Online Educational Resources

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864)

First and Significant Publications of Commonly Taught Texts

  • Author of "The Gentle Boy." "The May-Pole of Merry Mount." The Token and Atlantic Souvenir (1836): 283–97.
  • Author of "The Gray Champion." "Young Goodman Brown." The New-England Magazine 8, 4 (April 1835): 249–60.
  • Author of "Sights from a Steeple." "The Minister’s Black Veil." The Token and Atlantic Souvenir (1836): 302–20.
  • "The Birth-Mark." The Pioneer 1 (March 1843): 113–19.
  • "My Kinsman, Major Molineux." The Token and Atlantic Souvenir (1832).
  • Mosses from an Old Manse. New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1846.
  • The Scarlet Letter. Boston: Ticknor, Reed & Fields, 1850.
  • The Snow-Image, and Other Twice-Told Tales. Boston: Ticknor, Reed & Fields, 1852.
  • Twice-Told Tales. Boston: American Stationers' Company, 1837.

Early Reviews of Hawthorne's Work

Reflections upon Hawthorne and His Work

  • "I first met Hawthorne. He interested me greatly at once, and a friendship then began which for the forty-three years of his subsequent life was never for a moment chilled by indifference nor clouded by doubt."—Horatio Bridge. "Personal Recollections of Nathaniel Hawthorne." Harper's New Monthly Magazine 84 (January–March 1892): 257–65; 359–71; 510–21.
  • "[Hawthorne's] style is studded with the most poetical imagery, and marked in every part with the happiest graces of expression, while it is calm, chaste, and flowing, and transparent as water."—"Nathaniel Hawthorne." The International Magazine of Literature, Art, and Science 3, 2 (May 1851): 156–60.
  • "[Hawthorne] has found no biographer yet, and is less likely to hereafter. Twenty years hence those who knew him in his youth will be in their graves, as those who knew him in his childhood and infancy are now. Now, or never, is the time to write his life."—R.H. Stoddard. "Nathaniel Hawthorne." Harper’' New Monthly Magazine 45, 269 (October 1872): 683–97.
  • "The works of Nathaniel Hawthorne place him, in our judgment, in the first rank of American authors, in the department of imaginative literature."—"Nathaniel Hawthorne." New Englander and Yale Review 5, 17 (January 1847): 56–70.
  • "I doubt if my father ever realized how searchingly powerful his imagination was. He did not perceive the ardor of his own fire; the magic of his own atmosphere was hidden from him. He fancied he was telling his story in quite a plain and obvious way, and was rather amused at the depths and splendors which other people thought they saw in it."—Julian Hawthorne. "The Salem of Hawthorne." The Century 28, 1 (May 1884): 3–18.
  • "But Hawthorne, when you have studied him, will be very precious to you. He will have plunged you into melancholy, he will have overshadowed you with black forebodings, he will almost have crushed you with imaginary sorrows; but he will have enabled you to feel yourself an inch taller during the process. Something of the sublimity of the transcendent, something of the mystery of the unfathomable, something of the brightness of the celestial, will have attached itself to you, and you will all but think that you too might live to the sublime, and revel in mingled light and mystery."—Anthony Trollope. "The Genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne." The North American Review 129, 274 (September 1879): 203–23.

Lesson and Discussion Prompts

  • Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864 and was mourned by the literary community and the country at large. An obituary was published in The Daily Ohio Statesman on May 26, 1864. Covering the span of his life, the obituary professed Hawthorne’s significance and place in American literary canon: "In his life, no man in England, nor in America, has created more powerful character; has made more distinctive marks in English literature. Without hesitation we place him at the head of the writers of romance in this country." Using this obituary as well as other articles, explain why Hawthorne was so successful as an author. What about his stories and writing resonated with American readers? Why has he been declared as one of the great American authors?

  • In the nineteenth century, schools held celebrations honoring various authors. This 1884 article in the St. Paul Daily Globe discusses how St. Paul, Minnesota, schools celebrated "Hawthorne Day" as part of the "custom of observing a poet's day with especial literary exercises in the public schools." How did students honor Hawthorne? How would students celebrate Hawthorne today? Plan a celebration day at your school in honor Hawthorne or another American author. What kind of activities would you include?

  • In the late nineteenth century, teachers often gathered in "reading clubs" as a means of deepening their knowledge on pedagogy and subject matter taught in schools. These clubs selected particular texts deemed significant and useful in teaching American students. Similarly, newspapers offered various courses with questions to augment their readers' knowledge. This American Literature Course on the Concord Writers and Nathaniel Hawthorne, found in an 1898 edition of the Kansas newspaper The Advocate and News, features an overview of, as well as specific questions about, Hawthorne's life and the Concord writers. Why was Hawthorne included as a part of these courses? Why did this article choose only a few select works and leave out other stories; what makes the listed works important enough to be included? Which Hawthorne story would be the best for teachers to teach their students, both in the nineteenth century and today? Why? Write your own mini-literature course on an American author, including their biographical information and contributions to American literature. What would you include and why?

  • Many of Hawthorne's stories have been included in various literary anthologies and collections, such as The Garden of Romance: Romantic Tales of All Time (1897). In the preface, editor Ernest Rhys writes, "the old taste for the Tale, pure and simple … which has grown anew of late years, is enough in itself to account for the present anthology. Within its limits will be found, as in a Garden, the fine flowers of the art, chosen with a preference for those of a romantic order, and transplanted from many lands and many times." Why was Hawthorne's "My Kinsman, Major Molineux," chosen for a collection of "romantic" tales? Do the story's meaning and message change when included alongside other "romantic" stories from different eras and countries? If so, how? How important is context when reading such stories?

  • The Scarlet Letter has been adapted into numerous plays and films since its publication. Review the different dramatic versions as created by Gabriel Harrison (1876), Elizabeth Weller Peck (1876), and George Parsons Lathrop (1896). How do these plays differ from the novel? What has been included, removed, or changed? Do you think they successfully tell the story? Has the message of the story been altered?

Contemporary Interpretations