BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Brenda Wineapple, author of "A Life," Hawthorne, how much did politics play in his life?
BRENDA WINEAPPLE, AUTHOR, "HAWTHORNE: A LIFE":
It played a much larger role than people have liked to think. He was a political man. He was involved in politics, and he was best friends with arguably one of the worst American presidents, which is saying something.
LAMB: Franklin Pierce.
WINEAPPLE: Franklin Pierce.
LAMB: How did he get to know Franklin Pierce?
WINEAPPLE: They met at college. They were at Bowdoin together. Pierce was a year ahead of Hawthorne. Pierce was a very gregarious, outgoing, warm and genial person, and he and Hawthorne became friends. They actually marched in a little group called the Bowdoin Cadets. One doesn`t think of Hawthorne marching, and certainly not marching behind anyone, but they did. And also, politics at Bowdoin was very important. They were both what became Democrats. They were Jeffersonian Republicans at the time, so that was a very important connection between the two men then. And they stayed friends for their entire lives.
LAMB: Bowdoin had, I think, 38 people in the graduating class that included Pierce and Nathaniel Hawthorne, but there were three -- I mean, three congressmen came out of that same class.
WINEAPPLE: Yes. Pierce was actually the class ahead of Hawthorne. It was -- Hawthorne`s class, which was the class of `25 was very well known because, I think, John Russworm (ph), who was the first president of Liberia, the colony, the American colony where emancipated slaves were sent for a while -- he was a member of the Bowdoin class. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from a whole other perspective, was a member of the Bowdoin class. Another very good friend of Hawthorne`s, Horatio Bridge (ph), was a member of that class. So it was a famous class, still, I think, in Bowdoin`s annals.
LAMB: When did you first get interested in Nathaniel Hawthorne?
WINEAPPLE: Oh, it`s hard to say. Probably as a school child. I remember reading "The Minister`s Black Veil," which school children had to do, and being completely horrified. And I never forgot it. I was horrified because I didn`t understand it. And later I realized it was all right not to understand it. So I think Hawthorne grabs people at a certain point in one`s life and never lets go. And long after I decided to write a biography of Hawthorne, I realized that my previous book, which was on a very different subject, Gertrude Stein and her brother, Leo, actually began with an epigraph from Hawthorne, from Hawthorne`s "Scarlet Letter." So obviously, I had been thinking about him for a long time.
LAMB: When did he live?
WINEAPPLE: He was born in 1804. The bicentennial of his birth is coming up next year -- July 4, 1804. And he died in 1864, just before the end of the Civil War.
LAMB: You quote somebody by the name of Elizabeth Peabody as saying he wanted to die by the time he was 59?
WINEAPPLE: Yes, he was anxious about turning 60. Most people -- he had already said, you know, he didn`t think he`d live past 21, in that kind of romantic flourish. When he told Peabody that -- Peabody was his sister-in-law -- he was ill. He was ill by that time. And one way of interpreting it is to say he didn`t want to live as an ailing and failing person.
LAMB: The places that he lived -- just give us a quick overview.
WINEAPPLE: He was born in Salem, Massachusetts. He`s descended from very famous Salem Hawthorne -- Hathorne (ph), actually, as the name was spelled. But he also lived in Concord, Massachusetts, for a time. He lived in Lenox for a time. He lived in Liverpool, England, for a time. He lived in Rome for a time. For a brief time, he lived in Florence, one summer. And then at the end of his life, he`d come back to Concord, where he`d bought a house, and he lived and was buried in Concord.
LAMB: You say that when he died, he was worth $26,000.
LAMB: How much would that be today? Do you have any idea?
WINEAPPLE: I don`t know. It`s a good question. The reason I brought it up was, what I said at the end was that it was enough to keep him out of the almshouse. By the end of his life, because he`d been ill, and when you`re ill, you can`t write, and he didn`t have political jobs, he was worried about the maintenance of his family. He had a wife and three children. So $26,000 was more than -- it was enough to make him comfortable, and it included his real estate, and so forth. It wasn`t a huge amount, by any means at all, but it was more than he thought he had. He`d saved a lot of that money while he was the consulship -- while he was consul for Liverpool under the Pierce administration. And part of the reason he took that job was to make -- it was a very lucrative job -- to make that money.
LAMB: You said at the time, a good house would cost $3,000.
LAMB: But you also said, at the time, in order to get -- stay out of the Civil War, you could spend $300.
WINEAPPLE: Right. That`s right. That`s right.
LAMB: Now, what did he do in connection with war?
WINEAPPLE: Well, he was too old to fight. Had he -- it`s unclear whether he would have wanted to or not. Some days, he felt he wanted to grab that musket and shoot someone, but mostly, he was so horrified by the blood-letting that was the Civil War because daily there were reports of friends of his, children, or nephews being lost or maimed or run away, something like that. And he was aghast at the whole thing. He was brutalized by the war, and he was very critical of the North and of the South both.
LAMB: You say he anti-war?
WINEAPPLE: I would say he was anti-war, yes, which is an anomalous thing to be in that time. It`s almost as if -- you know, the modern corollary would be anti-war, although some people were, Robert Law (ph), during the Second World War. And now to us, we think, well, How could you have been anti-Nazi? How could you have been anti-war? Well, there was a -- in the Civil War, for a Northerner living in Concord, Massachusetts, neighbor of Thoreau, neighbor of Emerson, to be anti-war when, in point of fact, the war was being fought, from these people`s point of view, to emancipate the slaves, you know, to get rid of slavery, is a strange position.
LAMB: Some of the books, some of the better-known books that he wrote?
WINEAPPLE: Oh, you`re asking?
