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Hawthorne at Salem

Life & Times


The Family of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Introduction

The Burying Point, 1637, Salem
The Burying Point, 1637, Salem(Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Nathaniel Hawthorne was descended from the Hathornes and the Mannings. His father, Nathaniel Hathorne, Sr., was born in 1775 in Salem. Among his ancestors were Major William Hathorne (c. 1606/7-1681), known for his persecution of Quakers, and John Hathorne (1641-1717), the son of Major William and Anna Hathorne and a magistrate of the Court of Oyer and Terminer who was the stern interrogator of the accused witches. Hawthorne was intrigued, even haunted, by his paternal ancestors, and they appear in his fiction on more than one occasion.

Hawthorne's mother, Elizabeth Clarke Manning, was born in 1780. Her ancestors had arrived in the New World in 1679. Among the group of Mannings who arrived in that year, was Thomas Manning, a blacksmith, who married Mary Giddings of Ipswich in 1681 and whose son, John Manning, also a blacksmith, was Nathaniel Hawthorne's great-grandfather. One of John Manning's sons was Richard Manning, a blacksmith and stagecoach owner who also owned lands in Maine. The influence of the Manning family is, like that of the Hathornes, also apparent in Hawthorne's fiction in the figures of blacksmiths and iron workers.

The story that Hawthorne added the "w" to his name to distance himself from his Hathorne ancestors has no clear evidence to support it. We do know that in October, 1830, he published "Sights from a Steeple" in The Token, and in November he published "The Hollow of the Three Hills" in The Salem Gazette, both under the name of Nathaniel Hathorne. After this date, however, his name appears as Nathaniel Hawthorne. After a nearly five-year courtship, Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody from Salem in 1842. Their marriage has been much analyzed, with some, such as Richard Brodhead, finding Hawthorne a devoted family man, and others, such as T. Walter Herbert, insisting that the marriage was ultimately an unhappy one. In any case, they had three children and led a rich life together in Salem, Concord, and abroad.