ON the Fourth of July, 1804, in a house still standing in Union Street in the old town of Salem, Massachusetts, a boy was born. His work in the world, could it have been foreseen, might well have justified all the gay display of bunting and the booming of cannon with which the town was celebrating the birthday of American Independence.
This boy was Nathaniel Hawthorne. His ancestors were stern Puritans dating back almost to the Plymouth colony. They were people of influence and achieved an undesirable reputation for persecuting Quakers and killing witches. For many generations they were seafaring men.
In 1808 Hawthorne's father died in a foreign port. His mother gave up the home in Union Street and with her three children returned to her father's home, the Manning House in Herbert Street, where she lived a recluse. Hawthorne's boyhood passed somewhat monotonously, broken by occasional visits to the Maine Woods.
In appearance he was a handsome lad, with a thoughtful face and large dark eyes. He cared little for school, and made the most of the opportunity which ill-health gave him of remaining at home. At one time, when an injury to his foot confined him to the house, he was tutored by Dr. J. E. Worcester of Dictionary fame. He was fond of reading, Shakespeare's plays and Pilgrim's Progress being his favorite books. He loved poetry; the first book he bought with his own money was The Faerie Queene.