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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Poetry Friday--Happy Birthday, Mr. Longfellow!

On this day in 1807, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine. He lived a good portion of his life in a big yellow house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The site, now a national park, is known as Longfellow House--Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site.
Longfellow House--Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site preserves the home of Henry W. Longfellow, one of the world’s foremost 19th century poets. The house also served as headquarters for General George Washington during the Siege of Boston, July 1775 - April 1776. In addition to its rich history, the site offers unique opportunities to explore 19th century literature and arts.

Longfellow is known primarily for his poems, "Tales of a Wayside Inn, The Landlord's Tale: Paul Revere's Ride" (better known as "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere"), "The Song of Hiawatha," and "The Village Blacksmith," among others (all found in The Complete Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [811.3 LON]).

His poems told stories that held their readers and listeners enthralled. "Paul Revere's Ride" begins with these lines:
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

We have in our collection, a small volume titled, Dear Mr. Longfellow: Letters to and from the Children's Poet, by Sydelle Pearl [811.3 PEA].
During his lifetime, Henry received over six thousand letters from relatives, friends, and strangers who enjoyed reading his poetry. His poems were read, recited, and sung in schools and homes across the United States of America. They were translated into different languages and known thoughout the world. Between the years 1880 and 1882, when he was seventy-three to seventy-five years old, he received 786 birthday greetings, many of them from children.

So, on this, his 208th birthday, here's one of the birthday letters (admittedly a belated birthday letter):
Bangor March 5 1882

Dear Mr Longfellow

I thought I would write you a letter why I did not write to you on your birthday was because I heard you were sick first I must tell you my name it is Charlotte Roberts daughter of General Charles W Roberts Our teacher put on the blackboard that it was your 75th birthday I am very fond of your poems especially the wreck of the Hesperus The rainy day is another one which I am very fond of. It was my cat's birthday yesterday he was five years old I wish you could see him his name is Buff he is yellow and white O he is so dear to me I have seen your house though I have not seen you You know that piece of poetry you wrote about the ropewalk is it that one at Castine if it is that one I know all about it. My little sister Jenny want me to say something about her she has a dog named Gyp. I think I must close now please answer this letter

Your New friend Charlotte
Charlotte also added her "Adress" at the bottom.

Dear Mr. Longfellow is a book to take your time with. The author places facts and concepts in context for a 21st century reader.

Some of the letters found in the book are housed at Harvard's Houghton Library. In browsing through the Houghton's online offerings, I came upon this:

Happy Birthday, Mr. Longfellow!

There's plenty more to celebrate this week, not the least of which is we're one day closer to SPRING!. The Poetry Friday posts are being rounded up by Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe!


  1. Wonderful post. Enjoyed visiting Longfellow's house in Portland :). Love Charlotte's letter.

    1. Thanks, Jama. Charlotte's lack of punctuation, though...

  2. Happy birthday, indeed! My favorite Longfellow poem is The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls -- possibly because it's a favorite of my father's, and he's the one who introduced me to it. It always makes me slow down and breathe... and feel more peaceful. Thank you! Adding visiting his house to my bucket list (hubby and I will be out there in 2016!).

    1. You should visit his house in Cambridge. It's just a short walk from Harvard Square.

  3. Sometimes I think about how poets, authors, and playwrights commemorate people so much better than almost anything else can. Isn't Longfellow the reason we know about Paul Revere?
    I love that children sent him birthday cards.