The short fiction of a writer who helped to shape the course of American literature. With a determined commitment to the history of his native land, Nathaniel Hawthorne revealed, more incisively than any writer of his generation, the nature of a distinctly American consciousness. The pieces collected here deal with essentially American matters: the Puritan past, the Indians, the Revolution. But Hawthorne was highly - often wickedly - unorthodox in his account of life in early America, and his precisely constructed plots quickly engage the reader's imagination. Written in the 1820s, 30s, and 40s, these works are informed by themes that reappear in Hawthorne's longer works: The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables and The Blithedale Romance. And, as Michael J. Colacurcio points out in his excellent introduction, they are themes that are now deeply embedded in the American literary tradition.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts, the son and grandson of proud New England seafarers. He lived in genteel poverty with his widowed mother and two young sisters in a house filled with Puritan ideals and family pride in a prosperous past. His boyhood was, in most respects, pleasant and normal. In 1825 he was graduated from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, and he returned to Salem determined to become a writer of short stories. For the next twelve years he was plagued with unhappiness and self-doubts as he struggled to master his craft. He finally secured some small measure of success with the publication of his Twice-Told Tales (1837). His marriage to Sophia Peabody in 1842 was a happy one. The Scarlet Letter (1850), which brought him immediate recognition, was followed by The House of the Seven Gables (1851). After serving four years as the American Consul in Liverpool, England, he traveled in Italy; he returned home to Massachusetts in 1860. Depressed, weary of writing, and failing in health, he died on May 19, 1864, at Plymouth, New Hampshire.