Table of Contents
FROM THE PAGES OF
THE SCARLET LETTER
She took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbours. On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A.
It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and inclosing her in a sphere by herself.
“Up to that epoch of my life, I had lived in vain. The world had been so cheerless! My heart was a habitation large enough for many guests, but lonely and chill, and without a household fire. I longed to kindle one! It seemed not so wild a dream.”
There is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghost-like, the spot where some great and marked event has given color to their lifetime; and still the more irresistibly, the darker the tinge that saddens it.
Her matronly fame was trodden under all men’s feet. Infamy was babbling around her in the public market-place. For her kindred, should the tidings ever reach them, and for the companions of her unspotted life, there remained nothing but the contagion of her dishonor; which would not fail to be distributed in strict accordance and proportion with the intimacy and sacredness of their previous relationship.
And now, through the chamber which these spectral thoughts had made so ghastly, glided Hester Prynne, leading along little Pearl, in her scarlet garb, and pointing her forefinger, first, at the scarlet letter on her bosom, and then at the clergyman’s own breast.
“Let the black flower blossom as it may!”
Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart!
The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, —stern and wild ones,—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.
All this time, Roger Chillingworth was looking at the minister with the grave and intent regard of a physician towards his patient. But, in spite of this outward show, the latter was almost convinced of the old man’s knowledge, or, at least, his confident suspicion, with respect to his own interview with Hester Prynne. The physician knew, then, that, in the minister’s regard, he was no longer a trusted friend, but his bitterest enemy.
At some brighter period, when the world should have grown ripe for it, in Heaven’s own time, a new truth would be revealed, in order to establish the whole relation between man and woman on a surer ground of mutual happiness.
Published by Barnes & Noble Books
122 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
The Scarlet Letter
was first published in 1850.
Originally published in mass market format in 2003 by Barnes & Noble Classics
with new Introduction, Notes, Biography, Chronology,
Inspired By, Comments & Questions, and For Further Reading.
This trade paperback edition published in 2005.
Introduction, Notes, and For Further Reading
Copyright © 2003 by Nancy Stade.
Note on Nathaniel Hawthorne, The World of Nathaniel Hawthorne and
The Scarlet Letter,
The Scarlet Letter,
and Comments & Questions
Copyright @ 2003 by Barnes & Noble, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and
retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Barnes & Noble Classics and the Barnes & Noble Classics
colophon are trademarks of Barnes & Noble, Inc.
The Scarlet Letter
ISBN-13: 978-1-59308-207-9 ISBN-10: 1-59308-207-X
eISBN : 978-1-411-43309-0
LC Control Number 2004102196
Produced and published in conjunction with:
Fine Creative Media, Inc.
322 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10001
Michael J. Fine, President and Publisher
Printed in the United States of America
Nathaniel Hathorne, Jr., was born into an established New England Puritan family on Independence Day, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. After the sudden death of his father, he and his mother and sisters moved in with his mother’s family in Salem. Nathaniel’s early education was informal; he was home-schooled by tutors until he enrolled in Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
Uninterested in conventional professions such as law, medicine, or the ministry, Nathaniel chose instead to rely “for support upon my pen.” After graduation, he returned to his hometown, wrote short stories and sketches, and changed the spelling of his surname to “Hawthorne.” Hawthorne’s coterie consisted of transcendentalist thinkers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Although he did not subscribe entirely to the group’s philosophy, he lived for six months at Brook Farm, a cooperative living community the transcendentalists established in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
On July 9, 1842, Hawthorne married a follower of Emerson, Sophia Peabody, with whom he had a daughter, Una, and a son, Julian. The couple purchased a mansion in Concord, Massachusetts, that previously had been occupied by author Louisa May Alcott. Frequently in financial difficulty, Hawthorne worked at the custom houses in Salem and Boston to support his family and his writing. His peaceful life was interrupted when his college friend, Franklin Pierce, now president of the United States, appointed him U.S. consul at Liverpool, England, where he served for four years.
Herman Melville had an early appreciation for the work of Hawthorne, but he did not gain wide public recognition until after his death. Early in his career, Hawthorne attempted to destroy all copies of his first novel,
(1828), which he had published at his own expense. During this period he also contributed articles and short stories to periodicals, several of which were published in his first collection,
(1837). Although his works met with little financial success, Hawthorne is credited, along with Edgar Allan Poe, with establishing the American short story.
The publication of
The Scarlet Letter
in 1850 changed the way society viewed Puritanism. Considered his masterpiece, the novel focuses on Hawthorne’s recurrent themes of sin, guilt, and punishment. Some critics have attributed his sense of guilt to his ancestors’ connection with the persecution of Quakers in seventeenth-century New England and their prominent role in the Salem witchcraft trials in the 1690s.
