Category Archives: Nathaniel Hawthorne

An Open Letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne

Dear Mr. Hawthorne,

First, I must tell you, I loved The Scarlet Letter. As a study of real, ordinary people rising above an intolerant society and as a love story, your book is deservedly a classic.

I know you wrote The Maypole of Merry Mount , which I defaced horribly a few days ago as The Looped Cross of Elyssium, about a real incident in American history. You based your story on an early colonist named Thomas Morton who took religious freedom too far.  His colony, Mount Mare or Merrymount, flourished in the 1620s until a company of puritan soldiers from Plymouth sacked his town, harassed his followers, and banished him. Morton’s crimes included admiring the Native Americans, mocking his Puritan neighbors, and, most unforgivably, practicing neo-paganism that, at least in the lurid tales of his accusers, included sexual debaucheries.

Mr. Hawthorne — Nate if I may — I hope you don’t mind that I had some fun with your story, mashing it into mine within the dream of one of my characters. It was meant to be silly and a little sexy. Worse crimes have been committed on other writers. I believe poor Jane Austen has spun herself to dust by now.

There was one passage in your terribly sad (yet morally uplifting) tale that I could not include in my little parody that I especially loved:

In due time, a feud arose, stern and bitter on one side, and as serious on the other as anything could be among such light spirits as had sworn allegiance to the Maypole. The future complexion of New England was involved in this important quarrel. Should the grizzly saints establish their jurisdiction over the gay sinners, then would their spirits darken all the clime, and make it a land of clouded visages, of hard toil, of sermon and psalm forever. But should the banner staff of Merry Mount be fortunate, sunshine would break upon the hills, and flowers would beautify the forest, and late posterity do homage to the Maypole.


Beautifully put, Nate. I fear we know how that one ended.

Someday I intend to read The Marble Faun. I’m told it’s your most sensual novel. Sometimes I wish you and your peers, Edgar and Herman, had lived 100 years later or more. I would love to read the stories you would have told in a more permissive age.

And I could apologize in person.

Yours sincerely,

Angela Caperton