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The sources of The Scarlet Letter ..

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Title:
The sources of The Scarlet Letter ..
Creator:
Reid, Alfred Sandlin, 1924-
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864
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Language:
English
Physical Description:
iv, 225 leaves : ; 28 cm.

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Subjects / Keywords:
Death ( jstor )
Revenge ( jstor )
Guilt ( jstor )
Genre:
Academic theses. ( lcgft )
Academic theses ( fast )

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Thesis:
Dissertation (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1952.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.

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Full Text
THE SOURCES OF THE SCARLET LETTER
By
ALFRED SANDLIN REID
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
June, 1952


To
PROFESSOR HARRY R. WARFEL
ii


TABLE OF C0ET3BTS
Page
Preface ...... iv
Part One: Introduction
Chapter I Two Suggestive Allusions 2
Part TwoI Plot
Chapter II Adultery and Ostracism. ............. 18
Chapter III Berengo and Moral Poisoning ........... 39
Chapter IV Final Confession and Death 62
Part Three: Characters
Chapter V Hester Prynne 74
Chapter VI Arthur Dimmesdale 90
Chapter VII Roger Chllllngworth and Pearl 103
Chapter VIII Mistress HIbbias and the Black Man 114
Part Four Setting
Chapter DC Setting 128
Part Fives Style
Chapter X Diction, Imagery, and Allusions 142
Chapter XI Structural Devices 165
Part Six: Conclusion
Chapter XII From Static Symbol to narrative Meaning ..... 184
Bibliography 221
Vita 225
iii


PREFACE
The purpose of this study is to suggest that several literary
accounts of aa actual case of adultery, revenge, and concealed sin
could have teen the sources of Nathaniel Hawthornes The Scarlet
Letter. Part One briefly sketches the outline of this case, describes
the works that report it, and presents the preliminary evidence that
validates these works as possible sources of the novel. Parts Two,
Three, Pour, and Five, respectively, show parallels between the plot,
characters, setting, and style of the novel and the suggested source
materials. Part Six briefly summarises the principal arguments of the
study and discusses the implications about Hawthorne's creative pro
cess, about the genesis and evolution of the novel, and about the
meaning of the novel in relation to Hawthorne's art.
I wish to acknowledge the assistance given me in this study by
Mrs. Willie Kate Bloomfield of the University of Florida Library and
that by Professors Denver 1. Baughan, J. E. Congleton, Ants Oras,
Del ton L. Scudder, and Harry R. Warfel of the University of Florida
faculty for their many suggestions of style and form. I am especially
grateful to Professor Warfel for his teaching that inspired this
research and for his critical judgnent and patient encouragement that
stimulated its completion. I also wish to thank my wife, Nathalie,
for her assistance in many ways.


PAST OHE
INTRODUCTION


CHAPTER I
TWO SUGGESTIVE ALL USIOHS
In "Th Custom House Hawthorne ascribes the basic outline of
The Scarlet Letter to a manuscript narration of Puritan Hew England
penned by Jonathan Pue.^ let in two allusions in the novel he compares
characters of his creation to persons who were central actors in a
court intrigue during the reign of King James the First of England.
This episode was the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower of
London in 1613* Hawthorne cites the names of Overbury, Doctor Simon
Forman, and Mistress Anne Turner, and he alludes to another person in
the case without calling his name. In one of these allusions the
novelist identifies Roger Chillingworth: "There was en aged handi
craftsman, it is true, who had been a citizen of London at the period
of Sir Thomas Over bury' e murder, now some thirty years agone; he
testified to having seen the physician, under some other name, which
the narrator of the story had now forgotten, in company with Doctor
Forman, the famous old conjuror, who was implicated in the affair of
2
Overbury." The second allusion occurs in a description of Mistress
Hibbins* dress: "She made a very grand appearance; having on a hi^x
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter. The Complete Works of
Hathan!el Hawthorne, ed. George Parsons Lathrop (Cambridge, Mass.,
1890), V, 51hereafter cited as SL.
2SL, pp. 155-156.
2


3
head dress, a rich gown of velvet, and & ruff done up with the famous
yellow starch, of which Ann Turner, her especial friend, had taught
her the secret, before this last good lady had been hanged for Sir
Thomas Overbury1s murder."3
A close study of several documents relating to the Overbury
affair, as Hawthorne called it, reveals many striking parallels be
tween the facts of that case and the novel. Could there be any con
nection between this murder and the story of The Scarlet Letter? To
indicate how this question might be answered, it will be necessary
first to outline the incidents in the Overbury murder, to describe
several works relating to it, to present evidence validating Haw
thornes knowledge of these works, and to make a detailed comparison
between the novel and these accounts of the case.
The outline of events in the Overbury affair presents at first
glance several significant parallels with the novel. Each possesses
salient features of adultery, deceitful revenge on a trusting friend,
slow death, troubled conscience, prison birth of a baby girl, and
banishment. Lady Frances Howard was married in I606 to Sobert
Devereux, Earl of Essex. While the latter traveled on the continent,
his wife became enamored of Hobert Carr, Viscount of Rochester and
King James* rising favorite. Robert Carr had meanwhile cultivated the
friendship of Sir Thomas Over bury and had gained royal favor largely
3SL, p. 264.


4
because of Overbury1s prudent counsel. Overbury had at first counte
nanced and even encouraged his friend's adulterous liaison with the
child bride of Besex. On learning that Carr and Lady Frances were
planning to marry, Overbury protested vigorously. This intervention
incurred the contemptuous hatred of both the Viscount and the Countess.
Carr then induced King James to appoint Overbury to a foreign diplo
matic assignment, a post he deceitfully advised Overbury to decline.
This refusal, as Carr anticipated, caused Over bury's commitment to the
Tower in April, 1613 The schemers were thus able to proceed with the
Countess' divorce from Lord Essex. While a commission was deciding
her suit for divorce, the Countess solicited the aid of Mrs. Azme
Turner, an unprincipled friend. This panderese procured from Doctor
Forman and other pretenders to occult arts the formulae for poisonous
compounds. For five months agents of the Countess gave these con
coctions to Overbury in his food and medicine, along with special
poisoned tarts and jellies that she sent. This criminal act had been
made possible by placing Overbury under the strict surveillance of a
specially appointed Lieutenant of the Tower, Jervo.se Helwyse, and by
assigning an old servant in Mrs. Turner's home, Richard Weston, to be
Overburys personal attendant. Slowly these poisons reduced Overbury
to skin said bones. A poisoned clyster finally brought about his death
on September 15, 1613. A week later Lady Frances was granted a divorce
on the false grounds of her husband's sexual impotence. She and Carr,
who now ms the Earl of Somerset, were married on December 26, 1615.


5
This plot of adultery, malic, and morder remained a secret for
nearly two years. Accoonts of how it was brought to light vary. One
report says that James Franklin, one of the poisoners, exposed the
plot during an illness in Holland. Another states that an apothecary's
boy, who it seems had been bribed to administer the fatal clyster, re
vealed the strategem. Some suspected that the King had a share in the
murder and instigated prosecution to rid himself of Carr for a new
favorite, George Villiers. Another account gives credit to Jervaee
Helwyse for confessing the plot to Sir Ralph Winwood, the Kings
Secretary, because the filer's connivance weighed heavily on his
conscience. At any rate the actors in the tragedy were taken in
custody. The accomplices were brought to trial in October and ITcvem-
ber, 1615, were convicted, and were hanged. While awaiting trial in
prison, Lady Frances was delivered of a baby girl, Anne Carr. Carr
and the Countess were tried in May, 1616, were sentenced to death,
but later were pardoned. Though they were eventually released from
prison in January, 1622, they were confined to certain designated
houses until complete pardon was granted them just before King James's
death in 1624.^
4
Throughout, I avoid trying to solve the mystery of Over bury* s
murder. Modern Interpretations of the facte have been made by Samuel
R. Gardiner in DNB s.v. "Overbury, Sir Thomas"; by Edward F. Birabault,
The Miscellaneous Works .., of Sir Thomas Overbury (London, 1856); by
James Maldment, Sir Thomas Overbury's Vision (Hunterian Club, no.
XVII, Glasgow, 1873)* The best of these older accounts, for its
lively imaginative touches, is by Samuel R. Gardiner, The History of
England. 1603-1642 (Boston, 1883), 166-187, 331-363* The most


6
Hawthorne's allusions to Overbury and to obscure persons involved
in the murder indicate his acquaintance with the ca.se. Three accounts
of the crime, as later evidence will seek to demonstrate in detail,
seem to ha.ve been the sources of most of Hawthorne's knowledge about
this incident. These throe accounts are an anonymous prose narration,
The Five Tears of King James* (1643)? a poem by Richard Kiccols^ on
the trials of the accomplices, Sir Thomas Overbury's Vision" (l6l6);
and the criminal proceedings in the State Trials. The tract and the
poem are included among the antiquarian contents of The Earleian
Miscellany, a work which Hawthorne used in 1828 and again in November
and December, 1849, about the time he was writing the novel. The
Miscellany is a "Collection of Scarce, Curious, and entertaining
recent study is by Edward Abbot Parry, Pie Overbury Mystery; A
Chronicle of Fact and Drama of the Lav (London, 1925). Parry's treat
ment is also the most interesting for students of Hawthorne. The
judge saw in the case what the novelist perhaps sawa potential drama.
Parry recognised that the evidence had been tampered with, that the
solution to the crime would never be known? he decided to write the
"romance of the story without calling it history" (p. 11). Hawthorne
would have agreed with Parry that the case was a "first-rate" story,
"an unsolved mystery, founded on rumours of adultery, murder, and
witchcraft" and having "the romance of a beautiful woman as the base
of it" (pp. 17, 7).
^Richard Hiccols (1584-1616) was born in London, studied law at
Oxford, and, besides writing a few other undistinguished poems, also
edited in 1610 A Mirror for Magistrates.
6
According to Marion L. Kesselring, Hawthorne's Reading 1828-
1850? ... Salem Athenaeum (Sew York Public Library, 1949), p. 52,
Hawthorne knew and used a selected edition of The Miscellany (London,
1793). This edition contains only the prose tract; both the poem and
the tract appear in the larger collections of 17*f4 and 1808.


7
Pamphlets and Tracts," compiled from toe library of Robert Harley, the
second Sari of Oxford, after his death in 1?24.
The prose pamphlet, "She Fire tears of King James, or, The Con
dition of toe State of England, and the Relation it had to other
Provinces,* is of unknown authorship.? The narrator, possibly a
Puritan, characterizes the state of England during the early years of
King James*s reign. He fears that licentiousness and prodigality
threaten to undermine the Commonwealth. To illustrate this widespread
corruption of morals, he relates in vivid detail toe Overbury scandal.
He begins with King James*s first rseognition of Robert Carr, when at
tilt at Court the youth fell from a horse, broke his leg, and grew
thereafter into favor. He narrates the liaison between Carr and Lady
Frances, Countess of Essex. He depicts how the Countess, Mrs. Turner,
and Dr. Forman used love powders to inflame Carr towards the Countess;
while with other philters and waxen images they tried to debilitate
Essex and bring about frigidity in him. He tells of the friendship
between Carr and Overbury and how it turned to hatred. He describes
the murderous plot on Over bury* s life. He gives an account of Lady
Frances' divorce suit, a summary of the trials of toe murderers, their
punishments, and the pardons of Carr and Lady Frances.
?The work is attributed in The Miscellany to Fulke Greville, but
Sir Sidney Lee in DSB. s.v. "Fulke Greville," denies Greville*s
authorship and assigns it to a friend of Lord Essex, possibly Arthur
Wilson.


8
Frequently the author refers to other matters of state. He
describes the tensions between England and the Hollanders, the Scotch,
and the Irish. He mentions the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and
the death of Prince Henry; he refers to the Gunpowder Plot and the
Catholic danger; he tells of the imprisonment and death of Lady
Arabella, King James's cousin, and of the execution of Sir Walter
Raleigh. But the engrossing subject upon this larger canvas is the
Overbury incident. The author's gossipy style is far from the Attic
ideal. He reports the rumors and opinions of the vulgar, as he calls
the populace.
A second important source of Hawthorne's knowledge of the Over
bury affair may have been Richard Hiceols' "Sir Thomas Overbury's
Vision: with the Ghosts of Weston, Mistress Turner, the late Lieuten
ant of the Tower, and Franklin," an imaginative summation in verse of
the thoughts of the accomplices who were executed for the murder of
Overbury. The poem is incorrectly called "Overbury's Vision"; it is
the dream vision of the author. Hiccols, deeply moved by the trials,
wrote the poem to vindicate the attacks on Overbury's character. The
opening lines state that poison and foul wrong are the themes. He
describes the public forum where he has been among the thick of the
throng witnessing the trials at Guildhall, He returns home and in his
sleep dreams that the ghost of the poisoned knight enters his chamber
and beckons him to follow. The ghost conducts him to Tower Hill and
explains how he has been maliciously betrayed, imprisoned, and poisoned.


9
Because of posthumous slanders on his character, he has left the grave
to "beg the poets assistance in clearing his reputation. Blccols
describes Traitors Gate near where they stand. As the ^bost and poet
observe the gate, out of the prisoners dock rises the gbost of Weston,
who admits his guilt in Overburys murder. Anne Turner's ^iost fol
lows and repents of her crime. She points out the steps leading to
her disgrace and warns other women from following them. The ghost of
Jervase Helwyse next appears, begging forgiveness and cautioning
officials against temptations of bribery. Finally, Franklin's #ost
rises and tells how greed and atheism led to his downfall. When the
specters have returned to their graves, Overbury's ghost praises King
James for his just punishment of the murderers. The dream ends, and,
as Overbury had urged, Hiccols awakes to write this vision.
The poet obviously attempts to vindicate the life of Sir Thomas
Overbury and to court King James' favor. And his didactic aims are
equally apparent. He warns his readers against the evils of court
life; pride, vanity, overzealous ambition, obsequiousness, social
climbing, atheism, and greedy acceptance of bribes. Hlecols plan is
well conceived but awkwardly executed. An historical digression on
crimes in the Tower mars its unity. The heroic verse is at times
little better than doggerel. let the poem is a contemporaneous
reaction to the trials by an eye-witness. For its unique interpre
tations of the characters that It portrays, the "Vision'* becomes an
important document in the succeeding exposition of Hawthorne's


10
imaginative assimilation of the Overbury materials.
Another important source of Hawthornes information about the
Over bury case may have been the criminal proceedings in the Star
Chamber as collected in the State friis. To be found here are the
arraignments by the prosecution and the pleadings of the defendants}
their sentences, their confessions, and their dying speeches at their
executions; the divorce proceedings of Lady Frances; the royal par
dons of Somerset and his Countess; Somerset's petitions for renewed
favor; and the provisions of their final reles.se from the Tower.
With the State Trials, as with The Harlean Miscellany, Hawthorne
was on intimate terms that date back at least as far as 1832. He
found the reading of its pages enchanting, so he told his friend and
publisher of The Scarlet Letter. James T. Fields, who relates:
Hearing him RavthorneJ say once that the Old English State
Trials were enchanting reading, and knowing that he did not
possess a copy of those heavy folios, I picked up a set one
day in a book-shop and sent them to him. He often told me
that he spent more hours over them and got more delectation
out of them than tongue could tell, and he said, if five
lives were vouchsafed to him, he could employ them all in
writing stories out of those books. He had sketched, in his
mind, several romances founded on the remarkable trials
reported in the ancient volumes; and one day, I remember,
he made my blood tingle by relating some of the situations
he intended, if his life was spared, to weave into future
romances.9
Elizabeth Hawthorne corroborates the evidence of Hawthorne's fondness
Kesselring, p. 48.
^James T. Fields, Yesterdays with Authors (Boston, 1900), pp.
6263


11
for reading these reports of trials. In a letter to Fields in 1870
she wrote that of the works that her brother read during the solitary
years, The Gentleman*s Magazine and H6 vole, folio, of Howells State
Trials, he preferred to any others.
Besides these works, Hawthorne knew additional books relating to
the case or containing summaries of it. Michael Sparkes's narrative
History of King James, for the First Fourteen Tears Incorporates, as
Part One, the whole of "The Five Tears of King James.*' Much of the
material on the case in the State Trials is duplicated in Part Two
titled Truth Brought to Light by Time.M Hawthorne borrowed this
history from the Salem Athenaeum in 1827.11 Alfred John Kempe's The
Losely Manuscri-pts contains an historical sketch of the murder, some
letters by the Kings council regarding the prisoners Carr and Lady
Frances, and an inventory of some personal affects of Carr and Mrs.
Turner. Xentpe collected these papers, belonging to James More
Molyneux, from the muniment room at Losely Hall in Surrey, England.
The documents in the miscellany relate to history and biography, court
entertainments, political missions, and particulars of domestic life.
Kempes purpose is to give a "very correct idea of the state of society
and political government in the 16th and early part of the 17th cen
turies. Hawthorne borrowed this work from the Salem Athenaeum about
^^Randall Stewart, "Recollections of Hawthorne by His Sister,"
AL. XFI (January, 1945), p. 324.
^Kesselring, p. 58.


12
the time he was working on the novel, October 9, 1849. A month later,
November 6, 1849, he borrowed The Harleiaa Miscellany. He returned
them on December 21, 1849,12 and a little more than a month later,
February 3, 1850, he reported that he had finished the novel. ^
Hawthorne could have known the Overbury affair from still other
sources. He was acquainted with Sir Francis Bacons works, which
14
contain papers that relate to the case. Bacon, then Attorney
General, participated in the trials of Carr and Lady Frances. Haw
thorne cites Bacon in the novel, along with three other legal figures
mentioned in the State Trials. Chief Justice Coke, who presided at
the trials of the accomplices, and Finch and Hoye.^ Many histories
of the Jacobean period appear on the list of Hawthorne's reading.
In every one of them that has been available for this study the Over
bury murder, one of the great scandals of its day, is retold. Ihe
romancer knew those by Baker, Oldmlxon, and Rapin-Thoyras; he had
access in the Salem Athenaeum to others. He also knew John Britton's
and I. ¥. Brayley' s Memoirs of the Tower (1830). He was acquainted
with ^¡ggg^hi^j^ita^^qa^^pj^^I^lves^^qf
Great Britain (1747-1766Still other works on the Overbury affair
*2Kesselrlng, p. 42.
Horatio Bridge, Personal Recollections of Nathaniel Hawthorne
(New York, 1893). pp. 110-112.
^esselring, p. 44.
15SL, P- 131.
l^Kesselring, under authors and. works cited.


13
were in circulation "before 1849* whose pages he may have turned.
Thomas Birch's The Court and TlmesofJames the First (1846) unfolds
through the letters of John Chamberlain and other parsons the social
history of the age, and frequently the Overbury affair is mentioned.
Andrew Amos's The Great Oyer of Poysonlng (1846) is a massive his
torical and legal study of the case. Sir Walter Scott's Secret History
of the Court of James the ffirat (1811) includes a group of books on
the age; one, Sir Anthony Weldon's Court and Character of King James
(1651), discusses the affair of Overbury in colorful fashion.
Weldon's account is also carried in the footnotes of the State Trials.
Arthur Wilson's The History of Great Britain ... Life and Reign of
King James the First (1653) is the source of many details on the case
mentioned by Kempe and other later narrators. Besides being versified
by Niccols in 1616, the Overbury affair was dramatized twioe in the
sixteenth century, by Bichard Savage and William Woodfail. ^
There serais to be little doubt that Hawthorne was widely read in
the histories and miscellaneous collections of the age of Elizabeth
and James. He was steeped in the causes celebres that attracted the
attention of the historians. One may find many allusions scattered
throughout his tales to famous personages and events of the time.
Lady Arabella Stuart, for instance, is mentioned in "Main Street"
(1849), and "The Antique Bing" (1843) is based on the beheading of
^George Sherbum in A Literary History of England, ed. Albert C.
Baugh (New York. 1948), p. 1087.


14
Lord Essex at Elizabeth1 s command. Hawthorne gave the name Jervase
Helwyse, the name of one of the actors in the Overhury tragedy, to a
pale-faced secretary in "Lady Eleanor's Mantle." This coincidence may
suggest that he adapted details from the Overbury affair as early as
1838. George P. Lathrop, however, cites a "Gervice Helwisse" in the
18
Hawthorne family tree, so that the name may have been prompted by
the one as well as the other. Nevertheless, the existence in the
novelist's ancestry of a man with a name identical to one in the Over
bury case may very likely have attracted hie attention more keenly to
the Overbury affair.
The evidence suggests at this point a conclusion that the ref
erences to the Overbury affair arose not from a passing acquaintance
with this crime, which Bacon called second only to the Gunpowder
Plot,19 but that Hawthorne knew thorou^ily the main facts of that
affair and was deeply impressed, and possibly influenced, by the case.
It may be stated further as a working hypothesis that the details of
the Overbury murder were some of the pliable materials which crowded
into Hawthorne's imagination as it wrought into a novel of adultery,
revenge, and conscience a static image of a woman wearing a scarlet
letter.
This idea for a tale on a guilty wearer of the letter A was
18Works. XII, 446.
19Lucy Aikin, Mem.qirs.,pX.thei.Courti of King JMttJteLXteil
(London, 1822), II, 23.


15
suggested to Hawthornes mind "by a legal statute in Massachusetts
Colonial history. In 1704 the General Court of Massachusetts Bay
passed a law providing that adulterers, "both Man and Woman,M were not
only to be placed on the gallows for an hour and to be scourged, but
ever afterwards they wore Ho wear a Capital A of two Inches long, of
a contrary colour to the cloathes, sewed on their upper Garments, on
the Back or Arm, in open view.M Hawthorne first used this sugges
tion in 1837 in "Endieott and the Hed Cross.' Standing with the other
guilty ones being punished by the meeting house on the day that the
red cross was removed from the ensiga "was likewise a young woman,
with no mean share of beauty, whose doom it was to wear the letter A
on the breast of her gown.... Sporting with her infamy, the lost and
desperate creature had embroidered the fatal token in scarlet cloth,
21
with golden thread and the nicest art of needlework." Seven years
later a note in his journal proposed the building of an entire tale
on "The life of a woman, who, by the old colony law, was condemned
always to wear the letter A, sewed on her garment, in token of her
22
having committed adultery."
From this simple, static image that is known to have been the
original inspiration for The Scarlet Letter Hawthorne evolved a novel
as complex as life and as dynamic as drama. That he could set this
^Quoted in Frank P. Stearns, The Life and Genius of Hathanlel
Hawthorne (Boston, 1906), p. 221.
^Works, I, 48?.
22Handall Stewart, The American notebooks by Nathaniel Hawthorne
(Tale, 1933). p. 107.


16
image into motion is certainly a mystery. Professor John Livingston
Lowes has described the mysterious process by which Coleridge's
imagination imposed on chaotic materials the order that is "The Rhyme
of the Ancient Mariner" and "Kubla Khan."2^ A corresponding prooess,
one may assume, took place in Hawthorne's imagination in the creation
of The Scarlet Letter. All of his reading, his experience, hie
thou^xt surely entered into its composition, because the imagination,
as Professor Lowes clearly demonstrated, cannot operate on a void.
Somewhere there exist other materials than the Massachusetts law
that must have supplied Hawthorne's imagination with the details to
energize this symbol. Through the novelist's allusions to Overbury's
murder it is certain that he knew about this crime. At first glance
broad similarities between the case and the novel appear. Discussions
of the case recurred frequently enough 1 his reading to have given
him a thorough grounding in all its sordid details of adultery and
vengeful murder. He was reading work* that narrated the case at the
time he wrote the novel. In the ensuing chapters parallels of plot,
characters, setting, and style will be pointed out between the novel
and the literature of the Overbury murder. When this evidence has
been presented, there should emerge more clearly an answer to the
question proposed: could materials from the Overbury affair have
surged into Hawthorne's creative imagination to become shaped into
Stt.. .S^jBtLejtgr?
23john Livingston Lowes,
of the Imagination (Boston, 1927).


PAHf TWO
PLOT


CHAPTER II
ADULTERY AJTD OSTRACISM
The Scarlet Letter is the story of a disgraced young woman named
Hester Prynne. The wife of an elderly physician, she is doomed for
life to wear on her garment a scarlet letter as punishment for
adultery. She is virtually ostracized from society by this symbol of
guilt, but she repents her crime against Puritan society and does
penance. Her partner-in-crime, the Reverend Arthur Dimesdale, keeps
his sin a secret. Slowly he succumbs to the tortures of his conscience
and to a mysterious revenge inflicted upon him by a malicious doctor
of physic, Roger Chillingworth. The latter, unknown to the minister,
is the wronged husband.
The plot of The Scarlet Letter originates In Hester Prynne*s
adultery with Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale during her husbands absence.
This sin, though it precedes the story told by Hawthorne, provides
the initial situation from which arises the action of the novel. Two
adulterous relationships appear in the narratives of the Overbury
crime. The more prominent triangle involves Lady Frances, the
adulteress; Lord Essex, the husband; and Robert Carr, the fornicator.
Frances Howard and Robert Levereux were married in I606. While Essex
was traveling outside the country, Lady Frances noticed the accumu
lating honors of King James's rising favorite, Robert Carr. Unhappy
in her marital union with Be sex, she was "fired with a lustful desire"
18


19
towards Carr. They held frequent rendezvous at secret places previ
ously arranged.^ They were assisted in their adulterous meetings hy
her great-uncle, the Sari of Northampton, and hy her widowed sexual
adviser, Anne Turner. In both of these panderers' homes they came
together. They clandestinely met "in Mris. Turners house once between
the hours of eleven and twelve and at Hamtiier smith, and at divers times
2
elsewhere. This unlawful love led to Lady Frances* divorce from
Lord Essex and to marriage between her and Robert Carr. Ho children,
however, seem to have been born to the adulteress until after this
a
latter marriage.
The second adulterous relationship is one involving Anne Turner.
This physician's widow was engaged in adultery with one of the Prince's
household, Arthur Hanwaring, Clerk of the Pipe. By him it was related
that "she had 3 children, Seeking by force of magic to gain him for
^Michael Sparkes, ^JTarr^ye-K^etor^,, of,
First Fourteen.Years (London, 1651), pp. 15 17. 21hereafter cited
as m- This volume includes "The Five Tears of King James," a princi
pal source of Hawthorne's knowledge of the affair, and also "Truth
Brought to Light by Time," which duplicates material on the trials of
the accomplices in the State Trials. Because of the wider scope of M
and its easier accessibility to me, my references to the tract and
many to the trial reports are to it. The work is reproduced in Somers
Tracts, ed. Sir Walter Scott (London, 1809), II, 262-363.
Zm, p. 114.
^Nevertheless, "it was vulgarly reported that shoe had had a
child in my Lord6 absence" (Hg, p. 31)
p* 135.


20
her husband, she solicited the conjuror Forman to help both her and
Lady Frances in their passionate desires. Both these affairs will
need to be kept in mind during the following discussion, for, says the
narrator, Lady Frances and Anne Turner were "neer of the ... /same/
disposition and temperature.
Hawthorne begins the action of the romance with the penalty that
is being inflicted by the Puritan tribunal upon Hester. A throng of
people are assembled in groups, first at the prison door and then in
the market-place, to witness her shame. In one of these groups a
stern-featured matron exclaimsi "What think ye, gossips? If the
hussy stood up for judgment before us five, that are now here in a
knot together, would she come off with such a sentence as the worship
ful magistrates have awarded?"** As "self-constituted judges," remarks
Hawthorne, they pass judgment upon the malefactress. Only a young
wife, holding a child, and a man in the crowd express merciful thoughts.?
These dramatic details have striking parallels in the introductory
verses of Richard Niccols* "Sir Thomas Overbury*s Vision," descriptive
of a trial day at Guildhall!
p. 13. The fact that there are two adulteresses in the case
and that Lady Frances had two husbands, though at different times in
her life, will make confusing the discussion of parallels. It will be
necessary for claritys sake to keep them distinct, yet, at the same
time, to allow them to amalgamate, as would have happened in an
artists imagination,
6SL, p. 71.
^SL, p. 72.


21
Then did th' inconstant vulgar day by day,
Like feathers in the wind, blown every way,
Frequent the Forum; where in thickest throng,
I one amongst the rest did pass along
To hear the judgment of the wise, and know
That late black deed, the cause of mickle woe:
But, from the reach of voice too far compeld,
That beast of many heads I there beheld,
And did observe how every common drudge
Assum'd the person of an aweful judge:
Here four or five, that with the vulgar sort
Will not impart their matters of import,
Withdraw and whisper,..
Here some excuse that which was most amiss;
Others do there accuse, where no crime is,
Accusing that which they excus'd anon,
Inconstant people, never constant known.
Where Hiccols stresses the fickleness of the people, Hawthorne con
centrates on a mood of severity. But in both descriptions the
situation is a legal proceeding. The market-place in the novel
agrees with the forum in the poem, and the knot of five parallels the
groups of four and five. In both scenes the people assume the
authority of judges, and in both there is a diversity of opinion.
The prison door opens and a beadle leads Hester forth to the
place of judgment in the market-place. She holds in her arms a "baby
of some three months old which had been born In a "darksome apartment
a
of the prison." In the Overbury materials there also appears the
birth of a baby girl to a criminal in prison. Lady Frances was taken
^Richard Biccols, "Sir Thomas Overbury*s Vision," The Harlelan
Miscellany (London, 1808-1811), III, 'kereafter cited as HM.
^SL, p. 72,


22
into custody in the autumn of 1615. In accordance with usual proce
dure she awaited her trial in prison. During this interval she gave
birth to a daughter. Lady Frances* arraignment was postponed from
Michaelmas Term to a little after Easter; "some attributed the cause
to bee for that the Countesee was witb-child, and in the mean time was
delivered of a daughter."*0 Bacon's arraignment speeches indicate
that her trial was, in fact, delayed because of "her child-birth."**
Thus when she was again able, she was conducted from the Tower to the
prisoner's bar to answer to the charge of murdering Over bury. The
baby meanwhile had been taken from her; she appeared at her trial
without it.
Hawthorne has Hester keep her baby with her throughout the
punishment for Its symbolical purport. With the "winking baby in her
arms" and the ignominious scarlet letter sewed to her bosom, she walks
through the market-place. Arriving at ten o'clock to a "sort of a
scaffold, at the western extremity of the market-place," Hester
mounts the platform where, according to the sentence, she is to stand
for three hours. Just above this platform is "a kind of balcony, or
open gallery, appended to the meeting-house." Here sit or stand the
tribunal, consisting of the governor, his counsellors, a judge, a
*1, p. 70.
**A Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High
Treason and other Crimes and Misdemeanors frp-a the Earliest Period to
the fear' 1783.' 'compiled by 'Thomas 'Bay!ey Howell (London',' 1816^, II,
5th ed., 956hereafter cited as State Trials.


23
general, and the minister. Governor Bellingham has with him "four
12
sergeants about his chair, bearing halberd, as a guard of honor."
The description of scenic prop and figures concerned in Hester's
ordeal on the scaffold closely parallels the description of formali
ties at Lady Frances' and Carr's trial:
So ... there being a Seat Royal1, placed at the upper end
of Westminster Hall a little short of the lings Bench, and
seats made round it for the rest of the Justices and Peeres
to sit on, and a little Cabin built close by the Common
pleas for the Prisoners when they cape from the Tower, to
bee put to rest them them in. ... They Lord High Steward
with great state came Into Westminster Hall, with his
assistants the Judges, divers Lords and Gentlemen attending,
and four Serjeants at Irmas before him ascending a little
Gallery, made of purpose to keep off the crowd, he takes
his seat, and the rest of the Assistants and Peers according
to their places. ... The Prisoners were sent for by the
Clerk of the Ch@£quajr, whose office it was to attend the
Prisoners. ... The/ Prisoners placed at the Barre, Sir
Henry Fanshaw reads the Indictment, to which the Countesse
pleaded guilty, and confessed the fact. But Somerset
pleaded not guilty. -
Minute parallels again emerge. The little balcony or gallery in which
the officials sit above Hester coincides with the little gallery in
which the Lord High Steward sits. In each description there are four
sergeants as honor guards around the most distinguished person. In
14
the State Trials these four sergeants are said to have maces} the
sergeants in the novel have halberds.
12SL, pp. 78, 85-86.
13, p. 71.
l4state Trials, II, 947.


24
Hester Prynne "bears her public disgrace with calm dignity. She
restrains her impulses to shriek and to cast herself from the scaf-
1K
fold. Her composure agrees in some measure with the hearing of Lady
16
Frances at her trial. Bacon said that she showed humility. The
letter-writer John Chamberlain wrote that she won pity by her sober
demeanor.^ let Lady Frances, and also Anne Turner, did not resist
1 O
some display of emotions. Anne Turner cried at her arraignment.
At the reading of Lady EVances1 arraignment, she stood, looking pale,
trembled, and shed some few tears.But, says Hawthorne, Hester
merely "grew pale and trembled.
During her ordeal Hester becomes oblivious to her surroundings.
Her active mind summons up pictures of her virtuous youth and stain
less maidenhood in England, of her honorable parents, and of her
unhappy married life. From the scaffold of the pillory, she traces
her life in reverie back along the track which she had been treading
21
since her happy infancy. In a similar reminiscing fashion the
15SL, p. 78.
l6State Trials. II, 954.
1?
1 Thomas Birch, The Court and Times of James the First (London,
1848), I, 407.
18|H. P- 141.
19State Trials. II, 954.
^SL, p. 86.
^sl, pp. 79. 103.


25
ghost of .tone Turner, according to Nlccols, reviews her life before
the ghost of Overbury. The ghost explains that she ted not been base
from birth, but that "My nature of itself /was/ inclind to good."
The vanity of court life ted led to her downfall. For the benefit
of other vain women her $ioet continues*
Observe each step, when first I did begin
To tread the path that led from sin to sin,
Until my most unhappy foot did light,
In guiltless blood of this impoison'd knight.
22
Her ghost warns others to "mark the path which they do tread." The
shameful recollection of her parents* faces in Hesters reverie
parallels also Lady Frances* thoughts of her mother and father after
she had entered into adultery with Robert Carr. She wrote to Mrs.
Turner that her "Father and Mother are angry" for her refusal to
cohabitate with her husband. To Dr. Forman she confided that she
feared the loss of her reputation and that her actions might carry to
her "father & Mother.1,23
Awaking from her abstraction, Hester gets a view of an elderly
man. Her husband has arrived on the scene. For some time he has been
there, inconspicuously hidden in the throng. Perceiving that she has
24
noticed him, he beckons her to silence. Chillingworth refuses to
come forth to claim her as his wife and to share in ter dishonor. He
Z2m, III, 354, 357, 359.
23M. P* 137.
2^SL. pp. 81-82.


26
prefers to remain obscure. Hawthorne's portrayal of the wronged
husband at this point has a parallel in the conduct of Lord Essex.
Essex had at first only mildly reproved his wife, Lady Frances. Later
he took her away from Court to his home at Chartley. But realizing
his situation was hopeless, he eventually yielded without a contest
to her charges of impotency against him and her divorce. Thereafter
he remained out of her life. Further, Andrew Amos writes that
"Lord Essex, the former husband of the Countess, was present at her
trial, but seemed purposely to keep out of public observation and the
sight of the wife of his infancy.Thus both Essex and Chilling-
worth, husbands of unfaithful wives, were present at the moment of
their wives' legal sentences, and neither was keen to speak up and
share the infamy.
While engaged in thoughts about the wrong she has done to her
husband, Hester hears herself called, John Wilson and Arthur
Dimmesdale seek to elicit from her the name of him who tempted her to
this fall. Hester refuses to make known her companion in adultery.
28
Her obstinacy, therefore, calls forth an hour's sermon from Wilson.
In nearly all trials the calling of the prisoner's name is standard
25SL, p. 145.
2iS
Alfred John Kempe, The Losely Manuscripts (London, 1836), p. 383.
^Andrew Amos, The Great Oyer of Foysoning (London, 1846), p. 21.
28SL, pp. 85-91


27
procedure. But like Hester, Anne Turner refused at first to give
Chief Justice Coke any information that would incriminate others.
Lady Frances, on the other hand, was not requested to testify against
her husband, Robert Carr. But provisions had been made in the event
that she should have pleaded not guilty. MThere is a direction,H
wrote Bacon to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, "given to Mr.
Lieut, by tfy Lord Chancellor and myself, that ... Mr. Whiting, the
preacher, a discreet Man, and one that was used to Helwisse, should
preach before the Lady, and teach her, and move her generally to
confession. h2^ The State Trials includes also a speech that Bacon
had prepared to draw forth her confession, if she should have pleaded
not guilty.The notions of hesitation to incriminate others and of
preaching to a criminal to get a confession stand out for comparison.
Through one of the spectators* remarks to Chillingworth, the
reader is informed of the details of Hester*b punishment. The towns
man states that the magistracy have not enforced the extremity of the
law which is death, because of her youth, her beauty, and the
possibility of strong temptation in the absence of her husband who may
have drowned. "But in their great mercy and tenderness of heart, they
have doomed Mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on
29
England,
30
Amos. p. 437; The Wort
ed. Basil Montague (Philadelphia,
... tasLsL
II, 5X8-519.
state Trials, II, 947-961


28
th platform of the pillory, and then and thereafter, for the remainder
of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her hosom. "31
Hawthorne1s original plane for a woman adjudged hy the Massachusetts'
law of 1?04 are recognizable in Hester's sentence. But prior to this
statute the penalty for adultery in New England was death. Lady
Frances* sentence for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury was likewise
death: *'Thou shalt be carried from hence to the Tower of London, and
from thence to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by
the neck till you be dead} and the Lord have mercy upon your soul. 3 2
But her beauty, her youth, her noble carriage, her submissive con
fession, her appearance of contrition, and the influence of her family
combined to gain her clemency. Her sentence contained a clause that
this penalty would be subject to revocation if the King could be moved
in her behalf. In accordance with this clause, two months after her
conviction she received a royal pardon:
This Bill containeth your Majesties gracious Pardon unto
the Lady Frances late Countesse of Somerset, for being
accessory before the fact, of the Death and Imprisonment
of Sir Thomas Overbury. It hath inserted as motives to
your Majesties mercy four respects; that is to say: The
respect of her Father, Friends, and Family.Her volun
tary Confession, both when she was Prisoner, and at the
31SL, pp. 83-84.
32State Trials. II, 957.
-''The Howard family was influential in state affairs. Her father,
Thomas, Earl of Suffolk, was Lord Chamberlain; her great-uncle, Henry,
Earl of Northampton, was Lord Privy Seal and Lord Warden of the
Cinque Ports.


29
Barre. The promise mad publiquely "by the Lord Steward,
and her Peers to intercede for your Majesties Mercy: And
that the crime was not of a Principan, hut of an acces- .
sory, before the fact, by the instigation of base persons.
The like pardon formerly passed your Majesties signature,
and is now amended by your Majesties special direction
from your royal mouth, in two points: the one is, That
Imprisonment in the Tower, or other Confining at your
Majesties pleasure, is not pardoned? the other, that the
solemne Promise made at her Arraignment by the Lord
Steward and Peers to intercede to your Majesty for your
Mercy is inferred,35
Hesters prison term is likewise not remitted. After her ordeal
on the scaffold, she returns to her cell, as Lady Prances was led back
to the Tower. The excitement of the preceding three hours strongly
affects Hester's passionate nature; by night she grows frenzied and
unmanageable. The jailer fears that she may "perpetrate violence on
herself, or do some half-frenzied mischief to the poor babe." She
explains to Chillingworth that she has had thoughts of death and hi.a
even wished for it.*^ Lady Prances conduct offers a parallel to
Hester's frenzy. On the day before the Countess' trial, she "fell
that ni^ht io casting and scouring, and so continued the next day very
sick.Her behavior during this trying period of confinement and
^or this perversion of justice, King James and his court have
been severely castigated by later historians. If any one was culpable
in the murder of Overbury, it was the Countess. See Birch, I, 40?;
Amos, p. 21; Gardiner, II, 361.
35rn, pp. 179-180.
36sl. pp. 92, 95.
-^Letter of John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, Birch, I, 407.


30
pregnancy evoked special care in her attendance lest she kill herself
and her baby.3
Similarly, Master Brackett, the jailor, ushers in to Hester a
newly-arrived physician, who for the time is "lodged in the prison,
not as suspected of any offence, hut as the most convenient and suit
able mode of disposing of him, until the magistrates should have
39
conferred with the Indian sagamores respecting his ransom." The
prison domicile of Chillingworth and the meeting of husband and wife
in jail agree with the facts of Carrs and Lady Frances' imprisonment.
After their trials, they were returned to the Tower, and the King
desired that the Tower Official "lodge them as neare one to the other
hO
as may conveniently be." One source states that "the Bari of
Somerset and his Lady have the liberty of the Tower, and converse
41
freely together by day and night."
In the prison interview between Hester and her husband, Hawthorne
introduces Chillingworth*s sinister scheme of vengeance. Hester is
38Kempe, hOO. An entry in the Cajner_of J3 tate. Papersf. .Pomestic
feries,,, of th^Uei^of.,James I. .1611-1618, *. Mary Everett Green
(London, 1858), for Nov. 11, 1615, states: "The Countess intends not
to be hanged, but to die in child-bed." Another entry, Nov. 26, says
that the King appointed midwives to be "answerable that she does not
miscarry, either by her own wilfulness, or by the malice of any other."
This work came out after Hawthorne's novel, but the entries may have
been available elsewhere.
39SL, pp. 92-93.
if^Kempe, p. 400.
41Birch, II, 187.


31
caught In a dilemma. In order to save the man she loves from public
disgrace, she is compelled to enter into a bond to preserve her hus
bands identity. Thus tacitly she becomes a party to Chillingworths
secret revenge. Chillingworth makes her swear an oath of secrecy:
Hester says, HI will keep thy secret, as I have his." But Chilling-
worth orders her to "Swear it!": "And she took the oath. Hesters
oath of secrecy and acquiescence in Chillingworth's scheme of revenge
have more than one parallel in the Overbury case. Bacon made the
accusation that Carr conspired against Overbury's life out of revenge
and that Lady Frances plotted with him: "my Lord of Somerset had made
a vow, that Overbury should neither live in Court, nor Country; that
either he or himself must die." Thus "divers devices and projects"
were "plotted between the Countesee of Essex, and the Earl of Somer-
h-3
set." Bacon also stipulated that "the purveyance or provisions of
the poisons" were brought to Lady Frances "and by her billeted and
laid up till they might be used: and this done with an oath or vow of
secrecy, which is like the Egyptian darkness, a gross and palpable
darkness, that may be felt.After the Countess learned that
Weston had revealed her part in the crime, she met with Franklin "and
at that time did again give another oath for secrecy." ^
h 2
SL* P- 99-
43M* PP* 17^-175.
^State Trials, II, 96l.
45State Trials. II, 989.


32
An important difference appears between the oath sworn by Hester
and the vow of revenge shared by Carr and Lady Frances, as well as the
oath given between Lady Frances and Franklin. The Countess is in both
instances guilty of a major offense, whereas Hester is a partner only
because she is made to pledge her silence. Lady Frances enters fully
into the guilt of plotting revenge against Overbury, whereas Hester,
because she loves Dimmesdale, thinks that not to reveal his name will
protect him from the same black ruin which has overwhelmed her. She
is guilty of "acquiescing in Boger Chlllingworth*s scheme of dis
t
guise." Later in the forest she confesses to Dimmesdale that she
had striven to be true in all things; save when thy good, thy
life, thy fame, were put in question! Then I consented to a
47
deception. Hester*s consent to be silent regarding Chlllingworth*s
identity and plot of revenge, because of her love for Dimmesdale,
agrees closely with Hiccols* interpretation of Anne Turner*s share in
Overbury*s murder. The poet has Anne's ghost to confess to Overbury*s
ghost these words*
Thou gentle knight, whose wrongs I now repent,
Behold a woeful wretch, that did consent
In thy sad death.
Tet neither thirst of gold, nor hate to thee
For injuries receiv*d, incensed me
To seek thy life; but love, dear love to those..
That were my friends, and thy too deadly foes.
^SL, p. 202.
p. 232.
k6M> ni> 355.


33
Later la her confession the ghost is made to explain in more details
her part in the conspiracy!
For, when those wantons, whose unjust desire,
Had urg'd me on so far, that to retire
1 knew was vain, as 1 "before to lust
Had been a minister, so now I must
Join hands in blood, which they did plot and study.
In mischief I went on, and did agree
To be an actor in thy tragedy,
Thou injurd ghost; yet was I but a mute,
And what I did was at another's suit: ^
Their plots I saw, and silent kept the same,^
The agreements between Hester's consent to silence and that expressed
by Anne's ghost are not exact. Tet, in each instance a woman, by
request, consents to be silent regarding a plot on a man's life, Bach
woman aoquieeces because of love, Hester for Dimnesd&le, the man
plotted against, and Anne for some of the plotters.
Some time later Hester's term of prison confinement comes to an
end. She is released from prison with no restrictive clauses that
prohibit her from leaving the settlement, nevertheless, as long as
she chooses to remain, she is under the inquisitorial watch of the
magistrates. She assumes residence on the outskirts of town, and
there in a lonesome dwelling she lives in virtual isolation. Ostra
cized from society, this miserable woman seems banished to a solitude
as trying as her prison confinement.'
111* 360.
5SL, pp. 101-108.


34
Hester's isolation resembles that of other Hawthorne characters
who for various reasons are cut off from social concourse.*" let Lady
Frances also underwent a miserable Isolation upon her release from the
fewer. After her trial she retoned to prison and there remained along
with Somerset until their final release six years lato, that is, early
in 1622. fhe royal order setting her at liberty provided that she
remain confined in the country?
whereas his Majesty is graciously pleased to enlarge and
set at liberty the earl of Somerset and his lady now
prisoners in the Tower of London; and that nevertheless
it is thought fit that both the said earl said his lady be
confined to some convenient place; it is therefore,
according to his majesty's gracious pleasure and command,
ordered, That the earl of Somerset and his lady do repair
either to Grays or Cowshaiu, the Lord Y/allingfords houses,
in the county of Oxon, and remain confined to one or
other of the said houses, and within three miles compass
of either of the same, until farther order be given by
his majesty.
fhe misery of Lady Frances* life is frequently mentioned. Robert
Codrlngton in "The Life and Death of the Illustrious Robert, Earl of
Essex in fhe Harleian Miscellany records that the criminals were
"prohibited not to approach the presence of the King, nor to come
within ten miles of his majesty's court. This did beget so great a
discontent, that their love by degrees did begin to suffer diminution
^Compare Wakefield in "Wakefield," Works. I, 153; Beatrice in
"Sanoaceini*s Daughter," Works. II, 130; Ethan Brand in "Ethan Brand,"
Wgrks, III, 495.
52Hg, p. 186.


35
with their pomp.Kempes account of this phase of the Countesss
life adds to her moral discomfiture a note of physical misery! "They
became indifferent to each other, and lived apart in obscurity and
neglect, the objects of public contempt and execration. She died
before her husband, of a decay, so loathsome, that historians have
noticed it as a manifestation of heaven upon her crimes.
One particular of Hesters banished life is that she frequently
55
labors in a little garden, where children observe her. Lady
Frances also had access to a garden during her prison confinement.
Xesrpe included in his collection of manuscripts a letter to the
Lieutenant of the Tower, George More, from the Council concerning Lady
Frances. "The Countess of Somerset has made humble suit for a divine
to be admitted to her, to afford her spiritual consolation, and for
permission to walk in the garden adjoining the place of her confine
ment. "5 Another detail of Hesters banishment is her nocturnal
walks.In an early period of Lady Frances' life, when she was still
married to Lord Essex, she shut herself up, and did not go out except
at ni^at. Kempe narrates that Lord Essex was greatly disappointed to
return after three or four years of absence to find his wife's
53M, VI, 9.
Xesrpe, p. 395.
55sl, p. 105.
56Kerape, p. 397.
57sL, p. 112.


36
affection for him estranged. With the assistance of her father, he
removed his wife to his "seat at Ghartley, one hundred miles from
court. On her arrival there, she affected to he overcome with a deep
melancholy, refused all society whatever with the lari, shut herself
up in her chamber with her female attendants, and stirred out only in
the dead of the ni^it. Thus at two periods of her life, allegedly
living in solitude, Lady Frances appears almost a symbol of Isolation.
After a lapse of three years, during which time the lonely Hester
plies her needle and cares for her little daughter Pearl, she learns
that a coterie of the leading inhabitants of the settlement are pro
moting a scheme to deprive her of her child. They deem her unworthy
to provide the elements in the childs education necessary for its
souls salvation. They propose that Pearl be taken from her and be
"transferred to wiser and better guardianship than Hester Prynnes.
She, therefore, proceeds to Governor Bellinghams mansion to learn
the particulars of this plan and to affirm her competence to look
after the childs spiritual welfare. To this unhappy woman Governor
Bellingham explains that The point hath been weightily discussed,
whether we, that are of authority and influence, do well discharge our
consciences by trusting an immortal soul, such as there is in yonder
child, to the guidance of one who hath stumbled and fallen, amid the
pitfalls of this world.59
^Kempe, p. 383.
59sl, pp. 136-137.


37
A contrast to this turn of events occurs in regards to Lady
francs and her "baby, who was the daughter not only of an adulteress
hut also a murderess with years yet to serve in prison. The infant
was taken immediately from her mother's presence, away from the
unwholesome environment of the Tower and of a corrupt court, to he
brought up in the paths of virtue. Care was taken that she learn
nothing of her mother's wicked life. The letter-writer Chamberlain
gives two pictures of the relationship between mother and daughter.
At her incarceration in the Tower, he writes, "the Lady of Somerset
was committed ... upon so short warning that she had scant leisure to
shed a few tears over her little daughter at the parting. M^ Some
few months later he adds: "The Lady Khollys, and some other friends*
have had access to the lady divers times since her conviction, and
carried her young daughter to her twice or thrice. The historian
Oldmixon writes that the lari and Countess of Somerset "had one
Daughter, who marry*d the lari, afterwards Duke of Bedford. A Lady
as distinguish'd by her Virtue as her Hank; and such Care was taken
to conceal from her the odious Character of her Mother, that she had
heard nothing of the Story till a Tear or two before she dy'd." In
contrast, Hawthorne has Hester retain possession of her child.
^Birch, I, 396-397.
62
'John Oldmixon,
Royal House of Stuart (London, 1730), p. 44.


38
It is still too early to draw a conclusion, but the agreements
"between the first unit of the plot of The Scarlet Letter and details
in the Overbury case challenge the imagination. Lady Frances
adultery and its consequences to her present many parallels with
Hester in these early stages of action. A description of Lady
Frances* trial and Ficcols* picture of a scene at the trials of the
accomplices have features that minutely coincide with Hester*e punish
ment upon the scaffold. Lady Frances' trial proceedings present
parallels with the events that take place on this day of Hester*s
sham. Both these women are also guilty of adultery. Both "bear a
baby girl in prison. Both are returned to prison before they are
released. Both undergo a trying ostracism, the one legal, the other
moral. Both pledge oaths of secrecy that prepare the way for a
deceitful revenge. In each story the moral welfare of the criminals
child is a matter for some consideration, Regarding the or.ths of
secrecy, however, Biccols* poetic version of Anne Turner, also an
adxilteress, offers a parallel more suggestive of the plot of the novel,
for by vowing silence both Hester and Anne Turnerso Hiccols inter
prets this woman's characteracquiesce in a plot upon a man's life.


