This Week: In New England: A Scarlet Letter Is Published, March 16, 1850

By Carla Charter
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A novel telling the story of an adulterous love and its consequences set in a Puritan New England colony, was published on March 16, 1850.

The Scarlet Letter’s author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, although was born in Salem, Ma. The book was one of the first mass produced books in America and the first printing of 2,500 copies of the book sold out in ten days. Hawthorne wrote the book after being fired from a job at the Salem Custom house due to a political shake up. The Scarlet letter was Hawthorne’s first successful literary publication.

This year is also the 350th anniversary of the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion in Salem, where the Nathaniel Hawthorne museum is housed.  The mansion, which belonged to Hawthorne’s cousin, Susannah Ingersoll, and which Hawthorne had visited, was one of his inspirations for the House of the Seven Gables.

It is possible that Hawthorne found the inspiration for his novel at the gravestone of Elizabeth Pain who is buried at King’s Chapel Burying ground in Boston. It is believed by some the Pain may have been the inspiration for Hawthorne’s main character, Hester Prynne and the shield carved on her gravestone may have inspired the idea of the Scarlet Letter.

As a result of the Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne was able to buy a home in Concord and paved the way for his other stories including the House of the Seven Gables. Despite the popularity of the book Hawthorne only received $1,800.00 in royalties from it over the next 14 years of his life.

Among the events occurring at the 350th celebration at the House of the Seven Gables include an April Vacation Poetry Workshop for Children during and A Walk with Nathaniel Hawthorne on April 14. A Four Centuries of Music Festival, will be held on August 4. More information on upcoming events can be found at www.7gables.org.

The Salem Maritime National Historic Site, 160 Derby Street in Salem will hold a public reading of The Scarlet Letter on July 7. More information can be found a t the maritime website https://www.nps.gov/sama/index.htm