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The Wife and Children of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Introduction

The Wife and Children of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Introduction

Sophia Amelia Peabody at the age of 36
Sophia Amelia Peabody at the age of 36 (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Sophia Amelia Peabody Hawthorne (1809-1871)

Sophia Peabody was the third daughter of Nathaniel Peabody, a dentist, and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody. She was born in Salem on Summer St. in 1809. The following year the Peabodys moved to an apartment in the Union Building at the corner of Union and Essex St., a building which still stands today. Herbert St., where Hawthorne was living with his mother's family at the time, is one street over, and Sophia recalled watching Hawthorne as a boy playing in the Manning and Hathorne yards behind 10 ˝ Herbert St.

Scholars take various views about the marriage on July 9, 1842 and its effect on Hawthorne's writing as well as on Sophia’s creative work. Sophia seems to have been devoted to Hawthorne but also faced the limitations that women of all eras have faced who try to fulfill their own desires to paint, write, or pursue a profession while running a household and caring for children. While Hawthorne sometimes actively discouraged his wife from her pursuits, by, for example, urging her not to publish her journals, he also portrays with sympathy in his fiction women who face society's restrictions. Hilda in The Marble Faun, Hester in The Scarlet Letter, and Zenobia of The Blithedale Romance all remind the reader of the restraints on women. In addition, Sophia illustrated Hawthorne's story, "The Gentle Boy," which he dedicated to his wife. The story was published in a separate volume by Weeks & Jordan in Boston and by Wiley & Putnam in New York and London in 1839.

Sophia gave up her writing and her art work after her marriage. This was no small sacrifice either, as she did show promise as an artist. She produced mostly copies of great works, but those works were admired for their accuracy. In addition, she aspired to produce original works and did complete a few of these. In 1833 she contributed several works to the Ladies Fair in Hamilton Hall, Salem, one of two ladies fundraisers at the time for Samuel Gridley Howe's newly established blind school in Boston. Sophia Peabody sold two works titled Scenery near Bristol, in England, for a total of sixty dollars at that fair, but "Sophia was most proud of the four tiny original scenes she had painted on a hand basket that sold for just $10" (Marshall 265). As Sophia's health was on the decline, however, her artistic efforts were put aside for a recuperative trip to Cuba at the end of 1833 with her sister, Mary. Sophia did keep a journal on that trip which included drawings such as "The Ceyba Tree of Cuba." Her "Cuba Journal" was a description of the people and landscape of Cuba and, asserts Marshall, if the journal "had been published at the time of its writing, Sophia would have been counted among the earliest practitioners of literary Transcendentalism" (278). Although Sophia's sister, Elizabeth, encouraged her to publish the journal, Sophia "wished for that no more than she wished for her own death" (281).

While Sophia was in Cuba, her reputation as an artist received an important boost. In Sophia's absence, Elizabeth entered her sister's copy of a work by Salvator Rosa, an Italian baroque painter, in the Athenaeum's 1834 exhibition. Megan Marshall claims in The Peabody Sisters that with the exhibition of this work, entitled Landscape, at the Athenaeum, "Sophia Peabody had earned the one badge of artistic success Boston had to confer" and this, Marshall points out, "[j]ust four years after she had first taken up a brush" (270).

Patricia Dunlavey Valenti, author of a two-volume biography of Sophia Hawthorne, also writes of Sophia Peabody's artistic talent and influence on her husband in an article entitled "Sophia Peabody Hawthorne: A Study of Artistic Influence." She says, "'Sophia, wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne' is the simple inscription which marks the grave of a woman remembered for her marriage to one of the foremost men in American letters. However, she deserves to be remembered among the earliest women in American painting" (1). Valenti goes on to assert that Sophia Hawthorne "exerted an influence upon her husband as his mentor in understanding the visual arts and the place they held in his fiction..." (1).

