The Missing Window: Caroline Emmerton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and The House of the Seven Gables.
From the back shop the visitor starts on a tour of the house. He passes through dark, narrow passages and through spacious low-ceiled rooms with fine old paneling. He climbs the secret staircase. He visits the attic, and finally passing through the nail-studded front door he finds himself looking across the lawn at Salem harbor, once famous for its shipping. Turning to the right a few steps brings him to the beautiful old-fashioned garden which lies behind the house. --Caroline O. Emmerton, The Chronicles of Three Old Houses
There is no arched window in the House of the Seven Gables. I do not mean Hawthorne's novel, of course--the "uncommonly large" window through which Clifford Pyncheon peers out at "the life of the street" still frames the eleventh chapter (2: 159)--but instead the physical House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts, the historic seventeenth-century house museum also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion. Purchased in 1908 by Salem philanthropist Caroline O. Emmerton to serve as headquarters for Salem's new Settlement Association, then restored and enlarged in 1909 in part to reproduce the setting of the novel for tourists, whose admission fees would in turn support the Association's social service programming for the city's growing immigrant population, the renovated mansion features many of its fictional counterpart's most distinctive architectural elements. These include steeply pitched gables "facing towards various points of the compass" (2: 5), an upper story "projecting far over the base" (2: 12), a main entrance placed "in the angle between the two front gables" (2: 12), a "huge, clustered chimney" (2: 27), and a small shop "fitted up" in "the basement story of the gable fronting on the street" (2: 34). (1) But no arched window.
This was not for lack of trying. When Emmerton hired influential Colonial Revival architect Joseph Edward Chandler to assist her with the restoration, the house could barely be said to resemble Hawthorne's "venerable mansion" (2: 5). Though promoted since the late nineteenth century by its owners as the inspiration for Hawthorne's story, in 1908 the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion had only three gables, no overhanging second story, and no great chimney. No gables framed the main entrance; no shop stood facing the street. (A "dreadful anticlimax," Henry James declared, after visiting the house in 1904 with high expectations .) But Emmerton, who recalled the "thrill" of her first visit to "the gaunt old house" as a young girl in 1879 or 1880, when she was first shown "the sketchy outlines of two vanished gables on the sloping walls" of the attic, was determined to find and restore the missing features that would confirm the house's literary bona fides (Chronicles 29). With Chandler's guidance, plus the aid of various deeds, court records, and inventories, she met with considerable success, if also a few notable disappointments. The arched window, for whose traces Emmerton hunted in vain, was one of the latter, and she omitted it from the restored house despite the urging of others. "My architect was delighted when I gave up talking about the arched window," Emmerton reflects in her 1935 account of the restoration of the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, The Chronicles of Three Old Houses, "but several of my friends thought it was a grave mistake to omit it" (36). By resisting the impulse to let the details of the book guide the renovations rather than the evidence provided by "the house itself," Emmerton could declare that the restored mansion, which reopened in 1910 as both active settlement house and house museum, was "fundamentally [...] the house through which [Hawthorne's] characters moved." and thus the "perfect setting for the novel" (36). As she insisted in her introductory note to the special 1913 Visitors' Edition of Hawthorne's book that she sold in the mansion's gift shop, despite "some compromises [...] with historical accuracy" necessary to fit the house "for use as a settlement, [...] nothing was changed to make the house fit the story." And thus "to the careful student the points of difference are trivial compared with the underlying resemblance which assures us that the ancient mansion on Turner Street well deserves the name, by which it has been known for decades, of the House of the Seven Gables" (Note 11). This architectural fidelity, moreover, was crucial to the social uplift project at the heart of the settlement movement, which advanced rapidly in the United States in response to the turn-of-the-century influx of European immigrants. For Emmerton, there could be no more fitting site than this meticulously restored and culturally evocative early American home, now officially incorporated as The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association, to help Salem's newest immigrants acclimate to the customs and values of their adopted country. (2)
In what follows, I will consider the significance of the arched window for a more thorough understanding, not only of Emmerton's renovations, but also of the architectural imagination of Hawthorne himself. For not only is it unlikely that the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, which Hawthorne visited in the 1840s when it was owned by his second cousin Susan Ingersoll, had ever featured an arched window, it is also unlikely, as Emmerton herself came to conclude, that any of the Colonial New England wood-frame houses Hawthorne's fictional mansion otherwise so explicitly evokes would have included such a window. Large arched windows--particularly like the one Hawthorne imagines for Clifford, set directly above a porch sheltering an equally large, arched entrance door--only became common in New England at the beginning of the nineteenth century with the emergence of square three-story brick houses and their more elaborate domestic facades. What did Hawthorne gain, then, from adding such a window, so prominently, to the First Period New England mansion that anchors his narrative? (3) It has more often been Emmerton, not Hawthorne, whom critics have chided for embellishing the House of the Seven Gables with architectural conceits, such as the infamous secret staircase (to which I will return). Emmerton's contemporaries were not even uniformly convinced that the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion was the novel's true model, with some proposing other gabled Salem structures as more likely inspirations, a skepticism of which Emmerton was well aware. (4) But Hawthorne's architectural inventions deserve scrutiny as well. Despite (or perhaps because of) his insistence that it would be a mistake for readers "to assign an actual locality to the imaginary events of this narrative" (2: 3), understanding the nature of the house he imagined--what it makes possible, what it precludes--is as important as judging Emmerton's decisions.