CHAPTER III
REVMaS AND MORAL POISONING
While Hester labors under her doom, her husband, under the name
of Roger Chlllingworth, assumes a position in the community as a
skilful "chlrurgeon. In regard to religion his conduct is exemplary.
Soon after hie arrival, he chooses for his spiritual guide the
Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale.1,1 In the literature of the Overbury case
occurs a relationship with similar characteristics. When Overbury
returned from a mission to France, he attracted the attention of Carr.
Carr, now an official secretary and invested with important public
responsibility, found in the knight an able adviser. So pleased was
Carr with Overbury' b diligence and understanding that he took him for
his teacher and counselor. According to Bacon, in his prosecution
speech at Carr's arraignment, M5r Thomas Overbury for a time was known
to have a great interest and friendship with my Lord of Somerset, both
in his meaner fortunes, and after, in so much that he was a kinde of
2
Oracle of direction unto him.H
Dimmesdale, whose health has begun to decline, returns the
confidence entrusted in him as Chillingworth's spiritual counselor.
Submitting to the anxious entreaties of his parishioners, he makes
lSL, p. 147.
2m, pp. ii-i2, 170.
39


40
the physician his medical adviser. Mutual trust and respect lead to
an intimate friendship. The two men confide in each other many of
their secret thoughts. Daily they keep up a familiar intercourse.
They spend much time together in taking walks and in conversing. They
discuss not only topics of ethics, of religion, and of other public
matters, but they also speak much about matters of a private character,
of things personal to themselves. "4 In the same manner two intimate
friendships developed in the early stages of the Over bury affair. The
more prominent is that between Carr and Overbury. Bacon observed that
"this friendship rested not only in conversation, and business at
Court, but likewise in communication of secrets of State.They
were grown to such inwardness" that they hesitated not to communicate
public affairs. On the same relationship, the anonymous narrator wrote
that "to the shew of all the world this bond was indissolvible; neither
could there be more friendship used, since there was nothing so
secret, nor any matter so private, but ... CarrJ imparted it to Mr.
Overbury.
A second friendship in the Overbury case is one between Carr and
Northampton. Noticing Carrs rise and fearing lest the young man
3SL, p. 160,
4SL, pp. 150, 153.
P. 170.
%, pp. 11-12.


41
would overshadow his own greatness, NorthamptonLady francs1 great-
uncleentered into a bond of friendship with him. By means of North
ampton's friendly recognition and praise, "there grows a kind of
Community between them, and there wants nothing but entercourse of
speech for confirmation of acquaintance, and procuring further rela
tion one to another.B At length a great "familiarity growes between
them" which concludes in courtly discourses and "constant amity on all
hands."7
At first Chillingworth expresses alarm at Dimmesdale's failing
health. Gradually the physician begins to perceive that there is an
ailment in Uimmeedale's soul. The minister seems to him to be
troubled, to be burdened with a spiritual malady. Chillingworth,
therefore, strives to lay bare this secret. He scrutinizes the soul
of his patient, for "He deemed it essential," writes Hawthorne, "to
know the man, before attempting to do him good. Wherever there is a
heart and an intellect, the diseases of the physical frame are tinged
with the peculiarities of these. In Arthur Dimmesdale, thought and
imagination were so active, and sensibility so intense, that the
8
bodily infirmity would be likely to have its groundwork there."
Thus Chillingworth delves into Dimmesdale's morbid soul, with both
skill and native sagacity, in order to ferret out the burden of his
?m, pp. 14-15.
8£L, pp. 152-153.


k2
sick heart. A comparable situation is to be found in the Overbury
affair, Carr and Lady Frances, who was granted a divorce, were
married In great pomp just after Over bury's death.
All these things notwithstanding a guilty conscience can
never goe without accusation; pensiveness, and sullennesse
doe possess the Earl, his wonted mirth forsakes him, he
is cast down, hee takes not that felicity in company he
was wont, but still something troubles him: Hereby it is
a dangerous thing to fall with in the compasee of a guilty
conscience, it eateth and consumeth the soule of a man, as
rust the iron, or as beating waves the hollow rocks; and
though these things are not made publique, yet neverthe
less Northampton observed it In him, and having so
admirable a capacity, he could make use of all things;
wherefore knowing his disease, viz. his mind seared with
a murder, and knowing the Earle tractable as he desired,
enters into a familiar discourse with him.9
Northampton, who was also guilty of the murder, hoped to salve Carr's
conscience to keep him from revealing the secret of the murder, which
at this time still had not been brought to light. Chillingworth, in
contrast, hopes to discover what secret is affecting Dimmesdale's
constitution. In each instance a troubled conscience awakens the
interest of a close friend.
Once Chillingworth begins to search Dimmesdale's soul, a terrible
fascination gains hold of him. He gives himself up to the search with
such diabolical ingenuity that soon he makes a discovery he had hoped
for. He becomes aware that the minister is the seducer of his wife.
He now alters his course from one of curious investigation to one of
deceitful vengeance. Hawthorne observes that "Calm, gentle, passionless,
9M, p. 57


43
as he appeared, there was yet, we fear, a quiet depth of malice,
hitherto latent, but active now, in this unfortunate old man, yrilch
led him to imagine a more intimate revenge than any mortal had ever
wreaked upon an enemy. And he does it by making himself the one
trusted friend" and by taking advantage of this confidence. He still
keeps up his habits of social familiarity, but turns them into paying
a debt of vengeance.
This motif of revenge upon & trusting friend is a salient feature
in the Overbury murder. Upon learning that Carr and Lady Frances were
planning to marry, Overbury protested vigorously. His interference
brought down upon him the wrath of Carr, Lady francs, and Northampton.
Their friendly regard for him soon turned into a hate that demanded
revenge. They agreed first to remove him from the country, and Carr,
who saw that Overbury was not desirous of an overseas assignment
because of his health, urged King James to appoint him anyway. At
the same time Carr deceitfully advised Overbury to refuse the post.
As Carr anticipated, Overbury was then thrown into prison. Once
Over bury was safely away in the Tower, Carr and Lady Frances proceeded
with their marriage plans. Nevertheless, they agreed that he should
be poisoned so as to cause no interference whatsoever. All this time
Carr wrote to Overbury and promised to Intercede on behalf of his
release. He sent him powders which he said were for his health, but
SL, p. 170


44
which in reality were poisons.In prison Overbury supposed that
all was done out of faith and honesty. "L2 &it at Carr's arraignment
Bacon pronounced this relationship to be "murther under the colour of
friendship.1,13 He characterized Carr's conduct as an excess of
friendship which ended in mortal hatred. Carr's action reflected,
Bacon further charged, a "deep malice, mixed with fear, and not only
14
matter of revenge upon his Lordship's quarrel.* Carr's treatment of
Overbury thus epitomizes betrayed confidence and friendship turned to
malicious revenge,
Dimmesdale's health, meanwhile, continues to fail. He grows
gradually more infirm from a mysterious disease. His body and with it
his life seem to waste away. His emaciated frame throbs with the
tortures of physical and moral pain. His parishioners, who attribute
his decline to excessive study, are certain that he has not long to
live. In order to care more closely for his health, Chillingworth
arranges that the two of them may be lodged together. The physician
looks after Biamesdale's diet, as well as his lodgings. He brings to
bear all his skill as a doctor of physic in the treatment of Dimaes-
dale's illness,*'* Similarly, Overbury suffered a decline in health.
nNH, p. 46.
X%H. p. 46.
13HH, p. 166.
lkm, p. 171-172.
15SL, pp. 147-149, 153, 167.


45
He gave failing health as hi reason for refusing the diplomatic
assignment. At Weston's trial one of Overbury's servante testified
that prior to his prison confinement Overbury was in fair health; he
had merely a complaint from the spleen, caused by "continual sitting
at hie stud^r. Yet in prison, after being given poisons, he grew
more ill. By means of these poisons, writes the narrator, Overbury
"begins to grow extrearn sickly, having been heretofore accustomed to
very good health, in so ouch as he can scarce stand or goe, what with
the pain of hie body, and the heat.Overbury was poisoned over a
period of five months with a variety of poisons and methods of
administering them. His murderers conspired to bring about a slow
death in order not to arouse suspicions of foul play. Franklin was
hired to provide a poison "which should not kill a man presently but
lie in his body for a certain time wherewith he might languish away
JO
by little and little." Under such treatment Overbury passed his
"tedious and sorrowful dales ... with paines, and grief." He wasted
away unnaturally "as a man in a consumption, but with such more
extremity.HlccoIs has the ghost of Overbury describe this painful
mode of death, including the element of deception, in his "Vision"!
l6M, H7.
1?M, p. 48.
18HH. P* 158.
pp. 48-49 52.


46
Month and after month, they often did instill
The divers natures of that baneful ill,
Throughout these limbs* inducing me to think,
That what I took In physick, meat, or drink,
Was to restore me to my health; when all
Was but with ling'ring death to work my fall.
The connection between Chillingworth*s revenge upon Dimmesdale
and the latters languishing sickness is not perfectly clear.
Chillingworth seems to be earing for the ministers health with all
the pharmaceutical knowledge available in his day. He is seen
gathering weeds in the forest. Dimmesdale observes him in his labora-
tory idier he converts these weeds into potent drugs. let the
people begin to feel a prejudice towards this man of science. Some of
them believe him to be versed in the miraculous cures of the black
22
art. Others, believing him to be a potent necromancer, suspect him
of giving poisonous drugs to their minister.2^ They have no proof,
but there circulate a story that Chillingworth had been seen "at the
period of Sir Thomas Overburys murder." One citizen "testified to
having seen the physician, under some other name, which the narrator
of the story had now forgotten, in company with Doctor Forrnn, the
2h
famous old conjurer, who was Implicated in the affair of Overbury M
20HM, III, 349.
^SL, p. 160.
22SL, p. 156.
23a. ? 304.
24SL, pp. 155-156.


4?
Hawthornes allusion to Overburye murder at this stag of the
novel not only strengthens the validity of the previous parallels, hut
provides an explicit comparison between the plot on that mans life and
the vengeful plot of Chillingworth on Diaaeedale. It has already been
seen that the unlawful love of Carr and Lady Frances, their oaths of
revenge against Overbury, and the course of Carrs friendship parallel
the broad development of the story of The Scarlet Letter. Sow, in the
insinuations that Chillingworth may be poisoning Dimmesdale, as Over
bury was poisoned, there emerges a closer parallel, and it is drawn
by Hawthorne himself. Franklin, for instance, l1a kind of Physitian,"
2<
was employed to make poisons, "for hee was excellent in that art.M J
Siccols has the ^iost of Franklin say to the $iost of Overbury that
"I was the man/ That did prepare those poisons, which began/ And ended
all thy pain. Chillingworths compounding of drugs is thus
comparable to the poisonous art of the murderers of Overbury, and
especially to Franklin, a physician, a man skilled in the arts of
poisoning, andas will latter appearlike Chillingworth, a man with
a crooked shoulder. There is, however, this notable difference be
tween the poisoning of Overbury and Chillingworth's compounding of
poisonous drugs to use on the ministers the former ms actually a
poisoning, but it is merely rumored that Chillingworth is poisoning
25n. P- 44.
z6m. hi, 366.


48
Dimmesdale. The real poisoning of Dimmesdale seems to lie elsewhere.
Bat first, two other Items for comparison appear in this refer
ence to Overbury. Both relate to Chillingworth. One concerns his
becoming a medical adviser to Dimmesdsle; the other concerns the means
whereby Chillingworth is paying his debt of vengeance. The friendship
between Carr and Overbury, it has been shown, agrees with that between
Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, though not in every respect. Over bury
was the counselor or the oracle of direction to Carr, and Dimmesdale
is the spiritual guide of Chillingworth. But there was no clear
parallel for Chillingworth as medical adviser to Dimmesdale. In
Carr*s pretended concern for Overburys health, as illustrated by his
sending powders to the prisoner, this element faintly appears, but the
fact that Franklin was a physician and was employed in the preparation
of poisons completes the parallel of professional advice. While Over-
bur ys oracular relation to Carr agrees with Dinresdale's similar
relation to Chillingworth, franklins capacity as a physician hired to
27
poison Overbury contrasts with Chillingworth's medical supervision
of Dimmesdale's health.
Still, In this allusion to Overbury occurs a parallel to another
means, besides rumored poisoning, whereby Chillingworth is gaining
revenge on Dimmesdale. The physician prickB Dimmesdale's conscience
^There were also some physicians who visited Overbury in prison
and seemed honestly to try to restore him to health: Overbury him
self, growing suspicious of his attendant Weston, once asked for a
physician. (BH, p. 49)


49
with conjured spirits, suggests Hawthorne. Chillingworth becomes not
a spectator only, but a chief actor in the poor minister's interior
world. ... The victim was forever on the rack; it needed only to know
the spring that controlled the engine; and the physician knew it well!
Would he startle him with sudden fear? As at the waving of a
magician's wand, up rose a grisly phantom, up rose a thousand
phantoms, in many shapes, of death, or more awful shame, all flock
ing round about the clergyman, and pointing with their fingers at his
oO
breast!" This fantastic motif is also indicated elsewhere in the
novel. Chillingworth is believed to have been seen in company with
the conjuror Forman. Chillingworth allegedly engaged in incantations
with Indians before reaching the settlement. Some people believe him
_ 29
to be a necromancer.
Both Forman and Franklin with the latter of whom Hawthorne may
be comparing Chillingworth in the allusion were conjurors, when Lady
Frances first fell in love with Bobert Carr, she went to Anne Turner
for help. They decided to inchant Carr: "for this purpose they fall
acquainted with Dr. Forman that dwelt at Lambeth, being an ancient
Gentleman, was thought to have skill in the Magick Art.M^ Until his
death, Forman helped them devise means of witchcraft to induce love in
28
SI, F. 172.
^SL, pp. 155-156, 304.
30
P* 15.


50
Carr. later, Ore sham and finally Franklin were hired for these evil
purposes, Franklin was "thought to he no less a wizard than the two
31
former, Gresham and Forana. la Sir Thomas Over burya Vision1*
Hi chard liccols has the ghost of Franklin say that "Forman, that cun
ning exorcist, and If Would many times our wicked wits apply/ Kind
32
nature" in conjuring spirits.
The question still remains whether Bimmesdale, like Overbury, is
being poisoned to death. In one sense Hester thinks he is: "She
doubted not, that the continual presence of Roger Chilllngworth,
the secret poison of his malignity, Infecting all the air about him,
and his authorized interference, as a physician, with the ministers
physical and spiritual infirmities, that these bad opportunities
had been turned to a cruel purpose, By means of them, the sufferer's
conscience had been kept in an irritated state."^3 la another place
Hawthorne observes that it was impossible for her to doubt "that,
whatever painful efficacy there might be In the secret sting of
remorse" in the minister's conscience, "a deadlier venom had been
infused into it by the hand that proffered relief. A secret enemy had
been continually by his side, under the semblance of a friend and
helper, h3^ In terms crudely similar, the ghost of Overbury is made to
31im, p. 44.
32HK, III, 366.
33a, p. 231.
^SL, p. 201.


51
say to Blccols in the "Vision" that he had served a false friend and
that cruel men had vengefully Induced him to take food containing
poison. Slowly this "poison secretly did creep/ Through" hie vein.
"The venom, seizing" him "vulture-like," painfully tore hi entrails.33
In the Overbury case, however, the poison were chemical} in Chilling-
worth's revenge, the poisoning is, what Bacon called, a "circumstance
36
moral" in that it is revenge upon a trusting friend. For Hawthorne
implies that Dimraeedale is poisoned by breathing a moral atmosphere
polluted with the venom of Chilllngworth's secret malignity.
Still, the contrasts between the two poisonings may be carried
further, Diramesdale is also poisoned by a guilty conscience. Haw
thorne writes that "the poison of one morbid spot was Infecting his
heart's entire substance."3^ His sin and the failure to confess it
ulcerate his moral system. His guilty conscience festers and gener
ates an infectious poison that spreads fatally throughout his nature.
His spirit becomes sick; his heart grows morbid. Dimmesdale's
languishing sickness because of the poisoning of his system parallels
Overbury's consumptive decay from the poisons administered him. But
in the Overbury case there are two men guilty of sin who, like
Dimraesdale, suffered in their consciences. Carr's guilty conscience
35M III, 349.
36NH, p. 166.
373L, pp. 172, 265, 180.


52
and diseased mind have "been observed. But Jervase Helwyse*s situa
tion is more germane. Helwyse was guilty of conniving in the plot on
Overbury1 s life. Ac Lieutenant of the Tower, he had known about the
murder, but had remained silent. How far he was involved in the crime
is not certain. But it is clear that his conscience bothered him.
His ghost is made by Hiecols to confess to the ghost of Overbury that
of no sin had my most sinful soul/ Been ever sick, bujjj this one
sin most foul.*39
Dimaeedale fights a losing battle with his Puritan conscience.
A moral conflict between the forces of confession and secrecy contend
in him for supremacy. "Remorse" incites him to confession, while
ho
"Cowardice" restrains him. Chillingworth urges him to confess the
sin that is causing his strange malady, but Dimmesdale replies that
he fears to show his spotted soul before his parishioners, lest he
lose their respect and the capacity to achieve further religious good.
Dimmesdale*s moral cowardice and the arguments in his conflict are
analogous with the problems confronting Helwyse, as expressed by his
ghost in Riccols* poem; the ghost confesses his connivance in the
murder and explains that his "coward conscience" forced him to yield
to secrecy:
9se above, pp. 41-42.
39IR£, III, 363.
40
SL p. 180, 160-163.


53
0 what a tedious combate, la my heart.
Unto my soul did feelingly appear,
Twixt my sad conscience, and a doubtful fear!
Fear said that, if I did reveal the same,
Those great ones, great in grace, would turn the shame
Upon my head} but conscience said again,
That, if I did conceal it, murder's stain
Would spot my soul as much for my consent,
As if at first it had been my intent.
Fear said that, if the same I did disclose,
The countenance of greatness I should lose.
And be thrust out of office and place;
But conscience said that I should lose that grace
And favour, which my God to me had given,
And be perhaps thrust ever out of heaven.
Long these two champions did maintain the field,
Till my weak conscience at the last did yield.
Let such men to remember still be mov'd
That which by sad experience I have prov'd;
*Tis good to fear great men, but yet 'tis better
Sver to fear God more, since God is greater. 1
The situations agree in that each involves a nan with a guilty
conscience. In each a cowardly conscience constrains a sinner to
silence. There is a conflict between courting the respect of men and
ho
conducting one's self truthfully before God, In The Scarlet Letter
the moral conflict is introduced partly through dialogue; Chilling-
worth, ironically, represents conscience and truth.
Bimmesdale augments his intense pain by performing acts of
penance. In an effort to expiate his crime he scourges his soul and
L'rlm, III, 361-362.
42
SL, pp. 162-163. Hawthorne's depiction of a man tormented by
a guilty conscience is not new. Compare his "Roger Malvin's Burial,M
Works, II, 381; "^e Minister's Black Veil," Works. I, 52; "Egotism;
or, the Bosom Serpent," Work?. II, 303*


54
keeps nightly vigils. On one of these occasions he walks to the scaf
fold where Hester had seven years "before "been condemned to stand.
Here "by coincidence he meets Hester and Pearl., who are returning from
the death-bed of Governor Wlnthrop. The three join hands. Dlmraesdale
reinforces the mockery of repentance by declining Pearls invitation
to stand there the following day before the populace, and as if in
reply there gleams a meteoric light far across the sJsy. Hawthorne
writes that "The great vault brightened, like the dome of an immense
lamp." And there in the senith appear# "an immense letter, the
43
letter A, marked out in lines of dull red light."
In the Overbury case occurred a night-time scaffold scene with
details similar to this one in the novel. Robert Carrs trial
extended from morning until late in the evening, so long that it was
necessary to li$it Westminster Hall. Andrew Amos describes the trial
thus: "The Earls trial lasted from nine in the morning till ten at
night. Towards the concluding pert of the trial, the dramatic effect
of the scene was increased by a multitude of torches casting a glim
mering light through the hi^i and vaulted roofs of the Hall, and
making transiently visible the countenances of the Judges, the
Counsellors, the Peers, Peeresses, and the mixed audience that crowded
hh
in the lofty scaffoldings." Striking similarities emerge. In both
43SL. pp. 178-187.
44
.Amos, p. 22.


55
scenes a guilty man is, as it were, standing on trial, Carr before a
legal tribunal, Dijassesdale before a divine tribunal. A dramatic
effect arises from a play of lights. At first Dimmesdale's surround
ings are lighted by Wilsons lantern, which casts a MglLayering light,
and then by a meteor. When the light from the meteor flashes, "The
great vault" of the sky, like the "vaulted roofs of the Hall, is
brightened. And just as the torches in the Hall at Carrs trial
outlined indistinctly the figures present, the light of heaven gave a
distinctness to the scene in Boston, but "with an awfulness that is
always imparted to familiar objects by an unaccustomed light ... all
were visible, but with a singularity of aspect that seemed to give
another moral interpretation to the things of this world than they had
ever borne before.
The midnight vigil, which brings Hester and Bimmee&ale together,
enables Eeeter to make the startling discovery that Dimmesdale is on
the verge of lunacy. Her vow of secrecy comes squarely home to her,
^%L, p. 187. Hawthorne writes, in connection with the letter A
caused by the meteoric light, that such phenomena a blazing spear,
a sword of flame, a bow, or a sheaf of arrows" were considered
divine revelations. Though Dimiaesdale sees his own sin in this letter,
the people interpret the A to stand for Angel, in recognition of
Winthrops new state. Kempe included in his Losely Manuscripts some
documents on meteoric phenomena. In one of these a prodigy of the
sky is described: "The Angel of the Lord is represented in the
clouds ... displaying in one hand a flaming sword, in the other a
scourge composed of numerous lashes" (p. 192). It was believed to
presage the plague. Hawthornes reading in Kempe in 1849 may have
reopened for him this field of supernatural phenomena, in which he
already had an acquaintance from other books about the age.


56
for she realizes that she is largely to blame for the minister's decay.
Hester thus determines "to redeem her error, so far as it might yet be
possible.*^ Acting upon this resolution, she decides to take the
first opportunity to accost Chillingworth and learn what lies yet in
"her power for the rescue of the victim on whom he had so evidently
set his gripe." Meeting him, she explains that she can no longer hold
her silence; she "must reveal the secret.Ihe reports of the Over
bury trials include a statement by one of the plotters that he had
wanted to bade out of the Intrigue, Franklin, with whom Lady Frances
had made an oath of secrecy, reported to Lord Chief Justice Coke:
"I went unto her, and told her I was weary of it; and 1 besou^xt her
48
upon my knees, that she would use me no more in those matters."
Ho record seems to exist, however, that Lady Frances renounced her vow
of vengeance. But in Hiccols* version of Anne Turners consent in the
crime there appears an analogy to Hesters renunciation of her oath.
Annes ghost is made to repent her agreement in life to silence about
the murder. Her ghost's confession to the ghost of the man she had
wronged is prefaced by a declaration of repentance and is concluded by
a request for mercy: "Thou gentle knigbt, whose wrongs I now repent,"
she begins; she ends with "forget my great offence,/ YMch I have purgd
49
with tears of penitence." 7
^SL, pp. 201-202.
^SL, p. 209.
p. 149.
^HM, III, 355 360.


57
In Introducing the forest interview, Hawthorne presents his two
characters as ghosts, hen they first meet, they question each other's
hodily existence. "It was no wonder," writes Hawthorne. "So strangely
did they meet, in the dim wood, that it was like the first encounter,
in the world beyond the grave, of two spirits who had been intimately
connected in their former life, but now stood coldly shuddering, in
mutual dread; as not yet familiar with their state, nor wonted to the
companionship of disembodied beings. Each a ghost, and awe-stricken
at the other ghost!Before the meeting with Dimraesdale, Hester,
though she wishes she did not have "this grievous wrong to confess"
to him she loves," nevertheless tells him of her error. She confesses
that she "consented to a deception" in order to save him. She reveals
Chillingwor til's identity and implores forgiveness for keeping it a
secret.'* Thus in the novel, as in the poem, a woman who has agreed
to acquiesce in a plot that wrongs a man's life, confesses her guilt
and begs forgiveness. In both works the characters concerned are
52
presented as ghosts.
Two other details of the forest interview soot comparable to
elements in the Overbury case. One of these concerns a circumstance
of a meeting between lovers; the other involves Hester's anticipation
50SL, pp. 227-228.
51SL, p. 232.
52
See above, pp, 32-33*


58
of eloping by her letting down her hair. During the meeting Hester
stands out as the stronger of the two lovers. She is passionately
coercive as she pleads forgiveness. She throws her anas impetuously
around him. She buoys him up with her energy. She urges that he
think of their sinful love as having a consecration of its own. The
Influence she exercises over the shattered spirit of the minister in
suggesting they escape to begin life anew is, says Hawthorne, like a
magnetic power. Clandestine meetings between lovers are, with one
exception, not described in any detail in the affair of Overbury.
Kempe relates an amusing circumstance, however, in the liaison between
Anne Turner and .Arthur Manwaring. Anne and Lady Frances had been
giving magio drugs to their paramours to arouse love in them: Mrs.
Turner having an inclination for Sir Arthur Manw&ring, a gentleman of
the Prince's household, some of the love-powder was secretly adminis
tered by her intervention to him, by the effect of which they believed
he was made to ride fifteen miles in a dark night, through a storm of
54
rain and thunder, to visit her," Here, then, is an account of a
passionate woman who by the efficacy of a magic drug exerted, as
Hester does spiritually upon Dimmesdale, a magnetic influence upon the
man she loved.
Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester having agreed to elope, Hester
53SL, pp. 236, 232-237.
5\empe, p. 382.


59
discards her scarlet letter. Undoing her cap, she lets down her hair,
which falls "upon her shoulders dark and rich, with at once a shadow
and a light in its abundance, and inparting the char of softness to
her features. ... Her sex, her youth and the whole richness of her
beauty, cane back from what men call the irrevocable past and clus
tered themselves, with her maiden hope, and a happiness before
unknown, within the magic circle of this hour. Hesters releasing
of her hair and her maiden hope for happiness recall a prominent
detail in Lady Frances divorce proceedings and her wedding to Robert
Carr. Like Anne Turner, she had given love phials to Carr, but she
had also given drugs to Essex to produce frigidity in him. When her
witchcraft upon her unsuspecting husband appear! to succeed, she
hastened to report his insufficiency and her virginity. Announcing
that she was still a maid, she requested a divorce. Because the Earl
of Essex, her husband was "unable (as she reported) to execute the
office of a husband, mid that upon search, by the verdict of twelve
Matrons shee appear! still to be a Maid," it was decreed that she be
granted a divorce, for procreations safee."^ At her wedding Lady
Frances kept up the ruse. She created quite an impression at the
ceremony, because she came bedecked not as a widow but as a maiden.
She appear! "in the habit of a virgin bride," writes Ketape, "her
55SL, p. 243.
56m PP* 30-31.


6o
beautiful tresses flowing over her shoulders to her feet. The
incident also attracted Chamberlain1s attention, who wrote to a friend,
She was married in her hair. Commenting on this phrase, Amos
explains further that To he married 'in their hair' was the appro
priate etiquette of that day for virgin-brides.Quite different
is Lady Frances' situation at the Court of King James and that of
Hester in the forest. Lady Frances claimed virginity, Hester does
not. Lady Frances obtained a divorce and married her lover; Hester
seeks no divorce, but plans to elope with Dixamesdale to a foreign
country. Yet in each case there are similarities. Bach adulteress
is shown arrayed in long hair at a scene dealing with her marriage or
with her plans to elope. The authors describing these scenes point
out a symbolic connection between the long hair and maidenhood, '¡diere-
as Kempe makes this connection explicitly, Hawthorne merely implies
that Hester's long hair is a symbol of her hope for future marital
happiness and that this hop is like that of a maiden.
Parallels between the novel and the Overbury affair have thus
continued to accumulate. In this chapter the essential features of
5%mpe, p. 390.
^Birch, I, 373*
59
Amos, p. ?. Arthur Wilson The History of Great Britain
(London, 1653) P* 64 makes a statement concerning Princess
Elizabeth at her marriage in 1612 that confirms this Item of ceremonial
etiquette: "Her Vestments were White, the Stable of Innoceney; her
hair dishevel'd, hanging down her back at length, an Ornament of
Virginity."


61
the actual murder of Overbury have been shown to compare with Chilling-
worths vengeful plot against Dimmesdale. Both intrigues are marked
by a close friendship. In each instance this friendship turns to
deceitful revenge. Both plots are characterised by failing health.
In each case poisoning appears as a decisive factor in this languish
ing death. Dimmesdals'8 parishioners voice their fear of a poisonous
plot on their minister like that which befell Overbury. In each
instance a guilty conscience for concealment of sin is a prominent
feature. But the novel, in contrast, tightly integrates into one
relationship elements of friendship, revenge, poisoning, guilt, and
languishing death, whereas in the Overbury affair these elements are
scattered loosely among several relationships. And finally, Hesters
symbolic releasing of her hair as 3he looks forward to an unknown
happiness by eloping with her lover vaguely parallels Lady Frances'
false declaration of virginity and her maidenly dress at her marriage
with her paramour. Are there further parallels in the outcome of
these two stories?


CHAPTER IT
FINAL CONFESSION AND DEATH
Before He*ter and Diiamesdale depart for their appointed place of
escape, Dimaesdale, it was decided, is first to deliver the Election
Day Sermon, and later the same day they are to embark. Having
preached his Sermon,* Dimmesdale and the congregation proceed to the
town hall for a banquet in honor of the new magistrates. In the ranks
of the procession, Dimmesdale, tottering nervelessly and wavering like
2
an infant, makes Ms way. As he passes the scaffold, he pauses, calls
to Hester and Pearl, and then approaches to ascend its steps.* Unable
any longer to conceal his guilt, and fearful lest he die before con
fessing it, he reveals to the people the secret of Ms sin with
Hester. He is described by Hawthorne as standing out distinctly "to
4
put in Ms plea of guilty at the bar of Eternal Justice. He
addresses "the dignified and venerable rulers," Ms brother ministers,
and "the people, whose great heart was thoroughly appalled," and
*Comments on Hawthornes account of the Sermon have been deferred
for the moment. See footnote 12 below, p. 66.
2
In the report of Helwyses trial, just before Ms execution
speech which will follow in the text he answered one of the
charges against him with a similar shaky motion. The recorder writes:
"In this he staggered, and wavered much" (NH, p. 146).
^SL, p. 300.
4SL, p. 301.
62


63
discloses how he had concealed his sin and had become "the one sinner
of the world.He explains that God knew his guilt. He observes
that it was Gods will that he has been led to this scaffold, and that
6
he must "do the will which He hath made plain" before his sight.
Dimmesd&les declaration of his guilt just before his death has a
parallel in the confession speech of Jervase Helwys before this con
demned mans execution. Helwys, it will be remembered, has been
compared to Dimmesdale. Both men have been seen to be guilty of con
cealing a sin and to have suffered in their consciences. Just as
Dimmesdale, marching in file, stops by the scaffold and ascends it,
Helvyse proceeded to the scaffold and mounted it to be executed:
"On Monday, 20 ifovemb. 1615* hee was executed at Tower-hill upon a
Gibbet there set of purpose, about six of the clock in the morning,
hee being arrayed in a black Suit, at black Jerkin.... He came on
foot to the Gibbet from Sheriff Goares house, between Dr. Hhiting,
and Dr. Felton, two of his Majesties Chaplains, and coming to the
Ladders foot, he talked a word or two to the Executioner. Then he
went up the Ladder four or five steps ... whereafter a while sitting
7
easily, he uttered words to this, or like effect."
Then Helwyse, like Dimnesdale, addresses the people, confesses his
5£L. P* 301.
6SL, p. 301.
7M. pp* 150-151.


64
guilt, acknowledge8 his concealment of a crime, and puts in his plea
of guilty, not before a legal tribunal, but before a divine tribunal:
Hobles, right worshipfull, and others, I am here cose, a*
well to shew, explain, & unfold that which at the time of my
arraign, so many of you as were present expected; as also to
shew that then I perceived I had lost the good opinion of
many, in standing so long upon my innocency, which was my
fault, I confesee, hoping now to recover the same, and your
good charitable opinions of me, which fault I then saw not,
being blinded with mine errors, which made me accompt it no
sin. But since my condemnation, by means and help of these
two Gentlemen here present, (the two Doctors) I was per-
swaded of the greatnesee of my sin, and that it was so much
the greater, by how much the more I did conceale it; which
by Gods mercy I perceiving, consulted not with flesh and
blood, but thought in this my Condemnation, my best way for
my souls health to reve&le to the omnipotent and all-seeing
God, the most secret and inward intentions and thoughts of
my deceltfull heart, not once respecting the pains or dis
praises of the world, which I regard not at all, ... Some
here knew my forwardness ... but I plead not innocency that
way, but cast it off, and confesee, that of this great
assembly I am the most Wretched sinner,
Thus, in the same spirit as Dimraesdale, Helwyse confesses to having
hidden his guilt, hastens to make right his accounts with God before
his death, and claims to be the worst of sinners for his criminal
conduct.
After his speech, Diimnesdale sinks down. In his last words to
Hester he expresses his assurance of salvation. He knows God has been
merciful to him and has saved him because of the way in which God has
tormented him and brought him to death in this fashion:
The law we broket the sin here so awfully revealed!
let these alone be in thy thoughts! I fear! I fear! It
% pp. 151-152,


65
raay be that, when we forgot our God, when we violated
our reverence each for the others soul, it was thence
forth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an
everlasting and pure reunion. God knows; and He is
merciful! He hath proved his mercy, most of all, in my
affliction. By giving me this burning torture to bear
upon my breast! By sending yonder dark and terrible old
man, to keep the torture always at red-heat I By bringing
me hither, to die this death of triumphant ignominy before
the people! Had either of these agonies been wanting, I
had been lost forever! Praised be his name! His will be
done! Farewell!^
Helwyse likewise experiences the assurance of salvation in his confes
sion speech. He, too, feels that God has shown him mercy by arranging
events so that he can die a death, though perhaps ignominious to some,
yet to him a special favors
Hobles and others, to see your faces it rejolceth me, whereby
you manifest your love in granting my request, to be Wit
nesses of my Death, I see a number of my friends, there,
there, there, pointing as he spake, who out of their loves,
I entreated to beseech God to strengthen me in Death; though
ignominious to some, yet to mee a bitter cup mingled to me
with Gods mercy, a speciall favour this way to call mee
home, whereas he mi it have taken away my life by shooting
the Bridge, or some fall, or otherwise; and then this un
repented sin, which I accounted no sin (such was my blind-
nesse) had been damnation to me, for God is just, and the
unrepented sinner shall have no salvation. There is none
of you present here that knows how or in what sort hee shall
die, it may be in his bed, it may be otherwise, (God knows);
I protest before you all, I never came over this Hill, in
the chiefest of all my prosperity, with more joy than now I
have at this present, for I now know that presently I shall
behold the glorious face and ci^it of my Creator.^
In his final prayer Helwyse, like Diaaesdale, reiterates his assurance
9SL> p. 304.
10m, pp. 152-153.


66
that he Is not lost: this comfort, this I have, that I am thine; for
were I not thine, then out of the root of me could not the buds of
repentance appear, by wcl I know thou lovest ae; it is not I, but thou
Lord has drawn rae to thee, for thine own mercies sake, on which
mercy, and promises made to the true repentant sinner, once again I
Dying speeches of criminals tend to run in familiar patterns.
let there are more outstanding similarities in Helwyse'a confession
and in Biramesdale's dying revelation of his guilt than seems normal.
One of these has not been observed. Neither Bimr.esdale nor Helvyse
state explicitly what sin they have hidden. So ambiguously does
Bimmesdale speak of his guilt that some parishioners do not hear in
his dying words even a remote implication of his sinning with Hester.
Similarly, Helwyse did not mention the crime of murder for which he
was about to lose his life. The emphasis in each scene is on having
concealed a sin, on a humanly ignominious but divinely merciful death
in which the will of God has seemed to prevail, and finally on the
12
experience of the assurance of salvation.
1X1£, p. 116.
^Hawthorne1s remarks describing the emotional undertone of
Dilmaesdale,s Election Sermon would also coincide with a description of
the spiritual quality of a dying confession. The Sermon is character
ized by "an essential character of plaintiveness" and a "deep strain
of pathos": "$hat was itf The complaint of a human heart, sorrow-
laden, perchance guilty, telling its secret, whether of guilt or
sorrow, to the great heart of mankind; beseeching its sympathy or
forgiveness, at every moment, in each accent, and never in


6?
At Chlllingworth'e death, which follows hard upon Bins ¡cdalo*e,
"he bequeathed a very considerable amount of property, both here and
in England, to little Pearl, the daughter of Hester Prynne." 3 Pearl
became the richest heiress in Hew England. In the Overbury affair Anne
Carr, the daughter born to Lady France in prison, was similarly pro
vided for. Before her father, Robert Carr, went on trial for the
murder of Overbury, he wrote to King James a declaration of his inno-
cency and at the same time requested permission from the King to
"dispose of my lands and goods to my wife and child. This detail
occurs also In Carr's later petition to the King for reinstatement
into royal favor.^ Chlllingworth, in contrast, is not actually
Pearl's father, nor does he bequeath anything to Hester, his wife.
Rumors later circulate that Pearl becomes a bride and that she
gives birth to a baby. She and her mother had left their peninsula
cottage, and years later Hester returns alone. But "Through the
vain! It was this profound continual undertone that gave the clergy
man his most appropriate power" (SI, pp. 289-290). The Sermon was
pervaded with the "idea of his transitory stay on earth" (SL. p. 295)*
Helwyse*s speech is didactic like a sermon. He reminds his audience
to take heed from his example. He cautions one person explicitly
about ^ambling. He concludes with a prayer. Together, these details
are suggestive of a sermon.
13SL, p* 308.
1¡iM, p. 183.
*%H, pp. 187-188. The State Paper Office contains a letter by
Chamberlain in which Carr's request is repeated* that "hi daughter
may inherit some of his lands" (S.P. Domestic, June 8, 1616).


68
remainder of Hester's life, there were Indication that the recluse of
the scarlet letter wae the object of love and interest with some
inhabitant of another land. Letters came, with armorial seals upon
them, thought of bearings unknown to English heraldry."1^ The gossips
believe that Pearl is Hnot only alive, but married, and happy, and
mindful of her mother." Hester is said to be making baby garments,
17
presumably for Pearl*s infant. Pearls noble marriage and her
giving birth to a child are also analogous with facts in the career of
Anne Carr. Married in 1637 to William Russel, Duke of Bedford, Anne
no
Carr gave birth to at least one child. Whereas Anne Carr, however,
married into the English nobility. Pearl appears to have married into
a peerage other than English.
Hester herself lives out her life in lonely sorrow. Her troubles
draw many women to her for consultation and advice on marital problems.
The circumstances attending the death of Lady Frances are hardly a
close parallel. Hester dies later than her husband, but Lady Frances
preceded her husband in death: she died in 1632, and he in 1645.
Hester becomes the object of much honorable respect before she dies,
but Lady Frances is said to have died in obscurity.^ Though
l6SL, pp. 309-310.
W p. 310.
18Stato Trials, II, 966.
Estate Trials. II, 1020


69
Indelibly stained with sin, Hester, moreover, dies a serene death, hut
Lady Frances, the fatal Countess," died from a revoltingly loathsome
disease.20 The Bioaranhia Brltannlca records that the Countess yet
underwent a much more miserable fate in her death, occasioned by a
gangrene that ended in a mortification of that part, in which she had
almost beyond all example shamelessly offended," For "Tie said she
had a procidentia vulvae & uteri, which hanging down inverted to her
knees, and mortifying piecemeal, caused the most excruciating
tortures."2* By sharp contrast the woman who has paralleled Hester
in so many aspects of her career dies a death shockingly repulsive.
Hawthorne places the emphasis in Hesters death rather on the pollu
tion of her soul which denies her all opportunity of fulfilling a
divine mission for improving the status of woman; this Inability,
Hawthorne implies, is a divine judgment for her sin. But the
details of Lady Frances' death concern her bodily pollution, which is
also attributed to the judgment of God upon her.2-^
Any one of the parallels that have been drawn, thus far, may have
occured to Hawthorne independently of influence from the Overbury
^Sir Anthony Weldon, Igie, Cp.urtiandii C^j^ter_oX.King, James
(London, 1651) p* 113? Kempe, p. 395 see above, pp. 3*K35*
Pi
S. v. "Overbury" and Hote; see also Wilson, p. 83.
22SL, p. 311.
2^Kempe, p. 395
see above, p. 35


70
affairs adultery, a prison birth of a baby girl, a legal proceeding,
a prison interview between husband and wife, a vow of revenge made by
a husband in which a faithless wife acquiesces for her own reasons,
virtual ostracism from society} a close friendship, a deceitful
revenge upon a trusting friend, a guilty conscience, a languishing
sickness with intimations of poisoning, a ni^itly scaffold scene, the
repenting of having made an oath by a woman who consented to silence,
a hope for happiness by joining with a paramour} a dying confession
made by a man who has concealed his guilt, an experience at death of
the blessed assurance of divine mercy and salvation, a bequeathing of
property to a daughter, and a noble marriage of a young girl. Any one
of these elements, to repeat, or even a number of them, may have been
suggested to Hawthorne from various and sundry places. But such a
chain of coincidences, as this one, demands some kind of explanation
other than coincidence. Since these parallels are all found in
literary documents relating to a single episode in history, there is a
strong degree of probability that they may have been the Imaginative
materials that inspired Hawthorne to complete in novel form the idea
for a tale of adultery that had lain dormant in his mind for many years.
The unity of the elements that parallel the design of the novel
also argues for a probable influence. The first unit of the plot, up
to the scene at Bellingham's mansion, concerns, for the most part,
Hester, her prison term for adultery, her punishment, and her
thou^its in her banished condition. The parallels to this section of


71
the novel group themselves around the corresponding prison ter for
murder, trial, release, and banishment of Lady Frances, an adulteress.
Similarly, when the author shift, after the scene at Bellingiisia's
mansion, to the relationship between Chillingworth and Dimseadalo, the
parallels to the action in these chapters friendship, revenge, and
poisoning of Diramesdale's system are clustered about the Carr-
Overbury friendship which ended in the poisonous murder of Overbury
instigated by the vengeful Carr. And in the same fashion, the
parallels to the catastrophe of the novel, that is, Disusesdale*s
revelatory speech before hie death, center in the confession of
Helwyse before his execution.
lor is it insignificant that in "The Custom House" Hawthorne
mentioned, perhaps facetiously, that he adapted the main facts of the
novel from an existing story and vouched for "the authenticity of the
pk
outline," The outline of the Cverbury murder consists initially of
adultery between Lady Frances and Robert Carr. Their love precipi
tated the vengeful murder of Overbury who had opposed their marriage.
The plot concludes with the confessions and punishment of the
criminals. In spite of the totally different array of characters and
of emotional effect, the outline of action in the novel fundamentally
agrees. Hester's adultery leads to Chillingworth's revenge, and at
the end Dimmesdale confesses his guilt. But, in sharp contrast, the
24SL. PP. 51-52


72
novel possesses a degree of artistic unity that full accounts of the
Overbury murder lack. The motifs that in the murder are loose and
scattered are amalgamated in a few characters in the novel, although
these essential plot motifs seem to be basically the same,
The inherent probability that the Overbury affair became trans
muted into The Scarlet Letter is greater in view of Hawthorne*s
citations of Overbury in the novel. Bat the theory also stands up in
view of Hawthorne's own bent of mind. His intellect had perhaps been
working unconsciously, as it were, on the idea of a tale of adultery,
and it was, therefore, drawn towards this salient motif in the Overbury
crime. He may also have been attracted to the case, as has been
mentioned, by the recurrence of the name Jervase Helwyse in both his
family tree and in the Overbury case; at any rate, he had used the name
in 1838 in BL&dy Eleanors Mantle.1 Many times earlier Hawthorne had
written tales which used sin as a basis; more than once before he had
dealt with hidden sin and a guilty conscience. Obsessed artistically
with moral issues, his temperament could thus have found it congenial
to assimilate the Overbury materials because of their preoccupation
with sin, guilt, and judgnent upon the sinner. All the evidence, how
ever, is still not in. May there not be further elements in the case
that parallel the distinctive features of the characters, the setting,
and the style of the novel, coincidences which may further strengthen
this hypothesis?


PART THREE
CHARACTER IZAT ION


CHAPTER V
HESTER PRTHIIE
In accordance with Hawthorne's usual method of forming characters,
traits of Hester Prynne parallel features of "both Lady Frances and
Anne Turner. Guilty of adultery like Hester, these two participants
in the murder of Overbury have also been seen to resemble her at many
other stages in the plot of the novel, telle in prison awaiting their
p
sentences, Hester and Lady Frances each bears a baby daughter. Each
3
gives an oath of secrecy in a plot of revenge, undergoes ostracism
u
following her prison term, and employs the symbolic guise of a virgin
in connection with a new union. ^ Hester and Anne Turner analogously
^Professor Randall Stewart has demonstrated this characteristic
of Hawthorne's imagination whereby several traits from different per
sons are assimilated into one character. The clearest example is
perhaps that of Dimmesdale who comprehends from Reuben Bourne ("Roger
Halvin's Burial") the idea of concealment, "from the Reverend Mr.
Hooper /"The Minister's Black Veil*J certain concomitants of the role
of clergyman, and from Roderick Ellison /"Egotism; or, the Bosom
Serpent// a characteristic gesture" The American Notebooks by
Hathaniel Hawthorne (Hew Haven, 1933)* P* Lrvi- Dimmesdale also
possesses from Fanshawe (Fanshawe) and from Aylmer ("The Birthmark") a
scholarly disposition, and from Owen Warland ("The Artist of the
Beautiful") a peculiar sensitiveness (pp. xlvi-xlvii). Though this
example applies only to materials in his own tales, the same method
of cumulative assimilation seems to have been employed with respect
to the persons in the sources presented in this study.
2Above, pp. 18-22.
3Above, pp. 30-31-
^Above, pp. 33-35-
-5Above, pp, 58-60.
?4


75
acquiesce in a plot of revenge. And each is shown repenting of her
consent to secrecy and obtaining forgiveness from the avenged man.^
There are also a few other comparisons to be drawn between Hester and
these two women.
One of Hester's most distinctive traits is her skill at needle
work. Her fine art of sewing brings her a small reputation. The
matronly judges have only contempt for her needlework, but by this
art Hester occupies herself both during her prison confinement and
throughout her lengthy isolation. She makes her own dresses and those
of Pearl. She also supplies the vain members of the community with
"Deep ruffs, painfully wrought bands, and gorgeously embroidered
8
gloves." Because of this minerior "gift for devising drapery and
q
costume*" her handiwork sets the fashion of the age.7
The vocation of Anne Turner coincides with that of Hester.
Listed among other items in an inventory of Anne Turner's personal
belongings, confiscated by the court at her execution, is a set of
needlework pearls. Most of the other possessions are clothesi "an
ashcoloured eattin nightgown; another of changeable taffata; a black
^Above, pp, 32-33*
^Above, pp. 56-57*
8sl. P. 105*
9sl, pp. 105. 214.


76
taffata strait-bodieed gown;^3 others of sattin, wattered sattin,
etc.; a black shag nightgown; ^ old taffata petticoat; three waist
coats; a gown of wrought geogran; six smocks; two laced aprons; a
square of needlework pearls.As Hester makes fashionable ruffe
and bands, so also did Anne Turner make ruffs and cuffs and intro
duced fashions of drees into Courtly circles. The starched yellow
ruff is said to have been her invention. Michael Sparkes writes in
the introduction to The narrative History that Lord Chief Justice
Edward Coke sentenced "that foaenter of lust, Mistress Anne Turner ...
to be hanged at Tiburn in her yellow tiffiny ruff and cuffs, being she
was the first inventor sad wearer of that horrid garb." And "never
since the execution of her in that yellow ruff and cuffs there hanged
12
with her, was ever any seen to wear the like." Richard Eiccols has
the ghost of Anne explain in "Overbury1s Vision" that pride
Taught me each fashion, brou^it me over seas
Each new device, the humorous time to please:
But of all vain inventions, then in use
When I did live, none sufferd more abuse
Than that fantastick ugly fall and ruff,
Daub'd o'er with that bate starch of yellow stuff. ^
Thus Hester and Anne each possesses a skill at needlework, each makes
ruffs, and. each sets fashions.
^Compare one matron's sneering words about Hester: "little will
she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown" (SL, p. 71).
^Kerape, p, h09.
12M, p. ijj.
13M, nI, 357.


77
With her talent Hester embroiders the scarlet letter which eh
has been sentenced to wear for a time on the scaffold and thereafter
for life.^ She calls her letter a "badge of shame. By coinci
dence, Anne Turner's ghost likewise calls her starched yellow ruff a
badge. Her ghost, in cautioning vain women about wearing the yellow
ruff, is made to say:
0 that my words night not be counted rain,
But that ay counsel might find entertain
With those, whose souls are tainted with the itch
Of this disease, whom pride doth so bewitch.
That they do think it comely, not amiss:
Then would they caet it off, and say, it is
The bawd to pride, the badge to vanity.
Whose very sight doth murther modesty.
Thus each of these adulteresses wears a product of her own needlework
skill and designates it as a shameful badge. It has also been noticed
that each woman is condemned to wear her creation for a few hours upon
the scaffold and for the rest of her natural life. Hester's punish
ment on the scaffold is for three hours, and the period of time there
after till her death is relatively long. But Anne Turner's punishment
was that she be hanged in her ruff; upon the scaffold she ended her
natural life.*^
143L. pp. 84, 105.
15SL, p. 137.
l6gK, III, 357.
Above, p. 76. These subtle coincidences could have been major
reasons for Hawthorne's becoming interested in the Overbury case. He
may have early identified Anne Turner with the woman in hie original


78
Hesters scarlet letter is equivalent to a fiery "brand upon her
18
soul* The people compare its color to the flames of hell. Because
of its scarlet "brilliance, the letter gives origin to a legend. In
the vulgar mind, it "seemed to derive its scarlet hue from the flames
of the infernal pit."^ The legend expands until the people "believe
that "the symbol was not mere scarlet cloth, tinged in an earthly dye-
pot, "but was red-hot with infernal fire."20 A similar comparison is
made between hells flames and Annes starched yellow ruff. liccols
puts into the ghost's mouth an exhortation against wearing this garb:
Tea, then detesting it, they all would know,
Some wicked wit did fetch it from below,
That here they ai^it express by this attire
The colour of those wheels of Stygian fire.
Hawthorne uses the words infernal rather than Stygian and hue rather
than colour; he also stresses heat. But the concept in both
instances are identical.
idea for a tale. The germ for the novel contained the notion of a
woman condemned for life to wear the letter A. In its first use in
"Sndicott and the Bed Gross" the adulteress had embroidered her own
letter (Works. I, 48?). The woman had also been condemned to stand on
the scaffold, a common punishment of the age. Details about Anne
Turner fulfill both these basic requirements.
18SL, p. 293.
19SL, p. 91.
^SL, p. 112.
zlm. III, 357.


79
Pride and vanity are distinguishing traits of Hesters character.
The women at her punishment call her haughty and sneer at her bravery
22
in dress. At her first appearance she recklessly repele the beadle.
Hesters pride nourishes itself upon the skilful fashioning of luxu
riant raiment. Hawthorne writes that "She had in her nature a rich,
voluptuous, oriental characteristic, a taste for the gorgeously
23
beautiful. Somewhat analogously, Lady francs is said to have been,
besides lustful, also "prodigall of expence ... and light of behav
iour."2^ A closer parallel to Hesters pride and vanity is to be
found in Kiccols* depiction of the character of Anne Turner when the
ghost of Anne is made to say}
Two darling sins, too common and too foul,
With their delights did bewitch my soulj
First pride arrayd me in her loose attire,
Fed my fond fancy fat with vain desires.**
Hester thus agrees with Lady Frances and Anne in possessing a nature
characterized by haughtiness and vanity. And like Anne especially,
Hester appears to have exercised these attributes upon exquisite
productions of her own inventiveness and upon vain attire for herself.
The scarlet letter is the token not only of Hesters violation of
the social code and of her pride and vanity, but it also typifies her
22SIt, pp. 70-72.
23SL, p. 107.
ofo,
SB* P- 9.
25m, in, 357.


