HAPPY BIRTHDAY – Nathaniel Hawthorne, born 4 July 1804
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
What an appropriate day for a great American novelist to choose for his birthday – Independence Day! Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is a seminal work in the history of the American novel, but I find it a disturbing tale. The treatment of women is so barbaric, with Hester made to suffer so visibly from a relationship which involved two people, not just one. I also struggle with the character of Pearl, who is a symbol in the novel rather than a realistic child, but who I find intensely irritating. Do others have this reaction?
I am actually more interested in Hawthorne’s life, than his fiction. He was an intriguing man, who withdrew from the world into his bedroom for many years, and who could not bear to be touched (though his wife must have been an exception to that, as she had 3 of his children!). There is a fabulous biography of Hawthorne by Brenda Wineapple – I can really recommend that.
If you get a chance, do visit some of Hawthorne’s homes – his birthplace in Salem, the Old Manse in Concord where he lived after his marriage, and the extraordinary House of the Seven Gables in Salem which inspired one of his novels.
Did you know that Hawthorne was also renowned for his good looks – Trollope called him “the handsomest man in America”!!
Nathaniel Hawthorne died at age 59 on 19 May 1864.
I’d be most interested to know of this book? Or other American independence works. Tell me in the comment area below.
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