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Hawthorne at Salem

Life & Times

At Bowdoin

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.

Original Documents Related to Nathaniel Hawthorne at Bowdoin

Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  <I>Fanshawe:  A Tale.</I>
Boston:  Marsh & Capen, 1828.
Gift: Friends of the Library
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Fanshawe: A Tale. Boston: Marsh & Capen, 1828. Gift: Friends of the Library 
Fanshawe, Hawthorne's first novel, is also the earliest college novel written in America. Hawthorne based his fictional "Harley College" on Bowdoin. Published anonymously and subsequently disavowed by the author, Hawthorne attempted to suppress its distribution (his friend Horatio Bridge burned his copy at Hawthorne's request). all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
Hawthorne's copy of the Laws of Bowdoin College. 
Brunswick:  Printed by Joseph Griffin, 1824.
Gift:  In memory of Edward A. Noyes by Sidney Webb Noyes.
Hawthorne's copy of the Laws of Bowdoin College. Brunswick: Printed by Joseph Griffin, 1824. Gift: In memory of Edward A. Noyes by Sidney Webb Noyes. 
Although surnamed "Hathorne" throughout his youth and college days, these doodlings show that Hawthorne was already considering other spelling forms. Whether he ultimately added the "w" to insure the short "a" pronunciation or to return to an ancient form of the family name, as he later claimed, has never been proved. all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
\"Students Admitted into Bowdoin College.\" [Bowdoin College Matriculation Book].
"Students Admitted into Bowdoin College." [Bowdoin College Matriculation Book]. 
Hawthorne's name appears near the center of the right-hand page, reflecting the spelling of his surname that was maintained by the College throughout Hawthorne's time at Bowdoin. The Class of 1825, perhaps the College's most distinguished based on subsequent achievements, also included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Commodore Horatio Bridge, U.S. Rep. Jonathan Cilley, and popular historian J. S. C. Abbott. Hawthorne's college friend Franklin Pierce was a member of the Class of 1824. all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine, February 1823. Brunswick: J. Griffin, 1823.
Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine, February 1823. Brunswick: J. Griffin, 1823. 
These pages reveal the course of study that Hawthorne and his classmates completed during their four years at Bowdoin. all text copyright by Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
\"Constitution of [Pot]-8-O Club\" [ca. 1824].
Gift:  Leon Brooks Leavitt.
"Constitution of [Pot]-8-O Club" [ca. 1824]. Gift: Leon Brooks Leavitt. 
The document is signed by all the members of this college secret social society, including Hawthorne, and the third by-law is in Hawthorne's hand. Perhaps the emphasis on the rule that "ardent spirits shall never be introduced" suggests that it was intended to be broken; scholars have suggested that this was a dining club characterized more by its drinking than much of anything else. all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
\"Bye-Laws of the Constitution of [Pot]-8-O Club\" [ca. 1824]; Gift: Leon Brooks Leavitt.
"Bye-Laws of the Constitution of [Pot]-8-O Club" [ca. 1824]; Gift: Leon Brooks Leavitt. 
The third by-law is in Hawthorne’s hand according to records at Bowdoin College Library, Special Collections. (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
\"Preamble and first three articles of the Constitution of [Pot]-8-O Club\" [ca. 1824]; Gift: Leon Brooks Leavitt
"Preamble and first three articles of the Constitution of [Pot]-8-O Club" [ca. 1824]; Gift: Leon Brooks Leavitt
"We the undersigned subscribers being convinced that it is beneficial both to the health and understanding of man, to use vegetable diet and considering that the Potatoe is nutritious and procured with less difficulty and expence [sic] than most other vegetables, do hereby agree to form ourselves into an association under the name of the POT-8-O Club and to be governed by the following rules and regulations-- (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
\"Articles 4-8 of the Constitution of [Pot]-8-O Club\" [ca. 1824]; Gift: Leon Brooks Leavitt
"Articles 4-8 of the Constitution of [Pot]-8-O Club" [ca. 1824]; Gift: Leon Brooks Leavitt
 (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
Marriage bet between Hawthorne and Jonathan Cilley. 
Autograph document signed, Brunswick, Me., November 14, 1824.
Source unknown.
Marriage bet between Hawthorne and Jonathan Cilley. Autograph document signed, Brunswick, Me., November 14, 1824. Source unknown. 
A barrel of Madeira wine was at stake on whether Hawthorne, then a senior at Bowdoin, would remain unmarried for twelve more years. Fellow classmate Horatio Bridge agreed to hold the note and faithfully notified Cilley (then a congressman) at the appointed date that Hawthorne had won the wager. Cilley was killed in a duel before he could honor the debt; the death prompted federal legislation outlawing dueling. all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
Nathaniel Hawthorne to \"My dear sister\" [Elizabeth M. Hawthorne]. 
Autograph letter signed, Brunswick, Me., October 1, 1824.
Gift:  Leon Brooks Leavitt.
Nathaniel Hawthorne to "My dear sister" [Elizabeth M. Hawthorne]. Autograph letter signed, Brunswick, Me., October 1, 1824. Gift: Leon Brooks Leavitt. 
Hawthorne's personality, mood, and circumstance find a clear voice in this letter home, where he is at once rakish, discouraged, and impecunious. all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  \"De patribus conscriptis Romanorum.\" 
Autograph manuscript signed, [autumn 1824].
 Source unknown.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "De patribus conscriptis Romanorum." Autograph manuscript signed, [autumn 1824]. Source unknown. 
In August of his senior year, Hawthorne was assigned his part for the traditional October academic exhibition. The penciled note at the foot of his dissertation lacks attribution. all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. \"De patribus conscriptis Romanorum.\" (page 2) Autograph manuscript signed, [autumn 1824]. Source unknown.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "De patribus conscriptis Romanorum." (page 2) Autograph manuscript signed, [autumn 1824]. Source unknown. 
In August of his senior year, Hawthorne was assigned his part for the traditional October academic exhibition. The penciled note at the foot of his dissertation lacks attribution. all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
Records of the Executive Government of Bowdoin College.
Records of the Executive Government of Bowdoin College. 
These faculty minutes document disciplinary actions against students and the assignment of academic disputations. Hawthorne's name appears with some regularity beginning in his sophomore year for such infractions as "absence from recitation," "neglect of themes," "walking unnecessarily on the Sabbath," and,on May 29, 1822, "for playing cards for money." Overall, Hawthorne's deportment and academic achievement at Bowdoin were middling. all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)

