The Death of Nathaniel Hawthorne

150 years ago today Nathaniel Hawthorne died, far from either his native city of Salem or his adopted town of Concord, in the company not of his beloved family but that of his devoted friend, former President Franklin Pierce. Really he died alone (as Pierce reported), very peacefully, in his sleep. I don’t think there are any plans to mark this memorial here in Salem (remember, we are Witch City, not Hawthorne city, and Nathaniel doesn’t seem to have cared much for Salem anyway), but (as usual) there will be events in Concord. It appears that Hawthorne had been unhappy and unsettled for some time before his death (just shy of 60; his birthday is July 4): there were money worries, health issues, the separation from his family, and of course the war–he doesn’t seem to have been enough of an Abolitionist or enough of a Yankee for his friends and neighbors– but at least his passing was peaceful, very peaceful according to President Pierce. I did a quick search of newspaper front pages for the week after May 19–and Hawthorne’s death was on the front page of every single newspaper I scanned, even in the South, although generally it was just a line or two in the midst of all the war news. He was famous in his own time, and has become even more so with time. There are many compelling and contradictory things about the work and the character of Nathaniel Hawthorne–he was both intensely shy and so handsome that people would stop him in the street– but for me, he’s always been the ultimate New Englander, and that is how and why I am thinking about him today.

PicMonkey Collage

Hawthorne's birthplace-001

Hawthorne on the Move


Hawthorne Plymouth

Manuscript copy of The Dolliver Romance, which Hawthorne was working on before his death, New York Public Library; Newspaper reports from The (Washington, D.C.) Evening Star and The Daily State Sentinel (Indianapolis), May 20, 1864, Library of Congress Historic Newspapers Collection; Hawthorne’s birthplace in its original location on Union Street in Salem and its journey to the House of the Seven Gables campus in 1958; Hawthorne’s Concord milieu, from Samuel Adams Drake, Our World’s Greatest Benefactors (1884); The Pemigewasset House in Plymouth, NH: where Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, Library of Congress


17 responses to “The Death of Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • thesalemgarden

    I had no idea that Hawthorne was so celebrated in Concord… Hawthorne Remembrance Week? Wow!

  • poto1

    Thank you Donna, for the excellent piece about the ever-intriguing Hawthorne.



  • jane

    I have always been partial to Franklin Pierce because he is seen as a lackluster president, but his 10 year old son was killed just before he took office. I have always felt he was in deep mourning while he was trying to govern a fractious country . I am glad to know he had a friend like Hawthorne, and that Hawthorne had him.

  • diannefallon

    Back in 2010, I spent a week in Concord and was shocked at how Hawthorne’s home, The Wayside, had fallen into decrepitude — similar to the state of the Wentworth prior to restoration. The National Park Service is now restoring the house. I wished I had taken some photos of the house because I can’t find a single photo of The Wayside in its fallen-down state, so its neglect (for better or worse) may be lost to history. I’m sure you know that he lived in The Old Manse when he and Sophia were first married. Sophia scratched some lovely newlywed graffiti onto an upstairs window, something along the lines of “Sophia loves Nathaniel.”

  • dscryber

    Does anyone know if the inn-house in Plymouth, NH where Hawthorne died still stands?

  • publishingmojo

    According to “Plymouth,” (Arcadia Publishing, 1998), the Pemigewasset House, where Nathaniel Hawthorne died in 1864, “enjoyed a brisk business” until it was damaged by fire in 1958. The State of New Hampshire subsequently purchased the property for use by Plymouth State College.

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  • Katherine Greenough

    Given what’s happened in Salem, since you wrote this post, Donna, the lack of recognition for Nathaniel Hawthorne in the city of his birth is quite depressing. To see that the city has given in to the commercialization of witch trial tragedy instead of focusing on the city’s its many other fascinating aspects is very disturbing.

    • daseger

      It’s beyond depressing, Katherine. This new heritage trail, the fact that all the PEM houses save one and now the Custom House is closed…..I’ve got to give up!

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