Hundreds of pilgrims annually visit a house in Salem, belonging to one

branch of the Ingersoll family of that place, which is stoutly

maintained to have been the model for Hawthorne's visionary dwelling.

Others have supposed that the now vanished house of the identical

Philip English, whose blood, as we have already noticed, became mingled

with that of the Hawthornes, supplied the pattern; and still a third

building, known as the Curwen mansion, has been declared the only

genuine establishment. Notwithstanding persistent popular belief, the

authenticity of all these must positively be denied; although it is

possible that isolated reminiscences of all three may have blended with


the ideal image in the mind of Hawthorne. He, it will be seen, remarks

in the Preface, alluding to himself in the third person, that he trusts

not to be condemned for "laying out a street that infringes upon

nobody's private rights... and building a house of materials long in

use for constructing castles in the air." More than this, he stated to

persons still living that the house of the romance was not copied from

any actual edifice, but was simply a general reproduction of a style of

architecture belonging to colonial days, examples of which survived

into the period of his youth, but have since been radically modified or

destroyed. Here, as elsewhere, he exercised the liberty of a creative

mind to heighten the probability of his pictures without confining

himself to a literal description of something he had seen.

While Hawthorne remained at Lenox, and during the composition of this

romance, various other literary personages settled or stayed for a time

in the vicinity; among them, Herman Melville, whose intercourse

Hawthorne greatly enjoyed, Henry James, Sr., Doctor Holmes, J. T.

Headley, James Russell Lowell, Edwin P. Whipple, Frederika Bremer, and

J. T. Fields; so that there was no lack of intellectual society in

the midst of the beautiful and inspiring mountain scenery of the place.

"In the afternoons, nowadays," he records, shortly before beginning the

work, "this valley in which I dwell seems like a vast basin filled with

golden Sunshine as with wine;" and, happy in the companionship of his

wife and their three children, he led a simple, refined, idyllic life,

despite the restrictions of a scanty and uncertain income. A letter

written by Mrs. Hawthorne, at this time, to a member of her family,

gives incidentally a glimpse of the scene, which may properly find a

place here. She says: "I delight to think that you also can look

forth, as I do now, upon a broad valley and a fine amphitheater of

hills, and are about to watch the stately ceremony of the sunset from

your piazza.