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Chapter 4: Longfellow

Unlike Holmes and Lowell, Longfellow was not born in a college town; but he went at fifteen to live in one, and that a very characteristic one, not differing essentially in its traditions from that in which he spent his later life, although all the academic associations at Bowdoin College were on a smaller scale than at Harvard. As Fluellen says in “Henry V.” that there is a river in Macedon and a river in Monmouth and there are salmons in both, so it may be said that Brunswick has somewhat the same relation to the Androscoggin that Cambridge bears to the Charles; and the open sea is within a few hours' sail from each, so that there were, or might have been at some period, salmons in both. Each town had then broad country roads shaded by elm trees, and each still has large colonial houses, in two at least of which — both yet standing — Longfellow [112] lived at different times. In each town the college buildings were of red brick,--“the Muses' factories” as Lowell says,--and although both the room where Longfellow lodged at Brunswick and that in which he taught have since been destroyed by fire, yet the primitive aspect can be easily restored by the imagination. In one thing Brunswick had and has the advantage over Cambridge — in possessing a tract of many acres of fine old pine woods, on whose intersecting paths it is easy at this day for the fancy to represent Hawthorne and Longfellow as coming and going; and in having also, not far off, the wild and hilly region described in Hawthorne's “Fanshawe.”

Bowdoin College cherishes with affection its few memorials of Longfellow, yet I found none of these more noticeable on a recent visit than the printed list of students in 1821--the number being only I 114 in all and given on a single page, yet including an unusually large proportion of men nationally famous. The little college, then only twenty years old, contributed to literature, out of its undergraduates, Longfellow [113] and Hawthorne, then spelled Hathorne; to public life, Franklin Pierce, President of the United States; to the medical profession, Drs. Luther V. Bell and D. Humphreys Storer; and to the Christian ministry, Calvin E. Stowe and George B. Cheever. The corresponding four classes at Harvard had more than twice the number of students (252), but I do not think the proportion of men of national reputation was quite so large, although the Harvard list included Admiral C. H. Davis, Charles Francis Adams, Frederick Henry Hedge, George Ripley, and Sears Cook Walker.

It is interesting also to note the records of the library kept in Longfellow's clear and delicate hand; the old copy of Horace, which had previously belonged to Calvin E. Stowe, and out of which Longfellow made the translation which practically determined his career, since its merit led to his selection by the Faculty as the future Professor of Modern Languages in the college. It is curious also to observe on the College Commencement “Order of Performances” that the subject originally [114] assigned to him, “The life and writings of Chatterton,” was corrected by pen and ink after printing, and the title “Our native writers” substituted. We know from his own letters that he wrote the paper on Chatterton two months before it was due, but that at the suggestion of his father, then in Congress at Washington, he substituted the other, apparently at the last moment. The oration itself may be found printed in the Boston Every Other Saturday of April 12, 1884.

