Nathaniel Hawthorne Published "The Scarlett Letter" - March 16, 1850

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This week (March 13-19) in literary history – Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts opened in London (March 13, 1891); Sylvia Beach was born (March 14, 1887); Max Brand published his first novel (March 14, 1919); Nathaniel Hawthorne published The Scarlett Letter (March 16, 1850); Novelist Paul Green was born (March 17, 1894); John Updike was born (March 18, 1932). 

Highlighted Story of the Week -  

On March 16, 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter, a story of adultery and betrayal in colonial America was published. Hawthorne was born July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts. Although the infamous Salem witch trials had taken place more than 100 years earlier, the events still hung over the town and made a lasting impression on the young Hawthorne. Witchcraft figured in several of his works, including Young Goodman Brown (1835) and The House of the Seven Gables (1851), in which a house is cursed by a wizard condemned by the witch trials. 

After attending Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, Hawthorne returned to Salem, where he began his career as a writer. He self-published his first book, Fanshawe (1828), but tried to destroy all copies shortly after publication. He later wrote several books of short stories, including Twice Told Tales (1837). In 1841, he tried his hand at communal living at the agricultural cooperative Brook Farm but came away highly disillusioned by the experience, which he fictionalized in his novel The Blithedale Romance (1852). 

Hawthorne married his childhood sweetheart Sophia Peabody in 1842, having at last earned enough money from his writing to start a family. The two lived in Concord, Massachusetts, and socialized with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Branson Alcott, father of writer Louisa May Alcott. Plagued by financial difficulties as his family grew, he took a job in 1845 at Salem’s custom house, where he worked for three years. After leaving the job, he spent several months writing The Scarlet Letter, which made him famous. In 1853, Hawthorne’s college friend, President Franklin Pierce, appointed him American consul to England, where they lived for three years. Hawthorne died in Plymouth, New Hampshire on May 19, 1864 and was buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery on Poets’ Ridge in Concord, Massachusetts, near many of his friends and contemporaries such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau. 

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Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and the recently published America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His books can be purchased from Schiffer Publishing, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s Books, Amazon and other fine book sellers.

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