Gifts at The Gables

February 28, 2018 Published by Everett Philbrook

by Everett Philbrook, Store Manager

An old chair brought to the shores of New England in the early-seventeenth century and tales of its subsequent owners is the theme of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Grandfather’s Chair.

Grandfather’s Chair is a series of short stories about a large and heavily carved wooden chair that casts a vision of a burgeoning New England in the mind of the reader. The stories follow the succession of each of the chair’s owners, who play a part in weaving a chronicle about early New England history. The inspiration for this collection of stories came from a visit in 1840 that Nathaniel Hawthorne made to his older cousin, Susanna Ingersoll. According to a letter from Nathaniel dated May 1840 and addressed to Horace Connolly, during his visit to the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, Susanna suggested that he write something. When Hawthorne complained that he had no subject to write about, the “Duchess” as he referred to his cousin, suggested an old chair that occupied a place in her home. As quoted in the letter, “it is an old Puritan relict and you can make a biographical sketch of each old Puritan who became in succession the owner of the chair.”

He may have also had the same chair in mind when he later described the judge’s chair in the parlor of The House of the Seven Gables in the famous novel.

Grandfather’s Chair was written as a work for children, but is enjoyed by readers and Hawthorne fans of all ages. This collection is available today in our Museum Store.

This post was written by Everett Philbrook