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The House of the Seven Gablesby Nathaniel Hawthorne
Synopses & Reviews
THE OLD PYNCHEON FAMILY
HALFWAY DOWN a bystreet of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst. The street is Pyncheon Street; the house is the old Pyncheon House; and an elm tree, of wide circumference, rooted before the door, is familiar to every townborn child by the title of the Pyncheon Elm. On my occasional visits to the town aforesaid, I seldom failed to turn down Pyncheon Street, for the sake of passing through the shadow of these two antiquities-the great elm tree and the weather-beaten edifice.
The aspect of the venerable mansion has always affected me like a human countenance, bearing the traces not merely of outward storm and sunshine, but expressive, also, of the long lapse of mortal life, and accompanying vicissitudes that have passed within. Were these to be worthily recounted, they would form a narrative of no small interest and instruction, and possessing, moreover, a certain remarkable unity, which might almost seem the result of artistic arrangement. But the story would include a chain of events extending over the better part of two centuries, and, written out with reasonable amplitude, would fill a bigger folio volume, or a longer series of duodecimos, than could prudently be appropriated to the annals of all New England during a similar period. It consequently becomes imperative to make short work with most of the traditionary lore of which the old Pyncheon House, otherwise known as the House of the Seven Gables, has been the theme. With a brief sketch, therefore, of the circumstances amid which the foundation of the house was laid, and a rapid glimpse at its quaint exterior, as it grew black in the prevalent east wind-pointing, too, here and there, at some spot of more verdant mossiness on its roof and walls-we shall commence the real action of our tale at an epoch not very remote from the present day. Still, there will be a connection with the long past-a reference to forgotten events and personages, and to manners, feelings, and opinions, almost or wholly obsolete-which, if adequately translated to the reader, would serve to illustrate how much of old material goes to make up the freshest novelty of human life. Hence, too, might be drawn a weighty lesson from the little-regarded truth that the act of the passing generation is the germ which may and must produce good or evil fruit in a far-distant time; that together with the seed of the merely temporary crop, which mortals term expediency, they inevitably sow the acorns of a more enduring growth, which may darkly overshadow their posterity.
The House of the Seven Gables, antique as it now looks, was not the first habitation erected by civilized man on precisely the same spot of ground. Pyncheon Street formerly bore the humbler appellation of Maule's Lane, from the name of the original occupant of the soil, before whose cottage door it was a cowpath. A natural spring of soft and pleasant water-a rare treasure on the sea-girt peninsula, where the Puritan settlement was made-had early induced Matthew Maule to build a hut, shaggy with thatch, at this point, although somewhat too remote from what was then the center of the village. In the growth of the town, however, after some thirty or forty years, the site covered by this rude hovel had bec
The two-hundred-year-old curse of Matthew Maule has a profound impact on the lives of seven generations of the inhabitants of an old New England house. Reissue.
In a sleepy little New England village stands a dark, weather-beaten, many-gabled house. This brooding mansion is haunted by a centuries-old curse that casts the shadow of ancestral sin upon the last four members of the distinctive Pyncheon family. Mysterious deaths threaten the living. Musty documents nestle behind hidden panels carrying the secret of the family’s salvation—or its downfall.
Hawthorne called The House of the Seven Gables “a Romance,” and freely bestowed upon it many fascinating gothic touches. A brilliant intertwining of the popular, the symbolic, and the historical, the novel is a powerful exploration of personal and national guilt, a work that Henry James declared “the closest approach we are likely to have to the Great American Novel.”
About the Author
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts to a sea captain and descendant of one of the judges of the Salem Witch Trials. Considered one of the transcendentalists, Hawthorne is best known for his short stories and for four major novels, including The Scarlet Letter and The Marble Faun. Many of Hawthorne's works are set in New England, and influenced by the region's Puritan heritage, they tend to offer the reader a moral and religious message. Hawthorne is also one of the foremost gothic writers. A branch of Romanticism, gothic novels used psychological terror, ghosts, and mystery to tell their stories.
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