Julie E. Hall
Often referred to as “America's Great Romancer” and best known for his fictions of Puritan New England, Nathaniel Hawthorne lived abroad from 1853 to 1860 and based his last novel, The Marble Faun (1860), and his last sustained work, Our Old Home (1863), on his European experiences. Native son of Salem, Massachusetts, he was born to a sea captain who died on a voyage when Nathaniel was only four years old. Although Salem was already declining as an important seaport, Nathaniel's earliest intimations of and curiosities about a world beyond his own were certainly owing to its influence. After attending Bowdoin College in Maine, he returned to Salem to enter upon a famous twelve-year period “under the eaves” of his mother's house, honing his craft, producing some of his finest tales, and, in 1837, publishing his first collection of short stories, Twice-told Tales. In 1842 he married Sophia Peabody, an artist, a lifelong writer of letters and journals—genres that were culturally sanctioned for women in the nineteenth century—and, late in her life, a published author. Also born in Salem, Sophia had two sisters who, like herself, became prominent figures in nineteenth-century America (Elizabeth, the oldest, was part of the influential Transcendental group; Mary wed famous educator Horace Mann and wrote his biography after his death). The Hawthornes' three children, Una, Julian, and Rose, were born in 1844, 1846, and 1851.
A stint as surveyor at the Salem Custom House ended for Nathaniel in 1849 with what Hawthorne fans can consider a fortunate dismissal, for it initiated the most productive period of his life. The Scarlet Letter (1850), The House of the Seven Gables (1851), and The Blithedale Romance (1852) appeared in rapid succession, along with another volume of short stories. In 1853 he was appointed U.S. consul to Liverpool, England, by longtime friend and then President of the