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Concord remembers Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Minute Man National Historical Park

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne is among Concord’s most famous authors, but one local literary scholar thinks the 19th-century American novelist often takes the back seat to Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Rob Velella would like to change that, and has helped put together a series of events next week to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Hawthorne’s death.

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“I’ve come to realize that Hawthorne has become the least remembered of the Concord authors, so we hope a program like this brings him back to the limelight and celebrates him as a whole and not just as a writer,’’ said Velella.

The Waltham resident describes himself as a freelance literary historian who gives lectures, readings, tours, and in-character performances portraying authors such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Edgar A. Poe as well as Hawthorne.

Wayside, the Concord home owned by the author and his family.

National Park Service /Minute Man National Historical Park

Wayside, the Concord home owned by the author and his family.

Velella put together a planning group that includes representatives of several local organizations to create a program that would celebrate the life of Hawthorne, most known for two of his novels, “The Scarlet Letter’’ and “The House of Seven Gables.’’

The series exploring Hawthorne’s life, literature, legacy, family, and association with Concord begins Sunday, and will have its main event on May 23, the 150th anniversary of his funeral in town.

On Sunday afternoon, the Old Manse and the Wayside will share a program called “Celebrating Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Hawthorne Family Making Concord Home.’’ Visitors will be able to tour the Old Manse, where Hawthorne and his wife, Sophia, settled as newlyweds, and learn about their time living at the Wayside, which they bought after returning to town with their three children. Visitors will also learn about the restoration effort of the Wayside that is underway by the Minute Man National Historical Park. Due to the renovations at the Wayside, the talk there will be held outside the home.

A statue of the author in the Wayside’s visitor orientation area.

MinutemanNational Historical Park

A statue of the author in the Wayside’s visitor orientation area.

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“We want to make sure people are still remembering him,’’ Velella said. “He really is one of the most important writers in the 19th century.’’

Hawthorne died at age 59 in Plymouth, N.H., on May 19, 1864, and was buried in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery four days later.

A formal program will begin at 6 p.m. on May 23 at First Parish in Concord, 20 Lexington Road, that will feature readings from Hawthorne’s contemporaries like Emerson and Alcott. Participants will then be invited to walk the route from First Parish to Sleepy Hollow. Along the way, the procession will pass what is believed to be the same horse-drawn hearse used to transport Hawthorne’s coffin in 1864, on display courtesy of the Dee Funeral Home.

After the ceremony at the cemetery, a public reception will be held in the Old Manse, a National Historic Landmark now owned and operated by the Trustees of Reservation as a museum.

Kevin Thomas Plodzik, president of the Friends of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’s board of directors, said the group is excited about taking part in the events honoring Hawthorne.

“The period he represents is such an important period in American history,’’ Plodzik said. “It seemed like a perfect opportunity to reaffirm that and to raise awareness and keep it alive. These events will do that.’’

Though born in Salem, Hawthorne made Concord his home twice. He first came in 1842, moving into the Old Manse, where he lived for three years. He returned in 1852 and purchased the Wayside, the only home that Hawthorne ever owned. Known as the “House of Authors,’’ it had previously been owned by the Alcotts.

While in Concord, he associated with several local figures, including Emerson, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Alcott, and her father, Bronson.

Velella said several scenes in Hawthorne’s works were inspired by Concord, ranging from the introduction to “Mosses from an Old Manse’’ in 1846 to a drowning scene in “The Blithedale Romance” in 1852.

At the time of his death, Hawthorne was working on a novel, “The Dolliver Romance,’’ that used the town as its setting.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@ yahoo.com.

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