Sophia continued to paint and draw during her secret engagement to Hawthorne. The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA owns, in addition to the painting Scenery near Bristol, in England, two other works by Sophia Hawthorne: Villa Menaggio, Lago di Como (1839-40) and Sola San Giovanni (1839-40), both created right after her engagement to Hawthorne. She also is the artist responsible for the drawing which accompanied the publication of Hawthorne's story, "The Gentle Boy" when it was published in a separate volume in 1839.

After her husband's death in 1864, Sophia was left to deal with her sometimes difficult children alone and though not facing poverty, was forced to live on a reduced income. In 1870, Sophia moved to Germany with her children so that Julian could study engineering. Later that year she moved to England where she became ill and died of typhoid pneumonia on February 26, 1871. She was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Una was also buried there in 1877 at age 33.

On June 26, 2006, the remains of Sophia and Una Hawthorne were moved from the grave sites at Kensal Green to a place alongside Nathaniel Hawthorne on Authors Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, MA.

Hawthorne's Children
Una Hawthorne (1844-1877)
Julian Hawthorne (1846-1934)
Rose Hawthorne (1851-1926)

The Hawthornes were still living at the Old Manse in Concord when their first child, a girl who was named Una, was born on March 3, 1844; Hawthorne was forty years old. Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne's second child, a boy, was born a little over two years later on June 2, 1846. He went without a name for some months, but ultimately the parents agreed on "Julian." Sophia had moved from the Herbert St. house in Salem to 77 Carver St. in Boston in March of that year to be nearer her family and her doctor. Hawthorne, who was working at the Salem Custom House at the time, joined her not long after that, but around July of 1846 they moved to 18 Chestnut St. in Salem and then to a larger house at 14 Mall St. a couple of months later.

After Hawthorne was fired from his job at the Salem Custom House in June of 1849, he began writing The Scarlet Letter which was published in March of 1850. In May of that year, he, Sophia, Una, and Julian moved to a cottage in Lenox, MA, where, in May of 1851, a second daughter, Rose, was born to the Hawthornes. That summer Sophia took Una and Rose to visit her mother, but Julian remained in Lenox.

In November of 1851, Hawthorne and his family left Lenox and moved to the home of Horace Mann in West Newton, MA where they lived until May, 1852. A year later Hawthorne and his family moved to The Wayside, in Concord, purchased from Bronson Alcott; this is the only house Hawthorne ever owned. Hawthorne and Sophia were living in Concord when Sophia's mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Peabody, died in West Newton, MA on January 11, 1853. Two months later, President Franklin Pierce appointed Hawthorne Consul in Liverpool, England, and in July Hawthorne moved his family to Liverpool, England, where he assumed his position as Consul on August 1.

In October of 1855, in an attempt to improve her health, Sophia took Rose and Una to Lisbon where they stayed until June; Julian remained with his father. In October of 1857, when Franklin Pierce failed to receive the presidential nomination,

Hawthorne left his position as American Consul in Liverpool, knowing that his appointment would end. Early the following year, Hawthorne and his family traveled to France and to Italy where they lived both in Rome and in Florence.

In 1858, while the family was living in Italy, Una, contracted malaria. Her illness was ultimately diagnosed as malaria, and she was quite ill for several months. After some improvement, she relapsed in March and was diagnosed with typhus. Una did recover, but she never regained full health. Una's illness took a toll on her parents, too. Sophia spent long hours caring for her daughter and offering comfort to her distraught husband. Hawthorne also received comfort from visits from his friend Franklin Pierce. In May of 1859 the Hawthornes traveled to Southampton, England, in hopes that the stay in this resort town would restore the health of Sophia whose health had declined after her arduous time nursing her daughter.