Cambridge began to exert an influence on Longfellow before he reached it, for while his father urged him to study law — a Moloch which he like Holmes and Lowell barely escaped — he stipulated that, in this case, he should first have some post-graduate study at Harvard in general literature. This was his announcement of his plans to his father (December 5, 1824): “I want to spend one year at Cambridge for the purpose of reading history and of becoming familiar with the best authors in polite literature; whilst at the same time I can be acquiring a knowledge of the Italian language, without an acquaintance with which I shall [115] be shut out from one of the most beautiful departments of letters. The French I mean to understand pretty thoroughly before I leave college. After leaving Cambridge I would attach myself to some literary periodical publication, by which I could maintain myself and still enjoy the advantages of reading. Now I do not think that there is anything visionary or chimerical in my plan thus far. The fact is — and I will not disguise it in the least, for I think I ought not — the fact is, I most eagerly aspire after future eminence in literature: my whole soul burns most ardently for it, and every earthly thought centres in it.” Writing nearly a month later (December 3 ), he says to his father, “Let me reside one year at Cambridge, let me study belles-lettres, and after that time it will not require a spirit of prophecy to predict with some kind of certainty the kind of figure I could make in the literary world.” A wise letter from his father urges that “there is not wealth enough in this country to afford encouragement and patronage to merely literary men,” but consents to his son's going to Cambridge for a year at the curiously moderate expense of $I 84. Meanwhile [116] the plan of sending him to Europe to prepare for his college professorship superseded all this, and he left home in April, 1826, for New York, where he was to take the ship for Paris. On the way he dined with George Ticknor in Boston, heard Dr. Channing preach, met Rev. Charles Lowell, and on Monday went to Cambridge and saw President Kirkland. At Northampton he met Messrs. George Bancroft and J. G. Cogswell, who gave him letters to European notabilities and advised a year's residence at Gottingen. His mother wrote to him, “I will not say how much we miss your elastic step, your cheerful voice, your melodious flute.” His father wrote, “In all your ways remember the God by whose power you were created, by whose goodness you are sustained and protected.” It all seems more like the anxious departure from home of one of Goethe's or Jean Paul's youthful wanderers than like the easy manner in which a modern student buys his ticket and goes on board ship. Yet it was for Longfellow the parting of the ways and the beginning of a new life. The European letters of previous American student-travellers, [117] and especially those of Ticknor, Everett, and Cogswell, as lately published in the Harvard Graduates' Magazine,1 show what a new world then opened upon young American students in Europe. Longfellow journeyed in Spain with Lieutenant Alexander Slidell (afterward Mackenzie), who says of him in his book, “A year in Spain” : “He was just from college, full of all the ardent feeling excited by classical pursuits, with health unbroken, hope that was a stranger to disappointment, curiosity that had never yet been fed to satiety. Then he had sunny locks, a fresh complexion, and a clear blue eye, all indications of a joyous temperament.” Longfellow enjoyed the cheery society of Washington Irving, whom he describes as “one of those men who put you at ease with them in a moment.”

He thus states the sum of his European work, in writing to his father:--

I feel no kind of anxiety for my future prospects. Thanks to your goodness, I have received a good education. I know you cannot be dissatisfied with the progress I have [118] made in my studies. I speak honestly, not boastingly. With the French and Spanish languages I am familiarly conversant, so as to speak them correctly, and write them with as much ease and fluency as I do the English. The Portuguese I read without difficulty. And with regard to my proficiency in the Italian, I have only to say that all at the hotel where I lodge took me for an Italian until I told them I was an American.

I intend leaving Venice in a few days for Dresden. I do not wish to return without competent knowledge of German; and all that I can do to acquire it shall be done. The time is short, but I hope to turn it to good advantage.

It is to be noticed that in this same letter he declines with some indignation the suggestion of the Bowdoin College Faculty to change his professorship to a tutorship. It was a change suggested only because of their want of funds, but he emphasized his refusal. It is interesting to know that he wrote to Carey and Lea, the Philadelphia publishers, giving a list of New England sketches which he had [119] planned, but only one of which ever appeared, including studies of the Indians, of the White Mountains, and of Acadie. His mind thus seems to have worked curiously in line with Hawthorne as to themes; and this, like his selection of a theme for his Commencement Oration, shows that Margaret Fuller was too hasty in imputing to him an exotic quality, from the accident that his first prose books were on foreign subjects. Both “Evangeline” and “Hiawatha” already existed, by implication, in the titles of these early sketches.

He was three years abroad and wrote to his sister, “My poetic career is finished.” On his return in 1829 he became Professor in Bowdoin College. He still wrote, “If ever I publish a volume of poetry it will be many years first” --it being actually nine. He published text-books and wrote “Outre-Mer,” the first sketches for which originally appeared in the New England Magazine. In 1831 he was married to the daughter of the Hon. Barrett Potter of Portland, Mary Storer Potter. She came of a family noted for a beauty which is prolonged into the present generation, and [120] even the inadequate portrait of her, which is in their possession, vindicates the tradition. It shows her to have had dark hair-dressed high, in the fashion of those times — with deep blue eyes, a sweet expression, and dignified though dainty bearing. Her mental training had some peculiar characteristics, owing to the traditions of the period and the whims of her father, who believed Latin and Greek to be unsuitable for girls, while he was willing to encourage mathematics to any extent, and to some degree modern languages. Her papers, many of which are in my possession, include several calculations of eclipses, probably as book-problems only; and they also indicate an excellent range of English reading, both in prose and verse. Here and there occur among them translations by Longfellow from Spanish or Italian, in his own clear handwriting. Nothing brings back to me the youthful poet like these interspersed translations: they show her as already the partner of his literary interests, and it seems but a step from this youthful companionship to the later memories of “Footsteps of Angels.” [121]

And with them that being beauteous,
Who unto my youth was given,
More than all things else to love me,
And is now a saint in heaven.

