Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Rivaling Tennyson in celebrity, Maine-born, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was the most popular American poet of the nineteenth century.
Creating poetry and literature that engendered a mythical quality to the American landscape, people, and history, Longfellow drew metaphors from the natural world.
Longfellow was part of the transcendental movement, a philosophical and literary ideology encompassing a belief in the divinity and oneness connecting humanity and nature. Jewett’s works, from her early Deephaven to the classic The Country of the Pointed Firs and A White Heron are replete with the themes of spiritual community and divinity of nature.
Longfellow had visited Annie and James T. Fields at their summer estate, known as Thunderbolt Hill in Manchester (now Manchester-by-the-Sea), and had been part of the lively social circle at their Boston home. As she became known, Jewett had visits with Longfellow and she attended his seventy-fourth birthday party. Longfellow died the following year, however, preventing the development of a close friendship.
At his death, Jewett wrote to Annie Fields, “His work stands like a great cathedral in which the world may worship and be taught to pray, long after its tired architect goes home to rest.” (Saturday morning, 1882).
Jewett did become close friends with the poet’s daughter, Alice Longfellow, who frequented Fields’ Saturday afternoon salons at her home in Boston and vacationed with Jewett and Fields on more than one occasion.
Five years after his death, now famous Sarah Orne Jewett served on the committee to present an author’s reading to raise money for the Longfellow Memorial. Later, in 1905, she was one of only two female readers at the Longfellow Centennial Celebration.