Considering them in tandem has benefits as well. After examining Hawthorne's use of the window, particularly how the glimpses of the "rush and roar of the human tide" (2: 165) of 1840s Salem that it gives to Clifford contribute meaningfully to the novel's treatment of race and immigration, I will turn back to Emmerton and her historic house museum, where the absence of the arched window, I will argue, has had the inadvertent effect of redirecting the narrative focus of the restored mansion, particularly where Clifford is concerned, toward the domestic interior rather than the life of the street. Recognizing this effect will allow us to see how Hawthorne's window, from which at one crucial moment Clifford imagines "plunging into the surging stream" of humanity below (2: 165), might also radically undermine precisely the uplift work that Emmerton intended the restored House of the Seven Gables to perform. To Emmerton, steeped in the Colonial Revival's faith in the Americanizing properties of old houses, exposing the Settlement Association's immigrant subjects to the "historical and literary associations" (Chronicles 39) of this quintessentially American house would surely speed--with Hawthorne's help--the assimilation of Salem's "alien population" (Note 9) into good American citizens. But Clifford's experience at the arched window proposes a very different future, one in which native-born whites might merge with the polyglot crowd rather than the other way around. Perhaps not finding the arched window, then, was a blessing in disguise. Had Emmerton actually discovered one, the House of the Seven Gables might have jarred more discordantly with Hawthorne's novel than she would ever have imagined, along the exact lines that mattered to her the most.
OPENING UP THE HOUSE
Emmerton approached the restoration of the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion with the zeal of a detective. Armed with her childhood memory of the "sketchy outlines" of the missing gables, she hunted with Chandler for structural evidence of the striking features that she believed had inspired Hawthorne's tale. Emmerton describes these discoveries in The Chronicles of Three Old Houses, which recounts the restoration of the mansion and two other colonial-era Salem properties that she later purchased and moved to the grounds of what now constitutes the House of the Seven Gables Historic District. (5) In the book's first chapter, Emmerton lays out a detailed history of the famous house, from the original Postmedieval two-and-one-half-story, four-room, four-gabled structure erected in 1668 by mariner John Turner, through more than two centuries of additions and remodelings by Turner's heirs (John Turner II and John Turner III) and their successors, the Ingersolls, to the last alterations made by Henry and Elizabeth Upton, from whom Emmerton bought the then three-gabled mansion in 1908. "We have seen the house start with four rooms and four gables and gradually increase in size," Emmerton summarizes at the chapter's end, "until when owned by the second John Turner it had fourteen rooms and eight gables." (That's right: eight gables. More on this in a moment.) "Then we have seen it gradually shrink until all its removable gables were gone, and its lean-to, overhang and great central chimney had also disappeared" (Chronicles 27).
In the second chapter, "Our Search for Traces of the Vanished Gables," Emmerton describes how she and Chandler made the house deliver up its secrets. The most important clue was the discovery in the attic of the truncated stumps of one of the four original 1668 gables, which had been cut away in 1677 when the first John Turner, now a successful merchant, added a large two-and-one-half-story wing extending southward toward the water from the western half of the original house. This new southern wing featured a spacious parlor on the ground floor, an equally large chamber jutting out from above (creating the second-story overhang), and a great, triple- gabled garret in the attic. With the subsequent construction of a two-story gabled front porch "to connect the new wing with the main house" (Chronicles 10), the house finally had seven gables: the three remaining gables from the original 1688 house (the south-facing eastern facade gable and the two side gables) plus the four gables added in 1677 (three on the new south wing and one over the porch). An eighth gable was likely introduced in the early 1690s, when John Turner expanded the house again, this time to the north, attaching a gabled kitchen ell to a lean-to that ran across the back wall of the house. This rear kitchen gable, plus four of the seven gables described above, were all removed during subsequent renovations, first by John Turner III, whom Emmerton believes got rid of the porch gable when he converted the mansion to a summer home sometime after 1769; and then by Samuel Ingersoll, Susan Ingersoll's father, who substantially remodeled the exterior of the house at the end of the eighteenth century to align more closely with the architectural fashion of the day, including building out the first-floor parlor to eliminate the south wing overhang, tearing down the north kitchen ell and lean-to, and trimming away three more gables to give the house a more streamlined, Federal look. With a few minor exceptions--and considerable additional remodeling to the interior--this is the structure that Emmerton and Chandler aimed to restore to its seven-gabled glory (figures 1 and 2). (6)
Back to the truncated gable stumps. While they did not belong to one of the four missing gables that Emmerton and Chandler sought to restore, they did help point the way to three of them. Emmerton and Chandler realized from their discovery of the stumps that the beams of the missing gables were likely to show mortise holes where the original posts had once been inserted. "For, as most of my readers well know," Emmerton explains,
old houses were framed together. The posts and beams were not brought together and nailed as we build nowadays, but a tenon was cut at the end of a post [...] and that was fitted into a mortise hole, that is, a hole in a beam cut like a slot. Then a peg was driven through both and the post and beam were held together. If by any chance the peg and post should be removed the mortise hole would always be left an unimpeachable witness of what had been. (Chronicles 31)
So began the hunt, which supplied rapid results:
The mortise holes in the south wing [which lined up with the "sketchy outlines" of the two gables Emmerton recalled from her childhood visit to the mansion attic] were quickly found, for we knew just where to look for them. When the timbers had been fitted into them the angle rose high in the air until it reached a point in line with the ridgepole of the south wing. In the same way the mortise holes in Clifford's room were found and the apex of the angle came exactly to the ridgepole of the main house. (Chronicles 31)
"Clifford's room" is what Emmerton had decided to name the small attic chamber above the eastern wing of the 1668 section of the house. The missing gable whose mortise holes she found there corresponded to the original south-facing eastern facade gable that had been removed during Samuel Ingersoll's late eighteenth-century renovations. In Emmerton's eager mapping of the mansion onto the novel, she chose this room as Clifford's--despite textual evidence that Clifford's room, which looks out on the garden and receives the late afternoon sun, would have been located on the western side of the fictional house (7)--because of another architectural feature she wanted to restore: the secret staircase.
