Nathaniel Hawthorne

1804-1864. American writer. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, he attended Bowdoin College, where one of his classmates was the poet H.W. Longfellow.* After college he returned to Salem for a period of reading, reflection, and writing-training in the craftmanship that was to make him the first major American novelist. In 1837, the same year in which he married Sophia Peabody, he published his first collection of stories, Twice Told Tales. He spent two years in a Boston customs house and seven months in the utopian community of Brook Farm. Neither was a pleasant experience. Nor did he feel any enthusiasm for the transcendentalism of his friends Emerson and Thoreau. His first novel, The Scarlet Letter (1850), acclaimed by many as the greatest American novel, won him literary success for its masterful structure, beauty of style, and penetrating assessment of the Puritan moral conscience. The House of Seven Gables (1851) examines the decadence of Puritanism. From 1853 to 1857 he served as U.S. consul in Liverpool. He spent the next two years in Italy, the setting of his last complete novel, The Marble Faun (1860). Among his best tales are “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Birthmark,” “Rappaccini's Daughter,” and “My Kingsman, Major Molineaux.” Together with Poe, Hawthorne did much to shape the short story as a distinctive American form. His art tended toward the projection of moral ideas through symbol and allegory. In American literature he is the classic interpreter of Puritanism.