On Their Permanent Records

[VISU_HEMI]Getty Images

Ernest Hemingway


It's back-to-school season—and the start of that dreaded accumulation of test scores and other data for report cards. The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at the University of Texas at Austin, has the report cards of a number of noted writers and artists in its collection. The documents offer a peek into these young minds, and in some cases, might offer a bit of solace to struggling students (author John Fowles's 1939 teacher comments range from "very weak" to "very careless"; screenwriter Paul Schrader's 1963 evaluations for Latin class include "Come on, kid" and "Poor!")

[VISU_HEMI1]Henry Ransom Center

Those "A's" on Ernest Hemingway's 1916 high-school report card may look impressive, but the A is for "accepted."

They also reveal the academic standards of an earlier era. Actress Gloria Swanson's 1929 report includes Military Record (she got an A), and photographer David Douglas Duncan's from 1927 has spots to mark grades for "conforms to the will of the majority" and "tries to prevent the spread of disease."

Here is a look at the report cards from a few well-known authors.


[VISU_MAILER]Getty Images

Norman Mailer

Henry Ransom Center

At Harvard, Norman Mailer's freshman grades were decent for English, but even better for math.

Associated Press

E.E. Cummings

[VUSI_CUMM2]Henry Ransom Center

At age 12, E.E. Cummings did excellent work in spelling and language, but only got "fair" for writing. Was it trouble with his lower and upper cases?

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