In 1828, three years after graduating from Bowdoin College, Hawthorne published his first romance, “Fanshawe.” It was issued at Boston by Marsh & Capen, but made little or no impression on the public. The motto on the title-page of the original was from Southey: “Wilt thou go on with me?”
Afterwards, when he had struck into the vein of fiction that came to be known as distinctively his own, he attempted to suppress this youthful work, and was so successful that he obtained and destroyed all but a few of the copies then extant.
Some twelve years after his death it was resolved, in view of the interest manifested in tracing the growth of his genius from the beginning of his activity as an author, to revive this youthful romance; and the reissue of “Fanshawe” was then made.
Little biographical interest attaches to it, beyond the fact that Mr. Longfellow found in the descriptions and general atmosphere of the book a decided suggestion of the situation of Bowdoin College, at Brunswick, Maine, and the life there at the time when he and Hawthorne were both undergraduates of that institution.
Professor Packard, of Bowdoin College, who was then in charge of the study of English literature, and has survived both of his illustrious pupils, recalls Hawthorne’s exceptional excellence in the composition of English, even at that date (1821–1825); and it is not impossible that Hawthorne intended, through the character of Fanshawe, to present some faint projection of what he then thought might be his own obscure history. Even while he was in college, however, and meditating perhaps the slender elements of this first romance, his fellow-student Horatio Bridge, whose “Journal of an African Cruiser” he afterwards edited, recognized in him the possibilities of a writer of fiction — a fact to which Hawthorne alludes in the dedicatory Preface to “The Snow–Image.”
G. P. L.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51