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MS Am 1340.2-1340.7

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882, recipient. Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1761-1904: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: b
Call No.: MS Am 1340.2-1340.7
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882, recipient.
Title: Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
Date(s): 1761-1904,
Date(s): 1820-1888 (bulk).
Quantity: 1 collection (36 linear feet (73 boxes)
Abstract: Letters to American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Deposited by the Trustees of the Longfellow House Trust; received: 1954; purchased: 1976.

Processing Information:

When the letters to Longfellow were received, they were in three main groups: 1. Letters from 1821 to 1853, chronologically arranged in 25 volumes bound in three-quarters red leather, evidently made up by Longfellow or under his supervision. All volumes had been more or less broken by the extraction of various pieces, and some were little better than portfolios of separate letters. Some letters had been removed bodily, some leaving stubs or whole leaves. There was evidently no record kept of these extractions. A list was made of the contents of these volumes, in order, as received at Harvard, and in it notes were made regarding stubs and other evidence, together with charts of the saw-cuts made by the binder. These cuts vary from one volume to another and may be used in dating and to identify material believed once to have belonged in the papers. The list is preserved as bMS Am 1340.2 (6232). The bindings themselves, now empty, are preserved in three boxes as bMS Am 1340.2 (6230).
2. Letters from 1854 to 1882, chronologically arranged in a series of dust-proof file boxes. These, at least in part, perpetuated another of Longfellow's arrangements, for among the papers were found several labels in his and other hands cut from the wrappings of bundles made up by years. The series of labels is far from complete; the survivors are preserved as bMS Am 1340.2 (6231). Among the hands identified are those of Samuel Longfellow and Alice Mary Longfellow, who noted on them the fact that they had examined the contents. The correspondence for the year 1871 was not preserved, or more probably it was at some time inadvertently lost; the file-box for that year was empty when received and bore an appropriate notation. There is no record of the stage at which this loss occurred. Nevertheless a few letters from the year 1871 have survived, scattered through the collection.
3. Letters removed from the other two series because the writers were deemed especially important, or for other reasons. These were kept in separate boxes and cases as follows: Carlyle, Dickens, Emerson, G. W. Greene (2 boxes), Hawthorne, Holmes, Howells, Lowell, C. E. Norton, Poe, Charles Sumner (3 boxes), Tennyson, and Samuel Grey Ward (2 boxes). There were also boxes for Ticknor & Fields, letters from German correspondents with a folder of Spanish correspondents, letters from his children, letters from relatives, and lastly a small collection kept by Longfellow as "Curious Letters." The top of the cigar-box once containing these last and so inscribed by his hand is preserved in bMS Am 1340.2 (6231).
In almost every case various letters of the persons concerned had been overlooked and still remained in the other two groups. Groups 1 and 2, which evidently had once represented to some extent Longfellow's intentions with respect to arrangement, no longer did so and could not be reconstituted. Not only had most of the materials in Group 3 been extracted from them, but also over the course of time various other pieces had disappeared from the collections by various means, some escaping into the channels of the book trade, from which a few have been recovered by purchase or gift. There appears to be no way of determining what or how many pieces still are missing. Since there was no question of preserving the organic form of the correspondence, the entire mass of material has been rearranged.
In the first place, certain groups more significant for bulk than for content have been segregated and each placed in a chronological series: persons merely seeking Longfellow's autograph (2 boxes; bMS Am 1340.4); literary societies offering honorary memberships, often a thinly camouflaged attempt to secure an autograph (1 box; bMS Am 1340.5); attempts by lyceums and others to book him for a lecture or a reading, something that he always avoided if possible (1 box; bMS Am 1340.6); and persons, mostly unknown to him, writing to send birthday greetings, especially numerous towards the end of his life when his birthday was celebrated nationally by school children (2 boxes; bMS Am 1340.7). There are also a few literary manuscripts by authors other than Longfellow, and some letters from various persons to other addressees; these are grouped and listed as bMS Am 1340.3.
The removal of these groups leaves in 66 boxes what may be regarded as the significant portion of Longfellow's correspondence, containing letters from 6,228 identified writers. These are arranged and listed alphabetically. The letters of each writer are in turn arranged chronologically, with undated letters grouped at the end of the chronology, and the series for each writer is numbered in pencil in the lower left corner of each piece beginning at 1 for each person. Should the series in any case be found to be out of its true order, or should a reader be able to date an undated letter, this serial number should not be changed; instead, the corrected or new data should be recorded on the outside of the folder in question. In this way the numbers now assigned will serve as permanent references for the individual pieces, which is far more important than having the precise arrangement adjusted to match more detailed or more accurate information. In the index each person receives a single entry, under which is recorded the number of letters and their inclusive dates. The notation "n.d." following this indicates the presence of one or more undated letters. No. 6229 in this series, comprising the whole 66th box, contains 251 letters written over pseudonyms or by writers who have not been identified. These are arranged chronologically, and any identifications that can be supplied by readers will be welcomed.
There is an additional index of overseas and foreign-language correspondents, to make more readily accessible this most interesting side of Longfellow's correspondence.
W. H. Bond Curator of MSS., 10 March 1959

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Harvard purchased all rights controlled by the Longfellow Trust, including copyrights, in 1976.

Conditions Governing Use:

Images linked to this finding aid are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (MS Am 1340.2-1340.7). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

Longfellow was an American poet.


Organized into the following series:

Scope and Contents

This voluminous file of incoming letters from more than 6000 correspondents includes letters from literary figures and scholars in Great Britain and Europe, as well as the U.S., including Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Thomas Fields, George Washington Greene, Charles Appleton Longfellow, Charles Eliot Norton, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Sumner, Alfred Tennyson, and Samuel Ward. There are several boxes of letters requesting Longfellow's autograph, seeking a lecture appearance, offering honorary memberships, and sending birthday greetings. Also included are a few literary manuscripts by authors other than Longfellow, and some letters from various persons to other addressees.

Index of Overseas and Foreign-Language Correspondents in bMS Am 1340.2: Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

These names are arranged by broad geographical and linguistic groups. Thus, persons writing in German from any country are all listed under Germany, and so on. Users are warned that this index may not be absolutely comprehensive: foreigners writing in English from American addresses, while travelling or under similar circumstances, may have been unintentionally omitted.






Great Britain and Ireland












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