Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts. His father was a sea captain and descendent of John Hathorne, one of the judges in the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. He died when the young Nathaniel was four year old. Hawthorne grew up in seclusion with his widowed mother - he leaned on her for emotional solace and vice versa, and this situation Hawthorne carried with him into adulthood. Later he wrote to his friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "I have locked myself in a dungeon and I can't find the key to get out." Hawthorne was educated at the Bowdoin College in Maine (1821-24). In the school among his friends were Longfellow and Franklin Pierce, who became the 14th president of the U.S.
Between the years 1825 and 1836 Hawthorne worked as a writer and contributor to periodicals. Among Hawthorne's friends was John L. O'Sullivan, whose magazine the Democratic Review published two dozen stories by him.
Hawthorne's first novel, FANSHAWE, appeared anonymously at his own expense in 1828. The work was based on his college life. It did not receive much attention and the author burned the unsold copies. However, the book initiated a friendship between Hawthorhe and the published Samuel Goodrich. He edited in 1836 the American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge in Boston, and compiled in 1837 PETER PARLEY'S UNIVERSAL HISTORY for children. In was followed by a series of books for children - GRANDFATHER'S CHAIR (1841), FAMOUS OLD PEOPLE (1841), LIBERTY TREE (1841), and BIOGRAPHICAL STORIES FOR CHILDREN (1842).
In 1842 Hawthorne became friends with the Transcendentalists in Concord - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, but generally he did not have much confidence in intellectuals and artist. He married in 1842 Sophia Peapody, an active participant in the Transcendentalist movement, and settled with her in Concord. A growing family and mounting debts compelled the family's return to Salem. Hawthore was unable to earn a living as a writer and in 1846 he was appointed surveyor of the Port of Salem, where he worked for three years.