Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Here is the latest in my continuing series of dead author landmarks. During our recent visit to Salem, Massachusetts, Mary took this picture of me at the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne, with whom I first became acquainted playing the card game "Authors" as a child. Other authors I recall from the game are Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, and Louisa May Alcott. I don't recall that playing the game inspired me to read any of their works. But I digress. In keeping with the spirit of promoting tourism, which seems to be the main concern in Salem, Hawthorne's birthplace has been moved from its original location, and now sits on the same property as the House of the Seven Gables. One ticket buys you admission to both.

The only Nawthorne novel I had read up till now was The Scarlet Letter, and that was approximately a hundred years ago, in high school. I did my part to boost the local economy, and bought a copy of The House of The Seven Gables in the The House of Seven The Gables Bookstore, before taking the official guided tour of The House of the Seven Gables. The tour started a few minutes before the scheduled time because the guide was quite concerned that our group get through the house before a busload of 60 clamoring adolescents on a school field trip.

Turns out it's debatable that this is the house upon which Hawthorne based his book, although he had a cousin who lived there, and was known to have visited her at the house. As I understand it, the house has had a variable number of gables over the years due to repeated remodeling, and at some point had seven gables, but was down to three in Hawthorne's time. It was purchased in the early twentieth century by a woman who believed in life imitating art, and she had the mansion restored, complete with seven gables (though some people argue there are really eight), and put a cent shop in one of the rooms, like in the novel, even though there had never been a shop in the house. Whatever.

This is another house which Hawthorne lived in with his family after his father died--the Manning house.

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