Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts,
the descendent of a long line of Puritan ancestors, including John
Hathorne, a presiding magistrate in the Salem witch trials. After his
father was lost at sea when he was only four, his mother became overly
protective and pushed him toward more isolated pursuits. Hawthorne's
childhood left him overly shy and bookish, and molded his life as a
Hawthorne turned to writing after his graduation
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a campaign biography for Franklin Pierce.
Hawthorne passed away on May 19, 1864 in Plymouth, New Hampshire after a
long period of illness in which he suffered severe bouts of dementia..
Emerson described his life with the words "painful solitude." Hawthorne
maintained a strong friendship with Franklin Pierce, but otherwise had
few intimates and little engagement with any sort of social life. His
works remain notable for their treatment of guilt and the complexities
of moral choices.