Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864

Hawthorne’s birthplace

Before I move on to tell you about my writing retreat, I want to share some pictures significant to Nathaniel Hawthorne in Salem and Boston. I’ve tinkered far too long trying to get the pictures right. Bear with me.

First, the house Hawthorne was born in, belonging to his grandfather, Captain Daniel Hathorne,  on Union Street in Salem. Built in 1750, the house was scheduled to be torn down in 1958, but was moved instead to the grounds of The House of Seven Gables Settlement Association. Having spent so many years studying Hawthorne, I couldn’t help but stand a long time in the upstairs bedroom where he was born. Just being present with whatever spirit remained in the place.

The House of Seven Gables

I was asked last winter to give a library talk about Hawthorne’s novel, The House of Seven Gables, and I’m feeling now as though I could. The tour was well worth the cost, though we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. Among other interesting features (having been built onto, torn down in part, and rebuilt over the centuries), the house has a secret stairwell, very narrow, next to the chimney, which accounts for the sudden appearance of a character in the novel. The house has seven gables, indeed, and dormers as well. It’s an impressive structure.

And two more. One is of the Chipotle Grill I mentioned in a previous post, once a bookstore, once the home of Ticknor and Fields, Publishers. They also published Emerson and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Finally, this gravestone (below) with its heraldic A is thought to have been an inspiration for The Scarlet Letter, which ends, “And, after many, many years, a new grave was delved, near an old and sunken one, in that burial-ground beside which King’s Chapel has since been built. It was near that old and sunken grave, yet with a space between, as if the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle. Yet one tombstone served for both. All around, there were monuments carved with armorial bearings; and on this simple slab of slate–as the curious investigator may still discern, and perplex himself with the purport–there appeared the semblance of an engraved escutcheon. It bore a device, a herald’s wording of which might serve for a motto and brief description of our now concluded legend; so somebre is it, and relieved only by one ever-glowing point of light gloomier than the shadow:– On a field, sable, the letter A, gules.'”

Elizabeth Pain gravestone in the King’s Chapel Burying Ground
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