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Nathaniel Hawthorne: Death

Despite an 1840 entry in his diary that proclaims, "I do detest all offices,—all, at least, that are held on a political tenure,"21 Hawthorne happily accepted a position Pierce doled out to him as U.S. Consul to Liverpool. In 1853, the Hawthorne family set sail for England, where they lived for the next six years. (Hawthorne lost the job when Pierce left office in 1857, but stayed on in the country until 1859.) Following his return to Concord, Hawthorne published the novel The Marble Faun in 1860 and the non-fiction memoir Our Old Home in 1863. The account of Hawthorne's time in Europe turned out to be the last thing he ever published. On 19 May 1864, while vacationing in New Hampshire with Franklin Pierce, Hawthorne passed away in his sleep. Longfellow, Emerson, and Alcott were among the mourners at his funeral.

Hawthorne seemed occupied all of his life with the legacy of his Puritan ancestors. In "The Custom House," the semi-autobiographical introduction to The Scarlet Letter, a narrator imagines what his Puritan ancestors would think of his occupation as a writer. Hawthorne could have been talking about himself.

"'What is he?' murmurs one grey shadow of my forefathers to the other. 'A writer of story books! What kind of business in life--what mode of glorifying God, or being serviceable to mankind in his day and generation--may that be? Why, the degenerate fellow might as well have been a fiddler!' Such are the compliments bandied between my great grandsires and myself, across the gulf of time And yet, let them scorn me as they will, strong traits of their nature have intertwined themselves with mine."22

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