"The Inspector,—who, by the by, I regret to say, was overthrown and killed by a horse, some time ago"
Illustration from the 1893 edition
Public DomainIllustration from the 1893 edition - Credit: Frederick C. Gordon

This is not in the least bit true. William Lee, then aged 79, not only still had over a year to live when The Scarlet Letter was published, he was also bitterly upset by Hawthorne’s portrayal of him as an unevolved gormandizer with “no power of thought, no depth of feeling, no troublesome sensibilities.” Much of Salem shared in his outrage, with a relative threatening to horsewhip Hawthorne and several angry voices registering their protest in the Salem Register. One review likened his lampooning of a genial elderly man to “the fell purpose with which old Roger Chillingsworth sets about wrecking his vengeance on Arthur Dimmesdale.”