The House of the Seven Gables

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Colonel Pyncheon Character Analysis

Colonel Pyncheon is the Puritan ancestor of the present-day Pyncheons. He is a prominent, iron-willed man. Colonel Pyncheon desires Matthew Maule’s property and builds his mansion, the House of the Seven Gables, on it after Maule is executed for witchcraft. Colonel Pyncheon is then found dead during his housewarming party, supposedly cursed by Maule. Colonel Pyncheon looms large over his posterity—both literally in his uncannily lifelike portrait and in the grasping desire for more and more wealth which he passes down to his descendants.

Colonel Pyncheon Quotes in The House of the Seven Gables

The The House of the Seven Gables quotes below are all either spoken by Colonel Pyncheon or refer to Colonel Pyncheon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of The House of the Seven Gables published in 1999.
Chapter 1 Quotes

At the moment of execution—with the halter about his neck, and while Colonel Pyncheon sat on horseback, grimly gazing at the scene—Maule had addressed him from the scaffold, and uttered a prophecy, of which history, as well as fireside tradition, has preserved the very words. "God," said the dying man, pointing his finger, with a ghastly look, at the undismayed countenance of his enemy, "God will give him blood to drink!"

Related Characters: Matthew Maule (speaker), Colonel Pyncheon
Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

"l can assure you that this is a modern face, and one which you will very probably meet. Now, the remarkable point is, that the original wears, to the world's eye—and, for aught I know, to his most intimate friends—an exceedingly pleasant countenance, indicative of benevolence, openness of heart, sunny good humor, and other praiseworthy qualities of that cast. The sun, as you see, tells quite another story, and will not be coaxed out of it, after half a dozen patient attempts on my part. Here we have the man, sly, subtle, hard, imperious, and, withal, cold as ice. […] And yet, if you could only see the benign smile of the original! It is so much the more unfortunate, as he is a public character of some eminence, and the likeness was intended to be engraved."

Related Symbols: Portrait and Daguerreotype
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

Then, all at once, it struck Phoebe that this very Judge Pyncheon was the original of the miniature which the daguerreotypist had shown her in the garden, and that the hard, stern, relentless look now on his face was the same that the sun had so inflexibly persisted in bringing out. Was it, therefore, no momentary mood, but, however skillfully concealed, the settled temper of his life? And not merely so, but was it hereditary in him, and transmitted down, as a precious heirloom, from that bearded ancestor […] as by a kind of prophecy? […] It implied that the weaknesses and defects […] and the moral diseases which lead to crime are handed down from one generation to another, by a far surer process of transmission than human law has been able to establish[.]

Related Symbols: Portrait and Daguerreotype
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

[B]esides these cold, formal, and empty words of the chisel that inscribes, the voice that speaks, and the pen that writes, for the public eye […] there were traditions about the ancestor, and private diurnal gossip about the Judge, remarkably accordant in their testimony. It is often instructive to take the woman's, the private and domestic, view of a public man; nor can anything be more curious than the vast discrepancy between portraits intended for engraving and the pencil sketches that pass from hand to hand behind the original's back.

Related Symbols: Portrait and Daguerreotype
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

[U]nder those seven gables, at which we now look up—and which old Colonel Pyncheon meant to be the house of his descendants, in prosperity and happiness, down to an epoch far beyond the present—under that roof, through a portion of three centuries, there has been perpetual remorse of conscience, a constantly defeated hope, strife amongst kindred, various misery, a strange form of death, dark suspicion, unspeakable disgrace—all or most of which calamity I have the means of tracing to the old Puritan's inordinate desire to plant and endow a family. To plant a family! This idea is at the bottom of most of the wrong and mischief which men do. The truth is, that, once in every half century, at longest, a family should be merged into the great, obscure mass of humanity, and forget all about its ancestors.

Related Symbols: House
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

[The legend] here gives an account of some very strange behavior on the part of Colonel Pyncheon's portrait. This picture, it must be understood, was supposed to be so intimately connected with the fate of the house, and so magically built into its walls, that, if once it should be removed, that very instant the whole edifice would come thundering down in a heap of dusty ruin. All through the foregoing conversation between Mr. Pyncheon and the carpenter, the portrait had been frowning, clenching its fist, and giving many such proofs of excessive discomposure, but without attracting the notice of either of the two colloquists. And finally, at Matthew Maule's audacious suggestion of a transfer of the seven-gabled structure, the ghostly portrait is averred to have lost all patience, and to have shown itself on the point of descending bodily from its frame. But such incredible incidents are merely to be mentioned aside.