WINEAPPLE: Sorry! "The Scarlet Letter," the most famous. Absolutely the most famous. "The House of the seven Gables." "The Scarlet Letter" is still sort of a mainstay, canonical mainstay in school curricula all throughout the country. "The House of Seven Gables," "The Blythesdale Romance," not read as often, but a strange little book, and "The Marble Fawn." Those are the four main Hawthorne books. And he`s also know for stories, like the one I mentioned, "The Minister`s Black Veil," "The Birthmark," "Rappacini`s (ph) Daughter," whichever one happens to be somebody`s favorite that they read, as I did, you know, when they were about 12 years old.
LAMB: But you also say at one point he would sell 7,000 copies of "The Scarlet Letter," where Harriet Beecher Stowe was selling 300,000...
WINEAPPLE: Yes, 300,000 copies...
LAMB: ... of "Uncle Tom`s Cabin."
LAMB: Put that in context. And did he ever sell a lot...
LAMB: ... of ""The Scarlet Letter""?
WINEAPPLE: No. No, he never sold a lot. I think he made, overall -- no, I think, overall, between the time of the publication in 1850, ""The Scarlet Letter"," and the time of his death 1864, he sold 13,500 copies. That was in a 14-year period; 300,000 copies of Harriet Beecher Stowe in one year. So that gives you a sense of the difference.
"The Scarlet Letter" was a success d`estime. People knew of it. It was an important book. But people weren`t running out to buy it in the same way they were running out to buy, you know, Stowe`s book, on one hand, or the narrative life of Frederick Douglass, which became an international bestseller in the 1840s. Hawthorne was a much more specialized writer for a more specialized audience. People knew of the book. It had a certain kind of fame. But it didn`t have what you`d call popular, almost journalistic success. And that, of course, was hard for him. He has a terrible and famous phrase about "the damned mob of scriveling (ph) women," and what he means by that, although it`s complicated, is he means these were women, primarily, who were writing topical books about current events, who were selling much more than he was, and certainly much more than, say, Melville, who didn`t -- you know, whose "Moby-Dick" was an abysmal failure, something like that, so...
LAMB: He did have a relationship with Melville.
WINEAPPLE: He did have a relationship with Melville.
LAMB: You say at one point that Herman Melville loved him.
WINEAPPLE: Yes, I think he did.
LAMB: What did you mean -- what did you mean by that?
WINEAPPLE: I mean everything by it. I mean, we can`t know literally what is meant by it. Melville -- Hawthorne was older than Melville. Melville lost his father. Melville had a kind of polymorphous sexuality. He was very open to attachments to men, women, things, whales, what have you. And when he read Hawthorne’s group of short stories, and just at the same time as he met Hawthorne -- unclear which happened first -- he was -- he was overwhelmed.
He was overpowered by the man, who was so enormously handsome, so smart, so reserved, so satiric and so philosophically compatible, both in his person and in his writing. So Melville was enamored of him, and Melville always wore his heart on his sleeve and wrote gushing, erotic letters to Hawthorne. The sad thing is that Hawthorne`s letters don`t survive, so we don`t really know his side of the correspondence. He was a very different kind of man than Melville was.
And so if you divide the world into Melville lovers and Hawthorne lovers, as spurious a way to divide the world as any, then people who love Melville often dislike Hawthorne because they feel that Hawthorne rejected Melville, and so forth and so on. It`s not true. They were good friends. I don`t think Hawthorne was in love with Melville, though.
LAMB: How many different jobs did Nathaniel Hawthorne have that he required a political appointment?
WINEAPPLE: Quite a number. Starting at the Boston Custom House before he was married, in the 1830s, and that required political maneuvering of George Bancroft (ph) through a Elizabeth Peabody, the woman who became his sister-in-law. So that was an early one. Later...
LAMB: Stop just a second though.
LAMB: George Bancroft turns out to be a big name in history.
WINEAPPLE: Big name in history.
WINEAPPLE: Well, because he -- well, first of all, because he wrote his -- one of the first and very important histories of the United States, you know, a multi-volume history of the United States, where he gave -- he, in some sense, started the whole view of America. I mean, it was always part of the American scene, but America`s getting better and better. It`s progressive history. He was a kind of progressive historian. And he also saw America as kind of the great white hope of democracy -- you know, sort of changing the world. He was also a very important Democratic Party leader, and he had several important posts in various administrations. And in Massachusetts, where he lived, he pulled a lot of levers for Democratic operatives. So he was very important in lots of ways. He had his finger almost in every pot.
LAMB: Do you remember who he was secretary of the Navy for...
LAMB: ... which president?
WINEAPPLE: Do you?
LAMB: It`s in the book. I`m...
WINEAPPLE: I`m sorry. I was thinking this -- I didn`t want to bring it up because I couldn`t remember.
LAMB: And today they have a big history award, Bancroft?
WINEAPPLE: Maybe Van Buren. He might have been...
LAMB: But they have the Bancroft Prize.
WINEAPPLE: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.
LAMB: ... at Columbia.
WINEAPPLE: Yes. Yes, yes. Yes, that`s right.
LAMB: OK, he was -- he got the job at the Boston Custom House. Let me stop and ask you, though, about custom houses because those -- that name is used -- that`s also one of his books . But what is the custom house in those days?
WINEAPPLE: Well, it was a clearinghouse for imported and exported, but primarily imported, goods coming into the country. And all of the commerce, international commerce, was done by ship. And so where Hawthorne was from, Salem, for example, just -- in the 18th century and about until the time of Hawthorne`s birth and early years, 1804 to about 1811, say, Salem was a major port of entry for goods coming from as far away as China, for example, or the Far East, let`s say, the East India Company, all came in through Salem. It actually surpassed Boston as a kind of port of entry. So it was a very, very important maritime and commercial center.
Later Boston surpassed it, and later New York. It was sort of -- what happened is -- and this gets into too much history, but before the War of 1812, Jefferson had an embargo, which pretty much killed off Salem commerce.
In any case -- so to work in the Custom House was to really be at the clearinghouse of looking at the manifests, looking at the goods that are coming in, seeing who owes what to whom, and so forth and so on. So it was an important but very political job. These were political appointments.
