The House of the Seven Gables

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Portrait and Daguerreotype Symbol Analysis

Portrait and Daguerreotype Symbol Icon

Throughout the novel, portraits and daguerreotypes (a primitive form of photography) symbolize the essence of individual’s characters—especially characters, like Judge Pyncheon, whose public personas are a false front. The hardness evident in the Judge’s daguerreotype indicates that, despite his smiling exterior, he’s actually a cold-hearted person, resembling the portrait of his ancestor Colonel Pyncheon. By extension, Holgrave’s role as a daguerreotypist suggests that he sees through things to their internal reality. Additionally, Colonel Pyncheon’s portrait has been concealing the family’s long-sought land deed for 200 years—a literal example of a portrait containing the truth (in this case, the truth of the Pyncheons’ empty aspirations).

Portrait and Daguerreotype Quotes in The House of the Seven Gables

The The House of the Seven Gables quotes below all refer to the symbol of Portrait and Daguerreotype. 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 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

[Holgrave] could talk sagely about the world's old age, but never actually believed what he said; he was a young man still, and therefore looked upon the world—that gray-bearded and wrinkled profligate, decrepit without being venerable—as a tender stripling, capable of being improved into all that it ought to be, but scarcely yet had shown the remotest promise of becoming. […] It seemed to Holgrave—as doubtless it has seemed to the hopeful of every century since the epoch of Adam's grandchildren—that in this age, more than ever before, the moss-grown and rotten Past is to be torn down, and lifeless institutions to be thrust out of the way, and their dead corpses buried, and everything to begin anew.

Related Characters: Holgrave
Related Symbols: Portrait and Daguerreotype, House
Page Number: 124
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:
Chapter 21 Quotes

“My dearest Phoebe,” said Holgrave, "how will it please you to assume the name of Maule? As for the secret, it is the only inheritance that has come down to me from my ancestors. You should have known sooner (only that I was afraid of frightening you away) that, in this long drama of wrong and retribution, I represent the old wizard, and am probably as much a wizard as ever he was. The son of the executed Matthew Maule, while building this house, took the opportunity to construct that recess, and hide away the Indian deed, on which depended the immense land claim of the Pyncheons. Thus they bartered their Eastern territory for Maule's garden ground.

Related Characters: Holgrave (speaker), Phoebe Pyncheon, Matthew Maule, Thomas Maule
Related Symbols: House, Portrait and Daguerreotype
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:
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Portrait and Daguerreotype Symbol Timeline in The House of the Seven Gables

The timeline below shows where the symbol Portrait and Daguerreotype 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
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
...study, where Colonel Pyncheon sits in an oak chair beneath his own likeness in a portrait. He seems to be frowning. Suddenly, the Colonel’s grandson darts forward and begins shrieking in... (full context)
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
...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 seems as if... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Little Shopwindow
Wealth, Power, and Status Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Progress Theme Icon
...is alone in the House of the Seven Gables, except for a young man, a daguerreotypist, who has been lodging in one of the gables for the past three months. Hepzibah... (full context)
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
...leaving her chamber, Hepzibah unlocks a drawer in her desk and withdraws a small miniature portrait. It’s a likeness of a delicate-looking young man in old-fashioned dress. Hepzibah’s devotion to this... (full context)
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
...oaken chair, 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... (full context)
Chapter 3: The First Customer
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
...gentleman of 21 or 22, well-dressed and looking both grave and vigorous. It’s Holgrave, the daguerreotypist, who has come to offer well-wishes. At this expression of sympathy, Hepzibah bursts into fresh... (full context)
Chapter 4: A Day Behind the Counter
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
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 Jaffrey’s character,... (full context)
Chapter 5: May and November
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Wealth, Power, and Status Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
...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 Alice Pyncheon,... (full context)
Chapter 6: Maule’s Well
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
...Holgrave appears with a hoe in hand, surprising her. Phoebe introduces herself to the “lawless” daguerreotypist, who explains that tending the garden is his pastime. He offers to show Phoebe some... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Guest
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
...the man is the same delicate figure whom Hepzibah had shown her in the miniature portrait. Even the sense of a lingering calamity cannot totally erase the man’s graceful beauty. (full context)
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
...in a 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
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Phoebe realizes that Judge Pyncheon is the subject of the miniature daguerreotype which Holgrave had shown her yesterday. She wonders if the hard expression is really the... (full context)
Chapter 12: The Daguerreotypist
Time, Change, and Progress Theme Icon
Phoebe’s only youthful companion is the daguerreotypist, Holgrave. They don’t have much in common, and under other circumstances, they might not have... (full context)
Time, Change, and Progress Theme Icon
Being a daguerreotypist, too, is unlikely to be a permanent phase in Holgrave’s life, eventually to be cast... (full context)
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Holgrave adds that Colonel Pyncheon appears to have “perpetuated himself” in the subject of Holgrave’s daguerreotype, Judge Pyncheon. Phoebe is startled by Holgrave’s passion. He admits that the topic has seized... (full context)
Chapter 13: Alice Pyncheon
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Wealth, Power, and Status Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Progress Theme Icon
...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 Maule’s entrance. (full context)
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
Legend relates that, at this point, Colonel Pyncheon’s portrait began to behave strangely. During this conversation between the carpenter and Gervayse Pyncheon, the figure... (full context)
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Wealth, Power, and Status Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
...drew up an agreement and drank wine together. Thinking he notices a frown on the portrait’s face, Gervayse concludes that the wine is too potent for him. (full context)
Chapter 16: Clifford’s Chamber
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Wealth, Power, and Status Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
...is in his public studio, not in his chambers. She glances at one of the daguerreotypes lying on the table, and “fate [stares] her in the face”: it’s Judge Pyncheon. Hepzibah... (full context)
Chapter 18: Governor Pyncheon
Wrongdoing, Guilt, and Retribution Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
...But this time, something vexes him. Generations of other Pyncheon ghosts assemble to study the portrait. In the corner stands a carpenter, pointing and laughing inaudibly. Two other figures join the... (full context)
Chapter 20: The Flower of Eden
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Horror and Innocence Theme Icon
...and help him cope with a terrible thing that has happened. He shows her a daguerreotype of the dead Judge Pyncheon, which he has just finished taking. Upon discovering the body... (full context)
Chapter 21: The Departure
Wealth, Power, and Status Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
...Clifford suddenly remembers that, in his youth, he had discovered a secret spring in the portrait. When the spring is pressed, the portrait suddenly tumbles to the floor, revealing a recess... (full context)