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James R. Mellow’s biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne places this great American writer in the midst of the literary and cultural turmoil of the early Republic. Mellow draws on Hawthorne’s letters and notebooks, as well as on perceptive readings of his fiction, in recreating the details of Hawthorne’s life: the long apprenticeship of the reclusive young author, his romantic courtship of Sophia Peabody, and his travels to Europe at the height of his literary career.
More fascinating still is Mellow’s portrayal of Hawthorne’s stimulating, complicated relationships with his fellow pioneers in the creation of a uniquely American literature—Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Louisa May Alcott. Hawthorne was also a life-long friend of President Franklin Pierce, and Mellow follows the fortunes of Hawthorne’s political career, which brought the writer into contact with the era’s great politicians—Daniel…[more]