LAMB: So again, he was born 1804, and this was about 1830, did you say, when he was...
WINEAPPLE: In the late 1830s. Right.
LAMB: What was next? What next political appointment did he get?
WINEAPPLE: The next major one -- major -- was the Salem Custom House. This was -- he got this during the Polk administration. After Hawthorne was married, he and his bride, Sophia (ph) Peabody Hawthorne, moved to Concord, Massachusetts, where they rented a house. They -- she was painting, he was writing. They weren`t making a lot of money. They were -- they were really poor. And so friends of Hawthorne, like Pierce, everybody else he knew -- he knew a number of very political people, John O`Sullivan, the man who coined the term "manifest destiny" -- all worked hard to get Hawthorne almost literally out of the kitchen, because they couldn`t afford hired help and his wife was pregnant, into political appointments.
And they went to Bancroft and whoever else they had to once the Democrats were back in power. Eventually, Hawthorne got the Salem Custom House, which he wanted very much. The family moved back to Salem, and he was there until a rotation in office. Democrats were voted out. The Whigs were voted in. Hawthorne was kicked out, and there was quite a brouhaha. So that was the next major appointment, and that lasted until 1849.
LAMB: As a matter of fact, you wrote, page 380, "He stood for dark, doubt and the Democratic Party."
LAMB: Start with the Democratic Party. What was the Democratic Party back in the 1800s, 1850s?
WINEAPPLE: It developed out of Jackson. It`s a sort of Jacksonian Democrat. And the Democratic Party in those years was more like today`s Republicans. It`s important to sort of remember who became what. The Democrats stood very strongly for states` rights, and as a result, early on, they became a party associated with expansion, manifest destiny, as I said, expanding territories to the west, even to the south. And partly as a consequence of that, they also became associated with pro-slavery. A large part of the Democratic Party was pro-slavery, was a pro-slavery wing. It separated out later on as politics got even more dicey than they were.
But it was also a progressive party in that it was for the working person. It was -- stood against kind of moneyed capitalist aristocracy, say, of Boston, which was associated with the Whigs. So by Hawthorne and then Pierce and his friends at Bowdoin joining with the Jacksonian Democrats, they felt that they were joining with something that was youthful, exciting, exuberant, offered a kind of real hope and egalitarianism for America, which was true, as long as you were white and male.
But that was true, and that was the vision. So it was a kind of -- it was a kind of party, in a sense, of optimism, a kind of party of reform, too, which is interesting because then, later, when it becomes associated with pro-slavery forces, we tend to then think of that party as being conservative, benighted, reactionary. It was more complicated than that.
The Republicans rose out of the Whig Party that was against the Democrats. And the anti-slavery Whigs or the conscience Whigs, and the anti-slavery Democrats joined forces eventually, by 1860, and elected Lincoln as a Republican. Hawthorne stayed true to the Democratic Party all the way through, even though lots of people left it, became either -- if they didn`t become Whigs, that would be too hard, went to the Republicans, because, after all, the Republicans seemed to promise some of the things that the Democrats stood for but also anti-slavery. Hawthorne did not. So he was in the most -- he stayed with the most conservative part of the Democratic Party, which eventually fell apart.
LAMB: By the way, in the middle of your...
WINEAPPLE: I hope that`s clear.
LAMB: ... where you`re talking about Nathaniel Hawthorne being poverty-stricken and having no money...
LAMB: ... all of a sudden, out of the page, pops he had a cook.
LAMB: How could you afford a cook if you were poverty-stricken?
WINEAPPLE: Different than -- different, well, eventually, they had to get rid of the cook. But you have to realize that help costs -- and these were -- the cook -- well, there was one in Lenox, a black woman who came in. And in Concord, there was an Irish woman who came in and worked really for pennies. So that even the poor middle-class wife, who was a sort of lower middle-class wife, were better than off than the immigrants.
LAMB: So he worked at the Boston Custom House, the Salem Custom House.
LAMB: He lost his job when the politics changed.
LAMB: What other government job did he have?
WINEAPPLE: Well, then he had a big one. Then he had an exciting one. When Pierce -- when Franklin Pierce was running for office in the election of 1852, his friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote the campaign biography, which was basically out there in order to sell Pierce`s candidacy. Now, Hawthorne, as we`ve established, wasn`t the best-selling author, but he was pretty much a household -- and he was already fairly canonical, which is interesting, because Hawthorne`s stock has never gone down.
So here he is, writing the campaign biography of Franklin Pierce, he who writes so-called high art. To reward him, which is probably part of the plan -- and there`s nothing wrong with it -- Pierce gave him -- Hawthorne -- the lucrative post in Liverpool, which is consul, sort of an ambassadorial post, in Liverpool, England, another major port.
And it was intended by Hawthorne and Pierce for Hawthorne to go there, spend the four years and, to use Hawthorne`s term, bag as much money as he could so eventually, he could come back to the United States and not have to worry about an income.
He was a man who really had to worry about how to live. You know, Emerson didn`t have to worry about it in the same way, for example, because he had a legacy. His first wife left him enough money. Hawthorne was always worried about getting food on the table for his three children and his wife. So this was a political appointment that was manufactured, really, for him. It already existed, but it was given to Hawthorne because Hawthorne really needed it very much. There were psychological reasons that were useful him, too, but those were the economic ones.
LAMB: But the interesting thing that you point out about Liverpool and being consul there is that one year, at least one year, he made 10 grand.
LAMB: That`s in 1853 or 1854, 10 grand.
LAMB: Houses cost 3 grand.
WINEAPPLE: Right. He did well. As I said, he came back...
LAMB: But how did he do this, though, because that wasn`t a government salary?
WINEAPPLE: Oh, no. There was -- it was corruption, in a sense, but not corruption that he was corrupt but built into the system. In fact, one of the reasons he started to -- he began to think about quitting was that there were consular laws going -- or bills being passed and talked about in Congress to put an end to the -- I guess we`d almost call them kickbacks. Every time Hawthorne signed an official sheet, something coming in, a manifest, OKed shipments, he would get money, basically under the table, so that he -- and it was legal. This was a legal procedure.
