Newton Arvin born 23 August 1900 (d. 1963)
Frederick Newton Arvin was a literary critic, historian, and academic.
Frederick Newton Arvin studied English Literature at Harvard and was inspired by American literary critic Van Wyck Brooks. Leaving Harvard in 1922, Arvin taught at several high schools before finding tenure at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
A homosexual, Newton Arvin endured a brief and unhappy marriage and is said to have had an affair with Truman Capote during the 1940s.
Arvin often wrote about political issues, until he came to national attention with the publication in 1950 of Herman Melville, a critical biography of Herman Melville, the writer today most famous as the author of Moby-Dick. Herman Melville won the second annual National Book Award for non-fiction.
Other works by Arvin included a similar analysis of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlet Letter. Another book on the same pattern, about poet and writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and entitled Longfellow, His Life and Work, was finished shortly before Arvin's death.
In 1960, officers of the Massachusetts State Police arrested Arvin on pornography-related charges after investigations by the office of the United States Postmaster General into soft-core homosexually-themed pictures sent to Arvin by mail. The resulting scandal destroyed his career and resulted in the firing of two colleagues, Edward Spofford and Joel Dorius, whom he gave up in exchange for leniency in sentencing.
In 2001, Barry Werth's book The Scarlet Professor: Newton Arvin: a literary life shattered by scandal, was published, detailing the affair.
In 2002, Smith acknowledged the wrongful termination of the three professors by creating a lecture series and a small scholarship, the $100,000 Dorius/Spofford Fund for the Study of Civil Liberties and Freedom of Expression, and the Newton Arvin Prize in American Studies, a $500 annual stipend.
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