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On Hawthorne's life in Salem after his graduation from Bowdoin

On Hawthorne's life in Salem after his graduation from Bowdoin in 1825, from Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times by James R. Mellow pp. 36-40 (courtesy of the author and Johns Hopkins University Press

"On leaving Bowdoin, Hawthorne entered upon what he termed his 'long seclusion,' a decade in which he served his apprenticeship as a writer immured behind the family walls. Much of his boyhood and youth had been spent away from Salem; as a consequence, he had few acquaintances and friends there. 'I doubt whether so much as twenty people in the town were aware of my existence,' he remembered' (36).

In later years, he was to be of two minds about his Salem life, uncertain whether it should be construed as 'fortune or misfortune.' At times, he viewed it simply as a very tolerable period, one in which he 'seemed cheerful and enjoyed the very best bodily health.' His lengthy seclusion had neither made him 'melancholy or misanthrophic,' nor had it unfitted him for 'the bustle of life.' At such moments, he was inclined to trust the instinct that had taught him the disciplines of solitude (36).

On other occasions, however, he viewed those Salem years as a form of limbo, a long and weary imprisonment (36)…..Ebe Hawthorne, recalling those years, maintained, 'It was only after his return to Salem and when he felt as if he could not get away from there and was conscious of being utterly unlike everyone else in the place that he began to withdraw into himself' (37).

…During his Salem years, Hawthorne 'read endlessly all sorts of good and good-for-nothing books.' Although he had the use of Aunt Mary's library card, Elizabeth remembered that it was one of her brother's 'peculiarities' that he would never visit the Salem Athenaeum for himself, 'nor look over the catalogue to select a book, nor indeed do anything but find fault with it; so that it was left entirely t me to provide him with reading.' If he claimed to have little interest in contemporary history, Hawthorne nonetheless read histories of New England; the annals of Boston, Scituate, and Plymouth, and Felt's Annals of Salem, are among the books withdrawn for him during these years" (40).




Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/12016/


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