Nathaniel Hawthorne, Family Reunited in Grave Author Nathanial Hawthone has been reunited with his wife and daughter, 142 years after his death. On Monday, Sophia and Una Hawthorne's bodies were re-interred beside the author at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Mass.
NPR logo

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Family Reunited in Grave

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5516305/5516306" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Family Reunited in Grave

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Family Reunited in Grave

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5516305/5516306" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Burials are usually a time to say good bye, but in Massachusetts yesterday there was one that had the ring of a welcome home. The remains of the wife and daughter of 19th Century author Nathaniel Hawthorne were re-buried along side his grave in Concord. They had originally been buried in England.

Nancy Cohen from member station WNPR reports.

NANCY COHEN reporting:

Even the author of The Scarlet Letter could not have spun a tale quite like this. Hawthorne's wife Sophia and their daughter Una both died in England in the 1870s and were buried there. But recently, a Hawthorne tree planted next to their graves fell over, damaging Una's headstone. The descendants decided it was time to bring them home.

(Soundbite of carriage)

COHEN: Yesterday a horse drawn carriage cradling their remains retraced the path of Nathaniel Hawthorne's funeral procession 142 years ago. More than three dozen family members followed on foot, then Hawthorne's great-great granddaughter, Alison Hawthorne Deming, addressed a crowd of about 300.

Ms. ALISON HAWTHORNE DEMING (Great-great granddaughter of Hawthorne): I was startled last night to realize that we would have seven generations of our family present at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery today, counting those both below and above ground.

COHEN: Hawthorne's descendents have a strong connection to the past. 93-year-old Joan Ensor is the Hawthorne's great granddaughter.

Ms. JOAN ENSOR (Great granddaughter of Hawthorne): We knew as we grew up that Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne had an eternal love affair. It was part of the family history, family lore.

COHEN: But even within the family, Sophia didn't get as much play as the great author until now. When Sophia Peabody met Nathaniel Hawthorne, she was an artist. Sophia's biographer, Meghan Marshall, says she even exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum, which was rare for a woman.

Ms. MEGHAN MARSHALL (Sophia Hawthorne Biographer): She never fully realized this talent, in part because she wasn't given the opportunity, in part because of her own conflicts about pursuing a career as an artist or pursuing a career at all.

COHEN: But Sophia had a dream of making a life with another artist. That began to take shape after her sister Elizabeth invited Nathaniel and his sisters to visit. Sophia was 28.

Ms. MARSHALL: They came in the door and Elizabeth was so struck by his good looks that she ran upstairs to Sophia, who wasn't well, and said, you must come down! You must come down! He's handsomer than Lord Byron! Sophia said to her, well if he's come once, he'll come again.

COHEN: Sophia, who suffered from migraines, didn't come down to see him for months. But when they met, that was it.

Ms. MARSHALL: They would go to a party and manage to sneak off into Mrs. So-and-so's boudoir, where they could embrace.

COHEN: They married three years later. More than 100 love letters have survived, like this one, read by Joan Ensor.

Ms. ENSOR: “Dearest Wife, ah, but for the present I like this earth better than paradise itself. I love thee thou dearest. It is only when I am away from thee that the chill winds of the world make me shiver. Thou always keepest me warm and always wilt and without thee I should shiver in heaven.”

COHEN: The couple had 22 years together. Their last home, called the Wayside, is now a national historic landmark. At the top of a steep stairway, Hawthorne built a study with a view of Walden Pond. Less than two years after moving here, Nathaniel became sick, probably with cancer. In 1864 he took a carriage trip to the White Mountains. Wayside Park Ranger Robert Derry says he went away to die to spare his family.

Mr. ROBERT DERRY (Wayside Park Ranger): I feel very sure that he knew when he left the house that he wasn't coming back and I think Sophia knew as well. That it was, you know, it was the final goodbye.

COHEN: When the couple was first married, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery was still rolling farmland. They took long walks there and dreamed of building a house on the very ridge top where both are now buried.

For NPR News, I'm Nancy Cohen.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.