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a standard to the "Federal Volunteers," and made the speech of the occasion. She was, by all accounts, a superior person, brave and honorable in her place, as much so as her noble father in his, with gracious manners as became the wife of her husband.
It so befell that Abigail, a sister of Stephen Longfellow, had married Samuel Stephenson, a rich merchant of Portland, and lived in the large wooden house at the corner of Fore and Hancock Streets. Mr. Stephenson having been
Longfellow moved into his mansion, and there lived. In this house, slightly altered to suit the purposes of a law office, and raised by the addition of a third story, the poet spent his childhood.
On looking back over this reach of history, one feels the truth of the remark that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow inherited the virtues and graces of a long line: was, in fact, the
1 For an account of this building see Portland Adver. tiser for February 28, 1882.
may prove to be.
bright, consummate flower of a singularly noble
The family had a deep, strong root of character. The tree grew rapidly and spread from the start. Each generation made an advance on the generation that went before. Leaf and flower and fruit came in due time. Gifts and graces multiplied, while the substance of force was undiminished. Strength of individuality, independence of will, steadfastness of purpose, soberness of judgment, clearness of vision, directness of aim, dignity, serenity, courtesy, grace, affability, goodness of heart, buoyancy of temper, even elegance in dress, succeeded one another in natural order. The Pilgrims of Plymouth, Elder Brewster and John Alden included, contributed their fine strain of piety. The lovely Priscilla, heroine of “ The Courtship of Miles Standish," added the charm of her wit. Nothing was wanting apparently except the burst of poetic expression. The spirit of adventure
have softened into romance, as brass cannon become bronze ornaments for mantels and parlors; the impulse to progress
may have been transmuted into love of travel ; but the gift of rhythmical language can nowhere be detected, even in germ, among these worthy progenitors, unless "Wadsworth” be the same
“ Wordsworth,” as it Samuel Longfellow, the poet's brother, is a gentle idealist, a man of genius, a graceful writer, a poet of no small consideration. But the flow of melody gushes out in this one spot. Where it came from none can tell. Possibly it may be the last fine product of the Pilgrim genius. Possibly the union of Pilgrim with Puritan gave rise to it. At this point our analysis is at fault. The peculiar quality of the poet's endowment, its character, including its limitations, induce one to regard it rather as an inheritance than as an inspiration, yet the human origin of it is hidden from view, at least as far as our scientific analysis has been carried. The accomplished physiologist fails to put his finger on the fine cord which transmits this subtle essence of song. Even Mr. Francis Galton will be at fault here.
CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH.
WHOEVER would know about Portland as it was at the time of the poet's birth should read the account of it that was read at the meeting of the Maine Historical Society, on occasion of Mr. Longfellow's seventy-fifth birthday, by Edward H. Elwell, Esq., of Portland, in connection with the poem “ My Lost Youth” in “Birds of Passage,” in which the poet recalls his reminiscences. Some passages from Mr. Elwell's paper, copied from the Portland “ Transcript,” are here given :
THE PORTLAND OF LONGFELLOW'S YOUTH. " It lay on the narrow peninsula, or · Neck,' in the depression between the two hills which mark its extremities, Munjoy and Bramhall. It had been first settled nearly two centuries before on the seashore at its eastern end, and in all this long period of time it had advanced scarcely half way towards the western end. The early settlers clustered around the fort which stood at the foot of what is now India Street, and the shore road extending eastward from India
Street, forming now the easternmost part of Fore Street, was long the court end of the town. Here Major Samuel Moody, coming here in 1716, built his house, and here in process of time sprang up a number of large, square mansions, some with gambrel roofs, several of which yet remain. In one of these, standing, on the one hand, within a stone's throw of the spot where the first settler landed and built his cabin, in 1632, and on the other not much farther from the site of old Fort Loyal, our poet was born, seventy-five years ago to-day. He was thus cradled on historic ground, and sprang from amidst the earliest scenes of civilization on this peninsula. It was a pleasant site; not then, as now, hemmed in by new-made land encroaching on the sea. It looked out on the waters of our beautiful bay, commanding a view of those
• Islands that were the Hesperides Of all my boyish dreams.' • Immediately opposite, skirting the road on the seaward side, lay the beach, the scene of many a baptism on a Sabbath day. It was not here, however,
of the negro
that our poet spent his boyhood. His parents moved on with the progress of the town, and we shall find him at a later period established in what is now the heart of the city.
“Let us now take a comprehensive view of the town as it existed in the decade between 1810 and 1820. As we have said, it nestled in the hollow between the two hills. On the south lay the harbor, with its wharves and its shipping; on the north the quiet waters of Back Cove, its shores nearly vacant, and its waters as yet undisturbed by commerce.
