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Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Easy reading is damn hard writing."

After four years at Bowdoin College in Maine, Nathaniel Hawthorne returned to his motherís attic in Salem, MA, and began to write and found it difficult. When he decided that his first novel, Fanshawe, was not good enough, he burned all unsold copies.

He fared better with short stories, and his first two volumes earned him considerable critical success, though little money. By 1842, heíd married and setted in Concord, which was then a hotbed of Transcendentalism.

Emerson lived there, as did Thoreau and Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May Alcott. Though Hawthorne knew these people and even lived briefly in a utopian community, he had little in common with these philosophical minds. They wrote about the miraculous America now, he wrote about Americanís past.

In 1846, debt forced Hawthorne to take a job as a surveyor for the Custom House in Salem. When he lost this job three years later, he sat down and in a brief period wrote The Scarlet Letter, the first psychological novel written in America. A classic picture of Puritan New England, it is also a profound analysis of individual emotion. Hawthorne broke new ground while looking back toward Americaís beginnings.

Nathaniel Hawthorne