Tuesday, 4 July 2017

I'm celebrating American Independence Day...

... with one of my favourite authors, Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Born on this day in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, he is mostly remembered for his novel The Scarlet Letter, but he wrote so much more than that.  Just for today, here are a few extracts from some of my favourite books and stories of his.

So, said Hester Prynne, and glanced her sad eyes downward at the scarlet letter.  And, after many, many years a new grave was delved, near an old and sunken one, in that burial-ground beside which King's Chapel has since been built.  It was near that old sunken grave, yet with a space between, as if the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle.  Yet one tombstone served for both.  All around, there were monuments carved with armorial bearings; and on this simple slab of slate - as the curious investigator may still discern, and perplex himself with the purport - appeared the semblance of an engraved escutcheon.  It bore a device, a herald's wording of which might serve for a motto and brief description of our now concluded legend; so sombre is it, and relieved only by one ever-growing point of light gloomier than the shadow :

On a field, sable
The letter A, gules
The Scarlet Letter.

"Why, if you will believe me, there was a small figure of a girl , dressed all in white, with rose-tinged cheeks and ringlets of golden hue, playing about the garden with the two children."
A stranger though she was, the child seemed to be on as familiar terms with Violet and Peony, and they with her, as if all the three had been playmates during the whole of their little lives.... There was certainly something very singular in the aspect of the little stranger.  Of all the children in the neighbourhood, the lady could remember no such face, with its pure white, and delicate rose colour, and the golden ringlets tossing about the forehead and cheeks.  And as for her dress, which was entirely of white, and fluttering in the breeze, it was such as no reasonable woman would put upon a little girl, when sending her out to play, in the depth of winter. It made this kind and careful mother shiver only to look at those small feet, with nothing in the world on them, except a very thin  pair of white slippers. Nevertheless, airily as she was clad, the child seemed to feel not the slightest inconvenience from the cold, but danced so lightly over the snow that the tips of her toes left hardly a print in its surface... 
The Snow Image, published in Philadelphia, 1907

I'm a collector of books and when they have a history, they are all the more interesting!  Published in 1899 in New York, my copy of 'The Blithedale Romance' moved from the hands of Mr and Mrs F H Russell with their compliments to an unknown owner on February 22nd, 1902. Subsequently it found its way into 'The  W. G. Library' in 1949, and from there it moved to the ownership of an Erwin B Carter of Orr, Minnesota.  Somewhere between Minnesota and my bookshelf it languished in a bookstore in the US until I rescued it.  And here's a favourite little piece from that story...

... I perceive, moreover, that the confession, brief as it shall be, will throw a gleam of light over my behaviour throughout the foregoing incidents, and is, indeed, essential to the full understanding of my story.  The reader, therefore, since I have disclosed so much, is entitled to this one word more.  As I write it, he will charitably suppose me to blush, and turn away my face : -
I-I myself-was in love...

Miles Coverdale's confession 
The Blithedale Romance

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