The Scarlet Professor

Newton Arvin: A Literary Life Shattered by Scandal

Publisher: Anchor
During his thirty-seven years at Smith College, Newton Arvin published groundbreaking studies of Hawthorne, Whitman, Melville, and Longfellow that stand today as models of scholarship and psychological acuity. He cultivated friendships with the likes of Edmund Wilson and Lillian Hellman and became mentor to Truman Capote. A social radical and closeted homosexual, the circumspect Arvin nevertheless survived McCarthyism. But in September 1960 his apartment was raided, and his cache of beefcake erotica was confiscated, plunging him into confusion and despair and provoking his panicked betrayal of several friends.

An utterly absorbing chronicle, The Scarlet Professor deftly captures the essence of a conflicted man and offers a provocative and unsettling look at American moral fanaticism.


Chapter One

SEPTEMBER 17, 1924


It was near dusk when Arvin entered the narrow, ill-lit walk-up next to Lambie's dry goods store on Main Street. Though he was still new in town, a shy, frail twenty-four-year-old Smith instructor, he affected a jaunty contempt as he hastened past the second-...
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“A hell of a story…. Werth puzzles out the tormented, self-absorbed Arvin with…intelligent empathy.”–Newsweek

“Perceptive…. Refreshing and instructive…. Barry Werth has told this gifted but unhappy man’s story with sympathy but utterly without sentimentality or special pleading. His research…is thorough and surprising.”–The Washington Post Book World

“Mesmerizingly well-written.”–Andrew Holleran, Out

“Exceptional. . . . I cannot recall a book of non-fiction in the [past] decade . . . that has demonstrated such mastery of the craft.” –Samuel G. Freedman, Chicago Tribune

“Fascinating. . . . A riveting character study. . . . Vividly captures the troubled times and too quickly forgotten life of the quietly courageous Arvin. . . . Werth has written one of the most emotionally engaging and socially relevant books I’ve read in quite a while.” –David Bahr, The Advocate

“Werth’s meticulous account . . . lend[s] the past new life. . . . An important reminder that the world has quite recently been a very different place.” –San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle