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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 Hawthornes childhood left him overly shy and bookish and molded his life as a Hawthorne turned to writing after his graduation from Bowdoin College His first novel Fanshawe was unsuccessful and Hawthorne himself disavowed it as amateurish However he wrote several successful short stories including My Kinsman Major Molyneaux Roger Malvins Burial and Young Goodman Brown However insufficient earnings as a writer forced Hawthorne to enter a career as a Boston Custom House measurer in 1839 However after three years Hawthorne was dismissed from his job with the Salem Custom House By 1842 however his writing amassed Hawthorne a sufficient income for him to marry Sophia Peabody and move to The Manse in Concord which was at that time the center of the Transcendental movement Hawthorne returned to Salem in 1845 where he was appointed surveyor of the Boston Custom House by President James Polk but was dismissed from this post when Zachary Taylor became president Hawthorne then devoted himself to his most famous novel The Scarlet Letter He zealously worked on the novel with a determination he had not known before His intense suffering infused the novel with imaginative energy leading him to describe it as the hell-fired story On February 3 1850 Hawthorne read the final pages to his wife He wrote It broke her heart and sent her to bed with a grievous headache which I look upon as a triumphant success The Scarlet Letter was an immediate success and allowed Hawthorne to devote himself to his writing He left Salem for a temporary residence in Lenox a small town the Berkshires where he completed the romance
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