Sunday, November 05, 2017

Fortnightly Book, November 5

In the 1830s, Nathaniel Hawthorne's friend Horatio Bridge, who had always been a major support in his authorial career, encouraged him to pull together an anthology of short stories, and put up some money to help pay for the cost of the publication. The first volume was published in 1837, and thus was born Twice-Told Tales. The title is fairly obviously an indication of the fact that it is an anthology of prior works, but Hawthorne also had in mind a line from Shakespeare's King John (Act III, Scene 4):

There’s nothing in this world can make me joy:
Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man;
And bitter shame hath spoil’d the sweet world’s taste,
That it yields nought but shame and bitterness.

(In a letter to Longfellow, Hawthorne explicitly refers to his book as "'twice-told' tediousness".)

The book did not sell well and the publisher went out of business (for unrelated reasons), so Hawthorne had to start again, and made a deal to publish an expanded two-volume version, which came out in 1842. It sold poorly again. When The Scarlet Letter became a hit in 1850, it was reissued and became a classic.

I will (mostly) be reading this in a Heritage Press edition (New York); despite its being a Heritage Press edition, it is not from my grandfather's library, but a later edition. I don't have the Sandglass for it, but it is illustrated by Valenti Angelo, one of the more talented and prolific book illustrators of the mid-twentieth century. The book does not include all the tales; it is a selection by Wallace Stegner, the novelist, and has twenty-four of the thirty-six original tales. The twenty-four it has are:

"The Snow-Image: A Childish Miracle"
"The Great Stone Face"
"Ethan Brand"
"My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
"Alice Doane's Appeal"
"Young Goodman Brown"
"Rappaccini's Daughter"
"The Celestial Railroad"
"The Birthmark"
"Egotism, or, The Bosom Serpent"
"Earth's Holocaust"
"The Artist of the Beautiful"
"The Wedding Knell"
"The Minister's Black Veil"
"The Maypole of MerryMount"
"Mr Higginbotham's Catastrophe"
"The Hollow the Three Hills"
"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"
"Lady Eleanore's Mantle"
"Old Esther Dudley"
"The Ambitious Guest"
"Feathertop: A Moralized Legend"
"The Prophetic Pictures"
"Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure"

I will, however, be looking up the others, as well. CBS Radio Mystery Theater did an episode of "The Birthmark", and I think Weird Circle did an episode of "Rappaccini's Daughter", so I will, if I have time, listen to those; Hawthorne is never as easy to find in classic radio as Poe is, but there are bound to be others, so I will keep an eye out.

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