The House of the Seven Gables (Preface, page 1 of 4)


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When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that
he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and
material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume had
he professed to be writing a Novel. The latter form of composition is
presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible,
but to the probable and ordinary course of man's experience. The
former--while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to
laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from
the truth of the human heart--has fairly a right to present that truth
under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer's own choosing or
creation. If he think fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical
medium as to bring out or mellow the lights and deepen and enrich the
shadows of the picture. He will be wise, no doubt, to make a very
moderate use of the privileges here stated, and, especially, to mingle
the Marvelous rather as a slight, delicate, and evanescent flavor, than
as any portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the
public. He can hardly be said, however, to commit a literary crime
even if he disregard this caution.

In the present work, the author has proposed to himself--but with what
success, fortunately, it is not for him to judge--to keep undeviatingly
within his immunities. The point of view in which this tale comes
under the Romantic definition lies in the attempt to connect a bygone
time with the very present that is flitting away from us. It is a
legend prolonging itself, from an epoch now gray in the distance, down
into our own broad daylight, and bringing along with it some of its
legendary mist, which the reader, according to his pleasure, may either
disregard, or allow it to float almost imperceptibly about the
characters and events for the sake of a picturesque effect. The
narrative, it may be, is woven of so humble a texture as to require
this advantage, and, at the same time, to render it the more difficult
of attainment.

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