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Hawthorne at Salem

Biographical Information

Nathaniel Hawthorne at Bowdoin: Introduction

Material prepared by:
Terri Whitney, Department of English 
North Shore Community College, Danvers, MA


Silhouette of Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1825(?)
from <I>Portraits of Nathaniel Hawthorne: An Iconography</I> by Rita Gollin
Silhouette of Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1825(?) from Portraits of Nathaniel Hawthorne: An Iconography by Rita Gollin (courtesy of Northern Illinois UP)

This section of the Website focuses on Hawthorne's life at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, from 1821 to 1825.


In August, 1821, Hawthorne left for Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He never went back to Raymond, even on vacations from Bowdoin, since his mother had moved back to Salem in 1822.

The Bowdoin Hawthorne attended had only three buildings: Maine Hall, Massachusetts Hall, and the chapel. There were 38 freshmen and five faculty members when Hawthorne matriculated. The curriculum focussed on the classics and on religion, not surprising as most colleges in America were originally created to educate ministers.

Hawthorne's roommate for his freshman and sophomore year was Alfred Mason, son of a prominent Portsmouth, N.H. attorney. Mason's affluence contrasted with Hawthorne's meagre allowance from his Uncle Robert, and Hawthorne frequently wrote letters to his family that had the message, "send money." Despite being seemingly always short of funds, however, Hawthorne led an active social life. Alfred Mason introduced him to Horatio Bridge, and he also met Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Jonathan Cilley, and Franklin Pierce. Horatio Bridge and Franklin Pierce became close and lifelong friends. It was with these friends that Hawthorne gambled, drank at Ward's Tavern, smoked, and violated other college rules, sometimes getting caught and fined. The Peabody Essex Museum has a letter from Hawthorne to his mother in which he announces , "If I am again detected I shall have the honour of being suspended." Hawthorne did manage to avoid suspension, however, and graduated on September 7, 1825.