Remains of Hawthorne's wife, daughter reunited with writer
About 40 descendants of Nathaniel Hawthorne gathered in Concord on Monday to watch as the remains of the author's wife and daughter, which have been buried for more than a century in England, were interred in the family plot at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery alongside fellow influential American writers Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"It's greatly significant to see the family reunited," said Alison Hawthorne Deming, 59, of Tuscon, Ariz., Hawthorne's great-great-grandaughter.
"It's also great to get together different parts of the heritage. It's a beautiful celebration for us," said Deming, a professor of creative writing at the University of Arizona. "It's not something we imagined happening. These people have never all been together."
Hawthorne, author of "The Scarlet Letter" and "The House of the Seven Gables," died in New Hampshire in 1864. His wife, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, moved to England with their three children and died there six years later. She and their daughter Una were buried at Kensal Green cemetery in London.
Hawthorne's daughter, Rose, returned to the United States and started a Catholic order dedicated to caring for cancer patients. The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, based in Hawthorne, N.Y., had paid to maintain the Hawthorne graves in England.
But when cemetery officials told the nuns that the grave site needed costly repairs, the order arranged to return the remains to Concord.
On Monday, one modern casket containing the remains of mother and daughter was put on horse-drawn, 1860 wooden hearse and carried from a local funeral home through the town center to First Parish Church, a Universalist Unitarian church where Nathaniel Hawthorne's funeral service was held.
The procession, led by police escort and two park rangers holding U.S. and British flags, included about 40 direct descendants -- who had come from across the country and as far as Spain -- and a group of Dominican Sisters.
Outside the church, a minister offered a brief prayer and recounted the Hawthornes' time living at the Old Manse, located walking distance from the Old North Bridge, where the "shot heard 'round the world" was fired, sparking the American Revolution.
From there, the procession -- which traced the path of Nathaniel Hawthorne's funeral procession -- moved back through town to the cemetery, about a quarter-mile away.
The burial, which was private, took place in the section of the cemetery known as Author's Ridge.
Several generations of family -- from a 7-year-old boy to a 93-year-old woman -- took turns reading love letters that the Hawthornes had written to each other at times when they were separated, according to Mother Anne Marie, the head of the Dominican Sisters who attended the burial. A letter from Una also was read.
The burial site had long been waiting for Sophia and Una: An old marker had listed their names and noted that they'd been buried overseas. They now have new markers.
A public service followed outside the Old Manse.
Hawthorne historians say the author and his wife shared a passionate relationship. Many see Sophia's independence in Hawthorne's characters, including Hester Prynne, who is shunned by Puritanical villagers in "The Scarlet Letter" for having an affair and an illegitimate child.
Philip McFarland, 76, who wrote a book called "Hawthorne in Concord," watched the procession with his wife, Patricia, from the Concord common. He said much of what is known of the Hawthornes' relationship comes from about 1,500 letters written by Sophia.
"It was a great love story. It was one of the premier marriages in American literature," McFarland said. "It's a misfortune that they were separated in death. It's very satisfying to anyone who knows the story of the Hawthorne marriage that they're being reunited for eternity."
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