80
moral aberration in the spiritual world. In this badge Hawthorne
depicts Hester*s sin by meajas of witchcraft symbolism, The letter, as
with a magic spell, encloses her in a sphere by herself. She tells
Pearl that the letter is the mark of the Black Man, whom she once
met.2^ Hester is shown twice talking with Mistress Hibbins, the
pO
witch. On one of these occasions Mistress Hibbins announces that
there will be a meeting of witches with the Black Man. She explains
to Hester her promise to him that Hester would attend.2^
This atmosphere of witchcraft enshrouding the character of
Hester, in regard to her sin, agrees with the circumstances of witch
craft surrounding Lady Prances* adulterous liason with Carr. To Anne
Turner, whom the narrator describes as a sorceress, an enchantress, and
Lady Prances' second,-*0 went Lady Prances for assistance in obtaining
the love of Robert Carr and in inducing frigidity in Lord Hesex. In
these matters of witchcraft and enchantment they turned to Forman.-*1
When on trial, Weston confessed that Lady Frances had had dealings
26SL, p. 74.
27SL, p. 223.
28SL, pp. 144, 286-288.
^SL, p. 144.
3HK. pp. 12-13, 15* Notice here, as will appear in more detail
later that Lady Frances and Anne Turner must be sharply distinguished
the one as a respectable woman, the latter as a disreputable witch.
pp. 1516, 1920.


81
32
with witches and wizards. Araos mentions that she had had midnight
33
interviews with professors of the black art. Kempe includes in
The Loeely Manuscripts an excerpt from a letter by Chamberlain which
states that Lady Frances, having sought out a certain wise woman, had
much conference with her."-^ There emerges in this relationship of
Lady Frances, the adulteress; Anne Turner, the witch; and Dr. Forman,
the devil*s agent, a design similar to the one in The Scarlet Letter
of Hester, Mistress Hibbins, and the Black Man.33 Though without the
intermediary figure of a witch, Hiccols interprets Anne Turner36 as
Iiaving similarly had connections with the powers of darkness. He has
her ghost say;
I left my God t*ask counsel of the devil,
I knew there was no help from God in evil:
As they that go on whoring unto hell,
From thence to fetch some charm or magick spell;
So over Thames, as o'er th* 'infernal lake,
A wherry with its oars I oft did take,
There Forman ms, that fiend in human shane,
That by his art did act the devil's ape.37
32HH, p. 68.
33Amos, p, 5
3^1
35
Kestpe, p, 384.
See below for further details of coincidences between the Black
Man and Forman, pp. 119-126.
3^0nce again Anne and Lady Frances tend to coalesce as proto
types of Hester.
37HJ£, III, 359.


82
Hawthorne's intimations that Hester 1ms trafficked with the forces of
evil thus have a parallel in the conduct of both Lady Frances and Anne
Turner. These two women explicitly dabbled in witchcraft to gain
their lustful desires. Hester's connections with the Black Man are
likewise related to her sin with Biacsesdale. Whereas Hawthorne, how
ever, hints symbolically that Hester's sin was made possible through
witchcraft, Lady Frances actually engaged in witchcraft to cohabitate
with Carr.
Hester's marriage to a physician-^ agrees with Anne Turners
marital union with a doctor. Mistress Turner, at the time of the Over
bury crime, was a widow, but her former husband had been a physician.
She was, writes the narrator, a doctors wife, and during his life
time George Turner had been the Countess physician.^
Hester is unhappy in her marriage to Boger Chillingworth. Her
husband lacks warm feelings. Hot only is he old, but it is implied
v
that in his age he is an incompetent marital companion. Hawthorne
compares their relationship to that of girl and old man, or that of
¡1Q
"a tuft of green moss on a crumbling wall." .Reviewing her early
years of married life with Chillingworth, Hester holds that period of
her life among the ugliest of her remembrances. ^Ven when she
38SL. p. 94.
39M. P* 13.
^SL, pp. 79-80.
V


83
married him, she had felt no love for him. In spite of the harsh
circumstances of family poverty that prompted her to it, Hester mar-
42
veis how she "could ever have been wrought upon to marry" the man.
While he was absent, not yet having joined her in lew England, Hester
thus yielded to temptation and sinned with Dimraesdale, Hawthornes
portrayal of Hester's unhappiness and faithlessness in her marriage
relationship with a frigid husband agrees with the details of Lady
Frances' marriage with Lord Essex. When Lady Frances was thirteen and
Lord Essex wae fourteen, they were matched in a marriage to strengthen
the ties between the Howard and Devereux families. Immediately after
wards, they were separated, Essex to travel, and she to remain at
Court with her mother.^ Rever having been thoroughly in love with
him, as it seems, what little affection she had for him died during
his absence. She lavished her love upon Robert Carr. Upon Essexs
return from his travels, he sought to live with his bride, who now
found him repulsive. With the assistance of Mistress Turner and Dr.
Forman, she used various methods of witchcraft to cause frigidity in
him: "pictures in wax are made, crosses and many strange and uncouth
things (for what will the devill leave unattempted?) to accomplish
their ends, many attempts failed, and still the earl stood it out,
at last they framed a picture in wax, and got a thorne from a tree
41SL, pp. 97, 212.
42&t> PP- 79. 212.
ty^Blographia Britauntca. s.v. "Devereux"; HH, p. 9.


that boar leaves, and stuck upon the privity of the said picture, by
hh
which means they accomplished their desire,H Having thus succeeded,
as she claimed, Lady Frances instigated divorce proceedings against
Eesex on the grounds of his inability to "execute the office of a
husband," The commission appointed to try the case ruled that Essex
was unable to have carnal copulation with her, and they granted a
divorce.4-*
The parallel with Hesters predicament is, by no means, an exact
duplication. Hester's husband is an old man, whereas Lady Frances'
husband was young. Lady Frances induced frigidity In her husband, but
Chillingworth has become debilitated by natural processes of age. Tet,
as Lady Frances' marriage was one of family convenience with a bride
groom for whom she felt no love, so also was Hester wrought upon to
marry Chillingworth rather for economic convenience than for love. As
Lady Frances, moreover, accused Essex of frigidity, Hester recalls with
horror Chillingworth's cold heart and lack of warm feelings. And in
each instance, these unhappily married women engage in adultery as a
result of their husbands' absence.
There seems to be a basic ambivalence in Hawthorne's portrayal of
Hester's repentance and salvation. With the characteristic uncertainty
that inheres in life towards another's soul salvation, Hawthorne, in
pp. 19-20.
PP- 30, 79-10?; State Trials, II, 785-862.


85
h6
contrast to hie depiction of Bimmesdale and Chillingworth, seems to
fluctuate between condemning Heater and showing her as having genuinely
repented. He seems to doubt her explanation for remaining in Hew
h??
England to work out her salvation. 1 And concerning the notion of
penance in Hester's plying of her needle, Hawthorne remarks that
"This morbid meddling of conscience with an inmaterial matter beto-
48
kened, it is to be feared, no genuine and steadfast penitence."
He again expresses a doubt when Hester harbors hatred in her heart
towards Chillingworth because of his vengeful conduct: "What did it
token?" he asks; "Had seven years, under the torture of the scarlet
letter, inflicted so much misery, and wrought out no repentance?"
When Hester entertains thoughts of suicide, Hawthorne states that the
50
scarlet letter is not performing its rightful function.
let her life during her seven years of patient martyrdom elicits
from the people much sympathetic respect. To many persons, the scarlet
letter loses its original stigma. They interpret it to mean Able.^
The "blameless purity of her life during all these years in which she
46
See below, pp. 97-102.
4?SL, p. 104.
48
SL, pp. 107-108.
^SL, p. 213.
50SL, p. 201.
51SL, pp. 279-286.


86
had been set apart to infamy, was reckoned largely In her favor."32
Hawthorne himself observes on one occasion that Hester's struggle "to
believe that no fellow-mortal was guilty like herself" is to be
"accepted as a proof that all was not corrupt in this poor victim of
her own frailty."33 In later life, moreover, Hester seems to outgrow
self-commiseration and thoughts of suicide. She determines on a
54
resolute moral course of action in order to redeem her errors.
Even in her sins Hawthorne mitigates the guilt. She is portrayed as
badly matched with a cold-hearted, incompetent, elderly man. In the
forest, when she suggests elopement, Hawthorne lessens the crime by
symbolically depicting In her hair a hope for happiness that seems
basically rooted in the natural Impulses of maidenhood. Hester's
moral triumph makes it possible for her to say encouragingly to
Dianesdale that he has deeply repented and to speak of the value of
penitence that is expressed in good works,33 Finally, after Dimmes-
dale's death, Hester is said to have returned to Hew England to resume
in the area of her crime, and in accordance with her earlier thoughts,
a life of penitence.3** Towards her and the other persons in her
52§k> P* 194.
53SD, p. 112.
54
SL, p. 202.
55si, p. 230, 243.
56sl, p. 310.


87
tragedy, Hawthorne remarks, following the example set "by Christ to
co 58
wards the woman taken in adultery, that w would fain he merciful."
The sympathetic respect which the people show towards Hester
parallels the attitude of the people towards Anne Turner. In a
similar fashion it was thought that Annes repentance was genuine.
She seemed to many persons to he deeply penitent. By her contrite
exhortations to the spectators to serve God, and abandon pride," she
showed in her confession speech great penitency, and moved the
spectators to great pity, and great grief for her."^ Likewise,
Niccols has her ghost to ask of Overburys $iost mercifully to forget
6q
my great offence,/ Which I have purgd with tears of penitence."
Annes ghost, moreover, "With more compassion movd the poisond
knight" than did the ghosts of the other criminals, and after her
ghost has disappeared, Overhurys $iost "did seem with tears/ To
chide her fate. 8l
But there appears also as conspicuous an ambiguity regarding
57John 8:3-11.
58i&, p. 307.
p. 141. In this same context, Annes casting of money
recalls Hesters bestowal of "all her superfluous means in charity."
(SL. p. 107): On her way to he executed Anne cast "money often among
the people as she went" (HE, p. 141).
III, 359-360.
6lJSi, Hi. 353. 36o.


88
Anne's salvation as is noticeable in the portrait of Hester. Anthony
Weldon remarks that Anne died penitently and "showed much modesty in
her last act, which is to he hoped was accepted by God.Amos
reports that she herself had misgivings about her salvation: She had,
she said, been in the hands of the devil, (or to that effect,) but
God had redeemed her from him, and that he had preserved her from many
dangers in her life, wherein if she had perished, she had died more
miserable for her soul's health than now she hoped she would.
Richard Hiceols' interpretation agrees with these others. In a very
crude distich, not likely to escape the notice of a reader entranced
by these materials, liiccols writes that the ghost of Anne Turner
"vanish'd from before our sight,/ I think to heaven, and think, I
64
think aright." Thus both Hester and Anne see to have gained
respect and sympathy by their penitential bearing. Both seem to have
repented. And, thou^i in both instances there is reservation and
ambiguity, it is implied that the souls of these sinful women have
been saved.
In summary, Hester's skill at needlework, her setting of fashions,
her pride, the intimations of witchcraft enshrouding her sin of
adultery, her marriage to a physician who is a "frigid" marital
62State Trials, II, 929.
^Amos, p. 223.
^HM, III, 360.


89
partner, the merciful, yet ambiguous, treatment of her repentance
appear to have parallels in the characters of Lady Frances and Anne
Turner. Even Hester*s scarlet badge, a product of her needlework,
which she is condemned to wear on the scaffold and for the rest of her
natural life, remotely coincides with Anne Turner's badge, her
starched yellow ruff, which this woman was condemned to wear at her
execution.


CHAPTER n
AKTHH DIMMESDALE
Parallels between the story progression of The Scarlet Letter and
Incidents in the Overbury affair have emphasized the more significant
aspects of Dimmesdale*s role in the novel. Features of his character
have been shown to compare with elements constituting Carr, Overbury,
and Helwyse. Both Dimmesdale and Carr commit a sexual sin.* As a man
deceived by a friend, Dimmesdale resembles Overbury.^ Dimmesdale and
Overbury also analogously undergo the tortures of a languishing
sickness.3 Dimmesdale*s moral conflict and his guilty conscience for
concealing a crime agree with the character of Jervase Helwyse.** A
few other similarities between Dimmesdale and these three counterparts
also emerge in the literature of the Overbury case.
Dimmesdale possesses "high native gifts and scholar-like attain
ments." Ke is a "young and eminently distinguished divine," who in
his sacred office has "achieved a brilliant popularity." Trained in
^Above, pp. 18-19-
2Above, pp, 42-43.
3
^Above, pp. 44-46.
4
Above, pp. 51-53* Carr was also once depicted suffering from
a guilty conscience (above, pp, 41-42). The narrator writes that
Overbury, too, was once troubled in his conscience: Overburys
"loosenesse with the Countesse galls his conscience" (HH. p,
but this reference applies to Overbury's having called his friends
mistress a whore.
90


91
"one of the great English universities," Disenesdale brings "all the
learning of the age into our wild forest-land." Bven thou^i young,
he has gained a fame that is "still on its upward slope." It "al
ready over shadowed the soberer reputations of his fellow-clergyman,
rising fame coincide with the careers of both Carr and Overbury, loth
of these young men were rapidly rising figures at the time of the
Overbury tragedy. Their prospects as famous, influential politicians
were great. Carr, in particular, had grown by royal favor into a
glory "so resplendent," writes the narrator, "that he drowned the
dignity of the best of the Nobility, and the eminency of such as were
6
much more excellent." Prom a page in King James' household Carr rose
to the rank of Viscount of Hochester. Many people perceived that Carr
was destined for yet higher honors and that his reputation should
n
eventually overshadow the prestige of others. Later, in 1613, he
became the Bari of Somerset, and until he was succeeded by George
Villiere, he seems to have been the special favorite of the monarch.
Overbury's mounting fame at this time likewise presents a paral
lel to the youthful scholarly distinction of Dint-esdnle. The narrator
designates Overbury as a "Scholar, and one that had an excellent
pp. 88, 1?2, 283.
72& PP*


92
8
tongue, and wit." He attended Cambridge and studied law in the
Middle Temple. At Court he "found favour extraordinarily and became
"eminent and beloved both of the King and Couneell," with "hope of
9
better things" still. Hiccols has Overbury's giost describe the
recognition which Overbury had received and the success he showed
promise of attaining
I was (woe's me, that I was ever so)
Belov'd in court, first step to all my woes
There did I gain the grace of prince and peers,
Known old in Judgment, though but young in years;
And there, as in this kingdom's garden, where
Both weeds and flowers did grow, my plant did bear
The buds of hope, which, flow'ring in their prime
And May of youth, did promise fruit in time.*-0
Thus Overbury and Carr are said to have achieved an eminence in their
youth and, like Bimmesdale*s, it was still on its upward slope. Over
bury and Dimmesdale, moreover, have achieved comparable scholarly
prestige.
Dimmesdale's rise to fame is cut off before he reaches hie peak
because of a sin which, poisoning his system, causes his death. 33y
his committing the sin of fornication, and by his concealing it in his
breast, his prospects for an even more brilliant career are Intercepted:
"To the high mountain-peaks of faith ami sanctity he would have
climbed, had not the tendency been thwarted by the burden, whatever it
*Bi> p. 46.
9KH* pp* 54, 23, 18.
10IQi, III, 347.


93
te, of crime or anguish, beneath which it was his doom to totter.
It kept him down, on a. level with the lowest."^ In similar fashion,
the careers of Carr and Overbury were destroyed by a crime. Overbury,
of course, was poisoned to death as a result of his interference in
Carr's love affairs. Carr, himself, because of his venery and more
especially because of his share in the murder of Overbury, lost his
glory. The writers of the documents relating to the case give their
sympathy to Overbury. Hie narrator ruefully states that Overbury was
"yet hindered in his expectation by some of his enemies ... all those
good qualities obscured by the disgraceful reproaches of a dissolute
woman.The ghost of Overbury is made to say that "lust, foul lust,
did, with a hand of blood,/ Supplant my plant, and crop me in the
bud.Despite the apparent differences between the situations of
Dimmesdale and Overbury and Dimmesdale and Carr there is also a
close parallel. Hawthorne stresses Dimmesdale's inability to attain
the highest degree of religious exaltation, whereas the narrator
emphasizes Overbury's ruined political prospects. Dimmesdale's own
sexual sin causes his destruction, whereas not Overbury's lust but
Carr's led to Overbury's downfall. But from a broader conceptual
perspective, both Dimmesdale and Overbury are initially hindered, or
nSL, p. 173.
12Si. PP- 54*55.
13M. hi, 347.


94
thwarted, In reaching the summit of their careers, because of the
crime of adultery. As a result of this crime, moreover, each suffers
from a poisoning, and each eventually dies.
There are indications that Diranesdale has a scarlet letter A,
corresponding to Hester's, etched on his bosom. The scarred flesh
motif is fundamental in the portrayal of Biramesdale's character. It
emphasizes the essential guilty relationship between him and Hester.
The marks symbolize hidden guilt, as Hester's letter sewed externally
to her dress represents public disgrace. Ingraved indelibly in the
flesh, as Hawthorne intimates, Dimmesdales bodily marks are also
symptomatic of a fatal poisoning, which, originating from a spiritual
canker, affects the body as well as the soul. By means of this
symbolic almost supernatural treatment of the consequences of
Dimaesdale's sin upon him, Hawthorne motivates interaction between
Dimnesdale and the other major characters. Pearl, perceiving him
constantly holding his hand over his breast where his pain is the most
Intense, senses that all is not right with him,1-^ Upon pushing aside
the garments of the sleeping minister on one occasion, Chillingworth,
with diabolical glee, discovers a sight assuring him that Dimraesdale
is his mortal enemy.^ The marks, finally, are aids to Dimnesdale's
confession of his guilt. Throwing back his vestments at his
14a, P. 225.
15sl. p. 169.


95
confession, he exposes a lastly miracle. Some bystanders testify to
having seen a scarlet letter imprinted in the flesh} they disagree
whether it was self-inflicted, whether it was caused by the "poisonous
drugs''1^ of Chillingworth*s necromancy, or whether the "awful symbol
was the effect of the over-active tooth of remorse, gnawing from the
inmost heart outwardly, and at last manifesting Heaven's dreadful
judgment by the visible presence of the letter." A few onlookers,
however, stubbornly claim that they saw nothing whatsoever to indicate
a blemish on Dinraesdale's honor.^
The notion of mysterious, unsightly marks, shaped into the letter
A, on Biamesd&le's breast and the people's opinions about them parallel
the ugly blisters raised by poisons on Overbury*s body and similar
rumors concerning their cause. It was reported that during his
incarceration Overbury "was changed in his complexion, his body con
sumed away, and full of yellow blisters, ugly to look upon ... and
upon his Belly twelve kernelle, raised, not like to break ... and from
1g
his shoulders downwards of a darke tawny colour, ugly to behold."
At his death were found more strange "botches and blisters on his
l6Kempe uses this same phrase in describing the murder of Over
bury: Overbury languished "under the slow but deadly operations of
the poisonous drugs mixed with his food, and a dose daily administered
by Franklin as a medicine" (pp. 390*391).
1?SL, pp. 302, 305-306.
18M, p. 54.


96
body.The narrator states that Thus venomously Inflicted, appeared
divers blanes and blisters, whereupon they to take away as well his
good name, as his life, did slanderously report, that he died of the
French-pox.*20 Meeds' poetic version of this ghastly phenomenon
likewise parallels Hawthorne's treatment of the scarred flesh of
Dimmeedale. The ghost of Overbury is made to say that his foes foully
defamed him after he died,
as they did kill
My body with foul death, that men might loath
My living name, and my dead body both.
False rumour, that mad monster, who still bears
More tongues about with her, than men have ears.
With scandal they did arm, and sent her out
Into the world, to spread those lyes about!
That those loath'd spots, marks of their pois'ning sin,
Which, dy'd with ugly marble, paint the skin
Of my dead body, were the marks most just
Of angry heaven's fierce wrath for my foul lust!
0 barbarous cruelty! Oh! more than shame
Of shameless foesJ With lust to blast my name,
when wonder 'twas, heaven's judgment did not seize
Their wanton bodies, with that great disease.
Now, when false rumour's breath throughout the court.
And city both, had flown this false report,
Many, that oft before approv'd my name
With praise for virtue, blush'd, as if the shame
Of my supposed vice, thus given forth,
Did argue their weak judgment of my worth.
My friends look'd pale with anger, and my foes
Did laugh, to see too light belief cause those,
That lov'd me once, to loath that little dust
I left behind me, as a lump of lust.21
19m, p. 126.
p* W.
HI, 351.


Full Text
THE SOURCES OF THE SCARLET LETTER
By
ALFRED SANDLIN REID
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
June, 1952

To
PROFESSOR HARRY S. VfARJEL
ii

TABLE OF CQETEBTS
Page
Preface ...... iv
Part One: Introduction
Chapter I Two Suggestive Allusions 2
Part Two* Plot
Chapter II Adultery and Ostracism. ........ 18
Chapter III Revenge and Moral Poisoning * 39
Chapter IV Final Confession and Death 62
Part Three: Characters
Chapter V Hester Pryune . ?4
Chapter VI Arthur Dimmesdale ....... 90
Chapter VII Roger Chillingworth and Pearl 103
Chapter VIII Mistress Ilibbins and the Black Man 114
Part Four* Getting
Chapter IX Setting 128
Part Five* Style
Chapter X Diction, Imagery, and Allusions 142
Chapter XI Structural Devices . 165
Part Six* Conclusion
Chapter XII From Static Symbol to Narrative Meaning 184
Bibliography 221
Vita 225
iii

PREFACE
The purpose of this study Is to suggest that several literary
accounts of an actual case of adultery, revenge, and concealed sin
could have teen the sources of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet
Letter. Part One briefly sketches the outline of this ease, describes
the works that report it, and presents the preliminary evidence that
validates these works as possible sources of the novel. Parts Two,
Three, Four, and Five, respectively, show parallels between the plot,
characters, setting, and style of the novel and the suggested source
materials. Part Six briefly summarises the principal arguments of the
study and discusses the implications about Hawthorne's creative pro¬
cess, about the genesis and evolution of the novel, and about the
meaning of the novel in relation to Hawthorne's art.
I wish to acknowledge the assistance given me in this study by
Mrs. Willie Kate Bloomfield of the University of Florida Library and
that by Professors Denver S. Baughan, J. E. Congleton, Ants Oras,
Delton L. Scudder, and Harry H. Warfel of the University of Florida
faculty for their many suggestions of style and fora. I am especially
grateful to Professor Warfel for his teaching that inspired this
research and for his critical judgment and patient encouragement that
stimulated its completion. I also wish to thank ray wife, Nathalie,
for her assistance in many ways.

PABT OHE
imoDircirioH

CHAPTER I
TWO SUGGESTIVE ALLUSIONS
In "The Custom House*1 Hawthorne ascribes the haste outline of
The Scarlet Letter to a manuscript narration of Puritan Hew England
penned by Jonathan Pue.^ let in two allusions in the novel he compares
characters of his creation to persons who were central actors in a
court intrigue during the reign of King James the First of England.
This episode was the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower of
London in 1613. Hawthorne cites the names of Overbury. Doctor Simon
Forman, and Mistress Anne Turner, and he alludes to another person in
the case without calling his name. In one of these allusions the
novelist identifies Roger Chillingworth: “There was an aged handi¬
craftsman, it is true, who had been a citizen of London at the period
of Sir Thomas Over bury's murder, now some thirty years agone; he
testified to having seen the physician, under some other name, which
the narrator of the story had now forgotten, in company with Doctor
Forman, the famous old conjuror, who was implicated in the affair of
2
Overbury. ** The second allusion occurs in a description of Mistress
Hibbins' dress: "She made a very grand appearance; having on a higfr
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, The Complete Works of
Nathaniel Hawthorne, ed. George Parsons Lathrop (Cambridge, Mase.,
Í890), V, 51—hereafter cited as SL.
2SL, pp. 155-156.
2

3
head dress, a rich gown of velvet, and a ruff done up with the famous
yellow starch, of which Ann Turner, her especial friend, had taught
her the secret, before this last good lady had been hanged for Sir
Thomas Overbury's murder.
A close study of several documents relating to the Overbury
affair, as Hawthorne called it, reveals many striking parallels be¬
tween the facts of that case and the novel. Could there be any con¬
nection between this murder and the story of The Scarlet Letter! To
indicate how this question might be answered, it will be necessary
first to outline the incidents in the Overbury murder, to describe
several works relating to it, to present evidence validating Haw¬
thorne’s knowledge of these works, and to make a detailed comparison
between the novel and these accounts of the case.
The outline of events in the Overbury affair presents at first
glance several significant parallels with the novel. Each possesses
salient features of adultery, deceitful revenge on a trusting friend,
slow death, troubled conscience, prison birth of a baby girl, and
banishment. Lady Frances Howard was married in l606 to Hobert
Devereux, Earl of Essex. While the latter traveled on the continent,
his wife became enamored of Hobert Carr, Viscount of Rochester and
King James’ rising favorite. Robert Carr had meanwhile cultivated the
friendship of Sir Thomas Overbury and had gained royal favor largely
3SL, p. 264.

4
because of Overbury‘s prudent counsel. Overbury had at first counte¬
nanced and even encouraged hie friend's adulterous liaison with the
child bride of Essex. On learning that Carr and Lady Frances were
planning to marry, Overbury protested vigorously. This intervention
incurred the contemptuous hatred of both the Viscount and the Countess.
Carr then induced ling James to appoint Overbury to a foreign diplo¬
matic assignment, a post he deceitfully advised Overbury to decline.
This refusal, as Carr anticipated, caused Overbury*e commitment to the
Tower in April, 1613. The schemers were thus able to proceed with the
Countess' divorce from Lord Essex. While a commission was deciding
her suit for divorce, the Countess solicited the aid of Mrs. Anne
Turner, an unprincipled friend. This panderess procured from Doctor
Forman and other pretenders to occult arts the formulae for poisonous
compounds. For five months agents of the Countess gave these con¬
coctions to Overbury in his food and medicine, along with special
poisoned torts and jellies that she sent. This criminal act had been
made possible by placing Overbury under the strict surveillance of a
specially appointed Lieutenant of the Tower, Jervase Helwyse, and by
assigning an old servant in Mrs. Turner's home, Richard Weston, to be
Overbury*s personal attendant. Slowly these poisons reduced Overbury
to skin and bones. A poisoned clyster finally brought about his death
on September 15* 1613. A week later Lady Frances was granted a divorce
on the false grounds of her husband's sexual impotence. She and Carr,
who now ms the Earl of Somerset, were married on December 26, 1615»

5
This plot of adultery* malice, and murder remained a secret for
nearly two years. Accounts of how it was brought to light vary. One
report says that James Franklin, one of the poisoners, exposed the
plot during an illness in Holland. Another states that an apothecary's
hoy, who it seems had been bribed to administer the fatal clyster, re¬
vealed the strategem. Some suspected that the King had a share in the
murder and instigated prosecution to rid himself of Carr for a new
favorite, George Villiers. Another account gives credit to Jarrase
Helwyse for confessing the plot to Sir Ralph Winwood, the King’s
Secretary, because the jailer's connivance weighed heavily on his
conscience. At any rate the actors in the tragedy were taken in
custody. The accomplices were brought to trial in October and Novem¬
ber, 1615* were convicted, and were hanged. While awaiting trial in
prison, Lady Frances was delivered of a baby girl, Anne Carr. Carr
and the Countess were tried in May, 1616, were sentenced to death,
but later were pardoned. Though they were eventually released from
prison in January, 1622, they were confined to certain designated
houses until complete pardon was granted them» just before King James's
death in 1624.^
4
Throughout, I avoid trying to solve the mystery of Over bury* s
murder. Modern interpretations of the facts have been made by Samuel
R. Gardiner in DNB s.v. “Overbury, Sir Thomas“; by Sdward F. Rimbault,
SheJl^cellaneous .V^rks__...^,^f .SjUr. .Tfrprns Over burg (London, 1856); by
James Maidment, Sir Thomas Overbury's Vision (Hunterian Club, no.
XVII, Glasgow, 1873). The best of these older accounts, for its
lively imaginative touches, is by Samuel R. Gardiner, The History of
England, 1603-1642 (Boston, 1883), H. 166-187, 331-363- The ®ost

6
Hawthorne* s allusions to Overbury and to obscure persons involved
in the murder indicate his acquaintance with the ca.se. Three accounts
of the crime, as later evidence will seek to demonstrate in detail,
seem to have been the sources of most of Hawthorne's knowledge about
this incident. These three accounts are an anonymous juróse narration,
"The five Tears of King James" (1643); a poem by Richard Niceols^ on
the trials of the accomplices, "Sir Thomas Overbury*s Vision" (l6l6);
and the criminal proceedings in the State Trials. The tract and the
poem are included among the antiquarian contents of The Harlelan
Miscellany. a work which Hawthorne used in 1828 and again in November
6
and December, 1849, about the time he was writing the novel. The
Miscellany is a "Collection of Scarce, Curious, and ¿Entertaining
recent study is by Edward Abbot Parry, The Overbury Mystery; A
Chronicle of Fact and Drama of the haw (London, 1925). Parry's treat¬
ment is also the most interesting for students of Hawthorne. The
judge saw in the case what the novelist perhaps saw—a potential drama.
Parry recognised that the evidence had been tampered with, that the
solution to the crime would never be known; he decided to write the
"romance of the story without calling it history" (p. 11). Hawthorne
would have agreed with Parry that the case was a "first-rate" story,
"an unsolved mystery, founded on rumours of adultery, murder, and
witchcraft" and having "the romance of a beautiful woman as the base
of it" (pp. 17, 7).
^Richard Hiccols (1584-1616) was born in London, studied law at
Oxford, and, besides writing a few other undistinguished poems, also
edited in 1610 A Mirror for Magistrates.
6
According to Marion L. Kesselring, Hawthorne's Reading 1828-
1850i ... Salem Athenaeum (Sew fork Public Library, 1949), p. 52,
Hawthorne knew and used a selected edition of The Miscellany (London,
1793)* This edition contains only the prose tract; both the poem and
the tract appear in the larger collections of 1744 and 1808.

7
Pamphlet8 and Tracts," compiled from the library of Robert Harley, the
second Sari of Oxford, after his death in 1724.
The prose pamphlet, "The Fire Years of ling James, or, The Con¬
dition of the State of England, and the Relation it had to other
Provinces," is of unknown authorship.? The narrator, possibly a
Puritan, characterizes the state of England during the early years of
King James*s reign. He fears that licentiousness and prodigality
threaten to undermine the Commonwealth. To illustrate this widespread
corruption of morals, he relates in vivid detail the Overbury scandal.
He begins with King James’s first recognition of Robert Carr, when at
tilt at Court the youth fell from a horse, broke his leg, and grew
thereafter into favor. He narrates the liaison between Carr and Lady
Frances, Countess of Essex. He depicts how the Countess, Mrs. Turner,
and Dr. Forman used love powders to inflame Carr towards the Countess;
while with other philters and waxen images they tried to debilitate
Essex and bring about frigidity in him. He tells of the friendship
between Carr and Overbury and how it turned to hatred. He describes
the murderous plot on Overbury*s life. He gives an account of Lady
Frances* divorce suit, a summary of the trials of the murderers, their
punishments, and the pardons of Carr and Lady Frances.
?The work is attributed in The Miscellany to Fulke Greville, but
Sir Sidney Lee in LSB, s.v. "Fulke Greville," denies Greville*e
authorship and assigns it to a friend of Lord Essex, possibly Arthur
Wilson.

8
Frequently the author refers to other matters of state. He
describes the tensions between England and the Hollanders, the Scotch,
and the Irish. He mentions the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and
the death of Prince Henry; he refers to the Gunpowder Plot and the
Catholic danger; he tells of the imprisonment and death of Lady
Arabella, King James's cousin, and of the execution of Sir Walter
Raleigh. But the engrossing subject upon this larger canvas is the
Overbury incident. The author's gossipy style is far from the Attic
ideal. He reports the rumors and opinions of the vulgar, as he calls
the populace.
A second important source of Hawthorne's knowledge of the Over¬
bury affair may have been Richard Biccols' "Sir Thomas Overbury's
Vision: with the Ghosts of Weston, Mistress Turner, the late Lieuten¬
ant of the Tower, and Franklin,” an imaginative summation in verse of
the thoughts of the accomplices who were executed for the murder of
Overbury. The poem is incorrectly called ”üverbury's Vision”; it is
the dream vision of the author. Biccols, deeply moved by the trials,
wrote the poem to vindicate the attacks on Overbury's character. The
opening lines state that poison and foul wrong are the themes. He
describes the public forum where he has been among the thick of the
throng witnessing the trials at Guildhall, He returns home and in his
sleep dreams that the ghost of the poisoned knight enters his chamber
and beckons him to follow. The ghost conducts him to Tower Hill and
explains how he has been maliciously betrayed, imprisoned, and poisoned.

9
Because of posthumous slanders on his character, he has left the grave
to "beg the poet’s assistance in clearing his reputation. Biceols
describes Traitor’s Gate near where they stand. As the ^host and poet
observe the gate, out of the prisoner’s dock rises the ghost of Weston,
who admits his guilt in Overbury’s murder. Anne Turner's ^iost fol¬
lows and repents of her crime. She points out the steps leading to
her disgrace and warns other women from following them. The ^.ost of
Jervase Helwys# next appears, begging forgiveness and cautioning
officials against temptations of bribery. Finally, Franklin's ^iost
rises and tells how greed and atheism led to his downfall. When the
specters have returned to their graves, Overbury* s ghost praises King
James for his just punishment of the murderers. The dream ends, and,
as Overbury had urged, Hiccols awakes to write this vision.
The poet obviously attempts to vindicate the life of Sir Thomas
Overbury and to court King James’ favor. And his didactic aims are
equally apparent. He warns his readers against the evils of court
life: pride, vanity, oversealous ambition, obsequiousness, soeial
climbing, atheism, and greedy acceptance of bribes. Hiccols’ plan is
well conceived but awkwardly executed. An historical digression on
crimes in the Tower mars its unity. The heroic verse is at times
little better than doggerel. let the poem is a contemporaneous
reaction to the trials by an eye-witness. For its unique interpre¬
tations of the characters that It portrays, the "Vision" becomes an
important document in the succeeding exposition of Hawthorne's

10
imaginative assimilation of the Overbury materials.
Another important source of Hawthorne*s information about the
Overbury case may have been the criminal proceedings in the Star
Chamber as collected in the State friáis, To be found here are the
arraignments by the prosecution and the pleadings of the defendants}
their sentences, their confessions, and their dying speeches at their
executions; the divorce proceedings of Lady Frances; the royal par¬
dons of Somerset and his Countess; Somerset's petitions for renewed
favor; and the provisions of their final reles.se from the Tower.
With the State Trials, as with The Harlelan Miscellany, Hawthorne
was on Intimate terms that date back at least as far as 1832. He
found the reading of its pages enchanting, so he told his friend and
publisher of The Scarlet Letter. James T. Fields, who relates*
Hearing him ¿HawthorneJ say once that the Old Engli sh State
Trials were enchanting reading, and knowing that he did not
possess a copy of those heavy folios, I picked up a set one
day in a book-shop and sent them to him. He often told me
that he spent more hours over them and got more delectation
out of them than tongue could tell, and he said, if five
lives were vouchsafed to him, he could employ them all in
writing stories out of those books. He had sketched, in his
mind, several romances founded on the remarkable trials
reported in the ancient volumes; and one day, I remember,
he made my blood tingle by relating some of the situations
he intended, if his life was spared, to weave into future
romances.9
Elizabeth Hawthorne corroborates the evidence of Hawthorne's fondness
^Kes eelring, p. 48.
^James T. Fields, Yesterdays with Authors (Boston, 1900), pp.
62—63*

11
for reading these reports of trials. In a letter to Fields in 1870
she wrote that of the works that her brother read during the solitary
years, The Gentleman’s Magazine and M6 vole, folio, of Howell’s State
Trials, he preferred to any others. n'1'0
Besides these works, Hawthorne knew additional books relating to
the case or containing summaries of it. Michael Sparkee1s narrative
,J&q, &££&.£oaE.tee& Yeags incorporates, ae
Part One, the whole of "The Five Tears of King James." Much of the
material on the case in the State Trials is duplicated in Part Two
titled "Truth Brought to Light by Time." Hawthorne borrowed this
history from the Saleo Athenaeum in 1827.11 Alfred John Kempe’s The
Loselv Manuscripts contains an historical sketch of the murder, some
letters by the King’s council regarding the prisoners Carr and Lady
Frances, and an inventory of some personal affects of Carr and Mrs.
Turner. Kempe collected these papers, belonging to James More
Molyneux, from the muniment room at Losely Hall in Surrey, Ingland.
The documents in the miscellany relate to history and biography, court
entertainments, political missions, and particulars of domestic life.
Kempe’s purpose is to give a "very correct idea of the state of society
and political government in the 16th and early part of the 17th cen¬
turies." Hawthorne borrowed this work from the Salean Athenaeum about
10Randall Stewart, "¡Recollections of Hawthorne by His Sister,"
AL. XFI (January, 1945), p. 32k.
^Kesselring, p. 58.

12
the tiiae he was working on the novel, October 9, 1849. A month later,
November 6, 1849, he borrowed The Harleiaa Miscellany. He returned
them on December 21, 1849,12 and a little more than a month later,
13
February 3» 1850, he reported that he had finished the novel,
Hawthorne could have known the Overbury affair from still other
sources. He was acquainted with Sir Francis Bacon’s works, which
14
contain papers that relate to the case. Bacon, then Attorney
General, participated in the trials of Carr and Lady Frances. Haw¬
thorne cites Bacon in the novel, along with three other legal figures
mentioned in the State Trials. Chief Justice Coke, who presided at
the trials of the accomplices, and Finch and Hoye,^ Many histories
of the Jacobean period appear on the list of Hawthorne's reading.
In every one of them that has been available for this study the Over¬
bury murder, one of the great scandals of its day, is retold. The
romancer knew those by Baker, Oldmlxon, and Eapin-Thoyras; he had
access in the Salem Athenaeum to others. He also knew John Britton's
and 1. W. Braylsy's Memoirs of the Tower (1830). He was acquainted
with Blogrfiphi^
Great Britain (1747-1766).^ Still other works on the Overbury affair
12Kesselrlng, p. 42.
^â– ^Horatio Bridge, Personal Recollections of Nathaniel Hawthorne
(New York, 1893). pp. 110-112.
â– ^esselring, p. 44.
15SL, p. 131.
^^Kesselring, under authors and. works cited.

13
were in circulation "before 1849» whose pages he may have turned.
Thomas Birch's The Court and Simes of James the first (1848) unfolds
through the letters of John Chamberlain and other persons the social
history of the age, and frequently the Overbury affair is mentioned.
Andrew Amos's The great Oyer of Poysonina (1846) is a massive his¬
torical and legal study of the case. Sir Walter Scott's Secret History
of the Court of James the first (1811) includes a group of books on
the age; one, Sir Anthony Weldon's Court and Character of King James
(1651), discusses the affair of Overbury in colorful fashion.
Weldon's account is also carried in the footnotes of the State Trials.
Arthur Wilson's The History of great Britain ... Life and Reign of
King James the first (1653) 1® the source of many details on the case
mentioned by Kempe and other later narrators. Besides being versified
by Hiccols in 1616, the Overbury affair was dramatised twice in the
eighteenth century, by Bichard Savage and William Woodfall. ^
There seems to be little doubt that Hawthorne was widely read in
the histories and miscellaneous collections of the age of Elizabeth
and James. He was steeped in the causes celebres that attracted the
attention of the historians. One may find many allusions scattered
throughout his tales to famous personages and events of the time.
Lady Arabella Stuart» for instance, is mentioned in "Main Street"
(1849), and "The Antique Bing" (1843) is based on the beheading of
1?
'George Sherbum in A Literary History of England, ed. Albert C.
Baugh (Hew York, 1948), p. 1087.

14
Lord Essex at Elizabeth's command. Hawthorne gave the name Jervase
Helwyse, the name of one of the actors in the Overbury tragedy, to a
pale-faced secretary in "Lady Heaaor's Mantle," This coincidence may
suggest that he adapted details from the Overbury affair as early as
1838. George P. Lathrop, however, cites a "Gervice Helwisse" in the
18
Hawthorne family tree, so that the name may have been prompted by
the one as well as the other. Nevertheless, the existence in the
novelist's ancestry of a man with a name identical to one in the Over¬
bury case may very likely have attracted his attention more keenly to
the Overbury affair.
The evidence suggests at this point a conclusion that the ref¬
erences to the Overbury affair arose not from a passing acquaintance
with this crime, which Bacon called second only to the Gunpowder
Plot,19 but that Hawthorne knew thorou^ily the main facts of that
affair and was deeply impressed, and possibly influenced, by the case.
It may be stated further as a working hypothesis that the details of
the Overbury murder were some of the pliable materials which crowded
into Hawthorne's imagination as it wrought into a novel of adultery,
revenge, and conscience a static image of a woman wearing a scarlet
letter.
This idea for a tale on a guilty wearer of the letter A was
18Works. XII, 446.
IQ
Lucy Aikin, Memoirs of the Court of King James the First
(London, 1822), II, 23.

15
suggested to Hawthorne’s mind "by a legal statute In Massachusetts
Colonial history. In 1704 the General Court of Massachusetts Bay
passed a law providing that adulterers, “both Man and Woman,*1 were not
only to he placed on the gallows for an hour and to he scourged, hut
ever afterwards they were Ho wear a Capital A of two inches long, of
a contrary colour to the cloathee, sewed on their upper Garments, on
the Back or Am, in open view. * Hawthorne first used this sugges¬
tion in 1837 in "Eadieott and the Red Cross.*' Standing with the other
guilty ones being punished hy the meeting house on the day that the
red cross was removed from the ensi^j "was likewise a young woman,
with no mean share of beauty, whose doom it was to wear the letter A
on the breast of her gown.... Sporting with her infamy, the lost and
desperate creature had embroidered the fatal token in scarlet cloth,
21
with golden thread and the nicest art of needlework. ** Seven years
later a note in his journal proposed the building of an entire tale
on "The life of a woman, who, by the old colony law, was condemned
always to wear the letter A, sewed on her garment, in token of her
22
having committed adultery."
from this simple, static image that is known to have been the
original inspiration for The Scarlet Letter Hawthorne evolved a novel
as complex as life and as dynamic as drama. That he could set this
^Quoted in frank P. Stearns, The Life and Genius of Hathanlel
Hawthorne (Boston, 1906), p. 221.
?xWorks, I, 48?.
22Handall Stewart, The .American notebooks by Nathaniel Hawthorne
(Tale, 1933). p. 107.

16
image into motion is certainly a mystery. Professor John Livingston
Lowes has described the mysterious process by which Coleridge's
imagination Imposed on chaotic materials the order that is "The Bhyme
of the Ancient Mariner" and "Kubla Khan.A corresponding process,
one may assume, took place in Hawthorne's imagination in the creation
of The Scarlet Letter. All of his reading, his experience, hie
thou^xt surely entered into its composition, because the imagination,
as Professor Lowes clearly demonstrated, cannot operate on a void.
Somewhere there exist other materials than the Massachusetts law
that must have supplied Hawthorne's imagination with the details to
energize this symbol. Through the novelist's allusions to Overbury's
murder it is certain that he knew about this crime. At first glance
broad similarities between the case and the novel appear. Discussions
of the case recurred frequently enough in his reading to have given
him a thorough grounding in all its sordid details of adultery and
vengeful murder. He was reading works that narrated the case at the
time he wrote the novel. In the ensuing chapters parallels of plot,
characters, setting, and style will be pointed out between the novel
and the literature of the Overbury murder, when this evidence has
been presented, there should emerge more clearly an answer to the
question proposed: could materials from the Overbury affair have
surged into Hawthorne's creative imagination to become shaped into
The Scarlet Letter?
^John Livingston Lowes, .JtiflM».
of the Imagination (Boston, 1927).

PAIiT TWO
PLOT

CHAPTER II
ADULTERY AND OSTRACISM
The Scarlet Letter is the story of a disgraced young woman named
Hester Prynne. The wife of an elderly physician, she is doomed for
life to wear on her garment a scarlet letter as punishment for
adultery. She is virtually ostracized from society by this symbol of
guilt, but she repents her crime against Puritan society and does
penance. Her partner-in-crime, the Reverend Arthur Dimaesdale, keeps
his sin a secret. Slowly he succumbs to the tortures of his conscience
and to a mysterious revenge inflicted upon him by a malicious doctor
of physic, Roger Chillingworth. The latter, unknown to the minister.
Is the wronged husband.
The plot of The Soarlet Letter originates in Hester Prynne's
adultery with Reverend Arthur Dlmmesdale during her husband’s absence.
This sin, though it precedes the story told by Hawthorne, provides
the initial situation from which arises the action of the novel. Two
adulterous relationships appear in the narratives of the Overbury
crime. The more prominent triangle involves Lady Frances, the
adulteress} Lord Essex, the husband; and Robert Carr, the fornicator.
Frances Howard and Robert Levereux were married in I606. While Essex
was traveling outside the country, Lady Frances noticed the accumu¬
lating honors of King James’s rising favorite, Robert Carr. Unhappy
in her marital union with Essex, she was "fired with a lustful desire"
18

19
towards Carr. They held frequent rendezvous at secret places previ¬
ously arranged.^ They were assisted in their adulterous meetings by
her great-uncle, the Earl of Northampton, and by her widowed sexual
adviser, Anne Turner. In both of these panderers' homes they came
together. They clandestinely met “in Mris, Turners house once between
the hours of eleven and twelve and at Hammersmith, and at divers times
2
elsewhere.H This unlawful love led to Lady Frances* divorce from
Lord Essex and to marriage between her and Robert Carr. Mo children,
however, seem to have been born to the adulteress until after this
3
latter marriage.
The second adulterous relationship is one involving Anne Turner.
This physician's widow was engaged in adultery with one of the Prince's
household, Arthur Manwaring, Clerk of the Pipe. By him it was related
that "she had 3 children, Seeking by force of magic to gain him for
Michael Sparkes,
First. Fourteen Years (London, 1651), pp. 15» 17. 21—hereafter cited
as M- This volume includes "The Five Tears of King James," a princi¬
pal source of Hawthorne's knowledge of the affair, and also "Truth
Brought to Light by Time," which duplicates material on the trials of
the accomplices in the State Trials. Because of the wider scope of MH.
and its easier accessibility to me, my references to the tract and
many to the trial reports are to it. The work is reproduced in Somers
Tracts, ed. Sir Walter Scott (London, 1809), IX» 262-363»
Zm, p. ii4.
^Nevertheless, "it was vulgarly reported that shee had had a
child in my Lords absence" (Mg, p. 31)»
*2S» P» 135»

20
her husband, she solicited the conjuror Forman to help both her and
Lady Frances in their passionate desires. Both these affairs will
need to be kept in mind during the following discussion* for, says the
narrator, Lady Frances and Anne Turner were "neer of the ... jásame/
disposition and temperature."'*
Hawthorne begins the action of the romance with the penalty that
is being Inflicted by the Puritan tribunal upon Hester. A throng of
people are assembled in groups, first at the prison door and then in
the market-place, to witness her shame. In one of these groups a
stern-featured matron exclaims! "What think ye, gossips? If the
hussy stood up for judgment before us five, that are now here in a
knot together, would she come off with such a sentence as the worship¬
ful magistrates have awarded?"** As “self-constituted judges," remarks
Hawthorne, they pass judgment upon the malefactress. Only a young
wife, holding a child, and a man in the crowd express merciful thoughts.?
These dramatic details have striking parallels in the introductory
verses of Richard Niccols* "Sir Thomas Overbury*s Vision," descriptive
of a trial day at Guildhall!
%H, p. 13. The fact that there are two adulteresses in the case
and that Lady Frances had two husbands, though at different times in
her life, will make confusing the discussion of parallels. It will be
necessary for clarity1s salce to keep them distinct, yet, at the same
time, to allow them to amalgamate, as would have happened in an
artist*s imagination.
6SL, p. 71.
7SL, p. 72.

21
Then did th’ inconstant vulgar day by day,
Like feathers in the wind, blown every way,
frequent the Forum; where in thickest throng,
I one amongst the rest did pass along
To hear the judgment of the wise, and know
That late black deed, the cause of mickle woe:
But, from the reach of voice too far compelled,
Shat beast of many heads I there beheld,
And did observe how every common drudge
Assum’d the person of an aweful judge:
Here four or five, that with the vulgar sort
Will not impart their matters of import,
Withdraw and whisper,..
Here some excuse that which was most amiss;
Others do there accuse, where no crime is,
Accusing that which they excus’d anon.
Inconstant people, never constant known.
Where Hiccole stresses the fickleness of the people, Hawthorne con¬
centrates on a mood of severity. But in both descriptions the
situation is a legal proceeding. The market-place in the novel
agrees with the forum in the poem, and the knot of five parallels the
groups of four and five. In both scenes the people assume the
authority of judges, and in both there is a diversity of opinion.
The prison door opens and a beadle leads Hester forth to the
place of judgment in the market-place. She holds in her arms a "baby
of some three months old" which had been born in a "darksome apartment
q
of the prison. " In the Overbury materials there also appears the
birth of a baby girl to a criminal in prison. Lady Frances was taken
^Richard Hiccols, "Sir Thomas Overbury*s Vision," The Harleian
Miscellany (London, 1808-1811), III, ^5—'hereafter cited as HM.
9SL, p. 72,

22
into custody in the autumn of 1615. In accordance with usual proce¬
dure she awaited her trial in prison. During this interval she gave
"birth to a daughter. Lady Frances’ arraignment was postponed from
Michaelmas Tena to a little after Easter; "some attributed the cause
to bee for that the Countesee was with^child, and in the mean time was
delivered of a daughter."^0 Bacon's arraignment speeches indicate
that her trial was, in fact, delayed because of "her child-birth.
Thus when she was again able, she was conducted from the Tower to the
prisoner’s bar to answer to the charge of murdering Over bury. The
baby meanwhile had been taken from her; she appeared at her trial
without it.
Hawthorne has Hester keep her baby with her throughout the
punishment for Its symbolical purport. With the "winking baby in her
arms" and the ignominious scarlet letter sewed to her bosom, she walks
through the market-place. Arriving at ten o’clock to a "sort of a
scaffold, at the western extremity of the market-place," Hester
mounts the platform where, according to the sentence, she is to stand
for three hours. Just above this platform is "a kind of balcony, or
open ^tilery, appended to the meeting-house." Here sit or stand the
tribunal, consisting of the governor, his counsellors, a judge, a
10M* p- 70.
UA Complete Collection of State Trials apd J^ppeedings, for_Hi¿k
Treason and .other .Crimes -yd .j.tisdeme^rs., from_the, .Earliest Period t&
the Tear 1783. compiled by Thomas Bayley Howell (London, 1816), II,
5th ed., 956—hereafter cited as State Trials.

