In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network

Longfellow: Early Years

This Exhibit Contains 23 Items
1
Silhouette of Zilpah and Stephen Longfellow

Silhouette of Zilpah and Stephen Longfellow

Item 4123 info
Maine Historical Society

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had close ties to American historical events; his ancestors played significant roles in the development of the country.

His father, Stephen Longfellow (1776-1849), was the namesake of two generations of Portland educators and civic officers.

Stephen Longfellow was a Harvard-educated lawyer who lived by his family's ethic of social responsibility and civic duty.

Stephen Longfellow served in the Massachusetts and Maine state legislatures and in the United States Congress (1823-1825), and was a founder and officer of many of Maine's early educational, benevolent, and cultural institutions.


2
Zilpah Wadsworth sampler, Portland, 1786

Zilpah Wadsworth sampler, Portland, 1786

Item 5545 info
Maine Historical Society

Zilpah Wadsworth Longfellow (1778-1851) was a cultured woman of wit and liberal religious conviction.

She was a direct descendant of Plymouth's John and Priscilla Mullins Alden.


3
Silhouette of Peleg Wadsworth

Silhouette of Peleg Wadsworth

Item 136 info
Maine Historical Society

Zilpah's father, Peleg Wadsworth, was a Revolutionary War hero and comrade-at-arms with George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette.

He served seven terms in the United States Congress (1792-1806) when the American government was being formed.


4
Peleg Wadsworth's Pistol

Peleg Wadsworth's Pistol

Item 11144 info
Maine Historical Society

Wadsworth became commander of all the American troops in the District of Maine in 1780.

The British captured him at his home in Thomaston in 1781. He later escaped from the prison at Bagaduce (Castine).


5
Bill for the birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Portland, 1807

Bill for the birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Portland, 1807

Item 12370 info
Maine Historical Society

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, born February 27, 1807, was named for his mother's brother, Lieutenant Henry Wadsworth of the U.S. Navy, who served on the U.S.S. Constitution and died a hero at the Battle of Tripoli in 1804.

Lt. Wadsworth served with Commodore Edward Preble, a Portland neighbor who is known as the "father of the U.S. Navy."

The bill for Longfellow's birth is from Dr. Shirley Erving, the attending physician.


6
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow birthplace, Portland, 1896

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow birthplace, Portland, 1896

Item 4122 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow's parents spent the winter of 1807 at the home of his father's sister, Abigail, while her husband, Capt. Samuel Stephenson, a shipmaster, was at sea.

The house, which faced the harbor, stood on Fore Street, then a fashionable part of Portland.

In later years the house where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born was a tenement occupied by Irish families.

During that period, it is said a Portland schoolteacher asked her class, "Can you tell me where the poet Longfellow was born?"

A small boy answered, "Yes'm, in Patsy Connor's bedroom."

The house was torn down in 1955.


7
Maine State House in 1820

Maine State House in 1820

Item 14660 info
Maine Historical Society and Maine State Museum

Longfellow recalled in youthful experience in Portland, "the beautiful town...seated by the sea" in his poem, "My Lost Youth," remembering his play in Deering's Woods and the tree-lined streets where he walked to school or to visit the shops of local artisans.

The "black wharves" of Portland's waterfront, where merchant vessels came and went, gave him an early awareness of the wider world.

This is a rare view of Maine's first State House (far right), built in 1820 at the corner of Congress and Myrtle streets. The brick building beside it was the county Court House.

The brick building with a tower at left is Portland Academy where Longfellow studied.


8
Graves of the Captains, 1876

Graves of the Captains, 1876

Item 14868 info
Maine Historical Society

In the same poem, "My Lost Youth," Longfellow remembered "the sea-fight far away" and the dead captains "In their graves, o'er looking the tranquil bay."

The poem refers to the battle that took place on Sept. 5, 1813, during the War of 1812, in which the United States brig Enterprise and the British brig Boxer met in battle off the coast of Maine.

The commander of each vessel was killed and the dead captains were taken to Portland to be buried side by side at Eastern Cemetery.


9
Wadsworth-Longfellow house, ca. 1904

Wadsworth-Longfellow house, ca. 1904

Item 18924 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow was an infant when his family came to live in this house, which his grandfather Peleg Wadsworth built in 1785-1786.

The Longfellows moved into the house when Henry was a young child and he returned to the house to visit throughout his life.

Longfellow's mother encouraged his youthful taste for rhyme and history. His first published poem, "The Battle of Lovell's Pond," appeared in the Portland Gazette in 1820 when Longfellow was 13.

Longfellow's sister, Anne Longfellow Pierce, bequeathed the house to the Maine Historical Society in 1901 as a memorial to her brother.


10
Bowdoin College Tuition Bill for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1823

Bowdoin College Tuition Bill for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1823

Item 12371 info
Maine Historical Society

After his graduation from Portland Academy, Longfellow entered Bowdoin College.

He was only 14 when he passed the entrance exam for Bowdoin.

He and his brother Stephen enrolled at the same time (in 1821), although due to Henry's young age they both remained in Portland for their first year.


11
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Peucinian Society medal

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Peucinian Society medal

Item 11466 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow, as an underclassman at Bowdoin, belonged to the Peucinian Society, which was organized in 1805 to "promote literature and friendship."

Members debated current issues, wrote prose and poetry, and established a library.


