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In A Brown Study, 19 C

October 27, 2016

“O, fear not in a world like this,/ and thou shall know ‘ere long,/ know how sublime a thing it is,/ to suffer and be strong.”

While publishing his textbooks in Boston, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had made some friends from Harvard who conspired to find a place for him on staff. Harvard President Quincy offered him Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard if he would spend a year or two abroad at his own expense. His wife did not want to go, but she was encouraged to take two female friends with them to help her pass the time while he studied. They went to Denmark and Sweden, Holland and Germany. In Rotterdam Mary took ill and died. Henry was filled with grief and guilt.

With less enthusiasm, Longfellow completed his study, but in Switzerland he found new friends, the family of Nathan Appleton, a prosperous Boston merchant with two beautiful young daughters who invited him to join them for a week of travel. When they parted, the younger daughter, Fanny, wrote in her diary, “I miss Mr. L considerably.” Mr. L was smitten with the 17 year old girl.

Longfellow began his professorship at Harvard in 1836, lecturing, teaching, writing, and translating Dante. His friend from Bowdoin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, sent him a copy of his book, Twice Told Tales, which Henry reviewed and praised, the work coming “from the hand of a man of genius.”Thus continued a lasting friendship. Henry published several longer poems, “The Wreck of the Hesperus”and “The Village Blacksmith.”His poetry sold at a phenomenal rate, making him one of the leading poets of the day.

Fanny Appleton was coy, but Henry pursued her for seven years, and they were married in 1843.  A son, Charlie was born in 1844, son, Ernest in 1845, a daughter. Fanny in 1847. The following year, daughter Fanny died. The Longfellows were devastated, but soon two daughters, Alice and Edith  filled the home. The home was a large historic house, The Craigie House, where George Washington had lived when the British had Boston under siege, and where Henry had formerly boarded. Henry enjoyed his wife (his soul-mate) and his children. Daughter Anne Allegra was born in 1855, and in 1859 he wrote “The Children’s Hour” dedicated to his daughters, “Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra, and Edith with the golden hair.”

Longfellow retired from teaching at Harvard in 1854 in order to have more time to write and translated the classics. The successes of “Hiawatha” and “The Courtship of Miles Standish were astonishing. In 1880 he climbed the tower of the old North Church and began writing “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

“One if by land, two if by sea, and I on the opposite shore shall be –” (to be contd.)


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