Notes from the Archives: Longfellowiana

by Nancy Noble, MHS archivist/cataloger

As you can imagine, we have quite of a bit of material in our library related to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, given that the Maine Historical Society maintains his boyhood home. A gem has recently been acquired and catalogued: a framed item which contains a portrait of Longfellow, as well as one of his friend Louis Agassiz, a Swiss-American zoologist, glaciologist, and geologist.

Between these two portraits are letters between the two of them. While not necessarily giving insight worthy of academic interest, they do show some of the charm of the day, when personal handwritten notes were sent to extend invitations.

Longfellow’s letter to Agassiz, dated June 4, 1861, states: “My dear Agassiz, Will you dine with me on Thursday next at 5 o’clock to meet W. Macintosh from London? Yours ever, Henry W. Longfellow.”

The letter of June 17th (no date) from Agassiz states: “My dear Longfellow, I had intended to call upon you last night to ask you to dine with me next Tuesday t.i. tomorrow, to meet the [?] minister, but the rain prevented me. Pray come if you can. We dine at 5 ocl. Ever truly your friend, L. Agassiz.”

In this day and age of social networking, how refreshing to read simple notes between two friends, no matter how famous they were in their day, as well as the years to come.

For more on Longfellow treasures at the Maine Historical Library search our Minerva database for author or subject: Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882.

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