Compiled from, “The Custom House” – introduction to The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850):
“…one idle and rainy day, it was my fortune to make a discovery of some little interest…I chanced to lay my hand on a small package, carefully done up in a piece of ancient yellow parchment…the object that most drew my attention, in the mysterious package, was a certain affair of fine red cloth, much worn and faded. There were traces about it of gold embroidery, which, however, was greatly frayed and defaced; so that none, or very little, of the glitter was left. It had been wrought, as was easy to perceive, with wonderful skill of needlework; and the stitch (as I am assured by ladies conversant with such mysteries) gives evidence of a now forgotten art…This rag of scarlet cloth,—for time, and wear, and a sacrilegious moth, had reduced it to little other than a rag,—on careful examination, assumed the shape of a letter. It was the capitol letter A…I happened to place it on my breast. It seemed to me,—the reader may smile, but must not doubt my word,—it seemed to me, then, that I experienced a sensation not altogether physical, yet almost so, as of burning heat; and as if the letter were not of red cloth, but red-hot iron. I shuddered, and involuntarily let it fall upon the floor.”
The Museum Store is pleased to announce that an exclusive needlepoint kit of the scarlet letter itself is soon to arrive here. This image as described by Nathaniel Hawthorne has become a part of our literary heritage, and it is only fitting that we offer this piece as a tribute to an American masterpiece written in Salem, Massachusetts by one of our country’s greatest writers.
This post was written by Julie Arrison-Bishop