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Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. At only the age of four, his father, a ship captain, died of yellow fever at sea. His mother then pushed Hawthorne towards relatively isolated pursuits and he didn't mind that. At the age of fourteen, his family moved to Maine, where many first believe his long writing career began. After only a year in Maine, he moved back to Salem to begin preparing for college. Although Hawthorne's childhood left him overly shy and bookish, this only enhanced his life as a writer.

Hawthorne turned to writing after his graduation from Bowdoin College. His first novel, "Fanshawe", was unsuccessful and Hawthorne himself disavowed it as amateurish. He wrote several successful short stories, however, including "My Kinsman, Major Molineux," "Roger Malvin's Burial," and "Young Goodman Brown," arguably Hawthorne's most famous short story. Despite the critical acclaim it has received since, Hawthorne twice rejected this work when asked to select a compilation of short stories for publication.

Hawthorne had a long line of Puritan ancestors including John Hathorne, a presiding magistrate in the Salem witch trials. In order to distance himself from his family's shameful involvement in the witch trials, Hawthorne added the "w" to his last name during his early 20s. Also among his ancestors was William Hathorne, one of the first Puritan settlers who arrived in New England in 1630.

In 1839, he entered a career as a Boston House measurer because his writing job wasn't paying the bill. After three years Hawthorne was dismissed from his job with the Salem Custom House. By 1842, his writing finally gave Hawthorne a sufficient income to marry Sophia Peabody and move to The Manse in Concord, which was the center of the transcendental movement. Hawthorne returned to Salem in 1845, where he was appointed surveyor of the Boston Custom House by President James Polk, but he was dismissed from this post when Zachary Taylor became president. Hawthorne then devoted himself to his most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. While at the custom-house he found, among some old papers, a large letter "A" embroidered on red cloth, and, speculating upon the origin and history of the letter, his imagination was so stirred that, upon his retirement from office, he wrote "The Scarlet Letter." He zealously worked on the novel with a determination he had not known before. His intense suffering infused the novel with imaginative energy. On February 3, 1850, Hawthorne read the final pages to his wife. He wrote, "It broke her heart and sent her to bed with a grievous headache, which I look upon as a triumphant success."

Many novels and short stories later, Hawthorne passed away on May 19, 1864, in Plymouth, New Hampshire, after a long period of illness during which he suffered severe bouts of dementia.

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