“On Munjoy's Hill there were but three houses, save those in old Fort Sumner. It was a pasture ground for cows in part, and in part was given up to a dense growth of alder bushes. On Indian Point, where the Grand Trunk bridge leaves the hill, stood seven or eight lofty, ancient pine-trees, and in the high branches the fish-hawks were wont to build their nests. The boys went a-gunning · back of the Neck,' and shot plovers and curlews and sand-birds, which visited the shore in great numbers. At Fish Point, on the harbor side of the Hill, the ledgy cliff, now blasted away to make room for the track of the Grand Trunk Railway, was cut deep with the names of boys who spent many a long summer afternoon in wandering around the solitary shore. The cliff terminated in a cove called • Abigail's Hole, after an aged Indian squaw who resided there, the last of the race that lived and died in Portland.
“On the slope of the hill towards the town stood a tall signal spar with a tar-barrel suspended from its summit, which was to be set on fire should the
enemy approach the town, or assistance be needed from the country. Washington Street, overlooking the Cove, commanding a view of the fine scenery beyond, and with its long alternating lines of Lombardy poplars and balm of gileads, was thought to be the prettiest street in town. Standing on the western slope of the hill, one commanded the town below at a single glance. All north of Cumberland Street was vacant land known as the • Back Fields.' Nearly all west of High Street was sunburnt pasture, where swamp alternated with huckleberry bushes. State Street had been laid out through the waste, and here and there along its line a stately mansion rose with the huckleberry and bayberry bushes growing close up to its fences. Bramhall's Hill was a far-away wilderness. At the quiet hour of sunset one standing where the jail now stands, below Munjoy, could hear the sound of Caleb Young's fife on Bramhall's Hill, two miles away, no building to obstruct sight or sound intervening.
“ With the revival of commerce, after the war, trade with the West India Islands sprang up, and
low-decked brigs carried out cargoes of lumber and dried fish, bringing back sugar, rum, and molasses. This trade made lively scenes on Long Wharf and Portland Pier. From lack of system, and the appliances of steam, everything was then done with great noise and bustle, and by main strength. The discharging of a cargo of molasses set the town in an uproar. The wharves resounded with the songs stevedores hoisting the hogsheads from the hold without the aid of a winch; the long trucks, with heavy loals, were tugged by straining horses, under the whips and loud cries of the truckmen. Liquor was lavishly supplied to laboring men, and it made them turbulent and uproarious. Adding to the busy tumult were the teams coming into town by the two principal avenues, over Deering's bridge and up Green Street, or over Bramhall's Hill by way of Horse Tavern, bringing charcoal from Waterborough, shools from Fryeburg, Hiram, and Baldwin, hoop-poles, heading, cord-wood, and screwed hay; and the Vermonters in their blue woollen frocks, bringing in their red pungs round hogs, butter, and cheese. Rev. Elijah Kellogg, Jr., gives a lively picture of Portland, at this period, on a winter morning :
• Then you might have seen lively times. A string of board teams from George Libby's to Portland Pier; sleds growling; surveyors running about like madmen, a shingle in one hand and a rule-staff in the other; cattle white with frost, and their nostrils hung with icicles; teamsters screaming and halloing. Herrick's Tavern, and all the shops in Huckler's Row, lighted up, and the loggerheads hot to give customers their morning dram.'
“It is with such scenes as these rising in his memory that Longfellow sings, –
'I remember the black wharves and the slips,
And the sea-tides tossing free;
And the magic of the sea.'
“Portland was a lumber port, driving a brisk little trade with more tumult and hurrah than now accompanies the transaction of ten times the amount of business then done. In addition to its lumber trade, it had its distilleries, its tanneries, its rope-walks, and its pottery, the latter two of which so impressed themselves upon the memory of the boy Longfellow that in after years they suggested his poems, “The Ropewalk' and · Kéramos,' the song of the potter. Men now living, going back in memory to those bustling days, will tell you those were the times when business was lively, and think it but a dull town now, though with five times the population and many times the amount of business.”
The beautiful town has altered in aspect since that distant time. It was incorporated as a town in 1786, as a city in 1832. Originally
Originally a part of Falmouth, its position soon drew importance to it, and it rapidly increased in size, the population in 1875 being between thirty-four and thirty-five thousand. The name “ Forest City” is still deserved from the number of trees in the streets, and from the verdure of the surrounding hills, but in 1807 the streets hardly encroached on the meadows and the hill-sides. The sparkling waters of Casco Bay brought the ocean to its feet. Green islands in the distance suggested the famed Hesperides of classic fable. The romantic curving shore picturesquely edged with rock the line of coast. The better class of dwellings commanded an uninterrupted view of the sea. The hills around afforded pleasant walks and retreats. The distance from any considerable centre was favorable to it. When the poet was a boy everything that went on in the town was in full view, wharves, ships, batteries, naval engagements, the rope-walk, the pottery, the woods, and each thing made an impression on the impressible mind of the child.