Winding around the great central chimney, the secret staircase rises from a first-floor dining-room closet all the way to the easternmost attic chamber. In Chronicles of Three Old Houses, Emmerton theorizes that the first John Turner had built the staircase in the early 1690s during the Salem witchcraft crisis as a hiding place from witch hunters. It was the addition of the gabled kitchen ell to the northside lean-to that would have made this possible, Emmerton suggests, since the ell's new chimney would likely have replaced an older lean-to chimney, whose flue would likely have fed into the great central chimney (15-16). Removing the flue would have created space for the staircase. Although there was no secret staircase in the house when Emmerton bought the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion in 1908, she had heard of its existence during her childhood visits from Henry Upton, who claimed to have discovered the staircase, "the presence of which had not been suspected by any member of the family" (Chronicles 36), when he replaced the great central chimney in 1888. During his remodeling, Upton demolished the staircase; during hers, Emmerton asked Chandler to rebuild it. She also insisted that Chandler's draughtsman revise his initial plans so that the staircase would connect to "Clifford's room" rather than to another part of the attic, because that is the room in which Henry Upton said he had found the upper entrance. "I spent days in that rather poky, half-finished chimney," Emmerton recalls, "but finally found the key to the problem which the foreman was able to work out." Revisiting the house after Emmerton's renovations, Henry Upton declared that the secret staircase "was just as he remembered it" (Chronicles 33).
Emmerton's interest in the staircase went beyond architectural recovery. She was convinced not only that Hawthorne knew about the staircase but also that he had used it to orchestrate a crucial scene in the novel and may even have included it in an early draft of the story. "I have especially in mind Hepzibah's going to Clifford's room to bring him down to Judge Pyncheon, who sits waiting in the dining room, watch in hand," Emmerton explains:
Miss Hepzibah does not find Clifford in his room, but on going back to the dining room she meets him coming out of it. The question of how Clifford got to the dining room is evaded in the story, but the secret staircase offers a perfect explanation of this and also of the timeliness of Judge Pyncheon's stroke of apoplexy, for seeing Clifford mysteriously appearing from nowhere might well have caused it. Thinking it over I have been wondering if Hawthorne did not come across in some way, in an old letter, perhaps, some allusion to the secret staircase which he made use of in the first draft or outline of his romance, but on showing it to Miss Ingersoll encountered her strong objection to anything which should arouse the interest of the curious in her house. Miss Ingersoll was a recluse with something in her past which made her shrink from any form of publicity, and Hawthorne, gentle and sympathetic, would surely have promised her anything that she wished, no matter if it left a hiatus in his story. (Chronicles 38-39) (8)
As difficult as it is to imagine Hawthorne leaving so richly symbolic a detail out of his novel--a secret staircase built during the Salem witchcraft crisis!--this explains why "Clifford's room" has been a mainstay of the House of the Seven Gables tour since 1910, even though no aspect of the room corresponds to Hawthorne's description of it in the published text.
What Emmerton could not find, no matter how hard she looked, was any evidence of a large arched window in the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion. "With Hawthorne devoting a whole chapter to the arched window I should have been delighted to have found some trace of it in the house," Emmerton allows, "but the more I studied the subject the more I became convinced that the house never had, never could have had an arched window, that wooden houses of that type did not have them" (Chronicles 36). Hawthorne is explicit about both the location of the window and its relation to the second-story floor plan. In chapter 11, "The Arched Window," the narrator describes Phoebe and Clifford mounting the main house staircase "to the second story of the house,"
where, at the termination of a wide entry, there was an arched window of uncommonly large dimensions, shaded by a pair of curtains. It opened above the porch, where there had formerly been a balcony, the balustrade of which had long since gone to decay, and been removed. (2: 159)
The porch here is clearly the front porch, since Phoebe's aim in guiding Clifford to the window is to afford him the opportunity to "look out upon the life of the street" lest he spend all his time in the "vegetative" environs of the Pyncheon garden, the setting and subject of the previous chapter (2: 159). We also know from the novel's opening pages that the front porch of the mansion shelters a similarly expansive "arched door-way" (2: 12), meaning that in Hawthorne's imagination the archway shape is redoubled, appearing above and below.
Such doubled archways were not uncommon in Hawthorne's Salem. Frank Cousins and Phil M. Riley chose one as the frontispiece to their comprehensive 1919 volume, The Colonial Architecture of Salem: the entrance porch to the monumental Andrew-Safford House, at 13 Washington Square, to the west of Salem Common (figure 3). Much like Hawthorne's imagined setting, the Andrew-Safford entrance features a wide arched doorway topped by a balustraded balcony, onto which a tall arched window gives access. But as Cousins and Riley note--and as Emmerton came to realize, to her disappointment--such features did not become popular until the early nineteenth century, and were not characteristic of First Period wood-frame houses. It was only with the advent of the square three-story brick house during the Federal Period (like the Andrew-Safford House, built in 1818) that "Palladian windows, which had formerly only graced stairway landings at the rear of the house, now began to be employed above entrance porches to elaborate the facade and lend added charm to the second-floor hall" (Cousins and Riley 91-92). This is precisely the effect Hawthorne is aiming for--an arched window at the end of a second-floor hall atop an arched entranceway--but it would not have been at all typical of a seventeenth-century gable-and-peaked-roof structure like the Pyncheon house, which the narrator introduces as "a specimen of the best and stateliest architecture of a long-past epoch" (2: 10), not of his own era. (9) Rather than introduce a glaring architectural anachronism, Emmerton retreated. The arched window, she admitted, would instead be one of many instances in which "in making the restoration I had to part company with the book" (Chronicles 36). Which raises the question: Why is the arched window in the novel in the first place?
