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So many readers have been seeing the face of Nathaniel Hawthorne in their mail boxes the past few weeks that we thought they might like to meet him in The Home Forum. Or, indeed, in his own home, instead of merely on the United States postage stamp issued in his honor last month. On this page the classic American author takes us on a tour of the residence in Concord, Mass., where he was especially happy.

The excerpts are from an essay, ''The Old Manse,'' which introduced his book of tales, Mosses from an Old Manse (1846), which in turn preceded such books as The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, and Tanglewood Tales. The Old Manse appears in the photograph to the right. The Hawthorne stamp appears in photographs elsewhere on the page.

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Hawthorne expressed a certain humility about his writing, a humility that was considered richly justified by his contemporary, Ralph Waldo Emerson. But in our century Hawthorne has drawn extensive critical appreciation and analysis. T.S. Eliot ticked off the writers around Boston, ''notably Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Lowell'' and found that ''none of these men, with the exception of Hawthorne, is individually very important.'' Earlier W.C. Brownell, in American Prose Masters, wrote that Hawthorne's works ''are thoroughly original, quite without literary derivation upon which so much of our (American) literature leans with such deferential complacence.'' That's an American original whose portrait now goes for 20 cents, and whose often gloomy prose could turn lighter, as on this page.

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