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The Scarlet Letter
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Nathaniel Hawthorne was already a man of forty-six, and a tale
writer of some twenty-four years' standing, when "The Scarlet
Letter" appeared. He was born at Salem, Mass., on July 4th, 1804,
son of a sea-captain. He led there a shy and rather sombre life;
of few artistic encouragements, yet not wholly uncongenial, his
moody, intensely meditative temperament being considered. Its
colours and shadows are marvelously reflected in his "Twice-Told
Tales" and other short stories, the product of his first literary
period. Even his college days at Bowdoin did not quite break
through his acquired and inherited reserve; but beneath it all,
his faculty of divining men and women was exercised with almost
uncanny prescience and subtlety. "The Scarlet Letter," which
explains as much of this unique imaginative art, as is to be
gathered from reading his highest single achievement, yet needs
to be ranged with his other writings, early and late, to have its
last effect. In the year that saw it published, he began "The
House of the Seven Gables," a later romance or prose-tragedy of
the Puritan-American community as he had himself known it -
defrauded of art and the joy of life, "starving for symbols" as
Emerson has it. Nathaniel Hawthorne died at Plymouth, New
Hampshire, on May 18th, 1864.
The following is the table of his romances, stories, and other works:
Fanshawe, published anonymously, 1826; Twice-Told Tales, 1st
Series, 1837; 2nd Series, 1842; Grandfather's Chair, a history
for youth, 1845: Famous Old People (Grandfather's Chair), 1841
Liberty Tree: with the last words of Grandfather's Chair, 1842;
Biographical Stories for Children, 1842; Mosses from an Old
Manse, 1846; The Scarlet Letter, 1850; The House of the Seven
Gables, 1851: True Stories from History and Biography (the whole
History of Grandfather's Chair), 1851 A Wonder Book for Girls and
Boys, 1851; The Snow Image and other Tales, 1851: The Blithedale
Romance, 1852; Life of Franklin Pierce, 1852; Tanglewood Tales
(2nd Series of the Wonder Book), 1853; A Rill from the Town-Pump,
with remarks, by Telba, 1857; The Marble Faun; or, The Romance of
Monte Beni (4 EDITOR'S NOTE) (published in England under the
title of "Transformation"), 1860, Our Old Home, 1863; Dolliver
Romance (1st Part in "Atlantic Monthly"), 1864; in 3 Parts, 1876;
Pansie, a fragment, Hawthorne' last literary effort, 1864;
American Note-Books, 1868; English Note Books, edited by Sophia
Hawthorne, 1870; French and Italian Note Books, 1871; Septimius
Felton; or, the Elixir of Life (from the "Atlantic Monthly"),
1872; Doctor Grimshawe's Secret, with Preface and Notes by
Julian Hawthorne, 1882.
Tales of the White Hills, Legends of New England, Legends of the
Province House, 1877, contain tales which had already been
printed in book form in "Twice-Told Tales" and the "Mosses"
"Sketched and Studies," 1883.
Hawthorne's contributions to magazines were numerous, and most of
his tales appeared first in periodicals, chiefly in "The Token,"
1831-1838, "New England Magazine," 1834,1835; "Knickerbocker,"
1837-1839; "Democratic Review," 1838-1846; "Atlantic Monthly,"
1860-1872 (scenes from the Dolliver Romance, Septimius Felton,
and passages from Hawthorne's Note-Books).
Works: in 24 volumes, 1879; in 12 volumes, with introductory
notes by Lathrop, Riverside Edition, 1883.
Biography, etc. ; A. H. Japp (pseud. H. A. Page), Memoir of N.
Hawthorne, 1872; J. T. Field's "Yesterdays with Authors," 1873 G.
P. Lathrop, "A Study of Hawthorne," 1876; Henry James English Men
of Letters, 1879; Julian Hawthorne, "Nathaniel Hawthorne and his
wife," 1885; Moncure D. Conway, Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne,
1891; Analytical Index of Hawthorne's Works, by E. M. O'Connor 1882.