Letter to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, June 4, 1837
. . . At the time Twice-told Tales was first published, Hawthorne was his own most concerned and valuable critic. In his June 4 letter to Longfellow, he gave a carefully reasoned evaluation of his literary efforts:
They would have been better, I trust, if written under more favorable circumstances. I have had no external excitement--no consciousness that the public would like what I wrote, nor much hope nor a very passionate desire that they should do so. Nevertheless, having nothing else to be ambitious of, I have felt considerably interested in literature; and if my writings had made any decided impression, I should probably have been stimulated to greater exertions. . . I have another great difficulty, in the lack of materials; for I have seen so little of the world; that I have nothing but thin air to concoct my stories of, and it is not easy to give a lifelike semblance to such shadowy stuff.
Letter quoted in and introduced by James R. Mellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne
in His Times, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1980. p. 83.