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The House of the Seven Gables

Introductory Note
IN September of the year during the February of which Hawthorne had completed "The
Scarlet Letter," he began "The House of the Seven Gables." Meanwhile, he had removed
from Salem to Lenox, in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, where he occupied with his
family a small red wooden house, still standing at the date of this edition, near the
Stockbridge Bowl.
"I sha'n't have the new story ready by November," he explained to his publisher, on the
1st of October, "for I am never good for anything in the literary way till after the first
autumnal frost, which has somewhat such an effect on my imagination that it does on the
foliage here about me-multiplying and brightening its hues." But by vigorous application
he was able to complete the new work about the middle of the January following.
Since research has disclosed the manner in which the romance is interwoven with
incidents from the history of the Hawthorne family, "The House of the Seven Gables" has
acquired an interest apart from that by which it first appealed to the public. John
Hathorne (as the name was then spelled), the great-grandfather of Nathaniel Hawthorne,
was a magistrate at Salem in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and officiated at
the famous trials for witchcraft held there. It is of record that he used peculiar severity
towards a certain woman who was among the accused; and the husband of this woman
prophesied that God would take revenge upon his wife's persecutors. This circumstance
doubtless furnished a hint for that piece of tradition in the book which represents a
Pyncheon of a former generation as having persecuted one Maule, who declared that God
would give his enemy "blood to drink." It became a conviction with The Hawthorne
family that a curse had been pronounced upon its members, which continued in force in
the time of The romancer; a conviction perhaps derived from the recorded prophecy of
The injured woman's husband, just mentioned; and, here again, we have a
correspondence with Maule's malediction in The story. Furthermore, there occurs in The
"American Note-Books" (August 27, 1837), a reminiscence of The author's family, to the
following effect. Philip English, a character well-known in early Salem annals, was
among those who suffered from John Hathorne's magisterial harshness, and he
maintained in consequence a lasting feud with the old Puritan official. But at his death
English left daughters, one of whom is said to have married the son of Justice John
Hathorne, whom English had declared he would never forgive. It is scarcely necessary to
point out how clearly this foreshadows the final union of those hereditary foes, the
Pyncheons and Maules, through the marriage of Phoebe and Holgrave. The romance,
however, describes the Maules as possessing some of the traits known to have been
characteristic of the Hawthornes: for example, "so long as any of the race were to be
found, they had been marked out from other men--not strikingly, nor as with a sharp line,
but with an effect that was felt rather than spoken of--by an hereditary characteristic of
reserve." Thus, while the general suggestion of the Hawthorne line and its fortunes was
followed in the romance, the Pyncheons taking the place of The author's family, certain
distinguishing marks of the Hawthornes were assigned to the imaginary Maule posterity.
 
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