Images Related to Nathaniel Hawthorne at Bowdoin

Whalebone letter opener.
Gift:  Norman Bassett.
Whalebone letter opener. Gift: Norman Bassett.
Hawthorne used this letter opener while he was surveyor at the Salem Customs House; subse-quently, he gave it to a clerk there, Zachariah Burchmore. The item eventually found its way to the College to commemorate the centennial of Hawthorne's Class of 1825. all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
Bowdoin College Campus, ca. 1823, by John G. Brown
Oil on canvas; 30 1/8 in. x 37 1/8 in. (76.52 cm x 94.3 cm)
Bowdoin College Campus, ca. 1823, by John G. Brown Oil on canvas; 30 1/8 in. x 37 1/8 in. (76.52 cm x 94.3 cm) 
With a northward view, this print reproduced from an original painting in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art shows the Bowdoin campus as it appeared during Hawthorne's student days. The gentleman in the foreground wheeling his barrow is "Uncle" Tench, who supplied several generations of Bowdoin students with gingerbread and ginger beer. He also provided Hawthorne with a model for his Uncle Venner in The House of the Seven Gables. From left to right: Massachusetts Hall, with its original cupola; Winthrop Hall (then known as New College); the original wooden chapel/library; and Maine Hall, where Hawthorne lived during his sophomore year. all text copyright Bowdoin College, 2009.  (courtesy of Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine Gift of Harold L. Berry, Class of 1901)
Nathaniel Hawthorne's Bowdoin College student portrait [ca. 1825].
Nathaniel Hawthorne's Bowdoin College student portrait [ca. 1825]. 
Typically, students sat for silhouette portraits, much as later students sat for photographic portraits, to document their student days. Multiple copies of the silhouette, produced from black paper cut on a metal dye, would be distributed or exchanged and often bound together in personalized small square volumes. For Hawthorne's "Class of 1825," silhouettes survive for all members of the class except for Horatio Bridge's and Stephen Longfellow's, for whom no silhouettes are known to exist. (caption courtesy of Bowdoin College Library, Special Collections) (courtesy of Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine)
Hawthorne plaque in sidewalk at 97 Maine Street, Brunswick, ME (2007)
Hawthorne plaque in sidewalk at 97 Maine Street, Brunswick, ME (2007)
This plaque is part of a literary arts walk created in 2007 to commemorate notable Brunswick writers. The Bowdoin website features two stories about the plaque (http://www.bowdoin.edu/news/archives/1bowdoincampus/004526.shtml and http://www.bowdoin.edu/news/archives/1bowdoincampus/003753.shtml).  (photography by David McClure)
\"Anna\" stone on Bowdoin campus
"Anna" stone on Bowdoin campus
Outside Massachusetts Hall where students would burn their analytical (hence "Anna") geometry books at the end of the semester. (photography by Terri Whitney)
Maine Hall, where Hawthorne lived while attending Bowdoin
Maine Hall, where Hawthorne lived while attending Bowdoin
A fire in Maine Hall destroyed some of the interior, and renovations have sinced altered the inside of the building so that it is no longer possible to identify the space where Hawthorne lived. (photography by Terri Whitney)
Another view of Maine Hall, where Hawthorne lived while a student at Bowdoin from 1821-1825
Another view of Maine Hall, where Hawthorne lived while a student at Bowdoin from 1821-1825
 (photography by Terri Whitney)
Chapel at Bowdoin which replaced the wooden chapel which was on campus in Hawthorne's time
Chapel at Bowdoin which replaced the wooden chapel which was on campus in Hawthorne's time
Hawthorne would have seen this chapel when he returned to Bowdoin in 1852 for a class reunion. (photography by Terri Whitney)
Fireplace in Massachusetts Hall
Fireplace in Massachusetts Hall
During Hawthorne's time, this room was used for chemistry classes and experiments; later it was used by the president for conferences. Now, in 2008, it is used by the English department. (photography by Terri Whitney)