Chapter 9: illness and death of Mrs. LongfellowThis series of happy travelling narratives was suddenly interrupted by the following letters, now first printed, to the father of the young wife.
On the 2d of December the young husband left Rotterdam for Heidelberg. There he spent  the winter, like Paul Flemming of ‘Hyperion,’ and buried himself in ‘old dusty books.’ He met many men who interested him, Schlosser, Gervinus, and Mittermaier, and also Bryant, the poet, from his own country, whom he saw for the first time. An added sorrow came to hi in the death of his brother-in-law and dearest friend, George W. Pierce, ‘He the young and strong,’ as he afterwards wrote in his ‘Footsteps of Angels;’ but in accordance with the advice of his friend Ticknor he absorbed himself in intellectual labor, taking the direction of a careful study of German literature This he traced from its foundations down to Jean Paul Richter, who was for him, as for many other Americans of the same period, its high-water mark, even to the exclusion of Goethe. It will be remembered that Longfellow's friend, Professor Felton, translated not long after, and very likely with Longfellow's aid or counsel, Menzel's ‘History of German Literature,’ in which Goethe is made quite a secondary figure. It is also to be noticed that George Bancroft, one of the half dozen men in America who had studied at a German University, wrote about the same time a violent attack on Goethe in the Boston ‘Christian Examiner,’ in which he pronounced him far inferior to Voltaire, ‘not in genius and industry only, but still more in morality.’  He says of him farther, ‘He imitates, he reproduces, he does not create and he does not build up. . . . His chances at popularity are diminishing. Twaddle will not pass long for wisdom. The active spirit of movement and progress finds in his works little that attracts sympathy.’1 It is to be remembered in the same connection that Longfellow, in 1837, wrote to his friend, George W. Greene, of ‘Jean Paul Richter, the most magnificent of the German prose writers,’2 and it was chiefly on Richter that his prose style was formed. In June he left Heidelberg for the Tyrol and Switzerland, where the scene of ‘Hyperion’ was laid. He called it ‘quite a sad and lonely journey,’ but it afterwards led to results both in his personal and literary career. He sailed for home in October and established himself in Cambridge in December, 1836. The following letter to his wife's sister was written after his return.