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Hawthorne in Concord [Kindle Edition]

Philip Mcfarland
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

On his wedding day in 1842, Nathaniel Hawthorne escorted his new wife, Sophia, to their first home, the Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts. There, enriched by friendships with Thoreau and Emerson, he enjoyed an idyllic time. But three years later, unable to make enough money from his writing, he returned ingloriously, with his wife and infant daughter, to live in his mother's home in Salem.
In 1853 Hawthorne moved back to Concord, now the renowned author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. Eager to resume writing fiction at the scene of his earlier happiness, he assembled a biography of his college friend Franklin Pierce, who was running for president. When Pierce won the election, Hawthorne is appointed the lucrative post of consul in Liverpool.
Coming home from Europe in 1860, Hawthorne settled down in Concord once more. He tried to take up writing one last time, but deteriorating health finds him withdrawing into private life. In Hawthorne in Concord, acclaimed historian Philip McFarland paints a revealing portrait of this well-loved American author during three distinct periods of his life, spent in the bucolic village of Concord, Massachusetts.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this pleasing biography, seasoned American history writer McFarland (The Brave Bostonians) focuses on two elements that defined New England as the center of America's 19th-century literary world: the village of Concord, Mass. (a center for luminaries like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Bronson Alcott), and the blue-eyed "recluse" able to see "evil in every human heart," Nathaniel Hawthorne. McFarland focuses on the people and ideas that shaped the era as it moved from early industrialization to the turmoil of the Civil War. His short chapters lend themselves to portraits, of politicians Henry Clay and James Knox Polk, and thinkers Horace Mann and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among others. Aspects of Hawthorne's everyday life are stressed, such as his constant money concerns, which in the 1840s sent him, with his wife and daughter, back to live with his mother and sister, and 20 years later still left him thinking, "I wonder how people manage to live economically." The physical precariousness of 19th-century life is also revealed, in the many examples of diseases and drownings within Hawthorne's family and community. The writer's meaningful friendships are well drawn, particularly with his college chum and future president, Franklin Pierce, to whom he displayed his loyalty by writing a campaign biography. In the end, by depicting his subject's three sojourns in Concord, McFarland illuminates Hawthorne's art and the intellectual ferment originating in that small, bucolic town.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Unlike the usual biography focused rigorously on its subject, McFarland's partial life of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) depicts its subject in relation to Concord, Massachusetts, his hometown from his marriage in 1842 onward. He wasn't always resident in the town where the Revolutionary War began--he was away when he died. But Concord, with its literary citizens including Emerson, Thoreau, and the Alcotts, was the home he returned to after the seven-years (1845-52) during which The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables finally brought him financial success, and again after seven further years (1853-60) as U.S. consul in Liverpool and, thereafter, an American abroad, principally in Italy. He was highly reclusive and taciturn but not saturnine or misanthropic. His children remembered him as a playful father; his wife, friends, and even brief acquaintances treasured having known him. By contrast with his literary peers--contrasts McFarland points up in incisive recountings of several of their foibles--Hawthorne was uncranky; lovable; and, though his dearest friend was Franklin Pierce, the fourteenth president, essentially apolitical. It would be easy to characterize him as a cool conservative among flaming liberals. McFarland does nothing so crude. Instead, he enters Hawthorne's milieu (his prose even echoes Hawthorne's textures, cadences, and grammar) and illumines it with intelligence and affection. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 707 KB
  • Print Length: 356 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802142052
  • Publisher: Grove Press (December 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,387,850 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was born to a seafaring captain and his wife in Salem, Mass. Hawthorne was a graduate of Bowdoin College in Maine were he became friendly with future president Franklin Pierce. Following graduation the reclusive Hawthorne spent several years penning short stories for magazines. He was nearly financially bereft as a result of this effort but continued to write. During this long period he lived with his mother and sisters.
As he neared 40 Hawthorne wed Sophia Peabody one of the daughters of the famous Peabody family of New England Transcendentalists. Mary Peabody would wed famed educational reformer Horace Mann. The Hawthornes began an idyllic time as newlyweds in the Old Manse owned by the family of Ralph Waldon Emerson. Hawthorne became friendly with the transcendalists gurus of Concord. Emerson, Thoreau, Lowell, Margaret Fuller, the Alcott family and Longfellow. He also knew Harriet Beecher Stowe. Hawthorne won fame as the author of such American classics as "The Scarlet Letter,"; "The House of Seven Gables,"; "The Blithedale Romance,"; (based on the time he spent on a utopian farm prior to his marriage to Sophia:) and great short stories.
Hawthorne and Sophie had three children: Una who became ill in Rome dying in her early 30s; Julian a prolific author who fell afoul of the law in his later years and Rose who has been sainted by the Roman Catholic Church for her work among the dying. The Hawthornes had a deep love throughout their happy marriage.
Hawthorne barely scraped by on his writing. He was awarded patronage jobs by the Democratic party when he served as a custom inspector in Salem and later as US Consul in Liverpool during the administration of his old friend Franklin Pierce.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable literary biography June 16, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Other reviewers have told what this book is about. I will add that the author is to be commended for eschewing the bloated pagecount that has become typical of literary biographies. His book leaves me at the same time well satisfied and interested in learning more - - for example, about Rose Hawthorne.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Hawthorne In Concord is no light reading biographical sketch, but a substantial, informative, and superbly presented in-depth account of the great American man of letters, Nathaniel Hawthorne, considering both his literary contribution and his influence on Concord's community of philosophers, poets, reformers and intellectuals as a whole. Equally intriguing, Hawthorne In Concord places Hawthorne's experiences within his circle of most notable companions, from Emerson and Thoreau to Mann and the Alcotts, making Hawthorne In Concord a powerful survey of not just one man, but his entire circle.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible and insightful September 11, 2008
McFarland's biography of Hawthorne does focus on his Concord years in particular, but he does not skim past his years in Salem or abroad. This is a full-length portrait of Hawthorne that is more than just readable: it is delectable and hard to put down. It gives Hawthorne a three-dimensionality, placing him within a context as springing from New England roots and being within a developing United States in the 19th century. The book also gives an ample understanding of Hawthorne's relationships with some of his close and important friends (Franklin Pierce in particular, but also Longfellow and others) and even more ancillary figures with whom he interacted (such as Margaret Fuller and Edgar Poe).

