After losing his sailor father, Nathaniel Hathorne senior, to a shipwreck when he was only four years old, all hope of having a normal life – including affording a formal education – seemed to have come dashing on the floor – until his maternal uncles, the Mannings came into the picture. Hawthorne, since then, had a much better upbringing and meant to live, and attended the small yet reputable Bowdoin college, where he harnessed his skill of composition in English and Latin. This article will highlight important timelines of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s education.
Earlier Years of Learning
Not much talk about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s first school-leaving qualification is recorded but has been well established that the author spent the majority of his childhood in Massachusetts and Maine.
As a child, Hawthorne is understood to have had a significant amount of his education at home. The author had, at a tender age, sustained a severe leg injury that didn’t allow him to move around very freely.
As a result of this, he was mostly at home and had enough time to learn to read and write by himself – through playing around with books of his age – but also through assistance from his mother and sisters.
It was from these indulgences that Hawthorne found he had a thing for reading and critical thinking – and an overwhelming conviction for higher learning. This dream, however, felt to him like it had crashed after his father passed away and life became tougher, but a move to live with his maternal uncles ensured the dream was kept alive.
The Bowdoin College (1821 – 1825)
Hawthorne moved in with his maternal uncles – The Manning Brothers – for two reasons; to ease the day-to-day financial burden from his mother and to keep his dream of going to college alive.
He enrolled into the prestigious Bowdoin university in 1821 and for the first few years of his studies, he didn’t show or prove scholastic promise – as therefore wasn’t distinguished as one of the brightest given that he performed poorly in most of his courses except in English composition – which he seamlessly excelled at.
Meeting with Influential People
Nathaniel Hawthorne might have flunked the majority of his academic works but when it came to extracurricular activities such as guild meetings, after-school clubs, and interest-based social gatherings, Hawthorne was not one to miss a date.
This was an important habit that helped him get around, connect and make friends with people who were of like minds and similar interests.
At Bowdoin gild, Hawthorne met and became friends with some very interesting people – among whom were Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who would later become a respected poet of his generation, and Franklin Pierce – who would become the 14th president of the United States.
Hawthorne’s Interest in English Composition and Hatred for Public Speaking
Nathaniel Hawthorne found his true calling following a natural flair for writing and English composition. However, he didn’t get any distinction because he wasn’t a topper given his flunking of other core subjects.
With effect to a list of subjects that Hawthorne hated, public speaking was one of them. He would miss a whole class and reject the opportunity to engage in public speaking class activities – even when selected to represent.
With more time spent learning language studies – in English composition and Latin, and examining the works and masterpieces of great writers’ past, Hawthorne soon developed the ability to think critically and analyze literary works. He then found a passion to want to become an author himself.
Notorious Years at Bowdoin
Hawthorne was a respectable student who got a fair grade and hung out with social, political, and literary intellectuals such as himself, but even he wasn’t going to stay off all the bad boy activities.
One of his most notorious records was that of the author being fined a few dollar cents for his infringing involvements in card gambling, an act supposedly popular at the time and which he fervently took an interest in.
Thankfully for the author, his good reputation preceded him, and his infringement wasn’t that severe enough to cause him a poor remark on his certificate.
Graduating Bowdoin and First Stint at Novel Writing
After four years of studying at Bowdoin (from 1821 – 1825), Hawthorne left the school an enlightened young man with greater critical and analytical thinking abilities and with a group of intellectually promising friends – whom he would be in touch with for the rest of his life.
Three years after leaving school, Hawthorne decided to test his creative writing ability. He published his first novel ‘Fanshawe’ in 1828, but the novel performed so poorly that Hawthorne hated everything about the book and sought to destroy every last piece of it as he thought that the book’s creativity was below his standards.
Twelve Years of Literary Apprenticeship
Nathaniel Hawthorne spent twelve years of the radar, self-learning and perfecting his creative writing skill. By the end of college in 1825, Hawthorne would return to his mother’s house in Salem and spend a huge part of this time alone, resigning to an old, inner chamber and only fully coming back to society by 1837.
This period of his life was transformative and went a long way to improve the knowledge he already had from school about writing and English composition – as he began learning from the best authors – both present and past – of his generation. Hawthorne dissected and absorbed the techniques and styles of their best works and, in so doing, found his voice and a unique style for his writing.
How vital were the ‘solitary years’ for Nathaniel Hawthorne and his literary career?
The twelve years after Bowdoin college, or his ‘solitary years,’ were transformative years for him as they were the years in which he found his voice and style.
Was Hawthorne a classmate of the US President?
Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, was a classmate and later close friend of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Both were so close that Mr. Pierce was the first person that confirmed Hawthorne’s death in 1864.
What kind of student was Nathaniel Hawthorne?
It’s easy to think that Nathaniel Hawthorne, for his genius reputation in literature, was an excellent student, but in reality, the author suffered from bad grades and only excelled in composition.