Page:Nathaniel Hawthorne (Woodbury).djvu/199

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189
THE SCARLET LETTER

which reacts upon the mind." "The Scarlet Letter"[1] was already in the publisher's hands, before the last scene was written, and was rapidly put through the press. It was issued early in April in an edition of five thousand copies, which was soon exhausted; a new edition followed at once, and Hawthorne's fame was at last established.

"The Scarlet Letter" is a great and unique romance, standing apart by itself in fiction; there is nothing else quite like it. Of all Hawthorne's works it is most identified with his genius in popular regard, and it has the peculiar power that is apt to invest the first work of an author in which his originality finds complete artistic expression. It is seldom that one can observe so plainly the different elements that are primary in a writer's endowment coalesce in the fully developed work of genius; yet in this romance there is nothing either in method or perception which is not to be found in the earlier tales; what distinguishes it is the union of art and intuition as they had grown up in Hawthorne's practice and had developed a power to penetrate more deeply into life. Obviously at the start there is the physical object in which his imagination habitually found its spring, the fantastically embroidered scarlet letter on a woman's bosom which he had seen in the Puritan group described in "Endicott and the Red Cross."

  1. The Scarlet Letter. A Romance. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston: Ticknor, Reed and Fields. 1850. 12mo. Pp. iv, 322.