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By the professor, poet, writer, this is a candid and beautifully written biography, which combining as it does a human and literary excellence, outclasses the Randall Stewart (Yale) and Robert Cantwell (Rinehart) portraits which appeared last year. Mark Van Doren has cleared away the rubbish of years from the Hawthorne legend. Unbiased by earlier concepts of a mysterious recluse (Hawthorne's mother) and the nebulous estimates of a thwarted and unhappy man, author Van Doren has applied his painstaking scholarship with happier results. The book opens with a sympathetic account of Hawthorne's early years; the time spent in the ""dismal chamber"" in Salem where he learned the rudiments of his craft; follows the production of his tales and sketches with an analysis of the sources used, the criticism encountered. Facing a new life in 1838, Hawthorne marries, and happily too, and at the close of a dozen years writes The Scarlet Letter. Van Doren's analysis of the origins, meaning, power of purpose of this masterpiece is the high point, not only of Hawthorne's life, but of this particular biography as well. Follows then the hey-ley of Hawthorne's life, the travels, the friendships, through to the last, lost years and his death. In William Sloane's American Men of Letters Series and for a market which includes followers of fine biography as well as students, this book will have a permanent place.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1949
Publisher: William Sloane