"Shall we never, never get rid of this Past?" cried he, keeping up the

earnest tone of his preceding conversation. "It lies upon the Present

like a giant's dead body In fact, the case is just as if a young giant

were compelled to waste all his strength in carrying about the corpse

of the old giant, his grandfather, who died a long while ago, and only

needs to be decently buried. Just think a moment, and it will startle

you to see what slaves we are to bygone times,--to Death, if we give

the matter the right word!"

"But I do not see it," observed Phoebe.

"For example, then," continued Holgrave: "a dead man, if he happens to


have made a will, disposes of wealth no longer his own; or, if he die

intestate, it is distributed in accordance with the notions of men much

longer dead than he. A dead man sits on all our judgment-seats; and

living judges do but search out and repeat his decisions. We read in

dead men's books! We laugh at dead men's jokes, and cry at dead men's

pathos! We are sick of dead men's diseases, physical and moral, and die

of the same remedies with which dead doctors killed their patients! We

worship the living Deity according to dead men's forms and creeds.

Whatever we seek to do, of our own free motion, a dead man's icy hand

obstructs us! Turn our eyes to what point we may, a dead man's white,

immitigable face encounters them, and freezes our very heart! And we

must be dead ourselves before we can begin to have our proper influence

on our own world, which will then be no longer our world, but the world

of another generation, with which we shall have no shadow of a right to

interfere. I ought to have said, too, that we live in dead men's

houses; as, for instance, in this of the Seven Gables!"

"And why not," said Phoebe, "so long as we can be comfortable in them?"

"But we shall live to see the day, I trust," went on the artist, "when

no man shall build his house for posterity. Why should he? He might

just as reasonably order a durable suit of clothes,--leather, or

guttapercha, or whatever else lasts longest,--so that his

great-grandchildren should have the benefit of them, and cut precisely

the same figure in the world that he himself does. If each generation

were allowed and expected to build its own houses, that single change,

comparatively unimportant in itself, would imply almost every reform

which society is now suffering for. I doubt whether even our public

edifices--our capitols, state-houses, court-houses, city-hall, and

churches,--ought to be built of such permanent materials as stone or

brick. It were better that they should crumble to ruin once in twenty

years, or thereabouts, as a hint to the people to examine into and

reform the institutions which they symbolize."