TAKING THE PLUNGE
Emmerton would likely have offered a simple explanation: Hawthorne must have mistakenly included the arched window because he did not know enough about architectural history. After all, that is how she explained Hawthorne's apparent failure to realize that the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion had once had eight gables, not seven. "In the lack of any direct information or any conspicuous clue," she reasoned, "Hawthorne does not seem to have had enough architectural or antiquarian knowledge to have imagined the possibility of a gable on the porch!" (Chronicles 34). But this explanation ignores not only what we have come to recognize as Hawthorne's keen historicism, particularly of Puritan New England, but also his long-standing imaginative interest in First Period architecture, evident since his 1838 story, "Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure." (10) At the center of that tale stands another "old mansion," a clear architectural sibling of the House of the Seven Gables: "It was one of those rusty, moss-grown, many-peaked, wooden houses, which are scattered about the streets of our elder towns, with a beetle-browed second story projecting over the foundation, as if it frowned at the novelty around it" (9: 385). Most striking, the story includes a scene that in many ways anticipates Clifford at the arched window. In the midst of tearing apart the mansion in hopes of finding a long-concealed treasure, Peter Goldthwaite pauses at a second-story chamber window at the front of the house that looks directly out on the street. Like Clifford, Peter is entranced by the bustling activity in the street below; also like Clifford, Peter's "gaunt figure, half visible in the projecting second story" (9: 399), can be seen by passersby. But in this story, Hawthorne does not make the mistake of tacking a Palladian window onto a Postmedieval house. Peter's window is explicitly identified as a casement--typical of First Period structures--suggesting that Hawthorne knew enough about architectural history to get the details of this old mansion correct. (11)
What this thus also suggests is that Hawthorne knew exactly what he was doing when he gave the House of the Seven Gables its prominent arched window. For one, Clifford's scenes at the arched window are a deliberate amplification of the window scene from "Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure." In the earlier story, Peter's decision to look out the window represents only a temporary pause in the manic work of dismantling his house. His "brief glimpse into the street" leads to a moment of doubt (might it be better not to destroy the house in search of a possibly non-existent treasure? he wonders) that is quickly overcome, as Peter shuts the window and "[resumes] the task which fate had assigned him" (9: 400, 401). He does not look out the window again. But in The House of the Seven Gables, it is clear that Clifford returns to the arched window multiple times, each time spending long days seated there with Phoebe, and sometimes Hepzibah, observing the street below. Unlike Peter, moreover, Clifford is glued to the scene, endlessly "watching the monotony of every-day occurrences with a kind of inconsequential interest and earnestness--and, at every petty throb of his sensibility, turning for sympathy to the eyes of the bright young girl!" (2: 160). Peter's window is an aperture; Clifford's is more like a private box at the theater, which Hawthorne has even draped with a protective curtain by means of which the half-hidden Clifford keeps himself "in comparative obscurity" while he watches (2: 159). Hawthorne lingers over the particularities of Clifford's spectatorship, describing in detail the many sights that startle him, particularly those new to Salem since his incarceration (like omnibuses, water-carts, and the railroad), but also those that please him, especially old-fashioned practices and objects that recommend themselves by their familiarity (like scissor-grinding or butcher's carts, which Clifford recalls from his youth), as well as "anything that appealed to the sense of beauty, in however humble a way" (2: 162). The arched window is also a necessary and explicit spatial and narrative counterweight to the Pyncheon garden. One is at the back of the house, the other at the front. One looks inward, the other out. Both provide escapes from the oppressive interior of the house. But where the garden creates an intensified seclusion by surrounding Clifford with "a little circle of not unkindly souls" (Hepzibah, Phoebe, Holgrave, and Uncle Venner), the window engages Clifford with the wider world (2: 157). It is no accident that the chapters introducing these spaces appear back to back in the novel, as they dramatize the central decision that Clifford and Hepzibah will need to make by the end of the story: Should they continue to live at Pyncheon House, or should they leave it? Despite its anachronism, Hawthorne needs the arched window--and not a mere casement--to make this contrast vivid. (12)
The arched window also allows Hawthorne to stage two highly dramatic encounters that crucially inform the novel's treatment of race and immigration. The first occurs when a street musician, "one of those Italian boys (who are rather a modern feature of our streets)," stops in front of the house to play his barrel organ for Clifford and Phoebe: "With his quick professional eye, he took note of the two faces watching him from the arched window, and, opening his instrument, began to scatter its melodies abroad" (2: 162). Accompanying the musician is a monkey, who pantomimes to the crowd with his "small black palm [...] for whatever filthy lucre might happen to be in anybody's pocket," leading Phoebe to throw down "a whole handful of cents" for the creature to claim. Clifford is charmed by the Italian boy and his music, but horrified by the monkey, "so shocked by his horrible ugliness, spiritual as well as physical, that he actually began to shed tears" (2: 164). Critics have highlighted the tangled racial and class signifiers in this scene, as well as the consonance of the novel's representation of the monkey (particularly the "thick tail curling out into preposterous prolixity from beneath his tartans") with the minstrel imagery called forth by the Jim Crow gingerbread figures Hepzibah sells in her cent shop (2,: 163-64). (13) The scene seems designed to call attention to the changing demographics of "modern" Salem--not entirely negatively, given Clifford's delight in the organ grinder's performance--while also suggesting the fraught racial anxieties those changes might trigger for native-born residents.
Hawthorne's use of the arched window doubles the intensity of this scene while highlighting what Robert S. Levine identifies as the performativity of race in the novel. (14) The organ grinder stops to play because he is aware that he is being watched, turning the Pyncheons' front yard into an impromptu stage. But Clifford's reactions are also on display, putting him in the spotlight as well. "Doubtless," the narrator observes, "more than one New-Englander [...] passed by, and threw a look at the monkey, and went on [...]. Clifford, however, was a being of another order" (2: 164). Clifford can't look away from the performance; the narrator can't look away from Clifford.
