Did you know that one of the Most Favourite Fake Tolkien Quotes comes from a book the author of which tried to have all of its copies destroyed?

Book and Magazine Collector no.244 of July 2004 (c) Alan Reynolds
Book and Magazine Collector no.244 of July 2004 (c) Alan Reynolds

 In my blog post of April 24, 2013, Not a Tolkien quote: “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.” TThnsdwohatdw, Part 3, I was able to prove that the quote wrongly attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien stems, in fact, from a book by US novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the most influential writers of Early American Literature, well-known for The Scarlet Letter. The quote itself comes from Fanshawe, his first published novel, anonymously in 1828. And that was a novel Hawthorne desperately tried to have all copies destroyed of.

There are two major reasons for this quote to have become so incredibly virulent.

“The Lord of the Rings” film poster, (c) Middle-earth Enterprises/ Tom Jung

Tom Jung’s outstanding poster for Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of The Lord of the Rings used the quote quite cleverly. I had this poster in my childhood room for many years without realising that this very illustrator also did the Star Wars poster.

Anyway, it certainly had an impact on a large number of people, like these folks.

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Fanshawe and how it provided an inspirational Tolkien quote – or not!

Thanks to the help of Alan Reynolds and the forums over at TORn I was able to show where the quote came from. And it was Alan who prompted me to return to this particular piece about a month ago. And this is the reason why:


Book and Magazine Collector no.244 of July 2004 (c) Alan Reynolds

He sent me screenshots of the Book and Magazine Collector no. 244 of July 2004, detailing that Fanshawe had become one of the most expensive first editions in all of US history – Hawthorne tried to destroy every single copy of his anonymously published first novel because it was a huge failure. Now, I am not passing judgment on the quality of the novel as a cursory search in any literary database will show you Hawthorne scholarship appreciates it very much but because it did not sell Hawthorne tried to bury it. I found a quote on that in the very entertaining Almanac of American Letters:

Fanshawe. Just as bestsellers can be “engineered,” so can collectors’ items, the difference being one of intent. Nathaniel Hawthorne, for example, intended to destroy every copy of his Fanshawe, a less than successful first novel based on some of his undergraduate experiences. Although the author’s first enthusiasms caused him to publish the book at this own expense in 1828, he grew ashamed of the work and tried to suppress it throughout the rest of his life. Apparantly Hawthorne succeeded better at suppressing than at writing since Fanshawe is now one of the most difficult works in American literature to collect, and one of the most expensive. Horatio Bridge, the author’s close friend, had to destroy his personal copy, and was forbidden to mention the title in Hawthorne’s presence. For a long time Mrs. Hawthorne knew absolutely nothing about the book: when someone showed her a copy of Fanshawe shortly after her husband’s death, she insisted that Hawthorne had never written a book by that title. [Almanac of American Letters, Randy F. Nelson, 1981, p. 73]

Now, I need to be very clear: Even though I quite like this quote I do have to take this particular bit with a grain of salt. It also has:

The First Presidential Press Conference in American history was a private one which took place in 1829. It was attended only by John Quincy Adams, as he swam nude in the Potomac, and a woman writer named Anne Newport Royall, who trapped Adams by sitting on the Presidential knickers until he answered her questions.

Yes, this has not been proven so the Almanac may not be the best of choices.

However, there is another book making reference to this, and that is A bibliography of Nathaniel Hawthorne by Nina E. Browne, published in 1905. On page [36] you will find:

FANSHAWE, a Tale. Anon. 141 pp. D. Boston, Marsh & Capen. 1828.
Published in buff boards, cloth back, and paper label. This was Hawthorne’s first published work, and was issued anonymously. Later, all the copies that could be obtained were destroyed. A dozen years after his death a copy was found, and the tale reissued by James R. Osgood & Co. 

And not only that, even the Britannica has something on Fanshawe:

Fanshawe, first novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1828 at his own expense. Hawthorne wrote Fanshawe while a student at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Soon after, he deemed the work to be of such derivative and mediocre quality that he attempted, unsuccessfully, to destroy all existing copies. The book’s treatment of plot and character development were derived chiefly from the conventions of Gothic novels and the works of Sir Walter Scott.

To be quite honest: antiquarian book collectors talking about the price for a really bad copy of Fanshawe selling at astronomical prices would be proof enough for me. They need to know the background of the books they are trying to sell to better set the price – and Fanshawe, therefore, was lost except for a small number of copies.

A copy in poor condition, with the original half cloth worn and soiled, bottom part of spine frayed and splitting, rear pastedown dampstained, front free endpaper torn, sold for $11,000 at auction in September 2001. This novel was not reprinted until 1876. [Book and Collector Magazine, #244.]

I’d like to note that auction houses have realised up to $70,000 on a first edition copy of this. No wonder, as according to James R. Mellow’s Nathaniel Hawthorne in his time “(…) after publication, the remainder of the first – and only – edition of his unwanted novel, Fanshawe, was destroyed in a fire in the Marsh and Capen store.” [p. 46]

Salem is my dwelling place or what’s up with publishing anonymously

Edwin Haviland Miller published Salem is my dwelling place in 1991, an account of Hawthorne’s life and works using unpublished manuscripts of his family members and associates [Source], and started off his sixth chapter with:

Intercourse with the World
Hawthorne may have insisted that we was ready “to plod along with the multitude,” but three years after his graduation from Bowdoin, in October 1828, Marsh and Capen of Boston published a romance entitled
Fanshawe in an edition of one thousand copies. The title page cited no author. To publish anonymously was not unusual in the nineteenth century – Scott, Emerson, and Whitman, among many others, did not identify themselves in their earliest writings – but it was a protected way of seeking fame, of establishing intercourse with the world. Probably few people knew that Hawthorne had apparently arranged for publication and had agreed to pay $100 as a subvention. [page 77]

And this is the full quote from the novel:

Fanshawe had hitherto deemed himself unconnected with the world, unconcerned in its feelings, and uninfluenced by it in any of his pursuits. In this respect he probably deceived himself. If his inmost heart could have been laid open, there would have been discovered that dream of undying fame, which, dream as it is, is more powerful than a thousand realities. But, at any rate, he had seemed, to others and to himself, a solitary being, upon whom the hopes and fears of ordinary men were ineffectual. [My emphasis.]

Is it not wonderful that the quote so beautifully used for the Bakshi film poster either missed the point of this particular paragraph or quite cleverly and rather cynically links Tolkien’s achievement with the dream of undying fame, that is, writing The Lord of the Rings was only about the money and the fame?

Ah, well.


Browne, Nina. A Bibliography of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Franklin, 1968. 

Dalby, Richard. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: His Life and Works.” Book and Magazine Collector, vol. 244, no. July, 1984.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Novels. 5, Literary Classics of the United States, 1983.

Mellow, James. Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times. Houghton Mifflin, 1980. 

Miller, Edwin. Salem Is My Dwelling Place : A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. University of Iowa Press, 1991.

Nelson, Randy. The Almanac of American Letters. William Kaufmann, 1981.

I dedicate this blog post to Alan Reynolds, Tolkienist & Tolkien Collector Extraordinaire, who is always willing to share his profound knowledge of and the most entertaining tidbits when it comes to J.R.R. Tolkien.

Marcel Aubron-Bülles

A Tolkien fan for thirty years (and more to come...) Founding chairman of the German Tolkien Society, Co-Founder of Ring*Con, Co-Founder of the ITF, host, presenter and fantasy expert