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Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864

Hawthorne's Study in the Old Manse

"...there was, in the rear of the house, the most delightful little nook of a study that ever afforded its snug seclusion to a scholar...." [ The Old Manse, 1846]

This room on the second floor of the Old Manse, at the right rear, overlooks the Old North Bridge Battleground. It was used as a study by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote the book "Nature" there. Seven years later it was used by Hawthorne, who edited a book by his friend Horatio Bridge, and wrote some tales and sketches later collected in Mosses from an Old Manse.

From one of the windows, according to legend, the Rev. William Emerson's family watched the battle between the Minutemen and the Redcoats at Old North Bridge, a hundred yards away (outside musket range).

Below are some pictures taken of arrangements of the room in previous years. (The curators plan to change the house's appearance to that of the occupants in the 1890s, not that of Hawthorne's time, which is uncertain in any case. The golden-tinted paper-hangings are no longer there.) We've enlarged the photographs and manipulated them with a computer program in order to save maximal space. If you wish to use them for commercial purposes please consult the curators of the Old Manse to license the originals.

Old Manse study, right

Hawthorne's desk folds down against the wall and its angle can be adjusted by the hinged support that ratchets into a notched board on the wall beneath. He probably wrote with a steel pen, not the quill pen seen below. There is no lip at the bottom of the desk surface to hold the paper, so writing would seem to require both hands. One of the house guides in 1996 said he was writing a mystery novel at the desk in his spare time.

The Emerson portrait seen here is a copy of a lithograph from 1859.

The heating ducts were added many years later, when a coal-burning forced hot air furnace was added to the uninsulated home. Hawthorne probably used the fireplace and the Indian (inside) shutters to ward off the cold north wind in winter.

A large willow tree that was just outside the study window in Hawthorne's time is no longer there.

Photograph by Paul Rocheleau from Antiques magazine.

Old Manse study, left

The Hawthorne portrait on the wall to the left when this photograph was taken is a copy of the crayon drawing by Eastman Johnson of 1846, in the Longfellow National Historic Site, Cambridge, Mass.

The windows in this room are original; the rest were enlarged after Hawthorne's time. The window to the left overlooks the Concord River, and is particularly beautiful at sunset. Emerson's standing desk is now placed below the window, instead of this chest. On one of the panes is the inscription, written with Sophia's diamond ring, shown in the following picture. (Perhaps it refers to her miscarriage.)

Photograph from a postcard
Copyright by Bonnie McGrath, Acton, Mass. 01720

north study window, Old Manse

Man's accidents are God's purposes.
Sophia A. Hawthorne, 1843.

Nath'l Hawthorne.
This is his study.

The smallest twig
leans clear against the sky.

Composed by my wife,
and written with her dia-

Inscribed by my
husband at sunset,
April 3, 1843
On the gold light. S. A. H.

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