Nathaniel Hawthorne was a 19th-century American romance novelist and short story writer who experimented with a broad range of styles and genres. He is best known for his two novels: The Scarlet Letter (1850) and The House of Seven Gables (1851).
Hawthorne's highest regarded short stories include My Kinsman, Major Molineaux (1832), Young Goodman Brown (1835), Feathertop (1852), and The Minister's Black Veil.
Nathaniel Hawthorne is seen as a key figure in the development of American literature for his tales of the nation's colonial history. Herman Melville dedicated his epic novel, Moby-Dick to Hawthorne: "In token of my admiration for his genius."
Nathaniel Hawthorne (née Hathorne) was born in Salem, Massachusetts. Hawthorne's uncle Robert Manning insisted that the boy attend college despite Hawthorne's protests. With his uncle's financial support, Hawthorne was sent to Bowdoin College in 1821, partly because of family ties in the area, but also because of the relatively inexpensive cost of tuition.
On the way to Bowdoin, at the stage stop in Portland, Anthony met future president Franklin Pierce and the two became fast friends. At the school, he also met future poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, future congressman Jonathan Cilley, and future naval reformer Horatio Bridge.
Shortly after graduating from Bowdoin College, Hathorne changed his name to Hawthorne. Hawthorne anonymously published his first work, a novel titled Fanshawe, in 1828. In 1837, he published Twice-Told Tales and became engaged to Sophia Peabody the next year.
He worked at a Custom House and joined a Transcendentalist Utopian community, before marrying Peabody in 1842. The couple moved to The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts, later moving to Salem, the Berkshires, then to The Wayside in Concord.
The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850 and became one of the first mass-produced novels in America, selling over 2,500 copies in the first two weeks.
This classic novel from the canon of American literature is an example of the dark romance genre and dystopian fiction. In this story, the consequences of Hester Prynne's adulterous relationship with the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale are manifested when she gives birth to their child and is forced to wear the Scarlet Letter A embroidered on her chest as a sign of her adultery.
A succession of other novels followed. Next, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The House of the Seven Gables (1851), which poet James Russell Lowell said was better than The Scarlet Letter and called "the most valuable contribution to New England history that has been made." Almost at the same time, Hawthorne wrote The Blithedale Romance (1852), his only work written in the first person.
A significant portion of Hawthorne's work belongs to the sub-genre of Dark Romanticism. His lesser-known poems exemplify Dark Romanticism; some of his darkest works, including his ghost stories and tales involving the supernatural, fall within the genre of Gothic Literature.
Much of Hawthorne's writing centers around New England, and many feature moral allegories with Puritan inspiration. His work is considered part of the Romantic movement and includes novels, short stories, and a biography of his friend, the United States President Franklin Pierce.
Nathaniel Hawthorne died in his sleep in 1864 during a tour of the White Mountains in Plymouth, New Hampshire.