The University of Missouri Press was founded in 1958, which makes this year our 60th anniversary! With the crocuses just up and the robins out, we are ready to celebrate. For the next five days, we will feature five of our books at the extraordinary price of 60% off!
Use code 60SALE on our website or by calling (800)-621-2736.
Offer expires December 31st, 2018.
We kick off the week with Patricia Dunlavy Valenti’s Sophia Peabody Hawthorne: A Life Vol. 2. A Q and A with the author is featured below.
Regularly $39.95 • Now $16
978-0-8262-2047-9 • hardcover • 15 illus.
“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
Patricia Dunlavy Valenti is Professor Emerita in the Department of English, Theatre, and Languages at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. She grew up in New York City where her education nurtured a love for literature and history that flourishes in writing biography. Although her doctoral dissertation at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill focused on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fiction, Valenti soon discovered her real interests: the lives of the Hawthorne women. To Myself A Stranger: A Biography of Rose Hawthorne Lathrop (Louisiana State University Press, 1991), Valenti’s first book, focused on Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s youngest child who became a Roman Catholic, left her husband, and founded an order of nuns devoted to caring for terminal cancer patients. Valenti’s two-volume Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, A Life (University of Missouri Press, 2004, 2015) presents an artist, writer, editor, adventurous traveler, passionate wife, mother and friend who deservedly emerges from the shadow cast by her husband. In this biography, as well as in numerous scholarly articles, Valenti explores the domestic politics of authorship, the term she uses to describe subtle familial and marital influences upon imagination, artistic originality, and intellectual property.
Q. Did your research and writing of this volume uncover anything completely unexpected?
A. I knew the issues that would dominate Sophia’s life between 1848 and 1871, when she died in England, but I had been unaware of the scope and significance of some of them. In terms of specifics, I had no idea that The Marble Faun, the last novel Nathaniel published, required so much of Sophia’s effort. Her life was entwined with his for nearly twenty-six years, and after his death, she lived another seven years with the burden of his bad financial decisions and failures as a writer during last decade of his life. Looking at Nathaniel Hawthorne from Sophia’s perspective reveals a side to him that was entirely ignored by his biographers.
Q. Are you saying that Sophia saw her husband in an unflattering light?
A. No, I’m not. She was optimistic to the core. She persisted in seeing Nathaniel, their children, and her marriage as the epitome of domestic bliss. Among her surviving thousands of pages of letters and journals, not one word criticizing her husband can be found. But actions tell a different story than words.
Q. What do you mean?
A. Sophia’s emotional appetite was not satisfied by marriage and motherhood. She and Nathaniel spent a good deal of time apart. Their lack of money sometimes forced them to live separately, and when they had money to spare, Nathaniel took regular summer vacations without her. While the Hawthornes were living in England, Sophia developed a pulmonary problem and went to sunny, warmer Portugal to live in the home of John Louis O’Sullivan. She became alarmingly fond—from her husband’s point of view–of this vexing figure in America history. Then, when the Hawthornes lived in Italy, Nathaniel frequently remained in their apartment while Sophia enjoyed Rome’s museums and historic sites with a group of women who were part of a thriving lesbian community. Sophia also became deeply attached to General Ethan Allen Hitchcock, who had been appointed by President Lincoln to oversee the return of prisoners during the Civil War.
Q. You make her sound like a scarlet woman, or like Hawthorne’s character who wore the scarlet letter.
A. That would be a huge over-simplification of Sophia’s very complex and nuanced relationships. But there is no doubt that Nathaniel Hawthorne incorporated many of her traits into his female characters, particularly into one of the best-known female characters in American literature. Like Hester Prynne–who wished that her timid, secret lover would proclaim his love publicly–Sophia bristled at the secrecy Nathaniel imposed upon their lengthy engagement. While Nathaniel was writing The Scarlet Letter, Sophia was the breadwinner, earning money for their household expenses by selling her decorative arts, a prototype for Hester’s ability to support herself and her child with needlework. And among other parallels, Sophia’s tenacious protection of her children suggests Hester’s behavior with Pearl.
Q. Why did Sophia need to protect her children?
A. All mothers need to protect their children, but at Sophia’s particular moment in history, medicine did little to prevent childhood mortality. Religious belief in the afterlife was waning and no longer provided mothers like Sophia with consolation when a child died. Sophia attempted to stave off illness and other harm through diet and hygiene; she wanted her children to develop moral character without the scare tactics of Calvinism. She refused to use any form of corporal punishment. In many ways, her story as a mother is a very contemporary one. She was a helicopter mother before helicopters were invented. The sad truth is, that even with the best intentions, there are unfortunate consequences.
Q. How so?
A. You’ll have to read both volumes of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne: A Life for the full answer.
There is a first volume of this book. Sophia Peabody Hawthorne: A Life, vol. 1, covers the first half of her life. From 1809 through 1847. The second volume picks up from there. Volume 1 of this biography concludes with Sophia’s negotiation of the Hawthornes’ departure from the Old Manse and the birth of their second child. This period also coincides with the conclusion of Nathaniel’s major phase of short story writing. This book isn’t apart of the 60% off deal but it is still an interesting read. ISBN: 978-0-8262-1528-4 and is 306 pages in Hardcover at $39.95.