Friday, February 21, 2020

The Scarlet Letter in Sleeper's Boston Journal

Transcribed below, the complete review of The Scarlet Letter with other "New Publications" as originally published in the evening edition of the Boston Journal on Friday, March 22, 1850. Then edited by John Sherburne Sleeper. The long last paragraph was reprinted in the Salem Register on March 25, 1850 with other newspaper criticisms of Hawthorne's prefatory sketch, "The Custom House." Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by John L. Idol, Jr. and Buford Jones (Cambridge University Press, 1994) at page 120 gives only the Salem Register excerpt. Gary Scharnhorst lists the Boston Journal review of The Scarlet Letter as entry number 389 in Nathaniel Hawthorne: An Annotated Bibliography of Comment and Criticism before 1900 (Scarecrow Press, 1988), page 61. Scharnhorst highlights the closing attack on Hawthorne's "Custom House" sketch, but the earlier portion of the Boston Journal review includes praise for Hawthorne's "vigorous elasticity of style" and a comparison with Jane Eyre as "one of the most fascinating tales of the day."
Boston Daily Journal - March 22, 1850
Library of Congress. Bound volumes, Newspapers #8217

The Scarlet Letter
. A Romance. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston: Ticknor, Reed & Fields. We regard this book as one of the best works of the author. It is written with a vigorous elasticity of style which plainly shows that his pen has not rusted from its long disuse.-- The plot and incidents of the tale are simple. The scene is laid in Boston--at the period of the early settlement of the town. The narrative is one of crime, remorse, repentance, and revenge. The characters are vividly drawn. The unconcealed remorse of Hester, and the hidden but no less intense anguish of her betrayer, the strange and elfish pranks, and the subtile and precocious remarks of little Pearl, and the unrelenting revenge of Roger Chillingworth, are portrayed with a vividness of coloring which makes them appear lifelike, although all unlike life. Indeed, the same remark applies to the incidents of the story, which, although many of them wild and improbable, are narrated with a vigor and apparent truthfulness to nature, which completely enchains the attention and enlists the sympathies of the reader, rendering it difficult for him to draw the line between obvious romance and apparent reality--between not improbable events and supernatural scenes. 
There are many scenes in this work which remind the reader of incidents in the Autobiography of Jane Eyre. The meeting of Dimmesford, Hester and Pearl, on the pillory, is a master-piece of delineation, equalling in mystical interest the recal of Jane Eyre from her voluntary exile. There are characters, too, in both works, between which a parallel might be drawn. Taken as a whole, the Scarlet Letter will rank, with Jane Eyre, as one of the most fascinating tales of the day. 
We cannot but regret that the author did not take counsel with discreet friends, before prefixing to his charming romance some sixty pages, in the shape of a preface, of matter as entirely irrelevant as would be a description of the household arrangements of the Emperor of China. Under the text of Reminiscences of the Salem Custom House, the author has dragged before the public, and held up to ridicule, individuals, whose greatest peculiarity was that they could not sympathise with the dreamy thoughts and the literary habits of the author. Mr. Hawthorne evidently keenly feels that his talents and personal importance were not appreciated by his fellow officials and by the citizens of Salem, and he takes a paltry revenge in lampooning his former associates. There is a vein of bitterness running through this portion of the work, which, though covered under an assumed playfulness of language, is by no means concealed. The whole chapter, from beginning to end, is a violation of the courtesies of life, and an abuse of the privileges of common intercourse.  --Boston Daily Journal, March 22, 1850. Volume 18, number 5256; page 1, column 4. Library of Congress. Bound volumes, Newspapers 8217 (Jan 1-April 19, 1850).
Related posts:

No comments:

Post a Comment