33
general, and the Ministers. Governor Bellingham has with him "four
12
sergeants about his chair, bearing halberds, as a guard of honor."
The description of scenic props and figures concerned in Hester ' s
ordeal on the scaffold closely parallels the description of formali¬
ties at Lady Prances' and Carr's trials
So ... there being a Seat loyal1, placed at the upper end
of Westminster Hall a little short of the Kings Bench, and
seats made round it for the rest of the Justices and Peeres
to sit on, «ad a little Cabin built close by the Common
pleas for the Prisoners when they cape from the Tower, to
bee put to rest them them in. ... ¿The/ Lord High Steward
with great state came into Westminster Hall, with his
assistants the Judges, divers Lord® and Gentlemen attending,
and four Serjeants at Ames before him ascending a little
Gallery, made of purpose to keep off the crowd, he takes
his seat, and the rest of the Assistants and Peers according
to their places. ... The Prisoners were sent for by the
Clerk of the Chequer, whose office it was to attend the
Prisoners. ... ¿The/ Prisoners placed at the Barre, Sir
Henry Fanshaw reads the Indictment, to which the Countesse
pleaded guilty, and confessed the fact. But Somerset
pleaded not guilty.1
Minute parallels again emerge. The little balcony or gallery in which
the officials sit above Hester coincides with the little gallery in
which the Lord High Steward sits. In each description there are four
sergeants as honor guards around the most distinguished person. In
14
the State Trials these four sergeants are said to have maces; the
sergeants in the novel have halberds.
12SL. pp. 78, 85-86.
13li, p. 71.
l4state Trials, II, 947.

24
Hester Prynne "bears her public disgrace with calm dignity. She
restrains her impulses to shriek and to cast herself from the scaf¬
fold.1^ Her composure agrees in some measure with the bearing of Lady
16
Frances at her trial. Bacon said that she showed humility. The
letter-writer John Chamberlain wrote that she "won pity by her sober
17
demeanor." let Lady Frances, and also Anne Turner, did not resist
some display of emotions. Anne Turner cried at her arraignment.4,0
At the reading of Lady fiances* arraignment, she "stood, looking pale,
trembled, and shed some few tears. But, says Hawthorne, Hester
OA
merely "grew pale and trembled."
During her ordeal Hester becomes oblivious to her surroundings.
Her active mind summons up pictures of her virtuous youth and stain¬
less maidenhood in England, of her honorable parents, and of her
unhappy married life. From the scaffold of the pillory, she traces
her life in reverie back along the track "which she had been treading
21
since her happy infancy." In a similar reminiscing fashion the
15SL, p. 78.
l6State Trials. II, 954.
^Thomas Birch, The Court and Times of James the First (London,
1848), I, 407.
18|H. P- 141.
^State Trials. II, 954.
^°SL, p. 86.
21SL, pp. 79. 103.

25
ghost of Anne Turner, according to Niceole, reviews her life before
the ghost of Overbury. The ghost explains that she had not been base
from birth, but that "My nature of itself inclin’d to good."
The vanity of court life had led to her downfall. For the benefit
of other vain women her $iost continues!
Observe each step, when first I did begin
To tread the path that led from ein to sin,
Until my most unhappy foot did light,
In guiltless blood of this impoison’d knight.
22
Her ghost warns others to "mark the path which they do tread." The
shameful recollection of her parents’ faces in Hester’s reverie
parallels also Lady Frances’ thoughts of her mother and father after
she had entered into adultery with Robert Carr. She wrote to Mrs.
Turner that her "Father and Mother are angry" for her refusal to
cohabitate with her husband. To Dr. Forman she confided that she
feared the loss of her reputation and that her actions might carry to
her "father & Mother.1,23
Awaking from her abstraction, Hester gets a view of an elderly
man. Her husband has arrived on the scene. For some time he has been
there, inconspicuously hidden in the throng. Perceiving that she has
24
noticed him, he beckons her to silence, Chillingworth refuses to
come forth to claim her as his wife and to share in her dishonor. He
22¡ü. «I* 354, 357. 359.
23ra, p. 137.
2^Sb. pp. 81-82.

26
prefers to remain obscure. Hawthorne's portrayal of the wronged
husband at this point has a parallel in the conduct of Lord Essex.
Essex had at first only mildly reproved his wife, Lady Frances. Later
he took her away from Court to his home at Chartley. But realizing
his situation was hopeless, he eventually yielded without a contest
to her charges of impotency against him and her divorce. Thereafter
he remained out of her life. Further, Andrew Amos writes that
"Lord Essex, the former husband of the Countess, was present at her
trial, but seemed purposely to keep out of public observation and the
sight of the wife of his infancy. 1,27 Thus both Essex and Chilling-
worth, husbands of unfaithful wives, were present at the moment of
their wives' legal sentences, and neither was keen to speak up and
share the infamy.
While engaged in thoughts about the wrong she has done to her
husband, Hester hears herself called, John Wilson and Arthur
Dimmesdale seek to elicit from her the name of him who tempted her to
this fall. Hester refuses to make known her companion in adultery.
Her obstinacy, therefore, calls forth an hour's sermon from Wilson.
In nearly all trials the calling of the prisoner's name is standard
25SL, p. 145.
25
Alfred John Kempe, The Lo sely Mm scripts (London, 1836), p. 383.
27Andrew Amos, The Great Oyer of Poysoning (London, 1846), p. 21.
28SL, pp. 85-91.

27
procedure. But like Hester, Arme Turner refused at first to give
Chief Justice Coke any information that would incriminate others.
Lady Frances, on the other hand, was not requested to testify against
her husband, Robert Carr. But provisions had been made in the ©vent
that she should have pleaded not guilty. HThere is a direction,H
wrote Bacon to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, "given to Mr.
Lieut, by My Lord Chancellor and myself, that ... Mr. Whiting, the
preacher, a discreet Man, and one that was used to Helwisse, should
preach before the Lady, and teach her, and move her generally to
confession.The State Trials includes also a speech that Bacon
had prepared to draw forth her confession, if she should have pleaded
not guilty.-^ The notions of hesitation to incriminate others and of
preaching to a criminal to get a confession stand out for comparison.
Through one of the spectators* remarks to Chlllingworth, the
reader is informed of the details of Hester’s punishment. The towns¬
man states that the magistracy have not enforced the extremity of the
law which is death, because of her youth, her beauty, and the
possibility of strong temptation in the absence of her husband who may
have drowned. "But in their great mercy and tenderness of heart, they
have doomed Mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on
29
England,
30
Amos, p. 437; The Wort
j ed. Basil Montague (Philadelphia,
:ellor_of
518-519.
state Trials, II. 947-961

28
the platform of the pillory, aad then aad thereafter, for the remainder
of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her "bosom.
Hawthorne's original plans for a woman adjudged "by the Massachusetts*
law of 1704 are recognizable in Hester's sentence. But prior to this
statute the penalty for adultery in Hew England was death. Lady
Frances' sentence for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury was likewise
death: "Thou shalt be carried from hence to the Tower of London, and
from thence to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by
the neck till you be dead} and the Lord have mercy upon your soul. "32
But her beauty, her youth, her noble carriage, her submissive con¬
fession, her appearance of contrition, and the influence of her family
combined to gain her clemency. Her sentence contained a clause that
this penalty would be subject to revocation if the King could be moved
in her behalf. In accordance with this clause, two months after her
conviction she received a royal pardon:
This Bill containeth your Majesties gracious Pardon unto
the Lady Frances late Countesse of Somerset, for being
accessory before the fact, of the Death and Imprisonment
of Sir Thomas Overbury. It hath inserted as motives to
your Majesties mercy four respects; that is to say: The
respect of her Father, Friends, and Family.Her volun¬
tary Confession, both when she was Prisoner, and at the
31SL, pp. 83-84.
32gtate Trials, II, 957.
"^The Howard family was influential in state affairs. Her father,
Thomas, Earl of Suffolk, was Lord Chamberlain; her great-uncle, Henry,
Earl of Northampton, was Lord Privy Seal and Lord Warden of the
Cinque Ports.

29
Barre. The promise mad® publiquely "by the Lord Steward,
and her Peers to intercede for your Majesties Mercy: And
that the crime was not of a Principan, "but of an acces-
eory, before the fact, by the instigation of base persons.
The like pardon formerly passed your Majesties signature,
and is now amended by your Majesties special direction
from your royal mouth, in two points: the one is, That
Imprisonment in the Tower, or other Confining at your
Majesties pleasure, is not pardoned; the other, that the
solemne Promise made at her Arraignment by the Lord
Steward and Peers to intercede to your Majesty for your
Mercy is Inferred, 3:?
Hester’s prison term is likewise not remitted. After her ordeal
on the scaffold, she returns to her cell, as Lady Prances was led back
to the Tower. The excitement of the preceding three hours strongly
affects Hester’s passionate nature; by night she grows frenzied and
unmanageable, The jailer fears that she may “perpetrate violence on
herself, or do some half-frenzied mischief to the poor babe." She
explain® to Chlllingworth that ©he has had thoughts of death and hi-.s
even wished for lt.^ Lady francas’ conduct offers a parallel to
Hester’s frenzy. On the day before the Countess’ trial, she "fell
that night io casting and scouring, and so continued the next day very
sick. "3^ Her behavior during this trying period of confinement and
3“yor this perversion of justice, King James and his court have
been severely castigated by later historians. If any one was culpable
in the murder of Overbury, it was the Countess. See Birch, I, 40?;
Amos, p. 21; Gardiner, II, 361.
3%, PP- 179-180.
368L. PP- 92, 95.
^Letter of John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, Birch, I, 407.

30
pregnancy evoked special care in her attendance lest she kill herself
and her baby.3®
Similarly, Master Brackett, the jailor, ushers in to Hester a
newly-arrived physician, who for the time is "lodged in the prison,
not as suspected of any offence, Tout as the most convenient and suit¬
able mode of disposing of him, until the magistrates should have
conferred with the Indian sagamores respecting his ransom. The
prison domicile of Chillingworth and the meeting of husband and wife
in jail agree with the facts of Carr’s and Lady Frances’ imprisonment.
After their trials, they were returned to the Tower, and the King
desired that the Tower Official "lodge them as neare one to the other
<40
as may conveniently be." One source states that "the Earl of
Somerset and his Lady have the liberty of the Tower, and converse
41
freely together by day and night."
In the prison interview between Hester and her husband, Hawthorne
introduces Chillingworth’s sinister scheme of vengeance. Hester is
38Kempe, 400. An entry in the Calen.4er_of _StateJ^aper s.Domes tig.
¿er.ieR,. of. the.JM&L of...¿iMfijs k .1611-1.618, ed. Mary Everett Green
(London, 1858), for Hov. 11, 1615» states: "The Countess intends not
to be hanged, but to die in child-bed." Another entry, Uov. 26, says
that the King appointed midwives to be "answerable that she does not
miscarry, either by her own wilfulness, or by the malice of any other."
This work came out after Hawthorne's novel, but the entries may have
been available elsewhere.
39SL. pp. 92-93.
^Kempe, p. 400.
41Birch, II, 187.

31
caught in a dilemma. In order to save the man she loves from public
disgrace, she is compelled to enter into a bond to preserve her hus¬
band' 6 identity. Thus tacitly she becomes a party to Chilllngworth's
secret revenge. Chilllngworth makes her swear an oath of secrecy:
Hester says, "I will keep thy secret, as I have his." But Chilling-
worth orders her to "Swear it!": "And she took the oath. Hester’s
oath of secrecy and acquiescence in Chillingworth's scheme of revenge
have more than one parallel in the Overbury case. Bacon made the
accusation that Carr conspired against Overbury's life out of revenge
and that Lady Frances plotted with him: "my Lord of Somerset had made
a vow, that Overbury should neither live in Court, nor Country; that
either he or himself must die," Thus "divers devices and projects"
were "plotted between the Countesee of Essex, and the Earl of Somer-
set." Bacon also stipulated that "the purveyance or provisions of
the poisons" were brought to Lady Frances "and by her billeted and
laid up till they raigjit be used: and this done with an oath or vow of
secrecy, which is like the Egyptian darkness, a gross and palpable
darkness, that may be felt.After the Countess learned that
Weston had revealed her part in the crime, she met with Franklin "and
at that time did again give another oath for secrecy." 3
42
¿SL. p. 99-
43HH, pp. 174-175.
^State Trials, II. 961.
45State Trials, II, 989.

32
An important difference appears between the oath sworn by Hester
and the vow of revenge shared by Carr and Lady Frances, as well as the
oath given between Lady Frances and Franklin. The Countess is in both
instances guilty of a major offense, whereas Hester is a partner only
because she is made to pledge her silence. Lady Frances enters fully
into the guilt of plotting revenge against Overbury, whereas Hester,
because she loves Dimmesdale, thinks that not to reveal hie name will
protect him from the same black ruin which has overwhelmed her. She
is guilty of "acquiescing in Roger Chlllingworth's scheme of dis-
hA
guise." Later in the forest she confesses to Dimmesdale that she
had striven to be true in all things; "save when thy good, —thy
life, —thy fame, —were put in question! Then I consented to a
47
deception.” Hester*s consent to be silent regarding Chillingworth*s
identity and plot of revenge, because of her love for Dimmesdale,
agrees closely with Hiccols* interpretation of Arme Turner*s share in
Overbury*s murder. The poet has Anne's ghost to confess to Overbury's
ghost these words;
Thou gentle knight, whose wrongs I now repent,
Behold a woeful wretch, that did consent
In thy sad death.
let neither thirst of gold, nor hate to thee
For injuries receiv'd, incensed me
To seek thy life; but love, dear love to those..
That were my friends, and thy too deadly foes.
^SL, p. 202.
47Sk, p. 232.
48K£. HI, 355.

33
Later in her confession the ghost is made to explain in more details
her part in the conspiracy!
For, when those wantons, whose unjust desire,
Had urg'd me on so far, that to retire
1 knew was vain, as I "before to lust
Had been a minister, so now I must
Join hands in "blood, which they did plot and study.
In mischief I went on, and did agree
To be an actor in thy tragedy,
Thou injur’d ghost; yet was I but a mute,
And what I did was at another's suit!
Their plots I saw, and silent kept the same,^
The agreements between Hester's consent to silence and that expressed
by Anne's ^lost are not exact. Tet, in each instance a woman, by
request, consents to be silent regarding a plot on a man's life. Bach
woman acquiesces because of love, Hester for Dimmesdale, the man
plotted against, and Anne for some of the plotters.
Some time later Hester's term of prison confinement comes to an
end. She is released from prison with no restrictive clauses that
prohibit her from leaving the settlement. Nevertheless, as long as
she chooses to remain, she is under the inquisitorial watch of the
magistrates. She assumes residence on the outskirts of town, and
there in a lonesome dwelling she lives in virtual isolation. Ostra¬
cized from society, this miserable woman seems banished to a solitude
*50
as trying as her prison confinement.
^¡£i. Ill, 360.
5°sl, pp. 101-108.

34
Hester's isolation resembles that of other Hawthorne characters
who for various reasons are cut off from social concourse.^ let Lady
Frances also underwent a miserable isolation upon her release from the
Tower, After her trial she returned to prison and there remained along
with Somerset until their final release six years later, that is, early
in 1622. The royal order setting her at liberty provided that she
remain confined in the country;
Whereas his Majesty is graciously pleased to enlarge and
set at liberty the earl of Somerset and his lady now
prisoners in the Tower of London; and that nevertheless
it is thought fit that both the said earl and his lady be
confined to some convenient place; it is therefore,
according to his majesty's gracious pleasure and command,
ordered, That the earl of Somerset and his lady do repair
either to Grays or Cowsham, the Lord Wallingfords houses,
in the county of Oxon, and remain confined to one or
other of the said houses, and within three miles compass
of either of the same, until farther order be given by
his majesty.-52
The misery of Lady Frances* life Is frequently mentioned. Robert
Codrington in "The Life and Death of the Illustrious Robert, Sari of
Essex" in The Barlelaa Miscellany records that the criminals were
"prohibited not to approach the presence of the King, nor to come
within ten miles of his majesty's court. This did beget so great a
discontent, that their love by degrees did begin to suffer diminution
51Compare Wakefield in "Wakefield," Works. I, 153i Beatrice in
"Rannaccini's Dau^iter," Works. II, 130; Sthan Brand in "Sthan Brand,"
Wgrks, III, 1*95.
52m, p. 186.

35
with their pomp. Kempe» s account of this phase of the Countess's
life adds to her moral discomfiture a note of physical misery: "They
became Indifferent to each other, and lived apart In obscurity and
neglect, the objects of public contempt and execration. She died
before her husband, of a decay, so loathsome, that historians have
noticed it as a manifestation of heaven upon her crimes.
One particular of Hester's banished life is that she frequently
55
labors in a little garden, where children observe her. Lady
Frances also had access to a garden during her prison confinement.
Kempe included in his collection of manuscripts a letter to the
Lieutenant of the Tower, George More, from the Council concerning Lady
Frances. "The Countess of Somerset has made humble suit for a divine
to be admitted to her, to afford her spiritual consolation, and for
permission to walk In the garden adjoining the plaoe of her confine¬
ment. Another detail of Hester's banishment is her nocturnal
walks.In an early period of Lady Frances* life, when she was still
married to Lord Essex, she shut herself up, and did not go out except
at night. Kempe narrates that Lord Essex was greatly disappointed to
return after three or four years of absence to find his wife's
53M, VI, 9.
^Kempe, p. 395.
55sl, p. 105.
56Kempe, p. 397.
57SL, p. 112.

36
affection for him estranged, With the assistance of her father, he
removed his wife to his “seat at Ghartley, one hundred miles from
court. On her arrival there, she affected to "be overcome with a deep
melancholy, refused all society whatever with the Earl, shut herself
up in her chamber with her female attendants, and stirred out only in
the dead of the ni^it.Thus at two periods of her life, allegedly
living in solitude, Lady Frances appears almost a symbol of isolation.
After a lapse of three years, during which time the lonely Hester
plies her needle and cares for her little daughter Pearl, she learns
that a coterie of the leading inhabitants of the settlement are pro¬
moting a scheme to deprive her of her child. They dee® her unworthy
to provide the elements in the child’s education necessary for its
soul’s salvation. They propose that Pearl be taken from her and be
“transferred to wiser and better guardianship than Hester Prynne’s."
She, therefore, proceeds to Governor Bellingham's mansion to learn
the particulars of this plan and to affirm her competence to look
after the child’s spiritual welfare. To this unhappy woman Governor
Bellingham explains that “The point hath been weightily discussed,
whether we, that are of authority and influence, do well discharge our
consciences by trusting an immortal soul, such as there is in yonder
child, to the guidance of one who hath stumbled and fallen, amid the
pitfalls of this world.
^®Kempe, p. 383»
59SL, pp. 136-137.

37
A contrast to this turn of events occurs in regards to Lady
francés and her "baby, who was the daughter not only of an adulteress
hut also a murderess with years yet to serve in prison. The infant
was taken immediately from her mother's presence, away from the
unwholesome environment of the Tower and of a corrupt court, to he
brought up in the paths of virtue. Care was taken that she learn
nothing of her mother's wicked life. The letter-writer Chamberlain
gives two pictures of the relationship between mother and daughter.
At her incarceration in the Tower, he writes, "the Lady of Somerset
was committed ... upon so short warning that she had scant leisure to
shed a few tears over her little daughter at the parting.Some
few months later he addst "The Lady Khollys, «and some other friends,
have had access to the lady divers times since her conviction, and
carried her young dau^iter to her twioe or thrice. The historian
Oldmixon writes that the lari and Countess of Somerset "had one
Daughter, who marry*d the lari, afterwards Duke of Bedford. A Lady
as distinguish'd by her Virtue as her Bank; and such Care was taken
to conceal from her the odious Character of her Mother, that she had
62
heard nothing of the Story till a Tear or two before she dy'd." In
contrast, Hawthorne has Hester retain possession of her child.
^Birch, I, 396-397.
62John Oldmixon, p^_Jiistor^pf
Royal House of Stuart (London, 1730), p,

38
It Is still too early to draw a conclusion, "but the agreements
â– between the first unit of the plot of The Scarlet Letter and. details
in the Overhury case challenge the imagination. Lady Frances’
adultery and its consequences to her present many parallels with
Hester in these early stages of action. A description of Lady
Frances* trial and Riccols* picture of a scene at the trials of the
accomplices have features that minutely coincide with Hester*s punish¬
ment upon the scaffold. Lady Frances' trial proceedings present
parallels with the events that take place on this day of Hester's
shame. Both these women are also guilty of adultery. Both hear a
"baby girl in prison. Both are returned to prison "before they are
released. Both undergo a trying ostracism, the one legal, the other
moral. Both pledge oaths of secrecy that prepare the way for a
deceitful revenge. In each story the moral welfare of the criminal’s
child is a matter for some consideration. Regarding the or.ths of
secrecy, however, Hicools* poetic version of Anne Turner, also an
adulteress, offers a parallel sore suggestive of the plot of the novel,
for By vowing silence Both Hester and Anne Turner—so Hiccols inter¬
prets this woman's character—acquiesce in a plot upon a man's life.

CHAPTER III
Etnas Aim moral poisoning
While Hester labors under her doom, her husband, under the name
of Roger Chillingworth, assumes a position In the community as a
skilful "chirurgeon. " In regard to religion his conduct is exemplary.
Soon after his arrival, he chooses "for his spiritual guide the
Reverend Mr, Biaaesdale. "'L In the literature of the Overbury case
occurs a relationship with similar characteristics. When Overbury
returned from a mission to France, he attracted the attention of Carr.
Carr, now an official secretary and invested with Important public
responsibility, found in the knight an able adviser. So pleased was
Carr with Overbury1 b diligence and understanding that he took him for
his teacher and counselor. According to Bacon, in hie prosecution
speech at Carr's arraignment, "Sr Thomas Overbury for a time was known
to have a great interest and friendship with my Lord of Somerset, both
in his meaner fortunes, and after, in so much that he was a kinde of
2
Oracle of direction unto him. *
Diramesdale, whose health has begun to decline, returns the
confidence entrusted in him as Chilllngworth's spiritual counselor.
Submitting to the anxious entreaties of his parishioners, he makes
1SL, p. 147.
2m, PP. 11-12, 170.
39

40
the physician his medical adviser. Mutual trust and respect lead to
an intimate friendship. The two men confide in each other many of
their secret thoughts. Daily they keep up a '’familiar intercourse.*3
They spend much time together in taking walks and in conversing. They
discuss not only topics of ethics, of religion, and of other public
matters, hut they also speak much about matters of a private character,
of things "personal to themselves."4 In the same manner two intimate
friendships developed in the early stages of the Over bury affair. The
more prominent is that between Carr and Overbury. Bacon observed that
"this friendship rested not only in conversation, and business at
Court, but likewise in communication of secrets of State.They
"were grown to such inwardness" that they hesitated not to communicate
public affairs. On the same relationship, the anonymous narrator wrote
that "to the shew of all the world this bond was indis so lvi ble; neither
could there bee more friendship used, since there was nothing so
secret, nor any matter so private, but ... /Carr/ imparted it to Mr.
Overbury.
A second friendship in the Overbury case is one between Carr and
Northampton. loticing Carr's rise and fearing lest the young man
3SL, p. 160.
4sl, pp. 150, 153.
P. 170.
%, pp. 11-12.

41
would overshadow hie own greatness, Northampton—Lady Frances* great-
uncle—entered into a bond of friendship with him. By means of North¬
ampton's friendly recognition and praise, “there grows a kind of
Community between them, and there wants nothing but entercourse of
speech for confirmation of acquaintance, and procuring further rela¬
tion one to another." At length a great “familiarity growes between
them" which concludes in courtly discourses and “constant amity on all
7
hands."
At first Chillingworth expresses alarm at Dtsmeedale' s failing
health. Gradually the physician begins to perceive that there is an
ailment in Dtenesdale's soul. The minister seems to him to be
troubled, to be burdened with a spiritual malady. Chillingworth,
therefore, strives to lay bare this secret. He scrutinizes the soul
of his patient, for "He deemed it essential," writes Hawthorne, "to
know the man, before attempting to do him good, ’wherever there is a
heart and an intellect, the diseases of the physical frame are tinged
with the peculiarities of these. In Arthur DiranesdaJLe, thou^it and
imagination were so active, and sensibility so intense, that the
8
bodily infirmity would be likely to 2¡ave its groundwork there,"
Thus Chillingworth delves into Dimmesdale*s morbid soul, with both
skill and native sagacity, in order to ferret out the burden of his
7NH* pp. 121-15.
8SL, pp. 152-153*

42
sick heart. A comparable situation is to be found in the Overbury
affair, Carr and Lady Frances, who was granted a divorce, were
married in great pomp just after Overbury1s death.
All these things notwithstanding a guilty conscience can
never go© without accusation; pensiveness, and sullennesse
doe possess® the Earl, his wonted mirth forsakes him, he
is cast down, hee takes not that felicity in company he
me wont, but still something troubles him: Hereby it is
a dangerous thing to fall with in the compasee of a guilty
conscience, it eateth and consumeth the soule of a man, as
rust the iron, or as beating waves the hollow rocks; and
though these things are not made publique, yet neverthe¬
less© Northampton observed it in him, and having so
admirable a capacity, he could make use of all things;
wherefore knowing his disease, viz. his mind seared with
a murder, and knowing the Earle tractable as he desired,
enters into a familiar discourse with him.9
Northampton, who was also guilty of the murder, hoped to salve Carr's
conscience to keep him from revealing the secret of the murder, which
at this time still had not been brought to light. Chillingworth, in
contrast, hopes to discover what secret is affecting Dimraesdale's
constitution. In each instance a troubled conscience awakens the
interest of a close friend.
Once Chillingworth begins to search Dimmesdale's soul, a terrible
fascination gains hold of him. He gives himself up to the search with
such diabolical ingenuity that soon he makes a discovery he had hoped
for. He becomes aware that the minister is the seducer of his wife.
He now alters his course from one of curious investigation to one of
deceitful vengeance. Hawthorne observes that "Calm, gentle, passionless,
9NH» P. 57

43
as he appeared, there was yet, we fear, a quiet depth of malice,
hitherto latent, but active now, in this unfortunate old man, vhich
led him to imagine a more intimate revenge than any mortal had ever
wreaked upon an enemy. And he does it by making “himself the one
trusted friend" and by taking advantage of this confidence. He still
keeps Tip his habits of social familiarity, but turns them into paying
a debt of vengeance.
This motif of revenge upon a trusting friend is a salient feature
in the Overbury murder. Upon learning that Carr and Lady francés were
planning to marry, Overbury protested vigorously. His interference
brought down upon him the wrath of Carr, Lady Frances, and Northampton.
Their friendly regard for him soon turned into a hate that demanded
revenge. They agreed first to remove him from the country, and Carr,
who saw that Overbury was not desirous of an overseas assignment
because of his health, urged King James to appoint him anyway. At
the same time Carr deceitfully advised Overbury to refuse the post.
As Carr anticipated, Overbury was then thrown into prison. Once
Over bury was safely away in the Tower, Carr and Lady Frances proceeded
with their marriage plans, nevertheless, they agreed that he should
be poisoned so as to cause no interference whatsoever. All this time
Carr wrote to Overbury and promised to Intercede on behalf of his
release. He sent him powders which he said were for his health, but
5L* P. 170

44
which in reality were poisons.^ In prison Overbury supposed that
"all was done out of faith and honesty."^2 But at Carr's arraignment
Bacon pronounced this relationship to be "murther under the colour of
friendship.He characterized Carr’s conduct as an excess of
friendship which ended in mortal hatred. Carr's action reflected,
Bacon further charged, a "deep malice, mixed with fear, and not only
14
matter of revenge upon his Lordship’s quarrel.* Carr’s treatment of
Overbury thus epitomizes betrayed confidence and friendship turned to
malicious revenge,
Dimmesdsle's health, meanwhile, continues to fail. He grows
gradually more infirm from a mysterious disease. His body and with it
his life seem to waste away. His emaciated frame throbs with the
tortures of physical and moral pain. His parishioners, who attribute
his decline to excessive study, are certain that he has not long to
live. In order to care more closely for his health, Chillingworth
arranges that the two of them may be lodged together. The physician
looks after Biamesdale’s diet, as well as his lodgings. He brings to
bear all his skill as a doctor of physic in the treatment of Dimaes-
1<
dale’s illness. Similarly, Overbury suffered a decline in health.
UM* p*
12H, p. 46.
13m, p. 166.
lkm, p. in-172.
15sl, pp. 147-149, 153. 167.

45
He gave falling health as his reason for refusing the diplomatic
assignment. At Weston's trial one of Gverbury's servants testified
that prior to his prison confinement Cverbury was in fair health; he
had merely a coaralalnt fro® the spleen, caused ty "continual sitting
at his study.let in prison, after being given poisons, he grew
more ill. By means of these poisons, writes the narrator, Overbury
"begins to grow extrearn sickly, having been heretofore accustomed to
very good health, in so much as he can scarce stand or goe, what with
the pain of his body, and the heat.Overbury was poisoned over a
period of five months with a variety of poisons and methods of
administering them. His murderers conspired to bring about a slow
death in order not to arouse suspicions of foul play. Franklin was
hired to provide a poison "which should not kill a man presently but
lie in his body for a certain time wherewith he might languish away
JO
by little and little." Under such treatment Overbury passed his
"tedious and sorrowful dales ... with paines, and grief." He wasted
away unnaturally "as a man in a consumption, but with much more
extremity.Hiccols has the ghost of Overbury describe this painful
mode of death, including the element of deception, in his "Vision";
l6M»
1?$&, p. 48.
18NH. p. 158.
19M* pp. 48-49, 52.

46
Month and after month, they often did instill
The divers natures of that baneful ill,
Throughout these limbs i inducías me to think,
That what I took In physick, meat, or drink,
Was to restore me to my health; when all „
Was but with ling'ring death to work my fall.
The connection between Chillingworth’s revenge upon Diameedale
and the latter’s languishing sickness is not perfectly clear.
Chillingworth seems to be caring for the minister’s health with all
the pharmaceutical knowledge available in his day. He is seen
gathering weeds in the forest. Dimmes&ale observes him in his labora-
tory where he converts these weeds into potent drugs. let the
people begin to feel a prejudice towards this man of science. Some of
them believe him to be versed in the miraculous cures of the black
22
art. Others, believing him to be a potent necromancer, suspect him
of giving poisonous drugs to their minister,2-* They have no proof,
but there circulate® a story that Chillingworth had been seen "at the
period of Sir Thomas Overbury’s murder." One citizen "testified to
having seen the physician, under some other name, which the narrator
of the story had now forgotten, in company with Doctor Forrnn, the
2h
famous old conjurer, who was Implicated in the affair of Overbury.M
20HM> III. 349.
^SL, p. 160.
22sl, p. 156.
23a, ?• 304.
24sl, pp. 155-156.

4?
Hawthorne's allusion to Overbury's murder at this stage of the
novel not only strengthens the validity of the previous parallels, hut
provides an explicit comparison between the plot on that man's life and
the vengeful plot of Chillingworth on Dismeedale. It has already been
seen that the unlawful love of Carr and Lady Prances, their oaths of
revenge against Overbury, and the course of Carr's friendship parallel
the broad development of the story of The Scarlet Letter. How, in the
insinuations that Chillingworth may be poisoning Dlmaesdale, as Over¬
bury was poisoned, there emerges a closer parallel, and it is drawn
by Hawthorne himself. Franklin, for instance, Ba kind of Physitian,"
2<
was employed to make poisons, nfor hee was excellent in that art.* ^
Hiccols has the ghost of Franklin say to the ghost of Overbury that
"I was the man/ That did prepare those poisons, which began/ And ended
all thy pain. Chillingworth's compounding of drugs is thus
comparable to the poisonous art of the murderers of Overbury, and
especially to Franklin, a physician, a man skilled in the arts of
poisoning, and—as will latter appear—like Chillingworth, a man with
a crooked shoulder. There is, however, this notable difference be¬
tween the poisoning of Overbury and Chillingworth's compounding of
poisonous drug* to use on the ministers the former ms actually a
poisoning, but it is merely rumored that Chillingworth is poisoning
25n. P* 44.
26m, hi, 366

48
Dimmesdale. The reel poisoning of Dimmesdale seems to lie elsewhere.
Bat first, two other items for comparison appear in this refer¬
ence to Overbury. Both relate to Chillingworth. One concerns his
"becoming a medical adviser to Dimmesdale; the other concerns the means
whereby Chillingworth is paying his debt of vengeance. The friendship
between Garr and Overbury, it has been shown, agrees with that between
Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, though not in every respect. Overbury
was the counselor or the oracle of direction to Carr, and Blstmeedale
is the spiritual guide of Chillingworth. But there was no clear
parallel for Chillingworth as medical adviser to Dimmesdale. In
Carr’s pretended concern for Overbury‘s health, as illustrated by his
sending powders to the prisoner, this element faintly appears, but the
fact that Franklin was a physician and was employed in the preparation
of poisons completes the parallel of professional advice. While Over-
bur y’s oracular relation to Carr agrees with Bin-esdale’s similar
relation to Chillingworth, Franklin’s capacity as a physician hired to
27
poison Overbury ' contrasts with Chillingworth* s medical supervision
of Dimmesdale’s health.
Still, in this allusion to Overbury occurs a parallel to another
means, besides rumored poisoning, whereby Chillingworth is gaining
revenge on Dimmesdale. The physician pricks Dimmesdale's conscience
'^There were also Borne physicians who visited Overbury in prison
and seemed honestly to try to restore him to health: Overbury him¬
self, growing suspicious of his attendant Weston, once asked for a
physician. (KH, p. 49)

49
with conjured spirits, suggests Hawthorne. Chillingworth becomes Mnot
a spectator only, but a chief actor in the poor minister's interior
world. ... The victim was forever on the rack; it needed only to know
the spring that controlled the engine; and the physician knew it wellI
Would he startle him with sudden fear? As at the waving of a
magician's wand, up rose a grisly phantom, — up rose a thousand
phantoms, — in many shapes, of death, or more awful shame, all flock¬
ing round about the clergyman, and pointing with their fingers at his
pO
breast!" ' This fantastic motif is also indicated elsewhere in the
novel. Chillingworth is believed to have been seen in company with
the conjuror Forman. Chillingworth allegedly engaged in incantations
with Indians before reaching the settlement. Some people believe him
to be a necromancer.^
Both Forman and Franklin — with the latter of whom Hawthorne may
be comparing Chillingworth in the allusion — were conjurors. When Lady
Frances first fell in love with Robert Carr, she went to Anne Turner
for help. They decided to inchant Carr: "for this purpose they fall
acquainted with Dr. Forman that dwelt at Lambeth, being an ancient
Gentleman, was thought to have skill in the Magi ok Art.Xfctil his
death, Forman helped them devise means of witchcraft to induce love in
28
SI¿, F. 1?2.
29SL, pp. 155-156, 304.
30
M. P. 15.

Carr. Later, Gresham said finally Franklin were hired for these evil
purposes, Franklin was “thought to he no less a wizard than the two
31
former, Gresham and Forman.* In “Sir Thomas Overbury's Vision*
Richard liccols has the ghost of Franklin say that “Forman, that cun¬
ning exorcist, and If Would many times our wicked wits apply/ Kind
32
nature* In conjuring spirits.
The question still remains whether Bimmesdale, like Overhury, is
"being poisoned to death. In one sense Hester thinks he is: "She
doubted not, that the continual presence of Roger Chillingworth, —
the secret poison of his malignity, Infecting all the air about him,
— and his authorized interference, as a physician, with the minister’s
physical and spiritual infirmities, — that these bad opportunities
had been turned to a cruel purpose. By means of them, the sufferer's
conscience had been kept in an irritated state.In another place
Hawthorne observes that it was impossible for her to doubt "that,
whatever painful efficacy there might be in the secret sting of
remorse" in the minister's conscience, “a deadlier venom had been
infused into it by the hand that proffered relief. A secret enemy had
been continually by his side, under the semblance of a friend and
helper,In terms crudely similar, the ghost of Overbury is made to

say to Kiccols in the "VlsionH that he had served a false friend and
that cruel men had vengefully Induced hi® to take food containing
poisons. Slowly this “poison secretly did creep/ Through" his veins.
“The veno®, seising" hi® "vulture-like," painfully tore his entrails.^
In the Overbury case, however, the poisons were chemical} in Chilling-
worth's revenge, the poisoning is, what Bacon called, a "circumstance
36
moral" in that it is revenge upon a trusting friend. For Hawthorne
implies that Dimraesdale is poisoned by breathing a moral atmosphere
polluted with the venom of Chillingworth's secret malignity.
Still, the contrasts between the two poisonings may be carried
further, Dimraesdale is also poisoned by a guilty conscience. Haw¬
thorne writes that "the poison of one morbid spot was Infecting his
heart's entire substance.His sin and the failure to confess it
ulcerate his moral system. His guilty conscience festers and gener¬
ates an infectious poison that spreads fatally throughout his nature.
His spirit becomes sick} his heart grows morbid. Dimraesdale's
languishing sickness because of the poisoning of his system parallels
Overbury's consumptive decay from the poisons administered him. But
in the Overbury case there are two men guilty of sin who, like
Dimraesdale, suffered in their consciences. Carr's guilty conscience

52
and diseased mind have "been observed. Bat Jervase Helwyse's situa¬
tion is more germane. Helwyse was guilty of conniving in the plot on
Overbury*s life. An Lieutenant of the fewer, he had known about the
murder, but had remained silent. How far he was involved in the crime
is not certain. But it is clear that his conscience bothered him.
His ghost is made by Hieeols to confess to the ghost of Overbury that
"of no sin had say most sinful soul/ Been ever sick, j£bu$7 this one
sin most foul.«39
Dimraeedale fights a losing battle with his Puritan conscience.
A moral conflict between the forces of confession and secrecy contend
in him for supremacy. «Remorse" Incites him to confession, while
ho
"Cowardice” restrains him. Chillingworth urges him to confess the
sin that is causing his strange malady, but Dlnraesdale replies that
he fears to show his spotted soul before his parishioners, lest he
lose their respect and the capacity to achieve further religious good.
Dimmesdale's moral cowardice and the arguments in his conflict are
analogous with the problems confronting Helwyse, as expressed by his
ghost in Riccols' poem; the ghost confesses his connivance in the
murder and explains that his «coward conscience" forced him to yield
to secrecy:
3®iiee above, pp. 41-42.
39M* III, 363.
40
SL, p, 180, I60-I63.

53
0 what a tedious combate, in my heart,
Unto my soul did feelingly appear,
•Twixt my sad conscience, ajad a doubtful fear!
Fear said that, if I did reveal the same,
Those great ones, great in grace, would turn the shame
Upon my head; but conscience said again,
That, if I did conceal it, murder's stain
Would spot my soul as much for my consent,
As if at first it had been my intent.
Fear said that, if the same I did disclose,
The countenance of greatness Z should lose.
And be thrust out of office and place;
But conscience said that X should lose that grace
And favour, which my God to me had given,
And be perhaps thrust ever out of heaven.
Long these two champions did maintain the field,
Till my weak conscience at the last did yield.
Let such men to remember still be mov'd
That which by sad experience I have prov'd;
*Tis good to fear great men, but yet 'tie better
Ever to fear God more, since God is greater.
The situations agree in that each involves a man with a guilty
conscience. In each a cowardly conscience constrains a sinner to
silence. There is a conflict between courting the respect of men and
|tO
conducting one's self truthfully before God, In The Scarlet Letter
the moral conflict Is introduced partly through dialogue; Chilling-
worth, ironically, represents conscience and truth.
Bimesdale augments his intense pain by performing acts of
penance. In an effort to expiate his crime he scourges his soul and
l'rlm, III, 361-362.
42
SL, pp. 162-163* Hawthorne's depiction of a ms® tormented by
a guilty conscience is not new. Compare his “Roger Halvin's Burial,**
Works, II, 381; **%e Minister's Black Veil,** Works, I, 52; "Egotism;
or, the Bosom Serpent," Work?. II, 303.

54
keeps nightly vigils. On one of these occasions he walks to the scaf¬
fold yjhere Hester had seven years "before "been condemned to stand.
Here "by coincidence he meets Hester and Pearl., who are returning frota
the death-bed of Governor Winthrop. The three join hands. Dlmmesdale
reinforces the mockery of repentance by declining Pearl's invitation
to stand títere the following day before the populace, and as if in
reply there gleams a meteoric light far across the sky. Hawthorne
writes that "The great vault brightened, like the done of an immense
lamp." And there in the senith appears "an imítense letter, — the
43
letter A, — marked out in linee of dull red light." J
In the Overbury case occurred a night-time scaffold scene with
details similar to this one in the novel. Sobert Carr's trial
extended from morning until late in the evening, so long that it was
necessary to light Westminster Hall. Andrew Amos describes the trial
thus! "The Earl's trial lasted from nine in the morning till ten at
night. Towards the concluding part of the trial, the dramatic effect
of the scene was increased by a multitude of torches casting a glim¬
mering light through the hi$i and vaulted roofs of the Hall, and
making transiently visible the countenances of the Judges, the
Counsellors, the Peers, Peeresses, and the mixed audience that crowded
44
in the lofty scaffoldings." Striking similarities emerge. In both
43SL, PP. 178-187.
44
Amos, p. 22.

55
scenes a guilty man is, as it were, standing on trial, Carr before a
legal tribunal, Dimaesd&le before a divine tribunal. A dramatic
effect arises from a play of lights. At first Dimmesdale'e surround¬
ings are lighted by Wilson’s lantern, which casts a "glimmering light,”
and then by a meteor. When the light from the meteor flashes, "The
great vault” of the sky, like the 'Vaulted roofs of the Hall,” is
brightened. And just as the torches in the Hall at Carr’s trial
outlined indistinctly the figures present, the light of heaven gave a
distinctness to the scene in Boston, but "with an awfulness that is
always imparted to familiar objects by on unaccustomed light ... all
were visible, but with a singularity of aspect that seemed to give
another moral interpretation to the things of this world than they had
ever borne before.
The midnight vigil, which brings Hester and Dimsiesdale together,
enables Hester to make the startling discovery that Bimmeedale is on
the verge of lunacy. Her vow of secrecy comes squarely home to her,
^SL, p. 187. Hawthorne writes, in connection with the letter A
caused by the meteoric light, that such phenomena — "a blazing spear,
a sword of flame, a bow, or a sheaf of arrows" — were considered
divine revelations. Thou^i Dioaesdale sees his own sin in this letter,
the people interpret the A to stand for Angel, in recognition of
Winthrop's new state. Kempe included in his hosely Manuscripts some
documents on meteoric phenomena. In one of these a prodigy of the
sky is described: "The Angel of the Lord is represented in the
clouds ... displaying in one hand a flaming sword, in the other a
scourge composed of numerous lashes" (p, 192). It was believed to
presage the plague. Hawthorne's reading in Kempe in 1849 may have
reopened for him this field of supernatural phenomena, in which he
already had an acquaintance from other books about the age.

56
for she realises that she is largely to blane for the minister’s decay.
Hester thus determines "to redeem her error, so far as it migfrt yet he
possible."4^ Acting upon this resolution, she decides to take the
first opportunity to aocost Chillingworth and learn what lies yet in
"her power for the rescue of the victim on whom he had so evidently
set his gripe." Meeting him, she explains that she can no longer hold
47
her silence; she "must reveal the secret." ' The reports of the Over¬
bury trials include a statement by one of the plotters that he had
wanted to back out of the intrigue. Franklin, with whom Lady Frances
had made an oath of secrecy, reported to Lord Chief Justice Coke:
"I went unto her, and told her I was weary of it; and 1 besou^it her
48
upon my knees, that she would use me no more in those natters."
Ho record seems to exist, however, that Lady Frances renounced her vow
of vengeance. But in Hlccols’ version of Anne Turner’s consent in the
crime there appears an analogy to Hester’s renunciation of her oath.
Anne’s ghost is made to recent her agreement in life to silence about
the murder. Her ghost's confession to the ghost of the man she had
wronged is prefaced by a declaration of repentance and is concluded by
a request for mercy: "Thou gentle knight, whose wrongs I now repent,"
she begins; she ends with "forget ay great offence,/ Which I have purg’d
49
with tears of penitence." 7
^SL, pp. 201-202.
47SL, p. 209.
48gg, P. 149.
^HM, III, 355 . 360.

57
In Introducing the forest interview, Hawthorne presents his two
characters as ghosts. they first meet, they question each other's
bodily existence, "It was no wonder," writes Hawthorne. "So strangely
did they meet, in the dim wood, that it was like the first encounter,
in the world beyond the grave, of two spirits who had been intimately
connected in their former life, but now stood coldly shuddering, in
mutual dread; as not yet familiar with their state, nor wonted to the
companionship of disembodied beings. Each a ghost, and awe-stricken
at the other g£u>stt"**° Before the meeting with Dimraesdale, Hester,
though she wishes she did not have "this grievous wrong to confess"
to him she loves," nevertheless tells him of her error. She confesses
that she "consented to a deception" in order to save him. She reveals
Chillingworth’s identity and implores forgiveness for keeping it a
secret. Thus in the novel, as in the poem, a woman who has agreed
to acquiesce in a plot that wrongs a man’s life, confesses her guilt
and begs forgiveness. In both works the characters concerned are
52
presented as ghosts.
Two other details of the forest interview som comparable to
elements in the Overbury case. One of these concerns a circumstance
of a meeting between lovers; the other involves Hester's anticipation
50SL, pp. 227-228.
5XSL, p. 232.
j2See above, pp. 32-33*

58
of eloping by her letting down her hair. During the meeting Hester
stands out as the stronger of the two lovers. She is passionately
coercive as she pleads forgiveness. She throws her arias impetuously
around him. She buoys him up with her energy. She urges that he
think of their sinful love as having a consecration of its own. The
influence she exercises over the shattered spirit of the minister in
suggesting they escape to begin life anew is, says Hawthorne, like a
"magnetic power."'*3 Clandestine meetings between lovers are, with one
exception, not described in any detail in the affair of Overbury.
Kempe relates an amusing circumstance, however, in the liaison between
Anne Turner and .Arthur Manwaring. Anne and Lady francés had been
giving magic drugs to their paramours to arouse love in them: "Mrs.
Turner having an inclination for Sir Arthur Manwaring, a gentleman of
the Prince's household, some of the love-powder was secretly adminis¬
tered by her intervention to him, by the effect of which they believed
he was made to ride fifteen miles in a dark night, through a storm of
rain and thunder, to visit her,"^ Here, then, is an account of a
passionate woman who by the efficacy of a magic drug exerted, as
Hester does spiritually upon Dimmesdale, a magnetic influence upon the
man she loved.
Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester having agreed to elope, Hester
53SL, pp. 236, 232-237.
e.h
Kesne, p. 382.

59
discards her scarlet letter. Undoing her cap» she lets down her hair,
which falls “upon her shoulders dark and rich, with at once a shadow
and a light in its abundance, and inparting the chara of softness to
her features. ... Bor sex, her youth and the whole richness of her
beauty, cane back from what sen call the irrevocable past and clus¬
tered themselves, with her maiden hope, and a happiness before
unknown, within the magic circle of this hour.Hester’s releasing
of her hair and her maiden hope for happiness recall a prominent
detail in Lady Frances’ divorce proceedings and her wedding to Hebert
Carr. Like Anne Turner, she had given love phials to Carr, but she
had also given drugs to Essex to produce frigidity in him. When her
witchcraft upon her unsuspecting husband appear®! to succeed, she
hastened to report his insufficiency and her virginity. Announcing
that she was still a maid, she requested a divorce. Because the Earl
of Essex, her husband was “unable (as she reported) to execute the
office of a husband, and that upon search, by the verdict of twelve
Matrons shee appeared still to be a Maid, " it was decreed that she be
granted a divorce, for procreation’s sake.^ At her wedding Lady
Frances kept up the ruse. She created quite an impression at the
ceremony, because she came bedecked not as a widow but as a maiden.
She appeared "in the habit of a virgin bride," writes Keerpe, "her
55SL, p. 243.
56hk, pp. 30-31.

6o
â– beautiful tresses flowing over her shoulders to her feet. The
incident also attracted Chamberlain* s attention, «ho «rote to a friend,
“She was married in her hair.**^® Commenting on this phrase, Amos
explains further tlmt "To be married ‘in their hair* «as the appro¬
priate etiquette of that day for virgin-brides.Quite different
is Lady Frances' situation at the Court of King James and that of
Hester in the forest. Lady Frances claimed virginity, Hester does
not. Lady Frances obtained a divorce and married her lover; Hester
seeks no divorce, but plans to elope with Diameedale to a foreign
country. Yet in each case there are similarities. Each adulteress
is shown arrayed in long hair at a scene dealing with her marriage or
with her plans to elope. The authors describing these scenes point
out a symbolic connection between the long hair and maidenhood, 'where¬
as Kemp® makes this connection explicitly, Hawthorne merely implies
that Hester*s long hair is a symbol of her hope for future marital
happiness and that this hope is like that of a maiden.
Parallels between the novel and the Overbury affair have thus
continued to accumulate. In this chapter the essential features of
-^Xempe, p. 390.
^Birch, I, 373.
59
Amos, p. 7. Arthur Wilson — The History of Great Britain
(London, 1653)* P« 64 — makes a statement concerning Princess
Elizabeth at her marriage in 1612 that confirms this item of ceremonial
etiquette: "Her Vestments were White, the Emblem of Innoceney; her
hair dishevel*d, hanging down her back at length, an Ornament of
Virginity."

61
the actual Harder of Overbury have been shown to compare with Chilling-
worth's vengeful plot against Dimmesdale. Both intrigues are marked
by a close friendship. In each instance this friendship turns to
deceitful revenge. Both plots are characterised by failing health.
In each case poisoning appears as a decisive factor in this languish¬
ing death. Dimmesdale* a parishioners voice their fear of a poisonous
plot on their minister like that which befell Overbury. In each
instance a guilty conscience for concealment of sin is a prominent
feature. But the novel, in contrast, ti^itly integrates into one
relationship elements of friendship, revenge, poisoning, guilt, and
languishing death, whereas in the Overbury affair these elements are
scattered loosely among several relationships. And finally, Hester's
symbolic releasing of her hair as 3he looks forward to an unknown
happiness by eloping with her lover vaguely parallels Lady Frances'
false declaration of virginity and her maidenly dress at her marriage
with her paramour. Are there further parallels in the outcome of
these two stories?

CHAPTER IV
FINAL CONFESSION AND DEATH
Before Hester and Diramesdale depart for their anointed place of
escape, Diramesdale, it was decided, is first to deliver the Election
Day Sermon, and later the same day they are to embark. Having
preached his Sermon,* Diramesdale and the congregation proceed to the
town hall for a banquet in honor of the new magistrates. In the ranks
of the procession, Diramesdale, tottering nervelessly and wavering like
o
an infant, makes Ms way. As he passes the scaffold, he pauses, calls
to Hester and Pearl, and then approaches to ascend its steps.^ Unable
any longer to conceal his guilt, and fearful lest he die before con¬
fessing it, he reveals to the people the secret of Ms sin with
Hester. He is described by Hawthorne as standing out distinctly "to
4
put in his plea of guilty at the bar of Eternal Justice." He
addresses "the dignified and venerable rulers," his brother ministers,
and "the people, whose great heart was thoroughly appalled," and
*Commente on Hawthorne's account of the Sermon have been deferred
for the moment. See footnote 12 below, p. 66.
2
In the report of Helwyse' s trial, just before Ms execution
speech — wMch will follow in the text — he answered one of the
charges against him with a similar shaky motion. The recorder writes:
"In this he staggered, and wavered much" (NH, p. 146).
% L, p. 300.
4SL, p. 301.
62

63
discloses how he had concealed his sin and had become "the one sinner
of the world.He explains that God knew his guilt. He observes
that it was God’s will that he has been led to this scaffold, and that
6
he must "do the will which Ke hath made plain*' before his sight.
Dimmesdale*s declaration of his guilt just before his death has a
parallel in the confession speech of Jervase Helwyse before this con¬
demned man’s execution. Helwyse, it will be remembered, has been
compared to Dimmesdale. Both men have been seen to be guilty of con¬
cealing a sin and to have suffered in their consciences. Just as
Dimmesdale, inarching in file, stops by the scaffold and ascends it,
Helwyse proceeded to the scaffold and mounted it to be executed:
"On Monday, 20 Kovemb. 1615. hee was executed at Tower-hill upon a
Gibbet there set of purpose, about six of the clock in the morning,
hee being arrayed in a black Suit, and black Jerkin.... He came on
foot to the Gibbet from Sheriff Goare’s house, between Dr. Whiting,
and Dr, Felton, two of his Majesties Chaplains, and coming to the
Ladders foot, he talked a word or two to the Executioner. Then he
went up the Ladder four or five steps ... whereafter a while sitting
7
easily, he uttered word® to this, or like effect."
Then Helwyse, like Dimmesdale, addresses the people, confesses his
5£L. P- 301.
6sl. p. 301.
7m, pp. 150-151.

