“If I were to read only one book about Hawthorne, this might well be my choice” – Malcolm Cowley
In Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times, a book that re-creates an age as faithfully as a series of brilliant daguerreotypes, master biographer James R. Mellow shows us America’s first great writer (1804–1864) and his contemporaries as living, breathing people.
Mellow often draws from Hawthorne’s own inimitable letters and notebooks in recounting the long apprenticeship of the handsome, reclusive young author; his romantic courtship of the frail Sophia Peabody; his stimulating, sometimes unsettled relations with fellow pioneers in the formation of American literature: Poe, Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow, Melville; and later, his acclaim in the dazzling salons of Europe, where he was sought by the ornaments of the age — the Brownings, Jenny Lind, Fanny Kemble.
Hawthorne’s times were days of turmoil for a young republic struggling to create a political and cultural life to compare with that of its older European rivals, and at the same time trying to preserve the Union from disastrous civil war. A lifelong friend of the ill-starred president Franklin Pierce, Hawthorne had a political career of his own and was a keen and often caustic observer of the era’s great politicians — among them Webster, Sumner, Buchanan, Douglas, John Brown, and Lincoln — as well as of the reformers, publicists, and wits of this exciting and complex age.