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Hawthorne scattered his early writings among various periodicals. When he began to gather his fugitive pieces into volumes, he exercised much discretion, and passed by many slight productions. Later he went back and recovered pieces which he had either wittingly or unwittingly overlooked. After his death his representatives and editors drew more from this store of neglected material. Some of it, like the Life of Franklin Pierce, was properly regarded by Hawthorne as fulfilling its purpose in its first publication, yet has a renewed interest from the personal relation suggested by it. Other pieces, intrinsically of little value, help toward an intelligent appreciation of a master who acquired technical skill, not by sudden leap, but by long continued and unwearying patience. The present collection contains miscellaneous pieces not reprinted by the author, into which the element of fiction has not deliberately entered.
Nathaniel Hawthorne lived much of his life in Concord, Massachusetts, where he was briefly at Brook Farm, the experimental transcendental community. One of his ancestors was a judge in the Salem witchcraft trials and became the model for the accursed founder of "The House of the Seven Gables". Hawthorne traveled extensively in Italy and set "The Marble Faun" there. His novels, particularly his most famous work, "The Scarlet Letter", made his reputation, but he is also considered a master of the short-story form.