On May 19, 1864, Hawthorne died in Plymouth, New Hampshire, leaving behind several unfinished novels that were published posthumously. He is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.
THE WORLD OF NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE AND
THE SCARLET LETTER
|1801||Nathaniel Hawthorne’s parents, Nathaniel Hathorne, a mariner, and Elizabeth Clarke Manning of Salem, are married on August 2.|
|1802||Nathaniel and Elizabeth’s first child, Elizabeth, is born.|
|1804||Nathaniel Hathorne, Jr., is born on July 4 in Salem.|
|1808||On January 9, Nathaniel’s sister, Maria Louisa, is born. His father dies of yellow fever in Surinam.|
|1809||Nathaniel and his mother and sisters move in with his mother’s family in Salem.|
|1813||Following a foot injury that requires crutches for the next two years, Nathaniel is home-schooled by Joseph Worcester, who later becomes a well-known lexicographer and rival of Noah Webster.|
|1821- 1825||Nathaniel attends Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He establishes lifelong friendships with future U.S. president Franklin Pierce and writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. After graduation, he returns to Salem to live with his family for the next twelve years.|
|1830||Nathaniel’s earliest stories, among them “The Hollow of the Three Hills” and “Sir William Phips,” are published anonymously in magazines. After 1830 he changes the spelling of his surname to include a w.|
|1836||Ralph Waldo Emerson’s groundbreaking essay|
is published, heralding the blooming of the Transcendentalist movement in New England over the next few decades.
his first collection of stories, many of which had previously appeared in magazines.
|1839- 1841||Hawthorne works as a weigher and gauger at the Boston Custom House. George Ripley, a Unitarian minister, founds Brook Farm, a cooperative living community in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.|
|During his brief stay at Brook Farm, Hawthorne enjoys the company of Emerson and other Transcendentalists.|
|1842||The second volume of|
is published. On July 9, Hawthorne marries Sophia Peabody, a student of Transcendentalism, in Boston. The couple moves to Concord and rents the Manse, one of Emerson’s family homes and now a historical landmark. Edgar Allan Poe reviews the second edition of
and defines the “short story” in
|1844||Hawthorne’s daughter, Una, is born on March 3.|
|1845||Hawthorne completes the story “The Old Manse: The Author Makes the Reader Acquainted with His Abode.”|
|1846||Financially troubled, Hawthorne gets a job in May as a port surveyor at the Salem Custom House. In June, his autobiographical|
Mosses from an Old Manse
is published. On June 22, his son, Julian, is born in Boston.
|1849||Edgar Allan Poe dies; together with Hawthorne, he is credited with the creation of the American short story.|
|1850||Ticknor, Reed, and Fields (Boston) publishes The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne moves to Lenox, Massachusetts, where he becomes a friend of the novelist Herman Melville, who admires Hawthorne’s work. Melville’s essay “Hawthorne and his Mosses” appears in the August edition of the journal Literary World. Hawthorne completes|
The House of the Seven Gables.
|1851||The House of the Seven Gables|
is published, as is Melville’s novel,
which is dedicated to the “genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne.”
|1852||The Blithedale Romance,|
a reflection of Hawthorne’s time at Brook Farm, is published. Hawthorne returns to Concord, where he buys Hillside, the house owned by Louisa May Alcott’s family, and renames it The Wayside. He writes a campaign biography of his college friend Franklin Pierce. After Pierce is elected president, he appoints Hawthorne U.S. consul at Liverpool, England.
|1853||In July, Hawthorne and his family depart The Wayside for Europe.|
|1854||Henry David Thoreau’s|
Walden; or, Life in the
Woods, an important Transcendentalist text, is published.
|1857-1859||Hawthorne travels in France and lives for a time in Italy, collecting material for his last novel,|
The Marble Faun.
He returns to The Wayside on the eve of the American Civil War.
|1860||The Marble Faun|
|1862- 1863||In July, “Chiefly About War Matters,” Hawthorne’s account of his travels to the Virginia battlefields of Manassas and Harpers Ferry and to the White House, is published in|
The Atlantic Monthly.
In 1863, his last published work during his lifetime,
Our Old Home: A Series of English Sketches,
dedicated to Franklin Pierce, appears.
|1864||Hawthorne works on several novels that are published posthumously. On May 19, he dies while visiting the White Mountains in Plymouth, New Hampshire. On May 23, he is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.|