He was a thoughtful, meditative lad, not morbid nor especially retiring; cheerful enough, but quiet; gentle, disinclined to rough sports, playful but never boisterous. He went to school of course. Rev. Henry S. Burrage of Portland told the Maine Historical Society where. He was a good scholar at the Portland Academy, but his knowledge of books was supplemented by rambles along the shore or under the trees. It is significant that the town school was on Love Lane, now Centre Street. Amusements were neither many nor choice in Portland. There was no theatre. The old-time fashions were passing away, but the old time conscience remained. Cocked hats, wigs, kneebreeches, queues, spencers, and silk stockings
disappear; open fires give place to stoves; old men cease to be called “ daddies,” old ladies
more called “ marms,” but the moral sense holds its own. The mind was well cared for. The soul was abundantly looked after. The teacher and the clergyman were both held in honor. There were no skeptics in Portland, no rationalists, no come-outers of any degree, but a large spirit of intelligence was encouraged. There were no daily newspapers yet, but powerful intellects diffused light. Portland was a point of illumination. Mr. Elwell records the fact that Edward Payson, the celebrated divine, began his pastorate here the same year in which Longfellow was born ; that in 1807 the Observatory on Munjoy's Hill was erected, to meet the growing needs of the town. Thus the boy had a good start. He was well born, well trained, well educated ; his pedigree was honorable, his social position high, his father eminent, and opulent after the standard of the day, every moral influence wholesome, his native place romantic, his way of life simple and elegant; he was neither warped nor fettered nor misdirected, but had only to build on assured foundations. How he builded we shall see, that he cared to build at all is evidence in him of surprising talent; that he builded as he did is evidence of an absorbing purpose. The religious traditions of the town were orthodox. But many had their own thoughts, and provided they kept them to themselves or made no public noise about them, there was no attempt at persecution. So far as we know, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a reverent disciple of that “religion of the heart” which has its root in human nature. He made no secret of his opinions among the young men who came in contact with him, but was never molested by the authorities, either secular or religious, then or at any other period of his life.
COLLEGIAN AND PROFESSOR.
THE “ District of Maine," set off from Massachusetts as a state in 1820, must have a college of its own, in order that its sons should not be compelled to go to Harvard. The longtalked of institution was put in working order at Brunswick, only five years before Longfellow was born, by the choice of Dr. Mckeen as president, and John Abbott as professor of languages. There were eight students. Mr. James Bowdoin, son of the second governor of Massachusetts, gave a thousand acres of land, more than a thousand pounds sterling in money, a valuable library, and a costly collection of paintings. Beside this munificent donation, the college was liberally endowed by the state. It increased rapidly in resources and reputation. One department was added after another, so that in half a century it became a flourishing institution. In September, 1821, young Longfellow, then in his fifteenth year, with his elder brother Stephen was entered as freshman, though for some reason he did not actually begin his course until the sophomore year. He was then a handsome boy with bright eyes, thick chestnut locks, a fresh, blooming complexion, winning manners, the bearing of a well-bred young gentleman. Beyond this there seems to have been little to distinguish him from others, a talent for playing the flute probably did not. He was a good scholar, particularly in the classical languages; a great admirer of Horace; not fond of mathematics, philosophy, or abstruse topics of any kind ; a diligent reader, and painstaking proficient in class studies; in no respect showy, but faithful, quiet, modest, industrious, of decided intellectual tastes. At his graduation he was second in a class of thirty-seven, outranking Nathaniel Hawthorne, George B. Cheever, J. S. C. Abbott, Jonathan Cilley, and James W. Bradbury, his classmates. Poetry did not then command the place it does now, and Longfellow was assigned an English oration : "Chatterton," a subject which the orator changed for the
more comprehensive and congenial title, “ Our Native Writer's," at the last moment, the former theme having been announced in the printed order of exercises. Longfellow's reputation as a poet was already established, not only by several poetic translations from Horace among others, but by fugitive pieces printed in the newspapers. Some of them were inserted in the “United States Literary Gazette," conducted by Theophilus Parsons and James G. Carter. Young Longfellow was certainly not actuated by mercenary motives in writing these early pieces. The remuneration was absurdly small. Fortunate he who received any pay whatever for either prose or
It is said that Longfellow owed his appointment to the professorship of modern languages, first proposed by Madame Bowdoin, and provided for, in the beginning, by a gift of one thousand dollars from her, to the spirited version of a Horatian Ode which attracted the attention of Hon. Benjamin Orr, an influential member of the examining committee, as far back as the lad's sophomore year.
The following extract from a letter written by Hon. James W. Bradbury, President of the Maine Historical Society, for the meeting of May 25, 1882, is of interest in this connection.
“I have been requested to give some account of my early recollections of Longfellow. I can add very little to what I communicated to the society on a former occasion.
“I met him for the first time in the autumn of 1822, when I entered as sophomore the class of which he was a member. As we both had our rooms out of college and in the same vicinity, we were often together in passing to and from the recitation room, and became well acquainted. He was genial, sociable, and agreeable, and always a gentleman in his deportment. Not meditative and shy, like his subsequently distinguished classmate Hawthorne; he was uniformly cheerful. He had a happy temperament, free from all envy and every corroding passion or vice.