Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864)
From Nathaniel Hawthorne: Tales & Sketches
After the complete failure of his first novel, Fanshawe (1828), Nathaniel Hawthorne became something of a hermit (although not as much of one as he later described himself). Living at home with his mother and sisters he wrote essays and sketches and dispatched them to various magazines. From June through September of 1832 he went an excursion, alone, to the White Mountains, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, and Niagara Falls. During his trip he encountered other parties and travelers, and he described a memorable stopover at Crawford Notch in the essay, “Our Evening Party among the Mountains.”
His stay at the Notch inspired three of his most famous short stories, including “The Ambitious Guest,” based on the infamous Willey Family incident of 1826, and “The Great Stone Face,” inspired by the rock formation known locally as The Old Man of the Mountain (which collapsed just fifteen years ago, in 2003). At that evening party Hawthorne also heard about a Native American tale regarding a magnificent gem hidden in The White Mountains, and the legend provided him with the inspiration for “The Great Carbuncle,” which we present in full as our Story of the Week selection.