So people in these posts knew that not only did they get the allowance for their family and their housing and whatever, but also that they were allowed to take -- it wasn`t even under the table. They were allowed to take, for their signature on every official document, a couple of dollars. And it added up quite quickly.
He knew it. Everybody knew it. That was part of the deal. That`s why there were reform laws that started in the 1850s. And as soon as Hawthorne got wind of that, Pierce tried to delay them a little bit because he knew it was happening. Hawthorne thought, I better get -- you know, There`s no point to staying. That`s how he made it. Yes.
LAMB: You say Nathaniel Hawthorne spent seven years overseas, from `52 on.
LAMB: But four of those years, consul in Liverpool.
LAMB: But the point you made about Franklin Pierce when he was president -- stopped the consular -- you know, the -- what`s word you used...
WINEAPPLE: The laws, the bills?
LAMB: Changing the law to...
LAMB: ... that -- by saying it was unconstitutional.
LAMB: And was he able to stop it for the whole four years?
WINEAPPLE: No, but he slowed it down enormously, enough to get Hawthorne out and him out.
LAMB: Go back to, though, the biography. And almost all the lists you see of books that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, they don`t list -- I don`t mean you, but they don`t -- often, you don`t see the list of the biography of Franklin Pierce. How big a book was that?
WINEAPPLE: Oh, that`s interesting. I mean, that`s interesting. I mean, I -- that never dawned on me. You mean how long a book was it?
WINEAPPLE: It was about 250 pages. It was long enough. I mean, it was...
LAMB: Have you read it?
WINEAPPLE: Have I read it?
WINEAPPLE: Oh, yes. Oh, it`s fascinating.
WINEAPPLE: Well, first of all, it`s Hawthorne. It has the signature of Hawthorne. The sentences are elegant and beautifully balanced. And he gives on one hand and takes away on the other. He won`t perjure himself. He won`t say, you know, Pierce is a great person. He says Pierce is great for the job, something like that.
But from another point of view, you know, quite -- not just literary, although literary is connected to it, it also demonstrates Hawthorne`s view of the Constitution, of slavery and of politics. He`s not mincing words. He doesn`t have the veil in front of his face. He`s very clear about what he thinks and what he thinks about what Pierce thinks. And because Pierce backs the Constitution, Hawthorne thinks he`s the man for the job because Hawthorne himself believes in the Constitution, which makes sense, when you think about it.
He was a cynical man who was conscious that we`re capable of doing terrible things to one another. And for him law, the Constitution, is a kind of document that prevents demagoguery, the demagoguery of, say, the witch trials or whatever in the -- you know, in the 17th century or the demagoguery that he would be a little bit skeptical about vis-a-vis Lincoln, you know? It prevents mob rule, all of those things. He really believed in the Constitution.
LAMB: But here you have a man that was born in the Northeast, and also Franklin Pierce, from Concord, New Hampshire.
LAMB: And he was a Democrat, elected in 1852, four years only. What was he about? Why was he so pro-slavery?
WINEAPPLE: I -- you know, it`s a terrible one-word answer. I wouldn`t say this about Hawthorne, but the first word that comes to my mind when you ask me that question is stupid.
WINEAPPLE: But that`s not a good answer. Why was he pro-slavery in that way? I think because he lacked the imagination to think of what it really is to be a slave. You know, I mean, I think it was a real failure -- it`s a failure of moral nerve and it`s a failure of imagination that comes to Pierce that he didn`t bother to think about it. He never got beyond the rule of law. So it wasn`t real to him.
Maybe being from the Northeast had something to do with it. Maybe being, as most people were -- whether it was Hawthorne at one extreme or even Theodore Parker at the other extreme -- maybe being racist had something to do with it. But he believed that -- and maybe there was some validity to one argument, that if the institution of slavery -- the institution -- is reprehensible, which it is -- they agreed about that. They disagreed about the means by which it should be changed. And in a sense, Pierce was a quietist. Pierce thought you leave just it alone, and eventually, it will go away. Hawthorne thought that, too, actually.
LAMB: How`d he ever get elected president?
WINEAPPLE: Dark horse. You know, I mean, the sort of mechanics of the election of 1852 were such that he was able to get in. I don`t remember on which ballot, but eventually, he was able to get in. And it was also because he didn`t -- he offended the least amount of people. He was one of those kinds of candidates that, you know, the South could deal with him. The South thought it was OK. And the North -- well, he was still a Northerner. He`s still, as you said, from Concord, so that he had -- so represented the North and the South. And he tried not to say too much. He wouldn`t talk about the fugitive slave law, for example, even though he was for it. And because people liked him. He was evidently, to meet him, a very personable, charming guy.
LAMB: You say they were together when Nathaniel Hawthorne died?
WINEAPPLE: Yes, they were. As I mentioned, Hawthorne was ill. He`d been progressively ill. It`s hard to say exactly what he had. And he wanted -- he had already taken one failed journey from his house, very tragically, because his editor, one of his editors happened to die on that trip, so Hawthorne`s health clearly didn`t improve, especially to the extent that it was psychologically driven. And his wife, Sophia, thought that it would be good for him to take another trip. The only person he would go with was Franklin Pierce. He loved Pierce. You want to talk about people loving each other, these two men loved each other. And Pierce came to Boston, and Sophia took Nathaniel into Boston, and they went in Pierce`s carriage up through New Hampshire to -- and eventually, they went to Plymouth, and that`s where Hawthorne died, in the Pemigewasset (ph) Inn in Plymouth.
LAMB: Where`s he buried today?
LAMB: Concord, Massachusetts or...
WINEAPPLE: Concord, Massachusetts. Yes. Not New Hampshire.
LAMB: And Franklin Pierce is Concord, New Hampshire?
