In Pursuit of a Vision > Case 5 > Bemis > Fanshawe & Letter


The Details:

Nathaniel Hawthorne. Fanshawe, a Tale. Boston: Marsh & Capen, 1828. [catalog record]
Ralph Waldo Emerson. Letter from the Rev. R.W. Emerson, to the Second Church and Society. Boston: I.R. Butts, 1832. [catalog record]

Both bequest of Frank Brewer Bemis, 1946.

The Story:

The Society acquired many “first books” of prominent American authors via the Frank Brewer Bemis bequest.  Hawthorne’s first published book, the gothic romance Fanshawe, received only tepid reviews and the 1,000 copies sold poorly. Hawthorne disavowed the book and even strove to conceal his authorship. In a plot-twist worthy of the novel, most copies were destroyed in a warehouse fire. Fortunately, one made it to Bemis’s library and then to AAS.

Another “first” acquired through Bemis was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s first separate publication. Emerson started his career as a minister but after his wife’s death in 1831, a profound spiritual crisis lead his resignation and also prompted this farewell letter to his former congregation.

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