About the Book
As is often the case with spouses of celebrities, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne was overshadowed by her husband. While Nathaniel Hawthorne is renowned for numerous publications, including The Scarlet Letter
, that staple in high school English curricula, Sophia’s remarkable life and career did not receive the recognition they deserve. She was, however, a source for many of Nathaniel’s stories and responsible for much that he accomplished. Sophia was an artist, one of the first in America to earn income from her painting and decorative arts; she was also a writer and traveler to foreign countries at a time when women typically confined their activities to the home. Patricia Dunlavy Valenti began to tell this story in Sophia Peabody Hawthorne: A Life, Volume 1, 1809-1847
(2004). This biography concludes now in a second volume, which details the less examined and more surprising second half of Sophia’s life.
Valenti’s thorough research culminates in a compelling, revealing account of Sophia’s travels to Britain and Europe and her intense personal relationships outside her marriage with men and women, among them notable figures in American history and literature. As an impoverished widow, Sophia dealt resourcefully with the consequences of her husband’s financial carelessness; as a mother, her liberal practices resulted in unintended, sometimes unfortunate consequences. Throughout every vicissitude, her relentless optimism prevailed.
With the publication of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne: A Life, Volume 2, 1848-1871, Sophia emerges forever from the shadow cast by her husband. Historians and general readers alike will be drawn to this riveting account of an interesting, important woman and what her life reveals about American history and culture at a moment of national conflict, emerging class divisions, and evolving gender roles.
Patricia Dunlavy Valenti is Professor Emerita in the Department of English, Theatre, and Languages at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The first volume of her biography of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne is also available from the University of Missouri Press. She resides in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and New York City.
“Valenti paints fascinating portraits of those around the Hawthornes, people who usually get little space in biographies of Nathaniel. Her research is superb, and she does an excellent job of connecting the lives and actions of family and friends to the themes and characters in Nathaniel’s writings. Her discussion of Sophia’s editing of Nathaniel’s journals for publication is the best we have of the subject.” --Joel Myerson, editor, Selected Letters of Nathaniel Hawthorne
“In this engaging and meticulously researched account of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, Valenti provides astute accounts of Sophia¹s contributions to her husband¹s works, and she fills in key background details about the contexts in which they were written, all the while presenting Sophia herself as an accomplished writer and artist.” --Larry J. Reynolds, author of Devils and Rebels: The Making of Hawthorne's Damned Politics
Patricia Valenti's elegantly written new biography gives a fresh--often startling, always compelling--view of the endlessly fascinating Sophia Peabody Hawthorne as mother, wife, artist, and political creature. A must-read for anyone who cares about the education of children, it is wise, knowledgeable, and impossible to put down. --Diane Jacobs, Author of Dear Abigail: The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and Her Two Remarkable Sisters.