On May 18, 1864, Nathaniel Hawthorne died at age 59 in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Born into a seafaring family, he grew up in Salem,Massachusetts and formally turned to a writing career after graduating from Bowdoin College (a classmate was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). He struggled for years before moving to Concord, Massachusetts, where he began to rub shoulders with Emerson, Thoreau, and others in that special community.
He went on to write such classic novels as “The House of the Seven Gables” and “The Scarlet Letter” (the character of Hester Prynne remains one of literature’s most enduring figures). He penned two of the best observations ever made of the subject of happiness:
“Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp,but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” “Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained.Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.
“The Scarlet Letter” also contains a penetrating observation on the dangers of leading an inauthentic life:
“No man, for any considerable period,can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”–