What is the best way to learn more about and really get to
know someone like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? According to American realist author and literary
critic, William Dean Howells (1837-1920), looking at a
likeness of Longfellow couldn't really give you an accurate idea of the
author's appearance and demeanor:
"All the portraits of Longfellow are
likenesses more or less bad and good, for there was something as simple in the
physiognomy as in the nature of the man. His head, after he allowed his beard
to grow and wore his hair long in the manner of elderly men, was leonine, but
mildly leonine, as the old painters conceived the lion of St. Mark. Once
Sophocles, the ex-monk of Mount Athos, so long a Greek professor at Harvard,
came in for supper, after the reading was over, and he was leonine too, but of
a fierceness that contrasted finely with Longfellow's mildness. I remember the
poet's asking him something about the punishment of impaling, in Turkey, and
his answering, with an ironical gleam of his fiery eyes, 'Unhappily, it is
obsolete.' I dare say he was not so leonine, either, as he looked."
Mr. Howells was also one of those privileged to
hear Mr. Longfellow recite his own works in progress at the Dante Club:
"When Longfellow read verse, it was with a
hollow, with a mellow resonant murmur, like the note of some deep-throated
horn. His voice was very lulling in quality, and at the Dante Club it used to
have early effect with an old scholar who sat in a cavernous armchair at the
corner of the fire, and who drowsed audibly in the soft tone and the gentle
heat. The poet had a fat terrier who wished always to be present at the
meetings of the Club, and he commonly fell asleep at the same moment with that
dear old scholar, so that when they began to make themselves heard in concert,
one could not tell which it was that most took our thoughts from the text of
the Paradiso. When the duet opened, Longfellow would look up with an arch
recognition of the fact, and then go gravely on to the end of the canto. At
the close he would speak to his friend and lead him out to supper as if he had
not seen or heard anything amiss."
More of Mr. Howells' detailed recollections of
the times he spent in the company of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are available
to you freely on Project
Gutenberg and will greatly aid you in expanding your knowledge of 19th
century literary figures, since Mr. Howells was acquainted with many
other literary figures, and was also a good friend of Mark Twain.
got his degree from Bowdoin College (1825).
Hawthorne got his degree from Bowdoin too (1825).
Pierce, 14th President of the United States, got his degree
from Bowdoin (1824).
Stowe, who later married Harriet Beecher, at which time she became a
Stowe, also got his degree from Bowdoin (1824).
friend and agent, Samuel Ward was the brother of Julia Ward Howe
uncle of Julia's daughter, poet Laura E.
met Charles Dickens in America in 1842 and they became
friends. Longfellow visited Dickens in London later that same
year, and stayed at Dickens' home at Devonshire Terrace, Dickens
took Longfellow on a tour of the London slums. Longfellow visited
Dickens in England again in 1856 and 1868.
Hawthorne and Poe: A Collective Look at Their Lives