Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts, the son and grandson of proud New England seafarers. He lived in genteel poverty with his widowed mother and two young sisters in a house filled with Puritan ideals and family pride in a prosperous past. His boyhood was, in most respects, pleasant and normal. In 1825 he was graduated from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, and he returned to Salem determined to become a writer of short stories. For the next twelve years he was plagued with unhappiness and self-doubts as he struggled to master his craft. He finally secured some small measure of success with the publication of his Twice-Told Tales
(1837). His marriage to Sophia Peabody in 1842 was a happy one. The Scarlet Letter
(1850), which brought him immediate recognition, was followed by The House of the Seven Gables
(1851). After serving four years as the American Consul in Liverpool, England, he traveled in Italy; he returned home to Massachusetts in 1860. Depressed, weary of writing, and failing in health, he died on May 19, 1864, at Plymouth, New Hampshire.
Nina Baym is the director of the School of Humanities and professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Thomas E. Connolly (1918-2002) was a literary critic and professor of English at the University of Buffalo, where he served as chair of the UB faculty senate. Connolly's critical essays appeared widely in scholarly journals, and he wrote and edited several books on the works of James Joyce and Nathaniel Hawthorne.