That she helped him directly as well as indirectly is plain from the fact that in his Bowdoin lectures, which exist only in manuscript, there are illustrative passages in her handwriting. This poetic companionship went on in a delightful house still standing in Brunswick, with its sunny windows looking out on a lawn with large pine trees, of which spot he writes (June 23, 1831) that he could almost fancy himself in Spain from the softness of the air; that the shadow of the honeysuckle lies upon the floor “like a figure in the carpet,” and that the humming-birds have their nests in the honeysuckle — as is still the case. Here he lived and worked hard, rising day after day at five in the morning, as his diary shows; but all his plans were again changed when in 1834 he received an invitation to be the successor of George Ticknor as Smith Professor of Modern Languages in Harvard University, opportunity being given, by special arrangement [122] with Mr. Ticknor, of eighteen months of added study in Europe. This seemed the more appropriate, as Mr. Ticknor's fine and scholarly career had always been an object of admiration to his young successor; and the manuscript of Longfellow's Inaugural Address as Professor at Bowdoin College, carefully preserved in the library of that institution, suggests Mr. Ticknor so strongly, both in style and handwriting, that it might almost pass for his. In 1835 he sailed for Europe, with his wife, having first arranged for the publication of “Outre-Mer.” Mrs. Longfellow died at Rotterdam, on November 26 of that year, in childbirth.

I have dwelt thus fully on this ante-Cantabrigian life of Longfellow, because it really prepared the way for the other, being essentially an academical life on a small scale and testing the same qualities afterward manifested in a somewhat larger sphere. Longfellow's studies and successes at Brunswick were what secured his transplantation to Cambridge; and even his growing reputation as a poet was extended to the neighborhood of [123] Boston by the repetition at Harvard College, in 1833, of the poem delivered by him in the previous autumn before the Bowdoin Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa. At Cambridge the poem was, for some reason, given first in order, and Edward Everett, the orator, afterward announced that his subject also was “Education,” and that he was “but a follower in the field where the flashing sickle had already passed.” It is remembered that when the young professor afterward came to Harvard some of the Cambridge ladies were wont to speak of him as the Flashing Sickle.

Longfellow's first residence in Cambridge (1836) was in the large house now known as the Foxcroft House and maintained by the University as a students' boarding-house. Here he formed an intimacy with Professor Felton, “heartiest of Greek professors,” as Dickens called him; and the circle was often enlarged by the society of Charles Sumner, then librarian of the Law School; of George Stillman Hillard, then a young lawyer; and of Henry Russell Cleveland, an eminent scholar and [124] teacher, then residing at Pine Bank on Jamaica Pond. These five were known among themselves as the Five of Clubs; and came to be known by a too censorious public as “The Mutual Admiration Club,” and this much earlier than the application of the same name to the Atlantic contributors. It is, doubtless, the name instinctively applied by the world outside to those little circles of men of letters which are as inevitable and as innocent as similar companionships among artists or inventors. In this case, however, it was so emphatically insisted upon that, when Felton had praised, in the Christian Examiner, an article by Longfellow, some unknown hand indorsed the page at the Athenaeum Library, “Insured at the Mutual.”

In 1837 Mr. Longfellow removed to the house of Mrs. Craigie, that ancient and picturesque widow described by Lowell in his “Fireside Travels,” who sat at the window black-garbed and white-capped, reading Voltaire; and who forbade the destruction of the canker-worms on the ground that “we are all worms, worms.” It is true, as Lowell [125] sternly says, that “the canker years had left her leafless too;” but this could not be said of Miss Sally Lowell, a maiden lady who later became a resident of the large building, in friendly juxtaposition with Longfellow, and whose perpetual and sparrow-like vivacity made her a companion of the young, as I can testify, to her latest years. The Craigie House was then more beautiful than now, by reason of the great elm trees-“ten magnificent elms,” as he wrote in 1839,2--which reached the grass with their pendent boughs and have since perished of sheer old age. Longfellow however greatly improved the appearance of the grounds by the low-fenced terrace which is so appropriate that one finds it hard not to carry that appendage back to the time of Washington.

