Jane Wilde, William Rowan Hamilton & The Scarlet Letter

On 16 March 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter was published in Boston by Ticknor, Reed and Fields. One early admirer was Lady Jane Wilde, who recommended it to her great friend, astronomer and mathematician William Rowan Hamilton, five years before it was published in London, on the basis that it had cost her ‘three nights sleep’. She was in the habit of asking American friends to send her copies of works that interested her and she read Walt Whitman’s newly published Leaves of Grass (1855) to her son Oscar when he was a tiny child.

Title page for The Scarlet Letter.jpg

Decades later, in 1882, Oscar made a point of visiting Whitman during his extended tour of America. He also invoked The Scarlet Letter when writing A Woman of No Importance.

For more on Jane Wilde’s great friendship with William Rowan Hamilton read Chapter 3 of Wilde’s Women.


For more on William Rowan Hamilton’s great friendship with poet William Wordsworth read my blog post for The Romanticism Blog here.


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