LAMB: Your approach to this book -- I know you got some letters in the middle of all this, special letters that have never been seen before?
WINEAPPLE: Yes, they -- yes. I was visiting a group of Hawthornes in Connecticut, early on, actually, and one of them pressed a phone number into my hand. And she said a niece of hers had found an old tin trunk under a leaky pipe. And by the time I got home, the niece had called. I went out there, and she had a trunk filled with family letters that, actually, the family letters went way into the 20th century. There were no letters of Hawthorne. But there were a lot of letters of his wife, and of his children and of his sister-in-law, and there was some material of Longfellow and Emerson. It was wonderful. It was really wonderful.
LAMB: Who is alive today that`s connected with the family in any way?
WINEAPPLE: Julian`s descendants. Julian ...
LAMB: Son of?
WINEAPPLE: Son of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne had three children, one son. The son had 10 children, eight of whom lived, so a lot of children, and these descendants through Julian, through these eight, are great grandchildren. They are all over the place.
LAMB: What did you learn from the letters of Sophia, his wife?
WINEAPPLE: Well, I learned a great deal about life in the Hawthorne household. I learned a tremendous amount about her, because she was -- as a wife, she was Hawthorne`s best and most faithful publicist, both within the family and outside the family. She was wonderful to him. She was -- she was ebullient and undaunted in her faith in him. I also learned a lot about how they raised their children, what they read, what they ate. It was an enormous amount that I learned through her letters because she was -- she was unreserved. Where he was reserved, she was unreserved, and she wrote. I don`t know how people had the time to write the kinds of letters that they wrote and do everything else they did in a day.
LAMB: What`s the story of Sophia and her sister and their relationship to Nathaniel Hawthorne?
WINEAPPLE: Sophia had three sisters -- two sisters, rather. There were three of them. And the one you are probably referring to is Elizabeth. We mentioned her before. And Elizabeth was the take-charge sister, never married, who in a sense felt she and in a way discovered Hawthorne for the Peabody family, and became also his publicist, booster, helped him get the job in the Boston Custom House, and very likely fell in love with him.
LAMB: By the way, is this the Peabody family, the indicate (ph) Peabody family...
LAMB: ... that ran for vice president at one time?
WINEAPPLE: No. No, no, no.
LAMB: They are not politicians at all?
WINEAPPLE: No, no, no, no. I mean, distantly related, but this is the poorer branch of the Peabody family. No, no, no, no. This Peabody family has Sophia, the sister married Hawthorne, Mary Peabody who married Horace Mann, the educator and also the congressman, and then Elizabeth, who actually brought kindergarten to the United States. They were very interesting group.
LAMB: Elizabeth Peabody brought kindergarten to the United States?
WINEAPPLE: Yeah. Well, she read about it, she went over to Germany. She was a schoolteacher, she worked with Bronson Alcott and she developed early childhood education techniques.
LAMB: What`s the relationship of Bronson Alcott to ....
LAMB: Why can`t I think of her name? Louisa ...
WINEAPPLE: Oh, Louisa`s father ...
LAMB: Louisa May Alcott.
WINEAPPLE: Yeah, that`s her father.
LAMB: That`s her father.
WINEAPPLE: Yeah. Bronson was her father. So, that was -- Bronson Alcott and Hawthorne were of that generation, and then -- and then Louisa May Alcott is Bronson Alcott`s daughter. And say, for example, Henry James Sr., the next Henry James would be this -- that, you know, one generation down.
LAMB: You`ve got a lot of big names here. Let`s go over...
WINEAPPLE: I`m sorry.
LAMB: No, no, I mean -- I mean -- I mean, well-known names. You have Horace Mann.
WINEAPPLE: Horace Mann. Horace Mann, brother-in-law to Nathaniel Hawthorne, anti-slavery activist but not an abolitionist, was horrified when Hawthorne wrote the book we were talking about, "The Life of Franklin Pierce." You know, it`s how, can he write such a book, basically, is he such a man that would do this? That`s his brother-in-law.
LAMB: Yeah. Ralph Waldo Emerson you mentioned earlier.
WINEAPPLE: Emerson, neighbor, the ...
LAMB: In Concord, Mass?
WINEAPPLE: In Concord, Mass. The first place that Hawthorne lived in Concord, Mass with his wife was rented from Emerson`s step grandfather. I mean, it is very almost incestuous in a certain sense, because it`s a very small community.
LAMB: So, when anybody goes to the Old North Bridge ...
LAMB: ... and Concord, Mass, where the...
LAMB: ... the revolutionary war started in that area, and Lexington...
LAMB: They see the old -- that house, sitting right there ...
WINEAPPLE: Exactly, that`s the house.
LAMB: They rented that?
WINEAPPLE: They rented that. That`s where the newlyweds lived.
LAMB: Did they ever own it?
WINEAPPLE: No. No.
LAMB: How long did they live there?
WINEAPPLE: They lived there from the time of their marriage, 1842 to the time they basically had to leave because they couldn`t afford the rent anymore. That was three years later. And that`s when they went back to Salem.
LAMB: So, Ralph Waldo and Henry David Thoreau is in the same community?
WINEAPPLE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And Thoreau worked for Emerson, was friends with Emerson. So sort of, in some sense, tutee of Emerson, but then, from some points of view, surpassed Emerson. Hawthorne and Thoreau were good friends too, in some ways better friends than Hawthorne and Emerson who were more like rivals. Hawthorne bought Thoreau`s boat, called the Pond Lilly, that -- to help Thoreau. Thoreau didn`t have much money. He really liked Thoreau, respected Thoreau. They were both kind of sardonic men, unusual men, eccentric men, and in some ways loners, even though Hawthorne was married.
LAMB: Is Nathaniel Hawthorne on Author`s Ridge?
LAMB: Buried there with all the rest of them?
LAMB: I know, Emerson ...
WINEAPPLE: He was in the vanguard.
