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inscribed by Hawthorne’s closest friend, the subject of the book: President-elect Franklin Pierce

HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL. The Life of Franklin Pierce

Boston: Ticknor, Reed and Fields, 1852

Original brown cloth. Front free endpaper excised, else in fine condition.

FIRST EDITION.  AN ASSOCIATION COPY OF THE GREATEST INTEREST, inscribed and signed by the subject of the book, President-elect Franklin Pierce, lifelong friend of the author. Pierce has inscribed the book to the Ohio newspaper publisher Washington McLean: “For Washington McLean from Frank. Pierce Concord N.H. Feby. 5. 1853.”

Hawthorne and Pierce met at Bowdoin College and developed a close friendship.  In 1846 Pierce played an important role in obtaining for Hawthorne the position of Surveyor of the Custom House is Salem with a salary of $1200 per year.  Six years later, Hawthorne wrote this Life of Franklin Pierce, the campaign biography which helped win Pierce the 1852 presidential election.  After the election, Pierce made Hawthorne American Consul to the Port of Liverpool.  This position allowed Hawthorne a substantial income and provided the inspiration for later works such as The Marble Faun, Our Old Home, and the Italian and English Notebooks.

In 1863 Hawthorne dedicated his Our Old Home to Pierce. His publisher and others warned Hawthorne against dedicating the work to Pierce, due to the strong public feelings against Pierce’s faction of the Democratic Party, which was viewed as pro-slavery.  Insisting upon the dedication, Hawthorne wrote:

“I find that it would be a piece of poltroonery in me to withdraw either the dedication or the dedicatory letter.  My long and intimate personal relations with Pierce render the dedication altogether proper, especially as regards the book … and if he is so exceedingly unpopular that his name ought to sink the volume, there is so much more the need that an old friend stand by him.”

The following year Hawthorne took ill, and he prepared for his death taking a final journey to the lakes of New Hampshire with his beloved companion Pierce.  On May 18, 1864, Hawthorne died alone with his old friend Franklin Pierce.

Association copies of such personal interest linking great American political and literary figures are rarely encountered.

The great Stephen Wakeman, Carroll Wilson, and Parkman Dexter Howe collections all had copies of this title inscribed by Hawthorne, but none included a copy inscribed by Pierce. No other examples appear in the auction records of the past fifty years.