At the age of seventeen, Hawthorne mused to his mother about the possibility of “relying for support upon my pen.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

(1804 - 1864)

At the age of seventeen, Nathaniel Hawthorne mused to his mother about the possibility of “relying for support upon my pen.” His first book, Fanshawe, was published anonymously and received scant recognition; his first editing job, for the American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge, ended when the publisher went bankrupt after six issues. His later novels include The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, and The Marble Faun.

All Writing

Is it a fact—or have I dreamed it—that, by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time?

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851


In 1851 an Episcopal rector wondered why Nathaniel Hawthorne had selected the theme of adultery for his 1850 novel. “Is it, in short, because a running undertide of filth has become as requisite to a romance as death in the fifth act to a tragedy?” wrote the cleric. “We honestly believe that The Scarlet Letter has already done not a little to degrade our literature and to encourage social licentiousness.”

The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851

We must not always talk in the marketplace of what happens to us in the forest.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850


Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow attended Bowdoin College—both class of 1825—at the same time as Franklin Pierce, who was a year ahead of them. The fourteenth president of the United States was at Hawthorne’s side when the author died in 1864. Longfellow served as a pallbearer at the funeral.

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