LAMB: Well, Emerson is down the road there, within half a block in the same cemetery.
WINEAPPLE: Well, he has that big boulder. It is sort of taking over.
LAMB: OK, go back to Henry Longfellow, who you mentioned earlier. Longfellow -- and did Mann also go to Bowdoin?
LAMB: But Bowdoin College is where -- and what was the significance of them all ending up, Franklin Pierce and Henry Longfellow and others at Bowdoin?
WINEAPPLE: Well, if you mean why did they each go there, I think -- I think ...
LAMB: I mean, where is it first?
WINEAPPLE: Oh, it`s in Maine. All right. It is in -- in Brunswick, Maine. And it is still there, and probably looks very, very similar to the way it looked then. A beautiful campus, very chilly in the winter. I mean, now even with central heating I imagine it was, for me anyway it would have been horrible. So I think that the students often warmed themselves with quite a bit of liquor.
In any event, Longfellow went there, I think, for different kinds of reasons that -- than Pierce or Hawthorne did. Longfellow came from a well-established family in Maine, and his father was on the board of trustees. So, Longfellow was in a different literary, and dash, political society than Hawthorne and Pierce. Hawthorne was coming -- his family sent him to Bowdoin because they liked the orthodoxy, the religious orthodoxy of Bowdoin. And although Hawthorne didn`t appreciate that, as it turned out, he liked the politics that were available to him, which was the sort of young America Democrats. So that`s why they all went there.
Hawthorne and Longfellow didn`t know each other well. They knew each other, they didn`t know each other well at Bowdoin, it was afterwards that they got in touch. And Longfellow was probably one of the nicest men in American literature. Very generous, very kind, and -- and really helpful to Hawthorne in his early career.
LAMB: Is there anything comparable today? Is there an author today that would write a biography of a presidential candidate, an author today who would want an appointment to work in the government?
WINEAPPLE: That`s a good question. I wish I could think of something snappy offhand. But what -- what I do say as a counter, you know, to show how unusual it is, I would say that people in Hawthorne and Pierce`s relationship would be as if -- or just sort of one is like J.D. Salinger writing a campaign biography of George Bush. I mean, one doesn`t imagine that in that way. I imagine that there probably are people who might do it, but no one springs to mind, because we generally, I think, separate out politics and art. Politics is here, art is over there, and they are not supposed to come together. And you know ...
LAMB: So, we see a lot of actors getting involved now?
WINEAPPLE: True. True, true, true.
LAMB: And is there any similarity?
WINEAPPLE: Well, that`s more like popular art. And that comes -- you know, and Clinton was sort of, you know, straddled that in a certain way. He brought in sort of rock music and pop art and Hollywood into the political arena. High art still sort of stays -- well, what passes for high art, stays pretty much by itself in that realm.
LAMB: This book here -- I guess, with all of the indexes and everything in it, you are talking about 500 pages. Is there anybody today in this country who is writing for a living, do you think, would warrant a biography like this, 150 years from now?
WINEAPPLE: Well, yes. I mean, it would be -- it would be inappropriate, probably, to name names, but let me say this...
LAMB: I mean, I`m trying to relate the two.
WINEAPPLE: No, no.
LAMB: Now, in other words, to get some sense of how important ...
LAMB: ... Nathaniel Hawthorne was then, and how important some writers would be today that they would actually get a biography written about them 150 years later?
WINEAPPLE: Well, I mean -- it happens. It`s not the kind of work I`m interested in. But -- but someone like Saul Bellow, for example. You could say that there is a political side to his character, although not directly so, but, you know, not working in government. He is still alive and had a very large, larger than this biography written about him, so and -- so in 150 years, whatever, you know. Part of -- part of the sort of heft of a book like this too is it has to do with creating a kind of record, much -- forgetting the index, but the notes are there for other people who want to write their own books, to check me out, or something like that.
LAMB: You`ve got 100 pages of notes at least.
WINEAPPLE: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I always consider it two books. There`s the book -- there`s the notes for the people who are interested in that, and then there is the text that I don`t want to interrupt the story, in a sense, with the material for the notes.
LAMB: But how important was Nathaniel Hawthorne in the 1850s in the country? How many people would know who he was?
WINEAPPLE: I think a number of people -- people were literate. There were lots of newspapers, lots of magazines. Even more -- becoming more and more magazines. I mean, there was a penny press developing, too.
LAMB: Could you buy his books in the South?
LAMB: All over the country?
LAMB: Although you say, "Scarlet Letter" is 7,000 copies.
WINEAPPLE: Yeah, well. Yeah, it`s like now. I mean, you know. It does not seem -- it wouldn`t seem like a lot if we didn`t have the other figures to say that some books really sold quite a bit. But people knew who he was.
LAMB: You mean it`s not -- probably not a year goes by that "The Scarlet Letter" does not sell quite a few more than 7,000 today?
WINEAPPLE: Now, now. Sure. And probably since he died, more and more -- it became more and more valuable. You know, especially as it became more and more part of, as I said before, the school curriculum. You know, that accounts for sales right there. And then, "The Scarlet Letter" itself almost has its own life. You know, there are plays, movies, operas based on it. Susan Lorie Parks (ph) did a kind of takeoff on it, you know, in New York last year. So -- so, it`s become part of the fabric, really.
LAMB: When did you start the book?
WINEAPPLE: I started the book shortly after -- not too long after I finished the last one, so it was around the end of `96. I started feelers, you know, what was available, was it a really good book to write, what would Hawthorne people think about it -- it was, you know, things like that.
LAMB: When was the last time there was a Hawthorne biography?
WINEAPPLE: The last major, major one was over 20 years ago, and there was one -- but there was one in between, it was more sort of Freudian analysis in 1990.
LAMB: And from what position did you do the research to write the book? What do you do on a full-time basis?
WINEAPPLE: On a full-time basis, I like to think I write, but I also teach. Unlike Hawthorne, I`m not in the government. I don`t have a government job. But I teach. I teach for living.
