Twice-Told Tales

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Twice-Told Tales
Twice told tales.jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author(s)Nathaniel Hawthorne
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Short stories
PublisherAmerican Stationers Co.
Publication date1837
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Pages334 pp
ISBNNA
 
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Twice-Told Tales
Twice told tales.jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author(s)Nathaniel Hawthorne
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Short stories
PublisherAmerican Stationers Co.
Publication date1837
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Pages334 pp
ISBNNA

Twice-Told Tales is a short story collection in two volumes by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The first was published in the spring of 1837, and the second in 1842.[1] The stories had all been previously published in magazines and annuals, hence the name.

Contents

Publication

Hawthorne was encouraged to collect these previously anonymous stories by friend Horatio Bridge, who offered $250 to cover the risk of the publication.[2] Many had been published in The Token, edited by Samuel Griswold Goodrich. When the works became popular, Bridge revealed Hawthorne as the author in a review he published in the Boston Post.[3]

The title, Twice-Told Tales, was based on a line from William Shakespeare's The Life and Death of King John (Act 3, scene 4): "Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale, / Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man."[4] The book was published by the American Stationers' Company on March 6, 1837; its cover price was one dollar.[5] Hawthorne had help in promoting the book from Elizabeth Peabody. She sent copies of the collection to William Wordsworth as well as to Horace Mann, hoping that Mann could get Hawthorne a job writing stories for schoolchildren.[6]

After publication, Hawthorne asked a friend to check with the local bookstore to see how it was selling. After noting the initial expenses for publishing had not been met, he complained: "Surely the book was puffed enough to meet with sale. What the devil's the matter?"[7] By June, between 600 and 700 copies were sold but sales were soon halted by the Panic of 1837 and the publisher went out of business within a year.[8]

Hawthorne complained that he still struggled financially. Editor John L. O'Sullivan suggested Hawthorne buy back unsold copies of Twice-Told Tales so that they could be reissued through a different publisher. At the time of this suggestion, 1844, there were 600 unsold copies of the book. Hawthorne lamented, "I wish Heaven would make me rich enough to buy the copies for the purpose of burning them."[9]

After the success of The Scarlet Letter in 1850, Twice-Told Tales was reissued with the help of publisher James Thomas Fields. In a new preface, Hawthorne wrote that the stories "may be understood and felt by anybody, who will give himself the trouble to read it, and will take up the book in a proper mood."[10]

Critical response

About a week after the publication of the book, Hawthorne sent a copy to his classmate from Bowdoin College, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.[11] Longfellow had given a speech at their commencement calling for notable contributions to American literature. By this time, Longfellow was working at Harvard University and was becoming popular as a poet. Hawthorne wrote to him, "We were not, it is true, so well acquainted at college, that I can plead an absolute right to inflict my 'twice-told' tediousness upon you; but I have often regretted that we were not better known." In his 14-page critique in the April issue of the North American Review, Longfellow praised the book as a work of genius.[12] "To this little book", Longfellow wrote, "we would say, 'Live ever, sweet, sweet book.' It comes from the hand of a man of genius."[13] He noted that Hawthorne's writing "is characterized by a large proportion of feminine elements, depth and tenderness of feeling, exceeding purity of mind."[14] He referred to the collection's "The Gentle Boy" as "on the whole, the finest thing he ever wrote".[15] The two authors would eventually build a strong friendship.[16]

Generally, reviews were positive. Park Benjamin, Sr. said that the author was "a rose baptized in dew".[8] For the Boston Quarterly Review, Orestes Brownson noted Hawthorne's writings as "a pure and living stream of manly thought and feeling, which characterizes always the true man, the Christian, the republican and the patriot."[14] After reading Twice-Told Tales, Herman Melville wrote to Evert Augustus Duyckinck that the stories weren't meaty enough. "Their deeper meanings are worthy of a Brahmin. Still there is something lacking—a good deal lacking to the plump sphericity of the man. What is that?—He does'nt patronise the butcher—he needs roast-beef, done rare."[17]

Edgar Allan Poe wrote a well-known two-part review of Twice-Told Tales, published in the April and May 1842 issues of the Broadway Journal. Poe criticized Hawthorne's reliance on allegory and the didactic, something he called a "heresy" to American literature. He did, however, express praise at the use of short stories (Poe was a tale-writer himself) and said they "rivet the attention" of the reader.[18] Poe admitted, "The style of Hawthorne is purity itself. His tone is singularly effective--wild, plaintive, thoughtful, and in full accordance with his themes." He concluded that, "we look upon him as one of the few men of indisputable genius to whom our country has as yet given birth."[19]

The Grolier Club later named Twice-Told Tales the most influential book of 1837.[20]

Contents

I. "Howe's Masquerade"
II. "Edward Randolph's Portrait"
III. "Lady Eleanore's Mantle"
IV. "Old Esther Dudley"

Adaptations

In 1963, United Artists released a horror trilogy film adaptation of three of Hawthorne's stories, with the film titled Twice-Told Tales. The three stories filmed were: "The House of the Seven Gables," "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment," and "Rappaccini's Daughter." While done on a relatively low-budget by Hollywood standards, the film is nonetheless regarded as a classic of sorts, with Vincent Price, Sebastian Cabot, and Beverly Garland delivering good performances.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Roy Harvey Pearce, "Introduction" in Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales, New York: Dutton, 1967, pp. v-vi.
  2. ^ McFarland, Philip. Hawthorne in Concord. New York: Grove Press, 2005: 22. ISBN 0-8021-1776-7
  3. ^ Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Random House, 2004: 90. ISBN 0-8129-7291-0
  4. ^ Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Random House, 2004: 92–93. ISBN 0-8129-7291-0
  5. ^ Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Random House, 2004: 92. ISBN 0-8129-7291-0
  6. ^ Marshall, Megan. The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism. Boston: Mariner Books, 2006: 356. ISBN 978-0-618-71169-7
  7. ^ Schreiner, Samuel A., Jr. The Concord Quartet: Alcott, Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and the Friendship that Freed the American Mind. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2006: 120. ISBN 04716466336.
  8. ^ a b Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Random House, 2004: 93. ISBN 0-8129-7291-0
  9. ^ Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Random House, 2004: 183. ISBN 0-8129-7291-0
  10. ^ Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Random House, 2004: 229–231. ISBN 0-8129-7291-0
  11. ^ Miller, Edwin Haviland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1991: 120. ISBN 0-87745-381-0
  12. ^ McFarland, Philip. Hawthorne in Concord. New York: Grove Press, 2004: 58–59. ISBN 0-8021-1776-7
  13. ^ Miller, Edwin Haviland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1991: 121. ISBN 0-87745-381-0
  14. ^ a b Mellow, James R. Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980: 193. ISBN 0-8018-5900-X
  15. ^ Miller, Edwin Haviland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991: 43. ISBN 0-87745-332-2
  16. ^ McFarland, Philip. Hawthorne in Concord. New York: Grove Press, 2005: 19. ISBN 0-8021-1776-7
  17. ^ Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Random House, 2004: 228–229. ISBN 0-8129-7291-0
  18. ^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 233. ISBN 978-0-8160-4161-9
  19. ^ McFarland, Philip. Hawthorne in Concord. New York: Grove Press, 2005: 88–89. ISBN 0-8021-1776-7
  20. ^ Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 19. ISBN 0-86576-008-X

References