Thursday, January 22, 2009

Romance in Salem: Nathaniel & Sophia

Salem is a romantic place. You can walk hand-in-hand to a lighthouse, dine fireside in a cozy corner, choose from a number of romantic accommodations, shop for gifts that demonstrate the depth and glow of your affection.

As we prepare for Valentine's Day next month, I am featuring the editorial about the great romance of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia (So-fye-yah) Peabody that is in the 2008 Salem Visitor & Travel Guide. Feel the love!

Nathaniel & Sophia
"I had a parting glimpse of you, Monday forenoon, at your window–and that image abides by me,” Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote to Sophia Peabody on March 6, 1839, in one of many love letters he would pen to her during their three-year courtship.

The young writer was “handsomer than Lord Byron,”according to Sophia’s sister Elizabeth. He was “brilliant” and “rayonnant,” Sophia, a talented artist,observed. Hawthorne had become part of Elizabeth Peabody’s literary circle of friends, and he and Sophia had collaborated on his recent story,The Gentle Boy. Eventually, the two acknowledged their feelings for each other, and initiated one of the most poignant love stories in American history.
During Nathaniel’s absences they exchanged letters constantly when he “yearned” for her during their initially secret engagement. “And now, goodnight, my beautiful Dove,” he would write to her from Boston. “How did I live before I knew you–before I possessed your affection! I reckon upon your love as something that is to endure when everything that can perish has perished.”

Nathaniel and Sophia were married in 1842, had three children, and loved each other passionately as they lived their lives in New England and Europe. “Thou art literally my All-the-World,” Sophia told him, “because where thou art not there is no world, but a vacuum.”
Nathaniel, who had become one of America’s foremost authors, died at the age of 60 and was buried in Concord, Massachusetts. Sophia died seven years later in London where she was buried, distant from her beloved “king, playmate, lover, subject, knight, or all in one word husband”—words she had written to Nathaniel years earlier. In a poetic tribute to their marriage, descendants had Sophia’s remains returned to Concord in 2006 where the two lovers are now reunited. And it all started in Salem, on Charter Street.

Written for the 2008 Salem Visitor & Travel Guide by
Bonnie Hurd-Smith,
To learn more about Hawthorne in Salem, visit

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