Staging the second encounter--when Clifford nearly leaps from the window into a tumultuous political parade that passes directly in front of the Pyncheon house--requires exactly the kind of architectural facade that Hawthorne has imagined. Although Clifford has "a shivering repugnance at the idea of personal contact with the world," he is seized by a "powerful impulse" to join the crowd "whenever the rush and roar of the human tide grew strongly audible to him." The parade represents one of these moments. Drawn to the window by the raucous procession, Clifford is mesmerized by the vitality of the crowd, which presents itself to him as a composite community: "one broad mass of existence--one great life--one collected body of mankind, with a vast, homogeneous spirit animating it." Normally, the narrator suggests, such close proximity to a political procession would inspire repulsion, not sympathy, due to the motley particularity on display: "As a mere object of sight, nothing is more deficient in picturesque features than a procession, seen in its passage through narrow streets. The spectator feels it to be fool's play, when he can distinguish the tedious common-place of each man's visage, with the perspiration and weary self-importance on it, and the very cut of his pantaloons, and the stiffness or laxity of his shirt-collar, and the dust on the back of his black coat." (15) But from his vantage point at the arched window, Clifford sees the procession, "not in its atoms, but in its aggregate--as a mighty river of life, massive in its tide, and black with mystery, and, out of its depths, calling to the kindred depth within him." Under such conditions, the parade "might so fascinate" an "impressible" viewer like Clifford that "he would hardly be restrained from plunging into the surging stream of human sympathies" (2: 165). That is nearly exactly what transpires: "At last, with tremulous limbs, [Clifford] started up, set his foot on the window-sill, and, in an instant more, would have been in the unguarded balcony." Indeed,
As it was, the whole procession might have seen him, a wild, haggard figure, his gray locks floating in the wind that waved their banners; a lonely being, estranged from his race, but now feeling himself man again, by virtue of the irrepressible instinct that possessed him. Had Clifford attained the balcony, he would probably have leaped into the street. (2: 166)
Only Hepzibah's and Phoebe's frightened intervention--they grab his "garment" to hold him back--prevents Clifford from taking the plunge (2: 166).
This scene, not architectural ignorance, best explains why Hawthorne gives a Postmedieval New England mansion an anachronistic arched window overlooking a balustraded balcony directly above the front door to the house. Clifford's near-leap is possible only from such a window, as is the spectacle of his "wild, haggard figure" as seen from the street below. The arched window--initially suggestive of a draped theater box, now transformed into something like a proscenium arch--heightens the drama of this moment in a way that a more authentic Colonial casement never could. (16) By imagining Clifford standing in the window as "a lonely being, estranged from his race," moreover, the novel temporarily replaces the racial anxiety of the organ grinder scene with a repudiation of white purity for the embrace of the "broad mass" in all its unruly, invigorating messiness. For her part, Hepzibah cannot imagine what could possibly drive Clifford to consider such a gesture: "'Are you crazy?' cried his sister." "I hardly know, Hepzibah!" Clifford replies; "but had I taken that plunge, and survived it, methinks it would have made me another man!" (2: 166). As we will see, this impulse to merge himself with the polyglot crowd is almost exactly counter to the motivation behind Caroline Emmerton's settlement work.
AN ALIEN POPULATION
When Emmerton looked out on the streets of Salem in the early 1900s, like many of her native-born peers, she saw not "one great life" in which to subsume her own identity but an "influx of foreigners" in need of Americanization (Note 9). Salem's transformation from shipping to manufacturing in the late nineteenth century brought demographic as well as economic changes. By 1908, when Emmerton purchased the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion for use as a settlement house, new immigrant arrivals from Poland and Russia had joined the predominantly Irish and Italian workers already living near Turner Street (National Park Service 28). (17) As Emmerton put it in her introduction to the 1913 Visitors' Edition of the novel, "[T] he character of the neighborhood had changed":
An alien population had made a peaceful invasion of this old Puritan town for the purpose of working in the shoe shops and factories which now replaced the old time Salem shipping. Settlement work, following in the wake of this influx of foreigners, was started in Turner Street, and one of the Settlement Committee was inspired to buy the House of the Seven Gables and so give the settlement a name and a home. (Note 9)
And not just any name and home. By acquiring the House of the Seven Gables as the headquarters for Salem's settlement work while simultaneously refurbishing it for historical tours, Emmerton capitalized shrewdly on the complementary aims of settlement work and house museums, which flourished simultaneously at the turn to the twentieth century. Colonial design was central to the imagination of many settlement advocates. Old homes, or new structures designed to look like old homes, were felt to communicate a "living history of honest and upright life," stimulating "local pride and patriotic sentiment" (Rhoads 343, 344). (Clifford, of course, would shake his head at such a notion. As he exclaims to the "gimlet-eyed old gentleman" [2,: 259] he and Hepzibah encounter on the train in chapter 17, "There is no such unwholesome atmosphere as that of an old home, rendered poisonous by one's defunct forefathers and relatives!" [2,: 361]) There could be no better site in Salem for meeting Emmerton's dual purpose. By hiring Chandler, a colonial revival authority, to turn the House of the Seven Gables into "a showhouse and a Settlement," Emmerton doubled down on her commitment to preserving the past for Salem's declining native-born population and its rapidly increasing immigrant communities alike (Chronicles 30). "The historical and literary associations of the old houses," she explained, "must surely help in making American citizens of our boys and girls" (Chronicles 39).
As Tami Christopher's study of the tour guide scripts of the Seven Gables house has shown, when the mansion opened to the public for tours in 1910, Emmerton sought to highlight these associations at every turn. (Emmerton not only wrote the first tour guide scripts but also trained the guides themselves.) The original tours focused on two key elements: the "antiquary aspects of the house and New England traditions" and Hawthorne's relationship to the mansion. By commonly referring to artifacts seen during the house tour "as 'old fashioned' and people as 'a Salem merchant' or 'a Salem sea captain,'" for example, "Emmerton and others in her class were searching for a way to hold on to their heritage in the face of new cultures and lifestyles." By emphasizing Hawthorne's intimacy with the house--suggesting in the kitchen portion of the tour that, for example, "From this old toaster Hawthorne had many a slice of toast"--Emmerton's scripts gave the false impression that the famous author had actually lived there (66). The tour also insistently linked the house to the text. As Christopher reports, "The majority of the rooms are described in terms of the novel rather than the actual occupants of the house. Actions occurring in the novel are described as if they occurred in the house" (66-67). As we have already seen, certain rooms are named for the novel's characters rather than for the house's actual inhabitants, including "Clifford's room" and "Phoebe's room." For the first year, settlement classes also took place in the house, until Emmerton shifted them to the Hooper-Hathaway House, another gabled seventeenth-century Salem home that she hired Chandler to restore after purchasing and relocating it to Turner Street in 1911 (National Park Service 12).
