It is a surprising fact of literary history that many of the most important nineteenth-century authors served, at some point in their careers, as US consul. The list of these authors includes James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, James Russell Lowell, William Dean Howells, James Weldon Johnson, and Bret Harte. These literary consuls prompt us to think in new ways about the relation between literature and the state—and also about the various forms that national identification can take. Focusing in particular on the case of Nathaniel Hawthorne, I argue that it was while serving as US consul in Liverpool that Hawthorne first came to think of himself as a national, rather than a regional, writer. But this national identity took two different forms: one that was grounded in the customs and traditions, culture and commitments that make up the nation and another that was grounded, more surprisingly, in the official apparatus of the national state.

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