The House of the Seven Gables Critical Overview
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

Like much of Hawthorne’s work, The House of the Seven Gables has received ongoing attention from critics and scholars since its publication in 1851. The Nathaniel Hawthorne Society (http://asweb. artsci.uc.edu/english/HawthorneSociety/nh.html), which was formed in 1976 for scholars interested in his work, reflects the degree to which Hawthorne’s writing is still very much alive and vital in present day academia. To Hawthorne’s credit, his work remains in print and remains part of the core curriculum taught in American literature courses.

Of his critics, Hawthorne himself was likely one of the strongest. In the introduction to Hawthorne: The Critical Heritage, J. Donald Crowley quotes Hawthorne writing to Longfellow:

As to my literary efforts, I do not think much of them—neither is it worthwhile to be ashamed of them. They would have been better, I trust, if written under more favorable circumstances. I have no external excitement—no consciousness that the public would like what I wrote, nor much hope, nor a very passionate desire that they should do so. Nevertheless, having nothing else to be ambitious of, I have felt considerably interested in literature.

Of The House of the Seven Gables, Crowley quotes Hawthorne again:

Sometimes, when tired of it, it strikes me that the whole is an absurdity from beginning to end . . . my prevailing idea is, that the book ought to succeed better than “The Scarlet Letter,” though I have no idea it will.

In fact, The House of the Seven Gables did succeed better than The Scarlet Letter and both have continued to be some of Hawthorne’s best-known and studied work.

As can be expected, the reviews, commentary, and critical analysis of The House of the Seven Gables have varied in focus over the past onehundred and fifty-three years and will likely continue to do so. In “The House of the Seven Gables”: Severing Family and Colonial Ties, Peter Buitenhuis notes that “each age has to reevaluate the classics and read them in the light of its own cultural and critical assumptions, which gradually change over time.”

Upon its publication, The House of the Seven Gables garnered much praise. Writing for Graham’s Magazine in 1851, Edwin Percy Whipple wrote “Taken as a whole, it is Hawthorne’s greatest work, and is equally sure of immediate popularity and permanent fame.” Henry Fothergill Chorley would agree. In his review of the novel for Athanaeum in 1851, Chorley wrote that Hawthorne “possesses the fertility as well as the ambition of Genius.” He further commented that “few will dispute his claim to rank amongst the most original and complete...

(The entire section is 649 words.)