The 1913 Visitors' Edition of Hawthorne's novel literalizes the merger of story and house, illustrating the novel with more than a dozen photographs of the interior and exterior of the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion plus images of other Salem houses associated with Hawthorne and his wife Sophia. In the list of illustrations, likely prepared by Emmerton, several entries include an additional explanatory gloss to help the reader link text to house. The entry for "The Parlor," for example, adds this detail: "Called 'Grand Reception Room' in the story." "Phoebe's Room" is further identified as "Or 'great chamber.'" Two entries--the most detailed in the list--take special pains to help readers keep track of the secret staircase. The entry for "The Dining-Room" includes this elaborate description: "Called 'the parlor of more moderate size'; also Miss Hepzibahs sitting-room and dining-room. The open door at the left of the mantel shows the entrance to the secret stairway through the chimney, connecting with Clifford's room." The gloss for "Clifford's Room" reads: "The slightly open panel in the partition is the upper entrance to the secret stairway through the chimney" ("List" 5).
As in the Visitors' Edition, the secret staircase was a focal point of the early house tours, and early visitors often wrote about it. A 1913 essay on visiting old Salem homes in Gustav Stickley's The Craftsman, for example, presents the staircase as the dramatic highlight of the house tour:
But the thrilling part of the visit is when the guide, with an air of mystery all her own, entices one into a narrow, dark and unprepossessing passage, closing the door as, like some bad man in a fairytale, she murmurs "I'll meet you at the top of the house." [...] Turn back he cannot. The only thing to do is to climb as best he can the perpendicular stairs, roughly hewn, uncarpeted, holding no sympathy. But as he is in complete darkness, his limbs shake beneath him, a fact he is chary of confessing. Behind him the guide has bolted the entrance door. ("Salem" 41)
At the top of the stairs, with the visitor's courage "somewhat reinstated," a narrow door opens to reveal "one of the sweetest, most time-flavored bedrooms that his imagination has ever depicted" ("Salem" 41). This is, of course, "Clifford's room," which Emmerton asked Chandler to restore, not as it would have appeared in 1840--as she did all the other rooms of the house, save the kitchen--but as it would have looked in the seventeenth century, during the house's earliest days (National Park Service 8). Spare, and even more old-fashioned in its appointments than the other restored chambers, "Clifford's room" functions primarily to authenticate the secret staircase; or, as the Craftsman essayist puts it, that "hidden flight of stairs, which from generation to generation has permitted various occupants of this house to appear mysteriously, to vanish with equal rapidity and to overhear conversations thought to be secret" ("Salem" 41).
The obsessive emphasis on the secret staircase has the ultimate effect of turning the focus of the house tour inward rather than outward, particularly where Clifford is concerned. The photograph of "Clifford's Room" that Emmerton included in the 1913 Visitors' Edition shows little of the room interior, instead focusing on the slightly opened wall panel that when closed conceals the entrance to the secret staircase (figure 4). In her own account of visiting the house in 1914, Salem resident and colonial revival enthusiast Mary Harrod Northend similarly emphasizes the ingenuity of the concealment of the staircase over the other contents of the room: "Finally, the door at the top opens, and the visitor steps out into Clifford's room. The door closes with a snap behind him. The visitor looks round but sees only the pine sheathing with the pattern peculiar to the House of the Seven Gables" (2,0). Although the attic chamber designated as "Clifford's room" has two windows, including one that looks east onto Turner Street, visitors are not directed to consider that view as suggestive of Clifford at the arched window. It would hardly make sense to do so, since it does not match the window in the book in size, type, or location. But since this is the only room in the house given a primary association with Clifford, and also the only upstairs room on the tour with a window directly over the street, if Emmerton had wanted to bring this aspect of the text into view, this is the room in which she would have had the opportunity. Given her keen interest in finding evidence for an arched window in the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion in the first place--recall that she decided against directing Chandler to install one despite the advice of her friends--it is somewhat surprising that she did not look for another way to engage that key aspect of the novel.
The absence of any reference to Clifford's experience at the window is all the more ironic given that, in at least one sense, it anticipates precisely the work to which Emmerton would find herself called half a century later.
The newly emerging polyglot Salem that Clifford sees from the arched window is a precursor of the turn-of-the-century immigration boom--the "alien population"--that the House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association would ultimately emerge to serve. One could perhaps imagine Emmerton, for example, instructing guides to tell visitors that the grandchildren of the Italian boy who played his hurdy-gurdy for Clifford and Phoebe might well be enrolled in the Association's Americanization classes. But as I have been suggesting, the scenes from the novel to which Emmerton would likely have gestured in offering visitors an interpretation of the arched window might not align as comfortably with her assimilationist aims as she might have thought, given how far less assured of Anglo-Saxon superiority The House of the Seven Gables seems than either the settlement house movement or the colonial revival. (18)
It is not clear whether Emmerton would have recognized the potential for such discordance. Indeed, historian Joseph A. Conforti has argued that, if anyone, it is Hawthorne who should feel undermined by Emmerton, not the other way around: "[Emmerton's] colonial revival 'restoration' played several historical tricks on Hawthorne," Conforti suggests, "not the least of which was to use the conservative writer's work and literary reputation in the cause of social reform--a topic that he so mordantly satirized in his fiction, including The House of the Seven Gables" (252).
