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The remains of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wife and daughter were carried to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in an antique horse drawn hearse.
The remains of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wife and daughter were carried to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in an antique horse drawn hearse. (David L. Ryan/ Globe Staff)

Hawthorne revisited

Author's kin are reinterred

`I think, all things considered, I had rather be here than anywhere else, even my dear England," Una Hawthorne, daughter of Nathaniel and Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, wrote from Concord in 1862.

Yesterday, Una got her wish. She and her mother, buried in England since their death in the 1870s, were reinterred in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, next to Nathaniel.

The same horse-drawn carriage believed to have brought his casket to Sleepy Hollow in 1861 carried the women's remains to the family plot.

And the town of Concord turned out in force, in respect for the Hawthornes. It was standing-room only on the lawn of the Old Manse, the Hawthorne family's first home, where some 200 gathered under a tent for a service after the private interment.

A flutist played tunes from Henry David Thoreau's music book. Imogene Howe, a great-great-granddaughter of the Hawthornes, donated a book of poems by Wordsworth inscribed from Sophia to Nathaniel to the Concord Free Public Library.

Alison Hawthorne Deming, another great-great-granddaughter who spoke on the family's behalf, said: ``It's never too late to express gratitude to those who came before us and to wish their spirits safe passage."

And when Thoreau impersonator Richard Smith declared that because the Hawthornes had been reunited, ``everything seems right with the world," dozens of audience members nodded and smiled.

``I don't doubt that Nathaniel and Sophia were reunited in spirit long ago," said Leslie Perrin Wilson, curator of special collections at the town library. ``The reunion today is symbolic."

But it was symbolism that appealed to many in the crowd. ``It's romantic, it's historic, and it's just wonderful," said Concord resident Debbie Eston. ``This might inspire me to learn more about them."

Judith Sukys of St. Petersburg, Fla., was touring the historic sights of Concord when she noticed the procession leaving Sleepy Hollow and decided there was no better time to tour the Old Manse. She and her niece wandered under the tent and stayed to hear the service. ``I think it's terrific that they're going to be reunited," Sukys said.

In addition to townspeople and tourists, some 30 members of the Hawthorne and Peabody families came to Concord for the burial.

Bennett Cowie, 20, a sixth-generation descendant who traveled from Ohio, reflected on his literary heritage as he walked behind the horse-drawn carriage with his older brother.

``My whole junior year, we read `The Scarlet Letter,' " he said. ``If I were living in the 1860s, I'd probably love it." He paused and then grinned. ``Now, I find it a tad bit dry. But he is family."

The process of reuniting Sophia and Una with their family began in 2003, when members of the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, a British order founded by Sophia and Nathaniel's daughter Rose, contacted New York funeral director George Siegal. The order had been caring for the graves since the 1870s, and the sisters were interested in transferring the women's remains to Concord.

``They asked me if it would be impossible to move them," Siegal said. ``I told them the difficult takes a little while. The impossible takes a little longer. And now the day is finally here."

For Siegal, the day marked the culmination of a three-year effort. For Megan Marshall -- author of ``The Peabody Sisters," a study of Sophia Hawthorne and her sisters -- it offered a rare public celebration of Sophia's life in its own right; she was an accomplished artist when she married.

Marshall said that, contrary to popular opinion, Sophia lived in a time of significant opportunities for women in arts. It was the culture and attitudes of the intervening years that sent the illustrator into her husband's shadow.

``I think it's wonderful that Sophia is getting some recognition," said Marshall. ``The Hawthorne romance was one of the great love stories of American literature. They really thought of themselves as one soul."

When asked what she thought Sophia Hawthorne would think of Monday's service, Marshall said: ``You almost feel like she could have forecast it. She really believed in the eternal connection."

(Correction: Because of reporting errors, a story in yesterday's City & Region section about the interment of the remains of Nathaniel Hawthorne's wife and daughter at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord misstated several facts. The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne began the effort to bring the remains of Sophia and Una Hawthorne from England in 2005. The order is based in America and has been caring for the women's graves only since the 1900s. Nathaniel Hawthorne died in 1864.)

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