Impact of Franklin Pierce on Nathaniel Hawthorne: Friendship, Politics, and the Literary Imagination

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This book demonstrates how Nathaniel Hawthorne’s lifelong friendship with Franklin Pierce influenced the author’s literary imagination, often prompting him to transform Pierce from his historical personage into a romanticized figure of distinctly Jacksonian qualities. The book also examines how Hawthorne’s friendship with Pierce profoundly influenced a wide range of his work, from his first novel, Fanshawe (1828), to the Life of Franklin Pierce (1852) and such later works as the unfinished Septimius romances and the dedicatory materials in Our Old Home (1863). Finally, the book shows how Pierce became for Hawthorne a literary device – an icon of Jacksonian virtue, a token of the Democratic party, and an emblem of steadfastness, military heroism, and integrity, all three of which were often at odds with Pierce’s historical character.


“... This remarkable book is a volume to be read, re-read, and consulted periodically by readers interested in either or both of these famous individuals of nineteenth-century America. It will undoubtedly become known as the primary resource on the Hawthorne-Pierce friendship and just how that bond strongly influenced the personal lives and careers of both these eminent men – one a famous writer, the other a prominent politician ...” – (from the Preface) Professor David B. Kesterson, University of North Texas

“... Dr. Williamson even more provocatively assesses Hawthorne’s earlier reliance on the ‘soldier paradigm’ in his campaign biography for Pierce ... Dr. Williamson also carefully assesses the admiration and feelings of loyalty to the reviled ex-President that made Hawthorne insist on dedicating Our Old Home to him, though cautioned that it would harm the book’s reputation ... All in all, Dr. Williamson has provided a well-researched and useful study.” – Professor Rita K. Golin, State University of New York at Geneseo

“On a subject long neglected by scholars of Hawthorne’s works and by historians of mid-19th century America, Dr. Williamson exhaustively explores the relationship of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Franklin Pierce from their college days until Hawthorne’s death ... we have need such a focused overview of Hawthorne’s relationship with Pierce for a long time ... this could well be the study we have awaited.” – Dr. John L. Idol, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Clemson University

Table of Contents

1. Hawthorne and Pierce at Bowdoin College
2. Romantic Transformations in Fanshawe
3. Duty and Dilemma in the Life of Franklin Pierce
4. The Septimius Romances and the Dedication of Our Old Home
5. Responses to the Hawthorne-Pierce Friendship
6. Conclusion

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