After the Hawthornes returned to America in June of 1860 and took up residence again at the Wayside, Sophia and Una were still not yet in good health. Shortly after returning to America, Hawthorne went to Concord, New Hampshire, to visit his friend, Franklin Pierce. During Hawthorne's absence, Una went to live with her Aunt Mary Mann. In August she visited Monserrat with another aunt, Elizabeth Hawthorne, and her health was much improved. Not long after, Una accompanied her father to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to visit the Horatio Bridge family, and on her return to Mary Mann's house in Concord, she was delirious but recovered shortly.

In September of 1860, Julian attended school for the first time. He became a pupil in a school established by Franklin B. Sanborn, a friend of the abolitionist, John Brown, and his classmates included the sons of the Emersons and the Manns, and brothers of Henry James, Jr. In the spring of 1864, in the weeks before Hawthorne's death, Julian left Cambridge each weekend to visit his father in Concord. When Hawthorne died on May 19,1864, Una and Julian made the funeral arrangements as their mother was too distraught.

In 1867, Una was engaged to Storrow Higginson, a nephew of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, but for reasons that are unclear, the engagement was broken off. After that, Una and her sister, Rose, enrolled in a series of schools. Julian had entered Harvard, but his academic career was lacklustre, and so he talked his mother into moving to Dresden, Germany, where he studied engineering. In Dresden Julian met May Albertina Amelung, an American, and they were married in 1870. Una and Rose also fell in love but both with the same man: George P. Lathrop, a law student at Columbia University. It was Rose who caught Lathrop's eye, however, and after Sophia's death in February of 1871, he and Rose became engaged.

In September of that year Julian and his wife had their first child, and Una, alone and desperate, displayed evidence of psychosis and was committed to an asylum. Rose and George Lathrop married, and Una eventually recovered and moved in with her sister and her husband. Rose was expecting a child at that time, but her marriage to Lathrop was in difficulty, and Lathrop was also in a dispute with Julian over who would produce a biography of Hawthorne. While living with her sister and her husband, Una met and became engaged to Albert Webster, Jr. While waiting for Webster to return from a voyage, Una moved back to England to live with Julian who was there to pursue a literary career. When Webster died at sea, Una entered a convent where she died not long afterwards in 1877 at the age of thirty-three. She was buried next to her mother at Kensal Green.

Rose and George Lathrop purchased the Wayside, but their life there was not happy. Lathrop was an alcoholic, and when their child died in 1881, this further strained the marriage as did their penury when Lathrop lost his position at the Atlantic Monthly.

They became Catholics in 1891, and Rose devoted her last years to caring for cancer patients. She established St. Rose's Free Home for Incurable Cancer in New York City and Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, New York. After her husband's death in 1898, she entered a convent and became Mother Mary Alphonsa Lathrop. Her contribution to altering the treatment of cancer patients, who in the early nineteenth century were shunned, was recently acknowledged by Duke University by the establishment of the Rose Lathrop Cancer Center. She published several literary works, including Memories of Hawthorne in 1923. Rose Hawthorne died at the Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, NY on July 9, 1926.

Julian produced a biography of his father, and his novels had some measure of success, but he was not able to support himself and his family on income from his writing. In addition, his marriage broke up after the death of his ninth child at birth. After serving a jail term for embezzlement, he married again, just after his wife's death in 1925. Julian Hawthorne died in San Francisco in 1934.

The Re-interment of Sophia and Una Hawthorne was on June 26, 2006 at 2:30 pm at the Old Manse in Concord, MA.
Photographs (view1,  view2, and view3) of gravestones after the ceremony. Photographs of the ceremony (view1, view2, view3, view4).

Work Cited

Marshall, Megan. The Peabody Sisters. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
Valenti, Patricia Dunlavey. "Sophia Peabody Hawthorne: A Study of Artistic Influence." Studies in the American Renaissance 1990: 1-21. Web. 11 October 2010. http://www.jstor.org/pss/30227585.

Scenery near Bristol, in England
Villa Menaggio, Lago di Como (1839-40) 2653
Sola San Giovanni (1839-40), 2654


Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/10064/

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