On Hawthorne's life in Europe from 1853-60, from "Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne"
in Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne by Melissa McFarland Pennell,
pp. 7-8 (courtesy of Greenwood Press)
"…Following Pierce's victory in the presidential elections [in 1852], Hawthorne was rewarded with an appointment in 1853 as American consul at Liverpool, England.
Hawthorne served as consul at Liverpool until October 1857. Liverpool in the 1850s was one of the busiest ports in Europe, and Hawthorne hoped his position there would allow him to earn enough money to permit a tour of the Continent before returning home. He also hoped to save a substantial amount so that his family would enjoy economic stability when his government appointment ended. During this period, he wrote little for publication but kept notebooks in which he recorded scenes of English life. He also learned more about the experiences of sailors serving on commercial vessels and wrote letters recommending reforms in the U.S. Merchant Marine. In October 1855 Sophia, with Una and Rose, traveled to Lisbon for the winter, a trip occasioned by Sophia's bouts of ill health. She remained there until the following June, leaving Julian in her husband's care. Sophia found the separation from her husband difficult, since the death of her own parents had made her feel more dependent upon him emotionally. The stress of their life abroad made certain strains in their marriage more evident, although the Hawthornes did not acknowledge their difficulties to outsiders, nor directly to themselves.
When Pierce did not win renomination in 1856, Hawthorne realized his consular
appointment would end. He submitted his resignation to the new president, James
Buchanan. The Hawthornes remained in England through 1857 and in January 1858
traveled to France, then Italy. The family settled in Rome, where Sophia explored
the churches and galleries. While there, Hawthorne again recorded in notebooks
his impressions of life and of the expatriates, writers, and artists that he
encountered. While in Italy, he saw the American poet William Cullen Bryant,
the English poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the American sculptor
William Wetmore Story. He also visited with lesser-known artists, including
Cephas Thompson. Harriet Hosmer, and Hiram Powers. Like his wife, Hawthorne
took advantage of the artistic and architectural riches that surrounded him,
visiting museums, churches, and even the catacombs. Although he was often moved
by the art he encountered, he expressed his reservations about the degree of
nudity that prevailed in painting and in sculpture. His New England reserve
and the lack of early exposure to the traditions of European art clearly influenced
his responses. While exploring Rome and the Italian countryside, Hawthorne began
work on another romance, published in America as The Marble Faun: Or, The
Romance of Monte Beni (1860), that makes use of the Italian scene. Though
Hawthorne enjoyed his surroundings, his family was unsettled by daughter Una's
bout with malaria, which lasted for about six months and left her permanently
On the eve of the Civil War, after another sojourn in England, Hawthorne returned
to America, meeting on his voyage Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose novel Uncle
Tom's Cabin had aided the abolitionist cause. Hawthorne did not seek out
Mrs. Stowe's company, but his wife found she shared Mrs. Stowe's interest in
spiritualism and other popular issues of the day. The Hawthornes returned to
The Wayside, in Concord, where Hawthorne attempted to work on various romances,
none of which he was able to complete…" (7-8).