64
guilt, acknowledges his concealment of a crime, and puts in his plea
of guilty, not before a legal tribunal, but before a divine tribunal:
Koblee, right worshlpfull, and others, I am here come, as
well to shew, explain, & unfold that which at the time of ay
arraign, so many of you as were present expected} as also to
shew that then I perceived I had lost the good opinion of
many, in standing so long upon ray innocency, which was ray
fault, I confess®, hoping now to recover the same, and your
good charitable opinions of rae, which fault I then saw not,
being blinded with mine errors, which made me accompt it no
sin. But since ray condemnation, by means and help of these
two Gentlemen here present, (the two Doctors) I was per-
swaded of the greatnesse of ray sin, and that it was so much
the greater, by how such the more I did conceale it; which
by Gods mercy I perceiving, consulted not with flesh and
blood, but thought in this my Condemnation, my best way for
ray souls health to revesle to the omnipotent and all-seeing
God, the most secret and inward intentions and thoughts of
my deceltfull heart, not once respecting the pains or dis¬
praises of the world, which I regard not at ail, ... Some
here knew ay forwardness ... but I plead, not innocency that
way, but cast it off, and confess®, that of this great
assembly I am the most Wretched sinner.®
Thus, in the same spirit as Dimraesdale, Helwyee confesses to having
hidden his guilt, hastens to make right his accounts with God before
his death, and claims to be the worst of sinners for his criminal
conduct
After his speech, Dimraesdale sinks down. In his last words to
Hester he expresses his assurance of salvation. He knows God has been
merciful to him and has saved him because of the way in which God has
tormented him and brought him to death in this fashion:
The law we broket — the sin here so awfully revealed! —
let these alone be in thy thoughts! I fear! I fear! It

65
may be that, when we forgot our God, — when we violated
our reverence each for the other’s eoul, — it was thence¬
forth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an
everlasting and pure reunion. God know»; and He le
merciful! He hath proved his mercy, most of all, in my
affliction. By giving me this burning torture to bear
upon my breast! By sending yonder dark and terrible old
man, to keep the torture always at red-heatI By bringing
me hither, to die this death of triumphant ignominy before
the people! Had either of these agonies been wanting, I
had been lost forever! Praised be hie name! His will be
done! Farewell!9
Helwyse likewise experiences the assurance of salvation in his confes¬
sion speech. He, too, feels that God has shown him mercy by arranging
events so that he can Ale a death, though perhaps ignominious to some,
yet to him a special favors
Nobles and others, to see your faces it rejolceth me, whereby
you manifest your love in granting my request, to be Wit¬
nesses of my Death, I see a number of my friends, there,
there, there, pointing as he spake, who out of their loves,
I entreated to beseech God to strengthen me in Death; though
ignominious to some, yet to mee a bitter cup mingled to me
with Gods mercy, a speciall favour this way to call mee
home, whereas he mi^ht have taken away my life by shooting
the Bridge, or some fall, or otherwise; and then this un¬
repented sin, which I accounted no sin (such was my blind-
nesse) had been damnation to me, for God is just, and the
unrepented sinner shall have no salvation. There is none
of you present here that knows how or in what sort hee shall
die, it may be in his bed, it may be otherwise, (God knows);
I protest before you all, I never came over this Hill, in
the chiefest of all my prosperity, with more joy than now 1
have at this present, for I now know that presently I shall
behold the glorious face and si^it of my Creator.1*
In his final prayer Helwyse, like Diamesdale, reiterates his assurance
9SL> p. 30h.
10m. pp-152-153.

66
that he Is not lost: “this comfort, this I hare, that I aia thine} for
were I not thine, then out of the root of me could not the buds of
repentance appear, by wch I know thou lowest me; it is not I, but thou
Lord has drawn* me to thee, for thine own «tercies sake, on which
mercy, and promises made to the true repentant sinner, once again I
i
rely,"
Dying speeches of criminals tend to run in familiar patterns.
let there are more outstanding similarities in Helwyae’e confession
and in Dimmesdale* s dying revelation of his guilt than seems normal.
One of these has not been observed. Neither Bimr.esdale nor Helvyse
state explicitly what sin they have hidden. So ambiguously does
Dimmesdale speak of his guilt that some parishioners do not hear in
his dying words even a remote implication of his sinning with Hester.
Similarly, Helwyse did not mention the crime of murder for which he
was about to lose his life. The emphasis in each scene is on having
concealed a sin, on a humanly ignominious but divinely merciful death
in which the will of God has seemed to prevail, and finally on the
12
experience of the assurance of salvation.
ua. p. ii6.
12Kawthorne‘s remarks describing the «motional undertone of
Dimmesdale’s Election Sermon would also coincide with & description of
the spiritual quality of a dying confession. The Sermon is character¬
ized by "an essential character of plaintiveness" and a "deep strain
of pathos": "tfhat was it? The complaint of a human heart, sorrow¬
laden, perchance guilty, telling its secret, whether of guilt or
sorrow, to the great heart of mankind; beseeching its sympathy or
forgiveness, — at every moment, — in each accent, — and never in

67
At Chillingworth's death, which follows hard upon Dimnesdalo'B,
"he bequeathed a very considerable amount of property, both here and
in England, to little Pearl, the daughter of Hester Prynne."‘*’3 Pearl
became the richest heiress in Hew England. In the Overbury affair Anne
Carr, the daughter born to Lady Frances in prison, was similarly pro¬
vided for. Before her father, Robert Carr, went on trial for the
murder of Overbury, he wrote to King James a declaration of his inno-
cency and at the same time requested permission from the King to
"dispose of my lands and goods to my wife end child. This detail
occurs also in Carr's later petition to the King for reinstatement
into royal favor,^ Chillingworth, in contrast, is not actually
Pearl's father, nor does he bequeath anything to Hester, his wife,
Rumors later circulate that Pearl becomes a bride and that she
gives birth to a baby. She and her mother had left their peninsula
cottage, and years later Hester returns alone. But "Through the
vainl It was this profound continual undertone that gave the clergy¬
man his most appropriate power" (^L. pp. 289-290). The Sermon was
pervaded with the "idea of his transitory stay on earth" (SL, p. 295)»
Helwyse'e speech is didactic like a sermon. He reminds his audience
to take heed from his example. He cautions one person explicitly
about ^tabling. He concludes with a prayer. Together, these details
are suggestive of a sermon.
133L, p. 308.
14^{, p. 183.
*%H, pp. 187-188. The State Paper Office contains a letter by
Chamberlain in which Carr's request is repeated: that "his daughter
may inherit some of his lands" (S.P. Domestic, June 8, 1616).

66
remainder of Hester's life, there were indication® that the recluse of
the scarlet letter wae the object of love and interest with some
inhabitant of another land. Letters came, with armorial seals upon
them, though of bearings unknown to >3nglish heraldry."1^ The gossips
believe that Pearl is "not only alive, but married, and happy, and
mindful of her mother." Hester is said to be making baby garments,
17
presumably for Pearl's infant. ' Pearl's noble marriage and her
giving birth to a child are also analogous with facts in the career of
Anne Carr. Married in 163? to William Hussel, Duke of Bedford, Anne
ID
Carr gave birth to at least one child. Whereas Anne Carr, however,
married into the English nobility, Pearl appears to have married into
a peerage other than English.
Hester herself lives out her life in lonely sorrow. Her troubles
draw many women to her for consultation and advice on marital problems.
The circumstances attending the death of Lady Frances are hardly a
close parallel. Hester dies later than her husband, but Lady Frances
preceded her husband in death: she died in 1632, and he in 1645.
Hester becomes the object of much honorable respect before she dies,
but Lady Frances is said to have died in obscurity.1^ Though
i6sl, pp. 309-310.
17£L, p. 310.
l8Stato Trials, II, 966.
Estate Trials. II, 1020

69
indelibly stained with sin, Hester, moreover, dies a serene death, hut
Lady Frances, the "fatal Countess," died from a revoltingly loathsome
disease.20 The Bloarauhia. Brltannica records that the Countess “yet
underwent a much more miserable fate in her death, occasioned by a
gangrene that ended in a mortification of that part, in which she had
almost beyond all example shamelessly offended," For "‘Tie said she
had a procidentia vulvae & uteri, which hanging down inverted to her
knees, and mortifying piecemeal, caused the most excruciating
tortures.By sharp contrast the woman who has paralleled Hester
in so many aspects of her career dies a death shockingly repulsive.
Hawthorne places the emphasis in Hester's death rather on the pollu¬
tion of her soul which denies her all opportunity of fulfilling a
divine mission for improving the status of woman; this inability,
oo
Hawthorne implies, is a divine judgment for her sin. But the
details of Lady Frances' death concern her bodily pollution, which is
also attributed to the judgment of God upon her.2^
Any one of the parallels that have been drawn, thus far, may have
occured to Hawthorne independently of influence from the Overbury
^Sir Anthony Weldon, The Court and Character of King James
(London, 1651) p. 113; Kempe, p. 395 — see above, pp. 34-35*
21
S. v. "Overbury" and lote; see also Wilson, p. 83.
22SL, P* 311.
23j[eiape, p. 395 —
see above, p. 35

70
affairs adultery, a prison birth of a baby girl, a legal proceeding,
a prison interview between husband and wife, a vow of revenge made by
a husband in which a faithless wife acquiesces for her own reasons,
virtual ostraciBEi from society; a close friendship, a deceitful
revenge upon a trusting friend, a guilty conscience, a languishing
sickness with intimations of poisoning, a nightly scaffold scene, the
repenting of having made an oath by a woman who consented to silence,
a hope for happiness by joining with a paramour; a dying confession
made by a man who has concealed his guilt, an experience at death of
the blessed assurance of divine mercy and salvation, a bequeathing of
property to a daughter, and a noble marriage of a young girl. Any one
of these elements, to repeat, or even a number of them, may have been
suggested to Hawthorne from various and sundry places. But such a
chain of coincidences, as this one, demands some kind of explanation
other than coincidence. Since these parallels are all found in
literary documents relating to a single episode in history, there is a
strong degree of probability that they may have been the Imaginative
materials that inspired Hawthorne to complete in novel form the idea
for a tale of adultery that had lain dormant in his mind for many years.
The unity of the elements that parallel the design of the novel
also argues for a probable influence. The first unit of the plot, up
to the scene at Bellingham1s mansion, concerns, for the most part,
Hester, — her prison term for adultery, her punishment, and her
thou^its in her banished condition. The parallels to this section of

71
the novel group themselves around the corresponding prison two for
murder, trial, release, and banishment of Lady Frances, an adulteress.
Similarly, when the author shifts, after the scene at Bellingham's
mansion, to the relationship between Chillingworth and Dimaesdalo, the
parallels to the action in these chapters — friendship, revenge, and
poisoning of Dimaesdale's system — are clustered about the Carr-
Over bury friendship which ended in the poisonous murder of Overbury
instigated by the vengeful Carr. And in the same fashion, the
parallels to the catastrophe of the novel, that is, Oimmesdale*s
revelatory speech before his death, center in the confession of
Helwyse before his execution.
Ivor is it insignificant that in "The Custom House" Hawthorne
mentioned, perhaps facetiously, that he adapted the main facts of the
novel from an existing story and vouched for "the authenticity of the
ph,
outline," The outline of the Overbury murder consists initially of
adultery between Lady Frances and Eobert Carr. Their love precipi¬
tated the vengeful murder of Overbury who had opposed their marriage.
The plot concludes with the confessions and punishment of the
criminals. In spite of the totally different array of characters and
of emotional effect, the outline of action in the novel fundamentally
agrees. Hester»s adultery leads to Chillingworth»s revenge, and at
the end Dimmesdale confesses his guilt. But, in sharp contrast, the
24SL. pp. 51-52

72
novel possesses a degree of artistic unity that full accounts of the
Overbury murder lack. The motifs that in the murder are loose and
scattered are amalgamated in a few characters in the novel, although
these essential plot motifs seem to be basically the same,
The inherent probability that the Over bury affair became trans¬
muted into The Scarlet Letter is greater in view of Hawthorne's
citations of Overbury in the novel. But the theory also stands up in
view of Hawthorne's own bent of mind. His intellect had perhaps been
working unconsciously, as it were, on the idea of a tale of adultery,
and it was, therefore, drawn towards this salient motif in the Overbury
crime. He may also have been attracted to the case, as has been
mentioned, by the recurrence of the name Jervase Kelwyse in both his
family tree and in the Overbury case; at any rate, he had used the name
in 1838 in "Lady Eleanor's Mantle." Many times earlier Hawthorne had
written tales which used sin as a basis; more than once before he had
dealt with hidden sin and a guilty conscience. Obsessed artistically
with moral issues, his temperament could thus have found it congenial
to assimilate the Overbury materials because of their preoccupation
with sin, guilt, and judgment upon the sinner. All the evidence, how¬
ever, is still not in. May there not be further elements in the case
that parallel the distinctive features of the characters, the setting,
and the style of the novel, coincidences which may further strengthen
this hypothesis?

PART THREE
CHARACTERIZATION

CHAME V
HESTER PEYERE
la accordance with Hawthorne* a usual method of forming characters,
traits of Hester Prynne parallel features of "both Lady francés and
Arme Turner. Guilty of adultery like Hester, these two participants
in the murder of Overbury have also been seen to resemble her at many
other stages in the plot of the novel. While in prison awaiting their
sentences, Hester and Lady Frances each bears a baby daughter.2 Each
3
gives an oath of secrecy in a plot of revenge, undergoes ostracism
u
following her prison term, and employs the symbolic guise of a virgin
in connection with a new union. ^ Hester and Anne Turner analogously
•^Professor Randall Stewart has demonstrated this characteristic
of Hawthorne*s imagination whereby several traits from different per¬
sons are assimilated into one character. The clearest example is
perhaps that of Diranes&ale who comprehends from Reuben Bourne («Roger
Halvin's Burial") the idea of concealment, "from the Reverend Mr.
Hooper /"The Minister's Black Veilfj certain concomitants of the role
of clergyman, and from Roderick Ellison ¿"Egotism; or, the Bosom
Serpent^/ a characteristic gesture" — The American Notebooks by
Nathaniel Hawthorne (Hew Haven, 1933)* P* lxvi* Dimmesdale also
possesses from Fanshawe (Fanshawe) and from Aylmer ("The Birthmark") a
scholarly disposition, and from Owen Waxland ("The Artist of the
Beautiful") a peculiar sensitiveness (pp. xlvi-xlvii). Though this
example applies only to materials in his own tales, ths same method
of cumulative assimilation seems to have been employed with respect
to the persons in the sources prssented in this study.
2Above, pp. 18-22.
3Above, pp. 30-31•
Above, pp. 33-35*
^Above, pp. 58-60.
?4

75
acquiesce in a plot of revenge. And each is shown repenting of her
consent to secrecy and obtaining forgiveness from the avenged man.^
There are also a few other comparisons to be drawn between Hester and
these two women.
One of Hester's most distinctive traits is her skill at needle¬
work. Her fine art of sewing brings her a small reputation. The
matronly judges have only contempt for her needlework, but by this
art Hester occupies herself both during her prison confinement and
throughout her lengthy isolation. She makes her own dresses and those
of Pearl. She also supplies the vain members of the community with
"Deep ruffs, painfully wrought bands, and gorgeously embroidered
8
gloves." Because of this minerior "gift for devising drapery and
costume," her handiwork sets the fashion of the age.^
The vocation of Anne Turner coincides with that of Hester.
Listed among other items in an inventory of Anne Turner's personal
belongings, confiscated by the court at her execution, is a set of
needlework pearls. Most of the other possessions are clothes} "an
ashcoloured sattin nightgown; another of changeable taffata; a black
^Above, pp. 32-33*
^Above, pp. 56-57*
8sl. p. 105*
9sl, pp. 105, 214.

76
taffata strait-bodiced gown;'*'0 others of sattin, wattered sattin,
etc.; a black shag nightgown; an old taffata petticoat; three waist¬
coats; a gown of wrou^it geo grata; six smocks; two laced aprons; a
square of needlework pearls.As Hester makes fashionable ruffs
and bands, so also did Anne Turner make ruffs and cuffs and intro¬
duced fashions of dress into Courtly circles. The starched yellow
ruff is said to have been her invention. Michael Sparkes writes in
the introduction to The Narrative History that Lord Chief Justice
Hdward Coke sentenced "that fomenter of lust, Mistress Anne Turner ...
to be hanged at Tiburn in her yellow tiffiny ruff and cuffs, being she
was the first inventor end wearer of that horrid garb.» And "never
since the execution of her in that yellow ruff and cuffs there hanged
12
with her, was ever any seen to wear the like." Richard liccols has
the ghost of Anne explain in "Overbury1s Vision" that pride
Taught me each fashion, brou^it me over seas
Each new device, the humorous time to please!
But of all vain inventions, then in use
When I did live, none suffer'd more abuse
Than that fantastick ugly fall and ruff, ,,,
Daub'd o'er with that base starch of yellow stuff.
Thus Hester and Anne each possesees a skill at needlework, each taakeB
ruffs, and, each sets fashions.
10Compare one matron's sneering words about Hester: "little will
she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown" (SL, p. 71).
^Kerape, p. 409*
1Zm, p. ¿ijj.
^hm, III, 357.

77
With her talent Hester embroiders the scarlet letter which she
has been sentenced to wear for a time on the scaffold and thereafter
for life.^ She calls her letter a "badge of shame. * ^ By coinci¬
dence, Anne Turner's ghost likewise calls her starched yellow ruff a
badge. Her ghost, in cautioning vain women about wearing the yellow
ruff, is mad© to say:
0 that ay words night not be counted vain,
But that my cotinsel might find entertain
With those, whose souls are tainted with the itch
Of this disease, whom pride doth so bewitch.
That they do think it comely, not amiss:
Then would they oast it off, and say, it is
The bawd to pride, the badge to vanity.
Whose very sight doth raurther modesty.
Thus each of these adulteresses wears a product of her own needlework
skill and designates it as a shameful badge. It has also been noticed
that each woman is condemned to wear her creation for a few hours upon
the scaffold and for the rest of her natural life. Hester's punish¬
ment on the scaffold is for three hours, and the period of time there¬
after till her death is relatively long. But Anne Turner's punishment
was that she be hanged in her ruff; upon the scaffold she ended her
natural life.1'7
14SL, pp. 84, 105.
15SL. p. 137.
l6gM. Ill, 357.
Above, p. 76. These subtle coincidences could have been major
reasons for Hawthorne's becoming interested in the Overbury case. He
may have early identified Anne Turner with the woman in his original

78
Hester's scarlet letter is equivalent to a fiery brand upon her
IQ
soul* The people compare its color to the flames of hell. Because
of its scarlet brilliance, the letter gives origin to a legend. In
the vulgar mind, It ''seemed to derive its scarlet hue from the flames
of the infernal pit.The legend expands until the people believe
that "the symbol was not mere scarlet cloth, tinged in an earthly dye-
OA
pot, but was red-hot with Infernal fire." A similar comparison is
mad© between hell's flames and Anne's starched yellow ruff. liccols
puts into the ghost's mouth an exhortation against wearing this garbs
Tea, then detesting it, they all would know.
Some wicked wit did fetch it from below,
That here they ai^dt express by this attire
The colour of those wheels of Stygian fire.
Hawthorne uses the words infernal rather than Stygian and hue rather
than colour; he also stresses heat. But the concept® in both
Instances are Identical.
idea for a tale. The germ for the novel contained the notion of a
woman condemned for life to wear the letter A. In its first use in
"Thdicott and the Bed Gross" the adulteress had embroidered her own
letter (Works. I, 46?). The woman had also been condemned to stand on
the scaffold, a common punishment of the age. Details about Anne
Turner fulfill both these basic requirements.
l8SL, p. 293.
19SL, p. 91.
^SL, p. 112.
zlm, in, 35?.

79
Pride and vanity are distinguishing traits of Hester's character.
The women at her punishment call her haughty and sneer at her bravery
22
in dress. At her first appearance she recklessly repels the beadle.
Hester’s pride nourishes itself upon the skilful fashioning of luxu¬
riant raiment. Hawthorne writes that "She had in her nature a rich,
voluptuous, oriental characteristic, — a taste for the gorgeously
23
beautiful." Somewhat analogously, Lady francés is said to have been,
besides lustful, also "prodigall of expence ... and light of behav¬
iour."2^ A closer parallel to Hester's pride and vanity is to be
found in Meeds' depiction of the character of Anne Turner when the
ghost of Anne is made to say}
Two darling sins, too common and too foul,
With their delights did bewitch my sod}
First pride array'd me in her loose attire,
Fed my fond fancy fat with vain desires»**
Hester thus agrees with Lady Frances and Anne in possessing a nature
characterized by haughtiness and vanity. And like Anne especially,
Hester appears to have exercised these attributes upon exquisite
productions of her own inventiveness and upon vain attire for herself.
The scarlet letter is the token not only of Hester's violation of
the social code and of her pride and vanity, but it also typifies her
22si¿, pp. 70-72.
23Sk* P- 107.
Olí
m, p. 9.
hi, 357.

80
moral aberration in the spiritual world. In this badge Hawthorne
depicts Hester's sin by means of witchcraft symbolism, The letter, as
with a magic spell, encloses her in a sphere by herself. She tells
Pearl that the letter is the mark of the Black Man, whom she once
met.2^ Hester is shown twice talking with Mistress Hlbbins, the
witch. On one of these occasions Mistress Hlbbins announces that
there will be a meeting of witches with the Black Man. She explains
to Hester her promise to him that Hester would attend.2^
This atmosphere of witchcraft enshrouding the character of
Hester, in regard to her sin, agrees with the circumstances of witch¬
craft surrounding Lady Prances’ adulterous liason with G&rr. To .tone
Turner, whom the narrator describes as a sorceress, an enchantress, and
Lady Prances' second,^0 went Lady Frances for assistance in obtaining
the love of Robert Carr and in inducing frigidity in Lord Sssex. In
these matters of witchcraft and enchantment they turned to Forman.-*1
When on trial, Weston confessed that Lady Frances had had dealings
26SL, p. 74.
27SL, p. 223.
28SL. pp. 144, 286-288.
^SL, p. 144.
30kh. pp. 12-13» 15* Kotice here, as will appear in more detail
later that Lady Frances and Anne Turner must be sharply distinguished
— the one as a respectable woman, the latter as a disreputable witch.
31M. PP* 15-16, 19-20.

81
32
with witches and wizards. Amo* mentions that she had had midnight
33
interviews with professors of the black art. Kemp© includes in
The Losely Manuscripts an excerpt from a letter "by Chamberlain which
states that Lady Frances, "having sought out a certain wise woman, had
much conference with her."3^ There emerges in this relationship of
Lady Frances, the adulteress; Anne Turner, the witch; and Dr. Forman,
the devil1s agent, a design similar to the one in The Scarlet Letter
of Hester, Mistress Hibbins, and the Black Man.33 Though without the
intermediary figure of a witch, Hiceols interprets Anne Turner36 as
having similarly had connections with the powers of darkness. He has
her ghost say:
I left my God t'ask counsel of the devil,
I knew there was no help from God in evil:
As they that go on whoring unto hell,
From thence to fetch some charm or raagick spell;
So over Thames, as o»er th* ‘infernal lake,
A wherry with its oars I oft did take,
There Forman was, that fiend in human shape,
That by his art did act the devil's ape.37
32EH, p. 68.
33.teo8, p. 5.
^Kempe, p, 384.
33See below for further details of coincidences between the Black
Man and Forman, pp. 119**126.
360nce again Anne and Lady Frances tend to coalesce as proto¬
types of Hester.
37¡Sí. HI. 359.

82
Hawthorne's intimations that Hester has trafficked with the forces of
evil thus have a parallel in the conduct of both Lady Frances and Anne
Turner. These two women explicitly dabbled in witchcraft to gain
their lustful desires. Hester's connections with the Black Man are
likewise related to her sin with Biamesdale. Whereas Hawthorne, how¬
ever, hints symbolically that Hester's sin was made possible through
witchcraft, Lady Frances actually engaged in witchcraft to cohabitate
with Carr.
Hester's marriage to a physician^® agrees with Anne Turner's
marital union with a doctor. Mistress Turner, at the time of the Over¬
bury crime, was a widow, but her former husband had been a physician.
She was, writes the narrator, a doctor's wife, and during his life¬
time George Turner had been the Countess* physician.^
Hester is unhappy in her marriage to Hoger Chillingworth. Her
husband lacks warm feelings. Hot only is he old, but it is implied
v
that in his age he is an incompetent marital companion. Hawthorne
compares their relationship to that of girl and old man, or that of
tuft of green moss on a crumbling wall." Beviewing her early
years of married life with Chillingworth, Hester holds that period of
her life among the ugliest of her remembrances, liven when she
38SL. p. 94.
39iS. P« 13.
^SL, pp. 79-80.
V

83
married him, she had felt no love for him. In spite of the harsh
circumstances of family poverty that prompted her to it, Hester mar-
42
vele how she "could ever have been wrought upon to marry" the man.
While he was absent, not yet having joined her in lew England, Hester
thus yielded to temptation and sinned with Dimraesdale, Hawthorne’s
portrayal of Hester's unhappiness and faithlessness in her marriage
relationship with a frigid husband agrees with the details of Lady
Prances' marriage with Lord Essex. When Lady Frances was thirteen and
Lord Essex was fourteen, they were matched in a marriage to strengthen
the ties between the Howard and Bevereux families. Immediately after¬
wards, they were separated, Essex to travel, and she to remain at
Court with her mother.4-* Hever having been thoroughly in love with
him, as it seems, what little affection she had for him died during
his absence. She lavished her love upon Hobart Carr. Upon Essex's
return from his travels, he sought to live with his bride, who now
found him repulsive. With the assistance of Mistress Turner and Dr.
Forman, she used various methods of witchcraft to cause frigidity in
him: "pictures in wax are made, crosses and many strange and uncouth
things (for what will the devill leave unattempted?) to accomplish
their ends, many attempts failed, and still the earl stood it out,
at last they framed a picture in wax, and got a thorne from a tree
413L, pp. 97. 212.
pp. 79, 212.
4*Blographia Britannlca. s.v. "Devereux"; |IH, p. 9.

84
that toare leaves, and stuck upon the privity of the said picture, by
44
which means they accomplished their desire.H Having thus succeeded,
as she claimed, Lady Frances instigated divorce proceedings against
Essex on the grounds of his inability to "execute the office of a
husband." She commission appointed to try the case ruled that Essex
was unable to have carnal copulation with her, and they granted a
divorce.^
The parallel with Heater's predicament is, by no means, an exact
duplication. Hester's husband is an old man, whereas Lady Frances'
husband was young. Lady Frances induced frigidity in her husband, but
Chlllingworth has become debilitated by natural processes of age. let,
as Lady Frances' marriage was one of family convenience with a bride¬
groom for whom she felt no love, so also was Hester wrought upon to
marry Chlllingworth rather for economic convenience than for love. As
Lady Frances, moreover, accused Essex of frigidity, Hester recalls with
horror Chlllingworth's cold heart and lack of warm feelings. And in
each instance, these unhappily married women engage in adultery as a
result of their husbands' absence.
There seems to be a basic ambivalence in Hawthorne's portrayal of
Hester's repentance and salvation. With the characteristic uncertainty
that inheres in life towards another's soul salvation, Hawthorne, in
pp. 19-20.
pp. 30, 79-10?; State Trials, II, 785-862.

85
46
contrast to his depiction of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, seems to
fluctuate between condemning Hester and showing her as having genuinely
repented. He seems to doubt her explanation for remaining in Hew
47
Ingland to work out her salvation. 1 And concerning the notion of
penance in Hester's plying of her needle, Hawthorne remarks that
"This morbid meddling of conscience with an immaterial matter beto-
48
kened, it is to be feared, no genuine and steadfast penitence."
He again expresses a doubt when Hester harbors hatred in her heart
towards Chillingworth because of his vengeful conduct: "What did it
token?" he asks; "Had seven years, under the torture of the scarlet
49
letter, inflicted so much misery, and wrought out no repentance?"
When Hester entertains thoughts of suicide, Hawthorne states that the
50
scarlet letter is not performing its rightful function.
let her life during her seven years of patient martyrdom elicits
from the people much sympathetic respect. To many persons, the scarlet
letter loses its original stigma. They interpret it to mean Able.”*5’
The "blameless purity of her life during all these years in which she
46
See below, pp. 97-102.
U?SL, p. 104.
48
SL, pp. 107-108.
^SL, p. 213.
5°SL, p. 2G1.
51SL, pp. 279-286.

86
had been set apart to Infamy, was reckoned largely In her favor."32
Hawthorne himself observes on one occasion that Hester's struggle "to
believe that no fellow-mortal was guilty like herself" is to be
"accepted as a proof that all was not corrupt in this poor victim of
her own frailty."33 In later life, moreover, Hester seems to outgrow
self-cos® 1aeration and thoughts of suicide. She determines on a
54
resolute moral course of action in order to redeem her errors.
Even in her sins Hawthorne mitigates the guilt. She is portrayed as
badly matched with a cold-hearted, incompetent, elderly man. In the
forest, when she suggests elopement, Hawthorne lessens the crime by
symbolically depicting in her hair a hope for happiness that seems
basically rooted in the natural impulses of maidenhood. Hester's
moral triumph makes it possible for her to say encouragingly to
Dimmesdale that he has deeply repented and to speak of the value of
penitence that is expressed in good works.33 Finally, after Dimmes-
dale's death, Hester is said to have returned to lew England to resume
in the area of her crime, and in accordance with her earlier thoughts,
a life of penitence.3** Towards her and the other persons in her
52Bi. P* 194.
53SL, p. 112.
<54
SI^, P» 202.
55SL, p. 230, 243.
56sl, p. 310.

87
tragedy» Hawthorne remarks, following the example set hy Christ to-
57 58
wards the woman taken in adultery, that "we would fain he merciful."
The sympathetic respect which the people show towards Hester
parallels the attitude of the people towards Anne Turner. In a
similar fashion it was thought that Anne’s repentance was genuine.
She seemed to many persons to he deeply penitent. By her contrite
exhortations to the spectators "to serve God, and abandon pride,* she
showed in her confession speech "great penitency," and "moved the
spectators to great pity, and great grief for her. Likewise,
Niccols has her ghost to ask of Gverbury's ^iost mercifully to "forget
6o
my great offence,/ \ihieh I have purg’d with tears of penitence."
Anne's ghost, moreover, "With more compassion mov'd the poison'd
knight" than did the ghosts of the other criminals, and after her
ghost has disappeared, Overbury's $iost "did seem with tears/ To
chide her fate."6l
But there appears also as conspicuous an ambiguity regarding
57John 8:3-11.
58s¡¿> p. 307.
141. In this same context, Anne's casting of money
recalls Hester's bestowal of "all her superfluous means in charity."
(SL. p. 107): On her way to be executed Anne cast "money often among
the people as she went" (HH, p. 141).
III, 359-360.
61M, III, 353 . 360.

88
Anne*b salvation as is noticeable in the portrait of Hester. Anthony
Weldon r«narks that Anne died penitently and "showed much modesty in
reports that she herself had misgivings about her salvation: "She had,
she said, been in the hands of the devil, (or to that effect,) but
God had redeemed her from him, and that he had preserved her from many
dangers in her life, wherein if she had perished, she had died more
miserable for her soul's health than now she hoped she would.
Richard Meeds' interpretation agrees with these others. In a very
crude distich, not likely to escape the notice of a reader entranced
by these materials, Meeds writes that the ghost of Anne Turner
"vanish'd from before our sight,/ I think to heaven, ¡«id think, I
respect and sympathy by their penitential bearing. Both see® to have
repented. And, though in both instances there is reservation and
ambiguity, it is implied that the souls of these sinful women have
been saved.
In summary, Hester's skill at needlework, her setting of fashions,
her pride, the intimations of witchcraft enshrouding her sin of
adultery, her marriage to a physician who is a "frigid" marital
62Ltate..Trids, II, 929
^Amos, p. 223.

89
partner, the merciful, yet ambiguous, treatment of her repentance
appear to have parallels in the characters of Lady Frances and Anne
Turner. Even Hester's scarlet badge, a product of her needlework,
which she is condemned to wear on the scaffold and for the rest of her
natural life, remotely coincides with Anne Turner's badge, her
starched yellow ruff, which this woman was condemned to wear at her
execution.
i

CHAPS® VI
AHfífUH DIKMESDAhE
Parallels between the story progression of The Scarlet Letter and
Incidents In the Overbury affair have emphasized the more significant
aspects of Dimmesdale’s role in the novel. Features of his character
have been shown to compare with elements constituting Carr, Overbury,
and Helwyse. Both Dimnesdale and Carr commit a sexual sin.*- As a man
2
deceived by a friend, Dimmesdale resembles Overbury. Dimmesdale and
Overbury also analogously undergo the tortures of a languishing
sickness.3 Dimmesdale’s moral conflict and his guilty conscience for
concealing a crime agree with the character of Jenrase Helwyse.** A
few other similarities between Dimmesdale and these three counterparts
also emerge in the literature of the Overbury case.
Dimmesdale possesses "high native gifts and scholar-like attain¬
ments." Ke is a "young and eminently distinguished divine," who in
his sacred office has "achieved a brilliant popularity." Trained in
1Above, pp. 18-19-
2Above, pp. 42-43.
3
"Above, pp. 44-46.
4
Above, pp. 51-53* Carr was also once depicted suffering from
a guilty conscience (above, pp. 41-42). The narrator writes that
Overbury, too, was once troubled in his conscience: Overbury's
"loosenesse with the Countesse galls his conscience" (HH. p, 44);
but this reference applies to Overbury's having called his friend’s
mistress a whore.
90

91
"one of the great English universities," Dimznesdale brings "all the
learning of the age into our wild forest-land." »en thou^i young,
he has gained a fame that is "still on its upward slope." It "al¬
ready overshadowed the soberer reputations of his fellow-clergyman,
rising fame coincide with the careers of both Carr and Overbury. Both
of these young men were rapidly rising figures at the time of the
Over bury tragedy. Their prospects as famous, influential politicians
v/ere great. Carr, in particular, had grown by royal favor into a
glory "so resplendent," writes the narrator, "that he drowned the
di^aity of the best of the Nobility, and the eminency of such as were
6
much more excellent." From a page in King James' household Carr rose
to the rank of Viscount of Hochester. Many people perceived that Carr
was destined for yet higher honors and that his reputation should
n
eventually overshadow the prestige of others. Later, in 1613» he
became the Bari of Somerset, and until he was succeeded by Seorge
Villiers, he seems to have been the special favorite of the monarch.
Overbury's mounting fame at this time likewise presents a paral¬
lel to the youthful scholarly distinction of Bimmesdale. The narrator
designates Overbury as a "Scholar, and one that had an excellent
5SL, pp. 88, 172, 283.
PP*

92
8
tongue, and wit.11 He attended Cambridge and studied law in the
Middle Temple, At Court he "found favour extraordinarily" and became
"eminent and beloved both of the King and Couneell," with "hope of
q
better things" still. Hiccols has Overbury's #ost describe the
recognition which Overbury had received and the success he showed
promise of attaining:
I was (woe's me, that I was ever so)
Belov'd in court, first step to all my woe:
3here did I gain the grace of prince and peers,
Known old in judgment, though but young in years;
And there, as in this kingdom's garden, where
Both weeds and flowers did grow, my plant did bear
The buds of hope, which, flow'ring in their prime
And May of youth, did promise fruit in time.*0
Thus Overbury and Carr are said to have achieved an eminence in their
youth and, like Dimmesdale1s, it was still on its upward slope. Over¬
bury and Dimmesdale, moreover, have achieved comparable scholarly
prestige.
Dimmesdale's rise to time is cut off before he reaches hie peek
because of a sin which, poisoning his system, causes his death. By
his committing the sin of fornication, and by his concealing it in his
breast, his prospects for an even more brilliant career are Intercepted:
"To the high mountain-peaks of faith and sanctity he would have
climbed, had not the tendency been thwarted by the burden, whatever it
p. 46.
9EH. pp* 54, 23, 18.
10HK, III, 347.

mi^at Tie, of crime or anguish, beneath which it was his doom to totter.
It kept him down, on a level with the lowest."^ In similar fashion,
the careers of Carr and Overbury were destroyed hy a crime. Overbury,
of course, was poisoned to death as a result of his interference in
Carr's love affairs. Carr, himself, because of his venery and more
especially because of his share in the murder of Overbury, lost his
glory. The writers of the documents relating to the case give their
sympathy to Overbury. The narrator ruefully states that Overbury was
"yet hindered in his expectation by some of his enemies ... all those
good qualities obscured by the disgraceful reproaches of a dissolute
woman. The ghost of Overbury is made to say that "lust, foul lust,
did, with a hand of blood,/ Supplant my plant, and crop me in the
bud.Despite the apparent differences between the situations of
Dimmesdale and Over bury — and Dimmesdale and Carr — there is also a
close parallel. Hawthorne stresses Dimmesdale*s inability to attain
the highest degree of religious exaltation, whereas the narrator
emphasizes Overbury's ruined political prospects. Dimmesdale's own
sexual sin causes his destruction, whereas not Overbury's lust but
Carr's led to Overbury's downfall. But from a broader conceptual
perspective, both Dimmesdale and Overbury are initially hindered, or

94
thwarted, tn reaching the summit of their careers, "because of the
crime of adultery. As a result of this crime, moreover, each suffers
from a poisoning, and each eventually dies.
There are indications that Diraaesdale has a scarlet letter A,
corresponding to Hester's, etched on his bosom. The scarred flesh
motif is fundamental in the portrayal of Dimmesdale's character. It
emphasizes the essential guilty relationship between him and Hester.
The marks symbolize hidden guilt, as Hester's letter sewed externally
to her dress represents public disgrace. Hngraved indelibly in the
flesh, as Hawthorne intimates, BimmesdaLe's bodily marks are also
symptomatic of a fatal poisoning, which, originating from a spiritual
canker, affects the body as well as the soul. By means of this
symbolic — almost supernatural ~~ treatment of the consequences of
Dimmesdale's sin upon him, Hawthorne motivates interaction between
Dimmesdale and the other major characters. Pearl, perceiving him
constantly holding his hand over his breast where his pain is the most
intense, senses that all is not right with him»124, Upon pushing aside
the garments of the sleeping minister on one occasion, Chillingworth,
with diabolical glee, discovers a sight assuring him that Dimmesdale
is his mortal enemy.^ The marks, finally, are aids to Dimmesdale's
confession of his guilt. Throwing back his vestments at his
14a, p. 225.
15sl, p. 169.

95
confession, he exposes a ghastly miracle. Some bystanders testify to
having seen a scarlet letter imprinted in the flesh; they disagree
whether it was self-inflicted, whether it was caused by the «poisonous
drugs of Chlllingworth*s necromancy, or whether the «awful symbol
was the effect of the over-active tooth of remorse, gnawing from the
inmost heart outwardly, and at last manifesting Heaven's dreadful
judgment by the visible presence of the letter." A few onlookers,
however, stubbornly claim that they saw nothing whatsoever to indicate
a blemish on Dimraesdale* s honor.^
The notion of mysterious, unsightly marks, shaped into the letter
A, on Biramesdale*s breast and the people's opinions about them parallel
the ugly blisters raised by poisons on Overbury's body and similar
rumors concerning their cause. It was reported that during his
incarceration Overbury "was changed in his complexion, his body con¬
sumed away, and full of yellow blisters, ugly to look upon ... and
upon his Belly twelve kernelle, raised, not like to break ... and from
18
his shoulders downwards of a darke tawny colour, ugly to behold."
At his death were found more strange "botches and blisters on his
l6Kempe uses this same phrase in describing the murder of Over¬
bury: Overbury languished "under the slow but deadly operations of
the poisonous drugs mixed with his food, and a dose daily administered
by franklin as a medicine" (pp, 390-391)•
1?SL, pp. 302, 305-306.
18H. p. 5^.

96
â– body. The narrator states that "Thus venomously inflicted, appeared
divers blanes and blisters, whereupon they to take away as well his
good name, as his life, did slanderously report, that he died of the
French-pox. íficcols* poetic version of this ghastly phenomenon
likewise parallels Hawthorne's treatment of the scarred flesh of
Dimmesdale. The ghost of Overbury is made to say that his foes foully
defamed him after he died,
as they did kill
% body with foul death, that men might loath
My living name, and my dead body both.
False rumour, that mad monster, who still bears
More tongues about with her, than men have ears,
With scandal they did arm, and sent her out
Into the world, to spread those lyes about!
That those loath'd spots, marks of their pois'ning sin,
Which, dy'd with ugly marble, paint the skin
Of my dead body, were the marks most Just
Of angry heaven's fierce wrath for my foul lust!
0 barbarous cruelty! Oh! more than shame
Of shameless foes! With lust to blast my name,
when wonder 'twas, heaven’s judgment did not seize
Their wanton bodies, with that great disease.
Now, when false rumour's breath throughout the court.
And city both, had flown this false report,
Many, that oft before approv'd my name
With praise for virtue, blush'd, as if the shame
Of my supposed vice, thus given forth,
Did argue their weak judgment of my worth.
My friends look'd pale with anger, and my foes
Did laugh, to see too light belief cause those.
That lov'd me once, to loath that little dust
I left behind me, as a lump of lust.21
19M. P* 126.
P- H7.
al, III. 351.

97
The differences In the two situations are great. Overbury
actually had a hideously shotted body; it is only hinted and rumored
that Dluuaesdale has a letter imprinted in his flesh. Over bury's dis¬
figured body was rumored to have been caused by venereal disease;
there is no suggestion of this element in Dimmesdale's case. let
there are also striking coincidences. Overbury's spots were caused by
poisons. Some of the people at Dimmesdale's confession contend that
the marks on Bimmesdale had been produced by poisonous drugs adminis¬
tered by Chillingworth. Overbury'e ghost laments that rumors had
attributed to Mheaven's fierce wrathM the discolored whelps on his
body as punishment for a sensual life. The ghost adds that "heaven's
judgment*1 should have seised his foes for such slander. In similar
terms, one rumor about the letter on Bimmesdale ascribes it to
"Heaven's dreadful judgment." And finally, both situations are
characterized by rumor and divergence of opinion in which some accept
the common report and others do not.
Hawthorne's portrait of Bimmesdale implies that the Puritan
minister is among the Elect of God and that his soul is predestined to
salvation. Dimmesdale's predicament, in fact, seems largely to turn
upon this aspeet of his character. The artistic basis for his wither¬
ing under a stricken conscience would seem to depend upon his having
a saved soul and on his having a conscience. Thus Bimmesdale is
depicted as a "heaven-ordained apostle" who possesses a deeply

98
22
religious temperament. He is & "true religionist” and a godly
pastor, on whom the people confer a spotless character.2^ He suffers
severely in his conscience, perhaps because of this innate sense of
righteousness. To Hester he says: “Were I an atheist — a wretch
with coarse and brutal instincts, — I might have found peace, long
24
ere now. Hay, I never should have lost it. “ In a less righteous
person, in an unsaved sinner without a conscience, Dimmesdale’s remorse
and acts of penance might have given Mm spiritual peace. But, con¬
fused and bewildered by his secret sin, he loses the assurance of
divine grace. In his closet scourges his introspective attempts to
purify himself in order to see the workings of grace and to restore
his assurance are of no avail. "With the superstition common to his
brotherhood," says Chilllngworth, "he fancied himself given over to a
fiend, to be tortured with ... despair of pardon."2^ let, Hawthorne
suggests that Providence was using Diraraesdale*s avenger to bring about
the minister^ repentance — "and, perchance, pardoning where it seemed
most to punish,"2^
Thus finally, his conscience, in accord with the will of God,
22sl, PP. 14?.
23SL, pp. 151. 70.
24SL> pp* 229-230.
2%l, p. 207.
26SL, p. 171.

99
"brings his to confess his guilt, and the clouds of despair vanish.
Once again he has peace of soul. In this catastrophic scene at Dlranes-
dale’s death-bed confession, his predestination to salvation seems
dramatically to appear. Having despaired of salvation, having judged
himself lost forever, and having tortured himself to purify himself,
he is depicted in his dying moments receiving for eternity the full
assurance of heavenly grace. His words pour out triumphantly his
certainty of God’s mercy: "He hath proved his mercy, most of all, in
my afflictions. By giving me this burning torture to bear upon my
breast! By sending yonder dark and terrible old man, to keep the
torture always at red-heat! By bringing me hither, to die this death
of triumphant ignominy before the people! Had either of these agonies
been wanting, I had been lost forever! Praised be his name! His will
be done! Farewell!"2^
Z?SL, p. 30h. There may be difference of opinion regarding this
point. Some critics concede no repentance to Dlmmesdale until this
final scene. The view that I have taken gives Dlmmesdale not only the
advantage of genuine repentance but shows him saved from the beginning
of the novel, in accordance with the Cslvinlstic doctrine of Predesti¬
nation, a dogma which Diramesdale, as a Puritan divine, may be said to
have held. (A counterpart to this dogma will appear in Chilllngworth’s
Reprobation.) But this view raises a debatable questions If Dimnes-
dale is truly saved, why does he not confess sooner? Since I have not
met with the above interpretation, 1 shall anticipate my own question
with a suggestion that an answer may lie in Dlmmesdale’s religious
seal. Hawthorne has shown him in a moral conflict, in a tragic
dilemraa. Should he confess to regain peace? or should he conceal his
sin and continue to perform his calling by working in behalf of the
spiritual welfare of his parishioners? Dlmmesdale poses his own
problem in conversation with Chilllngworth: guilty as one may be, he
asks, may he not, nevertheless, retain "a zeal for God’s glory and
man’s welfare” and shrink from displaying himself sinful before men

100
Diranesdale1s receiving assurance of salvation in his last act has
been shown to parallel Helwyse's similar experience.2c' Helwyse’s
words in his final prayer also indicate a belief that his salvation has
been predestined by God: "for were I not thine, then out of the root
of me could not the buds of repentance appear, by wcli I know thou
lovest me; it is not I, but thou Lord has drawne me to thee, for thine
29
own mercies sake." * In a version of Helwyse’s confession and prayer
in The liarleian Miscellany, in the same volume with Richard lllceols’
"Sir Thomas Gverbury’s Vision," this concept is stated more theologi¬
cally: his comfort, says Helwyse, "is not any thing in man, no it is
praescientia. thy foreknowledge, 0 God, who hast elected me from
(SL. p. 1Ó2)? Thus he allows concern for his reputation and the
injury its blemish may do to his spiritual influence to Interfere with
his own soul's health. For paradoxically, in this case, he puts what
he deems to be God’s will first, and it fails him. Hawthorne shows,
therefore, the folly of Diramesdale's decision to conceal his sin and
carry on with religious work while suffering from a spiritual canker.
His choice not only leads to hypocrisy but to moral and, ultimately,
physical decay. In spite of a divine mercy that at birth makes pure
the spiritual roots of some persons — from the Calvinistie viewpoint
— man, implies Hawthorne, must be true before men. A parallel with
Dimmesdale’s dilemma, composed of a social versus a religious horn,
has been seen in the conflict of Helwyse, as interpreted by Niccols
(Above, pp. 52-53)* Bacon’s characterisation of Helwyse, as a man who
"lacked rather fortitude than honesty" (State Trials, II, 955) might
also apply to Dimmesdale as he decides his complex problem. Though
honest in his striving to do the will of God, Dimmesdale lacks social
fortitude and thus enters upon a career of hypocrisy until the moment
of his death. Honesty with God is not enough for spiritual health,
according to Hawthorne. Human nature demands social honesty.
Above, pp. 62-66.
^W, p. 116.

101
eternity."30 2Me version not only shows more clearly an agreement
with Dimmeedale’s election, hut it also presents a parallel to the
interpretation that Dimraesdale* s sins had caused clouds of despair in
hie soul so that he could not see Sod’s grace in himself. Helwyse
prays: "Drive away this mist which is before me; and break those
thick clouds which my sins have nade, sued may hinder my request to
come into thy presence. Strengthen me in the midst of death, in the
assurance of thy mercies."31
Bichard liccols’ interpretation of the spiritual states of Hel-
wyse, and also of Overbury, enables this comparison of election to be
carried still further. The ghost of Helwyse is made to say that he had
been "quit by death from doom of law, and heaven/ Out of free mercy"
had forgiven him.32 The ghost of Overbury similarly speaks of his
having been saved: having called to God "For grace and mercy» after
sad sighs given,/ With grievous groans, my soul fled hence to heaven."33
And later this same ghost explains that he is not really dead, "for
heaven such grace doth give,/ My soul in heaven, my name on earth doth
live.Thus by emphasizing at their deaths their assurance of
30"The Lieutenant of the Tower’s Speech and Repentance, at the
Time of his Death," HM, III, 321.
31HM, III, 322.
32HM, III, 364.
33lffi, III, 349.
34i2i. in, 351.

102
salvation, Helwyse and Dimesdale coincide as characters. Bach seems
to have considered himself elected to salvation at one time, but,
having lost his peace of soul by sinning and by concealing his sins
from those who had a right to know, each came to despair of pardon-^
until his final confession. On this occasion each regains assurance
of election.
Thus Dimmesd&le seems to possess several character traits in
common with persons in the Overbury affair. His youthful eminence
agrees with that of Carr and Overbury. His scholarly recognition
coincides with that of Overbury. As the careers of Carr and Over¬
bury were intercepted by the sin of lust and the crime of murder, so
Dimmesdale is thwarted in his rise to fame and to sanctity by his
concealed sin and by revenge upon him. The suggestions of a scarlet
letter imprinted in his flesh parallel the rumors of discolored
blisters on the poisoned body of Overbury. And, finally, two of
Dlmmesdale^ counterparts are depicted, like him, as predestined to
salvation.
-^Helwyse says: "I looked upon myself, and there was rather cause
to despair« (®, III, 321).