Craigie House has played a much larger part in Cambridge tradition than the houses which were also the birthplaces of Holmes and Lowell. Those who have spent summers in Cambridge within the last ten years must know well-such is certainly my own experiencethat [126] twice as many strangers inquired the way to Craigie House as to Elmwood and “the gambrel-roofed house” put together; and though this might be partly due to associations with Washington, yet I am confident that these made but a small portion of the whole interest in the abode. I have seldom felt so keenly the real worth of popular fame as when one summer day, in passing Craigie House, I found a young man of somewhat rustic appearance and sunburned look eagerly questioning two other youths as to the whereabouts of the “Spreading Chestnut Tree” mentioned in “The village blacksmith.” Coming to their relief I explained to him that the tree in question was never at that point and had now vanished altogether, but offered to show him where it once was, and where the blacksmith shop of Dexter Pratt had stood. Walking down the street with him, I won his confidence by telling him that I was one of the Cambridge-bred boys who had “looked in at the open door” ; that the blacksmith's wife, Rowena Pratt, had been my nurse, and that I had, in later life, heard [127] her daughter sing. He told me in return that he was a young Irishman, arrived in this country but the day before, that the first poetry he had ever quite learned by heart at school was “The village blacksmith,” and that he had resolved that his first act on reaching Boston should be to visit the Chestnut Tree. “This,” I said to myself, “is fame.”

But to Longfellow's modest and social nature, personal companionship was nearer than fame, and the admiring curiosity of strangers was less a satisfaction than to make his own house the centre, as he did, for what was best in Cambridge. In this he went far beyond his two eminent contemporaries,--Holmes, of course, having in maturity no home in Cambridge, while Lowell's house was less easily accessible, and the delicate health of his wife made their home less of a resort for others. Longfellow's diaries, so admirably edited by his brother, offer a constant record of visitors more or less transient. This was especially true after his second marriage; before this in 1838 he writes that he dines at five or six, “generally [128] in Boston.” He then continues, “In the evening I walk on the Common with Hillard, or alone; then go back to Cambridge on foot. If not very late, I sit an hour with Felton or Sparks. For nearly two years I have not studied at night, save now and then. Most of the time am alone; smoke a good deal; wear a broad-brimmed black hat, black frockcoat, a black cane. Molest no one. Dine out frequently. In winter go much into Boston society.”

This mention of the broad-brimmed black hat-now incredible — suggests the criticisms, still remembered in Cambridge, which were made upon Mr. Longfellow's youthful taste for becoming costume. He was undoubtedly thinking of himself when in “Hyperion” he made the Baron say to Paul Fleming, “The ladies already begin to call you Wilhelm Meister, and they say that your gloves are a shade too light for a strictly virtuous man.” He perhaps also thought of it when he wrote to Sumner, then in Europe, “If you have any tendency to ‘ curl your hair and wear gloves,’ like Edgar in ‘Lear,’ do it before your return.” Even Mrs. [129] Craigie, it is said, thought that he had “somewhat too gay a look.” 3 He was viewed, it must be remembered, against a background of Harvard professors, whose costume did not in those days — if even now it does — savor of splendor. It was also a period of much gayer waistcoats than now and of great amplitude of cravats. The criticism of Longfellow's own toilet had an especial biographical interest in the peculiar wrath inspired among his friends by Margaret Fuller's phrase “a dandy Pindar” as applied to his picture in the first illustrated edition of his works; for although the phrase was perfectly applicable to the engraving, it was generally regarded, and possibly with some shade of justice, as being a personal hit at the poet himself. It is one inconvenience of great amiability and moderation of character, that a man of this type usually has friends more combative, who wish to fight his battles for him. Lowell in particular was quite ready to take up the cause of his calmer friend, and thus perpetuate some antagonisms which would have fallen harmlessly aside from the [130] smooth surface of Longfellow's more even temperament.

Socially, also, it is to be remembered that Boston as well as Cambridge was then a much smaller community than now; and that the good old habit not merely of dinner parties but of mixed evening entertainments prevailed more fully. The somewhat indolent practice of afternoon teas had not then displaced the larger evening receptions, where older and younger guests met, and those who wished played whist or “Boston,” while others danced. The same was true in a degree of Cambridge society also. Longfellow's marriage in June, 1843, to Miss Frances Appleton, daughter of the Hon. Nathan Appleton of Boston, fixed him in his social relations, aided by the dignity and beauty of a charming woman. Craigie House became his own, and was perhaps more than any other dwelling in Cambridge the centre of a generous hospitality. It is evident from his published diaries that he had many foreign visitors, of whom he sometimes complains that they were more ready to give information about his country than to receive [131] it, and his diaries form an imperfect record of the constant stream of kindnesses that flowed from his generous heart.

