Decades have gone by since I've read any Hawthorne and now I'm sorry because re-reading the House of the Seven (sic) Gables has been a great pleasure.
The characters are, as always in Hawthorne, remarkable, burdened with weighty meaning. Hawthorne writes like no other about guilt, redemption, and atonement. Always mysterious. The incomparable Hepzibah, the beautiful and innocent Phoebe, the puzzling daguerreotypist, the ex-con Clifford, hypocritical Uncle Jaffrey, the tragic memory of Alice, the painting of the dead colonel, and the gloomy Pynchon house itself are all suffused with guilt from the past and the atmosphere oozes hints of the supernatural.
I've visited the house in Salem, Massachusetts, which dates from the late 1600s, and which was in the mid-1800s when Hawthorne wrote the novel owned by relatives. As always with Hawthorne, give him a wisp of family history and he'll give you an entire world of guilt and retribution and if possible forgiveness. He built the story from a tale a cousin told him combined with the mystery of the extraordinary old house and his own, inescapable sense of culpability for the transgressions of his family during the Salem witchcraft incident.
Do visit Salem, Massachusetts, if you get the chance. Chestnut Street, lined with glorious houses built in the early years of the 19th century, is sometimes called the most beautiful street in America, and I would not argue. The Essex Peabody Museum is filled with earth New England shipping and whaling lore. And try to fit in a visit to the House of the Seven (sic) Gables and Hawthorne's birthplace next door. DO NOT miss the secret staircase.
Sic? The House of the Seven Gables has nine gables. Count them.