A walk through the streets of Salem, Massachusetts is a trek into history. Each turn of a corner stirs the imagination. It’s a journey through what was once a fishing village whose residents believed a small pox epidemic and attacks from nearby tribes were the result of witchcraft. One can almost hear the cries of tormented young girls who shouted out the names of suspected witches, an act that basically condemned many to death.
To quell the rapidly growing “trouble,” a special court was assembled to try the so-called witches, and if found guilty the punishment was death. The first “witch” to be hanged was Bridget Bishop. Several others followed her to the gallows shortly after.
And then came The Scarlet Letter…
Statue of Roger Conant, the first settler of Salem. This statue stands in the intersection in front of the Witch Musem.
A short walk from the museum led me to some interesting discoveries.
House of Seven Gables, home to relatives of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne visited the home many times as a child which gave influence for the book, House of Seven Gables.
Courtyard inside the grounds of the House of Seven Gables. The red building is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s childhood home. It was originally a few blocks from this site, but was moved to be a part of the museum.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home until he was four.
Hawthorne was born in Salem on July 4, 1804. He died in 1864 while on a trip to New Hampshire with President Pierce. During his lifetime, Hawthorne did as many of today’s writers do, he networked with other authors, such as neighbor Louisa May Alcott (Little Women), Henry David Thoreau, Longfellow, Holmes, the Brownings, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Interestingly, Thoreau spent two years in a small cabin at the edge of Walden Pond, on property owned by Emerson. It was Thoreau who once stated, “That government is best which governs least.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson died in 1882, and was laid to rest on Author’s Ridge at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. Ten years later, his wife Lydia was buried beside him.
Mine are the night and morning,
The pits of air, the gulf of space,
The sportive sun, the gibbous moon,
The innumerable days.
I hide in the solar glory,
I am dumb in the pealing song,
I rest on the pitch of the torrent,
In slumber I am strong.
–from Emerson’s “Song of Nature”
Nathaniel Hawthorne authored many works, including The House of Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter.
THE SCARLET LETTER
CHAPTER I. THE PRISON-DOOR
A throng of bearded men, in sad-coloured garments and grey steeple-crowned hats, inter-mixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.