CHAPTER VII
ROGER CHILLIHGWQRTH AHD PEARL
The portrait of Chillingworth which has begun to emerge shows
similarities with each of the husbands of Hester’s counterparts. As
a betrayed husband, Chillingworth has traits in common with Lord
Essex, Lady Frances1 first husband;1 as a revenging husband, with
Carr;2 and as a physician, with Anne Turner's deceased husband, Dr.
Turner.-^ Chillingworth has also been shown to possess a few charac¬
teristics of appearance and profession in common with other men
involved in the plot on Overbury's life, namely, James Franklin and
Richard Weston. But these latter parallels need additional treatment.
Chillingworth is distinctively characterized by a physical
1Above, pp. 18-19, 82-84. These two men are similar also in
possessing, or being charged with, a frigid disposition. Despite his
wife's accusations, however, Essex seems to have been a warm and
affectionate husband (Kempe, p. 383; M» P» 9)* But the mere associa¬
tion of frigidity with Essex could have acted as a stimulus to Haw¬
thorne's imagination, for Hawthorne appears to have had a life-long
preoccupation with men who were frigid by nature. Rappaccini
("Rappaccini’s Daughter"), Ithan Brand ("Ethan Brand"), Richard Digby
("The Man of Adamant"), and Gervayse Hastings ("The Christmas Ban¬
quet"), all possessed cold hearts ahead of Chillingworth.
2Above, pp, 42-43.
3
.Above, p. 82. In the narratives of the Overbury case there is
mentioned, besides Mistress Turner's physician-husband, also Forman,
Franklin, Marvin (Mayerne?), de la Belle, and Weston, all of whom
were physicians or served in that capacity.
^Above, pp. 47-48.
103

deformity. On. the scaffold Hester pictures him in her mind «with the
left shoulder a trifle hi^ier than the ri^it. "** Later, after renounc¬
ing her pledge of secrecy, ehe watches his "crooked figureH depart
6
through the forest. Along with his deformity, Chillingworth is small
in stature and has a dark complexion.^ The shipmaster designates him
O
a "hlack-a-visaged, hump-should©red old doctor." At least once, these
three features of Chillingworth1s appearance are mentioned together, as
in the phrase, "his low, dark, and misshapen figure.Hawthorne
dwells upon these traits with symbolic persistence. Corresponding to
Chillingworth* s diabolism, they become more pronounced the further
the physician proceeds with his sinister scheme of revenge. His
complexion grows duskier, and his figure more misshapen.10 In these
three distinctive features of appearance, Chillingworth coincides
precisely with the narrator's description of Franklin: "one Francklin
a Yorkshire man was entertained into those actions, a man of a reason¬
able stature, crooked shouldred, of a swarthy complexion.
5S1, p. 80.
6SL, p. 213.
^SL, pp. 81-82.
8SL, p. 291.
^SL, p. 167.
10SL, P. 139.
PP»

105
A small man, Chillingworth also has a "pale, thin, scholar-like
12
visage" which is deeply wrinkled by old age. He wears a long, grey
grizzled heard.^ There is a close agreement between these further
traits of Chillingworth's appearance and Hiccols' description of
Weston:
A man of meagre looks, devoid of "blood,
Upon whose face death's pale complexion stood;
... slender made, of visage sterns and grim;
The hairs upon his head, and ^*isly beard,
With age grown hoary, here and there appear'd;
Time's iron hand, with many a wrinkled fret,
The marks of age upon his front had set.1**
Besides coinciding with i'ranklin' s appearance, Chillingworth thus seems
to compare closely with that of Weston as well. The latter men are
pale, thin, aging, grizzled-bearded, and wrinkled. While Hawthorne's
words Dale, visage, and wrinkled ooinclde with the diction of the
poem, thin is synonymous with slender, and grizzled includes both
esitís. an¿ team.15
12S1, pp. 79. 81, 96.
13SL, pp. 171. 211.
li}m, III, 352.
^These verbal resemblances, of course, could mean absolutely
nothing. They are common terms for descriptive purposes. But compare
Hawthorne's deacriptions_of two previous old figures In his tales:
"The deep lines of his ¿Roger Malvin in "Roger Halvin's Burialjy
countenance and the scattered gray of his hair marked him as past the
middle age" (Works. XI, 382). Rappaclni, writes Hawthorne, is a "tall,
emaciated, sallow, and sickly-looking man, dressed in scholar's garb
of black. He was beyond the middle term of life, with gray hair, a
thin, gray beard" (Works, II, 112). It would appear that the more
specialized words of the sources influenced Hawthorne.
i

106
This wizened, disfigured old man is a scholarly doctor of physic.
He describes himself as a "man of thought — the hookworm of great
librarles" who has given his "best years to feed the hungry dream of
knowledge. "18 Daring sojourns abroad, notably .Amsterdam, the Snglish-
bom Chillingworth had increased his store of knowledge.1? His
studies had made him acquainted with various branches of abstruse lore
known to seventeenth-century scientists* alchemy, chirurgy, pharma¬
cology, and necromancy. It is thus as a man of skill in the medical
and chirurgical profession that he presents himself to the eommuni-
\ a
ty. His proficiency in antique physic includes a competent know¬
ledge of the art of compounding medicines and drugs. He professes to
1<3
know the various properties of simples. 7 He gathers wild blossoms,
20
twigs, herbs, and roots for his concoctions. He converts weeds into
21
drugs of potency. He is believed to be a conjuror and to have been
seen in company with the conjuror, Forman.22 He is thought to be a
necromancer and to have engaged in the incantations of the Indian
l6St* P* 96.
1?SL, p. 83.
18SL, p. 146.
19sl, P. 94.
20p, 202.
^SL, p. 160.
22sl, pp. 155-156.

107
23
savages and irs other forms of the black art,
Chllllngworth's profession is comparable to that of Franklin.
24
The narrator calls Franklin a wizard and "a kind of Physitian." In
another place this crooked-shouldered man, as well as Weston, fulfills
the description of an apothecary. At Franklin*s trial it is re¬
vealed that he had learned from a "ehirurgeon" what was the strongest
26
poison, with which he had allegedly murdered his wife, Hichard
Ficcols has Franklin's ghost characterize Franklin's studious pursuit
of skill in physic and in other natural sciences of his day!
I was (woe's me, that still I was not sol)
When April buds of youth themselves did shew
Upon my chin, a student in the law;
From which fantasticke thoughts my mind did draw
To the more pleasing study of that art
Of physiek; to the which though little part
Of learning gave me help, yet strong desire
To know that worthy science, set on fire
The fond affection of my forward will 2_
To search the secrets of that noble skill. '
Continuing, the ghost relates that in life he had gone abroad to
study; "the seas I pass'd to help out ray weak skill/ In th' aromatick
pO
art." Besides studying physic, the ghost states that abroad he
23SL. PP. 156, 305.
24
NH. p. 44,
25M. P* 38.
z6m, p. 139.
^M, III, 365.
28ÜÜ. HI, 365.

108
learned "with vain words to command/ The spirits from "below” and that,
having returned to England,
Forman, that cunning exorcist, and I
Would many times our wicked wits apply
Kind nature, in her working, to disarm
Of proper strength; and, by our spells, would charm
Both men and women.^
Thus Chillingworth and Franklin not only look alike, but they also
think alike. They both possess a comparable scholarly frame of mind
that eagerly pursues knowledge. They both spend much time abroad in
studying physic and natural sciences. Each participates in incanta¬
tions, and each is connected with the conjuror Forman.
Just as Dimmesdale appears to be predestined to salvation,^0 so
Chillingworth seems to be reprobated to hell. At Chillingworth*s first
appearance in the novel his depravity is symbolized by a snace-llke
distortion of his countenance: MA writhing horror twisted itself
across his features, like a snake gliding swiftly over them, and
making one little pause, with all its wreathed intervolutions in open
sight."3*" Chillingworth’s scheme of revenge and his moral domination
over Dimmesdale rest on an incapacity for forgiveness. Hatred in
Chillingworth*s soul brings to the fore his latent depravity of
character. His major role in the spiritual drama becomes a diabolical
111' 365.
30
Above, pp. 97-102.
31SL, p. 182.

109
one. Yet It is also providentialI though he barters his soul Hfor a
season, to burrow into the minister’s intimacy, and plot against hi®
soul," it is with Divine permission. By becoming Satan’s emissary, as
it were, or even Satan himself, Chillingworth torments Dimaesdale* s
conscience and brings about the minister’s repentance.32 But mean¬
while, tmhusaniaed by this malevolence, he himself degenerates into an
evil fiend: "In a word, old Soger Chillingworth was a striking
evidence of man’s faculty of transforming himself into a devil, if h©
will only, for a reasonable space of time, undertake a devil’s office.h33
Having lived, therefore, by evil principles, Chillingworth at his
death goes to Hell, for when "there was no more Devil’s work on earth
for him to do, it only remained for the unhumanized aortal to betake
himself whither his Master would find him tasks enough, and pay him
his wages duly.
Franklin presents a similar picture of a man with a depraved soul
who has been damned to Hell. Richard Flecóle describes the ghost of
Franklin as among the condemned souls of after-life, "as a caitiff of
that cursed crew,/ Vihom sad despair doth after death pursue. "33 The
ghost is made to say that he is possessed with "that sly-serpent of
32SL, p. 156.
33SL, p. 205.
^SL, p. 307.
35HM, III, 364.

110
soul-slaying sin,/ Which feeds upon the guilty mind within/ Laeh
wicked breast.Concluding his speech, Franklin's ghost declares
how he had been pursued in death by a fiend to be judged for his sines
"still the frantiek fiend/ Did follow me unto ay life's last breath;/
As was ay life before, so was ay death.The narrator likewise
depicts Franklin as a Godless man. Once Franklin blasphemously
retorted to a friend who had reproached him for his villainy! "Let
them talke of God that have to doe with him.In comparison, how¬
ever, Ohillingworth is shown to have undergone a transformation. From
a mild, but cold-hearted individual, with a concern for human welfare,^9
he degenerates into a villain, whereas Franklin's atheism and other
manifestations of diabolism show his depravity immediately, neverthe¬
less, both men agree in being considered by their authors reprobated
to eternal damnation. And, symbolical of their doom, at their first
appearance each bears either within his mind or upon his features the
4q
image of a serpent.
36m, III, 364.
37JS¿, HI. 36?.
3Rm> p* 139.
^SL, pp. 170, 208.
Ohillingworth* s degeneration into a fiend through the course of
his revenge recalls a note Hawthorne recorded in his journal on Novem¬
ber 17, 1847, to write HA story of the effects of revenge, in diabo-
lizing him who indulges in it" (Stewart, p. 121). Ohillingworth's two
closest counterparts, Carr and Franklin, could have fulfilled this
story hint. By avenging himself on Overbury, Carr's seemingly warm and
friendly nature degenerated into a mortal malice (above, pp. 43-44);

Ill
Chillingworth, in conclusion, seems to be oast in the same mold
with Franklin, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Both have
crooked shoulders and dark complexions. Both possess a scholarly
curiosity in natural sciences. Both are men of skill in physic and
wizardry. And both seem reprobated to perdition. Finally, Chilling-
worth and «eston agree in being small, pale, thin, wrinkled, and
grizzled-bearded old men.
Pearl
Some facts about the life of Anne Carr have been shown to parallel
the career of Pearl in the novel. They were both born in prison to
erring mothers who were awaiting legal judgment for their crimes. The
mother of Anne, a legitimate infant, had been indicted for murder and
was awaiting prosecution. The mother of Pearl, an illegitimate child,
was awaiting punishment for adultery. Anne Carr was taken from her
mother before the trial, but Pearl’s mother holds her in her arms
41
during the two-hour sentence upon the scaffold. Anne was separated
from her mother to be brought up in normal conditions, because Lady
Frances, her mother, still had seven years to serve in prison. A
movement gains force to deprive Hester of Pearl, on the theory that a
fallen woman is not capable of managing her child’s spiritual welfare,
possessed by a fiend, as liecols pictures him, Franklin represents a
man already diabolized.
Above, pp. 20-22

112
â– but Hester is, by the intercession of Dimmesdale, allowed to keep pos-
42
session of her. According to the petitions Bade to the King by her
father, Robert Carr, Anne became the heiress of her father’s wealth.
Similarly, at the death of Chillingworth, her mother’s husband, Pearl
becomes his heiress.45 And when these girls reach the marriage age,
44
they both marry into noble families and bear a child of their own.
Very little about Anne Carr occurs in the narratives of the case. The
records sketch only this meagre outline of the little girl's life. It
is, therefore, significant that for every detail of information about
her in the documents there is a parallel in the factual history of
Pearl’s life.45
42Above, pp. 36-37*
45Above, p. 67.
^Above, p. 68.
45P«arl's spiritual biography, her essential character, however,
agrees with the attributes of Una, Hawthorne’s own daughter whom he
described in his journals during 1848-1849. Pearl is perverse, capri¬
cious, eccentric, and unmenable to rules, symbolical of her origin in
a broken law (SL, pp. 116, 215» 119» H5)« Her uncontrollable tempera¬
ment compares with Una’s eccentric and contrary disposition (Stewart,
pp. 198-200, 205» 210-211). Pearl is a persistent teaser and tormenter
of both Hester and Dimmesdale (SL, pp, 218, 139, 142, 144, 190). Una,
writes Hawthorne, is "certainly a most pertinacious teaser" (Stewart,
p. 201). In this capacity, Pearl’s role is angelic, that is, to bring
to repentance her parents (SL, p. 141); yet she is also like an imp,
or an elf-child, and is said to have no earthly father but to be the
offspring of demonic paternity (JL, pp. 124, 1343. Likewise, Hawthorne
characterizes Una as of supernatural in essence, both angelic and
demonic; "there is something that almost frightens me about the child
— I know not whether elfish or angelic, but at all events, super¬
natural ... I cannot believe her to be my own human child, but a
spirit strangely mingled with good and evil" (Stewart, pp, 201-211).
Though Pearl possesses affections, they are nevertheless "acrid and

113
disagreeable, as are the richest flavors of unripe fruit" (SL. p. 216),
Hester's hopes that her daughter ripen into a noble woman are realized
when at Dimmesdale' s death Pearl sheds tears of sympathy that are
indicative of a maturing womanhood (SL, p. 303)* Using a similar image
to describe Una, Hawthorne writes: "she is full oftentimes of acerbity
as an unripe apple, that may be perfected to a mellow deliciousness
hereafter" (Stewart, p, 200). The ripening, or humanizing, of Pearl
through the tragedy in whieh she plays a vital part artistically
contrasts with the unhumanizing of her mother's husband, Chillingworth.

GRAPH® Till
MISTRESS HIBBINS AJTD THE BLACK MAH
It has been suggested that Mistress Hibbins parallels in character
and in dramatic function the part played in the Overbury affair by
Anne Turner in regard to the latter»$ assistance by means of witchcraft
in Lady Frances' sin of adultery.'*' To bring out Mistress Hibbins'
role in the novel, these parallels need to be considered in more
detail.
A widow and the sister of Governor Bellingham, Mistress Hibbins
2
is also a witch. Between herself and the Evil One, as well as between
3
others and the Devil, she affirms a personal connection. She is
believed to be a "principal actor in all the works of necromancy that
4
were continaully going forward" in the settlement. She makes excur¬
sions into the woods to attend witches' Sabbaths, as their meetings
are usually called. ^ She speaks knowingly of Indian pow-wows and
Lapland wizards.^ She reputedly rides with other witches in Satan's
7
company through the air. For this infamous renown, says Hawthorne,
1Above, pp. 60-81.
^SL, pp. 69» 181.
3sL, p. 287.
^SL. p. 286.
5Sfe, p. 181.
6SL. p. 287.
?SL. pp. 181—182.
114

U5
a
she subsequently loses her life on the gallows. from a few hints In
the novel it may also be inferred that Mistress Hibbins both was and
still is Hester's second or mediator in securing throu^i the Black
Man's agency Hester's sinful desires with Dimmesdale. Mistress
Hibbins, that Is, may be considered as the arranger of Hester's first
meeting with the Devil, upon which occasion, as Hester tells Pearl,
she received in the scarlet letter the Devil's mark.9 For, after the
interview at Bellingham*e hall, the witch explains to Hester that
another meeting has been arranged between Hester and the Black Man.^°
Anne Turner is virtually a prototype of Mistress Hibbins. A
witch, a trafficker in necromancy, an accessible go-between for
persons desiring contact with quacks and pretenders to occult know¬
ledge, a sorceress and a whore herself, and an especial friend to Lady
Frances, with whom she had been brought up, Anne Turner became Lady
Frances' personal agent in the latter's attempts to induce love in
Carr and frigidity in Essex. The narrator describes at length Anne
Turner's wicked proclivities;
The Countesse of Essex having harboured in her heart envy
towards her husband, even untill this time, makes her
repaire unto one Mris. Turner (a Gentlewoman that from her
youth had been given over to a loose kind of life) being
of a low stature, faire visage, for outward behaviour
^SL, pp. 144, 286.
9SL, p. 223.
10SL, p. 141.

116
comely, but in prodigality and excer.se riotous, by which
course of life she had consumed the greatest part of her
husbands means, and her own, so that now wanting wherewith
to fulfill her expectations, and extream pride, falls into
evil courses, as to the prostitution of her body to common
lust, to practise sorcery, and inchantment, and to many
foul inconveniences, little less than a flat Bawd, by which
mesnes she is made apt to enter into ary evill action, to
entertain any notion, be it never so faclnorous, A doctors
wife who was (during her husbands life) her ihysitian....
The Countesse, I say ... repairs to her house.11
Anne, in turn, "being still her second,1,1 ^ made Lady Frances acquainted
with Dr. Forman, whose incantations, enchanted nutmegs, waxen figures,
silver crosses, little images of babies, and other forms of his magic
art gained for her the Illicit love of Bobert Carr.1^ At Weston's
trial his confession placed Anne Turner in a category with witches,
sorceresses, and conjurors.1** During her own trial were exhibited
lev/d pictures, puppets, crosses, and many uncouth items, the para¬
phernalia of her end Forman* s witchcraft.1^ At this time she
explained her close connections with Lady Frances end how she had
thought to befriend her,^ Lord Chief Justice Coke accused her of
the seven deadly sins and pronounced her HA Whore, a Baud, a Sorcerer,
pp. 12-13.
12M, P. 15.
13NH, pp. 15-16.
l4Mi, p. 68.
15ldi, PP- 137-138.
l62S‘ P*

11?
a Witch, a Papist, a Felon, and Murtherer, the Bau^ater of the Devill:
Foraan"} he urged her to repent and to pray that God would "caet out
of her those seven Devills.*'’ She was executed, writes another
author, for magic and witchcraft, as well as for procuring poisons in
Ig
the murder of Gverbury.
Mistress Hihbins had been, moreover, an intimate friend of Anne
Turner and a student of hers in the art of making yellow starch for
ruffs. Returning from his forest interview with Hester, Bimmesdale
passes the witch: "She made a very grand appearance; having on a high
head-dress, a rich gown of velvet, and a ruff done up with the famous
yellow starch, of which Ann Turner, her especial friend, had taught
her the secret, before this last good lady had been hanged for Sir
Thomas Overbury1s murder."^ The significance of the starched yellow
1?M. p. Mo.
18
John Nichols, The. xTo^esseg,, Processions.,, and, to^fJLSSB&
£estly.itlP.S|.SL(London. 1828, 1828), III, 120.
Mistress Hlbbine — comparable to other real personages who figure in
the novel, for Instance, Governor Bellingham and John Wilson — is the
name of a woman who actually lived in B oston and was executed for
witchcraft. Joseph Barlow Felt — The Annals of Salem (Salem, 1827),
p. 192 — records that in 1656» at a session of the General Court at
Boston, with William Ha theme as Deputy, “They condemn Ann Hibbins, of
Boston, widow of the Agent in England, to be executed as a witch, on
the 19th of June." Hawthorne's use of this name for a witch who
parallels Anne Turner may not have been unpremeditated. Notice the
similarities between these two women: both were named Anne, both were
widows, and both were executed for witchcraft.
^SL. p. 264. Mistress Hibbins of The Scarlet Letter is not the
only fictional character who learned from Mistress Turner the secret of
the yellow starch. One of Hawthorne's favorite authors, Sir Walter
Scott, portrays another protege of this woman in The Fortunes of Heel
— The Waverly Novels, Portrait Edition (London, 1913), XIV, 88, 98.
Describing Dame Ursula, Seott writes: MShe had been a pupil of Mrs.

118
ruff has already been mentioned in connection with the parallels be-
20
tween Hester and Anne Turner, But Sparkes is not alone in giving
Mistress Turner the credit for inventing the fashion of the starched
yellow ruff j so also does Robert Codrington in his life of Essex con¬
tained in The Harleian Miscellany. Codrington writes that Mistress
Turner "is the woman who first invented, and brought into fashion the
21
use of yellow starch."
Thus Mistress Hibblns and Mistress Turner seem to be counterparts.
Each is a witch. Each is involved in many acts of necromancy. Each
is executed for witchcraft. Each seems to have mediated between a
young married woman and the powers of evil and to have thereby
assisted in an adulterous liaison. Mistress Hibbins was a friend of
Mistress Turner, from her learned the secret of the yellow starch, and
in the novel wears a type of Mistress Turner»s starched yellow ruff.
Turner, and learned from her the secret of making the yellow starch,
and it may be, two or three other secrets of more consequence, though
perhaps none that went to the criminal extent of those whereof her
mistress was accused." Farther on, Dame Ursula herself alludes to her
te&cher» M,I shall never forget poor Mistress Turner, my honoured
patroness, peace be with her! She had the ill-luck to meddle in the
matter of Somerset and Overbury, and so the great earl and his lady
slipt their necks out of the collar, and left her with some half
dozen others to suffer in their stead. I shall never forget the sight
of her standing on the scaffold with the ruff round her pretty neck,
all done up with the yellow starch which I had so often helped her to
make, and that was soon to give place to a rough hempen cord.'"
20Above, p. 76.
2*Bobert Codrington, "The Life and Death of Robert, Earl of
Essex," ¡21, VI, 9.

119
The Black Man
A kind of vague witchcraft association in The Scarlet Letter,
consisting of a reputable, though erring, wonan, Hester Prynne; a dis¬
reputable witch, Mistress Hibbins; and the Devil, called by the New
England colonists the Black Man, has already been compared to a similar
cabal in the Overbury case, consisting of Lady Frances, Anne Turner,
Op
and Simon Forman* The precise parallels between the Black Man and
Forman remain yet to be pointed out.
The Black Man1s few attributes center on a spiritual contract
involving the human soul. A compact with him means the inevitable
forfeiture of one’s soul in exchange for the consummation of some
passion. In a request that her mother tell her a story about him,
Pearl discloses the essence of the Black Man’s character: "’How he
haunts this forest, and carries a book with him, — a big, heavy
book, with iron clasps; and how this ugly Black fían offers his book
and an iron pen to everybody that meets him here among the trees; and
they are to write their names with their own blood. And then he sets
his mark on their bosoms! Didst thou ever met the Black Man, mother?•"
Continuing, Pearl explains her having heard from an old dame "that a
thousand people had met him here, and had written in his book, and
have his mark on them. And that ugly-tempered lady, old Mistress
Hibbins, was one! "2-* Mistress Hibbins, as Pearl observes, has long
^Above, pp. 80-81, 114-116.
2-^SL. p. 222.

120
■been in active league with hi» and by this connection has attained not
only much gossipy knowledge about people but also has acquired the
24
ability to ride wingless throng the air. Chillingworth avows that
he has in effect made, or soon will make, a bond in order to gain
revenge on the seducer of his wife. 2$ Hester shrinks from becoming
an active party to this contract, but she bears on her bosom a sign of
her having at an earlier date met the potentate of evil and of obtain-
ing through his agency the object of her passion. Mistress Hibbins
accuses Dimmesdale of making a contract with the Black fían, and the
minister himself, by desiring to elope with Hester, wonders if he has
not signed away his own soul.2?
Before demonstrating the similarities between this portrait of
Satan and the magician Forman, however, it will be appropriate to
notice, first, its agreement with Cotton Mather's depiction of the
Black Man and, second, several attestations of the agency of the Devil
in the Overbury affair. These details about the Black Man in the
novel are consistent with seventeenth-century New Englanders’ beliefs.
Frequently the Devil is referred to by ¿Puritans as a small, ugly
Black fían. In The Wonders of the Invisible «orld Cotton Mather states
24SL, pp. 265. 287-288, 181-182.
25SL, pp. 99-100.
26SL, p. 223.
27SL, pp. 263-265.

121
that in a witchcraft compact with the Black Man the first ritual in
the ceremony ie to cut the finger and with the flowing "blood to enter
one’s name in the Black Man's hook. To conclude the covenant, the
Devil then leaves his mark on the signer, let, despite Hawthorne's
extensive knowledge of witchcraft, manifest hy recurring witchcraft
allusions in his tales and especially hy such tales as "Young Goodman
Brown" and "The Devil in Manuscript," Hawthorne seems not to have
incorporated this data in his works prior to The Scarlet Letter, or
afterwards.
In accounts of the Over "bury case the narrator and others were
convinced of the instrumentality of the Devil in the whole affair, hut
especially in the adultery of Lady Frances. The narrator writes that
these deeds of magic performed hy Forman and Anne Turner were witchcraft
"practices, which as they were devillish, so the Devill had a hand in
them. !l^° And so when "certaine pictures of a man and woman in
Cotton Mather, ^AJÍ0Slarj^..the^ ed. John
Offer (London, 1862), pp. I69, 81, 30*
29To my knowledge, only twice does Hawthorne allude to the Devil
as the Black Man before The Scarlet Letter, and not at all afterwards.
These two allusions occur In "The Prophetic Pictures" (Works. I, 195)»
and in "Main Street" (Works. Ill, 368)* But neither context includes
the details of entering names in his hook in a formal witchcraft
compact. Jfor is this curious hook in "A Virtuoso's Collection,"
where we might expect among this universal assortment of oddities to
find it mentioned. Here are Cornelius Agrippa'g iron-clasped hook of
magic and the "hlood-encrusted pen with which Faust signed away his
salvation" (Works, II, 5^9* 553)» hut not the Black Man's hook.
pp. 20-21.

122
copulation, made in lead, as also the mould of brass, wherein they
were cast, a black scarfe also full of white crosses, which Mrls.
Turner had in her custody," were shown in court, and "there was heard
a craeke from the scaffolds," those present at the trial were afraid,
"as if the Devill had been present, and grown angry to have his work¬
manship shewed, by such as were not his own scholars.The certainty
of the Devil*s agency in Lady Frances* marital situation was also
stoutly affirmed by King Jer.es himself. In a profound discourse at
her divorce proceedings the monarch uttered an ecclesiastical and
legal maxim that swumg the weight of opinion in favor of the divorce.
3y asserting not only the Devil* s undeniable existence, but also by
defining the scope of the Devil's power in cases of sex, King James
ascribed to witchcraft Lord Essex's impotence:
for as sure as God is, there by Devills, and some Devills
must have some power, and their power is in this world,
neither are the Elect exempted from the power; Job was not,
Paul was not, Christ said to all his Disciples, Cribaverlt
vos Sathanas. and if the Devill hath any power it is over
the flesh, rather over the filthiest and most sInfull parts
thereof, ^hereunto originall sin is soldredj as God before
and under the Law to shew officialese, of purging mans
originall sin, ordained the uracputium of the foreskin, and
to exempt this of our profession from the power of witch¬
craft, is a tiaradox never yet maintained by any learned
or wise man.32
King James, therefore, gave royal verification to the instrumentality
of the Devil in connection with the sexual aspect of the Overbury case.
31HH, p. 137.
3zm, p. 105.

123
for the Devil's appropriate domain, among the Fleet, is the sin of the
flesh, or the sin of passion ineradicably rooted in human nature.
Likewise, in The Scarlet Letter the sin of Hester and Dixamesdale, a
sin of passion,33 is ascribed to the Devil. But Hawthorne also shows
the full extent of the Devil's power in depicting Ghlllingworth's bond
of revenge as a witchcraft contract.
At least twice, moreover, in the documents relating to the murder
of Overbury, Forman is equated with the Devil. Chief Justice Coke is
reported to have called Mistress Turner l,the Daughter of the Devill:
Forman.Niccols similarly interprets Forman as an anthropomorphic
embodiment of a devil. The poet has the ghost of Anne Turner to
picture him residing across the Thames, which she is made to charac¬
terize as the infernal lake:
There Forman was, that fiend in human shape,
That by his art did act the devil's ape:
Oft there the black inchanter, with sad looks,
Sat turning over his blasphemous books,
Making strange characters in blood-red lines:
And, to effect his horrible designs, _
Oft would he invócate the fiends below.^
Hot only called a devil, Forman here is represented as a "black man"
writing blood-red letters3^ in blasphemous books. Keape describes a
33sl. p. 240.
3**ljH. p. 140; above, p. 116.
35m, III, 359.
3^ earl says: *And, mother, the old dam© said that this scarlet
letter was the Black Man's mark on thee, and that it glows like a red
flame when thou meetest him at midnight, here in the dark wood*" (SL,
p. 222).

124
notorious book of Forman's. For purposes of professional immunity
this magician and astrologer, Forman, kept a record book of all those
who patronized his occult arte: at the "Countess* trial a book of Dr.
Forman1s was produced, in which he made all his visitors write their
names with their own hands, before he would proceed to exercise his
art.Sir Anthony Weldon, in an extract reproduced in the notes in
the State '-friáis, relates with a humorous twist a more detailed
account of Forman's bizarre occupation, including the infamous direc¬
tory of his patrons:
In the next place comes the Countesse to her tryal, at whose
arraignment as also at Mrs Turners before, were shewed many
pictures, puppets, &e. with some exorcisms and raagick spells,
which made them appeare more odious, as being known to con¬
verse with witches and wizsards; and among these tríeles,
Formans book was shewed. This Forman was a fellow dwelt in
Lambeth, a very silly fellow, yet had wit enou^i to cheat
ladies and other women, by pretending skill in telling their
fortunes, as whether they should enjoy their loves, or
whether maids should get husbands, or enjoy their servants
to themselves without corrivals; but before he would tell
any thing, they must write their names to his alphabetical
book with their owne hand writing. By this trick, Jh§J kept
them in awe, if they should complain of his abusing them, as
in truth he did nothing else. Besides, it was believed,
some meetings were at his house, wherein the art of a bawd
was more beneficial to him then that of a conjurer, and that
he was a better artist in the one then other; and that you
may know his skil, he was himself© a cuckold, having a very
pretty wench to his wife, which would say, she did it to
try his skill, but it fared with him as with astrologers
that cannot foresee their owne destiny. I well remember
there was much mirth made in the court upon the shewing this
book; for it was reported, the first leaf© my Lord Cook
lighted on he found his owne wives name,38
^Fempe, p. 388.
Catate Trials, II, 951; Sir Anthony Weldon, The Court and Charac¬
ter of King James the First (London, 1653)# pp. 109-111.

125
In other accounts Forman’s hooks of magic are described, fhey
consisted of disconnected pages, weird scrolls, and enchanted parch¬
ments. Among his possessions seized in his study at his death was a
'•little piece of the skin of a man. " It was fastened upon one of his
parchments containing cabalistic characters side by side with the names
of the Holy Trinity. In another of his parchments was a "roll of
Devils’ names," devils who liad been "conjured to torment the Lord
Somerset, and Sir Arthur Manwaring, if their loves should not continue,
the one to the Countesse, the other to Mrls, Turner." It was these
explosive scrolls of Forman’s black art which, the narrator writes
with the effect of identifying Forman with the Devil, that caused the
scaffolds to fall at the trial as if they had been suddenly capsized
by the Devil who had "grown angry to have his workmanship shewed.
Thus the Devil’s agency in a sin of the flesh and a plot of
revenge is a religious fact in both the novel and the Over bury scandal.
Readers of Hie Scarlet Letter are giren the option of regarding this
supernatural design as fantastic and superstitious, but historically
the instrumentality of the Devil, as in the affair of Overbury and to
the New England Puritans, was a truth of the universe. Not only do
the tenuous suggestions in the novel of a witchcraft intrigue parallel
an actual intrigue in the Overbury case, but in many ways the Black
Man and Forman coincide. Each constitutes in the dynamics of the story
pp. 138-139; Amos, p. 16; above, p. 122.

126
In which he takes part a center of gravity for evil actions and also a
point from which evil centrifugally flows. Though Forman is human and
the Black Man is supernatural, each is conceived as an anthropmorphic
representation of the Ivil One, and to each in this capacity come for
assistance passionate sinners. iSach, moreover, has a notorious hook
ht)
in which his patrons must write their own names.
k
40
The title Black Man for the Devil does not appear in the docu¬
ments specifically reporting the Overhury case. But in the State
Trials this title is mentioned in a case following the Overhury trials.
Mary Smith, in "The Case of Mary Smith, for Witchcraft," testifies
that the Devil "appeared unto her ... in the shape of a hlacke man •..
and ... they entered tearmes of a compact, he recfuiring that she
should forsake God, and depend upon him" (IX, 1049-1051).

PAHf FOUR
SITTING

CHAPTER IX
SETTING
A few Items of setting in the novel have already heen seen to
coincide with similar details in the Overhury narrations. The market¬
place at Boston parallels the forum in Richard Hiccols* "Sir Thomas
Overhury* s Vision.1,1 The kind of balcony or open gallery appended to
one end of the meeting house for the magistrates agrees with the
narrator’s picture of the little gallery placed at one end of West-
2
minster Hall for the Lord High Steward and his attendants. Some
circumstances of time and atmosphere have also been stated or implied,
but these and other data relating to time, place, and atmosphere need
more extended analysis.
Hawthorne dates the story of The Scarlet Letter roughly in the
l64o's with reference to at least five events, of which one is the
*Above, pp. 20-21.
2
Above, pp. 22—23* In "Main Street, ** about a year prior to the
novel, Hawthorne draws some similar comparisons between places in
London and some in Salem. One is between Westminster Abbey and the
Salem meeting house; another is the Tower of London and the jail.
These comparisons show that his imagination was not incapable of bridg¬
ing the ocean in this fashion. The showman in this sketch fancies the
first-generation settlers talking to a younger generation; "The old
Puritans tell them of the crowds that hurry along Cheapside and Fleet
Street and the Strand.... They describe London Bridge, itself a
street, with a row of houses on each side. They speak of the vast West¬
minster Abbey. The children listen, and still Inquire if the streets
of London are longer and broader than the one before their father * s
door; if the Tower is bigger than the jail in Prison Lane; if the old
Abbey will hold a larger congregation than our meeting-house" (Works.
Ill, 464).
128

129
Overbury murder. The action begins some fifteen or twenty years after
the settling of Boston, an event of I63O, that is, about 1645-1650;3
not less than two centuries before the writing of the novel in 1849,
that is, sometime just before 1649;^ within less than half a century
after Cjaeen Elizabeth1s reign, 1558-1603, that is, sometime before
1653.^ Chillingworth* s arrival occurs some thirty years after the
Overbury affair, I6l3-l6l5, that is, about 1643-1645.6 Seven years
later Dimmesdale stands at night on the scaffold, and on this same
night Governor Winthrop dies, an event of 1649.? Though Hester lives
on for many more years, the main action of the novel appears to be
placed during a seven-year period that extends from approximately 1642
Q
to 1649. The month of June in which, with Hester* s punishment, the
3SL, P. 6?.
L, p. 69.
5SL, p. 70.
6sl, p. 155.
?SL, pp. 182, 192.
8This seven-year period that the story covers coincides with the
prison term served by Carr and Lady Frances, who were taken into cus¬
tody in the autumn of 1615 and were released in January, 1622. But
in the material surrounding, though not a part of, the Overbury
affair, appear two other details that also point up the seven-year
interim in a story of adultery and revenge. One detail occurs in a
passage in The Harlelau Miscellany in a "Letter to a Member of Parlia¬
ment " (1675), containing reasons why a law should be passed to punish
adultery with death. The author cites as a precedent for greater
severity a ruling by the incyran Council, in 315 A.B., which "ordains
seven years penance for it" (l¡H, VIII, 69)» The second detail occurs
in Weldon’s Court and Character and involves the Earl of Northampton,

130
story "begins is definitely stated^ and is connected in a seasonal
relationship, at least, with Lady francés1 trial on Kay 23, 1615.
With a chapter entitled "The Prison Door" Hawthorne opens She
Scarlet Letter. Presenting a gloomy picture of the wooden jail in
Boston’s Prison Lane, Hawthorne draws special attention in three ref¬
erences to the ponderous iron-work of its oaken door, to its door
studded with iron spikes, and to its iron-clamped oaken door,10
Gathered around this darksome edifice, with their eyes fastened
intently upon the door, the people of the community await with a grim
sense of fatality the emergence of a prisoner, Hester Pryxme, who that
day will undergo punishment for a crime. Hawthorne’s description of
the jail, with emphasis upon the iron-work of its door, seems to have
an imaginative parallel in Nlccols* description of the prisoners’ dock
Lady francés* great uncle and the friend of Bobert Carr. Northampton,
who hated Sir Bobert Mansell, once said! "Body of God, I will be con¬
tent to be damned perpetually in Hell, to be revenged of that proud
Welshman; and did so hate him, that he kept an Inquisition on him
seven years" (p. 20). Embracing themes of revenge and adultery common
to the novel, these passages may be revealing. Moreover, Northampton’s
oath of revenge with a clause that he will gladly accept damnation
recalls the circumstances of Chillingworth's oath and damnation. North¬
ampton has also been compared already on two points to Chillingworth
(above, pp. ¿iO-42). E. C. Boss — "A Note on The Scarlet Letter," MLB.
XXXVII (January, 1922), pp. 58-59 — has suggested that seven years
may be related to the religious theme, the breaking of the seventh
commandment. Certainly, the mystic and religious overtones of the
number seven are of the utmost importance, regardless of any immediate
reminder of the number.
9§L, p, 68.
10SL, pp. 67-69

131
at the Tower of London, in which the poet similarly focuses upon an
iron gate, Niccols has just finished writing that the ghost of Over-
"bury has appeared in a dream, has led him to the Tower, and has
related his mode of death. At this point, writes the poet, as "Under
the Tower»» gate with me he stood,/ This accident hefel on Thames'
great flood." Niecols then describes the setting for this incidents
South by this house, where on the wharf fast by
Those thundering cannons ever ready lie,
A dock there is, which, like a darksome cave
Arch'd over head, lets in Thames* flowing wave;
Under whose arch, oft have condemned men,
As through the Stygian lake, transported been
Into this fatal house, which evermore
For treason hoards up torturing racks in store:
At landing of this place, an iron gate
Locks up the passage, and, still keeping strait
The guilty prisoners, opens at no time,
But when false treason, or some horrid crime,
Knocks at the same; from whence, by law's just doom,
Condemned men but seldom back do come:
(’díate* er thou art may chance to pass that way,
And view that place, unto thyself thus say:
Cod keep me faithful to my prince and state,
That I may never pass this iron gate). 1
Niccols next proceeds to describe what happens. From the dock before
him and the ghost of Overbury, there arise successively the dreadful
shapes of four other ghosts: Weston's, Anne Turner's, Jervase
Helwyse's, and Franklin's.
The differences between the scenes are greater than the similari¬
ties. Far removed from the little Boston jail in Prison Lane is this
description of a oart of the vast Tower of London, the arched
11
•HM, III, 352.

132
prisoner's doek through which flows the River Thames. The entrance
to its watery passage-way is barred by an iron gate, whereas the
entrance to the jail in the novel is wooden. Nor do many of the sub¬
sidiary items in each description seem to have exact corresponding
details. Niccols mentions cannons and racks of torture. Twice he
cites treason. He concludes on a note of allegiance to King and
country. Hawthorne, in contrast, mentions a cemetery. By adding
symbolic weeds and a rose bush, he sounds notes of natural sympathy to
condemned criminals. And he also introduces philosophical overtones
of the Utopian ideals of the founders of a new country. Nevertheless,
a few striking similarities exist. In each Instance the place described
is a jail. Each author draws attention to the door or gate of this
jail, and especially to the iron-work of these inauspicious portals.
There is pervading each scene a comparable spirit of grimness and a
sense of the awfulnees of crime. This atmosphere of doom is eonveyed
by Niccols in such words as darksome, fatal, condemned, horrid, guilty,
8111(1 doog>. and by Hawthorne in darker, gloomy, inauspicious, condemned,
doom, grim, mid awful. Each description, moreover, is an introduction
to the emergence of a criminal from within the depths of a prison. In
the novel the figure of Hester emerges, and in the poem the shapes of
four ghosts rise from the dock.
About three years after Hester's release from prison, she goes to
12Compare note 2, above, p. 128, in which Hawthorne juxtaposes to
the Tower of London the jail in Prison Lane.

133
the dwelling of Governor Bellingham. Hawthorne explains that Belling¬
ham “had planned hie new habitation after the residences of gentlemen
of fair estate in his native land,H and that the whole appearance and
taste were "of Elizabethan age, or perhaps earlier."^ The walls of
Bellingham*s mansion, writes Hawthorne, have a very cheery aspect.
They are "overspread with a kind of stucco, in which the fragments of
broken glass were plentifully intermixed; so that, when the sunshine
fell aslant-wise over the front of the edifice, it glittered and
sparkled." The walls are "further decorated with strange and seemingly
14
cabalistic figures and diagrams." Entering, Hester and Pearl stand
in a "wide and reasonably lofty hall, extending through the whole
depth of the house. ** At one end of the hall is "one of those embowed
hall-windows which we read of in old books," On its cushion lies a
folio tome. Around the wall hangs "a row of portraits, representing
the forefathers of the Bellingham lineage, some with armor on their
breasts, and others with stately ruffs and robes of peace." Bear the
middle of the hall, which is lined with oaken panels, suspends "a suit
of mail, not, like the pictures, an ancestral relic, but of the most
modern date.
These features of Bellingham’s hall parallel some of the items in
1^SL, p. 130.
i4sl, pp. 128-129.
15SL, p. 130.

134
Xenpe's description of Lonely Hall, where he found, among other papers,
severe! documents relating to the Over "bury affair.1** Losely Hall,
built prior to the Elizabethan age, and remodeled about the beginning
of her reign, is a venerable mansion of stone, writes Kespe. It, too,
has a cheery, radiant atmosphere. It has a "lofty hall round which
the portraits of its former owners are arranged, depicted 1 in their
habits as they lived1{ the sunbeams stream through the light shafts of
the lofty embayed window, illumining the household coats of the family,
emblazoned in the gorgeous tinctures of heraldry on the glass."1?
Painted on the wainscot of one of its rooms is & monogram of the
initials B.K.P., as well as a design of the heraldic device, the fleur
de lis. The ceiling of the drawing room, observes Kesme, "is elegantly
adorned with Gothic tracery and pendant corbels; a cockatrice is fre¬
quently introduced in the ornaments. h1® Lying in the chests of the
muniment room are numerous folio volumes. The main hall íb lined with
ponderous oaken coffers. And "In the oriel or bay window of the great
hall are the anas of More — Azure, a cross Argent, charged with five
martlets Sable, with the date 1568."l9
Hot only do Bellingham's hall and Losely Hall coincide as
loAbove, pp. 11-12.
â– ^Kerape, P* lx.
1®Ke*pe, p. xiv.
19
líenme, pp. xv-xvi

135
magaiiicent Mansions, Taut th© hall of the Puritan governor is said to
be modeled on halls of the age to which Losely Gall belongs, Elizabe¬
than or earlier. And they agree on many salient characteristics. Each
mansion is constructed of stone or stucco. Each is old or venerable.
In each description there appears a cheery, sparkling light mile by the
sunbeams passing through or reflected by glass. ' Bach hall is dis¬
tinguished by a large "embayed" or "etabowed" window — which, adds
Hawthorne in explanation, "we read of in old books." Bach structure
is characterized by quaint, cabalistic figures, monograms, and designs.
Bach is lined with oaken panels. Polio volumes appear in each descrip¬
tion. Around the walls of each hall is a row of ancestral portraits
bedecked in their customary dress. Likewise, hanging in the hall is
some species of armorial display, in both senses of the term. Where
Kempe, however, stresses heraldry, the family arms, Hawthorne describes
a coat of amor, the panoply of war.
the setting of The Scarlet Letter is distinctly characterized by
Oft
In connection with this parallel compare also Wilson's speech
to Pearl about her bright scarlet dress: "'Rethinks I have seen just
such figures, when the sun has been shining through a richly painted
window, and tracing nut the golden and crimson images across the floor.
But that was in the old land*" (p. 136). The unusual spirit of cheeri¬
ness and brilliance that seem especially to pervade this section of
the novel may have been inspired not only by this description of the
sunshine streaming through a brightly tinctured window at Losely Hall,
but also by other items in Kempe• s book relating to jolly merry-making
and bright colors. Compare, for instance, Bellin^uua's taste for
luxury, Pearl's scarlet plumage, and the references to the Lord of
Misrule and court masks in the novel (up. 135-136) with Kempe, pp.
19. 22, 44-45, 55, 151-152.

136
a pervasive supernatural atmosphere, as well as by a naturalistic
locus of finite time and worldly place. The action of the story seems
to be placed partly in the invisible world of spirit. Universal
localities, Hell and Heaven, and spiritual essences, Satan, evil
spirits, God, and angels, are an integral part of the setting. let
neither the physical nor the spiritual world exists wholly apart from
the other. Together they create an atmospheric setting. Their
boundaries meet and overlap to form a unique twilight zone of the super-
natural in which the two worlds have tangible connection. In the
forest interview Hawthorne appears to symbolize the meeting of the two
worlds in the mysterious brook. Dimnesdale fancies «that this brook
22
is the boundary between two worlds. * He compares himself and Hester
to beings in the natural world and Pearl to an elfish spirit inhabit¬
ing the spiritual world. Elsewhere this spiritual world is presented
realistically. Hell seems to be as substantial a place as the meeting
house and the market-place. Hester*s scarlet letter, though a piece
of cloth, is said to acquire its color from the glow of the infernal
fire.The darkness of Chillingworth’s complexion is attributed to
21Hawthorne discusses this subject in "The Custom House" (SL, pp.
55-57)» "Preface" to the second edition of Twice-Told Tales (works. I,
16), "Happaoini’s Daughter" (Works. II, 107-108), and the prefaces to
I&SjjflBS* Sevan.jajaes (¿erke. III, 13-16), The Bl&theday»
Romance (Viorks, Vt321-323~ana The Marble Faun (Worka. 71, 13-17).
He illustrates this principle of composition in "Young Goodman Brown,"
"The Gray Champion," The House of the Seven Gables, The Marble Faun,
and many other works besides The Scarlet letter.
22SL. p. 250.
23sl, pp. 112, 91.

137
the soot and smoke from the flames of hell which flow into his labora¬
ba
tory from the lower regions.
Satan and evil spirits seem to exist as living entities like the
human beings with whom they intermingle. The Black Man lives in the
forest attended by evil fiends, meets people whom he encourages to
write their names in his black book, and presides over the Sabbaths
of the witches.^ Mistress Hibbins is intimately connected with the
jiril One. She participates in devil worship with other of his con¬
verts and rides through the air In company with them and Satan.
Both Hester and Dimmesdale have had tangible intercourse with the Blaok
Man, it seems, and bear on their bosoms the physical marks of their
meeting. Chillingworth has the power of invoking devils and putting
them to evil use.2? The physician is also said to be Satan himself,
torturing Dimmesdale, or Satan’s emissary. At any rate, he becomes a
fiend for undertaking a devil’s office.2® And Pearl’s father is
allegedly Satan. ^
God, the upper regions, and the good spirits who dwell there are
p. 156.
25sL. p. 222.
26SL, pp. 28?, 181.
27si, p. 156.
^SL, pp. 156 . 205.
^SL, p. 288.

138
also realistically presented. God reveals himself to man through
meteoric and other natural phenomena.30 The hand of God, or Fate,
seems to have interferred in Hester's removal of the scarlet letter
and with the lovers' plans to elope.3^ Bimraesdale attributes the
arrangement of his public confession to the will of God, and Heater
and Dimmesdale long for life in Heaven, which they and the populace
firmly believe to exist.32 Winthrop becomes an angel at his death,
according to the devout Bostonians, and goes from earth to heaven to
receive his reward.33 &ven in life the venerable magistrates are
believed to have explicit fellowship with angels.3^ And Pearl's
mission in life is compared to those angels of God who are sent to
perform Divine commands and to effect Divine purposes.33
Despite Hawthorne's predilection for suffusing tales with a
supernatural atmosphere,3^ the Overbury narratives provide a parallel
to this atmospheric setting in The Scarlet Letter. Kempe gives a
clear expression to the spiritual context in which the Over bury affair
3°S¡-, p. 188.
31g±. pp. 253. 285.
32SL, pp. 301, 303-304.
33m. pp. 192, 181.
34SL, p. 11.
35SL, pp. 128, 303.
3^Compare, for instance, "The Hollow of the Three Hills" and
"Young Goodman Brown."

139
was enacted. In explaining the part of witchcraft In the case he
writes:
A "belief In the arts of necromancy Is well known to have
characterised the age; a creed which had the King himself
for its patron, and rooted superstition for its source.
Say, there is little doubt that many practiced and studied
it from a confidence in its efficacy, and thus really had
dealings with the Prince of Darkness, as far as gross
of such attempts could place them in
Concerning the death of Forman, Kempe adds that "The conjuror Forman
was summoned by sudden death to that invisible world with which he
Thomas Overbury*s Vision,” also tacitly affirms the reality of this
world of spirit and the fact of tangible intercourse between spirits
and human "being®. Though the poem takes the shape of a dream, the
natural and the supernatural worlds mingle. A £¿iost returns from the
other world and speaks to the poet. Other ghosts also enter hie
vision. Franklin’s ghost is made to say that fiends have followed
him both in his life and now in his death.^ The color of Anne
40
Turner’s ruff proclaims the reality of hell and of infernal fire.
Overbury and Helwyse alike have certainly gone on to Heaven, according
to Hiccols.4"*" Likewise, in the narrator’s account of the witchcraft
3?Kemre, pp. 381-382.
3®K«npe, p, 387*
3?M, III, 364, 366.
H&C, III, 357.
41M, III, 349 . 351, 364.

Ibo
intrigue and of the trial proceedings there is no clear line dividing
the natural and the supernatural worlds. Forma had confederacy with
ko
the powers of evil. She Devil actively participated in the case
through Forman and, believed to be present at the trials, he caused
the scaffolds to crack because his secret articles were being shown
without due authority.^ King James, moreover, testified to the
Lih
Devil*s instrumentality in the affair.
Thus, several prominent aspects of setting in the novel agree
with similar prominent features in the Overbury materials. The story
Is dated with reference to the Overbury case. Hester's punishment
occurs in the same season of the year that Lady Frances was tried.
The jail, the market-place, and the nesting-house in Boston parallel
the Tower, the forum at Guildhall, and Westminster Hall in London.
Governor Bellingham*3 mansion compares closely with Losely Hall. The
supernatural atmosphere of the novel also coincides with an analogous
mingling of the natural and spiritual worlds in the Overbury narrations.
4%K, pp. 15-16; Kespe, pp. 382, 387-389.
43HH, pp. 138-139 . 20-21.
p. 105.

