Salem Witchcraft and Hawthorne's "House of the Seven Gables"


This book offers a detailed and highly readable account of the Salem witchcraft affair of 1692. Its publication coincides with the tercentenary observance of the events that form one of the grimmest chapters in colonial American history. The book has three parts. Part One, “Salem Witchcraft History,” provides background information on the Puritan settlement of New England and documents the circumstances which led to the witch hunt of 1692. It identifies the conspirators who accused innocent people by working in collusion with the Puritan old guard authority. It then gives an account of the Andover phase of the witch hunt, with emphasis on the almost forgotten story of the fifty townspeople who were imprisoned for witchcraft in 1692.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a descendant of John Hathorne, one of the most zealous of the Salem witch hunters. Part Two, “The House of the Seven Gables,” briefly examines Hawthorne’s treatment of the witchcraft events in which his ancestor had played such a central role. It reveals the historical identity of several characters in Hawthorne’s novel, including the real-life counterpart of the fictional Matthew Maule, the executed wizard.
Part Three, “Salem Witchcraft Genealogy,” gives biographies of the accusers and the accused during the latter phase of the Salem witchcraft affair. Genealogical inter-connections are shown that help to explain why certain family groups were targeted for witchcraft accusation. Several hundred people are mentioned in the genealogies, involving many families of the time.

Enders A. Robinson

(1992, 2008), 2024, 5½x8½, paper, index, 404 pp
ISBN: 9781556135156