Hepzibah and Me

In high school or maybe even junior high we had to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables. I loved it! On our recent trip to the Northeastern States I realized we would be going very close to Salem, Massachusetts. And they have tours of the house the story is patterned on! I could care less about the witch trials, but mention the Seven Gables and I was hooked.

Before our travels, I re-read the book because so MANY years have passed since I first read it. (Love that we can borrow books in the Kindle format, often for free, from the library!) We planned our route to make a tour of the house in Salem on our way from Maine to New Hampshire.

Hawthorne based his book loosely upon his cousin’s house in Salem. Susanna Ingersoll inspired and often entertained Hawthorne at this home. It has been restored to its former glory and is now a museum. In the story Hepzibah was an unfortunate spinster whose eyesight was so poor that she had taken to squinting and that made her face even more unpleasant. The locals thought she was merely scowling at them all the time. She had fallen on hard times and was forced to open a small shop in the front of her house in order to provide food for herself and her brother.

This is a re-creation of what her shop might have looked like. She might have entered through this door. Robert Dutina’s photo of the shop is better, of course!

Hepzibah’s Shop by Robert M Dutina

Being a descendent of aristocracy, Hepzibah was ashamed of having to open the store. She also rented one gable of the house to Holgrave. The story has sorrow, possible murder, intrigue, the young charming country cousin Phoebe, revenge, the town gossips and all the other interesting characters that Hawthorne created. Ned Higgins, the boy who bought her supply of gingerbread cookies made me smile as I now make gingerbread every Christmas with my Grandgirls! When Nathaniel wrote this starting in 1850 he insisted it was entirely a work of fiction based on no particular house. They have done a great job of restoration though, igniting my imagination!

The outdoor gardens were planted like formal English gardens.

Gardens and gables
Refreshing morning dew

I found the adventure refreshing, even if it was likely a fantasy compared to what Hawthorne actually experienced.

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