PART FIVE
STTLS

CHAPEES X
DICTION, IMAGKHT, AND ALLUSIONS
The oblique references to stylistic parallels between the novel
and the several accounts of the Over bury affair have indicated an
occasional similarity in language. It is probably not a mere coinci¬
dence that the same key words appear in the novel and in the sources
in the basic events, in essential traits of character, and in details
of setting.1
The word ignominy recurs in the novel with the consistency of a
refrain. Appearing in both explanatory contexts and in the speeches
of characters, ignominy occurs no less than twenty-two times. Along
2
with its frequently repeated synonyms, shame, infamy, and scandal,
it helps to reflect the public's attitude of reproach towards Hester
and her crime. From Hester's own point of view, it expresses her
humiliating experience of public disgrace, both on the scaffold and
her life-long shame of wearing the scarlet letter. Her life is
^â– Compare, for instance, oath, secret. consent, silence, above,
PP. 31-33; malice, revenge, above, pp. *6-44; poison, venom, secret.
cruel, false, friend, above, pp. 50-51; coward, conscience, above, pp.
52-53; needlework, ruff, badge, above, pp. 75-76; eminent, scholar,
above, pp. 91-92; shoulder, crooked, dark, above, pp. 103-104; pale.
flaiSM* linage* crinkled, above, p. 105; conjuror, gbysiciafi, above,
pp. 107-108; iron, above, pp. 130-131; doom, condemned, darker,, above,
p. 132; lofty, hall, folio, portrait, sunshine, oaken, eabowed. above,
PP. 133-135.
^L. pp. 87, 97, 127; 85. 101. 102, 96; 71. 219 . 279.
142

143
•3
said to be one of Ignominy, and her punishment an ignominious expo-
4
sure. The platform of the pillory on which she stands embodies the
very ideal of ignominy Itself.-* The scarlet letter on her breast is
repeatedly referred to as ignominious.^ By this token she is, as it
were, banished from society, Hawthorne writes that this “ignominious
brandwas constantly the object of public gaze; the world “cast her
off, although it had set a mark upon her, more intolerable to a
8
woman's heart than that which branded the brow of Cain.* The word
Ignominy also points up the contrast between the situations of
Chlllingworth and Bimmesdale. While Hester undergoes moral elevation
o
by an open ignominy, the two men degenerate through concealment and
secret revenge.10 Chlllingworth refuses to the end to share his
wife’s ignominy.11 And not until the end is Dimraesdale brought by
God’s mercy to take upon himself, through a “death of triumphant
3S&, pp. 234, 290.
43L, p. 145.
5SL, p. 76.
63L. PP* 75. 84.
'¿St* p. no.
8SL, p. 108.
pp. 89» 240.
10SL, pp. 145, 202, 234, 293*
nSL, p. 145.

144
ignominy before the people," the public disgrace commensurate with his
12
guilt and Hester's shame.
Ignominy is not a new or strange word for Hawthorne to use. He
had used it in "Uadicott and the Red Cross, in "Idv/ard Randolph's
Portrait,"1^ and in other tales. Its use also accords with his charac-
teristic Latinized vocabulary, as exemplified in the novel by soianam-
Miim. Because of Hawthorne's penchant
for the learned word, it may he a significant coincidence that the
narrator uses the word three times, that Bacon uses it once, and that
Jervase Helwyse uses it twice. The narrator writes that Overbury was
"brought into ignominy and contempt" by the rumors concerning his
death.Regarding Carr's guilty conscience, the narrator observes
that Northampton feared lest their crime would come to li^it, their
names be made scandalous to the world, and they "be branded with an
ignominious death. Again, speaking about the plans of Lady Prances,
Carr, Northampton, and Weston to murder Overbury, the narrator writes:
"thus being cockered up in their own conceipts, they run headlong to
12§L. p. 304.
13Works. I, 487.
l4Works. I, 302.
15SL, pp. 179, 239. 254.
16m, P. 55.
1?M. p. 51.

145
their own destructions; never remembering that were there hut two
persons privy to the act of nurther, as in Cain and Abell, it could
not passe unpunished, hut that Cain must he markt with a perpetuall
brand of Ignominy, and how much lecse should this goe undiscovered,
when there are so many privy to it: Thus we see that one sin, pro¬
vokes another, mad that raurther is as neer to lust, as flame to
18
smoak." In similar language Bacon addressed the peers at Carr's
trial: "For Murder, my Lords, the first record of Justice which was
in the world, was judgement upon a Murtherer, in the person of Adams
first-horn Cain, and though it was not punished hy death, hut
banishment, and marks of ignominy, in respect of the Primogenitors, or
the population of the world, yet there was a severe charge given, that
it should not go unpunished. "19 And, finally, Helwyse is reported to
have said to the people in his confession speech that his death was,
"though ignominious," a sign of God's mercy.20 And in his prayer he
gave thanks to God for bringing him to an ignominious death upon the
21
scaffold rather than causing him to die unrepentant and unconfessed.
In three of the five times ignominy appears in the Overbury
materials, the word is used to state concepts similar to those phrased
18M* p. 42.
19HH, p. 166.
P. 153.
aHH, p. 156.

146
"by Hawthorne: a mark or brand of ignominy with reference to Cain, the
notion of "banishment, and associations of murder and adultery. Like¬
wise, Helwyse's characterization of his manner of death according to
God's mercy parallels Biamesd&le's use of the word in a similar con¬
test at his dying confession speech.
Three images in the novel recall certain aspects of the Overbury
case or an image In its literature.One of these, an image of
crime and criminals in general, seems to point up some parallels
already made "between Dimmesdale and Helwyse. Dimnesdale argues with
Chillingworth that the sinner may "be justified for concealing a crime,
though confession, he says, will give the sinner much relief. "How
can it he otherwise? Why should a wretched man, guilty, we will say,
of murder, prefer, to keep the dead corpse buried In hie own heart,
rather than fling it forth at once, and let the universe take care of
itl"23 ia the forest scene Diramesdale rationalizes his decision to
elope with Hester by saying that, since he is irrevocably doomed, he
has reason to "snatch the solace allowed to the condemned culprit
ph,
before his execution."* Having made the decision, he enjoys a
220ther images have also been seen to compare: the metaphor in
which the badges of Hester and Anne are said to derive their color
from the flames of hell, above, p. 78; the ghost simile, above, p* 57;
the serpent image, above, pp.l08-H0; the maiden hope image, above, pp.
59-60;the metaphor of thwarted ascent, above, pp. 92-93»
23§L, p. 162.
^SL, p. 241.

147
feeling of exhilaration like the effect "upon a prisoner just escaped,
from the dungeon of his own heart."2'* This general crine image not
only refers to murder, hut seems to compare Diraraesdale to someone who
has concealed the crime of murder, to someone who has been condemned
to he executed, and to someone who ha® been a prisoner. These details
recall Helwyse, who, after conniving in the murder of Overbury and
concealing his guilt, was imprisoned and condemned to die on the
scaffold.
The second image employs the notion of the trials of criminals
before the judgment bar. After Hester is released from prison, she
has doubts that her continuing love for Dimmesdale may prevent her
repentance. Yet with him "she deemed herself connected in a union,
that, unrecognized on earth, would bring them together before the bar
of final judgment, and make that their marriage-altar, for a joint
26
futurity of endless retribution." To Chlllingworth, Dimmesdale
remarks that guilty hearts must hold their secrets until the day of
27
final judgment when all secrets shall be revealed. Only at the great
judgment day and before the judgment seat of eternity, Dimmesdale
tells Pearl while on the scaffold at ni^xt, will the three of them
25£L, pp. 241-242.
^SL, p. 103.
27SL, p. 161.

148
stand together.28 The image occurs again when Dimmesdale stands up on
the scaffold to confess publicly his crime: the sun "gave a distinct¬
ness to his figure, as he stood out from all the earth, to put in his
plea of guilty at the "bar of Sternal Justice."2^ In the reports of
the trials of Overbury's murderers the defendants replied to the
question, who should try them, that they would he tried either V God
and country or hy God and their peers.30 The judgaent bar of eternity,
however, seems to have a more vital reality to the characters in the
novel than the earthly one which tried Overbury's murderers.
A third image in the novel specifically echoes an image used in
one of the documents in the Overbury case. On the day of Hester's
Judgment Dimmesdale tries to elicit from her the name of the person
with whom she sinned. He says: "Take heed how thou deniest to him —
who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself — the
bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!"3'*’ The
image of the bitter cup appears again in connection with Hester's last,
or so she believes, shameful appearance with her badge of guilt. She
seems to endure glady this last public saase, as if to convert the
agony into a kind of triumph. For at this moment when she forsees
^SL, p. 186.
29SL, p. 201.
30m, pp. 135. 160; State Trials, II, 968.
31a. p. 89.

149
©scape, she has feelings of regret about gaining freedom from the pain
that had become part of her "being. Hawthorne asks: "Might there not
"be an irresistible desire to quaff a last, long, breathless draught
of the cup of wormwood and aloes, with which nearly all her years of
womanhood had been perpetually flavored? The wine of life, henceforth
to be presented to her lips, must be indeed rich, delicious, and
exhilarating, in its chased and golden beaker; or else leave an inevi¬
table and weary languor, after the lees of bitterness wherewith she
had been drugged, as with a cordial of lntensest potency.1,32 A
comparable image of a bitter cup appears twice in Helwyse's confession
speech. As he stands on the scaffold at hie execution, he points to
some spectators in the crowd and entreats them to "beseech Ck>d to
strengthen me in death; though ignominious to some, yet to me, a
bitter cup, mingled to me with God*s mercy."33 After having spoken
and prayed, he says fervently} "Lord I desire at thy hands, this
bitter cup of death, as the Patient receiveth a bitter poyson, not
once demanding what is in the cup, but takes and drinks it off, b® it
never so bitter."3**
Since the bitter cup of death and its opposite figure, the beaker
of the wine of life, are not original metaphors, it may be significant
32a, p. 271.
33M. P* 153.
3¿iM, p. 15?.

150
that the hitter cup image appears tv/ice in a conspicuous document with
whose contents many other comparisons have heen made.-*”’ There are,
however, obvious differences in the uses of the figures. Helwyse's
images refer to an ignominious death} Hawthorne's refer to an ignomin¬
ious life. Helwyse uses only the hitter cup; Hawthorne conjoins with
it the beaker of the wine of life.
Several allusions in the novel to names of historical persons
have been observed. The importance of Hawthorne's mentioning of Over-
bur y, Forman, Anne Turner, and an unidentified companion of Forman has
begun to emerge. The story of Over bury's murder seems to rsrovide a
commentary on the plot motifs of The Scarlet Letter, on details of
characterization, and on Hawthorne's art. Allusions to Bacon, Coke,
Hoye, and Finch have been mentioned as being the names of legal
figures associated with the Overbury trials. 3^ Hawthorne refers to
King James, the monarch at the time of the Overbury murder. It has
been seen also that Cain appears in both the novel and the Overbury
materials, and in each instance his name points up the notion of a
mark of banishment.3® Arthur Manwarlng's given name agrees with that
of Arthur Dimneedale. Other names of people found in both the novel
35Above, pp. 62-66.
â– 36
Above, pp. 12-13.
37¿Si, pp. 134-135.
33Above, pp. I4h-l46.

151
and In reporte of the Overbury case Itself, or in continguous litera¬
ture dealing with the age, night also "be pursued — David. Dlgby.
39
Hester, Prynne, Chilllngworth, Pearl, and Dimmesdale.
In Dianesdale's study hangs a tapestried picture that tells the
40
scriptural story of David, Bathsheba, and Nathan. The allusion sight
serve as a comparison between the two holy sen of Sod, David and
Dimmesdale. Bach committed adultery and each concealed his crime,
Hawthorne’s reference to this classic story of adultery and murder in
a high place parallels references to it in the Overbury trials. Chief
Justice Coke, at the trial of Weston, compared the Overbury affair to
the adultery of David and Bathsheba and to David's murder of Uriah.^
•^Hawthorne’ s two allusions to Anne Hutchinson (S¡¿, pp. 68, 199)
illustrate how an allusion to a New England personage contributes to
the novel. By citing Anne Hutchinson, Hawthorne seems to compare her
with Hester, and thus draws attention to aspects of Hester's character.
Like Hester, Anne was imprisoned and banished. She ms also pleaded
with by Reverend John Wilson to confess her errors. She similarly gave
cause to be suspected of witchcraft. A sturdy individualist and an
unorthodox thinker, she was considered by many people as a prophetess,
as Hester vainly imagines she herself might become (SL. p. 311).
Moreover, since the two figures would have been contemporaries, the
allusion demonstrates a fidelity to the spirit of the times. See
Hawthorne's "Mrs, Hutchinson" in Works, XII, 217-226, and John
Winthrop, Journal (Original Narratives of Early American History), ed.
James Kendall Hosmer (Hew York, 1908), I, 247-252; II, 8.
¿iQSL, p. 154; II Samuel 11-12124, In the inventory of Carr's
personal things confiscated by the State were several scriptural
tableaux like this one hanging in Dimmesdale's study. There was one
of the woman taken in adultery, but not one of David and Bathsheba
(Kempe, p. 408).
4lNH, p. 108.

152
Elsewhere throughout the Over "bury «ateríale the connection appears
42
again*
Another name Hawthorne mentions is Sir Kenelia Digby. Concerning
the mystery of Chillingworth's arrival, Hawthorne writes: "He was
heard to speak of Sir R'enels Digby, and other famous men, — whose
scientific attainments were esteemed hardly less than supernatural, —
4l
as having "been his correspondents or associates," J In contrast to
the implied analogy between David and Dimneadale, the allusion to
Digby explicitly compares the scientific reputations of Dlgby and
Chillingworth. Sir Kenelo Bigby (1603-I665) achieved distinction in
his age for researches in mathematics, philosophy, astrology, and other
natural — and supernatural —sciences. In 1663 he was elected to the
Council of the Royal Society of London. Among the more famous of his
accomplishments Bigby seems to have perfected a miraculous cure for
wounds called the sympathetic powder. He says that he learned the
secret of this powder in Italy from a votary of a religious sect just
come from Persia and the Indies "to whom he had rendered some essential
/Jl
kindness.w Thus, besides the general Interest and achievement of
both Chillingworth and Digby in the field of science, their specific
42state Trials. II, 969. 9?0; fig, 166.
^3SI. p. 148. Hawthorne used the fictitious name Richard Digby
in "The Man of Adamant" (1837)* a tale collected in The Snow Image in
1850.
^Sir Kenela Digby, Private Memoirs of Sir Kenelsi Digby (London,
1827), P. xxxvi; see also Blog^ia Mtaimj,ca, s. v. "Sir Kenelm
Digby."

153
learning of a secret cure from an "Indian" also coincides. Chilling-
worth explains to Hester that an American Indian taught him the recipe
of the medicinal drug he offers her.^ Moreover, each scientist
learned the secret formula as payment for a favor — Dlgby, because of
some essential kindness he had rendered; Chlllingworth, "in requital
of some lessons of ray own.
The question arises whether there nay not he, as seems to he the
case with the Overbury allusions, further literary parallels between
the novel and accounts of Digby's life. In 182? was published the
grATftt.».Bmi.rs. of SjLr 47 ^ patterned along
the lines of classical allegory, is written in a florid style. Two
purposes of the author in writing seem to have been to give vent to
religious, philosophical, and astrological speculations and to vindi¬
cate his wife's name from rumors of illicit love. The work is intro¬
duced by a prefatory sketch of Digby's life by the editor.
There may be a parallel between a forest scene in Digby's auto¬
biography and several prominent features of the forest scene in the
novel. As Pearl and Hester walk through the forest, Pearl questions
48
her mother about the superstition of the Black Man and his book.
4%¿, p. 95.
^SL. p. 95.
^There seems to be no record that Hawthorne knew this work, but
he did like to read autobiographies. He once wrote to Fields; "Of
all things I delimit in autobiographies" (Works. XII, 531).
^SL, pp. 222-223 , 225.

154
Shortly afterwards, coming through the trees, Dimmeedale unexpectedly
meets Hester sitting on a moss-covered tree trunk, where she is wait¬
ing for him.^ Finally, the whole scene is characterized by an
hallucinatory quality. Hawthorne speaks of the meeting as a magic
*30
circle of an hour. Dimmesdale wonders if the woman he sees is not
a specter or a shadow.^ He regards the happiness of escape outlined
by Hester as a dream.-*2 After leaving Hester, he turns, expecting to
find that she, too, has been unreal, for the whole interview has
53
impressed him as being of a dream-like indistinctness and duplicity.
Hawthorne, moreover, presents Pearl in the scene as if she were a
vision of a child*s spirit, brightly apparailed in the sunshine.
And he mentions that a prophet or magician skilled at reading symbolical
characters could have seen that Pearl is, at once, the material union
and the spiritual idea in whom is met the immortal destinies of Hester
and Dimmeedale.
These details — discussion of supernatural phenomena, meeting of
^SL, pp. 223 » 227-228 , 234.
^SL, p. 243.
51SL, pp. 227-228.
5%-. p. 237.
53SL, p. 256.
54SL, p. zkh.
55SL, p. 248.

155
estranged lovers In the woods, an4 a visionary atmosphere — seem to
parallel a forest seene in the Memoirs. On hie way to Alexandria
(Madrid), Theagenes (Digby) joins company with an Indian Brachman, a
skilful magician who carries with him a magic "book enclosed in a
leaden cover, The two men engage in a discussion of their beliefs in
astrological influences upon human lives and in the interponetrability
of the spiritual and material worlds.^ Once during the course of
their conversation, Theagenes is halted by beholding the sight of his
lover, Stelliana (Venetia Stanley), sitting upon the trunk of a dead
and rotten tree.-^ But when he tries to touch her, she vanishes. The
Brachman, coming forward, then explains that the form of the woman was
only a vision produced by Ms reading an incantation from the magic
characters in his book. He had taken this way to rove to Theagenes
that there is a general spirit of the universe that unites intellectual
58
and material substances.
In each work a discussion of supernatural lore, involving the
agency of spiritual essences in human affairs, is a prelude to a
visionary meeting. In the novel Pearl and Hester speak of a concrete
embodiment of this lore in the person of the Black Man and his book.
In the Memoirs the Brachman, who carries a raagie book, participates in
^^Digby, pp. 119** 146.
Digby, p, 146.
-°uigby, pp. 1^150.

156
the philosophical discourse, Diamesdale and Theagenes are both sur¬
prised at the sudden sight of their lovers, who are shown seated on a
tree trunk deep in the forest. Both scenes are characterized by a
magic circle or dream-like atmosphere. Bimes&ale doubts Hester's
physical existence and expects her to blur indistinctly into the
trees; Stelliana actually vanishes because she is a vision. In a
similar fashion, Pearl is described as the vision of a spirit.
Hawthorne's allusion to a magician skilled to read symbolic characters
parallels the magician's act of reading strange characters in his book
to produce the vision of Stelliana. And Hawthorne's depiction of
Pearl as the union of material and spiritual substances conjoining the
destinies of her parents Is virtually an illustration of the subject of
the discourse between Theagenes and the Brachman.
Though not strictly an allusion, Hawthorne assigns to his heroine
the same surname as that of William Prynne (1600-I669). Could there
be any connection? Twice Prynne was sentenced to the pillory to be
branded. In I632, for writing Histrlomastlx in which he slandered the
royalty, he was fined, whipped, condemned to the pillory, where, after
his ears were cropped, he was made to stand with a paper on his person
declaring how foul an offense he had committed.^ His publisher,
Michael Sparkes, the editor of The Narrative History, was sentenced to
a milder form of the same penalty. The Harleiaa Miscellany, as well
Estate Trials, II. 585

157
as the State Trials. Includes a vivid account of Prynne's second
punishment on the pillory — this time for slandering episcopacy. On
this occasion not only were his ears cropped, hut he was "branded on
both cheeks with the first letters of the words Seditious Libellar.
’..hen the executioner came "to sear him and cut off his ears," Prynne
taunted: "Come, sear me, sear me, 1 shall ’bear in my body the marks
of the Lord Jesus'; which the bloody executioner performed with
extraordinary cruelty, heating his iron twice to burn one cheek: and
6o
cut one of his ears so close, that he cut off a piece of his cheek.B
After the ordeal, Prynne composed a distich on the letters E.L., making
them to stand for the insignia of Laud, Stigmata Landis, who had
commanded the branding. Prynne became something of a type of the
pilloried and branded criminal, the characteristic punishment of the
age. Ihe historian Oldmixon considered him a model instance of this
manner of cruel and disgraceful public torture.^ One of the earlier
editors of the State friáis. Solían Sralyn, cited the cases of Prynne
as notorious examples of miscarriage of justice in the tyrannical use
of the scaffold.^2 Prynne, too, considered himself something of a
type. He told the spectators at his second branding that in order to
preserve human liberties he would gladly expose his '’person to be a
6om, iv, 232-233.
^Oldmixon, pp. 119» 128.
^%Teface to 1730 edition, State trials. I, xxvi.

158
leading example, to bear this punishment. # Thus, by giving to Hester
the surname Prynne. Hawthorne may be drawing a parallel between the
species of punishment on the scaffold which both she and William
Prynne endured. The scarlet letter on her bosom, moreover, parallels
the IS. L. branded on Hie cheeks of Prynne. And frequently Hawthorne
employs the image of the branding iron in speaking of Hester’s
embroidered letter.^3
Hawthorne gives Hester a Christian name that he had used with the
Oí
spelling Esther several times before. hike Prynne, the name Hosier
appears in the vicinity of the Overbury literature and seems to point
up a feature of Hester’s character, included in the State Trials
are the proceedings at Hampton Court of a conference of ministers who
desired reformation of the Church. The concluding statement in their
petition to King James flatteringly compares his destiny with that of
queen Esthers HAnd we say with Kbrdeeai to Hester, ’who knoweth,
whether you are come to the Kingdom for such a time? ’One aspect
of the scriptural story of Esther is, moreover, once compared to a
feature of the Overbury affair. When Sir Walter Haleigh returned from
Orinoco in 1618 and was sentenced to die, he drew an analogy between
his conviction and the hanging of llamen, and between Carr’s pardon and
63Ü» 230*
64
"An Old Wife’s Tale," "Old Esther Dudley," "Ethan Brand."
65State Trials. II, 91.

159
Hordeeai's similar royal release. Raleigh said, «That his whole
History of the World had act the precedent, of a Icing's prisoner to
purchase freedom, and his bosom favourite to save the halter, hut in
66
Scripture, Mordece.i and Hainan; meaning himself and the earl of Somer¬
set. To which he was told, that the king replied, 'He sight dis in
this deceit.' Which he did, for Somerset was saved. Both the
Overbury murder and the Esther story were also touchstones in a popular
controversy over woman during the reign of King James. Because tvio
women, Lady Frances and Anne Turner, were involved In the affair, its
anti-feminist implications were strong. Overbury's poem "The Wife,"
68
written to dissuade Carr from marrying Lady Frances, explains woman's
place from the Christian point of view — a helpmate to man. After
Anne Turner's execution King James tried to put & curb on feminine
vanity, apparently a phase of women's self-advancement, by outlawing
the fashion of the starched yellow ruff.^ Into this arena of contro¬
versy Esther appeared as a champion of woman and the feminine ideal of
^Esther 9:24-10 ¡3.
^State Trials. II, 33. The narrator refers to Raleigh*s grudge,
but does not cite Raleigh.'e quotation (KH. p. 70).
^Codrington, «Life of Essex,” B&, VI, 9.
^Bireh, Court and Times. II, 198; Violet A. Wilson, Society
Women in Shakespeare's Time (Hew York, 1925). P* 208. On this whole
subject of the feminist controversy, see Wilson, pp. 205-212; Louis
1935). PP* 493^499^' and Chilton^a^^pFowell.^^^^h Domestic
Relations I48?“2.03. (Hew York, 1917). P- 162.

160
equality. The story of Esther Inspired hope in the feminine cause.
Hot only did this wise and "beautiful queen intercede for the deliver¬
ance of her people, "but "by her judicious behavior, she removed the
stigaa attached to woman's place in the marital relationship. In
spite of King Ahasuerus1s official decree for active male supremacy.
Opeen Esther achieved an unexampled equality with him, and the golden
scepter was extended to her.7®
Thus it my be that the name Hester is related to Hester's concern
with the problem of woman's status. Besides the seventeenth-century
spelling, Hawthorne gives the name overtones unsounded before. Hester
is dark and exotic. She possesses "in her nature a rich, voluptuous
characteristic. Berniniscent of Esther, the deliverer of her race
and an equal with her husband, Hester Prynne exercises her mental
faculties on plans for the liberation of her sex. She imagines her¬
self for a time as a prophetess leading a reform of woman* s position.
But in despair she concludes that the whole system of social relations
must first undergo a change and that the destined prophetess who will
reveal the higher truth for establishing marital relations on a firmer
72
©pound of mutual happiness must be pure, lofty, and sinless.
Hester's husband assumes in the novel a surname identical with
?0!sther, 1:20-22; 4:8, 11; 5:2.
^SL, pp. 73-74, 107.
72SL, pp. 199-200, 311,

that of another seventeenth-century English figure, William Chilling-
worth (1602-1644). A liberal ajad an exponent of san's natural reason,
Chillingworth typifies the new spirit of rationalistic inquiry that
was coming over the age. John Aubrey describes him as a born debater
and as the «readiest and nimblest disputant of his time in the
university, perhaps none has equalled him since.h7^ Lord Clarendon
calls him that "learned and eminent Mr. Chillingworth," who had a
74
sisable reputation with the learned men of his age. In his master¬
piece, !&g Safe
Chillingworth disavows partiality to system or conviction. He
searches for truth, he says, in accordance with the principles of
mathematical certainty.7-* He resolves the question of faith to reason
and to the understanding*s assent,7** By comparison, Hoger Chilling¬
worth lias much in common with William Chillingworth. Hoger is a
learned man, a rationalist, and a liberal. He shrewdly reduces the
problem of Ms calamity from one of human passions to a question
involving "no more than the air-drawn lines and figures of a geometrical
^John Aubrey, "maLMsm* " ea- Andrew Clark (Oxford, 1898), I,
171-174.
74Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion and
Civil Wars in England. A Hew Edition (Oxford, 1840), II, "51Í, 510.
75William Chillingworth, The,M.k&P,n.,.of
Safe Way to Salvation. 2nd ed. (London, 1638), "Dedication" and p. 73*
76
Chillingworth, pp. 55-67

162
77
problem." He suggests to Bel liarían and Wilson, to «solve the enignn
of Pearl’s father and his wife’s seducer, the rationalistic approach
of analyzing Pearl’s sake and sold.7® Chillingworth’s cold liberalism
is contrasted with Dimmesdale’s iron-clad framework of theological
70
reasoning and wars religious faith. It say he that there is also a
symbolical meaning in Boger Chilliagworth' s surname.
Pearl’s name has Biblical overtones. Hester named her daughter
Pearl because she had been bought at a great price.®0 She asmo seme
to have first originated in Hawthorne’s mind, however, in another
connection. He virote in his journals that the name Pearl, the
“English of Margaret," would be % pretty name for a girl in a story."®1
In Ketnpe’s Loaely Manuscripts occur several passages that recall this
name. Listed among Mrs. Turner’s belongings is a square of needlework
Op
pearls. In the inventory of Carr’s possessions there are, among
buttons, hatbands, diamonds, also some pearls and a mother-of-pearl cup
and cover. ®^ In a letter by John Chamberlain describing Lady Prances’
7?SL, p. 158.
P* 1^3-
^SL, p. 151.
®°SL, p. 113; compare Matthew 13j46.
81
Ste\iart, p. 100
82Kempe, p. 409.
®^Kompe, p. 411.

163
relations with witches, he writes that she "sought out a certain wise
woman ... ¿ythgj after the nature of such creatures, drawing much money
04
from her, at last coaened her of a jewel of great value." The
adjectival phrase "mother-of-pearl" has a parallel in Pearl’s childish
response to Wilson’s question who she is! "I am mother’s child ... and
my name is Pearl. And, however it was intended, Chamberlain’s
statement of the jewel of great value coincides with the symbolic and
figurative connotations of Pearl’s name. Sot only is she a pearl of
86
great price, but she is also the gem on her mother’s bosom. Those
repetitions of the word r-earl in the Overbury materials could have re¬
awakened in Hawthorne’s mind the idea for a girl by that name and the
symbolic meaning associated iidth it.®?
Besides Hew England characters who may be considered as taking
part in the action of the novel, Hawthorne thus mentions or uses a
p. 384.
85Si* P* 136.
862L, pp. 113, 272.
37
fSo far, I am unable to see any connection between Dimmesdale in
the novel and men by that name in history. Three Dimsdales appear in
the State Trials. They are doctors John Dimsdale, Sr., John Dims&ale,
Jr., and Robert Dimsdale, whose report of examination of the corpse of
Mrs. Sarah Stout was introduced into the trials of that woman’s murderers
in 1699 (XXIX, 1216, 1244). Several Dimsdales are mentioned in The
Gentleman.1 s Mswsazlne. The most distinguished seems to have been Dr,
Thomas Dimsdale, who was honored by the Empress of Russia in 1?69 (XXXIX,
54). A Reverend James Dimsdale, Vicar of Cratefield, County of Suffolk,
is listed in the obituary notices for the year 1793 (hXIII, 1055)* But
only the names are similar, to my knowledge.

164
number of names of Saglish said Biblical persons. Sadi name seen® to
have some relevance to the novel, just as allusions in a well-wrou^t
poen are integral to the poetic structure. Overbury and Dimmes&ale each
died a lingering death brought on by a deceitful friend. David and
Diramesd&le were each guilty of a sexual sin. Forman and Chilllngworth
were conjurors and would-be destroyers of the soul. Digby suggests
Chilllngworth1s scientific learning. William Chilllngworth suggests
Boger Chilllngworth*s liberalism and rationalism. 'Hie stories of
Esther and Hester each involves the question of feminism. Hester
Prynne and William Prynne each underwent the typical disgrace of the
age on the platform of the pillory and carried the marks of their
punishment with them throu^i life. Moreover, the names cited or used
may be found within the historical context of the seventeenth century
and in the vicinity of the literature dealing with Over bury* s murder.
In the special instances of the names Overbury and Digby, literary
parallels as well as symbolic associations seem to emerge.

CHAPTER XI
STRUCTURAL DEVICES
Hawthorn© Introduces The Scarlet Letter as If he were editing the
work of another author. The purpose of "The Custom House, " he states,
is to explain how the manuscript of the novel came into his possession
and to offer proofs of the authenticity of the narrative,* He thus
relates the circumstances of his bringing to light, among other old
papers and documents in a second story room of the Salem Custom House,
a roll of papers wrapped in a faded scarlet cloth that resembled the
2
letter A and seemed to be “an ornamental article of dress." He
observes that the document had been penned by Jonathan Pue, one of his
predecessors as Surveyor of the Port of Salem, who was something of a
local antiquarian,^ The pages, he continues, contained “many particu¬
lars respecting the life and conversation of one Hester Prynne,H who
had flourished in the mid-seventeenth century. Thou$i he has adapted
p, 18,
2SL. p, 50. Contrast Hawthorne* s account of his failure to bring
to light a literary treasure while living in the Old Manse (Works, III,
26, 29. 45). The situations described are very much alike: a rainy
day, a remote upper-room, a search among old and faded documents of his
predecessors. But in "The Old Manse" he reports that he could find no
literary treasure; in "The Custom House" his search is rewarded.
^Joseph Barlow Felt in The Annals of Salem (Salem, 182?), p. 455.
records the death of Jonathan Pue in the year 1760, but there is no
mention that he was an antiquarian nor that he left any private papers
on Hew England history.
165

166
the story for publication, Hawthorne vouches for the authenticity of
the narrative outlines "the main facte of ... /the/ story are authorised
and authenticated by the document of Mr. Surveyor Pue.M But Hawthorne
has not slavishly restricted himself to Pue's narrations "I must not
he understood as affirming, that, in the dressing up of the tale ... I
have invariably confined, myself within the limits of the old Surveyor's
half a dozen sheets of foolscap. On the contrary, I have allowed myself
... nearly or altogether as much license as if the facts had been entire¬
ly of ray own invention. What I contend for is the authenticity of the
outline, * Moreover, "Hie original papers, together with the scarlet
letter itself, — a most curious relic, — are still to my possession,
and shall be freely exhibited to whomsoever, induced by the great
4
interest of the narrative, may desire a sight of them." And all of
Pue's documents "shall be at the command of any gentleman, inclined,
and competent, to take the unprofitable labor off ay hands.
As Hawthorne says,** the editorial introduction is a literary con¬
vention long recognized as proper by authors for explaining the
existence of an ensuing production. Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and
HaJáJteáaiaL» Bir Walter Seott's W&yer&§y.,ifels. dornas Carlyle's
S3SÍSL.MSMJS!&> and Washington Irving's Kfilc^erljpc.kftr.'s., Hiffi.tp.ry, gQflat
P* 51.
5
j&* p*
6SL, p. 18.

167
York v;ere similarly ascribed to other authors. Hawthorne hime©If had
used the editorial device in "Happaccini1 s Daughter" (1844) and "P’s
Correspondence" (1845). Yet the Overbury materials are also pre¬
sented to the public la edited volumes of antiquarian papers — The
teJa££ftSteJ&S&z» teJ&gjtdOsBBwasMj.»
and the of these works, Iff.Janf a&ve,JUfegg ®*3T be
singled out. Edited by Michael Sparkes, The Narrative History in¬
cludes, it will be remembered, the historical tract, "The Five Year*
of King James," and a large portion of the trial reports, "Truth
Brought to Light by Time." Sparkes prefaces these documents on the
Overbury affair^ with an editorial introduction that bears comparison
with Hawthorne’s account in "The Custom House" of the origin of The
terteJkste*
Sparkes reveals that the documents in his volume had been with
much care and industry collected from the studies, closets, and
cabinets of great men of state. Prior to his bringing them to light,
they had been preserved, along with many others of like nature, by
"the worthy preserver" and "carefull gentleman, G. W." Continuing his
editorial task, he gives a faint notion of the nature of the story?
?Two other documents in The narrative History, however, are not
related to the Overbury case. One is "An Abstract or Brief Declara¬
tion of the iresent State of His Majesties Revenew, with the Assigna¬
tions and Defalcations up on the Seme" (London, 1651)* The other is
"A True Declaration of the Commissions and Warrants for the Condemna¬
tion and Burning of Thomas Legatt and Thomas Wlthman" (London, 1651).

168
"This following story is worthy of observations for here is to be soon
Ood*s justice, with punishments upon wicked sinful wretches, (both in
judgement and equity,) observe what was here begun with vanity and
adultery, ends in shame, Infamy, and mi nary. M For never was there
"in these times such sentence and execution performed, as the then
learned Lord Cook gave on that fomenter of lust, Mistris Anne Turner,
whose sentence was to be hanged at Tibum in her yellow tlffiny ruff
and cuffs, being she was the first inventor and wearer of that horrid
garb." Spsrkes next certifies that he has not altered the truth of
the narrative and that any one who questions the authenticity of the
story may come and inspect the documents» the narrative "goes neither
with patch nor powder, nor new-fashion dress, as that careful, worthy,
and learned licenser can shew, nor detracted nor added one line to the
matter from the original; and if any gentleman, or man of quality,
shall make doubt ... we have done according to the original copy; and
if they be desirous to see the originals ... they shall have leave to
see them.
Thus both The Scarlet Letter and the main Overbury narrative are
said by their "editors" to be documents by another author. Each story
is alleged to have been collected and preserved among numerous papers
by a kind of antiquarian, Pue and 0. W. Neither editor gives a very
full preview of the ensueing narrative; each mentions only the name of
one principal character and a detail about an infamous article of
%H, pp. ii-lvj'

169
dress worn by her — Hester and the scarlet letter, Anne Turner and
the starched yellow ruff. Sparkes, la contrast to Hawthorne, does cite
a these word, adultery, and points out moral implications of the nar¬
rative, Sfeeh editor vouches for the authenticity of the story. But,
while Sparkes claims not to have given it a new dress "by altering a
single line, as the «licenser8 can testify, Hawthorne claims that he
has, thou^i keeping to the factual outline, allowed himself consid¬
erable interpretative license in dresring up the tale. Bach editor
also points out, finally, that the original papers are at the disposal
of any gentleman who desires a sight of them — because of interest in
the novel or because of doubt as to the truth of the facts.
In the novel Hawthorne retains the editorial point of view by at
least two means. First, he reminds the reader by parenthetical ref¬
erences to it that he is following a prepared document. When one day
Mistress Hibbins tells Hester of a witch meeting to be held that
night, Hawthorne Interpolates: 8if we suppose this interview betwixt
Mistress Hibbins and Hester Prynne to be authentic, and not a par-
o
able. 8 Comparing Chillingworth to a companion of Forman, Hawthorne
writes that the «narrator of the story had now forgotten” this com¬
panion's name.3’0 Of a wolf's friendly conduct towards Pearl during
the girl's amble in the forest, he observess "but here the tale has
9SL, p, lh4.
10&. p. 155.

170
eurely lapsed into the improbable.1,11 And after Dimraesdale’s death,
Hawthorne mentions again “The authority which we hare chiefly followed,
— a manuscript of old date**12 and its supposed author, “Mr. Surveyor
Pue, who made investigations a century later.
The second means of continuing the editorial perspective is to
take full advantage of the opportunities afforded him to make comments
of general Interest arising from the story, These observations pertain
to history, religion, philosophy, morals, religion, human nature, and
other general areas. Regarding punishment on the pillory» for example,
he remarks: “There can be no outrage, methinks, against otar common
nature ... no outrage more flagrant than to forbid the culprit to hide
i li
his face for shame. " Many other passages may similarly be lifted
out of context:
But there is a fatality ... which almost invariably compels
human beings to linger around .., the spot where some ...
marked event has given the color to their lifetime.*5
... loss of faith is ever one of the saddest results of sin.1^
So it ever is, whether thus typified or no, that an evil
deed invests itself with the character of doom.
USL, P. 245.
12sl, p. 30?.
13a, p. 310.
14SL, p. 76.
15JS& p. 103.
l6SL, p. 112.
1?SL, p. 253.

171
Be truel Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if
not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be
inferred!^®
Hawthorne's editorial point of view in the novel parallels the
perspective of the anonymous narrator of "The Five Years" more than
that of Sparkes, for the latter, in accord with his prefatory state¬
ment, remains out of the narrative. But in at least one place Sparkes'
presence is conspicuous. The narrator had said, concerning the trials
of the accomplices, that "To write the particulars of their arraign¬
ments, confessions, and the manner of their deaths is needless, being
common. But Sparkes, in a phrase that anticipates the second part
of the volume, alters idle passage to read: "the particulars of their
Arraignments, Confessions, and the manner of their Deaths I have set
dovne by it selfe in the latter end of this Treatise, being both
needfull and necessary for the clearing of the whole truth of this
businesse, to take away those ambiguous doubts that did arise of the
certainty thereof.w2°
Despite the convention of generalisations, moral and philosophical,
among English novelists of the eighteenth century, sad despite Haw¬
thorne's own custom in early tales,^ this characteristic of Hawthorne's
18sl, p. 307.
19M* v, 391.
%, pp. 68-69.
^See, for example. Works. I, lj&, 164, 210, 218.

172
style also coincides with the practice of the narrator, who frequently
injects moral maxims into his story:
for who can touch pitch and not he defiled?22
Many are the chances that happen in the world, some good,
some had, and those things ve least suspect doe soonest
happen to subvert us.23
Hereby it is a dangerous thing to fall within the compás se
of a guilty conscience, it eateth and consuraeth the soule
of a man, as rust the iron, or as heating waves the hollow
rocíes.25
25
But what God will have disclosed shall never be concealed.
... God never leaves Murther (though never so closely
earryed) undiscovered, and Unpunished.
Thus, la this last quotation, the narrator concludes, as Hawthorne
does, with a pointed moral.
Hawthorne adapts his edited story within the imaginary framework
of a visitation by Pue’s ghost. As he examined Pue‘s manuscript, he
had a feeling, he says, that there stood before him the ghost of its
author, who handed him the document and requested him to redact it for
publications
Z2m p* 13.
zym, p. 51.
24m. p* 57.
25m, p. 65.
2%h, pp. 73-74.

173
It impressed me as if the ancient Surveyor ,.. had met me
in the deserted chamber of the Custom House.... With his
own Mostly hand, the obscurely seen but majestic figure
had imparted to me the scarlet symbol, and the little roll
of explanatory manuscript. With his own Mostly voice he
had exhorted me, on the sacred consideration of ay filial
duty and reverence towards him ... to bring his mouldy and
moth-eaten lucubrations before the public. "Do this," said
the ghost of Mr. Surveyor Pue ... do this, and the profit
shall be all your own! ... But, I charge you, in this
matter of old Mistress Prynne, give to your predecessor*s
memory the credit which will be rightfully due!" And I said
to the ghost of Mr. Surveyor Pue, "I will!"2?
Further, the characters of the story are compared to ¿hosts in the
early stages of their creation. Hawthorne writes that his imagination
would not function while working in the Custom Houses "The characters
of the narrative would not be warmed and rendered malleable by any
heat that I could kindle at my intellectual forge. They would take
neither the glow of passion nor the tenderness of sentiment, but
retained all the rigidity of dead copses, and stared me In the face
28
with a fixed and lastly ¿yin of contemptuous defiance. " Hot until
he was discharged from the Custom House and was able in his study to
dream strange dreams amidst the ruddy glow of coal-fire light and moon¬
beams, he says, were the ^xosts spiritualized into human beings with
hearts and sensibilities,
Sven in the completed narrative the characters are often repre¬
sented figuratively as ghosts or disembodied spirits. After her
Ztg* PP. 52-53*
28SL. PP* 53-54.

174
virtual banishment, Hester* s features show a marble quietude: they
are "like a mask; or, rather, like the frozen calmness of a dead
woman’s features; owing this dreary resemblance to the fact that
Hester was actually dead, in respect to any claim of sympathy, and
departed out of the world, with which she still seemed to mingle.
For Hester "stood apart from moral interests, yet close beside them,
like a ghost that revisits the familiar fireside. ',3° As he sees
Bellingham from a distance looking "like a ghost, evoked unseason¬
ably from the grave," Dimaesdale imagines that he himself may be
taken for the "ghost ... of some defunct transgressor," if he be
found frozen the next morning. 3* The meeting of Hester and Bimraes-
dale in the woods after seven years is "like the first encounter, in
the world beyond the grave of two spirits who had been intimately
connected in their former life but now stood coldly shuddering, in
mutual dreed; as not yet familiar with their state, nor wonted to the
companionship of disembodied beings. Sach a ¿host, and awe-stricken
at the other $iostl1,32 At the Flection holiday Dimmeedale * s face has
such a deathlike hue that he seer.s hardly a man alive. He regards
Hester and Pearl with a ghastly look.33 In this world of spirits,
^SL, p. 270.
3°SL, p. 108.
31SL, p. 181.
32SL. P. 228.
33a, pp. 297. 299.

175
Chillingvorth figures as an evil fiend and Pearl an elf child.
Hawthorne had employed the device of the dream framework in
"Young Goodman Brown" (1835) end in "David Swan" (1837) • He had used
the joint ¿host-dream structure in an "to Old Woman’s Tale" (1830) and
in "Wives of the Dead" (1832). In "The Old Manse" he had anticipated
the imaginary appearance of a ghost who desires him to edit & manu¬
script i Hawthorne speaks frequently in this sketch of the ghost of
Dr. Ezra Ripley, whose house he had rented. Once fancying he hears
the ghost rustling papers, he assumes: "Hot improbably he wished, me
to edit and publish a selection from a chest full of manuscript dis¬
courses that stood in the garret.
nevertheless, there le also a parallel between this imaginary
ghost-dream framework of the novel and the structural framework of
Richard Hiccols' "Sir ihoiaas Overbury’ © Vision. Hiccols has
returned from the forum and has gone to bed. In his sleep he !ms a
dream. There appears to him around raidni^it the ghost of Over bury:
Just at that hour,3? I thought my chamber door
Did softly open, and upon the floor
3*%,» PP. 156, 205, 207; 115. 136.
35w0riCT, nt 27.
36It should perhaps be mentioned also that Romantic literature,
including Hawthorne’s, is gravid with ¿hosts, spirits, and ghost imagery.
^Hawthorne described in his journal in December, 1848, a noc¬
turnal setting in his study into which ghosts might quietly glide
(Stewart, p, 124). He appears to have recast these ideas in "The
Custom House" (SL. pp. 54-56). Hiccols' description of midnight, the
ghost-miking hour — the whole passage is not included here — could
have recalled Hawthorne’s own observations of a year earlier.

1?6
I hoard one glid£ along, who at the last
Did call ad ¿sigj hid me wake; at which a^iast
I up did look.
But the poor ghost, to let me understand
For what he crane, did waft me with his hand.
Bidding him rise, the ghost leads him to Tower Hill and tells him how
in life he wae poisoned to death and disgracefully slandered hy false
rumors. It is to request of the poet that he tell the true story of
Overbury's misfortunes, and thus vindicate his character, the ^iost
declares, that he has left his grave and stolen “through covert
shades of night, to crave/ Thy pen's assistance."^ The narration
continues with the successive^ appearance out of the prisoners* dock
of the ghosts of Overbury's murderers. After the last one has dis¬
appeared and the ghost of Qverbury has thanked ling James for justice
in apprehending the murderers, writes ITiccols, he wakes up and con¬
cludes the poem with: "this vision I did write.
38HM, III, >46.
39HM* III. 351-352.
ho
There is an analogy Between this structure of a series of self-
characterizations and what critics have called the tableau-like struc¬
ture of the novel. Malcolm Cowley — The Portable Hawthorne (New York,
19^8), pp. 18-19 — characterizes the narrative movement as a series
of balanced tableaus. Mark Van Doran — Kathaniel Hawthorne (Hew
York, 19^9), p. 164 — states that these tableaus are strikingly
visualized and appear for the moment to bring everything to a stand¬
still. The speech of each ghost in the poem creates, in effect, a
little static picture as he rehearses his life and transgression.
These tableaus are tied together with brief narrative links. Though
the levels of art are quite different, the structural rhythms are very
much alike.
4lJE» III, 368.

177
In contrast to Eiccols* structure, In which a ghost Is said
actually to have appeared to the poet, Hawthorne employs the device
figuratively: he imagines the spectral figure of Pue to stand "before
him, he merely compares the characters to ghosts, and he hints at a
dream only once and in general terms. Hiccols makes the ^host-dream
framework an integral part of the narrative structure of the poem,
whereas Hawthorne places the ghost's appearance and request before the
main narration in connection with the editorial framework. let in
each work the author says that he is bringing to the public a story at
the request of a ghost who has appeared to him. Each ghost, moreover,
is shown asking that the treatment duly regard the memory of his name.
And in each instance there is a picture of the ghost standing in a
chamber with his hand extended, either to beckon the poet to follow or
to impart the manuscript to the novelist.
Pue, explains Hawthorne in “The Custom House," had drawn up the
narration of Hester irynne from the oral testimony of persons who had
lived at the time of her disgrace.^2 Hawthorne retains this principle
of rumor and gossip as the basis of the narrative structure of the
novel. The story moves forward from the point of view of the populace,
whose gossipy opinions color the facts. This device of reporting
rumors gives to the style of the novel a popular flavor:
43
It was whispered....
42SL, p. 51

1?8
The vulgar, who, la those dreary old times, were always
contributing a grotesque horror to vhat interested their
imaginations, had a story which we might readily work
up into a terrific legend,... And we must needs say ...
that perhaps there was more truth in the rumor than our
modern incredulity may be inclined to admit.
According to the vulgar idea....^
... it grew to be a widely diffused opinion....
It was reported, and believed by many....4?
... the market-place absolutely babbled from side to side.
... According to the united testimony....**®
... no tidings ... unquestionably authentic were received.^
In fine, the gossips of that day believed....-*0
These Illustrations of Hawthorne's device of reporting popular
opinions compares with the gossipy style of the narrator.**1 This
^SL,
p.
112.
45sl,
P«
156.
^SL.
P.
156.
4?sl,
P.
197.
^SL,
P»
294.
^SL.
P*
309.
*>SL,
P-
310.
^Hawthorne had written in this style before the novel. "The
(bray Champion" (1835) and "The Ambitious Guest" (1835) sean to employ
the style without making the most of it, "The Minister's Black Veil"
(1836) and "Lady Eleanor's Mantle" (1838) clearly anticipate the
realisation of the possibilities of this point of view. Prior to the
novel, however, Hawthorne does not seem to have used the word vulgar
in describing the people.

179
anonymous author writes as if oral testimony were his only sources of
information on the subjects he covers. Referring to almost no author¬
ities, he keeps completely on the level of the uninformed "but gossip¬
ing people. He repeats the news from spectators and the hearsay
evidence from nonspectators. He includes the rumors, the opinions,
and all the unverifiable reports of the multitude. His style is dis¬
tinctly characterised by ruiaor-mongering:
... it was vulgarly reported....
53
... an idle and vain rumor was spread....
... and besides, which is now the common report of the
vulgar....5^
... as was reported...."
... although many had been the rumors and reports that had
passed in these times, some of them shoot up for uncertain
truths, and flying tales....56
And the tongues of the Vulgar began to walk.. ..-^
5*equently in the novel there are conflicting opinions among the
rumors of the people. Hawthorne presents these different views in a
stylistic formula that has been called multiple-choice explanations.
5ZM* P* 31.
53M. P- 31.
5¿íM. P. 33.
55|&, p. 61.
57m, p. 69.

180
By this device, says F. 0. Hatthlessen, Hawthorne conveys an atmos¬
phere of mystery and obscurity, and creates a sense of the intricacy
58
of the situations reported:
By those best acquainted ... /itj was accounted for by....
Some declared.... He himself ... avowed his belief.... With
all this difference of opinion as to the cause ... there
could be no question of the fact.^°
His first entry on the scene, few people could tell whence,
dropping down ... out of the eky, or starting from the
nether earth ... a rumor gained ground, — and, however
absurd, waB entertained by some very sensible people....
Individuals of wiser faith, indeed....®0
... friends ... very reasonably imagined.... But — it must
now be said — another portion of the community had latterly
begun to take Its own view.... The people, in the case of
which we speak, could justify its prejudice ... by no fact
or argument worthy o£ serious refutation. There was an aged
handicraftsman ... /wh¿/ testified to .... Two or three
individuals hinted.... A large number — and many of these
were persons of such sober sense and practical observation
that their opinions would have been valuable in other
matters — affirmed....
After many days, when time sufficed for the people to arrange
their thoughts in reference to the foregoing scene, there
was more than one account of what liad been witnessed....
Most of the spectators testified to having seen.... As
regarded its origin, there were various explanations, all of
which must necessarily have been conjectural. Some Affirmed.
... Others contended their belief,... The reader may choose
among these theories.... It is singular, nevertheless, that
certain rersons, who were spectators of the whole scene ...
denied....62
•5%. 0. Matthias sen, American Renaissance (Hew York, 1941), p. 276.
PP. 147-148.
pp. 148-149.
6XSL, pp. 155-156.
62sl, pp. 305-306.

181
In the same aanner precisely the narrator presente contradictory
rumors of the people.^ Hie basic stylistic pattern, in fact, may he
said to consist of crudely multiplying the various popular opinions*
Some said others, that he was again, others
thought ...; yet no certainty could he found....
... whereupon some sales this, and some sales that ... hut
how true this is, is not credible....^5
... it was thought ... he was thought ... another was ... ,,
hut the very truth of the business was thought to he this. 5
And now according to the common course, every one speaks as
they stand affected, some boldly, some sparingly* some....
Others.... A third sort.... Others, that were more staid
and judicious in their opinion, foresaw.... ?
After wardjgJ it was given out that.... This went currant
amongst some, amongst others that were ignorant some little
respect hut to others that sought narrower into the
matter, they found it far otherwise.*5’
Thus in both The narrative History and The Scarlet Letter there
is a triple stratification of authorship. The outside layer is by
^The device of multiple-choice explanations seems to appear first
in Hawthorne’s stylistic development in "The Gray Champion,* Works. I,
30. Thereafter it is not uncommon to find it in several of his better
tales: "The Minister’s Black Veil," Works. I, 56; "The Prophetic
Pictures," Works. I, 195; "Edward Randolph’s Portrait," Works. I,
295-296.
p. 25.
65m, p. 32.
6^. p. 36.
67M» ?• 50.
68M, pp. 53-54.

182
an editor who, la adapting the narration of another author, writes an
introduction and makes generalizing comments on various subjects as he
retells the story. The second layer is the narration of a scribbler
who has collected his materials from the oral testimony of many indi¬
viduals. These opinions and rumors of the uninstructed multitude
constitute the third layer of authorship and through whose eyes, for
the most part, the story is told. The styles of both narrations are,
therefore, gossipy and characterized by contradictory reports. Each
narrator, in presenting a series of these rumors, frequently tries to
evaluate the reliability of the opinions. Because of these con¬
flicting views each story possesses an atmosphere of mystery and
uncertainty. Moreover, Hawthorne»s editorial superstructure, which
includes the visitation of a ghost and also involves ghostly characters,
especially as the story begins to take shape, recalls the appearance
of Overbury’s ghost to Hiccols and the ghost-dream framework of
Hiccols* poem.

