Red Letter Day: The Anniversary of Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’

It was on this day in 1850 that Nathaniel Hawthorne, of the Class of 1825, published what is considered to be his magnum opus, The Scarlet Letter, a story of adultery and betrayal in colonial America. The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor highlights the occasion with an account of Hawthorne’s publication process, from showing his wife the newly finished manuscript, to dealing with the fallout from unhappy residents of Salem, Mass., upon which the fictional setting was based.

History.com offers more biographical information, including the fact that, in 1853, “Hawthorne’s old college friend, President Franklin Pierce, appointed him American consul to England.”

Bonus trivia: In that Sopranos episode that had Tony and Meadow visiting Bowdoin, the quote that Tony read on the wall at the Admissions Office was from The Scarlet Letter: “No man … can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which one may be true.”

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