WINEAPPLE: I teach and I have taught for many years at Union College in Schenectady, New York.
LAMB: And what`s special about Union College from a historical standpoint?
WINEAPPLE: Well, it is the first nonsectarian college in the United States, which is really rather remarkable, giving the sectarian nature of -- of early American education. And -- and started in the 18th century, so it has a long, venerable tradition. See, Henry James` grandfather was a trustee there.
LAMB: Who is Chester Arthur?
WINEAPPLE: And Chester A. Arthur. It has its own sort of political, you know, commitment.
LAMB: How long have you been there?
WINEAPPLE: Do I have to answer that?
WINEAPPLE: Twenty-some years.
LAMB: And where did you come from to there, where did you go to school? Where did you ....
WINEAPPLE: I`m from New England.
WINEAPPLE: And, in fact my father is from Salem, Massachusetts. I`m from Haverhill, Massachusetts, which is a mill town, or a factory town in the Merrimack, you know, river valley in northeast Massachusetts. And from there, I went not very far to college. I went to Brandeis University, which is in Waltham.
LAMB: What did you study?
WINEAPPLE: I studied American and English literature, primarily. Excuse me.
LAMB: And do you know -- I mean, you examined this life. Do you know in your own life why you are interested in writing, writers, literature, teaching?
WINEAPPLE: I love to read.
LAMB: Where did you get that?
WINEAPPLE: Where did I get it? Where I`d gotten my love to read?
WINEAPPLE: Escape probably.
LAMB: Did your parents do it, or just?
WINEAPPLE: My parents do it. My father is a slow reader. My mother is a faster, more prolific reader. But I think I read obsessively, and they don`t. And I think I started reading obsessively, excuse me, at a very young age. As I said, as a kind of travel in a way. It was a very -- it was a wonderful form of escape and almost self-education, and I spent -- I had a complicated childhood, so I spent a lot of time reading, and alone doing that -- as, probably, a lot of readers do. Readers want to become writers, really, in some ways. You want to answer back, I think. And -- and, so, I think that`s probably where it began.
LAMB: Why do you say you had a complicated childhood?
WINEAPPLE: Not on television.
LAMB: Oh, come on. It`s just us.
WINEAPPLE: That`s all right. That`s what they all say. I write -- you know, I don`t enter into my own books. I mean, I`m sure that there are all kinds of psychological reasons even to choose Hawthorne who is a New -- New England author, you know, he was very appealing to me because I felt, rightly and wrongly, that I knew the territory, you know, that I know where his -- I know what it is like to be from Massachusetts. I don`t think it`s changed all that much in the last, you know, 200 years in a certain way. I mean, of course it has in other ways, certainly. So, you know, that was -- that was interesting to me.
LAMB: And your first two books, one was on Leo and Gertrude Stein.
LAMB: And the other on?
WINEAPPLE: Janet Flanner, the Paris correspondent for "The New Yorker."
LAMB: And why did that interest you?
WINEAPPLE: Well, I was actually looking for a subject, I wanted to write about a woman and someone told me that her papers were here in Washington, at the Library of Congress, and I went down -- came down to look at them, and they cried out for a biography. It seemed to me I had not really thought about biography. Because it was the story of so many people wrapped in her life, and the only way to do justice, I felt, was to tell it as a life story. And it is a wonderful narrative, I found it so interesting. So, that`s how that happened.
LAMB: You dedicate the book for Michael. Is it Delira (ph)?
LAMB: Who is that?
WINEAPPLE: My husband.
LAMB: And -- is this the first time you dedicated book to him?
WINEAPPLE: Yes. It was his turn. It started with my grandparents, then to my parents, and now the rest are for him.
LAMB: Your expectations on a book like this, a life of Hawthorne, who did you write it for?
WINEAPPLE: I mean who did I write it for? You know, Gertrude Stein has a wonderful line, and it is true, I think. She has a lot of wonderful lines and hers is "I write for myself and strangers." So when I say you, I`m not being glib exactly. I write it for myself. I write the book I want to read in a sense. I hope to write the book that I want to read, that I won`t not want to read some time from now, even when nobody else wants to. But also for strangers, because I want to tell a story -- and to affect people, you know, to set up that kind of communication about things and people and places that I think are important.
LAMB: Chapter one, first word of the book, "Guilty."
WINEAPPLE: Guilty, yeah.
LAMB: You obviously thought about that?
WINEAPPLE: I did.
WINEAPPLE: Chapter one -- well, the story -- I mean when -- when one -- when one thinks of Hawthorne, one thinks of guilt. There seems to be a kind of shadow of guilt over everything he writes. He`s also a man obsessed by the past. His past, the history of the country, the things we did yesterday, conscience, however you talk about the past.
I thought that instead of beginning his life with the past, which is the conventional traditional form for a biography, I would begin in the future, because from some points of view the future is the past. And so, I began the story of Hawthorne telling you, the reader, about his children. Because I thought that understanding what happens to his children is a way of understanding a kind of story that gives us an insight into who he is and was. Not that it`s a causal relationship. He wasn`t an ex-father that created these children, but because certain patterns in people`s lives get repeated over and over, and we can almost see in the strange lives of his children, we can see certain obsessions and preoccupations of his. His son is the guilty party.
WINEAPPLE: Julian. At the beginning of the book. He has been -- he`s been called guilty by a New York court who is about to sentence him for mail fraud. But the real crime was trafficking the Hawthorne name, selling shares in a phony mining stock. So, here you have the son of a very famous father, and I`ve also wondered what happens to the sons outside of politics, that is the sons of very famous fathers or mothers, what happens to the children.
Well, Julian is in his 60s and he is going to jail because he is a Hawthorne, and because he -- because he was very conflictive about the Hawthorne name, as his own father was conflicted about that name. Because the father was the grand -- great-great-grandson of hanging witch judges. So that`s why the guilt.
LAMB: Did Julian go to jail?