It was the unusual experience of Mr. Longfellow to be best known by his long poems, especially by “Hiawatha” and “Evangeline,” both of which were experiments somewhat distrusted by his intimate friends and both of which met with a good deal of criticism, especially in respect of metre, after their publication. Their success was the more remarkable, as poems on Indian subjects had up to that time been uniformly unsuccessful in America, and those on historical themes had not fared much better. It was, however, his short poems which first made him known, and these derived strength from their simplicity and from being near to the popular heart. It has latterly been somewhat the fashion to underrate them, but those who recall the time when they appeared will testify to the warmth with which they were received, and will admit that Longfellow's biographer does not speak too strongly when he says of the “Psalm of life” in particular: “It was copied far and wide. Young men read it with delight; [132] their hearts were stirred by it as by a bugle summons. . . . They did not stop to ask critically whether or not it passed the line which separates poetry from preaching, or whether its didactic merit was a poetic defect. It was enough that it inspired them and enlarged their lives.” Professors even of chemistry read it to their classes. Charles Sumner testified that he had a young classmate who was prevented from suicide by reading it. General Meredith Read tells a story of an old French lawyer whose mind was saved during the siege of Paris by translating it.4 Scarcely less need be said of that other psalm called “The light of stars” ; and the present writer at least can vividly testify what it was to him and his friends. It is worth remembering that the English reviewers of the day spoke of what they called the peculiarly “American tone” of such poems as these, counteracting the pessimism of older countries. Placed beside the inexhaustible depth of Browning, the perfect execution of Tennyson, the absorbing passion of Rossetti, or the wonderful melodies of Swinburne, it is now easy to recognize [133] that such poetry as Longfellow's had its limitations, but it represented one whole side of life, and that in a way which undoubtedly gave him for many years the widest poetic audience in the English-speaking world. Only last year I saw a volume of popular poetry, published for wide circulation in England, in which there were more poems by Longfellow than by all English-born poets put together. The translations of these poems into fifteen languages tells the same story. The “Psalm of life,” for instance, has been rendered into Sanskrit, Chinese, and Marathi. Mere popularity is doubtless a very secondary test, but where it shows that the quality of poems has entered into the people's life, it is not an element to be ignored.

It is also to be noticed that Longfellow was to all Americans, at that time, one of the two prime influences through which the treasures of German literature, and especially of German romance, were opened to English readers. To this day nine-tenths of the Americans who visit Nuremberg and Heidelberg do it under the associations they have gained from Longfellow's prose or verse, and such travellers [134] find in the latter city a German edition of the English text of “Hyperion” which they are wont to purchase at once and take with them to the castle. They visit every spot which has associations there, and I remember how indignant I was on finding the great tree described as waving over the Gesprengte Thurm was no longer there, but had shared the fate of the Chestnut Tree in “The village blacksmith.” Poets' trees, I had supposed, must be as immortal as their personal laurels.

Professor Longfellow's diaries have been so frankly and sincerely edited by his brother that we see the personality of the man as in a glass, and also receive a vivid impression of his circle of companionship. It is a curious fact that while the details in this respect were criticised by London journals as being too profuse,--inasmuch as several persons were mentioned whose names were previously unfamiliar to those particular critics,--they were criticised on the other hand in Germany as not sufficiently minute for the more thorough and laborious German mind. In comparing these self-revelations with those given in the [135] letters of Holmes and Lowell, one is struck with their far less brilliant and scintillating tone and, on the other hand, with their comparative evenness and equanimity. Never by any combination of circumstances do they exhibit jealousy, suspicion, or a petty solicitude for personal fame, though they may be said, on the other hand, sometimes to verge upon the trite or even commonplace. Yet they often have most felicitous touches, as where, for instance, Longfellow speaks of “The old dull pain that runs through all of Hawthorne's writings,” or describes Captain — as “a fresh-ooking, mellow, drum-voiced Englishman,” and adds “we all look baked and dried in comparison;” or suggests that “a charming essay might be written on the Perfect Stranger,” meaning the man who is always writing to you “to turn his grindstone.” 5

