Julian Hawthorne was the second child of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Peabody Hawthorne. He was born June 22, 1846, at 14 Mall Street in Salem, Massachusetts. It was shortly after sunrise and his father wrote to his sister:
A small troglodyte made his appearance here at ten minutes to six o'clock, this morning, who claims to be your nephew, and the heir of all our wealth and honors. He has dark hair and is no great beauty at present, but is said to be a particularly fine little urchin by everybody who has seen him.
His parents had difficulty choosing a name for eight months. Possible names included George, Arthur, Edward, Horace, Robert, and Lemuel. His father referred to him for some time as "Bundlebreech" or "Black Prince", due to his dark curls and red cheeks. As a boy, Julian was well-behaved and good-natured. He was raised in a loving household, later reflecting: "it was almost appalling to be the subject of such limitless devotion and affection."
Hawthorne entered Harvard College in 1863, but did not graduate. He was tutored privately in German by James Russell Lowell, a professor and writer who encouraged Nathaniel Hawthorne's work. It was during his freshman year at Harvard that he learned of his father's death, coincidentally the same day he was initiated into a fraternity. Years later, he wrote of the incident:
I was initiated into a college secret society—a couple of hours of grotesque and good-humored rodomontade and horseplay, in which I cooperated as in a kind of pleasant nightmare, confident, even when branded with a red-hot iron or doused head-over heels in boiling oil, that it would come out all right. The neophyte is effectively blindfolded during the proceedings, and at last, still sightless, I was led down flights of steps into a silent crypt, and helped into a coffin, where I was to stay until the Resurrection...Thus it was that just as my father passed from this earth, I was lying in a coffin during my initiation into Delta Kappa Epsilon.
He studied civil engineering in the United States and Germany, was engineer in the New York City Dock Department under General McClellan (1870–72), spent 10 years abroad, and on his return edited his father's unfinished Dr. Grimshawe's Secret (1883). His sister Rose, upon hearing of the book's announcement, had not known about the fragment and originally thought her brother was guilty of forgery or a hoax. She published the accusation in the New York Tribune on August 16, 1882, and claimed, "No such unprinted work has been in existence... It cannot be truthfully published as anything but an experimental fragment". He defended himself from the charge, however, and eventually dedicated the book to his sister and her husband George Parsons Lathrop. While in Europe he wrote the novels: Bressant (1873); Idolatry (1874); Garth (1874); Archibald Malmaison (1879); and Sebastian Strome (1880).
Hawthorne wrote two books about his parents, called Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife (1884–85) and Hawthorne and His Circle (1903). In the latter, he responded to a remark from his father's friend Herman Melville that the famous author had a "secret". Julian dismissed this, claiming Melville was inclined to think so only because "there were many secrets untold in his own career", causing much speculation. The younger Hawthorne also wrote a critique of his father's novel The Scarlet Letter that was published in The Atlantic Monthly in April 1886.
Julian Hawthorne published an article in the October 24, 1886, issue of the New York World titled "Lowell in a Chatty Mood" based on a long interview with James Russell Lowell. Hawthorne reported that Lowell called the Prince of Wales "immensely fat" as well as other negative comments on British royalty and politicians. Lowell angrily complained that the article made him seem like "a toothless old babbler".
In 1889 there were reports that Hawthorne was one of several writers who had, under the name of "Arthur Richmond", published in the North American Review devastating attacks on President Grover Cleveland and other leading Americans. Hawthorne denied the reports.
In 1908, Hawthorne's old Harvard friend William J. Morton (a physician) invited Hawthorne to join in promoting some newly created mining companies in Ontario, Canada. Hawthorne made his writing and his family name central to the stock-selling campaigns. After complaints from shareholders, both Morton and Hawthorne were tried in New York City for mail fraud, and convicted in 1913. Hawthorne was able to sell some three and a half million shares of stock in a nonexistent silver mine and served one year in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.
Upon his release from prison, he wrote The Subterranean Brotherhood (1914), a nonfiction work calling for an immediate end to incarceration of criminals. Hawthorne argued, based on his own experience, that incarceration was inhumane, and should be replaced by moral suasion. Of the fraud with which he was charged he always maintained his innocence.Bressant (1873)
Idolatry: A Romance (1874)
Saxon Studies (1876)
Archibald Malmaison (1879)
Sebastian Strome (1880)
Beatrix Randolph (1883)
Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife (1884)
The Golden Fleece (1892)
A Fool of Nature (1896)
Hawthorne and His Circle (1903)
The Subterranean Brotherhood (1914)
The Memoirs of Julian Hawthorne (1938; edited by Edith Garrigues Hawthorne and published posthumously)