The book doesn't give the longest treatment to Hawthorne's writings as compared with other biographies out there. Instead, McFarland gives us a portrait of Hawthorne, the man behind the writing. Specifically, we meet a family man, a hard-worker, a cripplingly-shy observer of the world, and a good husband. This is a great start to any amateur scholar of Hawthorne or anyone who has appreciated his works and wants to meet the author himself.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than Hawthorne AND more than Concord August 1, 2004
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) and his wife Sophia Peabody Hawthorne spent a total of just eight years of married life in Concord, Massachusetts. Those years were spread out over three decades. Yet the couple's extended familial and social circles included many names known to Concordians then and to us today: the Emersons, Alcotts, Stowes and Peabodys; Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Horace Mann, Horace Greeley, Ellery Channing, William Dean Howells, Samuel Hoar, and Nathan Appleton; publishers James Fields and William Ticknor; and Nathaniel's college friends, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Franklin Pierce. The Hawthornes were in the thick of the 19th-century New England literary life that had Concord at its very center. Their residency can thus be used as a focal point to study the time and its place in history.

While this book attempts to do just that, it delves into more lives than just the Hawthornes (as noted above) and travels as far away as Italy. It follows tangents to their end but always eventually returns to Nathaniel and Sophia and to their two Concord homes, the Old Manse and the Wayside. The details of the pair's devotion and amazing romance may surprise those readers who remember only the dark themes of short stories read in high school English class. It's difficult to fathom that the same pen that wrote "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Minister's Black Veil" also wrote adoring love letters to his Dove.

I found the writing style a bit unnerving to follow, as the narrative overlaps itself and doesn't always follow strict chronological order. Nevertheless, this book should prove of interest to anyone who enjoys the transcendental period of American literature and history. For a full biography of Hawthorne, look elsewhere.
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