Related Symbols: House, Portrait and Daguerreotype
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
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Colonel Pyncheon Character Timeline in The House of the Seven Gables

The timeline below shows where the character Colonel Pyncheon appears in The House of the Seven Gables. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Old Pyncheon Family
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Wealth, Power, and Status Theme Icon
...on the site of a freshwater spring. After 30 or 40 years, a powerful citizen, Colonel Pyncheon, desires this tract of land, and he acquires a grant from the legislature in... (full context)
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...which the influential were just as susceptible as the mob. It is later remembered that Colonel Pyncheon had condemned Maule with a special zeal. The moment before Maule is executed, he... (full context)
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After Maule’s death, Colonel Pyncheon begins to build a huge mansion on Maule’s former property. Gossips speculates that, given... (full context)
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...as large as a church door. However, they’re met only by two servants, not by Colonel Pyncheon himself. Even the colony’s lieutenant governor receives no personal greeting. (full context)
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When the county sheriff reprimands the chief servant for failing to summon Colonel Pyncheon, the servant nervously explains that the Colonel had insisted on not being disturbed. The... (full context)
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...sudden gust of wind blows the door open. Everyone crowds into the darkened study, where Colonel Pyncheon sits in an oak chair beneath his own likeness in a portrait. He seems... (full context)
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There are many rumors surrounding Colonel Pyncheon’s death: some think there were indications of violence, and that perhaps someone had climbed... (full context)
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It is hard to imagine that Colonel Pyncheon could have been murdered. He was such an eminent figure, after all, that his... (full context)
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At the time of the Colonel’s death, it does appear that the Pyncheon family is destined for prosperity. In addition to... (full context)
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...curse, especially since, about 100 years ago, another Pyncheon died under circumstances similar to the Colonel’s. The Colonel’s portrait continues to brood darkly over the study in which he’d died. It... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Little Shopwindow
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...a rather fantastical illustrated map of the old Pyncheon territory, and a forbidding portrait of Colonel Pyncheon, complete with Bible and sword. Hepzibah scowls toward the portrait, but the scowl is... (full context)
Chapter 4: A Day Behind the Counter
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Inside, Hepzibah paces, coming to a stop before Colonel Pyncheon’s portrait. She trembles, imagining that the Colonel’s hard expression reveals the truth of Cousin... (full context)
Chapter 5: May and November
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...day, Hepzibah gives Phoebe a tour of the House of the Seven Gables, showing her Colonel Pyncheon’s portrait and the map of the fabled territory in Maine. She telling Phoebe about... (full context)
Chapter 6: Maule’s Well
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...really are unpleasant. Phoebe looks at the miniature he hands her, seeing the face of Colonel Pyncheon. Holgrave tells her that it’s actually a modern face, Judge Pyncheon’s—one which shows good... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Guest
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...crimson rose Phoebe has picked in the garden, but he cowers before the portrait of Colonel Pyncheon, asking Hepzibah to cover it. She promises to do so. (full context)
Chapter 8: The Pyncheon of Today
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...hard expression is really the Judge’s natural temperament—one that was passed down to him by Colonel Pyncheon. If so, it seems to be proof that the defects of one generation are... (full context)
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...has resumed his sunny, benevolent mood. Phoebe stays reserved, unable to shake the feeling that Colonel Pyncheon has entered the shop after a quick stop at the barber’s and a change... (full context)
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...testimony isn’t always as reliable as private. For example, traditions have circulated that both the Colonel and the Judge, for all their outward generosity, are guilty of greed. Both are rumored... (full context)
Chapter 12: The Daguerreotypist
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...not superstitious, and that it’s an example of a theory. The House, he claims, symbolizes Colonel Pyncheon’s “inordinate desire to plant […] a family.” Holgrave believes that such a desire is... (full context)
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Holgrave adds that Colonel Pyncheon appears to have “perpetuated himself” in the subject of Holgrave’s daguerreotype, Judge Pyncheon. Phoebe... (full context)
Chapter 13: Alice Pyncheon
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One day, 37 years after Colonel Pyncheon’s death, Gervayse Pyncheon’s black slave, Scipio, brings a message to the carpenter, Matthew Maule,... (full context)
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Gervayse Pyncheon is the grandson of Colonel Pyncheon—he’s the little boy who’d discovered the man’s dead body. Though Gervayse has never loved... (full context)
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...fashions. Two things stand out: the map of the old Pyncheon territory in Maine and Colonel Pyncheon’s portrait. Mr. Pyncheon drinks coffee in front of the fire and only vaguely acknowledges... (full context)
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...However, he has a question for Maule about the Pyncheons’ territorial claim. He believes that Colonel Pyncheon possessed a deed to this land which has since disappeared. (full context)
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...be missing. Gervayse himself remembers being a small boy and seeing papers spread out on Colonel Pyncheon’s table the day before he died. That same day, the present carpenter’s father, Thomas,... (full context)
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Legend relates that, at this point, Colonel Pyncheon’s portrait began to behave strangely. During this conversation between the carpenter and Gervayse Pyncheon,... (full context)
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...of medium to speak to her Pyncheon ancestors. Alice is said to have described seeing Colonel Pyncheon, Matthew Maule, and Maule’s son Thomas, all of whom had knowledge of the missing... (full context)
Chapter 15: The Scowl and Smile
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...it, Judge Pyncheon’s mild expression turns dark and stern, looking for all the world like Colonel Pyncheon. He tells Hepzibah that he was responsible for Clifford’s release from prison, and it... (full context)
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...more could he need? With his “hard and grasping spirit,” he is just doing what Colonel Pyncheon did before him, perpetuating the curse. But she agrees to summon Clifford, fearing that... (full context)
Chapter 18: Governor Pyncheon
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...happens in this parlor at midnight—allegedly, the dead Pyncheons assemble to make sure that the Colonel’s portrait retains its place, according to his instructions. The Judge never believed such stories, of... (full context)
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But supposing such were true, the Colonel would arrive first. But this time, something vexes him. Generations of other Pyncheon ghosts assemble... (full context)