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THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES

by: Nathaniel Hawthorne


A man will commit almost any wrong—he will heap up an immense pile of wickedness, as hard as granite, and which will weigh heavily upon his soul, to eternal ages—only to build a great, gloomy, dark-chambered mansion, for himself to die in, and for his posterity to be miserable in. He lays his own dead corpse beneath the underpinning, as one may say, and hangs his frowning picture on the wall, and, after thus converting himself into an Evil Destiny, expects his remotest great-grandchildren to be happy there!

Halfway 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. 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 town-born child by the title of the Pyncheon Elm.

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.

The weaknesses and defects, the bad passions, the mean tendencies, and the moral diseases which lead to crime, are handed down from one generation to another, by a far surer process of transmission than human law has been able to establish, in respect to the riches and honors which it seeks to entail upon posterity.

What is there so ponderous in evil, that a thumb's bigness of it should outweigh the mass of things not evil, which were heaped into the other scale!

Shall we never, never get rid of this Past?... It lies upon the Present like a giant's dead body.

Life is made up of marble and mud.

What other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!

What we call real estate--the solid ground to build a house on--is the broad foundation on which nearly all the guilt of this world rests.

It is very queer, but not the less true, that people are generally quite as vain, or even more so, of their deficiencies than of their available gifts.

The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.

It is a truth ... that no great mistake, whether acted or endured, in our mortal sphere, is ever really set right.

Of all the events which constitute a person's biography, there is scarcely one — none, certainly, of anything like a similar importance — to which the world so easily reconciles itself as to his death.

It will startle you to see what slaves we are to by-gone times—to Death, if we give the matter the right word! ... We read in Dead Men’s books! We laugh at Dead Men’s jokes, and cry at Dead Men’s pathos! . . . Whatever we seek to do, of our own free motion, a Dead Man’s icy hand obstructs us!

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