Friday, August 16, 2019

The End of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ – and its Lasting Influence

We’ve come to the end of The Scarlet Letter, and it’s time to consider this journey we embarked upon almost three months ago.

In 1876, George Parsons Lathrop (1851-1898) was editor of The Atlantic Monthly (and at 25 years old, no less). That year, he published A Study of Hawthorne, neither an official biography nor an official literary study, but more a hybrid of the two. Lathrop himself called it a “portrait” rather than a biography. Whatever it’s genre, it remains one of the best studies on the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1809-1864). The book remained a popular study of the author for at least the next quarter century; I have an edition published in 1898.

Lathrop notes that it was The Scarlet Letter that made the author’s reputation when it was published in 1850. The subject was something of a shock and sensation, but the public quickly got over it and the book became a bestseller, selling out the first printing of 5,000 in 10 days. It was not without its contemporary critics; a publication of the Episcopal Church, which fancied itself the authority on all things Puritan, rained harsh criticism on the book, its story, the author, and anything associated with them. The criticism was ignored.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Literary Life.

No comments: