Notes from the Archives by Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist & Cataloger
The sitting room once held Stephen Longfellow’s law office. Stephen (1776-1849), the father of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, used a sideboard-bookcase, which had a center drawer that folded down to form a writing space. It was the books in this bookcase that I cataloged this winter. I assumed they would be dry and dull law books, but to my delight and surprise I found more books associated with the family, which give more insight into the Longfellows.
Granted, many of these books did belong to Stephen, and had to do with law, and his work as a legislator. But other Longfellow family members make their appearance, by signing some of the books. These include…
-Stephen Longfellow (1805-1850). A teenaged Stephen doodled men’s profiles, ships, and a dog in ink on the endpages of The Elements of Greek Grammar.
-Elizabeth Wadsworth Longfellow (1808-1829). Elizabeth died at the age of 20, so it’s wonderful to have evidence of her life, with some of her textbooks in the house.
-Anne Longfellow Pierce (1810-1901). Although most of Anne’s books are in her bedroom, a few of them are also in this book case. They include poetry, fiction, and devotional writings.
-Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow (1814-1901). Elements of Chemistry by Edward Turner (1830) has an inscription by Alexander, dated 1831, when he was acting as secretary for his uncle Alexander during a tour of duty in the Pacific, off the coast of Chile. He later became a surveyor, and worked for the U.S. Coast Survey.
-Mary Longfellow Greenleaf (1816-1902). Mary signed several of the books, including textbooks, probably used by her at the Portland Female Academy.
-Samuel Longfellow (1819-1892). Samuel gave his sister Mary Yarrow Revisited: And Other Poems (1835) by William Wordsworth.
-Mary Potter Longfellow (1812-1835). One of the most poignant books in the house is Mary Potter’s Bible. It was given to her in 1819 by her cousin George Chase, three days before his death, “as a memento of his affectionate love.” Mary was 7 years old. In between the Old Testament and the New Testament is the Potter family genealogy. Mary’s husband, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, added the dates of their marriage in 1831 and her death in 1835. Mary died in Rotterdam from a miscarriage, when she and Henry were touring Europe.
-Fanny Appleton Longfellow (1817-1861). Gems of Sacred Poetry (1841) is inscribed: “Anne L. Pierce 1845, from her sister Fanny, with much love.” Fanny Appleton Longfellow was the second wife of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, therefore, Fanny’s “sister-in-law.”
-Anne Sophia Longfellow Balkam (born in 1818). Anne Sophia, gave her cousins Mary and Anne Longfellow books as gifts. She was the only child of Captain Samuel Longfellow (1789-1818), Stephen Longfellow’s (1776-1849) younger brother. She inherited part of the estate of her grandfather Stephen Longfellow (1750-1824). Although she lived outside of Portland during most of her girlhood, she corresponded with and visited her Portland cousins. She was a bridesmaid at Mary Longfellow’s wedding to James Greenleaf in 1839.
-Mary King Longfellow (1852-1945). Mary, the daughter of Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry’s brother, owned The Child’s Matins and Vespers (1853).
-Henry’s great grandfather, Stephen Longfellow (1728-1790). Stephen owned a book called Essays Upon Field-Husbandry in New-England, which is inscribed on the front: “This book belonged to Stephen Longfellow the School Master, see his autograph on outer cover.” Stephen Longfellow was Falmouth’s first schoolmaster and filled many important civic offices.
-George Wadsworth. George is the lone “Wadsworth” in this group. He was possibly Henry’s uncle, the brother of Henry’s mother Zilpah. George may have owned a French dictionary in the book case, which was later owned by his brother-in-law Stephen, and niece Mary.
Another Wadsworth, however, can be found in this collection, by association. Abel Bowen’s The Naval Monument (1816) is inscribed: “Reuben Goff, Charlestown, Mass.” Reuben Goff was in the navy yard in Charlestown more than forty years. He made models, including one of the bridge from Charlestown to Boston. He was considered one of the finest workmen in wood, and when he died was at the head in one of the departments in the yard. What’s the connection to the Wadsworth and Longfellow families?
Some of the books have a connection to Henry himself, some from his student days at Portland Academy and Bowdoin College, as well as his professor days at Bowdoin. And not only Henry, but his brothers Stephen and Alexander, who also attended, and his father Stephen, an overseer and trustee of Bowdoin College. Henry used a Latin dictionary at the age of 13 when a student at Portland Academy. Apparently this dictionary was also used by Samuel, his brother.
Most charming is a book written in Spanish and inscribed by Henry to his brother Alexander: “Alex. W. Longfellow, de la hermano, Enrique, Brunswick, Me. 1830.” Alexander attended Bowdoin College in 1829, and for a while stayed with his brother Henry and his first wife Mary Storer Potter. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a professor of modern languages at Bowdoin – during his years teaching at the college, he translated textbooks in French, Italian and Spanish; his first published book was in 1833, a translation of the poetry of medieval Spanish poet Jorge Manrique. This book, by Garcilasco de la Vega, a Spanish poet, may have been inscribed by Henry (“Enrique”) to his brother Alexander.
Several of the books, including textbooks, were signed by “T. G. Kimball.” Thomas G. Kimball of Monmouth was a student at Bowdoin around 1835, and possibly a student of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
There is also a pamphlet entitled Acts Relative to Bowdoin College and the Standing Rules and Orders of the Overseers of the College, printed in 1826, which is inscribed: “S. Longfellow, 1831.” This may have been Stephen, father of Henry, as he was an overseer of the college from 1811-1817, and a trustee from 1817-1836.
One of the oddest finds is a book printed in 1830, which has the inscription: “Presented to his Majesty Louis Philippe, King of the French, by the Editor.” It is also inscribed, in different and later handwriting: “From the family of A. W. Longfellow.” This may have been Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, brother of Henry. Louis Philippe (1773-1850) was the French King from 1830 to 1848 as the leader of the Orleanist party. He was sworn in as King Louis-Philippe I on August 9, 1830. The book, The Debates, Resolutions, and Other Proceedings, in Convention, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution…was collected by Jonathan Elliot. One can only surmise at the connections.
The most exciting find of the project was to come across a “Scherenschnitte,” or scissor-cutting, by Martha Honeywell, lying loosely in Gems of Sacred Literature (1841). The book is inscribed: “Anne L. Pierce from her brother Henry, Jan. 1, 1845.” Martha Ann Honeywell, (about 1787-after 1848), was an itinerant silhouette artist who was born without hands and had only three toes on one foot. She cut paper for her silhouettes and profiles by holding the scissors in her teeth, using her toes for steadiness and guidance. The cutting is signed by Martha Honeywell and may have been collected by Anne from a performance by Honeywell who appeared at one time in Portland and in Boston. The scissor-cutting is now housed in the museum.
To learn more about these books you can search our Minerva catalog (Dewey Call Number Search) for W-L. This will bring up all the books in the Wadsworth Longfellow House, including the books in Anne Longfellow Pierce’s bedroom (see blog Part 1), and the sitting room. It also includes books that originally were in the house but are now located in the Brown Research Library.