Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1860s

The famed novelist and short story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–64) was born in Salem, Massachusetts to a long-established New England family. His great-great-grandfather, John Hathorne presided as a judge over the Salem Witch Trials, and, supposedly, the young Hawthorne added the “w” to his birth surname, “Hathorne,” to distance himself from his infamous forbearer. Few American authors have written more searchingly and profoundly about the American character. Many of Hawthorne’s writings, including his masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter, focus on enduring moral and religious questions, as they emerged in the life of the Puritans and their New England descendants. His marvelously crafted stories take us deeply into the American soul, with its dark motives, conflicting aspirations, and moral struggles.

Chiefly About War-Matters by a Peaceable Man

Nathaniel Hawthorne
In March 1862, the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–64), along with his publisher, traveled to Washington, DC to see firsthand the nation at war. A staunch Democrat, Hawthorne was ambivalent about the war, and in his essay, he recounts his journey with biting observations of the government, the military, and the conduct of the war.

John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving

Nathaniel Hawthorne

The gathering and mood of John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving are, at first glance, a far cry from those most of us associate with this holiday—although, truth to tell, people in troubled families often experience this holiday with added tension and mixed emotions. So too do the events of the evening reflect this, as Inglefield’s wayward daughter Prudence comes to join the hearth she had not long ago abandoned.

My Kinsman, Major Molineux

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Taking his bearings from the pre-revolutionary tensions between the colonists and their mother country, this story (1832) by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–64) draws our attention to the dark underbelly of the “new Eden.”

Old Esther Dudley

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 “Old Esther Dudley” is the fourth and final story in the “Tales of the Province-House” series by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–64), originally published between May 1838 and January 1839 in The United States Magazine and Democratic Review and later republished in Twice-Told Tales. It focuses on the steadfast ways of a now elderly royalist woman, “who had dwelt almost immemorial years” in the Province House mansion in Boston, the house of the royal governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

The May-Pole of Merry Mount

Nathaniel Hawthorne

With the possible exception of Herman Melville, no American writer wrote more deeply about the complexities of the American character than Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–64). In this story (1837), we witness an early version of the culture war, each side representing in extreme form one of two guiding ideas of the American Republic: the pursuit of happiness (see the Declaration of Independence) and the spirit of reverence (see the Mayflower Compact), each unmoderated by the other.