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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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by Nathaniel Hawthorne


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.

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