Hawthorne's story of the disgraced Hester Prynne (who must wear a scarlet "A" as the mark of her adultery), of her illegitimate child, Pearl, and of the righteous minister Arthur Dimmesdale continues to resonate with modern readers. Set in mid-seventeenth-century Boston, this powerful tale of passion, Puritanism, and revenge is one of the foremost classics of American literature.
This Broadview edition contains a selection of historical documents that include Hawthorne's writings on Puritanism, the historical sources of the story, and contemporary reviews of the novel. New to the second edition are an updated critical introduction and bibliography and, in the appendices, additional writings by Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Henry James, and William Dean Howells.
"Anyone interested in how novels refract history will be enriched by the Broadview edition of The Scarlet Letter. The valuable introduction and extensive archival material will give readers a great foundation for using Hawthorne's historicist methodology as a model for discussing the complexities of history and storytelling not only for Hawthorne but for contemporary readers as well."
Joel Porte Cornell University
"John Stephen Martin's meticulously prepared edition of The Scarlet Letter offers both students and general readers the most comprehensive introduction to Hawthorne's life and work currently available in one volume. With its historical contextualization, enormously helpful annotations, and judicious assessment of Hawthorne's greatest work, it establishes itself as the single best guide to this great American masterpiece."
Ian Bell Keele University
"This edition is the most effective teaching tool for Hawthorne's text that I know. Contained within a single volume, students have everything that is necessary for a rich understanding of one of the most important moments in American literary history. Especially donative are the substantial contextualizations provided here—literary, social, and historical—and in turn, these contextualizations ground the principal issues with which Hawthorne's romance engages. Supplementary to all this is the extensive bibliography, far-ranging and comprehensive. This edition is easily the most comprehensive introduction to the work that is currently available."
Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.81 (d)
Meet the Author
John Stephen Martin is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Calgary.
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 chanced 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, 1942, 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.
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.
Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Scarlet Letter.
Good To Know
Hawthorne's birth name was actually Nathaniel Hathorne. It's rumored that he added a "w" to avoid being associated with his Puritan grandfather, Judge Hathorne -- who presided over the Salem Witch Trials.
Among Hawthorne's peers at Maine's Bowdoin College: author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Franklin Pierce, who would later become the country's 14th president.
In its first week of publication,The Scarlet Letter sold 4,000 copies.
Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, at the Pemigewasset House in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Ironically, former president Franklin Pierce had advised him to go there for his health.
Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
The Scarlet Letter, A Romance
Appendix A: Hawthorne and Brook Farm (1841)
Appendix B: Hawthorne at Concord (1842-1845): Thoreau, Emerson, Fuller, and Transcendentalism
Appendix C: The Controversy of the “Custom-House” Introduction
Appendix D: Hawthorne’s Preface to the Second Edition
Appendix E: Hawthorne’s Earlier Writings on Puritan History
1. From "Endicott and the Red Cross" (1838)
2. From "Main-street" (1849)
3. From "The Celestial Rail-road" (1843)
Appendix F: Hawthorne’s American Notebooks
Appendix G: Hawthorne’s Ironic Vision
Appendix H: The Development of The Scarlet Letter into a Romance
Appendix I: Imagination and “The Neutral Ground” of Moonlight
Appendix J: Historical Sources for The Scarlet Letter
Appendix K: The Contemporary Reviews of The Scarlet Letter
1. From Anon., "The New Romance," Boston Transcript (15 March 1850)
2. From Anon., Salem Register (21 March 1850)
3. From Evert A. Duyckinck, "Nathaniel Hawthorne," The Literary World (30 March 1850)
4. From George Ripley, New York Tribune Supplement (1 April 1850)
5. From E.P. Whipple, Graham's Magazine (May 1850)
6. From Henry F. Chorley, Athenæum (June 1850)
7. From Anne W. Abbott, North American Review (July 1850)
8. From George Bailey Loring, Massachusetts Quarterly Review (September 1850)
9. From Orestes Brownson, Brownson's Quarterly Review (October 1850)
10. From Arthur Cleveland Coxe, "The Writings of Hawthorne," Church Review (January 1851)
11. From Henry James, Hawthorne (1879)
12. From William Dean Howells, Heroines of Fiction (1901)
Appendix L: Illustrations
Works Cited and Recommended Readings