A most literary funeral

It’s the stuff of a Gothic romance writer’s dreams: A loving and famous couple, parted by death and grief, are reunited in the grave more than a century later.

No, it’s not fiction. Read on:

The remains of the wife of 19th Century US writer Nathaniel Hawthorne have been reburied next to those of the author, after more than a century apart.

Sophia Peabody Hawthorne left the US with her children after her husband’s death in 1864. She went to England, where she died six years later.

Her remains and those of daughter Una were exhumed from a London cemetery, after their plot fell into disrepair.


One of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s best known works was the novel The Scarlet Letter.

Maintenance of the plot in Kensal Green cemetery in north-west London was paid for by a Catholic order, the New York-based Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, which was founded by the Hawthornes’ daughter, Rose.

Last winter, a hawthorn tree fell onto the already damaged graves and the order decided to have the remains reburied in the family plot in Concord in Massachussetts.

The ceremony at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord was attended by some 40 descendants of the Hawthorne family.

A single casket containing the remains of both mother and daughter was carried through the town centre on a horse-drawn 1860 wooden hearse, believed to have also carried the coffin of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

“It’s greatly significant to see the family reunited,” said Alison Hawthorne Deming, 59, Hawthorne’s great-great-granddaughter.

“It’s also great to get together different parts of the heritage. It’s a beautiful celebration for us – it’s not something we imagined happening,” she said.

Historians have described the relationship between husband and wife as passionate.

“It was a great love story. It was one of the premier marriages in American literature,” said Philip McFarland, author of Hawthorne In Concord.

Mr McFarland said much of what was known of the Hawthornes’ relationship came from about 1,500 letters written by Sophia.

“It’s a misfortune that they were separated in death,” he said. “It’s very satisfying to anyone who knows the story of the Hawthorne marriage that they’re being reunited for eternity.”

The funeral of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne took place in fitting style, with a horse-drawn 1860s hearse conveying her coffin to the Sleepy Hollow cemetery known as “Author’s Ridge”. There, she rejoins not only her late husband, but also the great Henry David Thoreau and the redoubtable Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as famous father and daughter Bronson and Louisa May Alcott.

And if THAT’s not romantic, I don’t know what is.

The End.

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2 Responses to A most literary funeral

  1. Slave Revolt says:

    No, Bina, that is not especially romantic.
    Now, if they had at least brang each of the remains to a private hotel room for the night (without the daughter’s remains, of course. I am not a pervert 🙂 ), then that would have concluded this story rather nicely. 😉
    Who says that ole slave here is not a romantic at heart.

  2. Bina says:

    LOL. Maybe they can rent a mausoleum by the hour…although by now, I suspect an urn in a columbarium might be a better spot for them to mingle in eternity.

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