Philip Young   Hawthorne’s Secret: An Un-Told Tale.
David R. Godine, 183 pages, $15.95

According to Julian Hawthorne, the novelist’s son, Herman Melville once said that “there was some secret in my father’s life which has never been revealed,” a secret that “accounted for the gloomy passages in his books.” Hawthorne’s lawyer, George Hillard, likewise read Hawthorne’s knowledge of “the morbid anatomy of the human heart” as evidence that he was “burdened with secret sorrow.” And Hawthorne’s sister Elizabeth (Ebe) Hawthorne also told Julian that “Your father kept his very existence a secret, as far as possible.”

All biographers have granted that Hawthorne was a deeply introspective, even introverted man who, for a dozen years after his college graduation from Bowdoin, kept pretty much to himself in Salem...