Lowell was but fifteen years old when he entered college in the class which graduated in 1838. He was a reader, as so many of his fellows were, and the letters which he wrote shortly after leaving college show how intent he had been on making acquaintance with the best things in literature. He began also to scribble verse, and he wrote both poems and essays for college magazines. His class chose him their poet for Class Day, and he wrote his poem; but he was careless about conforming to college regulations respecting attendance at morning prayers; and for this was suspended from college the last term of his last year, and not allowed to come back to read his poem. “I have heard in later years,” says Dr. Hale, “what I did not know then, that he rode down from Concord in a canvas-covered wagon, and peeped out through the chinks of the wagon to see the dancing around the tree. I fancy he received one or two visits from his friends in the wagon; but in those times it would have been treason to speak of this.” He was sent to Concord for his rustication, and so passed a few weeks of his youth amongst scenes dear to every lover of American letters.
After his graduation he set about the study of law, and for a short time even was a clerk in a counting-room; but his bent was strongly toward literature. There was at that time no magazine of commanding importance in America, and young men were given to starting magazines with enthusiasm and very little other capital. Such a one was the Boston Miscellany, launched by Nathan Hale, Lowell’s college friend, and for this Lowell wrote gaily. It lived a year, and shortly after Lowell himself, with Robert Carter, essayed The Pioneer in 1843. It lived just three months; but in that time printed contributions by Lowell, Hawthorne, Whittier, Story, Poe, and Dr. Parsons,—a group which it would be hard to match in any of the little magazines that hop across the world’s path to-day. Lowell had already collected, in 1841, the poems which he had written and sometimes contributed to periodicals into a volume entitled A Year’s Life; but he retained