Longfellow At Home and In Print

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time

from Henry Longfellow, "The Psalm of Life" (1838)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was one of the best known 19th century American poets, a New Englander who traveled widely in Europe and knew a dozen languages, a Harvard professor, and the country's first professional poet. His fame grew until it took on a life of its own, and he was revered and beloved to a degree few poets have been before or since.

Although his reputation declined precipitously after his death in 1882, we invite you to take a fresh look at his poetic and historical significance - but also at the home and family that influenced Longfellow throughout his life.

 
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Duration:
4 minutes, 36 seconds

Ranger Kate discusses Henry Longfellow's rise as America's preeminent 19th century poet, as well as his family life and literary circle.

 
A 19th century French porcelain inkwell owned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Henry Longfellow Collections Highlight

Among the multiple inkwells on Henry W. Longfellow’s study desk is the one pictured here. Made of green and white porcelain with floral and gilt decoration, the inkwell features an ingenious adjustable ceramic block that when lowered into the ink reservoir via the brass screw-top mechanism, raises the level of ink in the dipping portion. It also has three small receptacles meant to act as pen or quill holders.

According to Longfellow’s brother and biographer Samuel Longfellow, this inkwell was the poet’s favorite, and the only one on his desk that he actually used, the others being gifts from a friend. Samuel Longfellow wrote of Henry’s inkwell “His own was of French china, with a screw-top for raising or lowering the ink.” The inkwell is visible in several photographs taken of the study table in the 1870s, during Henry’s lifetime. Learn more about it on our Object of the Month page.
 
Bust-length portrait of Henry Longfellow with white hair and beard

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The beloved American poet made Cambridge his home for more than 45 years.

Full-length photograph of woman standing in floor-length dress

Fanny Longfellow

Henry Longfellow's wife was his domestic and literary partner and an astute observer of antebellum American society.

 

Explore Longfellow's Home, Friends, and Family

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    Last updated: November 2, 2021

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