Wednesday, 16 April 2014

N for Nathaniel Hawthorne

Inspired by our current callout and following from previous blogs regarding nineteenth century ghost story authors: M. R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu, Henry James and Rudyard Kipling, this blog focuses on Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 – 1864) was an American author, born in Salem, Massachusetts. The 'w' in his name was added to hide that he was a direct descendent of John Hathorne, the only judge from the Salem witch trials who never repented his actions. Although best known for dark romantic tales such as The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne also wrote many stories regarding the supernatural. He was haunted by the supernatural throughout his life and one of his famous tales, The Ghost of Dr. Harris is said to be based on actual events. Further, some claim that the ghost alleged to haunt the House of the Seven Gables (made famous by Hawthorne's novel of the same name) is Hawthorne himself. The property, also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, was built in 1668 and is believed to be the oldest extant mansion in New England.

Hawthorne frequented the property when it was owned by his cousin and was inspired by the setting. Adjacent to the House of Seven Gables is Hawthorne's birthplace. The Georgian home was built nearby in 1750 and relocated to the site in 1958. (Both are part of a museum and may be visited, see below links.)

During his time as a bachelor, Hawthorne spent much of his free time reading at the Athenaeum library in Boston which was frequented by other notable members of the community including a Dr. Harris, the minister of the First Parish Church. Having continued to observe the figure of Dr. Harris in the Athenaeum reading room despite confirmation of his death, Hawthorne was inspired to write The Ghost of Dr. Harris.

New England is particularly rich in supernatural folklore and stories associated with this region certainly make for interesting reading!

Further reading/references:

The House of Seven Gables, Salem, Massachusetts, USA. Above image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 The House of Seven Gables Museum 
This blog post was written in the spirit of the April 2014 A-Z Challenge whereby a post is written every day during the month of April (with the exception of Sunday). The theme of each post is meant to correspond with a letter of the alphabet in sequential order. Thursday's post will be on O. For details and to visit the A-Z Challenge website, click here.

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