by Alyssa Conary, Originally Published on Historic Salem, Inc.
“Old and young, we dream of graves and monuments“– from “The Ambitious Guest”
Historic Salem, Inc. is excited to celebrate Nathaniel Hawthorne in recognition of the 350th anniversary of The House of the Seven Gables on this year’s Christmas in Salem house tour, A Very Hawthorne Holiday. While tour-goers are rounding the outer limit of the tour route along Hawthorne Boulevard, they will certainly notice the figure of the author memorialized there in bronze.
Salem’s statue of its most famous son was sculpted by Connecticut-born artist Bela Lyon Pratt (1867–1917). The statue was on display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Art before being purchased with funds raised by the Nathaniel Hawthorne Memorial Association and moved to its current location in 1925, the same year that the Hawthorne Hotel was opened.
In his sculpture, Pratt chose to portray the author sitting on rocks by the ocean because, he said, “It was [Hawthorne’s] habit when in Salem to walk alone by the sea and to sit for hours looking across the water.” The work is meant to convey Hawthorne’s genius and the isolation brought on by his “brooding spirit.”
Hawthorne once described his feeling for Salem as “not love, but instinct.” He was not particularly fond of his hometown and spent much of his life trying to escape, only to be pulled back by circumstances beyond his control. It is certainly entertaining to imagine the dark humor that Hawthorne might find in the situation were he alive today to see this nine-foot statue situated upon a boulevard bearing his name, in a city he was always trying to leave behind.