Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Pilgrim’s Progress: Nathaniel Hawthorne Reconsidered


At first glance, Nathaniel Hawthorne seems the quintessential Yankee, one not at all likely to be claimed or adopted by Southerners. His great, great, great grandfather, William Hathorne, came to America with John Winthrop’s company in 1630. William and his son John were Puritans; they are conspicuous in history books as great persecutors of Quakers and witches. The second Hathorne born in America was a farmer, while the next two heirs, Daniel and Nathaniel (the last, father to the novelist) were shipmasters. So our Nathaniel, who added the “w” to his family’s name in deference to its ancient spelling, was from Salem, Massachusetts, and he descended from old New England stock. To make matters worse for this claim of kinship with Hawthorne, he was married to Sophia Peabody, whose sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, were very active in much of New England’s avant-gardism:

Transcendentalism, aboli­tionism, and social and educational reform movements.

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