more perfect work of the American imagination than The Scarlet Letter.
Hawthorne and his family moved to a small red farmhouse near
Lenox, Massachusetts at the end of March 1850.
 Hawthorne became friends with
Herman Melville beginning on August 5, 1850, when the authors met at a picnic hosted by a mutual friend.
 Melville had just read Hawthorne's short story collection
Mosses from an Old Manse, and his unsigned review of the collection, titled "Hawthorne and His Mosses", was printed in
The Literary World on August 17 and August 24.
 Melville, who was composing
Moby-Dick at the time, wrote that these stories revealed a dark side to Hawthorne, "shrouded in blackness, ten times black".
 Melville dedicated Moby-Dick (1851) to Hawthorne: "In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne."
Hawthorne's time in the
Berkshires was very productive.
 While there he wrote
The House of the Seven Gables (1851), which poet and critic
James Russell Lowell said was better than The Scarlet Letter and called "the most valuable contribution to New England history that has been made"
The Blithedale Romance (1852), his only work written in the first person.
 He also published, in 1851, a collection of short stories retelling myths,
A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys, a book he had been thinking about writing since 1846.
 Nevertheless, the poet
Ellery Channing reported that Hawthorne "has suffered much living in this place".
 Though the family enjoyed the scenery of The Berkshires, Hawthorne did not enjoy the winters in their small red house. They left on November 21, 1851.
 Hawthorne noted, "I am sick to death of Berkshire ... I have felt languid and dispirited, during almost my whole residence."
The Wayside and Europe
In May 1852, the Hawthornes returned to Concord, where they would live until July 1853.
 In February, they bought The Hillside, a home previously inhabited by
Amos Bronson Alcott and his family, and renamed it
 Their neighbors in Concord included Emerson and
Henry David Thoreau.
 That year, Hawthorne wrote the campaign biography of his friend Franklin Pierce, depicting him as "a man of peaceful pursuits" in the book, which he titled The Life of Franklin Pierce.
Horace Mann said, "If he makes out Pierce to be a great man or a brave man, it will be the greatest work of fiction he ever wrote."
 In the biography, Hawthorne depicted Pierce as a statesman and soldier who had accomplished no great feats because of his need to make "little noise" and so "withdrew into the background".
 He also left out Pierce's drinking habits despite rumors of his alcoholism
 and emphasized Pierce's belief that slavery could not "be remedied by human contrivances" but would, over time, "vanish like a dream".
 With Pierce's election as
President, Hawthorne was rewarded in 1853 with the position of United States
Liverpool shortly after the publication of
 The role, considered the most lucrative foreign service position at the time, was described by Hawthorne's wife as "second in dignity to the Embassy in London".
 In 1857, his appointment ended at the close of the
Pierce administration and the Hawthorne family toured France and Italy. During his time in Italy, the previously clean-shaven Hawthorne grew a bushy mustache.
The family returned to The Wayside in 1860,
 and that year saw the publication of
The Marble Faun, his first new book in seven years.
 Hawthorne admitted he had aged considerably, referring to himself as "wrinkled with time and trouble".
Later years and death
Grave of Nathaniel Hawthorne
At the outset of the
American Civil War, Hawthorne traveled with
William D. Ticknor to Washington, D.C.. There, he met
Abraham Lincoln and other notable figures. He wrote about his experiences in the essay "
Chiefly About War Matters" in 1862.
Failing health prevented him from completing several more romances. Suffering from pain in his stomach, Hawthorne insisted on a recuperative trip with his friend Franklin Pierce, though his neighbor Bronson Alcott was concerned Hawthorne was too ill.
 While on a tour of the
White Mountains, Hawthorne died in his sleep on May 19, 1864, in
Plymouth, New Hampshire. Pierce sent a
Elizabeth Peabody asking her to inform Mrs. Hawthorne in person. Mrs. Hawthorne was too saddened by the news to handle the funeral arrangements herself.
 Hawthorne's son Julian, at the time a freshman at
Harvard College, learned of his father's death the next day; coincidentally, it was the same day he was initiated into the
Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity by being placed blindfolded into a coffin.
 Longfellow wrote a tribute poem to Hawthorne, published in 1866, called "
The Bells of Lynn".
 Hawthorne was buried on what is now known as "Authors' Ridge" in
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord,
 Pallbearers included Longfellow, Emerson, Alcott,
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.,
James Thomas Fields, and
Edwin Percy Whipple.
 Emerson wrote of the funeral: "I thought there was a tragic element in the event, that might be more fully rendered,—in the painful solitude of the man, which, I suppose, could no longer be endured, & he died of it."
His wife Sophia and daughter Una were originally buried in England. However, in June 2006, they were re-interred in plots adjacent to Hawthorne.