A Late, Ephemeral Hawthorne Publication
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Letter from Hawthorne” in The Weal-Reaf. A Record of the Essex Institute Fair, Held at Salem.
No Place, 4-8 September 1860, 10-11 September 1860
Seven parts. Unopened. Title leaf, adverts, and numbers 1-7. Title repaired with tape. Cloth case.
The Zimbalist copy of The Weal Reaf, printing “Letter from Hawthorne” for the first time, from the 1860 Essex Institute Fair at Salem. “Letter from Hawthorne” appears in nos. 2 & 3 (5 & 6 September 1860). Framed as a letter to “My Dear Cousin” who has requested a story, he explains that since writing Twice-Told Tales and Mosses from an Old Manse, “my mind seems to lost the plan and measure of those little narratives, in which it was once so unprofitably fertile. I can write no story, therefore; but (rather than be entirely wanting to the occasion,) I will endeavor to describe a spot near Salem, on which it was once my purpose to locate such a dream fiction as you now demand of me.” He goes on to describe “that conspicuous hill” which once known by Browne’s Folly and a nearby mansion with a haunted closet. He recounts the tale of schoolboys who succeeded in opening its door one day: “As it flew open, there was a vision of people in garments of antique magnificence,—gentlemen in curled wigs and tarnished gold lace, and ladies in brocade and quaint-head dresses, rushing tumultuously forth and tumbling upon the floor.” The “urchins took to their heels”—until realizing “the apparition was composed of a mighty pile of family portraits.”