May 19, 1864

Former President Franklin Pierce Describes His Discovery of Lifelong Friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Dead in the Middle of the Night

Autograph Letter Signed
4 pages
SMC 583

Strange, that one of America’s worst presidents, Franklin Pierce, and one of America’s greatest novelists, Nathaniel Hawthorne, were best friends. Stranger, that Hawthorne died while sleeping just a few feet away from Pierce – who, in fact, discovered him dead. And strangest, perhaps, is that Hawthorne choose Pierce, and Pierce alone, to be with him when he died, by proposing, though sick and weak, that they take a trip together, knocking about New England. In this, life – and its cessation - followed art. “Happy the man that has such a friend when he comes to die!” Hawthorne wrote in The Blithdale Romance. “How many men, I wonder, does one meet with, in a lifetime, whom he would choose for his death-bed companions!” Hawthorne, clearly, had met just one.

Pierce tells the story of his friend’s demise, detailing their last trip and the epic moment of Pierce’s discovery of his death.

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