NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, ASL to James T. Fields, May 23, 1851

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, ASL to James T. Fields, May 23, 1851

After the successful publication of his second novel, The House of the Seven Gables, in 1851, Hawthorne returned to writing for children. In this letter to his publisher, he describes his plan and explains his motives.

Courtesy of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, ASL to James T. Fields, May 23, 1851

Nathaniel Hawthorne to His Publisher,

 James T. Fields, May 23, 1851 [extracts] 

I mean to write, within six weeks or two months next ensuing, a book of stories made up of classical myths. The subjects are—The story of Midas, with his golden touch–Pandora’s Box–The adventure of Hercules in quest of the Golden Apples—Bellerophon and the Chimaera, Baucis and Philemon, Perseus and Medusa–these, I think, will be enough to make up a volume to be sold at 50 or 75 cts, according to the style of publication. As a framework, I shall have a young college student telling these stories to his cousins and brothers and sisters, during his vacations, sometimes at the fireside, sometimes in the woods and dells. Unless I greatly mistake, these old fictions will work up admirably for the purpose; and I shall aim at substituting a tone in some degree Gothic or romantic, or any such tone as may best please myself, instead of the classic coldness, which is as repellant as the touch of marble…The book, if it comes out of my mind, as I see it now, ought to have pretty wide success amongst young people; and, of course, I shall purge out all the old heathen wickedness, and put in a moral wherever practicable.