He sometimes gets very tired of people who send him large folios of poetry for “his private judgment,” and once meditates on “the great importance it is to a literary man to remain unknown till he gets his work fairly done.” [136] People moreover wrote to him to ask whether the youth in “Excelsior” died before he crossed the path; whether the poet's feelings were in sympathy with his thought when he wrote the poem of “The Bridge” ; also who Evangeline was, to what country she belonged, and the place of her birth — a request which, his brother tells us, came in the same words one day from two different towns. In declining the request of a schoolgirl, he reports that he “tried to say no so softly that she would think it better than yes.” One correspondent wished for the details of his life, and added, “try and fill a foolscap sheet.” He wrote to one lady (December 18, 1855), “I have sixty unanswered letters lying on my desk before me;” and I myself saw, shortly before his death, a pile even larger than this, which had arrived that day from the pupils in the high schools of one western city. It must be owned that though his patience held out through all these trials, his strictness of judgment did not; and that he, like all elderly poets,--Holmes and Whittier in particular,--found it very much easier to praise than blame. [137] The late Mr. John S. Dwight, the leading musical critic of Boston, used to say that Longfellow's influence on the standard of music in that city had been pernicious, inasmuch as he was always ready to head an invitation addressed to any new performer, however mediocre, who was asked to favor the public with a concert. In a thousand ways these diaries give indirect evidence of kindness, and he once said of an unworthy hanger-on, when reproached with being wheedled, “Who will be kind to him if I am not?” There are few finer instances in literature of generosity to an assailant than when he wrote to Poe after the latter's trivial and scurrilous attacks, this answer to a propitiatory letter: “You are mistaken in supposing that you are ‘not favorably known to me.’ On the contrary, all that I have read from your pen has inspired me with a high idea; and I think you are destined to stand among the first romance writers of the country, if such be your aim.” 6 This was written May 19, 1841, when Poe's “Tales of the Grotesque [138] and the Arabesque” were published, but almost unknown.

He fared on the whole mildly with the critics, and the most serious charge made against him was, perhaps, that recorded by him as follows (February 6, 1846): “The Anti-Slavery papers attack me for leaving out the slavery poems in the illustrated edition. They are rather savage.” This referred to an edition published by Hart in Philadelphia, November, 1845, and the omission was due, his brother thinks, to “a too goodnatured concession to the expressed wish of the publishers.” Several other instances of this good nature had occurred on the part of others, and the abolitionists could not easily ignore it. It is to be remembered, on the other hand, that these poems were all included in the cheap edition published by Harper but a few months later (February, 1846), and that Longfellow might justly regard this as the one destined to reach the people. It is also to be recognized that these poems had been written when entirely alone, on a homeward voyage from Europe; that he did not personally know any of the abolitionists, and perhaps did not quite realize [139] how important these productions were or how valuable was his example to the struggling band who were fighting slavery. Since Hart undertook at his own risk what was then regarded as an Edition de luxe, the poet may have felt that the daring publisher had a right to make his own selection. It must be remembered that Longfellow was nothing if not modest, and that his career of great success was really only beginning. The authors who had then made such successes were, as usual, those now forgotten, a good type of these being a certain Professor J. H. Ingraham of whom Longfellow justly says, “I think he may say that he writes the worst novels ever written by anybody,” though he got twelve hundred dollars for each of them, and wrote twenty a year. As time went on, Longfellow's poems were financially more profitable than some which were profounder, as those of Emerson; and probably no American poet has been on the whole so well repaid in money, popularity, and in at least temporary fame. How permanent is to be the fame of any poet can never be predicted by his contemporaries. [140]

