"a wild rose bush, covered in this month of June, with its delicate gems"
Illustration of the prison door from the 1878 edition
Public DomainIllustration of the prison door from the 1878 edition - Credit: Mary Hallock Foote and A.V.S. Anthony

Sargent Bush argues convincingly in the New England Quarterly that Hawthorne lifted the image of the prison house wreathed in roses from a children’s story that was reprinted in the Salem Gazette. The anonymous ‘Prison Roses,’ which appeared in The Juvenile Forget Me Not for 1830, is banal enough in its own right, but its parallels with the introductory sequence of The Scarlet Letter are arresting. Both are set in prison houses whose gloom is alleviated by roses, and the flowers trigger almost identical reactions in the narrators. Moreover, roses are associated with innocence in both.





roses in bloom
Public Domainroses in bloom - Credit: Maria Oakey Dewin