The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (190721).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.
§ 3. The Facts of his Life.
|A writer who pictures life chiefly in order to project abstract ideas is not likely to reveal in his art more of himself than his general disposition. Hawthornes biography makes rich and human reading, for he was an admirable man in all ways and his private life was in the best sense fortunate; if at first he endured poverty, he earned success later, and even in the obscure years he had the admiration of loyal friends. But only in a few instances does his biography aid directly in the understanding of his works, and then for the most part by explaining his contact with Transcendental ideas. Of the nonliterary events in his life it is enough to say that he was born in Salem, Massachusetts, 4 July, 1804, of an old New England family; that after his fathers death he was educated by his mothers brothers, and in 1825 he was graduated from Bowdoin College; that among his classmates he made three lifelong friendsLongfellow, the poet, Franklin Pierce, later President of the United States, and Horatio Bridge, who first appreciated his genius; that chiefly through Bridges thoughtfulness he was made weigher and gauger at the Boston Custom House, 18391841, and surveyor at the Salem Custom House, 18461850; that President Pierce appointed him to the consulship of Liverpool, 18531857; that he lived in Italy for two years, 18571859, and that while travelling for his health, attended by Pierce, he died at Plymouth, New Hampshire, 18 May, 1864.