I have highlighted Hawthorne's imaginative investment in the arched window in order to argue exactly the opposite: that The House of the Seven Gables troubles the work of Emmerton's House of the Seven Gables by being surprisingly open to a polyglot future, one in which native-born whites, like Clifford, might feel an impulse to merge with the "broad mass" rather than vice versa--a far more progressive take than Emmerton's own. From start to finish, The House of the Seven Gables actively resists the idealization of an American past through the vainglory of its old homes, or old residents. Better ultimately to leave behind a "great, gloomy, dark-chambered mansion" (2: 263) like the House of the Seven Gables, as Clifford, Hepzibah, and Phoebe finally do, than to help prop up the Anglo Saxonist orthodoxies--architectural or otherwise--that it is supposed to symbolize. (19) Emmerton was perhaps more fortunate than she knew when she gave up the search for the missing arched window.
William Gleason, Hughes-Rogers Professor of English and American Studies at Princeton University, is the author or coeditor of five books, including The Leisure Ethic: Work and Play in American Literature, 1840-1940 (Stanford UP, 1999) and Sites Unseen: Architecture, Race, and American Literature (NYU Press, 2011), which was named a runner-up for the 2012 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize in American Studies.
(1.) In her later account of the renovations to the Turner-Ingersoll mansion. Emmerton listed several of these textual descriptors as evidence that the mansion must have been the model for Hawthorne's fictional house, asking readers to compare her plan of the house "with passages descriptive of the gables found in Houghton Mifflin Company's H. S. G. in the Riverside Literature Series," the special 1913 Visitor's Edition of the novel sold in the mansion's gift shop. "Surely," Emmerton reasoned, "Hawthorne's description of the House of the Seven Gables fits the actual plan of the ancient Turner Mansion too closely not to have been based upon it" (Chronicles 35).
(2.) For more on the relationship between architectural preservation and the social uplift goals of the settlement movement, see Rhoads. For descriptions of the programs and services offered to Salem's immigrant population through the House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association, which included English-as-a-Second-Language classes, vocational training, health care, and recreation, see Denenberg and Conary et al. Although settlement classes were moved out of the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion itself after the first year (the "old house," according to Emmerton, was instead used as "a residence for the social workers" [Chronicles. 39]), settlement work continued in adjacent buildings. The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association continues to provide classes and social services for Salem's immigrants to the present day.
(3.) First Period is one of several terms architectural historians use to describe the first substantial one- or two-story seventeenth-century houses constructed in colonial New England after the initial primitive settlement phase. Other terms include Early English, Early Colonial, American Colonial, Pre-Revolutionary, and Postmedieval, which more specifically designates "dwellings that exhibited many of the characteristics of timber-framed medieval houses, with steeply pitched roofs, very large fireplaces, large chimney stacks, [and] small casement windows" (Harris 5). In describing the House of the Seven Gables in this essay (both the Turner-Ingersoll mansion and Hawthorne's fictional creation), I will generally use First Period to refer to the house's era of construction and Postmedieval to its style.
(4.) In the opening paragraph of her introductory note to the 1913 Visitors' Edition of the novel, Emmerton acknowledged that, while the Turner-Ingersoll mansion "is the only house that has ever been known as the House of the Seven Gables, [...] its claim to that picturesque name has been sometimes disputed" (7). Speculation about the architectural inspiration for Hawthorne's invention began almost the moment the novel was published, with one lengthy review published in the Norfolk Democrat offering several possible multi-gabled models in Boston and Salem, though not the Turner-Ingersoll mansion ("Models" 13).
(5.) The other two colonial properties described by Emmerton in Chronicles are the Hathaway House (now known as the Hooper-Hathaway House), which Emmerton bought and moved to the House of the Seven Gables site in 1911, and the Retire Becket House, which she bought in 1916 and moved to the Seven Gables site in 1934. Emmerton again hired Chandler to restore both houses. Today these three houses, plus the Colonial Revival Garden and six other buildings, together constitute the House of the Seven Gables Historic District. For more on the history and architectural significance of all three houses, see National Park Service.
(6.) In making their renovations to the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, Emmerton and Chandler ultimately produced an architecturally hybrid house. The restored exterior, on one hand, "represents the house as it appeared about 1720, a time when [Emmerton and Chandler] believed that the structure still retained its overall Postmedieval appearance, but had lost the original leaded glass casements in favor of large vertically sliding sash windows of Georgian design." The restored interiors, on the other hand, "reflect Miss Emmerton's wish to preserve the house as it would have appeared c. 1840, the period depicted in Hawthorne's romance. [...] The current interiors combine surviving Georgian features in the major rooms, some of them restored or altered in period appropriate ways by Chandler, complementary Georgian treatments in secondary spaces that were added or refurbished by Chandler, and some spaces were specifically given a seventeenth-century character for interpretive purposes" (National Park Service 5, 7).
(7.) In chapter is, the narrator describes Clifford's chamber window facing the sunset, placing his room on the western side of the house: "Be the cause what it might, Clifford commonly retired to rest, thoroughly exhausted, while the sunbeams were still melting through his window-curtains, or were thrown with late lustreon the chamber-wall" (173-74). And in chapter 16, when Hepzibah seeks Clifford in his chamber only to discover his room empty, she looks out his window into the garden to try to find him: "She hastily threw up a window, thrust forth her turbaned head and the half of her gaunt figure, and searched the whole garden through, as completely as her dim vision would allow" (246).
(8.) In the first chapter of Chronicles, Emmerton explains Susannah Ingersoll's reclusiveness as the result of a failed romance: "[She] was a tall, stately young woman, fond of society, so it is said, until an unfortunate love affair with a naval officer, who sailed away, turned her into a recluse" (23).
(9.) In his review of Hawthorne's published work in 1851, Henry T. Tuckerman praises the "local authenticity" of The House of the Seven Gables, including "the street scenes that beguile the eyes of poor Clifford, as he looks out of the arched window" (348), without noticing that the arched window itself would be an anachronism.
(10.) See Colacurcio for the ways that Hawthorne's fictions "call attention to themselves as 'historical" (2) as well as two brief references to the historicity of "Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure" (484, 65on8), which was originally published in 1838 in The Token and Atlantic Souvenir.