He undoubtedly shared with Carlyle, whose miscellaneous essays were first collected and edited during this period by Charles Stearns Wheeler, another Cambridge instructor, the function of interpreting Germany to America. This he did first in “Hyperion,” and continued to do in his “Poets and poetry of Europe” and his numerous translations. Few men, I suspect, have ever surpassed him as what may be called natural translators, proving it possible to produce versions that are both flexible and literal, sacrificing neither literalness to grace nor grace to literalness. Perhaps it could not actually be said of any of his translations, as has been justly said by critics of Mrs. Sarah Austin's exquisite rendering “Many a year is in its grave,” that it was better than the original, yet he sometimes came very near to this, and his widely recognized fame in this respect was of great value to the University. His influence was always thrown, of course, on the side of the elective system, yet he often writes in his diary such expressions as this: “It is pleasant to teach in college, yet it has grown wearisome to me.” “Ah, would that I had not [141] all this college tackle hanging round me.” “A day of hard work. Six hours in the recitation room — like a schoolmaster! It is pleasant enough when the mind gets engaged in it, but --Art is long and life is short.” Then there are such summaries of a year as this: “How barren of all poetic production, and even prose production, this last year has been! For 1853 I have absolutely nothing to show. Really, there has been nothing but the college work. The family absorbs half the time; and letters and visits take out a huge cantle.” Lowell's letters are full of similar complaints, more impulsively made, and relieved by countless jokes against himself. The difference was that Longfellow's more even temperament made him more methodical and orderly, and also more chary of self-expression, so that although he might be as much bored with his work, his pupils would find it out less readily. Indeed, Lowell's pupils discovered it easily enough. He yawned occasionally on entering the room, an act of which the ever courteous Longfellow would have been incapable, as he would also of a certain cynical tone by which Lowell sometimes [142] relieved himself. Certainly in my timeten years before the period of Longfellow's complaints mentioned above — there were no visible indications of weariness on his part; in fact, he would have generally been pronounced the least sleepy of our professors.

I had the good fortune to study French under him, not in a general recitation room, but in what was called the Corporation Room, where we sat round a long table as if guests at his board. His lectures, which were to us most interesting, were sometimes criticised as too flowery by our elders, who had perhaps been accustomed to gather only dried fruit; and I remember how he fixed in our memories the vivid moral of any French books that happened to be provided with that appendage, as for instance “Le Peau de Chagrin” of Balzac. I remember also with delight when a printer's boy once came in and laid down between the Professor and myself the proof-sheet of a title-page bearing the magic words “Voices of the night.” It was as if I had seen a new planet in process of making.

Longfellow was, I think, the first Harvard professor who addressed his pupils as “Mr.,” a [143] practice now very general. I have told elsewhere how, when he undertook to address us in the evening in the college yard during what he called in his diary a “silly and boyish outbreak,” -called by the students a rebellion,--he was listened to when other professors had been silenced, and this under the cry: “We will hear Professor Longfellow. He always treats us like gentlemen.” He was indeed, undoubtedly, at this time, the best model of manners among all the professors, but it was sometimes felt that his courtesy had a little background of reserve, not easily surmounted. Young people demand not merely kindliness from their elders, but perhaps a little exuberance, and are sometimes as much checked by the absence of this secondary supply of cordiality as by coldness of first greeting. Professor Longfellow never was cold, but on the other hand he was never quite warm; and I sometimes thought that Professor Peirce, the mathematician, who rarely answered our greetings in the street, yet was all frankness if he happened to speak to us, was more thoroughly winning to juveniles than the uniformly courteous but more distant Longfellow. [144] The point where this underlying stratum of coolness came in superbly was in his feeling toward critics, who were absolutely powerless to hurt him. He rarely read their attacks, though he had a habit of preserving them; and the really outrageous assaults of Poe, for instance, fell off from him as from a marble statue. He was for the last dozen years of his life distinctly the First Citizen of Cambridge. He was always faithful to all public duties, seldom failed to vote or to contribute to all legitimate local needs, was known to sight by everybody, and when the children of Cambridge subscribed to give him an armchair from the wood of the Chestnut Tree, he laid it down as a rule that every child who wished to see the chair again should be admitted without objection; a privilege which was long used by hundreds who thronged the door to the despair of his family. He said on his seventy-fourth birthday that it seemed as if the two numerals ought to exchange places, but died after one more anniversary, on March 24, 1882, having been, as has been said, more continuously and permanently identified with the life of Cambridge than had been either of her native-born poets. [145] [146]

1 September, 1897.

2 “Life of Longfellow” by his brother, I. p. 325.

3 “ Life of Longfellow” by his brother, I. p. 246.

4 “Life of Longfellow” by his brother, I. p. 271.

5 “ Life of Longfellow” by his brother, II. pp. 351, 362, 379.

6 “Life of Longfellow” by his brother, I. p. 377.

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