Hawthorne: a Life

Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne: a Life.New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.

Reason read: Hawthorne was born in the month of July – read in his honor.

While I haven’t read any other biographies of Hawthorne (so far) I predict Wineapple’s is going to be my favorite. For starters, while Wineapple delves into Hawthorne’s lineage she isn’t bogged down with multiple generations of pre-Nathaniel Hawthorne history. In fact, she begins Hawthorne’s biography with the briefest of glimpses into his childhood before launching into the period when he first started dabbling with the art of writing (keeping a journal and drafting poetry). Mercifully, a writer is born almost immediately. Wineapple’s biography reveals Hawthorne’s contradictory character with thorough grace, revealing his charms and follies. It’s a shame most of his letters were destroyed, not allowing Wineapple to delve deeper into his psyche. I can only imagine what she would have revealed! I was most touched by Hawthorne’s over-35 year friendship with President Pierce. While Pierce was not the best president of this country, his relationship with Hawthorne was exemplary.

Confessional: July seemed to be the month for reading about writers. In addition to Hawthorne I read about Henry James, Virginia Woolf, Tom Eliot, D.H Lawrence, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Herman Melville and Morgan Forster. Within Hawthorne I also read about Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville,  and William Shakespeare. All these writers!

Author fact: Wineapple has written several other books. However, Hawthorne is the only one I’m reading for the Challenge.

Quote I liked, “Free trade, free labor, free soil, free men and women: 1848 was a year of revolutions abroad and at home” (p 202).

Book trivia: Hawthorne includes photographs and illustrations.

Nancy said: According to Pearl, Wineapple makes it clear in Hawthorne that the writer was much more than his work, The Scarlet Letter.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Literary Lives: the Americans” (p 144). If you are keeping score, I’m also reading Edel’s Henry James biography from this same chapter.



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