“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
(1804 - 1864)
(1804 - 1864)
Curious facts about:
He changed his last name in part to hide his family’s dark past. The novelist’s great-great-grandfather, John Hathorne, was a leading judge of the Salem witch trials, and Hawthorne was haunted by his ancestor’s shameful past. Shortly after graduating from Bowdoin, the author added a “w” to his last name in part to make the spelling match the pronunciation and also to disassociate himself from a figure of whom he wrote was “so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him.”
When “The Scarlet Letter” was published in the spring of 1850, the initial print run of 2,500 copies sold out in only 10 days. However, given the publicity that had surrounded Hawthorne’s firing the year before, readers were initially less interested in the tale of Hester Prynne than they were in the novel’s introduction, “The Custom-House,” in which Hawthorne’s barbed pen skewered his political enemies.
With the author’s health failing in the spring of 1864 as a likely result of gastrointestinal cancer, Hawthorne’s old college friend, former president Franklin Pierce traveled with him to New Hampshire’s White Mountains with the hope that the region’s rarified air could be an elixir. On the evening of May 18 inside the Pemigewasset House hotel in Plymouth, New Hampshire, Hawthorne retired early after a dinner of toast and tea. During the night, Pierce awoke to check on his friend in the adjoining room. The former president placed his hand upon Hawthorne’s forehead and found that he was dead. Pierce’s presence fulfilled a passage in Hawthorne’s novel “The Blithedale Romance”: “Happy the man that has such a friend beside him, when he comes to die!”