(11.) In colonial America, casement windows, which are typically "oriented and hinged vertically" and "[swing] open along [their] entire length, usually in an outward direction," were popular "until about 1700, when they gradually began to be replaced by double-hung windows; by the 1740s, this replacement was largely complete" (Harris 50).
(12.) In his study of the contrasting patterns of geometric imagery in the novel (lines and angles versus circles and curves), Hyatt H. Waggoner observes that the arched window is "the only segment of a circle to be seen in the angular house" and proposes chapter 11 as "perhaps the most explicit key to thematic structure" in the novel (166).
(13.) For a range of readings of this scene in relation to the novel's broader treatment of race and ethnicity, see, for example. Boelhower, Anthony, Gilmore, and Levine.
(14.) Discussing the multiple scenes of blackness in The House of the Seven Gables, Levine argues that it is "precisely the sense that race is performed, or mediated by mass-circulated images, that makes race such a provisional and hard-to-define category in the story (and overall novel)" (142).
(15.) Although grand homes like the Andrew-Safford House would have been sufficient inspiration for Hawthorne's arched window, for the parade scene he may also have recalled his days at the Salem Custom House, an even more public structure featuring a prominent arched window fronting a balustraded balcony directly above an equally prominent arched doorway. (Built in 1819, the Custom House also has four additional arched windows flanking the front door.)
(16.) My thanks to Julie Hall for pointing out the proscenium arch resemblance in this scene.
(17.) For an overview of Salem's changing demographics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, see Chomsky.
(18.) I thus also disagree with Boelhower's reading of the narrator's response to the performance of the Italian organ grinder. Although 1 agree that the street musician "is handled as little more than a type" (14a), I do not believe that his music compels in the narrator "a profound nostalgia for what the old house of the seven gables once stood for and what the contemporary street was even then canceling" (141). My reading takes the opposite view on both counts: the novel betrays no nostalgia for the old house (or old houses more generally) and remains open to embracing the new racial and ethnic mixture emerging in the street.
(19.) In the phrase "Anglo-Saxonist orthodoxies" I mean to signal my concurrence with Levine's claim that The House of the Seven Gables "deserves to be better understood as a novel that poses considerable challenges to the racial-nationalist orthodoxies of the day" and "can be read, in part, as a questioning of the blood-based Anglo-Saxonist nationalism of the O'Sullivan Young American crowd and of the many others. Democrat or otherwise, who shared their views" (133).
Anthony, David. "Class, Culture, and the Trouble with White Skin in Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables." Yale Journal of Criticism, vol. 12, no. 2, 1999, pp. 249-68.
Boelhower, William. "Surviving Democracy: Italian-American Signs." Social Pluralism and Literary History: The Literature of the Italian Emigration, edited by Francesco Loriggio, Guernica, 1996, pp. 133-60.
Chomsky, Aviva. "Salem as a Global City, 1850-2004." Salem: Place. Myth, and Memory, edited by Dane Anthony Morrison and Nancy Lusignan Schultz, Northeastern UP, 2015, pp. 219-48.
Christopher, Tami. "The House of the Seven Gables: A House Museum's Adaptation to Changing Societal Expectations Since 1910." Defining Memory: Local Museums and the Construction of History in America's Changing Communities, edited by Amy K. Levin. AltaMira, 2007, pp. 63-76.
Colacurcio, Michael J. The Province of Piety: Moral History in Hawthorne's Early Tales. 1984. Duke UP, 1995.
Conary, Ryan, et al. The House of the Seven Gables. Arcadia, 2017.
Conforti, Joseph A. Imagining New England: Explorations of Regional Identity from the Pilgrims to the Mid-Twentieth Century. U of North Carolina P, 2001.
Cousins, Frank, and Phil M. Riley. The Colonial Architecture of Salem. Little, Brown, 1919.
Denenberg, Thomas Andrew. "Crafting Community: Learning through Doing in "Old" New England." Colby Quarterly, vol. 39, no. 1, 2003, pp. 55-66.
Emmerton, Caroline O. The Chronicles of Three Old Houses. Thomas Todd, 1935.
--. "List of Illustrations." The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Houghton Mifflin, 1913, p. 5.
--. Note to the Visitors' Edition. The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Houghton Mifflin, 1913. pp. 7-11.
Gilmore, Paul. The Genuine Article: Race, Mass Culture, and American Literary Manhood. Duke UP, 2001.
Harris, Cyril M. American Architecture: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. W. W. Norton, 1998.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. 23 vols. Edited by William Charvat et al. Ohio State UP, 1963-97.
--. The House of the Seven Gables. Visitors' ed., Houghton Mifflin, 1913.
James, Henry. The American Scene. Harper and Brothers. 1907.
Levine, Robert S. Dislocating Race and Nation: Episodes in Nineteenth-Century American Literary Nationalism. U of North Carolina P, 2008.
"Models for the Pyncheon Mansion." Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, vol. 15, no. 2, 1989, pp. 13-14.
National Park Service. House of the Seven Gables Historic District. US Dept. of the Interior, National Register of Historic Places. National Historic Landmark Nomination #73000323, https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NHLS/73000323_text.
Northend, Mary H. Historic Homes of New England. Little, Brown, 1914.
Rhoads, William B. "The Colonial Revival and the Americanization of Immigrants." The Colonial Revival in America, edited by Alan Axelrod, Winterthur Museum, 1985, pp. 341-61.
"Salem: Its Houses, Its Streets, and Its Gardens Rich with the Atmosphere of Romance and Tradition." The Craftsman, vol. 25, no. 1, Oct. 1913, pp. 36-45.
Tuckerman, Henry T. "Nathaniel Hawthorne." Southern Literary Messenger, vol. 17, no. 6, June 1851, pp. 344-49.
Waggoner, Hyatt H. Hawthorne: A Critical Study. Rev. ed., Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1963.
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|Publication:||Nathaniel Hawthorne Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2019|
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