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Celebrity's Picture: Using Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Portraits to Observe Historic Changes

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Print of 1839 portrait of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Item 15910  info
Print of 1839 portrait of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow / Longfellow National Historic Site

Longfellow settled into an eighteen-year career as Smith Professor of Modern Languages and Belles Lettres at Harvard in the fall of 1836, with a widely read book of prose, Outre-Mer (1831), to his credit and all his books of poetry before him.

Voices of the Night (1839) presented his first major collection of poems, half of them written in rooms rented from an eccentric widow, Elizabeth Craigie, at 105 Brattle Street, Cambridge.

He sat that year for a Wilhelm Franquinet drawing and wrote to his father on November 10, 1839, "Franquinet has great skill. He took my face for friendship's sake, in crayon: exceedingly like. He has since used it as a duck-decoy in Boston, and has his hands full so striking do they find my likeness."

The sketch generated numerous reproductions and linked a face to the poetry that cultivated new celebrity, undoubtedly to the surprise of both artist and writer.

(Quote is from archive record 4432, Longfellow National Historic Site/Craigie House)


Item 7 of 35