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The House of the Seven Gables (1851)

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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8,422113960 (3.51)1 / 404
Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

In an old, gloomy New England mansion, a woman opens a shop to support her brother, recently returned from prison. She takes on a border, and a distant relativeâ??a beautiful, lively young womanâ??comes to live with them as well. The fragile bond between this group is shaken by the secret history of the house and their wealthy cousin who wants to take it from them… (more)

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A gloomy New England mansion provides the setting for this classic exploration of ancestral guilt and its expiation through the love and goodwill of succeeding generations.
  PlumfieldCH | Oct 31, 2023 |
It's been decades since I read my paperback copy of The House of the Seven Gables, but I had read the "Classics Illustrated" comic book version several times when I was young, and I remembered that better.

The novel takes place during the mid-1800s, but the story of the Pyncheon family and its troubles goes back to the 1600s, when greedy Colonel Pyncheon coveted farmer Matthew Maule's little plot of land. The colonel was probably the reason Maule was tried and hanged for being a witch. Pyncheon acquired the land and had the house with its seven gables built upon it. Matthew Maule's son, Thomas, built it. Before Maule died, he told the colonel that God would give him blood to drink. (That part of the novel reminded me of King Ahab of Israel coveting Naboth's vineyard, which Naboth refused to sell. Queen Jezebel had Naboth falsely accused and executed. The Prophet Elijah pronounced doom upon the royal couple and every male in or belonging to Ahab's family. There was even a line about the dogs licking up Ahab's blood where they licked up Naboth's.)

Hepzibah Pyncheon has a lifetime interest in the house, which suffers from both wet and dry rot. She's so poor that she opens a little shop (fortunately, one of her ancestors had one built in the house, a 'shameful' deed the New England aristocratic family hasn't used since his death). Hepzibah is what would be described as late middle aged in our time, but she's old for back then. Because she has never married, she's an 'old maid'. I spent the novel wishing someone would take an ugly old turban from her head and getting her a pair of glasses so she won't seem to be scowling as she tries to see.

Hepzibah's beloved brother, Clifford, has been released after spending 30 years in prison for a murder he never committed that wasn't a murder to begin with. Clifford had been a beautiful young man with a love of beauty, but his ordeal has left him childlike. Hepzibah is devoted to him, but he won't even look at her because she's so wrinkled. She's developed a harsh croak in her throat, which makes her attempt to read aloud to him almost unbearable for Clifford. It's pretty obvious that Hawthorne had a lot of sympathy for Clifford, but I don't like him.

Fortunately for the siblings, their fresh, young, beautiful cousin Phoebe Pyncheon has come up from the country to stay with them after her mother remarried. This cheerful girl has a knack for making things homey and attractive. She's also much better at running the shop.

The Pyncheons have a lodger, Holcome, who earns his bread by taking daguerreotypes, an early form of photography. He has revolutionary ideas, but is not indifferent to Phoebe's charms. Uncle Venner, a poor man who tends to gardens and is a natural optimist, has befriended Hepzibah for years. His friendship circle grows to take in Clifford, Phoebe, and Holcome.

The most respected member of the Pyncheon family is Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, who would have been Jaffrey Pyncheon II while his uncle Jaffrey was alive. (Clifford supposedly murdered Uncle Jaffrey.) He's a hard, cold man who fakes being benevolent. Clifford is terrified of him. Hepzibah hates him because she has a shrewd idea that he framed Clifford. Phoebe is repulsed when the judge tries to kiss her, as her cousin. The judge is the spitting image of their ancestor, the colonel.

There is a story within the story that Holcome tells Phoebe about how Matthew Maule II, grandson of the first Matthew, unintentionally causes the death of beautiful Alice Pyncheon, daughter of Gervase Pyncheon, the colonel's grandson. It's a sad story. Alice's ghost is supposed to haunt the house, playing upon her beloved harpsichord.

I think Hawthorne was paid by the word, because he certainly uses a lot of them to tell his story. My memory of the "Classics Illustrated" adaptation ensured I knew what had happened with Judge Pyncheon, and the author annoyed me considerably by how long it took him to reveal it. I had to wait a long time for the memorable scene with the ghosts, too.

Clifford's chat with a fellow train passenger late in the tale was good for a snicker because he was so very wrong in what he thought trains would mean for humankind.

It's still a good story despite Hawthorne dragging some scenes out. As for Ms. Alexander's narration, her voice is so soothing that it took me five days to get through the first CD because I kept falling asleep. ( )
  JalenV | Jul 21, 2023 |
I read this in anticipation of a visit to Salem. It was hard to get into, but there’s one scene towards the end of the block that was written in such an original way. It will always stick with me. It’s a description of all the things one character is supposed to be doing while he’s sitting in a chair. Without any spoilers, it was such a fascinating way to move the plot forward. The rest of the novel is heavy on the description of the home and it's gloomy interior. The theme of the sins of the father is a prominent one.

“For what other dungeon is so dark as one’s own heart?”

“I love to watch how the day, tired as it is, lags away reluctantly and hates to be called yesterday so soon.” ( )
  bookworm12 | May 24, 2023 |
It's hard to think of what to say without judging this book by modern standards and doing a lot of whining about style. So I guess that's what i'll do: just understand that I can't really talk about its place in American literature in any way that explains the adoration of people like Herman Melville and Henry James.

Hawthorn spends immense amounts of time (and pages) setting emotional tone, mostly gloom and despair but occasionally (when Phoebe is around) beauty and sweetness. The theme of the book, that the sins of the ancestors oppress the descendants for generations afterwards, is repeated explicitly and symbolically, again and again and again. The house and the ancestral portrait are pounded in as symbols of this theme. Only in the final couple of chapters is the whole history revealed and the innocent characters relieved of their burden of the past.

Well, it's an American classic and I've read it, so I must be a better person for that. ( )
  JudyGibson | Jan 26, 2023 |
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» Add other authors (279 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hawthorne, Nathanielprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alexander, RoslynNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Angelo, ValentiIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooks, Van WyckIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Colby, Homer W.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, Cathy N.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elsner, RitaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fogle, Richard HarterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Furst, ClydeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heald, AnthonyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kiepenheuer, Noa ElisabethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lathrop, George ParsonsIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
MacEwen, MaryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minckwitz, FriedrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moffett, H. Y.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pearce, Roy HarveyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peters, DonadaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schirmer, DukeAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stern, Milton R.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wineapple, BrendaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Half-way down a by-street 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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is the main work for The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It should not be combined with any adaptation, abridgement, etc.
ISBN 0809598752 is a Wildside Press publication.
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Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

In an old, gloomy New England mansion, a woman opens a shop to support her brother, recently returned from prison. She takes on a border, and a distant relativeâ??a beautiful, lively young womanâ??comes to live with them as well. The fragile bond between this group is shaken by the secret history of the house and their wealthy cousin who wants to take it from them

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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102065, 1400110793

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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