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Excerpt from an unpublished manuscript by Margaret Moore

Excerpt from an unpublished manuscript by Margaret Moore

This passage clearly shows Hawthorne's links to both early Quakers and those who persecuted them. His interest in Quakers is both historical and biographical.
"Hawthorne's paternal grandmother, Rachel Phelps Hathorne, in whose house the writer was born, was descended from early Quakers who were quite different in their actions from present-day Quakers. They disrupted churches, walked naked through towns to make a point, and essentially horrified the straight-laced Puritans of the 1650's. Nathaniel's first Hathorne immigrant was castigated by Quaker historians because he had such disturbers of the peace stripped to the waist and whipped through towns at the back of a cart. Nathaniel was interested in Quakers, he thought them a 'strange people' with 'the gift of a new idea''; he admired George Fox, the well-known English practitioner. He wrote a story, 'The Gentle Boy' about them. The early Phelps Quakers were Nicholas and Hannah Phelps who lived to the west of Salem in what was called the Woods. Hannah's second husband was Nicholas's brother Henry, Hawthorne's ancestor. Henry and Hannah were banished from Salem and moved to the Perquimmons District on the coast of North Carolina and became pioneers for Quakerism in that region. I do not know whether Hawthorne knew of his own connections with those early Quakers, but I would not be surprised. Hawthorne was steeped in the history of his region, and surely one so self-aware as he would not let the name Phelps go by without investigation" (8-9).
(courtesy of Margaret Moore)


Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/10453/

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