THE faculty of Bowdoin College was respectable, ranking probably as high as that of any other young college--the time here spoken of being within the first quarter of a century of its existence.
The president had been a Congregational minister, and was a man of piety, doubtless. He was precise in dress, and his gait--whether in summer's heat or winter's cold--was always methodical, measured, and slow.
He was vigilant in securing the legal rights of the college and in promoting its material interests. He was industrious and conscientious; but his manner was precise and formal, instead of being dignified; and he inspired the average student with little respect or esteem.
Professor Cleveland, the oldest and, by far, the most distinguished member of the faculty, had few if any superiors in the country as geologist or chemist. He was as kind and genial as he was learned. He took a fatherly interest in the students who applied themselves in earnest
to the branches of study in his department, and he regarded "more in sorrow than in anger" those who failed to show a proper appreciation of their advantages in this respect. Outside his own lecture-room he had little to do with collegiate discipline, unless it were to give his voice in favor of leniency to some luckless culprit. Never was professor held in higher regard, nor could any one have inspired more kindly respect.
Professor Newman first filled the chair of Ancient Languages and afterwards that of Rhetoric and Oratory. He was courteous, refined, and scholarly; yet he was swift-footed and prompt to detect and bring to grief innocent lads enjoying their little amusements, such as lighting bonfires, smashing tutors' windows, burning powder in various ways, etc.
"Haud inexpertus loquor."
Professor Smythe, the mathematical professor, had few friends in our set. Whether from want of tact in the teacher or from inaptitude in the scholar, we usually associated the professor with the abhorred conic sections and algebraic solutions which he strove to inject into our unreceptive brains. Although recognizing his ability, we too often failed to meet his requirements. For the rest, he was learned in his specialty and
exact in the performance of his duties, and he possessed great zeal and energy withal.
Professor Upham, in our senior year, was Professor of Moral and Mental Philosophy. He was young, scholarly, gentle, and kind to the students, by all of whom he was much beloved.
Professor Packard was tutor and, afterwards, Professor of Latin. He was studious, sympathetic, and very handsome. He only of the faculty survived at the time of our class semi-centennial, and he died in 1884. Longfellow, in delivering his poem of "Morituri Salutamus" at that celebration, turned and addressed the revered professor thus:
"They are no longer here, they all are gone
Into the land of shadows--all save one.
Honor and reverence and the good repute
That follows faithful service as its fruit
Be unto him whom, living, we salute."
Thirteen of the thirty-eight graduates of the class at the time of that reunion were living, eleven of whom were present.
Rev. Dr. George B. Cheever was the class orator and Longfellow the class poet. Seated together upon the stage, the eleven gray-haired men presented a striking contrast to the young graduates before them, who, "with the sublime audacity of faith," were just starting out upon the race of life that we had so nearly run. The
veterans who had separated fifty years before, full of vigor and confidence, had returned to the once familiar scenes, and, after half a century of vicissitudes, had come to take their final leave of Bowdoin.
On the next day Rev. Dr. J. S. C. Abbott gave a history of the class in detail, correct in the main, but quite too flattering to the majority.
The class had several meetings during tlse Commencement season. The last was held on the campus, quietly and without publicity. Beneath the "Liberty Tree," with the sun shining down from a cloudless sky, the little band stood around the tree and listened reverently to a solemn benediction from Rev. Dr. Shepley, and then, with mutual wishes of "God bless you" and "Farewell," parted to meet no more on earth.
But three of the thirteen graduates survive at the present writing, in 1892. "The fatal asterisk of Death" is set against the names of the others.
Before separating we all agreed to interchange our photographs. In making the exchange, Longfellow wrote to me thus:
'CAMB., Dec'r 12, 1875.
"MY DEAR BRIDGE,--I have just had the pleasure of receiving your photograph. It is so good, it could hardly be better. I wish the one
I send you in return were as good. But that is wishing that I were a handsome man, six feet high, and we all know the vanity of human wishes.
"I was very glad that you and Mrs. Bridge were not disappointed in Songo River and its neighborhood. If "Long Pond" were called Loch Long, it would be a beautiful lake. This and Sebago are country cousins to the Westmoreland lakes in England, quite as lovely, but wanting a little more culture and good society.
"I often think with great pleasure of our meeting at Brunswick. There was less sadness about it than I had thought there would be. The present always contrives to crowd out the past and the future.
"With kindest remembrances to Mrs. Bridge,
"HENRY W. LONGFELLOW."
The whole letter is copied because--while speaking of the class reunion--the poet incidentally gives his estimate of Sebago Lake, on the borders of which Hawthorne spent a year of his lonely boyhood, and to which locality he refers when he says, "It was there I first got my cursed habit of solitude."
Hawthorne visited Brunswick but once to meet his old associates. It was in 1852--fifty years
after the founding of the college. In that year, while cruising in the Pacific, I received a letter from him, in which he says:
"I meant to have told you all about my visit to Brunswick at the recent semi-centennial celebration, but the letter has already grown to too great length. It was rather a dreary affair. Only eight of our classmates were present, and they were a set of dismal old fellows, whose heads looked as if they had been out in a pretty copious shower of snow. The whole intermediate quarter of a century vanished, and it seemed to me as if they had undergone a miserable transformation in the course of a single night, especially as I myself felt just about as young as when I graduated. They flattered me with the assurance that time had touched me tenderly, but alas! they were each a mirror in which I beheld the reflection of my own age. I did not arrive there until the public exercises were nearly over, and very luckily too, for my praises had been sounded by orator and poet, and, of course, my blushes would have been quite oppressive."
In a desultory and inartistic way I have thus endeavored to throw some additional light upon Hawthorne's college life and his surroundings at
that period. At the risk of repetition, I will add that his most marked characteristics were independence of thought and action; absolute truthfulness; loyalty to friends; abhorrence of debt; great physical as well as moral courage; and a high and delicate sense of honor.
He shrank habitually from the exhibition of his own secret opinions, and was careful to avoid infringement upon the rights of others, while thoroughly conscious of his own.
On closing our college association, we mutually pledged our friendship and exchanged parting gifts. Hawthorne's to me was a watch-seal of his father's, gold with a carnelian stone, of the shape and fashion of ninety years ago. I have treasured it carefully, and have provided that it shall go to his son at my decease.
A brass hand lies upon my desk, holding the several sheets of paper as I write. It was presented by me to Hawthorne at some time before I first went to sea in 1838; and--after his death in 1864--it was given back to me by Mrs. Hawthorne, with the information that it had been habitually used by Hawthorne to hold the loose papers on his table. It will soon go back (like the watch-seal) to one of his children.
Of my own intimacy with Hawthorne I have
hitherto said little, having been content with the mention made of it by my friend in his published writings; and I trust it will not be thought presumptuous that I have jotted down here some reminiscences that incidentally show our strong friendship, while rounding out the story of his college life.