12
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Phi Beta Kappa key, 1825

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Phi Beta Kappa key, 1825

Item 11465 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Bowdoin, an organization formed in 1776 to honor high scholastic achievement.


13
Silhouettes of the Famous Class of 1825, Bowdoin College

Silhouettes of the Famous Class of 1825, Bowdoin College

Item 13295 info
Maine Historical Society

Henry and Stephen Longfellow graduated with the "famous" class of 1825, which included author Nathaniel Hawthorne, author and educator John S.C. Abbott, and artist Franklin Mellen.


14
Henry W. Longfellow's Student Lodgings in Goettingen, Germany, 1908

Henry W. Longfellow's Student Lodgings in Goettingen, Germany, 1908

Item 12228 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1825, the trustees of Bowdoin College resolved to create a chair in the new field of modern languages, only the fourth such academic position in the U.S.

They offered the position to Longfellow, the 18-year-old graduate, on the condition that he go to Europe at his own expense to study language.

He traveled to France, Spain, Italy and Germany from 1826-1829 and returned to teach at Bowdoin until 1835.


15
Facsimile of sketch by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1829

Facsimile of sketch by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1829

Item 12227 info
Maine Historical Society

This is a facsimile of sketch entitled "My book and friend," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1829.

Longfellow made the sketch in Goettingen, Germany, where he spent some time during his travels studying at the university there.


16
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ca. 1829

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ca. 1829

Item 4119 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow was a translator of great technical skill. His translations of poetry from a dozen languages included Ovid, Virgil, Goethe, Heine, and Dante as well as other authors who were unfamiliar to American readers.

With his translations and his own poetry, which is rich with allusions to the legends and stories of Europe, Longfellow connected his readers to their cultural heritage even as he was creating literary myths from America's own history.


17
Mary Storer Potter Longfellow

Mary Storer Potter Longfellow

Item 4115 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1831, following his return from Europe and after he had begun his duties at Bowdoin College, Longfellow married 19-year-old Mary Potter, a Portland neighbor.

He valued family life, believed in self-restraint and subordination of the ego, and lived by the liberal moral convictions of his Unitarian faith.

In 1834, before taking up his new duties as the Smith Chair of Modern Languages at Harvard, Longfellow and his wife traveled to Europe so he could improve his German language skills.

While there, Mary Potter Longfellow died as a result of a miscarriage.


18
Print of Henry W. Longfellow from Graham's Magazine, May 1843

Print of Henry W. Longfellow from Graham's Magazine, May 1843

Item 15909 info
Longfellow National Historic Site

Longfellow wrote that he suffered "a void in my heart -- a constant feeling of sorrow and bereavement" following his wife's death.

He continued to travel and study in Europe, however. Before returning to America, he met and traveled with the family of Boston merchant Nathan Appleton.

Appleton's daughter Frances "Fanny" Appleton would become Longfellow's second wife in 1843.


19
Henry W. Longfellow and daughter Edith in front of Craigie House, 1878

Henry W. Longfellow and daughter Edith in front of Craigie House, 1878

Item 15912 info
Longfellow National Historic Site

As a young, single professor at Harvard, Longfellow rented rooms in the historic Vassal-Craigie House.

Following his marriage to Fanny Appleton, Craigie House became their home, a wedding gift from her wealthy father.

Today, the house that was Longfellow's home for the remainder of his life is a National Park Service shrine to the poet.


20
F.A. Longfellow and sons, ca. 1849

F.A. Longfellow and sons, ca. 1849

Item 15918 info
Longfellow National Historic Site

Longfellow's contemporaries considered his family life in Craigie House to be idyllic.

Between 1844 and 1855, the Longfellows had six children: Charles, Ernest, Fanny, Alice, Edith, and Anne Allegra.

Despite the death of little Fanny before her second birthday and the usual life problems of sickness and other stress, the loving, economically comfortable and cultured Longfellows set a high standard for family life.


21
Frances Elizabeth Appleton Longfellow

Frances Elizabeth Appleton Longfellow

Item 15479 info
Longfellow National Historic Site

The accidental death of Frances Appleton Longfellow, who died in 1861 from terrible burns suffered when her dress caught on fire when she was sealing keepsake packets of her daughters' curls, left many struggling to reconcile the tragedy with what they knew of Longfellow and the family.


22
Frances Appleton Longfellow by Rowse, 1859

Frances Appleton Longfellow by Rowse, 1859

Item 15474 info
Longfellow National Historic Site

Hearing the news, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Longfellow's colleague and friend, wrote to the Boston publisher James Fields, "How does Longfellow bear this terrible misfortune? I cannot reconcile this calamity to my sense of fitness.

"One would think that there ought to have been no deep sorrow in the life of a man like him.... I shall be afraid ever to meet him again; he cannot again be the man I have known."

Longfellow himself wrote, "[I] thank God hourly ... for the beautiful life we led together."


23
Longfellow's Three Daughters

Longfellow's Three Daughters

Item 15475 info
Longfellow National Historic Site

Longfellow found escape from his grief in his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy.

As his translation progressed, he regularly invited his literary friends to his home to critique the work.

In subsequent years, Craigie House became a meeting place for the literati of America and Europe -- James Russell Lowell, John Greenleaf Whittier, William Dean Howells, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Anthony Trollope, John Ruskin -- and a mecca for his readers.


This Exhibit Contains 23 Items