Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hildegarde Hawthorne (1871-1952)

Short Story Writer, Novelist, Reviewer, Poet, Essayist, Biographer
Born September 25, 1871, New York, New York
Died December 10, 1952, Danbury, Connecticut

Born on September 25, 1871, in New York City, Hildegarde Hawthorne was the daughter and granddaughter of well known writers. Like her father, Julian Hawthorne (1846-1934), and her grandfather, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), Hildegarde Hawthorne wrote of strange and supernatural events, and like Nathaniel Hawthorne, she was published in Weird Tales long after her death. Her lone story for the magazine was "Perdita," originally in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1897, anthologized in Shapes That Haunt the Dusk in 1907, and reprinted in Weird Tales in Summer 1973.

Hildegarde Hawthorne began selling articles to the children's magazine St. Nicholas at age sixteen. During her long and productive career, she wrote many works for children. She also conducted the book review column for St. Nicholas and contributed to the New York Times and New York Tribune. Her last published work was an article for Reader's Digest.

Hildegarde penned numerous biographies, including one of her famous grandfather, based on letters, family stories, and other sources close to home. She also wrote of Nathaniel Hawthorne's well known contemporaries, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. I can offer only a partial list of her books:
  • Born to Adventure: Fremont (1900)
  • The Lure of the Garden (1911)
  • Girls in Bookland (1916)
  • Rambles in Old College Towns (1917)
  • The Secret of Rancho del Sol (1931)
  • Island Farm (1934)
  • The Happy Autocrat: A Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1936)
  • On the Golden Trail (1936) illustrated by Sanford Tousey
  • The Poet of Craigie House: The Story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1936)
  • Romantic Rebel: The Story of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1936)
  • Youth's Captain: The Story of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1936)
  • Runaway (1941)
  • Williamsburg, Old and New (1941)
  • California's Missions: Their Romance and Beauty (1943)
  • Matthew Fontaine Maury, Trail Maker of the Seas (1944)
  • His Country Was the World (1949)
  • Concord's Happy Rebel: Henry David Thoreau
  • Long Adventure: The Story of Winston Churchill
  • No Road Too Long
  • Old Seaport Towns of New England
  • Peeps at Great Cities: New York
  • Rising Thunder: The Story of Jack Jouett of Virginia
  • Romantic Cities of California
  • Tabitha of Lonely House
  • Westward the Course: A Story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Her ghost stories were collected in a volume entitled The Faded Garden in 1985. I'm afraid I don't know its contents.

Hildegarde Hawthorne married John Milton Oskison on July 16, 1920, and moved to California. Later she lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and passed away in nearby Danbury on December 10, 1952, at age eighty-one.

A Song
By Hildegarde Hawthorne

SING me a sweet, low song of night
  Before the moon is risen,
A song that tells of the stars’ delight
  Escaped from day’s bright prison,
A song that croons with the cricket’s voice,
  That sleeps with the shadowed trees,
A song that shall bid my heart rejoice
  At its tender mysteries!

And then when the song is ended, love,
  Bend down your head unto me,
Whisper the word that was born above
  Ere the moon had swayed the sea;
Ere the oldest star began to shine,
  Or the farthest sun to burn,—
The oldest of words, O heart of mine,
  Yet newest, and sweet to learn.

Hildegarde Hawthorne's Story in Weird Tales
"Perdita" (Summer 1973, originally in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Mar. 1897)

William Dean Howells and Henry Mills Alden assembled this collection, Shapes That Haunt the Dusk, for publication in 1907. Hildegarde Hawthorne's "Perdita" is among its contents.
Here's an illustration from Girls in Bookland (1916). The artist was John Woolcott Adams.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley


  1. She also wrote Phantom King: The Story of Napoleon's Son, published by D. Appleton-Century Co., 1937.

  2. The Faded Garden was published by The Strange Company and edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, a noted authority on supernatural fiction of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Salmonson also provides an introduction. The contents are: “Haunted” (a poem), “Lost” (a poem), “A Legend of Sonora,” “Perdita,” “There Shall Be No Misunderstanding,” “Summons” (a poem), and “Unawares.” The collection also reprints an essay by Hawthorne, “Vision,” as an author’s preface. Hope this helps.