PART SIX
COHCLFSIOH

CHAPTER XII
PROM STATIC SYMBOL TO NARRATIVE MEANING
It has been the purpose of the preceding chapters to suggest
that accounts of the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury were Hawthorne's
principle sources in composing The Scarlet Letter. The main points
in the argument may be briefly recapitulated. In the novel Hawthorne
twice alludes to the Overbury murder. He mentions the names of
several other persons implicated in the case or involved in the
trials. In their broad outlines of adultery, witchcraft, isolation,
revenge, violation of a human soul, concealed sin, dying confession,
and divine judgment upon sinners, The Scarlet Letter and the Overbury
affair share common thanes. Hawthorne ms acquainted with the litera¬
ture of the period, and especially with books carrying accounts of the
affair. He knew The Haxleian Miscellany which contains an historical
tract, HThe Five Years of King James,H and a poem by Richard Niccols,
"Sir Thomas Overbury's Vision.H The tract narrates anonymously the
basic facts in the case; the poem is an imaginative and more penetrat¬
ing character study of the accomplices who, as ghosts, are shown
confessing their crime to the ghost of Overbury. Hawthorne knew the
State Trials. He knew Michael Sparkes' The Narrative .History which
includes the tract and a large portion of the trial reports. He knew
Alfred John Kempe's The Loselv Manuscripts which contains a narration
of the affair and several documents relating to it. And about the
184

185
time he was writing the novel, records of Hawthorne's reading at Salem
Athenaeum have shown, he was using The Loeely Manuscripts and an
edition of She, SíSlÉbmMasaMML ~* one, however, that contains the
tract hut not the poem.
A detailed comparative analysis of the plotlines of the novel and
these accounts of the case has revealed, though not in identical
order, many incidents coraron to both stories. Striking agréments
between the major characters in the novel and the Overbury affair have
emerged} but, again, in numerical proportion the characters do not
match exactly. During the comparison, a corresponding atmosphere of
the supernatural and similar details of setting have been observed.
Analogies have likewise appeared between the style and structure of
the novel and these several accounts of the Overbury affair.
In view of the allusions to Overbury, Hawthorne's knowledge of
the ease, and this formidable sequence of parallels, an hypothetical
explanation may now be given to the question that has been proposed:
Could the Overbury materials have been Hawthorne's major immediate
source for The Scarlet Letter? If so, what are the characteristics of
Hawthorne's creative process that may explain the apparent differences
between the sources and the novel? What are the probable steps in the
genesis and evolution of the novel? And what new light may the sources
throw on the meaning of the novel in relation to Hawthorne's art?
Between these coarse materials and the finished artistic product
of the novel there is a wide difference. This discrepancy may be

186
explained in part as the result of a rearrangement of materials which
ignores the original chronology of events. Hester*» imprisonment,
punishment, and ostracism, for example, precede Chilllngworth's revenge
on Dimnesdale, whereas Lady Frances's similar situation followed Carr's
revenge upon Overbury. The difference may he partially explained as
the result of compression of materials. In the novel there are three
major characters, whereas in the Overbury affair at least ten princi¬
pal persons figure in the case.^ Motifs which in the latter are
apportioned among the ten are in the novel integrated in three
characters. The difference may be explained in part as the logioal
consequence of Hawthorne's making a single, unified narration out of
a heterogeneous mixture of documents. Three of the main accounts of
the case are themselves totally different. The prose tract is factual
and tells the Overbury narration in historical context. The poem is
imaginary, omits mention of the persons in the love triangle, takes
up only five characters in the case, and interprets at least on© of
these, Anne Turner, with a sympathetic bias unique in the records.
The trial proceedings are stale, matter of fact, and lacking in
narrative order.^
The difference may be explained partially as the result of a
in.—Ml win «»■——I «——■ II»Hi ■ ■■■»■■■ ■■■■ —w—I»wi nil———nn»—ni«ii «H I " —I»» !•————Ml■■■■■» I.mmmmmm
1Above, pp. 21-23, 27-35.
Above, pp. 3-5•
3Above, pp. 6-10.

18?
considerable amount of refinement of obscene and grotesque alónente.
The tawdry details of Lady Frances's witchcraft to gain Carr's love
and induce frigidity In Essex may be said to have boon omitted in
Hawthorne's treatment of Hester's liaison with Dimmesdale. Only
through subtle symbolism does Hawthorne relate her adultery to vitch-
craft* The grotesque blisters made by poisons on Overbury's body
were refined into a symbolical hint of a painful, ghaetly imprint of
the letter A in Dimaesdale's breast. But the bawdy rumors of venereal
«
disease ascribed to Over bury do not appear in the novel. Lady
Frances's loathsome death caused by a diseased uterus, and said to be
a divino punishment, is purged of these sordid facta in the lonely but
serene death of Hester Prynne. The latter’s divine punishment is that
she has been disqualified by sin from achieving an Improvement of
woman's position.^
The difference may be largely explained in terms of Hawthorne's
previous writing experience. One of tho many extremely important
facts that Professor Han&all Stewart has demonstrated is that tho
ingredients of the novel show not a marked difference from the pre¬
ceding tales, but rather a decided similarity. The novel is indisput-
edly a culmination, a reshaping, of his own literary materials.? The
4Above, pp. 18-20, 79-82, 115-117.
^Above, pp. 94-97.
^Above, pp. 68-69.
^Stewart, pp. lxvi-lrrii, lxxxix.

183
sane theses end the same character types are to he found in the novel
as in the tales. "Rappaccini1 s Daughter," for Instance, represents a
stage in Hawthorne’s artistic development that soeras, in some respects,
preparatory for The Scarlet letter. The character configuration — a
beautiful woman, a young scholar, and an old man who experiments with
poisons — anticipates the character arrangement of the love triangle
in the novel. The themes of isolation and of violation of the human
soul foreshadow similar themes in the novel. To the artistic matrix
that formed this tale may he added the elements of concealed sin from
"The Ministers Black Veil," the supernatural atmosphere from "Young
Goodman Brown," the Puritan Hew England setting from "The Gentle Boy,"
the style of popular legends and multiple rumors from "The Legends
of the Province House," and it seems scarcely necessary — except for
a new story outline — to theorize about a possible outside influence}
the major ingredients in the novel seem to be evolved from the tales.
Yet, assuming that the Over bury materials crowded inte Hawthorne*»
imagination in 1849» it is logical that they, too, would have been
shaped into a form partaking of the substance of previous tales. The
intellectual and artistic matrices that shaped earlier tales need not
be expected to change because of a foreign admixture; they may be
said, by the passing of time and other admixtures, merely to have been
enlarged and made more receptive to new influences. Especially would
this seem to be the case in the infiltration of new matter from the
Overbury literature. Many elements in the affair seem to be suited to

189
Q
Hawthorne’s peculiar artistic "bias, lady francés's banishment,
Forman's and franklin's pseudo-science,? Carr's deceitful violation
of Overbury's soul,10 Helwyse's concealment of a secret sin,11 the
narrator's gossipy style,12 Hiccols' gjiost story1? — these eluents
would appear to have been congenial to Hawthorne's genius. His mind
could have readily assimilated and shaped them. They were not so new
and different after all; he had been using materials such as these all
his writing life. And as regards notions of adultery, of a woman
14
punished on the scaffold in a special ornament of dress made by her,
of the diabolizing affects of revenge upon one who Indulges in it,1?
and of a girl by the name of Pearl1? — elements stored up in
Hawthorne's mind for use in future stories — the Overbury materials
could have enabled him to realize these preconceived plans.
pAbove, pp. 3>36.
?Above, pp. 49-50, 107-108, 123-125.
10Above, pp. 43-44.
11Above, pp. 52-53. 64-65.
12Above, pp. 178-179. 181.
X?Above, pp. 175-176.
^Above, pp. 15, 18-20 , 76-77.
^Above, p, 110.
^Above, p, 162.

190
But a creative procesa of rearrangement, compression, combination,
refinement, and organizing according to pre-established patterns of
creative operation is not uncommon to all artists. Hor do these pro¬
cesses completely solve the problem of the differences between the
Overbury materials and the novel; nor do they suggest any distinctive
characteristic of Hawthorne’s creative mind.
The greatest differences might possibly be explained as the
result of a spiritualizing process of adaptation. That is, source
elements entering Hawthorne’s mind from the legal or physical plane
emerged on a hinder moral or spiritual plane. According to this
explanation, Lady Frances’s legal banishment was spiritualized into
Hester’s moral estrangement.^ Overbury’s chemical poisoning was
spiritualized into Dimmesdale’s moral poisoning; not only a spiritual
canker pollutes his entire moral system, but he inhales a poisonous
atmosphere created by the secret malignity of Chillingworth’s revenge.
The vengeful murdering of Overbury’s body was spiritualized into
Chillingworth’s attempted destruction of L'inraesdale’s soul — or in
IQ
Hawthorne’s terms, the violation in cold blood of Dimesdale’s soul. 7
Essex’s sexual frigidity as regards his wife was spiritualized into
Chillingworth’s cold heart, lack of warm feelings toward humanity, end
1 •''Above, pp, 33-36.
18
Above, pp. 44-51.
^Above, pp. 42-44.

191
a depravity of soul.20 The human being Forman, who had people enter
their names in his business directory, was adapted into the spiritual
21
being of the Black Man, in whose book people sign away their souls,
The vow of revenge made by Carr and Lady Frances, and the oath of
secrecy shared by Lady Frances and Franklin, became transmuted into
Chillingworth's spiritual bond with the Black Man.22 Helwyse’s hang¬
ing, decreed by a legal tribunal, was spiritualised into Dimmesdale's
death, brou^at about V God, Who tortures him to repentance and leads
him to & dying confession on the scaffold.2-*
The spiritualising process may also be illustrated by Hawthorne’s
adaptations of certain details into symbols of moral phenomena. Frank¬
lin’s crooked shoulder and dark complexion were adapted in Chilling-
nnA.
worth to symbolize a spiritual deformity. The spots on Overbury* s
body become, in the intimations of a mark upon Overbury’s breast, the
symbol of Blmaesdale’s guilt and hidden sin.2^ The witchcraft cabal
of Lady Frances, Anne Turner, and Dr. Forman was adapted in the
relationship between Hester, Mistress Hibbins, and the Blade Man to
20 Above,
PP*
83-84.
2lAbove,
PP*
123-126,
22
Above,
PP*
30-33*
^Above,
PP*
62—66.
oh
^Above,
PP*
103-104.
25Above,
PP*
94-97*

192
allegorize the sin of adultery, and, by extension, Dimmesdale’s lust
and Chilllngworth’s revenge.2^ The character of Pearl likewise exatt-
plifies Hawthorne’s tendency to allegorize spiritual phenomena.
Unrestrained by a surplus of data about the daughter born in prison to
Lady Frances, he may have had to resort to notes on his own daughter
to bring to life in allegorical fashion a mere factual skeleton of the
girl, Anne Carr.
This process of spiritualisation of materials could not only
account for many of the most significant material changes that took
place between the Overbury story and the novel, but it appears to be
so fundamental to Hawthorne* s formative processes that it may well be
one of the distinctive characteristics of his creative imagination.
Perhaps he was not unaware of some such trait of mind. In the preface
to "K&ppacoinl’s Saunter** he speaks of an inveterate love of allegory
which so refines his writings that his plot and characters are apt to
be invested "with the aspect of scenery and people in the clouds.M
His writings, he says, must be read from the proper point 0f view to
28
bring them “within the limits of our native earth.* He repeats
these critical observations in reverse in “Main Street." To a can¬
tankerous spectator complaining that the cardboard exhibitions create
2^Above, pp, 79-82, 119-126.
^Above, pp. HI-113.
^V/orka. II, 106-107.

193
no illusion, Hawthorne, as showman, 'urges him to move his seat to
where, with the proper point of view, "the slips of cardboard shall
assume spiritual life. 1,29 -And in "The Custom House" he seems to
characterise the processes of his imaginative faculty as a spiritual¬
ization of material substance into things of the intellect. He com¬
pares the way in which moonlight transforms into shadows the objects
in his room with the operation of the mind upon the shapes in his
imagination. Things real become changed into things spiritual in what
might be called a creative endeavor to reproduce the "true and inde¬
structible value that lay hidden" in ordinary life.^0 future
investigation» of source changes may further clarify the nature of
Hawthorne’s creative processes that sees to be implied in these paral¬
lels between the Overbury materials and The Scarlet Letter in the li#it
of remarks scattered throughout his works.
Some possible principles of Hawthorne’s creative procedure in
transmuting the Iverbury materials having been observed, the second
concern is to frame a theory of the genesis and evolution of the novel
implied in the foregoing chapters and consistent with the known facts.
It is generally assumed that a story on the scarlet letter began to
germinate in Hawthorne’s mind about 183?, some twelve years before
The Scarlet Letter was finished. For in that year he briefly described
29Works, III, 44?, 454-455
30SL, pp. 54-56.

194
in "Sadicott and the Had Cross» a "beautiful woman wearing a red letter
A sewed to her garment In token of her having committed adultery.
Between 1837 and 1844 this vivid symbol seems to have become firmly
implanted in his mind as possessing potentialities for a full-length
tale. But apparently during those six years it did not gestate Into
more than an independent idea. For Hawthorn© wrote in his notebooks
in 1844 only a brief reminder to himself to write a tale on & woman
who by the old Colony law is doomed for life to wear the letter A
sewed to her bosom for the crime of adultery.3*- Hot until six years
later, that is, the early winter of 1849-1850, xdion Janes T. Fields
was handed an incomplete manuscript of the story, ms anything more
heard of this story suggestion.-^2 And on February 3, 1850, Hawthorne
f ini shed £he_ MmlMJtS&m, 33
What happened between 1844 and 1849 to generate the static symbol
into a novel? The evidence in the preceding chapters implies that,
during the Custom House period or immediately afterwards, Hawthorne
began to steep himself in the literature relating to the Overbury
affair. It is likely that he was already familiar with its general
outline. Perhaps he had previously been influenced by some of its
details, as his use of the name Jervase Helwyse In “Lady Sle&nor’s
33-Above, p. 15.
3%lelds, pp. 49-51.
33*«oratio Bridge,
(Hew York, 1893). PP* 110-112.

195
Mantle" Elicit suggest. Whatever may have been the magnetic force that
attracted him to a study of its details at this time — whether Hel-
wyse's concealment of a crime, Forman's magic, Carr's malicious
revenge, the pervading sense of mystery, Lady Frances's adultery —
he seems ultimately to have been influenced by them all in The Scarlet
Letter. And he must not have been long in his perusal of the affair
before the adulteresses, Lady Frances and Anne Turner, and the latter'e
infamous badge, the starched yellow ruff which she was condemned to
wear at her death, ^ became identified in his imagination with the
static symbol of the adulteress condemned to wear the letter A for the
rest of her natural life.
As soon as this identification took place# a story of the conse¬
quences of this marked woman's sin could have taken command of the
other materials on the affair. The static symbol became vitalized.
A surging flood of images from the Overbury affair began to stream
forth in his mind. Other dormant ideas were aroused. Ideas and images
floating loosely in his imagination formed new chains of associations
and were gathered up in the general quickening activity of the creative
processes. The new matter and the old, after becoming blended, be¬
gan to be refined and spiritualized, to be compressed, combined, and
3^Above, pp.
35
I am indebted to John Livingston Lowes, The Road to Xanadu,
especially pp. 430-431» for this Interpretation of the creative
operation.

196
molded Into pre-established forms, and finally to "be checked and re¬
arranged into a poetic order. The static symbol suggested by an
unused law provided the idea for the story. But it was not a story in
and by itself. What kind of person could be made of this woman? How
could she have been brought to her sin? In “Indicott and the Bed
Cross*' Hawthorne had merely assigned her two attributes! beauty and
the art of needlework wherewith she might embroider her own stigaa.
But would her child live? Who would be her paramour? What kind of
man should her husband be? Or might he be dead? What could happen
among this trio after her sin became public? Before the symbol could
have generated a novel, these questions had need of answers. Possibly
the Overbury materials provided most of this necessary groundwork of a
tale and inspired the evolvement of a fable for the narrative treat¬
ment of this symbolic story idea.
A theoretical reconstruction of what might hare taken place in
the determination of characters and the formation of plot has been
indicated by the parallels set out in Parts Three and Four of this
book. From the disconnected images crowding into Hawthorne's mind
about the case of adultery and murder, there emerged a love triangle.
The character in the symbol became endowed with the attributes of the
two adulteresses. Lady Frances and Anne Turner, women of a similar
“disposition and temperature. For the newly formed creation,
3° Above, pp. 18-20.

197
Hester, like them together, is young, ‘beautiful, and possessed of the
art of needlework. She is unhappily united in a marriage of conven¬
ience to a husband she does not love, ted while he was absent, tee
had engaged in adultery with a young man of eminence in the social
structure.^ In the same way the parallels indicate that the attri¬
butes of the three husbands of the two women became indistingulshed in
Hawthorne* s mind and blended into m emerging husband. For when
Chlllingworth arrives, he finds his wife a sinner. A physician and a
learned man, he is also a person of a frigid disposition. He coolly
backs out of the picture and seeks to gain revenge on his marital
interloper. In this revenging capacity, the husband gathered to him¬
self the traits of the sen who assisted Carr, Lady Frances's second
husband, in his revenge. Thus the husband in the evolving trio in
Hawthorne* s imagination became an old, swarthy oomplezioned, crooked¬
shouldered man, an eager student of natural sciences, a kind of
38
apotheeary who dabbles in poisonous herbs, and a depraved villain.
Similarly there collected around the figure of the third person
in the new triangle the attributes of the paramour Carr! a man rising
to eminence in matters of state and troubled with a guilty conscience.
It appears that these attributes attracted similar traits from Over¬
bury and Helwyse, and in the process brought with them the notions
Above, pp, 74-89-
Above, pp. 103-111•

198
of Over "bur y* s lingering death "by poisoning and Helwyse's concealment
of a sin.-^ As this person in the triangle began to evolve opon
.American soil, a transition could have been made without great diffi¬
culty from the social and political eminence of Carr and Overbury to
a minister at the head of the Puritan theocracy, Thus both men in the
new triangle, a physician and a minister, became men of superior
status and intelligence. To equalise this high rank of the men, Hester
likewise emerged as a person with a good family background, with a
worthy feminine occupation of needlework, end with strong traits of
thought as well as feeling. It was absolutely necessary to decide
upon these characters before any sort of story could take shape.
These elemental data about the rudiments of a triangular situation,
the evidence suggests, were supplied from accounts of the Overbury
affair. Making the characters intellectual and thoughtful is not only
an original stroke but one that enables Hawthorne to make more germane
to the character analyses the serious themes of the novel.
Out of this tangled maze of plot motifs in the Over bury materials
a narrative sequence could have begun to unfold in ordered succession.
Hawthorne’s task would have been to select and organise the images into
place. The exact steps in the formulation of a plot are obscure. But
three dominating influences could have been at work. First, Hawthorne’s
original plan called for a story of the life of a woman who wears the
Above, pp. 90-102

199
mark of her sin of adultery. It is consistent with his frame of mind
that he should have elected to treat the story in terms of the conse¬
quences of this sin. The logic of probability in cases of adultery
could have determined the arrangement of passions and conflicts. Con¬
cealment by the lover, revenge by the husband, and desire by the woman
to avoid trouble by shielding the one and acquiescing, perhaps some¬
what guiltily, to the other would appear to be rooted in human nature.
nevertheless, as a second plot Influence, the Overbury affair
presented in a causal connection an outline containing .Just such
elements as these used by Hawthornes adultery, concealment, revenge,
and ultimate punishment. Once Hawthorne*s sain story of the conse¬
quences of an act of adultery had taken command and had reduced all
the characters to three within a triangular network of love and hate,
the story evolved along a corresponding plotline of adultery, conceal¬
ment, revenge, and punishment. A third controlling influence could
have been the precis© plot element of concealment or secrecy. Haw¬
thorne* s imagination seems to have seised upon this salient feature
from the Overbury materials as the means of welding the other elements
of revenge and poisoning into an organic plot structure.
Thus, in accord with the original story suggestion, the story
begins with Hester*» punishment on the scaffold some time after she
has committed adultery, has been imprisoned, and has given birth to a
child — details that attached themselves to the symbol from similar

200
©vents surrounding Lady Frances's trial for murder.^ She initial
situation consists of Hester's public disgrace in the market square
before the Puritan tribunal. The lover's concealment and the husband's
scheme of revenge had perhaps already presented themselves as possi¬
bilities for a plot. But focus first had to fall on Hester and the
significance of the scarlet letter. The reactions of lover and hus¬
band had to be held back. The action is thus complicated by the
husband's unexpected arrival and his decisions to conceal his identity
and seek his wife's seducer. It is further complicated by the lover's
failure to confess his guilt. It is triply complicated by Hester's
refusal to name her guilty partner in the crime.
As a physician, Ohilltngworth is admitted to his wife's cell
where he makes her pledge an oath of secrecy regarding his identity.
For since she will not disclose to him her paramour, he forces her to
acquiesce in his secret plot to search out and gain revenge upon this
unknown man. Hester's oath of secrecy — like Lady Frances's — and
her consent to a plot of revenge — like Anne Turner's, according to
liccols — enables the other motifs in the narrative to develop.4^
Dironesdale*s concealment of his sin causes his falling health. His
sickness provides an opportunity for the physician-husband to become
his medical adviser. The husband's concealment of his identity
2+0Above, pp. 18-30.
41
Above, pp. 30-33.

201
enables him to find cause to suspect spiritual disease at the base of
the minister's sickness. A native sagacity finally enables Chilling-
worth to recognize Dimmesdale as the object of his search. Convinced
of this fact, Chillingworth — like Carr upon Overbury — violates the
sanctity of Dimmesdale* s soul. By pretending to be his friend, he
exerts a deleterious influence upon the minister, who is already being
consumed by the corrosive poisons — like Overbury — of a secret
guilt — like Helwyse.**2
The first climax in the story is reached when Hester renounces
her oath of secrecy. First, she informs Chillingworth of her change
of heart. Then she reveals to Dimmesdale her husband* s identity and
confesses — like the ghost of Anne Turner — her having consented to
Chillingworth* s vengeful plan of deception. The lovers plan to escape
43
to Europe. But the poisons of secret guilt and hate have so debili¬
tated Dimmesdale, who for seven years has been dying a lingering death,
that he knows he has but little time to live. The main climax of the
story is reached when Dimmesdale mounts the scaffold to confess
publicly in a speech at his death — like Helwyse — the concealment
44
of his guilt of sinning with Hester. In the denouement Hester lives
for a while In England, where Pearl is married, and then returns to
Above, pp. 39-53.
^Above, pp. 5^-57.
44
Above, pp. 60-Ó6.

202
work out in penitence the reBt of her life in Boston. Dimnesdale is
thus punished "by a long illness of the soul and an Ignominious# though
triumphant, death. Chillingworth is punished by damnation. Hester
is punished by her inability to become an apostle of a new order of
marital relationship.^
A possible explanation of how the persons of the sources could
have contributed to the formation of a basic set of characters for the
novel has been noticed as a necessary preliminary to the organization
of the plot. Integration of these traits from different persons has
also been cited as a characteristic of Hawthorne's mind. The other
general principles of Hawthorne's creative processes, namely, rearrange¬
ment, refinement, and spiritualization, may likewise explain the cre¬
ation of characters. But each character seems to represent a slightly
different mode of construction. In terms of the distinctive feature
of Hawthorne's imagination, Biranesdale may be the character most near
a norm. Ditamesdale seems to be made chiefly by a process of spirit¬
ualizing Over bury* s physical poisoning into a moral poisoning, with
the moral motivation of concealed sin supplied from Helwyse. The
result is a highly refined character. Pearl represents essentially
the same type of character formation but with emphasis upon the
allegorical. Chillingworth stands out as a thesis figure who conforms
to the idea that revenge diabolizea a person. Possibly this archetypal
^â– 5Above, pp. 62-69, 108-110.

203
formula "by which he ms constructed explains the transparent quality
of hie delineation.
In contrast to these techniques Hester was perhaps developed by a
more realistic standard. In constructing her, Hawthorne’s moral
imagination eeeme to have struck a happy "balance with the primal facte
received into his mind. By selecting, rearranging, purifying, and
fusing details into an idealized creature, Hawthorne created in Hester
Prynne his most individualized character. Strange as it appears,
Mistress Hibbins is related in origin to Hester. Mistress Hibbins, as
a simple witch, represents the appropriation of one of the figures of
the sources, Anne Turner, without much modification. Tet in view of
the fact that Anne Turner is also a prototype of Hester, Mistress
Hibbins demonstrates a capacity of Hawthorne’s mind to keep the
materials of his imagination flexible and thus to re-fashion and re¬
use them with different purposes. The Black Man may be regarded as a
spiritualized portrait of Forman. Or he may represent, along with
Mistress Hibbins, Bellingham, Wilson, idiot, and Wlnthrop, the
reproduction of a character as nearly as possible to what he was in
Hew England histoiy. Finally, these types of character construction
are not mutually exclusive. And with the exception of Eliot and
Winthrop, all the characters are possibly composites of two or more
persons, ennobled and idealised into fiction.
The Overbury materials throw little completely new light on the
meaning of The Scarlet Letter. The novel is a self-sufficing artistic

204
entity with its meaning embedded in its own structure. Yet through
analogy certain elements see® to emerge more distinctly and contribute
to the total meaning. Hawthorne's treatment of the salvation of the
characters, by comparison with the views towards the souls of charac¬
ters in the sources, points up his interpretations of the themes of
the novel. Knowing the names of some probable prototypes of the
characters affords an opportunity to examine the meaning of the names
assigned to characters. The supernatural aspects of the Overbury
materials give an insist into Hawthorne's use of the supernatural in
the setting of the novel. And finally Hawthorne's style and structure,
which appear to be well adapted to the presentation of a serious reli¬
gious subject, clarify the relationship between the novel and "The
Custom House."
As the static symbol began to accumulate mobile narrative force,
it likewise became invested with thought and meaning. The central
themes of the story seem to be ethical and religiousi What is the
nature of sin? And what Is the effect of sin upon the salvation of
the soul? Through the three major characters Hawthorne presents three
ramifications of each of these themes. All sin by nature seems to be
46
invested with the character of doom. Yet sin is of three degrees.
Sin of passion, or of the flesh, is rooted in the human constitution.
By sincere repentance and an open recognition of sin, as in the
^SL. P. 253-

205
situation of Hester, it say result in moral elevation of a sinner’s
character. Sins rooted in nature are most harmful when by some
scruple or principle of conscience they are allowed to remain hidden.
Concealment of sin generates a poison that can destroy the moral
sinews. For concealment may result, as in the case of Dimmesdale, in
hypocrisy. 2ven whan based upon sound religious rationalization,
hypocrisy, a sin of principle, is a worse sin than one of the flesh.
Worst of all, however, is the sin of cold, calculated purpose to de¬
ceive, betray, and plot against the soul of another person to achieve
its damnation. Hatred and purposeful revenge upon the soul of an
enemy are the Hew Testament equivalents of murder. Chilling-worth’s
sin of violating Binmesdale’ s soul deserves damnation. He whose heart
is so cold as to perpetrate such a sin belongs to the order of Satan.
In the ambiguity of Hester's salvation, her character illustrates
the essential complexity of the second theme: the consequences of sin
upon the soul's salvation. Hester hopes, but she also doubts. Her
open ignominy is in her favor, for it furthers her moral development.
But she remains a frail woman, susceptible to sin, and incapable of
performing any divine mission for womanhood. On the surface Hawthorne
seems to leave the question of her salvation ambiguous, but in fact
he does not.
In Bimnesd&le and Chilllngworth Calvinlstic answers are implied.
^Above, pp. 84-88.

206
A predestined soul, like Dianesdale, is not immune to sin. But thou#
he sins, he ultimately perseveres. Dimraesdale loses the assurance of
his salvation. His moral system becomes poisoned. But finally his
God-inspired conscience motivates him to do what is morally rl#t. His
confession, of which he should have long ago availed himself, clears
away the clouds of despair, so that he can receive once again before
ha
entering Heaven the assurance of salvation. Upon a damned soul,
like Chillingworth, the consequences of sin are to bring out his
latent depravity.^ Why Chillingworth should have responded as he did
is one of the mysterious truths of human nature. let it is not com¬
pletely meaningless that Chillingworth seems doomed to evil. There
exists an Intelligible system of the universe, to which he himself
refers his cold-hearted violation of Dimmeedale* s soul and his in¬
capacity to pardon the man who wronged him. He stolidly recognises
the intervention of a dark necessity in their lives, as a result of
their first erring step. He, therefore, blames their tragedy on
religious determinism.'50 The Scarlet Letter thus tells a story that
gives expression for all time to the existence in man's nature of a
moral conscience and to man's existence within a universe of spiritual
dimensions.
^Above, pp. 97-102.
^Above, pp, 108-110.
50a, p. 210.

20 7
la telling eo universal a story it seems appropriate that Haw¬
thorne did not assign to his major characters the names of people in
the Over bury affair or of people in New England history. He seems to
have chosen names for their symbolical value. This art of name sym¬
bolism, in its own way, serves to maintain the universality of the
lofty themes. The names of the background characters — Bellin^ism,
Winthrop, Wilson, Eliot, and Hibbins — give the story a sense of
geographical and historical reality. Bat the other names — Prynne,
Hester, Chillingvorth, Pearl, and Dinmesdale — lift the story out of
the realm of pure history, so that Hawthorne can universalize about
human experience.
Two modes of name symbolism appear. One mode ««ploys names that
have an historical relevance but not an historical particularity. In
naming Hester Prynne and Chillingvorth, Hawthorne selected names that
draw a parallel between these fictitious characters and historical
persons. Their names provide a frame of historical reference which
tells some special feature about them and their roles la the drama.
Mistress Prynne*s surname, by association with William Prynne, might
suggest the type of disgraceful punishment that she undergoes, the
scaffold of the pillory and the letter that is "branded" upon her.-^
Hester's Christian name, by association with Esther, mi^bt relate to
her concern with feminism.^2 And Chillingworth*s surname, by
Above, pp. 156-158.
^2Above, pp. 158-I60.

208
association with William Chillingworth, night suggest his Intellectual
53
cultivation and liberal rationalism. These names, therefore, pro¬
vide a review of sone of the intellectual hi$a points related to the
central themes, with which the novel is concerned: the concept of
justice, the position of woman in the social structure, and the
relative superiority of religious faith or rationalism.
The second mode of name symbolism has not been touched upon as
yet. It is to employ a name to which an abstract meaning is directly
attached without the aid of an historical referent. By means of an
image expressed in the name find developed in the narration, Hawthorne
allegorizes an attribute of character or a dramatic role. The method
ranges from an obvious pun in Chillingworth’s name sad an apparent
allegory in Pearl1 s name to the more subtle image patterns suggested
in Dimmesdale’s name.
Repeatedly Hawthorne characterizes Chillingworth as cold and
passionless. The scholar’s heart is lonely and "chill"; in "cold
54
blood" he violates the sanctity of a human heart. In the first half
of Chillingworth’s name Hawthorne puns on this characteristic of the
frigid, depraved husband in a fashion reminiscent of the "humour"
theory of naming characters, perhaps facetiously, by a dominant
attribute — as for instance, Henry Fielding’s Mr. All worthy.
^Above, pp. I0O-I62.
^SL, pp. 9?, 234; also pp. 94, 212.

209
Pearl's naja® is an example of that type of pure symbolism in the
tradition of Spenser and Bunyan, in which a word or phrase typifies a
moral condition. Hester named her child Pearl, "as "being of great
price, — purchased with all she had, — her mother's only treasure! "55
She is the emblem of the great spiritual price that Hester paid for
her sin, in sham®, suffering, and spiritual torment. The pearl of
great price seripturally, however, is salvation.^ This second
meaning is also brought out in the novel when Wilson tells Pearl that
she must learn her cateehism in order to wear in her bosom the "pearl
of great price. "57 Pearl may thus be taken as a dual symbol of the
price of sin and also of the price of salvation, for Pearl is her
mother's torture as well as her blessing? she is the embodiment of
Hester's conscience which reminds her of her transgression and there¬
fore leads her to repentance.'® At the expense of individuality in
Pearl's character, Hawthorne still more intricately develops the
character of Hester.
The use of the name Dlmmesdale seems to be more original and less
obtrusive allegory of the same type as Pearl. A subtle overtone of
double meaning in the minister's name mi^it suggest, in Bunyanesque
55a, p. 113.
56Iiatthew 13:46.
57a, p. 138.
5®SL, pp. 139. 141, 144.

210
fashioa, the very essence of the effect of sin and hypocrisy t^on
Dimaesdale's moral character, Dlraaesdale seems to he an allegorical
abstraction of the minister's condition in terras of two images and the
dramatic embodiment of one of then in the setting of the novel. First,
the name typifies the dark moral wilderness through which Bimmosdale
walks on account of his sin. Dimmesdale appears as "a being who felt
himself quite astray and at a loss in the pathway of human existence,
and could be at ease only in some seclusion of his own. Therefore,
so far as his duties would permit, he trod in the shadowy by-paths.
Life to him has become a dark affair lived out on a low and confused
level. Ke might have climbed, says Hawthorne, to "the high mountain-
peaks of faith and sanctity ... had not the tendency been thwarted by
the burden, whatever it might be, of crime or anguish, beneath which
it was his doom to totter.”'^3 Time he is kept down won a level with
the lowest" and struggles along in a dim moral valley, confused, dis¬
organized, and lost in the darkness of the black secret of his soul.
This image of the dim dale is dramatically embodied in the forest
interview. The scene is symbolically placed in a forest-dell off the
path enveloped in the dim medium of the forest gloom.^ There in this
dim wood, a type of the moral wilderness, through which these sinners
%L, p. 88.
60S1. p. 173.
6lS£, pp. 220, 223, 249, 266.

211
are laboring, Dimsesdale's abased moral force and the confusion of hie
spiritual being are intensified; by agreeing to elope, he succumbs to
a temptation to commit again the sin which has darkened his soul for
seven years. The "dim forest, with its little dell of solitude»62
is an apt emblem of Dlmmesdale's character, as it is of the entire
action that takes place between the lovers. This dim dale in the
woods also represents the Valley of the Shadow of Death, through which
Dimraesdale makes his pilgrimage on the way to the Celestial City. As
his haggard figure approaches the shadow of the trees, his listless
gait certifies a realization of the falsity of his life — it is "all
emptiness! — all death!"63 A few days later he has passed through
the Valley and has reached the Heavenly City.
Interwoven in the texture of the novel is still another image
which seems to relate to Dimmesdale's name. It applies to his con¬
sumptive wasting away. Hawthorne develops an image of the dimming of
a lamp to indicate the minister's physical and moral decline. The
64
"prospect that his dawning light would be extinguished" was imminent.
"What was he?" asks Hawthorne, "a substance? — or the dimmest of all
shadows?"6'* By his hypocritical life, he has put himself in a false
62SL, p. 285.
63SL, pp. 226, 230.
64
SL, p. 148.
65Sh. P. 174.

212
light ajad has become a shadow of his former self. The real substance
of his character is fading into unreality and darkness. Dimraesdal#
fasts “in order to keep the grossness of his earthly state from clog¬
ging and obscuring his spiritual lamp,*1 both to perform acts of
penance and to "render the body a fitter medium of celestial illunina-
tion. With the conclusion of Dimmesdale’s Election Sermon, the
diming lamp image vividly foreshadows his physical death and his
rekindled spirituality. "The glow," writes Hawthorne, which the
people "had just before beheld burning on his cheek, was extinguished
like a flame that sinks down hopeless among the late decaying embers. H
Many of the onlookers would not have been surprised to see this man,
whom they thought a chosen holy li^it, ascending "before their eyes,
waxing dimmer and brighter, and fading at last into the light of
heaven.
The image of the dimming lamp is also employed in two scenes in
which Bimmeedale shows himself true. On these occasions his spiritual
lamp is surcharged and brightened. On the scaffold in the dim twilight,
the shadowy figure of Dimesdale takes the hands of Hester and Pearl
into his own. Immediately a current of truth circulates throu^i his
systemt "there came what seemed a tumultuous rush of new life, other
than his own, pouring like a torrent into his heart, and hurrying
p. W.
67S¡¿, P* 298.

213
throu#. all his veins, as if the mother and the child were comratmleat¬
ing their vital warmth to his half-torpid system. The three formed
an electric chain. A moment later a meteoric light gleams far
through the sky, showing him, in its brightness, standing with his
guilty partner. In the forest when Dimmesdale hears Hester's plans
for them to live a true life, a fitful light flashes into the minis¬
ter's eyes and dies away.^ The whole dimness of the forest gloom is
dispelled when Hester removes the scarlet letter from her bosom.
Truth and love momentarily effect this transfiguration.
Thus the figurative connotations of the names Chillingworth. Pearl,
and Piaaesdale seem to take the reader symbolically into complex
nuances of human experience as examined in the novel: the cold heart,
the pricelessness of human salvation, and the spiritual darkness that
comes with hypocrisy and the loss of the assurance of salvation.
The religious and ethical themes of the novel are also maintained
in the Boston setting of Puritan New England. The worldly parapher¬
nalia of most consequence to the drama are themselves physical symbols
of a religious faith and an ethical code: the meeting house, toe
prison, and the scaffold. Central to the story, as these items of
setting perhaps were in New England life, it matters little if they
may have been sharpened in Hawthorne's imagination by the English
^SL. pp. 185-186.
69SL, p. 238.

214
counterparts of Westminster Hall, the Tower of London, and the scaf¬
fold on Tower Hill. Similarly, the gallery at Westminster Hall, the
forum at Guildhall, and Losely Hall at Surrey, England, if adapted by
Hawthorne, were made indigenous to the worldly locus of Boston.
Their use, in the gallery appended to the meeting house, in the market
place, and in Bellin^mm's hall, enlarge and make more vivid Haw¬
thorne's portrayal of the Hew England scene where the action in the
natural sphere takes place.
But in accord with the religious and ethical issues embodied in
the characters, Hawthorne expands the setting into a macrocosm re-
71
fleeting universally the spiritual drama in their souls. In another
context Hawthorne labels his characteristic genre of expression a
«psychological romance.» He stipulates that the subjects of his
stories originate in the dusky region of the depths of our common
nature. He proposes to present life in a "slightly idealized and
artistic guise.In The Scarlet Letter he demonstrates this creed.
He externalise® the affairs of the soul — human depravity, the re¬
sulting internal passions, and the soul's salvation — in a spiritual
by-plot. This auxiliary plot may be regarded as an allegory of sin,
as a supernatural motivation integral to the main action, or as a
universal drama itself in which the characters of the novel play roles
7°Above, pp. I28-I35.
T^Above, pp. 135-140,
72»prefaceH to Snow Image. Works. Ill, 386.

215
subsidiary to those of the leading protagonists, God and Satan. Vlhat-
ever critical designation it may go hy, this spiritual activity seems
to fall within the province of setting atmospherically developed.
The action of this allegorical by-plot takes place in a universe
that knows no boundaries between the natural and the spiritual worlds.
It begins, as does the main story, when Hester and Dinmesdale momen¬
tarily forget God.7^ Shrou^i Mistress Hibbins* arrangements, Hester
holds an Interview with the Black Man,7/* and, as some people later
claim, by him she has a child. ^ At any rate he seems to have gained
for her the object of her desire, Dimnesdale* s love, and from the fires
of his altar in hell he brands both Hester and Dimmesdale with a mark
of their meeting with him.7^ When Chillingworth arrives in the colony
and finds hie wife a sinner, he betakes himself to the Black Man and
maíces a bond. He simpas away his soul in exchange for revenge upon the
seducer of his wife. The Black Man assigns him fiends to use and
allows him the use of hell fire in his laboratory.77 With this super¬
human assistance, Chlllingworth soon discovers by the mark on Blmraes-
dale that this man is his wife's lover.According to the terms of
^SL, P. 304.
^Above, pp. II5-U7.
75£L* PP. 124, 288, 291.
7°Above, pp. 94-97.
PP* 10°* *56* 171.
78sl, p. 169.

216
the "bond with his master, Chilllngworth tortures Dimmesdale*s con¬
science. After her release from prison, Hester is tempted "by Satan to
remain in Boston to he near Dimmesdale.^ Hester, however, will not
visit the Black Man any more, even though Mistress Hihhins makes the
arrangements and tells her about witch meetings.®0 Seven years later,
after the forest meeting between Dimmesdale and Hester, Dimmesdale is
so confused that he does not even remember whether he met the Black
OI
Man there and signed away his soul.
For the most part God remains an inactive participant. According
Op
to some spectators, He brings Chilllngworth to Dimmesdale1 s door.
Some also think He has permitted Chillingworth' s torture upon Dlmraes-
dale.8® But by an inauspicious heiroglyphic in the sky one night, He
makes his presence known. He signifies throu^i the letter A that
Dimmesdale is guilty — a sign which some people also interpret to
84
stand for Angel in honor of Winthrop's death the same night.
When Hester and Dimmesdale make plans to escape and Hester discards
the letter, God joins in the action more directly. As Fate, He picks
^SL, pp. 103-104.
80SL, p. 144.
81a, pp. 263-4, 265.
82SL, pp. 148-149.
83&¿, p. 156.
^SL, pp. 187-189, 192.

217
up the letter and hands it hack to Hester.®-* On Election Day He does
not permit the lovers to escape as they had planned. He leads Dtmraes-
dale to complete repentance and to a dying confession upon the scaf-
86
fold. And when some time later Chillingworth dies, God permits
Chillingworth to fulfill the terms of his bond with the Black Man.
Thus Chillingworth delivers his soul to his master.®^
The nature of sin, Hawthorne seems to he saying, is spiritual.
It proceeds from the soul of man, hut it originates from the principle
of Evil, personalized in Christianity as Satan, the Adversary of God.
Through this traditional supernatural fable, Hawthorne dramatically
allegorizes sin, predestination, and damnation.
Hawthorne* s atmospheric treatment of setting, expressing deep-
seated spiritual truths and longings, is not to he confined in genesis
to any primary source of the novel, in spite of an abundance of hints
in the Overbury materials about witchcraft. The treatment is in the
tradition of the Hellenic-Hebraic stream of literature. Homer, Dante,
Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan, and Goethe established a legacy in poetry
and prose allegory which Hawthorne inherited. Like his predecessors,
Hawthorne recreated the universal background of his character’s cul¬
ture and their beliefs in the spiritual world around them to produce
8%t. P. 253-
^SJi, pp. 299-300 , 304.
87
'a* P- 307.

218
not only a high species of supernatural realism hut also a vehicle for
allegorizing wa's sinful soul.
The style of the novel further contributes to the exalted themes.
Solemn and dignified sentences move the narrative along at a gravely
slow pace. The diction is learned and mood-arousing. The imagery is
organic to the story. Cross-references of diction, imagery, names, or
allusions make for a compact, single-effect tale in which scarcely a
88
word seems isolated from some other aspect of the story. To give a
sense of authority in recreating the supernatural background as well
as to elaborate less obtrusively on the themes, Hawthorne adopts the
style of an editor. He pretends that the story is the work of an
antiquarian who drew it up from oral testimony. Hawthorne is thus
able to reproduce as their own the beliefs and traditions of the
people and to add to the serious narration the wisdom of an objective
narrator.®^ In the use of this stylistic device a new sense of the
unity of “The Custom House,H the novel, and the conclusion seems to
be implied. First, by analogy with the editorial structure of Big,
MESMJLMa&am ora* testimony of “The Five Tears,*»
and the visitation by a ^aost in Hi chard Hiccols* “Sir Thomas Over¬
bury * s Vision,H the structural framework of the novel more clearly
emerges. Second, the editorial ruse of "The Custom House" is
88Above, pp. 142-164, 207-213.
^Ahove, pp, 165-182.

219
consistently Maintained in the novel and an explicit reference is made
to the edited manuscript in the final chapter.
Third, on the "basis of mood, "The Custom Bouse" introduction has
a right to claim a unity of a sort with the novel. Though often
regarded as a superfluous appendage to the novel, "The Custom House"
should perhaps "be viewed as a necessary vestibule. Hawthorne himself
designated it an entrance hall.9® It was originally written, he says,
to introduce a volume of tales. Believing most of them and especially
The Scarlet Letter to consist of gloomy paesages that would discourage
the reader and give a wrong impression of the author, he conceived
91
"The Custom House" as a means of dispelling some of the gloom. This
serio-comic style, in which "The Custom House" with its Custom-House
portraits is written, is a fitting entrance hall to the sombre, gloomy
edifice of the novel. The sketch leads up gradually to the appropriate
mood. The mystery enshrouding the scarlet letter and the grim exhorta¬
tion of Pue's ghost contribute to establishing a mood of humorous
sobriety which loses its humor in the opening lines of the novel but
retains and intensifies its solemnity. Similarly, in view of the over¬
all structural purpose, the concluding chapter, which ties tip loose
narrative ends and refers again to Pue’s manuscript, is actually a
rear annex to conduct the reader out of the main edifice. As the
fields, p. 52.
91S¿, p. 64; Fields, p. 57

220
introduction lead» emotionally into the story, the conclusion affords
a gradual relaxation of emotional tension after the tumultuous climax
of the last scene, The conclusion thus unites "The Custom HouseH and
3MJ%asEk&JaidaE. into an aesthetic whole.
Finally, this analysis of Hawthorne1 s allusions to the murder of
Sir Thomas Gverbury has brought to light materials which present a
solid claim to recognition as important sources of The Scarlet Letter.
The numerous parallels between the novel and accounts of the murder
indicate not a mere chance borrowing of a few details, but a major
creative operation that assimilated a group of materials into a new
and vastly superior poetic arrangement. A study of the parallels
reveals at work a distinctively original mode of transmutation by
which source materials were elevated from a physical to a spiritual
level of treatment. The source materials instructively point up by
analogy many obscure patterns in the design of the novel and provide,
It seems, commentary on both its fora and content. It may well be
that these accounts of the Overbury murder were the major sources
which possessed Hawthorne*s imagination and enabled him to energize
the static symbol of a woman wearing a letter A into the dynamic
narration of The Scarlet Letter, one of the richly penetrating master¬
pieces of world literature.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
I. Major Source» of The Scarlet Letter
HMflftUflBK. ¿Síl.», CoXlejStlon, o/..SffarceOflrlgflfU.^a&
--ntertalnln,;; P.^á¿tE.anll;ractsi,. as„;Mel.1.as. Hauserlute M
*»..¡¿P>FzxX,i,.inter^eraed
£g¿A,J&.S¿4t .Mss (London, 1808-
1811), III, 316-322; HI, 344-368; V, >49-^3-
Thomas Bayley Howell, ad., A Complete Collection of State Trials and
Propped^. ..f^r Hjyft Treason a^d Othpr ,«P4 [^de«!
(London, 1816), II,
9II-ÍO22.
Alfred John Kempe, ^,.L£se3^j^s.carlHt.s..:.,
PpgfflSatBjL Il^tratlye..?/, Sqae of .&»,.M& of
^â– J.he.Heliy, q.f.Henrjr
VIII to Ohat of James I (London. 1836). up.379-417.
¿Michael Sparkes, edj*. The Hayraftfas Hl.et.pr3r. p.f.Kifl&¿mi^IíSJÚA
First Fourteen Years (London, 1651).
II. Minor Sources of The Scarlet Letter
Andrew Amos, The.Qreat SÍ.
.tfi£J8aü.ql»qaijg Pf. Slr.Jhgmas. Overhury.,.,.in-the .Tower
of London (London, 1846).
4.1yeA.oL.t.M.^
Have,JOoia-ished..in,..Great BYitajn andjir.eland,,.iron , the ..¡Earliest
Ages down to the ¿resent Times (London, 1746-1766), s. v.
"Devereux," “Howard," "Russell,“*
Thomas Birch, feCagt-Ml^!, 9?.£mg.kJhS..M?*M. SSSMntifí&&
Series. . Fouad^a Detail of the, iuhlic Transactions and Events in Great
&yABg..ft¥*fc period, 2 vols. (London, 1848).
^Various other encyclopedias, Biographical and historical diction¬
aries, and sketches of English peers that were current in Hawthorne’s
day night well he added to this list in the future, hut they were not
available for this study.
221

222
Thomas Frankland, Annals of King James and King Charles (London, 1681).
The H&rleian Miscellany (London, 1808-1811), VI, 5-35»
John Oltaiam, The. History of ¿¡n/Aahd_,„ _Aurln^^the £&JBJL&tJ&LMtík
House of Stuart (London, 1730).
Sir Anthony Weldon, The Court and Character of King Jemes (London,
1651).
III. Works Consulted on the Over bury Affair
«4- sir Le®lie Stephen and Sir
Sidney Lee (London, 1937-1939). «. v. "Sir Thomas Overbury,"
Robert Carr," "Sir Jervase Helase."
Samuel R. Gardiner, The History of England, 1603-I6h2 (Boston, 1883),
II, 166-18?, 331-363.
Great Britain, Public Record Office, Calendar of State Papers.
Domestic Series, of the Reign of James 1V16II-I0I8. ed. 24ary
Anne Everett Green (London, 1858).
Richard Hiccols, Sir Thomas Qverbury^ Vision (Hunterian Club, no.
XVII), ed. James Kaidnent (Glas^w. 1873) •
Sir Thomas Oyerbury, ^.e ll^p.en^g^us \|or^s J&Jj&JBwm
Overbury. ed. Edward f. Rimbanlt (London, 1856).
Edward Abbot Parry, Tto qvertBBXiteteCT.» ..A
Drama of the Law (London, 1925).
Charles Whibley, Regaya in Biography (London, 1913).
IV, Works Consulted on Seven teonth-Century History
John Aubrey,
ÍP.M APlWWt' between the Years ,l6^.,„?jad * ed- Andrew Clark
(Oxford, 1898), s. v. "Chillingworth," "Blgby."
William Chillingworth, gfoeJsteSimJlt.J&S&UÍm!itou&Jt&Ul3Z.M
^áasMmUSUmJmmJ^L&Jk^ (London, 1638).
Edward I$rde, Earl of Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion and Civil
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223
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VITA
The author was horn October 26, 1924, in Orlando, Florida. He
attended hlgfr school in Lake Worth, Florida, where he was graduated
in 1942. After spending two years at John B. Stetson University at
DeLand, Florida, he was inducted into the United States Army and re¬
ceived overseas service in Germany. Under the provisions of the
Amy's demobilization TWCA program, he spent one academic term at
Merton College, Oxford University, Oxford, England, in autumn, 1945*
before his return. Upon his separation from the Armed Forces in
1946, he enrolled in the University of Miami where he received his
Bachelor's degree in Education in June, 1948. During the academic
year 1948-19^ he was «ployed as a graduate assistant in the Depart¬
ment of Reading, Speaking, and Writing of the Division of Language and
Literature at the University of Florida, and in 194?**50 he served as
an interim instructor, part time. He received the degree of Master of
Arts at the University of Florida in June, 1950. From September, 1950,
to June, I952, he held a Graduate Fellowship at the University of
Florida.
225

This dissertation was prepared under the direction of the chair¬
man of the candidate’s supervisory committee and has been approved
by all members of the committee. It was submitted to the Dean of the
College of Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate Council and was
approved as partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
June 9, 1952
Dean, Graduate School
SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE:
Chairman