WINEAPPLE: Oh, yeah.
LAMB: How long?
WINEAPPLE: Almost a year. I mean, he got some time off for time served, but it was almost a year. He was in a penitentiary in Atlanta.
LAMB: What about his daughters, Una and Rose?
WINEAPPLE: Rose is very interesting, because very, very recently -- Rose is the youngest of the three, very, very recently a cause was opened up on behalf of Rose Hawthorne. That means that the church is going to put her up, the Catholic Church, for sainthood. It may take 10 years; probably take 100, somewhere in between there. So the daughter of the Puritans became basically a Catholic nun and founded what is more or less the first hospice in the United States for indigent cancer patients. And it still exists in -- guess where, it`s all like a Hawthorne story, a place called Hawthorne, New York. It was named for father and daughter,…
LAMB: You have a lot of firsts in this book with the Horace Mann ...
WINEAPPLE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I guess, I guess, it`s too much, and it`s probably too much, but anyway. So, Rose is going to be a saint, Julian is a criminal. And Una, the firstborn -- was -- she died very young, in a sense like her father. It`s not clear why she died. She had an unhappy life and she was what we would call today, probably, clinically depressed. And it may have had somatic sources -- she had malaria as a young girl in Rome.
LAMB: I`m not sure we finished the Sophia-Elizabeth story earlier.
WINEAPPLE: No, we left it hanging.
LAMB: Yes, we did left it ...
LAMB: So, how ...
LAMB: How long was Nathaniel Hawthorne in the middle of these two women`s lives before he ended up proposing to Sophia?
WINEAPPLE: About two years. About two years. It was the late 1830s, Elizabeth more or less found Hawthorne, championed Hawthorne, thought he was the most wonderful writer. She was given to great enthusiasms, but she meant them and she was sincere about them, brought him home. Sophia, her youngest sister, was -- seemed to be an invalid. She had the headache a lot and she was -- she was unavailable, no one thought she would marry. People thought she would, you know, just be retiring in her room painting. And then under -- under Elizabeth`s nose, more or less, Sophia and Nathaniel began flirting. And -- and Elizabeth was gracious about it.
LAMB: How long were they married?
WINEAPPLE: They were married from 1842 to `64, so that`s 20.
LAMB: I didn`t see any references to affairs of Nathaniel Hawthorne in this book. Was he loyal to her the whole time?
WINEAPPLE: Oh, exceptionally. And I`m sure ...
LAMB: Was she loyal to him?
WINEAPPLE: Oh, absolutely, you know, and in death, even more loyal. Absolutely.
LAMB: How long did she live beyond his 1864 death?
WINEAPPLE: Not -- not very much longer, all things considered. She died in 1871, so she was still fairly young herself. Her health improved enormously, because a lot of her problems were psychosomatic. I mean, marriage helped them, but -- but she was also given to somatic ways of dealing with stress, and she got bronchitis and she died in 1871. She wasn`t really going to last very long without him.
LAMB: If Nathaniel Hawthorne came back today and walked in one of our big book stores.
WINEAPPLE: Yeah, he`d saw his picture.
LAMB: Well, they walked up and saw -- you know, I just did it ...
LAMB: ... this weekend, and there -- you know, there`s probably, oh, let`s say, 10 or 12 copies of his books, including one of yours, sitting there on the shelf, "Scarlet Letter" and this, "House of Seven Gables", and lots of others, "The Marble Fawn" and others, would he be surprised?
WINEAPPLE: You know, I think yes and no. I mean, I think this is -- there was a sardonic side to him. He would -- he would -- he would feel embittered partly for the years of neglect, to suffer so, and then find this, and never to have really enjoyed the fruits. There was -- that -- I mean, of course, he would be delighted in a way, but I think there would be a way in which once a person like him feels so -- so neglected, as I said, I think he never quite got over it, and it was hard for him, so that there would be a sort of grim sense of satisfaction that he would take in that.
LAMB: "The Scarlet Letter" -- we haven`t talked about plots in any of these books. "The Scarlet Letter," briefly, was what?
WINEAPPLE: It`s a story of what we today call a single mother, you know. She was unwed, Hester Prynne, unwed, and well -- I mean, I`m sorry, she was wed, she was -- but she was wed to not the father of her child. And so, she bears an illegitimate child, and the Puritan community in Boston, 17th century, where she lives, will have nothing of it, and they put an A on her, and she raises the child for seven years and never, never discloses the name of the child`s father, which, had she done that, life would have been easier for her. The child`s father, of course, is the town reverend, a man of great piety and beloved by his congregation, so there are ironies within ironies there.
LAMB: Was this a true story?
WINEAPPLE: No. I mean, there were true stories like it. I mean, there -- you know, there were -- women were forced to wear A`s or sometimes in the case, interestingly enough, in some cases, AD for adultery, and father of Hester`s child is Arthur Dimmesdale, AD, so anybody in the community could have gotten it, but of course, you know, Hawthorne is satirizing the community there too.
LAMB: Impact at the time this was written.
WINEAPPLE: Powerful. Very, very powerful. For two reasons. Not just because of the kind of scandalous nature of the story, which it was, and passionate, powerful story. I mean, amazing woman at the center of this book, who really stays true to herself, no matter how she is excoriated or punished, but also because she appended to the front of it a little essay about his being booted out of the Custom House. We talked about that. In which he sent up -- you know, he satirized all the Custom House cohorts and told that he had been fired in no uncertain terms, so the first part of the book created kind of scandal that`s not scandalous to us anymore today, and then, of course, the second part of the book seems shocking, it`s a novel about adultery. How dare you.
LAMB: We are out of time. This cover is what?
WINEAPPLE: That is a wonderful portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne that actually hangs in a club in New York City. And it was taken -- it was done of him when he was about 46 years old.
LAMB: Brenda Wineapple, our guest, "Hawthorne: The Life." Thank you very much.
WINEAPPLE: Thank you.
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